Friday morning, half-way across the Gulf of California

It’s a fine Friday out here, lots of humidity in the air and the stars were not quite so crispy last night as they were out on the Pacific – but the swell is way down, that’s the trade-off and it’s not a bad one. We’re motor-sailing in light morning air that is forecast to get lighter and lighter through to at least as far as Saturday evening. The boat is trundling along through the 3-4′ short period swell generated by the strong NW and N winds blowing over the water 600 miles to the north. Gulf of California chop is nasty stuff (often they form ‘square’ waves, wherein the period in seconds between wave crests = the height of the wave, that’s bone-jarring stuff to crunch into), and way down south here it’s formed a more gentle roll, particularly as I’m taking the waves on the beam rather than on the nose.

Last night was fun, Beetle got rolling with a good solid 20 knots on the beam and we rocketed off into the night – only to discover there are interesting currents around here and the speed over the ground didn’t look all that amazing. But great sailng! Took a couple of good white caps over the bow, that rinsed off any squidly passengers.

About midnight I found that the cruise ship Norwegian Jewel was crossing from somewhere southeast of my position (Puerto Vallarta, perhaps?) headed over to Cabo San Lucas, and they were on a close approximation of a reciprocal course to mine, which doesn’t leave a lot of room between us when we go by each other. In the pre-AIS days I’d try and hail ‘the big ship north west bound located at approxixmate position…’ and usually you’d get no response, and usually the ship had no idea you were in their vicinity. It’s lots of fun with AIS to call up the ship by name (they answer straight away, ‘who’s calling?’), and ask them if they have made any passing plans. They respond with ‘We will pass starboard to starboard. We have a good fix on you and have a good CPA. Don’t alter course.’ Then they steam by 1.5 miles off and everyone is on their merry way. I suspect that ships view anything less than a mile as way too close, most shipping I see on the AIS is using that 1.5-3 mile Closest Point of Approach as a simple metric for avoiding any risk of collision.

Now it’s morning, wind is light at 4-6 knots, seas are down and definitely not white-capping, engine is on and we’re moving right along. The first point of landfall is the rocky shore and sandy beach of Punta Mita, where Bill Gates has the huge fancy hotel there; interestingly enough there’s an island prison colony on Tres Marias Islands, which are between me and Punta Mita. According to my cruising guide there is a 20 mile security perimeter around the islands, to avoid the security area I’ve set a waypoint at the southeast corner of that zone and am aiming there – that’s 104 miles out as I write this. From that point it is then a 51 mile hop to Punta Mita, and just beyond that one gets to La Cruz. The Marina has a tongue-twisting complete name: Marina Riviera Nayarit located in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle. Apparently most people find the name has way too many syllables so everyone calls the place La Cruz, even the Port Captain in Ensenada knew what I meant when informed my destination was La Cruz.

Today looks like a good day for Beetle-boat clean up. There’s desert dust all over the place, time to get out the vacuum cleaner (I like my trusty tiny ShopVac), clean out any new bilge water that has found its way to below the floor boards, and figure out what I’m going to do with the contaminated gasoline from the dinghy outboard motor. Currently the 3 liter plastic Coca Cola bottles are filled with the stuff and the bottles are stowed in my two buckets, which in turn are tied off to the starboard primary winch to prevent the buckets from zooming around the cockpit floor when the boat rolls in the swell. I do need one of those buckets for down below bilge cleanup, and I don’t want to have 6 liters of gasoline shooting about the place.

Enjoy the morning! I should be off Punta Mita Saturday morning, and La Cruz by evening. The total run left to the marina is now 167 miles – a short walk from here, relatively speaking. I think I will put a Superior and a Heineken ale into the magic box and let them get chilly, that will be a tasty treat for sunset tonight!

– rob

Thursday evening and headed across towards La Cruz

Good evening! It’s been a good day on board Beetle, made it around Cabo San Lucas and on into the entry for the Sea of Cortez – more or less aiming at Punta Mita off to the east, about 234 miles out. Current conditions are lumpy seas coming in from the north, wind is 15 gusting 20 from the North (e.g., blowing down the Sea of Cortez to where I am), and it’s dark.

Today I saw whales – a group of 4 humpback whales up close and personal, and a lone humpback breaching repeatedly off in the distance. Also lots of sea turtles that like to lounge on the surface in the sun, they look for all the world like semi-deflated mylar balloons, except turtle balloons have a distinctive beige/brown color, and turtles are only shiny when wet; when they dry out they are matte and don’t reflect sunlight particularly.

Rounding Cabo saw a rapid change in water temperature. It’s gone from 60 at BSM to 67 en route to Cabo, then suddenly it was 72 degrees. I imagine this is due to the warm water coming down from the Sea of Cortes, though I could be wrong about that and have no good way to check that at the moment; something to go learn a bit about when I get to La Cruz.

The weather forecast is for the strong winds up in the North end of the Sea of Cortes to drop off tonight/tomorrow, and then it should be flat flat flat out here Friday and Saturday. Right now it’s not at all flat and we’re moving along well, though I must admit I did prefer conditions this afternoon (flat, warm, light air, sunny) to conditions now (lumpy, warm, windy, dark).

While I’m writing up this blog I’ve also got the AirMail software busy communicating with the Iridium GO to fetch the latest weather forecasts. And here they come, 45659 bytes worth of data. This will include Baja Geary’s notes from this morning, the NOAA experimental Baja, and the latest GFS GRIB model output. This morning’s data shows things be more pleasant tomorrow, and theoretically backing off over the next 6 hours. The new forecasts shows: winds backing from N to NW and dropping to 10-13 by morning, then backing off further over Friday and Saturday. NWS thinks there will be a bit more wind where I am, 15-20, and dropping to lighter in the morning, especially the further southeast I get. Over at Cabo Corrientes (south end of Banderas Bay) they are calling for 5 knots of wind. Baja Geary is calling for NNW 18-23 knots Thurday afternoon, diminishing to 12-16 Friday on the Baja side and NNW 9-12 out in the center (which is where I should be come Friday morning). So if you ask a weather question and check 3 sources, you’ll definitely get back 3 different answers. At least they all point to the idea that it’s windier tonight and nicer tomorrow, getting lighter the further east one gets. I’ll take that. Watching the weather is something of a half-time profession out here…

May everyone enjoy the evening on their end; it’s nice to be moving along towards calmer waters.

– rob

Thursday morning approaching Cabo San Lucas

Good morning – it’s a bright sunny day, Beetle is still sailing along in the dying reverse-coroumel winds that funneled through from La Paz last night, we’ve got about 19 more miles to go before making the slight turn to port and aiming at Banderas Bay.

Last night was a spectacular cruise through the night; the stars were out in force and the air was super clear – everything was visible. Late in the evening the wind shut down to 0-2 knots and the seas went flat shortly afterwards – at which time I could see an enormous number of squids hanging out just below the surface. There is a brief phosphorescence in the water, and when the boat disturbs the squid you can watch them jet off in different directions as they leave a brief glowing trail behind in the water. There were miles and miles and miles of squids – the biomass there must be enormous!

The forecast called for winds through gap from La Paz to Todos Santos, and the winds appeared; off went the engine, out went the jib and we took off into night on a nice quiet speedy reach towards my turning point SE of Cabo San Lucas. Made good time, conserved a lot of fuel, and now it should be no problem to skip the Cabo fuel dock and head straight across towards La Cruz. What started as a 475 mile run is now a 318 mile run, and I’ve got fuel to do that. It’s supposed to be quite light breeze between Cabo and La Cruz, and I had planned to motor across as needed.

The Coroumel wind dies off fairly rapidly in the morning, just as it appears fairly abruptly in the evening – and that’s what’s happening at the moment. What was 18-20 knots is now down in the 8-10 knot range over half an hour, and that’s forecast to drop out to 3-8 knots at Cabo. So I suspect there will be more motoring coming along shortly as boat speed is now down to 4.9 knots. Sure is nice to have the engine off, though.

Last night I slept on the port settee to shift away from the engine noise, read my book, kept an eye on the radar and AIS targets, and slept a lot. Feeling mostly rested this morning. And Baja Geary has his computer back up and running, it was great to hear him on the radio; his weather forecast is very good for this area and is far more granular than the broad brush stroke NWS Mexico experimental forecast – so Baja Geary can add a lot of value to the information NWS is producing. The Sonrisa net (3968 MHz LSB) is an interesting net to chase – it’s the first net I’ve listened to that shifts frequencies, it seems they shift in 3 MHz chunks, so if nothing is heard on 3968 then try 3965 or 3971. Today I found them on 3972. Good thing they don’t move very far, as it’s not like a note is left on the door indicating where the meeting has moved to!

OK, wind has died off, I’ll send this note out and get the engine up and running, then we’ll be off to La Cruz.

– rob

Night time in the Pacific off Baja

It’s been a super day on the water, the breeze has remained light but steady at 5-10 knots from the N/NW, seas have flattened out further, and now there’s a moon up which is really pleasant. Sunset was particularly good, with Venus coming out strongly while the sun, now over the horizon, lit up the few clouds from below.

Beetle is still powering along at 1700 RPM, Cabo Falso is about 105 miles up ahead, I’ve set a course that will keep me clear of Cabo by perhaps 20-25 miles. I fully expect that with the pleasant weather we’re having the Cabo sport fishing fleet is going to be out in force tomorrow morning, and I’d prefer to not get tangled up with them. Of course it also might be that the water is too cold for the fishes they like to chase, and perhaps nobody will be out; either way, hanging offshore is a good thing for the singlehander.

I’m traveling south in the company of Annie’s Song, a 15meter sailboat some 9 miles inshore of me, we seem to be moving at about the same pace, and I haven’t been able to raise them on the VHF (their call sign is WDJ2908, amazing some of the information one gets from the AIS broadcast). The big ships are running further offshore, and I’m about 27 miles off the coast; hopefully that is beyond panga range tonight. I wonder if the panga fisherman have anywhere to launch from in this part of Baja?

Had some dinner earlier, now I’m taking it in turns to look out for any lights, the radar is busily checking for any radar targets (and it beeps loudly when it finds one), and the AIS is telling me where the ships are. If the wind does fill then I can shut off the engine and get some sailing in; the forecast suggest 10-15, possibly shifting around to the north-east. There’s a gap/valley from La Paz clear through to the Pacific side of Baja, that gap is about 60 miles in ahead (that gap is also the cause of the coroumel winds in La Paz), and might see on breeze through the gap as there is supposed to be strong N winds up in the Sea of Cortez tonight/tomorrow.

Enjoy the evening!

– rob

Bad dinghy beach launching, and headed for La Cruz

Good morning, it’s Wednesday and Beetle and I are motor-sailing (more motoring than sailing) on our way south from Bahia Santa Maria. The conditions are light air (5-7 knots from the N/Nw – so well aft of course), fairly decent swell at 7-8 feet, which makes for a rolly time on the boat. Swells are coming in from the starboard aft quarter and we’re definitely doing the rocking and rolling way through the water.

Sun is up nicely, some high overcast clouds up there, it’s warm. The front went through North of Bahia Santa Maria yesterday, generating some strong winds and lots of cloud cover; that front has moved east and the High has spread out, leaving a gentle pressure gradient out across the lower end of Baja and over to Puerto Vallarta. The general plan is to do a straight shot over to La Cruz, where I have a slip reserved in the marina there.

The reason I’m taking a slip in La Cruz as opposed to the much more frugal model of anchoring out is that I had a disastrous dinghy beach launch in Bahia Santa Maria. I’d gone ashore to walk the dunes and the beach, landed at mostly-high tide with 18-24″ little waves. By the time I returned the tide had dropped and the waves had increased to 2-3′. As I learned, a 3′ wave is too much for the dinghy to handle, as I flipped it in the surf. I also learned that outboard motors do not like being held underwater upside down in the surf for 4 minutes or so, and will fill with sand. The dry bag I had with me was not all that dry after being immersed in the surf for the same length of time. I also lost my dark glasses (I have several spare sets as I keep the older ones; I will get a new pair made in Puerto Vallarta, I need to visit an optica store to get that done). The Nikon D90 camera was damaged as well. All in all not a good way to end what was a delightful afternoon on the dunes.

What happened was I watched the wave pattern for a while prior to launching from the beach, and there were definitely lulls in the sets. It was also obvious the waves were larger than when I had come ashore. I watched the bigger waves come in, watched the lulls arrive, got all set, went in and waited for the lulls with the dinghy in the water next to me, and then I hopped in the boat and started to row out. That’s when the biggest wave appeared, and it broke directly into the boat, striking my shoulders and knocking my glasses off. The wave pushed the dinghy back towards shore and either the dinghy wheels or the outboard motor struck the sand and became the fulcrum that flipped the dinghy over, while I was still sitting in it. I ended up beneath the dinghy and for whatever reason it was difficult to push the dinghy away from me. Each time I tried to stand up I discovered I was lying sideways in the water and one foot or the other would glance off the bottom, so I wasn’t able to stand up.

Eventually I pushed the dinghy away and abruptly stood up to find I was in maybe 3′ of water, the dinghy was washing back and forth in the small surf, upside down, wheels in the air and the fuel tank was still tethered to the boat by the rubber fuel hose which, amazingly enough, did not break. I waded back over to the boat and it took many tries to get the leverage needed to get the boat right side back up – there’s not a lot to grip on the tubes and I’m trying to lift the motor up and over the height of the dinghy wheels as the water is pushing the dinghy away from me. And eventually the whole contraption was right side up again and very very soggy. Bleah!

The dry bag never came free from the dinghy and unfortunately it was no longer dry inside – a couple of cups of water in there had made my camera body damp, damp enough that it hasn’t wanted to turn on since then. The motor was my biggest concern, as I really depend upon it out here – it’s the aquatic car. Without an outboard and dinghy things become very different for a boat out at anchor.

About this moment I felt like I had stepped into a Fellini film. I’m in the middle of nowhere along a lengthy deserted beach, there’s nobody around for miles, and I look up and there’s suddenly a fellow standing there looking at me while holding a 5 gallon plastic pail. Where did he come from?!? He points down the beach towards the estuary to the mangroves and says, ‘Tranquilo. Mas tranquilo’. Through sign language I indicate I’m going to walk my dinghy the two miles down the beach to the more tranquil launching area, he nods his head and indicates the waves are far less down there, and off I go. Took a while to get there, and I extra appreciate the dinghy wheels – made it possible to move the dinghy that distance.

Eventually I reached the mouth of the small estuary that leads up into the mangroves, on the opposite side of which is the fishing camp of perhaps four shacks, some pangas, and families. It also looked like the estuary has completely silted/sanded up at low tide as there was a panga stuck in the middle of it with two guys working away, one on the bow and one on the stern. I set my load down, sat down on the dinghy to rest, and watched the waves coming in – much smaller, these are waves that one can step over, way more my style. I was also watching the wind, as rubber dinghies are terrible for rowing and rowing against the wind is even worse, if not impossible. Starting from here I would be well upwind of Beetle, which was happily riding at anchor a half mile out from shore. So I hopped in and rowed and rowed and rowed… eventually getting in front of Beetle and the dinghy drifted down and I tied up.

First concern was getting the water out of the motor, so I got out the tools, pulled the spark plugs and some water came out – not a lot. At least the motoring wasn’t running when it went under. However, upon opening up the air filter and intake to find that it was filled with sand, and removing the carburetor and inspecting it to find that it was filled with sand, and then went further back up the line and pulled the manifold intake off and found that it was filled with sand. It turns out the entire motor is filled with sand. I vacuumed out what I could, cleaned everything else off with fresh water and rinsed parts in the gasoline decanted from the fuel tank that went into the surf, reassembled, oil changed (it was filled with water), swapped new fuel into the tank, purged the fuel lines, and the engine actually did run for 15 minutes. Wouldn’t idle or anything like that. I expect the sand is going to abrade all the surfaces inside and that motor is toast. Where to find a replacement motor? This could become a big problem. At least I’m not headed to Turtle Bay, where there’s nothing to be had…

I was able to exchange email and telephone calls with Mike at PV Sailing (the North Sails loft in Banderas Bay, he’s located at Marina La Cruz), courtesy of the cell towers with Movistar and TelCel atennas on them. I learned that one can easily purchase Suzuki and Mercury outboards right there in Puerto Vallarta, going back to the States and returning with a new motor is expensive and then there’s taxes and importing not to mention transport for me each way (or shipping). Upshot is it’s easier and simpler and less expensive to purchase a replacement outboard in town. After some more digging online I was talking with Dave at Zagaroza Marine in Puerto Vallarta and they have the Mercury motor in stock. I talked with Smitty at JP Motor Sports in San Diego, the Mercury 9.9 is a Tohatsu head with spark plugs, and the small Suzuki motors are the only little engine running electronic fuel injection. There is also a Tohatsu distributor for Mexico across on Gulf of Mexico side.

Result of all this is I’m headed for La Cruz, have a slot in the marina to make getting ashore possible, I’ve got a line on a new outboard, Kristen has ordered up a replacement camera for me (Nikon D7200 – current replacement for the D90 and will work with the wonderful lenses I have) and will be bringing it with her next weekend when she visits Beetle in La Cruz. The dinghy itself is fine, I lifted it onto the foredeck, pulled out the metal rollup floor and spent 45 minutes with the deck washdown pump and garden hose removing all the sand and crushed shells from the boat and floorboards. I can get new dark glasses made up in PV, and while it was an expensive wave it was also not the end of the world. I did learn that the dinghy, at least in the configuration of wheels and outboard, is NOT a good surf boat – I need to take more care in choosing when and where to launch, leaning towards NOT launching (or landing) if I’m not at all happy with the waves. And not be concerned about wheeling the dinghy off to a different location if it’s better to launch somewhere else – even if that somewhere else is a mile up the beach!

Which brings us up to speed on what’s been going on ’round these parts. Monday was a completely un-fun afternoon as that’s when the dinghy went over, Tuesday was working on the motor, the camera, the dinghy, and making lots of phone calls and learning what I could about what options are available. As the possibilities became clearer things settled down and I sort of got my plan back in gear and things are looking good today – back on the road and enjoying the ocean!

And now I’ve made the turn down the coast, rolling along 467′ of water, at that depth the swell does not rise so much and feels a much nicer 3-5′, and with the course change the swell is now coming in from behind – Beetle does not roll so much. Breeze is light at 2-5 knots, motoring reef is set on the mainsail. Time for lunch.

– rob

Monday morning and visiting the library

Good morning – it’s a fine Monday here in Bahia Santa Maria, sun is out, wind has died away to a whisper, even the wind generator has decided to take the morning off and it’s not spinning. The kind of day perfect for relaxing on deck.

And the day started with a pod of porpoises going right by the boat, perhaps 20 or so individuals, moving rapidly across the bay in a spread out line and their line went right through the boat, porpoises to port and porpoises to starboard – all headed towards a flock of pelicans at the northern tip of the entrance, kinda where what I think is the surf camp is located. There’s no surf here now, so the camp appears deserted at the moment.

Yesterday was fun, had the dinghy out and walked the dunes for a bit, vacuumed the boat’s interior, did some troubleshooting with the Sierra Wireless Aircard 770S that I use on the boat (AKA AT&T Unite) in an attempt to understand what it means when the unit is connected yet the computer cannot actually do any work through it (continuing to futz with that this morning, it’s an interesting problem), and I sat down and thoroughly enjoyed the original Star Wars film, much fun to see all the characters again.

For a while this morning the computer was able to connect through the 770S and I pulled down the tide forecast for Magdalena Bay; I’m thinking that it might be fun to visit Mag Bay for a day. Right now Mag Bay is completely shrouded in fog, looks like the colder air is passing over the warmer water and there’s thick fog right on the water, with the tips of the hills poking up into the sunlight – which makes being 8 miles north in BSM seem much nicer as I have zero fog and toasty warm sun. Still, the tide timing is pretty good, so I might give that a shot either later today or, more likely, tomorrow (Tuesday) morning.

The general plan is to depart the area and head for La Cruz and/or Isla Isabella Wednesday morning. Weather looks pretty good for that run, might get into the anchorage at La Cruz sometime on Saturday. I’m going to bypass Cabo San Lucas entirely, no need to stop there, I’ve got plenty of stuff on board as regards foods and fuel.

One fun thing I was able to do last night was visit the Orcas Island Public Library, return a couple of books and check out some new ones. The library is a member of the ebooks Washington Anytime Library (which is part of a website called overdrive, I’m not sure how that correlates to library books), and that means I can use my library card to login, find a book, and then download it through Amazon to my Kindle reader device; pretty amazing to be sitting here in the middle of the Baja peninsula and visit the library in Eastsound, Washington.

The small surf in BSM is somewhat down from yesterday, though it’s still too high to land on the eastern edge of the bay where the shoreline is more exposed to the bay’s entry. Much easier to land up in the NW corner where the fishcamp is located.

Ahah! – currently the 770S thinks it is once again connected to TelCel 4G (one bar), my computer thinks it is not connected to the internet. But we are connected to the internet. Quick! – send before the signal goes away again.

– rob

Unexpected night time repair activities for lobster people

Yesterday was a fine day here on the flat water of Bahia Santa Maria.  One thing I realized I forgot to do the first night at anchor was to set up my anti-panga lighting.  The pangas travel fast on plane and the panga drivers do not look UP for masthead anchor lights; they do look forward to find things to avoid.  The other night I was looking at the incredibly lit up shrimp boats and then a recreational sport fishing boat pulled in and they ran deck-level exterior lighting for the night.  It dawned on me that I needed to set up my anti-panga lighting as well.  For Beetle I have an LL Bean LED tent lantern that uses 4-AA recharageable batteries, that light gets hung in the foretriangle at head height and casts a pretty nice all-around white light.  For the stern I have an LED Davis Instruments cockpit light on a 15′ cord, that light gets hung from the checkstay just above wheel.  Between those two lights down low the ends of the boat are readily apparent.  I do need to recharge the AA batteries, and that’s not a problem as I turn on the inverter, plug in two AA battery chargers and keep the batteries up (the boat runs on Eneloop AA rechargeables, really good batteries).  The mechanics were worked out in 2013-14 winter in La Paz.

Saturday morning I turned off the anti-panga lighting and put the AAs on charge, got the dinghy up and out and launched, re-folded the mainsail and put on the cover, and ran the dinghy ashore for a great walk on the sandy beach and sand dunes.  For evening entertainment I watched part of a silly movie, and was getting ready for sleep when the night was capped off with an hour long visit by a panga-load of lobster-diving fishermen that had developed a three foot crack in their hull at the waterline.

The panga folk were out of Puerto San Carlos, they make the 40 mile run across Bahia Magdalena and up to BSM to go night diving for lobster, which are stored in a 55 gallon white plastic drum of seawater, then run back and sell the lobster for USD $5/eaches.  Their panga is a low-slung one without a high freeboard (after all, they need to get in and out of the water, a 4 foot tall panga is not helpful to them), has a great big Yamaha outboard mounted on the transom, a rusty air compressor bolted to a board bolted to the boat, and a long yellow hose leading to a regulator.  One of the fellows demonstrated their equipment while the owner/father worked away applying underwater epoxy to the hull.  The divers are in wetsuit (the water is 60 degrees at the moment) and have face masks that incorporate a pair of large super bright dive lights attached to a headband as if it were a headlamp.  They arrive at a rocky area they like, anchor by means of a home-made rebar grappling hook, fire up the gas-powered compressor, and take turns going into the water (they only have the one hose, so one diver at a time).  The diver goes down with a black mesh bag attached to their weight belt, finds a lobster, attempts to grab it by hand, and if they get the lobster then they push the lobster into the bag and keep looking for more.  When they get cold they swap out divers, and continue for the night.

Somehow their panga had split port side at the waterline chine directly beneath the air compressor, a three foot split that let in water when floating, and they could not travel on plane as too much water came in (boat might have split open, too, I imagine).  There was no obvious impact damage, so my guess it was an accumulative flex failure that split where the chine acts as a stress riser.  It was also directly below the air compressor, so vibration from the compressor might have played a part.

I was at the nav station when I thought I heard a quiet engine off in the dark behind the transom (it was completely black here in BSM by that time), so I went up and heard a man calling out and a panga ghosted up out of the darkness.  As I’m the only light in the bay, it makes sense that they would come over to see if I could help them out in some way.


The panga gang is all smiles when the repair is done. The forward fellow is in his wet suit, he’s the one that wanted to trade for goods, the orange jumper was the quiet one, the blue jumper fellow knew some English words and he and I worked hard to work through the language barrier – we passed my book back and forth a lot. The fellow aft in the wet suit never spoke and spent the entire time working on the engine, and at the transom in the red jumper is the father – he’s getting the engine running. The repair itself is visible as black spots (the life caulk) port side at the waterline below the compressor, right where the steel lifeline crosses the image.

This is where the language barrier became a significant issue as regards progress towards understanding the problem.  The panga came alongside and the driver didn’t want to hit Beetle, I could see a fellow bailing a bit of water, and the driver was waving his arms about, pointing, and saying Agua!.  A long back and forth established that they didn’t want water, they had too much water, and they were wondering if I had any ‘PEGAMENTO’ (he carefully wrote this out on a piece of paper I handed him).  I looked that up in my Spanish for Cruisers book, it means ‘GLUE’.  Ahah!  You don’t need fresh water to drink, you need glue to fix your boat?  Of course when I say that they stare at me quizzically, then launch off into an explanation in Spanish of what they want, at which point I stare at them equally quizzically.  So we started to hand the Spanish for Cruisers book back and forth so we could find words we knew and look up what we were supposed to say to the other guy.

There were five folks in the boat, three younger guys in the mid twenties, what I think was the father who ran the boat, and another adult about the same age as the father who never spoke but worked on the Yamaha outboard the whole time the father was working on the crack in the hull.  To keep the crack up and clear of the water the other people in the boat stayed as far to starboard as possible.  Pangas are narrow (5-1/2 feet) and tip easily. The balancing act kept things interesting, as people had to pay a fair bit of attention to where they were sitting vis-a-vis the chance of filling the boat from the low side while the father worked on the high side.

I handed them some 5 minute Epoxy and the kid in the blue jumper said ‘agua epoxy?’ and I said ‘No’.  It worked out they needed something that would set underwater, and I keep on board a tube of Ace Hardware Underwater Plumber’s Epoxy.  It’s not exactly what they needed but it’s the closest I had – the stuff will set rock hard underwater, will adhere underwater, but is very brittle and will crack away from things that flex; good for sealing pipe joints and fittings that bolt down to a solid surface, not good for holding together sections of fiberglass that flex.  But I demonstrated how to use the material: break off a section, remove plastic wrapper, knead together the compound and as it starts to get warm squish it into the hole.  Soon three of us are kneading up the epoxy and the father is making ropes of it and squashing it along the crack.  When the epoxy was gone he asked if Poquito Mas?  I had no more, then there ensued a back and forth in search of a new word until the fellow in the blue jumper said ‘Silicone’.  Ah! – you want caulking!  I had a tube of black life caulk, that will also set underwater, but not in a few minutes.  I gave the father the tube and he went round the split inside and outside, squishing as much lifecaulk as he could into the split.

Through all of this there was a background of general questions, what did I think of Troomp (malo) Obama (thumbs up), they were much more emphatic than that. Did I have a sweater for them? No. Did I want a bag of marijuana for a 6 pack of cerveza? No. Did I want a lobster? No. Where did I come from? San Francisco, Ensenada – that impressed them, San Francisco and Ensenada are a long way away.  Did I go Tourist Ballena? No gracias.

When all was said and done an hour later, the makeshift repair was as good as it could be, they got their giant outboard running as slowly as they could (I think the silent fellow was retuning the motor to stay running at idle, as they normally run at high RPM with the panga on plane), and they backed away from Beetle into the darkness.  The father called, ‘Americans Love – Buenas Noches’ and off they went slowly.  It will have been a very long return trip for them, 8 miles across the bay, 10 mile run out in the ocean down to the entry to Mag Bay, and another 20 miles up Mag Bay to get back to Puerto San Carlos – all at very slow speed to keep stress off the hull.  The boat is easily repairable when they haul out and grind and re-fiberglass it.  It’s pretty wild that these guys are charging around in the dark, no running lights, no radio, no phone, chasing lobsters to sell on the market.

Now it’s Sunday morning, bright sun, ten knots breeze coming through the anchorage, and another super day here in BSM.  There’s an enormous sardine population here, and right now I an see a large number of pelicans dive-bombing a bait ball driven to the surface – hundreds of birds crashing to the surface and reappearing with fish in their beaks.  And a line of perhaps 40 porpoise departed the bay headed for the ocean, I could see the porpoises jumping clear of the water and they moved out fast.

Time for breakfast!

– rob