Tuesday, October 22, 2013

La Escuela de Musica

Just a quick update on my music explorations with the La Paz music school.  I had a fantastic week visiting and playing almost daily with different groups. It's hard to figure out the history, but in the last decade, it appears to have developed much more with the contributions from ex-pats of used instruments and time, as well as some healthy funding by the Mexican Federal Government.
I played duets with the piano teacher, Cruz, once in her studio and then up on the stage in a concert classroom. She likes all the music books I have with me, and made copies of each one already.  I found a way to help her build her library, thanks to the Internet, overnight shipping and my sister coming in for visit.  For two rehearsals, I was invited to play cello in their orchestra!  I wish I could understand more of Maestro Luis' coaching; he is very expressive and spends a lot of time coaching the musicians before we play.  I recognized my name, however, and waved to everyone when he introduced me.  Generally I just smile, try to figure out what number in the music measures he wants to start at, and watch his baton.
The first violinist who wrote me the previous email, is so talented.  He is in his last year of high school (self study), and will go to college somewhere in the US.  I haven't been able to figure out who is coaching him through the whole college application process, but I can imagine he has a lot of well connected friends helping introduce him into the right music college.   We played Mozart Sonatas, and have another session scheduled for the Beethoven's Spring Sonata. I am thankful that my friend Alice in California encouraged me to learn some of these before leaving the States.
And surprisingly, I have made a new sailing friend over music here on the docks of Marina Palmira. Rob and I met Katie and Mike, SV Pangaea,  last week, and found there was a common music connection, in addition to other interests.  Katie is a very talented soprano, and a music theory and something else (sorry Katie) professor. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves the other night over my keyboard, her iPad Musicnotes app and beautiful voice, aided by a healthy dose of margaritas made by the husbands. Wow!  Her rendition of Eva Cassidy's Over the Rainbow was breathtaking.  What a perfect opportunity to learn more about chords and piano improv techniques. 
The cruising community is excited to hear more about the Music School. Many are already interested in supporting the school;  I'll try to figure out how best to make an impact during the time we are here.  Last night we went to the first of a full week of concerts at the school, highlighting Claude Bollin, unknown to us, French Jazz composer.  His works for trumpet and jazz trio, and violin and jazz trio (piano, drums and string bass) were outstanding.  It was fun to see how enthusiastic the audience was, with families and many of the young music school students sitting together. There were some cultural difference in the audience, i.e. we wondered why no one was sitting in the first 1/3 rows of the seats.   Were they afraid of getting too close and being hauled onto stage?  Anyway we got great seats, loved the program and walked back towards the marina stopping for a glass of white wine to celebrate our new friendships and discovery of these gem of a school.  Soon it'll be time to practice again.  I think I have agreed to play in a strings only concert November 16th in downtown La Paz!  I may have to purchase some black pants and a white shirt, which is the normal orchestra attire, as this is something not aboard Shindig at the moment....

Enough about music, time to go Sailing!!  Heading off north to the nearby Islands with Elaine and JD.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Shindig gets a sunny upgrade - Soliban CP125 panels

One of the big projects I have been working on in LaPaz is getting the new solar panels installed.   I chose a semi flexible 125 watt panel from Soliban(CP-125).  They only weigh 5 lbs each and 3 of them can fit on our existing bimini cover.

I had the bimini modified by Hector, our local canvas guru, to accept the three panels.  You can sew material to the panel as long as you don't interfere with the actual solar cells.  There is about an inch all the way around for attaching zippers or velcro.  I asked Hector to attach them with a velcro pocket around the perimeter with zippered transition pieces in between.

Three panels mounted on the bimini.  Boom to the port side.

The solar controller is a bit of overkill, but as I say, " if it is worth doing, it is worth overdoing".  I chose a Morningstar TriStar 45 MPPT controller with the remote meter.  This unit has plenty of headroom if I decided to add more solar and it also supports 24V battery systems.  As a bonus it also has a data port that allows me to set custom charge profile and monitor the system with a computer.

Before I drove down to LaPaz I had an opportunity to test the panels and discovered that the 125 watt panels are more like 80 to 85 watts.  About 2/3rd of the spec'd rating.

In testing the complete three panel system in the slip I have seen a maximum of 250 watts. Solar panels are naturally impacted by shading and my testing shows how significant this is.  The boom shadow across all three panels reduces output by 75% to 80%..  We'll have to be diligent about moving the boom out of the way.

In the three days that I've been collecting power data, the system has produced ~50Amp/hours a day.  That will take care of 40% to 50% of our power needs.

Boom on centerline shadowing the panels

250 Watts quickly drops to 50 with the boom shadowing the panels

Remote meter for Morningstar charge controller.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

When words leave off, music begins

How's your Spanish?  No muy bueno, pero quieror aprender (Not too good, but I want to learn)
But, I speak Music!

At a morning coffee hour hosted by Jeanne and Tom from La Paz Cruisers Supply, the women sat outside in the shade, as the men were inside the Cruisers lounge.  Someone commented that it felt like the 1950's, but you all know that was before my time.  Several local Mexican women had joined the group, and the discussions ranged from stand up paddling in the islands, local beauty resources, invitations to free beginning salsa lessons, and an informal women's cooking class (which I am going to next Saturday).

At the end of the hour, I asked my new friend, Olivia, "who might be involved in music in La Paz?" She introduced me right then to Thomas, who used to do things about boating, but now is known as Maestro Tom at La Paz Escuela de la Musique!

Tom in front of music school courtyard
24 hours later I was touring the Music School, introduced to the school director, Luis, the lead piano teacher Cruz, the young concert master, Rodrigo, and a number of other enthusiastic, and a little curious, musicians. Who is this strange Asian lady with a dress on, and a bookbag filled with classical music?
I had brought Mozart violin and piano sonatas, Debussy duet works, and Brahm's solo piano, as well as flute and piano, just in case.   After the tour, Tom invited me to stay in one of the very air conditioned practice rooms, with a nice new Yamaha upright, to play as long as I wanted!  And that I did.

My practice room

Several buses of school children arrived, and were excitedly gathering in the courtyard to enter the concert hall.  They were going to sit in on the orchestra rehearsal.  
Tom explained that the kids above don't play instruments yet, but the Mexican government was going to donate new instruments soon to get that program going.  Seems like the right direction to me!

My calendar is filling up with music. Cruz and I are going to meet at school and sightread through the Brahms, Debussy and Mozart duet books that I have. The next night Luis will give me a borrowed cello so that I can join the orchestra rehearsal.

I also received this email from the concertmaster (first violinist).

Good afternoon master Nancy, I am the violin student. I'm excited, because I can study with you, and practicing English, I need learning the English because I want to go to usa to study music.
For me is good in the mornings, do you have a piano in your house? 
or when practicing?
Thank you for the opportunity. 

After I assured him I am not a professional musician, we have agreed to meet for a first 
rehearsal.  I hope I can help him with his English, in return, he can help me with my Spanish.  

Am sure we will enjoy the music together.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Start it Up!

After three months of languishing in the slip, Shindig's summer vacation has come to an end.  She remained covered from the sun and wind with a pale yellow custom made boat cover.  Sails and lines, fishing poles, bbq, man overboard lifesling, stand up paddle boards, cockpit cushions and anything else above deck, were stowed below.
Now that we are now back in Mexico, we are eager to get her ready for our next sailing adventure in the Sea of Cortez.  My sister and her husband are flying in October 20th so we have a deadline!  Until then, we will remain in the Marina Palmira, which is a good home base for cruisers and visitors.  There are decent showers, restaurants, laundry, a hotel and pool, shuttle service to town, and a nice walking access to the Malecon, the beach boardwalk that runs for miles.
We’ve been here three (or four)  days, and haven’t started getting the decks or topside back in order.  Our projects have been down below.  Also, it is over 90 degrees here with plenty of humidity.  We have AC on the boat, plus a very loud fan, which can keep things bearable in the heat of the afternoon.  Rob immediately dove into the electrical intricacies of installing a new AIS system.  AIS is short for Automatic Identification System, and the new one will allow us to transmit our position, in addition to being able to receive AIS signals from other boats.  We only had a receiving AIS system last year, and after several nights with over 120 boats on the dark sea, I had wished for a transmitter as well.  That project is almost done.  Rob is now working on the installation of a solar system, which includes a charger controller, lots of wiring, and modifications to our bimini. We are also having covers for our dinghy made by our friendly canvas pro, Hector

Marina Palmira - Shindig's summer home
There was neither time nor room to put things away in an organized way.  My priority is just to make some room so that we have a place to sit.  Even after three days of stowing things like a case of Cracker Jacks, 5 boxes of K cup coffee pods or jumbo size paper towels from Costco, I managed to trip on some electrical cord, and fell into the wastebasket.  No harm, but kind of representative of what it’s like to move back into a 300 sq. ft. living space.  I have also asked Rob to reinstall the head (bathroom) door as soon as he can. I estimate that we probably added 6-7 large duffle bags full of essentials and nice to haves.  That is a LOT for Shindig to swallow.

It is not all work.  With the company of our friend John, SV Swagman, I have enjoyed several air conditioned outings around town.  Having a friend with a car changes everything.  Am trying not to "buy and hoard", as there actually may be a “Manana” (tomorrow) to go out again.  In the quest to do something fun every day, I have also spent some time at the nearby CostaBaja Resort Beach Club.   Their infinity pool, vast expanse of private beach, fully shaded palapas and lounge chairs, with a Mexican restaurant and bar service, is very civilized.  We had Shindig at CostaBaja Marina last spring, and while it is a little far from the town of La Paz, it is a wonderful place to be.   Rob will be joining us there this afternoon.

CostaBaja Infinity Pool

Last night we had dinner on the Malecon at a delightful seafood restaurant called Calypso with our boat babysitters, Jeanne Walker and Tom Brown.  They have been great caretakers for Shindig during the summer, as well as provide many resources for cruisers and the community here in La Paz. Check out La Paz Cruiser's Supply; their current website is www.bigleftturn.com and a new one will be up shortly.  

Note the caption from this menu at Calypso:
"....And our shrimps is shit free"

While we are enjoying the many restaurants in La Paz, I also enjoy getting our galley up and running.  Time to provision and to cook.  The refrigerator and freezer are starting to fill up.  There’s steaks, chicken breasts, chopped sirloin, frozen vegetables, blanched broccoli florets, good cheese and cold cuts in the freezer; The fridge has small quantities of yogurts, some condiments, vegetables, romaine lettuce, cold drinks, and some freshly made black beans, brown rice,  leftovers of “Joe’s special” ,(mmm…look it up on the Web)  from last night.  I always have a running list of more things to find, today’s quest includes lemon juice, and a jar of crushed garlic and soy sauce. I've looked for these so far and no luck.  Am thinking that the store called Chedraui may be the right source.

Rob also re-jetted one of the burners on our store, so there is a very healthy gas flame that can make a mean piece of toast.  That, with the imported Trader Joes peanut butter, makes me happy.  

As we get ready for another cruising season, we are enjoying keeping busy with the endless list of projects, as well as celebrating the little things along the way.  

Rob running electrical wires for the solar panel charger   
Cooling off in the afternoon

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Road Trip South-Baja California

Last week John (AKA Swagman) and I left San Diego with a full load of goodies headed for La Paz.  Both of us had solar panels, Costco treats and a bunch of misc. boat parts to provision our boats for the next season in Mexico.
A full load

We took three days to make the 800+ mile trek.  This allowed us to avoid driving at night and to enjoy the beautiful scenery along the way.  The highway can be very narrow, with no shoulders.  Also, with grazing cattle nearby, it is common to encounter livestock on the road.  Better during the daytime than night. 

Day one started with the border crossing at Tijuana.  We paid a little duty for the stuff we brought and also got our 180 day tourist visas.  The border crossing at TJ appears very new.  It was not busy at all and we got through the inspection and paper work in about 30 minutes.  I made my last cellphone call on the iPhone to Nancy, and then put it in dormant mode.  We'll be using our little Mexican cellphone now.

Once on the toll roads toward Ensenada we had a little hiccup.  At one of the toll stops the attendant told us that we had lost some clothes from our truck.  John had packed three boxes of clothing for donations in La Paz.  They were stacked on the top in the Dole pineapple boxes.  Despite the tie downs, they had gotten loose.  ......  So we made a early donation.

In Ensenada we made two important stops.  First was to get our Mexican phones working and the second was at one of John's favorite ceviche restaurant/cart.

Somewhere on Mexico 1
Taking a break to photograph some cactus

We stayed the first night in El Rosario at the Baja Cactus.  This place was great.  Clean rooms at a great value($27/night).  They have a fairly secure courtyard and the Pemex is just next door. Internet, too.

Day two was a long one.  We got under way in the fog and made it to Mulege by 6:00 that evening.
Hotel Serenidad welcomed us with tasty burgers.  Compared to Baja Cactus, the $70 room rate for old but clean rooms was an adjustment.

Old mining equipment in Santa Rosalia on the way to Mulege.

During our boating season in the Sea of Cortez, Shindig had made it as far north as Mulege.  So I was starting to be in familiar territory......

On day three we drove south into the Bahia Concepcion.  This is a beautiful bay that we enjoyed so much in May.  South of Concepcion we stopped in Loreto for breakfast and treats at Ette's Pie Shoppe.  Yumm.
Driving South into Santispac, Bahia Concepcion
By 4:00 on day three we were driving into La Paz.  Yeah!

Welcome to La Paz

The trip down Baja was long but doing over three days was very manageable.  John was good company and we are still talking to each other after so many days in a truck together. We noted a Cabo San Lucas bound caravan along the way, one RV and two trucks.  They also stopped at the same rest areas as we, and had done the trip many times.

Most of the highway is a two lane road limited to 80 kilometers per hour.  That speed limit seems to be just a suggestion though.  Most were traveling at 120 kph or more. 

There were more than a dozen areas where road workers were repairing the highway.  The areas were never more than a mile, so these added dirt road adventures were no problem.

Security check points along the way were well staffed with military.  They were very friendly and usually asked where we were coming from and where we were going.  We were never searched. 
At one of the stops we had a good laugh when the guard, who looked about 18 years old, told us that only Mexicans could pass after 5:00.  His stern face quickly turned into a big smile as he waved us through.

It is great to be back in La Paz.  The truck is unloaded, Nancy has arrived, and the boat projects begin!