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Archive for February, 2014

Chacala … another Mexico entirely (Sunday 23 February, 2014 so slightly out of sequence)

After a little more than a year in La Paz, we have after 400 miles of so, 6 days, and 66 hours crossing the Sea of Cortez set anchor in Chacala. We left Los Frailes at dark so we would arrive on the west coast of Mexico in daylight.  I am wary of night entry to harbors I do not know.

About 10 am, Sunday 23 February, 2014, we arrived.  We could smell land about ten miles out …. not desert but wet humid forest.  We were not disappointed.  It is a very small bay with an anchorage just outside the surf line.  I had never anchored just outside breaking surf so a new experience and a night of watching the anchor so we would not be ‘dragged ashore’ by the breaking surf.

This is a pic from the deck of Spiritus, I have decided to call this type of picture ( I have several now)’ Spiritus selfies’.

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This village is hard to compare to what we have seen of Mexico so far.  Seems remote state park vacation like.  Lots of screaming teenagers, families at the beach, fishermen, and bands that play into the night.

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The land reminds me of Vietnam.  Jungle like with palm trees, white beaches, and steep terrain.  Hot, a little humid, and smells like sea and land.

We anchor and call the Port Captain.  All that is required of us is a check out by radio since we are to be here for only a night to sleep.

The place is alive with the sounds of people playing and having fun.

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There are fishing pangas everywhere with a dock area just for them.  There also is a very nice dingy dock near the pangas to avoid the lively surf near the beach.  It lands you very near the Port Captain’s office.

The beach has a ‘state park’ feel like something in the US on a busy weekend.  Haven’t seen anything like this in Baja so this is new to us.

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There are some very, very nice buses/personal buses parked in the trees.  And it appears, Tony Stark of Stark Industries plays here as well.

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Cause that is definitely Iron Man’s bus.

IronMan

We spent a wonderful day and night in a very pleasant anchorage. It has a reputation for being roly-poly with the Pacific swells.  We found it a very gentle rocking motion and not at all unpleasant after the crossing from Los Frailes.

We needed the sleep.

The only mistake we made here was we left there Sunday evening as dark fell.  In our haste to put to sea, I forgot to check out with the Port Captain. This is actually a fairly serious breech of courtesy.  When we got to La Cruz, I went to the Port Captain’s office, explained what had happened and asked for a phone number to call back to Chacala and apologize profusely for my forgetfulness.  They accepted my apology and simply asked if our sail to La Cruz had been pleasant.  They asked when we might come by Chacala  again, and asked to meet us if we did.  Nice, nice people.  And, I was simply embarrassed that I had gotten careless.

That won’t happen again!

A final note, we have not been able to catch a fish so far in Mexico.  I don’t believe there are actually any fish in Mexico!  The picture below is under Spiritus as she sits at anchor.  This is the shadow of the boat in the water.  The picture was shot by leaning over the toe rail of the boat on the shady side.

nofishinMexico


How to lose your faith in Garmin GPS … Mexico Maps … GPS … and reality!

I am a little peeved at my GPS system.  You will see why.  I have two Garmin units worth close to a thousand dollars when new.  Both failed in the same way on the trip from La Paz to La Cruz.  The failure was something we all talk about in Mexico but I had never had happen before.  It led to an interesting set of pictures and a truly hair- raising night of sailing a couple of days ago.

We crossed the Sea of Cortez to mainland Mexico with almost no problems.  But when we entered Chacala which is a very, very nice little bay/harbor, the GPS units both showed us a very interesting picture.  We had purposely crossed with times set to get us to the mainland during daylight hours so what you see had no real time effect other than disbelief and dark spirited humor.

Here is our location after anchoring at about 10 am in the morning .  The image is from my Garmin GPS Map model 545.

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We used a smaller Garmin GPSMap 76C X as an anchor drift alarm.  I will try to pull the nice pic of the anchor drift pattern as we ‘sit’ on the dirt .8 NM inland of our actual position.

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You will note that I am zoomed in to 20 feet.  The area around the boat marker is brown/tan because according to the GPS drift alert we are behind the parking lot with all the buses.  But, hey at least we set the anchor well.  The blue part of the map … or as we sailors call it … the ocean is .8 NM to the west.  At least, it is on the GPS.

I was not happy.  Both used BlueChart G2 map chips … they are not accurate.  I believe there is no excuse for this, as even the most basic piece of technology can now access better info than apparently my expensive GPS charters can do.

Let me say this again!  I am not a happy customer.

My point.  Below is a picture from my iPad 1 … of our location.   It uses cell towers to calculate your position and displays it in real time on Google Earth.  It is not a specialized navigation suite.  It cost $150 used.

iPadGPS

To say that this shook my confidence in the accuracy of our GPS system and its back up is putting it mildly.  I am an avid Garmin fan … maybe was is a better word.

It gets better.  With my mind all astir about where I really was, we headed off that evening about 6 pm for La Cruz which is about 46 nautical miles away.  Again, I like heading into new harbors in the daylight.  So, I have bottom imaging sonar.  Additionally, I have a decent radar unit and two GPS units–so off I go.

I get to about 15 miles north of La Cruz and start using the unit– in earnest–because we have a series of navigation problems ahead.  Several (according to my GPS) buoys, some rocks, two islands, and some submerged rocks.

As we approach the navigational aids, I cannot reconcile them with what the unit says should be there … there are two yellow markers where none are shown on the GPS Map 545.  Where there is supposed to be a beacon .. there is none.  We decide to swing way outside the easy route because we cannot confirm what the plotter is telling us with our eyeballs and end up adding 15 miles to the 45 mile route in the dark.

I finally make my way past obstacles shown on the GPS , all the time remembering that earlier in the day it had been off by .8 NM (that is a really big off-by).  We make a 90 degree turn in the dark past two islands and head for La Cruz, Mexico.  Guess what.    La Cruz is not on the map ….!

That’s right!  Not only is the marina not shown– the harbor, the city, a name …. Nada … that is Spanish for nothing at all!  Google Earth shows La Cruz,  because I checked when I got there.  But with out cell towers at sea … I am limited to my Garmin and my common sense … which are now definitely in conflict.  It is two in the morning … We planned on being there about 5 am .. it will now be 7 am .. and. thank God because with daylight I can at least see the coastline.

I decide … not by choice, but because it was not time to sit around in the dark …. to dead-reckon to where I know La Cruz is supposed to be.  It is in a crook of land as you enter Banderas Bay in Mexico.  It is just north by 8 miles or so from Puerto Vallarta.  It has to be there.  When Carolyn got up for coffee …. she was not pleased to hear those words in that way.  “Has to be there?”

Dead-reckoning was within half a mile of the harbor entrance.  Beginners luck.

Puerto Vallarta is covered in exceeding detail.  But not La Cruz.

I am not a happy sailor right now … I am looking at the rest of my GPS info for the rest of our trip south and considering another solution.  We have paper maps … not great in the dark … we have an iPad so Navionics is a possibility but I don’t think it will work on and iPad 1 because it takes IOS 6.

I would scratch my head, but I am too busy pulling my hair out!

A couple of thoughts.  The Mexican Navy has new charts of most of Mexico.  Perhaps a company that sells GPS location-technology might want to talk to them about Mexico.  It’s a concept!

The chips, I am presently using, appear to be the newest …

In fairness, and because Lady Spitirus said I was ranting, I decided to make sure I did indeed have the newest maps.  I did the whole Garmin thing, load software, create account, find cable and plugin the GPSMap76x C.  Nothing.  Loaded the shiny software disk from Garmin.  It asked for an upgrade.  Loaded it.  Ok … what is supposed to happen after the hour online I just spent and will never get back.  Finally added my devices serial number by hand … Oh …. NO MAP UPGRADES AVAILABLE FOR THIS DEVICE!

Having been fair …. I am now back on a rant.  Tomorrow I will post a iPad cell tower location pic.  I already looked at it … it even shows the slip in the Marina … in La Cruz where Spiritus is now tied up.  Then I will post after it the shot of the face of my Garmin GPSMap 545.  I already looked at it too.  I can’t find La Paz.  It does show me sitting somewhere in Mexico north of Puerto Vallerta.  I think I may keep this up as I sail the coast of Mexico … side by side product comparison of accuracy and features .  Will compare  more than $1000 GPS system and back up to the $150 used iPad (you need to understand I am not an Apple fanboy, so this hurts).

They say the very best advertising is word of mouth and that a picture is worth a thousand words.  Stay tuned.

As you can clearly see, we have arrived somewhere in Mexico.  It is some number of feet deep.  And, once again we appear to be aground.  The only reason you do not see an anchor alarm is we are actually sitting in Marina La Cruz.

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But, you could probably tell that with a glance if you are an experienced sailor.

The image below is from the used iPad 1.  Note it even shows the slip and dock we are currently tied up to.

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Spiritus is headed South again … what it takes to put to sea after a year at the docks!

Below is a list of just some of the things we had to do to get Spiritus ready for sea again.

This occurred over January and early February.  Some were maintenance and some emergency repairs after an abortive attempt to put to sea  I am publishing a list to show how busy it can suddenly get after a time at the docks.   I think this is important because any faraway place can be  a trap for a boat …. you come all full of ‘Let’s Go!’ …   BUT, you stay a bit to meet the people …. you like it … you move to a dock .. you get more comfortable … your maintenance can slip, because you aren’t sailing.  One day you look around at all the others who came and never left and you say, “Uh Oh!   I gotta get outta here.”

And thus begins your struggles to clear away all that now ties you to your new surroundings.  This is not a criticism of those who stay … someday we will, too.  But, Not Today!

Some of what follows is stuff we needed to get done to stay more easily in Mexico .. some is mechanical .. all of it is a lesson of sorts about lines that hold the boat to the dock … some dock lines are more obvious than others.

Starting in January 2014.

FUEL SYSTEM PROBLEMS

Clean fuel in main tank.  It had been setting for a year … diesel.  This chore is accomplished by taking a small hand pump and gently pushing the tubing to the bottom of the tank and pumping out maybe two gallons of yucky fuel … till fresh looking fuel starts to pump.  It has set for a year .. so everything possible has settled.  Water … dirt … anything yucky … right next to the intake line for the engine.

Change the Racor fuel filter.  It looked like someone had chewed tobacco and spit into it.  And it was brown rather than white.  Remove bowl and clean tar-like residue.  Replace gaskets.

Change Volvo MD17D primary fuel filter.  I admit my ignorance here .  This bit was my fault.  I did not know where it was … and only had one replacement .. and so on.  Result .. I had never changed it since we bought the boat.  I have now ordered 4 more.  I will describe is as covered with a gelatinous clear mass that I think was some form of water … in its gelatinous state.

In chasing air leaks .. change the fuel pump with a spare we had.  It had a better, stronger rubber diaphragm.

Replace every fuel line hose between the fuel tank and the fuel pump.  These are Volvo specific parts and we broke one and had to manufacture a new one at a machine shop locally.  There was indeed a moments pause and tension associated with that little mishap.

Install a new auxiliary diesel electric pump.  This pump is normally used to supply the Dikenson diesel drip stove.  BUT, its secondary function is that if you close the valve to the stove .. it will push fuel into the injectors instead … great for fixing air in the fuel lines.  I had a spare … like the one that was not functional .. the spare also was non functional.  Big surprise there.

Added a outboard motor style bulb hand pump to the main fuel line … you can use it to pressurize the system to get rid of leaks … and in a pinch .. to fuel the engine by hand (mechanics idea … liked it).

SALT WATER COOLING SYSTEM PROBLEMS

Install a new exhaust elbow.  We even found one in La Paz … our old one had started to weep salt water.  This is one of two things that plugged up on our attempt to leave La Paz a few weeks ago and forced an engine overheat and return to the docks.

Thermostat housing cleaning.  Turns out that the cold water bypass for the thermostat was totally blocked .. took three drill bits to clear it of ‘plaque’.  Felt like  a dentist.  This was an undiscovered old problem.  It had clearly been like that for a while.

Replace thermostat.  Had spares on-board, thank God.  When we removed the housing … the thermostat literally fell apart in our hands … like some cheap Japanese toy from the 1950’s.  It made a horrible sound like Frito’s being squeezed and became a pile of rusty flakes as we watched it.  New thermostat.

Removed and cleaned the salt water strainer.

Replace every inch of saltwater intake hose in the engine compartment.  The reason … when you would squeeze a hose … large chunks of black flaky plaque would fall out.  Replace it all.  This included all the hoses that take the water various places along the engine water block.

Replace the water exhaust hose from the elbow.  I had the wrong kind of hose and it was collapsing when it warmed up.  This was not as obvious as it sounds and took a bit of sleuthing to figure out.

Epilogue(3/2/2014 La Cruz):  We were still having a limitation of how fast we could run the engine without causing it to heat on the way to La Cruz.  It was manageable but still problematic.  Turns out the one place we did not think to check for an obstruction was the water jacket that cools the transmission.  Bingo, 90% occluded.  Now our boat is no longer a ragged squirter … she is a gusher …. steady flow of raw water from exhaust and a noticeable increase in output when the engine is brought to full RPM at 1800-2000.  And, no overheat at those RPM.  Sweet!  At last!

WATER MAKER

Installed a water maker … see the post for details on that project that took 2 and a half days.

ENGINE MOUNTS

Turns out that one of the reasons our engine vibrated a bit at speed was that the engine mounts were loose.  So we tightened them and added lock washers (eight of them).  Now my rigging for the mizzen no longer has a harmonic string like vibration … as though a guitar being strummed.  And, we had two failures of the mounts that hold the flywheel cover related to vibration.  Turns out that the engine is not a vibrating monster bouncing around inside the engine compartment after all.  You can see, hear, and feel the difference.

ELECTRICAL UPGRADE

Starter battery installed.  Spiritus has always had two 200 amp Gelcel batteries that both started the boat and supplies energy when it was at rest or sailing.  The uses we make of her and the demands we place on those batteries can push them to very low voltages like 11.4 volts on occasion.  When this happens … strange things start happening like …(1) the boat will not start (2) the ice box starts going on and off repeatedly (3) we lose the power to put out 100 watts with the Single Side Band HF Radio.

We talked with an electrician we had worked with before and designed a solution.  Spiritus now has three batteries.  The new one is a yellow top Optima which can be entirely isolated form the boats electrics when we are using what is not the ‘house bank’ of 400 amps of Gelcels.  No danger of drawing the batteries you cannot start the boat.

This also required rewiring the selector switch and adding an isolator switch (and figuring out how all this worked in the real world of sailing).

SPREADER POLE

Replace.  We are a 38 foot ketch.  We had a used 12 foot spinaker-pole that we used as (1) a spreader pole for the genoa-furler, and (2) a pole for sitting the dingy into the water and retrieving or lifting it above water for theft protection.  We heard on the morning net of a person wanting to let go of their 12-21 foot actual spreader pole.  And we found a young couple who wanted out old pole … a great set of trades was had.  We now have a pole that fits our boat properly.

THE RESULT … SPIRITUS ARRIVES IN LA CRUZ ON HER THIRD ATTEMPT! 

Thanks to Nancy and Sven from s/v Senta II for the nice pic of us pulling up to the docks all sea worn and salty.

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A mea culpae and a caveate.

The mea culpae … my maintenance must not have been as thorough as I believed.  None of these impending trip ending problems showed up when O tested the engines at the dock very two weeks.  I missed a couple of things in my maintenance.  And, the spare parts I had misled me to believe I was more prepared to work on my engine in remote places that I really was (La Paz is not a remote place).  We used a tone of spares in bringing her back to life and health.  But, we also discovered a wrong water pump spare  for God knows what engine but not mine.  This led to rebuilding the existing pump when it was discovered to be leaking actively at rest (engine off).  The spare electric fuel pump did not work and was used.

The caveate .. I talk a lot in the personal “I” or “we” … I had a great mechanic another cruiser in La Paz (and now in La Cruz) who did most of the work on the engine after the near melt down.  Thank you Scott and Robby. And, I used an electrician for the batteries.

The engine now purrs like a kitten …. and the boat once more has the ‘heart of a lioness’ about the sea.

An anthropomorphism.  And, a medical bent on the story.  We think that the over heat was the boat telling us it was having a heart attack.  Plaque had narrowed the water lines till they starved the engine for life giving sea water.  The fuel line had a leak so that air would fill the fuel pump … we actually found the Racor bubbling like a fish tank after a high speed test of the engine.  And, she did not have enough energy to power her power plant during the start procedure.

It was the boat’s way of saying I need you to listen … I am in trouble .. and I can’t keep you safe if you don’t take care of me!

In a way, the over heat saved us a lot of misery.  It made us take a really good look at the critical systems again.  We basically gave the boat a coronary bypass … a pacemaker … and a new circulatory system.


Frailes’ Sunsets

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Los Frailes is famous among sailors of Mexico’s Sea of Cortez for the shelter it offers from both the wind and the world.  Close enough to the tip of Baja, it provides shelter from the northerly winds when you are running up the coast towards La Paz.  It is also close enough to allow you to pass up the garish nights of Cabo San Lucas.  Instead, you can shelter in a quiet part of Mexico that is only being discovered by the people with enough money to ruin it.

For cruisers heading down the coast of Baja, it also serves as a jumping off place for the passage across the Sea of Cortez to either Mazatlan (closest) or La Cruz.  From either of those destinations, you can start to explore the West Coast of Mexico, the Mexican Riviera or further south to where the cruise ships don’t stop, or where the roads don’t go.

We are headed to La Cruz and Banderas Bay.  Should take us between 36 and 48 hours depending on the winds.

But for now and the last two days. we have been anchored in the small bay at Los Frailes.  Oddly, there have been no other sailboats here. This surprised us.
We began talking to La Cruz sailors on the Picante Net this morning.  Letting them know we are starting out and seeking out our old friend Senta II.

Frailes Days
This part will be a small photo essay about Frailes and, to some extent, Mexico from the deck of a cruising sailboat.  It is not sociology but more of a personal photo commentary about what I see.  I believe, and you need to know this–as you read this blog– that you and I, the cruising sailors,  bring a lot of our own personal experiences and mindsets to Mexico and that, to some extent, much of what we see is projection.

With that said, I find Frailes a stunning commentary on the Mexico that is and the Mexico that is soon to be.  The following set pf pictures–taken from the deck of Spiritus–shows a vague image of what is.

The beach is a kind of Microcosm.  I will work from right to left in the pics, looking at each closely.  First, and to the south, we see large expensive homes.  Here in the middle of nowhere with dirt- road access and the nearest town four miles away, it is wonder of the modern world that someone can own such homes in the most primitive and undeveloped parts of the world.  But, for the dollars or pesos, what a view when you are here.

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Left of that–on a small hill– is what is apparently the original land holdings.  Less expensive, less white, less developed, and more closely packed are several homes from an era already fading.

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Down the hill, just north of them– in an arroyo or bluffed gully– is what I can only describe as RV heaven: trailers, camp trailers, RVs, pick up trucks with trailers, and god knows what else.  The people here appear to be mostly American.  It is what it looks like. It is not KOA, and apparently has few to no amenities.  It is packed to the gills full of campers.

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Next to that, clockwise on the beach, is a set of what appears to be clapboard or tar paper huts for fishermen.  A dozen or so, and not all occupied. A very few vehicles here.

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Sustenance fishing and poverty at its most obvious.

Next to them clockwise, to the north are motor campsites for campers on the beach.  These are actual sites.

And finally–all the way to the north clockwise– are the tents of young students from foreign countries and Mexico’s universities who come here to work with environmental scientists or outdoor specialists in Mexico’s growing Eco Tourism.

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This word Eco Tourism is strange to me.  It seems an oxymoron at first until you look closer.  Then you see its meaning more clearly.   By observation, it offers whale and reef tours in ecologically fragile areas.  Protected so that we can go there and play.  Or so we can go there and study.  It offers real jobs to the educated young people of Mexico who have taken it up as a vocation and for the foreign students who use it as a resume-building vacation.  And, school credit is available.

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I am torn as to the end result of popularizing destinations for such studies.  How do we change the environment as we play in and protect or study it?

Finally, sitting out in the bay, are the cruisers, in this case, us and a whale-study boat.  It is the 3-5 days in the class where they get hands on observational experience to go along with the classroom studies of whales in the Sea of Cortez.  This group is based out of La Paz.

And us, why are we here?  We are on the way somewhere else.  We are trying to see Mexico as we go.  We try to have a minimum impact on anyone and any place we are.  We make water, have our own resources, leave no real trace when we pass.  How does that help in a place where jobs, wages, and the need for work are at a premium?  Are cruisers a force for good or something more selfish?

Don’t know the answer to that yet.

Like the Eco Tourists or researchers, we provide– in writings and experiences– a kind of awareness of remote places we pass thru.  But, mostly we just ‘pass thru’.  Is that enough?
Frailes will be no different when we leave it.  It will be no worse.  But, it also will be no better. To a certain extent, that is an accomplishment in today’s world.   But, it feels kind of hollow.

I would hate to take a look at the whole of my life and simply have to say, “Well, I didn’t do any harm, but then, I didn’t really do any good either. The world is neither a better place or a worse place because I have been in it.”


Between Muertos and Frailes … here, there be whales!

The title is from an email that a priest and friend of ours sent … an homage of sorts.shebreeches

That is right,  as we head out to cross the Sea of Cortez, we are following the same route that the humpback and gray whales follow.  They feed along our route.  Maybe a less egocentric way to say that is we sail along their migratory and feeding routes.

Two days ago, we had a very close encounter.  The pictures prove we were indeed near whales, but I was so busy maneuvering the boat to stay clear of them that I missed the best shots.

We had a pod of whales come up under the bow of Spiritus–a place where you only ever see dolphins.  They were so close that I feared a collision, so we took a sharp evasive turn to clear the rest as the leader –then 7 or so more whales– surfaced around us.

We had seen them ahead for an hour and were slowly catching up at out leisurely five knots.  When they sounded last, Carolyn had come up to see them and they seemed to take forever to rise back to the surface.  I actually, told her “See, you scared them away!”
About that time .. instant …great breaths, and plumes of mist were everywhere as the first came up under our bowsprit.

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No picture could have captured it anyway, but I still wish.  It was like a picture from the deck of a a whale boat … they were that close.  But, unlike whalers, we had no ill intent.

Our only concern was to make sure we moved away from them … but the majesty … and the awe it inspires is well known to cruisers.  It was Carolyn’s first whale tail … and first close encounter.  She was almost as much fun to watch as they were.  I had a whale nearby about five years ago, in our last boat, off Newport , Oregon.  He stayed with me for almost an hour turning when I turned … great beasts.  People and whales … all creatures great and small.

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Spiritus has seen her first whale too!  ” Spiritus, meet Leviathan.  Leviathan, Spiritus.”


A Gathering of Old Birds … or the story of our attempt to leave La Paz

On Saturday, February 1, we slipped away from the docks at Marina La Paz quietly, and headed off to La Cruz.  The intent was to repeat the earlier sail to Bahia San Gabriel on Espiritus Santos Island, then down to Los Muertos, and Los Frailles before heading east to the mainland of Mexico.

As we left the docks, unbeknownst to us, the water for our raw water cooled diesel, stopped squirting out of the water exhaust.  A couple of people tried to hail us on the radio but we did not hear them.  So as we were leaving the harbor, about 3 and a half miles from the marina, we were overtaken by another sailboat on engines who hailed us and relayed the concerns.

Sure enough, no water from exhaust,  We were sailing at this point so we just turned around to sail back several miles to the docks.   But no, the wind almost immediately died.  OK, turn on engines again,  into the red in minutes.  We were idling along at 800 rpm and about 4 knots, then 3.5 knots, then 3 knots, then 2.8.  Looked over and the harbor buoys were leaning against the way we were moving.  That is right, tide is now running out.

It doesn’t get much better than this.  So, we are now a mile from the docks with a red hot engine,  answer the Mogote entrance is closer.  Go there!

Speed now 1 knot per hour.  700 yards to go … do the math … 30 minutes more and slowing.  Carolyn is down stairs monitoring the engine temperature an shouting it up the stairs.

We have to get thru the boats anchored in the Mogote and under power without a engine failure which would put us adrift amongst them.  Not good!

I slip the engine to perhaps 1000 rpm … temp climbs … look at wife’s eyes and tell here .. we have to get to an anchorage.

A huge sigh of relief as we back down on anchor and cut engines.  We will wait ’till Monday when the office at Marina La Paz is back to get a slip if they have one.

We were both concerned that the heat had already done damage.  Still, we will have to get to a dock to work on it.

GatheringofPelicans

Monday rolls around and we call the marina and appraise them of our need for a dock and our engine problem.  They tell us to call and let them know when we start in and they will have a crew to catch us and tow if necessary.

10:00 am Monday.  Start engines for first time in two days.  Hard start!  Not good but finally, engine catches and off we go.  We decide not to warm it for obvious reasons.  We are concerned that it will die on wan back thru boats but no choice.

By the time we get back to the docks, the engine is hot again.  All way to top of red-line hot.  But, we bring her in on her own power.

Monday, everyone sleeps in and rests.

Tuesday and Wednesday.  With a mechanic, we start working to identify what is wrong.  It was squirting when we pulled away from the dock on Saturday and not squirting at all by the entrance to the bay.  We start at impellers even though it was only 6 months old.  Nope, it is good.  Look at pump,  nope it is working!  Hmmm .. scratch heads and start at front of system.

We opened the sea water strainer.  It had been cleaned the week before.  It is clear.  Check water to pump.  Yep.  Water from pump, yep.  Water from exhaust,  nope!

Water leaves pump goes thru hot water lines … to water block.  Does not come out!

OK?  Check thermostat.  Mechanic and I wince as we remove it and it makes a sound like a Frito being eaten and falls apart in his hands from rust.  Not good!  It is a truly sick sound.

It is a 40 year old diesel.  He is rubbing his head thinking of where in Mexico we can find another.  Hahaha …  I have two in spares.

Then we look at the thermostat housing.  No sea water is by passing the thermostat.  This is evidently not a new problem as it takes three separate drill bits, small, little bigger, and as big as fits to cleat the thermostat bypass sea water in.  Kind of sounds like a dentist drilling.

We check the thermostat.  It works.  The bypass is open.  No water from the water muffler.  Head scratching again.

Another related fact, three weeks ago I had replaced the exhaust elbow with a ‘new’ one because it was nearly rusted thru.  The new one was less thana year old from a boat that had pulled its MD 17 Volvo, same engine we use.  I tested it before installation to make sure that the water bath was open and exhaust indeed mixed.

Our eyes turn slowly to the new part.  We decide to take it off.  Sure enough it too is blocked by what is almost concrete.  You make this substance from scale, calcium, a little sand, and heat.  Yep, they plugged the exhaust, then we heated it really well and you get a very nice cement in your exhaust line.  Took a coat hanger and a Mikita drill and snaked the passage.

Once open, took to dock and ran fresh water … what came out looked like a Pelican attack on the dock.  But, when reinstalled (after drilling another hole in the inside tube as a safety), we started having full water exhaust again.  The engine now stays in the green between the E and the M on the word TEMP in the gauge.

We also decided to replace all the hot water lines as when you squeezed them plaque fell out.  Like the boat was having a hear attack from narrowing of its coronary arteries.  Now … no more chest pain.  Go little engine!

Then we started on the fuel lines to see why we had such a hard time starting it.  Short version.  Torn diaphragm on the fuel pump.  Had a spare.  Had what looked like tobacco juice in bottom of Racor.  Removed entire unit and cleaned and replaced the filter.

Then, we looked at the primary fuel filter in the engine.  It was water logged.  Seems that when the Racor gets that dirty, pressure goes up and water is passed thru to the primary.

We have just cleaned the fuel in the primary tank.  Removing about an inch of fuel in the bottom that has water and ‘dust’ in it.  It had settled out over the year we have been at the docks and was around the intake tube in the tank.

Added a squeeze ball to the fuel line so you can pressurize it when clearing air from lines for bleeding the lines after work.  Nice trick from the mechanic.

Took time away from working on boat to go to the monthly ‘swap meet’.  Another gathering, this time of ‘old sailors’.

SwapMeet

We hear this morning from the rumor mill that the story is spreading that we were sinking as we returned to the docks.  Turns out that I had left the sea cocks open and the boat was taking on water.    This is in spite of our ‘thank you’ a few days ago on the morning radio net to the people who tried to contact us and to the boat that hailed us. We thanked everyone for ‘probably’ saving our engine.  This is in spite of staying for a day and a half in the Mogote at anchor.  And, this is in spite of Spiritus being brought to the docks under her own power.

Sometimes, you have to just scratch your head and ask, where do these stories come from?

Tomorrow, we are adding a dedicated starting battery to the lazarette.  We currently have two 200 amp gel cells that do everything.  But, we have added solar and vastly reduced the boats dependence on engine alternator charging.  But, the usage we put them to cam sometimes deplete them below a safe starting voltage.  Hence, perhaps, our hard start to get to the docks.

So after talking it over, Lady Spiritus, demanded a back up plan for starting.  A new AGM Optima starter battery.  And, we are separating the now house bank off so that the starter battery cannot accidentally be drawn down.

Day after tomorrow, Wednesday, February 12, 2014, in the early morning, we leave for La Cruz again to catch up with Senta II.  Maybe the third time will be the charm.

In retrospect, the near disaster was probably a blessing in disguise as we had other issues that could have jeopardized a safe crossing of the Sea of Cortez to the mainland.  But, over the last five days, Spiritus has had the best maintenance and upgrades she has had in years.

It will take us about 6 days to get to La Cruz.  We will have a full moon to sail by at night and the winds are shaping up nicely.  As always, safety first,  A boat was lost on this passage just a few days ago.

Wish us luck!  It is Carolyn’s first big sail.  And, the first big sail for Spiritus since last year’s (2012) Baja ha ha !

Maybe I better go check the sea cocks.