Check out more photos from our haul-out and repairs in our photo gallery.
is finally back in the water with a sexy new blue bottom! We're talking BLUE, multiple shades in fact...and we got just as BLUE during the haul-out, so blue we thought about auditioning for the Blue Man Group! There's even a blue-ring in the hotel bathtub and a blue ring in the bathroom sink too. The maid must wonder WHAT we are doing in here?!
Our last post ended, much to our relief, with Due West
being pulled off the rocks by Diver Carlos and the Mexican Navy post Hurricane Newton. We were extremely lucky that she stayed upright throughout the night before we could rescue her. In case you missed it, you can read Hurricane Newton Part I: Eye of Newt
There are currently three other sailboats in the boatyard that went aground three years ago during Hurricane Odile. All three boats washed up on the rocks in the exact same location as Due West
but weren't as lucky. They ended up on their sides, with significant water intrusion that caused major damage. Our ordeal could have been SO much worse, we could have lost our home, and our livelihood. We are SO thankful we did not.
Clip from diver Carlo's video showing the hole in the bottom of the foam-filled rudder. Luckily (amazingly) the rudder did not fill with water in the 24 hours before we hauled her out.
Once off the rocks and securely tied to the T-dock at Puerto Escondido Marina, it was time to meet the marina manager to discuss responsibility for their mooring line pennant parting during the hurricane. We had hoped the marina would do the right thing: accept responsibility for their equipment failure, and make good on the repairs to our damaged keel and rudder, especially since they also own the boatyard here. Although the damage to our keel and rudder were not extensive, they needed to be repaired sooner than later. And since the damage would likely cost less than our insurance deductible for a named storm, our cruising kitty would take a big hit for anything the marina didn't cover.
First glimpses (face-to-face) of the damage as Due West is hauled out of the water. She actually looked 'less bad' out of the water than the diver's video had indicated (remember, water magnifies things by 25%!)
Initially the marina claimed it was an "act of god" and wouldn't cover anything above the cost of hauling us off the rocks. Eventually, after going ten-rounds with "Captain Kirk the Pacifist Mediator", they came to their senses and agreed to cover the "cost" of the haul-out and lay-days in the boatyard, but would not cover any costs of repairs or materials. Since they own the boat yard, we're not quite sure what their "costs" actually were. They claimed wear and tear on the Travel Lift?! As it was, hauling Due West
out of the water took several hours (5) from start to finish. They were VERY thorough.
Ouch! That hurt! Leading edge of the keel is down to bare fiberglass, missing gel coat, barrier coat, and bottom paint in places.
Thankfully our friends George & Ruth from s/v Sea Flee
have a lot of fiberglass repair experience and graciously offered to assist us with the keel and rudder repairs. Unfortunately the boat yard doesn't own a pressure washer to clean the under-sea gunk off the hull as boats are hauled out. Fortunately we'd just had the bottom cleaned three weeks prior, in La Paz so it was pretty clean, but sea life grows quickly in this nutrient-rich environment and it would have to be removed before we could paint.
Dried on sea-slime and baby barnacles are difficult to remove once they've been sun-baked to the hull. Sadly this boatyard doesn't own a pressure washer to clean the bottom of boats when they are hauled out...
Note to Cruisers: For those of you planning to cruise the Sea of Cortez and do haul outs here (Puerto Escondido), be forewarned and bring your own equipment. Besides lacking a pressure washer, they also don't have ladders, a shore power source, and basics like zincs and bottom paint are a 15-mile drive away to Loreto, IF you can even find them there, a 50/50 chance. If you own a Max Prop, bring LOTS of prop zincs with you, they are very hard to find here. BIG THANKS to Kimi & Trevor on s/v Slow Flight
who happened to be in the States and brought some back for us. (For our non-boating readers: we attach zinc anodes to various under-water metal portions of our hull to help counteract electrolysis. Zinc is a sacrificial metal that erodes first, rather than more important metal components such as our propeller, shaft, through hulls, and even the engine.) Definitely bring your own bottom paint if you're partial to a great bottom, like we are! Good bottom paint is hard to find here.
Heidi donned mask, gloves, and eye protection for hand-sanding the waterline and was mostly OSHA approved too, but couldn't stand the heat inside the Tyvek moon-suit so ditched it...No bueno!
Although we planned ahead and do carry a ton of spare parts for everything from heads, to refrigerators, to engines and more, there will always be some part you don't have when you need it most. And in fact, one of the reasons we carry so many spare parts is the potential to help other cruisers out of a bind if and when we can. So many people have helped us along the way, and we try to pay it forward when ever we have the opportunity. And just such an opportunity arose in the middle of our haul-out.
Fellow cruiser Tim had returned to Puerto Escondido with a dead alternator. Luckily for Tim we have the exact same type and model of Balmar alternator (what are the odds?!) and we just happened to have purchased a spare one when The Minister & The Mermaid visited Seattle
for Braden & Molly's July wedding. A chance meeting with Tim resulted in our giving him our spare alternator (an $900 part!) on the good faith that he would order another one for us, and Kimi & Trevor would pick it up in San Diego and bring it back for us. For once everything worked according to plan and it was a win-win for everyone. But we were perplexed when Kimi & Trevor also brought back a hand-held GPS unit with the order. We hadn't ordered that, and didn't know how to get it to Tim who was by now long gone. When we finally contacted him, he said it was ours, as a "thank you" to us. Wow!! What?! Totally not necessary, we were just happy to be able to help him out. But a VERY thoughtful, much appreciated gesture all the same.
An early start to the day is rewarded with a beautiful sunrise over Hotel Tripui pool.
Once we re-coned the project and collected all of our supplies (multiple trips to Loreto plus one long day to Cuidid Constitution), we immediately got to work sanding, faring, and prepping. George was in charge of the keel and rudder repairs while Kirk scraped and sanded the bottom, prepping to paint. Since we knew we'd need to haul-out within the next 6-9-months for a bottom job anyway (new bottom paint), this was the perfect opportunity to kill two birds with one stone, and repaint the rest of the bottom along with our repaired keel and rudder, or so we thought.
George and Kirk lay down the first layers of fiberglass matting on the leading edge of the keel. Many more layers to go...
Turns out that bottom paint doesn't like to go on in the heat and it was 95°-98°F during the day!? In fact, several people mentioned that "this isn't the right season to do a bottom job." Yes, well...we didn't choose to be hauled out at this time of year, or in this location, or for Hurricane Newton to damage our boat either...So we made lemonade out of lemons, er, uh, limonada out of limes!
Hotel Tripui and pool, a brightly colored oasis in the Baja desert.
Though we've lived-aboard in boatyards during past haul-outs, it's never an enjoyable experience and the fact that this one didn't have bathrooms, (and a boat head doesn't work out of the water) cinched the deal. We had sought shelter from Hurricane Newton at Hotel Tripui, a small hotel with a pool 15 miles south of Loreto and just a mile down the road from the Puerto Escondido marina/boatyard. Little did we know when we checked in that Hotel Tripui
would become our home for the next two weeks...it was starting to feel like Hotel California, could we ever check out?! As luck would have it, Kirk's birthday fell right in the middle of this whole debacle, and the intended fun day we had planed turned into a work-day instead. But we managed to stop work early and get all of the local cruisers/friends to join us at the hotel pool for a FUN-tastic Birthday Pool Party! Besides a pool Hotel Tripui has nice clean rooms plus free breakfast with stay. We're talking pancakes, eggs, tortillas, beans, fruit salad, the works...very nice staff, and they accept pets! We'd recommend staying here and Tikka and Tosh really dug the King size bed too!
Happy 69th Birthday to Captain Kirk! We had a FUN pool party to celebrate with fellow cruisers (left to right): George, Larry, Judy (front), Ruth (back), Boni, John, Heidi. The Birthday boy took the photo!
Speaking of Tikka & Tosh, the poor furbies are used to having us around 24/7 and are very social "kids", more like dogs than cats. We were often out the door by 7:30am, and not returning for 10-12 hours each day, no bueno as far as they were concerned. So we would stop in to play with them for a few minutes on our way to/from town when we drove by. They were always excited to see us but didn't like having to stay indoors, they miss the fresh air! Heidi also took advantage of the hotel's wifi to work on some graphic design projects and Neal's Yard Remedies
business (when the wifi was working which was somewhat sporadic!), so she was around a bit more to play with them.
Post-hurricane and 8+ inches of rain, everything here is lush and green. The plus side is that it rained hard enough to wash off dirt and grime that had been caked onto the boat since Ensenada nine-months ago, that we'd been unable to remove. The No Bueno side: the mosquitos have hatched in the billions...and boy do they LOVE Heidi. :-( Mossies were thick at the hotel restaurant preventing us from eating there most nights, (which was also a saving grace to our bank account :-), although they had great garden salads and we appreciated the greens. There were also a lot of HUGE silk moths moths and even larger black moths (as big as small birds!), large dragon-flies, and geckos...all of which the furbies love to chase! We did our best to keep the bugs OUT of our room, but sadly Tosh ate a gecko tail the other day, hope it's tail regrows quickly!
Boni's hand for scale to show just how big these Giant Silk Moths are.
When we asked the proprietor what "Tripui" meant we were told it means "the place of the dancers" in the language of the ancient indigenous tribes who lived here hundreds of years ago. As the story goes, after each harvest from the sea and the land, they would have great dances to thank their gods for the harvests, and this was the place where they danced. We could understand that, it's a VERY beautiful location near the Sea in the shadow of the Sierra Gigante mountains. Our photos just can't do those mountains justice, you have to come here and see them in person. Sunrise they are pinky-red, mid day they are lush green, and evening they are purple...truly amazing!
Another gorgeous sunrise over the Sierra Gigantes. The beautiful scenery around here made the whole repair/boatyard experience much more tenable.
George worked tirelessly each day to rebuild our damaged rudder and keel with layers upon layers of fiberglass matting and resin. Then on to the gelcoat layers (white exterior fiberglass resin), and then barrier coat to keep the water out of the porous gelcoat. Each layer took 24-hours to cure, so this was a long process. And the repairs had to be done and cured before we could start to paint. Ruth and their cute Jack Russell Maggie were always around to lend a hand, and run errands to the ferretería (hardware store) with Heidi.
We are forever grateful and indebted to George and Ruth for their friendship, expertise, good humor, and hard work on our behalf. We can't thank them enough, for without their help, we'd definitely still be in the yard, and Due West would not have a sexy blue bottom! Even if we'd wanted to hire out all of this work, it's is off-season here in "The Baja" and there was literally NO ONE to hire. And since there was no one to hire to sand and prep the bottom for painting...this dirty, arduous task fell onto Caption Kirk.
Kirk all suited up for a LONG, HOT day at the boatyard...sadly it was futile to try to keep the blue dust out...but we suited up faithfully and did the best we could.
The sanding of BLUE bottom paint was made worse by the boatyard's lack of a pressure-washer to remove baby barnacles and other sea growth--without which the hot sun instantly baked it to the hull as soon as we were hauled out. So the baked sea slime and barnacles all had to be sanded off. Even sporting full Tyvek suit with hoody, googles, face mask and gloves (OSHA would be proud!), Kirk still returned to the hotel each night looking like a member of the BLUE MAN Group. That flour-fine powdery dust of ablative blue bottom paint is pervasive and permeated EVERYTHING, everywhere. Kirk refused to let Heidi sand and get BLUE too, and for once she gladly agreed (plus we only had one electric sander and Kirk is taller!) So she kept everyone hydrated with cold water, fed with snacks, and along with Ruth was a gopher to Loreto for materials and supplies almost daily. Grateful for the rental car or this would have been much harder to accomplish!
George expertly adding layer upon layer of fiberglass resin and matting, this time to the damaged rudder and skeg. He moved back-and-forth between the keel and rudder over many days, taking advantage of curing times between the many layers.
Finally George was done with repairs, all the bottom prep work was done, and we were ready to paint. Finding bottom paint in this area is next to impossible. George had one surplus gallon of Comex Blue (Mexican bottom paint) that we bought from him, and we were able to buy one more gallon of Comex Blue in Loreto (curiously a totally different shade.) But that was it, and we needed a bit more paint since the rudder and keel both needed multiple coats. And Due West
has a BIG bottom! Thankfully our friends Kimi & Trevor on s/v Slow Flight
offered us yet another shade (and brand) of blue to finish the job.
FINALLY ready for bottom paint...John (s/v Ingenium) and Heidi tackle the keel with BLUE.
Needing to paint the bottom when it was NOT hot, left us the hours of 7:30-9:30am (it's not even light until after 7am) and 6:30-8pm (it's dark by 8pm.) This is not a lot of time to paint a BIG BOTTOM, and worst of all, those are the exact same hours that the mosquitos like to keep!? Oy! So along with our friend John from s/v Ingenium
who offered painting assistance, we donned our Tyvek hoody moon-suits, and gloves, and sweated buckets in the non-breathable Tyvek swatting the mossies off our faces with blue bottom paint. (Why hasn't anyone invented breathable Tyvek yet? Ya know, like Gortex? Just saying'...) As far as Heidi was concerned this was truly one of THE worst jobs she's ever had to do. Tank-top and shorts soaking wet from sweating buckets, bug bites itching like mad...but she sucked it up, and now it's done. Phew! Thanks John!
After a late night painting in the dark (because it was finally cool enough that the bottom paint wouldn't dry instantly on the rollers!) we were smacking mosquitos left-and-right, not realizing our gloved hands were covered in blue paint, and so were our faces! ;-)
With the bottom all done we were ready to splash (back in the water), but still had a few niggly tasks to finish up first: lube the prop, install zincs, remove masking tape, then once the boat was in the slings again, we had to quick paint under where the jack-stand pads were, and paint the very bottom of the keel. Luckily bottom paint can go right into the water once it's applied, it doesn't need to be totally dry first.
The return trip via travel lift back into the water only took 2 hours...again, they are very thorough here. And the marina graciously let us stay for one night on a mooring ball for free (to make up for the paid night of the Hurricane when we weren't actually on the mooring at all!?) We know what you're thinking, are you guys NUTS to be going back onto one of their mooring balls? With no high winds predicted for the night and not many other options (even if you anchor the marina charges you because you're anchoring on their "land") we took our chances.
Boatyards just aren't fun places to hang out, but the beautiful scenery around here made the whole repair/boatyard experience much more tenable. Still, we're ecstatic to be back in the water. Now we just need to clean up the inside of the boat which still looks like a bomb went off from the action of the hurricane itself.
We SO MUCH appreciate and are truly humbled by all of the well wishes, love, and incredible support from our friends and family as we made our limes into Limonada, blue limonada that is! We even named a drink after this whole experience! Many THANKS to ALL of you!!
Due West on the Rocks
8 limes squeezed + lime slices for garnish
4 teaspoons brown sugar
4 oz. dark rum
2 oz. blue curaçao
6 cups mineral water
In a pitcher, stir lime juice and brown sugar until dissolved, add mineral water, dark rum, and blue curaçao. Serve in 4 glasses on the rocks, garnish with lime slice. Salud!
We're still planning to head north for a few weeks before crossing the sea to San Carlos...but hurricane season isn't officially "over" for another six-weeks, in fact September and early October typically have the most storms in any given year...and there are still big systems being spit out of mainland Mexico along the ITCZ (Inter Tropical Convergence Zone), so stay tuned, you know how our plans change! But we HOPE to never meet another hurricane face-to-face again.
Be sure to check out more photos from this post in our photo gallery.