Monday, December 18, 2017

Day 558 to 560 of the Third Voyage: In which the journey of 1,000 miles begins (eventually) with one step.

A couple of months ago, and much to our dismay, we realized that the Caribbean was not going to come to us—it wasn’t even going to meet us half-way—so we decided that if we wanted to see it on our boat and in our lifetime, we needed to keep inching our way south. Originally, we were going to leave in early November, then mid-month, then the 30th, then the 1st of December, then the 2nd. (Spoiler alert:  We finally left on the 3rd. It’s now mid-December so I totally know how that worked out. Hint: Not well. But that’s the next blog post.)
So why the constant delays? I chalk it up to forces beyond our control. Things like:

Delay #1:  Mexican Immigration. This sounds more sinister than it is, but as you may be aware, we are only allowed in Mexico on 6-month tourist visas so every so often we need to leave and come back. We use this opportunity to go back to the States, do some gringo provisioning, and take care of business that doesn’t require use of the Mexican postal system. We figured we would go ahead and get it done while we had easy access to an airport, a dog-sitter, and a cat-tolerator, and also because we knew—given our track record—that there was no way we would be out of Mexico by the end of the year. So off we went to Corpus Christi with three light carry-ons, and back we came a few days later with three heavy carry-ons and three large pieces of checked luggage. Editor’s Note: A BIG thank you to Pud’n for letting us fill her spare bedroom with packages from Amazon and boxes from every marine supply store in the country. We hope you were able to get your doorbell fixed.

Would someone please buy Mexico a new stamp pad? This is what stands between us and being legally in the country. Even blown up and enhanced, it’s still hard to make out the date. And this was one of the better stamps we’ve had.

Delay #2: The Posse. Again, not as sinister as it sounds. 2017 marks the inaugural run of the Panama Posse, an idea bandied about by a group of us cruisers here in Barra and brought to fruition by Dietmar and Suzanne of S/V Carinthia. Editor’s Note: One of the large bags that we slogged back from Texas was full of Posse member swag, so it wasn’t all Goldfish Crackers and boat parts…just most of it. For those of you wondering what a Panama Posse is, it’s just the name of our rally. There are many rallies in the boating community—the Coho-ho-ho, the Baja-ha-ha, and the Pacific Puddle Jump are just a few. And no, I’m not making those names up. Most rally names are pretty much the direct result of booze-filled brainstorming sessions so in the grand scheme of things, “Panama Posse” isn’t so bad. (Of course, when the locals try saying it, it comes out sounding like “Panama Pussy” so there’s that.) Now for you lubbers wondering what a rally is, it’s a loose confederation of boats heading in generally the same direction in sort of the same timeframe with kind of the same goal in mind i.e. arriving in a particular destination on our boat and in our lifetime. There are 40 or so boats in this year’s rally. We won’t all be leaving at the same time, or necessarily stopping at all the same places, or staying for the same amount of time at the places we do stop, but we’ll all keep in touch via a daily SSB net, Facebook, and email so we can pass on information and/or meet up with other members when we find ourselves in the same places and hopefully, if all goes well, we’ll all meet up on the Pacific side of the Panama Canal in June 2018 for a celebratory party. That’s where the rally ends, but it officially began here in Barra on November 29th with a kick-off party sponsored by the marina and who were we to pass up free drinks and a taco bar. We had to stick around for that.

Delay #3: Last-minute provisioning. Now I realize that “last-minute” is usually factored into the original timeframe and shouldn’t cause a delay, but in this case it did set us back because we had to split our designated provisioning day into two because you can only get non-Mexican butter at a store in Melaque and that couldn’t be done on the same day we did our main provisioning in Manzanillo.

It’s worth noting that when we first started out on this odyssey, we took six days to provision. We filled every spare inch of the boat with frozen food, canned goods, and toiletries and then ended up not using most of it because—and you won’t believe this—people in Canada and all down the western coast of the US do have access to food, soap, and even toothpaste! That was a real eye-opener for us. Needless to say, when we set out for Mexico, we only took three days to provision, and mainly just gringo items that we figured would be hard to find. But it turns out—and you won’t believe this—but you can get pasta, potato chips, and paper towels in Mexico! So now we can do our provisioning in one day and keep it to things that may be hard to find in the smaller towns. Things like AAA batteries, small propane bottles, and toilet paper. Now yes, I do realize that people all over the world wipe their butts, but will I be able to find ultra-soft, three-ply toidy paper with a hint of cocoa butter? I don’t think I can take that chance.
"When your tush demands some cush." I'm going to trademark that in case Regio wants to use it in exchange for a lifetime supply of tush tissue.

But back to the butter that contributed to our delay. I’m not sure if you’ve ever had Mexican butter, but it’s more akin to margarine…and not in a good way (assuming there is something good about a product that’s one molecule away from plastic.) Editor’s Note: For those that think I’m being a little too harsh on margarine, keep in mind that I come from a long line of Southerners where even though grease is considered one of the four basic food groups (along with sugar, salt, and alcohol), margarine will get you kicked out of the kitchen (Miracle Whip will get you kicked out of the family.) At any rate, while Mexican butter is technically a dairy product, it is so oily that whatever you put it on immediately tastes like it’s been coated in cooking spray. Store it in the refrigerator, and it turns into a block of granite. Leave it on the counter, and it turns into soup. Luckily, in Melaque, there is a gringo-friendly store called the Super Hawaii that carries butter from the US and—if you really want to be fancy—from France. Super Hawaii also carries a variety of gringo comfort foods such as chili, Cheese-Its, Hamburger Helper, and Kraken Rum in the big bottle.
Delay #4:  New ink!  I got my first tattoo thirty years ago when you still went to a “parlor” in the dodgy part of town and the guy doing the tattoo may or may not have been in a motorcycle “club” (though he definitely smelled like he slept with a Harley…or two.) I don’t even know if they were called “artists” back then—my guy was called “Sugar Bear” and hand-drew a “Celtic cross” on my shoulder using a Bic pen before going to town with needle and ink. You’ll notice I’m using quotation marks a lot. That’s probably because I’m still not sure if the smudge on my left shoulder is really a “tattoo” or an after-market birthmark. I’m too embarrassed to admit that I did this to myself, so I prefer to tell people it’s a scar I got doing battle with a giant squid coming around Cape Flattery. It’s not really lying…either way you get inked.
But I’m really pleased with my new tattoo. I put a lot of thought into what I wanted. It had to be small, simple, and somewhat meaningful—with an emphasis on the first two because I knew that 15 minutes of pain was all I could handle. We went back to the guy that did the Captain’s tattoo last July because he’s a good artist, he has steady hands, and he’ll turn the stereo up full volume to drown out the swearing. Editor’s Note: I do believe I broke the world record in number of F-bombs uttered in a five-minute period as evidenced by a near unbroken stream of “fuckfuckfuckfuck...” while he was doing the fill in. And even though this is Mexico, where every business is behind a roll-up door and furnished DIY style, the experience seemed less “back alley” than my first go-round—probably because the shop was well-lit and very clean, there wasn’t a row of choppers out front, and the tattooist didn’t have a Marlboro hanging out of his mouth the whole time. The Captain got the same tattoo as I did so now we’re all matchy-matchy, but in a “shared experience” kind of way as opposed to a “today we’ll both be wearing the red-checked polos over navy slacks” way. Editor’s Note: “Shared experience” in this instance suggests the bigger picture of doing this boat thing together. The Captain sat in the chair for 12 hours straight when he had his octopus tat done—so his “experience” this time around was more “15-minute nap”. At any rate, when the tattoo artist gave us the “care and cleaning of your new tattoo” speech, I’m pretty sure he said to keep it lubricated, avoid the swimming pool for a week, and delay your voyage by two days. Yeah, I’m fairly certain that’s what he said.
The new tattoo! Told you it was simple! It’s right behind the ankle. The photo doesn’t do it justice because pictures tend to add 10 lbs. and a layer of fonk to the feet. But I think the anchor is very apropos. After all, if I ever go overboard, I just know I’m going to sink straight to the bottom.

Delay #5:  An unexpected illness. In the days leading up to our departure, we thought it’d be nice to visit all our favorite restaurants one last time. So we went to Garcia’s for some of the best wings in the area and the two-for-one happy hour that starts at noon and ends at 6:00 pm; Simona’s, well-known for their German cuisine and double-shot mixed drinks; Loco Loco, arguably the best pizza in Mexico and makers of a mean Cuba Libre; Nacho’s, one of Barra’s oldest establishments and purveyors of the town’s most potent strawberry margarita; and Manglito’s, the first restaurant we ever visited, consistently good and probably the best rum punch this side of the Captain’s. But Pipi’s holds a special place in our hearts. The venue isn’t noteworthy—six or seven tables set up outside a kitchen down one of Barra’s side streets. The food isn’t fancy—basic Mexican fare (plus a decent burger) that’s consistently good. And there’s not a whole lot of ambience unless you count the traffic that goes by. But the hospitality of Senor Pipi and his family is what sets it apart. They greet us like friends, remember our preferences, and patiently help us along with our Spanish. During the summer months, when there were fewer tourists in Barra (especially during the week—Tuesdays, specifically, were eerily quiet), we went to Pipi’s regularly.  Not only because we really like the place, but because it’s important to support the local businesses. During “low season” aka “incredibly hot time”, a lot of the restaurants close either for economic reasons or, in the case of many gringo-owned establishments, so the owners can go “back home” aka “somewhere cooler” for six months. Aside from Wednesdays and a week-long vacation around Easter, Pipi’s was always open, and it wasn’t uncommon for us to be the only patrons there. I think this is one reason Senor Pipi likes to ply us with “en la casa” rounds (mostly out of appreciation, but partly because once you get the gringos going, they find it hard to stop, and the free round will often beget a paid round, and so on.) So a few days before we were set to leave, we had lunch at Pipi’s. Three (or was it four?) rounds of drinks plus two rounds of “en la casa” plus whatever was imbibed once we got back to boat and…okay, so maybe it wasn’t an “illness” that waylaid us per se, but let’s just say that nothing got done the next day and the following morning and it was necessary to pad the departure timeline. Editor’s Note: If someone on board is under the weather—either from illness, allergies, or over-imbibing—the customary answer to, “How are you feeling?” is now, “Like I had lunch at Pipi’s.”
Senor Pipi:  Our favorite enabler.

Extra Credit Delay: We have learned from our mistake. It would have made sense to leave on December 1st. We were ready to go, a half dozen other Posse boats were planning to head out that day, and, more importantly, December 1st is when the marina rates go up (“High season, amigo!” they explain as they pick you off the floor.) But…and here’s the deal breaker…December 1st fell on a Friday. At which point I’d like to direct your attention to the blog post titled “False Start of the Third Voyage” in which we tempted fate by leaving on a Friday and our generator promptly blew up. Editor’s Note: Okay, so it went more “squeeee, sputter, sputter, clunk” but our timetable and our wallet were certainly blown to smithereens. Not wanting to go down that path again, we felt it prudent to delay departure for at least a day…which turned into two because the marina gave us a bro-deal on the daily rate given our nine-month tenure.
So that brings us to Sunday, December 3rd. Did we leave? Why, yes. Yes, we did…

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