Baja Bash: Part Two

Five days in Turtle Bay was a little too long… Don’t get me wrong, we made the best of being there. We spent an entire afternoon jumping off the pier with some of the local kids, hiked the surrounding hills, ate lots of food and caught up on sleep. I am pretty sure there has to be more going on there when the Baja Ha-Ha is headed south, but during the rest of the year it is pretty dead.

Leaving the calm of the bay, we started out into bumpy and uncomfortable seas. Luckily the winds were light, but as we passed through the Dewey Canal the winds began to pick up into the mid 20’s and were forecasted to continue through the night. We thought about anchoring for the night, but when we got close enough to what we thought were anchor lights, we realized they were small buildings and pier. It looked like a small navel base so we decided to just keep pressing on through the night.

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Pier in Turtle Bay.

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Agápē on the hook.
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Turtle Bay

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Eerie morning on the water.

In the morning when I woke for my shift we were completely socked in. I could barely see the bow through the dense fog. This was probably the most uncomfortable watch of the trip for me, everything was so wet! The mist collected on everything. The dodger, the sails, my face… Everything was consantly dripping. I tried to stay inside for most of my watch and just kept an eye on the radar. On a positive note, the sea was like a lake and we where making great time!
By 18:00 we where just over 100nm away from Ensenada!!!! The morning of the 14th was clear and beautiful, we even got to see a huge pod of whales. We were almost to Ensenada and our next stop at Baja Naval. It was a great trip and good shake down cruise to test our boat. We got into the Ensenada Harbor on May 14th, just as the sun was setting. We tied up at the dock for the night, awaiting haul out in the morning.

For the most part everything went well, nothing broke or fell apart and Mr. Perkins ran great the whole bash back. I think I definitely psyched myself out on how hard the trip back was going to be. I’m so grateful to have had Conor, from SV MoonShadow, on board for this trip. He was extremely helpful and was a wealth of knowledge, I defiantly could not have done it with out him or my brother Chris, aka the constable.

During Agápē’s survey and haul out back in La Paz, we discovered that she had some small blisters on the hull and a few larger ones on the rudder. We had made a reservation at Baja Naval, up in Ensenada to have the work done and the bottom repainted. It was going to be considerably less money to have the work done in Ensenada then down in La Paz. We left our boat at the Baja Naval boat yard for three weeks and after the work was completed we would return to bring her the rest of the way home.

In the picture you can see where we had popped one of the blisters on the rudder during our original survey and scrapped away some foam and fiberglass to see how bad the damage was. If you ever need any work done and in the Ensenada area, Baja Naval does great work and are extremely accommodating. (Read more about the work we had done at Baja Naval.)

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Click to read more about the work we had done at Baja Naval.

When the bottom work was done, my brother Chris and I returned to Ensenada. We took the Amtrak to San Diego and a bus from the border down to Ensenada. The Baja 500 was just starting when we arrived in Ensenada and the city was packed. It was fun to walk around town and see all the race cars and trucks as they lined up. It’s crazy to think how much money is put into those trophy trucks and even crazier to think what they are put through.
Back at the boat yard we had some last-minute preparations to do before our last leg home. We still had to refuel, change the oil and restock the boat with food. At 16:00 it was go time! The lift came and picked up Agápē and returned her to the Pacific. Chris and I rode in the boat and as soon as the lift’s slings were clear, we where out of there!!! Conditions were pretty perfect, the winds were light and right on our nose, with little to no swell.
It’s a quick overnighter from Ensenada to San Diego, we arrived in port checking into the US around 05:00. Just in time to catch the customs officers on the dock before their shift was over. For us it’s seemed faster and less painless to check into the US than it was checking out of Mexico. The customs agents were friendly enough, though they did make us throw away our pineapple and cabbage. We threw away our remaining fruits and veggies, paid the $26 fee and were on our way. We sailed back out of the Port of San Diego and headed north for Ventura.

The port of San Diego has a huge Naval presence and as you leave you often get to see the warships, submarines, and the coastguard practicing and patrolling. I’m sure it says somewhere on the map but unbeknownst to us, we happened to try and go right through a military testing area on our way home, about a mile from the entrance. We had no idea until the warship that was about five nautical miles to our west started heading our direction. When it look like they’re close enough to ram us they hailed us on the VHF notifying us that we were in a US naval testing zone, kindly asking us to alter course before they would “remove us from the area”. They didn’t have to ask twice! We headed out of the area as fast as our little Perkins would take us.

From there it was a less eventful overnighter, watching freighters go by as we slowly made our way home. Approaching the Ventura Harbor the winds were light and the seas were calm. Rachel’s parents, Jack and Lynn, were waiting to greet us on the jetty, waving to us as we pulled in. They met us at the slip where my grandparents were also waiting for us to arrive. It was a huge relief when we finally got the boat tied up to the dock and the trip home was officially finished! We had managed to get our boat home without breaking or ramming anything! ( Well other than the dining table, which I wait to tell Rachel about for several months). I’ve never been so proud to own anything before!!!! The whole process was a huge learning experience. One thing I took away from our trip is that ‘slow is pro’!  Whether it is moving around on deck, working on a project or docking, take your time!

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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