Decommissioning the Boat

In order to leave the boat for an extended period of time you higher someone to clean bottom and to watch after the boat (check dock lines, batteries, dehumidifier, etc) and you have to do a bunch of prep here’s a list of the things we’re doing to prep our boat:

  • Go through all storage areas and look what can be removed from the boat
  • Empty, Defrost and clean Refrigerator
  • Clean shower sump
  • Wipe down the interior with Vinegar
  • Remove and clean Bimini
  • Remove all perishable food stores
  • Fill the water tanks and add Vinegar
  • Leave zincs and wrench out for bottom cleaner
  • Change engine oil, oil filter, primary fuel filter and Racor fuel filter
  • Equalize batteries and add water
  • Rinse surfboards and bags
  • Giveaway gasoline
  • Remove and clean all halyards and jib sheets
  • Prep Generator for storage by draining fuel and spraying Fogging Oil into Spark plug, pull starter several times
  • Mount and lock outboard on the stern
  • Pickle the watermaker
  • Change outboard Oil, flush engine, fog engine
  • Have diver clean bottom put on new zincs and bag prop
  • Put extra cleats on t-track
  • Fill Diesel Tank and empty Diesel Jerry Cans
  • Remove jib leads form t-track, clean and store
  • Set Xantrex battery charger to HOT setting
  • Repair mast boot tape
  • Docklines and Fenders arranged for both sides
  • Engine Coolant Topped Up
  • Remove and clean sails and sail covers
  • Wash, polish and wax topsides and cockpit
  • Rinse bilge with fresh water
  • Repair, clean and re-install Dodger
  • Close all thru hulls
  • Setup Dehumidifier to drain into the bilge
  • Setup AC powered fan in salon
  • Put AC Fan and Dehumidifer on their own extension cord direct to the dock
  • Setup DC fans throughout boat

Busy busy busy… coming in a week earlier than we originally planned made this bearable because we could take days off when we were too hot and tired. There were other projects we worked on too, but they weren’t necessarily required, I’ll save those for later.

Getting your FM3 in Bucerias

NOTE: This post is current in June 2012.  Currently there is a Mexican tourist visa law, which has not been implemented yet, but will change the process outlined below.

Your FMM is the 6 Month Mexican Tourist Visa granted when you clear-into Mexico (or fly in). It’s good for six months and it not supposed to be renewed. However, some cruisers I know go to the airport, ask for a new visa and they are provided with one. Apparently, it depends on the person at the service counter. When we tried to do the same we were turned down and informed that it was not possible to so any longer and we would have to apply for a FM3 (non-residential visa).

We took the following steps to get our FM3 visas.

Location Location Location
When I was asking around about the location of the INM Office none of the cruisers or the bus drivers seemed to know anything about it, so I will give you detailed directions to the immigration office in Bucerias, Nayarit, Mexico.  The INM office closes at 2:00PM sharp!  Leave yourself plenty of time.
From the bus, get off the at Camarones Hotel (this is the landmark the drivers know).  It has a big arch spanning across the street.  There is an OXXO on the opposite corner.
The cross streets are Highway 200 and Las Palmas.
Once you get off the bus, walk down the hill towards the bay and the INM office is on the right hand side, there is a nice big sign and guards with machine guns to keep the Canadians under control. ;-P

Here is what you are going to do:
1) Acquire an permanent street address
2) Fill out the printed and online forms.
3) Print out three months of bank statements
4) Get your passport photos
5) Go to the INM, drop off paperwork and pay the paperwork fee at the Bank and receive receipts of payment.
6) Go to the INM to verify everything is ready, pay for FM3 at Bank and pickup FM3

That’s the summary I wish someone told me, for us, we went to the INM first to see how it all works, they explained the steps to us, then I came back with our paperwork and I had left off our middle names so we had to do it again. Then when it was all complete, we had to make an extra trip because while the person who signed Dawn’s paper work was in that day; the person who signed mine was not.

I had to come back. Not a big deal, we’re cruising we got all the time in the world! Let’s go through the detailed process without our mistakes.

Step 1 – Get an Address
You need a local address which is in the vicinity of your INM office. The easiest way to do this is to stay in the Marina La Cruz. If you’re paying customer they seem very happy to write you a letter saying you live there. We had stayed there a few days here and there and we had planned to leave the boat there over the summer. If you’re not a customer of the marina, I don’t think they will do this for you.  They will print off a letter stating your address and signed by an attorney.

Step 2 – Fill out the Printed and On-line Forms
There are printed forms you need to fill out which has information they use for statistical purposes, but it is required.
Club Cruceros in La Paz has good instructions on this here: They have an English version of the form as well. You CAN NOT turn in the English form. It is merely a guide.

There is an on-line form you fill out which is what I’ll call the official FM3 Application. In theory, you can track the status of your application from the website, This did not work for us and wound up going to the office after 3-4 weeks to check the status and they were completed.
Here is a link to the form:
This image translates the fields for you.


Step 3 – Print your Bank Statements
You need to show you have $1500.00 USD in the bank for the past three months per person ($3000 total for 2). You can use paper statements or you can print out your statements from your bank and use those. If you are submitting the same bank account for a husband and wife BOTH your names need to be on the statement. If one of you doesn’t have an account with enough money in it then there is more work to do. I don’t know what it is. Contact an agent to help you (see bottom). I also don’t know anything about Mexico’s views on gay marriage, but I guess they just want to see the right names and the right amount of money.

Step 4 – Get your Passport Photos
Get all of your paperwork together and go to the INM office in Bucerias. If there is not a person with a sign for passport photos standing outside the INM, walk back up the hill and about half-way up the street you will see a sign for FM3 Photos. We paid $300.00 MXN for our photos. This takes about 30 minutes.

Step 5 – Goto the INM to drop off your paperwork and pay the processing fee
When you go to the INM, a nice man with a large automatic weapon will ask you to sign-in (your ID # is your passport #) and will give you a number. You can wait inside if there are chairs or outside, or if you are number 73 and they are 10 you can go get lunch. I would bring a book and I would be prepared to spend 2-3 hours here waiting.  I would recommend not going on Mondays.

When your number is called they will check that everything is filled out OK, you have all the right papers, etc.. Then they will hand you a form to take to the bank to pay the processing fee. This fee is just for paperwork. Its not the FM3 fee. They will also tell you to bring back 2 copies of the receipt along with the original. The Bank will not print these for you. You need to get a copy.

There is a bank on the corner of La Palmas and Highway 200 (at top of the hill) to the right, next to the OXXO.
You can get copies at the Internet Cafes across the street on the same corner. Copies are like $1 Peso!

— WAIT —
We were told to come back in 2 weeks. We waited three. Then we went back only Dawn’s was ready. This is their country, be patient and don’t be a jerk!

Step 6 – Go to INM to Pickup FM3 and Pay FM3 Fee
When you go to INM you do the same sign-in get a number thing.
Assuming everything is ready they will send you off to the bank to pay the FM3 Visa Fee. You will again need 2 copies of this as well as the original.
They will have you sign your FM3, supply both thumbprints. You’ll sit back down while they laminate your FM3.
When they are done they will hand you a shiny new laminated FM3 !

If you are not up for that, in every town there are agents who will fill out the paperwork and stand in the line for you. The fee for this service is around $1000 Pesos. Ask around on the VHF Nets if you want an agent.

Thinking of Dive Hookahs

I want to build a 12VDC Hookah which will support two divers while cleaning the bottom of our boat (6 feet). We don’t have room to store one of the floating motorized version, but we have plenty of room to mount one inside the boat.

Here are the basic features \ design elements I’m looking to include.

  • 2 Divers for shallow dives less than <30 Feet. 90% of the time < 6eet while we clean the boat bottom
  • 12VDC Compressor with switch to cycle on\off to fill reservoir tank
  • Reservoir tank to allow air from compressor to cool, and to keep compressor from running continuously
  • 40 Micron particle filter
  • 4-5 CFM @ 45PSI minimum 100-150PSI maximum

If you have built something or have comments on the specs, let me know!

Cleaning the Hull

It is a never ending battle to keep the boat bottom clean. In fact, I think it’s impossible, but we try. You get three kinds of growth. The sea cabbage grows all over the bottom. Its is leafy it is easy to remove by running a wide blade putty knife along the hull. There is a slimy but that seems to prefer the sunny side of the hull along the water line. It only comes off with a fairly aggressive (black) 3M \ Scotchbrite pad. And lastly there are the barnacles. They grow very sparsely along the hull and cluster on anything which is metal and thus not bottom painted, as well as LOVE the overhanging stern section which is always bouncing in and out of the water. On the hull they pop off with the putty knife. On the waterline and metals bits you really have to hack at them to get them off which uses considerable oxygen\energy.

We had been able to keep up with the waterline and the bottom fairly well by snorkeling. The stern is always a bit of a mess though, and the brand new paint on the waterline stripe is now scratched up badly.

The metal bits (deeper in the water) are just too hard to do via snorkel. I can’t hold my breath long enough and without a weight belt, you spend most of your time trying to keep from floating against the boat. Today we borrowed a dive hookah and weight belt from another boat, and man was it awesome. I spent about a half hour in the water and was able to hack all of the barnacles off the prop, shaft and gudgeon. Maybe that 1.5kts of boat speed we were missing will come back!

We use Petite’s Barnacle ban on our metal bits (prop, shaft, gudgeon). It seems to ban nothing, but when I did scrape them clean the grey paint was still there where it didn’t get scrapped off, so I think its doing ok.

Our boat sits perfectly on its waterline in calm water at the dock. But there is RARELY calm water at anchor. This is why people raise their waterlines. Not because they’ve overloaded the boat, but because at anchor your boat is always bouncing around and at all times 4-6 inches of your waterline are bouncing in and out the water. Filter feeders like Barnacles LOVE this! When we redo the bottom paint this next year I am going to look into raising the water line and I’m going to paint the stern overhang completely in bottom paint.

Zincs at Shilshole Bay Marina were replaced every six months. We haven’t been in Marinas much at all since November and the zincs are about 1/2 gone at 9 months. We’ll have the divers replace them when they clean the boat while we’re gone.

After today’s experience I can really see the benefit of a dive hookah. You could even use it for snorkeling in general. Unfortunately, retail dive hookahs cost $2000 to $5000 depending on the make and model. Not something that is in my budget right now, but it is possible to build your own for less than $500 and I think I’m going to start looking into that.

Road Trip !

First off let me say we have no immediate plans or dates or tickets or destinations or anything yet, but I can tell you we will be touring the US this summer.

Dawn and I both had not been looking forward to going back to the Sea of Cortez for the summer and we were both not looking forward to the oppressive heat anywhere in Mexico. I was not excited about leaving the Pacific Coast of Mexico to go to the waveless and surfless Sea of Cortez. I’m not that into snorkeling and haven’t been very impressed with it anywhere (in the world) so I wasn’t excited about that as a trade-off. Dawn was probably more into that, but she (and I) were also a bit homesick for the US. Neither of us were very excited about making more overnight passages just to get North to avoid storm season. That’s kind of the why’s behind all this…

SO…. we decided we’re going to put the boat in Marina Riviera Nayarit (AKA Marina La Cruz) at some point this summer, fly somewhere in the US, buy a crappy RV or a Bus and do some visiting, see some places we might want to live, etc.. The official Storm Season is 1 June – 31 Oct, but we probably won’t leave Mexico till closer to July. Weather is still pretty benign, not yet oppressively hot or humid surf is still good and we will have some to-do’s to do to decommission the boat.

Anyway, just wanted to let y’all know that and when we know when and where we’re headed we will let you know!

Surfing, Surfing, and more Surfing

I’ll crank out one more post and tell you about my surf experiences here in Mexico from the beginning…

For our wedding anniversary (Last weekend in February) Dawn and I take turns and trade off planning something. This was Dawn’s year and she took us to Sayulita for surf lessons. We walked the beach and ended up going with Patricia’s Surf School. Surf lessons are composed of two phases. A brief dry-land training and then in water practice and instruction. The dry-land training consists of some do’s and don’ts and general orientation information. Then the art of learning to “pop-up” from a paddling position to your surf stance. Once we all mastered this (there was one other couple). We took our boards down to the water where we were going to re-learn to do the same in the water.

The great thing about a lesson is the instructor will position you properly on the wave and give you a push to help you catch the waves for as long as you need it until you master popping-up. This is worth every penny because the more tries you need the more tired you’re going to get and the less you will be able to paddle to try and do this yourself. So if you’re new to surfing DEFINITELY take a lesson! After about 3 waves I was done with being pushed and was paddling in on my own. Lots of failed attempts and the instructor was still there to give me tips on my positioning on the board, pointing out if I was popping or crawling to my surf stance. It always felt like a pop to me, but I guess not. Winking smile  Anyway, we had a great day and I was hooked!

On March 13th during the morning VHF net in La Cruz, sv Convivia had a 9’6” Murphy Shapes longboard by Pacific SurfGlass to give away which was exactly what I needed! I did a little bit of repair to it to try and seal the rails and a week or so later we went up to Punta de Mita to try it out.

There are several surf spots around what is commonly called Punta de Mita. The one I am going to is actually called Anclote. It is directly ashore form the anchorage. I mention this because the proper Punta de Mita surf spot is actually out and around the point from the anchorage and Punta de Mita the hotel area.

From the anchorage I paddled in to the surf lineup (about 200 yards) and did ok catching a couple of waves. Bill on sv Pegasus (AKA Mister Surf) was kind enough to give me tips and I basically followed him around and tried to copy what he was doing. That helped me a lot, but he is a lifelong surfer and I was a newb so I was still a little discouraged at times. After about 2 weeks and a couple of days of 4-6 foot high swells (which make it easier) I was doing better and the bigger waves had me even more hooked. I was even starting to get picky!

That was about a month ago, and between now and then we had gone back to La Cruz for some parties and to start the paperwork for our FM3 Visas (more on that later). But now we’re back at Punta de Mita and I’ve been back in the water at Anclote for almost a week.

The surf this week has not been as big or as consistent as it was, but it’s decent. I am trying to copy what the locals are doing. I’m paddling around more trying to catch the wave in the right spot which ultimately is easier on the arms but harder to do right so I’m missing more waves but getting better even as I do it. But I catch my fair share of waves and that is the fun of it! Surfing is like hockey was for me in that its something physical I can do where I can learn and see myself improve over time. Two of my favorite things: Learning! Improving! Winking smile

So what about this board? Well, its an old beat up board. It has sections where the fiberglass skin is delaminated on the deck and a big 2 foot long section rail to rail where it was previously repaired and a lot of other rail repairs as well. Two days ago I noticed some water weeping out from the inside of the board through cracks in the board. I was taking on water which is the first step to the death of a surfboard if its not just broken by a wave on a rock. I took the board to Mictlan Surf here in Punta de Mita. Tzahui Poo (pics of Tzahui surfing), the owner, is also a shaper (i.e., makes boards) and does repairs. I’ve not yet spoken with him directly, but one of the guys who works there thinks it will be a better deal just to buy a used board. Not to mention it will probably take a week to do the repair because you have to let the board dry out. Yikes a week out of the surf! The extra water weight in the board isn’t helping things either as I’m paddling around out there.

So that’s where we stand today. I am hoping to talk to Tzahui tomorrow and we’re also going to jump on the bus and go on a board hunt to see what else is available in the area. Not sure what I’ll end up doing yet. I will keep you posted!

Carb Cleaning Numero Tres (not Trace)

Carb cleaning

The outboard has been running like poop. It will not run at anything but slightly above idle when in gear. In fact sometimes when you lower the throttle that little bit you were able to get above idle it even goes faster! Out of gear you run the darn thing wide open. Go figure!

Anyway, we can’t get any parts for our engine in Mexico. There is a Yamaha distributor in PV and everything just nothing is in stock and it would take 2 months to get anything from Japan. I think the person at IMEMSA (The Yamaha Importer) was trying to explain to me that this has to do with Mexico’s import laws, but I’m not sure.

Anyway, I got another can of cleaner, and I’m going to let this stuff sit overnight. I don’t have enough cleaner to really immerse the entire carb and let it soak so this is probably all for not, but who knows. Last time I tried this I was unwilling to take the float off and this time I did that and there’s another pin\jet doo hickey under there, so maybe this is the magic time it will all work.

Wish me luck and if you have any expertise with 4-stroke Yamaha F8 outboards please do drop me some hints.

Surfboard repair

We dropped the surfboard off at Mictlan Surf. We have to wait for Tzahui to get back to us to see what it would cost to fix or maybe what other board I should be considering instead. In the mean time it’s a rest day I guess…