All of those of us cruising who own sailboats treat the wind as both a treasured ally and the enemy. It is a wonderful source of free energy. It is also fickle and can tear at your boat like a great beast.
The trick is judging the wind. Which is based on a weather sense. Which is kind of like a black magic!
But, as sure as God made little green apples, he made the wind fickle!
While we were working on the bowsprit, we set the boat up for up to 50 mph or so of wind. This includes a set of boom tents we use which we have experience of in winds up to 40-45 mph without problems.
We had a forecast of rain (should have read squalls) with only 15-20 mph winds. When the little bruhahah arrived it was in the form of a south to south south westerly squall. No problem, our boom tent doubles as a rain cloak for the boat.
We don’t even usually have to close the upper hatches.
The first clue that they forecast may be questionable is when we hear wind in the rigging. Not the halyard banging, although the frequency of the banging will give you approximate wind speed. No this was that moaning howl. That does not happen under about 35 mph.
Not a problem!
Go to hatch, listen to other boats. Their masts are singing or moaning too. Not good!
What about gusts. Go look at the Airport just South of us by 12 miles. Weather Underground reads its automated instruments. Hmmm … 30 minutes ago a gust of 45 knots sustained. uh-oh!
45 knots x 30 minutes …. equals. Equals time to take in the boom tent. Scramble for the stairs. Open the dodger flaps … raining cats and dogs (not kittens and puppies). Release one side of the tent. Gust of wind tears tent from rear boom stiffeners. RIP! Then boom tent whips up out of my hands and tear shoots across the boat. Second circus tent underneath the boom tens has stiffeners too.
Sun bleaching has weakened the threads. As I watch, Circus tens rips away at the stiffener pole. Threads only, so no material is ruined.
Grab a blue plastic tarp and cover air-conditioner. Because it is now raining too hard and blowing too hard to try to move it back and close hatch to galley.
Cost of the inattention to the wind change (and a truly mediocre weather forecast) $200 in repairs to the three boom tents. Differed maintenance was also an issue. We had all the stitching in the Circus Tent restitched as part of the repairs. Now, it is back to snuff.
Inattention can be costly!
Dry rot is not so dry.
One of the benefits/problems of cruising is that sometimes when you boat has a problem, it has to be fixed in a place where you lack parts, skilled workers with experience on sailing vessels, and the tools to make or modify a part.
We discovered on a routine boat inspection which I perform when ever we are taking the boat to sea, that the wood at the base of the bowsprit was on the verge of failure.
Spiritus is a ketch. It had a 4 meter piece of wood that forms the bowsprit. This is the piece of wood that sticks out of the front of the boat for those of you who do not know older sailing vessels. In the case of Spiritus, it adds 7-8 feet to the length of the boat.
It is a critical piece of the sailboats standing rigging. It provides the attachment points for the whisker stays, the Bob stay, and the front stay to the main mast. In simple language, it is the thing that keeps the main mast from falling backwards onto the boat.
It does this by acting as a compression post for all of the forces generated by the genoa, the furled sail in front of the main mast. It also bears the forces of the main and foresail when sailing into the wind. That is a lot of force.
The dry rot was not evident on a visual inspection. The original piece of wood that formed the bowsprit was 8 layers of 1×8 glued together. I am guessing from the age of the boat that the wood was probably Sitka spruce. The piece was then spun on a lathe to shape the end and a stainless steel cap was added to the end for attaching the rigging attachment points.
I noticed a crack in the epoxy paint that covered the wood. Seemed a minor problem until I stuck a pocket knife into the crack and it simply disappeared. When I then pushed it into the wood near the crack, the results repeated themselves. Then I took my fingertip and pushed and uh-oh I could dent the wood.
Can we spell problem.
From where we are in Barra de Navidad, the nearest ship yard with knowledgeable workers is La Crux or Puerto Vallarta. Both are two or three days sailing. The sailing involves rounding Cabo Corrientes, which can be very interesting even with a strong boat. It is not a trip one would take with a crippled boat.
But, I also remembered that this is the harbor from which the expeditions from Mexico to discover the Philippines were made in 1545. If I can’t get a boat fixed in one of the oldest ports in on the West Coast of the Americas, then I deserved to be stuck for being unimaginative.
Corrective actions. We work with what we have.
First, the problem with all this is that the main mast structure is compromised. Fix that first. Two years ago, we had the boat totally re-rigged. Part of that process was the removal of the stay sail rigging. I kept for parts.
Using what I have, I climbed the mast and reattached the stay sail stay. It can support the main by itself if it has to. But the boat is still weakened.
Second, we arranged to have the bowsprit removed. We did this by hand because no one her owns a tool more powerful than a hammer, sledge, wedge, pry bar, and various screw drivers.
In other words, it has to be doable with hand tools only.
Three, before removing the bowsprit, we have to secure the main mast for an estimated 40-50 mile an hour winds. This involved taking the jib/genoa halyard and bringing it down to the cleats and tying off the mast on one side ob the bow. Then we took the main-sheet, reversed it thru the rollers at the top of the mast and secured it to the cleat on the other side of the bow. We left the bowsprit stainless pulpit attached to the bow and used it to tie the furler to so it would not bang around in the wind (if we had any).
Forth, satisfied that the mast is secure, we arranged to have the original bowsprit wood taken to a local furniture builder carpenter shop. The qualifier here was he had to be able to get good wood and he had to have a lathe capable of spinning the 12 foot piece for shaping the end of it.
Fifth, find the wood!
This was actually the most time consuming part of the process. We settled on using a single piece of primivera, which is also called Mexican White Mahogany. The piece had to be a piece of heart wood meaning the core of the tree.
The first piece we tried looked perfect until the very last planing when a center crack was revealed and it had to be discarded. Back to the drawing boards. Second piece was kiln dried, housed out of weather, dried again in his shop for two weeks as he worked it in his spare time.
Using the old piece, he made a duplicate. The original was painted but we decided to varnish the new one because it is a beautiful piece of wood on a beautiful old boat. Nuf said!
About four weeks total from the original start date, we finished and remounted the new nose. Spiritus now has a new beak!
Total cost other than our time. 4,000 pesos times two for the wood. 2,000 pesos for the wood working. 2,000 pesos for the unmounting, remounting, and refinishing with Epiphines varnish. This involved a skilled carpenter, and three and sometime four boat workers.
Oh, and two really long days in the sun taking out the old one and putting in the new one.
Gotta Have It and Instant-Gratification
In our high-tech world of rapid communication, complete with smartphones and Internet, we’ve come to expect almost immediate gratification when it comes to locating and receiving the goods and services which we need or want. Today, it’s inconceivable to imagine a United States when waiting weeks—sometimes months—for goodies to arrive at our homes or businesses was a common occurrence; but, at one point in history, it happened all the time. In the early 1900s, folks living in rural America had to depend on receiving huge catalogs in the mail (such as the Sears & Roebuck Co, Inc.’s Consumer’s Guide (1909)), then sending their return orders and prepayments also by “snail” mail, and waiting for weeks for their goods to be shipped by railroads and finally delivered locally by wagons owned by companies like the Wells Fargo General Express. Indeed, the types of products delivered to the rural areas were amazing: Smoked salmon from Seattle, dishware, furniture, and even prefabricated 2-story houses (Average Price: $1,500).
Aren’t we lucky that we don’t have to endure that anymore! Well, some of us still do…
Needful Things on a Boat in Mexico
We have now been in Mexico for four years, more or less continuously. Our goal is to return to the US only when absolutely necessary. So far that had been for two-three days each year for financial activities that the bank requires us be physically present for.
With that in mind, we have gotten familiar with the cities near the marinas we routinely use. So, when we say some products are simply not available in Mexico, we mean just that. Or, it means not available in our part of Mexico. There are lots of things available in Mexico City that are not available in the rest of the country. I will not list the items because the list is not short … it is long and touches many needs that a cruiser out of the US for an extended time will have to address.
Many ,otherwise very savvy cruisers, simply resort to having someone who is visiting the US bring them back when they return to Mexico. This is very time-consuming and only works if you are in one of the larger marinas where Americans are coming and going to and from the US weekly.
Let’s face it: Living or boating in Mexico is tremendous fun; but, there are times when you just can’t find some things you need or want. In any place but t few very large cities, Mexico is not a first world country. In its villages, and small towns, it is much more like a third world country. This becomes even more true if you are poor or living on a budget. Adding to the frustration is the fact that, even when you find a product online, getting it shipped here can be a major obstacle. Many companies do not ship internationally. Also, successfully calculating and paying Customs Fees (Aduana) can be a dicey proposition.
Don’t despair. The good news, regarding some of the items on your wish list, just may be possible to get here without Customs hassles or delivery headaches via Amazon.com. And with shipments totaling $65 USD or more, your order may also qualify for Free Global Shipping!
BUT NOT SO FAST! Before you shout for joy, one disclaimer: The most important word in this article is MAYBE. It may be possible…Maybe.
And a caveat: We are talking about Amazon.com US and not Amazon.com.mx. The listings of the Amazon.com site for Mexico are extremely limited in areas of computers, electronics, tools, and entertainment like DVDs and games.
Global Shipping from Amazon.com to Mexico
A couple of cautions: 1) Ordering from Amazon.com will not locate highly technical boat gear, motor parts, or paint. So don’t waste your time. 2) This article needs to be read carefully (as does the Amazon website regarding ordering and Global Shipping). There are just some things that don’t ship internationally because of trade agreements, Customs regulations, HAZMAT (dangerous stuff) restrictions, and (perhaps sometimes) the phases of the moon. There’s been things I’ve tried to order (such as a certain brand of rafting sandals) that just cannot be sent to Mexico.
How To Order from Amazon
- Go to http://www.amazon.com . Hit link for General Information regarding Amazon’s Global Shipping Service:
- Go to the next link: Simplified Steps for putting together an Amazon Global Shipping Order.
- The Customer Help link for international shipping also proved very helpful, especially regarding trying to put a package together that was eligible for Free Global Shipping…..For Mexico, your order Needs to be Total $65 USD or more… Even though they shipped my packages on two separate dates–(the other package came a week later)– the shipping was still free for both.
About FREE Amazon Global Shipping (very helpful link)
Setting up your ‘Default Shipping Address’ or ‘Default Address’
(1) Although your payment address and information will remain the same, you need to set up a default address to get your stuff to your marina or home in Mexico. Be sure to be very careful and thorough with you Spanish spellings in the addresses.
(2) Additionally, by shopping your items using your default address the item will inform you in the when you look at its description, in small print, if it can or cannot shop to Mexico and specifically to the address you are using as your default. (It saves a lot of time when you go to place the order). If your particular item cannot ship, you can just pull a list if identical or similar and find a company and item that does ship internationally.
Your Default Shipping Address (example)
sv Eagle/ John Doe (Your boat name and your name)
Marina de El Fantastico—(Marina Name)
5555 Whatever Calle ( Marina’s Correct Street Address)
Isla Fantastico, Independencia, 55555 ( Mexican City, Mexican State, and Postal Code)
Phone: 5555555555 ( A telephone number (cell or land line) that you can be reached in Mexico)
Now, go back and read the above again. What is critical and makes this so useful is the [art about playing with your default address. Once you figure this part out and get it right, it will save you hours of online shopping. AFTER you change the default shipping address, AFTER you change it, each item you add to your shopping cart will inform you whether or not if can ship to that specific address. So, when you check out, you items will say shipping instead of ‘does not ship to ‘Isla Fantastico’.
1) Aduana: Aduana is the Spanish word for Customs/ Import Duty. This includes the money owed for import fees. If you shop with Amazon.com, you may get free shipping (depending on your purchases), but this will not include what you owe to Mexico in Import Fees. Amazon does a remarkable job of charging you the right amount for your purchases automatically and this amount is added into your total purchase price. Upon several occasions, Amazon has actually credited back to me some pesos (a few cents); but, more importantly, I have never had a package fail to deliver because the company didn’t figure it correctly.
One caution !!!!!! It is possible to set off the “Bell and Whistle Alarms” with Mexico’s Customs folks. If your total purchase totals to over a $1,000 USD, you may get an email or phone call from the Mexican Customs Office, asking you to fill out some official forms proving that you are not an Import Business. This can be a great hassle and headache……
Last winter, while we were in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, one cruiser (s/v Cat-2-Fold) ordered a marine refrigerator. He wanted it fast, so he added expedited shipping to his order. The expedited shipping bumped his total purchase to $1,000 USD. Once it arrived in Mexico, he received an email asking for information—-totally in Spanish. This necessitated his seeking the help of a Mexican National to convince the Customs Office that he definitely was not an Import Business.
Second example, Carolyn, quartermaster and gourmet cook, ordered a bottle of mustard powder. It got stopped at Customs in Guadalajara because the commercially produced and clearly labeled bottle had an unidentifiable indistinguishable yellowish powder inside. We got a call from a very nice agent who spoke excellent English and was a cook. She said it was a no-go on passing it thru Customs because the powder could not be ‘identified’.
That one left us scratching our heads for a while. But, the good news is that for some reason, the company had sent that part of the order in a separate package. So the rest of the order sailed thru.
2) Methods of Shipping: Amazon uses several different carriers for its shipping, such as DHL and UPS. You cannot choose the carrier. And it never seems to come by the same carrier twice. It always depends on what you ordered and which marina the order is being shipped to.
Generally, if you are located in or near a highly populated city like Puerto Vallarta, your packages will come in time and sometimes even earlier than the expected date. However, if you are moored at a marina far from a densely populated area, it can take longer.
So, lets say, you expect three-day delivery cause you paid for it or because it was free, the experience may be quite different. Our example, we tracked the package, three days after order it arrived 35 miles from us in Manzanillo. We are thinking “score”. Not so fast! What we did not know the first time we ordered was that Manzanillo office for this service only delivered to our part of the State of Colima on Fridays. So the actual wait was till the following Friday for a delivery time of 10 days. No amount of calling will get the phone answered locally, even if you have a number.
3) The Good News: It generally works and you get your stuff—your needful things. But, when it doesn’t (and that has only happened to us twice), Amazon is an excellent company regarding returns and refunds. Indeed it has a good reputation, and rightly so. I include this Amazon News Release from March 2016:
“The results are in, and Amazon has the best corporate reputation among the 100 most visible companies in America, according to the just-released 23,000 person ‘Harris Poll‘. We’ve been fortunate to have consistently been in the top 10, but this year claimed the top spot, just ahead of Apple and Google.
Amazon was rated “excellent” across all the Harris Poll’s corporate reputation dimensions including Social Responsibility, Workplace Environment, Emotional Appeal, and Products and Services.”
A final note. This is not a recommendation for Amazon.com. It is just an online outfit we are familiar with. And, your results may vary. It is Mexico.
But, if you do everything right, you can use Amazon’s online store to get hard to get items to Mexico in a very reasonable time frame and ‘free.’
Note: Lest you think all we do is order movies. We have ordered a PS4 Gaming system after unsuccessfully trying to buy one locally in three different cities and on Walmart.com.mx. Half a dozen video games for the console.
We have ordered three medical texts for the library. I am a retired Paramedic but I decided as the brain cells gradually fade out I might need references to some of the procedures and info I had performed for years.
Filters for PUR water system that we cannot find filters for in Mexico. For boat stuff, you can usually count on finding a chandlary near the larger marinas that uses WEST Marine as a supplier. Prices are usually US price plus about 16% aduana.
FINAL NOTE: The quarter master and co-owner of Spiritus, Carolyn, did the research on this. It is the result of a year of painstaking ordering and waiting trial and error to see what works dependably. the article is none the less anecdotal. Your results may vary. Good luck!
The local fishing and tourism businesses in Barra de Navidad are, if nothing else, incredibly flexible about making the most of opportunity.
We recently had a chance to see, up-close, the shipwreck from Hurricane Patricia. The pangas now ferry tourists out to see it and take pictures. When you only have lemons, make lemonade. Take the potential disaster and make a living from it. Interesting business model.
The actual wreck is quite impressive. Well worth the 500 pesos for the boat rental. Six of us, who live in the marina, shared the ride. The two lawyers who own S/V Karpesa paid and asked us all to come along.
Of course, if you are a cruiser, you don’t actually have to pay anyone to go see the wreck. You can always get around the local economy and see it yourself on the cheap in your very own dingy.
Thanks to the aftermath of Hurricane Patricia, we now have a new attraction. We have two heavy seagoing tugs, a very large barge just off the entrance to the marina, a helicopter making 5-8 flights a day from a landing pad next to the marina, and innumerable panga tours.
How long can the good times last?
We have spent the summer in Barra de Navidad in Jalisco, Mexico.
I shot this footage when I wrote the last entry about the wreck of the cargo ship from Hurricane Patricia. It struck some memory from my youth so I thought I would explore it a little here.
Watch the video then read below.
The video was taken early in the morning as the helicopter approached the fuel dock area. We now jokingly call that ‘fire-base Barra’. It flew in over the lagoon with the sun and the anchored boats at its back. I could hear the sound of its rotors from two or three miles away.
I realized as I took the footage that I have been in or near the Huey helicopter since I was 17 years old. That is when I joined the Army as a volunteer and headed off to South East Asia. I am now 65 years old. This is a remarkable fact.
I have spent 48 years of my life and the Huey keeps reappearing like some totem beyond. I have seen them in combat settings in South East Asia in the late 60’s and early 70’s.
I have seen the news footage after I got home of them lifting the last people (except for the marine squad left behind) off the roof of the Saigon embassy. I watched the evening news as navy and marine personnel pushed them off the end of an aircraft carrier into the ocean because there was no more room for them to land.
I worked in Emergency Medical Services in Southern Colorado where at times the Air National Guard would fly medivac missions to the San Luis Valley in weather that civilian flight services could not fly in. We hot loaded then at night with the blades still running because of the altitude of a bit over a mile high at the local airport.
Seen them in movies like ‘Predator’, ‘We Were Soldiers’, ‘Apocalypse Now’,’Clear and Present Danger’, and ‘ The Matrix’. I have played the Ia Drang Valley battle in a simulator called Armed Assault, with a group of hard-core game players called United Operations, reenacting the battle from the movie, ‘We were Soldiers’ based on the actual battle early in the Vietnam Conflict.
The helicopter is iconic. It is now a part of a collective memory. It brings visions, dreams, nightmares, sweats, racing hearts, and smell of aviation fuel and smoke and heat from its engine.
All that was missing was the sound of 50 cals firing out the doors. Thankfully.
Makes me want to add the sound track from ‘Flight of the Valkyries.’
Cat Five Qualified!
Well, we have internet again. Power was restored to the docks today and should have water tomorrow. Our boat, Spiritus, has sustained no damage. This in spite of heeling to about 18 degrees at the dock under winds, estimated at 165 mph a mile from the marina.
The Marina at Isla Navidad did superbly. No boats lost.
Four boats in the marina sustained damage. Two had furlers open. Both lost sails on the opened furlers.
One of the two lost its mast (to be honest this boat (pictured below) had marginal maintenance and was essentially a derelict at the docks.)
PICTURES OF THE STORM
Two other boats broke loose from their cleats at the docks. One was the result of a failed cleat and the other looks like a line parted on the boat itself.
One sailboat, in the mangroves on a small island in the lagoon, had its furler open and drove itself aground after several tacks alternating between turns, anchor holding, drags, and finally a hard grounding near Maria’s restaurant in Colimilla, which is the small community adjacent to the Grand Isla Navidad resort properties. Most boaters in Barra know Colimilla for its restaurants.
Most of the boat owners, who were present during the hurricane, spent Friday night in the hotel. We all got to watch our boats get battered from the relative safety of a room in a five-star resort.
This sounds like the easy life, until you watch a friend’s boat next to yours break free and begin the process of destroying the dock between itself and your boat. You care because you know the boat that is in trouble. You care because the owners of that boat are dear friends. You care because you know your boat is next. All you can do is stand by and watch. Your heart is torn because you are praying your boat is still there in the morning. Then you think maybe you should be praying everyone’s boat is there in the morning. The other thing to note is that when you’re in a hurricane of this intensity, you have to remind yourself that between you and the full fury of the elements is a pane of glass.
As evening and dark set upon us, the last thing we saw were the docks being lifted by the storm surge and high tide for the day. There was only about four feet of pylon left and the water was climbing. When we went to bed we did not know if we we’d see Spiritus in the morning when the sun came up.
Maybe it is fairer to say, we didn’t know what we would see when the sun came up. Then the lights went out and the hotel fell into darkness. All that remained was the wind, the blinding rain, and the worries of a boater and their boat.
The hotel is built like a Spanish Fort on a point of land overlooking the entrance to the lagoon. The emphasis is on the word fort. The walls are two feet thick and would probably stop a cannonball. Everything is concrete, stone, and marble. Substantial is the word that leaps to mind. More importantly, nothing flexes in the wind. It is a rock.
Winds in the picture (above) were in excess of 100 mph. The waves were approximately 23 feet and breaking at the harbor entrance.
Many boaters think of Barra de Navidad as a hurricane hole. We came here with that in mind. I think it is safe to say that any marina that endures a category-five hurricane landfall, with no boats damaged and no docks damaged beyond power and water loss, is probably okay to call itself a “hurricane hole.”
The lagoon is another question altogether. It is open to the wind and a setting for disaster in high winds. It has low-holding power on anchors, because it has a combined river silt and sand bottom. Read this as the ‘slide pool’. At the start of the hurricane, the only boat there was saved because its owner flew down from the US to Guadalajara and hired a taxi to drive him to the resort. He got into the marina about an hour before the hurricane hit. He had 30 knot winds in his face in the marina entrance, but almost none once he entered the marina itself. By the time he had the boat secured with help from the marina staff and workers, the winds were above 60 knots and climbing. His boat survived undamaged in the marina.
The fuel docks for Barra de Navidad are located in the lagoon. During the high winds, they were torn apart and relocated.
The GRAND ISLA NAVIDAD RESORT
The staff and management of the hotel were exemplar. Accommodations were made for all the boat owners on boats in the marina. A special rate was even offered, because we were residents of the marina.
Boats that had pets were allowed to bring them in for the storm. No one was turned away.
Staff worked round-the-clock, sleeping and staying at the hotel during the storm. It provided food and beds for all staff who stayed. The hotel has its own generators, so power was maintained for most of the storm.
Its kitchens made food available to those sheltering in the hotel. We actually had TV during the storm, as well as internet for a portion of it.
Hotel damage was mostly limited to the edges of the tile roofs as the wind caught the tiles and lifted them up and blew them away. The other casualty was some of the larger windows in the restaurants. The pools are filled with debris, but being cleared even as I write this.
MARINA STAFF AND DOCK WORKERS
The local workers who care for foreign-owned boats stayed thru the thickest part of the storm and kept checking boats. Retying and moving them when necessary. They saved at least two boats ,maybe three. with their selfless efforts. I say this, because no one bills you for their help. The marina staff and security also stayed during the storm. Everyone turned in to help preserve the boats at the docks and the docks themselves.
We lost potable water, electricity, and a few dock cleats.
Almost full amenities are back at all docks, just five days after the storm.
I cannot tell you how much respect I have for the dock workers and staff of the marina at Marina Navidad; they are the unsung heroes of this category-five hurricane here at the resort. On Sunday, many finally took off to check on their families and homes.
THE TOWN OF BARRA DE NAVIDAD
This is a substory of the storm. It is a remarkable substory of life in Mexico. The town and the resort are separated by a half mile of water. It is traversed daily and hourly by water taxis. Many of the workers for the marina and hotel live across the harbor. The taxis ran until they could not safely go out. They ran until the batteries on their radios gave out. They ran in breaking waves in the harbor. When the dock they had just rebuilt blew down, they found another and continued to run. Only during the worst of the storm did they stop for safety reasons.
This was/is Maria’s just down the street from the water taxi docks. What you are looking at was an indoor restaurant under a palapa roof a couple of days ago. Parties and dinners were often held here. This is the kitchen bar below it is the main restaurant area.
The church called San Antonio de Padua suffered minor damage. This is the church with the Jesus on the Cross figure called the Cristo de Ciclón .
The church was standing room only for the services the second day after the storm.
Businesses are trying to clean up before this weekend, which is Dia de la Muertos (Oct 31-Nov. 2, a festival coinciding with the Catholic Church’s Allhallowtide, All Saints’ Day, and All Souls’ Day). Dia de Muertos is one of three most popular holidays along the coast (Christmas and Easter, being the other two).
And the famous pizza place under the tree took a hit from the storm. Most of the trees leaves are gone but it still stands. You can see this tree from space in the Google earth Maps. Glad it survived.
PUNTA GRAHM AND THE LOS LLANITOS FREIGHTER
This is the large rock formation due west of the Marina on the other side of the headland. Distance for the marina is a mile or so. Currently, the bulk carrier ship under Mexican Flag, the Los Llanitos, is aground and probably will break up.
The video above is from 11/1/2015 and is the best example of what I am talking about. Ship gets lots of visitors by helicopter but no visible environmental response. The latest messages seem to suggest they are thinking of making it a reef. I am not sure how that differs from doing nothing and hoping the fish like it.
The cargo seems to be grain so at least that is a relief, if true.
The video and pictures are of a 71,000 ton freighter that left Manzanillo just ahead of the storm. It foundered and ran aground about a mile west of us on a rocky headland. the winds were simply too strong. Crew had to be evacuated after the storm by helicopter. The Mexican Navy is not working to get her afloat now as she had broken her back and will never be sea worthy.
I am adding this not as a criticism, but as a series of observations. I have a background in Emergency Planning and Response in a previous life before cruising. I have watched with rapt attention how the response system works in this part of rural Mexico.
Barra de Navidad is a small town of about 4,000 (according to the traffic sign at edge of town). It has a two communications towers: one from Carlos Slim’s Telcel, which seems to have its own generator since it kept working when all power was out, and another that I do not know who installed but I suspect it is some kind of public works.
The warnings before the storm consisted of an emergency vehicle with lights and a siren hitting up the siren as it drove past the marina and announcing one hour before landfall that ‘a hurricane was coming. Get to safety! Stop all maritime activities! Seek shelter immediately!’ I did not hear any warning by the Port Captain. He did close the port in an announcement. The red ‘port is closed’ flag was flying at harbor entrance. We were monitoring channel 16 for the captain, channel 22 for cruisers, and channel 23 for the water taxis.
No one knew wind speeds locally, and both local weather stations at the airport and in Manzanilla went off-line. Internet was available until just after the storm ended; so, we got a lot of info from the sites we use to plan trips that I mention in another blog entry here called “Guessing the Weather along Mexico’s West Coast”. This file is also available in the South_Bound user ground on Yahoo Groups.
No preparation at all. No boarding of windows. No pre-positioning of resources.
Storm hits. No sirens, no response to emergencies, no presence of anything like response teams. The local EMTs seem to have staffed their ambulance at the small clinic for Seguro Popular, the Mexican health program. It is a very safe building at the edge of the commercial part of Barra.
No police. As of today, I have still seen no police in the town. No military. Well, except for a chopper that brought some meals and water. No disaster teams. No local use of generators (except at the Grand Isla Navidad Resort where we sheltered). I have seen one small generator at a private home in five days of looking. What is very interesting is NO LOOTING, no increase in crime, no breaking of windows. No reports of any weird disaster-related social breakdown. Small town, small town values: we take care of ourselves.
Stores stayed open if they were locally owned. Franchise stores like OXXO and Kiosko (these are like 7- Elevens) were closed for the duration (plus two days), because their internet based registers would not function. Just closed. No electricity = no register = Not Open. Even in an emergency where supplies of food stuffs are immediately short. Local tiendas (vendors) just wrote things down in a small ledger for payment and for resupply.
Beer. It was amazing to watch as the beer supplies got used up further and further from the town’s commercial district. Each day to get beer, you had to walk further and further away from the town core. Milk and anything refrigerated was gone or spoiled after the first day. The ice plant kept running or had a store of bagged and block ice so that beer and sodas were kept on ice. Everything in a cooler, powered by electricity, got hot.
Clean up. No heavy equipment at all. Shovels and Brooms. Clean your own street of debris and sand.
Rebuilding. Hammers and Machetes. I’m not kidding. Bolt cutters, stainless-steel hacksaws. hammers. small (very small) sledge hammers. Wood and trees as big as five inches being worked and cut with machetes. We saw a couple of power saws being used at the Grand Isla Navidad Resort.
Power. The power companies were the only organized response I have seen. There were half a dozen power trucks in town on the second day after the landfall.
No round-the-clock response. Everyone seems to go home or shut down at night.
The ship wreck on Punta Graham (west of the marina). The most response of all. Half a dozen helicopter flights to and from the wreck site daily. No spill-boom for fuel and oil containment. No pumping of cargo off-boat. Emergency response seems to be of an observational nature. No interventions to prevent spill or mitigate damage. Response by government seems to be ‘Just watch’.
News Response. Oh, yeah. Even though no one is talking much about the aftermath, lots of reporters on day three taking pictures. Seem to be Mexico TV crews.
Boats in the Marina. Cruising boats have power, generators, solar, wind generators, fresh water-makers, water storage, refrigeration, food stocks, medical supplies, radio communications, phones, satellite communications, light, sewage, etc. We fair well and are not a part of the problem. But, we are also not part of the solution. Not sure what to make of this. Seems like a wasted resource to me.
As I have said elsewhere, the marina is located in a five-star resort which is by definition a gated community. It remained so during the storm. If there is cooperation between the resort and any local community as a shelter, it is not obvious to the casual observer. What this means is that the only place for miles on the coast that could shelter in true disasters is essentially a business even during a disaster and not a community resource. Seems like another wasted resource to me.
If the resort had a disaster plan, it was not obvious. Windows (big ones) not boarded. Last minute removal of furnishings from places likely to be opened to the elements. No contact with guests. An occasional “Are you guys OK?” would have been nice.
When the hotel’s dining room closed because of window damage, the hotel provided an emergency meal for workers and guests.
No apparent call in of off-duty staff. Though, if you were staff here at the start of the storm you stayed. Food and bedding was provided to workers, who did not leave for a couple of days. Do not know if they got to contact family. Most do have cell phones and the cell phone services never went down. Bless you Carlos Sim and your self-powered cell towers.
I am adding a note here that the ad hoc response by staff on duty at the Resort was phenomenal. They met each emergency need flexibly with what ever staff was not busy elsewhere. It is clear that the staff is dedicated and very experienced but that is not an emergency plan that is experience. It is safe to say that each year a hurricane is a distinct possibility at this resort. It would make sense to organize a plan about how to handle one.
Marina. No extra staff called in during storm. The few marina staff and security and the individuals who work on boats and any cruisers available handled emergencies in the marina. Lost power. Lost water. Lots of damage to electrical system. The big boats provided night-time illumination so we could see on the docks.
Marina management did stop by boats to check before the storm on what the owners’ plans were. But no requirement that a boat prep for the storm. No ‘take down your furlers’, no ‘remove all canvas’, no ‘add lines’. One dock was mostly cleared of boats, and a few were moved to other locations in the marina. I am guessing to reduce stress on certain docks.
Please note that the observations above are for information only. They are entirely subjective in nature. All I can attest to is what I have seen personally. That being said, I am somewhat a keen observer of this kind of setting. Just my two-cents worth.
It is very unlike a stateside response which tends to be heavy on governmental involvement. There seems no help rebuilding support whatsoever. Not sure if agencies here do disaster planning or just ‘respond’ in an observational posture.
Very interesting experience.
I actually had it in my head that cruisers would be much more use to communities in which we harbor. This was based on an approximation of what we all carry on our boats. I will have to rethink this assumption after this.
Lest you think these recollections are just the imaginings of a ‘cruiser’ in a foreign country, try to remember that for those of us who live on our boats, they are our homes. We do not just fly to Mexico for the sailing season. We live here with commitment. That means that if the boat is sunk or heavily damaged, we are not simply unhappy while waiting for a check from the insurance company. We are homeless, just like anyone who loses all they have.
With that said, we try to never forget that all cruisers in Mexico, to some extent, live in secure gated communities called marinas. We and they have security round the clock, We don’t live where there is no backup generator. We don’t live where there is no potable water. We don’t live where the only help you have is your friends and neighbors.
A well-equipped cruising boat, after the storm passed, had electricity, potable water, food and medical supplies, internet, phones, television and DVDs, radios, and the ability to just sit out the period after the storm. This was true even if the docks and marina had no power, water, or other amenities like sewage removal.
The bathrooms in the marina kept working. You can’t imagine what that small thing means to cruisers. We can’t imagine what it means to the town which had no such amenities after the storm.
MORE TO COME
There will be more added to this posting as info gets to me. I just wanted to post it so, if you had an interest in Barra and the boaters here, you would have some info.
That is right, I have discovered ‘crowd sourcing’ identification problems. So, it you are a kid who likes to name things or someone who likes puzzles or ‘what is this questions’, check back occasionally.
This one is recent. Last week, one of our neighboring boats has a visitor. It came aboard through a cockpit drain. When the owners of a Chilean sailboat were preparing the boat for a short absence, they were washing out the cockpit when, up out of the drain came the snake pictured below. He is about 24 inches long and the picture was taken after his demise at the hands of a rubber mallet.
So here is your KOAN .. kill it or not. Came in through water, so swims, has triangular head, has ‘pits’ on nose. You can see the color.
As Cap’n Jack Sparrow would put it … “There is only one question, you have to answer, can you sail with a ‘snake’ aboard, or can you not!” I might have paraphrased that.
So, name that snake, anyone?