|San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico anchorage|
Olympia is a beautiful place with beautiful people, a nice place with a diverse population. But the winters suck. For at least six months of the year it is 40 degrees and drizzling. When we remember the glorious winters we spent in Mexico aboard Traveler and compare that to our Olympia winters we thought, "What are we thinking? We should be in Mexico." But how can we be in Mexico in the winter on our limited budget? We are enjoying having Traveler here in Olympia and she's finally paying for her keep for once with our summer sailboat charter income. Can't take her all the way to Mexico and back each year. Hmmm, maybe if we had a second boat in Mexico. That's the ticket! But how?
1. We could partner with another couple and split the costs: It would have to be a strong relationship to survive all the unknowns. And who would be in charge? Na... Forget that one.
2. We could take out a loan: No way. That's playing into the hands of the MAN and the insurance companies.
3. We could search for a bargain boat and settle for something a little less than S/V Traveler: Good idea.
I sat in our little, dreary mini-kitchen and started a boat search Craigslist and Yacht World:
-Length: 35 to 45 ft.
-Price $15k to $30K
- Location: Washington, Oregon, California, Mexico
What other prerequisites? Well, it has to have standing headroom and sleeping room for me, at 6 ft 2 inches. And it has to be a solid, well built boat that we can be proud of in a traditional sense.
It took me two months to compile a list of boats that fit our requirements and I include that list here:
Scott's Sailboat List
I talked to someone with a Downeaster 38 that sounded promising. At the time it was too far away and "Covid" was keeping us from traveling.
And then, while perusing the "What's Up, San Carlos" online magazine, I found a Pan Oceanic 38 for sale by owner. "What's Up, San Carlos" is a local online magazine for the ex-patriot little town a day's drive south of Nogales, Arizona. It's a retirement and boating community full of gringos from the US and Canada. A couple from BC, Canada had this boat up for sale with a few pictures and a short description. I began an online search to find out more about this boat.
It was designed by Ted Brewer. Ted designed the Aloha, Brewer, Cape North, Goderich, Mariner, Morgan, Oceanic, Three Seas, and Whidby sailboat lines to name a few. He's known for designing heavy built, ocean cruising vessels. His Pan Oceanic 46s number about 50 hulls shipped, and about 15 of the Pan Oceanic 43s and only 6 to 10 of the Pan Oceanic 38s. What we had there in San Carlos was a limited version of an ocean crossing designed vessel that had been shortened to 38 feet. That pedigree was enough to make us want to go see the boat.
Sadly, we were in the depths of a pandemic. But fortunately, I was able to score an early vaccine treatment. ( My young wife, unfortunately, could not...) I contacted the owners and made a tentative offer pursuant to inspection. Then, I got online and started searching for airline deals to get me from Seatac to San Carlos. By pushing the calendar a month out, I found a cheap flight and booked it along with a rental car and an Air BnB. All masked up and nervous I boarded a crowded American Airlines flight at Seatac. Thank goodness I upgraded to a seat at the emergency exit so I had some legroom and space away from all the other passengers.
|No social distancing here|
At Phoenix the crowd stormed the door and I sat waiting behind my mask as everyone mobbed their way off the plane. I caught a second AA flight to Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico. There, in the airport, everyone was very polite and went to great extremes to socially distance and be safe. My little rental car was waiting and I drove south down highway 15 towards San Carlos, 139 KM of straight, flat, Sonoran desert road. I bought a Bohemia beer at the OXXO and rocketed south with the mariachi music blaring.
|On the road|
In San Carlos I found my "romantic" Palapa AirBnB and did the self-check in. Later at the Super LEY I bought provisions for my three day, two night stay. The next morning I met a friend of the owner at the San Carlos Marina Seca. Marina Seca means Dry Marina. Charles and I got through the gate at the storage yard and found the Pan Oeanic 38 named Nepenthe.
Nepenthe: A fictional drug described in Homer's Odyssey as banishing grief or trouble from a person's mind.
Kind of a strange name, but whatever...
One thing that struck me was the high freeboard. Freeboard: The distance between the waterline and the main deck.
She towered overhead, with a huge hull, rudder, and keel and from below she looked like a 38 foot, short, fat, round stern bathtub. I was in love. This was not your sleek, fleet of foot, cruiser/racer. This was a sturdy, stumpy force to be reckoned with; Galaxy Class star ship, capable of crossing oceans and protecting its mariners from every source of calamity.
Normally, when a boat is sold, she is moved from the protected storage yard to the work yard where the prospective owner can have her surveyed and test out all the systems, hook up the batteries and even run the engine, using a water hose to provide cooling water. Then she is moved to the water for sea trials. We were skipping all that and thus saving all the money spent on a surveyor and yard charges for moving the boat from storage to the yard to the water and back. Those costs could mount up to $1500 to be paid out of my pocket. I foolishly chose to do my own inspection and forgo the sea trial. Smart eh? (fingers crossed)
Anyhow, she seems like a sturdy craft. Her teak decks look great. All the teak topsides have Cetol coating on the wood, not the most beautiful finish, but one that protects the wood. The original owner back in 1987 bought her in the Philippines and sailed her to Turkey and had teak decks installed, glueing them down instead of using screws. This is a bonus. Most teak decks are screwed down and have hundreds of little screw holes in the fiberglass that eventually start to leak. This deck has no reason to leak, nor did I see any signs of leakage below. The engine (a 50 HP Isuzu) had been rebuilt recently by our Mexico friend Omar who installed our Beta engine in Traveler a few years ago. I called Omar and he vouched for the reliability of the engine.
We found two 8-D batteries with quite enough capacity to power the systems and their voltage checked out, so I think they will last the summer heat until we get there to recharge them. The refrigerator compressor looks good but time will tell.
The boat has a smallish cockpit with steering pedestal. Forward of that is a pilot house with a second wheel and instruments so you can drive from inside. Then down a few steps is the galley, head, settee area and a vee berth. For a 38 foot boat, there is a lot of livable space. The galley has a big refrigerator and gimbaled stove. I measured the berths and headroom to make sure that I fit and, sure enough, I do.
The sails are packed into their bags and stowed away but their fabric looks good and there is a lot of gear stowed in the many cabinets and lockers. She's built like a brick shxt house with room to store tons of provisions and many cases of wine.... and accordions and ukuleles.
Outside, the hull looks solid with some new thru-hull fittings. The cutaway fin keel is much like the one on Traveler with a skeg hung rudder just aft of the propeller. Just forward of the pilot house is a huge flush deck running to the bow with room to lounge about and stow a dinghy on passages. Forward is an electric windlass with a heavy CQR anchor and lots of rusty chain.
I spent another night in my romantic palapa and sent lots of pictures to Connie back in Olympia. We decided to make the deal. The next day I found a doctor to give me a 'Covid' test so I could get back into the US, and another doctor to prescribe some antibiotics I'd been having a problem getting in Olympia. For some reason the antibiotic I take for my skin problem (Rosacea) costs $125 in Olympia but $25 in Mexico.
I then bought some tacos carnitas at a stand, drove back to Hermosillo, and rented a room at the IBIS hotel. Everything was locked down because of the Coronavirus, but I finally found a place to buy a sandwich.So far I had avoided any restaurants and had masked myself whenever in public.
Returning the rental car, I caught a Volaris flight to Guadalajara where I had a long layover before finding my Volaris flight to Seattle. I noted that when the Volaris flights arrived at the airport, the passengers waited patiently in their seats for the flight attendants to release everyone five rows at a time. It was all orderly and seemed like the safe thing to do to maintain the little distancing available on a full flight. And again, on this flight, I scored the emergency exit seat so as to have space and leg room.
Connie met me at the airport with a jar of wine and a dinner snack and we talked excitedly about our upcoming purchase of a Pan Oceanic 38.
Asking price: $29,900. I made an offer of $26,000. They countered at $28,000. I accepted. We are so jazzed!
We own the boat now. It sits in the San Carlos Marina Seca waiting for us to show up in October. In the meantime we are preparing a load of boat supplies to bring along. We've got hoses, clamps, tools, wiring, rope, instruments, and all sorts of stuff. There is a new Achilles LEX-96 hypalon dinghy and an ePropulsion Spirit 1 Plus 1KW electric outboard ready to load in the pickup truck. We have two new Tower Yachtsman paddleboards ready to go.
This weekend during the "heat dome" emergency I'll be spending time ordering stainless steel tubing and fittings to take to Mexico to make a bimini stand that will hold two new solar panels that will connect with a new solar converter. I'm shopping for an inverter to bring along to provide 110 volt power for cell phones and the laptop.
It is our hope to leave here in October to make our way south with a few stops, bringing the little Scamp trailer along with the truck full of parts and provisions. In San Carlos we'll meet up with our friend Leo who has an AirBnB reserved where we can enjoy the comforts of a home while working on the new boat getting the refit done. He is excited about joining us on our next big adventure costal cruising! We hope to splash in November and head south down the Sea of Cortez to many lovely anchorages where we have good memories of clear warm water, sandy beaches and good friends. Ain't life grand?