Week 18: After a couple of months in the shop waiting for a part, the dinghy outboard was finally returned! It worked perfectly the first day; not so great the second day; and by the third day, it was back to crappy. We tried, we really did. We gave it every chance. Two carburetor cleanings, a partial rebuild, new filters, new hoses, new rings. We gave it sixteen different types of fuel, oil, and fuel/oil combos. We even attached a secondary fuel polisher. We tried storing it twenty different ways: up, down, horizontal, vertical, on the deck, on the dock, on the dinghy, shaft in the water, shaft out of the water. We cleaned it, coddled it, and read it bedtime stories every night. And this is how it repays us. Well, it is dead to us now. A new outboard has been ordered from Zaragoza in PV. Editor’s Note: The Mexican Postal Service is dead to us as well. The part we were initially waiting on was mailed from the US back in May. After waiting two months, we concluded that the part was lost, reordered it, and paid extra for expedited shipping via DHL (which cost more than the part itself). The day it arrived, so did the original shipment. In the same vein, FedEx is also on our shit list. At least here in Barra. They don’t like making the trip from Manzanillo to Isle de Navidad with only one package on the truck so they’ll come up with all kinds of excuses as to why they can’t deliver. First, they’ll claim the address doesn’t exist, then miraculously “fix” it the next day; next, then they’ll move it around in the facility and scan it each time so it looks like it’s in route to somewhere; and then, finally, it will get on the truck and stay there for three days until they get another package and/or even they start to realize how ridiculous it’s getting. If you’ve ordered something for overnight delivery, plan on an extra week. Or have two things come at once so it makes it “worth their while”. I wish I could say that Estafeta is better. They’re the Mexican equivalent of FedEx and they don’t like coming to Isle de Navidad either. The Captain had a surfboard coming from Puerto Escondido (southern Mexico). First they said it was in Manzanillo and we’d have to come get it; then they changed their minds and decided that it was in Barra (in one of the barrio tiendas) but they couldn’t deliver it because they “didn’t have a truck big enough” which makes no sense because a) how’d they get it to Barra in the first place? and, b) why didn’t they just deliver it as contracted to Isle de Navidad since they would have driven right by it on their way to Barra? and, c) just WTF people? Long story short, we ended up walking to said tienda in the barrio and carted it three miles back to the water taxi. We figured we’d better before Estafeta changed their mind again and contracted with the Mexican postal service to facilitate the rest of the delivery.
Sure am glad we paid extra for the door-to-door service. It would have been quite an ordeal to haul this thing across town. Oh, wait….
Week 19: The new outboard arrived this week! It’s sleek, shiny, and brand new out of the box! There’s nothing that says, “this one may actually work!” like prying something out of molded Styrofoam. We got it attached, pumped some fresh gas and oil into it, and took it out for a test spin. And I’m happy to report that it was everything we imagined and more. It started right up, went easily into gear, and overall kicked butt. The manual said not to bring it past half throttle during the first few hours of use, but no matter. Even at half speed it surpassed our old outboard in performance.
Also arriving this week: the new engine room blower to replace the one that went south (and not just for the winter.) Once we get it installed, we’ll finally be able to do all that engine room work we’ve been putting off. Yay, I guess.
Weeks 20 to 22: Here’s something to consider: be careful when commenting on a Facebook post. The Captain noticed a post on the Liveaboard Sailboat page asking for help moving a Brewer 44 from Puerto Vallarta to San Francisco. Thinking this was someone he knew from Paradise Village, and merely wanting to reconnect, he asked, “Is this Greg’s boat by chance?” The next day and he’s on a bus headed to PV to help deliver a sailboat. To be fair, Greg was in a bind. He had just accepted a job offer in SF and had a finite amount of time to get up there with his “home”. He had hired a delivery skipper who had made the trip dozens of times but a third person on watch can make a hellish journey a bit more tolerable and there are few things more hellish than heading north up the coast on a boat. For one thing, the wind is always against you. As is the tide. As is the weather. In fact, there is little going “for” you when heading north in the summertime.
Originally, the plan was for the Captain to help crew the boat up to San Diego—nine days tops. After all, Greg had found a delivery skipper who had lots of experience doing this run and once you get off the Baja Peninsula, many of the remaining legs can be broken out into day runs. Is this how it worked out? Of course not!
Here are the highlights of his trip…
Barra to PV: The Captain secures all the lines to Raven, tests all the systems, and prepares her for any inclement weather. He jokingly says he’ll be back in nine to 21 days and we laugh heartily at the 21 days part because that totally won’t happen! He then boards the bus for the four-hour ride to PV. As First Mate, I am now in charge. Thirty minutes after he leaves and it sinks in, “Holy crap! I’m in charge! Please, please, please, Oh Lord in Heaven, do not let anything happen to this boat that will cause it to catch fire, fill with water, and sink slowly into the inky depths. And if she does, I pray that I go down with her so that I won’t have to face the scrutiny of having sunk the boat within hours of having been put in charge. And also, Dear Lord, should I blow out the mid-cabin electrical circuit because I accidentally run the microwave and the coffee maker at the same time, I pray that we catch fire, fill with water, and sink slowly into the inky depths because the Captain will kill me if I do that again. Amen.”
PV to Cabo San Lucas: The Captain arrives in PV on Friday afternoon. He and Greg do the last of the provisioning and then go out for sushi. Upon their return to the boat, the delivery skipper shows up, surreptitiously stows some bundles under his bunk, then proceeds to light up something that may or may not be a cigarette. They cast off at first light for what will turn out to be a 60-hour slog to Cabo—at an average speed of 3.5 knots. (For reference, we made the Cabo to PV run in just under 48 hours. For another reference, the average person can walk comfortably at a speed of about 3 mph or 2.6 knots.) The winds and waves were right on their nose and, to make matters worse, the Brewer 44 tends to be heavier in the bow which creates a nice “hobby horse” effect. So every time the boat went up a wave, it crashed down the other side with enough force to bury the nose in the water. And to make matters even more worse, the Captain was sick as a dog. But not with seasickness per se. It was either bad sushi or second-hand, whatever-the-delivery-skipper-was-smoking sick. Needless to say, by the time they got to Cabo, the Captain was severely dehydrated, deprived of sleep, and desperately looking for a way out. But not wanting to abandon Greg to a delivery skipper with increasingly dubious skills, he purchased a case of Electrolit sports drinks and soldiered on.
Cabo to Ensenada: Another 700 miles of more of the same. It’s slow, it’s rolly, it’s a slog. The Captain is feeling better thanks to his Electrolit, but a there’s a new fly in the ointment—one that was buzzing slightly from the beginning, but now has become unbearable. It seems the delivery skipper, who had claimed to have made this run “dozens of times”, had exaggerated a bit. (Okay, so if “dozens” equals “one” then he exaggerated a LOT.) So, he was unfamiliar with the route. He also didn’t have near the experience he said he had, pretty much making the Captain the more knowledgeable sailor on board. Plus, he made a habit of being an hour late for all his watches and it was now apparent that those cigarettes were most definitely not cigarettes.
EARTHQUAKE!!! Meanwhile, back in Barra, we had an earthquake! I was out walking Otter when I heard what could best be described as a muffled BOOM. It was unusual enough that I looked around for the source, but saw nothing out of the ordinary. Back at the marina, people were out on the docks talking excitedly and that’s when I learned that there’d been an earthquake about 60 miles off the coast. The Deck Boss had been on board and she said it sounded like a “mountain falling into the water” followed by a healthy dose of bucking bronco. Other than it got people’s attention, it didn’t do any damage.
Ensenada to San Diego: Greg and the Captain left Ensenada about 180 lbs. lighter as they had jettisoned the delivery skipper before they left. Besides the fact that he didn’t have any Baja or US coastal experience, would never do a full watch, and didn’t know his way around a boat, he still couldn’t understand why he was being let go—even as he was taking his bundles of marijuana out from under his bunk. Greg and the Captain had an easier voyage into San Diego despite arriving in exceptionally thick fog, but I think once they had divested themselves of the delivery skipper’s hash fog—along with his presence—it may have just seemed easier.
San Diego to San Francisco: With the unloading of the delivery skipper, it was now apparent that the Captain was in it for the long haul and he and Greg set out for the 400-mile trek to San Francisco with stops at Newport, Santa Barbara, and San Simeon. Given the circumstances, it wasn’t a bad run with two notable exceptions. The first being the full-blown gale they encountered around Point Concepcion (naturally…would it be any other way?) and the other being the excruciatingly slow rate of speed which tended to fluctuate between an “are we even moving?” two knots and a “would it help if I got out and pushed” four—and this was motoring. Had they tried sailing, they’d probably have been going backwards.
But finally, after almost three weeks at sea, they arrived in San Francisco Bay. After a day and a half of celebrating (i.e. wining, dining, and recuperating), the Captain arrived back in Barra—a full 21 days after he left.
But two days before he got home…HURRICANE!!! No, not in Barra! As Hurricane Franklin made its way over the Yucatan Peninsula and into the interior, it’s remnants combined with a low in southwestern Mexico to form Tropical Storm Jova. But don’t worry, we didn’t hit by Jova either. But we did get some mighty strong winds due to all the atmospheric goings-on. As in winds that necessitate going out on deck every fifteen minutes to secure something else that has wrestled loose. The main culprit was the cover. Raven has a massive canvas cover over the pilothouse and foredeck to protect the topsides from the sun and aid in our quest for coolth. It also—apparently—has a design flaw in that the entire back half—a full 150-square feet of heavy fabric—is attached to the top of the pilot house with two snaps. Two. Fricking. Snaps. Each less than ¾ inch in diameter and so far under the eyebrow that the canvas must be completely taut just to reach it. Each time I’d finally get the canvas stretched back and snapped into place (which took considerable effort), a 35-mph gust would blow it back out. After battling with it for over an hour, I stopped and asked myself, “What would the Captain do?” I knew one thing for certain…it would involve parachute cord. Most men rely on duct tape. A few swear by zip ties. The Captain is a cord man. He buys it in bulk on large industrial spools and it’s the one item that doesn’t get stowed. It’s always out, always at the ready. And whenever something goes awry on Raven, I am immediately dispatched to procure the parachute cord and a rigging knife. So here I was, spool of parachute cord in one hand, knife in the other, the Deck Boss valiantly trying to keep hold of the cover even as the wind is ripping it from her fingers, when I finally have my “Captain” moment. I threaded the cord between the snap and the fold in the canvass and then tied it best I could around the nearest halyard. And by tied, I don’t mean in a professional sailor knot like the Captain would have used—more in a rabbit goes around the hole and up the tree and past the badger and back into the hole or something like that (I obviously flunked Knots 101.) But if you do that about seven times, it will hold. And it did. It wasn’t pretty, but it held until the Captain got back and was able to do a better job of it. I think he was secretly proud of me. Even though he almost ruined his rigging knife trying to slice through my knots.
But the important takeaway to all this was that the Captain spent three weeks at sea and didn’t crack and the Deck Boss and I managed Raven on our own without it catching fire, filling with water, and sinking slowly into the inky depths.
Updates from World War C. Six weeks after the Advion was first deployed and enemy sightings have been few and far between. One was spotted in the aft head and promptly neutralized. Another was caught in the galley. We suspect he hitched a ride on some incoming groceries as part of a reconnaissance mission and dealt with him as we do all such infiltrators: with a swift execution.
What now? Oh, this one is a doozy. We haven’t been able to properly use our dinghy for over a year due to the ongoing problems with the outboard. Let’s just say that when the length of your dinghy ride is predicated by “how far do I want to row back when the outboard dies”, it makes the trip rather short (answer: end of the dock and back.) It’s been especially tough here in Barra. There’s a huge lagoon to explore, canals that go up through the heart of the town, and water-side restaurants with their own dinghy docks—all of it off limits to a dinghy with an ill-tempered outboard. So you can imagine our excitement when the new outboard arrived. We took it out for its (extremely successful) inaugural run and there was much rejoicing! Then the Captain left for three weeks. Two days before his return, I noticed that half the dinghy had deflated. Turns out that the PVC end cap on the starboard pontoon had broken away from the rubber. The Captain tried valiantly to save it but if you have a dinghy, you know that once a seal is broken, it’s pretty much all over. We contacted the manufacturer as well as the place from which we bought it and were told that we would need to ship the dinghy back up to Seattle at which point they would evaluate what (if anything) was still under warranty but that most likely the end cap was not covered. Plus, we would be sans dinghy for a couple of months while they assessed and/or fixed and/or ignored the problem. In the succinct words of the Deck Boss, “Well screw that!” So now the search begins for a new dinghy. (It’s still a kick-ass outboard, though. And one day, we will have an outboard AND a dinghy that both work…at the same time.)
Et tu, Brute? Et tu?
Regarding Week 17. Neil’s mother, Linnea, passed away on July 5th after a lengthy illness. Though it was not unexpected—and she is, through her faith, unequivocally in a better and more peaceful place—it is still a profound loss for the family.
It was her love of boats that first stoked Neil’s passion for the sea and sailing and, in turn, it was that passion that started us on this journey. It was always her dream to join us on one of our voyages and it is with deep regret that her health would not allow it. She had also expressed interest in getting a specific tattoo on her big toe. So, in her memory…
RIP Linnea. We will make sure this ladybug steps ashore in all the places you had hoped to but never got the chance.