Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays to all of our family, friends, and readers near and far.
We had hoped to slip our lines last week and sail a few days south to Barra de Navidad by Christmas. Since the town is named “Christmas” we’ve heard it’s a fun place to be. But apparently, Neptune has other plans for us right now. We’re still working away on a few critical boat projects that need to happen before we can leave…including a few items that cropped up in our recent marine survey that must be remedied in order to bind our new insurance. Nothing major, just time-consuming…
So lest you all think we’re just hanging out in hammocks, barefoot in the sand, sipping on umbrella drinks, think again… As any cruiser will attest, the day in the life of a cruiser is often more work than the daily grind at home. But at least it’s warm, and you can tell the boss to take a hike, literally!
As we had often heard but not really experienced living in the Pacific North Wet, the lower latitudes can be very hard on boats. Especially when you’re not actively using them all the time. So it’s been a summer and fall full of repairs. Thankfully Kirk is about the handiest man around and can fix or repair just about anything (but prefers not to work on refrigeration or diesel engines if he doesn’t have to.) And he’s always grateful for any help or information from others, including Youtube!
Kirk started the summer installing brand new Dyneema lifelines (these are made of high-strength synthetic line rather than plastic coated wire.) Then he moved on to work under the cockpit, in a very SMALL, tight-squeeze space (see photo above). Luckily he doesn’t have much fat on his bones and isn’t claustrophobic. To get into the “cave” he has to slither in on his stomach and pull himself along. Once inside there is just enough room to roll over onto his back and work above his head.
So what exactly was he doing back there? For starters, installing our long-awaited cockpit shower (more on that later), replacing the diesel fuel filler hose (original hose almost 40-years old was super dirty and making a mess), installing a manual engine stop cable (see below), and then there was our friend the auto-pilot. Remember our Lewmar auto-pilot? The one that broke coming down the coast of the US, and got replaced with a “new” one under warranty in La Paz three years ago? Yeah, that one.
For you non-boaters, an autopilot is a very important piece of equipment (or crewmate!) when you’re sailing short-handed (ie: only two people.) Hand steering in big seas and/or heavy weather can be very tiring, and sometimes you have to trade helmsperson every 30-minutes to an hour. As you can imagine, without an autopilot to help steer in these conditions, we’d only be able to cat-nap, which would lead to further exhaustion, loss of judgment, and potential injury. No bueno. So the auto-pilot is a critical crew member.
At the time Lewmar sent us the replacement three years ago it appeared to be refurbished rather than a brand new unit as it was supposed to be. The bottom sat all cattywampus and lots of sealant gooed out around the edges. Not the “Swiss Watch” look of our original autopilot. We were concerned enough about this “new” unit that Kirk took a bunch of photos and sent them back to Lewmar, saying we didn’t feel like it was “new”, even though they assured us by the serial number it was. So we installed it and used it for about six months in 2016, from La Paz to San Carlos in the Sea of Cortez and back south to Puerto Vallarta.
Since then it has not been used, as Due West has sat in her slip in the marina. So back to Kirk working in that tight space under the cockpit, 96° in the shade! He thought that as long as he was under there, he should check out how the autopilot was faring. And what did he find? About ⅛” of play in the tiller arm. While that might not seem like a lot, it was enough slack to cause the autopilot to keep searching for its course and not work to steer the boat.
So Kirk removed the 45-pound autopilot, which was about 3″ above his nose as he lay on his back! And brought it to our friend Ben, the motor-whisperer who had repaired Due West’s engine last summer. When Ben and Kirk opened up the case, they were shocked to find the bushings in the gears were badly worn and the chain between them drooping. We’re thinking this autopilot had way more than the 200 hours we put on it.
So more photos were taken and attached to the original three-year-old email to Lewmar where we had stated that we didn’t feel this was a new unit. Imagine our surprise, when Lewmar finally agreed and sent us another “new” autopilot! Maybe they were just tired of dealing with us!? Whatever the case, we are grateful for this new crew member, which will be installed for Due West’s Christmas present so she doesn’t have to work so hard steering.
And the autopilot was just the tip of the iceberg. All in the span of about two weeks, we had a myriad of things go wrong. And Mercury wasn’t even in Retrograde yet! Heidi’s 18-month old MacBook Pro died mid-use with no rhyme or reason. Because it was still under warranty, it had to be sent back to Apple in the US for repair. But it turns out that you can’t just mail a computer in for repair, it has to be hand walked into an Apple store by a person!? Who knew? We were grateful for our cruising friend Lisa who was visiting her sister in the states and agreed to be the computer mule! So while we had to pay the FedEx from Mexico to the US, the rest was covered, including a new hard drive, motherboard, and keyboard?! Wow… not sure if it was a lemon to start with, or what caused all those parts to suddenly fail, but Heidi is grateful to have it back and fixed under warranty! Thanks, Lisa and Apple!
We have also been shopping for new yacht insurance. Thanks to climate change, the increase in hurricane activity in the Caribbean has resulted in many payouts over the past several years. So insurance companies are dropping boats like hot potatoes for being “too old” (over 30 years) or “not valuable enough” (under $125K). Since our last out-of-the-water marine survey was almost 5 years ago, we knew we had to get a new one done to qualify for insurance. (For you non-sailors, a marine survey is like getting an appraisal of your house, although usually, homeowners insurance doesn’t require that!) So we scheduled a haulout to paint the bottom, change our zincs, lube the prop, and check all the underwater running gear.
But finding a marine surveyor here in PV wasn’t an easy task. Luckily for us, our good friend Jim Knapp, a marine surveyor in Gig Harbor, WA, (please contact Jim if you’re ever in need of a fantastic marine surveyor!), was looking for a little R-n-R work-vacation in Mexico. Big thanks to m/v Noeta for helping Jim & Karen with their plane tickets.
We are so grateful to Jim and Karen for coming to visit, and for Jim’s survey and expertise on a few boat projects. We had scheduled the haulout for Due West a few days before Jim & Karen’s arrival, so we could have the bottom painted, and Jim could survey the bottom out of the water. Then return Due West back to her slip with us, and do the rest of the survey at the dock. Best laid plans… We should know better than to make plans!
A day before our haulout, Kirk ran the engine to make sure everything was good to go… and it was for a bit until it wasn’t. Michael P. Engine died, and Kirk thought it was an air leak, but he couldn’t figure out where it was coming from. With no time to trouble-shoot before our haulout, we punted and decided to tow Due West the half-mile down the marina to the boatyard using our trusty dinghy, Aventuras, with our 15 HP outboard.
To have a few extra hands, we asked our friends Liz and Travis to join us. Non-sailors, they are both whip-smart and take directions well, that’s all we needed. So with Kirk and Travis in the dinghy, and Heidi steering Due West with Liz as her first mate, we made our way to Opequimar (Oh-pecky-mar) boatyard. We knew the engine would run for a couple of minutes before dying. So Heidi fired her up and Kirk aligned Due West with the haulout basin before untying the tow line. Heidi drove straight in with Liz tossing lines to the boatyard crew. A perfect landing! THANKS Liz & Travis!
After Due West was all blocked up on the hard, Kirk went to drive the dingy back to our slip, and the outboard wouldn’t start. WTF?! If you know Kirk, you might know that his nickname is the “Outboard Whisperer”. He was born with an outboard attached to his hand, and can pretty much diagnose any outboard issue by sound! He has fixed so many sailing friends outboards over the years, Heidi thinks he should hang out a shingle! And so he knew right away it was the emergency kill key. Which he had just replaced a year ago?? Musta been made in China…Thankfully we had another spare, so all he had to do was row the half-mile back to the slip. Good exercise!
Four days later Due West had a fresh bottom, and Jim had finished the out-of-water survey. So with Jim and Karen as crew, we thought we might be able to nurse Due West’s engine, Michael P., long enough to get us back to the slip since the outboard was still inoperable at the time. Silly us, we should have known better! Halfway back to the slip, Michael P. engine died again, no go! Thankfully we hailed a tiny fishing boat passing by, “Bony”, and tossed a tow line to the nice pescador (fisherman) and his young son. They were able to get us right back into our slip, and grateful for the $400 pesos we offered them. ($20 US) A great day’s wage for 30 minutes of work, well worth it to all of us.
Back at the dock, Jim proceeded with his survey, while Kirk fixed the outboard and took Aventuras out for a spin. Outboard working great again, imagine his surprise to return to the slip taking on water?! Yikes, where was that water coming from? So Kirk hauled the RIB dinghy (rigid aluminum hull with inflatable pontoons) up on the dock to take a look. From that vantage point, it was easy to see that the Hypalon pontoons were delaminating from the aluminum bottom. Not happy about that with an AB dinghy! So one more thing added to the “repair before we go list.” It’s the only time Kirk has ever allowed 5200 to be used! (5200 is a super-goopy adhesive sealant that not only gets everywhere but once it’s hardened, is virtually impossible to remove.)
In between Jim’s time surveying Due West, we made sure he and Karen had a good tour of PV and ate lots of great Mexican food! We also took a day off of boat work to hang out at the La Cruz Sunday Market and visit with our mutual friends Pat & Alexa and kids on m/v Noeta. All too soon Jim and Karen had to fly home. We’re so grateful for their friendship and help aboard Due West, and the fun times together.
Back to Michale P. engine and the fuel system air leak… what was up with that? Serendipitously, while Kirk was just beginning to attack the air leak, we had a knock on the hull (for you non-boaters, when you visit someone’s boat you always knock on the hull and give a shout, “Ahoy Due West”.) It was our Canadian friend Mike from s/v Kitty Toes, who we hadn’t seen in a year. And Mike just happens to be a diesel mechanic, so when he heard what was up, he offered to help Kirk troubleshoot and get Michael P. Engine going again, once and for all!! It turns out it was an unusual situation where a bad o-ring in the fuel filter created an air leak, causing a back siphon into the fuel line. Don’t worry if you don’t understand that… it’s complicated!
We are grateful to Mike for his ability to understand the situation and his help in remedying it! Fingers crossed, Michale P. Engine is now fully operational again… ready to roll as soon as we finish up the remainder of the niggly “repair before we go list” We don’t want to bore you with too much detail, so suffice to say the list is shrinking daily and the light at the end of the tunnel is near.
A couple of tips for cruisers, things we’ve learned the hard way:
Tip #1: If you can help it, don’t ever purchase a Whale Pumps Twist Deck Cockpit shower. This is the most inept shower system you can imagine, with a stiff and heavy hose and a showerhead that doesn’t swivel… it’s fixed and wants to spray straight UP, not down. Kirk has tried to re-work this shower about ten times to no avail, it’s a very poor design.
Tip #2: In tropical hot climates, don’t leave disposable batteries inside any small devices like flashlights and handheld GPSs etc. This might not be rocket science, but since we liveaboard in the tropics, and don’t always use everything every day, it was a harsh reality to discover just how many batteries had leaked and ruined small electronic equipment. Best to remove batteries from small devices in the hot weather if you’re not using them consistently. We’ll be asking Santa for a new handheld GPS this year, let’s just hope we’ve been good enough! 🙂
Friends are starting to arrive in PV for the holiday or the winter season, and we were so glad to get in a good visit with our Seattle sailing buddies Jimmy & Robin from our Charisma racing days 20-years ago, for dinner aboard s/v Wings with Judy & Fred in La Cruz. It’s also been fun to see our friends from Toronto, Wai-Lin and Ian. We thought we’d just miss them with our schedules, but since we’re still here, it worked out!
Many thanks to all of you who’ve purchased Heidi’s new book, the 90 Day Food, Mood, & Gratitude Journal. She is thrilled with how well it’s been received by friends, family, and clients, as well as the Health Coaching community. She’s also super excited to further her wellness education, by studying Functional Medicine over the next two years at the School of Applied Functional Medicine starting in January. If you or someone you know is sick and tired of feeling sick and tired, and not getting help from the traditional routes, Heidi is looking for more clients to work with for her functional medicine clinical case studies as part of her curriculum and would love to talk with you. Please reach out.
While we didn’t make Barra de Navidad for Christmas, we still hope to be there for New Year’s Eve to meet up with several other cruiser friends. In the meantime, we’re grateful to Judy & Paul for hosting several of us sailing orphans for Christmas dinner at their condo. In spite of all the boat projects, we are so happy to be back home, sleeping in our own bed. And Tosh and Tikka are thrilled to be home too. They love exploring every new nook and cranny that gets opened up to work on a project. Plus Tosh loves playing with Kirk’s tools!
May the love and spirit of the holiday season remain with you throughout the new year.
Peace on Earth, and LOVE to all of you.
Heidi, Kirk, Tikka & Tosh