Monday, January 17, 2011

Rescues bring people together

We play hard and rest hard!

Just minding our business out here in the anchorage for the last couple weeks and have managed to be a part of 3 actually let's make 4 rescues! So let's rewind...

RESCUE 1: Shawn was on her way back to the boat motoring against a stiff NW breeze with a dinghy full of provisions and as she passed the pier-not-yet-developed dock, and saw the catamaran Whiskey Charlie, usually moored upwind of our anchor spot, was lashed downwind of us to a piling. She gave the "are you okay" river head pat and the people aboard just waved. There was already a dinghy alongside helping, so Shawn continued the couple hundred yards to Tao. Chris had been working on the stern arch as Whiskey Charlie, coming home from a day of sailing, had first motored by to grab her mooring and then drifted by. With no dinghy there was not much Chris could do, and the people aboard didn't seem particularly frantic as all they said as they went by in the howling wind was "We're drifting"... Still, throwing the provisions into Tao's cockpit, Chris came aboard Eeyore and we rode to the rescue. After introducing ourselves we asked if we could help. Their engine had died just before grabbing their mooring, and after a bit of discussion, it was decided that our 15-hp side tied to the light catamaran and two smaller dinghys helping should get underway to take advantage of the dwindling sunlight. At that moment another 15-hp dinghy showed up to help, tied to the other side and we had no problem motoring them back upwind to their mooring. A couple nights later we visited Whiskey Charlie for a fun dinner party and started to get to know JC, Hilary and their girls. Turns out the engine problem was a blown fuse.
Whiskey Charlie peacefully on her mooring
Behind Chris, you can see the pier-not-quite-dock, just behind where Tao's inside special anchor spot is that Whiskey Charlie managed to lash themselves to after having dropped to anchors.

RESCUE 2: A few evenings later, as Chris was frantically trying to finish the dinghy frame we got hailed by Mystic. Randy needed his clip-on voltmeter the next morning. Chris jumped into Eeyore to quickly motor over and return it. Starting the rice for dinner, Shawn watched out the porthole as Chris and Seahor motored slowly out toward Mystic. Half hour later, wondering what other boats he must have stopped at to chat, the radio crackled "Tao, Tao, Tao mobile". We moved to a nonhailing channel and Chris said, "I just wanted you to know, everything's OK, but Seahor kicked-the-bucket on me and I don't have any oars." Shawn said "I'm not going to say it" (which is really basically saying it, but in a bad spot he really didn't have to be reminded that Shawn had made a big deal throughout the frame building project that even though Chris had relegated the flimsy aluminum oars to the bottom of the boat, the dinghy needed to have oars all the time even if the frame wasn't ready for them)... Chris continued, "so, I'm going to hail Mystic to let them know I tried to bring the voltmeter and look for some help." "Mystic here following your conversation" Randy's voice broke in. The solution was perfectly obvious to Ranger Randy; he would row his 8-ft fatty knees to shore and then tow Eeyore, Seahor, and Chris back to Tao- no small proposition. At that specific moment a dinghy was flying by Tao, Shawn waved over the gentleman (who turned out to be Ziggy, from Aurora moored a few boats upwind of us) who was more then happy to help. We found Chris on the beach downwind of Mystic (at the east edge of the bay) with a cold tecate in hand. He'd made friends with very nice people in one of the beach homes in "Cotton Cove" who had let him use their VHF to find help and provided him with sustenance (cold beer). Shawn had brought the oars in case Chris wanted to redeem himself, but with a sheepish grin, Chris responded "I'm not too proud to ask for help." Ziggy gave us a tow back to Tao and we did a mid-bay transfer of Randy's voltmeter. After forcing Ziggy to take a bottle of wine in thanks he obliged only if the crews of Tao and Mystic would come over to his boat to drink wine the next evening and look at pictures of him beaching his sailboat.
Eeyore, Seahor, and the frame in the process of being made. Unfortunately, the wooden oars didn't happen to be in the boat when Chris took his trip out to Mystic or he could have rigged something... Seahor is currently awaiting repair.
Randy and Jenny from Mystic aboard their 8-ft Fatty Knees; their mode of transport.

RESCUE 3: The norther continued to blow in the anchorage. Late in the afternoon of a particularly windy day, sustained at about 25-knots, Shawn looked upwind from Tao's cockpit and in horror, saw the trimaran, Windsplittler, floating free broadside to the wind about to T directly into the beautiful catamaran, Elan, moored next to us. She pointed it out to Chris and watched the horror on Guy's face as he realized what was happening to his boat. We immediately started the process of putting our 15-hp onto Eeyore. Our radio was off but we heard Deborah yelling to us for help from Elan; we were doing our best to get there. A few minutes later we roared away from Tao at the same moment that Guy and Deborah got the trimaran loose from their boat. It was racing downwind, broadside again, headed directly for a beautiful motortrawler, Island Grace. Guy with his dinghy was trying to maneuver the trimaran in the high winds, Jacque from Oceaneus showed up with his 8-hp and we raced to the trimaran at the same time. Shawn immediately jumped up onto Windsplitter while the three dinghys tried to work together to move the boat. Not in time. Luckily Guy had thrown a fender from Elan aboard, Shawn grabbed it and ran to fend the tri off the motor trawler. A sickening crash as it T'd its second boat, but being a monohull at anchor, the anchor chain took the brunt and the fender took the rest. Finally with a last scrape, Windsplitter fell off the port side of Island Grace and continued it's race toward shore. After checking that the anchor on deck's rhode was untangled and was attached to the boat and making sure Chris, Guy, and Jacque were ready, Shawn dropped the hook mid-channel... and it set! Phew! The Mexican Rescate showed up just a few minutes later to take over. Windsplitter's mooring chain had broken and Elan sustained the most damage having been nearly holed, but luckily the inner skin had held tight. A few days later, Shawn attended a fun dinner party on Elan, and having built their boat, they had already nearly repaired the damage.

The trimaran Windsplitter whose mooring chain broke in high winds.
Elan, directly downwind of Windsplitter when winds blow from the NW...
This is actually a picture of Gadfly II heading out to sea in the channel we had anchored Windsplitter, but also in the picture is the trawler, Island Grace, that Windsplitter met.

RESCUE 4: After a week of fairly mellow weather and even a little southerly flow, another norther set in and the afternoon winds kicked up again. Yesterday, the late afternoon winds seemed a little stronger than normal. A quick check with our wind meter said 20-knots gusting to 25. Jenny stopped by in her kayak on her way home to Mystic and we talked about how Randy in their Fatty Knees with Skip (the new owner of Dulcinea), were lagging behind a little and must have broken an oar lock... Surely they didn't need any help. Still, twenty minutes or so later, Shawn noticed the winds seemed even stronger and came on deck to check they'd reached Mystic. Though nearly there, they were all of a sudden losing ground and were close to getting blown down to the beach Chris had ended up on a week previous. Shawn grabbed her rain jacket and VHF and hopped in Eeyore to see if she could help. It was windy! Randy grabbed the tow line and Shawn gunned the engine trying to get Eeyore's bow up into the wind. No dice, we were side slipping, but we kept going and slowed only for a moment to attach the tow line. Skip and Randy were keeping their boat upright and Shawn was trying to get her weight farther forward to keep Eeyore's bow down. Seemingly the wrong direction, we headed away from the anchorage into the lee of the anchorage's exit channel's north shore at the south end of the anchorage. Here we were able to gain some upwind ground. Getting to the top of the "eddy" we decided to go for it and with a steep angle, ferried across to Mystic. Not wanting to slow and have the bow blown off, Shawn came in hot, and Jenny was there to grab the bow line and both boats swung to Mystic's well fended port side. All three of us were soaked, but still we got the wind meter out for a quick check, and winds were sustained at 25 gusting above. Then it was down below into the warmth of the heated cabin of their 31' Mariah to warm up and re-live the adventure while waiting for the winds to abate.
Jenny in Mystic's kayak, and Randy rowing Skip in their Fatty Knees- everyone had finally dried out from the wet adventure the evening previous.
A picture of Chris trying out the completed dinghy frame, but this was the rescue vehicle- only imagine Shawn at the helm, 25 knot winds and capping waves...

It's a great community here in Bahia San Carlos, everyone in the anchorage looking out for each other. It is nice to know that when we need help there is usually a helping hand. Still, we are continually receiving gentle reminders that that things do go wrong and vigilance is important as the sailing lifestyle is based in a wilderness. It does pays off to pay attention and be prepared.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

San Carlos Work Zone

Shawn has continued to move forward with food and supply provisioning. Chris' focus, however, has little been deterred from the last weeks main goal: the stern arch and solar panels. Long ago ideas for building a stern arch were born, and since, Chris has been taking steps to make them a reality. First, buying a new-to-us 80-watt panel to more than double our solar input. Most importantly though, Chris found 1-inch stainless steel tubing and fittings from the rails of a 40-ft boat at Minnie's and purchased it all. He then found a metal worker that would straighten the lengths and then bend them appropriately. Another couple additional specific stainless fittings later, we strapped all of it (and a ton of other stuff) onto Pepe's roof and drove it to Mexico. Since we've gotten back here, Chris has carefully measured and cut and measured and cut and connected two arches together, tapped, and set all the screws to create our new, beautiful, double stern arch out of nearly all reused material. The panels are now pumping power into our batteries (and we even turned on the refrigerator when our cruising friends from Circe showed up with a delicious cut of Mahi for us, thanks!!). Getting both solar panels attached atop the arches in a secure and yet efficient manner has taken several days of playing, has led to reworking of our "engine lift," and still the ideas are brewing. Projects never really end.
(notice Chris' relative non-comfort below while hooking up the electrical component of the solar panels as viewed from our sternmost lazarette.)

We enjoyed our special inner anchorage and used it well- getting up the mast nearly every day. Shawn even went up a few days and painted around our new steaming light which Chris installed (including creating a flat epoxy base as opposed to the round face of the mast). Also completed aloft this past week was the mast top project. This included installation of a newly made stainless steel plate with another "crane" which is an external stainless eye allowing us to haul an additional line external of the mast just to port of the spinnaker halyard. Most importantly, however, it created a spot to install the radar reflector, now epoxied to stainless tubing and mounted atop the mast. Not only did this installation require MacGyver skills to get the backing nuts and washers on the bolts inside the mast top (fighting constant boat wakes, only one washer ended up in the water and one nut fell to the bottom inside the mast), but this is a project that has been in the works for a long time. Finally, it's up! We've tested the VHF and so far it appears our signal is not hampered. Unfortunately, however, at anchor as the wind blows, our much loved and sensitive wind indicator is doing circles telling us about all the eddies below the newly mounted reflector... Shawn figures that when sailing our wind indicator will not be hampered because we can't sail that far up into the wind and Chris already has ideas for lowering the reflector and raising the indicator. Projects never really end.

Because we wanted to use the car to purchase materials from Guaymas, bumped to the top of the list was building the dinghy frame so we can row Eeyore much more effectively and not worry about flimsy 5-ft aluminum oars or their plastic oar locks breaking. As we write, the frame (made out of PVC with a pine seat and stainless oar locks) is drying from its sparkly red paint job. Although the job is not quite complete, the flimsy oars have been relegated to the bottom of the lazarette and the new-to-us varnished 7-ft wooden oars are coming with us in all of our dinghy excursions. Also, FYI, though we have not been able to find the source in our quick checks, Eeyore has sustained some damage in the floor that leaks water into the boat. Every time we get in, we have to pump out more than normal amounts of water. We'll patch what we find when we get to it. Projects never really end.

We have been juggling getting projects done on the boat, taking care of business on-line in preparation for Chris and Pepe's trip north for storage next week (i.e. taking care of Chris' return travel plans, ordering any "final" gear from the States to bring back, etc.), and the busy social life that the San Carlos cruising community contains. Although we have admitted that we consider San Carlos a designated "Work Zone", Grizzly gets to be "on watch" a lot as we visit other boats. This week we shared stories with longtime cruisers Karen and Mike aboard Beau Soleil, enjoyed an impromptu gathering of 12 adults and 2 kids aboard Whiskey Charlie (a boat that is shorter than ours) marveling at the space provided in a catamaran, we're excited to see fun young sailor/surfers aboard Gadfly out of the yard, on the water and preparing to set sailing this week, and even had a fun wine tasting and story time aboard Aurora with Ziggy (the rescuer, but that's another story...) and Mystic. Another norther is bearing down on us for the next few days, so we have moved back out to the anchorage where we feel comfortable letting out as much scope as we want without worry of hanging into the marina entrance channel. Although we've got it that projects never really end, we are motivated to get as much done as possible here, while still enjoying ourselves and are pushing to set sail by the end of this month. We trust that along the way, projects will indeed (slowly) get done...

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Resolutions about energy usage in 2011

Happy Twenty-Eleven to everyone out there! What did you do to ring in the New Year? We heralded in 2011 by firing up our cabin heater and snuggling down as it is surprisingly cold here when the sun goes down. There have even been frost warnings (although a frost warning here is defined by temperatures below 50F)! We awoke thinking about what our New Years resolutions would be and as the morning wore on we decided that we have been living beyond our means, using more energy than our 55-watt solar panel Sunny alone can produce.

When we sailed out of San Francisco Bay in November of 2008 we didn't even have a solar panel, nor LED bulbs for most everything. After a month of headlamps and turning the engine on weekly to recharge our batteries, in our final stateside port, Newport Beach Harbor, we purchased and installed Sunny and also several LED bulbs for lighting around the boat and atop the mast. What luxury! For the next six months of sailing down the Outside and up into the Sea of Cortez our batteries were always topped off (unless we caught a fish and turned the refrigerator on for a couple of days) and our engine was run less than 50 hours total.

When Chris came back to single-hand for the 2010 season, things changed. Without so many hands it became more difficult to sail on and off anchor and the engine became more integral to movement. Plus Chris’ dad had lent us a small 350-watt generator to top off batteries. Chris’ energy needs were different than us as a couple; transmitting on the HAM radio was the same draw but he gained energy from not cooking much and using lights less. However, he used more power to listen to music, watch videos, and charge his cell phone in his down time and the largest energy draw change was his decision to try having our Norcold refrigerator on all the time. In the heat of summer it sure was nice to have a cold beverage and be able to keep butter, and with the engine running more often keeping the batteries charged (nearly 100 hours in only a couple months of use), Chris didn’t mind running the generator every so often to keep things topped off.

On a side note, but still related to energy, that spring, the head gasket blew on our Yanmar 2QM20. Although we did not have to (thankfully, but that’s another story…) or choose to rebuild, our view of engine maintenance changed drastically. It was likely several contributing factors that lead to the head gasket blowout ranging from many years of disuse tied to a dock, to our intermittent engine use during our first few years of ownership and cruising, topped with our lackadaisical care and maintenance schedule; all leading to salt water buildup blocking passageways between the head and block… (use it or lose it comes to mind). So, do we want to deep six the engine and be an engineless sailboat? Although we like to think of ourselves as “traditional” sailing everywhere and rarely using the engine, after discussion we realized that we were not willing to cruise without an engine for safety. With that settled, if we have an engine for safety purposes, it really needs to work when we need it, so our maintenance needed to change. And by maintenance we do not only mean changing the oil and zincs more regularly, but according to our diesel mechanic down here, by running it at least weekly and at higher speeds than we had been in the past.

When Shawn came back for the fall 2010 season we had to adjust to these quite significant changes in energy usage. Enjoying watching movies, listening to music, having cold beverages, butter, cheese, yogurt, and frequently using the HAM radio did improve our quality of life aboard. So we spent June and July living the “high life” and doing some very fun cruising in the Midriffs of the northern Sea of Cortez using more power than in the past and also using the engine more frequently. Although still mostly sailing, it did feel a bit different. Our nearly four month visit to the States gave us each time to mull over how we felt about the changes. We both agreed that since this is how we are currently spending our lives we should be as comfortable as is realistic, so we planned to come back to Mexico with a more efficient Engel refrigerator and an additional 80-watt solar panel to satisfy our increased energy needs. Unfortunately, with so many upgrade projects in the works, buying a new refrigerator was demoted to the bottom of the list and never happened.

Now that we’re back afloat, we have watched the week and a half of holiday power usage quickly drain our batteries. Unfortunately, we have found that although nice, small, and quiet, the generator is too small to charge our batteries if we are less than 90% full charge, and Shawn specifically is very troubled by having to rely on running an engine to power our usage. So as the 2011 New Year has rung in, we find ourselves reassessing our energy requirements. We both agree that our newest resolution is to live within our means which for now means returning to a state of no refrigeration. Our hope is that after giving up using our inefficient refrigerator and installing the new 80-watt solar panel, we will once again have full battery banks and will run the engine when we choose to, not because we have to supplement our energy needs.

If you have any thoughts about energy usage, we’d appreciate your input!