Having the boat out of the water has felt like a reset. This is our second time in a boatyard with a mountain of upgrades, changes, and fixes to complete. The boat sits unnaturally out of the water with her insides askew, and we live in a temporary space off of the boat. The first time was the start of this trip. We spent three months in the boatyard in Ilwaco, Washington, before heading out of the Columbia River’s mouth into the Pacific.
In Ilwaco, we spent days in a giant metal barn with Mapache, a handful of sparrows, and an extended family of pigeons. Every day brought a new scavenger hunt because, despite our efforts, nothing remained organized. Somehow the DeWalt cordless drill was always missing when you needed it. And to this day, I do not know how the large screwdriver ended up underneath the dinghy in the far corner of the barn for a month. Each morning, we pumped ourselves up with coffee and music. We worked nonstop until our end-of-day routine of shuffling down the road to the marina showers to watch paint, fiberglass, and sweat wash down the drain. At night, we slept in a tent below our boat. The air was usually chilly. And the blues and greens of the Pacific Northwest’s forested landscape was just outside of the yard. Apart from our bird roommates, we saw squirrels, raccoons, and black bears, and we gained comrades in the others working on boats.
Our second boatyard experience is similar with the daily plugging-through of the to-do list that ends in the boat’s dust circling a shower drain. I spent time at the top of the mast and behind our sewing machine, while Rob spent time underneath the boat and squashed into the engine compartment. A noticeable percentage of our days was spent searching for a necessary tool amongst the disarray. But this time, we breathe the hot desert air of northern Sonora, Mexico, surrounded by its landscape that is painted from browns and oranges and filled in with tiendas. Lizards and street-dogs comprise our animal guestlist. Again, we have built a solid community of people, who are also working on their boats. That community helps each other with projects that need another set of hands or brains, as well as with spare parts. Instead of a cup of sugar, neighbors ask for a stainless steel bolt or a size-10 zipper slider. The community also provides company for a few warm Tecates under the shade of our neighbor’s catamaran. Instead of a tent under the boat, we have an apartment a few blocks away, which is now filled with boat stores and sewing projects, leaving us to wonder how it all fits back inside of Mapache.
Our time here is almost over. Hurricane season has officially ended in this part of the world, and most of our to-do list is complete. We have plenty left undone, because boat projects are never over and there is always something that does not work quite right. We are set to go back in the water on November
15 20 23, pending whether that is the “mañana” that the boatyard (and Mapache) intends. Over the last week, engine parts revised the “mañana” of our splash date. Rob rebuilt our engine while in the yard. Part of the rebuild included a purchase of a refurbished long block. When we went to test the engine this week, it had no oil pressure. After some investigation, Rob determined an oil-pump gear was missing–a gear that is not available for purchase due to the age of that style engine. Meanwhile, a local recycler had collected our old engine to take to a metal recycler in Mexicali. Rob hustled on his bike to the man’s storage yard and luckily discovered that our old engine had missed the most recent truck to Mexicali. Rob was able to pull out the necessary piece. But when he went to install it, he found that another component of the oil pump was incorrect (it was a component made for a car and not a boat). After much internet searching, Rob sourced the correct piece from Ebay and overnighted it to the gas station in the closest U.S. border town, which accepts packages for a $12 fee. Today, Rob is catching a ride from two of our boatyard neighbors (muchas gracias) to collect the piece. And with any luck, our mañana for Mapache’s splash date will not change again.
Our planned route from here is to cross back over to the Baja side of the Sea of Cortés, sailing south to La Paz, where we will pick up our new-to-us, smaller dinghy (which will give us more room on deck, where we store her). Then, we plan to cross back to mainland Mexico, hitting Mazatlán to continue our trek south. Over the next year, we will follow the Pacific coastline of Central America toward the Panama Canal.
When we left Ilwaco, we had planned to go west around the world, crossing the Pacific from Mexico. But the COVID pandemic has heavily impacted many of the small South Pacific islands, limiting their accessibility to visitors. Of course, COVID has impacted everywhere, but much of the Caribbean and Europe is opening sooner and safer. So, as with most boat plans, we are changing it up, heading east around the world. And a bonus to the new plan is that we have gained a buddy boat, who has a similar eastward route and schedule. Cruising in the Sea of Cortés gave us a lot. Along with beautiful and abundant water and the stark and mystical land, the Sea brought us a community of like-minded adventurers on boats. And four of those adventurers intend to cruise with us for the next couple of years, hopefully including an Atlantic crossing. Of course, this will likely change again . . . it is a boat plan.
Boatyard Beer Break!
Before and after bilge cleanup
Rob, in the engine compartment
Rob bead-blasted all of the engine parts
Shiny, clean, and painted engine parts
New shaft and seal installed
New engine block mounted
New engine close-up
Luck=finding your old engine, when you really need an impossible-to-source part out of it, sitting inside of a recycler’s storage warehouse.
We had to re-run a lost halyard through the mast. We did so by using a small line, with several small nuts as weights, to lead the halyard through.
Sarah, re-running the halyard from the top of the mast
One of our yard-dog companions
Sarah, working from our apartment
Mapache’s bottom, scraped and sanded
Boatyard friends (the daughters of our friends with whom we intend to buddy boat), supporting Mapache with their t-shirts and inspecting Mapache’s new bottom paint
Rob’s foot, after painting the bottom of the boat, while wearing his “safety” flip flops
We took a break to watch the local ocean conservation group release baby sea turtles.
We took another break to watch Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers perform in a dirt lot, down the beach from the boatyard. They even played “Leaky Little Boat.”
Sewing prep (using the tile grout as a straight edge)
Sarah, in her “sweatshop”
Rob took some time to train at the local Jui Jitsu school, 7 Ronin, where he made more good friends. The owner bought him a Mapache replica!
We cannot wait to get back in the water!