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Monday, February 28, 2011

2/28/2011 - No place I'd rather be

For pretty much as long as I can remember, I've always wanted to be somewhere else or doing something else or, more often, both. In high school I wanted to be out of school and, even more strongly, wanted to get out of San Jose (CA). Once I was in the Navy, I wanted out. When we were overseas, I wanted to be back in the States. When we were Stateside, I wanted to be back overseas. When Lulu and I lived in Eugene, we wanted to live someplace "more real" (meaning fewer college students). After we got married and moved to Rock Springs, Wyoming, we wanted to move back to somewhere green (but, c'mon, who could blame us for that one?). When we lived in Idaho and I was a treatment plant operator, we wanted to get west of the Cascade Mountains and I wanted to run my own treatment plant. Once we moved to Silverton (OR) and I'd been a plant supervisor for a little over a decade and a half, I just wanted to go back to being a hands-on operator. And, in the background was always the dream of someday sailing off into the sunset which kept me constantly dissatisfied with my lot, no matter how good I had it.

Today we were talking to a dockmate who can't wait to get out of La Paz. Feels she's been here too long. Other cruisers also seem to be anxious to get to the mainland, up into the islands, anywhere but where they are.

But, I realized today that, for probably the first time ever, there is absolutely no place I'd rather be and nothing else I'd rather be doing and no one else I'd rather be doing it with. That's not to say that I'm not looking forward to sailing up into the Sea for the spring and summer to explore a completely different level of cruising. I am looking forward to that. We both are. But, I don't feel any huge urge to have to GET GOING NOW!!! I'm happy as a clam right where I am, doing what I'm doing. And it feels really, really good.

Check out this cool palm frond horse that sits out in front of the Hotel Yeneka, this funky little museum/hotel in downtown La Paz:

Life is good. And Carnaval starts on Thursday.

Friday, February 25, 2011

2/25/2011 - Not that much to write about

Life continues at a nice leisurely pace here in La Paz. The sort-of-joke around here is about La Paz's bungee effect. Seems that almost everyone who sails in and then out of here, eventually returns. And we've certainly seen plenty of that already. For us it has more of a velcro effect. Just can't seem to get serious about tearing ourselves away.

When we pulled the boat into Marina del Palmar, it was primarily so we could be securely tied to a dock while I disabled the diesel propulsion by pulling the transmission to stop a pesky oil leak and pulling the raw cooling water pump for a rebuild. Also, it's so much easier to get the boat cleaned up (and, BOY, did she need it!) when you have running water at the dock. Well, all those chores are down now. We could leave any time. But we don't want to. We still have other chores to finish and it's so much easier at the dock. Let's see, what's on the list?

✓ Fix transmission leak
✓ Have the prop secured back on to the shaft (unplanned item)
✓ Install remote VHF radio microphone in cockpit
✓ Re-cover all the cushions in the saloon
✓ Re-sew the rotting seams on the dodger
✓ Rebuild the engine raw water pump
✓ Clean the exterior of the boat
✓ Clean the dinghy
✓ Apply for our FM3 (extended stay) visas
✓ Finish using up the remaining manila by making more rope fenders
✓ Make another sword mat for the other side deck
✓ Get a 3-way valve for the watermaker flush cycle (couldn't locate one here so our friends Jay and Judy on s/v Wind Raven are bringing us one down from the States
✓ Empty and clean out all the storage lockers behind the settee seats
__ Clean all the exterior stainless steel (Lulu's about 60% done with this project)
__ Put another coat of Cetol on the exterior brightwork (natural finished wood)
__ Fix dinghy seat (I ended up making 3 new oak seats to replace the original plastic ones. Seats are built but need to be sanded and painted)
__ Replace anchor light bulb with LED (ordered one today from Australia)
__ Go to the dentist to get our teeth cleaned
__ Get myself a new pair of glasses (old ones are terminally scratched up)
__ Clean the bilges

You can see that we're making pretty good headway on our list. However, we read some information about cruising in the northern Sea and realized that we need to take provisioning a lot more seriously. Once you leave La Paz, there aren't too many places to get the stuff you might need. We also apparently need to start stashing some cash as ATMs are only available in a couple of towns north of here on the Baja side.

We were scheduled to leave the marina on March 8. But, the first week of March is Carneval and we're told that it's pretty hard to get anything done that week. So that means that this week could be the end of our productive time. So, one thing and another, I went up to the marina office earlier this week to see if we could extend our stay until April 8. Turned out to not be a problem which is good because this is definitely the most affordable marina in La Paz.

So what are we going to do with all this extra time? Besides finishing the list above, we need to:

__ Lay in stores and provisions for our trip north. (So much easier at the marina than at anchor)
__ Hopefully get the FM3 visas we've applied for. Can't leave until we get them.
__ Wait for our friends Jay and Judy to arrive from San Diego with our new propane tank, 3-way valve, and spare prop nut.
__ Install said 3-way valve
__ Get another spare propane tank just in case (a cheap painted steel one will be just fine for our purposes)
__ Wire up and hang the various 12V fans we bought to make our summer in the Sea a bit more comfortable.
__ Put together a whisker pole since the one I bought off another cruiser is pretty much unusable as-is due to frozen pistons on the end pieces.
__ Eat more local food. There's LOTS we haven't tried yet.
__ Maybe, just maybe, build coamings on the sides of the cockpit to divert water away from our butts and give us something to lean back on when sitting in the cockpit. Sort of like these on W32 s/v Elena:

I guess that's about it. April 7-10 is Bayfest. One of the things that goes on are seminars given by other cruisers who have experience with things like sailing in the Sea in the summer, etc. Much of the info we've already gotten was from handouts from past seminars that John on m/v Doña Elena loaned us. We're looking forward to attending some of these seminars before we head north which we now plan to do shortly after Bayfest. By then the winds are supposed to start coming from the south and the water is supposed to at least start warming up. Maybe we'll even make it to Puerto Escondidoo in time for Loreto Fest

When we actually do manage to tear ourselves away from La Paz, the rending sound of Velcro being torn apart will probably be loud enough to hear all the way to the border.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

2/22/2011 - A Tale of Two Meals

It was the best of food, it was the worst of food. With apologies to Charlie Dickens, that's really the only way to describe a couple of our recent restaurant meals. Let's start with the worst.

It was probably our own fault, really. I mean, we're in Mexico, so why are we trying to find USA-style breakfasts? What's wrong with huevos rancheros, machaca con huevos, chilaquiles, etc? Nothing really, it's just that sometimes you want something else. I mean, in the States we sometimes had huevos rancheros and they were pretty darn good and pretty much like they serve here. So it doesn't seem like it should be too much to ask in a city the size of La Paz to be able to find eggs, hashbrowns and sausage/bacon/ham maybe even with an English muffin on the side. It's not like we're asking for eggs Benedict or eggs with chicken fried steak and white gravy. Just spuds 'n' eggs with some meat. Or NO meat. That'd be OK, too. And, it's not like we can't cook this stuff ourselves. We can. And we do a pretty darn fine job of it if I do say so myself. But sometimes a guy just wants someone else to do the cooking and clean-up.

We ran out of propane Friday night and couldn't get more until Monday. So we used this as an excuse to go out to eat a couple times over the weekend. Looked like a good time to try to find a breakfast joint.

After trying various Mexican establishments with no luck, we finally decided to, against our better judgement, try Applebee's. I mean, why should Applebee's even be here except to provide the same menu they provide in the States? So we went with high hopes. C'mon, even the schlockiest chain restaurant can usually make a decent breakfast.

We perused the menu and were pretty disappointed. They were basically serving the exact same things you could get at any other restaurant in town: huevos rancheros, machaca con huevos, chilaquiles, huevos divorciados, etc. Finally Lulu spotted huevos al gusto: eggs, potatoes, sausage or bacon and a biscuit. Okay, that sounded pretty straightforward. I'll order that. Lulu decided to opt for pan francais con salchicha (French toast with sausage).

The first sign that this wasn't going to be an epicurean delight was when the waitress asked how I wanted my eggs, revueltas ó fritas (scrambled or fried, although she used some other word or phrase instead of fritas). Forget "over easy", "over medium", poached, etc. Scrambled or fried. Period. So I ordered them fried and with sausage.

Here's what we got:
I got 3 eggs sunny side up. OK, not my first choice but I can eat them that way. For potatoes, we're not talking hash browns or home fries. No. How about seasoned steak fries? And not even GOOD steak fries! But that's not the best part. What do you suppose I got for sausage? If you guessed "chorizo" I can only say "I wish!" Nope. How about one hot dog, sliced lengthwise and grilled? Not bad enough that it was a FREAKIN' HOT DOG! But it was ONLY ONE FREAKIN' HOT DOG! The biscuit was at least good although not like any biscuit I'm used to. And no butter, just a single container of strawberry jam.

Lulu got 3 slices of wheat sandwich bread dipped into what must have been the thinnest egg batter ever as it didn't coat the bread very well, and then fried. She also got one of those fine pieces of "sausage" and the fruit that was supposed to accompany the breakfast never seemed to materialize

So, at this point we've decided to give up on finding an acceptable gringo breakfast in La Paz. If that's what we want, we'll make our own on board. On the rare occasion that we go out for breakfast from now on, we'll stick to Mexican breakfasts as I guess we should have in the first place.

Now for a happier dining experience:

On Sunday evening, we decided to go to one of our new favorite places, La Tacqueria Super Burro on Abosolo. That's the place where I took the photo of the cocinera for an earlier blog. On the way we stopped at one of the ubiquitous mini-super-marts for some beers to take along.

Our cocinera wasn't working tonight but there was what looked like a crack team of young cocineros ready to fill her shoes. We had already decided to try something different tonight rather than just ordering another super burro, although we KNEW they were good. It's not that hard to make a decision since they only have a few things: tacos, burros, huaraches, papas rellenas, alambres and maybe one or two other items. Your meat choices are carne asada, puerco al pastor, or tripas. Lulu ordered the papas rellenas (stuffed potatoes) with carne asada (roasted beef), and I had a carne asada huarache (basically an oblong, puffy tortilla buried under grilled vegetables and meat.

Lulu's papa rellena is on the left in the photo. It was mashed potatoes covered with melted cheese, carne asada, mushrooms and corn. It was assembled on a piece of foil and was allowed to warm up by setting the foil package onto the same grill that everything there is cooked on. She really liked it. Matter of fact, we made our own version on board last night. My huarache is on the right. It was indeed a puffy tortilla covered with carne asada and grilled vegetables but then also covered with raw shredded cabbage, a tomato slice and a bunch of cheese. It was excellent. The plate of various condiments and the three molcajetes of salsa are typical of the sit-down taco restaurants we've eaten at here. Lots of limes, cabbage, chiles, radishes, pickled carrots and onions, and cucumber slices. The salsas are a fresh salsa crudo (aka pico de gallo), a spicy red chile salsa and version of guacamole. Lulu's dish was 65 pesos and mine was 50 pesos so the whole meal, minus the beers that we brought with, cost 115 pesos or about nine bucks.

We were too early to get the puerco al pastor (spicy pork). It was being assembled while we were eating.

Many, many layers of very thinly sliced pork that has been marinating in a spicy chile sauce are piled on this vertical spit. Ultimately, a half a pineapple will top the pile. You can see the bottom half of the pineapple at the bottom of the pile of meat. Then, the heating element on the left is turned on and the vertical spit rotates slowly. As the meat on the outside of the stack gets done, it's sliced off , exposing a new layer to the heat. Haven't had it at this place but where I have had it, it's really good. This preparation was going on at about 7:30 PM so I'd guess you'd have to wait until about 9:30 or 10:00 to get puerco al pastor.

So, what are we having for dinner tonight? Lulu made a pizza topped with Italian sausage, shitake mushrooms, black olives, green onions, a little bit of her superb spaghetti sauce, and mozzarella cheese. She also puts red pepper flakes in the dough for the crust. And tomorrow, guess what I'm cooking for breakfast. That's right, spuds 'n' eggs and sausage.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

2/19/2011 - Another one of those catch-up blogs

Mexican visas:

When we foreigners first check in to Mexico, we're issued a tourist visa, an FMM. This allows us to stay in the country for 6 months before we need to exit and then come back. Longer term visitors, like us, usually opt to change the FMM to an FM3 status. This allows one to stay in country for a year and then renew it for a year 4 times before having to apply all over again. You also are allowed to leave the country without surrendering your visa like you have to do when you have only the tourist card. Lulu and I started the FM3 process a couple weeks ago when we visited the immigration office to find out what we need. The officer at INM was very helpful, giving us the info we needed to start the process on-line as well as get all the various stuff (photographs, etc.) together. You hear so many horror stories about dealing with the government bureaucracy that it kind of puts a guy off. I wanted to be sure I had everything done right before we returned to INM. I stalled and stalled but finally it was time to shit or get off the pot. So I put all our paperwork together, we got up early so we could be first in line and over to INM we headed on Friday morning.

Well, it went great. The agent gave us the paperwork we needed to go to the bank and pay the fees, Afterwards we returned to INM and found that there were a couple errors on our application. I suspected this would be the case but once the info has been entered on the computer, you can't change it and I was afraid that, if I started a new form, it might really screw things up. But it turns out that that is exactly what I had to do. We returned to the boat, printed the new forms and got back to INM before they closed (for extranjeros like us) at 1:00 PM. This time, we had everything in order and our applications were accepted. Now all we have to do is watch their progress on the internet and, when everything is done, return to INM to get our FM3 cards.

We were so excited that we decided to celebrate with a couple hot dogs. There's a lady on the corner of 16 de Septiembre y B. Dominguez who has a hot dog stand that we've walked by many times. Typically, when they do hot dogs down here, they wrap them with bacon before grilling. So good. So we stopped by and had ourselves a couple. But that wasn't the first street food we'd had on Friday. After we went to the bank we had to get some copies made and also purchase a couple of file folders. On the way, we passed two taco stands. I stopped at both a couple days ago. On Friday we just stopped at the one that made tacos de tiburón (shark, in this case, Mako shark). Then, after we finished getting all the copies, etc. while we were walking back to INM, a guy on the street stopped us and was obviously trying to sell us something although we weren't sure what it was. He opened an ice chest and showed us a bunch of very tempting looking empenadas (fried pies). At ten pesos each (~$0.80USD), how could we resist? So we snagged a couple to help stave off our hunger as we walked back to Immigración. Empenadas can have all kinds of fillings. These were carne de pierna (beef leg meet) with potatoes, chilis and god knows what all else. ¡Tan sabroso! Let's see, empenadas at 10 pesos each, shark tacos at 12 pesos each and hot dogs at 20 pesos each. A grand total of 42 pesos or about $3.35 each. We love Mexican street food.

After Immigración accepted our paperwork, we celebrated further with ice cream. But before that, I decided I really needed a straw cowboy hat. We went to a store we'd heard about first but they didn't have any cheap straw hats in my size. So we went to Mercado Madero and found hundreds of cowboy hats for sale. This is the one I finally settled on:

I'm not really Charlie Daniels but I do play him on TV.


Lulu's been spending many hours the past few days re-covering our settee cushions. We really liked the floral print that we used to have but the fabric just didn't wear well. It also got dirty really fast and was not easy to keep clean. So we bought some Sunbrella awning print that matched our other canvas. Armed with her trusty Singer Featherweight, she has now covered the cushions for a second time. Hopefully she won't have to repeat the process anytime soon although she's getting very good at it

Pretty snappy, huh?

More about chow:

There's a little taqueria about a block from our marina that we've been to a couple times and will definitely return to. It's called Taqueria Super Burro and is an open-air kind of place. There's one woman working there doing all the cooking and, oftentimes, the serving as well. Once in awhile she has someone else serving the food but often it's just her.

The first time we visited, we decided to get super burros just to find out what they were. Well, they were carne asada served on a HUGE rolled up flour tortilla (tortilla de harina). This beast was so big that it didn't fit on the plate without being bent back around. And the meat was SO good! We vowed to return. On our second visit we weren't hungry enough for super burros so we just had carne asada tacos. Once again, SO good. This was the visit when I took the cocinera's photo. She made me promise to bring her a copy which I did a couple days ago. The only problem with this place is that she doesn't sell beer. Coke is okay but, a taco or super burro really cries out for a beer to wash it down. So when I delivered the photo I asked (in Spanish since she speaks no English) if it was acceptable to bring beers with us when we came to eat. Certainly, it's okay. Strange that I would feel the need to ask. I told her that this would never be allowed in estados unidos. She was very surprised at that. So, next time we eat there (probably tomorrow), we'll stop at our beer store at the end of the block and score a couple Pacifico Ballenas to wash the super burros down.

This morning we ran out of propane. We'll still be able to make coffee since we have the little burner that uses the small bottles but making a meal is pretty much out of the question. We won't be able to get more propane until Monday so this seemed like a good time to go back to Bandito's which is just down the block from us. We went there for cheeseburgers the day we checked in to Marina del Palmar but I really wanted to go back and get some BBQ ribs. And Lulu had been told that their chimechangas were excellent. So, off we went. Their BBQ grill is a converted engine compartment from an old Chevy pickup. Apparently my reputation as a grill master had preceded me as they asked me to step in and take over the grilling for a spell. Sort of like when Eric Clapton is in the audience and they ask him to sit in for a song or two.

What a crock! I actually just went up to take a photo of the grill. After I took it, the crew handed me the grill tools and grabbed my camera. They've obviously done this before.

Tomorrow morning we're going to (don't tell anyone) Applebee's to see if they have regular USA style breakfast. The breakfasts at the restaurants here are pretty unsatisfying. Never quite enough food and what there is isn't very interesting. So, we thought we'd give Applebee's a try. Seems like they should have regular b'fasts, right? If not, we just need to go a completely different direction. Forget eggs/spuds/bacon. Go for something like fish tacos instead.


I got the transmission re-installed the other day. Enrique the Diver put the prop back on, and I rebuilt and reinstalled the water pump yesterday. So, today was the day to try the whole package out. I fired the engine up and, once it warmed up, I shifted into forward. Nothing. Back to neutral and then forward again. This time it engaged. Hmmmm. Reverse. It slammed right into reverse almost as soon as the throttle/shifter left the neutral position. Something just didn't feel right. Seemed like reverse was a little too sensitive and forward wasn't nearly sensitive enough. I decided I was over my head and called Terry, the expat mechanic. I explained the problem and he told me how to make the adjustment to get things working right. I tried what he said and, sure enough, after a couple of tries, the tranny was shifting and was working just like it was supposed to. I felt good enough about it to bolt the cockpit sole (floor) back in place.


I tried out my plan for an end-of-boom sheeting system today. It didn't work very well. Way too much friction because of all the things the sheet had to run over. So, instead, I just moved the forward bail on the boom back aways so that it didn't rub on the dodger and rigged the original set-up (with the traveller) back up. Some battles just aren't worth fighting.

Okay, I think that should bring you up to date. Let's see, did I mention that the high today was about 87? No, probably not. Far be it from me to rub something like that in.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

2/15/2011 - Follow up to the Mañana blog

Henry the Diver arrived at the boat bright and early. He was in the water to install the prop by 8:30. By 9:20 he was all done. This time we have a nice new stainless steel cotter pin installed that will hopefully keep the nut from backing off again. And, the Loc-Tite I smeared on the threads ought to help as well.

I worked on reinstalling the transmission but by mid afternoon I was just frustrated. I could NOT find the sweet spot where everything just slid together. I took a break for awhile in the afternoon when Owen (s/v Que Tal) hauled me to the nuts and bolt store to get some special bolts I needed. Followed that up with a stop at Ace Hardware to buy things that neither one of us really needed but couldn't continue to live without.

When I got back to the boat I worked on the transmission install again. It didn't go any easier but eventually I did manage to get the stupid thing in. Tomorrow I have to rebuild the water pump as I can't test the transmission/prop fixes until I can start the engine up.

Lulu spent the day working on the settee cushions. She's re-covering them as the original fabric we used didn't wear well at all. I'm waiting until she's all done to post a picture. Should be just a few more days.

We decided we earned dinner out tonight so we walked up Avenida 5 de Febrero to Señor Azucar's ("Si ud. conoce Sr. Azucar, su conoce La Paz."). After going over and over the menu, Lulu decided on chiles rellenos de camarón (chiles stuffed with shrimp) and I had Almejas Chocolates Rellenas (chocolate clams stuffed with bacon, cheese and mushrooms). We started with an order of guacamole. When they brought it, we got a bowl of guacamole as well as a bowl of smoked fish dip that tastes exactly like Lulu's smoked salmon/cream cheese spread. It was so good.

Both our meals were excellent. While we were relaxing over another round of cervezas, the owner, Marcello, brought us complimentary shots of tequila. It was very smooth. Later in the evening, he brought us another complimentary tequila. He was a very nice guy. Originally from Acapulco but he's been in La Paz for 36 years.

Eventually it was time to wend our way back to the boat where we watched a couple shows on DVD and then went to bed. It was hot today (mid 80s) and probably will be again tomorrow. What a shame, huh?

Oh yeah, while Lulu was getting in shape with an hour and a half of Yoga-Lates at Club Cruceros, I was hoofing it downtown to the organic market to get some sausage. A guy named Ace was selling both breakfast sausage and Italian sausage. Now, I love chorizo but eventually a guy just wants something else. However, at the price Ace was charging, I think we'll learn to make our own sausage. On the way back to the boat, not having had time for breakfast, I stopped at 2 roving taco carts. At the first one I had a taco de "carnitas de res horneado". This should have been some sort of oven-cooked beef, but, in truth, it tasted and looked an awful lot like pork. Very good, though. Then I went back up the street to have a taco at a stand that has been in business since 1951. Since that's also the year of my birth, I felt a kinship. I had no idea what kind of tacos these were as there was no sign. Turned out they were fish tacos. They were very good. I asked what kind of fish and he answered that these were "de tiburón" (shark), Mako tiburón. They were quite tasty.

Tomorrow I'll rebuild the engine's raw water pump and Lulu will continue sewing cushions. And it'll probably be 80+ degrees again. Ahhhhhh.......

Monday, February 14, 2011

2/14/2011 - What part of Mañana don't they understand?

Am I the only one down here with the mañana attitude? You know, the old saw about how in Mexico mañana doesn't mean tomorrow, it just means not today. Here I am, ready for things to take awhile and then THIS happens.

Started out innocently enough. During the morning cruisers' net, they have a section called "local assistance" where cruisers can call in to get recommendations about services , etc. I called and asked for recommendations for someone who could put new bearings and seals in my transmission and also for a machine shop to fabricate an emergency substitute for my Shaft Saver. Right after the net, Bill from s/v Wandering Puffin got back to me with a recommendation for a guy to do the transmission work. He said that Terry, an expat from the States, has been down here in La Paz for something like 11 years and does very good work having once been a marine engineer working for some big outfit in the States.

I gave Terry a call, told him my problem and was prepared to have to haul the tranny to his shop and wait awhile until he had time to fix it. But NOOOOOOOOO... Within 30 minutes, Terry was here at the boat to get the transmission. While he was here he asked me a few questions to get an idea of why I thought the tranny needed new bearings. I told him about the vibrations that were most evident at low RPMs. Then he wanted to see something on the engine so I had him jump down into the engine compartment to take a look. He was down there poking around when he said, "Your vibration isn't because of the tranny, it's because you're about to lose your prop. It's loose." He climbed out and I climbed down. He had me turn the propshaft and then suddenly stop it. Sure enough, I could feel a clunk that said that something on the shaft didn't quit turning at exactly the moment that I stopped the shaft.

I climbed out and he told me I needed to find out why the thing was loose. He had some worst case scenarios but said the first thing to do was to remove the nut and pull the prop. Then he'd be able to look at the parts and figure out what was going on. Great. Looks like we'll need to haul out. But Terry vetoed that idea. he said that haul-outs in La Paz have just gotten crazy expensive and I should just do it in the water. He said that, if I didn't want to do it myself (I didn't), I should just get hold of a diver. I asked if he knew any divers he could recommend. He mentioned a couple possibilities but settled on Henry The Diver. A guy that was working on one of the other boats nearby had Henry's card, so Terry gave him a call. After explaining the situation, he hung up and said that Henry would come down and take a look. He then departed with my transmission.

Couldn't have been more than 15 minutes later that a short friendly-looking Mexican came walking down the dock with his nephew and a bunch of equipment. Sure enough, it was Henry and he was ready to go to work. He and his nephew got things set up and Henry dove in. Within about 20 minutes, the prop, the nut, and the old zinc were laying on the dock. He said that the shaft looked good. he couldn't see any problems other than the prop nut was so loose that just turning the allen-head bolt that holds the zinc on was enough to spin the nut off.

I still wanted Terry to take a look so I wasn't sure when to have Henry come back to put things back together. He said that he'd stop by in the morning before he went to another job at Marina de La Paz. If I was ready then, he'd re-install it, otherwise, he'd come back when I was ready. he also said to wait and pay him when the whole job was complete. With that, he loaded up his stuff and headed out.

After Henry was gone, I decided that I'd try to find Terry's shop and take the prop and such to him for analysis. I was just starting to put the stuff in a bag when, who should wander down the dock carrying a bright red Westerbeke transmission? That's right, it was Terry. He said that he couldn't find anything wrong with the transmission other than the seal had not been installed properly and there was a loose nut on one of the shafts. He tightened everything up, reinstalled the seal properly and even gave the case a coat of red paint. I showed him the prop, the nut, and the key and he couldn't really see anything wrong. He said that it looked like the nut had just come loose. It's supposed to have a cotter key to keep it from turning but there was no cotter key evident. Which would certainly explain things. I have no idea when it disappeared but, if you'll remember, I noticed the nut loosening up when we were at Avalon on Catalina Island in early November. Anyway, he gave me some reinstallation tips and said he was pretty sure that tightening things up would take care of my vibration. I thanked him and asked him how much I owed. He said that since all he did was take things apart and then put them back together, how about $200 (pesos). That's about $16USD. Yeah, I think that'll be fine.

So here I am, ready to relax and wait around for at least a few days to get things done, and now it's 11:00 AM, about 2-1/2 hours after I first called for a recommendation, and pretty much everything's done. And I hadn't even had breakfast yet!

Tomorrow, I fully expect to see Henry between 8:00 and 8:30. I'd bet that by 9:30 my prop will be firmly back in place. I asked Henry about how much this was going to cost and he said Maybe 400 or 450 pesos. "Is all right?" Let's see, that's between $32 and $36 USD for two dives and the extraction and replacement of my prop. I paid a schlock diver in Avalon $110 USD just to dive once and tighten the nut, which he obviously didn't do a very good job of. So, yes, Henry, I think that'll be just fine.

I'm feeling pretty good about this whole transmission thing right about now. It could have been SO much worse in any number of ways, not the least of which would have been if the prop had dropped off 30 miles from land out along the western Baja coast somewhere where there'd be no hope of recovering it. Plus I've been hearing horror stories from other boaters about pulling into the yard for one thing and then finding out a whole bunch of other stuff is wrong and leaving the yard a whole lot poorer than they'd anticipated.

So, my hat's off to a couple of excellent folks who just don't seem to know the meaning of the word Mañana.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

2/13/2011 - A classic example

Today was a classic example of the "one thing leads to another" syndrome. Every boater is familiar with the syndrome. Well, maybe not Paul Allen or Ted Turner or any of those guys, but they're probably not reading my blog either.

Yesterday, Lulu took the canvas off the dodger to clean it up and make a few repairs. I've never quite liked how it fits since it's a little tall (the boom rubs on it when it's sitting in the gallows), and sits back a little too far (the forward pulley for the mainsheet rubs against the dodger).

Neither of these things would happen if we didn't have a mainsheet traveller mounted on the bridge deck. The traveller has been a vexation to me for a long time. It makes it impossible to sit on the bridge deck comfortably, it's in the way when getting into or out of the companionway, it puts the mainsheet right in the way when going forward from the cockpit, and it puts the mainsheet in the way of the companionway doors.

At our level of sailing (decidedly "non-performance"), the traveller is also not of much use to us. For awhile now I've wanted to move the mainsheet to the end of the boom to get it out of the way. I studied a bunch of photos of other Westsails to see the various arrangements and finally came up with something that I think will work for us.

So, today, I dove into the lazarette to get the handy billy that I had put together some time ago for ascending the mast if I didn't want use the steps for some unfathomable reason. For those who don't know, a handy billy is collection of blocks and line that can be used to lift heavy loads, among other things.

The reason I was retrieving it was because I was pretty sure the hardware and line would be just the ticket for rigging a boom-end mainsheet.

Once I unloaded the inflatable kayak, the Baja filter, a number of hanks of manila line, several canvas bags holding all sorts of goodies, and a couple of bagged sand chairs, I was finally able to grab the handy billy from where it was sitting on top of the battery box holding half of our house batteries.

Hey, you know..... now that the battery box is exposed, this would be a good time to relocate the batteries. Something I've been wanting to do almost since I installed them. It's just too hard to service them where they're at and I think they'll fit on the starboard side of the engine compartment alongside the starting battery.

Of course, before I move the batteries, I need to pull the starting battery out and clean the area up. I had a can of spray-on battery post protectant sitting alongside the starting battery. Sometime in the past year, the can rusted through and the whole little well that the battery sits in was coated with a thick layer of greasy purple gunk. Been meaning to clean that up for awhile, too.

The rest of the project was pretty straightforward: remove the house batteries, reroute the cables, make some tie-downs, and hook everything back up. BUT, while I was putting the batteries in place, I decided to move a bunch of the stuff that normally sits behind the generator somewhere else. Every time I pull the generator out, everything behind it just slides down and I have to screw with it when I put the generator away. So I got all that stuff relocated to the lazarette. While I was at it, I tied several hoses up out of the way.

While I was rerouting the cables, I was reminded that the vented loop on my raw water was adrift, and had been since I unhooked it from the bulkhead to make room for another breaker panel way back in Newport. It wasn't particularly dangerous since the hoses are stiff enough to keep it elevated and there's really no place for it to fall even if the hoses were supple enough to allow it. But, I still didn't like it and always meant to reattach it somewhere. Now seemed like a good time. So I moved some wires that were in the way, cut some wire ties that were holding assorted wires to the water hoses, and moved the vented loop to a spot on the side of the cockpit well where I could permanently attach it. All better.

After I cleaned things up and put my tools away, I noticed the handy billy sitting there. Oh yeah! I tried out the hardware on the boom, found an extra block in my rigging bag that matched perfectly and it looks like I have all the necessary hardware and line to be able to hook the mainsheet up from the end of the boom as soon as I get a couple of eyebolts or padeyes to use as anchoring points.

Not one of these things was on my list of things to do while we're at Marina del Palmar. But they're all things I've been meaning to do for a long time. And now they're done. I'm not sure why I even make lists.

PS: I know all the real sailors out there are probably going to give me crap about removing the traveller. Please save it. I don't know enough about the theory and use of the traveller to argue my side so I'm not going to bother trying. If it'll make you feel any better, I won't actually remove the traveller until I'm sure I don't want it, so I can always reconnect it if I want to. But I've got my doubts that I'm going to want to.

PPS: for you non-boaters, a vented loop looks like this (this isn't mine as I had the engine compartment all buttoned up when I started this blog, so I just got this photo off the internet):

The vented loop is installed on any line that is bringing sea water into the boat. Without it, sea water could continue to siphon into the boat after the pump is turned off, or in the case of a leak or broken line. This could be very bad. So, a loop is run in the line well above the water line of the boat. A vent is installed at the top of the loop to allow air into the line and break the siphon.

Friday, February 11, 2011

2/10/2011 - Whale Ho!

Although I had the alarm set for 0515, I was pretty sure I wouldn't need it. Even though our little travel alarm that we bought for our first trip to La Paz back in 2002 has never failed us except due to operator error, I still never quite believe it's really going to wake us when it's supposed to. So my biological clock usually starts waking me up about an hour ahead of time after which I go back to sleep for 15 minutes at a time and finally end up getting up about 15 minutes before the alarm was going to go off. Today was no exception. So I was out of bed with the coffee water on by 0505. The van from EspirituBaja was supposed to pick us up in front of the gate to Marina del Palmar between 0600 and 0615.

We went back and forth about what to wear and what to take along. We were going to be on the Pacific side of the Baja peninsula and expected it to be cooler than La Paz. However, we didn't want to roast on the trip over and back, either. We ended up wearing regulation long clothes and taking sweatshirts and jackets with. After we were dressed and had our travel mugs full of coffee, we headed up to the gate to await our ride.

The first little surprise came when we got to the front gate. It was locked. According to the girl in the office when we checked in, it's never locked. But it sure was now. Okay, so how are we supposed to get out of here? I could just see our ride coming and then leaving again as we were helplessly trapped behind the fence. And this fence is designed for keeping people out and looked like it would be every bit as effective at keeping us in. We were pretty sure that there was usually a night watchman but who knew where? So, I started rattling the gate but that didn't really seem very effective. Just then a van approached. It turned as if to drive into the marina, stopping at the gate. A closer look revealed that this definitely wasn't the van we were waiting for, however. But, either it's approach or my gate rattling had brought the watchman out of hibernation. He ambled over to open the gate for the van and let us out at the same time. Whew!

About 0615 or a little after, not one but two vans form EspirituBaja pulled up. The front one was full and there was room for Lulu and I in the second one although, we couldn't sit next to each other. Alberto, our driver, made the introductions and we were off. It was still quite dark out.

Our traveling companions were all from one big family, the Flores family. Dr. & Sra. Flores live in La Paz and the family was getting together to celebrate his 60th birthday. The members we met were from La Paz, Jalisco, Guadalajara (I think) and Los Angeles. More family was due to arrive between now and the weekend. Dr. Flores' birthday was basically an excuse to have a family reunion.

Like many Mexican families, this one did love to talk. And, of course, they were speaking Spanish. And so was Alberto, our driver, although he tried to remember to translate at least some of his parts of the conversation for me (I was sitting up front with him and I'm not sure if Lulu could hear most of what he said as she was sitting behind me). So, Lulu and I amused ourselves by trying to follow the conversations. Comparing notes later, we found that we mostly had the same experience: pick up a word here and there, maybe an occasional phrase, but not nearly enough to get the gist of the conversations. This might be a very long day.

Our destination was Puerto Lopez Mateo which was about a two to two and a half hour drive. About an hour into the drive we stopped at a little rancho. There are a jillion of these little places all over the countryside. From little buildings that can be completely falling down with just one table and a couple of chairs all the way to places that look like they're in pretty good repair and could actually be modest restaurants.

They usually have Pacifico Cerveza advertisements painted on their walls and are often painted in the blue and white of Pacifico and, if they have a sign, Pacific donated it as well. The one we stopped at was quite a bit fancier than the one in the picture. I think it was opened just for us although a couple of other travelers stopped in for breakfast while we were there and certainly weren't turned away. Breakfast options were burritos, quesadillas, machaca, or machaca con huevos. Lulu and I both opted for the machaca con huevos. We were sitting across from the elder of the Flores family, Mike. I tried conversing with him in Spanish for a bit but hit a wall at one of his responses. I explained that my Spanish was very poor and he immediately switched to very fluent English. Turns out that he is the branch of the family that lives in Los Angeles. His son, who also lives in LA, was on the trip as well and also spoke fluent English (obviously), so at least we had a couple of folks to talk to. Turns out that most, though not all, of the family had at least some English.

Breakfast was plentiful, relaxed, and excellent. Afterwards, we all stretched our legs a little and used the baños. I wish I'd taken a photo of the baños. There were two 2-seaters. Each baño was a concrete block building with two "rooms". Inside each room was a toilet and a wastebasket. Period. One room had no door and the other side had a piece of plywood sort of hanging on a couple of hinges that, with a bit of coaxing, could be used as a door after a fashion. There was a tank full of water on the roof for flushing. Crude, clean enough, and basic. But they served their purpose. The baños point out something that I really love about the Mexican people that we've met so far. Obviously the folks in our group came from various walks of life and were of various income levels although none of them were poor, at least not anymore. But I didn't hear one single disparaging word about the baños. Not one. And they didn't apologize for them either. They just seem to take things in their stride. Although I'm sure that there probably is snobbery and elitism here, I certainly haven't witnessed it. Everyone just seems to take things as they are and maybe remembers when their situation was not as rosy as it is today. I really like this accepting attitude and am trying to get myself to be a little more Mexican and a lot less judgmental.

Yeah, fine, but what's this got to do with whales? Not much, really. But, as long-time readers know, when you embark on one of my journeys, you get the whole package, like it or not.

After breakfast (desayuno) we drove for about another hour. On the way we passed through Ciudad Constitución, the only town of any size along the way. It's primarily a farming town. The surrounding area grows oranges, corn, potatoes, lettuce, tomatoes and other things that Alberto told me but I've forgotten. The town looks like and reminds me of mid-size agriculture-based towns in the US of the 1950s or maybe the 60s. Don't know what it is but it just has that feel to me. If you're old enough, picture one of the black and white films you saw in school as a kid. The ones that were about some other place. The narrator would be telling you about the town and its products while you watched footage of cool old cars driving in and angle-parking along main street. Women in dresses and men in hats walked along the sidewalks exchanging pleasantries. Cd. Constitución reminded me of that kind of town. Of course, that's just from driving through as we never actually got out of the van. And, of course, the women mostly weren't in dresses and the men's hats were either baseball caps or straw cowboy hats. And they weren't doing angled head-in parking but still, there was a feel.

Eventually, just after Ciudad Insurgentes, another farm town up the road from Cd. Constitución, we turned off towards Pto. Lopez Mateo. The road got really rough at this point and stayed that way pretty much the whole way, which must have been 10 or 15 miles. Along the way, as we neared the town, Alberto pointed out pallets that had been put atop every 10th power pole. These were the bases for osprey (aguilas pescadores) to build their nests. And almost every nest had at least one osprey.

The power company installed the pallets because, with no tall trees for probably hundreds of miles in any direction, the osprey liked using the power poles for nesting sites and, before the pallets were introduced, frequently caused power outages when their nests would short across a couple of the wires.

Puerto Lopez Mateo is a town located pretty far to the north of the channel that becomes Bahia Magdalena.

The town is a fishing village and has a sardine cannery as well. But, just looking around town, you'd think that whale watching was the only reason they're all here. It has apparently become a pretty good business.

The pangas, or lanchas, you see in the photo are typical of what we headed out in although ours was longer than the one in the foreground, sporting 5 seats instead of 3. After getting outfitted with life jackets, we boarded and headed out into the bay.

Of course we immediately get excited when we see a spout way the hell and gone across the bay. The driver starts heading in that direction and we start seeing more grey whales. Soon we're fairly close to a mother and her calf. This is the sighting of choice because, besides being cute, the calf need sto surface for air way more often than the adults which means they can't just submerge and come back up clear across the bay from us. The panga drivers must not be allowed to drive up too close to the whales although, if a whale approaches the boat they don't have to retreat. Now before I start getting into photos, let me just say that the pictures don't do justice to the experience. We never saw any whale come out of the water further than it needed to to take a breath. No jumping, damn the luck. Also, none of the whales swam up to the boat to get a look at us or get their heads scratched. Again, damn the luck. What we did see was the backs of a bunch of whales. Must have seen 30 or more during the course of the 2 hour trip. That being said, here are the best of the dozens of photos I took:

Hard to tell but this is a mama and her calf:

My two fluke shots:

It was a good thing I took 2 cameras. I took my Canon Powershot A530 which I love because it has a viewfinder. This is really important when taking photos in the bright sunlight when the little screens on the cameras are really hard to see. However, the battery on the Canon ran down about halfway through the trip so I had to switch to my carry-around camera, an Olympus T-100 which, unfortunately, doesn't have a viewfinder. Consequently, some of my shots were off-center or managed to miss the action altogether.

The most awe-inspiring moment happened at about the halfway point of the outing. I was sitting there looking over the side when I noticed that the water was really light colored. Yeah, light colored and whale-shaped! A freakin' whale was swimming under the boat and not all that far under either. Naturally, I didn't have enough wherewithal to snap a shot but here's what it looked like after it cleared the boat. You can see the lighter-colored water which is the whale. It's pretty lame compared to watching the whale swim under the boat but it is what it is:

After two hours out among the whales, our time was up and we headed back to shore. The next phase of the trip was lunch (almuerzo). They went all out feeding us platters containing fried fish, camarones (shrimp) al diablo, and longosta (lobster) along with rice, beans and tortillas. Here we are enjoying comida along with our trip-mates, la familia Flores:

After lunch, we stopped at the grey whale skeleton that the locals put together. The story is that the whale beached itself and died near Pto. Mateo Lopez. Scientists came from all over to check it out to see if they could figure out what makes whales beach themselves. Once they were done, the townsfolk got together and cleaned the skeleton up, painted the bones to protect them from the brutal tropical sun and then reassembled them for display. We hadn't planned on taking one of these obligatory photos but Dr. Flores insisted so we handed him our camera, although I think ultimately his nephew took the shot.

Finally, back in the van for the 2-hour+ drive back to La Paz. We arrived back at Marina del Palmar almost exactly 12 hours after we set out. It was a good day. But I sure would have liked to get a shot like these:

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

2/9/2011 - quick update

Well, we finally were able to get off the boat after the norther blew out. But it wasn't until Saturday, the 5th. Even then, the ride ashore was a wee bit rough. By Sunday things had calmed down considerably. We were hoping to get a slip in Marina de La Paz for about a month so we could take care of a number of maintenance items. But every time we checked, they had no openings. "Please check back tomorrow". That got old pretty fast. So I checked with Marina Palmira and Marina Costa Baja. These are both quite a ways away from the shops and such that we'll need but beggars can't be choosers. However, on the advice of our friend John (m/v Doña Elena) we checked Marina Don Jose, right next door to Marina de La Paz. They only have about 20 slips altogether so we didn't hold much hope. Sure enough, "We don't have anything now but please check back at the end of the month". We walked next to Marina del Palmar which is about a block and a half away from Marina Don Jose. They also only have about 20 slips altogether so, again, not much hope. But, lo and behold, they had not one, but two possible slips. We checked out the slip and the facilities and decided, "yes, we'll take it.".

So yesterday we moved in. We're just across a little inlet from the Navy base. Most of the local fishermen launch their pangas from the beach at the head of the inlet so it gets a little rolly in the early morning when they leave and again in the evening when they return. But no biggie. The slip is way bigger than our boat. We have the boat pulled in with the dinghy floating behind it and we don't stick over at either end. The bathroom/shower facilities are nothing to write home about but they're certainly not gross or anything. You do have to remember to BYOTP. But, at $400 for a month as opposed to $485 at Marina de La Paz or $600 at either Marina Palmira or Costa Baja, bringing our own TP is not a big deal.

Tomorrow we're going on a tour to Bahia Magdalena on the Pacific side of Baja to see Grey Whales. The trip includes breakfast and lunch and 2 hours of whale watching from a panga. The tour company says they've been having great luck having 20-30 grey whales approach the boats on all their recent excursions. Really looking forward to it and I'll try to remember my camera.

Other than that, I need to start carrying my camera around again. Somehow I got out of the habit. Wanted to take a picture of the Super Burros we had for lunch today. !Ay Caramba! They were outstanding. Guess we'll just have to go back and have another one so I can get a photo to show you what you're missing. Our new location her at Marina del Palmar is close to several good eating places and a very short walk to our favorite cervezaria.

So, there's a quick and dirty update. I promise to try to remember to carry my camera routinely from nw on which should lead to a little better blog frequency. Thanks for hanging in there.

Friday, February 4, 2011

2/4/2011 -BRRRRRRR.....

We're freezing our butts off right now. Daytime temps are in the high 50s and 60s and it's dipping down into the low 50s and even the occasional high 40s at night (49 last night). Of course, as soon as this norther blows out things will improve. The constant wind whipping past the boat just pulls any little bit of heat right away with it. We've been running the diesel furnace occasionally but it seems like such a waste as the boat doesn't retain the heat for very long. We're both wearing long johns and sweatshirts which is quite a contrast to Tuesday when we were walking through town sweating (at least I was) and eating ice cream. I'm currently trying to come up with new ideas about re-routing the heating ducts. They aren't insulated, so the lockers they run through get nice and warm. But that's not where we need the heat. I either need insulated ductwork or I need to route the ductwork out in the open.

Just heard on the morning cruisers' net that the norther is dying down and by Saturday afternoon we should be back to normal. That'll be nice. We've been hearing that these northers are a pretty routine occurrence in the Sea during January and February. We're thinking that, if we decide to spend next winter in La Paz, we will probably splurge and treat ourselves to a slip in a marina for a couple months.

While we've been confined to the boat, trying not to get seasick or bashed around too much, we've mostly been reading, eating a little, and sleeping. We're both currently enjoying reading the Sookie Stackhouse series. These are the books that the HBO series "True Blood" is based on. This is just simple pleasure reading. Your brain will definitely NOT be taxed while reading them but they sure are fun. Lulu's on book 2 of an 8 book series, "Living Dead in Dallas" and I'm on the 7th book, "All Together Dead".

Looking forward to getting ashore Saturday. Not the least of the reasons is that this is an election weekend. Election day is Sunday. That means that there will be no alcohol sales from sometime Saturday night until sometime Monday morning (it's called a "ley seca" or "dry law") and if we don't get beer Saturday, we'll likely run out. BUMMER! Fortunately, it looks like a trip ashore on Saturday will be possible and even likely. One of the best things about election weekend is that, after it's over, maybe we won't be inundated with the barrage of high volume campaigning that we've been subject to for the last month or more.

But, even being confined to the cold boat with the possibility of running out of beer, I'd still rather be here than going to work every day and enduring Silverton Hills winters. Have to be sure to include this disclaimer or the girls at Silverton City Hall (Ashlie, Sarah, and Kay) will give me a big "BOO-FREAKIN'-HOO" for complaining. And rightfully so.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

2/3/2011 - Another Norther

The good news is that the water pump rebuild kit I ordered from the States less than a week ago arrived at Marina de La Paz yesterday. The bad news is that the anchorage was so freakin' rough there was no way we could safely take the dingy ashore to get it. Normally UPS could just leave it at the Marina office and we'd pick it up when we can. However, we owe $450 (pesos, not dollars) in duty or whatever so they can't drop it off until they get their money. The plan is that they will try again on Friday to drop it off and we will try to make it to the marina with the cash.

Well, we are just getting hammered with this norther. It's supposed to start blowing out tomorrow (Friday) but probably not early enough for us to get ashore. Fortunately for us, we're friends with two of the nicest people in La Paz: John & Vickie of m/v Doña Elena (formerly of the Westsail 32 s/v Elena). We met John & Vickie in Ensenada when they were tied up right alongside of us at Marina Baja Naval. They had us over for drinks and we all seemed to hit it off. They spend their winters on Doña Elena at Marina de La Paz and are very active in Club Cruceros, a cruisers' club that hosts social events and organizes various fund-raising activities to help local families. They have a truck here and have done stuff like haul us to the airport, take us out to Costa Baja to check it out, and turn us on to the best tacos in town (arrachera at Rancho Viejo). I called them tonight to explain our predicament. Without batting an eye, they said they'd take care of it and for us not to try anything unsafe like dinghying ashore before the seas calm down. Others have said it over and over and I have to agree: you meet the nicest people cruising.

So, about this norther. Apparently there's a big high pressure in the 4-corners area (that's where Utah, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico come together). This pushes air towards the areas of lower pressure resulting in Santa Ana winds in southern California and northers in the Sea of Cortez. And, from where the Colorado River dumps into the Sea, all the way to the bottom of Baja, there is nothing in the way to slow the winds down. Reportedly they had winds as high as 50-60 knots in the Sea up north. Here in Bahia de La Paz (actually, we're in Ensenada de La Paz), we're seeing winds out of the north of around 25 knots. The seas, even here in the fairly well-protected bay, are pretty freakin' gnarly. They aren't 12 footers or anything but they're pretty darn big for an anchorage. During the ebb tide, the current wants to point our boat one way while the wind wants to point it a different way so we dance around all over the place. Boats with fin keels tend to react more to the wind while the full-keeled boats, like us, are heavily influenced by the tidal current so everyone is pointing in different directions. Makes for an uncomfortable time, too, as sometimes we're beam-on to the seas for a little while. Once the flood tide starts, things get better as the wind and the tidal current are both traveling in the same direction so we tend to stay put better and everyone points in the same direction.

Been watching our track on the GPS and the anchor seems to be rock-steady. There was one point yesterday when the tide shifted and we drug a little ways until the anchor reset itself. This was mainly due to the fact that the anchor probably came dislodged when we swung around it and it had to reset itself. Since then, the wind has been strong enough that we have stayed on the south side of the anchor regardless of tide so it doesn't get dislodged and have to reset. Whatever, we're feeling pretty confident with our ground tackle at the moment. Of course, I spent pretty much the entire day yesterday in the cockpit, keeping an eye on things, in order to gain this confidence. The wind died a bit last night which, along with confidence in the anchor, allowed us both to get a full night's sleep.

The wind blew hard all day today. It was fairly cold on the boat and the ride was definitely unpleasant. We both wore our accupressure wristbands all day and they seemed to keep the queasiness at bay. We mostly just passed the time reading today. Yesterday, Lulu spent part of the day sewing a new cover for one of the settee cushions but that resulted in her not feeling too good later. So none of that today.

One of the local cruisers who's been here for 6-1/2 years said that northers always take 3 days. One day to build (yesterday), one day to blow (today), and one day to die down (tomorrow), We certainly hope he's right. That's pretty much what the weather gurus are saying is supposed to happen. We'll keep our fingers crossed and hope that by Saturday we're happily dinghying ashore for ice cream again.