ON THE DOG WATCH
January - April 2009
The first part of 2009 was a blur of activity for me—helping with the Puerto Vallarta Writers Conference and Banderas Bay Regatta—lots of demands on my time which took away from what I make a living at: boat deliveries, marine surveys and writing. But, what the heck, with the U.S. and World economy seemingly in the toilet, business was slow anyway, with no deliveries since August of last year. Still, as I was looking out over the beautiful placid waters of Banderas Bay, I felt somewhat insulated from the problems of the rest of the world. What else could go wrong?
Then the scare over the Swine Flu Virus (H1N1) came along; made even more alarming by the Media Hype on CNN and other cable news networks. Cruise ships stopped coming to Mexico. Tourist businesses in Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta, and other destination ports along the Mexican coast, came to an abrupt halt. The devastation was worse than if a hurricane had hit. There were roadblocks and health screenings every where people traveled in Mexico as the Mexican Government tried to isolate the virus. They moved quickly and were successful, but the damage to Mexico’s tourist industry had already been done—no one was coming to Mexico—it was a disaster of national proportions.
I began to panic because my son, Greg, and his two children were due to travel from Denmark to Mexico in May for a long awaited family visit. The Danish government denied them travel insurance, but they came anyway, arriving May 16. They stayed for two weeks, we had a wonderful reunion, and no one got the flu! As my mareneros kept saying, with typical Mexican humor during this difficult time, “¿Cuál virus? îArriba Mexico!” Someone even put up a website to advertise the plight of the average Mexican worker, hoping to bring folks back to Mexico: www.popomexico.com Good stuff!!
But, back to boating and the three very different yacht deliveries my crew and I were able to make in the first part of this year—a FAST trip to California (7 days), a SLOW trip to California (16 days), and an interesting voyage to hook up with Dockwise Yacht Transport in La Paz...
24 February to 2 March 2009, M/Y “SPORT KING II,” Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, to San Diego, California.
SPORT KING II moored at Pier 32 Marina, San Diego, after the voyage.
Sometimes I feel like I’ve been given an extraordinary compliment when I get asked to deliver someone’s boat. It was that way when Joe Ruzzamenti asked me to take his 58 ft Viking Sportfisher, SPORT KING II, from Puerto Vallarta to San Diego in February. I’ve known Joe for some time and would usually see him in Turtle Bay each year when he and his boat were headed north, waiting out weather like the rest of us. He is a competent captain, skilled fisherman, and takes extremely good care of his boat. I never imagined he would let SPORT KING II go north without him at the controls. But one of his best friends and fishing buddies had just died, and Joe had other things to attend to. This year for him, the timing was lousy. I was honored be asked to take care of his baby.
The 295 miles from Puerto Vallarta to Cabo San Lucas was calmer than usual—two foot seas and winds light and variable—even the last sixty miles, where it normally kicks up. I ran the engines around 900 rpm, which gave us a 9 knot average speed, making Cabo in 32 hours. (When I run slow to save fuel, I always run the engines up periodically to blow the turbos out.) Fuel burn was 1.7 gpm and the cost to purchase fuel was approximately $2.33/gallon, including dockage.
Since winds were reported to be down at Cabo Falso, we pulled up anchor around 1800hours and headed north. The next day, from Cabo to Bahia Santa Maria, we experienced the normal lumpy 4-6ft seas. Winds were L&V in the morning hours, kicking up to NW 15-20 knots in the afternoon. By the time we got the hook down in Bahia Santa Maria, the wind was blowing +25 knots in the anchorage.
At 0700 hours the next morning we headed out again to make our way toward Turtle Bay and found ourselves doing the “rock ‘n roll” into 6-7 foot seas and winds NW 10-15 knots. I changed course toward San Juanico and the shorter distance to the next anchorage. It was “run and hide” time. My decision turned out to be the right one. The next day the wind and sea conditions began to improve—becoming 2 feet or less and the winds light and variable. Taking advantage of the improving sea conditions, we bypassed Turtle Bay and made it from San Juanico to San Diego in less than three days, with an average speed of 9 knots.
Thanks for the opportunity, Joe. If you’d known the trip was going to be so uneventful and over with so fast, I bet you would have figured out a way to do it yourself.
29 March to 14 April 2009, S/V “AVOCET,” Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, to Redondo Beach, California.
When sea conditions are calm, motor-sailing north is easy.
“AVOCET” is a 1979 Choey Lee Offshore 41 sloop; one of my all-time favorite cruising sailboat designs to come out of Hong Kong during the 1970’s. The interior layout is innovative and practical, and I have yet to find a better short handed sailing vessel in this size range. There is some mystery as to who the real designer was, but I believe it to be Ray Richards, or at least influenced by his Offshore 39 design which all records show give him credit for placing the rounded saloon seating forward. Even the tumblehome hull, which is a similar hull to the Yankee 38/Catalina 38 design, is not a coincidence because that is a Sparkman & Stephens design, and Richards worked for them at one time.
So, John and Robin Bousha needed to get their boat home to King Harbor in Redondo Beach, and couldn’t do it themselves because of an illness in the family. They asked me what I thought it would cost, I put an estimate together, and they gave me the go-ahead. Again, I’m a lucky guy and get to do the Baja Bash in one of my favorite boats.
Sometimes, unfortunately, no matter how good an owner takes care of his vessel, things break on a long voyage; especially one as grueling as bashing up the outside of the Baja Peninsula. By the time we got to Bahia Santa Maria, my crew and I discovered we were using (or loosing) engine oil and had to put in two quarts. Try as we might, we could not find a leak and became concerned we might be loosing oil into the oil cooler. On a normal delivery, I put on enough extra oil to do one oil change, so no problem, right? Wrong...By the time we got to Asuncion two days later, we had used up all of our extra oil. It was Palm Sunday; the town was basically shut down for the religious holiday. We needed more oil, and some extra fuel to make it to Turtle Bay, or we weren’t going anywhere. Jorge, my Mexican crewmember convinced the Armada patrol to take him ashore in their panga. He became our hero when he returned five hours later with fuel and oil. We hauled anchor at 1400 hours and were in Turtle bay by midnight--using another two quarts of oil in ten hours.
Going ashore in Asuncion, looking for oil and fuel.
After a short rest, we spent most of the morning at anchor in Turtle Bay trying to figure out where the oil was going and not finding the leak. By now we knew it was leaking, after ruling out everything else when we found oil in the sump and around the port motor mount, but because of how the engine is positioned in the keel cavity, there is not much room to access the sides and underneath. If we could just get to San Diego (only 340 more nautical miles, 68 hours at 5 knots, three days under motor and sail) we could get a Perkins mechanic on board to fix the problem. While ashore, I checked the weather on the internet and made the decision to take on extra oil and fuel. By 1320, we had hauled anchor, and were continuing north toward Cedros Island.
Anchored in Turtle Bay.
After Cedros Island the winds and sea conditions kept building and became more uncomfortable; so I changed course and headed for San Carlos, the anchorage south of Sacramento Reef. Our oil consumption was increasing and the winds in San Carlos anchorage were gusting to 25 knots! To get to San Diego, we would have to hug the coast, still motor-sailing, if we hoped to find calmer sea conditions and not be too far from an anchorage.
Where is the leak?
By the time we made it to San Quinten, the weather and sea conditions were much worse and we had used three more quarts of oil in fourteen hours. The leak was increasing! I hailed a panga full of urchin divers and sent Jorge up the estuary to find more fuel and oil. From now on we would have to motor-sail in the early morning hours and find refuge as the conditions got worse in the afternoon.
Jorge returning with a new supply of fuel and oil.
The rest of the voyage--to Ensenada to drop off Jorge our valuable Mexican crew, and on to San Diego--was accomplished by “running and hiding” from one anchorage to the next. In San Diego we were able to find a mechanic who diagnosed the problem as a broken oil pressure alarm sending unit and he praised us for saving the engine by recognizing and monitoring the oil consumption problem. Once the engine was fixed, Leon and I made it the rest of the way to Redondo Beach without a problem.
And, the Choey Lee Offshore 41 is still one of my favorite sailboat designs. I just don't like where the engine is located.
26 April to 1 May 2009, S/V “SOLAR WIND,” Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, to La Paz, BCS.
Fueling at Opequimar in Puerto Vallarta, prior to voyage.
For a week, the owners, Lanham Deal and Melinda Devin, and I had been waiting for some definitive word from Dockwise Yacht Transport regarding their arrival and loading date in La Paz. The transport vessel had been delayed at the Panama Canal and the date kept changing (in my experience, very unusual for Dockwise). Lanham and Melinda were trying to schedule their flight to Puerto Vallarta and then I needed at least four days to comfortably get them and the boat, a Sceptere 41, to La Paz for loading and shipping to Vancouver, B.C. Everything had to go smoothly, no boat problems and no weather problems, because there were no refunds if we missed the loading.
As luck would have it, almost everything went as planned. Everything, except we developed an oil leak, this time it was the oil cooler. For me it was a scary memory of my last trip on Avocet. I feared we would miss the loading. Fortunately, Lanham and I were able to monitor and manage the leak, and we arrived in La Paz with a day to spare.
Dockwise S/S III Transport waiting for us.
Loaded and ready to transport.
The loading went smooth, was well organized, and all boats were off-loaded and on-loaded in an orderly manner. After it was all over and we were back in Marina Costa Baja (which is a great marina, by the way) we gave ourselves a toast. I was glad we met the transport ship in time to put SOLAR WIND on, and so were Lanham and Melinda happy to see their vessel going to its home in the northwest.
ID1 = 39
- March - Rediscovering The Once Forgotten Middle
- May - Bringing The Boat Back From Mexico
- July - New Regulations for Private Vessels Moving From Port To Port in Mexico
- August - Six Yacht Deliveries
- October - 26 October to 3 November 2005, M/Y HERCULES, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, to Ventura, California
- September - October - Sailing and Writing
- August - 29 July to 5 August 2008, M/Y ORIANA, Mazatlan, Mexico, to San Diego, California
- January - April - three very different yacht deliveries.
- October - Climbing the Hill: “Rounding the Cape.” and Climbing the Hill: “Up to Mag Bay, then on to San Diego.”
- September - SEFERINA: “Astoria, OR, to Port McNeill, BC.”
- December - BELLALOU: “Tortola to Florida.”
- May - ENSENADA, THE EASIEST PLACE TO CHECK INTO MEXICO
- May-June - WHAT A LIFE: “Newport Beach, CA, to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.”