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Calou's Blog
Cruising with the crew of CALOU on the Baja Ha-ha and Pacific Puddle Jump
Water Taxi
06/13/2010, Barra de Navidad

Antoine on the Water Taxi on the way to Barra de Navidad.

Mexico Sailing Trip 2008-2011
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Antoine's Birthday
06/11/2010, Barra de Navidad

Antoine celebrated his 12th birthday in Barra de Navidad. Antoine has celebrated three of his last four birthdays while sailing in Mexico.

Mexico Sailing Trip 2008-2011
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Prop rope
06/11/2010, Barra de Navidad

We had a diver clean the bottom of the boat today, and he asked for a knife to cut away a rope that was wound around the prop. Believe it or not, we had a one inch diameter (25 mm) rope wound around the propeller!

No wonder we had trouble running the engine in reverse!

The rope is the type that's used by fishermen to support long line buoys.

Mexico Sailing Trip 2008-2011
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Approaching Barra
06/08/2010, Barra de Navidad, Mexico

Here's a photo of our boat as it makes it approach to Barra, taken by a hotel guest on shore who was kind enough to find us and email us the photo later on.

Mexico Sailing Trip 2008-2011
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Long passage from Ixtapa to Barra
Bruce
05/30/2010

We departed 8 a.m. Thursday morning from Ixtapa, heading north to Barra de Navidad. We were going against 20 knot winds and an adverse current, so the going was slow. Bashing against big waves and running 30 degrees against the wind, if we used only the sails the best we could manage was 3 or 4 knots. Likewise, with just the motor, 3 or 4 knots. With both motor and sails together we could manage 5 to 6 knots. We estimated the 180 mile trip would take about 30 hours.

Pascale took the helm in the evening, so that I could do the graveyard watch from 1 to 7 a.m. At 2 a.m. the engine suddenly died. I had Pascale take over, steering the boat on course under sail while I took a look at the engine.

When a diesel engine quits, it's because it isn't getting fuel. I checked the two primary and one secondary filters. I switched from primary filter #1 to #2, and I changed the seconday filter. Then, as always when a diesel runs out of fuel, I bled the injectors, and finally got the engine started, 1.5 hours later.

We continued all night and into the morning, when Pascale took over and I went to bed. Later in the afternoon, at 3 p.m., we were getting close to Manzanillo, and the engine died again. At least this time we weren't in the dark. I checked the filters, bled the jets, and got the engine started again after an hour. By this time we were getting tired and it was getting late... we would no longer be able to make it to Barra in daylight. So we decided to head to Manzanillo and drop anchor at Las Hadas. We dropped anchor just as the sun was setting, had a very light snack, and then the entire crew drifted off to blissful sleep. I noticed, that when I had the boat in reverse gear, I could not get the engine up to normal rpms.

The next morning we had a leisurely breakfast and pulled up the anchor at 11 a.m. As I applied throttle in forward gear, I found I could only get the engine up to idle speed, even at full throttle. Putting the boat into neutral, I revved the engine and it went up to the normal 2500 rpm. Putting it into forward gear again, it went into the normal 2500 rpm this time. (very strange).

We counted our blessings and headed back out to sea, hoping to make the passage from Manzanillo to Barra in 4 to 5 hours. The morning sea state was better now, smaller swells (3 to 4 feet instead of the 6 to 8 foot waves we had the day before). Running with both the sails and the engine we were able to maintain 6 to 7 knots most of the way.

By the afternoon the winds had increased again to 24 knots, and we had big waves again, right on the nose. We were about 1 hour from Barra, and eagerly anticipating our imminent arrival, and suddenly the engine died. Again.

This time I started to analyze the fuel system. I found that I could not get fuel from the tanks to the filters. Perhaps there's some blockage in the tanks (like algae buildup and scum?) In other words, there was no fuel flow coming out of the tanks going into the filters. No wonder the engine was having trouble!

We had two 5 gallon jerry cans on deck with diesel fuel in them. I jury rigged a rubber hose leading from a jerry can in the cockpit, down the the input of one of the fuel filters.

Now all of a sudden I was getting fuel at the fuel injector pump bleed screw, whereas before I was not getting much.

But then, Francois, who was at the wheel, said we had to tack, as we were getting too close to shore. So I joined Francois and Pascale in the cockpit to help with the tacking manoeuvre. We tacked and hove to.

When I got back to the engine, the bleed screw that I had set aside on a tray, had fallen into the bilge under the engine. The bleed screw was gone, I couldn't find it. Without the bleed screw, there would be no way to get the engine started. What's more, with the excellent fuel flow now coming from the elevated jerry can, we had a geyser of fuel coming out of the hole where the bleed screw was. I had to have Pascale keep a finger on the hole to stop the fuel flow while I searched for the bleed screw.

Unable to find it, I looked for another same sized metric bolt elsewhere on the engine that might be non-essential. I located a bolt holding a bracket, tried it out, and it was the right size but 1/4 inch too long. I got out the grinder and cut off the end of the bolt to make it fit. Success! The newfound bolt fit the bleed screw hole perfectly. After bleeding the air out of the injectors, I got the engine started and we ran the engine off of that jerry can, all the rest of the way to Barra.

We arrived in the harbor, weary and grateful, around 6 PM (the attached photo was taken by a guest at the hotel). We thought the drama was over. This was not to be.

We pulled into the harbor and approached our slip. We wanted to back into the slip stern-in, so I took the boat past the slip, planning to back into the slip afterwards. I put the boat in reverse gear and... nothing. The engine won't turn more than 1000 rpm. I have no ability to stop the boat's forward motion, much less back it up into the slip. We narrowly missed colliding with the bows of some other boats in the marina. Luckily there were guys on the dock to help us. We instead pulled into another slip further down the marina where we could go bow-in.

So here we are, trying to figure out what has gone wrong. We are thinking that the culprit is dirty fuel tanks, and possibly some of the dirt has gotten into the fuel injection pump.

Mexico Sailing Trip 2008-2011
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05/30/2010 | John
Man, it was one thing after another for you. Although not funny at the time I'm sure, reading about the lost bleed screw was pretty funny, especially after reading about all the other problems you had up until then. Of course the engine picked the dead middle of the night, right after your watch finished of course, to stop. It seems these things always happen at night. And then you had to deal with strong headwinds and current on top of it all. Well at least you got a taste of what a bash back to CA could be like. And you had a memorable passage as well.

As for me, I enjoyed two great days of sailing in San Pablo Bay. It seems summer may have finally arrived.
05/31/2010 | Judy
Wow! I'm glad you're all inventive, but I'm wondering if you don't need to find a native Shaman to chase the poltergeists (or whatever impish spirits live in Mexico) away from your boat.
06/02/2010 | Bruce Powell
Judy, actually, fuel problems during a passage with rough weather (big waves) is very common. Dirt and water (and even air) in the tanks get mixed up with the fuel andwhen they get sent to the engine, cause all sorts of havoc.
Also, the entire fuel system is under vacuum from the tanks to the fuel pump [at the engine], so the most minute leak can result in air bubbles getting in the fuel line, which will stop the engine cold.

I'm researching ways to make the system more robust. Oneof them being, to install 12V fuel pumps at the fuel tanks, so the fuel lines are under pressue, not a vacuum. So if there's a leak, it's fuel leaking out, not air getting in. That would (a) keep the engine running and (b) make the leak easier to detect.
Last night in Ixtapa
05/27/2010

It was our last night in Ixtapa, we had a celebratory dinner at a nice restaurant with Alex and Minerva, and Greg and Elisan of s/v Sapphire.

Mexico Sailing Trip 2008-2011
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Huge Surf at Ixtapa Marina
05/23/2010, Ixtapa, Guerrero, Mexico


We're finally ready to set sail (rebuilt engine and new gearbox in place), but we can't because the channel is closed for a few days at least, due to huge breaking waves at the channel entrance.

Mexico Sailing Trip 2008-2011
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Mother's Day in Ixtapa
05/09/2010

While Pascale was asleep, Antoine stayed up late decorating the salon in our boat with a "Happy Mother's Day" banner, and dozens of red paper hearts. Pascale had a nice surprise when she got up this morning!

Mexico Sailing Trip 2008-2011
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05/13/2010 | Jonathan
Hello! A friend suggested I troll sailing blogs and forums to find a summer adventure/possible job. I apologize for the unexpected message, but, well, here goes: I'm a 4th year jr. high teacher/tutor living in Walnut Creek, CA (all core subjects, esp. English, and also Bible, photography, volleyball), 29 years old, very fit, with sailing experience (including some racing in Marina Del Rey) and EMT trained. Jack of several trades (including cooking, guitar, etc). Are you willing/able to point me towards any wholesome people needing crew for a voyage this summer? Priority would go to a boat where I could earn some supplemental income or at least have expenses paid (especially a family with kids that I can tutor/teach onboard while also crewing). Crewfile and other sites haven't really turned up anything like this, so I hope word of mouth might! Again, sorry for any inconvenience, but I do hope to hear from you. Thank you!

-Jonathan Vince
05/19/2010 | deb and ian
you may have seen or heard about our grounding in zihua bay on may 5. there is alot of damage and we're still looking for advice on where to do some of it. it's too expensive to haul out in ixtapa, but we can get to manzanillo. any experience with repair there? all advice gratefully accepted.thanks, deb and ian
05/30/2010 | Bruce Powell
hi Jonathan,

My first answer is, I don't know anyone who is sailing in Mexico in the summer, because that is the hurricane season down here. Anyone with any sense parks their boat in a safe "hurricane hole" for the duration of the season, which is roughly July 1 to November 1. We ourselves have just sailed our boat to Barra de Navidad, where we plan to leave it until November.

Second, the opportunity to earn income is very rare unless you find some very wealthy captain. Most cruisers are of modest means.

That being said, we might like to have a crew member with us for our planned sail next November, south to Panama.

The caveats are, that all sailing plans are drawn in the sand at low tide. Everything is subject to change, at the whims of luck, nature, mechanical breakdowns, or the whims of the crew. It is impossible to stick to any kind of time table.

If you are still interested I would suggest we stay in touch between now and November.

Thanks for commenting on our b

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