Third Time is the Charm; But it Wasn’t Easy

leaving Cabo the first time on 13 May

After arriving on the southern tip of Baja California May 9th, two weeks later we are faintly getting out of this tourist trap. Oh, Cabo, or better yet, Cabo Falso, has finally loosened her grip on us to to us pass.

My two previous attempts were unpleasant at best, more like miserable. And on each the previous attempts to round the cape in ferocious seas and winds, I had tried two or three times, either tacking away from shore or closer to shore to escape her grip. Each time, I dragged myself back to Cabo, tail between my legs.

On the second attempt, the autopilot also started to not act right, so I felt the failure even more.

My Octopus pump. the top screw was leaking
The screw, replacement “O” ring and broken circ clip for the Octopus pump

With thousands of boats in Cabo San Lucas, I thought it would be easy to find the little “O” ring and broken circ clip my Octopus pump needed. After walking around to numerous places in the hot sun, I found the ring, but not the clip. I called my followers who is a plethora of mechanical advice (he’s the one who told me how to make emergency hydraulic fluid in the middle of the Atlantic), who explained that the circ clip was just a stop, so the screw would not come all the way out.  It was already out, so that solved that problem. I put the new “O” ring on, leak stopped, and pump worked fine.

The Garmin InReach track for the May 13, 20 and 23.
The superfluous tracks are Garmin’s way of introducing us to their world. https://share.delorme.com/dauntless

I am really in debt to Octopus Pumps. This is on the list of winter projects. I really need to have a spare.

We waited and waited. I was very conscious that every day was costing me $100+ The reality is on my budget with all the cruising I do, necessities come first, so a marina becomes a convenience. Thus, it’s the one place I really try to try to control my costs.

That I didn’t like Cabo just added insult to injury.

I make a habit to only look at Windy.com and the forecast winds once or twice a day. With crew on board, I look at it more often to make them happy, but I really don’t. The nature of forecasts is that if they change radically, they are most probably wrong. Thus, once a day will provide enough guidance. Also, while nowadays, the forecast models are run more often, at least every three hours, planet Earth still has a 24-hour day. In simplistic terms, the winds and weather are driven my differential heating caused by our day and night cycle. Therefore, running the model more often does helps, but it won’t totally cure instability issues with the forecast.

I know this is getting too complicated. Let me say this, if you are waiting for a specific weather window, like I was in Cabo, how many times have you noticed that during the day, the forecast is changing, only to return to what it said originally 24 hours later? So, looking at a forecast more than a couple times per day is simply not helpful and more often confusing. This was quite apparent as I watched the winds off the southern Baja Peninsula.

The other phenomena with numerical forecasts are the sliding weather window. I mean it shows favorable whatever in the 24 to 48-hour time frame. But the following day, the favorable whatever is still forecast to come in the 24 to 48-hour time frame. It’s like the forecast is waiting for something to happen. It is in fact; numerical models are just predictors of fluid dynamics. But something in the real world is not acting like the model suggests. Therefore, it keeps sliding the forecast.

Which is fundamentally why numerical models have not replaced weather forecasters. Weather forecasters will know the proclivity of each model for each area and time of season. Changing seasons is the biggest bugaboo for both man and machine. That’s why some months are easier or harder to forecast.

Enough weather for now.

Rounding Cabo Falso

On 23 May 2018, we finally got underway heading to Ensenada with stops along the way. The first protected stop was Maddalena Bay, about 200 miles up the coast.

Our track on Coastal Explorer. We are finally past the point that we turned around last time.

Coming abreast of Cabo Falso, winds had picked up to 310° at 15 gusting to 25 knots. I put one bird in the water to reduce the roll, which had gotten to 10° to 15° to port, as the winds were on the forward starboard quarter. We were pitching 6° to 8° up and down. Not fun, but tolerable for a while.

Six hours after departure, we were finally around the cape and heading NNW. Winds had died down to 10 knots, but we still had an unpleasant pitching motion.

Night view of Coastal Explorer our first night out of Cabo.
You can see the pitching and rolling motions for the last 12 hours on left on bottom of screen.

During the spring and more recently in my time in Cabo, it was apparent that there are three distinct weather regimes off the Baja coast. The southern third has the strongest and most consistent NW winds. The second third has slightly more variety, while the last third, north of Tortuga Bay, must more variable weather, more like southern California.

Our Coastal Explorer chart showing our route for the previous 36 hours, after arrival in Magdalena Bay
Navionics on Tablet, further out view on Coastal Explorer, as we proceed up the channel in Magdalena Bay
Another view out the pilot house window, with Maretron and Coastal Explorer chart

Not until we were close to Magdalena bay did the winds back around to the west, though they were strong at 15 to 20 knots.

We pulled into Magdalena Bay 17:00 on the second day, the 24th, we then spent a few hours going up channel to Puerto San Carlos, to be protected from the coming wind storm.

Another view out the pilot house window, with Maretron and Coastal Explorer chart. It did stay like that the entire time

This leg’s summary: 188 nm, 35 hours, 25 min, avg speed 5.45 knots

Now, let’s check out that dingy. If you missed that fiasco, see:

https://dauntlessatsea.com/2018/07/14/the-dingy-fiasco-part-1/

 

The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

Cabo San Lucas is a sunny, dry, playland for those with more money than sense. It’s a step towards reality, if your starting point was the Mexican Pavilion at Disney World or Las Vegas.

Cabo at night

It’s everything I have a point of avoiding during my last 40 years of international travel and exploration.

Worse of all, it was expensive for Dauntless, almost $100 per day at the IGY Marina. The marina in fact, was on the only bright spot of the whole experience. Accommodating, warm, friendly staff. It was no problem for me to stay on the “T”, as I did not like the idea of trying to maneuver down the various slip xxx.

And then there was Pancho, the 12-year-old sea lion, who lives in the harbor and this marina it seems.

Pancho hitching a ride and waiting for free fish

The other bright spot of time spent in Cabo, was meeting a family, wo was having a birthday party in town at their son’s bar. Larry and I were the only patrons and seeing me eyeing the cake, they must have felt obligated to invite us to share it with them.

An excellent pizza

We inquired about finding really food, not tourist food, and they squeezed us into their little pickup and off we went to the Mexican part of town. Whatever we ate was delicious and I cherish these types of experiences. A wonderful experience in otherwise a boring town.

Our new found freinds

That’s the Good, the Bad and the Ugly are best left unsaid. There is no reflection here, no lessons learned. I knew what it was and it was. 

Pancho on the dock
The statue of Pancho
Little Mexican Place
Dauntless wanting to leave

Moving On.

Four Easy Days

Why can’t they all be like this!

Sunset on the evening of Day 1, 20:02

Xtapa to Puerto Los Cabos and Cabo San Lucas.

After three nice days in Zihuantanejo and Xtapa, Brian, me and the boobies set out for Cabo 4 days away.

The NW winds had died down and we got going under high broken clouds and the temperature in the low 80’s. Winds were light, then as the day progressed, turned southerly (good), but the Pacific coast of Mexico just can’t help itself and my evening the winds were out of the north and northwest again, though not too strong at 8 knots.

Leaving Xtapa for Puerto San Lucas, Day 1, May 6, 07:36

For the next 36 hours the winds were about 5 to 9 knots, at night from the E or SE as a land breeze and during the day from the W or NW as a sea breeze (blowing on to the land to our E).

I was pleased to see the boobies return. They seemed to get the routine down better this time and at times we had as many as a dozen on the rails just enjoying the free ride.

We got buzzed by a fishing trawler, which is becoming the norm since returning to North America.

The fishing trawler that just had to check us out to make sure we were not taking his fish.

The only place it happened in Europe was in the Bay of Biscay. If the French won’t tolerate the Uber disruption, they certainly won’t tolerate anyone taking their fish. That we just look like a trawler, especially with our paravane poles, is an annoying coincidence.

Boobie resting outside pilot house door

In the first 48 hours, we put 333 nm under our belt; more than halfway.

Winds picked on the third day, from the west, and we in the mid-teens overnight, causing the most pitching and rolling since leaving Xtapa. I deployed the windward bird to keep the rolling manageable. Having the windward bird in the water is 80% as effective as both birds and the effect on the drag is the same, thus the bird doing the work also produced the drag.

Just physics, there are no free lunches.

Video of the Second evening

We entered the harbor and large marina of Puerto Los Cabos at 20:25; 85 hours after leaving Xtapa and 570 nm later. Turned out  this was the easiest three days of the entire Baja Bash only I didn’t know it yet!

Puerto Los Cabos was a disappointment. Only a few dollars cheaper than the marina a Cabo San Lucas, it was surrounded by … nothing. A 5-minute taxi ride that cost 30 pesos ($1.50) cost in Huatulco and 50 pesos in Xtapa now cost 200 pesos. I ended up renting a car for $60 for 24 hours. That made it easy to go to airport and drop Brian off and so a little shopping. I ended up staying two nights.

I was spending $90 a day in the marina, Cabo was about the same price. Anchoring was pragmatic at best near Cabo. From reading reviews on Active Captain and Noonsite, the anchorage was open to the swell, but worse, was in the area of all the tourists doing water hijinks. Thus, the locals discouraged boats from anchoring in various ways, which I did not want to test.

Maretron data showing weather data and pitch and roll for the last 24 hours. At this point, the roll tolerable, the pitch is not (multiple scale by about 4, thus -4 is about 16 degrees bow up)

Video of El Cid now passing behind us.

Maretron data showing the roll with bird in the water and increase after I pulled it.
Boobies on the port side rail
El CId passes behind us
AIS on Coastal Explorer showing El CId passing behind us
Encounter with passing cargo ship at 03:00. He looks closer on the chart because of the resolution, but why take chances in the middle of the night, thus the course change.
Morning of Day 2
Morning of Day 2. West of Manzanillo
Dauntless entering the harbor at Puerto San Lucas

 

I was hoping I’d only be in Cabo a day or two at best and a few days at worst.

The hoped-for weather window kept teasing me and then slamming shut in my face. In the last 5 years and 20,000+ miles, I can count on one hand, the number of times I’ve started a passage only to turn around. Cabo made me count on my fingers and toes.

 

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The Dingy Fiasco part 2

As the winds finally let up after 10 days to let us get out of the tourist hell that is Cabo San Lucas, I was optimistic that having a functional dingy would give us increased stopping opportunities.

Our peaceful anchorage in spite of 25 knot winds

One of the key factors in deciding to burn money staying at the marina in Cabo for $100 per day was the lack of a serviceable dingy. Though, the reviews for anchoring outside the harbor, were mixed at best.

Leaving Cabo, the plan was to get a few days up the coast to wait out the next forecast period of strong northwesterly winds that preclude any movement north. Our goal was Magdalena Bay, a very large bay, similar to San Francisco Bay.

We had decided to bypass the anchorage off the Magdalena Bay entrance, as it did not look as protected as San Carlos, point another 12 miles north through a meandering, narrow channel. We were also looking forward to getting the taste of Cabo out of our systems be visiting a real Mexican town again.

Thus, the die was cast for Puerto San Lucas.

the channel to Puerto San Lucas in Magdalena Bay

As we were passing the anchorage, heading up channel, we heard a call on the VHF, weak, but readable, in Spanish, telling us something. Again, my Spanish stinks, so I wasn’t sure what was being said, but I guessed it was about Puerto San Lucas and we’d figure it out when we got there. I’d already made the decision that the anchorage at Magdalena Bay was too open for my likes.

12 miles and two hours later, as we approached Puerto San Lucas, we got the call again. This time, it was loud and clear that the port was closed due to the anticipated high winds. I suspected that, so we told them we were going to head a couple miles further north to anchor in the lee of the mangroves. That was met with happy approval, since it was clear in the tone of the conversation, that the port captain didn’t like telling us the port was closed to us.

We proceeded north another few miles which put us right on the edge of the charted area of both the C-Map and Navionics charts. Going very slowly as the water shallowed, at one point, I did let us get out of the channel and had to rapidly reverse to avert the 17th grounding of my career (but who’s counting?)

Video of us approaching out anchorage 

Still shot of us approaching anchorage
Dauntless at anchor, north of P San Lucas

Anchored in about 10 feet of water, with 100 feet of chain and snubber for the anticipated winds, we were quite content. The winds were already 15 to 20, gusting to the high 20’s, but with no fetch, the seas were very small, less than half a foot, and Dauntless was rock steady.

We did swing around overnight due to the current, but my 55-pound Delta anchor has never dragged since I got it 4 years ago. I don’t even bother with an anchor alarm anymore, but I admit that’s because I have given up on Drag Queen probably because it turns itself off due to poor reception in my cabin and more importantly, I don’t anchor off lee shores.

Having sleep like a baby, the previous two nights having been spent underway, we woke up full of piss and vinegar. Time to take the dingy to Puerto San Lucas and check out the action, well more like, check out the food.

Now, not being totally stupid, I decided to go upwind for a bit to see how well the dingy and its puny 5 hp outboard could handle the conditions. As you can see from the video, all looked great, though the winds were blowing 20 to 25 knots.

The view from the dingy on our reconnaissance lap

Did I do the math? No. Puerto San Lucas was about 2.5 to 3 miles away; downwind.

But we set off with the winds to our back, the only concern was where we could land the dingy. Not knowing that location was mistake number #1.

Mistake #2 was I have two handheld VHF radios. The primary one, the ICOM, battery could no longer charge, so that was on the list of things to replace. The secondary one, the Chinese whatever, would take real rocket scientist to figure out how to use, thus it was relegated to some storage container someplace where I put things I don’t feel like dealing with.

Video of our test lap 

Besides, why would we possibly need a radio.

Twenty minutes later, zipping right along, maybe a half mile upwind of town, wondering where we could land the dingy. We see a man cast fishing, standing in about 1 to 2 feet of water maybe a few hundred feet from shore. Let’s head there.

As we get closer, we finally realize we are running of water. Umm, those rocks look so close. I reach to unlatch the outboard, so it can tilt upwards and as I fiddle with the lever, ge-clunk, the prop hits a rock or two and we are in half a foot of water.

We get out the oars, yes, I remembered to take them, only to realize we are hard aground, as the wind continues to push us towards shore.

I jump out, to get us turned around, Larry starts to row. Some minutes later, we are in deeper water, enough to start the outboard.

Rule #1, when running aground, follow the same route out as you followed in. Mistake #3, not following Rule #1. We were further to the west than our track in.

Getting the outboard started we decided to head back to Dauntless. The outboard had a bad vibration; I’d bent the prop. That, the 25 knot headwinds with the now 1 to 2-foot seas it produced, along with a heavier dingy and two people, meant that our downwind speed of probably 5 to 6 knots, was now about 2 knots.

Every minute we would be splashed by a breaking wave. We couldn’t see Dauntless at all. I knew where she was, but clearly, we were more than 2 miles away. That meant, we had an hour of this.

That’s when we went aground again. This time coupled with a belching of very black motor oil, like the Exxon Valdez had passed through. I thought I had totaled the outboard, as in the prop hitting a solid object was enough to break a connecting rod inside the motor.

But the motor started up and we seemed to crawl northwards. I didn’t know where the oil (about a cup worth) had come from, but I expected the motor to quit at any moment. The winds and seas were too strong to row again. Even with the outboard still running, we were doing at best 2 knots.

We discussed contingency plans.

We decided to head north until the boat came into sight and hope the motor lasted long enough. I kept on asking Larry if he thought we were making any progress. That guy fishing was still quite visible, while Dauntless was no where to be seen. This went on for the next 30 minutes, until it was obvious that we were making progress. Though I wondered for how long. The outboard was clearly on its last legs, shaking itself to death with no oil.

We decided that if the outboard quit, we would have to head west to the shore, about 1 mile away. We could not go upwind, but if we angled across the wind, we should be able to make shore. At that point, we would get out and walk along the shore in deep enough water to drag the dingy north. Once NW of Dauntless, we would row to her.

We were cold and wet, but having a plan that was at least feasible, made me feel slightly better. Though I was feeling miserable that I was subjecting Larry to this fiasco. That was making me feel worse. When I’m alone and fuck up, I deal with it. But I hate for others to suffer because of my actions. This is why I like being alone many times. I don’t feel stressed nor responsible for anyone else. If I torture myself, so be it, I deserved it.

The Kadey Krogen came into sight after about 40 minutes since we stared heading back. She blended well into the background. The outboard sounded worse than ever. I pictured it quitting within feel of Dauntless. With these winds and waves, no way could we have rowed to her. Even if we were 100 feet away, we would probably have to row to shore, a half mile away, and do our drag up the coast to get upwind of her.

I crossed my fingers and toes.

About this time, we saw a panga heading south. But it was about a half mile to our east and by the time we saw it, it was well south of us. Had I seen it earlier, I would have waved it down. He could have towed us to Dauntless in 10 minutes. But it wasn’t to be. I was reminded how stupid it was, especially under such conditions, to venture forth without a radio.

For 30 minutes we watched Dauntless get bigger and bigger. I prayed to Poseidon, Circe and whoever would listen to just get there. Finally, as I bumped into the swim platform and Larry grabbed ahold, I breathed a sigh of relief. We’d made it.

Getting the dingy rigged to the winch line, I decided to see if the outboard would start. No, it was done. I was grateful it kept on going that last hour.

I’ve written before about the “having two keys”. There have been countless times when I have lost a key but had duplicates someplace. Whereas I can never remember having lost a key when it was my only one.  I wondered if I was more careless than usual because I knew I had another outboard in the future? My friend Mike had promised to give me his spare 15 hp outboard when I got to Southern California.

One never knows, but everything is connected, even when you think it isn’t.

The following day, leaving for Magdalena Bay anchorage, to give us a better head start the next day.

 

 

 

 

 

The Dingy Fiasco part 1

It’s hard to believe that I have 5+ years and 20,000+ miles under my belt. I don’t.

Why, you wonder?

Oh, the routine things, those daily tasks or almost daily takes, are easy. It was in Germany when I lost my bow thruster. That was at the beginning of our 2015 Baltic Adventure. Seems like ages ago.

So, I’m pretty good at back and filling now. I can turn Dauntless around in a 180° in two boat lengths or 85 feet. It also gives me the excuse to Just Say No. When a marina, like recently at Dana Point, gave me a slip that I thought that I may be able to get in, but never get out again, I was able to easily say no, without guilt.

They found an end “T” dock for me.

I can also change the Racor fuel filters and prime them in less than two minutes. But now, I have the wisdom that I don’t need to rush. That’s the advantage of having the two dual Racor filters in parallel. Also, by only feeding from one fuel tank at a time, it a problem or issue develops, I immediately change the tank feed and filter and then diagnose the problem. This came in handy a couple of weeks ago when I sensed a change in engine pitch.  I immediately asked Larry to take the helm, while I went to the engine room. Sitting on the stringer in front of the engine, I could tell the rpms were not steady, but slowly rising and falling.

That meant a fuel or air problem.

The Racor bowl looked good, but I immediately changed to the other Racor. No change. I switched fuel tanks. The surging continued and got a bit worse.  But now I thought I understood the issue. I talk Larry to increase the throttle. After a moment’s hesitation, the engine started running smoothly and normally again.

What was the problem?  I’d run the fuel tank empty!

But I didn’t kill the engine because I acted immediately by changing both the filter (that at that point, probably had some air in it) and the tank. The Ford Lehman can be a PIA if you run it totally out of fuel, but I do have an auxiliary electric pump which I use just to prime the Racors and the engine mounted filters if need be. It works great, within seconds, system is pressurized and no more f…ing with that lift pump on a hot engine.

But the dingy, why that’s another matter. In 2016 we only used it a few times. Sitting in Cabo San Lucas with nothing to do, waiting for the head winds to die down, I figured I may as well make one last attempt to get the dingy going.

I spent an hour in the hot Cabo sun pumping it full of air. I’d already used another tube of 5200 to seal the back transom to the pontoons. The dingy looked pretty good. No need for a new stink’in dingy. I had looked at the local Costco the day before but saw no sign of any. (My observational powers leave a lot to be desired).

My inflatable, inflated. Looked pretty good.

Then in yet another moment of inexperience, I decided to lower the dingy to the dock, without checking the outboard.

I was feeling pretty good until the next morning. That sad picture tells the tale.

I decided that we could survive without the dingy. And in hindsight, we would’ve, could’ve, should’ve done without one.

Returning to Costco to stock up on required supplies like Danishes for yet another attempt to head north, I spotted the dingy that had eluded me the last TWO visits. They had it displayed standing vertically, on it’s tail. Of course, I couldn’t see it like that. They may as well have hung it from the ceiling.  But remember, that this point, I had decided to go without. How was I going to get it to the boat in any case, so, I just bought my Danishes

Walking out of the store, I noticed these guys, presumably taxi drivers, and with my 20-word Spanish vocabulary, I never found out, but they did point me back to the store and I understood that Costco delivered.

When businesses make it easy to spend money, I’m all in. In 10 minutes, I had my dingy bought and they would deliver the next day.

The Next Day

Another hour of foot pumping, my new dingy was good to go. Now, to get the outboard working. Of course, after The First and Nearly the Last almost a year of non-use, it was a no-go.

The New Dingy

I realized I had to clean the ports in the carburetor again. No biggie, except in my inexperience, I had not done this while the outboard was on the boat or even on the dock. It was now sitting on the transom of the new dingy. I debated trying to take the carb apart while hanging off the end of the boat., but realized it was a sure way to lose a critical part. My back would have to pay the price for my brain not thinking about this before.

Another hour later, I finally was good to go and thought it would be good to take the dingy down to the fuel dock and fill up the gas can.

All went as planned and I was left with a confidence that I did not deserve.

The video of the first and nearly the last dingy trip

 

 

 

 

Keys:

 

Anchoring at Night in Strange Places; It’s not for the Faint Hearted.

Only day’s away from completing this 2,000-mile, two-month journey, I found myself breaking yet another of my hard and fast rules I made for myself 5 years ago.  Entering yet another harbor at night, and having to anchor by radar, avoiding darkened, moored boats and mooring balls.

But like most hard and fast rules, I had to weigh the circumstances against various risks. In this case, anchoring at night was the least risky option. I’d left Channel Island Harbor at 04:00 for the 120 nm voyage to San Luis Obispo harbor. I’d planned on 19 hours. Thus, to arrive before sunset, would require me to leave the Channel Islands at midnight.

Leaving anyplace at midnight means a total disruption of my sleep cycle. I’d be starting a long trip tired and already behind my personal power curve. By leaving at 04:00, I’d be able to get a reasonable 6 hours sleep and 03:00 is on my natural wake up curve (though normally, I’d go back to sleep for another 3 hours).

Raymarine E-80 Radar, C-Map on Coastal Explorer, Navionics chart on Samsung Tablet

 

 

 

 

 

Therefore, anchoring in a strange harbor at night seemed for me to be the lessor of two evils.

Let’s talk some basics. Four years ago, I hated my Raymarine E-80 Radar. I felt (and still do) that it was 1980’s technology, dressed to look like the 21st century. It was on my lest to replace at the earliest opportunity when money allowed. I had wanted a radar that I could integrate into my Coastal Explorer and C-Map chart plotter, navigation program.

San Luis Obispo harbor

Using the “Auto” settings, the E-80 will show you if the Exxon Valdez is bearing down on you, but otherwise, it either filters too much or not enough to be useful for close in maneuvering. As the miles and time increased under my belt, I learned how to best fine tune the radar using the manual settings for gain and sea state (which is basically a filter) to make it an effective tool.

Whenever I start the engine, I also turn on the: radar, navigation lights, auto pilot, VHF radios and horn.

Always.

For the first lesson in using the radar is that you must use it when the visibility is ideal, to be able to effectively and safely use it when the visibility is impaired, whether due to darkness or weather conditions (mainly fog, rain is another issue).

While underway I’m constantly checking and identifying any radar contacts visually, as well as on the navigation charts (for navigation markers, buoys, etc.).

As soon as I spot something the radar does not see, I adjust the radar, fine tuning so to speak. Normally this is just a matter of adjusting the sea state setting, though sometimes I also must fine tune the gain. E.g. I may see a fishing skiff a half mile off my starboard quarter, but it’s not showing up on the radar. I’ll have to lower the sea state setting, maybe only a few points, until the skiff shows up, but not the countless wave tops around it.  Sometimes, I’ll have to adjust the gain also.

My goal is always for the radar to show me potential hazards, without showing me wave tops. For the last couple of years, my tuning technique has been good enough to do exactly that. Forget the “auto” settings, they are hopeless.

Since I don’t get many false alarms, this also allows me to maximize the use of the two zone monitors.  For coastal cruising, like I’ve done since entering the Pacific Ocean, I set up a ring at ½ mile, that’s an 1/8 of a mile thick. Thus, if anything enters that ring you get an alarm. If you just put a circle around your boat at ½ mile, the radar will see some clutter very close to the boat and thus render the alarm, ineffective at best and annoying at worse. I make this ring go about 220° to 300° around the boat. That way it will see something approaching from the stern quarters, but not directly behind, as the radar will occasionally see a reflection of the mast, again making it ineffectual.

The second zone I set up 1 to 1.5 miles from the boat, in a much more 20° arc.

On the open ocean, well away from land, I’ll basically double these distances.

If I do get any false alarms, I adjust again. Usually it happens as the sea state gets worse (bigger seas).

For my set up, I find values of both the gain and the sea state in the 70’s to work best. In flat seas, I can lower the sea state to just above 50, but again, even changes of 1 or 2 can make a significant difference.

On this night, entering San Luis Obispo (SLO), as the seas calmed as I entered the bay that is protected from the NW through the East, I readjusted the sea state, lowering the filter values. From my charts I knew there was a mooring field, presumably with some moored boats. I adjusted the E-80 so that it would pick up objects as small as the mooring balls. Had the seas been above 2 to 3 feet, this would have been an impossibility, but if I had such seas in the harbor, I wouldn’t be stopping in any case.

This night, with strong NW winds, the harbor was well sheltered and the seas where maybe half a foot or less. Under those conditions the radar will do well.

I open and secure both pilot house doors, so that I can have quick access to looking out. I also go to the bow to scan the approach with binoculars (7×35), which I find very effective a night in poor light conditions.

Thus, I have that visual picture in my head, while checking the radar to ensure it’s seeing the same things.  Again, because I am constantly doing this in the daytime in good visibility, I have the confidence to know what the radar is telling me at night, when I must trust

Here is a short video of  it of me getting ready to enter the harbor:

Here are some stills made 2 minutes before the above video:

The radar 2 min before I took video
Coastal Explorer using C-Maps above, Navionics on tablet below

Three years ago, going through the main shipping channels of the Kattegat to the Skagerrak over the top of Denmark, I was terrified by what my brain perceived as the massive ship about to crush Dauntless. I was outside the channel, marked m red buoy, I knew the ship had to stay in the channel. The radar told me the buoy and this massive ship were ¼ mile distant, but my brain, every time I looked at the ship, I could swear was less than 50 feet away.

My mind was so convinced this ship was towering over us, that even as I checked and rechecked the positions of the markers on the chart and the ship and marker on the radar, all showed the target as more than a quarter mile away, but my mind would just not accept it.

I only calmed down when the ship was past.  In the daytime, my mind would not have been fooled, but at night, the perspective of distance, becomes very difficult.

I realized then that if I was going to continue to travel at night and not die of a heart attack, I had to make sure I knew exactly what the radar was telling and what it wasn’t and once done, accept what it showed.

So, this night, almost midnight, as I pulled into SLO bay, the radar guided me to a large area with a diameter of about half a mile with no mooring balls, though there were a couple of boats anchored on the west edge.

No fuss; no muss,

I was anchored in 25 feet of water at 23:20 having done 120 nm in 19 hours and 30 minutes, at an average speed of 6.2 knots.

The trip from CI Hbr to SLO. The Maretron data for pitching and rolling shows I did a fair amount after I rounded the corner to head north.

The morning after:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It Wasn’t Me; It was the Motherboard, I Swear

Dauntless doesn’t seem to have a care in the world, as she sits peacefully in Morro Bay, California.

No, I haven’t died or been in jail, I was in computer-less purgatory.

You know that place you end up when you depend on your laptop to communicate with the outside world.

And sure, a cell phone is great for talking, but if you think I’m going to write a blog post on it, as my mother would say, you have another think coming.

But a new motherboard for 500 bucks installed and at $67 battery from Amazon and my little HP Envy laptop is as good as new.

So, what did you miss? A lot really. Almost all of it too painful to even think about, let alone write about. But I do feel responsible to those of you who have spent your valuable time reading my rantings and ravings in between an adventure or so, so here are a few highlights:

  • The $1,000 to replace the leaking seals in my transmission. They still leak.
  • The reconditioned heat exchangers that started leaking 10 minutes are leaving port
  • The 60-mile detour (doesn’t sound like much in a car, but that’s 9 hours in a boat.
  • Being beaten back to Cabo San Lucas, not once, but twice. This from a person who never turns around.
  • Deciding to take the dingy 3 miles in a 30-knot wind only to discover it goes much faster downwind than up. Oh, and then I bent the prop, twice, the second time, with a belching of oil. And we were still three miles away from Dauntless, which we could not see in any case.
  • Checking into the USA with Dauntless for the first time in 4 years.
  • Being stopped by the Mexican Navy.
  • Being chased my fishing boats
  • Hobby horsing until you think you are going to die.
  • Entering yet another harbor at night, having to anchor by radar, having vowed years ago, never to do such things.

Umm, I had forgotten most of that. I’ve burned thru money this trip like a drunken sailor, but I’ve been so stressed for all the above, I’ve drunk much less than normal.

Through it all, and because of some genuine and generous friends, I was able to leave Dauntless for a week and make a quick trip to Fairbanks, Alaska, which was as as I’ve ever seen her and attend a wedding at 11,000 feet, which, left me breathless.

I hope to get back to my writing routine in the coming days. I start with the end, first.

Coming Next, Anchoring at Night in Strange Places: It’s not for the Faint Hearted.

 

Third Time is the Charm, I Hope

Dauntless is ready to go.

As of Tuesday evening,  we are planning to try to get to Magdalena Bay, 130nm, tomorrow. Our third try in the last 9 days.

Though even at that, we will probably we stuck there for three days over the weekend, as another period of very strong (15 to 25 kts) winds is forecast to hit the area then.  But it’s time for new, less touristy scenery.

We’ll leave mid morning, as the winds diminish mid morning to late afternoon.
We had a few issues to deal with in the last few days, the most serious, a worn rubber “O” ring on the autopilot hydraulic pump.
With a new ring and a few hours of getting the air out of the system, we are good to go and better than before.
My Maretron weather instrument was off line due to a failed “T” connector.  After a couple hours hanging on the mast for dear life, that too has been fixed.

Lastly,  on my third trip to Costco in as many days,  the dingy finally appeared in front of my eyes.  On sale for only $500 delivered,  it was too good a deal to pass up.  Took me all afternoon to blow it up,  and then a day to fix the carb that was pouring gas all over the place,  but finally as i drove it to the fuel dock to fill the gas can,  I felt pretty good.

The New Dingy
So tomorrow we leave Dauntless in as good a shape as she has been in a long time.
Our weather window is not as open as I’d like,  but we simply must pound out the next 200 miles to get into better,  more favorable winds. Once north of Tortuga Bay,  life is better.
We’ll check out of Mexico in Ensenada and check in to USA in San Diego.

It’s then to my friend’s Mike and Adriana in the Oxnard area, hopefully by mid June.

Pancho, the 12-year old Sea Lion of Cabo San Lucas

Stay tuned

Pancho again, takes lift, waiting for a free fish.