Summer Surprise

Summer has always been a time when we scratch our heads about what to do with our water tanks. Empty them? Fill them with water? The first time we left Juniper for the summer we emptied them but condensation and the wee bit of water we couldn’t get out left the tanks a bit slimy. I had to scrub and flush the tanks out a few times with bleach.

The second summer we left the tanks full with and the tanks got a little smelly (like the way a water bottle left in a hot car for a while smells when you open it) so I scrubbed the tanks and flushed it out a few times with bleach.

This summer, we were advised to fill the tanks with vinegar and water to prevent mildew and growth. I was really hoping this would work because scrubbing out both tanks is a lot of work. Not sure what happened but white clouds of something – bacteria, fermentation, a vinegar mother perhaps, developed. Unfortunately, I didn’t first look through the tanks inspection ports prior to running the water (because why would I expect clumps of white stuff to grow!) and the growth clogged our water filter.

Water pump filter. First indication something was wrong

Yeah, this isn’t good.

Tank 1. What is that?!

Tank 2. WTF?!

The process of getting the boat ready stops as we manually siphon the funky water out followed by yours truly scrubbing and bleaching both tanks.

But then we have the merry coincidence of our galley foot pedal biting the dust at exactly the same time! We debated about whether it was clogged with the white stuff, detached a few hoses to troubleshoot, and concluded that it just needs servicing and got it working again.

Next summer, we’ll leave the tanks empty.

New Solar Panels

Power management on a cruising sailboat is a pretty important and sometimes frustrating topic. Since purchasing Juniper we’ve done what we can to reduce our energy usage (e.g. replaced all cabin lighting with LED, etc), but our primary issue has been generating enough power to replenish our batteries each night. We have a wind generator that is fantastic when there’s > 15 knots of wind. The problem is that there’s very little wind here in Baja and Pacific Mexico.

That takes us to solar which should be great since we do have tons and tons of sunlight. Juniper came with two well-used 80 watt solar panels, and that’s not nearly enough. At anchor, we usually have to run the engine at least an hour each day to make enough power.

With Viv flying back to the states for a month earlier this year and Sam being sick, we knew we’d be in La Cruz for a while.  We decided it would be a good time to upgrade our solar. Ordering the panels out of Querétaro City, refurbishing the wiring, and getting the solar panel mounts made and installed took a lot longer than we wanted it to, but we’re really happy with the outcome. We now have a total of 300 watts of solar, which still isn’t enough to support our electricity needs should really help.

Eight Bells for Sam

Sam, our Sailing Kitty, passed away peacefully on Saturday, April 14th. He was 15 years old. Sam was a beloved companion and crew. A world-traveler, a purr monster, a lap cat, a good kitty, our friend, and dearly loved, Sam will be greatly missed.

Eight bells* for Sam, our little friend. You’ll always be in our hearts.

*The practice of using bells stems from the days of the sailing ships. Sailors couldn’t afford to have their own time pieces and relied on the ship’s bells to tell time. The ship’s boy kept time by using a half-hour glass. Each time the sand ran out, he would turn the glass over and ring the appropriate number of bells. Each ship “watch” is four hours, or eight bells, in length.

The tradition of Eight Bells pays respect to deceased mariners and signifies that a sailor’s “watch” is over. Source

Waiting in La Cruz

Spending time in La Cruz hasn’t only been about eating churros. We’ve been here 1) waiting for the weather to shift so that we can go back north to the Sea of Cortez 2) doing some boat work while we wait, and 3) tending to our ailing sailing kitty, Sam.

In the winter and early spring months, cruisers in Mexico tend to do a few things, depending on their plans. Some cruisers stop here in Banderas Bay and continue south, often to Panama. Others do the Pacific Puddle Jump to French Polynesia, and some wait for the weather to shift and go north into the Sea of Cortez. We’re in the latter camp this year, awaiting the shift in winds to sail up north.

Scott went up the mast a few times. First to wash and grease our mainsail track to make it easier to bring our mainsail up and down. Next, he went up and changed our spreader lights from amp-hogging  incandescents to energy-saving LEDs and they’re very nice and bright.  Finally, Scott went up to the very top of the mast to bring down our wind instrument to test it out, confirm that it indeed died on us, and then went back up with a new one. 

We had workers from Marvel Boat Services waxing the topsides and hull and had them give Juniper two coats of varnish. We do not recommend them. They did a very sloppy job on the varnish, left a lot of ripples and holidays, and spilled varnish on Juniper and didn’t properly clean it up. I had to redo our starboard cockpit combing because there were so many ripples. 

In between eating tacos and churros, we fixed our wash down pump, serviced our outboard, cleaned out our food lockers (and rediscovered booze we bought back in SF), defrosted and added new refrigerant to our freezer/refrigerator, and now we need professional help with our next two projects:  installing our new solar panels, and fixing our electric winch. We might have to punt on these projects as the company that works on these things here in La Cruz is slammed.

At this point in April, the weather has shifted, but the main reason we haven’t yet left La Cruz is because Sam is very ill. When we were back in Miami for the summer he was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism and he was prescribed medication to manage the disease. Unfortunately, the medication – which is the most popular kind used for treating hyperthyroidism in cats – has some really nasty side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, lethargy, inappetence and Sam has suffered from all of these. Since the summer, he’s lost a lot of weight and since February, he lost even more. It’s been a daily struggle to get Sam to eat food, and we had a smorgasbord going, but what flavors he liked one moment he disliked the next until it reached a point where he stopped eating entirely. Cats can’t go more than a few days without eating and over the Easter weekend, we were pretty certain we were going to lose him. Sam’s condition has since stabilized, but he has not recovered. I’ve been syringe-feeding Sam, because otherwise he won’t eat, and we’re taking it day by day and hoping that he gets well, but his prognosis isn’t very good. Thankfully, there’s a vet in La Cruz and we’ve been taking Sam there once or twice a week for bloodwork, subcutaneous fluids, and exams.

Scott and I have been in crisis mode for a while now, and the mood on Juniper has been pretty subdued. We’re keeping busy with projects, but it’s really heartbreaking to do all we can and see Sam’s health decline. We’re all hoping for a turnaround.

Here’s a cute picture of Sam going cross-eyed for food, from December, just to not end on such a sad note:

La Cruz has the best churros

We’ve walked by this guy making churros over a dozen times and never pulled the trigger but, after a nice dinner with our friends from SV Ingenium, we stopped instead of passing him by and we’re so glad we did! We all just kind of went bonkers after the first bite.

He’s on Calle Langosta, next to the Kiosko, and he’s there in the evenings until 10pm, every day of the week,  I believe. Churros are a legitimately good reason to visit La Cruz!