San Carlos: A Sticky Kind of Place

Ah, San Carlos. Could you make life any easier? Well, sure. I mean we could be in a condo. That would be way easier. But here we are at anchor in the bay in San Carlos getting things done while we are waiting to leave. The thing about cruising as a lifestyle is that while you are out enjoying the islands and sailing the wide blue sea, tasks are piling up. The ‘to do’ list is getting longer. So we are still in port working through that list. San Carlos isn’t a bad place to be stuck for awhile. So what’s on our list?

Our view from the anchorage

We’ve been taking care of medical appointments, catching up on that kind of thing. One of the blessings about Mexico is that we can pay for good medical care out of our pockets without breaking the bank. There is a reason why medical tourism is a growing industry and Mexico is a good place to experience that. We have access to a doctor here in San Carlos that makes things pretty easy. So easy that we’ve decided if we live in the states again, we’ll just come down here twice a year for medical stuff. We’ll get a vacation and save money at the same time.

Top of our Galapagos ‘to do’ list was fixing the little outboard Suzuki. It had suddenly developed a slipping prop. We don’t remember hitting anything with the prop, but for whatever reason, it was definitely slipping, which came home to us smartly during a low speed journey back to our boat in high wind. That was a wet ride. Fortunately, we carried a new replacement prop on board so Mike thought it would be the work of a couple of hours to take the old one off and replace the new one. But it wasn’t. He could not get the dratted thing off. Raw knuckles and bleeding hands later he decided he needed help.

We took the engine to Star Marine, the local Suzuki ‘service’ center. But there was no service. Because that’s how it is many times here. Sometimes the sign says ‘Taco Thursday Special’ and yet there are no tacos, although it’s Thursday. Sometimes there is a sign that says there is service for engines, but there isn’t and the young man behind the counter looks at you like you must be nuts to think otherwise. You learn to be flexible in Mexico. He did, however, point us in the direction of ‘a guy’ (mostly likely the ‘guy’ who actually services the engines through Star Marine, maybe. Who knows?).  Man, I tell you. There is nothing more valuable to a cruiser in Mexico than knowing ‘a guy’ when it comes to boats.  The guy is known as ‘Umberto’ and now that we’ve met and worked with him, we, too ‘have a guy’!

After a few false starts, we finally located Umberto and his magnificent garage and cadre of other guys. It’s always guys here.  Ironically, he is located within walking distance of Marina San Carlos. Funny, that. Umberto was great. He went to work immediately on that prop. First it was just him and Mike, tapping away with a screwdriver and hammer. You have to start slowly with these issues, you know, and apparently many things can be overcome with screwdrivers and hammers. When the thing didn’t budge and Umberto made frustration noises another guy came over, and soon there were 4 guys standing around working the problem from all directions, mostly hitting things with hammers and using screw drivers as wedges. I looked away, thinking how strong my arms would be from rowing if they broke our engine for good. After a concerted whack dark oil, the life blood of the beast, spurted out. I sighed heavily. Was that good, or was my engine now bleeding to death? Who knew? They didn’t seem alarmed. (Except for Umberto, who asked Mike how often he changed his oil. I guess not often enough? Damned embarrassing for a man who practically croons sweet nothings into our Beta Marine engine’s ear as he gives it the sweet nectar of a long and trouble-free life: fresh oil. All the time. )

The lifeblood of the engine, leaking onto the ground.

After some time, a long time, Umberto finally removed the entire lower part of the unit and took it to his inner sanctum. I busied myself examining this very attractive little Vespa scooter with a fishing rod on the back and swatting flies and mosquitos. Soon he was back, victory in hand. He installed the new prop, filled her up with fresh oil, and charged us 20$. Considering we had 4 guys on that prop at one time, I’d say that’s a really good deal.   One problem off the list.  The engine is back to its zippy self.

Really, the matching fishing rod makes this whole thing just too cute.

Next on the list is that dratted holding tank. Honestly, those “composting” toilets are looking better and better. Remember when our tank got a crack (which I still blame on that stupid whale who wasn’t looking where he was going)? Way back in La Paz we did a temporary fix and it had been working well until we put it to the test with 4 people aboard. By the time our kiddos had left for the greener pastures of home it was clear that we could not ignore the tank any longer.

Fortunately, we know a guy.

Mike had removed the tank, now a fairly straight forward task, while I was out shopping with a friend. Yes, the crack was worse. So I suggested maybe Umberto might know someone. And he did. Himself. He also does fiberglass work! Way to keep the income streams diversified, Umberto! So we brought him the tank and  he gave us a bid of about $330 to build us a new 30 gallon fiberglass tank exactly like the plastic one we took out. We are keeping fingers crossed that the tank will be done soon and that it will, in fact, be exactly like the one we took out.

Remember this fix with rubber roofing tape? That was quite awhile ago. This tape is almost as good as having ‘a guy’.

So while we are waiting for the tank and finishing up appointments, we get to visit with friends, including a trip out to a reef yesterday with Curt and Lynn Brownlow. What a treat to go snorkeling with our good snorkel buddies! The water is cooling down significantly and fast, so getting water time where we still don’t have to don wetsuits is much appreciated. We don’t miss that high heat and humidity, but we do miss the 85F water already.

We had snorkeled both sides of the reef and I had been kind of unimpressed, honestly. There was a lot of silt over the bottom. The fish population was pretty low and I wondered about the water quality here, considering it’s a good sized town with a lot of tourist activity. After almost two hours in the water we were all shivering and on the way back to the dinghy when I happened to interrupt this lovely pair of octopi in the middle of their octopus love. They stopped what they were doing and made a mad dash for a more private space under a rock. But this sighting was fantastic.  It’s rare for me to see even one octopus as Mike is the octopus whisperer on board. But to see two in all their glory and observe their mating ritual, well I was positively swooning with excitement. It was all I could do to hold my position in the water and my camera in focus. Here are a couple of octopus photos, and a few others.

Here they are before they realized someone was watching.

Now they separate but still maintaining contact, they scurry for cover. Is that a scowl on the face of the one in the foreground? I apologized profusely, but still kept clicking.

Little Sharp Nosed Puffer.

Photobombed by a tiny Cortez Triplefin

Nothing more cheerful than these  baby damselfish with their brilliant blues.

We are hoping to sail across the sea to the Baja again in the next week. I’m hoping the water is warmer there. Keeping fingers crossed.

S/V Galapagos, standing by on channel 74.


4 thoughts on “San Carlos: A Sticky Kind of Place

  1. Loved the blog! Have you ran into anyone that installs new holding tank systems? We have all the parts but as always limited time and want to do it perfectly to avoid issues later on.

    • Lauralee, I do not know of anyone that does holding tank installs. It is something of a specialty. We were grateful to find someone to build the tank as we have limped along for over a year with this one.

      And we weren’t joking about the composting toilets. I can see a lot of advantages to that system for cruisers in areas where pump outs are few and far between. The AirHead toilet has been recommended by friends and I am keen to get more data on that system.

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