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  #1  
Old 04-26-2008
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Hard aground

Murphy's law, as I've found works both on land and on sea.

Leaving Mazatlan to go back to La Paz across the Sea of Cortez, I'd changed fuel filters, oil, tightened all belts, I had 1/2 tank of fuel, so I felt confident I could make the 220 nm to Los Muertos, then up the Cerralvos Channel and into La Paz. But let me back up.

I'd received word by SSB that a friend of mine had found a ''Bloom" of scallops on one of the islands off the eastern coast of Baja. Being quite partial to these sea creatures, I decided I'd head there before my friend ate the 500 lbs or so in the bloom. In Mazatlan, I'd re-propped following a dive of the bottom and finding a nick in the prop and a fair amount of electrolysis.

Helices Kelly in Mazatlan, supplied me with a new blank, cut it for the correct shaft size, pitch, and key way, and I went from a LH 18X12 to a LH 20X18. Theoretically increase in speed with less RPM's. Why was there a 12" inch pitch in the first place, I don't know. By the way, this brand new prop cost $330.00. In the states, it would have been $1,500. If in Mazatlan, Kelly is highly recommended, it was ready in one day.

50 miles out of Mazatlan, with a northwest wind on the nose, 5 foot seas, wind at around 35, problems began. Engine died, but with the main, staysail, mizzen, I could back off the wind and still make VMG to La Paz. Long story short, 5 bleeds later, 3 days and nights at sea and still 85 miles from safe harbor, I finally figured out the problem. My fault.

Whenever something goes wrong, I usually fault something in the system, but looking at it realistically, it was running good, til I did something to it. What did I do? Changed fuel filters. Pulling off the monster Dahl filter I noticed that I had used an OEM fiter, and had omitted the gasket which is integral in the Dahl filters. Dumb, yes, let's just mark this up to fatigue. Changes made, works fine.

Anchoring in Bahia Los Muertos (Bay of the Dead), 4 beers on board, then a fantastic meal at the Giggling Marlin, michalatas, and then with a great bottle of wine from my stock, a Santa Ema cabernet, 2003. I tucked myself in for a 4 am departure. Figured I'd beat the gale force winds that run between the mainland and Cervallos, laying off the island and catching the downdraft from the the mountains on the island.

With a ketch behind me, I pulled anchor and steered to the right in able to clear the ketch, and the reef off to the left. I'd notice the hydraulic helm had little response when clearing the ketch, and with a flashlight saw that the steering pedistal and deck was wet with oil.

Turning left after clearing the ketch, and trying to turn right, no response to the helm. I immeditely put the engine in reverse, stopped all forward movement, then in neutral. The autopilot is a separtate system so I went below to steer by pilot. The pilot searching for the shortest route to the heading I'd set, couldn't make up it's mind to go left or right, it went left.

I knew I was in trouble when the bow lifted 5 feet in the air with a loud crash and bang, followed by crunches, bangs and whangs. The boat laid on it's side to it's cap rail. Done and done. High on a reef and seemingly hopeless.

Both sides of the Baja are unforgiving areas. No Coast Guard, Vessel Assist, and the Mexican Navy isn't interested. You're on your own, what you do is the only thing you can rely upon.

Jumping over the side with a high intensity light, I saw that the rocks were more round and worn lava than jagged coral. Swimming out from the stern, I saw the rock that I had rode over, 3 feet below the surface, 6 feet from the bottom. I figured if I could start the boat backward, I should be able to jump the rock again, and move into deeper water.

In low idle reverse, I jumped from port to starboard trying to rock this 40,000 boat, and noticed a few feet movement to stern. Waiting for the screech of the new prop on rock . . . it never came. Putting a bit more pressure on the throttle, a few more feet, then up over a rock, dipped to the other side, then freedom!

Anchor was dropped, and another trip over the side showed that there was a few scratches on the 18" wide full keel, and some of the bottom paint was missing from the starboard side.

Two things saved my bacon. A fully enclased keel, and a 6" thick hull. Hardin made a solid boat!

65 nm later, 8 hours, I dropped the hook in Bahia de la Paz, the bilge pump didn't go off once, and the fuel problems were fixed.

What did I learn from this experience? First of all, xxx happens. You can't prepare for everything. Second, if something goes wrong, look at what you did to it to make it go wrong. Third, there's only you, the boat, and the sea. If you get into it, it's up to you to get out of it.

Now, safely tucked to anchor, I'm looking forward to the 70 nm or so til I get to those scallops.

Ian, lucky as hell sailor, La Paz Mexico.
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Last edited by ianhlnd; 04-26-2008 at 11:38 PM.
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Old 04-26-2008
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A great tale well told, Ian. And your diagnostics plan is spot on also, ie...what's changed? I'll wager that you've never had such succulent and well-earned scallops as you're about to enjoy! Congratulations on both your luck and your persistent determination. And you didn't schwanz your new prop! Here's to ya!
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Old 04-27-2008
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enjoy those scallops, you earned 'em!
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Old 04-27-2008
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Giulietta is just really nice Giulietta is just really nice Giulietta is just really nice Giulietta is just really nice Giulietta is just really nice
Ian...I am really glad all worked out ok..

This just goes to show that even with a lot of experience we are still so vulnerable to the surroundings...and what turned out to be OK could be really bad..

Cool man...now go eat some carnitas..
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Old 04-27-2008
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Those could have been some very expensive mollusks!! Good tale and glad it all worked out.
That's also a pretty good argument for those who think encapsulated keels (remember the Caliber thread?) are a poor choice. I'd hate to be messing with keel bolts and a "hardin smile" after a hit like that!
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Old 04-27-2008
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Holy crap Ian. How was the wine?
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Old 04-27-2008
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So, what caused the oil leak in your hydraulic steering?
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Old 04-27-2008
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Now THAT was a good tale.
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Old 04-27-2008
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The leak in the steering. I hate to admit it, but it was my fault,...again.

The pump is mechanical, attached to the wheel axel. When you turn the wheel, the pump impellers turn generating pressure.

The filler pipe has a threaded cap, which when I topped off the fluid, fell to the base of the pedistal, tangled amoung wires where I couldn't reach it. So, I shaved a wine cork and shoved it in.

Apparently, my makeshift cap couldn't stand the pressure, popped and everytime I turned the wheel, lost fluid. I'm now in search of a more secure cap.

The wine by the way is fantastic. I picked up 5 cases of Santa Ema Cabernet (Chile), and 2 cases of Tittarelli Bonarda (Argentina) from a wine broker in Mazatlan. Both wines are excellent.
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Old 04-27-2008
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Great story! Although for your bottom's sake I'll resist the temptation to ask for an encore.

MedSailor
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