Hurricane Prep: Sea of Cortez

It’s hard to believe we knew virtually nothing about this just a few months ago, and now I feel like we’ve sucked up every bit of knowledge from so many sources. There are a lot of resources out there, and a wide swath of passionate opinions that can make your head spin. Everyone has their own “must do’s”, and there is a wide range of prep taking place in the marina here in San Carlos.

susananddennis
Susan & Dennis Ross at Marina Palmira in La Paz

First, thanks for Susan & Dennis Ross aboard s/v Two Can Play – they really made our brains swirl with information (and some panic) when they generously offered their time to teach a seminar in La Paz about Hurricane Planning back in April. One guy in their class said, “heck, I’m so freaked out, I think I’ll just go back to San Diego now!” <hahaha>

All joking aside, this is serious business. I’m sure we won’t do everything right, and in the event of a really bad storm, it might not even matter, but we’ll leave Lodos knowing we did all we could to ensure she is safe and secure.

 

We talked to dozens of people, read dozens of blog posts, looked at how people were prepping their boats around us, and have made multiple revisions to our list of “to do’s” before we head out in less than two weeks. We started a running list of everything we had to do to get the boat ready to haul out of the water next week, we got a storage unit for the season from the great team at Bahia Storage (Thanks again to Miguel for the truck and extra set of hands!), and we bought an inordinate amount of aluminum foil and car windshield reflective shields to cover the windows and portholes. The inside temp of the boat can easily be over 150 degrees here in summer! I use this digital laser thermometer to measure temps inside the boat – it’s a super cool and useful tool!

I even asked my mom what they do to prep their RV/mobile home prior to leaving the hot summers of Arizona, all of which is now incorporated into our list below.

The first hurricane of the season (ALETTA) has gone out to die in the Pacific, and it looks like there is one right behind it, which will be called BUD. It’s not likely to reach us here, but it may make landfall in Cabo San Lucas. We’ve been obsessively watching the weather and learned some new geeky weather jargon such as: “this system is now an invest 92E which has turned into a td3e”.  I’ve upped my weather game substantially and added the following sites to my obsession: two_pac_0d0

 

 

 

 

 

Passage Weather  https://www.passageweather.com/

Tropical Tidbits  https://www.tropicaltidbits.com/

National Hurricane Center (NOAA)  https://www.nhc.noaa.gov/

AreaTask
RIGGING:
Remove all sails (wash, dry, take down, fold)
store all running rigging
Use T-9 or Marlube on all tracks and roller furlers
secure mast boot from high winds
pull all halyards up into mast with leaders to base of mast
store excess halyards in bag at base of mast
center boom and lock down with line currently on stern ladder
cover furling and tracks w/ foil/towels
fold up/secure davits
EXTERIOR:
Remove dodger and bimini canvas
drain water tanks and add a little bleach
remove and store bbq - take to storage
remove and store life ring
prep scuba equipment - take tanks to storage
deflate dink and store w/ lines in storage
remove outboard and store (change oil?)
close all thru hulls after hauling (except bilge)
wash bottom (no pressure washer) and inspect bottom, paint
plug all thru hulls with cbronze or vinyl wool to disuade bugs
fill diesel tanks and add biocide
extra lines on solar panels
cockpit cleared of everything
winch handles stored below
empty cockpit bags
cover instruments w/ blanket/tie down
remove wind generator blades
inspect hull, paint/repair as needed
Tighten/adjust bimini rails to readjust location
cover all tracks & pulleys and winches
move all sails, canvas, etc to offsite storage
wash boat/clean outside of boat
cover flat surfaces with sunbrella fabric, weight down with chain
Mark with grease pencil fiberglass spots
INTERIOR:
pack for Turkey, organize clothes we are taking off the boat
cover all windows and hatches with reflective material
roll up and store all carpets in sheets, storage
store all cushions in master cabin
deploy roach traps
remove all perishables/donate
remove med kit with any perishable items (incl contact lenses)
Organize and clean out food storage, cover bags, double bag/box foods, remove cardboard/paper
leave buckets of water for humidity
lubricate hatch gaskets with silicone grease or other rubber safe lube
remove batteries from all handhelds/clocks
put mineral oil in heads to lube gaskets
put dryer sheets in all cabinets/drawyers
put essential oil on sponges for freshness
store bedding/vacuum pack
close/block seat cushion holes
cover woodwork with relfective material
donate canned food, etc
remove/store electronics/computers
remove $$ & take copy of vital paperwork
final clean of boat and launder all sheets & clothes to be left on the boat
fold up bed/store
move clothes from closet, vacuum pack clothes as necessary
wrap companion way door in reflective material
final run to storage, drop off key
clean out fridge/freezer
MECHANICAL:
prep air conditioner
pickle water maker
flush and fog outboard for storage
flush engine with fresh water and vinegar / check with yard on recco
disconnect propane/prep propane tanks
check propane tank guages
ELECTRICAL:
Unplug all network connections from devices on network
Remove power to devices
disconnect antenna leads
remove electronics where possible
ensure bilge pumps work with solar power
store electronics in oven?
put handhelds/smaller items into safe
MANAGEMENT:
give letter of approval for Alberto, Garth, Arturo to be on boat
develop quick checklist for Alberto to do weekly or monthly w/ pics
laminate note for back of boat of who to reach/how to reach
UPON RETURNING:
Change oil in all engines
clean boat
provision
replace zincs
reconnect/refill propane
change oil in engine & outboard
change oil in genny
remove all impellers, place in zip lock with silicone coating
Replace gaskets in toilets
Adjust bimini rails
Replace propane gauges in aft locker

Our emergency kit

Ok – I think we went a bit overboard (sorry – I couldn’t resist) with our life raft and ditch kit. I would love to get your feedback on it!

For the life raft we went with the Viking RescuYou Pro Offshore raft.  We got a 6 person life as we will most likely have crew with us when we are doing serious passages.  The Life raft comes with a bunch of stuff built into the kit.  We have supplemented it with a whole host of stuff (outlined below) to meet our desired level of safety and comfort.

This is something you never want to use, but if you are forced to by Neptune, you will be happy you have it.

Many of the items in our kit have come from different places as well.  Jodi ordered a great survival kit (see below) that contains many of the items.  These are a great way to go!  Check out the contents of the kit we purchased below.  We have also included links to the items and notes about why we chose each.

 

 

 

 

 

The emergency equipment we list below is something we hope never to use, but it provides a great level of comfort knowing it is there is we need it.

1
ItemSourceNotes
2
Grab Bag Book by Frances and Michael HolworthAmazonGreat book outlining how to build out your ditch kit.
3
The Seventy2Uncharted SupplyThis is a fantastic kit of tools and supplies. Designed for one person for 72 hours. Highly recommend it. Modern emergency survival bag, specially designed for the 21st century, including a solar powered/hand crank smartphone charger - Over 35 survival tools expertly curated and organized with easy-to-understand instructions - Waterproof and airtight construction protects internal components and allows bag to act as a floatation device - Tough polyurethane insert panels can double as snowshoes or a sling - Antibacterial Wipes - Air Filtration Mask - Chem Lights - Collapsible Water Pouch - Convertible Shovel/Pick-axe - Datrex Food Bars - Duct Tape - First Aid Kit - Flashlight - Gloves - Goggles - Heat Packs - Insert - Purpose built, ripstop nylon interior insert protects, organizes and clearly identifies the contents of the Seventy2 - Strike Anywhere Matches and Waterproof Container - Magnesium Alloy Fire Starter - Multitool - Mylar Thermal Space Blanket - Mylar Thermal Survival Tent - Nalgene Water Bottle - Paracord - Radio/flashlight/smartphone charger - Sawyer MINI Water Filter - Sunscreen - Survival Knife - Uncharted Beanie - Water Syringe
4
Viking RescYou 6 person offshore life raft with hard caseAmazonSOLAS parachute rocket signals - 2
SOLAS hand flares - 3
SOLAS flashlight - 1
Extra batteries and bulb - 1
Whistle - 1
SOLAS/USCG signaling mirror -1
SOLAS/USCG drinking water - 3
SOLAS first aid kit - 1
Anti-seasickness tablets - 36
Bailer - 1
Sponges - 2
Survival instructions - 1
Table of life-saving signals - 1
Seasickness bags - 6
SOLAS/USCG thermal survival bag - 0
Emergency ration (kg) - 0
Bellows/pump - 1
Leak stopper - 3
Sunscreen - 0
Drinking cup - 1
Safety tin opener - 1
SOLAS fishing kit - 1
Extra sea anchor and line - 0
Scissors - 1
SOLAS/USCG smoke signal - 0
Repair kit - 1
Instructions for use - 1
Sea anchor with line - 1
Buoyant safety knife - 1
Paddles (pcs) - 2
Rescue quoit with line -1
Water bags (set) - 1
Radar reflector -
5
Flares and Flare GunAmazonOld school flare gun - there are other kinds of signaling devices in the other kits, but having backups is a good thing!
6
406 EPIRBAmazonWe keep this on the bulkhead next to the companion way. We will grab it on the way out.
7
Personal 406 EPIRBAmazonWe have these on each of our life jackets. In case one of us goes over and for backups in case the boats EPIRB is forgotten or broken.
8
Ocean Signal MOB1AmazonThese connect to our ships AIS in case someone goes overboard. We each have one attached to our lifejackets.
9
Solar ChargerAmazonThis is a great unit. Store it charged and it can recharge most things pretty quick.
10
Handheld VHFAmazonWe love this one because it floats and has a GPS receiver. Backups are always good!
11
Backup GPSAmazonThis guy works as a generic reciever. It uses bluetooth to connect to phones and tablets. Works like a champ with Navionics too.
12
LifejacketsAmazonOf course, you will be wearing a lifejacket. These are the ones we have. Love them for comfort and versatility. I carry an extra leatherman on mine.
13
Fresh Water - Jerry CansAmazonWe have a couple of these. We have them mounted next to the life raft and they will get deployed at the same time as the raft. They get cleaned and refilled before each passage.
14
LeathermanAmazonLove the leatherman for their versatility. Extra knife, can opener, you name it. Be careful with the sharp bits! Also consider a blunt edge knife (diving knives are good for this purpose).
15
Backup KnifeAmazonHaving a good blunt nose knife is a good thing. This dive knife also has a 'hammer' built into the handle and a sturdy sheath.
16
Important Documents in a document pouchAmazonWe keep copies of our immunization records, passports, prescriptions, cash spare glasses, vessel documentaion, etc. in a fire proof pouch in our safe. In an emergency, we grab the document pouch.

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.