Turtle Bay to Ensenada
28 May 2012
Turtle Bay to Ensenada
One of the things we heard from the seminar we took in La Paz about the Baja Bash was that the bash up the coast of Baja to San Diego would challenge all the systems on your boat and if there are any weaknesses you would find them on this trip. We also learned that because of the challenges to the boat systems you should have spares for most everything on the boat that can break. We are certainly finding out that this is true. Somewhere between Mag Bay and Turtle Bay the belt to our auto pilot broke. I unfortunately did not order a spare for this part so we have been hand steering the boat for the last 500 miles. Anybody that has been cruising for any length of time knows the value of a good auto pilot which is why autopilots are often named and considered part of the crew. We used the auto pilot extensively and it made passages much easier. Without it we have had to change our watch schedule to two hours on two hours off. Going from Bahia San Carlos to Bahia San Quintin the winds and waves were bad enough that we ended up taking one hour shifts. This makes it very difficult to get any kind of sleep during the night. So after overnighters we have been pretty exhausted.
One of our passages was going to be to go from Cedros Island to Bahia San Quintin. About half way through this passage our motor started sputtering and quit. I went below and checked the glass bowl on our Racor fuel filter and I could see the diesel in it was white and milky looking. I first thought I must have picked up bad fuel at Turtle Bay when we refilled last, but once we were at anchorage in San Carlos I checked the fuel fill cap and found that it was not completely tightened. I must not have fully tightened it after our last fuel fill. We had been bashing into the waves and wind and a lot of green water was flowing over our decks. I think what happened was the water on deck was seeping into the fuel fill and contaminating our diesel. Anyway when the engine first quit I replaced one of the fuel filters, bled the system and got it running again. This lasted about two hours and then the motor quit again. At this point we were west of Bahia San Carlos with the northwest winds blowing we decided to hoist the sails and sail there instead of trying to go to San Quintin. Once the sails were up I turned my thoughts to how I was going to get clean fuel to my motor. Luckily I brought along a spare gas tank for my dinghy motor and was able to modify it for a temporary diesel fuel tank. We were carrying about 40 gallons of fuel on deck in jerry cans so we used this to fill the temporary tank with. The tank only held three gallons so every 2 hours I would grab a jerry jug and go below to fill it up. I replaced my primary filter again bled the system using the new fuel tank and was able to get the motor going again. With this new set up the motor was still not running right. It would run fine for a few minutes but then start to sputter clear up and start to run ok again. I did not trust it at this point so we continued sailing to Bahia San Carlos. We finally arrived at the anchorage at 8:30 am. We started the motor so we could set the anchor, dropped the hook and went below to try to get some sleep.
That afternoon while I was down below fixing things Bonnie was on deck relaxing, reading, soaking up some sunshine trying to stay out of my way and away from the diesel smell ( it was either that or she was being the little princess she likes to be and was making me do all the work) when she stuck her head down below and said there were a bunch of guys with black masks coming to the boat. I came on deck and was greeted by six Mexicans with stocking masks over their faces and sub machine guns. One of the guys on board politely introduced himself as a lieutenant in the Mexican Navy and asked if he could come aboard to inspect the boat. It is hard to say no to a boat full of men carrying sub machine guns so I welcomed him on board. It was all pretty routine though he asked me some questions, checked our papers, he had some forms he filled out that I had to sign and that was it. He said thank you and they were on their way giving us the thumbs up sign as they left.
The next day we took off early for the trip from San Carlos to San Quintin. It was foggy so visibility was poor. I still did not trust the motor so I wanted to sail as much as possible. We had wind in the 20 to 25 knot range so there was plenty of it, but of course it was right on the nose. We set a course way west of our path and headed off shore. We had to go out about 20 miles off of our track before we were able to make our tack and head back in. The wind was pretty strong and the waves were short and steep so it was rough going. Because of how rough it was we decided to do one hour shifts instead of two. We kept this up until we made San Quintin at 3:00 am. On the way in to the anchorage Bonnie noticed our depth gauge was not working properly. I went below to check out the transducer and found one of the tabs that hold it in place had broken off. I was able to install it temporarily so we could see the depths for anchoring. In the morning I did some problem solving to see why the motor still was not running properly and found out that the auxiliary fuel pump I had installed before we left was not working and this was restricting flow of fuel to the motor. I by passed this pump, bled the system again and was able to get the motor running normal. I also was able to epoxy my depth sounder transducer back together so it was working properly again.
With the motor running properly we decided to do one last overnighter and head to Ensenada. Our original plan was to do a couple of day trips and stop at some anchorages along the way but we only had a weather window of one day and then it was supposed to get windy again. We decided to bite the bullet and get it over with. No problems on this leg of the trip except my fuel gauge stopped working and I was getting a little tired of filling up the fuel tank every two hours. In Ensenada we stayed at Cruise Port Village Marina where I was able to hire someone to pump out our diesel tank. I bought new filters and changed them all then added clean fuel to the tank so it is all back to normal again. On Monday we will be heading to San Diego where we will be pulling the boat out of the water and getting it ready to be trucked back home.