Bringing Agápē Home: Baja Bash Part One

UntitledThe Baja Bash is a 950-mile run up the wild and desolate Pacific Coast of Baja California. It got its name from the veteran sailors who have returned stateside from Mexico. The passage home fights the wind, waves and current.

Our bash home began in La Paz Mecico and ended in Ventura, California. The compass heading is generally northwest, which means fighting consistently strong winds, large swells, and a nasty surface chop. If timing is wrong, the northbound trip can be 950 miles of constant bashing into heavy seas and strong winds.

Normal afternoon wind speed on the outside of the peninsula during winter and spring can vary between 20 to 25 knots, though 30 to 35 knots is not unusual. It can be a rough and tiring trip for crew, and hard on a boat. Equipment can break, hatches leak, and boats have been lost during the Bash. It’s not Cape Horn, but it can get ugly.

I flew down to La Paz on April 25 to meet up with my brother Chris who was already waiting for me on the boat. Together we finished provisioning for the trip while we waited for our third crew member, Conor, from SV MoonShadow, who would help us bash back. While we waited on our third crew member, Chris and I also worked on the engine. For the most part, everything went smoothly. We changed the oil and the oil filter, changed the two primary and secondary fuel filters, the impeller, and flushed the transmission.

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First time up the mast! Pre-departure rigging check. Some people hate going up the mast but I love it, what a great view.
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Chris and I making temporary corner protectors for the solar panels.

Our boat has a Perkins 4-108. An engine that notoriously runs on the hotter side. We decided to tear into the cooling system to make sure there was no obstructions and that everything was working well for the 200+ hrs we would be running the engine to get home. I took off the inlet hose to the heat exchanger and sure enough all of the tubes where clogged. Glad we decided to take a look.  There must have been two to three impellers worth of rubber forced into those tubes. The kind people at Marina Palmira let us use their little machine shop to do any work we needed. A 1/8 welding rod with the flux broken off worked great to clean all the tubes.

2004-12-31 16.01.51Unfortunately this was not the end of the cooling issues. In order to get the heat exchanger tubes out, you have to take off the exhaust elbow, and in doing so we noticed that the threaded nipple leading into the exhaust was completely corroded and about to self-destruct.

One thing always seems to lead to another…

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We took off the elbow and went in search of a machine shop with a welder. We also were hoping to find and purchase some new hosing since we ripped the old ones trying to pry them off.

It took two days to get our elbow back, which thankfully wasn’t a problem as we were still waiting for our weather window. While we waited we also managed to sell the giant window AC, lightening our load.

On the 27th, my parents sailed over from Puerto Vallarta on their boat SV Buena Vida, to say hello and send us off. They have been living on their boat six months out of the year for four years now down in Mexico. It was great to see them and have extra help from my dad to get our SSB radio dialed in. It was reassuring to have them there, as I was getting nervous about bringing the boat up.

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Chris, Conor and I leaving La paz at O dark thirty.

We got our weather window at 0600 on April 29th! It was still dark out but we casted off and waved goodbye to my parents, headed for San Jose del Cabo to refuel and possibly wait out some weather. Our boat weighs 30,000 pounds and is not very fast under power. Mr. Perkins (our engine) is said to be a 50hp, but I think he puts out more like 30. We also didn’t know what to expect once we were out to sea so we definitely babied the motor since it had a long way to go. We were averaging 5 knots and running her at about 1800 rpms.

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Homeward Bound

While rounding the Baja Peninsula late in the day, we were able to finally get the sails up for a bit. After arriving in San Jose del Cabo we fueled up both tanks and the jerry cans, we were fully loaded with 260 gallons of diesel. Before departing we checked the weather and it looked like there were going to be stronger winds around Cabo Falso that evening so we opted to get a slip for the night. We spent the rest of the evening walking around town and eating ice cream.

untitled-5At 6pm, May 1st, we left Cabo heading toward our first obstacle, Cabo Falso. It was a little bumpy but the winds where light . Our biggest problem was the current, during Chris’s watch, (7pm-10pm) he said our speed over ground was never over 1.5kts. AAHHHHH! Very frustrating! We probably should have headed further offshore to avoid the longshore current. Luckily it was only current slowing us down and not 30kt+ head wind.

From Cabo, we had planned on stopping for a night at Bahia Santa Maria but our weather window was still good, so we kept pushing north. Four and a half days later we are dropped anchor at Bahia Tortuga, (Turtle Bay). By then we were very excited to get off the boat and stretch our legs. So far the trip had been pretty easy, we had light winds averaging 10 to 13kts.

Turtle Bay is a older fishing town,  it once had a cannery but shut down long ago. Now it’s only a small stopping point for sailors. I think the only reason that it’s still here is that it’s the best all weather anchorage and the fuel dock within a few hundred miles. We had a fun time exploring, went on a great hike and topped off our tanks. We calculated that Mr. Perkins uses about .85 gallons an hour if we run him at 1800rpms. We also noticed the engine leaking a little oil. In the 150 hours we put on it since the last oil change, it’s about a quarter quart low.

What was suppose to be a 2 day stop ended up being five and a half days at anchor.

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Shower time!
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I hope I never get tired of watching dolphins swim in the bow wake. I love watching them play.

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