Friday, May 16, 2014

Just when you think you got it made

Just when you think you got it made, something comes up and smacks you right across the back of your head. One day you are feasting on fresh lobster tail and chilled white wine.  The next you are tacking close hauled in 20 knots with a failing engine.

We are here in Puerto Escondido, about 85 NM north of LaPaz and 120 NM southwest of San Carlos, swinging on a sturdy mooring ball while Connie sews up some awing material.  We've got internet now and can do some research and catch up on email.  What am I researching, you ask?

I'm researching diesel mechanics and engine re-power options because our engine is failing!

Devilish little Perkins 4-108

That's right!  With only 200 hours on an eight thousand dollar rebuild, our Perkins 4-108 is making serious interior clunking sounds.  It's not the valve train, or anything in the top of the engine.  This baby is gut-shot.  Serious stuff.

We spoke with the folks on s/v Hajime and they had their Perkins 4-108 rebuilt by Rafa at Total Yacht Works right before we had ours rebuilt there.  Their engine didn't last 1500 hours before it started knocking.  And when they pulled it out of the boat and had it disassembled the mechanics found plenty of problems.  They ordered a Beta engine and re-powered in La Cruz.

Red is a good color for a new devil!  The Beta 43 HP.
And we heard about our friends Millie and James on s/v Jean Marie.  We had met them at the dock in Mazatlan where they had their Perkins 4-108 rebuilt by Rafa.  It lasted long enough to get them to San Carlos then back down to La Cruz where they took a look inside and found more problems.  They are re-powering with a Beta 43.

We can read the writing on the wall. 

We realize that our engine is a time bomb and not the trusty work horse we wish to have.

Now we get to use our sailing and navigation skills to move this 30,000 pound boat up and across the Sea of Cortez without the aid of the auxiliary engine.  A southeast wind is expected on Sunday so we'll take advantage of it and work our way north giving ourselves plenty of time to move between safe harbors.  We'll choose the open bays that are easy to sail into and out of and take our time exploring on foot and in the dinghy all those beautiful places we've read about between here and Bahia Concepcion.

Once at the 27 degree north latitude we'll make the 70 mile jump across the Sea of Cortez and make landfall near San Carlos.  There we'll decide which yard to haul out in and who we might hire to remove our old Perkins time bomb.  Thanks Rafa.

And if you are feeling sorry for us.... don't.  It is beautiful out here. 

The outer harbor of Puerto Escondido.  In the background are the Sierra Gigantas.

Here is the litany of how we became aware of the problem: 

After a wonderful six month season cruising down the Mexico coast we returned to Mazatlan and picked up crew.  On the crossing over to Muertos, we noticed a vibration and slight knock in the engine.  Connie went over the side and removed a loose zinc.  We continued on with a slight vibration.  Then later in La Paz I thought the vibration was getting worse so we checked the motor mounts and found one loose.  And we found her to be 1.5 liters low on oil!

Added oil, tightened the motor mount and continued on.  Just past Bahia Agua Verde we shut off the motor and sailed for the rest of the day til late afternoon when the wind died.  Ten minutes after restart and sails-down the engine went from it's usual cacophony of noise to one much more clackety clackity.  Connie throttled it down and I gave her the kill hand symbol, you know, the one where you slit your throat.  Slit the throat we did and the wind picked up and we rolled out the Genoa just as we approached a difficult set of rocks and islets guarding the entrance to the Los Candeleros (Candelsticks).  "Where should I steer?"  she asked.  "Right between those two rocks!"
Scott in the Loreto Mission looking for answers and candles to light.

I'm down below with my head in the bilge looking for problems.  Seeing none we do a restart and hear the clackety clack.  So we sail through the maize of rocks and head north towards our chosen anchorage.  By the time we got up there a roaring southwester had come up making the anchorage way too bouncy.  So we tacked around and headed back south, upwind towards the Candeleros anchorage.  The wind builds.  The Genoa is way too much sail so I roll it in halfway.  We have to tack... cause the anchorage is upwind of us.  When we tack, the Genoa gets stuck a little then comes over with a 39" rip in the luff. 

OK.  Now our diesel is making bad noises so we should not really use it.  Our main method of forward propulsion, the Genoa, is damaged and we really should roll it up before it tears itself to pieces.  Roll it up we do and I go forward and raise the staysail.  We work our way upwind with a tiny foresail and a full main, not the best sail combination.  In this manner we finally make the Los Candeleros anchorage where we attempt to anchor under sail.  As Traveler approaches the selected spot Connie drops the main and the boat comes to an abrupt stop, not coasting a little bit further as I expected.  The bow falls off while Connie drops the staysail.  Traveler pivots and I steer (not sailing anymore) back around in a "wearing" maneuver.   Once clear we need to point a little upwind so I start the engine and use it just long enough to round up.  I shut off the evil clanking diesel and holler out to connie, "Drop it!"

She dumps the anchor and Traveler settles back, hauling out about 150 feet of chain in the 30 ft water.  We come to a stop, firmly planted, wipe the sweat off our brows, take a shot of Havana Club, then get about cleaning up the messy deck full of lines and dumped sails. We hear a sigh of relief throughout the anchorage as our neighbors let out their collective breath. 

The next day we sail successfully north into Puerto Escondido (Nearest harbor to Loreto)  where we are lucky enough to be offered a nice safe mooring ball from Terry and Dawn on the trimaran Manta.  Our buddy Alex on Luna Sea comes over and we open up the top end of the engine and reset the valve clearance and look for problems there.  Finding none we realize that the problem is much deeper and more serious than can be resolved easily.

And that's our story and we're sticking to it.

My favorite quote from this book I'm reading entitled The Spanish Bow:

"The advantage of belonging nowhere is that you manage to feel comfortable anywhere."

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