I am perched cautiously in a dusty plastic chair, with two of its legs sunk into the rutted dirt road and one suspended on the concrete stoop in front of Hotel Sport. It is a mismatched crew that sits and leans haphazardly – Gerhardt, an 82-year old German/Canadian sipping warm Tecate out of an oversized tin mug; Moses, the 68-year old balding Mexican that owns the hotel; Eileen his 30-something year old resolute Guatemalan wife; Anna, a young smiling Mexican of curious relation to Moses and Eileen; Karin and Andreas, young Swedes impressively restoring a previously neglected trimaran, John and myself.
It is our last night at Hotel Sport, our last night tossing around on a crumpled foam mattress under a blaring window AC unit in our bright pink room, our last night being awoken at 4am by the screeching parrot calling Anna’s name like a disregarded child. Moses, attempting to keep up with Gerhardt’s nightly drinking quota, keeps looking at me and repeating this phrase. “I going to misses you”. It comes out sounding almost like a threat, with the emphasis rising in his voice on “misses”. It turns out, I going to misses him too.
When we pulled into Marina Chiapas at 1:00 in the morning on June 1st, we were haggard. Exhausted and frustrated and strung out after a series of uncomfortable – perhaps bordering on hazardous – passages. We were so relieved to have Halcyon tied up, the engine off, the sails down. She needed a lot of love, and we needed a break.
We were thrilled to hop on a bus and travel by land through Guatemala, soaking up the brisk rainy nights in the highlands and the frivolity of traveling without dependence on a temperamental engine. With Halcyon safely tucked away in the dry yard, we visited family in Virginia, couch-hopped through Seattle, biked in the San Juans, bussed around Vancouver Island, and celebrated Dia de Los Muertos in Mexico City. But Halcyon called to us. She still needed lots of love, and – in that inconceivable way that humans do – we had already forgotten the worst of it, once again feeling the pull of the ocean swell, and dreaming of distant anchorages.
And so we returned. We returned to find a marina still somewhat jumbled after the earthquake and ensuing tsunamis of September. The docks were still in pieces, the travel lift looming and motionless. Workers scurried about above the constant drone of sawing, drilling, grinding, whistling and laughing. We got to work too. When Sergio approached with a background of varnishing and painting boats, we put him to work immediately. Halcyon could really use a new paint job, and if we had to be stuck in the yard anyway, we might as well tackle the big stuff.
We worked long hard days on the boat. And the project list shrank — perhaps for the very first time in the 6.5 years we have owned the boat. It felt good to make progress, but Sergio’s scraping-sanding-priming-sanding-painting-sanding-painting was slow going. The mechanic was “looking around” for the right material for a new gasket. Rumors flew around the yard about the impending travel lift part from Italy. It was in Mexico; it had cleared customs; it hadn’t left Italy yet; it was already in Chiapas. We were itching to be on the water, to hoist sails and shake off the dust of yard life. We felt trapped.
The marina’s prohibition from sleeping aboard in the yard was secretly a godsend. The boat was a construction site, our bed buried under piles of cushions and tools and dirty clothes. The kitchen counter was streaked with engine oil and sawdust. Tools were scattered across every flat surface. The head, of course, was out of service while out of the water. Instead of trying to live in that, at the end of the day, we hopped in our beloved tuktuk and putt-putted 15 minutes over to Puerto Madero. Often we picked up other yard-bound cruisers on the way, like Gerhardt and the Swedes. We were all trapped in the yard, and all staying in Moses’s bright pink rooms. We started calling it “The Yacht Club” for all the stranded boaters staying there.
After a cold shower in our bright pink bathroom, we would head down the road to Yolanda’s place, where Yolanda made tortillas from scratch and laughed heartily, then filled your plate with piles of empanadas, quesadillas, and tacos for $2.50. And then we would sit with Moses and his family in plastic chairs perilously cock-eyed off the cement stoup, drink warm beer and chat in a mish-mash of our bad Spanish and his broken English.
Which is exactly what we were doing on our 43rd – and last – night in that sweet little hotel. It started as a necessity, a make-the-most-of-it kind of situation. But we quickly fell into the routine, and routine makes it comfortable. Our pillows replaced the lumpy ones on the bed, our plugs dangled from the outlets, our dirty clothes piled up in the corner. Each time we discovered a new “pollo loco” spot, or where to get the best Jamaica agua fresca (That would be Yolanda’s), or how cheap it was to have our laundry done, dusty little Puerto Madero grew on us a little bit more.
By mistake, Puerto Madero started to feel like home, and Moses – like family. And then, after pushing and prodding, pacing and waiting, prepping and cleaning, finally and all at once, the travel lift was fixed, the painting was done, and Halcyon was ready to swim. The goodbyes in Puerto Madero were real. Yolanda made us get up from our piles of empanadas for hugs when she learned we had to go. Anna made a pouty face, which did nothing to interrupt her beauty, and then giggled her infectious giggle. And Moses – Moses spent the evening ensuring we would not soon forget him and his hospitality. “I going to misses you”, he threatened for the umpteenth time. I know, Moses. I going to misses you too.