03/27/2012, Gasparilla Marina
Just thought I would give you an update on what caused a $900 tow.
The rubber fin in my hand is from the raw water impeller. If you recall my previous narrative I checked that impeller at sea. There was no fin missing, in fact as I have checked or changed the impeller through the years there has never been a missing blade. There has been a torn blade but it was still attached. Sooooooo, this blade has been running around the raw water system since before I was doing the maintenance. This blade was detached years ago and finally lodged itself in the discharge side of the anti siphon air loop downstream from the raw water pump. The good news is that I was imagining much more expensive repairs that I couldnt have done at sea.
The engine runs better that ever so we are free to move about the county if not the country. We don't plan to move the boat until we get sea tow insurance since the waters are so skinny.
03/21/2012, Gasparilla Marina
Sound Effect arrived in Florida Monday March 20 after a SEVEN day passage from Puerto Morales Mexico to Garparilla Marina in Charlotte Harbor, Southwest Florida. This 436 miles trip should have taken 3 days possibly 4, however in order to make the last 10 miles we required a tow from Sea Tow .
We left Mexico Wednesday morning at 7am after waving good bye to friends and marina employees.
We motored out of the marina through the channel for 20 minutes and began sailing in typical Caribbean winds of 18-20 kts of wind. We had left earlier than planned due to a projected weather window of east winds. The rhumb line or direct route is 38degrees magnetic compass heading from Mexico to the entrance of Charlotte Harbor. With an east wind (90degrees) we would have a close reach up the rhumb line. Initially that worked and with a Gulf Stream boost we were sailing along at 8 plus knots feeling on top of the world. Sure the seas were lumpy with square waves, but it wasn't raining , and we figured three 150 mile days and we would be there Sat morning latest.
THEN the wind began to turn NE and we were forced west of the rhumb line, still doing 7 knots. If we tacked back east to the rhumb line we dropped to less than 4 got pummeled by the waves and were actually making no northward progress at all simply east, so we tacked back to our more northerly heading hoping the winds would eventually go east as forecast. However the geometry eventually begins to work against you and as you go north the direct course is no longer 38 but 40 and then 42 and eventually when the east winds did fill in we needed to go east. During this part of the trip we needed to run the engine for topping off the batteries. We noticed that there was no cooling water exiting the boat and sure sign of a raw water cooling problem. I did all the obvious things including disassembly the raw water pump cover to inspect the impeller (all in a very bumpy sea no joy there). We could not determine where the blockage was, so we ran the engine for 20 minutes at a time until it got hot and then shut it down. I determine the heat (there is no gauge) by using an infrared thermometer.
One day we simply hove to and pulled out the gas generator to top off the batteries. (Heaving to is a way of using the sails against the force of the rudder to actually stop the boat.)
The last two days we were alternately becalmed twice and had raging wind out of the east at over 20kts.
We finally arrived off the entrance to the Boca Grande channel at 9pm too late to go in so we tacked back and forth to counter the tidal current, and then when the tide turned I hove to for Connie to get rest while I continued on watch.
I emailed Andrew (our son) to inquire about tow insurance with our policy holder and SEA Tow and Boats US. But unlike triple AAA you can't join if you have an existing problem, so we had to pay full bore.
We were not able to sail up the channel as the wind would require constant tacking and the channel is very narrow. I was willing to stay off until the weather conditions changed but Connie said she would prefer to be towed in. In fact she said she would go back to work to pay for the tow.
To give you an idea of the conditions the metal bracket in the tow line bent and parted during the tow once again setting us a drift. We were able to retrieve the line a second time and tie a bowline bypassing the metal connector.
We are now in Gasparilla marina the closest one to the inlet for the tow company, intending to get the engine repaired and continue to explore the area.
Ek Balam was our final Mayan site of the trip, so got up early, did Church and breakfast, and off to the site. We arrived early enough as this is not a major attraction. However it is a wonderful small city with probably some of the best bas relief carvings still intact. The picture is looking down from this temple which obviously you are still allowed to climb. This climb goes back to our theme of personal responsibility if you fall its your fault! Connie wouldnt go to the top but I did and the view was spectacular. You could probably see thirty miles, flat as a table top so any bump in the landscape is probably a temple not discovered yet.
We left here, and drove toward Cancun on the "toll" road. It was recommended and it was flat, straight and no one was on it. In 3 hours of driving we saw 5 cars!. Then we hit the toll booth and found out why. It was over $20 US for the privelege to use this road. No exits, no services nada!
In the afternoon we took in the Playa del Carmen strip. This is a closed off street with sunglass, tee shirt, jewelry and food vendors each trying harder than the last to get you to buy. We had enough in short order and drove back to the boat.
Now we are awaitng a weather window to cross to Florida. About 425 miles so we need 3-4 days to be sure. Once again it will be an uphill slog, oh how I miss down wind sailing..... just a memory.
Saturday we got up early to beat the crowds and were almost the first ones in the parking lot. Ironically we waited for another couple to arrive to share the guide costs. Connie talked a couple from Belgium into sharing and English speaking guide with us even though French was available.
The picture you see is the most famous temple in Chichen Itza and arguably the most photographed. Notice I was so early there are no people in the frame of the shot. Later in the day there would have been a thousand people there. We had a wonderful tour and it easly exceeded our expectations. People had told us that other sites are better and we might want to skip Chichen Itza. We had a wonder ful time and although you can no longer climb the temples and pyramids, the ball court and celestial observatory were worth the trip. My advice definetly GO but go EARLY and avoid the crowds.
After several hours in the park we went back to our hotel and rested up for dinner.
03/10/2012, Cancun area
We used the colonial town of Valladolid as our base to visit not only the sights in town but two more Mayan ruins Chichen Itza and El Balam. We visited a five hundred year old structure that is a church and convent outside of town.
This church was built over a cenote which is a sink hole. The whole penninsula is honeycombed with these natural wells. The Mayans used them for rituals and drinking, and the friars who built the convent of San Bernadino used them as well. Recently they have begun searching the bottom of the well with scuba and found cannon and rifles from an uprising in the 19th century.
We enjoy the colonial towns we have visited in past and this was no exception with people and businesses residing in building centuries old.
03/09/2012, Quintana Roo
After having rented the car late Thursday night, we were able to leave early Friday morning. We drove two hours to the Mayan ruins of Tulum. This is the only Mayan ruin on the ocean, and also holds the distinction of being active after most all of the Mayan kingdom had disappeared. These folks hung around long enough to die out from small pox and other diseases brought by the Spanish sailors in the early 1500's. We hired a private guide for the tour and enjoyed our visit. Due to clever planning (Connie) we had arrived very early before the crowds. This was the first day of driving which was very strange after such a long hiatus. We rented a standard transmission, Chevy Aveo, which I thought was small until we parked next to some really small cars. Stop signs, stop lights, speed limits etc are simply advisory and apparently can be ignored completely. The only thing you can not ignore are the Topes.
These speed bumps on steroids come in all shapes and sizes and can rip the bottom out your car if you take one to fast. You can be on a 4 lane divided highway with unlimited speed and have to break to almost a stop to drive over the Tope. After we finished with Tulum we drove on to Valladolid for out hotel and base of operations. Our hotel was Hotel Colonial la Aurora. This modestly priced hotel, is a colonial building with the courtyard converted to a swimming pool. The rooms had A/C and a TV.