Pati Home Alone

David was once again off to work, this time to the gemstone hotspot of Bangkok, leaving me to look after Milagros for nearly 20 days.

On the morning of David’s departure, Pete and Nicole picked us up from the marina for one last breakfast together. After a somewhat mediocre meal at the hotel buffet across from the bus station, David embarked on his 52-hour journey to Bangkok. Pete, Nicole, and I then headed to the opposite end of Guaymas, to the sea. Our destination was the ‘Perlas del Mar de Cortez’ pearl farm, where Pete had arranged a tour for us.

Local Pearls

Our tour guide, Fernando, was clearly passionate about pearls. With great enthusiasm, he led us to the Palappa by the sea, where they worked with the oysters. The process takes years – from collecting the baby oyster, inserting the nucleus, to finally harvesting the pearl itself. Originally a research facility, the farm now operates as an independent business. According to Fernando, the Sea of Cortez pearls, though cultivated, are unique. He showed us their range of colours and a special feature: under UV light, they glow red.

Back to Milagros

After the tour, I returned to the boat. It felt strange being alone on Milagros at anchor for the first time. A year earlier, David had been in Bangkok for two weeks, but then Nicole had visited, and I was docked at the Kingdom of El Mero for only a few days alone. Being alone at anchor is no issue – many solo sailors do it all the time.

A Bit Uncomfortable

However, something made it slightly uncomfortable: a strong, persistent north wind was forecasted. According to other sailors, one boat in the bay didn’t handle anchoring well and would drift across the bay in strong winds. Normally, David wakes up at any sound, while I sleep through. I was curious to see how things would go.

Nearly Freezing Temperatures

The first night brought a blast of icy wind from the north, dropping temperatures below 10°C. You might think that’s not too bad, but without heating, it was quite chilly. With 7 Beaufort (30 knots / 55 km/h) winds whipping over the water and buffeting Milagros, I trusted our anchoring, our anchor, and Milagros itself, but I set the anchor alarm and regularly checked our position. After a particularly strong gust, other sailors would check in to see if I was okay. Though sleeping through was impossible, but usually, the wind would die down by 3 am, allowing me to spend the last part of the night in dreamland.

A New View

Until now, we could only read the wind speed from the chart plotter in the cockpit, but it was too cold for that. So, I unpacked a yet-to-be-installed display, connected it to our data system (for those interested: an NMEA 2000 backbone), and set it up on the chart table. This way, I could comfortably see the wind speed from the aft cabin bed, through the tunnel.

It’s Over

Once the north wind had passed, my time at anchor came to an end too. While vacuuming the cabin one morning, I discovered water damage under the stairs leading to the cockpit. I opened the floorboards to find 5 cm (2”) of standing water in the bilge. Tasting it, I found it was salty. With the water damage above the floor, there weren’t many possibilities for its source, only one: the saltwater foot pump, which was indeed dripping. Unfortunately, we had neither a spare pump nor a maintenance kit on board.

Moving In

This pump is crucial for us, as we use it for washing dishes to save fresh water. Normally, we have a watermaker, but we don’t use it in places like Guaymas to avoid damaging the membrane with polluted sea water and, frankly, we wouldn’t want to drink the water from this cesspool. Anchored far out and not wanting to lug water back and forth, I booked a spot in the marina.

A Parting Gift

On a calm morning, neighbour Randy came over in his dinghy to help bring Milagros into the marina. Retrieving the anchor chain took surprisingly long because a nasty, slimy black muck clung to the chain, and we had to spray off every one of the 40 meters (130 ft) so it wouldn’t end up in the anchor locker. Finally, the anchor windlass struggled to lift the anchor. I thought Milagros had lined up the next project for us. But it turned out to be a gift. Our Bruce anchor had snagged a tyre for us, how thoughtful. Things could only get better.

Hello, Fonatur

And they did. I docked Milagros at a snail’s pace in the marina, while Shay and Yona from SV Holoholo and other dock neighbours took our lines. With Milagros securely tied up, it was easier to leave her alone. I had a hike in San Carlos on my list that I wanted to do: climbing one of the peaks of the local mountain, ‘Tetakawi’, colloquially known as ‘Teta de Cabra’ (Goat’s Teat) due to its shape.

Climbing the Teat

Nicole immediately agreed to my suggestion of climbing one of the teats. They kindly picked me up in Guaymas, and after a fortifying taco lunch, Pete dropped us off at the base of Tetakawi. We amusedly inspected a huge poster from the local tourism authority advising to bring at least 3 litres of water, wear good hiking shoes, and recommending gloves and a local guide. We, as hikers from Switzerland, found this somewhat exaggerated for a hike that was supposed to take a total of 2 hours.

The Tetakawi in San Carlos

The Climb

Following the trail, which was well-marked by Mexican standards, we knew it wouldn’t be a walk in the park as we looked up at our destination. Initially, it was a simple stone path uphill, but later we had to climb over large rocks and rubble mixed with sand. Near the summit, we even had to use ropes someone had fixed. As I pulled myself up, I wondered if we could trust Mexican ropes, all too familiar with the ‘well-intentioned and then forgotten’.

And Down Again

The ropes held, and we reached the summit in 50 minutes, enjoying the fantastic view and catching our breath. It was indeed no stroll. The descent was challenging, too. Our shoes lacked sufficient grip for the sandy rubble mix. Nicole slid down on her seat, while I scrambled down on hands and knees. The poster at the start of the hike was justified after all.

Among Neighbours

Being in the marina felt like living in a neighbourhood. Everyone knew each other, greeted each other, and helped out. For example, Shay and Yona wanted to buy a larger anchor similar to ours, so I lent them ours for a trial fit. And neighbour Gavin helped me cut aluminium rails for our new grill’s railing mount, as I really don’t like the grinder.

Lucky Break

As the in-house baker for Keith on SV Aurora, I baked special muffins for their next sailing afternoon, and Pete picked them up from me at the marina. I was invited too but chose not to go for various reasons. In hindsight, I was relieved to have declined, as Steve, one of the sailors, passed away from a heart attack en route. He was a boat owner in the Kingdom of El Mero, had reached the age of 83, and took his last breath doing something he loved. It could be worse.

A Success

The maintenance kit for the foot pump finally arrived with the all-Saturday delivery from the USA. Eagerly, I dismantled the part and opened it. I had been warned: in many cases, the pump still leaks after maintenance. The internet suggested this was because the kit comes without instructions, leading to the seals and diaphragms being installed backwards. So, I paid extra attention during disassembly and took photos of everything.

Unicorn Power

Still, I wasn’t spared a typical boat moment. Upon opening, the pump spring jumped out in two pieces instead of one. And, of course, the maintenance kit didn’t include a new spring. Where to find such a spring in Guaymas was beyond me. I spontaneously asked our continental man, Lukas from Poland. He immediately asked for the spring’s dimensions, as he was having coffee with Richard. It’s worth noting that Richard’s large steel boat is said to carry at least another sailing ship in parts. Three minutes later, I received a picture of a unicorn with the sought-after spring. Thirty minutes later, it was delivered, and another thirty minutes after that, the pump was overhauled, installed, and leak-free!

Unicorn Power!

Something Else to Do

While I was peacefully tinkering away, it suddenly hit me that I needed to renew my visa. I was allowed to stay until the end of April, but that was cutting it close. And it wouldn’t be as easy as from Guaymas later on. Last year, I could drive the 450 km to Nogales on the Arizona border with Keith, but this time I faced a bus journey. According to the bus company, it took about 5.5 hours each way.

To the US Border

On the Friday before David’s return, a taxi picked me up at 6 am, and the bus left at 6:30 am. After an endless 7 hours, I finally reached Nogales. Another 20 minutes and I was at the immigration office, where at exactly 2 pm, my passport was stamped with a 180-day stay permit. Afterwards, I wandered the streets and enjoyed a lovely lunch.

A Long Journey

The website listed buses back at 3:30 pm and 4:00 pm, easy. I arrived at the bus station by taxi in good time. Then, oh dear. Both buses were fully booked, and the next available was not until 5:00 pm. Eventually, I got back to the boat at 11:00 pm, making it a 17-hour round trip. Along the way, I discovered something interesting: I had, by chance, renewed my visa on the exact same day for the last three years.

The Other Side of the World

Meanwhile, David was enjoying his rainforest shower, relaxing by the hotel pool after work, and exploring Bangkok on his free days. He also had the chance to spend a day in Tokyo on his way there. Here are a few impressions:

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