6/27/2012 – Ai Caramba!

There is no way we’ll get to San Carlos today. We started out OK, if a little bit slow, yesterday morning from San Esteban Island. We were hard pressed to maintain speed above 4 knots. We (okay, I) attributed this to the strong tidal currents in the northern Sea. However, that was probably not the problem. We slogged along through the day but, when evening fell, the winds shifted in our favor and we were able to MOTORsail at over 5 knots right on our rhumb line. This lasted for about 3 hours before the wind dropped altogether. All along we’d been hearing a noise, or more like an absence of noise occasionally coming from the drive train. Everything would be chugging along as per normal and then, just briefly, it’d sound like the engine was under no load. Just for a few seconds at a time in no discernible pattern. I fretted about it for awhile and then decided I didn’t need to go looking for trouble. The engine was moving us along steadily but slowly. I was still stuck on the tidal current as the reason.

However, lurking deep in the recesses of my mind was a question about the prop. Could it be fouled? Is it possible that electrolysis in Puerto Pesco had eaten away the cotter pin holding the prop nut in place? Could the nut have backed off? But, no sense worrying about it. Can’t do anything about it out here anyway. Meanwhile, we continued to plug along.

Just before sun-up, we were just off Isla San Pedro Nolasco and really going slow. The wind was blowing right on our nose and the predicted seas of “0-0 feet” were more like 2-4 feet and coming right at us. We were only doing about 1.5 knots and the waves would slow us down to 0 knots. I did some quick mental cipherin’ and decided that we would be better off hoisting the sails and tacking across our rhumb line at a higher speed. The main, with one reef tied in, was already up. I rolled out the staysail and the jib. Didn’t take too long to realize that we were a bit overcanvassed what with being heeled over to 30 degrees and all. I rolled up the jib and proceeded under reefed main and staysail only. We were doing pretty well speed-wise. After an hour or so, I tacked and headed back out.

A quick aside on tacking… I have very little experience sailing but I’ve read lots of stuff about sailing. And it seems to me that if I’m able to sail say, within 40 degrees of the wind on one tack, I should be able to sail within 40 degrees on the opposite tack too, right? Well, according to my wind indicator I was doing just that. But, according to the GPS, I was 40 degrees off the wind on one tack and only within 90 degrees on the other tack. WTF? Was the wind moving or what?

We were still motorsailing along when the motor suddenly died. I decided, “Screw it! We’ll just sail!” Oh, brave words. Well, we did sail. Back and forth across the rhumb line. Didn’t take too long to realize there was NO way we were going to make it to San Carlos today. Lulu looked at the cruising guide and decided that Bah San Pedro looked like a good place to pull in and anchor and see if we could figure out what was wrong. And, it was fairly close (5 nm). Trouble was, we had to tack a few more times to get there.

During one tack, we decided to try to start the engine to see if it could help us across the wind. On our previous try, we had failed to complete the tack and ended up “wearing ship” (jibing) instead. The engine started right up with no problem. However, as soon as I put it in gear, we heard a couple of ‘clunks’ and then she died again. OK, looks like we’re gonna have to sail this bitch!

So we did. Or at least, we tried. On our last tack we found ourselves stuck in a groove. We were returning on the exact same path we had just sailed. At this rate, all we’d do is tack back and forth across the rhumb line and never actually get anywhere. For years I have read accounts of cruisers. Oftentimes one reads about someone who just could not enter some port and finally gave up and sailed 200 miles to the next port. I always thought, “What do you mean ‘you can’t get into the port’?” Just tack back and forth, you’ll get there. Yeah, right. I had now found the port I couldn’t enter. So, we turned tail and ran before the wind to Las Cocinas. This was one of our original destinations. It also happened to be pretty much straight downwind from where we were. So, we shifted course, eased the sheets and ‘enjoyed’ a rolly, wallowy, 5 knot sleigh ride.

Entering Las Cocinas was interesting. We’ve only anchored under sail 2 other times and never in this boat and never with these winds. Plus, Las Cocinas was an unknown anchorage. We had Shawn & Heather’s drawings in the guide book but that was it. We needed to be able to enter the anchorage under sail and maintain enough speed and power to get aways into the bay before we dropped anchor. I nervously manned the helm most of the way in. Then I turned the tiller over to Lulu who drove us the rest of the way. When we hit about 30′ of water I released the anchor and she released the mainsheet. The strong wind started to push us backwards. After I’d let out about 80′, the anchor bit in and started to peel the chain off the windlass. I let out another 40′ or so and we were well and truly dug in. Only problem, the anchor dropped on the wrong side of the bobstay. Going to have to address that later but right then I NEEDED a cold beer.

Lulu dove down and checked the prop. The good news is that it’s still there, firmly attached, and spinning freely. There is no bad news. Not really. Obviously I have some sort of issue with my transmission. But there’s good news there as well. There is one other boat anchored here, s/v Fan. Fan’s captain and sole occupant, Michael, called to see what’s up. Turns out he lost his rudder. Literally. He dove down and it’s just not there. So he’s fabricating an emergency rudder to get him to Guaymas under power whenever he gets a good weather window. The really good news is that he’s a retired machinist with a full machine shop on board. If I can figure out what’s the matter with the tranny, he can probably help me fix it. Cruising at its finest.

Wish us luck. Right now I need to take a dip over the side and wash my funky hair and body. Could be worse, right?


About sryoder

Steve & Lulu... retired. Had enough of the cold wet dreary fall/winter/spring in the Pacific Northwest. Bought a boat, fixed it up, sold our home and sailed to Mexico in November, 2010. Been here ever since except for occasional forays to the States (summer only, thank you) to visit the kids, parents and siblings. If you're looking for a sailing blog, this is the wrong place. This is a traveling, hunkering in, eating blog. Sailing is just how we get from place to place when we can't walk.
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2 Responses to 6/27/2012 – Ai Caramba!

  1. Joan/Raymond Yoder says:

    Oh, dear. Sounds like “car” trouble. I just hate that. In the middle of the ocean has to be like being stranded in the middle of the desert. Hope all goes well. Love, Mom

    • sryoder says:

      Yeah, except in the middle of the ocean you don’t have the option of getting out and walking. And, even if you did, your boat would be somewhere else when you got back.

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