Saturday, May 18, 2013

San Carlos

Yes, the rumors are true.  We are no longer working on our engine in Mazatlan.  We are now working on our engine in San Carlos.  At least the scenery has changed.

To be fair to Total Yacht Works, our engine is running great and we motored most of the 400-plus miles up the coast to San Carlos without any mechanical-related issues.  The problem we're facing now is with the charging system.  After five months of inactivity our regulator and/or battery combiner has decided to pack it in.  Or, it could be a wire running through the engine compartment was pulled the wrong way or simply shorted out after 30 years of service.  Whatever the cause, it needs attention if we want to preserve our batteries.  So, that's what I'll be working on over the next few days.

But, a little charging problem can't overshadow the fact that we have our engine back and are on the move again.   We said goodbye to our friends on Katie G and Bangorang on Sunday as we pulled away from the dock in Mazatlan for the last time.  We felt an overdue sense of liberation as we motored out the channel and set the sails for the first time in months.  A steady westerly breeze filled in and we managed to sail the entire afternoon in company with our friends on Cricket.  The wind faded with the light so we fired up the diesel and motor-sailed under a brilliant clear night sky.

By Tuesday we were weaving our way through the long winding channel to the little working town of Topolobampo where we planned to fill the fuel tank and hit the mercado.  The channel runs through a breaking reef, across a large shallow bay, to the edge of town where a couple new marinas are now operating.  We only managed to run aground once on the way in.  Luckily for us we hit soft mud and not any hard pointy things.  Colin found this to be a hilarious event and burst out in uncontrollable laughter when the boat came to an abrupt halt.  The captain was somewhat less amused.

A couple days in Topolobampo was enough for us so we motored back out the channel on Thursday with our friends on Dream Catcher just ahead and turned north again for another two-day sail to San Carlos under glorious sunny skies.  We discovered along the way that we needed to spend this time learning to sail again.  The rust had set in on our sailing skills after so many months of sitting in a marina and it took a few days to knock it loose.  After some time, though, we began to find a rhythm and adjust to the motion of a passage.  I even managed to catch a Dorado, my first one since sailing down last year.  Fish tacos for dinner.

This morning we sailed in to the anchorage in San Carlos where we plan to spend a few days before moving to Guaymas where we'll haul the boat out and store it for the summer.  It's tempting to linger here a little longer to check out the inviting anchorages along the coast.  But, home is calling and we're looking forward to seeing family and friends in the States again.  The Sea of Cortez will have to wait for the fall.  It seems the season has come to an end for us just as it was getting started.
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Thursday, May 9, 2013

Hakuna Matata

Colin's favorite movie is The Lion King.  We've probably watched it fifty times now.  I can practically recite the dialog in my sleep.  The line that sticks in my head the most is when Poomba the pig says "You gotta put your behind in your past", or, as corrected by his friend Timone the ferret (I'm guessing), "You gotta put your past behind you".  Pretty good advice coming from an animated Disney character.  We try to live by that "problem-free philosophy" these days while waiting -- as patiently as humanly possible -- for our engine.

The good news is that we actually have a working engine again.  Our Perkins went back in the boat last week with only a few snags in the process.  Two sheaves (pulleys) at the mast-head broke when hoisting the engine on halyards, which required multiple trips up the mast for me.  Fortunately, we had newly-fabricated replacements in just a couple days.  We ran the engine at the dock for two days to locate and fix a few leaks, and then motored out the channel to drive it under load as part of the break-in process.  After three days of motoring straight offshore, turning around after a few hours and motoring back, anchoring for the night, and then waking up and doing it all over again, we limped in to port with an overheating transmission and a pool of oil under the engine.  That was Sunday -- not a good day for me.

I can honestly say that today, however, is looking much better.  I was in the office at Total Yacht Works bright and early on Monday with a list of problems and a strong feeling of deja-vu.  I had already started making plans to leave the boat here in Mazatlan and fly back home.  But, Bob assured me they would take care of it and, to his credit, that's exactly what happened.  The guys were on the boat by 9 AM that morning and by the end of the next day had removed the transmission, replaced the rear seal, changed out a few gaskets, and installed a separate sea-water oil cooler for the transmission.  I ran the engine at the dock all day yesterday without issue.  Could it be?  Do we actually have a working engine?  I knew this day would come eventually but the skeptic in me is still struggling with the idea.  I'm definitely feeling more optimistic today -- that's a new sensation for me.

Unfortunately, it's a little late in the season to explore the Sea of Cortez.  We still want to put the boat away up north at the end of the month before going back home for the summer.  Leaving the boat in San Carlos/Guaymas will allow us the opportunity to sail down through the Sea in the fall.  That's our last chance to spend some time in Baja.  Next year we're determined to set sail for the South Pacific and New Zealand.  Assuming, of course, we have confidence in our engine at that time.  That may be asking a lot, given our history with all things mechanical on this boat.  But, like I said, I'm feeling a new sense of optimism.  Next season I'm hoping to finally put our behind in our past.
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