The start of our adventure? Or the conclusion? Eleven days in Ensenada

So what happened? Well I suppose the best term would be burn out. After working the month of July averaging 85 hours weeks, when I headed back to Minnesota, I was ready for a break from boat work. I did return for a few days in early September where I knocked off a couple of things and continued a frustrating process of finding a solution for my Raymarine autopilot.

Then early October rolled around and it was crunch time – my niece Janis and a former sailing instructor Vicki were to arrive for the passage to La Paz in ten days. I powered through a final list that included a scuba refresher (it couldn’t be all work), purchasing sea kayaks, along with installing the repaired screecher sail, preparing the new Mantus anchor, and a good bottom clean. The Gori zinc replacement deserves a post on its own but for now know that it was a bitch of a process – but in the future I now have the trick which will make it straightforward.

In a blink of an eye I was headed to LA to pick up my crew. An evening of provisioning and early the next morning we were off to Ensenada.

Heading out of San Diego, next stop Mexico!

It was an uneventful trip south, much appreciated, and eleven hours later (four and a half sailing seeing a max speed of 8.9 knots) we pulled into Baja Naval for a quick haul out.

Sliding into the haul out pit

Just like two years ago, the staff at Baja Naval were profession, experienced, and efficient in hauling and blocking my boat. Then they started a couple minor projects – treating some corrosion and touching up a few gel coat spots. In anticipation of splashing Saturday and hitting the open ocean Vicki and I checked the engines. The starboard side looked great as I taught Vicki what to check. On the port, everything is was great until Vicki looked at the saildrive oil – milky. My heart sank. I had to check myself. And then compare to the starboard. There was no doubt that water was in the oil which had not been there 24 hours previously. Fuck me.

All the work. All the money, All the stress. Overwhelmed my mind drifted to packing it all in and giving up. After talking it over and thinking about our options I made a call to Kurt at West Coast Multihulls who sold me my boat. Evidently the 16.5 inch Gori propellers are too heavy for the Yanmar SD20 saildrive and after about 1,000 hours the prop shafts develop a groove and water leaks into the saildrive oil. Oh joy. Kurt recommended PacWest for the repair, however they were located in San Diego. The prospect of eleven hours bashing to San Diego, paying for another haul out, and then eleven hours back to Ensenada was demoralizing and sunk me to a new low.

I called PacWest and explained my predicament. While sending a technician to Ensenada wasn’t ruled out, it was clear this would be difficult since my boat was in a different company’s yard. Off to talk to Diego the manager at Baja Naval. A few hours later I tracked him down and had a sit down to explain the situation. He was understanding but clearly wanted his staff to do the work. I explained the special tools and my concern that if the repair was not done correctly I could be in a dangerous situation after heading south. Ultimately my begging, more likely Diego’s wiliness to assist someone ready to throw in the towel, garnished approval for PacWest to handle the repair with a few requirements. Lots of thank you and a big sigh as I walked out of his office.

PacWest sent Noe (pronounced Noah) on Tuesday to remove the propellers, shaft, and bearings. Did I fail to mention that I contracted food poisoning over the weekend? Yeah, so that happened too. I powered through and relief washed over me from the instant Noe started. It was clear he knew exactly what he was doing and was meticulous in labeling and bagging all the parts. Upon removal of the propeller we found another unknown issue – the bushing supporting the propeller to the shaft was shredded. Wow. What the hell happened here.

Remainder of the bushing

Also a previous repair had failed to include part of a retaining system for the propeller bolt. Seriously who does that. This is why I watch all work on my boat – so that I can learn and more importantly see that it is completed correctly. Ninety minutes later, both units were disassembled and Noe was headed back to San Diego to clean up and press the new shafts into the new seals.

A couple mornings later Noe was back with beautifully cleaned and polished parts plus he had new bushings. In the process of cleaning he stamped the “S” and “P” in all of the parts to help in the future.

New propeller shaft and seals going in

PacWest far exceeded my expectations in service, knowledge, and quality of work. After installing all of the new and reconditioned parts it was impressive how smooth the props spun and folded.

Clean, shiny prop!

This definitely gave me a boost that we were now better positioned to cruise down the coast to Cabo. All said the repair cost $4,350 for parts, labor, and travel. This was $700 more than the estimate but there were additional parts required and I’m guessing the reconditioning took more than expected.

The boat spent the next couple days getting a few more items checked off. The biggest project being the bottom paint. I had planned to wait until the summer haulout but with spare time, and appreciation to Baja Naval, I had them handle the job. As seems to always be the case, they found the previous bottom paint was loose in many areas. This required; pressure washing, chipping away to solid bonded areas, sanding, feathering, prepping, and finally replying the bottom paint.

Bottom looking good

I also attempted to have installed a new Mantus 55lbs anchor. Plans were drawn up with the staff at Baja Naval and plywood templates were created for the new location of the anchor roller.

Mantus anchor with template for new anchor roller location

Testing was completed and after a few days (work was sporadic) an estimate was presented. My jaw dropped at the cost of $1,200 and 40 hours of labor. What did I leave Mexico or something? There simply wasn’t the time and I’m not sure it would be worth the expense. I took the plywood templates in hopes that I could find someone to do it less expensive further south.

The relaunch was a non-event, for which I was immensely thankful. We re-positioned the boat to the end tie and got into the rocking and rolling from the incoming swell. After ten days in Ensenada the crew was ready to move on.

We still needed finally provisioning and a few minor clean up things before heading out. We planned to motor up to Coral for fuel and to test the saildrives, but before we could get to that Diego informed us we needed to check out with immigration and the port captain. By this time Janis was on the path to recovery from her stomach issue which started on Thursday. Man, we really weren’t catching any breaks.

At immigration we found a long line and no immigration officer. Evidently there were a cruise ship, cargo ship, and fuel transport ahead of us… Two hours later there was finally progress in the line and after checking in four boats and fifteen crew members, we had our chance for a new stamp on our paperwork. Off to the port captain where cinco minutes turned into 45 minutes. All told, over three hours was wasted. Damn.

Walking back to the marine a dense fog rolled in. Really? I had never seen fog in Ensenada and here at 1:00pm when we planned to motor to Coral we were socked in. Should I really be surprised? We did get our provisioning complete but without Janis who looked miserable. Her stomach issues came back with a vengeance. We went to bed that night with the expectation of departing in the morning at 7:00am.

It was a rough night for me, lots of bad dreams, time spent laying awake in bed worrying about all that could go wrong, and general apprehension about the trip and if I wanted to be doing this. The next morning I talked with Vicki and told her that I was making the executive decision to delay our departure until Janis was healthy. I was very concerned with what to do if she took a turn for the worst a few days into the trip with no medical care available (and no easy way back to the US). Vicki accepted my decision, but I’m pretty sure she was ready to get going and felt the delay was unnecessary.

But decision made we had another day in Ensenada to kill. A few boat projects, some ice cream, some internet time, and poof the day was gone. Unlike the previous night, I slept extremely well. A much better way to start the trip and Monday morning at 6:44 we blasted off the dock at the same time as our German dockmates.

Vicki cleaning up line as we blast out of Ensenada

A beautiful sunrise to begin our trip

Months of preparation, stress, anxiety, fear, and money (lots and lots of money) came to a point where it was make or break time. I was feeling pretty good and as we motored out in the bay a pod of dolphins played in our bow wake and said bon voyage – always a great sign and a perfect way to start the trip.

Our farewell send off crew

No Comments

Leave a Comment