November 2009: Oh Lord, Stuck in Cabo...

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Well, I think I said, earlier that I didn't want to create some boring cruiser blog that says things like "We caught a fish today..."


I spilled a beer today. <VBG> When you spill a beer on the galley counter and it drips down, through everything, all the way to the cabin sole, it's becomes a project for the next morning. Enough about that.

I broke down and bought a little Honda 20EU generator. Yup, it cost more here, and should have been brought from the US. I just wasn't convinced it would be needed. But, it is. The solar panels keep up with refrigeration and put an extra 20 amps a day into the batteries, but I seem to be using more than that on the hook. I screw up once or twice a week and fall asleep with everything on, and that'll really draw the batteries down. I probably could get more from the solar panels if I took the awning down, but that isn't going to happen.

I really like this generator. It normally runs up in the anchor locker, where any sound is directed upwards by the hull. It's so quiet that you barely hear it, as it only runs fast enough to meet the load. To power the battery charger it runs just above idle, but if the water heater's on it'll rev up. I've put in the cockpit and left the boat for the day. By the time it runs out of gas, it pumps 250 Amps back into the batteries and makes 35 gallons of fresh water.


So why am I stuck in Cabo? I planned on getting out of here soon after the Baja Haha was over, and head to La Paz for a bit.

Well, the prop shaft is totally shot. I hacked the shaft and coupling together back in Bahia Santa Maria, and made it to Cabo without incident. However, the hack fell apart right as we were setting the anchor in Cabo -- which made me say "Well, I guess this is where we're dropping the hook..." Fortunately, that was a good spot.

After putting it all back together again, it was clear that I would damage the transmission bearings and the cutlass bearings if I used the engine for more than a few minutes. Actually, I'm hoping that I haven't damaged the transmission already. Putting the boat in gear created a horrible sound. I could hear a grinding throb as the shaft rotated. Not good.

Here's a pic of the shaft, where it's supposed to mate perfectly with the coupling that bolts to the transmission. It's really wrecked. Note the deep grooves that were cut as it slipped and slid around the set screws. The other side, where the keyway is, looks even worse.


So I'm sitting in the boatyard in Cabo San Lucas. It's not as expensive as I had expected. It's actually less than the U.S., but probably more expensive than most boat yards in Mexico. Well, there's nothing I can do about it.

It's not a "Do It Yourself" yard. If you don't let them do the work, they'll charge $400 US per day. But if you let them do the work, it's free. Of course, the work isn't free. The new prop shaft and bushing, custom cut and shaped to fit, will actually cost me less than in the US. Probably more than in La Paz, but I didn't want to risk blowing up my transmission. Frankly, this isn't a "Do it yourself" job, so -- no problems.

With the boat out, we put a new coat of bottom paint on. My current bottom paint is only a year old, and is holding up fine. However, once it's been wet, then pulled out and allowed to dry for a few days, it will really lose the anti-fouling properties. Besides, they have paint available in Mexico that you can't get in the US. As long as the boat is out, I'd like to prepare it so I don't have to haul again for at least two years.

I also let the yard clean, wax and polish my topsides. Labor is much less expensive here. Stella Blue hasn't looked this pretty in a long time.

Tourism and travel to Mexico has really been in a slump for the last 18 months, due to Swine Flu and the US economy. Most of the hotels are half empty and rates are really low. The boat yard has also really slashed rates to keep people from taking the business up to La Paz.


The yard didn't have an arrangement with any marina for showers and stuff, so staying on the boat in the yard wasn't appealing.

Looking for the cheapest hotel close to the boat yard, I stumbled upon the Cabo Inn Hotel. This was a score! Click on the link to see more pictures. The rooms themselves are basic, but clean. There's a lot of personality and character to this place. It's not a party hotel, though.

I've figured out the bus system. An 8 peso bus ride is much better than a 150 peso taxi ride, just to get to WalMart or Home Depot.


Being stuck in Cabo for nearly a month has really given me a chance to find some good cheap food. I like this little taco stand. While it's actually downtown, in a tourist area, I also spent a lot of time walking away from the tourist areas, and finding good cheap stuff.

The downside of getting out of the tourist area is that it really makes me feel stupid for not learning Spanish yet. Heck, I bought Rosetta Stone almost two years ago, but have never gotten into it. It's time.



Well, after $4,000 in yard bills (*ouch*) I have a new propeller shaft and coupler for the transmission. Actually, the coupler is used, but machined out to fit my new prop shaft. That saved some bucks.

Just to explain, I have a "V Drive" made by Hurth. It is a very common setup on sailboats. For this configuration, the diesel engine is mounted backwards in the boat. The transmission turns the drive force around, and the propeller shaft runs back under the engine and out a hole in the bottom of the boat. The propeller shaft extends through the transmission, and is bolted onto the forward side. This makes it really easy to access, and allowed us to pull the prop shaft out by pulling it forward into the boat -- otherwise I would have had to drop my rudder out of the boat to get the prop shaft out. That would be a big, expensive deal.

This is very common, and allows the entire drive train to fit into an area smaller than the engine compartment of a small pickup truck.

I had a lot of discussion with the yard bosses about the interface between the two parts, as I had always been pretty sure that there was a slight taper on my old shaft. But they insisted that it's a straight connection, and that everything would fit together so well that the key would not come out.

We did a sea trial. In 15 minutes I'd thrown the key out of the whole assembly. (For the layman, the "key" is that square piece of steel that keeps the shaft from slipping around inside the coupler.) Losing the key was the root cause of all my trouble. We got back to the dock, and my boat was filled with a bunch of yard guys looking at it and using the 'F' word with conviction. I joined them. Heck, $4000 and I was right back where I started.


The shaft is new, of course, and that's a good thing. And, the new shaft has good dimples drilled in to support the hardened steel set screws. My old shaft didn't have that. Also, my new shaft and bushing has a 5/16" Grade 5 bold that runs through the shaft and coupling. My old shaft only had a 1/4" bolt.

To the left you can see the two hardened steel set screws (with seizing wire) that extend about 3/16" into the prop shaft. You can also see the Grade 5 bolt that extends through everything.

So, I have three different systems holding these two pieces of metal together.

But, I had that before, and when the key failed everything else snapped. There's a lot of serious torque being transferred at this critical point.

The key is critical.

I think that's why they call it "The Key."

So, finally, we tapped another hole in the coupling, and set a dimple in the key, and locked the key into place with a hex head set screw.

I provided the Loc-Tite, using formula 27200. It's the red stuff that's specially formulated for high temperature applications. Sometimes I'm amazed and the amount of spare parts, tools, and esoteric crap I have on this boat. Thank goodness for that, though, or I'd still be stuck up in Bahia Santa Maria.

I sure hope this works out. Only time will tell. I'll do a serious stress test before heading to La Paz, but first I need to clean the boat up.
Being in a boatyard is always a dirty experience.



FWIW, I've gone the TelCel Internet Access route. TelCel is the Mexican cellular provider, and they now have Cellular Wireless Broadband. I'm struggling through the process, but so far I'm signed up and have some credit in my account that I can use to pay on a month to month basis. I must send a text message, though the utility software on my PC, once a month to activate the service. This is going to be interesting. I use a PCMCIA card, because USB ports on my primary computer are tied up with more important things.

Both my primary and backup computers have PCMCIA, so I can use this on both machines. Of course, a USB connection would allow me to extend the antenna out a window and get a better connection. Oh well. If I have a problem, I think I'll be okay sitting in the cockpit, with the awning up, using my computer. If not, well maybe it's not the best time to be using the computer for internet access.

What, me worry?


Yeah, well, anyway. I really need to get out of Cabo San Lucas. I didn't expect to be here a month. I prefer to think of Cabo the way I first saw it, back when there wasn't even a marina, and you could see the harbor from anywhere in town.

Right now, I'm anchored off a beach covered with hotels and timeshares. This little stretch, where I am at the moment (my third anchorage here) is about the only 'clean' beach left.

The first time I saw this beach, there was nothing there. You could walk for miles and see nothing and meet no one.

Yesterday five idiots rented PWC's and decided to have a race. They chose my boat as one of the buoy points. You have no idea how scary it is to have five idiots turn a circle around your boat, missing it by five feet, screaming "I can't turn, what do I do? What do I do?" while moving at 15 MPH. They could put a hole in my hull and sink my boat, or do $20K damage, but they just don't have a clue.

Time to go.



Oh, *H___*, you have to be kidding. Even with the set screw, after motoring around for a one hour test, the darn key is still coming out.

I think it's time for drastic measures.


Oh Lord, stuck in Cabo again...




Update 12/1/2009 (or 1/12/2009... whatever.)

Well, the yard went ahead and did what I wanted them to do in the first place. They fabricated a nice thick 1/4" cap that fits over the shaft and coupler, and will prevent that key from ever moving again.

Why did it keep slipping out? Well, I don't know. Frankly, it's been a problem since I repowered, and up until this week I figured that I had a mismatch with the shaft, coupler, key and set screws.

But, here I am with a new shaft and new coupler, milled to fit perfectly, and a new key and new set screws. Yet, the key keeps falling out.

I think there must be some weird harmonic vibration,
unique to this engine/transmission/boat/key. Whatever.

Maybe I should stop playing the harmonica at sunrise.


Speaking of sunrise, here's a pic of my last sunrise in Cabo.

Really, I gotta get out of this place.

Click on pictures to see them full size