Fixing stuff along the way…Part 2

Jodi and Ginger – keeping us moving ahead

After our brief and rolly stay in Santa Magdalena bay, we thought we were home free. Less than 180 nautical miles to San Jose del Cabo, and with the wind prediction, we could be there in about 30 hours. No problemo.

The winds were perfectly at our backs and howling at around 30 mph; we were flying. At some point, with only the main sail up and reefed, we were doing 8 knots and the boat was performing really well.  The swells were large but behind us, and we knew that if we could keep up that pace, we’d be having tacos for dinner.

Around 3am – Jodi was on watch, Kirby trying to sleep – we hit something. It sounded like a piece of wood/a log hitting the front port side of the boat and then bounced to hit the back of the boat. It was really loud, but it didn’t seem to do any damage, so we didn’t think about it again until around 9am that morning when suddenly, the breaker for all of our electronics and steering went out and when we turned it back on, we had no steering. We quickly looked, and the hydraulic ram base which was fiberglassed into the hull had ripped out.  This caused the linkage to the rudder to become unresponsive.

We were about 50 miles from Cabo, 30 miles offshore in the Pacific Ocean, and no way to steer the boat. Not a fun feeling. At all.  In fact, it made not having an engine feel like child’s play. We quickly hove to (which means you turn the sails and the rudder to allow the boat to stay in one place pointed up into the wind), so we could think about what to do next.

Kirby grabbed his fiberglass supplies and did a quick repair job, but it required curing and drying for 6-8 hours, so we sat in the ocean, bobbing up and down in 8 foot NW swells all day – thinking good thoughts about what might happen later.*

The fiberglass didn’t have enough time to cure, and it was still too soft, so we decided to haul out the emergency tiller. The emergency tiller is a series of large steel pipes that fit together to form a steering mechanism. You place it over the rudder, which happens to be in a compartment under our bed/mattress in the master cabin, leaving the back hatch open, and ruggedly steer the boat under power. We had to do this for about 5 hours, which was exhausting but effective. We named her Ginger and thanked her for her service – grateful to have an alternative because there is no tow service in the open ocean for a boat of our size….

We finally got to Cabo around 1am, where we anchored in the main bay just near Los Arcos. We were grateful to make it safely to this destination where we slept deeply until the next morning – woken by the Cabo vacationers already parasailing and jet skiing.

*SIDE STORY: It was about this time that we looked at the still green organic bananas from Trader Joes hanging in the galley. We had a lot of discussion about whether to bring bananas on our boat. There is an old fisherman’s tale about how unlucky bananas are on a boat, and while we are not superstitious people, we had had so many discussions about these stupid bananas – why aren’t they getting ripe, what is wrong with them, when might they get ripe (it had been almost 2 weeks), will we ever be able to eat them, are they possessed, is there something to this story? So, Jodi decided, with much ceremony, to toss them overboard while we waited for the fiberglass to dry.

Fixing stuff along the way…Part 1

Our new mantra – Never give up. Stay mentally strong. Make it work.

We left Turtle Bay on Tuesday morning and realized we had a problem with our anchor, so we stopped in the middle of the bay to fix it (not a problem – got it fixed), and in a short time, found ourselves completely engulfed in birds – our engine must of scared up fish because there were thousands of them –

Fixing the Crankshaft pully. Bailing wire to the rescue!

making the water black with birds. There were pelicans torpedoing into the water, gulls, terns, and shearwaters. It was a magnificent sight to see, and although we were focused on fixing the anchor, we deliberately took the time to watch and marvel at what we were seeing. Things are like that out at sea. A shit storm brews, and then all of a sudden, you’re rewarded with the most magical experiences reminding us again and again to pay attention, look around, look up, breathe.

Then, about 15 minutes after leaving Turtle Bay, we noticed our alternator stopped charging, and within seconds, the engine was overheating, and the alternator belt had basically burned up….so, here we are, heading out into the Pacific Ocean, with a 2 day passage and no engine. Not a comforting feeling. Our plan was to get into a safe anchorage and then work on it there since it’s nearly impossible to do with 7-10 foot rolling seas. 

There are no perfect anchorages or marinas between here and Cabo San Lucas. There aren’t any towns or people, and there is no internet, so we were hoping to rely on our own ingenuity, the spare parts we had, our satellite phone, and a little luck.

It took us 2 long days to get to Santa Magdalena, and we were excited because we had heard it was a protected bay with good anchorages. Without an engine, we had to sail into the anchorage, and the wind was coming in the absolute opposite direction from where we needed it to for a restful anchorage. We managed to do it perfectly only after sailing back and forth across the bay a few times to get the right angle of approach and then use the wind to stop us before we headed too far into shore – it took us about 4 hours.  

Our anchor held like a champ, but the anchorage was anything but calm. Grey skies, 20 mph winds and swelling seas bounced us around like we were on the ocean. There were a couple of scares in the middle of the night when our collision alarm went off, as fishing/shrimping boats were headed our way but easily went around us. We would complain more about how awful this anchorage was, but we didn’t want to jinx it since our anchor was holding! Late that night, a catamaran came in and anchored near us – they are closer to shore, but it didn’t seem to help them either as they rolled and bucked around like us.

Brett Michaels and McGyver had a baby man child….

The next morning, we had a big breakfast as a reward for making it safely here, and Kirby got to work on the alternator. It turns out that not every bolt was fitted with a washer, so the vibration of use and the ocean must have worked it free enough to create a shimmy that destroyed the belt and could have done damage to the drive shaft. We have a huge box of screws and washers on board in our parts case but nothing that would fix it, and with no one around, and no way to “run to the hardware store”, we had to get creative. So, with a little brainstorming, we decided to give seizing wire a try and wrap it tightly around the head of the screw to create a faux washer – it seemed to do the trick, and the only thing we really need the engine for now is to get us safely out of this anchorage and safely into the marina at San Jose Del Cabo.

Never give up. Stay mentally strong. Make it work.

Ensenada to Bahia Tortugas (Turtle Bay)

Our trips and passages thus far have been a metaphor for life: exhilarating, awe-inspiring, frightening, annoying, frustrating, joyful and just plain boring.

While up for the first ~48+ hours from Ensenada to Turtle Bay, we tried to do the 3 hour shift thing (3 hours on, 3 hours off), but the rigor of it with just the two of us hasn’t worked out so far. If we had more crew, this approach makes a lot of sense, but with two of us, we just nap when we are tired, and take turns grabbing some food, drinks or snacks. The hardest time is between 11pm and 3am.

Luckily, Jodi doesn’t need much sleep (different story for Kirby), but the mental strain of keeping watch in a pitch black night with the ocean roiling and swelling, combined with fog, and the occasional fishing vessel makes me wonder how people can just set their auto pilot, go below and sleep for 4 hours (not a smart idea).

You’d think that sailing at night would be a quiet and peaceful affair, but it’s actually a bit violent. The boat gets tossed around, and things below are rattling and banging, so each new noise is something that keeps the brain active and even over-stimulated. Socks over bottles, stuffed towels, and packing things tight does the trick to keep things quiet. We also have a number of simple yet great ways that keep cabinets shut and items firmly in place (netting, bungie cords, mini hammocks, etc.)

The joys of sailing these long stretches are witnessing things few people ever see or get to experience:

  • The sound of the ocean up on the deck is as peaceful a sound as I could hear.
  • The dark sky saturated with stars – seeing the Milky Way so sharply with the contrast of the black velvet it appears to lie against.
  • Dolphins – So. Many. Dolphins. I stopped counting after about 8 pods joined us at various points of the trip (will write more about this later), and we never tire of them. I hope we never will. They are the loveliest creatures alive.
  • Whales! It’s time for the Humpbacks to return north from the Sea of Cortez, and we understand that the males leave earlier than the females and the calves. We saw them breaching, breathing, swimming, and even had two close encounters. Around 2am one morning, we were motor sailing and were checking the propeller (odd noises from earlier), so we put the boat into neutral and were nearly stopped, when off the port side of the boat, we heard a huge exhale, and then we saw, less than 10 feet from our boat, the back of a Humpback Whale nearly the length of our boat. As I was trying to register what the heck was happening, it leaped out of the water and flapped a fin at us – as if it say “Hey, I wanted to get a look at who woke me up tonight!”. After it happened, Kirby and I just stood there, mouths agape, adrenaline pumping asking out loud: “Did that just happen?”
  • One morning, we saw a Mola Mola (sunfish) just floating by the surface – about the size of a small compact car!
  • And finally, bioluminescence – watching the dolphins swim through the water like mini torpedos headed for our bow and hearing them blow air out of the water as they coast in our wake.

San Diego to Ensenada

We had a fantastic sail from San Diego to Ensenada yesterday!  Our friend Andrew came along for the ride and we certainly appreciated the extra set of hands!

We left San Diego at about 5 AM and arrived in Ensenada at about 230.  We had a 25 mph wind coming into the marina (Cruiseport Ensenada) so that was a little exciting.  Plans A and B didn’t work out so we went to another slip and got in just fine.

Jodi at the Immigration office in Ensenada

We got a little help from the marina with the Mexican check in procedures.  Jodi was very excited about using our new LODOS stamp on the official documents.

Our next stop is Bahia Tortuga (Turtle Bay) on the Pacific coast of the Baja Peninsula.  Navionics says it will take us about 31 hours, but I think we can beat that:).  We expect to leave Ensenada at around 6 am on 3/7/18.