December 2010 - Woulda, Shoulda, Coulda

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Cricket and I stayed in La Paz through the Thanksgiving holiday, and then took a bus down to Cabo San Lucas for a couple of days to join JR and Helen (from Santa Barbara) and a host of other folks, for Helen's birthday party at the Riu Palace. We just came down for a day. It's a very expensive 'all inclusive' resort, and I'm on a cruiser budget. Two days at this place costs more than a month in a La Paz marina.

Being all inclusive means all the cocktails and food are available on demand. I can honestly say that they lost money on me. Clearly, they had no idea how much top shelf tequila I can drink in 24 hours.

It was nice to take a little vacation from the boat, and see old friends who I may not see again for years.


Back to the cruising life, though. I'm starting to get into backing my own bread. It started with beer bread, which I must made for fun. That worked out well, so I jumped right in to making my own sourdough starter.

By the end of December, the starter has moved into a larger container, is really sour, and makes some great bread.

The first loaf was a real disappointment, though. I had never made bread before, and the recipe just said 'add flour until the dough is the right consistency.' I added too much flour and created a nice brick.

After seriously considering construction supplies and building materials as a new career path, I tried to bake a second loaf. It was good, and the third was great. Cool. Now I need a better bread pan,
to make sandwich sized loaves.


Really, though, it was time to head down to La Cruz. We wanted to get there well before the Christmas holiday. I had family flying down.

Before leaving, I pulled everything out of the back of the boat to lubricate the steering cables and inspect the front of the engine. I have a V Drive, so the front of the engine is in the very back of the boat.

The water pump belt was a little loose, and as I went to tighten it, I found that had worn halfway through a coolant hose.

Yikes. This is the main hose that goes between the engine and the heat exchanger. (A heat exchanger is like a radiator, but uses sea water to cool the antifreeze instead of air.)

Then I felt along the length of the hose, and found an area where *the chafe protection* for the alternator wires had chafed halfway through the hose.

And there was yet another area where it had been rubbing against the starter motor, and was wearing through.


So, there went two days, taking things apart and running around looking for a new hose. Getting an exact replacement was impossible, and I never even looked. It's not a Kubota part, but a Universal part, custom formed for this marinized tractor engine. .

But really, it's just a one inch hose. Since it was a Saturday, I picked up two types of good Triton one inch marine water hose. One type has wire embedded in the hose wall, and the other type doesn't. Embedded wire is best, because it keeps the hose from collapsing if a turn radius is too tight.

However, the hose with integral wire was too stiff to fit over the barbs on the heat exchanger and water pump, because it doesn't stretch at all. Fortunately, the original hose didn't have a wire core. Instead, it had a coil of wire inside that protected the hose from collapse.

Cool. I pulled the wire coil out, put it in the new hose, and then tied *everything* down so that nothing would rub against anything else. I also put a better type of chafe protection around all the alternator wires, and tied them down tight.

That should solve that problem. I really doubt it would have failed in the crossing to the mainland, but things like this *will* fail eventually, and usually at the very moment when you need the engine.
It's best to fix this kind of problem when the boat's safe at a dock.



Okay, time to go.

La Paz is a wonderful place for a bicycle, and is actually one of the few places where I've really ridden it hard. In many urban places, the streets are cobblestone, and the main roads are just not bicycle friendly.

I actually started feeling a little maudlin about tucking the bike back in the V Berth garage. Who knows when I'll pull it out again.

Oh well. We're heading to La Cruz. Here's where the 'woulda shoulda coulda' starts.

We really should have taken off as soon as the engine hose was fixed, because a strong Northerly wind was racing down the Sea of Cortez.

Instead, we were too prudent and spent a couple of days doing a shakedown cruise. Cricket and I hadn't sailed together for months, and with the work on the engine hoses I wanted to be prudent and do a few day sails.

So we beat into a 15 knot breeze up to an anchorage in the Espritu Santo island chain, and got used to sailing together. Cricket had some time to get reacquainted with the boat systems.


Besides, I needed to scrub the bottom of the boat.

We anchored off San Gabriel, and I broke out the dive gear.

I should have worn a wet suit, because the water was 72F. After the summer water temps that reached 88F, it was really freezing.



So, after an hour scraping barnacles off the bottom, I was so hypothermic that I couldn't stop shaking for about 1/2 an hour.
I finally took a hot shower.

And thus, I caught a really nasty pulmonary virus bug that had recently arrived with the winter snowbirds from the U.S.

The wet, goopy, coughy, sneezy virus really didn't hit for a few days, but stayed with me through the entire month of December.




Oh, right, I caught my first puffer of the winter sailing/fishing season.



The plan was to sail down to an anchorage called Muertos, which is one of the standard launching spots when crossing the Sea of Cortez.

We saw our first whales for the winter season.
I'm pretty jaded about whales, these days, and just try to stay away from them.

Heck, last week we were sitting around with a bunch of other cruisers, and three of the people at the table had hit a whale in the last two years.
They were all okay, but it is sobering. I know one guy who has hit a whale twice.

So I try and avoid whales.

Here's a chartlet of our path down the west side.

Stopping at Frailes was not part of the plan, but there was *no* breeze.
Nothing, nada, zip. We were motoring, and wishing we'd left La Paz during the strong Northerly breezes.

After a whole bunch of worrying, we pulled into San Jose del Cabo and topped off the diesel. My calculations were right on the money. I predicted fuel consumption down to 1/2 a liter. That was reassuring. It's really important to know how much fuel is consumed ad various RPM settings, because at some point that little bit of knowledge could save the boat.

The chartlet to the left shows the calculations coming out of San Jose del Cabo. We shoulda just headed for Banderas Bay and motored. We could have. I was doing some serious fuel calculations, though, and if we didn't get a breeze soon, and had to motor the whole way, there was a possibility that we'd pull into La Cruz with less than 10 percent of the fuel remaining. It's never a good idea to use the emergency reserves.

We really didn't want to head to Mazatlan, though.

For about an hour, we had a light afternoon breeze, and we sailed along at 3 knots. That was fine, since there was no swell to speak of, and it was comfortable. It's about 270 miles to Banderas Bay, and if we only made three knots it would take a long time, but we had lots of food.

The only problem was the breeze was out of the South. No forecast predicted that! And then, it swung around to the SouthEast, which was right on our path. It was light enough that we really couldn't point very high, and we were either heading to Cabo San Lucas (yuck) or to Mazatlan. Very frustrating.

Then the breeze fell to about three knots out of the North, and sailing stopped.

There was enough to put the headsail up, and 'make my own breeze' with the diesel. That's where the motor is moving the boat into the breeze fast enough to create air flow over the sail. The sail is like a wing, and so the sail will help pull the boat forward, and take some load off the engine. There wasn't enough breeze to move the boat by itself, be just enough to maintain the airfoil shape of the sail.

I really don't like doing that. It feels like cheating. After all, the darn motor is on, and that's not sailing.

And, to make it more annoying, we were heading to Mazatlan. If we headed south to Banderas Bay, the breeze would be from a direction that wouldn't even fill the sails, and we'd be motoring exclusively, or just bobbing around in the swell, eating potato chips and cursing the wind.


I'd looked at a map of currents from, and decided to toss two bottles overboard. Back in 2009, I'd sealed notes in the bottles, which I've had on the fireplace mantle since the 1980's. With a light breeze from the North, and currents running SouthWest, they have a pretty good chance of getting far enough off shore to go anywhere.


Fishing wasn't going very well either.

We'd dragged these lines behind the boat for a few hundred miles, past some of the best fishing waters, over sea mounts, and over deep valleys. Not one fish yet.

No fish. No breeze. It was pathetic.

We should have just stayed at anchor for a week, waiting for a breeze.

The problem was that I have family coming to Banderas Bay for Christmas, and it would be a drag if they showed up and I wasn't there.


At sunset on December 12 we anchored behind Deer Island (Isla Venados) just off of Mazatlan. We didn't pull into Mazatlan itself. We were just going to get a good nights sleep, top off the diesel tanks, and head south.

The anchorage, if you can call it that, has a really rocky bottom. We had a devil of a time getting the anchor to grab the bottom.

I finally rigged up the snubber line, as shown to the left. Normally the snubber line goes over a separate roller, and acts as a shock absorber on the chain, as well as eliminating noise from the chain rubbing against the bow rollers. With this setup, though, the chain has tension from the anchor over the bow rollers. The idea is to have *every* vibration from the anchor chain transmitted to the boat. If the anchor starts skipping across the rock bottom, it will make a loud bang every time it jumps, and that will wake me up.


The next morning we pulled into the main Mazatlan harbor to fuel up, so that we didn't have to negotiate the sand bar and dredge that make entrance to the marinas so tricky.

That was a new experience. The fuel dock in the main harbor is for large fishing boats and Navy vessels, not for little sailboats.

It was disconcerting to pull up next to a ten foot tall concrete pier.
Those old tires aren't exactly non-marking fenders.



The guys on the dock pulled a tarp off the diesel pump and prepared to deploy it for my piddling little 70 liters of fuel.

Oh buy. That hose is two inches thick, and the nozzle is designed to blast fuel out at a rate that can fill up a big fishing boat quickly.



Since there were a couple of Navy guys with machine guns watching, as well as some other official looking guys, I wanted to really careful not to spill diesel into the water.

That was tough. The nozzle was too big for my filler hose, so I used my filter funnel. I would have used it anyway, but that was just one more thing to manage. Using the ball valve and the nozzle, I squirted fuel into the funnel, while listening carefully as the fuel went into the tank. The only way to know if the tank is about to overflow is by listening carefully to the sound of fuel in the hose to the tank.

Naturally, I misjudged twice, and got a blast of diesel into my right eye. Oddly enough, it didn't hurt, although I kept my eye shut until we were done. I was covered in fuel, and so was my cockpit. Oh well. I didn't spill any into the water.


Then we took off for Banderas Bay.

Yes, still no breeze to speak of. Not even enough to raise a sail and pretend.

It was pretty pathetic sailing.

No fish, either.



We did see a lot of turtles, though.

In fact, I think we hit one in the middle of the night. Cricket was on watch, and I was sleeping in the quarter berth. Suddenly, WHAM. That got me wide awake and listening to every little creak and groan in the boat. There was a soft scraping along the port side of the bottom, and then another WHAM right by the propeller.

I didn't leap out of my bunk, but just lay there for a minute of two, listening. I know what my boat sounds like when everything is okay, and it only took ten seconds to be reassured that the engine, prop and shaft were fine. There were no new rattles or vibrations, which would start immediately if the prop was damaged.

So I got up and talked to Cricket. It was the middle of the night, and she didn't see anything. It was too late to stop the boat and look astern.

I checked the boat from bow to stern, looking for water heading to the bilge. Everything was okay.


Without any other events, we motored into La Cruz.

Over the next week, every single boat that pulled in complained that they hadn't sailed more than an hour or two.

So, we traveled nearly 500 miles to cover a 270 mile trip, and couldn't honestly say we'd sailed it.

Oh well.

It was great to be anchored off La Cruz again. We took the dink in for tacos at Eduardo's, prepared to provision up, and wait for my sisters to fly down for Christmas.

So, that was December, up until the Christmas Holiday.

Now you can see why I wasn't in a big rush to put up a web page about it.

Next, Christmas, then sailing down to Manzanillo.

Click on pictures to see them full size























Holy caipirinha cruiser, Batman, this blog thing is two months out of date.

Hey, I got a new camera, and have been really busy. And lazy.

Right *now*, in late January, we're anchored in Bahia Santiago near Manzanilla.
But here's what happened last December.