We are excited because we finally finished replacing the cockpit floor of our sailboat. This was a BIG project that required a cascade of smaller things to be completed first. We replaced the cockpit teak wood flooring (which was beyond saving and leaking) and put in PlasDeck, which is a synthetic teak substitute.
I will admit that this project was not much fun. It was a highly detailed, you-only-have-one-shot kind of project, and we had to work quickly as the glue dries so fast (under 15 minutes!). But, we are pleased with the finished result and are excited to have access and use of the cockpit again!
First, we prepped the floor and our new table pedestal (which Kirby built, then we fiberglassed, sealed and painted) where the table is mounted; this new pedestal will also gives us secure space to put a small trash can and (vintage) playmate cooler as well as an important toe rail/toe stop while the boat is heeling underway. We plan to put 3M non-skid tape on the sides as well.
After the floor sat in the sun for a couple of hours, it was flat and ready for installation. We had to prep the cockpit surface by sanding it to remove any large bumps and then cleaning it thoroughly with denatured alcohol.
Then we dry fit and traced each piece before gluing them to the seats and to the floor. You have to work in sections, and quickly, as the glue sets up in 15 minutes, also making it nearly impossible to wipe off or clean up if you aren’t cleaning as you go along.
THE FINISHED PRODUCT!
TIPS: If you’re doing this job yourself, spend extra time up front on the template because once it’s cut, it’s cut! Make sure you have ALL of the materials ready before you start any work (take an inventory and use the checklist provided by the installation guide), and have dozens of clean WHITE rags with at least a gallon of denatured alcohol for spills and any glue cleanup. You can see a few videos of this project, here: SANDING, CLEANING, PREPPING FOR GLUE
FINAL TIP: Prepare to work quickly and swear (a lot).
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.
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:
Passage Weather https://www.passageweather.com/
Tropical Tidbits https://www.tropicaltidbits.com/
National Hurricane Center (NOAA) https://www.nhc.noaa.gov/
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
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
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 $$ & 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
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
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
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
Change oil in all engines
change oil in engine & outboard
change oil in genny
remove all impellers, place in zip lock with silicone coating
While we have been reporting on our whereabouts, I thought it would be good to post a “day in the life” of the Lodos crew (aka Jodi & Kirby).
Generally, our day starts when the sun rises. It’s hard to stay in bed when the sun comes streaming through a porthole window or overhead hatch; you only have to turn over in our bed to look outside to see the bright blue sky mirrored in the turquoise waters that surround us everyday.
In several towns or marinas, they also have a cruiser’s net, which is usually broadcast on VHF channel 22 around 8am. It’s a helpful and hilarious summary of the goings on of the area and almost always includes: emergencies and urgent issues, weather, wind, tides, a peso report, advice, swaps & trades, local news, and the occasional joke. I found a great endodontist and a (free) aluminum pole for my chamois mop on such a broadcast. It’s a fascinating peak inside the cruiser lifestyle.
We have been trying to stay in/near places that have wifi or Telcel service, so that I can do some work part-time. Kirby has another project in the works as well, so he spends a few hours a week on this, too. I have a few perches where I like to work – out in the cockpit under the bimini where it’s shady, or inside at our salon table. In a marina, I may use a conference room in a marina or sit in a common space where the wifi signals are stronger.
Breakfast consists of cereal, fruit, smoothies in the Vitamix or oatmeal. There are always boat projects to complete, some more urgent than others, but it’s likely we’ll complete something everyday to ensure the boat is working properly.
We have been cooking on the boat a lot, and with the heat, we eat less and usually vegan/plant-based meals. Kirby has mastered the art of breadmaking in this Japanese machine (Zojirushi) that makes a small loaf perfect for two people over a few days. We need to ensure our boat batteries are charged up because it takes a lot of energy to run this thing – usually the solar and wind power can keep up, or we will make bread when we have the engine running or are making water. My favorite piece of kitchen equipment is my small Lodge cast iron pan, which we use almost everyday! This is honestly the best $15 I have ever spent.
For making water, we have a reverse osmosis water maker onboard that makes about 36 gallons of water/hour. So, we try to run this every few days to keep our tanks topped off. Do you know how much water you use a day? We do! 🙂 I challenge you to track it for a few days and figure out how you could shave off a couple of gallons. It’s pretty interesting, and there is nothing like limited resources to make you acutely aware of how much you use, so you don’t run out!
Afternoons are usually spent cleaning, cooking, reading, working, writing, swimming or napping. If we are in a harbor or bay where we know people, we might also spend time having an afternoon cocktail or catching up on sailing news and weather. We have a bathtub and two showers on board the boat, but usually, we shower off the back of the boat, after a swim. One of my favorite things on the boat is our outdoor shower nozzle which gives us hot and cold water. Showering outside is a luxury that few people get to experience, but it’s oh so much better than showering inside – give it a try sometime!
We check the weather multiple times a day. Actually, we are kind of obsessive about it as it changes frequently (well, not in terms of rain or sun but in terms of wind and direction). If we don’t have access to internet, we can download a quick weather file using our satellite phone (we have an Iridium Go) or our SSB Radio. I like to triangulate the sources by checking WindyTY, PredictWind, Windfinder and tide charts.
As the evening rolls forward, we might play a game, shower, do some laundry or prep for dinner. If we are staying in a marina, we might go out or take a stroll after dinner. While on anchor, we almost always cook, and we can go for days without touching our feet on land, which gives us a bouncy, rolling feeling when we finally do step on land.
And, for years, Kirby has been after me to watch Game of Thrones, but I have resisted,…until now! We have all 7 seasons on a hard drive, and we’ve been watching in the evenings. We are just starting Season 5, and I’m finally hooked. Spoiler Alert: everyone dies!
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.
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 –
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.
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.