What to expect

Rants, missives and occcasional updates about where Masquerade is located and what we are up to.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

California castaways

Rather than being in a small boat surrounded by water we are in a small 5th wheel surrounded by snow. How did this happen?


Our 3 month trip to California to avoid hurricane season and check on our property has turned into a 6 month (and counting) work marathon. The house which had belonged to Cindy’s Grandmother has suffered 10+ yrs of deferred maintenance, then 5 yrs. of a renter that had an aversion to cleaning supplies, and an affinity for boyfriends who liked to kick in doors when having an argument. Needless to say we had underestimated the amount of work needed to be done.  We are definitely building up our home improvements skills here; installing doors and windows, plumbing gas lines, rewiring, installing drywall, refinishing hardwood floors, pouring concrete.  Working on an old house is like working on a boat; there are no simple fixes. Every job that you start uncovers several other issues that need to be fixed before the original job can be completed.  

Today I was starting to replace a piece of drywall next to a window that looked like it had water damage. Once I started to cut out the bad piece I noticed a few ants. The few ants became a lot of ants. A lot of ants became a biblical plague. I had to attempt to stop the ant explosion by taping over the hole with masking tape (no sailor is without his blue masking tape), while I ran to the store to get some poison. Once the eruption of ants (living and dead) ends I will get to determine the extent of the damage and the scope of the next repair job to add to the list.  The good news is that this explains the strange dust that found on both side of this wall (inside and outside the house), unfortunately the amount of the dust now terrifies me.


Georgetown is a small town between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe. We are at an elevation of 2700 feet so we are getting snow.  There is about a foot on the ground but I am guessing it won’t last the week. Georgetown originated as a mining town and still retains a bit from it’s rougher days. Soon after arriving we were walking down Main street and passed the “Miner’s Club” one of the 2 main bars; the music playing inside was the “Dueling banjoes” song of Deliverance fame (as Dave Barry would say, I am not making this up!).  We also heard that the toothbrush was invented here in Georgetown. We know because if it was invented anywhere else it would have been called a Teethbrush!


We do plan on getting back to our boat soon. We just need to get the house finished and rented out to a responsible party (no problem!). We will be shooting for Jan. sometime, and hope to catch up to all our cruising friends enjoying Mexico and beyond. No we have not “swallowed the anchor”.


I have finally made a few updates to the website. It was pointed out that the “plans” section was seriously out of date; now it is accurate but vague. There is also a new photo page for some of our California adventures.


Saturday, October 18, 2008

Crossing the Rubicon

Back in late July we had a chance to participate in the 56th Jeepers Jamboree, a famous 4x4 off-road event. This is a multi-day trip on the historic Rubicon Trail, which goes from Georgetown to Lake Tahoe. The trial was at one time a stage coach route, that was also the last time the road was maintained. 80+ years of rain, snow melt, and Jeep traffic has not been kind. This is rated as one of the toughest off-road trails in the US, a 10 on a scale of 1-10. We were tagging along with Cindy’s brother and his wife (John and Gwen) since we do not own a jeep ourselves (we have enough money pits for now). It did not take long for me to be surprised and impressed by what a Jeep is capable of getting up/over/down.  There is also a different set of driving skills involved. My short time at the wheel showed me I still had quite a bit to learn. You need to read the road ahead and pick a good line to follow. You also have to memorize what the road looks like and where the rocks are because as you get close the hood obscures your view and you need to remember what is right in front of you. I did OK driving; I got us stuck once and needed a tow; and got to one large rock that I just could not get over.


John and his friend Dennis volunteer as mechanics for the trip (along with several others). This means that they get to help fix the jeeps that breakdown along the way and there are always breakdowns.  The mechanics are true McGyver’s. They have a small set of tools and spare parts that they carry, and that is what they have to make whatever repair necessary. Of course they jeeps are outfitted with both welders and air compressors. I got to watch them pull apart a rear differential on a dirt trail, weld it back together on a rock, put it back together and drive the rest of the way out and back home.  Another repair that was done was to an engine that blew a rod. In an open air repair area, they disconnected 2 rods, wired the cylinders in place with bailing wire, and plugged the valves with wine corks. The engine came into the mechanics as a broken 6 cylinder and left as a running 4 cylinder and drove out under it’s own power.


The trip was an adventure. We met some great people, did some amazing driving, and got to camp out in the high sierras. A great couple of days.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Yes, the blog is still active.



From: cullen [mailto:cullen@svmasquerade.net]
Sent: Monday, August 18, 2008 9:21 AM
To: 'moblog2.moblog@blogger.com'
Subject: Yes, the blog is still active.


I thought I had better get a quick update on the blog or people might think I abandoned it.

We are in Georgetown California, (population 962), out in the sticks between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe. It’s about 10 miles from Sutter’s Mill, where gold was discovered, for those of you who know Ca. history.  We have been very busy working on our rental property and dealing with an unwelcome tenant. We have also been doing a few fun things like the Jeepers Jamboree up the historic Rubicon trail, a trip to see family and the Bodie ghost town, and a trip to Napa to visit with Hooligan and Lovely Reta. More details on our adventure and some pictures when I get a bit of free time.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Delta Sucks!

Time for a short rant.

We purchased tickets online for round trip flights from Mazatlan Mexico to Sacramento CA. from Delta airlines. About a week before our first flight they contacted us by phone asking us to call about an issue with our return flight. When we called them they told us that they were dropping service to Mazatlan mid August. We had the option of flying into either Puerto Vallarta, or Guadalajara. PV the closer of the 2 cities is around 200 miles away from Mazatlan and in another state (This would be like buying a ticket to San Francisco and getting flown to Reno or Los Angeles). We were told that there was not a seat available on any partner airline, and no way for them to get us to Mazatlan. We tried to be flexible even offering to come back 3 or 4 weeks early. Again we were told there was not a single flight available to us for the entire month on any of their partner airlines. Obviously not every seat on every airline was already booked, they were refusing to do anything that might cost them an extra dollar. Talking to the supervisor also had no effect. Delta was completely unwilling to stand behind our agreement and do the right thing. We eventually asked for a refund for our tickets, and booked elsewhere. This caused us many hours of searching for new flights and delayed or flight home by about 2 weeks.

I understand the need to reduce costs and cut back on service when needed. What I have a issue with is the attitude towards customer satisfaction. They had no problem leaving us stranded hundreds of miles from our destination, or making changes to the agreement without remuneration. If we make a change to the flight they charge heavy penalties, but they expect to renege on an agreement with no penalty at all.

Needless to Delta will not be getting our business again.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Dia de la Musica

While here in Mazatlan we are enjoying some of the cultural events that go on down here. A few weeks ago was the Dia de la Musica (Day of Music). This event took place in the historic district, there were 4 or 5 stages erected and different types of music were played at each one. The bands each played for about an hour or so, then a new group of performers took over. We went downtown and ended up running into several other cruisers (Hooligan, Sailsoon, Hopalong, 2 Pieces of Eight, Joyeaux) over the evening. While we had some dinner things were getting started, an orchestral band started playing at the other end of the plaza. Unfortunately the restaurant had it’s music blasting (as is obviously required in Mexico), so that we could only hear snatches of the classical music. After eating the orchestral band was finished so we went up the street to the next stage. This stage was for traditional Mexican music, and we arrived to hear an older gentleman with several guitarist singing folk songs. He was quite good and was obviously enjoying himself. Next up was a Flamenco group so we listened for a while, but our group wanted to check out the other stages. We walked over a block to rock music stage, the band there was playing heavy metal, poorly and loudly.  We quickly moved on to the next stage which was playing Sinaloan Banda music, a style endemic to the region.  This style of music has large bands with 10 to 20 members, with brass sections, woodwinds, along with the percussion and guitars, even tubas! A unfortunate feature of the music is that the band members never seem to be in sync, and are each playing to a different beat. Someone told me that this is done purposefully, I am not sure if I believe it or not, but it definitely occurs.  We once again moved on quickly. Back again to the flamenco stage where two young women were now dancing to the music. This was the highlight of the evening, the dancers were very good and fully done up with the dresses, hair and makeup. After they had finished, some of headed back to the plaza for a drink and a chance to sit down. Here the band on stage was playing jazz, not my favorite style of jazz but not bad. After the jazz was done they started up on what must have been show tunes, so we decided to call it a night. It was near midnight when we headed home but I don’t think the party was anywhere near over.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Moving Northward

We are now located in Banderas Bay, at Punta de Mita. Puerto Vallarta is on the far side from us, and we should get over there in a few days.

We have begun the move back north towards Mazatlan. We made short stops in Barra de Navidad, Tenacatita, Chamela, and Ipala. Most of the other boats are ahead of us and we are also at the end of the tourist season (winter) so there are a lot fewer boats and people ashore as well. This is fine with us as we don’t really like the crowds, but it also means that some restaurants are closed or don’t have all their items available. We can tell that the weather is starting to change. We are heading from the dry season (no rain in 4 months) to the wet (hurricane) season, the winds are changing and the humidity is going up. We will soon need to have the boat somewhere safe from Hurricanes.


We have been a little disappointed in the water down here this season. When we first arrived the water was warm and clear. Within a week or so the temperature dropped over 10 degrees and made swimming uncomfortable. After a few weeks the temp started to go up and we had a chance to snorkel on the wreck in Santiago. However in a few days we had a huge algae bloom and the water turned murky green or an even worse red/brown with no visibility at all! Heading up the coast it has improved a bit and the algae is in patches, so it all depends on where you are and what the wind/waves are doing. We had hoped to be in the water pretty much everyday during the season, but have gone swimming rarely and only snorkeling a few times.  Our friends tell us that last year was much better for water quality. Oh well, I guess we can’t have everything perfect.


I finally added some new photos to the mainland Mexico page, Guadalajara and other pics. I also fixed the guestbook, so that should be working again (thanks to Fran for letting me know!).

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Back in Mazatlan

We are back in Mazatlan for the summer, currently anchored in the Old harbor, but will be moving to the marina around the first of June.

It is nice to be back here as this is our favorite Mexican City. The old historic area is very interesting, lots of older buildings, some restored and some not. The plaza is always a good place to visit, during the day it is quiet and comfortable, you can find a nice shady table and enjoy a cold cervesa and relax after walking around all day. In the evening the plaza becomes more active. The one street that runs one side of the plaza is closed to car traffic and the restaurants there claim the space for their tables. The families, friends and couples come out to walk the plaza, there is usually live music playing at two of the corners, as well as wandering mariachi’s. The Angela Peralta theatre art school is at one end the the plaza so you can often here the bands inside practicing (classical, jazz, etc..).

The last time we were there some type of show was going on at the school. There were dozens of kids about high school age, all wearing what looked like dance/band outfits, what looked like several of the carnival princesses, and lots of families. It was interesting to sit and people watch while we ate our dinner.

Another thing that we like about Mazatlan is the public transportation, the buses here work very well. The buses are 5 pesos (about .50 cents US), with the air conditioned buses costing 6 of 8 pesos. The buses run very often and each has the major areas/stores that it goes to written on the windows of the bus. It is quite easy to hop on a bus that is going to the correct area even if you are not familiar with the route that that particular bus is going to take. We use the busses a lot! The only problem is that the busses stop running around 9pm, which is just about when the plaza and the nightlife is just getting started! Besides the buses there are taxi’s, pulmonarias (sort of a overgrown vw powered golfcart, unique to Mazatlan), and pickup trucks with 2 bench seats in back. These are plentiful and reasonably priced, more so if you can bargain well!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Happy Holidays!!

Feliz Navidad y un prospero Ano Nuevo or Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!


We finally made it out of La Paz and are now in Mazatlan. We made the crossing a few days after New Years and after an overnight sail arrived at Mazatlan.  We had good winds for the first 20 hours, then it died, and we had to motor the rest of the way across. We were going to anchor but our friends on Hooligan let us use their slip while there boat was on the hard. So now we are at Marina Mazatlan for a few days. Once again it is a reunion of a sort as we met up with boats and friends we have not seen in months.

We spent the holidays in La Paz, as issues getting our batteries and bad weather kept us there longer than we intended. We had hoped to be in Mazatlan for Christmas but plans are made to be changed when cruising. It was nice to be in La Paz as there were several friends of ours there and the provisioning is very good. We were stocking up and spending far too much money. We made a total newbie cruiser mistake the other day. Cindy wanted to stock up on some Jimmy Dean sausage, as this is the only place we have seen it in Mexico. We saw some at the grocery store, but thought that we would get it later after we reorganized the fridge/freezer. Big mistake! Rule number 1 of provisioning is “if you see what you want, buy it now and as much as possible, it may not be there later”. Sure enough when we returned a few days later it was gone. We checked several times over a few days and tried to ask when it would be stocked, but had a hard time getting a good answer (I really need to work on my Spanish). Eventually after a few visits and talking to several people someone searched in back and found a box in storage. Cindy bought the entire box! 


We are at the start of a new year and that always seems like a good time to reflect on the past year and think about what we expect of the coming year. We realize that we have now been in Mexico for a full year, arriving just before Christmas in 2006. Looking back it seems like a long time ago, but the time has flown by so fast! A friend of ours says that time living on a boat with your spouse should be measured like dog years. We are living in small quarters, and we do most everything together with very little time spent separated. It is quite a bit different than back in our old world; it seemed we only really spent time together evenings and weekends. We have had quite a few adventures, seen interesting places, learned new skills, and met some wonderful people. We have also had bad weather, gear failures, bug infestations and our (self imposed) separation from family. Overall we think the pluses far outweigh the minuses, and plan to continue cruising in our boat.

For the upcoming year our plans are still pretty vague. We know that we will spend the winter on the mainland coast of Mexico mostly between Puerto Vallarta and Ixtapa. After that we are not sure, we will most likely spend another year in Mexico before heading further south or west. Now that we have a better feel for Mexico and getting around we hope to have more opportunities to have family and friends come down and visit us.