First Impressions of La Cruz

All around the marina, construction was going on at a frantic pace. A dredge was clearing the channel, trucks were delivering supplies, and many teams of workers were building ramps and roads, putting roofs on brand new buildings, and so on. By the time we got tied off, had a tot and a beer, and were ready to make our way to the marina office it was 4:30. By then the Port Captain's office was closed, so we had to belay our official check-in to the next day. After some searching we found the temporary marina office on a side street, made our way up the narrow stairs to the small room, and met Christian in person to arrange terms for our stay.

We then took a walk through town and got our first impressions of La Cruz. The streets are cobblestone, giving the village an old-timey charm. Everywhere we walked the people smiled and said "Buenos Tardes" to us :-) Near the marina office was a nice little community park (the Zocalo) and a number of people were gathering there to enjoy the sunset. We walked past several nice looking restaurants, open to the street, serving tacos, tostadas, and other great smelling Mexican food. We walked up to the Cross, in the center of town, which symbolizes La Cruz. La Cruz, of course, translates to "The Cross" in English.

A short walk from there we found Philo's Bar and Grill, which I had heard was a good place to get to meet people (especially musicians), and which I had heard had an open mic night. We went inside and met Philo (rhymes with "high-low"), who was hanging around with his Band, and he explained the schedule for the open jam session on Thursday.

I haven't mentioned it before, but while in Chacala, our main battery charger/inverter had developed a problem. The fan would make a mighty racket and then a few minutes later the unit would turn itself off. We have two battery chargers on board, so it wasn't a crisis, but with only one working, it takes almost four times as long to charge the batteries as it does with both working. The main one can put 90 amps into the batteries, whereas our secondary battery charger only puts out 40 amps. With them both running I could get 130 amps, but with only the smaller one, I could only get 40. Since we use between 200 and 300 amps of power per day while on the hook, unless I could get it fixed, instead of, say, running the generator 2 hours a day, we would have to run it 8 or more hours every day to make our daily power needs. This was clearly an untenable situation for the long run, so I was very interested in getting it fixed right away.

So Tuesday morning I woke up early and removed the 50 lb inverter/charger from it's compartment and disassembled it. In doing so, I discovered that the cooling fan (a "muffin" fan, like on a computer), was broken in half! No wonder it made a racket. And without the fan, it would overheat and the thermal protection circuits would kick in and turn the unit off. The problem was going to be to find a replacement fan. We agreed we would try to find one the next day, and so after working until about noon on Tuesday, we went back into La Cruz, checked in with the Port Captain, and spent the rest of the afternoon doing some more exploring. We had a very nice lunch at a restaurant named La Glorieta, met some more musicians, and checked out the many local abarrotes (corner grocery stores).

On Wednesday, we took a series of busses and cabs into Nuevo Vallarta, to Marina Vallarta, to Paradise Village, and into Puerto Vallarta itself, to find a muffin fan. I was also looking for a battery combiner, since ours was a jury rig repair, and I wanted to have a new one and/or a spare on board. After much searching, I determined that there were no battery combiners in town, but we did manage to find a muffin fan at a small electronics store in a mall near the Gigante supermarket. I bought two just in case :-)

By the time we got back to the boat on Wednesday, after walking 5 miles, taking 4-5 busses and 2 taxis getting around, we were whupped. We made a quick dinner and went to sleep early.

Thursday morning I got up and effected the repair of the inverter. Not only did I replace the broken muffin fan, but whoever had installed the inverter in the first place had essentially put it in upside down, with the sensitive electronic boards on top and the heat-releasing vents on the bottom. That, plus the fact that it was in an unvented compartment spelled trouble from the day it was installed. So with some effort I re-routed wires and hoses, turned the inverter right side up and re-installed it. I also vented the compartment by drilling a grid of 1/2" holes for an inlet under the dining room table, and cutting an exit hole into the space under the master bathroom sink to let the air out. On the exit hole I mounted the second muffin fan (since I had purchased two) with wiring, fuse and an on/off switch. Now the inverter would stay much cooler, and when I turned it on, and when the fans were both humming away, and it was pumping a solid 90 amps into the batteries, all felt good in my world again. It works like a charm now.