Monday, May 20, 2024

Waiting out the wind, Waiting on the work

This one's from Connie: 

In the work yard sitting on the poop deck, Palo Verde blooming , birds, brown with creamy colored breasts and long tails are chattering away in the tree behind us, overlooking the sewage marsh. It's beautiful,really, until you know what's created it...Cranes and ducks visit, and little white ones, swallows, so many and I don't know what they are, but a birder would be in heaven, I think. With the Cerras las Tetas de Cabras in the distance, organ pipe cactus on the foot hills and tall grasses growing in the swampy water, it's quite verdant for the Sonoran desert. Two horses graze, lifting their heads to check you out.

It's coming up on the full moon and Semana Santa begins next week. Tomorrow, in fact, is Palm Sunday. I'm planning a trip to Rescate Market, a farmers and crafter's market with local food vendors that supports the Rescuers in the community of San Carlos. Then, I'll go to Santa Rosa grocery for carnitas and other sundry items to bolster our galley in hopes of getting to the other side...

There was a big wind event last night. Meg and Bob on SV Circe, our work yard neighbors, came over for after dinner tea and cookies. Shortly after they left for home the wind really kicked up gusting to 26kts, allegedly. You can hear it start way up in the mountains, a high pitched woo-ing followed by a mid range oh-ing and rushing down upon us with a full chested ah-ing. The whistling air compressed in the stainless steel tubing of Nepenthe and her surrounding boat buddies is a chorus of singing wind! It inspires me to create an Aeolian Harp in the rigging...maybe off the the back stay and attached to the brackets supports for the solar panels.

A brave little bird leaps into a gust of wind briefly, trying to stabilize itself, holding it's course and maybe finding a branch in a nearby tree. Larger birds revel in the ease of gliding, soaring higher to search out their next perch or prey, while here, poor Nepenthe sits on land, her wings bound, as we drill and sand her belly.

The thru hull issue, or should I say saga, continues. The one that drains the bilge drilled into her in November had a problem. It was discovered during the excavation to be cork sandwiched by fiberglass, not solid fiberglass as expected. Not a good idea. So, it's been removed and glassed over. That hose has been re-routed, connecting by a T to the hose for the scupper drains. I'm here as moral supporter and filler of bellies, feeding body and soul with food and music, errand runner and provisioner. Maybe I'll put in some waypoints on the GPS. That way if we ever do get across to the Baja Peninsula we'll be ready to set a course. Ride this wind instead of hide from it!


Thursday, April 4, 2024

Exceso Sodio Exceso Azucares


We're in the tomato products aisle at the big Guaymas box store and every single bottle and aseptic package has a large warning label saying that the product contains excessive salt and excessive sugar.  There are no options here without excessive-ness.  I suppose the wise consumer would take themselves over to the vegetable aisle where an entire pallet of tomatoes lie waiting to be cooked down into sauce.  Then you could add your salt and sugar in a non-excessive amount.  It's good that the Mexico consumer protection people are looking out for everyone, but I don't think these labels are doing the trick.

We are provisioning for the umpteenth time, each time thinking we are just about ready to start our voyage.  We provision, we fix things, and wait for stuff. We eat our provisions. We provision again.  Too much salt and too much sugar.

We bought a boatload of stuff and headed to the parking lot where we found our truck with three perfectly good tires and one that was completely flat, but only on the bottom.  Get out the jack, the spare, the tools.  Once we got the wheel off, four guys who were part of the team of pilots ( the guys who escort wide loads down the street ) jumped out of their van and decided to take charge of the situation saying something to the effect that I was too skinny and old to be doing such work. 

Respectfully, I stood back.  Connie was still cranking away at the car jack.  " Connie.... let them do it."  Reluctantly, she handed off the tire iron and the pilots finished the job quickly and in good humor.  Lots of hand shakes all around.  How wonderful are the Mexican people?

30 minutes later we stopped at the San Carlos llantera place where they fix tires.  I pulled out the flat tire and our good man Juan Hernandez aired it up, tossed it into a vat of greasy water, found the leak, and pushed in a patch.  He jacked up the car with Connie sitting in it, changed the tire and put the spare in the back... all in the space of 10 minutes.  "Cuanto?"  "Cien Pesos."  That's 100 pesos, about 6 bucks.  I gave him 200 pesos.  How wonderful are Mexican people?

Connie and I were provisioning for the umpteenth time in preparation for crossing the Sea of Cortez, the Golfo de California. Earlier in the day we spent the entire morning with Beto, the mechanic, as he adjusted the valve clearances, cleaned up the salt water pump, changed out the alternator belt, and changed the oil and filter.  We had finally put the required 20 hours on the newly rebuilt engine and it was time for Beto to follow up with his last blessing of the Isuzu.

When we left you last we were preparing for what we hoped was our final launch.  We'd already had two launch disappointments where we ended up hauling out again to fix a leaky thru hull.  On this latest launch day, the crew dipped Nepenthe into the water, running the big hydraulic armed trailer down the ramp.  I jumped aboard and checked the bilge and each individual thru hull fitting.  Way back in the ass-end of the boat I saw water.  Another one of the thru hull fittings was leaking water into the boat.  I - BLEW - UP !!!

Dinner at La Palapa Griega

How can this be? How can we have now four out of six new thru hull fittings fail?  And why did they fail one at a time?  I signaled to the driver.... Haul us back to the yard.
Back on land, I grabbed a ladder and fixed it to the boat so we could climb up.  Garth arrived looking pretty sad. We had a quick conversation where I said, " This one's on your dime."  

"Yep" he said.

We removed the fitting, found the problem, and re-glassed the opening.  The next morning at 7:30 AM we drilled new holes, applied the sealant, refitted the mushroom, sea cock, and mounting screws.  I arranged for a launch that afternoon at 1 PM and put a coat of bottom paint on the repair at noon.  Garth went to the office and forked over the $450 in launch fees.

By the time we launched the wind had piped up considerably.  Normally we would not launch so late in the day, especially when a norther was ripping down the coast.  But it was the day before the marina services were set to shut down for four days to celebrate Jesus returning from the dead.  It was holy week, Semana Santa.  And all hell was going to break loose as the locals were descending upon San Carlos to party down for four days.   Either we go in the water now or we live in the boat yard while the party continues around us for four days.  

We launched.

No leaks.  

The guys on the launch team took our lines and walked Nepenthe backwards out of the slip entrance.  They tossed the lines aboard and I hit the throttle to turn Nepenthe into the wind.  The wind had other ideas though.  She (the wind) pushed the bow down and we found ourselves heading deeper into the marina instead of pointing out into the bay.  In order to get control of the vessel I had to get more way on so I sped forward hoping the rudder would bite.  At the next fairway I slammed the rudder hard to starboard and tried to do a 180 degree turn to point me back into the wind.  We almost made it but came up a bit short, barely missing a few very expensive boats.  I nosed the bow in toward a piling next to an empty slip, thinking that maybe we could take refuge there.  Connie fended off at the bow.  Then many, many active Mexican dock workers, charter captains and charter crew members showed up at the slip finger and they grabbed our bow pulpit and flung it around the piling, through the eye of the wind, and out towards freedom and a clear fairway to exit the marina.  A cheer went up all around us!

Full throttle, we drove Nepenthe into the wind.  It must have been 20 knots by then.  Slowly we drove out of the Marina and into the bay where we executed a perfect drop of the massive 60 pound CQR anchor and let out 120 feet of rode to come to a blessed stop in 20 feet of depth.  Connie and I looked at each other and started laughing.

Anyhow, we launched, we floated in the bay during Semanta Santa, we drove the boat around the get some hours on the engine and we watched 30 or 40 charter boats in an endless parade in and out of the harbor.  Every one of those boats had their choice of music blasting at full volume.  Later in the gathering dark, the parade showed a crazy array of lights as the sound of tubas and accordions echoed off the cliff sides.

Beto was scheduled to pay us a last visit to adjust the valves and check the engine so we got a slip at the dock to make it easier for him to come aboard.  He replaced a belt that was too wide, tightened up a little drip on the raw water pump, and set the valve clearances.

In the meantime a raging norther started up again so we choose to remain dockside while it blew it self out.  Dinner at La Palapa Griega was a treat.  We had two Canadians playing guitar and drums and singing old Hank Williams tunes.  A few big families came in with a pack of youngsters so the performers played them a couple of appropriate tunes about how "The Bottle Let Me Down" and how "White Lightning" effects your mental state.  I'm sure the little kids appreciated it.

And now we sit in the bay, at anchor, waiting until late afternoon to give the seas a chance to calm down.  This morning, even though the wind and gone down from 20 knots to 5 knots, the seas were still 3 to 5 feet.  You have to give the seas an extra day to give up the extreme bumpy-ness leftover from a big blow.  We hope that by waiting here in the bay for a few more hours, we'll get a calmer night time crossing to Isla Coronados. Wish us luck! 

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

In and Out

 We seem to be plagued with the Ins and Outs.  With our old boat Traveler we had a couple of launches that ended up as a launch, a haul out, a fix and another launch.  You think you have everything ready for the launch and then when she's in the water, some of the water is somehow managing to get inside the boat. 

Nepenthe's March launch was no different.

The yard crew loaded her up on the low bow trailer, drove her down to the ramp, and eased Nepenthe into the water.  Beto jumped aboard and started checking out the engine.  I jumped aboard and started checking thru hull fittings.  At first everything looked great.  On my hands and knees, headlamp glaring, I saw a drip run down the new thru hull fitting in the head.  Then another drip, then a little stream.  Darn!

We got Garth onto the boat so he could have a look.  He's the one who put that thing together so he had to witness the mess.  "We gotta haul her back out"

The low-boy trailer was still under the boat.  The big hydraulic arms were still holding the six pads against the hull.  We signaled to the crew to bring her back out.   Heads dragging, we returned to the yard.  Garth arrived a few minutes later and he and I began to remove the thru hull mushroom from the seacock.  There is a special tool to spin the mushroom flange out of the assembly.  We inserted the tool, put on a cheater bar and twisted it out.  On examination, the sealant was complete except for a 1/4 inch gap at the top.  So.....The sealant was not applied properly and the connection leaked. It was Garth's fault and he guaranteed his work so he was on the hook for the haul and re-launch fees.

We cleaned it up, applied a LOT of sealant and reassembled it.  The next day, we launched her in the morning and had a successful splash and test drive.  

One of many shrimp boats

This time we had a slip on B dock reserved so we took a few days to get the boat cleaned up, the sails back on, and the engine run for a bit at the dock.  We needed to run the engine for 20 hours to break it in. After living the life on B dock with the other boaters, we went out to the bay and anchored for a few days, getting a chance to motor around a bit and accumulate a few more hours on the engine. 

We decided to take her out for a multi day cruise.  First, we filled up the starboard side diesel tank.  This got the boat back on her lines as she had been listing to starboard a bit because of all those new batteries.  Then we pointed her out of the bay and ran up the coast about 15 miles to Bahia San Pedro to anchor for the night. Connie ran the Mexico flag up the spreader and furled out the U.S. Flag on the stern.


 On the way north, Nepenthe's engine ran strong, pushing us along at 5 to 7 knots as we varied the speed every 15 minutes.  Halfway there, I checked the engine compartment for the second time and noticed the bilge water level had crept up to a few inches under the engine pan.  We had taken on about 15 gallons in three hours.

Somehow, water was getting in.

I checked:  The  rudder packing gland.  Dry.  The drive shaft packing gland. Slow drip as it's supposed to be.  Sink thru hulls. No problem.  Sump drain thru hull..... a steady stream running along the bottom of the joint.   Darn!  We're slowly sinking!  I turned on the sump pump and returned a few gallons of water back to the sea.

Traveler waiting to haul out


It turns out that the sump drain thru hull sits just above the water line when the boat is listing to starboard.  When the boat is balanced, the thru hull is partially underwater.  When the boat is under power, the stern squats down in the water a bit and that thru hull becomes mostly under water.  

We continued on to Bahia San Pedro to drop our anchor in 20 feet of water along with a few other boats.  The couple on Mano de Fatima, a Cal 46 had their own "shake down" problems, with an inner shroud breaking loose from the mast and water coming into the boat from the dripless shaft seal.  We joked about how boats could really test the patience of the crew.  Beautiful, quiet anchorage.  Nice walk on the beach.  We heard, then saw a coyote standing on a hill yelling out to her buddies, her body silhouetted against the setting sun. 

The following day, we motored back to San Carlos, pumping out the bilge as we went, dodging shrimp boats.

While hiking at Bahia San Pedro a coyote appeared next to us on a hill and started calling out.

And so it was as I had to call Garth and tell him that a second one of this thru hull jobs had a problem.  He took it pretty well.  I mustered up a good attitude and joked with him for a while.  Anyone who has had a boat in Mexico, or anywhere else for that matter, has run into many little complications trying to keep the boat operational.   Boats just have an ornery streak about them.  Try as you might to keep them happy, they will come up with the most frustrating little problems.  If you let it get to you then you are beaten.

Garth and Scott

Garth offered us his mooring ball so we headed back into the bay at San Carlos and got the lines ready to snag that ball.  As I approached, the engine temperature alarm went off.  We were overheating! 

"Connie, drop the anchor."  I switched off the engine and we started drifting backwards.  The anchor bit and we set it in 20 feet of water and 60 feet of chain.  A lady on a trimaran behind us came on deck and started screaming at us.  "I've got 150 feet of chain out and I have no engine.  You can't anchor there!"


Bahia San Pedro

We had a few words.  She was not happy.  When some one is screaming at you and you tell them to just calm down.... they probably won't.

Opening up the engine compartment I immediately saw the problem.  A hose had come off and spewed antifreeze all over the bilge. New hoses, new clamps.  Everything should have been checked and tightened after the engine got its first good run.  After the engine cooled a bit, we brought up the anchor and grabbed Garth's mooring buoy, far enough away from the trimaran so that the owner could stop screaming at us.

We arranged with the yard to come haul us out at 7 am the next morning.  What followed was a long dinghy trip to the marina and a long drive into Guaymas to get the correct anti freeze coolant. By the time we got the engine full of coolant and all the hose clamps tightened it was time for bed.  Up at six AM it was a smooth motor to the ramp and a quick haul out back to the yard. 

Garth arrived and we started in on removing that second bad thru hull. We'd had a problem with that one when we put it in a few months ago.  The hull there was in layers with an outer layer of glass, a foam core, and an inner layer of glass.  Every other hole we drilled in the hull had been solid fiberglass. This one had some delamination between the layers.  We decided the safest thing now was to pull the thru hull fitting and glass the entire thing over.  We cut a cedar plug and epoxied it in.  Then we cut multiple circles of fiberglass cloth, ground out the edges and layered everything in place.  

Since Garth didn't have his helper that day, I had to help, handing him tools and steadying him as he stood on his cooler grinding away.  He's 80 years old, I think I told you.  So his balance if a bit off and his eyesight is not so good.  We worked well as a team and ended up having a pretty good day working together.  I tried not to think about how much this haul out was costing us.  $600.00 USD.


Upside Down Puffer Fish
The second day in the yard I spent most of the day rerouting the bilge pump hoses so they drained out of one of the cockpit thru hulls.  There was a long run into Guaymas for parts and a lot of cursing on my part as I tried to squeeze my lanky old body into the ass end of the bilge.  

It's now a few days later and our new launch date, our third this year, is tomorrow at 10 AM.  Please let this be the last one for a while.  We're eager to get back into the water, eager to get the engine broken in, and eager to set sail across the Sea of Cortez.  We're ready for the ins and outs to be over.

You know what, though?  We're still having fun.  Connie and Scott are together, in Mexico.  And that's a very good thing.


Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Nepenthe Redux

Gosh Howdy, it's been a while since I posted on this blog, almost two years perhaps.  When a blog goes silent it usually means that there has been a life change and those people have stopped doing whatever it was they were doing, or they disappeared off the face of the earth, or some other calamity has occurred.  And that's what happened to us.  Calamity.

View from boat yard.  Looks scenic but that water is mostly sewage.

Our last sailing adventures revolved around the good luck (or misfortune) of acquiring the sailing vessel Nepenthe.  When we returned to Washington State in the spring of 2021 after sailing from San Carlos to LaPaz and back, Ms Connie was experiencing quite a bit of digestive discomfort.  A colonoscopy found cancer.  Radiation, chemotherapy, radiation, chemotherapy.  I'll not focus on the challenges and life changing features of all of that because that's not what this blog is about. THAT is another big story altogether which we'll be glad to share in person.  

Instead, let's talk about the boat stuff.  Last November, Connie and I drove to Phoenix from Olympia, taking a week to drive/camp our way south.  She had an open ten day period between treatments so she was able to make the drive, taking shifts with me driving the Ford Ranger with the Scamp camper behind, winding our way down the Oregon and California coasts before tacking to port and running downwind to Arizona.

In Phoenix, Connie got on a plane to Olympia and I headed south, picking up my buddy Leo in Tucson before heading into Mexico, and then on to San Carlos where Nepenthe had been sitting in the storage yard for almost two years.

Poor dusty Nepenthe.  We moved her to the work yard and Leo and I rolled up our sleeves and started right in, cleaning the layers of desert dust and sand and testing the systems on the boat.  First bad thing.... all the batteries were dead, cooked by the unrelenting heat of the Sonoran desert.  Instead of replacing the two big 8D AGM batteries, we opted to get four Group 31 AGMs for the house bank and a separate AGM starter battery.  I found Garth Jones, an 80 year old expat who I'd worked with before in San Carlos and who had lots of local connections; he found a good deal for us.  In a week and a thousand dollars we had all new batteries. 


Engine is out and I'm out of here.........


Batteries connected, all systems go, all connections made.  We turned the key and..... nothing.  A click maybe.   The starter engaged but nothing turned.  We put a wrench on the flywheel and a cheater bar and stood on it with my massive 155 pounds, but the engine would not turn.  I consulted Google then removed the fuel injectors and squirted lubricant into the head, hoping they would free up a stuck piston ring.  We waited a few days and tried again.  Nothing.  The engine was locked up tight.
Garth brought in his 70 year old (youngster) mechanic Beto who removed the head and found the #3 piston seized.  A rebuild or re-power was in order.  Bummer.  We scheduled the engine to be pulled out of the boat.  Meanwhile, Garth and his niece replaced four old thru hull seacocks with new ones that I had brought down from Olympia.  At least now, we've changed out every one of the old thru hull fittings.


Leo and Scott at La Calaca


But all our plans were up in the air.  Everything changed.  Instead of getting the boat in the water and having Connie fly down for a couple weeks to go cruising, we had to give up and leave San Carlos.  Leo flew home out of Hermosillo and I hooked up the Scamp and drove north across the border.  Forgetaboutit, I'm going home.  Home to Connie where I belong.  In Nogales I looked at the road conditions between California and Oregon and saw snow and ice and rain and I became quite disheartened. A winter time drive across Arizona, California, Oregon, and Washington would be quite a challenge.  Instead of driving home, I found a little place in Picacho Arizona to park the Scamp trailer.  Then I drove on into Phoenix to Connie's sister's house, parked the Ford Ranger and hopped a flight home, getting caught up in Alaska Airline's debacle of planes out of service because of missing door bolts and bad weather.  Connie picked me up at SeaTac after midnight and we drove home in the cold, wet nastiness that is Olympia in January.  She brought a pint of wine and a hot thermos of soup.  What a partner!

At the kitchen table in Olympia, I spent four days listing out parts to rebuild the Isuzu 4LE1 diesel engine, finding three different sources to get the best deal.  Gasket set, rings, a piston, valves, rods, and other parts.  We shipped them to a mail drop in Tucson and got them hand carried down to San Carlos.  It took three weeks for Beto to have the parts in hand.  He disassembled the engine, cleaned up all the parts, and sent the alternator, heat exchanger, and starter out for servicing.  Two weeks later Garth sent me a five second video of the engine running.  Incredible!


Diane, Buddy, and Tom


So......  Come mid-February, we're looking at flights.  End of February, Connie is getting another PET scan.  This one shows no new metastatic growth, just like the previous two.  So off we go on the Flix bus to Seatac Airport in the cold 40 degree rain, and then fly to Phoenix to visit sis and hubby, pick up the truck, drive to Picacho and rescue the Scamp, and then stop in Green Valley at the GV RV Resort for the night, treating ourselves to a site with power and water.  What a trip it is in an adult RV park.  Old folks from far and wide, Minnesota, Iowa, Ohio, Saskatchewan, all packed in tight and semi-permanently in the Arizona sun, walking to the club house to commune with their elder equals.  We were a great hit, the crazy young couple in the tiny Scamp trailer, just passing by on the way to Mexico.  Was this our future I was seeing?  Would we end up in a senior RV park in the desert flats of southern Arizona?  Noooooooooo!

We had smooth sailing through customs at Nogales and before you know it we were zooming down MX 15, charging along at 60 MPH with Connie playing the uke and singing all the way to Hermosillo.  Then on into San Carlos before dark.  We booked into the Totonaka campground in San Carlos.  
I spent the first day down at the work yard watching the marine electrician Salvador ripping out wads of useless decayed wiring and running fresh wires with good connections to the beautiful, freshly painted, sexy, Isuzu 4LE1 diesel engine from the oil pressure gauge, the tachometer, the overheat buzzer, the pre heater and the ignition.  When I got "home" at the campground, my dear love Connie cooked me dinner while I sat outside and listened to the doves cooing in the waning light of a very successful day.  That was Monday.  The first day of the rest of our lives.



Tuesday, day two at the work yard, was a fortuitous day much like when the Moon and the Sun and Mars align.  In this case it was Salvador the Electrician, Beto the Mechanic, Garth the Grand Wizard and myself, all present on Nepenthe and a miracle occurred.  The engine rose from the dead, it started and roared.  The water pump pumped water, the alternator charged the batteries, and all was good upon the earth.  I took a video of the water spurting out of the exhaust pipe.  Spit, spit, spit.

Like the dog that caught the car, I did not know what to do next.  Garth gave me a shake, "Did you reserve a launch date and a slip at the marina?"   Off I flew to the marina office where the gal toyed with me a bit, seeming to not have space, and then magically finding a slip for me next Monday.   Then back at the yard office, Guillermo toyed with me a bit and found a Tuesday launch opening at 1 PM.  We settled on next Tuesday when the tide will be just high enough and just before the afternoon winds normally kick up.  

Back at the boat, with the triad of boat fixers gone, I surveyed the damage.  Bits of clipped wire and rusty hose clamps, a pervasive smell of oil, and dark hand and finger prints on the fiberglass.  Dust and desert dirt everywhere.  But it is ours.  Our new home for the next two months.  Wish us luck!

Tetakawi - also known as the Goat Teats

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Punching North

Sunset Inn, Alamo Nevada, The "Out of This World" suite

Thursday March 10 we left the La Paz anchorage and headed north 43 NM to Isla San Francisco, a long day motoring then sailing then motoring.  We anchored in the northwest portion of the bay where we'd be sheltered by the wind.  It was a good spot to sit out the next three days of heavy north wind expected.  We looked forward to having a few quiet days at anchor.

Soon after we got settled in, three more boats entered the bay and and set anchor.  One was the 124 foot wooden sailing vessel Mezcal. Another was a modern design at about 80 feet, and the third was a 43 foot catamaran.   All three were escorted by an inflatable.   As soon as they anchored the music started blasting.  For two days, every afternoon and into the late night, loud music blasted from one of the yachts.  We could see the big speakers on the top of the boats and young people could be seen dancing to rave music.  It was so loud that nobody anchored in the bay could sleep until the music was finally shut off in the middle of the night.  It was a tense anchorage with about 20 normal sized cruising boats waiting out the strong northerlies.  We couldn't go anywhere because of the wind but we could not sleep because of the music.  Who are these people who spend all this money to charter these vessels and stay up half the night?  Is it the cartel?  Is it just rich people?  We had lots of words to describe them.

Three days later, we watched them motor away south.  By that time the wind was laying down a bit so we brought up our anchor and headed north to Bahia Agua Verde, mostly motoring the fifty miles.   The next day we ran up to Puerto Escondido, about a 22 mile journey.  We took a mooring ball there in the secure harbor and went ashore for pizza and a good internet connection.  The next afternoon we motored into big waves to Isla Coronados.  Even though the wind was light, the afternoon brought big rollers from the north. We set our anchor and prepared for a long crossing the next day.

For Wednesday the 16th there was light wind predicted all across the Sea of Cortez.  We left
at 6 AM and turned on the In Reach transmitter, thinking that our friends would know our progress through the day.  Later we found out that it was not transmitting our location.  It appears that I've got some things to figure out about that system.  

The day was calm and we cranked up the engine to make better than 6 knots the entire trip.  Seventeen hours later we made our way in the dark to the anchorage in San Carlos.   The noise of the engine drove us crazy, and after hand steering the entire trip, ( no auto pilot), we were pretty tired when we got in. Just offshore of land, the shrimp trawler fleet was going back and forth making it a bit stressful trying to stay out of their way and to see them against the backdrop of the town lights.  The GPS way points and harbor entrance buoys were spot on correct allowing us to creep in in the darkness and find a spot to drop anchor in Bahia San Carlos.  We were so tired that the next day we tried to take it easy and didn't do any boat chores.  Our friends Scott and Karen from Seattle were traveling south on a camping adventure so we had them aboard at the anchorage  then went for a boisterous sail in the outer bay.  Noreen and Myron who had flown in a week earlier from La Paz passed us as they also set out to test their auto pilot.  

With a sigh of relief we arrive safely back to San Carlos

After checking with the marina we found that either we haul out the very next day or we wait five more days for an opening.  The long weekend was a holiday for the locals... something to do with Jesus and partying because soon they'd be fasting.   We chose the earlier haul out schedule.  The next morning we motored into the ways and the big rig hauled her out of the water, ready or not!  


The tide was not quite high enough to get the big trailer under the boat so as the tractor inched further into the water, First Mate Connie pulled her forward with the bow line.  After a lot of pushing and pulling we finally got her out of the water.

The yard was full so they put us in the back part of the yard, sometimes called the boneyard because of the old beat up hulks that have been abandoned.  Right next to us were two commercial boats, both getting fiberglass work done.  The grinders and sanders created a thick fiberglass dust that wafted down wind to our boat, covering us with a toxic grit. The new fiberglass resin smell blew down on us with its sweet choking smell.   

Scott and Karen in their VW camper Olive.

We thought that over the holiday weekend the workers would take time off but we were wrong. I guess this particular work crew were more focused to finishing the job than in joining the party in town.  The entire next four days while we prepped our boat for storage, the grit flew upon us and the fresh resin smell invaded our space.  We moved our quarters to the Scamp out in the parking lot to escape the grit and stink during the evenings but during the day, we had to tough it out.  Scott and Karen stuck around and to their credit, they helped us get through the nasty work, pulling things off the boat and prepping her for storage.  Connie sewed a huge cover to shield the teak decks from the summer sun. 


The rudder has water infiltration issues.

We hired Francisco and Domingo, a father/son team, to remove the rudder.  They will have it at their shop for the summer to open up, dry it out, reinforce and re-glass it .  The re-installation will be  next fall.  Water in the rudder causes corrosion on the stainless steel rudder shaft.  The rudder bearing was also worn and will be replaced.

Didn't Connie do a good job sewing up the sun cover?
Tuesday afternoon, with a sigh of relief, we watched our new old boat being hauled into the storage yard.  Looking back, Nepenthe had been a cantankerous old soul trying to get her ready for the water.  More than three months of labor almost made us throw in the towel a few times.  Our three months of work netted us a fairly nice 21 day run down the Sea of Cortez with nine beautiful anchorages.  That was our reward.  Time spent in La Paz was full of work, with a bit of fun mixed in.  Then the "pedal to the metal" twelve day motor fest north followed by four days in the nasty yard was a bit of life I'd rather just forget. Was it all worth it, you ask?  Would you have done it differently if you could do it again?  Yes to both questions. 

Connie and I turned our efforts to getting the little Scamp trailer ready for a road trip through Sonora Mexico. On Wednesday we said goodbye to San Carlos and drove north, making it through the border crossing without getting busted for illegal liquor aboard.  We did get busted for three potatoes and an apple and got our entire rig x-rayed for illegal aliens.  We camped nearby at the White Rock campground near Pena Blanca Lake where we recorded a chill 25 degrees F the next morning.  

Because Scott and Karen were having some symptoms ( fever, etc..) we could not stay with Connie's sister in Phoenix because there was a chance we'd been exposed to a virus so we had a brief talk, all masked, across their front "lawn" in Phoenix before heading west out a crazy crowded freeway to the AZ / CA border.  Driving that traffic was such a culture shock after spending about six months in Mexico. 

Scenic camping in western Arizona

The Bouse Community Park Campground near the California border gave us a $10 spot for the night and the next day we started the long, dry, journey through Nevada.  We experienced the Sunset View Inn in Alamo NV the next night staying in the "Out of This World" room. Ely then Eureka led to free camping at Hickson Petroglyphs near Austin NV. With it being so early in the season, most of the Federal, state and county campgrounds are closed.  We stayed in the parking lot of the Diamond Mountain Casino in Susanville CA with free internet for a night and found the Josephine County Park near Grant's Pass Oregon for our last night on the road.  

Not quite April, we pulled into our driveway at home, plugged the scamp into power in the shop and popped the cork on a good bottle of wine we'd been carting around for all too long. 

It's been a challenging yet rewarding time as we've taken on way too much, somehow dealt with it all, and have returned home to Olympia.  We now have a second boat that seems to be working quite well, and should be ready for us to return to next October for a little bit of work then a nice long run south down the Golfo de California and hopefully the Pacific coast.  Waiting for us here is a new-to-us, beat up rental property that needs work before we can turn it into a profitable venture.  


Don't mess with Connie's walls.

Somehow, though, the fixing up of the beat up house does not seem as daunting as fixing up the beat up old boat.  When fixing up the boat, we're concerned with doing what's necessary to keep us from sinking, running aground, getting stranded, maybe dying in the process.  The house... well, it's not life or death by any means.  We'll be camping out inside the place while we fix it up.  In the meantime, our Olympia boat, Traveler was hauled out today for a new transmission, and drive train work, plus bottom cleaning and new paint.  

People have already started calling us about spring and summer charters so the calendar is getting entries and we're looking forward to some time on the water in Budd Inlet.  I'm turning 69 in August.  Gosh, do you think we should start thinking about slowing down a little bit? 

Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Turn Around Time

The tide comes in, the tide goes out.  The La Paz anchorage is a half mile wide, three mile long, entrance to a much bigger lagoon.  Four feet of tide running in and out creates a two knot current running east or west, depending on if it is ebbing or flooding.   Add to this, a north wind and you've got an interesting anchoring situation where your boat will be facing into the wind but is also all the way forward on the anchor rode.  Wind across current makes an ever present chop.  

It's wise to bring up your anchor and reset every few days as the La Paz Waltz twists the anchor and rode around and around.  The rich oxygenated water helps the green slime build up fast on the rode so it is also beneficial to let out 30 feet for a few days, then bring it back in to let the sandy bottom clean the ground tackle.  It seems like a lot of boats have been here for a while given the shape of their sails, the growth on the hulls, and the white bird poop on the decks.  Sometimes those boats break loose and start to waltz around the anchorage, especially during a good northern blow. It's not the most peaceful anchorage you can imagine.

With our starter battery bank low, we needed to come into Marina de La Paz to get a good shoreside charge, and to top off the water tanks, provision, and get the part for the water pump ordered or machined.  I called into the marina and the front desk staff assured me they had no availability for the next week.  So I pulled the batteries out and took them ashore in the dinghy to get the local electric guy, Victor, to see if they could be resurrected.  After some shopping our friends told us that Neil, the marina manager, was trying to hail me on VHF 16.   I stopped in to see him and, sure enough, he had a slip for me.  

Nepenthe and White Raven, both crews are from Olympia WA

The boat's at anchor with no way to start the engine and no way to raise anchor with the windlass. But now there is a slip in the marina waiting.  What to do?  I went to a friend (who I just met) and asked if I could borrow his batteries... his only batteries.  Soon I was splashing my way out to Nepenthe with two big six volt batteries aboard.  We got them hooked up, started the engine, used the windlass and brought the boat into the dock,  where we removed the batteries, and put them back on my buddy's boat.  Thank you Cliff and Iris.

20 recreational pangas tie up at the marina
We spent four days in the marina and got our alternator and batteries sorted out.  I convinced Klassen Diesel in Vancouver BC to make me a new part for the raw water pump and they sent it off via international FedEx to Deko Importers in San Diego who sent it on to La Paz.  While waiting on shipping, we said goodbye to Noreen and Myron who caught their flight back to San Carlos and we washed the boat, inside and out.  Then we provisioned ( lots of wine ) and went back out to the anchorage and dropped the hook.  

Some of the days were so windy that we had to stay on the boat.  The dinghy ride to the dock would be a wet one. When the wind is up, the port is closed and all the dive, snorkel, and kayak pangas have to stay at the dock.  Occasionally a boat will come into the harbor during a wind event because "any port in a storm" is the rule.  But nobody exits during a closure.  Two sailboats limped into the anchorage after having a rough go of it in the 30 knot winds, 8 foot waves out beyond the harbor.  On had broken steering gear and engine trouble. Another had a broken prop shaft.  You really have to watch out for those strong northers and get into a hidey hole before you get stuck in big seas.

We found some shade fabric in town and started sewing a big awning cover to use in the summer when we put Nepenthe on the hard.  Connie played a little bit of music at the Club CucCruceros patio and also was the first act at Capuchino's open mic night.  

When our engine part was due to arrive,  I again went into the office to see if we could get a slip, and again, I was told by the front desk staff that there was no room.  Later, I talked to Neil and he arranged us a spot.  Funny how things work here sometimes. 

Part in hand, I compared it to the old part and behold.... they were not the same.  The new part was missing a feature that enabled it to straddle a big nut on the pulley wheel.   Dang!  Foiled again.

The service manager at Klassen Diesel suggested I take it to a local machine shop so I took it to Malcolm at Custom Fabrication and Machine and he put his machinist on the job.   

Old Part, New Part.  Note the difference.

Pulley nut sticks out a bit.

After the machine shop's magic.

Today I got the part back from the shop and Connie and I installed it without a hitch.  We tested it and all looks good.  Then we decided to treat ourselves to BBQ ribs in town.  Walking through the Restaurant / Banking / Shopping district we were blown away by how far La Paz had come in the eight years since we've been here.   Music on every corner.  Clean streets and sidewalks.  So many restaurants.  Art everywhere.  The Malecon was full of people roller skating, jogging, walking, biking.  Ice creme shops everywhere.  Clearly La Paz is a very cosmopolitan place these days.  

Tomorrow we have one more day of calm winds then three days of over 20 knot winds, followed by three days of calm wind.  Our plan is to run as far north as we can tomorrow, possibly to Isla San Francisco, lay low for three days, then run north again, hopefully getting into San Carlos by the 16th or 17th.

If it holds, this could be our crossing weather next week.


  And so we say goodbye to La Paz.  We stayed a bit too long but it's a wonderful city to be stuck in.