Margaritas, Upgrades and Back Pains

How’s life at this completely run-down dock that we have called our home with Milagros for a month now? Is everything as bad as it seems? Not necessarily – we grow more and more fond of Muelle el Mero. Although it lacks everything, we have everything we need and more. We are busy working on Milagros and installing upgrade after upgrade. But unfortunately, my recent back problems are causing me problems.

Yes, the El Mero docks are in a sorry state (you can read about that in our last blog post). There is no water and no electricity. No taco stands around the corner. But we have been well received here in the small «Kingdom of El Mero» and are having a really good time, making many new friends and experiencing all sorts of funny stories. Initially we wanted to move to Marina Fonatur in Guaymas because I fly to Bangkok for work in January, have almost scrapped that plan by now. Too big the rush for the slips, too little space available. We have called the office of the marina again and again and we always got the same answer: «No slips available!»

We like this little place.
The spot where we have connection for phone calls makes for stunning views

Bye Claudia, hello space!

But, after having our good friend Claudia over, we have all the more space aboard Milagros. It’s a pity that she had to head home again. The almost two and a half weeks with her flew by. She was the perfect guest to have on the boat, realized all kinds of projects, we had one too many beers, we laughed a lot and just enjoyed our time together. The most important lesson from the few weeks of togetherness? It’s nice to be three people on Milagros, four people would be snuggly, five would make for a tight experience aboard.

The work on Milagros never ends

One would think that after our huge refit of Milagros in Puerto Peñasco we (can) lie around lazily. Nope! There is still a lot to do. Our faulty starter motor had to be removed from our engine, we wanted to upgrade our solar system, improve our emergency equipment and repair our bent bow pulpit (as you might already know, we made acquaintance with a massive fishing boat in Puerto Peñasco). It is in the nature of things that other projects would automatically be added.

Time for repairs

So, we didn’t miss a beat and got to work. First of all, we took the faulty starter motor to a workshop. For once, everything went smoothly. We had the motor off our engine in no time, not least thanks to a brief consultation of a few YouTube videos. On the recommendation of 1-2 other cruisers we decided on a small workshop in town. We called Caesar, our trusted chauffeur, to El Mero and also took a second starter motor with us, which had been lying dormant for some time.

Here’s where the starter motor used to live

Heavy lifting

Crazy how heavy starter motors are. We couldn’t lift the box with the two starters on our own, we had to use our combined strength to drag the box to the car. Just a few days later and a few hundred pesos lighter, we had two revised starter motors in our hands. We re-installed one of the two, the other one we mothballed should the first one ever give up the ghost. A long time ago, the previous owner of Milagros had the opportunity to use spare parts from another engine that was out of service. We can benefit from that, but the spare parts are getting old and some need a refresher.

Very convenient but complicated

We had to plan ahead and order materials for our projects. US orders here in Guaymas and San Carlos are delivered by Debbie out of Tucson, Arizona. She makes her American address available for deliveries, which she then drives here to Mexico for a fee. The only disadvantage: She only comes down from Tucson on Saturdays, which makes planning relatively difficult. We would experience first-hand the things can go wrong.

Come oooooooonnnn!

For the upgrade of our existing solar system, we had ordered two additional solar panels to Debbie’s place. Since these are relatively unwieldy and bulky, it’s a little problematic for her to fit them in her car and cross the Mexican/American border with them. When we arrived at the pick-up point full of anticipation on one of said Saturdays, only one of the solar panels had arrived. “Solar panels are problematic, customs can always ask me for extra money for them, so I only brought one,” Debbie explained. Great.

We are not the only victims

Our new friend Pete from SV Swansong, who we met through Tyr the Icelandic Viking, drives us from the dock to San Carlos and back for pickups at Debbie’s on Saturdays, each a 45-minute drive. And we invite him to breakfast every time in return. This time Saxon and Holly, an Australian sailing couple, joined the pickup crew. The two were expecting a shipment of paint for their underwater hull. They were amazed when exactly zero cans of their paint had arrived. There they stood and had suddenly run out of a week’s worth of work on their boat.

On to America!

With hanging heads, we made our way home. Suddenly we started spinning a crazy idea – why not just rent a car and road trip to Debbie’s in Tucson? Said and done. A few days later, Saxon picked me up at Muelle El Mero promptly at THREE AM IN THE MORNING. 7 hours of driving to the USA ahead of us we set out into the night. A very short stay in the USA with a visit to Debbie and a few errands, then back to Mexico. That was the plan. Should everything go smoothly, we would arrive back in Guaymas in the evening the same day.

(Almost) like clockwork

And who would have thought? The whole northward journey, including the border crossing, went absolutely smoothly. We met a total of five CHEERFUL and SUPER FRIENDLY border guards at the American border. Coming from Mexico?! No accusations of genocide, terrorist attacks, human trafficking and cartel activities? We’re used to something different when entering the land of the free. When we arrived at Debbie’s house in Tucson, disillusionment followed. At least for me. The rental car had no folding rear seats. My solar panel didn’t fit in the car. AAAARRRHRGHGHGHHRHRHWHAHHAHH!

Sweaty hands at UPS

Saxon, Debbie and I tried all sorts of ways to get the panel in the car. No chance. The solar panel didn’t fit. Luckily it wasn’t our only order so we just packed our new power station and other parts that we had ordered to Debbie. After that we had to hit Walmart, Home Depot and, most importantly, UPS. Because that’s where Saxons and Holly’s paint was. Hopefully. With sweaty hands we entered the UPS station.

Back to Mexico quick!

Good news on the paint front for Saxon and Holly! Their paint had arrived! We quickly packed everything up. Back to Mexico it was! No problemo on the way back either: at the border, we were simply waved through by the American and Mexican border officials, and a few hours later we were back in Guaymas. We were dog tired. What a day. We drove to America for a few hours’ worth of sightseeing in Tucson, Arizona. The things you put up with for a bit of sailing.

Capacity limits

A few days later we were finally able to receive our second solar panel from Debbie. That was the start to our solar upgrade. The plan was as follows: Our batteries are slowly but surely approaching the end of their lifespan. Since we both work regularly on our laptops, we had noticed a capacity limit on our electrical setup. We consumed more power than came in through our two 140W panels. So, it quickly became clear that we needed more solar input – hence the two new, additional 190W solar panels.

A small power station for the office

We also bought an Anker 555 powerhouse as a power plant for the office and as a backup. The powerhouse contains a powerful lithium battery and comes with all kinds of sockets. We want to supply our three power vampires to it: Operate the Starlink satellite dish and our two laptops so that we don’t suck power from the batteries. (For those who are interested: these 3 devices together consume up to 20Ah.) Additionally, thanks to inputs from Katie and Mike on SV Alegria, we found out that we could connect the box directly to solar power. This means that no electricity is wasted from the batteries to charge the power station. The box simply draws part of the solar power being produced by our solar panels, the rest of the power goes entirely to the boat’s battery bank.

The new office power station

This and that and that and that

What needs to be done? We have to lay meters and meter of cable. We have to find out what size cable we need to use. Where the connections are. Where the cables from the solar panels should go through the deck. Where we should mount the panels. Which panel goes to which position? Where do we want to position the new solar controllers? Where and which fuses and switches must be added to the system? What can we still use from the existing system and what not? What needs to be modified or expanded?

Planning is everything!

After we had brainstormed the whole system for a couple of hours Pati drew up a plan, complete with a listing of the various projects. Nothing could go wrong, right? Our planning actually worked out really well, and an entire day of work later we were sitting in front of a fait accompli and our new solar system. It doesn’t look exactly nice and a few parts are just stand-ins until the actual parts arrive, but it all works exactly how we envisioned it. Bring on the Milagros office hours!

We need more stuff

To properly align the solar panels to the desired angle to the sun, they each need a «solar panel stand». On Facebook we found a local Mexican welder who has worked for many other boaters and is well recommended. We’ll combine the production of the solar panel stands with the repair of our bent bow pulpit. It’s been almost a year since the damage and it’s time to repair the poor thing. Off it came and to Jorge Garcia’s workshop it went!

We’re going sailing, too

When we’re not working on the boat or the computers, we just have a jolly good time. We have already been on several trips on other boats. Keith, for example, has two boats here at Muelle El Mero (because one is not enough, right). A big one and a small one. We’ve been out with both of them. Every time we were informed about the trips 10 minutes before departure. Suddenly there is a knock on the hull and the question: Wanna go sailing – right now? We were always on the water for a few hours, always in good company and having boatloads of fun.

Careful with Pete!

What we also learned is that we have to be careful of Pete. After a material run to Debbie, he simply kidnapped us at 11 a.m, took us straight to a bar, where he immediately ordered a round of margaritas for everyone. And then another. And another one. It didn’t help that the World Cup was also TV, too. So, we stayed longer to watch England lose to France. I actually planned to boycott this World Cup (because fuck FIFA!), but now I have watched a game anyway. What the hell. A short visit to Debbie’s turned into a full day of party and we didn’t make it back to the boat until well after the sun had set. There are pictures of us deliriously eating a whole chicken in the Walmart parking in Guaymas. That’s how it works when you live on a boat. You’ll never know what the day will bring. And that’s the beauty of it.

Feeling old yet?

Not as beautiful is the current situation of my back. I herniated a disc sometime last year. I’m actually getting old! Who would have thought! The intervertebral disc has been causing me sometimes more, sometimes less problems for months now. It pinched the sciatic nerve in my left hip, causing an inflammation of the root of said nerve, which sometimes causes really bad stretches of intense pain. After initially making great progress being back on the move after weeks of 9 to 5 in Switzerland, I’m struggling with the pain again at the moment. Sometimes I sleep better, sometimes not at all. At the moment I have to get up every few hours and walk up and down the dock in the middle of the night to release the strain down my left leg.

Mexico strikes again

The timing for this to happen is actually not all that bad, because a few thefts have taken place at the moment. The Muelle El Mero is visited by fishermen, other shadows and visitors at night and various things have disappeared from boats. The night guards at the gate are not very helpful. I have never seen a night guard doing rounds during my late-night stretching sessions. Well, what can you expect when the dock is almost free?

The sailors fight back

So, the princes and princesses of the kingdom of el Mero had to take matters into their own hands once again and we have recently organized night watches. Anyone who wants to take part has to take a one-hour shift. Pati and I are also part of the fun. For me at least that doesn’t make a big difference, because I’m awake all the time anyway.

Night time watches

Sleeping like on clouds

Speaking of sleeping: Another VERY important upgrade has taken place that concerns our sleeping situation. We have invested in a slat system for our Aft cabin from the company Froli and a new mattress from the USA. Our old mattress was ancient and, in my opinion, one of the main reasons why my back problems turned out so blatant in the first place. Every time we noticed that the mattress had become a bit less comfortable, our backs also reported on said findings. After a few nights on the new, comfy latex foam mattress I can report that the investment is worth every penny. I’m glad we’re finally rid of our old sleeping pad. The first few nights were definitely very, very comfortable. Just like our stay at Muelle El Mero.

The days are passing by in a rush and it’s almost Christmas already! There’s always something to tinker with, something to upgrade, beer cans are always hissing somewhere. Everything is going well aboard Milagros, but we’re very much looking forward to finally hitting the road again early next year! The far south is calling!

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