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Sunday, October 16, 2011

10/16/2011 - Ensenada Blanca to.... ?

With my flight to SoCal set for 10 days from now, we decided to get back to La Paz faster than we normally would. Our normal trip would be Ensenada Blanca to Agua Verde, then Agua Verde to Timbabiche, then Timbabiche to San Evaristo, then San Evaristo to Ensenada Grande, and finally Ensenada Grande to La Paz. But, we thought it'd be good to speed that up a bit. It would take us about 15 hours to sail the 60 miles from Ensenada Grande to San Evaristo. So we figured that since the moon is just a couple days past full and the weather forecast is pretty benign, why not leave Ensenada Grande on Saturday evening, sail overnight and then spend Sunday and Sunday night in San Evaristo? That would cut out 2 overnight stays.

So, after bidding adieu to John & Patricia (s/v Trick), Ed & Lori (s/v Eileen May), Anna & Phil (s/v Seawind II) as well as Roberto and David at El Santuario, we weighed anchor and set off.

We departed Ensenada Blanca right on schedule at 1800. We had sun with us long enough to get around the corner and start heading southeast. The motor was running good and all seemed right with the world. Sunset was going to happen around 7:20 or so and the moon wouldn't be rising for another 2 hours after that so we'd have a couple hours to try to identify various constellations. We're not really all that far south but it sure seems like some of the constellations that have always been very easy to locate are harder to find down here.

The moon rose right on schedule. Looked like a big lopsided jack-o-lantern when it first came up. I was happy to see it because there was this one channel that we had to go through just after Agua Verde that had me kind of nervous. There's an off-shore reef that extends quite a ways under water. You have to go between it and the shore in a channel that's only about a mile or so wide. I know, a mile sounds like a pretty big passageway but, in the dark, with hazards underwater where they can't be seen, a mile is not quite as wide as it used to be. Fortunately, we passed through unscathed. The only casualty was our speed. Seems the tide was coming in and all that water had to go through the channel too. And, besides being narrow, the bottom rises from several hundred feet to about 50 to 60 feet so all that water had to be squeezed down. In doing so, it increased its speed against us and dropped our already slow 4 knots to 2.5 knots until we cleared the channel.

The rest of the night proceeded uneventfully. Lulu and I took turns sleeping for a few hours at a time. Listened to NPR for awhile and read a lot. It was a very peaceful night with no wind and gentle swells.

The sun came up at about 7:30 and we still had 2 hours to go until we reached San Evaristo. It was a beautiful morning and we were thankful to be passing through San Jose Channel in the daylight. As we neared San Evaristo, I got to thinking. And I think you probably know just how dangerous that can be. I had heard that we might get some heavier weather on Monday. We've been through some fairly uncomfortable seas in the San Jose Channel and weren't really looking forward to doing it again. Plus, if it did get ugly, we might get stuck in San Evaristo for a couple days. Normally we wouldn't care but this time we're sort of on a schedule. Can you see where this is going?

I talked to Lulu and we decided, what the heck, let's just push on to Ensenada Grande on Isla Partida. We should be able to get there by about 4:00 this afternoon. And so, that's exactly what we did. Bypassed San Evaristo altogether and continued on down the channel.

What little wind we had was on the nose as were these large but gentle swells. Lulu made us some breakfast and then laid down to get a little more shut-eye. I continued to read or listen to the radio. About 11:30, we switched and I went below to take a nap.

Sometime during my nap is when it happened. The engine quit.

There was a time when this would have just freaked me out. But this time, because it had been running so well for so long, I was pretty sure it was just a dirty fuel filter. Cool as a cucumber, I opened the engine compartment door and switched the two valves that gave me a nice clean primary filter. Close things up, start the engine and then listen to it die. Repeat. Repeat once more just to be sure. Yep, just as I thought. It's not the primary filter. Crappage!

Having no desire to climb into the nice hot engine room to change the other filters, we opted to sail. Raise the main, unroll the jib, point as close to the wind as we can and set the autopilot. Everything was going great except that the wind speed was pretty low and it was coming from where we wanted to go. Now, Siempre Sabado is a sweet little boat, but, loaded down like she is, she doesn't point worth a damn, especially when the wind speed will only allow us to go about 2 knots. So, we found ourselves sailing almost perpendicular to our rhumb line. Oh well, better than not moving at all I guess.

After a half hour or so of this, I figured the engine had cooled some. So I gathered up the spare filters, some tools and dove in. The little bitty filter on the engine is the easiest to replace so I tackled it first. It's located inside a little can and, when I removed the can, it was only about 1/4 full of fuel. That means that the supply was likely getting restricted upstream. But no matter. A guy can dream, can't he? I changed the little filter and fired up the engine. It died. Tried again. It died. Tried again, it didn't die. Whoa!! You mean that I might not have to change the other, harder-to-get-at filter? Cooooool.

Put the tools away, closed up the engine compartment, rolled up the jib, sheeted the main amidships for roll abatement, and started on our way. And then the engine died. Tried another couple of starts without much hope and got just exactly what I expected: no joy.

Okay, unroll the jib again, trim the sails, set the autopilot and prepare to jump back into the engine compartment as we slowly sailed away from where we wanted to go. Get the spare filter, climb back down and start removing the secondary filter. This filter is not really that hard to change, it's just kind of messy and difficult to reach. But, it is the one that I had to change so many times when we came down the Washington coast after we bought our boat in Anacortes and moved her to Newport, Oregon, so I was pretty used to the drill. With a minimum of problems I got the filter changed. We've had a small diesel leak in the engine room for a little while and now I know that this filter is the culprit. I think I got the leak slowed down while I was in there.

Anyway, climb back up, put stuff away, close up the engine compartment and try again.

Engine starts...engine dies.
Engine starts...engine dies.
Engine starts...engine dies.
Engine starts...engine dies.

Now wait just a darn minute! Okay, maybe it just needs more time to self-bleed the system. Let's try again.

Engine starts...engine dies.
Engine starts...engine dies.
Engine starts...engine dies.
Engine starts...engine dies.
Engine starts...engine dies.
Engine starts...engine dies.
Engine starts...engine doesn't die! Oh, pleasepleasepleasepleaseplease...
It keeps running. I put it in gear and it's still running. Get back on course and it's still running. Roll up the jib and, you guessed it, it's STILL running!

We cautiously start towards Ensenada Grande and the engine continues to run beautifully. Four hours later, we're there. We anchored in 24' of very clear water on 125' of chain. Lulu went snorkeling and said that the snorkeling here rivals anything we saw at Ensenada Blanca. We both had saltwater baths followed by a fresh water rinse.

Tomorrow, weather (and engine) permitting, we'll finish the trip to La Paz.

Also, once we're in La Paz, I'm going to eliminate the secondary fuel filter. That's how we ran the whole trip down from Newport: just the primaries and the little filter on the engine. I'm going to start changing a primary filter with each oil change and change the engine filter on every other oil change. That ought to head off any problems and make life much simpler to boot. And getting rid of the leaker filter will just be a bonus. Besides, the filter canisters for it are EXPENSIVE!

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Anonymous said...

You're not the only one with those sorts of problems this weekend! Hopefully we both get it all sorted out.

As a side note, you might want to check on the Griffin filter setup we put in Sundowner. Its a big initial investment but the filters are dirt cheap and easy as pie to change.

Anonymous said...

Ohh, I am happy you got to your destination. Even though the wind does not always do what you want at least you can move some. I would sure hate to see you out in the water with no system to get anywhere. I think your little boat is too large to use oars on. Love, Mom

Steve and Lulu said...


Looks like the Griffin system is based around the Racor 500 series turbine filter/water separators or something very similar. I actually am using twin Racor 500s in parallel as my primary filters. They are "hot switchable" although I just used a couple of 3-way valves to get the job done. Once I chuck the superfluous spin-on filter that's between the Racors and the engine-mounted filter, everything should be good.