A friend of the magazine called up and offered me his cruising boat ... for free. Sound too good to be true? Maybe.
I went to work weighing the pros and cons. You should know up front that I have not outgrown the 'anything is possible' and 'every challenge can be an adventure' way of thinking.
The boat was a 1974 44' Gulfstar ketch called ... Adventure! The owner Paul, had cruised her around western Mex. As can happen on a downwind sail, sea water got sucked into the exhaust and into the engine. So you know, this can happen if you don't use an aqualift exhaust and/or siphon break or one malfunctions. Paul drifted into the paradise known as Las Hadas. The Las Hadas Resort and Marina is north of Manzanillo between Puerto Vallarta and Zihuatenejo.
Once in the arms of the little marina, coldy in hand, Paul pumped out the water and filled the engine with a fuel/oil mixture. He did this a couple of times being careful to recycle the waste oil at the fuel dock. Before he got the big engine fired up it was time to head back to the states. You know what happened next. Life gets in the way. The boat sat for a few years and eventually developed some back slip fees. This is where I come in. Paul wanted his boat to go to a good home. I checked out sister ships online and decided it was worth a look. We figured out what we thought it would take to get her out cruising again.
One of the side services I provide, as a delivery skipper, is liberating yachts from Latin American authorities who had suddenly developed cruising plans of their own. When a boat is left in a place too long, it often catches the eye of some official looking to upgrade his panga. I've learned, over the years, how to motivate officials to let go of captive boats. It's not always mordida (payment) that's required, sometimes they'll settle for a favorable review of their port.
I contacted the marina and a friend of mine in Mex checked on the boat's status with the authorities. I cut some deals that would get us the boat for cheap - contingent on inspection of course. I arranged some parts to bring down through my friends at S&W Diesel in socal and packed up some tools.
I called up my favorite fellow adventurer Dena, and laid it out for her. I didn't sugar coat it. We were going to check on this old boat. If I liked it I would work for a couple of days to get the motor running and make a parts list. She could sit poolside if she preferred. And I left the door open for a likely side trip. I didn't have to talk her into it. I found a crazy low online rate for the resort and we put our names in to fly last minute standby.
My friend Terry runs a dive shop near the resort: aquaticsportsadventures.com. I let him know we were coming down. He emailed me 'look for an old man sleeping under a tree and turn left' type directions to his dive shop. He also put me in contact with Manny and T who run one of the greatest Lats & Atts Harbor Hangouts: Schooners. They're on the main drag by Hadas.
We landed, got our rental car and headed to the Las Hadas Resort and Marina. Yep, it's that beautiful white hotel where the movie '10' was filmed. Out of season, we couldn't find anyone to weave the Bo Derek braids into Dena's hair. We got a nice room though, way up on the hill, overlooking the bay.
After unpacking and rolling around we headed down to check out the boat. As expected, Adventure was pretty rough. She needed a good clean out, scrub and paint. The wood paneling covering the interior was falling down and had termites. There was minimal cruising gear, no instruments and the builder had taken some shortcuts. I was skeptical whether the engine was salvageable, the soggy black rust in the gear box was a deterrent. It could be made fun for local cruising but I could see she wouldn't hold up to my brand of harder sailing and global adventuring. I shot off an email to the owner to see if he would be interested us selling her together. I posted pictures and info on the sales part of my website to see if there was any interest.
Then we retired and set up camp poolside. Las Hadas has a sprawling pool which crawls around the grounds and under a rope bridge. Of course there is a swim up bar. No need to expend the energy to swim up when you have cantina Latinas bringing drinks to your lounge chair. That night we ate at Frieda's, one of the little restaurants overlooking the marina. The food was OK, the paintings were spectacular.
In the morning we tried out the buffet breakfast on the pool deck. So you're not disappointed if you visit, Las Hadas is no longer multi-star (hence the reasonable rate). It mostly caters to high end locals and we found ourselves all but ignored when trying to get our very few needs addressed. Still worth it.
We paid a visit to Terry's dive shop. Terry and son led us over to Schooners where we hung out with Manny and his lady T. We had some amazing food and good conversation. Manny told us all about his Sea Scout program for the local kids. Later, we were treated to some entertainment when a drunk American lass ambled in, danced around, laid herself across our table and expressed her interest in the visitors. I think Manny was embarrassed but as it added to our adventure, I wouldn't have had it any other way.
We asked about possible side trips. Manny told us to visit Colima and the volcanoes at Camala. Sounded great. We got directions and hit the road. On the way we stopped off at one of the roadside stands for coco treats and some aqua de coco (the standard coconut milk out of a chilled green coconut). So you're up to date, the new kewl things they are selling at these roadside stands is stuffed stuff. They had squirrels (ardilla) and lizards (lagartos) and snakes (serpiente) (groooosss: per Dena).
We arrived at Colima after dark and got sort of lost trying to figure out the address system to check out places to stay that we found earlier on the internet. Colima is beautiful with grand old Spanish buildings around the big square in the center of town. It had a safe, friendly feel. You could tell there wasn't much money but it was one of those places where the people had everything. Couples young and old and even whole families were out for a late walk, they played and laughed together. We asked for directions to a hotel and the guy escorted us to see big Angelia. She gave us a plush room for 400 pesos ($35). We walked to the square for a late dinner - chips, salsa, carnitas, Pacificos and music from strolling mariachis. It was perfect.
We took off early the next day to drive up to the mountains to catch a glimpse of the active volcano. It was impressive towering above us, a plume of smoke rising up from the top. Neither of us shy away from rough driving roads followed by hard hikes but we were not successful in finding a trail to the volcano. We did find an amazing mountain lake where we had lunch under the trees. We made it back to Manzanillo and stayed at a motel on the beach, another great restaurant just a couple blocks up.
The boat had some investment potential. I could spend a couple weeks and a 'few' dollars on cleanup and re-power, sail her into San Diego and dump her on the market. I'd make some money and get some cruising out of it. But I had a better idea. Why not leave her where she was and give her to the Sea Scouts. Manny didn't say no. The owner and I got the paperwork sorted out.
I wasn't a week back home when the pictures and emails started to come in. The Sea Scouts were thrilled with their new clubhouse. They jumped on the boat and scrubbed her spotless. Expats and locals alike came together to get, fix and install the things the boat needed. It was wonderful to see the community come out for the Scouts and their new project. And the satisfaction from the small part I played was a much larger profit than I had expected.
If you're ever in the Las Hadas area, do stop into Schooners and say hi to Manny and T. For directions, updates or to help out with their Sea Scout program, contact Manny at: email@example.com
Select updates from Manny:
"Scouts cleaned her up. Expats held a fishing contest with proceeds going to Scouts. Old Catapillar mechanic/volunteer determined engine beyond repair.
The energy has been restored and two batteries have been changed, Michel our Mechanical Engineer from the Ferries in Victoria has done a preliminary check of the engine. Murray from the SV Tarazed has arrived he is a cat engineer and will be here for a month and is eager to help. Carpenter friend work for free we just have to get the boards for him.
SV Adventure is now kept clean and all electrical systems are in working order, will be realing in the anchor and cahin next week to get it cleaned and have a whole plan of work. The kids love having a club house. Perkins engine similar to the one onboard that we will be buying soon, we have been seling T shirts, doing carwashes and all sorts of things to raise the money for it. Some San Diego friends that are willing to help us pay and refurbsh it some.
Two hurricanes in the season and thank God nothing has happen, Beatriz came close but stayed way out and went west so we just got a little. New manager Karina is kewler.
We are also happy to report that all of the leaks through hatches, portholes and mast have been dealt with, all water pumps repaired and the kids do a great job of keeping the vessel pretty clean a ohh and we can blast some music now thanks to Jimmy Brows of the fishing Vessel Double Trouble who donated a 50 foot power line so we can have juice aboard, which is great!!!
As for a new engine we have located one in good shape but is out of reach for now but on hold for us so will get there.
Hi Woody !! Thks for e mailing las Hadas , they have been treating us much better since and Karina is doing everything she can for us and everybody else and for the first time in years fees are down so thks again it works!!!!.
Last Friday I got up and thanked the Gods for having steered Dora out of the way and into the blue,
That same Saturday Trish turner presented us with a newly refurbished Laser which we named Lalito in honor of her late husband ( my friend Ted)."