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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

5/12/2011 - Yesterday

Can't really say we "woke up" yesterday morning as I don't think either one of us actually slept much. San Telmo is the worst excuse for an anchorage we have ever experienced! Now, as you know if you've been reading this blog, we have had some very uncomfortable nights at anchor. But, mostly we just grin and bear it. If the anchor's holding good, we just go on about our business. But San Telmo was a whole other beast. There were these big swells coming in from the NNW that would cause the boat to roll a lot. But then, after every 5th or 6th swell, there would come a couple of REALLY big swells that would shake us like we were inside a dice tumbler. Lulu was up time and again to secure something new that had come crashing down. We have 8 of those divided boxes that you keep small stuff in and every shake made those things rattle like crazy. We heard noises we've never heard before. And the worst part was that this continued even when there was no wind. And with no wind to keep us pointed into the waves, we just pitched up and down fore and aft, we ended up sideways to the swells so we rolled side-to-side sickeningly. It was a major chore just to hold one's position in bed.

So, we got up ready to move on. Lulu insisted on a little normalcy so we had coffee and breakfast (although all I ate were a couple of cookies), then I dove into the engine compartment to see how my JB Weld fix had held. Well, it hadn't held at all. Either the mating surfaces weren't clean enough or I got the mix slightly wrong or something because as soon as I started to tighten the clamp, the "welded on" piece just started separating from its base. I pulled it back off and found that I could just peel the JB Weld off and it was sort of plastic-y rather the hard and metal-like as it should be. Well there was no way we were spending another night anchored here so we needed an alternative plan.

Our first 2 alternatives were both basically the same except for location: Tie the dinghy alongside the mother ship and, with it's outboard running, use it to "tow" the boat to either the northernmost end of San Telmo which looked like it might be better than where we were, or south about 1.5 nm to Puerto Los Gatos which is supposed to be better protection. Then I can clean up the pieces with a Dremel tool and acetone and try again, being very careful with my mix this time.

The first step was to mount the outboard on the dinghy. I gassed it up while it was still hanging on our stern rail as I knew it would be too hard once it was on the REALLY bouncy dinghy (little did I know just how hard it would prove to be). We decided I should motor over to the north end of San Telmo to see if it was less rolly there. I did and it was. Still rather be at Los Gatos but 1.5 nm might be more than this little lash-up could take. Back at Siempre Sabado, I tied the rudder amidships and Lulu got in the dinghy and started the outboard. It seemed to be moving us so I started hauling in anchor chain. Once the anchor was secured, I manned the tiller while Lulu manned the throttle on the outboard. We tried to get over to the north anchorage but the swells exerted too much power to allow us to turn left. So we went with the flow and turned right until we were headed in the right direction. Trouble was, we couldn't keep going in the right direction so we had to turn around again. This was going to be a very slow way to reach our destination. After our second full circle, the outboard started to falter. And then it ran out of gas. (note: turns out it didn't run out of gas. I think it either sucked air in the gas line due to the bouncing, or it just quit running out of pure self-defense). I traded places with Lulu and tried to gas it up but there was absolutely NO WAY I was going to be able to do that. It was like we were on a trampoline but less predictable. If I tried to add gas to the dinghy either the gas can or I was going to end up in the drink. And it wasn't going to be me. So I climbed back aboard and we decided we'd have to sail out.

Unrolled the jib (path of least resistance) and started heading out of the bay. It was going well so I released the dinghy from alongside and tied it up in its towed position. Once that was done, we turned into the wind and raised the main. The wind was from the north so we could have turned south and gone into Puerto Los Gatos but I wasn't sure I could enter and leave that reef-strewn port safely under sail, especially since I knew there were at least 2 other boats anchored there, so we decided to just go for it and head north as planned.We were trucking along at a nice clip, close-hauled, headed for Puerto Escondido. Trouble was, with the wind coming from where it was (kinda NNE), we were actually headed east with maybe just a little bit of south as well. No problem, we'd make it up when we tacked. We were flying along at about 5 knots and really enjoying the ride. It was nice to be out of San Telmo and moving along again. But, finally it was time to tack. Put the helm over, release the jib sheet and start hauling in the other jib sheet. But, we couldn't get the bow through the wind and ended up "in irons". Had to fall off, gain some speed and try again. And again we failed. Not sure what the problem was. One problem is that the clew of the jib sheet gets caught on the staysail stay going across and slows that movement down but I think there was something else going on as well. Well, knowing that this was not the only way to shift headings, we chose to jibe instead of tack. (For you non-sailors: tacking is when you move the bow of the boat across the wind and jibing is when you do this with the stern. Por ejemplo: You're walking along with the wind hitting your left cheekbone. If you turn to the left so the wind crosses your nose and hits your right cheekbone, you've tacked. If, OTOH, you turn to the right and make an almost full circle until the wind is hitting your right cheekbone, you've jibed.). So, we pulled off a flawless jibe and started heading more or less WNW. By the time we were ready to tack again, we were just about back where we started at San Telmo. Didn't make much headway that time. So we tried to tack again and failed again. Another jibe and we were headed east again. This time we managed to keep the boat pointed just a little bit above east so that we were gaining something at least towards our goal of going north.

During all this, we got a couple of radio calls. Neil & Lisa on Gypsy motored past us and called to say that it looked like we were doing a dance out there. Neil had some suggestions for fixing our exhaust involving rescue tape and Coke cans. I had thought about the Coke cans (and even had a couple of beer cans already cut into flat pieces of aluminum) but I had been planning on trying to insert them inside the orifices somehow. Hadn't thought about Rescue tape until the middle of the night but I wasn't really sure that it could stand the heat. I'd rejected the idea when I thought about it because of the thinness of the aluminum cans (Mexican beer cans are made of super-thin aluminum, a step or two above foil) and because I didn't have hardly any lip (maybe 3/16") on the broken off end to attach anything to. Anyway, I told Neil I'd keep the idea in mind. David called from Aztec and I told him our plan to sail to Puerto Escondido. He said that there was a boat yard right there so we might not even have to go into Loreto to get the part fixed. He said that Carolyn suggested we might want to go to La Paz since we could get things fixed there for sure and that was the way the wind was blowing. I said that I figured we could make up the 40 mile difference between the two destinations even with the north winds and then, at least we wouldn't have lost any ground. He also said that if we could get to Agua Verde by nightfall and get anchored, he'd meet us there and tow us into Puerto Escondido if we like. I thanked him for the offer and said I'd let him know.

Meanwhile, we're sort of headed north-ish and are at least further north than last night's anchorage, but not by much. At this rate it was going to take a looooooooooooong time to get to Puerto Escondido. So we discussed the pros and cons and decided that the smartest move was just to turn tail and ride this north wind back to La Paz as Carolyn had suggested. So we turned around, poled out the jib, let the main out on the other side with a preventer, and headed south wing-and-wing. Radioed Gypsy to let them know but didn't get through. Radioed Aztec and they said it sounded like the best plan to them.

I'm kind of guessing here but I'm going to say it was probably about 10:00 AM when we started south. Things went really well for awhile but eventually we had to roll up the jib because we couldn't keep it full of wind so we continued on under mainsail alone. The autopilot even managed to steer w/o too much grief. The day proceeded lazily. Wasn't much wind in the afternoon, maybe 4.5 to 5 knots and we were moving along at 3.5 - 4 knots. We were hoping that when we entered the San Jose Channel we'd get the benefit of the funnel effect and the wind would accelerate. Our plan was to get to San Evaristo and spend the night.By late afternoon, the wind really started to drop until, just north of the San Jose Channel, it dropped off to pretty much nothing. By this time I had the jib back up as it seemed wrong to not have as much canvas as possible when the wind was so light. We were making 1-1.5 knots and the sails would fill and spill, fill and spill, fill and spill, ad nauseum. San Evaristo, or anywhere else for that matter, was not looking good for tonight. I started worrying about being in the channel in the dark with no way to drive the boat. There are some nasty-looking rocky cliffs on the west side of the north end of the channel that I didn't really want to meet in the daytime, much less the dark. They dropped off so steeply that I don't think even an anchor would save your butt. With all this in mind, I started re-running repair ideas in my head. After all, the engine runs, it just spews exhaust everywhere (EVERYWHERE!) and sprays seawater all over the engine compartment keeping the bilge pump busy and corroding everything it touches. Finally, I decided to try Neil's suggestion. I had to do something (oh, how I miss my italics when using Airmail) while we still had some light.

I had Lulu empty a couple of cans for me. I rolled up a corned beef hash can and managed to hose clamp it to the little nub of metal sticking out of the mixing elbow. Then, I wrapped the joint liberally with Rescue tape. The other end was quite a bit bigger than the nub and there was no way to stretch the hash can without dislodging it from the elbow. So, I wrapped it with a Mandarin orange can enough to insert it inside the exhaust manifold. Had to just attach it with Rescue tape since I didn't have a big enough hose clamp for the job (or at least I didn't know where it was if I did have one), which is why I inserted it inside rather than around the outside of the flange. Next I had to come up with a way to attach the two cans. The mandarin orange can would fit inside the hash can but there was a huge gap around them. I snipped the hash can about 3/4 of an inch long every 3/4 of an inch or so around its circumference. So now, one end looked like it had real wide fringe. Then I stuck this around the orange can and cinched it down with a hose clamp. The snips allowed the ends to overlap and make the can smaller. Once done, I wrapped everything liberally with Rescue tape. I used a whole roll of the stuff. I had no faith whatsoever that this lash-up would last past the engine warm-up time, much less for any serious motoring but I had to try.

Fired up the engine and watched the repair. No visible leaks. So far, so good. Let it run a bit and decided to go for it, albeit carefully. Rolled up the jib, brought the mainsail amidships and put the Westerbeke in gear. We decided to keep the revs down to 2000 RPMs. I don't know what effect higher RPMs would have had on the exhaust but it just seemed prudent to keep everything mellow. The closest anchorage was Mangle Solo on Isla San Jose and so, that's where we headed. I must have checked the gauges and exhaust flow every 5 minutes to be sure things were going OK.

As we approached Mangle Solo, we tried to reconcile what we were seeing with what the guidebook showed us. As we got nearer we could see that the north anchorage was basically no protection from anything other than an east wind. We started towards the southern anchorage which looked in the book to be a little better. However, we could see Punta San Evaristo from where we were and we knew that was a good protected anchorage. But should we risk it? Feel pretty stupid if we ended up halfway across and the repair blew up after being so close to an anchorage, albeit, not a great one. Lulu's suggestion was that we should open the engine compartment and take a look at the repair (I'd been scared to do this, afraid of what I might find) and, if it looked good, proceed to San Evaristo. Good idea. So we held our breath and opened up the hatch in the cockpit sole. The repair looked great. No sign of breakdown or leaks. Unbelievable! So we adjusted course for San Evaristo. Once I had the route in the GPS, it gave me the bad news that it's be another 2 hours before we reached SE at the speed we were going. But, unwilling to risk jeopardizing the repair by speeding up, we continued on. I continued to check gauges and occasionally open up the engine room hatch and take a look at the repair. Lulu continued to keep all her fingers and toes crossed.

It was dark well before we reached our destination. Fortunately we had at least some light as we had 1/2 moon. And, the GPS gave us our track based on previously used waypoints. But still, it was dark and it wasn't until we were practically abreast of the opening that we were able to see other anchor lights. Trouble is, we know that not everyone uses anchor lights. We had a brief moment of panic when it was discovered that Lulu's headset had a dead battery. Changing the battery requires digging out a jeweler's screwdriver. There was no way we were going to try to anchor in the dark with a bunch of other, possibly unlit boats around without the benefit of the headsets. So I turned around and did a few circles outside the entrance while Lulu installed a new battery. Once that was done, we headed in.

Lulu was at the helm and I was on the bow armed with my mega-bright spotlight. She was nervous because she basically couldn't see anything except some lights. Our one advantage was that we'd been here before so we had a lay of the land. But it sure looked different in the dark and there sure seemed to be a lot of boats anchored. But, we found a nice clear spot in 14' of water, dropped the hook, backed down on it to set it and shut the engine down. Once we had everything straightened up, we both realized how tired we were. And not just weary but muscle-tired. I think it was partly from how hard we had to work to maintain our positions in bed the night before, coupled with the stress of the day along with a liberal dose of hand-steering when the wind dropped too low for the autopilot to be able to do an efficient job. By now it was 10:15 PM. We had dinner (lobster salad) and I sent an e-mail to Gypsy to let them know our status. Then, even though we were getting sleepy, we decided to watch an episode of "Sons of Anarchy" and have a couple beers to truly wind down. Well, we made it through the show but only through one beer and then crashed. It was so still here that it was like being tied up at a marina. Slept like babies.

Since moderate north winds are predicted to continue for the next several days at least (no definite end in sight), we don't feel like we need to rush right back out. Today, we're going to straighten up the boat, check and beef up my repair job, stow the dink and outboard, do a little laundry, maybe buy some more beer, take showers and generally take it easy. Tomorrow we'll get up and get going. The winds are predicted to drop off in the late afternoon and evening so we'll have to see how far we can make it each day. Having the engine available will make things much easier.

Probably won't blog again today since I expect and hope today will be uninteresting. So don't look for anything until late tomorrow when I'll write about our trip from San Evaristo to who knows where.

OH! I almost forgot the a couple of way cool moments of the day. We were tooling along close-hauled when some dolphins came up to play a little bit. They didn't stay long but it was cool while they were there. Then, Lulu went below for something so I have no witnesses to this next item. I'm sailing along when, off to starboard I see (are you ready?) a freakin' shark jump completely out of the water. There was no chance this was anything but a shark. It was in perfect profile so the longer upper caudal fin, the distinctive dorsal fin and the pointed snout all cried "SHARK". He came completely out of the water and then back in. Never did it again. I didn't know sharks did that. The only jumping I'd ever seen was that obviously Photoshopped photo of the great white jumping up to catch the USCG rescue swimmer in the helicopter. No idea what made him jump unless the dolphins we saw were harassing him. I've heard they enjoy harassing sharks. It was so cool.Next cool moment was later in the afternoon. I went forward for something and Lulu was in the cockpit. I saw something go by the boat just under the surface. I looked closer and then all I could do was point and yell to Lulu, "Turtle! Turtle!" Fortunately she was able to get a look at it. Don't know what kind it was (Ridley? Leatherback? Who knows?) but it was a definitely a fairly large green sea turtle and right alongside the boat. Very cool.

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