Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary, Where Does Your Power Go?

I miss cheese.

Back in the days of land-livin', we were quite the dairy consumers. Milk at lunch and dinner, and cheese whenever, the sharper the better. Erik and I spent many an anniversary sharing Roquefort on Melba toast, accompanied by a cold Sauterne. I slowly increased our household Cheddar sharpness until Stylish was quite happy to consume old cheddar that smelled like gym socks. And I was a sucker for anything on sale on the store that was green-veined and looked like it might bite back.

Alas, our cheese days are behind us now. In the first place, it is unavailable here. Mexico offered only the blandest cheese-approximate substances, which were good for making quesadillas and not much else. Guatemala hasn't even got that. And so I make my sad face, and strike grilled-cheese off my list of lunches.

In the second place, even if I could find stinky cheese, I couldn't necessarily keep it cold.

Now. I am sure that you at home have never had cause to question the energy requirements of your fridge. At most, maybe you bought a new appliance, looked at the yellow energystar tag that came with it, congratulated yourself on being a responsible consumer, and instantly forgot the experience.

My friends, I was once like you! No longer. As we have moved into hotter and hotter weather, our fridge has struggled to keep up. Which means it runs more often. Which means the 12 V batteries run down. Which means we have to run the generator more often. Which means we are burning diesel just to keep our mayonnaise cold. Not good, not good.

We lucked into finding a boat refrigeration expert here in the Rio Dulce. He looked over the system, and gave us the sad verdict that our system is fine; we are simply under-insulated. This is bad news because it means we don't have an easy fix for our power-guzzling fridge. We have to rip the whole thing out and start again.

Once again; at home, no problem. Unplug old fridge. Wheel out old fridge. Recycle responsibly. Wheel in new fridge. Plug in. Smile happy smile. For us, our top-loading fridge and freezer are built right into the kitchen counter. We'll have to gently remove the teak counters that cover the lid, somehow pull the massive stainless-steel liner that form the body, rip out the likely-saturated insulation beneath, put in new insulation 3-4 inches thick, build a new liner to fit the new space, possibly in situ, and put it all back together again.

Does that sound fun and mess-free? No, I didn't think so. We've decided to put the job off until we reach Cartagena, but we can't push it much beyond that. I am not looking forward to Erik ripping up the kitchen, blocking the stove and the microwave, so that not only won't we have any means of keeping things cold, aside from a cooler and a block of ice, but I also won't be able to cook anything we do have. It sounds like ten days of peanut butter sandwiches to me.

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Thursday, June 16, 2011

No Time to Talk

The internet is being briefly cooperative.  Photos!

Barracuda: catch and release

Free-diving Stylish

A brief rest between repairs

Bumming around Long Cay

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Luck, Be a Lady Tonight

We are currently moored by Glovers Reef in Belize. Tomorrow, we will go diving/snorkelling to look for whale sharks.

The internet remains elusive, my friends, so I'll try to edit my wordy self. I've been successfully sending and receiving email via the SSB (hurrah to the ham radio stations in Daytona, San Diego and Lunenberg!), but we have to keep it brief. Also, that is a separate account, so trying to get things through via my regular email takes a while. Alas. My brief survey of the internet today, during the three minutes I had connectivity via the dive operation here, show me I haven't missed anything earth-shattering in the past week. Take that as you will. This blog post will also go out by SSB, so if the formatting comes out odd, my apologies.

Today I will tell you a fable, with a suitable moral at the end. A few of weeks ago, back in Isla Mujeres, we helped to tow a catamaran with a dead engine back to the dock. This involved three dinghys - one behind, one on each side - tied to the cat and gently nudging it along. This operation proved too much for our little outboard, which suddenly lost power on the way home. Some research and a visit to The Propeller Man in Puerto Juarez revealed that we had "spun the hub on the prop", ie. the rubber doohickey that sits between the propeller and the drive shaft got creamed. (I'm going to hear about it if that explanation was wrong, but I'm pretty sure I have my facts straight.) Anyway. We went to see Propeller Man, which was worth the broken prop. He lived in a stuccoed house guarded by very loud dogs and had a nasty-looking gate in the front of his house. The interior of the house was 98% propeller, from big ones as tall as I am to little ones that looked like they belonged in a child's toy. Seriously. He opened the front door, but the interior was all garage, propellers, and the odd dog.

Erik had our propeller fixed and bought a second one Propeller Man had lying around, just in case. We made sad faces at spending the money, but what can you do? Being without a dinghy is like being without a car, but worse, because you can't even walk into town or wherever; you would have to swim.

Fast forward to a few days ago at Lighthouse reef. We toodled around Long Cay, played on the beach, then headed back to Papillon.


We ran into a tongue of reef not marked on our chart.

And spun the prop.

Now, if we hadn't already had an issue in Isla, we wouldn't have known what precisely the issue was, and we certainly wouldn't have had a spare aboard. We would have been on an outer island in Belize, far from any town, with no outboard motor. So, in fact, it was lucky we'd helped our friends tow their cat that day and had wrecked our propeller in the process.

The moral of the story is: sometimes good luck can masquerade as bad.

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Sunday, June 5, 2011

Spring Roundup, or, What Are You People Doing Out There?

A brief glance over my recent posts highlights a deficiency: I’ve given you, dear reader, precious little information about what we are currently doing on Papillon.  Not that I was ever very forthcoming on that score, but I think a brief overview is in order.

We have been in Mexico at Isla Mujeres for almost two months now.  That is a very long time, and certainly our record. 

Midway through, we took a trip to see friends, taking us through Villahermosa and Mexico City.  We ate pain chocolat, and lived a civilized life.

Mmm!  Breakfast chocolate!
We did land-type things: attended birthday parties, bounced on trampolines, participated in fashion shows.  You know - kids' stuff.

You try and give me princess makeup, I'm gonna break your face.

Runway model Stylish
And here we now are, all back onboard.  Erik is back to fixing water makers and outboard engines.  I’m back to... well, doing what I was doing, but with another adult onboard.  The girls are delighted to have Daddy back, although Indy has made him pay for it.  While he was away, she would try to talk to him via the VHF: “Daddy, stop working and come home, okay Daddy?”, but once he was back for good, she gave him the cold shoulder to show just how mad she was that he left.  Stylish has a longer memory of Daddy as a Working Man; although she was very sad when he went away, experience told her he was coming back.

Apropos of nothing, here is a video I took of flying dancers outside the Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City (not to be missed, people).  Watch carefully, the flute player and drummer are spinning, too!

We were at the museum to do some research on the Maya before visiting Tulum (cool) and Coba (so much cooler).  Tikal will come later.  Because living on the boat is all about field trips!  Here is Stylish booting up a pyramid at Coba like a super-fit mountain goat.

Run, Stylish, run!

As I write, we are preparing to head south to Belize.  Yes, it is time to set sail once again.  I am armed with some fancy new seasickness medication, banned in the US, which I’m hoping will finally kick my headaches to the curb.  Hooray!  This also means that we are losing our internet connection.  But, fear not, we will still have very brief text-based email via the ham radio.  I may send the odd blog post out into the ether that way, but the photos will have to wait.  In any case, I am still glad to get your questions and comments; I makes me feel less like I am writing to myself.

Until we meet again, dear reader!