Monday, June 1, 2009

Its a Hard Life

Guaymas is a fishing port of 134,000 people, about half way up the Sea of Cortez on the mainland side. The Lonely Planet advises, “Stopping here for any extended length of time had better be due to a catastrophic vehicle breakdown or massive coronary”. It has been our home for almost 3 months and we have enjoyed this friendly little city, most of the time. Blue Moon has a new coat of paint on the decks, topsides and bottom, a new dodger and lots of ticks on the maintenance list. We started investigating the various haul-out facilities 12 miles further up the coast, at San Carlos. A gringo magnet for yachties, RVs and condo dwellers alike, this beautiful area offers picturesque bays fringed with white beaches, tucked between red volcanic peaks. But one boatyard there would not allow live-aboards, and another dirt bowl in the middle of the desert that would not allow spray painting. So we got on the bus and headed for Guaymas. We pulled the bell when we could see masts, and tumbled out onto the curb as the bus slowed slightly, as one does on Mexico transport. As we were looking around to get our bearings, a fellow rode up on his bicycle and proclaimed, “You look like losers”. His English was ‘almost’ – a word that I would come to use often in the coming weeks. What he was trying to say is that we looked lost, and insisted that a visit his shop was just what we were looking for. That was how we came to eat lunch under a Mona Lisa smoking a big fat joint and acquire a bottle of almond massage oil. After lunch we found the brand new marina with a concrete hard stand. Previously there was no marina here and no real facilities for yachties so they had special deals to attract customers. We estimated about 3 weeks out of the water but the special rate for 3 months was about the same, so here we are, finally floating again after 8 weeks on the hard. Everything at the marina is still shiny and new but it’s all a bit like my grasp of the Spanish language - some days I can ‘almost’ communicate but a lot of the time the point is missed completely. The showers were awesome until they ran out of hot water. The new fuel dock has no license so is unable to dispense fuel. The finer points of electrical systems and drainage seem to be as elusive as Spanish grammar. The swimming pool and Jacuzzi were enticing features, but alas there is no functional heating or filtration system, and in reality it is a giant birdbath. When we hauled out there were only 3 boats in the yard. But as time went by, the yard has filled up and the travel lift operators gained some valuable experience, at the expense of one prop and shaft, one depth sounder transponder, one log paddlewheel, one VHF aerial, and most of the back end on one boat that slid out of the slings. It seems the entire waterfront is being transformed to attract tourism, with a new Malecon (boardwalk), benches in artistic shapes such as dolphins, crabs, and anchors, and a spectacular fountain with a light display set to music. Just outside the gate to the marina is an antiquated amusement park complete with Beebe gun shooting gallery, bumper cars, and rides that look as if they would have been condemned about the time I was born. The whole thing is parked on the construction zone for the partly completed Malecon, with the usual Mexican electrical wiring system snaking through it. If the rides aren’t exciting enough for you, there’s the thrill of avoiding personal injury from these hazards. I really like the marionettes – there is a mechanical bull ride, an accordion player whose foot stomps, and one with a bunch of dancing skeletons. The outlook from the pool deck overlooking the harbor is beautiful, and makes a great spot to do yoga in the mornings, surrounded by the birds. I have particularly enjoyed the Vermillion Flycatchers, who are so tame they will sit on the railing beside me and sing. We have been here so long that I have watched the whole life cycle of these cute little guys from courtship to hatching. One of our neighbors has a nest with 4 eggs in the back of their boom. We had our own wildlife on board - a type of bee put their eggs in the holes in our decks where the fittings were taken off. They are amazing works of art - skillfully wrapped little packages of bright pink bougainvillea leaves. It seemed a shame to destroy them when we put the fittings back on that I fiberglassed a couple and made earrings. Our spot was beside the canal where the fishing fleet is moored, bringing in shrimp and squid each day. It is fascinating to watch them flipping the Humbolt squid bodies up onto the dock. These huge squid grow up to 7 feet long, and have been known to attack divers and fishermen. In fact we were so close that one day a disabled trawler being towed out got hooked up on the rail behind our boat. To help support the mast while the chain plates were off, we had tied our halyard off to this rail, so there was a tense moment when we thought we would lose the rig. It was the first time we have had to fend off from a hard stand. We never did get used to the stench of the fish canning operation right outside our aft cockpit that assaulted us day and night, but we seem to be used to the noise. A popular form of advertising here is cars or trucks driving around with loudspeakers. There is a karaoke bar at the marina, at least 3 other sources of music from the fishing boats, security guards and the malecon, and we have the lights and sounds of the city and the amusement park to complete the cacophony. I remember going to ‘the ex’ in Toronto as a kid, and it pretty much is like living in there. As for the paint job – it’s … almost. We should have stopped our Mexican painter right at the beginning when he began attacking our hull with orbital discs. But we were relying on the recommendations of others, assuming he was a professional. Apparently he is occasionally capable of acceptable work, but not often. Since we have been here, we met another boat owner who is lucky to be alive after the keel repair Francisco did delaminated underway. We watch in horror, as he is butt-joining plywood onto gaping holes in another boat in the yard that was suffering from rot. Insisting he can spray paint without over-spray, no respirators are used, although it is not unusual to see one of the workers holding up a Mexican blanket with a cloud of paint billowing around him. His home-made trailer collapsed on the ramp as he was hauling out a 4-ton catamaran. It seems there is no end to the skills of this man, who happily will tell you he can do anything that involves your dollar bills. Right at the start of our job there was the loss of his glasses - first one lens, the next the other, so that for the duration of our job he turned up wearing just the frames, which he insisted he did not need. The quality of his work would suggest otherwise. Suffice to say that we had someone ask us if our boat is concrete! It would be easy to lose your sense of humor some days. In the words of Jimmy Buffet, “if we couldn’t laugh we would all go insane”. But is there ever a good place to spend 2 months on a hardstand? As this chapter is drawing to a close, we have well and truly left winter behind us with temperatures in the 90’s most days. We had our first rain shower of the year (what great painting weather we have had!). While most of the boats here are hauling out for hurricane season to fly off ‘home’, we are making preparations to sail further north into the Sea of Cortez for summer, hopefully out of the hurricane area. Over the next few months we would like to see one of those giant humbolt squid, a whale shark, and maybe the vaquero dolphin. We have also ticked off one more thing on our list – a train trip up to the Copper Canyon.

New deck paint and dodger windows

Fishing fleet behind us, amusement park out front at Guaymas hardstand
....more photos from Guaymas...

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