Creating a toe-hold on a Mexican beach.


FYI, Ros is sitting under the pelapa that is right in the middle of the beach pic next to her.

Winter 2021

After two years of covid house arrest, we finally got back to Zihuatanejo!
Here's a video showing Ros's bliss at the hotel room she put together. We're starting on a roll.

So, exactly what is our goal here and why is this an entry in Well, time reveals all I suppose.

But. The look on Ros's face proves that Zihua has a special appeal. This room on the top floor overlooking the bay runs about 90 bucks a night.
Only 109 verticle stair-steps from the beach.
I wonder if they have beer delivery.

Stand Back. This large foolish project could grab your imaginacione (sp).

Here's the question emerging in our minds: Is it possible to build, borrow or steal a getaway on a remote Mexican beach?
If so, what are the steps involved and where do we begin the climb up the learning curve?

This journey is about how we got to where we ended up. Of course, we have no idea where that will be. Isn't that the purpose of the journey? :)

Prepare yourselves and join us as we fumble our way to the finish line.

Round 1 in November 2021

With lots of time to goof off and look around, we've seen some cute places and a lot of nice restaurants.
But our wandering eye caught this deal, which I toured earlier today. Roslyn hasn't been exposed yet, so reality may set in at any time. Squint at this video and let your imagination loose.
There's a collection of buildings on various levels on a hillside overlooking the entrance to Zihua bay with ocean to the right and the town/bay to the left. The hacienda (compound) contains enough rooms for everyone including some folks who don't even like us very much. I counted at least 6 bathrooms, 3 kitchens, 8 chickens,a pool, and a patio for every activity.
And here's the good part. Development is the most likely buyer, which would scrape everything. You buy at lot value. But you could screw around with the existing structures for, say, ten years, and then sell for a fortune to Donny Trump after he gets kicked out of the US.
Video please:
Right click the video and view in a new tab.

The price? Chicken feed. Oh yeah. They showed me a basket of eggs from the local community (of pollos).

OK. Round 2. That deal was ambitious and still not completely dead. But we've scored another deal that has a different view of the bay and better access to town. I'll show pictures eventually. All of these houses on the cliffs have the same problem though, which overhangs living in them. They all involve a long hike up stairs from the beach level. Some are as many as 200 stair steps above the nearest level surface. For a sense of the situation look at this next pic. Our "second deal" consists of the abandoned restaurant just above the orange Stihl chainsaw sign along with the dirt/rock property above, up to and including the shack at the top of the grade. morning as I was gazing across the bay at this hillside, it hit me. I SEE THE LIGHT!

What these houses need are trams that pull carts up the hill. "What carts?" you ask. Carts made out of repurposed chemical totes of course. (Please see the story on Tote Gardens on this site or at
Your faithful goof-off is on a mission from god to build the first tram up a mountainside in Zihua made from salvaged chemical totes. As a teaser, the next pic is my prototype.

The story of accumulating the rest of the mechanical parts is a laugh in itself. But I'm too busy building the prototype to explain it all now. Think of loggers pulling trees up a mountian side with a motor out of a geezer, wheel-chair scooter. hahaha......
Let me explain. Half the homeless folks near the shop have a scooter. Medicare made sure that there are vastly more used wheel-chair scooters than the market can obsorb, partly because every geezer is entitled to a new one. Hey, we can debate that situation at another moment in time. Right now, used electric wheel-chair parts are a dreg on the market. Of that I am sure.

I know what you're thinking. "You've gotta be nuts. This is off the deep end of crazy." Of course it is. Isn't that part of the fun?

Grab a beer while I tie up a few loose ends in my design. Back soon.

(2 hours later)....Check out this proof of concept. The idea is to have two trams, one heading uphill while the other is heading downhill, helping to pull the first tote uphill. The tram heading down reduces the pulling power required to winch a single tote upward.
To prove concept, I've got two 10 lb weights with a rope looped through the windlass created by using a wheel-chair wheel (without the tire) bolted to the motor spindle. Add a remote to the wheel-chair motor running at a reduced 12 volts rather than the factory 24. This is enough to demonstrate the idea. Look closely.

Right-click the video and view in a new tab.

What can stop us now?
Oh lots of things can get in our way, I suppose. Yet, in the words of the great Jack Tempchin, "Life is just a bowl of cherries and some of them are sour. But it ain't no time to think about them in one of those sweet, sweet hours." :)

(next day).

Well, today has the wind blowing hard but I'm up for my challenge. It took a couple of "adjustments" to get to Take 2. What d'ya think?
Right-click the video and view in a new tab.

We can get it home from here no doubt. The next step is to put a crash helmet on and have a go at pulling me on board. We'll need a safety brake system first. I've got an idea for that.

May 2022. Rex flying solo

OK. It's been a rough couple months getting situated. Negotiating deals in a foreign language is harder than it looks. Infrastructure includes a Mexican bank account and, of course, a Mexican company. Only Mexican entities can own land within thirty miles (or is it kilometers?) from the beach. As of this writing we are the proud managers of, you'll never guess, MexRex, LLC. Ros is the president of course, I'm the scrutineer and still trying to figure out the scope of my responsibilities. haha.

Negotiation broke down between our legal team and the residents of the restaurant, so we're back to ground zero. I've quickly but painfully learned that trust in Mexico requires roots in history. Some goofy gringo attempting to step in is not going to make easy progress. Suffice it to say, that I didn't trust "them" and they didn't trust me. Having said that, I'm starting to make friends and am learning the Mexican way of negotiating. Carlos the fisherman is my main man along with his buddies Pedro and Ceasar. I've also got 111 days of Spanish practice on DuoLingo, which is annoying as I see 12 year old kids kicking my English speaking butt.

Round 3:

Could this be an alternative?....

We ended up renting an office space to give us a toehold, which, as Ros says, COULD turn into a foothold.

But in my usual irrational exuberance, making the office habitable has been a challenge. I just finished a key step involving the drilling through a concrete wall to allow us the POSSIBILITY of getting hot water. 12 drill bits and about 6 hours of drilling (no shit) got me through 7 inches concrete and two conversations with rebar. (Most of it was in Spanish so...Not sure what all was said.)

Calls home have been a little bit downbeat. Is this my Waterloo? But in the midst of it all, a little song popped into my head. And, as I sang it over and over, it gave me strength to fight on.

Here's my version of the, yet to be discovered by anyone with talent, love song entitled "Bien Para Mi Amiga." I choked up a few times, which is my way when it comes to important "what the hell are we doing here" kinds of moments.

Waterloo will have to wait for another day.

It might take a minute to download this video. Right click to download. Don't try to watch it while it streams. It will be constantly breaking up, destroying the unique beauty of my art and making me look worse than I already am, even when I'm really cooking. :)

And if you're already wondering where the guitar came from, well, I had to source it of course. Pure Mexican mediocrity at 4,000 pesos. Hey, it did it's job as well as the musician, no question.

Right click to download! What'd I just say? hahaha
Download, than click on the downloaded video.

After your eyes have dried, read on.

"W" week was upon us in early June when Ros joined forces with me for our first serious stay at the office.

I'd gone all in trying to give this the best chance of success. Were we close enough to see real potential in the office as a part of the portfolio that would comprise a Zihua escape? Not possible to tell until you're in the middle of it.

OMG! There's AC in all the spaces, hot water, a functioning kitchen, shower and vastly improved soundproofing. We can walk to 20 restaurants, five of which are on the beach. The cultural center of town is right out our window so, like it or not, we participate in every cultural activity. During the day, the area is quiet and, at night, the bedroom is not impacted by the street noise. Ros LOVED it! Here's a brief video of a cultural event involving skimpily clad dancers. hahaha. Whatever it is on Sunday nights, our deck is right in the middle of the action.

Round 4. Finding convenient access to the beautiful beaches outside the city.

This pillar of the big picture is moving up the priority list

Step back please.

No. The Spanish word for boat is not bota (boot). Try lancha. What we need is a beachable lancha (lancha de la playa? now that's a mouth full). If you make a turn outside Zihuatanejo Bay, you are struck by the miles and miles of, inaccessible by land, beaches. Turtles roam free out there along with every other kind of creature possessing fins, legs or long tails. Yeah.
1. Can we score a boat that gets us to the beaches and home again?
2. Can we devise a system that's manageable and protected while we're not around?
3. Boy, it doesn't take long to create a serious list of requirements for having a beach barca that leads to anything but heartache.
We'll see. Right now we're thinking military-grade inflatable rescue boat. Course we've never seen one anywhere near Zihuatanejo! So?
This next tiny video gives a glimpse of the beaches outside the bay, taken from our buddy Carlo's borrowed fishing boat. ha.

Dec 21, 2022. Time for an update.

During our last visit to Zihua for the month of October, Ros continued to find great joy in our office and we kept polishing the finish out. Great. But there were important pieces of the big picture still missing. First on the list, how do I source a boat of some kind, even if it's an intermediate step to prove concept? This turned out to be a slippery fish.
By the time we had a boat (about to be described and shown in the pics above), I felt inspired to write a book entitled, "I think I bought a boat in Mexico." The process was a story in itself, obviously. I'll keep it brief.
After contemplating the fact that I can't protect assets in Zihua from Dallas, I knew the whole boat thing was going to be a creative exercise in gaining access to a boat, regardless of who technially "owns" it. Long ago I learned two things about ownership of assets: 1: If you can't protect it, you don't own it, and, 2: If you can't fix it you don't really own it. You're leasing it from the guy who can fix it. That's why the word "owns" needs to be in quotes. hahaha.

I came to the following solution. First, get Carlos to buy the boat in his name. That way, when he uses the boat, I have no liability for negligence. Carlos has no money or he would have bought his own boat a long time ago. I lend Carlos the money. He picks the boat. In exchange, he maintains the boat, finds moorage and makes a living chartering (See the website for details :). I charge Carlos no interest on the loan. My benefit comes from being able to use the boat when we're in town. Cool. To shorten the story of how we pulled this off, let me give the one-sentence version of what came down in October.
Carlos found a boat and separate motor involving two transactions of the following kind: with scant paperwork and a handshake among locals, I paid about 10 grand for a boat with no serial number including wiring money to two bank accounts not affiated in a direct way to the company who's name was on the current registration. The bill of sale had the new owner with a name I'd never heard before and don't even remember.

This pic shows the folks involved. I took the pic and sent it to the cloud as evidence in case I didn't survive. Not an English word was said in this room. The four locals, Carlos is sittin next to me, were jabbering away in Spanish, laughing and looking occasionally in my direction. I thought, "are they laughing at me or with me?"

During this deal, I learned that in little towns like Zihua everybody knows everybody. Boats don't have serial numbers because, as one guy told me, "I know my boat, and you know yours." At the end of it all, Carlos was a changed man because he has currency now in Zihua. I saw him cleaning the "Rosalinda" EVERY Day that I was there after the purchase. Trips on the boat were his way of paying friends for favors. Moreover, as with people of honor, he wants me to feel like I'm getting what I need from the transaction too. Just before we left for Dallas, I was talking to Carlos (whose name I figured out during our deal isn't really Carlos. Carlos is a name he made up because Gringos could remember him). I said, " Carlos, we're doing a deal that could fail very easily". He replied, "Yes, that is true. But we are friends and we can succeed where others would fail." That's my contract with Carlos. In Dallas, the vultures would be picking my bones right now. I know that. So what? We have a boat called the Rosalinda moored in Zihua where I also have a space to put a small storage shed/shop. Whew. That was a mouth full. The third pic at the top of this discussion shows Carlos with a charter fisherman and a sailfish caught from the Rosalinda. Carlos is to the left.

Next Steps

It's been a couple months since our last trip and, with a week or two before our next one during the month of January, I've been thinking. uh oh. Step back from the edge!
What is this remote beach getaway, accessible by boat, really going to look like? Is it a palm tree with a small BBQ grill hidden in the weeds? Is it a crude palapa, constructed by Carlos, his friends and me, with open access to anyone having the means and interest to get there? Or.....what about this?

In the Zihua "marina" (which is nothing more than a lagoon surrounded by rickety little ramps for the boats), there are dozens of abandoned barcas lying on the hard. Ownership is often merky, e.g. from Carlos, "Yeah, I know that boat. It was owned by Pedro who died 5 years ago. His family didn't care about the boat and it was layed up to provide moorage for a friend's boat. Then, somebody took the motor. Then the controls."

Extrapolating from my sense of how this could work, why not attempt the following? Just walk in like you know what you're doing and start fixing an abandoned boat. Ask around to see if anyone seems interested. If not, keep on truckin. If somebody arrives to say that they own the boat, ask them how much they want for their share of a very complicated ownership situation (in Mexico many abandoned assets are burdened by three or four generations of partial owners through inheritance.) You pay a thousand for a piece of paper saying that some heir sold you their ownership in a derelict. Now what? You satisfy yourself that the boat won't sink even though it has no controls or motor. You tow this derelict to a remote beach with Carlos's fishing boat. Then, after a big gulp of "get your game on", using ropes and come-alongs you beach the derelict and winch it into the trees, keeping it under 30 meters from high water. (The govt owns beach front, so this is Public land!)
Voila! a beach condo. What could go wrong? You gotta admit that the beer is gonna taste really good that first afternoon on the poopdeck of "Ragged Rozzie." OK. She'll need a better name than that. Still....

To add concrete-ness to my idea, here's an example abandoned boat, full of water. Great. Water tight! Oh. This isn't Pedro's boat. That's another derelict across the lagoon.

Come on. How much is something like this worth just sitting there, full of bugs and weeds? The guy who "owns" the marina (supposedly Carlos's brother of some kind), said, That boat is no good. The motor's blown and it's trashed inside. Been sitting there for years." All in Spanish but I'm up to 200 days in DuoLingo now.

Perfect for my needs. What are "needs" anyway? Priority "wants?" Carlos has been tasked with the following proposition. "Carlos, I'll pay you $40,000 pesos ($2,000) for a piece of paper that says I own that rotten POS sitting there. See what you can do. If you get it for nothing or for helping someone or for a fair price, I'm good."

Kind of exciting. More later amigos

July, 2023. Another visit under our belts and a new perspective..
along several dimensions.

Sitting in my Dallas cubbyhole of an office, I'm feeling a little lost. This project hasn't converged and it isn't clear if it ever will. Still, let's keep marching a little longer.

During our trip in January, I learned sooo much about villiage economics I'm still reeling.
1. Carlos doesn't really want me to use "his boat". The chemistry had changed and so must my plan.
2. My arrangement to build a work area in the local marina was dashed by angry locals, fearful that I might try to contest their squatership of the surrounding land.
3. My advisor-lawyer isn't answering my calls anymore and I've quit paying him.

But, before outlining the current vision, such as it is, the biggest impact from the January trip was my ability to visit some of the remote beaches around Zihua. I did this by kayak off Carlos's boat, by trecking into the beaches on gravel paths and by vehicle up to close access. In any event, the feel of the beaches is great and something I need to offset the intensity of urban living in a third world country with heart-breaking poverty and destitution, along with the adaptaton of the underpriviledged to panhanding in all of it's variations.

Shifting gears

After realizing that my use of Carlos's boat wasn't going to happen I began building a workspace in the marina (I had received approval to use a space by one of Carlos's "brothers" before I agreed to buy Carlos his boat. But... although I worked very hard in January to build out my space, there was extreme resistance by locals who didn't trust my motives. I eventually won that battle by building a cute space with only a chainsaw, rope and warehouse pallets. Still I learned that I can't trust the villiage to be consistent. It would take generations to really understand the politics and prove my intentions).

Here is the latest variation on my goal of remote beach utilization: Find a "workshop" that allows me to construct and store a "beachcraft" capable of coming in and out of the surf on the remote, westward facing beaches.

What kind of craft?

1. Not too big or heavy.
2. Storage for said craft in a locked garage
3. a trailer for launching the boat in the marina.

With these constraints, I bought a wave runner shell and stripped out what remained of the running gear: 10 1/2 feet long. Picked up a POS trailer.

Rented a tienda with rolling garage door.

Began the transformation from wave runner to small skiff operated with all electric running gear. First step: cut wave runner into skiff. Done! Next?

Good luck Dr. Thompson

A couple months later....

While cooling my heels in Dallas after the waverunner idea started to grow, I mocked up a possible helm and modified an electric trolling motor to fit my crude drawing of the beachcraft shell. In all of my projects, the first draft is a proof of concept that can seem pretty crude to the naked eye. This one involves a shop table, some clamps, string and a kids steering wheel from a playground set. You'll need to squint hard to imagine racing it through the pounding surf. Still.

Our May visit: With motor and controls packed into a modified duffle bag, we headed back to Zihua full of hope and optimism. Well, the duffle bag drew some interest with the baggage handlers. The guy at the oversize checkin sent it through xray expecting maybe golf clubs and turned to me.

Luggage guy: "What you got in there?"
Me: "A modified boat motor."
Luggage guy: Stifled laugh, "OK."

As I was walking away, the guy comes after me.

Luggage guy: "Say, I need to tell you something. I've been doing this a long time and have NEVER seen a boat motor in somebody's suitcase before."
Me: "Hey man, you never know when you might need one."

Bottom line, the motor made it through Mexico City and on to Zihua, arriving safely. But I didn't get much done on the beachcraft. Two days into the trip, Rozzie fell in the bathroom and broke her elbow. We got home ASAP and she's now going to really sound the alarms on our next trip, what with an old metal shoulder and new plated up elbow. Her gear is way more impressive than most of my handyman projects. :)

With a little energy and some hope remaining, our sights are set on late September to kick "Lancha de la Playa" into the surf.