While cruising México during the last seven years, I have learned a few tricks that may save the new World Cruiser a few steps, bus or taxi ride. México like most third world countries is developing around us. It has many conveniences, but the handy Starbucks on every corner or a marine supply store in every city. West Marine, Fisheries Supply and others are an Internet click away, but getting our precious purchases into México and onto our vessels has many drawbacks. There is a time for those consumer marine stores products and that is usually when we travel back home or we know someone who can Mule or Burro items into México for us.
During my years of cruising México, I have learned that applying the conventional thought process for finding a stainless steel fastener, special fitting or other marine specialty item is lost. Yes, there are a few Ferreterías scattered throughout México and yes most of the old salts know where they are located. One in particular looks so much like a West Maine inside it is scary. Sometimes putting a patch on something to get by is an option until you can get to one of these stores. Sometimes a patch isn’t going to work.
Consider your options. If you have a hydraulic issue you won’t easily find a B & G hydraulic ram for sale much less the parts you need to effect a repair yourself. But, hydraulics are used all over México and there is usually a hydraulic shop that you could have a pump rebuilt or purchase parts necessary to do the repair yourself. The same thing goes for bearings and shaft seals. Just because there isn’t a ProFurl outlet near by, doesn’t mean that a tienda that sells seals and bearings isn’t available. I have seen hydraulic hoses and hose fittings at a welding shop that also work on farm equipment.
While on an outing looking for a fastener or other specialized part, it is not unreasonable to visit four, five or even more tiendas until you find what you are looking for. While in those tiendas along the way, take your time and look through them. You never know what you might find.
If you are like me, I have a list of projects that is constantly growing and ever present. This is the list of things that I like to call, “Good to do when I get a ‘Round Tuit!’” So when looking through the tiendas along the way with this floating list in my brain, something on a shelf, peg boar or bin will silently shout out making me stop and contemplate the possibilities of completing one of those less critical items on the list. I was looking for some carbon brushes for a DC water pump in Santa Rosalía. I found them in a hardware store that sold lighting and plumbing fixtures. Go figure! What you seek is not always where you think it should be and thus thinking outside the box results in a victory if only for one item on your list.
Costco Shopping Mentality. Most folks know what shopping in a large warehouse store is like. You know the large quantities of items stores with the 40 pound package of raisins, the 55 gallon drum of laundry detergent, etc…? Well, I can tell you that I have more than once, while shopping there, seen one of those shiny items on the self and thought I would like to have it, but I wasn’t prepared to by it at the moment. You know that item guys, the thing on the shelf that is illuminated with a blinding light from the heavens above with six arrows pointing to the item? I usually convince myself that I’ll be back to Costco next week to get it after I measure and figure where it will get install or stored. Almost every time I’ve gone back to get that item it has been sold out. I tell myself that I was stupid and that I know better. Folks, if you see an item in México that you remotely think is something you need, BUY IT! Because when you return the Costco Penalty of “Not Available” will grace you with its presence. There won’t be anymore lights from heaven on that shelf until maybe your next visit.
I thoroughly enjoy the adventure part of looking for an item as it gets you off the boat, interacting with the people in the community and adventure is part of the cruising culture.
So, here is how you find what you need. There is a wealth of information rattling around the heads of those that have been cruising México for multiple years. Most are willing to share the knowledge they have obtained from their adventures. If you can tap into this dusty well of information your adventures will take less time for actually finding what you are looking for. Browsing through tiendas along the way can broaden your knowledge base of what is available along the way and perhaps make your next adventure easier.
As you may or may not know, Dazzler recently had her bottom painted last August in Puerto Peñasco. There comes a time a few months later that you need to jump in the water to wipe down the underbelly of your cruising home. You can break out your wallet and pay the guy at the dock if you want. You know that well-meaning diver that is looking to get paid for scraping the bottom with steel wool or a paint scraper. Most boaters understand the cost of having the bottom of their vessel painted. If you are anything like me, I expect to get the maximum use from the paint. The first several times Dazzler’s bottom gets cleaned will be by me with a soft white pad. The metal parts usually have some stubborn marine growth requiring a bit more scrubbing.
For the painted surfaces, I like to wipe them down with a white 3M pad that isn’t supposed to have any abrasion fibers in it. But, I have heard that a small carpet square will work also. For those stubborn areas like the prop, I use a flexible blade putty knife about 2” wide, a stainless wire brush and some stainless scrubbing pads.
A long time ago when Dazzler was docked in Marina de Rey and I was still working for a living, a professional diver, Bob Williams, passed on some sage advise for cleaning the hull bottom of a boat. First he sited cleaning the bottom more frequently required less scrubbing and less time underwater to complete the job. He also indicated that the organisms that like to attach themselves to the exposed metal parts and other places on the hull have less time to get a strong foothold on the surfaces they attach themselves to. Secondly, Bob, provided me with a pattern that he deploys while doing regular bottom cleaning jobs. He would divide the bottom into sections. Port and Starboard, front to back or back to front, waterline, hull and keel.
The first time I had jumped in the water to clean Dazzlers hull was many years ago. I was overwhelmed by the size of the area needing to be wiped down. Keep in mind the magnification factor while being underwater. It was huge, gargantuan and looked like forty acres. It didn’t look that big when Dazzler was hauled out during the survey when I bought her in 2003. I can remember wiping down the hull in pretty much a random pattern. After about 30 minutes I thought to myself that I was sure that I had wiped down the section I was currently doing. Nope! The first time seemed to take forever.
Bob and I had become good acquaintances over the first few years I owned Dazzler. If he happened to come by the boat to clean Dazzler’s bottom while I was on board, I’d make him a sandwich or I might have been barbequing hot dogs and I’d share lunch with him. After speaking with Bob a few times, I understood the need for a cleaning pattern while underwater. Bob also described the tools that he used and how to use them without taking the paint off the bottom.
The next few times I dove down to clean Dazzler’s bottom, I had a plan of attack. I first did the waterline on one side by starting at the stern and working my way along the side to the bow. All the time reaching down as far I could reach, without dropping my cleaning pad, between the waterline and the top edge of the keel. I had to learn about that don’t drop or let go of your pad thing a few more times before I got it right. Ha! Ha! Ha! The next step was the hull. So, I’d start at the bow wiping down the side of the hull. This task started out pretty easy, but by the time I had gotten to Dazzler’s beam I found myself having to split the area into two swaths an upper and a lower area. After the hull was done, I’d wipe down the rudder and then her full keel. With that side done, I would move onto the other side. Just like the shampoo bottle indicates, “Rinse, Lather, Repeat,” so too I would now do the other side of Dazzler in the same fashion.
Once I completed the painted surfaces, I would get my metal scraping tools and start for the propeller. Dazzler’s propeller is a three blade fixed prop that sets inside an aperture between the trailing edge of the keel and a cutout area approximately in the middle of her rudder. I found it easiest to start on the forward facing surface and clean one blade at a time. Depending on whether your prop is a right or left hand pitched prop, I found the forward and aft facing surfaces were easier to clean while on one or the other side of the keel. While at the prop, I’d give the sacrificial zinc a check and determine if it needed replacement.
Next, cleaning the thru hulls was fairly simple with a sacrificial long bladed standard flat blade screwdriver. I use the word sacrificial because accidently dropping your favorite Snap-On screwdriver into the briny deep hurts. You can dive down next to the bottom if you like to look for things, but I am here to tell you that a layer of something floating next to the bottom is like entering a dense green fog that seems to blanket the bottom and blocks out all possible sunlight and thus hiding anything concealed by its eerie science fiction cloak. I heard that a diver went into it once and was never seen again until the next Taco Tuesday at the local watering hole. I’m not a scaredy-cat when it comes to most things, but why tempt fate. Go into it or don’t go into it. I can get another screwdriver.
That is it!
I will add that the waterline tends to be one of the tougher areas to clean as all the floating things in marinas and anchorages like scum, oils and whatever else is floating by likes to cling to the area of the hull just above the mean waterline. More frequent cleaning of the waterline will help keep it in check. If you chose to hire a diver to clean your boat watch what they use at the water line. You will be surprised to find that they are using a stainless steel scrubber to clean the waterline. This technique will surely chew the bottom paint away from the hull. The divers use this scrubber because it is easier faster for them to get their job done. It doesn’t bode well for your paint.
A thought about holding your breath, using SCUBA or a surface air supplying Hookah system. In my early days of bottom cleaning Dazzler, I used SCUBA and wore the equipment. It was not a big deal, because I lived in the land of plenty and in Marina del Rey dive shops to get an air fill were plentiful. While getting ready to depart for Mexico, I wrestled with the idea of whether to get a dive compressor of a surface air supply Hookah system. In Fact, I left the states on my first trip into Mexico without either. A dive compressor took up too much room and Dazzler just didn’t have the real estate. After trying to find a reputable dive shop in Mexico to get a clean fill without water in it was difficult. So I purchased an Air Line Diving System that was 115 volt system.
Dazzler’s Honda EU2000 generator could easily run the system. I got one 60 foot hose and regulator to make cleaning Dazzler’s bottom a lot easier. The additional benefit was no cumbersome dive equipment, easy setup, clean and store and most importantly, I didn’t have to be tethered to a dive shop or friends with dive compressors on their vessels.
Yes, I know it may sound like I am advocating cleaning the hull more frequently and to those that don’t dive their own boat I leave you with this story. A friend of mine, left Banderas Bay last year to travel to Mazatlan to leave his vessel for the summer. Upon his arrival he hired a diver to clean the bottom of his boat. The diver wasn’t underwater very long before he returned to the surface to tell my friend that he had a very bad problem. I’m not sure anyone wants to hear those words. His boat was a Hunter with a fin keel and a spade rudder. As the shaft exits the hull of the bottom it is indexed and secured in position by a Vee-strut and cutlass bearing. The lower end of the strut has a tube welded to it and holds the cutlass bearing in place and thus keeps the shaft aligned. The tube that houses the cutlass bearing and the shaft had broken free of the strut. My friend indicated that he had his boat dove in Paradise Village before he left. He had experienced some larger swells on his way to Mazatlan. He had no idea where the break occurred, but he was so thankful that he made it to Mazatlan before something bad happened. He later discovered that electrolysis was the culprit and the stray current was coming from his wind generator. Insulation from one of the wind generator wires had worn through and it was energizing all the bonded metal on his vessel.
Divers hired to clean the bottom of your boat, here in Mexico, have differing levels of experience and understanding of the parts attached to the hull. In many cases far less than we boat owners. Their job is to clean the hull and move onto the next boat. While I’m diving Dazzler, I inspect and look at the thru hulls, shaft, prop, zinc, Dynaplate, and raw water intake to name a few. That way I don’t get surprised by any of the things that can happen under the water. I like seeing first hand what’s going on down there. The old adage of an ounce of prevention being worth a pound cure isn’t too far off the mark here.
Boat maintenance! We all have it and we pick an chose those things that we are good at and shy away from the things we don’t particularly like doing. No one ever said life on a boat was easy or cheap. But there are some awesome tools out there that can make it easier. Pay for a diver or do it yourself, this is one job that should be done regularly. If for no other reason than to go faster when you see that other sailboat out on the water. Because we all know that if there are two boats on the water in the same area at the same time…..It’s a race!
I chose to don my 3mm suit and jump in the water with a Hookah air supplied hose and regulator to keep up on this regularly scheduled maintenance on Dazzler.