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On Mexican time, or recovering from Sergio, part II

by Kelly Arnold 13 Apr 15:48 UTC
Recovering from Sergio © Kelly Arnold

When I drove from Victoria, BC, Canada to San Carlos, Mexico in late October 2018 and crossed into northern Mexico, the Sonora desert was greener than I had ever seen it. Knowing this was the result of the rains from the tropical storm that had toppled Intrepid II made the scenery a little harder to appreciate. At least the major repairs to Mexican Highway 15 were nearing completion, so the drive south from the United States was easier and smoother than in previous years.

Once I arrived, settled into rental accommodations and started to work on Intrepid II, I was reminded of the pluses and minuses of San Carlos. On the plus side, San Carlos is about a half day drive from the United States border and is much warmer and drier than Victoria in the winter. On the minus side, there is no place to buy boat parts or supplies. The local "chandlery" has almost no practical inventory other than some fishing gear. If you have the foresight to bring down absolutely everything you will need, if there are no surprises once you start working on your boat, and if your boat projects should go well, you will be fine. Otherwise, you fall back on the warmer and drier climate to compensate for these challenges. There is impressive scenery. The sunrises and sunsets are often spectacular. Oh yes beer is cheaper here as well!

On the plus side, it is now possible to order supplies online or by phone from the U.S. and have them shipped directly to the San Carlos marina office, at a cost. Usually it is possible to track your parcel once it is en route and alert the marina office staff when to expect delivery. The customs fee is payable to the delivery company. In past years, I have had items shipped to Nogales, Arizona; once I knew the parcels had arrived I drove north to pick them up. Doing so required an early morning start, a mostly pleasant drive, except for transiting around the city of Hermosillo (not for the faint of heart) and a wait at the U.S. border crossing of anywhere between 20 minutes to 2 hours or more. After successfully retrieving my parcels, I then turned around and headed back south, with the same challenges except for the border crossing time. For some reason, it takes considerably less time to enter Mexico than to enter the United States.

The tropical storm damage to Intrepid II included two broken stanchions, damage to the toe rail, some gouges and scrapes on the hull and a bend and other damage to the bottom of the keel. The keel repair went quickly, if expensively. Not having any pictures to go by to assess the damage, I had underestimated the amount of epoxy and glass needed. As a result, I paid very high prices for supplies provided locally.

A local welder repaired the bent stanchions efficiently and well. I also had him replace the existing lifeline wire with tubing from the stern pulpit forward to the midships gate. This gives us more security on deck. It also provides more room to mount all the bits of gear that cruisers accumulate, such as our stern anchor.

I often use Defender Industries for boat parts. Unfortunately they were unable to ship marine sealant into Mexico and I had already used up what I had brought down with me. So, two new seacocks and thru-hulls were sitting on the boat until a cruising friend could deliver tubes of sealant from Arizona. The 3M 4000 sealant has arrived and that project is now proceeding.

In the meantime, I focused on giving Intrepid II a new coat of bottom paint with the supplies I had purchased en route.

Part of the damage that occurred when Intrepid II was knocked over in tropical storm Sergio was abrasion to the starboard upper shroud. My rigger indicated he had a shipment coming shortly and I added the necessary wire to that order on November 21. The wire was to be shipped two days later from the U.S. However, when that order finally arrived in Mexico FIVE weeks later, my wire was not included. It is difficult enough to get things done in Mexico without companies in San Diego completely dropping the ball, with no follow up communication. The wire finally arrived February 11. Another rigging customer actually drove to San Diego and brought my wire back with his own order.

The other major casualty from the fall of my boat in October was our Furuno radar. Despite the best efforts of Señor Ernesto, the highly regarded electronics repair man in Guaymas, it appears that a replacement will be required. About half the boaters based here advise that "you do not need radar", but we do not fall into that group. Even here fog rolls in. A few years ago while approaching Mazatlan from the south at 6 a.m. in heavy fog, after an overnight passage, I counted seventeen shrimp boats crossing our path. During previous cruising passages, we have also encountered unlit "pangas" at night, just drifting while the fishermen sleep.

The silver lining for the Intrepid II crew has been that several projects, which never made their way to the top of the "to-do list" in previous years, are now receiving attention. Among other tasks, the ICOM 802 radio has been installed and the solar panels have been rewired in parallel instead of in series. This was in response to learning from Nigel Calder at a BCA course that I had outsmarted myself by wiring them in series.

Oh, did I mention that the weather is somewhat better here and the beer is cheaper?

This article has been provided by the courtesy of Bluewater Cruising Association.

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