11/20/2009, Still in San Carlos
Okay so here's a quick update on us. The boat is finally ready. The oil leak turned out to be a bad crush washer on an oil line banjo bolt. I was advised to reanneal the one I have by Les on Gemini. He had a Yanmar with the same problem and said finding those crush washers was nearly impossible. I ran into Omar the mechanic and he wanted to know if I found the source of my leak. I told him I had to re-anneal and he told me to go see Martin at the Diesel Laboratorio. I went straight away and Martin had the washers. At first he looked at my 5/16" banjo bolt and grimmaced but then he found some. They were 6 pesos each but I didnt care I bought a dozen. I should have enough of those now to last the lifespan of 4 Yanmars.
These washers are a pain to install. I had to almost completely remove the exhaust manifold just to get the banjo bolt out since it was in the way. To put it back I had to hold one washer behind the oil line while trying to cram the specialized banjo bolt in the tiny space and not drop anything. As anybody who owns a boat knows, these are the perfect circumstances for a disaster. But I was prepared. I had not one, not two, but TWELVE washers. I almost had things in when BAM I dropped the specialized banjo bolt. it didnt make the typical "tink, tink, thud" that is usually associated with it falling into the sump pan but it also didnt make the "tink, tink, plunk" that accompanies it falling through the impossibly small hole into the oily oblivion in the bottom of the bilge.
After both Kristina and I tried for hours to find the bolt I remembered that I had a nice tidy little bag of oily spare parts from the cylinder head job. The odds of finding this special oil return banjo bolt here in Mexico were slim to none so I was really hoping to score in my spare bag. I dug for a few minutes and found TWO, hooray! I carefully installed the new banjo bolt and crush washers being careful not to over-torque the bolts. The last thing I wanted was to have to drill out a headless banjo bolt.
anyway after torquing down the exhaust manifold I fired up the motor and let it run for half an hour with a clean paper town underneath it and not a drop of oil appeared.
We were pretty much ready to go at this time but I had landed a gig helping a local businessman with his security system in town and had to postpone our departure. We had decided to leave by mid november either way but we found out that Shannon from Sweetie was going to be making a rare trip down to San Carlos to have Thanksgiving on their boat. Kristina insisted we should stay and have a nice leisurely reunion from Thanksgiving 2007 here in San Carlos aboard Sweetie.
Shannon was coming down for the entire week and Kris was looking very much forward to hiking with Shannon as Shannon is quite the accomplished hiker and it had been along time since they got to spend time with eachother. The day they went for their hike I got it in my head that I wanted to go sailing and sort out some more shake down stuff.
Since Estrella now has an autopilot, an electric windlass and a working diesel engine I thought it would be a perfect time to go do some single handing.
Kristina took the dinghy and went off to meet up with Shannon and I pulled up the anchor and set out for the harbor mouth. It was only blowing about 15 and there was a bit of a sea running but overall things were manageable. I decided that since the wind was borderline for the reacher I would play around with the jib and mainsail. This proved a wise decision as the autopilot was pretty quickly overpowered by the weather helm.
Not wanting to reef down in 13 knots of wind I just dropped the main. I had significantly reduced weather helm after I dropped the main. I tried to tack the boat without a mainsail and the sea stopped me in my tracks. Evidently no weather helm also means no tacking without the main in lightish air and a seaway.
I decided that the correct thing to do at this point was to hoist the main and bang a reef in to flatten it and work my way upwind to get the balance right. I also realized that the boat was pretty minimally stowed and I didnt want to have a giant mess to clean up when I got back so instead I gybed the headsail and reached my way back to San Carlos under jib alone. Soon I was cooking along at over 5 knots and I actually had a little lee helm. The holy grail of my boat is lee helm and I had managed to get some. It wasn't much but it'd do.
So after returning to the harbor and anchoring Kristina returned from her hike and told me all about how hurricane Jimena had all but annihilated the tropical micro climate they had gone to Nacapule Canyon to see.
Much to our delight Pisces and Tao had returned and completed their dry storage refits and splashed their boats around this time and anchored near us. It was nice to see these folks again. Come turkey day Pisces and Tao had a cozy little get together and had Arrachera beef tacos for their turkey day feast. Kristina made her famous sweet potato casserole. Kristina decided to take the full baking responsibilities and threw together a lovely pumpkin pie as well. Shannon made a lovely Turkey, baked fresh rolls and made the most delightful creamed brussel sprout dish. We had WAY more food than we could eat and even though we were missing Jason Rose it was a great turkey day reunion and a grand time was had by all. Jason is excused from the reunion as he and his boat are in New Zealand.
Turkey Day 2007
Turkey day 2009
The day after Thanksgiving we got together with Tony and Shannon for a movie and realized that our visas would expire in January. Tony and Shannon graciously offered to allow us to ride along with them up to Phoenix thus saving us to cost of a rental car and housing. We had intended on renting a car and staying in a motel 6 in Tucson to extend our visas but yet again the Morrellis come to our rescue.
We had a relatively uneventful trip to the border. Arizona was very cold and we were really feeling the motivation to get our boat to the tropics. We had a lovely time with Tony and Shannon, Shannon, sadly had a lot of work to do so we didnt see much of her but Tony drove us all around Phoenix and we got to get a last costco run in before returning south.
With a little luck we should be out of here and south within the first week of December. Fingers Crossed.
11/02/2009, San Francisquito to San Carlos (102 nautical miles)
Once we finally woke up from the trip over we discovered ourselves anchored in a lovely little bay. Our decision to wait till the following day to head to Bahia Los Angeles was based entirely on the theory that Hurricane Rick would continue to dominate the area and provide us with light southerlies to ride north.
Lovely shot of us in San Fracisquito
When I tuned into Geary's weather on the Sonrisa net, the latest news was that Rick had parked himself over cold water well south of Cabo San Lucas. The forecast now called for a possible grazing of Cabo and landfall occuring in the vicinity of Mazatlan. By parking over cold water Rick had already weakened to a tropical storm. What this meant for our plans was that the storm was no longer powerful enough to dominate the weather in the area. Consequently our light southerlies turned into strong northerlies.
For the next 2 days we rode out strong northers in the 20-30 knot range. The bay remained pretty flat with small wave action not building until the end of the last day. We found a tiny bit of wifi in the bay but since we have no booster antenna and found no cellular signal we raised the anchor and let the wind push us into shallower water closer to shore. We reanchored in 8' of water and got a sliver of internet out of it. We still had to sit in the cockpit at the aft edge to get a connection. We're definitely after a wifi booster now just to fill the 3G gaps.
Since we all decided to stay in San Francisquito I had fantasized about digging out the dive gear and going after some of the fish that would certainly be around these precipitous points. Sadly it was seriously cold in the bay. The water was below 75 degrees and the air temps were dropping into the high 60s. I'm sure if you're sitting in the midwest right now these temps sound ideal but I can assure you that after a summer in the Sonora desert you would find those temperatures as horrifying as I did. Of course my fond memories of spearfishing in the sea involved diving in my lycra skin suit and staying in the water all day, at sub 75 degree temps I'd have to wear a wetsuit and jump out after a couple hours.
The cat has decided she doesn't want to come in through the companionway in the mornings, she'd much rather jump in through the V-berth hatch and land on a sleeping stomach to better motivate breakfast.
First attempt at white bread.
For breakfast on our last morning in San Francisquito we decided to have a nice balanced breakfast of bacon, eggs and toast with homefries with sauteed green peppers and onions. The weather forecast called for flattening seas and lighter conditions for the next day, Our favorite sailmaker was back in town in San Carlos and we wanted to see him before he left for Phoenix on Monday. The weather was supposed to be light on thursday with an ideal sailing breeze on Friday and lovely conditions on Saturday. Since we dont leave on a Friday our options were to leave on Thursday or Saturday. If something went wrong and the increasingly fickle weather forecast changed we could fail to leave on Saturday which would mean we'd miss Tony. The big deal about missing Tony is we like him a great deal and he isnt coming back down until the 15th of november and its our goal to be in mazatlan by the 18th so if we miss Tony this time we might never see him again, okay at least not for a few months or a year.
So we were officially making a momentous decision. We were going to go be in a certain place by a certain time. This may not seem like much but its something we've never yet pulled off on this boat.
We went over to visit with Festima Lente on Thursday afternoon and enjoyed a nice visit for a few hours and made plans to meet up again in Mazatlan.
The wind seemed like it was filling in so around 1500 we quickly hoisted the pram on deck and fired up the motor. We optomistically hoisted the main as we exited the inner harbor only to find a windless sea on the outside.
After discovering that my little Dell mini-9 netbook is only drawing 500 milliamps I have started using Coastal Explorer as an additional chartplotter as we make our passages, it gives us something to entertain us as we plot our way across the sea.
We tried to motor-sail using the reacher for a bit but soon the wind died and the reacher started to back so we rolled it in and sheeted the main in tight. We decided to make our first 100 mile passage of this cruise and shoot straight for San Carlos. The route I plotted would be 102 miles and assuming an average of 4 knots we would arrive 24 hours after leaving San Francisquito.
There was significant tidal action in the deep waters surrounding San Francisquito and we soon found ourselves motoring along at over 7 knots with our engine at 2200 RPMs. At this rate we would arrive well under the 24 hour mark.
As we approached Isla San Pedro Martir, Kris checked the hand line and saw nothing and a split second later, I looked back to see our handline bar taut and no longer trailing behind us. Whatever was on the hand line was swimming alongside the cockpit as we made over 7 knots of speed over the ground. It was also disrupting a large area of the water's surface much the way whales do when their powerful bodies swim near the surface. I grabbed the hand line and pulled on it only to find it was way too loaded for me to pull on. I was trying to figure out what was on the other end of the line, hoping it would leap out of the water and identify itself before mercifullyly releasing itself leaving our handline intact. I started to look for a piece of string to tie a rolling hitch with so I could take the hand line to a sheet winch and pull this monster in when it made some kind of underwater maneuver and my line went slack. I was grateful to see that the monster had gotten off of my hook and didn't take my precious lure. Whatever it was I wasnt sure if I would land it or it would land me.
We spent the next few minutes speculating as to what that monster might have been. We figure it was either a huge bull dorado or a billfish of some kind. Just as we were discussing whether or not it could have been our first big dorado I looked back to see a huge dorado skipping limply along across our wake on the end of our hand line. I fairly easily pulled this one in but getting this beast on board was a bit more involved. Just the same I landed a 42" female dorado without the use of a gaff. She was exhausted so that sort of ruled out the theory that the previous fish was a dorado. I had to kill this one partially with some alcohol in the gills just so I could handle it without splattering the cockpit with blood. I quickly fileted it and we decided to leave the hand line out of the water overnight. I am now convinced that if you want to catch large fish go to Isla San Pefro Martir just off the coast of Baja near bahia San Francisquito. I have to attribute the deep cold water and the precipitous volcanic island to the easy fishing. I also need to thank Bevan and Lisa Davern for our best lure on the boat. They gifted us a black and purple squid rig that has caught us 3 dorado so far.
Biggest fish I ever caught, 42" Dorado (Mahi Mahi)
As the sun set the motor was running perfectly and our speed had barely dropped to 6 knots despite running the weak 20 horsepower engine at 2200 rpms. Kristina was feeling well and I decided to hit the sack an hour early and forego dinner. Kris baked an instant cornbread loaf and threw a can of turkey chili in a small pot while I hit the sack. The pilot berth was pretty warm so I moved up to the colder cockpit and slept under a blanket for an hour or so before returning to the pilot berth. Kristina had a totally uneventful night watch spent watching TV on the netbook until around midnight when she woke me up for my watch.
Baja sunset. Goodnight baja
I warmed up my half of the chili and had some cornbread and honey butter after I noted our position. We had made great distance putting on almost 30 miles in 5 hours while conserving diesel running at 2/3rds power. I topped up the tank with a 5 gallon jerry jug and pulled off the engine cover to check on the oil leak. Both paper towels were soaked to the corners and there was a small pool of about half a quart of oil. I have started storing a gatorade squirt bottle full of motor oil to make it easier to add small amounts of oil to the tranmission. I dumped most of a 600ml gatorade bottle into the running engine to top up the oil and put the cover back on before settling in for some TV watching of my own.
Having the autopilot is a revalation. Watches are far less stressful and life under way is considerably more luxurious. I went on deck from time to time to make sure the wind didnt kick up and overpower the main causing the autopilot to error out. I was so comfortable on watch that I decided to let Kristina sleep in and just keep kicking along. I alternated between hanging out down below and relaxing in the cooler cockpit.
I decided to go out into the cockpit to take in the sunrise when the mountains on the horizon started to turn deep orange. I was starting to feel a bit sleepy but I was eager to watch the sunrise. So I moved to the port side of the cockpit and kicked back in one of our reclining cockpit seats and settled in to watch the sunrise.
The motor was humming along and I was almost hypnotized by the glassy sea when my peace was suddenly shattered by an enormous bottlenosed dolphin leaping completely out of the water not six feet away from my nose and easily within 18 inches of the port side stanchion gate. As the powerful sillhouette pierced the deep orange hue, the magestic creature bent it's nose downward toward the sea and plunged in almost a hooked bellyflop into the deep. I'm not usually one to attempt prose or one for overstatement but my limited writing skills cant do this encounter justice. It lasted seconds and startled me into exclaiming "Whoa!" My brain was startled and thats what came out. I would think ususally such an encounter is followed by a pod of dolphins playing around the boat, but this dolphin encounter was a solitary one. It was without a doubt the strangest wildlife encounter of my cruising days so far.
The rest of the passage passed uneventfully. We continued to make excellent time after the sun rose. Kristina awoke on her own around 0700 and chided me for not waking her. I decided I'd have a cat nap while Kris took us the rest of the way to San Carlos. We had expected to pull into San Carlos around 1500hrs assuming a 4 knot average and a 24 hour passage. Instead we pulled into San Carlos at 10:00 just shy of 19 hours after leaving San Francisquito. Averaging almost 5.5 knots the whole way. The motor had lost some more oil but nothing too alarming.
picture taken after I removed 750ml of oil from the sump pan.
We launched the dinghy and immediately went ashore to have lunch with Tony. We had for the first time successfully set a goal to be somewhere by a certain time and made it. Kristina was thrilled that we had made an overnight passage and had no adversity. We arrived refreshed and happy with a boat that had no major issues.
The plan now was to hang with Tony over the weekend then say our goodbyes. Spend the following week sorting out the oil leak and cleaning the van out so we can cut our ties with San Carlos for good and head south at last.
Stay tuned for more developments.
10/26/2009, San Carlos Sonora Mexico to Las Cocinas to San Franciquito, Baja California Norte Mexico
Rick intensified into the strongest Hurricane in the recorded history of the eastern pacific basin the day after we left San Carlos. Rick was about 350 miles south of Cabo San Lucas when we left and had only become a category 2 hurricane. Just the same we thought it best to get out. The forecast was for southerlies in the 5-10 knot range which would be perfect for a motorboat ride north and possibly across.
We went over and told Festima Lente that it was our intention to take off and after the beating they took in Jimena they were happy to join us. After running our errands in town and filling up with diesel and water at the fuel dock we motored past Festima Lente around 1300 hours as they were preparing to haul their inflatable dinghy on deck. We slowed down as we passed and Nan said "We're about 30 minutes from leaving." I said "Okay we'll just be sailing north, see you out there."
I figured they'd catch us up easily since their boat is 45' long and has a waterline length the size of our entire boat. They are heavier by far but they also have a massive engine.
We raised the main as we exited the harbor and I pushed the engine up to full power in an attempt to overheat it. After half an hour at full power the engine temp gauge read 180 degrees. 180 degrees is hotter than it should get but the temp alarm doesnt go off until it hits 200. after another 20 minutes the temp seemed to stabilize at about 184 degrees. I throttled back the engine confident that the temperature was stable, if a bit warm.
We were able to make 5 knots at around 2000 RPM and when I cranked us up to full bore (around 2600 RPM) we were only going half a knot faster so the fuel economy is right around 2000 RPM.
The cat was very unhappy about this passage as she remains terrified of the engine. We are hoping she'll get used to it since its not ideal to have to clean the cat after every passage. She urinates herself from fear every time we run the engine and there is any seaway at all. Consequently she has to ride in her cat carrier whenever we start the engine.
The plan had been to either motor to Las Cocinas, a lovely anchorage about 30 miles north of San Carlos, or turn left and go straight across the sea to bahia San Francisquito, about 100 miles distant. We decided due to the lack of wind to stay in Las Cocinas for the night.
We realized that we wouldn't be making it into the bay before dark but Festima Lente never did catch up to us so we would get to lead the way. Fortunately we have a good working radar unit and SV Valhalla heard us coming and flashed their spreader lights at us to help make our entry easier. On a dark and moonless night the anchorage couldnt have been blacker. You could barely make out the pointy rocks of the headland guarding it's entrance. Fortunately our radar showed a lovely little bight and even showed exactly where in that bight Valhalla was anchored.
Of course as we approached the southbound net came on and I was trying to listen to the latest weather update on Rick while we were making our entrance. My timing had been poor as we were task loaded while making a night entry. Listen to the weather while piloting into the anchorage in the pitch dark. We managed to hear that Rick had intensified to a Category 5 hurricane and could bring storm force winds as far north as San Carlos. We were feeling very good about our decision to head north.
We managed to get in and anchor but not before realizing that in all the excitement we had wrapped our hand line around our propellor. Our hand line is a 50' length of 250lb braided tuna line with a lure on the end and a rubber snubber at the boat to tell us when there is a fish on. This is the method we have used to catch all of our fish. I imaigne its not as fun as using a rod and reel setup but we're not fishing for the fun of it, we want to eat fish. Basically when that snubber goes taut we pull on the hand line and usually there is a nice fish on the end. On this trip, however, the only thing we managed to catch with our hand line was our propellor.
We settled in for the night and had some cup o noodles for dinner. We didn't really feel like cooking a big meal.
The following morning the sun rose and we got to see Las Cocinas anchorage for the first time. The water was very clear if a bit green and the anchorage was lovely and typical of the sea of cortez.
Every morning I switch on our sideband radio and tune in the Sonrisa net on 3968Mhz LSB at 0630 MST to listen to the weather from Geary. Geary has lived in El Burro cove in the Bay of Concepcion on the Baja peninsula for many years broadcasting his weather forecasts on his ham radio from his beach front palapa. Geary is great in that he really tries to forecast the Sea of Cortez in detail as he has lived here long enough to have a grasp on the local idiosyncrasies of the weather. I dont say that he "tries" because I mean to slight him in any way, in fact I think he is the most accurate forecaster available in the sea (we have about 3) but the sea is incredibly difficult to forecast. You cant just look at the weather patterns and know whats going to happen, the mountains and water temperatures and many local phenomenon dominate the area making it nearly impossible to forecast accurately. Geary called for light south easterlies for the next 2 days.
We contemplated staying in Cocinas for the day but thought better of it and decided to leave. I called Festima Lente and they were already making preparations to pull up anchor. I decided to stay another half hour so that we could top up our batteries. This would later prove to have been an excellent decision. The breeze started to freshen to about 6 or 7 knots out of the west-southwest which wasn't ideal but since it was so light it meant we could sail. Had the winds been behind us we would have had to pop out our big light air spinnaker to make any speed at all. As a boat sails it creates its own wind, known as "apparent wind" that can either amplify the "true wind" (e.g. when going into the wind) or it can nullify it when going downwind. If its blowing 5 knots true behind you, and you're moving 5 knots away from it, then you will feel an "apparent wind" of 0 knots. No sail can fill and pull you along when there is 0 knots pushing it. So having the wind on the nose in this case was somewhat advantageous.
We decided partially for the cat's benefit and partially for the fun of it that we would sail off the hook.
Festima Lente's view of us barreling down on them.
We found out later that Festima Lente did the same out of neccesity when an air bubble shut their engine down as they were pulling up their anchor. Kristina hoisted the mainsail as I pushed the button on our lovely electric windlass to retrieve our anchor from the bottom. Our anchor soon locked into the roller with 10lbs of thick muddy sand on board and we rolled out our fancy new furling reacher.
Loving the big "nitro-reacher".
Estrella heeled ever so slightly and we were off to the races. Festima Lente was making way not far ahead of us and in these light conditions we had the weight advantage and quickly flew past them. They were hoisting their staysail and making about three knots and we were bombing along past them at a whopping four and a half.
"Ol Festy" in our sights
Festy looking sharp
Kris steering for fun
As we sailed on a nearly due westerly course (~280 degrees) the wind began to freshen, we were now sailing into closer to 10-12 knots of wind which was creating quite a load on our giant reacher so I furled it and rolled out the genoa, sadly this took our speed down to three knots. So my options were three easy knots or five and a half knots with more load. I elected to roll out the reacher and make it work. Fortunately my paranoia about the sprit and the general installation of the furling reacher proved unfounded. We smoked along at around five knots for the next few hours.
And we're off...
We had been sailing somewhat north of our desired course for some time for two reasons. We agreed that a close reach is more managable and comfortable than a close haul and we assumed the wind was going to die at some point and leave us motoring. Tony's lesson to me about making boats go fast was starting to really make sense. Why beat dead upwind in light air and go three knots when you can crack off 15 degrees and go five knots, your overall VMG (velocity made good) will improve. This means that by going faster in a direction that is slightly away from your destination you will arrive at your destination sooner than if you point straight at it and go slowly.
We criss crossed Festima Lente from time to time as we worked our way further upwind.
I played around with sailing a bit more upwind at times and cracking off to get a feel for how the boat handled and to lay a course to steer us well north of Isla San Pedro Martir, our only obstacle on this crossing. We wouldn't come to Isla San Pedro Martir until sometime around midnight so it was a bit premature but it was fun nonetheless and, after all the wind should die any minute, right? Well if anything the wind was building slightly but staying in the 10-12 knot range and making for really amazing sailing. Estrella was heeled to starboard about 10 degrees and the reacher was hurtling us across the miles. Several times my tom foolery caused us to cross the bow of Festima Lente taking pictures the whole way. Greg and Nan should have a great catalogue of pictures to help them sell their boat.
We have to rerun our wind vane self steering control lines and havent bothered to yet because of how magnificently our wheel pilot has been working. I had adjusted the autopilot motor mount to make the drive belt that turns the wheel super tight and discovered during this crossing that by not making the little lever go all the way over to the other side and engage the locking cam I had made an autopilot that steered perfectly but that would pop itself out of tension. Amazingly even the loose belt was steering us so we barely noticed the problem. I managed to adjust the autopilot bracket under way and temporarily solve the problem. When we get where we're going i'll have to properly calibrate that mount.
Around 1500hrs I decided I should go get a nap to prepare for the evening watch schedule. When sailing a boat into the night, international maritime law as well as common sense dictate that a person must be awake and watching the horizon for hazards. Different people have different standards for watch standing. We have an open cockpit, which means we're very much exposed to the elements. Consequently we tend to stay below and watch the radar while we watch movies to pass the time, we usually get up every 15-20 minutes and confirm that what the radar is telling us is accurate. Obviously if we have traffic or there is something that requires monitoring we stand watch until the danger is passed.
We have heard of european cruising couples arriving well rested after a 30 day crossing from Panama to the Marquesas that were shocked to hear that people didnt just go to sleep at night and let the boat sail itself till morning. At the same time we've met american cruisers who were shocked that we dont spend every waking minute of our watch with our eyeballs planted firmly on the horizon and our head on a swivel. To each their own, there are many right ways.
No sooner had I crawled into the V-berth for a nap when Kristina hollered down the companionway to me "Sorry to wake you but FISH ON!" I will never complain about catching a fish so I went up on deck and pulled the line in. We've been eagerly awaiting our first Dorado after having been almost a total bust last time around and sure enough a beautiful iridescent green female dorado was exhausted on the end of our lure. Who knows how long we drug her before Kris noticed she was on the line. I hauled her in and we took a quick photograph before I dispatched her and made lovely filets, bagged them, cleaned up and crawled back into the vee berth, 15 minutes later Kris yelled "Fish on!" We had debated not putting the line in a second time since we had all the fish we needed but I love arriving in an anchorage with fish to hand out so I had asked for this one. This time we got an even bigger bull dorado. Still not the 60 inchers people usually get but nice sized eating fish. I repeated the process and when the fish was in the fridge the wind had gotten up even more so I stayed on deck to change from the reacher to the genny again. This proved a poor idea yet again as the wind was evidently still not strong enough for the genny to keep our speed above 3 knots. I rolled up the genoa and rolled the big reacher back out. I depowered the main to ease some of the weather helm and proceeded to make dinner.
First ever edible Dorado
Number 2 caught 15 minutes later.
We feasted on a simple, yet decadent meal of fresh grilled dorado and rice on our swanky new cockpit table as the sun set behind Baja.
As night fell Festima Lente hailed us to let us know that their speed had dropped to around two and a half knots and that their batteries were running pretty low so they were going to fire up the motor and catch us up a bit while charging their batteries. This reminded me to check our battery banks and we were still more than half charged. I figured if the wind held up we could sail through the night without draining them much more than the healthy 50% charge cycle to which we try to adhere.
When it came time for Kristina to stand her watch she awoke some some serious stomach cramps. She had sypmtoms we could only attribute to food poisoning, since I overcooked the Dorado and it had been alive mere minutes before we ate it, we concluded her distress must have been due to the questionable burgers we had for lunch. Kristina tried very hard to stand her watch but I couldnt allow her to stay up and work the boat, especially under sail, while she was in her condition and so despite her insistence on standing her watch I sent her to bed and pushed on through the night.
At around 0300 the wind had all but died and I sheeted in the main and fired up the motor.
I'd like to think that ordinarily we could just drift along and wait for the wind to fill in later but at this time the tidal action had kicked up an annoying cross-sea so the motor was the way to go.
We left our mobile broadband adapter in all night and occasionally it would flash green indicating an internet connection was available. We've seen this happen before but never actually got connected to the internet. This time Skype started telling me that people were online, this meant internet access was actually available. I loaded all my weather sources and it actually worked. I wouldn't report that Telcel 3G mobile broadband works 50 miles offshore in the sea of cortez but I can say that we sure didnt mind this anomaly one bit. It only lasted about 10 minutes and was very slow but was definitely an unexpected bonus.
At this time I was starting to fade a bit but was rejuvenated when I was suddenly startledoil by a large twin explosion of bright green phosphorescence off the starboard beam. I thought for a moment a small whale had breached but realized that it was a pair of dolphins leaping 2 abreast in unison and causing a large splash. I suddenly became aware that there were streaks of phosphorescence darting all around the boat.
As the sun rose we could see patches of whirlpools and disrupted water from tidal action, fortunately our wheel pilot handled it perfectly just as it had through the whole crossing. The sunlight also exposed the fact that we were motoring through the largest pod of dolphins I have ever seen. Greg on Festima Lente estimates there were at least 200 dolphins and calves.
Festima Lente called us around sunrise to inquire about whether or not we wanted to continue the remaining 50 miles north to the Bay of LA. I was exhausted and Kristina was waking up feeling better but not very rested so we decided to tuck into San Francisquito and head north the next day.
The entrance to San Francisquito was narrow but we managed it without difficulty and got our anchor down in 15' of water.
I had considered dropping the dinghy in the water but as it turned out I spent pretty much the entire day sleeping.
Estrella managed to make the 80 mile crossing in 20 hours averaging 4 knots with only 4 hours engine time. Without our new light air reacher we would likely have motor-sailed the whole crossing. I should start a running tally of how many hours we sail on the reacher and calculate how much diesel that sail saves us. All in all, apart from Kristina's unrelated illness we had a fantastic crossing. This crossing was precisely what the doctor ordered. Despite having been a bit despondent a few times in the early morning due to exhaustion, the fact that we didn't have to steer, could use our radar to help us identify hazards and caught fish as we sailed across flat sea was a revelation.
We also discovered on this crossing that our Dell Inspiron Mini 9 we purchased only draws half an amp and can run coastal explorer and act as a 2nd chartplotter. It worked beautifully off of the NMEA connection we wired into our chartplotter/GPS system during the refit.
Tucked into the tiny inner bay at Bahia San Francisquito, first time in Baja since October 2007
10/17/2009, San Carlos Sonora Mexico
We've been battling some minor medical issues, the tail end of these never ending colds and kristina's headaches have been irrelevant since its been blowing like stink out of the north and pushing up big steep seas.
We finally saw an awesome weather window in the forecast. Northwesterlies decreasing to around 10-15 knots and dying down to become southerly 10 knots. We saw the window and decided to head north or west. We got hte boat sorted and planned to leave yesterday. We scraped a thick layer of barnacles off the dinghy and ran our errands in town. I realized then that it was a friday.
There is a longstanding superstition against leaving port on a friday. We have never been superstitious people, which might explain why we left port on a friday 3 times on our last cruise. The first time we left San Diego on a friday and lost our transmission, trapping us in ensenada for months. The next time we left on a friday we we got our asses kicked trying to get to Turtle bay and had the hardest passage of our lives. The third time, we left Mag Bay and lost our propshaft out of the back of the coupler, trapping us in Cabo for 6 weeks.
Conversely, in 2007, we decided not to tempt fate and wait until midnight plus 1 on a saturday morning to make our crossing of the Sea of Cortez. This meant we'd have to make a night entry into San Carlos but we were not confident that our coupler would hold together. We made it into San Carlos after a delightful crossing and got our anchor down before the prop-shaft backed out of the coupler. I consider that to have been a lucky passage since we didnt break down till we were safely anchored.
My superstition proved useful again as the afternoon wind blew like snot all afternoon, right from the direction we wanted to go.
Unfortunately while we were being superstitious hurricane Rick was born and intensified at a record rate. Here is a quote from the NHC page:
"RICK NABS ATTENTION WITH IT'S RAPID
EVOLUTION...INTERESTS IN SOUTHWESTERN MEXICO AND BAJA CALIFORNIAL SHOULD
MONITOR THE PROGRESSION OF THE HURRICANE"
"You dont have to do this, Rick.
This thing is very threatening, forecast to hit Category 5 before curving north toward Baja. Don Anderson says "This thing is a carbon copy of Jimena." Its still too soon to say whats actually going to happen but we need to figure out if we're going to try to flee to the northern sea or find a slip here in San Carlos. The big problem with the latter option is that its well into October now and this place is packed with returning boats. our friends on Harmony informed us that they just splashed their boat into the only available slip in Marina San Carlos. We're going to go talk to Francisco this morning and see if we can get a slip and if we cant we'll go to Marina Real.
Sounds like the cyclone season isn't done taking our money yet.
We'll work on keeping the blog updated while we sort out what we're gonna do.
10/12/2009, San Carlos Sonora Mexico
We were going to leave on Saturday to make our way north on the predicted southerlies toward the midriffs and to make our way across to Baja for a 2 week shake down cruise.
We had a debacle occur that kept us in town Saturday night and we had planned on meeting our friends on Festima Lente in Bahia San Pedro. The forecast was for light southerlies and we were awakened by a swelly 25 knot breeze blowing into the bahia here in San Carlos. We got lucky given how unprotected Pedro is from the southerlies. We have no interest in going out in big swells, its too much like adversity. We couldnt leave Sunday because the seas were still kickin. Today we had heavy rains from some cell in the neighborhood and there is now a tropical storm off of Cabo we need to watch.
Its looking like maybe we can leave on Wednesday but the flow is going to be northerly then so if we do we'll likely have to go across to the Baja. No promises yet but we're just going to have to be patient and wait for the stars to align in our favor. The boat is a couple tank fillings away from being ready to go so when things are right we'll take off.
Until then we'll just keep tweaking things on the boat to get her readier and readier.
Sorry no pics of us not leaving ;)
10/07/2009, San Carlos Sonora Mexico
Having been up to Bahia San Pedro once to put half the 20 necessary break-in hours on our engine the time had come for us to repeat the endeavor. The plan was to go up to Pedro and then maybe make our way up to Las Cocinas before returning to San Carlos to do the final valve adjustment and oil change required prior to being permitted to run the engine at full speed.
All the spare parts our used head came with are visible here with the exception of the 2 injectors which were away being serviced at the time. surprisingly the cat knocked none of them over. These parts might come in handy for the next owner, if we need them we're giving the boat away ;)
We departed San Carlos in the morning around 0800 and had another perfect departure. I pushed a button and up fired the motor, I pushed another buttom and up came the anchor, I flipped a lever and pushed a button and the autopilot was steering us. Our goals of effortless boring passagemaking were starting to seem achievable. We dug out an awning Kristina made while we were in La Paz that we never had the time to figure out how to rig and got it up over the cockpit keeping the sun off our heads.
Kristina Luxuriating with the cat while the autopilot steeres and the awning shades.
I decided it was time to push the envelope on good times aboard Estrella and asked Kristina to deploy our new cockpit table. Prior to acquiring this bad boy we had to set our food and beverages on the cockpit seats, not ideal by any stretch of the imagination. Now we have a large cockpit table that fits so perfectly it could have been original equipment. I went below and busted out the flour, eggs, butter and milk in an attempt to produce a nice pancake breakfast for us to feast upon under our new awning on our new cockpit table.
Cockpit table, awning, autopilot, working engine, flat seas, hooray.
The first two pancakes were small so I made "Mickey Mouse" pancakes while Kristina luxuriated in the shady cockpit and scanned the horizon for debris. Just as I was starting to prepare breakfast I got a call on the VHF from Gemini. They were right behind us and headed to Pedro as well. Les informed me that they were going to hug the coast and we watched as they motored at 8.4 knots along the coast as we were ambling along happily at 4.5 well offshore. Les warned me that he had heard reports of large chunks of debris being spotted by mariners in the area. Evidently the debris field from Hurricane Jimena was still having an impact on the waters, we were warned to keep a sharp eye out for refrigerators, furniture and even floating concrete dock segments.
Dont even need to use our spanking new cupholders, its calm enough to use the table like civilized people.
Time to dig in.
Fortunately for us we encountered none of those hazards and had our breakfast dished stowed before we hit the 15 knot headwind on the final approach to San Pedro bay. Kristina didnt want to hoist the mainsail because it was so nicely flaked and covered and she feared she would be saddled with restowing it when we arrived so we unrolled our new turbo charged genoa and tacked upwind into San Pedro. It was actual sailing and despite being upwind was a lot of fun. We tried to tack using the autopilot tacking feature and discovered that some of the spacers that keep the wheel drum aligned had fallen out and attempting a 100 degree course change causes the belt to come off the wheel. Not a big deal by any means but its on the list of things to fix more permanently when we return. When we got to Pedro we were immediately hailed by Gemini and invited over for pork taco lunch.
Motor-sail/tacking our way into San Pedro, K didnt want me to take the mainsail cover off so we just used the new turbo Genoa. Note the reefing dots Tony added to the jib for easy reference. Fun times.
We made the foolish decision to tow our dinghy the whole way and htat little headwind reminded us that we need to be more dilligent about stowing the dinghy on deck when we go out sailing. I was a bit worried to find that the outboard was barely attached to the transom when we arrived. Lesson learned.
Once we had the hook down we motored right over to Gemini and had a delightful lunch with them. We heard all about their boat and previous adventures and regaled them with some of our experiences. A great time was had by all and we departed making plans to meet up further north later in the season.
The following morning we awoke to a completely deserted anchorage. We were all alone for the first time since we got back. It was nice. Then a stormy cell came trucking up the sea and bring southwesterly swell into the bay and strong onshore winds.
We got to enjoy our electric windlass and working motor again as we pushed two out of three of our new favorite buttons. The engine didnt move us into the wind too well at just 1800 RPM but we didnt want to violate the break in period and just took our time getting the anchor up. We left the double reefed mizzen riding sail up as we motored across the wind. It was immediately evident that we wouldnt have enough power to turn up into the wind so I got a chance to test the strength of our new giant anchor roller.
I fed out chain until we had enough scope out and stopped the windlass and as usual the chain came to an almost immediate stop and all the weight of the boat was pinned to the side of the long roller arm. This would be where it should snap off or bend but it worked great. Remember thinking that it was almost as if there was a big metal eye anchored to the earth's core and we had clamped onto it. We immediately sprung around and were lying to the wind. I fed the snubber on and put our load on it instead of the chain. Sadly this spot was also quite rolly. Waves were breaking the length of the beach but we were in no danger. Life was a bit uncomfortable but Kristina had developed a persistant headache and was averse to the concept of going further away from San Carlos to seek shlter 14 miles to the north in the more protected Las Concinas anchorage.
We debated the merits all day and by the time she was feelin better it was already 5:30 and we were losing daylight. She wanted to pull up the hook and try to return to San Carlos. We figured it doesnt hurt to keep testing the systems and we pulled up the hook. As we motored into the swell at the entrance to the bay it was evident we wouldnt be making any real speed toward San Carlos. The wind was completely dead and we were pounding into steep swell that we would find out later on the sideband was being generated all the way offshore of cabo by Tropical Storm Marty. We were averaging around 1 knot and rather than motor for 12 hours to arrive in San Carlos at 0500 we could just endure the rolling in Pedro and go back.
Overnight the swells laid down and we enjoyed a more peaceful evening in the anchorage.
The following morning we had an easy motor back to San Carlos and immediately contacted Omar our mechanic to have him come help with the valve adjustment and alignment check. He was busy for the next few days so we worked on other projects in the meantime. Kristina finished batting her cushions and finalized that long term project. The cushions look great. I helped rebuild an outboard motor in exchange for the space for Kristina's batting project so we saved some money there.
Kristina happily batting while trying to dodge the mozzies.
I'm not doing my job holding that flashlight because I'm taking a picture. I assure you despite how this looks, its batting cushions, in a way.
Luxurious new cabin cushions. Kristina's first real sewing job.
These cushions actually look better in real life than they do in these terrible hasty pictures.
Another bad picture of a good cushion.
Once Omar came out and helped check the valve adjustment and the alignment we were ready to go test the motor at full power. We invited Tony, our favorite sailmaker to come out on a daysail with us and he agreed. We picked Tony up at the fuel dock and left our dinghy with them while we went out. We drove the motor to full throttle and found that we could only get 2500 rpms. The motor is supposed to product 2800 rpms under load and anything less than that would point to a prop pitch problem. We used to be able to hit 2800 under load so I was doubtful we needed to repitch our prop so we assumed there must be some growth on it or something. We had a delightful sail upwind with the reacher in 7 knots of wind. Tony insisted we fly all three sails as he doesnt neccesarily buy my theory that the mizzen is entirely superfluous. We didnt shake our my riding sail double reef and he was able to get some lee helm out of the reacher.
I remained skeptical since I find our helm issues happen in bigger wind and its easy to make Estrella behave in less than 10 knots. The following day we dove the hull and found some growth on the prop. We cleaned the bottom of the hull and Kristina scraped all the growth off of the propeller. Tony came back out the following afternoon and this time we actually sorted out the dinghy harness and hauled it on deck stowed the motor on the new motor mount on the new cockpit rail. The autopilot is a bit out of whack and wont tack the boat for us so another project was born. Make permanent spacers to keep the wheel pilot hub aligned with the wheel pilot motor. We drove the motor at maximum RPMs again and we still were restricted to 2500 rpms. We drove the motor hard for 45 minutes and discovered that she was overheating. It wasnt a quick process but heat was getting excessive. Once we backed off the throttle the temp started to normalize.
Otherwise we had another idyllic daysail. Initially we had close to 13 knots of apparent wind when we were sailing into it and Tony questioned my theory that we needed to unfurl the reacher to get maximum power. I think he wasnt accustomed to fat full keelers because he expressed surprise when Estrella heeled slightly and then dug in. He said he thought for sure the reacher would put us on her ear but shes a fat girl and she likes a press of canvas. On the downwind run the wind got light but with Tony's expert guidance we were able to get Estrella reaching off 7 knots of true wind at a maximum speed of 5.6 knots. We got to sort out the right place to run a barber hauler for the reacher to flatten out the leech and get her foot flatter to produce a better more spinnaker-like downwind sail shape. Tony lost his hat when we tried to gybe the reacher with his help and it was far too dark to find in the choppy seas. On the way back into the harbor Tony got excited and thought that maybe we could power up and break 6 knots but we ran out of wind before that dream could be achieved. No problemo, we just sailed in as far as we could and then with ease and one hand rolled in the mighty reacher and fired up the motor with the touch of a button. Dropping the main into the lazy jacks was another effortless task and mere minutes later we had the sail tied down, sail cover on and with some more button pushing the anchor down and set.
As the sun set on that daysail we were all smiling ear to ear and the biggest calamity we experienced was the unfortunate loss of Tony's hat. We rarely drink and I had purchased some beers to feed our buddy who was supposed to come fix our autopilot so after we splashed the dinghy we all settled into the cockpit to enjoy some well earned ice cold Pacificos in the twighlight.
At present our whole plan entails trying to resolve a couple minor autopilot adjustment issues and the engine overheating issue. Once we manage that we will head out on a shake down prior to finally heading south.