Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Second Siesta of the Third Voyage (Day 75-88): In which we make a run for the (Northern) border only to return and find out what happens when critters get “all up in there."

I’m going to say something that will probably make me very unpopular with some of the cruising community…if it’s your first time taking your boat into Mexico and you’re clearing into Ensenada (where all of the government agencies are under one roof), DON’T attempt to do your immigration online before you go. All the guidebooks I consulted before we left said, “Do as much as you can online. It’ll make the process easier and faster. Blah. Blah. Blah.” Bullshit. For two reasons: 1) It took me longer to navigate the Mexican government websites, find English-language translations and/or run text through Google Translate, and fill out/submit all the forms than it did to go through the entire process in Ensenada, and 2) even after completing the online process, I never got any official paperwork back like I was supposed to (either by email or snail mail) so when we got to immigration all I had to show for my efforts was a screenshot from the Banjecito website showing I had paid a (presumably correct) fee. Long story short: we were probably the only people who entered Mexico on a 90-day visa as opposed to the customary 180-day one. Editor’s Note: If you’re a cruiser who had no problem with the online process and/or wrote a guidebook, then bully for you. But if you’re new to this, I highly recommend doing everything in person. The officials seemed fully prepared for the “first timers” but not so much the “I paid something online but didn’t get any paperwork and now I’m not sure what I paid for” people. The former requires very little Spanish-language capability; the latter requires a college degree.

At any rate, the only way to extend a tourist visa in Mexico is to leave the country and come back. If you’re near a border, it can be done the same day. But as PV is a good three hour plane ride from anywhere in the US, we opted to make a long weekend of it. And that’s how we found ourselves back in Southern California. So fasten your seatbelts, it’s time for some more travelogue….

We spent the first day visiting our favorite bartenders at CafĂ© 64 at SeaWorld. We drank microbrews, laughed at the sea lions, and rode the rollercoasters. Good times. Then we decided to check out their new Cirque du Soleil show and that’s when things got a little surreal. It started out innocently enough. The show was at the old stadium on the shores of Mission Bay—a stadium that must have been built back when the average height of an adult was around five feet because there couldn’t have been more than six inches between bleacher seats. As the Deck Boss was sitting down, her foot accidently brushed against the backside of the woman in front. She glared. We apologized. She said something to her friend, made an exaggerated movement to one side that caused her ample backside to spill out into our row even more, then kept giving us the angry side eye as if she was just daring us to do something about it. And that’s when the Deck Boss shifted in her seat and all hell broke loose. The woman turned around and literally started screaming at the DB to stop “repeatedly kicking her in the back” and “I told you to stop kicking me” and then her friend got in on it and started yelling that we were being rude and inconsiderate because we would not stop “harassing” her friend. And we’re apologizing and then not apologizing because they’re being so unreasonable and The Captain is trying to tell the women that he seriously doubts that his 81-year-old mother-in-law is really trying to “start something” and maybe they’re the ones being inconsiderate by bypassing civilized and going straight into barbarian mode and the whole time this is going down the men sitting with the women are hiding their heads in their hands as if to say, “Dammit. Their mouths are writing checks that our butts are going to have to cash…again.” Eventually, and before security had to get involved, the situation died down. But safe to say that in the court of public opinion, the jury was squarely on our side as evidenced by all the people in our section looking at us sympathetically and mouthing “WTF?” Editor’s Note: Once the show was over, the women grabbed their men and beat a hasty retreat toward the exit prompting the Deck Boss to remark, “Maybe I should have kicked her in the head.”
Pictured: Wadus & Tim, Bartenders Extraordinaire and intrepid followers of the blog (Ravenaires?)
Not Pictured: The ample backside that caused all the grief (we couldn't get that to fit in the frame)

Still amped up after what will forever be referred to as the “Scuffle at Cirque du Suck” our second day was decidedly more low-key. We did some gringo shopping i.e. stocking up on things that we either can’t find and/or are more expensive in Mexico. The former includes items such as Aleve and microwavable side dishes (it’s been awhile since I mentioned it so here goes…it’s hot here in PV! And when it’s really hot, the last thing you want to do is heat up your boat making rice.) The latter includes anything for the boat (shipping is a pain in the butt and costly in import fees if not done right) and cheap towels. We use cheap towels for everything—drying off dogs, blocking out sun, polishing stanchions, scooting large pieces of machinery across the deck, etc.—and I’ve yet to find a towel that costs less than $6 in Mexico (oddly, Walmart is little more “high end” here.) We then visited our other favorite bartender, Annie, at the Tipsy Crow and then finished off the day at Seaport Village to pick up a few bottles of The Captain’s favorite hot sauce and have ice cream while gazing out over San Diego Bay. Editor’s Note: if you have a chance to go to Seaport Village, do it now. The land was sold and it’ll be a parking lot in two years’ time. Seriously.

On our last day, we decided we should do something really touristy because you can’t be this close to Los Angeles and not see Hollywood, right? And that’s how we ended up on Sunset Blvd at the office/museum of Dearly Departed Tours. If, like us, you prefer your tours have a little death and dismemberment to spice things up, then I highly recommend their Tragical History Tour. It’s got everything the other tours have: Hollywood landmarks, movie and TV studios, Beverly Hills, etc. but with a skew toward scandal, crime, mortality, and mysterious “accidents”. It’s also multimedia in that there are audio clips of 911 calls, descriptions from police files, and (if you’re so inclined) crime scene photos from cases like the Black Dahlia and the Menendez Brothers. It’s really cool in an “on your right is where Lucile Ball lived and on your left is where the scriptwriter of Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein was decapitated by a meth-head” kind of way. In short…you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll cringe, and you may even get a little queasy, but you’ll have a blast!

The Deck Boss:  She came. She toured. She bought the t-shirt.
Pictured: Terry Bolo (right) of Dearly Departed Tours. She played "Biker Chick" in Peewee's Big Adventure which automatically makes her a celebrity in my book.
The next morning we headed to the airport with our “gringo care package” in tow. In hindsight, a 40-lb duffle bag filled with varnish, CO2 sensors, canned chili, cheap towels, and Spanish-language flash cards must have looked like the quintessential “Inept Insurgents Starter Kit” but it passed through Mexican customs just fine despite being pulled for a random search (yes, I pushed the button and got the “red” light). Editor’s Note: I had receipts for everything we purchased and produced them as each item was pulled out. It not only sped up the process but the agent ultimately got bored of playing “stump the chump” and quit looking before he even got to the varnish (which was good because that was the only item we weren’t sure would pass muster.)
Side note: While we were gone, Otter vacationed at the Beach Dog in Mexico cage-free boarding facility or as we like to call it, “Lab Flab Fat Camp” as he was deprived of his usual two breakfasts, six lunches, three dinners, table scraps, and assorted treats that he usually manages to con out of us (What do you mean you already fed him? I just fed him! He was acting like he hadn’t been fed. What? You fed him, too? Why is he eating the cat’s food? Why I oughta!)
Speaking of the cat…Edgrrr stayed on board with three large bowls of food and ten big bowls of water. He would have gone to camp too but they don’t allow a**holes.
Pictured: Pancho, Otter's most favorite iguana. He got a mini-vacation, too. For five days he didn't have to endure feverish ogling, uncontrolled whimpering, and large drool puddles.  

Before we left for California, a most dreadful thing happened. In fact, aside from the boat sinking, it was probably the worst thing that could happen. The air conditioning went on the fritz. Waaaay back—about a year ago—I think I mentioned in the blog that the Deck Boss had insisted on having AC installed before the odyssey even began. The Captain and I weren’t convinced at first, but now we are true believers.  Extreme heat can be “tolerable” during the day as long as you’re keeping busy and not thinking about it. But at night, it’s hard to sleep when it’s 95⁰, the air is thick, your skin is clammy, and you don’t want anything to touch you. End result: everyone is tired, sticky, and extremely cranky (which I think is the technical definition of a toddler.) But luckily, three (insufferable) days after we got back, Scott, of Power Marine Services, came to the rescue. Before he even came on board—let alone looked at our system—this is what went down:
Me: “Thank God you’re here! We’re dying!”
Scott: “First summer in PV?”
Me: “Yes.”
Scott: “I know exactly what the problem is.”
And he did.
Now if you’ve been to or have already spent time in Mexico then you already know, so this is for those that have yet to make the voyage…the marina water here is like primordial soup. As in it’s so full of assorted critters and sea creatures that there’s not enough room for them all so the more ambitious ones move on to your boat. And they bring their baggage (sand, pebbles, spare shells) with them. We have the hull cleaned once a month to combat the growth that comes with warmer waters. But what we didn’t realize was that barnacles as well as sludge from the estuaries had come up into the thru-holes of our raw-water cooled AC units ultimately corroding the strainer and clogging up the hoses. No water, no coolth.
After procuring a new strainer, Scott set to work clearing all the hoses which entailed first forcing out the larger matter with water and then pumping an acid concoction through the system till it finally came out clean. To clean out all three units took about eight hours and necessitated tearing apart both the forward and aft cabins. But I’m happy to report that the AC is working admirably—and with the addition of the canvas cover we had made to protect and shade the boat from the harsh sun, we are staying reasonably comfortable despite the climbing temps and UV index. Editor’s Note: I must admit that it was kind of fascinating (in a revolting way) to see all the crud that first came out of those AC hoses—a steady stream of mud-like substance with the occasional belching out of a shell or rock. Scott’s going to look at our head system in a couple of weeks. If he uses the same method on those hoses it’ll be interesting to see what pops out of those (or poops out as the case may be.) On second thought…maybe I don’t want to know.
Pictured: The original strainer. Our first line of defense against squatters. Left unchecked, it quickly turned into a crack house.
Not Pictured: The new and improved strainer already installed. We're taking back the neighborhood one thru-hole at a time.