20180513 Three Times Fail – Cabo Falso Beats Dauntless Like a Rented Mule
Cabo San Lucas was the most un-Mexican, unpleasant place I’ve been in the beginning of time or at least since I’ve been cruising Dauntless for the last 7 years.
It was expensive, literally, 3x to 10x more expensive than anyplace else I’d been in Mexico. The epitome of a tourist trap; I thought I was in Southern California.
Unexpectedly, Ensenada, being much closer to California, was truly charming. I could have been stuck there for months and been happy, conversely, being stuck in Cabo waiting for weather for 10 days felt like a year!
So, this video shows me attempting to leave Cabo just days after my arrival. I was now alone again; Larry was going to meet in the next week and I was hoping to be in Ensenada by then. Once making the right turn to the west at the very bottom of the Baja California peninsula, one heads due west to get around Cabo Falso, before turning northwest and then north to get up the coast. The winds are typically strong and right on the nose 15 to 35 knots. 15 is not pleasant, but is tolerable, high teems quickly becomes untenable for any length of time. Even under the best conditions, I would have a few hours of the strongest winds.
Sorry I don’t have more video of the worst moments, but when I’m being thrown around the pilot house, my last thoughts are on making videos.
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Dauntless returned to the USA on June 9, 2018; four years after she left Cape Cod, Mass. I left with Julie and came back with Larry, an interesting swap. But it’s nice to share special moments with special people and I’ve known Larry since we met on T-3 in 1973.
He’s good crew. He knows how to find the best ride for the conditions of wind and seas and he knows when to call me.
The check-in pier to the USA in San Diego is at the police dock at the entrance to the harbor. When we arrived at 19:00 there was a large fishing trawler occupying most of the dock. A spot on the Visitor’s Pier was open and I took it. Upon calling customs and Immigration, they told me everyone was busy with that fishing trawler, took my number and said they’d get back to me.
Some minutes later, they did just that. Telling me they were busy, they asked if we had Global Entry. We did, they took our passport numbers and welcomed us to the USA. After the nightmare of paperwork that the Caribbean is, I welcomed some common sense.
Larry and I celebrated our return by going to the typical restaurant & bar ubiquitous in the USA at upscale marinas and sea shores. We paid a lot for the crappiest meal we’d had in weeks. Welcome Home.
It was 17 days from Cabo San Lucas to San Diego. I’ve written about most of the highlights or lowlights already. If you missed it, here are some links:
People tell me how brave I am to cross oceans in a little boat like my 42-foot Kadey Krogen. That’s a sentiment that always makes my uncomfortable. I know I’m not brave and I hate fixing things because I suck at it.
But I’m prepared, and I pride myself on being self-reliant.
That self-reliance trumps everything else. It tells meI Can Do It; even when waves are towering over my head, as we bob in the middle of ocean until I solve the problem.
That self-reliance washes over me like a breaking wave, letting me sleep at night, enjoy the day and think, reason, all the time.
My mother and god-mother were always quick to relate the story to anyone who would listen of when I was very young, so young, that I have no recollection, of me crossing the street with my god-mother and my tricycle. Getting to the curb on the other side of the street, my god-mother went to help me lift it onto the curb and sidewalk, but I didn’t want any help and became adamant, yelling, “Self, Self”, evidently the only words I knew at the time.
That’s not bravery, I just didn’t want any help. My self-satisfaction comes from getting the job done myself. When I must ask for help, I feel a failure. I wasn’t prepared.
Like one Christmas eve before Dauntless came into my life, my wife and I were on one of our winter adventures, this time on the Gaspe Peninsula, well north of Novia Scotia and north of New Brunswick. We found ourselves stranded on a mountain trail. (Google maps depicted it as a road, but in fact it turned out to be a skimobile track, as I discovered trudging thru the heavy snow looking for a place marker) I had strayed off the snow-covered road and the right side of the Jeep was in a deep ditch. After spending hours doing everything I knew to get us out, I finally relented and called the Canadian Mounties. Another hour later, they showed up with a tow truck, who pulled me back onto the road and we were good to go again.
I was bummed that we’d had to call for help and further bummed that we were so close to getting over the mountain heading to the coast, and now, we would have to backtrack and take the long way around. As you know from my experiences in Cabo, I hate turning around.
But only a couple hours later, ensconced in a warm, little restaurant, that was luckily open on Christmas Eve, another adventure that ended well and a lesson learned: when in Quebec, learn French.
While I no longer have that Jeep or that wife, I still find myself reflecting what I should have done differently. After years of thought, a little fortress type anchor with a come-a-long, would have gotten us out on my own. I think!
When I became the commander of a weather station in Alaska, while in the U.S. Air Force, I remember my commander making it clear to me that my job was to make sure he never heard from me. No news was good news. That was simple, direct and effective.
Of all the organizations I have worked for and with, I found the USAF to be the best at teaching leadership and thus building consensus within units. For people who have never served in the military, the perception is that it is a top down organization. In fact, that’s not the case.
Our military is not like the German’s of WWII, in which the SS was tasked with executing German Army members found to be retreating or the Russians, who had political minders in every unit ready to shoot anyone who turned their back to the enemy.
Our military leaders, officers and non-commissioned officers (sergeants) are taught to build consensus through trust and respect. Nobody is going to charge that hill if they think, you, as their leader, don’t have their best interests in mind.
It’s why when push comes to shove, I think we do have the best military people in the world.
Taking the leadership skills, I learned in the Air Force suited me well in my education career. When I became the principal of a failing school in the Bronx, I did turn it around. To do so, I needed the support of the teachers, which I had, despite a couple of malcontents.
In fact, despite them, we were able to make significant changes to our programming, like adding block teaching classes and longer one-hour periods, that required the approval of the teachers and the teacher’s union representative. Every year these initiatives were approved because of consensus building. Our results reflected this success, with a more than doubling of passing scores on the years’ end tests and our graduation rate. Chancellor Klein said to put the kids first and I did. Simple.
Now a normal minded person would think that self-reliance is a good thing. I don’t take it to extremes, I’m still not stuck in the snow waiting for spring.
So, what’s the downside?
I never recognized that my immediate boss in the NYC Dept of Education, hated my self-reliance. It was my Achilles heel. I thought our data spoke for itself. Our school was doing much better than our peer schools. But New York is nothing if it’s not political and I’m not so political if you haven’t noticed.
When the regime changed, my focus on students and their success, no longer mattered. My supervisor didn’t want a self-reliant principal, she wanted a sycophant. I should have been calling her every week, asking for advice, letting her help me wipe my ass.
But then, had I done so, I wouldn’t be here now. I wouldn’t have Dauntless and most of all, you wouldn’t be reading this.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
Video of El Cid now passing behind us.
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.
After three days in Xtapa, I was getting ready to go again.
The night before departure, I topped up all our fluids, both oil and coolant were down, since we had those repairs the days earlier. While they were topped up upon completion of those repairs, it takes running time for air to work out of the systems.
The rough seas and miserable pitching of the last few days seemed to really scour the fuel tank, so I ran the fuel polisher system (filtering fuel to take water and impurities out) on the starboard tank for 8 hours the day before. During the 8 hours, vacuum on the filter had increased from 4”, which is OK, but not great, to only 5”. Which is marginal. Since we were getting underway for another multiple day passage, I changed the fuel polisher filter, a Racor 900 filter system (Racor 2040 2-micron filters bought on Amazon for $12 each.
I usually don’t run the fuel polisher that often anymore. Unless needing to really top up the tanks, like leaving the Canaries for the Caribbean, I only put new fuel in one tank. Thus, I can isolate any issues. I then run the fuel polisher on the new fuel to check it out. Usually an hour; If the vacuum doesn’t change significantly, I turn it off. Sometimes the vacuum will even go down, when the new batch of fuel is better than what was in the tank.
Underway, I also always set the return to the same tank it is feeding from. Once, in prehistoric times, I set the return to the other tank as a means to transfer fuel. Of course, I forgot and ran out of fuel while running. I didn’t do that again.
But I did. This second time, I had inadvertently left both feeds and returns open. For whatever reason, my system tends to return more fuel to the port tank and less to the starboard tank if both returns are open. Thus, I emptied one tank. But this time, the engine did notice because I had also left the sight tubes open on top and bottom. The result was that although the starboard tank was empty, enough fuel was being returned, keeping the sight tube full, which was then fed back to the engine.
Had I closed the sight tube, the engine would suck air from the tank feed.
Lesson learned. Nowadays, besides feeding and returning to the same tank, I also keep the top of the sight tubes closed, so that fuel goes back to the tank. Otherwise, it defeats the purpose of using cooler fuel from the tank.
I like the Racor setup very much. Twin primary filters, Racor 500, in parallel, and a Racor 900 for fuel polishing and transfer. For a long-distance cruiser like Dauntless, it’s a mission critical system. Meaning don’t leave home without it. When underway, I don’t go into the engine room often, maybe only twice a day, once in the evening before my shower and bed and in the morning, after my early morning watch. (I usually wait until crew is awake, so I don’t wake them by opening engine room hatch, unless the night before I thought I may have an issue, then I check again as soon as I wake).
The parallel Racors really give me peace of mind. In the early days, when changing filters was more of an adventure than it should be, if I suspected a problem, I’d immediately switch filters to the new one and then monitor the new one for issues (water or clogging). But I didn’t have to deal with the filter just then. If in a benign environment, I may shut down the engine, but that is rare. Nowadays, I can change a filter in less than two minutes and that includes priming engine if need be. I installed an electric fuel pump just for that purpose. It makes doing any fuel related work so easy. I used to hate changing the engine mounted filters. I still have the scar on the back of my hand from spending days trying to prime engine (turned out to be a failed O ring had clogged fuel line to Injector pump). Nowadays, if I do switch filters while underway, I will change the old filter, so I always have a new one ready to go at an instant.
Nowadays, I almost never have an issue. But when I do, I need the fuel polisher now.
Like when we fueled up in Colon, Panama, waiting to transit the Panama Canal. It was a fuel barge, made even sketchier because they spent some time transferring fuel from a tug to the barge and then to my boat. Once I returned to our slip and ran the fuel polisher, it picked up a lot of water. Another reason to never run from both tanks at once. I knew I had a problem, but it was isolated in the port fuel tank. I also installed those plastic drains that can be opened by hand on all three Racor filters. So, in a situation like this, it made it particularly easy to run fuel polisher a while, when bowl is full of water, empty, run, repeat, until I decide to also change filter. I’ll usually do that at the end. Then give it a good run again to make sure it’s good to go.
I’ve had a few occasions, in which I just let the fuel polisher run and the vacuum gets to 22” to 24” of mercury (Hg). When that happens, I am ever more grateful that none of that crap got to engine or even primary filters.
Because the Racors are doing their job so well, I don’t change the engine mounted fuel filters very often. Maybe even on the order of 500 to 1000 hours. This interval has gotten longer and longer because even in the past when I did have some water in the primary filter, the secondary engine mounted filters had none.
You may think that that’s excessive. What’s the harm in changing the primary filters? In my first year or two, the primary filters were the cause of all sorts of issues from blocked fuel lines to air in the system. They are hard to reach, which introduces a greater possibility of error in replacement or even affecting some other nearby engine component.
The Ford Lehman SP135 engine and I have an agreement. I don’t mess with it and it does its’ thing, which is to never stop until so commanded. So, I am particularly careful working near the engine.
A couple of weeks later, this system would again save my bacon. I had carelessly kept running from the starboard tank, even after it went below the sight tube. I did have a reason, I wanted to see if I had really needed the expensive fuel I had added in some expensive place.
I’m in the pilot house and suddenly, I hear the pitch of the engine change. Remember, the Ford Lehman and I have an agreement. The engine pitch never changes. So, in seconds I had the hatch open and was down in front of the engine by the Racors. I instantly switched filters, then took the time to look around. The engine was starting to surge now (up and down in rpms). I looked at the feed tank and saw no fuel in the sight tube. Now the sight tube is still about 20 gallons above the feed line. I open the port tank feed and return and close the starboard feed and return.
Surge continues. I ask Larry to give it some throttle. No change. Throttle back to just above idle. I turn on the electric fuel pump used to prime filters. Add throttle. In about 5 seconds that seems like 5 minutes, the engine smooths out. I wait another minute and turn off electric fuel pump and carefully adjust valves that put electric fuel pump into main fuel line. (otherwise, when first installed, the fuel pump just pump fuel around in a circle, with out the need to go to the engine. Under normal setting this fuel pump is isolated in a parallel loop and the engine uses gravity feed and it’s lift pump).
From first change of engine pitch to running normally again took less than 60 seconds.
When will I ever learn? I don’t know what part of me ignores good advice that I give others. It can be about weather, stocks, women or whatever, I’m very consistent, as I seem to consistently do what I tell others is a fool’s errand.
I suppose that makes me the fool.
Yep, I have certainly earned that this year.
Here are the four snapshots taking from Windy.com of the southern Pacific coast of Mexico taken on 30 April 2018, Monday. These shots highlight what I mean by chasing forecasts. This is different than waiting for the right weather window. That I also had done.
A reminder of some of the vocabulary I use.
Windy.com aka windyty.com is a pretty slick graphical user interface for the numerical weather forecasts that are produced by the National Weather Service, the Europeans, the U.S. Navy, etc. On Windy, at the bottom right of the screen, you can select the two or three models available to view: ECMWF 9km, GFS 22km, and in CONUS, the NAM 5km. The number that follows the model name is the grid resolution, smaller being better. If I was on the east coast USA, I would only look at the Nam. I trust it less on the west coast, since it’s near the edge of the model.
In any case, no matter where I am, I always look at only one model, because I have no way to know which model is working best for that time, space and season. I use the ECWMF because of the lower grid spacing (excluding the NAM). Next spring, as I prepare to move north again from San Francisco Bay, I will use the NAM and read the NWS forecast discussion for my area of interest. Nothing else. If you look at too much stuff, you will just get confused. (this is well documented, but I won’t go into it now).
While in Huatulco, I was waiting for the right weather window. I was hoping for 3 to 4 days of light or southerly winds (at any speed). Looking at the forecasts, it seemed the week of 30 April was it.
I did well wait for the right weather window, what I did poorly was chasing the forecast.
Looking at the map that shows Tuesday 1 May, the Tehauntepec winds were blowing from the Northeast, and while there were northwesterly winds off the coast, there was that lighter blue area well off the coast with winds that seems to be northerly, then turning more northeasterly. That would have been great.
So, I left Huatulco with the idea of heading west longer than needed to try to get west of the stronger NW winds.
That’s Chasing Weather Forecasts. For the first 3 days it seems to work well. We did have light winds and when the winds did pick up from the NW, they were still less than 10 knots.
The problem was as the winds got stronger, we were so far off shore, 70 miles, that we were left with few good options. The 14 hours backtrack to Xtapa was the result.
If one has about capable of 20 knots, then the math changes significantly. Then it’s more viable to chase good weather. But when you boat plods along a fuel sipping 5 to 7 knots, it becomes impossible to get to the right time and place and then stay in that honey spot. Weather moves to quickly.
In the North Atlantic, Dauntless made about 140 nm per 24-hour day. In that same time, a low-pressure system will move 500 nm and the associated cold front will move even faster. There is no getting out of the way.
In this last passage up the west coast, I didn’t bother with weather forecasts once underway. All I needed to know was that once the stronger NW winds set in, they would get stronger before they got weaker.
Returning to Xtapa was the solution. Chasing areas for better weather, would have been a fool’s errand.
The stop in Xtapa gave me a chance to reboot my mind. It was fitting that the trip ended at the same high stress level as just after leaving Huatulco. Having to enter a strange harbor and marina at night is always stressful. My depth perception is askew. Everything seems significantly closer than during the day. I have to force myself to trust the instruments.
We docked without incident, as usual. Got a good night’s sleep. And then my HP Envy laptop decided to give up the ghost. It was not to be replaced/repaired for another month, when I arrived in southern Calif, so no blogging for a while.
While this may appear to be a relief, in fact, it was the opposite. Writing about my adventures, my mishaps, my miscalculations, allows me to reflect on my practice.
As a high school principal, I quickly realized that during job interviews, when I was looking for additional teachers, the outcome of the interview really came down to three questions:
Was the prospective teacher intelligent, did they know their content area?
Did they like children?
Where they reflective in their practice?
I didn’t care if they knew how to teach; I could teach them that. But there is no way to overcome the negatives of any of the above three questions. You can’t make a lazy or stupid person, smart and not lazy. You can’t make them like children. There are too many teachers who teach because it’s convenient. In moments of black humor, we, principals, would say, they are here for the parking (some schools have convenient parking, some don’t).
And lastly, we live in a culture of blame. If things don’t go as we as we would like, we look to blame others, never looking in the mirror. It’s my parents, government, spouse, boss, fill in the blank’s fault. But good teaching practices only happen when the educator is reflective. After every teaching period, every day, every week, every year: what could I have done better? How can I connect with that student(s) better? Why didn’t they understand_____? or something as simple as, what worked, what didn’t?
Reflection allows our brain to better organize new data, recognize mistakes or things we could have done better or even just differently. In writing this post, I remembered in my 4th year of teaching, I had put up a mirror on the entry door with the caption, “Meet the person responsible for your learning today”. Much like reminding people to turn off cell phones in inappropriate places, it’s a little reminder that can go a long way.
As the boobies started to congregate on Dauntless, first resting on the paravane pole lines and at the end of the pole. Then, an intrepid fellow managed to land on the bow pulpit rail despite the pitching bows. Once other’s saw his success, we because a virtual bus ride north.
They did promise to clean up before they left, but I suspected they would forget that promise. But as I thought about their lives, I thought about how good we, Americans, have it so good. There was one fellow who parked himself on the rail right near the pilot house door. He was keeping watch with me. When I had to go out to pee, I didn’t want to disturb him/her, so I walked thru the boat to the stern deck, instead of my normal spot on the starboard side deck (where the high side rail offers more protection from falling overboard).
The numbers increased every day, until that last 24 hours when the pitching became untenable even for them. I think their coloring indicated they were juvenile blue or brown footed boobies.
Xtapa was a nice, albeit unexpected respite. It was 30-minute bus ride to Zihuantanejo. We ate, drank and slept well for 3 days waiting for the winds to subside.
The passage from Huatulco to Xtapa was eventful in many ways.
The Katadyn 160 Water maker, made in Switzerland, has been a stalwart since installation four years ago, in 2014. It’s simple, which attracted me to it. No gauges, no bells, no whistles, no back flushing, no nothing. When doing long distance cruising, the more simple, the better. It’s only accessories are the manual and a salinity meter, but the manual says your taste buds are more accurate than any salinity meter. Thus, I turn it on, have the three-way valve to the test hose which empties into the galley sink. In the first minute or two, it will taste salty and maybe even moldy, if I haven’t used it in a week. After 5 to 10 minutes, (depending on when last used), I check it again and it’s good.
If I won’t be using it for more than a week, I will “pickle” it. Basically, that is to run a solution that prevents bacterial growth, mold, on the membrane that is producing fresh water.
I have used it in brackish water, but the organic growth quickly clods the first filters, so I don’t do that anymore. I also have a special cleaning solution that I have only had to use once, this past year, because I did not pickle it for a few weeks of non-use.
So, this Katadyn has produced thousands of gallons of water the last four years. I turn it on, taste the output in 5+ minutes and switch the three-way valve to fill one of the water tanks. No fuss, no muss, simple.
This time was no different, however after a few hours, I noticed that I was wasn’t hearing its distinctive thumping sound. It’s hard to hear unless you listen for it, though I can put me hear near the galley sink and the thumping is quite distinctive there since the output water uses the galley drain thru hull.
The power was on, but the watermaker was not. There is an auxiliary pump and the watermaker itself (which is essentially a very high-pressure pump that forces seawater thru the membrane and molecules larger than pure H2O, water, can not pass thru and are sent down the discharge hose.
The auxiliary pump and the watermaker each have a separate fuse, so that was an easy check and I found the watermaker fuse had melted. not just opened, but the plastic fuse itself was melted.
Mark pointed out that those fuse holders can be the culprit by not holding the fuse tight enough, letting it arc. OK, new fuse and holder. Watermaker is thumping again.
Eight hours later, the watermaker had stopped again. Same fuse, though not melted, just blown.
There was clearly a problem, that just couldn’t be laid on poorly made Chinese fuse holders.
To compound matters, I had let us leave Huatulco with minimal water on board, only 55 gallons in one tank, the other being empty, ready for the watermaker to fill. The watermaker fills one 150-gallon tank in about 20 hours. In normal water usage, I use about 25 gallons per day, but there were three of us.
I was far more stressed than I let Brian and Mark know.
I replaced the fuse again and hoped for the best. This process was made more difficult because to check the fuse and the watermaker, I had to open the heavy hatch cover to the aft section of the engine room in the salon. (On the list of winter projects is to put a hinge on two of the four panels).
Seven hours later, it stopped again. Quick check shows fuses OK. Next step, the relay. This relay was one of the half dozen I bought from Amazon for $8. It had been working in that hot engine room for 4 years. Despite being Chinese made, it was heavy duty and well built, except for one thing, the wires, also heavy gauge, were cross colored. Color coding and “standards for American and European Direct Current (DC) wiring (as used in boats and cars) are pretty much the same: red is positive, black is ground, yellow is accessory, etc. So, these relays, all used red, black, yellow, blue wires, but not in the accepted color scheme. It was clear even before I bought them that that was the issue and the reason they were on sale at such a good price. So even though I’ve used them on applications around the boat for the last 4 years, even doing a simple replacement, takes me some time, because it’s hard to get my head around the different color scheme. Don’t connect that red wire to the black one!
But that was done, and we are making water again. Good, because we were down to 23 gallons.
Three hours later, again a blown fuse. Now I was getting worried about running out of 30+ amp fuses.
While I was dicking around with the relay, I took the opportunity to dig thru my spare 12-volt electrical parts bin to figure out my options if I had to replace the fuse holder.
I could take the fuse out of the circuit altogether, but that’s an emergency fix. I did have a real circuit breaker. I could rewire and replace the fuse holder with the circuit breaker and put long enough wires on it for me to have access in the salon. In other words when it tripped, I could just reset, without opening the heavy hatch each time.
So, a few hours later, when the fuse went again, that’s what I did. I also stopped the engine, over the years I have come close to having a severe accident when underway and my foot slips next to the spinning shaft. In this case, my ankle just bounded off the shaft, but I took it as a warning. It took 30 minutes, but at the end, I had the circuit breaker wired up to the salon.
The watermaker worked for the next 20 hours filling the one tank. I think the circuit opened not once during that time, though it did open while filling the second tank the next day.
Best of all, it was easy for me to check and we had no more water problems.
We left Xtapa with full water tanks and the watermaker did work as required on the four-day passage to Cabo San Lucas, however, just before arrival, I noticed that the watermaker pump itself was leaking its internal oil. The seals had failed. I’m sure that was the cause of the higher than normal electrical draw all along. I’m just happy after four years of no maintentance, it gave me one more week when I needed it.
I have the seal repair kit, it will be another winter project. More than ever though, I was grateful to Katadyn for making a watermaker that would tolerate my shenanigans.
Here is a link to the Katadyn. I bought it directly from Katadyn, since they were discontinuing the model, so they gave me 30% off. But the link shows the simplicity of the system.
Only an hour and a half after leaving the wonderful little stop of Marina Chahue, Dauntless’ winter home, we were underway once again. I wanted nothing more than an uneventful passage. I was so appreciative of Mark and Brian stepping up and volunteering as crew, so I wanted them to have a good time too with no worries.
Now I realize, that having a “good” time varies greatly from person to person, but in general, being on the open ocean is peaceful. It can be the epitome of serenity itself, unless there are nagging issues.
Beginning of Day 2, morning after the first night, 07:53
Dauntless was suffering from abuse. In the pervious two years, I’d ridden her hard and put her way wet. I loved this Kadey Krogen so much because I could do exactly that. The leak in the heat exchanger was the first “must stop the engine” problem I’d had since the middle of the Atlantic! That was more than 5,000 miles and 18 months ago.
This boat was made to take a beating and keep on ticking. But just as rough seas bothered me far more than Dauntless, the little problems on the periphery did the same. They kept me in a state of what’s next?
We spent the next 40 hours going west. I’ll explain why in more detail in the upcoming post, Chasing Weather Forecasts, but for now it suffices to say that I wanted to be 60 miles off the coast.
We were also running a bit harder than usual; the Ford Lehman was purring along at 1800 rpms. Maybe the purr was more of a growl to me, but it was important that we make good time while we had favorable winds, in this case they were WSW at 5 knots and we were making 7 knots.
The primary reason I don’t run at 1800 rpms is the significant decrease in efficiency from 1500 to 1800 rpms. Here are my estimated numbers in a flat sea:
Kadey Krogen 42-148 w Ford Lehman Sp135 & 4 Blade Prop
Thus, for a 16% increase in speed from 1500 rpms @ 6.2 kts, we consume 43% more fuel. That’s fuelish.
By early morning on the second day out, we turned northwest, on a heading that would parallel the coast until we could turn further north in a couple more days. Winds were still OK, from the north at 10 knots, thus on our beam, but not strong.Evening of the of Second Day
By the end (48 hours underway) of the second day, we had covered 320 nm for an average of 6.7 knots. The pitching and rolling had been minimal, pitch less than 3° up or down and rolling less than 5° in either direction (always greater to lee side).
But then it all started to change. From the beginning there was a smallish weather window, from 2 to 3 days. Now, during our third night, that window was closing. Winds picked up to 320° @ 12 knots, so only 15° off the starboard bow (our course being 304°). Pitching increased to +4 (this is downward as measured by the Maretron Solid State Compass (which the autopilot uses too since it reacts better than the flux gate compass) and a more significant, -12° (bow pitching upward).
This was getting uncomfortable. For my intrepid crew, they took it in stride, far better than I.
Our watches were set so that I would get 6 hours sleep overnight. Brian and Mark covered 21:00 to 04:00 as they saw fit.
Before going to sleep that night, I did discuss with them the issue of weather. Our weather window was not only closing, but the forecast was for increasing winds right on our nose for the foreseeable future. While I was still hoping to get to Cabo direct from here, that was still 3+ days away. 12 knots on the bow is tolerable, 15 is borderline and 18 is a no-go.
They were up for it; as I went to bed that evening, I wasn’t sure I was.
I awoke 3 hours later. The boat was pounding, not constantly, but on every third pitch. Pounding to me is when the boat slams into a wave, like hitting a log. Thump.
I tried to go back to sleep. The master cabin in the Kadey Krogen is forward and the only downside is that this pitching motion is most apparent there. However, it usually doesn’t bother me. My first experience with a corkscrew movement was a few years before Dauntless came into our lives. We were sailing (literally) with my Dutch friends, Jan and Karin, in the Outer Hebrides, west of Scotland. Anchored in a rolly harbor off of St Kilda, that night I felt, dreamt, that I was sleeping on a roller coaster. The rhythmic corkscrew motion I found almost soothing. I slept well.
But this was different. The pounding bothered me. Things break with that sudden, jarring movement (and in fact it was during these days that the pressure switch stopped working on my fresh water pump. I later discovered it only had soldered connection which came apart).
My sleep became very fitful, waking every 10 to 15 minutes, my mid seemingly wanting to figure out what was going on. Finally, I turned on the light and tried to figure out the pattern the boat was in. For 30 minutes I measured the frequency of the pounding. On virtually every third pitch, which were 8 d=seconds apart, the boat would pound hard, every 25 to 28 seconds.
I also knew that which these seas, pitching movement, unlike rolling, takes significant power. In other words, instead of going 7 knots, we were now going 5.5, but using the same fuel as if we were going 7.
At 5.5 knots, it would take 100 hours to get to Cabo, that’s 4+ days of this crap. That was impossible.
I decided to start my watch early, figure out if we could mitigate the ride and if not, determine my options.
First thing I did, after I got the lay of the land, was to reduce rpms to 1650 and change course by 10° to the west. This put the seas on the stbd bow. Weirdly, our speed just slowed a tad to 6.0 from 6.1 (we also have currents off the Mexico coast, which are both tidal and non-tidal).
Significantly our pitch was reduced by almost 50%. I liked that. Even more importantly, the pounding stopped.
I could live with these conditions.
Alas, they were not to stay.
Just before sunrise, around 05:00, the winds increased to 330° @ 12 gusting to 16. This increased the pitch +4 to -8° and the roll +10 to -9°. I further reduced the rpms to 1590. Over the next couple of hours, Mother Nature started to mock me. The winds backed around to 290°, right on our nose again.
At 08:00 the winds were steady at 300°12 to 14 knots. I knew they would only get stronger during the day (the sun heating the air and land do cause the winds after all). This was also in line with the forecast of increasing winds over the next few days.
At 08:45, I informed the crew that we were changing course and would head to Xtapa, a little town with a nice marina just north of Zihuantanejo. This would mean a bit of backtracking. We were already north of Xtapa; however, the other alternative was Manzanillo, which was 113 nm at 330°. With the seas on our bow, increasing winds, it would take us 24 hours to get there. Whereas, Xtapa, at a heading of 065° would put the seas behind us and we should have a quick 12-hour ride. So long, because we were 70 miles offshore.
It ended up taking 14+ hours, but after pounding into the seas for 10 hours, who noticed.
Passing thru the shipping lanes, it was nice to have the Digital Yacht AIS transceiver. It allowed us all to avoid one another.
14 hours later, at 23:00, we entered yet another unknown harbor and docked in the dark, at Marina Xtapa
Ever have those situations when the yellow/red flags are waving, and you spend all your time trying to decide if the flag is yellow or red? Instead of wondering what’s causing the flag to wave in the first place??
Welcome to my world.
Brian and Mark arrived Sunday, the 29th of April. I was a bundle of nerves, due to:
The normal stress of starting a long trip,
The stress of having crew to keep happy,
I still had to check out of the port Monday morning,
Having decided to have the boat yard, do the transmission seals, they did not take credit card, so I must figure out a way to get $1000 in cash by Monday morning.
My Monday noon, all the problems were solved, and I was feeling pretty good. I had good, intrepid crew. We had food, wine and booze enough for however long a cruise the weather would allow.
With a crew of two, plus me, we had 205 gallons of fuel in the port tank, 210 in the stbd tank, 55 gallons of water in the port water tank and the stbd tank was empty (to be filled with the water maker while underway).
Engine start was at 12:25, we got underway 10 minutes later, clearing the breakwater at 12:45, on the way to either Can San Lucas, 950 miles northwest (7 days) or maybe even Ensenada, which was another 700 miles further north (another 5 days).
So, at the beginning of a 7 to 12-day passage, my sense of well-being lasted 20 minutes, or about 2 miles.
Clearing the breakwater, we set the course SSW to clear the coast before turning west, then WNW.
The bilge alarm sounded 20 minutes later, (a buzzer that
is activated whenever the bilge pump is on), went off, and then sounded again a few minutes later. That was not normal. Thinking the stuffing box again, I left Brian at the helm, while I went to open the salon hatch to the engine room.
Stuffing box was not leaking, but I did see a pinhole leak that was spraying water from the oil heat exchanger. Umm, it’s a pinhole leak, sea water, yet the bilge pump had been on enough to pump much more water? What’s going on.
A minute later, as the engine overheat alarm sounded, it all became crystal clear. Shut down the engine, but we were less than a mile from the rocky shore.
The engine coolant hose (a heater hose) from the engine to the water heater had failed at the nipple to the water heater. It has dumped all our coolant into the bilge. We were 6/10ths of a mile from shore; a very rocky shore. So, first thing I did was fill the engine coolant tank with fresh water using the garden hose the first owner had installed in the engine room just after the fresh water pump. It was good to know that I had a source of fresh water for the engine that I could use in a critical situation.
If push came to shove, I’d stick the nose nozzle in the coolant fill and turn it on, to keep water in the engine if I needed to start the engine before the repair was done. We were in 160 feet of water, so I also had the option of dropping anchor.
Had I had a problem that was going to take longer to fix, or if I did not have fresh water available, or if I was alone, I would have let out 200 feet of anchor and chain, knowing that the anchor would set itself as the water shallowed. This is the emergency anchoring plan I always have in the back of my head while cruising near shore. In still deeper water, with no shelf, I would combine my two anchor rodes, the secondary being 50 feet of chain and 250 feet of rode (400’ of 3/8” BBB chain on the primary with 55# Delta anchor).
I also have stored behind the salon between the upper deck ladder:
a 500-foot line,
a 250’ line,
a couple of 50’ lines,
a few shorter line,
the stern anchor) Bruce) and it’s 300 feet of rode on a hose reel.
These lines can all be easily retrieved and used as necessary.
Had I been alone, that’s what I would have done, while turning the boat around and heading back to the marina on auto pilot. I could have then re-fit the hose, knowing I had at least 15 minutes before I needed a course correction.
But I was not alone.
With Brian at the helm, responsible for watching our drift, Mark and I proceeded to deal with our two problems, the coolant hose and the pin hole oil cooler leak.
The coolant hose was easily dealt with. Cut off the end and reattach to nipple. I then checked for leaks, as we started the engine. No leaks, so I filled the coolant tank with ¾ gallon of coolant. This all took 10 minutes.
Next to tackle the oil cooler. We first tried a quick repair; can we stop the leak enough until our next port. No, we couldn’t, the metal at the cap end from which it was leaking was too thin. (these were the heat exchangers that had just been supposedly checked. In addition, I’m sure this was the one that was already leaking, and I told them to keep it).
Checking the situation at the helm, while we were drifting towards shore, we were drifting very slowly and again with Brian watching, I knew we would have plenty of warning should an issue arrive. Therefore, we decided to change the oil cooler.
What a PIA. But an hour later we were all done. No leaks of oil, water, or anything.
It’s on my must do list this fall to standardize all my hydraulic and oil fittings. Thus, making it easier to replace lines or bypass the coolers if need be.
We had drifted a quarter mile closer to shore, we still had a third of a mile to spare. Easy Peasy as Micah would say.
Knowing we could return to the marina easily, reduced the stress of this repair. It wasn’t “fix, or else” like it may have been in the middle of the Atlantic, like with my imaginary fuel leak.
At 14:10 we were underway again.
My peace of mind now lasted one minute.
The autopilot was not working. It thought it was working, but it wouldn’t steer correctly.
Back to the rear of the engine room, I looked at my Octopus pump, it looked ok, no major leaks, then I saw the three valves which control fluid to the pump, allowing me to change pump without draining all the hydraulic fluid from the system, were closed.
Oops. At least that was easy.
A minute later, we were underway again, hopefully to Cabo San Lucas.
This time my peace of mind lasted a whole two hours.