Friday, December 6, 2013

Work Work Work

She even cleaned the radar screen!
It’s a doggone lot of work to get the boat “out of bed” and back cruising the waters.  We arrived in oven-like temperatures in early November and quickly set about cleaning her up.  Dust storms in August, fiberglass grinding in June, soot and dirt wafting off Mazatlan’s streets, birds dropping guano, and the devil herself contributed to a thick layer of gritty grime coating Traveler’s innards and outers.  Connie, ever the steadfast trooper, dove right in with soap and bucket and attacked the innards one compartment at a time.  Scrub the walls, scrub the ceiling, scrub the cabinets, inside and out, scrub the hundreds of louvers in the dozens of doors.  Get out the vacuum and suck every particulate out of the bilge.  Oil the acres of teak. 
Floorboards up, preparing to clean the fresh water tanks.

I started a task list simply titled “To Do” and it was a long, very long list.  The biggest thing on the list was to put fifty hours on our newly rebuilt diesel, Perkins 4-108.  Let me give you an idea of what it is like to run a Perkins 4-108 in the summer fall in Mazatlan.  It’s already 85 degrees in the cabin.  We start up a 1000 pound beast which quickly heats up to a 120 degree furnace with some parts measuring 200 degrees.  The beast puts out a clambering uproar like the devils from hell clanging on their iron prison bars.  Amidst all this heat and racket we two humans try to go about checking off checklist items.  We check off items and I add new items to the list as we discover something else broken or needing attention.  Cold cerveza gets consumed.  After a week of this we left off breaking in the engine and concentrated on keeping cool and checking items off the list.  And we planned an offshore Perkins 4-108 breaking in voyage.
Water tank scummy inside. Ugh!

Once we got the boat relatively clean and all the gear somewhat, half-assed, well stowed we left the dock at 9:00 AM one morning and headed out to sea.  Once past the breakwater we encountered some moderate swell as Traveler dipped and wiggled her way north, straight into it.  We revved her up to 2800 RPM and held her there for the next 30 hours.  A few hours out I felt a little queasy so I sat as still as possible in the cockpit watching the only thing that was not moving, the horizon.  Soon, Connie joined me, pale as a ghost, and then we both sat there in the back of the boat as she corkscrewed her way plowing north into the wind and waves.  Clearly we had no sea legs.  We ate crackers and drank water and waited for time to pass.

Water tank clean inside. Yum!
Every three hours I turned off the engine and we coasted as I pulled up the floorboards and checked the oil level.  The first check, we were a half quart down so I added a half liter.  There are no quarts in Mexico so that’s what I had to do.   Joke.  At hour six, pitching and yawing I added another half liter.  Let me note that as the boat loses her forward motion she still has steerage for a minute or two.  Then she sits dead in the water and with a north wind and north swell she slowly turns sideways facing west or east and she begins to roll violently side to side. There I am sitting on the floor of the cabin with my working surface canting 20 degrees one way then 20 degrees the other, reaching over a very hot engine trying to spill fresh oil into the 2 inch filler hole.  Flashlight in my mouth, I finished the pour then started to gag so I took the flashlight out of my mouth and Ploop! she rolled right into the bilge under the engine, her little LCD light burning brightly.  From then on through the night when I checked the oil I could see my little trusty flashlight underwater in the bilge shining bright.  What a trooper!

Favorite flashlight
By the end of the second quart liter the engine stopped using oil.  I checked the oil and couldn’t get a good reading on the dip stick.  So I presumed it needed its regular half liter so I added it and checked again.  The stick looked pretty oily.  I wiped it off, by this time tossing violently side to side.  I inserted the stick partially, not all the way in… and I got a good reading… and I figured out that it was true, she had not consumed any more oil and I had just overfilled her.  This is not a good thing to do as it puts too much pressure on the rear seal.  So I set about pumping out a half liter of oil from the engine, a messy endeavor in a tossing sea.  I was so pleased that she wasn’t burning any oil.  That meant that the rings had finally seated properly.  My pleasure overcame my discomfort as Traveler rocked violently.  Connie yelled from the cockpit, “How’s it going?”, otherwise interpreted as “WTF are you doing down there?”
One of my favorite pictures of Connie. WTF!

At 2:00 AM Connie started her shift with a group of dolphins surfing around our bow wave.  In the dark, moonless night the phosphorescent trails of the dolphins twisted and zoomed around our starboard forward quarter.  Quite magical. 

The next day, bleary eyed from lack of sleep, we turned around and headed back toward Mazatlan from 75 miles out at sea.  We felt better, sea-sick-wise so Connie spent the morning baking an apple pie and making tamales.  Ten miles out Connie called my on deck with the shout of “Whale sighting!”  A big grey was just off our starboard bow, arching her back and blowing air.  She was accompanied by a large group of dolphins slicing through the water with their dorsal fins in the air.  The big grey got her breath then took a big dive, her flukes soaring up in the air before disappearing into the deep.  We arrived back at the dock by noon to take a nap and get ready for a vegan Thanksgiving dinner with friends.   No, we are not vegan but we enjoy meatless days when we can, and that whole thing about Thanksgiving being a time when the Europeans actually got along with the natives is such a scam.  Here, let’s have dinner together then we’ll set about destroying your culture and taking your land.

Bob torques the head bolts and adjusts the valves.
As I write this our list is down to one major item and it is being taken care of as I write this post.  Bob is here re-torqueing the heads, adjusting the valves, changing the oil and installing a new oil pressure sensor and alarm.  Everything else is done. Done. DONE!  And we will be free of the dock at last.  

Gotta put in a plug here for Bob Buchanan at Total Yacht Works.  He's a careful, experienced, fair, and easy going guy.  Great to work with.  Traveler is a much better running yacht because of Bob and his crew. 

Other folks we have talked to say it takes two to four weeks to get the boat cleaned, provisioned, repaired and maintenanced (not sure if this is an actual word) so we don’t feel too bad taking all this time to get ready.  We see folks just arriving from the states or Canada to re-join their boats after the summer season. They are all cleaning, repairing, and doing much the same stuff we are.  When someone finally finishes getting ready to sail Connie and I try to see them off the dock blowing our hand held air horns and making a big racket to make it seem like the celebration it is.  Tomorrow we get the send off!

Some of the neat things we accomplished:
Cleaning out the old compressor compartment
  • Removed the old refrigerator compressor and cleaned out that compartment, painted it, and created a nice wine storage cabinet that holds about two cases, port side, mid-ships.   Traveler is listing to the starboard so anything on the port side just helps to get her more upright.  A good reason to buy more wine.  Now in the future she will sit upright at the beginning of a voyage and as we drink our way through the wine collection poor Traveler will begin to list more and more to the starboard till we limp into the dock for provisioning and “axis adjustment.”
  • We relocated the spare alternator, starter, water pump and other accessories from the center of the boat to the port side settee, thus helping with the listing.  
  • I took apart the carburetor on the Honda generator and cleaned the main jet so it would run again.  Always completely drain gasoline from any engine when you leave it for the summer. 
    Now a pristine wine cellar
  • We went up the mast and replaced the missing windex indicator.
  • We dug out miles of old wiring and tubing from the bilge and storage compartments.
  • I studied and experimented with the cryptic settings on the voltage regulator in hopes of resolving our alternator charging failures.
  • We mounted three new solar panels on top of the dodger.  Needed to get an MC4 connector that I forgot to buy in Reno.  That was a problem til I found Tom at Mazatlan Solar to help me out.
  • I rebuilt the Y valve in the head.. twice!
  • Connie removed varnish from hundreds of square feet (seemed like it) of teak in the cockpit.
  • Connie put twenty seven (seemed like it) coats of new varnish on our new settee down in the cabin.
  • I entered our new MMSI number into the VHF radio and now we get a loud alarm every four hours, something I still need to resolve but, damn it, this will NOT keep us from sailing!
  • We filled the tanks with diesel and the jerry cans with gasoline.
    MC4 connector
  • We opened up the floorboards and unbolted all inspection ports on the stainless steel water tanks, then on our bellies, wiped them out thoroughly so we could refill with fresh water. 
  • The dinghy got inflated, engine mounted and taken for a spin.  I also fixed a broken paddle for her.
  • We dragged the huge genoa out of the vee berth and wrestled her onto the forestay, testing the roller furler.
  • A turning block had self-destructed so I had Bob make me up a new sheeve and we mounted that.
  • Everything came out of the Dolphin and everything came out of Traveler and we gave away a treasure in unwanted junk.   Now the Dolphin is ready to be parked for 6 months and the waterline on Traveler is an inch higher. 
  • I sold lots of stuff at the marina garage sale. 
  • I’m sure there were lots of little things we fixed and cleaned.  Lubricated everything and anything too rusty was tossed away. 

We’ve learned to appreciate Banda music, a form of Mexican brass band music very popular here in Mazatlan.  It’s like crazy New Orleans Jazz mixed with traditional Marachi.  These musicians really get wailing and when they do the amount of sound is just crazy.  Fantastic!  At night we can sit on the back deck or be down below reading and hear the horns blasting across the water.  Because it is cooler up deck we usually dine at the table in the cockpit to the light of a candle as we wind down from the day and let the cabin temperature chill down.  Now that December is here the nighttime temperatures are getting into the low 70s and sleeping is good with a light sheet or blanket. 
Cruising friends at La Isla Palapa

We’ve been going to the Isla Palapa, a local hangout, on Sundays to hear Cheryl Goudet, a local musician.  The last two Sundays Connie has joined her and added percussion to the set along with vocal harmonies.   I love seeing Connie play.  It makes her very happy. 
Bill on bass, Cheryl on guitar and vocals, Connie on percussion.

We met lots of folks on the dock and became friends as we all cleaned and fixed by day and visited by night.  Now we’ll meet those new friends again down south as we make our way down the Costalegre.  At the end of it all we now stand prepared to make our exit. Some friends have already left the dock. Some will leave next week. Some will stay through the holidays and some will stay here forever.  

We’ll take the well-earned cash we made in California, now converted to Pesos, and try our best to make it last through the winter as we hop down the coast, no deadlines, no rush.  Lots of cold beer in the fridge and a mountain of vino tinto (wine red) on the port side locker.  Traveler, she’s ready for the open sea, sitting even on her keel, happy to swim again following the whales and dolphins south for the winter.

Ain't life grand?

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