We left Las Hadas yesterday afternoon for the long trek over to Santiago bay. This was a shorter leg then we aroused to at only about 3 miles as the crow flies or about 6 over water. Both of these places are basically suburbs, using the American definition, of Manzanillo. Las Hadas is the fancy, expensive, American style resort area. It has what looks like a nice 18 hole golf course, several fancy and medium fancy restaurants, a marina, and a nice full service beach. There are basically two types of beaches down here.
Las Hadas is a fancy, resort like beach. You get, usually by staying at e resort, a private little tent or umbrellas, and full service to it. Food, drink, there are usually massage tables over in the corner etc. Many of the places will rent an umbrella to you for anywhere between 5 and 50 dollars American depending on how fancy they are. Dennis, who visited us in Zihuatanejo, showed us a really nice resort where they actually move you around during the day so you stay in or out of the sun depending on your preferences. Las Hadas is very pretty from afar. You would think you are in the med, buildings built up upon the hillside, a labyrinthine maze of streets to get around in which you would get lost if you didn’t have a map or had been there before, and a small med moored marina that is all wraps around. My issue with Las Hadas is the dinghy tax. Basically, they want you to pay 100 pesos, just about $10usd to tie your dinghy up there. This is totally crazy compared to prices everywhere else. Up until then, Cabo was the most expensive at 25 pesos, and almost everywhere else is free, especially given that people usually come in there to spend money at the local shops. Thankfully they don’t seem to enforce this on a regular basis, but they did get us our second to last day there. The marina manager, who was very friendly, basically wanted us to pay for today and the past days we had been there. We had been there a few days, but I think that was only the second, maybe third day we went in on our dinghy, and I grumbling ended up paying him 200 pesos. He was discussing that he thought the rate was high as well, even that his boss wanted to hike the rate to 200 a day and that they were fighting, but he did have to enforce the rules. I basically told him that the rules were crazy, and while I would pay our negotiated rate since I had to go into town on official business, we would not be coming back and that other cruisers would also probably stop coming if the rates were not changed and were enforced. Even with all of this, is a very pretty place, though not typically our type of places as we are trying to stay on a budget and we can’t afford going there outside if special occasions.
Santiago on the other hand is a normal beach like most people would think of, sandy shores, surf, little beach side restaurants, vendors selling their wares etc. These are more where you would take a picnic with your family, and are where the locals outnumber the gringos. We were eating in a local seafood ramada, which is what they call the causal palapa type restaurants here, and after we were done, a local woman came up to us in the restaurant selling her homemade flan. You would never see someone going into a restaurant and selling their own food in the US. Better yet, e flan was awesome, and half the price of what the restaurant was selling it for! This is pretty common down here. Mostly it is people selling stuff, hats, necklaces, whatever, but you often see people selling fresh bread, desserts, fresh fruit etc. Santiago is also peaceful. No music or shows blaring until 2am likely Las Hadas. There also looks to be some good snorkeling/diving here as there is both a wreck right in the middle of the bay in about 20 feet of water as well as a reef. We plan on checking out the wreck later today… We then plan on heading north again, making a few stops on our way back to PV.
We are going to PV earlier than we thought to see if we can get an arch made for Piko. After going over all energy stuff over the past few weeks, I think the best solution is to add more solar to the boat. Albeit our batteries are mostly happy now, they are just a bit small for our needs, but we will live with them until they get tired, assumingly still act nice for the next two months until we leave for the Marquesas. When we are being conversant, we seem to use about 125 Ah a day, more so if w have laptops going or are using the water maker. The rule of thumb about battery sizes is you need at least twice the capacity that you use. Since we have about 400, we are still well within that range. Your batteries also last slightly longer the less you use them, so at some point it would be nice to have a little more, but our main issue was caused by slightly undercharging them. We seem to be able to put about 100Ah back into the batteries each day. I think it is actually spindly better than this as during the day we are both charging and running the fridge etc. We noticed a month or two ago that our solar wasn’t even putting this into the batteries. After hunting down, we noticed that out connectors we used for connecting those to the boat had corrosion on them already. We had been using Moeller trolling motor connectors, which theoretically we waterproof and could handle the amperage of the panels. Sadly, they we not up to the task. After searching around, we found a local place, well local to Seattle anyway, that does solar and renewable energy work and one of them is a sailor as well! Foster Wills energy (http://www.foster-wills.com/) made up some custom wires for us to replace the faulty wiring on the boat. Our panels use a specialized connected called a mc4, which you need specialized tooling to create. Their connector wire combination has a IP67 rating, so it should work on the boat okay and uses higher quality wire than most of the pigtails i have seen from more traditional residential solar providers. Just replacing the wiring increased our solar energy creation by 10%, which when you have limited space for panels is huge! They also sell a very nicely made pole mount for panels. When researching panels, I saw something similar called the solar stick, which is basically a mount for panels that you can aim them at the sun. It looked nice, but was expensive, and I think the largest panel it could take was 80 watts. We already have our panels mounted like wings to the back of the boat, so this wouldn’t work for use because adding a new panel would shade one of e existing ones.
That takes us to PV to get a local shop to fabricate an arch for the boat. This way we can add one larger panel to the mix, most likely a 205 watt panel from a smaller Austrian company (http://www.kioto-pv.com/) that has a manufacturing plant here in Mexico. That would give us about 450 watts of total solar on the boat. That will allow us to charge from a 50% discharge in one sunny day (theoretically) and also gives us enough power to equalize the batteries routinely or charge better in non-optimal conditions. It also will get the two large panels off the rails and overhead. This is nice because it will provide a little shade for the cockpit, give us something to attach an awning to while at anchor and allow us to bring our spin sheet blocks back to a more optimum position. Sadly it is more crap hanging off the back of the boat and is one more step to looking like a cruise-a-home. In our case function has to trump form a bit as we really dislike running the engine to charge. It is noisy, expensive, and hard on e engine because even with our 100+ amp alternator, it doesn’t give the diesel engine a big enough load to make it happy.
This will be an expensive upgrade, primarily for the arch, but I think it makes sense in the larger picture because while we are close now, this should make us pretty much 100% renewable as far as energy goes. We will still need some gas for the dinghy and diesel for getting in/out of port or when the typical Mexican winds are too light for sailing.