Watching Paint Dry

When you live afloat it’s painful to see your home sweet boat held captive in dry dock. Happy Dance simply can’t do her happy dance while balancing all 25,000 pounds on her keel! So it was with great excitement when the paint was finally dry and Happy Dance was ready to be splashed after 12 long days on the hard.

Our first evening on the water was full of our favorite sights and sounds; water gently lapping on the hull, the sound of a turtle taking a breath nearby, the flags flapping in the breeze, the setting sun painting the clouds pink over the mountains, and the lovely clean air blowing through the boat. Ahhhhh…

If you care to hear all the dirty, grimy, sooty details of our visit to the hard land of dust and paint fumes, read on!

Happy Dance was hauled out on Monday, with an expected launch date four days later. Greg Rhew and his crew from Puerto Escondido Marine had already proved his expertise with some awesome work on the generator a few weeks earlier and was now going to do bottom painting. Unfortunately (as is usually the case with boat projects) the planned work became more complicated and took longer than anticipated. We originally planned to have the two layers of ablative paint removed, and hard paint rolled on. Well, when you sand the paint off that’s when you find the real Da Vinci under the Da Vinci, a.k.a., you can see any issues in the hull, keel or rudder, and that’s exactly what we found – issues.

The keel had some rust spots, the rudder had some cracks, the caulking around the top of the keel was loose and needed to come out, there were spots on the hull where the webbing of the fiberglass was visible where the gel coat had been scratched off, and the opening for the propeller shaft had a crack…Yikes! It’s enough to make a girl lose sleep and I did!

We think that the bottom of the keel and the sides of the hull were damaged when Happy Dance slid off the hydraulic trailer during her launch in San Carlos last year. You may remember a past blog about the bounce/crunch heard ‘round the world when Happy Dance hit the cement ramp from a two foot drop…ouch…it still makes me cringe. At any rate, since we had the boat on the hard and we had Greg’s happy crew ready with their grinders we had the keel brought down to metal, and the sides sanded down. The keel received a layer of Rust Block, and the sides would get some Marine Tex, and the top edge would be resealed with 5200.

The cracks along the prop shaft opening and on the leading edge of the rudder were a bigger concern (and more lost sleep). Thankfully, after having them ground out, we could see that they were all superficial and the cracks didn’t go into the structure. The crew ground them down far enough so that Marine Tex could be laid into the grooves, sanded smooth, and voila – ready for paint.

While all this was going on, there was a two day blow which meant that the boat yard was closed for any paint sanding to avoid all that toxic dust from blowing into the area. Then the electricity in the entire area, including Loreto, went out one day causing another delay. That put the job behind schedule for three days, and the additional jobs of grinding on the keel and rudder also added a couple of days. The Marine Tex had to be delivered from La Paz, so that of course was another day! Ahhh, Bienvenido a Mexico…things take time!

During all these delays, Greg was constantly monitoring our job, juggling the schedule in any way possible to keep things moving along. One night he had his guys work well into the night to finish the sanding after the winds had died. When the bottom of the keel had to be ground we had a limited time frame in which to have the travel lift hoist Happy Dance higher for access to the keel, and Greg joined his crew down in the dirt grinding away to make sure we used the time to full advantage.

When all the prep work was done, the grinding completed, the Marine Tex dried and sanded, Happy Dance had a lovely smooth bare bottom…whoohoo! Now it was time to paint. First a coat of Rust Block on the keel, some Barnacle Buster on the propeller and shaft, then a coat of primer, two coats of black hard paint with a third coat on the water line. Then we watched the paint dry. Once all that was dry, Happy Dance was hoisted up again on the travel lift to have the stands removed so that the squares that were missed on the first round of final paint could be completed, as well as another coat of paint on the bottom of the keel. Sand a few rough spots, repaint and watch the paint dry a little longer. She does look pretty!

Then, voila! Happy Dance was ready to be launched. The travel lift operator gently drove her across the yard, we boarded her while she hovered over the water, and then lowered until the straps were finally loose and Happy Dance was floating again…ahhh. Start the engine, back out of the slot, try to miss the new dock and the boat heading into the fuel dock, and tie to a mooring ball.

Happy Dance and her happy dancing crew are full of smiles and a huge amount of satisfaction at a job well done. The work performed by Greg and his crew was excellent in every way and we couldn’t be happier. Had we been in another yard, it’s doubtful whether the issues we found during the sanding process would have been addressed to such detail and with such an eye for doing things right. We are very happy to know exactly what is beneath us and to know that we are all set for more happy adventures afloat.

Now if I could only get Marty’s head out of the bilge so we could leave Escondido and head south! But that’s another issue, for another blog, and hopefully another happy ending…

Marty and his #$@ water maker!!

B Words

This blog is brought to you by the letter “B”!

Bottoms, batteries, bellies, bad water, budgets and the unspoken B word that must be banished whenever it rears its ugly head.

The cruising life is sometimes very challenging. Think of all that you do to maintain your house, then add lots of salt water, high temperatures, and a moving foundation. Remove any convenient stores such as Home Depot, Ace Hardware, or West Marine, and add a language barrier between yourself and any of your service reps. Okay, now try to find a wire under the floor below a water tank, behind a wall, while upside down with your head in the bilge. Getting the picture?

Things break. So lately we’ve been fulfilling the old sayings that cruising is “working on your boat in exotic locations”, and that “BOAT stands for “bring out another thousand”.

Back to the B’s. Let’s start with bottoms. Nothing broken here, just lots of growing critters because of old paint. Happy Dance is on the hard, getting all the old paint removed so that we can have lovely new paint added. You may remember the last time we tried this in San Carlos, the boat yard dropped us off the hauler, Happy Dance bounced on her keel in shallow water, and our hearts stopped. No damage thankfully, but the paint job was extremely poor and it has nearly worn off in much too short of a time frame. This time we’ll remove the layers of ablative paint and start fresh with higher quality hard paint. We’re going back to black, so maybe we’ll start attacking the whales again!

Batteries are the next B, closely tied to the budget debacle. When we left Anacortes over four years ago we had 8 brand new Full River DC-115 AGM batteries that made up our house batteries, giving us 920 amp hours. Since leaving the dock in San Carlos last month, we have had trouble keeping the house batteries charged, and the separate engine start battery completely died. We replaced the engine start battery asap, since of course we couldn’t start the engine or run the anchor windlass without it.

The house batteries were another story because they were working, but not at optimum levels. This made it necessary to run the engine and generator much more often to keep the batteries charged, and in so doing the generator stopped running too! That of course drove more budget overages to get the generator fixed, by adding a fuel pump, cleaning the racor filters, and cleaning out all the fuel lines. Thankfully it runs like a champ now.

We have now had the house batteries load tested and validated that they are no longer holding a charge when under load, or as one mechanic said; they’re in a death spiral. So, here we are in Mexico, land of flooded cell batteries, and we need AGMs. We finally just decided to go all in and have the 8 batteries, weighing 75 lbs each, delivered from San Diego, for a budget breaking fee of course.

The next B word on our lovely list is belly. This is a weird one and comes with a crazy story. I had a bump on my belly that decided to turn into a nasty infected mess. In trying to figure out how to resolve this issue we went to visit a doctor here in Loreto. As I tell this story I need to add a disclaimer that Mexican medical services shouldn’t be judged by this story. There are plenty of highly trained and top notch medical professionals in Mexico. This was just an unusual small town situation where we were shown the generosity and caring of the people here even though the results weren’t quite up to our comfort level.

So here goes; we made an appointment to have my “belly bump” looked at by a local doctor. When we got to his office, we were told by the receptionist that he was at home that day because his mother was ill and did we want to visit him there? Marty and I were a little skeptical, since it’s not typical for us to visit a doctor at their home! Anyway, after some bumbling attempts to converse with the receptionist, we finally ascertained where the doctor lived and that he was expecting us. The directions were to go around the corner, turn left down a small dirt road that didn’t have a name (picture back alley), and look for a house with a white Altima in the driveway. Well we did that, and as we were driving down the little dirt road, I was a little unsure if we should be there at all! We soon found the house with the Altima parked out front and as we were deciding whether or not to even get out of the car, out comes Dr. Fernando, dressed in a dirty torn t-shirt, black baggy sweat pants, dirty socks, and pushing a walker. Yikes! However he welcomed us in perfect English and invited us into his home. Not wanting to offend him, we followed him in and proceeded to be jumped on by his new puppy. The house wasn’t what I would call clean, but not filthy, just cluttered, and the flat screen TV was blaring a Mexican soap opera.

Dr. Fernando asked me to sit on the couch while he took my vitals, then he asked me to lie down on the couch so he could take a look at my tummy. Picture a small overstuffed couch, with the doctor sitting on one end with his bag and he wasn’t moving, so I had to lift my legs over his head to lie down; very cozy. He poked and prodded and announced that I had an abscess, that he would prescribe some antibiotics and if it didn’t get better he’d have to drain it the following week.

The following week things weren’t better, but rather than head back to the doctor’s house we headed for the states. Needless to say the thought of Dr. Fernando coming at me with a steak knife from the kitchen drawer to drain my owie was a bit more than I could handle..ha! I’m sure all would have been well in his clinic, but since we were already dealing with a rampant infection we felt that it would be a bit safer to have it dealt with in the states. After seeing all that the American doctors did to get me on the road to recovery, we were very glad we’d made the decision to head north. All is well now, so this little episode is now just a funny story in the long list of funny stories we are collecting!

So let’s see, what’s next in the list of B words; oh, bad water! Another piece of equipment that decided to die this month was our water maker. Rather than giving us pure water at a level of around 200-300 PPM (parts per million), it decided to stop working at optimum levels and the output water was reading 800+PPM. Supposedly it’s okay to drink water up to 1,000 PPM, but it sure doesn’t taste good. We haven’t yet figured out what’s up with the water maker, and can’t test any fixes until we get Happy Dance back in the water. Hopefully it’s either low voltage from our dying batteries, or a bad pump, for which we have a replacement, or we need to replace the membrane. If none of those work, all bets are off!

The double B – broken budget is a given with all this work we’re suddenly having done to the boat. The bottom paint was a planned expense, but new batteries, an unscheduled trip to the US, water maker parts, generator fixes, and outboard fixes are all surprises. Oh well, I guess we can just chalk it up to the price of living in paradise!

So that brings me to my last B word for this exciting and expensive blog. And that is…drumroll please…boredom! That’s the B word that must be banished, that isn’t acknowledged or even said out loud by most cruisers. I mean really, how is it possible to be bored? Look around! Beauty everywhere, beaches to walk, boat chores to do, swims and snorkels to take, games to play, sun downers to share, books to read. So why the B word? I blame it on not being able to swim while my tummy was healing. Floating over crystal clear 84 degree water, and not being able to dive in was more than my little swimming heart could handle. So we momentarily succumbed to a feeling of b-b-b-boredom, that unfortunately has been following us as we wait wait wait for work to be finished on Happy Dance.  As is often the case with boat projects, this one is already delayed by three days as more issues are discovered, but thankfully we will soon be back in the water heading south enjoying all the sights, sounds, and blissful (a GOOD B word!) feelings of the cruising life.

The northers have started to blow and the temperatures are dropping, so it’s time to point the bow across the Sea and head for the mainland tropics. We’ll let the wind direct us as we head to Matanchen, La Cruz, Tenacatita, Barra Navidad and possibly further south. We’ll be back up this way in the spring, or at least that’s the plan! But that’s the P word, and plans are subject to change, so we’ll save that for another blog.

To Do’s, Chain, and Engine Woes Part IIIa

Interested in the continuing saga of the Happy Dance To Do list, chain, and another exciting update on our engine woes? If so, read on…

First, the engine.  See this little part?  We (aka Marty) now know how to remove and install the fuel shutoff solenoid.  So we’ve got the part in our hot little hands and we’ll get a new one on our trip north.  Hopefully, that will solve our engine woes.  Stay tuned to this blog channel until January when we install the new part and fire her up!

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Bosch Fuel Shutoff Solenoid

 

When we’re in a marina, our To Do list usually gets plenty of attention.  This week we’ve crossed off a number of big items; we’re getting the fire extinguishers recharged, the life raft is headed to San Diego to get repacked and re-certified, we’ve emptied the v-berth in preparation for a swap meet and have already sold a number of items that we no longer use.  The other big to do, that is now tah-dahh is that we’ve replaced our anchor chain.

Chain is heavy, dirty, sometimes a little kinky, and I’m glad to say we’re finally done playing with it!  I guess it’s kind of a cruiser thing to be excited about getting new chain.  We all have those expenses that aren’t very glamorous, but that are critical to our personal lifestyles.  For us, anchor, chain and windlass, a.k.a. ground tackle, represents our security and we trust that lifeline to hold us safe as we sleep or as we ride out rough weather on the hook.

When we bought Happy Dance she had a Delta anchor with 300 feet of 5/16 inch chain with 150 feet of rope rode in the anchor locker.  We replaced the Delta anchor with a 55 pound Rocna anchor, but kept the original chain.  We have no way of knowing how old the chain was when we got it, but we have used it for four years and it’s seen lots of ups and downs!  One summer while we were away the chain rusted horribly, and since then it’s been flaking rust off with each use so that the anchor locker was full of yucky rusty shavings.  The chain itself was looking a bit sketchy too, so we decided it was time for new chain!

Thankfully we were able to get our hands on new 5/16 inch chain here in La Cruz, and didn’t have to deal with trying to ship it in.  We ordered 300 feet, but the store cut it a little short (guess they didn’t know that saying…measure twice cut once), so we only got 250 feet since it was now the longest length they had.  We hope not to need the full 300 feet, and luckily anchorages in our current cruising areas are fairly shallow so that we rarely put out more than 125-150 feet.  When we were in the NW and Alaska, the anchorages were much deeper and we often used more than that.  At any rate, we went ahead and purchased the 250 feet and started the process of changing out the chain.  UGH!

First job was to empty the anchor locker.  Pulling 300 feet of rusty, nasty chain out was a dirty job.  We laid it out on the dock so that we could see what we had and clean it.  Then we pulled out the nylon rode from the bottom of the locker that was covered in mud and rust.  We tied the nylon line into a bundle, tied it to the boat, and tossed it overboard for a soak.  Marty started cleaning out the locker and I started washing down the chain.  Day one, done!

The next day we hauled up the nylon rode and started cleaning it off with the hose.  Amazingly, it came clean and is totally usable.  We also measured out the old chain and determined that the bottom 150 feet of it was still good.  So when the new chain arrived we borrowed the store’s huge chain cutter and cut off the rusty end.  Then it was time to measure out the new chain and put markers on it so that Marty would be able to tell how much chain is out when we anchor.  Day two done!

Now we have 150 feet of old chain that we’ll use for our spare anchor, the Delta, and we have 250 feet of new chain that we’ll use on the primary anchor, our much loved Rocna.  The next step was to splice the nylon line to each length of chain, whip the ends and tie it into the chain locker and reload everything back into the locker.  We’ve seen boats where the chain is directly attached to the anchor locker; NOT a good idea considering that someday it may be critical to be able to cut the boat free from the anchor.  With Marty feeding and me layering the nylon and chain neatly into the locker we soon had it all filled up.  Attach the anchor, and PHEW, we’re done!  Time for a cerveza!

We only carry our primary anchor on the bow with the spare stowed in the bilge, but we’ll keep all the chain in the locker for easier access.  At some point we’ll divide the anchor locker so that we can keep each set of rode separate, but for now we have it layered with the thought being that the only reason we’d use the spare chain is if the primary is either lost or already in use.  So we realize it’s not the best way to have it stored, but it will do for now.  Long story short we feel better with a clean anchor locker that will no longer drip rust stains down the bow, and with lovely new strong chain to keep us safe.  It’s kind of funny how our must have’s have changed since becoming cruisers!

So now we can cross that item off the to do list and get back to watching sunrises and sunsets…ahhh…have I mentioned I love this life?

 

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View of the sunrise from our back porch…

 

P.S….Aretha even sang a song about us…

Chain, chain, chain
(Chain, chain, chain)
Chain of fools….

Milestones and Maintenance, or Engine Woes Part III

When we last posted we were lying at anchor in Bahia Falsa, just north of La Paz, in the state of Baja California Sur. Since then we’ve traveled south from the Sea of Cortez to Banderas Bay on the Pacific Coast of Mexico.

I’ve lost count of how many times we’ve made the 300+ mile trek between the Baja and the mainland, but each trip is always different. This one was fun in that we buddy-boated for the first time. We left Bahia de Los Muertos before dawn, and a few hours behind our early rising friends on Cake. We finally caught up to them around noon and then continued the next two days and nights within a mile of each other. It was nice to look over in the darkness and see their navigation lights, and to share sightings of turtles, dolphins, and the occasional confusion of lighted long lines and shrimpers as we closed in on Isla Isabel.

This passage was an easy one, and we were able to steer the rhumb line the entire way. We sailed much of the first day on a bit of a beam swell, then the wind died and we ended up motoring the second day on smooth seas, with the current pushing us so that we made great time. We arrived in Ensenada de Matanchen at sunrise, dropped the hook, popped an anchor beer and hit the sack!

The next day the forecast was for NW wind 9-11, so we planned for an easy run to Chacala. NOT! After rounding the first point to change course to Chacala, a dark blue line of off shore easterly wind, 20+ knots with gusts in the high 20’s hit us across the beam. We had been motor sailing with our full main out, so we turned into the wind, reefed the main, and then rolled out the staysail so that we wouldn’t be overpowered by the gusts. Even with such a conservative sail set, the mast was pumping like crazy and the rigging was shaking. It was a bumpy ride with the northern swell opposing the offshore wind waves, but we were still making good time under sail.

Cruising is all about making plans and changing them and this day was no different. It didn’t seem like Chacala would be the best anchorage with the swell running, so we decided to press on to Punta de Mita. With hindsight we should have just anchored and ridden it out in Chacala or Bahia de Jaltemba, but that’s after the fact. The wind started veering to the south, right on our nose, so we furled the headsail and motor-sailed close to the wind with the mainsail giving us an extra push. That was fine, but the sea state was messy to say the least, with large square rollers coming from 3 directions, and none of them in our favor! We took a bit of water over the deck, and even over the paddleboards a few times, but it wasn’t anything worrisome, just uncomfortable. Cake was a few miles behind us taking the same waves as we both pounded into the wind. We pulled around the corner into Punta de Mita as the sun was setting so that we could see the large surf breaking on the point. Cake arrived an hour behind us in the dark so we got on the radio and flashed our beacon to help them make sense of all the lights in the anchorage while they found a spot to drop the hook.   Another example of an expected easy passage that turned into something quite different!

We stayed in Punta de Mita a couple of days, enjoying the sun and the sand, then headed to the marina in La Cruz where we slept to the sounds of the squeaking and stretching of our dock lines as Happy Dance gently danced with the tide. La Cruz de Huanacaxtle is one of our favorite spots, situated on the Pacific Ocean’s Bahía de Banderas in the state of Nayarit, just north of Puerto Vallarta, which is in the state of Jalisco. While here we’ll do some provisioning, eat lots of fresh fish and shrimp, check off a few things on the to do list, enjoy the local music and restaurant scene and meet up with lots of friends, old and new!

The one big item on our to do list is obviously to resolve our engine issues. Marty spent an entire day with his head in the bilge pulling fuel lines, blowing them out to make sure they were clear, re-attaching and checking connections. Marty was one with all things fuel! The mystery was still there though, as no lines were blocked or letting air in. A new friend that we’d met at a local get together, was Alan on Kemo Sabe, and he knew a thing or two about diesel engines. He was nice enough to come over to peruse the issue with Marty and they came up with a working theory that we’ve since put to the test by running out to Punta de Mita and trying to start the engine while it was hot, then cool. The test has potentially validated the theory, which is…

There is a part in the engine called the Internal Fuel Control Lever that shuts the fuel off when we press the kill switch at the helm.  When the engine is hot we think this switch is not resetting itself to let fuel pass through again so the engine won’t start. When we put a fan on the engine to cool the area where this switch is, the engine starts!  This seems to be our work around, since that lever is buried inside the fuel pump assembly, which means lots of mess to get it out and checked!  That’s the next area of research; to see if the fuel pump can be removed and worked on here in La Cruz.

So there you have it, Engine Woes Part III, or the Mystery of the Missing Fuel. With a working work-around, we’ve now moved down the to do list to anchor chain. We need new anchor chain to replace the rusty pile in the anchor locker. Think of buying 4 new tires with fancy rims, that’s what anchor chain will set you back. And here’s your trivia question for the day; how much does 300’ of 5/16” chain weigh? If you figure it out will you come and carry it to the boat for us?

We’ve also passed a big milestone this month; we’ve lived on board Happy Dance for 4 years now, and we’ve put over 13,000 statute miles under the keel. Ahhh, life afloat; rocking at anchor enjoying paradise, and doing boat chores in exotic places. Later today, we’ll probably polish something, paddleboard to shore, watch the surfers, or take a walk on the beach, followed by some sunset watching. It’s a tough life, but I’m glad it’s ours!

 

 

Engine Woes Part II

The sun is shining, the wind is blowing, and there’s a turtle swimming around the bay keeping us entertained. What more could we want? Maybe an engine that ran!?

When we last reported, the engine-fix-it-guy was on his way to our rescue while we were docked in Marina de La Paz. We finally made it onto his busy schedule on Thursday, and after putting all the pieces back in place and tweaking this and that, voila, we had an engine! The alternator was charging the batteries, there were no leaks to be seen, the valves were doing their valve thing and the injectors were injecting; all was good! The problems with the engine were chalked up to an air leak that was causing the engine to shut down. The hose and hose clamps that were the culprits were fixed and the alternator mysteriously fixed itself. Who knows…at any rate we said goodbye to Mr. Fix-it and planned for an early departure from the dock.

In the morning we did all our last minute chores, removed all the garbage from the boat, made sure everything was stowed in preparation for the expected lumpy sea, completed our pre-departure engine and instrument checks, updated the log book, shared a traditional PDH (Pre-Departure Hug); then it was time to cast off the lines! We motored out of the marina, and made our way out the channel, coasting along on the outgoing tide. Ahhhh, it felt great to be underway.

We needed to refuel so we pulled into the fuel dock at Marina Palmira. We also needed to pay for the engine work, so Marty walked over to the Cross Marine office to get all that taken care of. All fueled, all paid, and ready to go, but Happy Dance had other plans. The engine didn’t want to start! We chalked it up to possibly being too hot, so we ran the fan a bit longer until the engine temp was lower. It took a number of tries, but eventually we got it started. In hindsight we should have gone back to Cross Marine then and there, but you know what they say about hindsight.

We motored out of the channel and headed north toward the islands. Our plan was to anchor somewhere up on Isla Espiritu Santos where we’d be out of the NE winds that were forecast to be in the high teens, low twenties. Along the way we got a call on the VHF from our friends on Cake who had decided that bashing into the waves for three hours wasn’t going to be all that fun so they were anchored in Bahia Falsa, just a few miles up the way. We figured that sounded like a good choice and joined them for a lovely calm night after a blustery day.

Happy Dance enjoying the sunset in Bahia Falsa...photo credit to s/v Cake!

Happy Dance enjoying the sunset in Bahia Falsa…photo credit to s/v Cake!

 

The next morning we were up at dawn and watched as Cake weighed anchor to head north before the NE winds kicked up again. We had a second cup of coffee and listened to the morning weather reports before starting the engine and weighing anchor around 8:15am. Once out of the bay the wind was already in the high-teens with some steep choppy waves so we rolled out the mainsail and staysail, and set our course as close to the wind as possible since we’d have to do two sides of the triangle to get to where we were going! Then it was time to turn off the iron genny.  Ahh, silence. As we got further offshore, the wind picked up and we were doing 6 to 7 knots while beating to windward in a lively sea. It was a great sail and Happy Dance was perfectly balanced with the staysail and the main out, so we were able to point at about 40 degrees off the wind with zero weather helm. Lovely!

A great day for a sail!

A great day for a sail!

Then we crossed into the lee of the island and it was like someone turned off the fan. The wind immediately fell to about 9 knots from the 18-20 we’d been enjoying. We rolled up the staysail and rolled out our big 135 Genoa. Even with more sail out our speed fell to about 3-4 knots in a rough sea. We kept tweaking the sails to keep moving along as best we could but without a strong wind, the waves kept pushing us back, so we decided to start the engine and motor sail for a bit.

At least that was the plan! As you may have guessed, we couldn’t start the engine. After a few tries, Marty went below to see what he could see. He bled the fuel lines thinking it might be a fuel problem, but there was plenty of fuel at the engine. There didn’t appear to be any air in the system either. Everything looked to be working fine, with the one exception that it wouldn’t start!

We can’t pull off the freeway and call the two truck, so now what. We’re about 6 miles offshore heading to an anchorage that may or may not be an easy entrance depending on how deep the wind is blowing into the bay. If it’s not blowing over the mountain into the bay we won’t be able to sail in deep enough to be in shallow water and out of the swell. Plus if we can’t get the engine going again, we’re stuck on an uninhabited island!

Next choice was to return to La Paz, but the thought of sailing up the 4.5-mile narrow, dredged, buoyed channel against the current without an engine made us cringe. It wasn’t a very nice scenario to think of the sand bars and shoals on the edges of the channel that would limit our maneuverability. Our next option was to head back to Bahia Falsa where we had been overnight. There was plenty of room to anchor there and if the wind held out of the NE we could possibly sail right in. Plus, we would have cell phone coverage and could call Cross Marine directly rather than on the VHF.

Decision made; furl the mainsail, tack the Genoa, and do a 180-degree turn! It’s always such a drastic change to head downwind after beating to windward. The boat starts surfing over the waves, and traveling with the wind feels calm even when it’s blowing 15-18, and you’re still moving along at 6+ knots under just the Genoa! We set a course for the channel marker at the entrance of the bay that is used by cruise ships, ferries, and tankers making a sharp turn into the larger section of the bay. Hopefully we wouldn’t meet one as we made the turn!

Before reaching the channel marker we tried the engine again, but no luck. Time to get ready for another anchor under sail. Expecting to have to tack our way into the bay we rolled out the smaller staysail and furled the big Genoa. Having two sails is great, except that to tack our Genoa requires that we furl it, and then unfurl it on the new tack, in order to get it through the narrow gap between the two fore stays. So, we were now sailing under staysail alone, trying to keep our heading as close to the wind and the back of the bay as possible.

After passing the point, the wind started getting very fluky, changing strength and direction by as much as 60 degrees. We kept adjusting the sail, tacked a few times, trying all the while to keep our speed and not lose steerage. At one point we were about to tack and suddenly the wind veered off to leeward; we had to change course so much that we were just about pointed toward the entrance. I thought we’d have to do a 360 to get back on course, but luckily along came a strong gust that slowly gave us steerage again, and allowed us to tack one last time. Then the wind was pretty much on our nose no matter what we did and our headway was severely limited, so in 25′ of water we dropped anchor and rolled up the sail. The wind was still strong enough to push us down on the anchor and we were soon set, safe and sound in Bahia Falsa.

So now we wait. It’s the weekend and we will have to wait until Monday to reach anyone at Cross Marine. Thankfully we’re in a safe anchorage, we have all we need, and we can dinghy to shore to pick up Rob when he’s available. And the best part is that we have seals and two huge resident turtles swimming around the boat! OH, and sunsets….did I mention awesome sunsets?? Ah, life is good!