Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Crossing to PV

Lanham's brushing his teeth when he notices...
another one of the gorgeous creatures that hitched a ride on Solar Wind

As we set out at 11 AM on Saturday from the marina at San Jose del Cabo, we had in mind that we wanted to sail more than motor on this leg.  We usually cover between 120 – 160 nautical miles in twenty-four hours. The distance-to-go was 285 miles and since we would be out two nights, the timing was not that crucial. We would hit Puerto Vallarta in the daylight on the third day (or even putter in the Bay of Banderas until daylight if need be) so we would not worry about making particularly good time on this crossing – just make it comfortable and reduce our fuel consumption and engine noise.

Turns out we made GREAT time, sailed the entire way, and could have avoided running the motor at all if we wanted! As for comfort – it was a lurching, lumpy rollercoaster ride – not the best conditions for doing engine work. About a half hour out of the marina, with the jib up, Lanham fortuitously decided to give the Beemer (our engine) another visual inspection, in light of all the filters and connections that we had redone during our maintenance day. We had turned on the watermaker and were not getting normal activity on that (easily fixed by putting silicone on the gaskets of the filter canisters we had replaced).

What he did see that caused him to turn the engine off immediately and spend the rest of the afternoon sweating like a sponge in the 180 degree engine compartment was a rusted through hole in the salt water-cooled exhaust pipe (see exhibit A, below). Sully the autopilot was a help while we drained the coolant, removed the pipe, and sealed it all up for the ride. Melinda got to sail, while Lanham got to the repair. The sea-spray was such that we had to keep the forward hatches closed and the temperature in the bucking cabin made working really pleasant!
Exhibit A
Once again, Lanham amazed me with his perfect assortment of tools onboard, his patience and resourcefulness, and his minimal use of swear words! He might explain his solution more precisely, but from my observation point, he used a Dremel (small drill) to clean the area with the rust and hole, rebuilt the area with liquid steel, maintaining the hole through the center with a chopstick, held it at the proper angle for about an hour while it cured and set, then a few more hours clamped to the workbench. He went over the outside with high-temperature tape, painted it for rust protection, and then had to re-solder a tab to a nut for wiring the temperature sensor. Maybe you had to be here, but to me it seemed an unlikely fix on dry land, and nothing short of a miracle (exhibit B) on the rolling seas.
Exhibit B- post patch
 We took our nighttime turns at watch. Cooking and eating were not of great interest – good to have precooked rice and spaghetti sauce, plenty of instant (yes, we’ve stooped that low) coffee on hand. I tend to be sleepy early on, taking a nap from about 8 to midnight. Then we overlap a bit, and Lanham tries to nap from 1 to 5. But with the two of us it has been very fluid, all about sleeping when you can, enjoying the buzz of a coffee and being fully on when you are awake. On this trip, the wind was steady from the same direction so there was very little sail trimming and no tacking. The wind speed did fluctuate from an occasional low of 8 kts to gusts of 30 kts. So while the wind was not too strong, the swell was large – as we looked over our shoulders the waves coming at us were 6 to 8 feet high. (Slim, you know the look) 

We kept the mainsail double reefed, and adjusted the jib furling as the wind rose and fell to keep the boat from being overpowered. Occasionally we could adjust coarse 5 to 15 degrees to quarter the waves and make the roll more comfortable. Once it is dark, the most constant activity becomes watching the radar, matching it to lights we see on the horizon, and marking them as “targets” in order to get a read on their distance and heading. There is a lot more to learn about the capabilities of radar, but having the basics is enough and it’s been indispensable.

On Sunday afternoon, Lanham put the repaired exhaust pipe back in place. We crossed our fingers and started her up. The patch held, we ran it to temperature, and it’s holding still. This allowed us to rest assured that we could get into town under motor if needed the next morning. We have ordered a new pipe to have a spare. It’s custom fabricated, as is everything for our BMW. It will come from Ontario to a yacht broker in Puerto Vallarta, maybe, if we are lucky, and if it doesn’t cost more than the pipe itself for the import tariff… we’ll see… it’s an experiment… in the meantime we are growing to trust the repair.

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