Storage yard to work yard. The San Carlos Marina Seca storage yard is a gated, no-work-allowed lot. We must have the boat moved to the adjacent work yard to do anything. So the day we arrived, we made a moving appointment for 1pm the following day…and by 1:30pm, Monday Oct 10th, we were on the boat in the HOT, DUSTY, WINDY yard.
Cursory inspection. After 6 months of storage, here’s what we found:
- The cheap, blue tarp we used to cover the cockpit from sun was ripped to shreds after hurricane Newton (not surprised).
- Inside, I found a giant cricket on the floor…after I heard the crunch under my foot. He was already way dead. Thank goodness I had on shoes! Otherwise, no bugs. (You’ve NO idea how happy that makes me.)
- We had removed batteries from everything (numerous flashlights, etc.) sequestering them in their own bin. Now we know why this is recommended practice…we found a couple corroded and leaking battery acid.
- In our giant explode-proof tub, we had thrown as many leak- or melt-prone items as we could fit. I found a can of Raid sitting partway inside a melted, gooey citronella candle. And the top of our boat soap bottle cracked from heat but didn’t spill out. That’s it.
- One floor rug backing had dried up in the severe heat and was crumbling.
- The sun damage on our already-hazed, corner dodger window got worse. Despite being folded up inside, under a 3 ft layer of pillows, bizarre red specks lined the edges… like window cancer. This was one we did not replace last year.
- A couple tiny water spots under the windows, but nothing looked like it got wet underneath. Can’t tell whether there was minor leakage or if it’s just boat sweat. A few bits of really minor mildew on the walls. No water in the bilge. Our caretaker said some water had blown in through the louvered companionway door from Newton’s rain downpour, but he had mopped that up.
- Oh yeah, I also found a lizard on deck, sundried to a crisp.
Day 2: Work!
Every 2-3 years, we must attend to our bottom. Indigo’s bottom, that is. This year, it’s our #1 project. So today, we start by applying blue tape just above our red boot-stripe. Why above? We had already decreased the red stripe thickness by half, 2 years ago. But Indigo is still so loaded down with stuff that the waterline continues to ride up on the red paint, causing too many barnacles to attach themselves along that region. Repeated scraping of said barnacles off that stripe is ruining the paint.
So today, Brian starts by sanding the red stripe with an orbital sander and I follow along touching up the line by hand sanding. Except every minute I sanded with my hands above my head, neck craned back, I felt like I was dying. Sand one minute, rest one minute. It was only 10am and 95 degrees and HUMID! I couldn’t even finish one side of the boat before I had to stop and rest or pass out.
Next step, sand bottom. The black paint underneath Indigo is called ‘bottom paint’. Each time we clean the bottom (@ once a month) we get rid of critters AND paint, so every 2-3 years we need to reapply. Sanding the boat to death isn’t necessary, just a light, even sanding all over to make sure the barnacles are banished and any paint flaking is halted. So Brian gets in his cute little white suit & respiratory mask, looking like a CDC inspector. The entire sanding job takes a little over 4 hours. But in this heat and in that stifling get-up, it simply sucks.
While Brian is sanding, I start removing the white fabric we used as a sunblock covering the teak caprail, hand rails, and multiple plastic or metal thingamajigs. This takes forever because Brian is unfortunately a super-genius at knot-tying. Good thing he is in the middle of sanding and can’t hear my teeth-gnashing… a hurricane can’t untie these knots and neither can I! I use a laundry marker to indicate where each cloth piece was used and will eventually wash, store and reuse them next year. This fabric worked great, protecting our newly varnish teak from sun-damage while providing airflow. Thanks to S/V Cuba Libre for the idea and showing me where to buy the cloth!
Clean prop. Barnacles also love to attach themselves to the metal propeller. Cleaning a prop under water isn’t very doable since there are so many nooks and crannies in which to hide. Sanding the blades down smooth again and scraping crevice-sheltered critters with a screwdriver before Indigo goes back in the water is necessary for proper operation.
Replace zincs. Boats are subject to electrolysis (electricity in the water reacting to certain metals causing corrosion). Metal oxidization on boats is not only expensive, it can cause life threatening circumstances. When your $3000 prop falls apart due to corrosion, you’ve got problems. Therefore, all boats use various-sized pieces of zinc attached to underwater metal parts. The sacrificial zincs corrode first, in effect sacrificing themselves for the good of our other important bits.
Wash boat. We aren’t going for super-clean, but we need to rinse down the nasty topsides to avoid tracking dust into the boat. We waited to do this until after Brian was done sanding, because we also need to spray down the hull to remove the black paint dust Brian generated yesterday. Hopefully, that will help our bottom paint adhere better. Since the boat is wet and we created a huge mud puddle underneath, we retire back to the hotel to wait until it dries.
Why don’t we live in the yard? While we are allowed to live in the boat in the workyard (there is power hookups and even shower facilities), we choose not to for several reasons: it’s hot; it’s dusty; since a boat has no grey water tank, washing dishes or hands or teeth must take place outside the boat at the ground spigot… after climbing down a precarious 15ft ladder; going to the restroom at night holds the same issue; most importantly, our boat is a severe mess – everything we needed to store inside (sails, canvas, cushions, ropes, wind generator blades, explosion-proof bin, dinghy) is littering the floor and v-berth. Nothing is where it is supposed to be - I couldn’t live in this chaos without going berserk. So at $27/day for a week, the economy hotel is worth it for the air conditioning, our own clean bathroom and not having to live amongst the disorder. Once we get Indigo in the water, we can start re-installing and rearranging.
Primer. Later on in the day, we return to tape and paint the old, red bootstripe with primer to let it dry overnight.
Bottom Paint. A partial day of frustration… Our $250 can of bottom paint is not cooperating. Brian uses a drill & paint mixer bit, but the solids have sunk to the bottom and created a thick, gooey mess... so dense we weren’t sure it would ever fuse. Finally, after a HALF HOUR of mixing, it started looking like paint instead of muck. Then Brian starts painting. We only have one roller. It’s taking a lot longer than he thought because the paint is drying super-fast in the heat, on the boat and in the pan. Then the roller handle breaks. Sigh.
I go to the marine store (2 minutes away) and buy two rollers and 4 sleeves, for a whopping $26. Big mistake. I get back and we both start painting to save time. Within one minute, both roller handles BREAK! We continue to awkwardly paint without handles, but it’s not going well. The paint is drying on the brush. And now my new roller brushes are disintegrating, leaving tons of small mohairs stuck to my bottom. No one wants a hairy bottom!!!
After painting nearly 2/3rds of one side, we’ve already used a quarter of the paint. We normally are able to do TWO coats with one can. We’ve broken all our rollers, all our sleeves have disintegrated and now I have a hairy bottom! We quit. We’ll try again tomorrow, early… when it’s not 100 degrees.
Hammertime…Off to Hammerheads for our daily ritual of $1.30 fish tacos and 5 glasses of iced tea. Each. Then back to Star Marine to return two un-used, overpriced, useless, f-ing hair-emitting, roller sleeves. Then to Sherwin Williams store to get better rollers and better sleeves and some paint thinner, for much less money. Then back to the boat to try and get something else done in the baking heat. We finished removing fabric protection, re-installed 4 solar panels, started cleaning storage compartments, dug through our massive pile of stuff to find prop goop & varnish for tomorrow. After another 2 hours in the hot sun, we are more than done.
Bottom – 95% done! Our new paint rollers and sleeves worked flawlessly today! No more hairy bottom! Well, at least not on the other side. Adding paint thinner (spelled the same, but pronounced “teen-aire” here) eased the flow sufficiently. Gotta get up early to beat the heat, so we arrived at 6:45am and by 9:30am we were finished. Except for the squares. We must wait a bit for it to dry, then get a yard guy to move the boat stands about a foot. Then, early tomorrow, we can finish painting the blank spots.
Blue Tape Exercise. Our next project is to add two coats of varnish to our caprail. We need to protect that 7-day varnish job we had paid for in Mazatlan this past February. We’d rather NOT do this upkeep in the sweltering, grimy yard. But in Marina San Carlos, major sanding is not allowed in the water, with significant fines if caught.
Before we do anything, we must line the lengths of teak with blue painters tape to avoid getting varnish on the gelcoat. I FORGOT how long this takes. I figured 2 hours, tops. But after 3 hours in 100 degrees, we STILL weren’t done. On top of this, I’ve realized just how unfit I’ve become as a temporary landlubber.
My legs were jelly after a stairclimbing funfest: Climb ladder, tape 3ft 3 times (under caprail, above rubrail and under rubrail), climb down ladder, climb other side, apply 3 more feet of tape three times, descend ladder, lift and move ladder 5ft, repeat. Do this along 34ft and again for the other side. Meanwhile Brian is taping around every stupid piece of metal touching the teak. How can there BE so many little metal thingies! Finished with the sides, I hop on deck and begin the eyebrows and handrails. Located just 1ft above deck level, their height ensures numerous leg squats: squat, tape up, tape down, stand, shuffle… squat, tape up, tape down, stand, shuffle… By 3pm, I’d HAD it. I’m OUT! Done! Finito! Termino! No mas!
Driving in Mexico Rant. Meeting Cuba Libre and Bella Luna for dinner, we drive into Guaymas, a large city of about 200k people with essentially one main route down the middle of town. Driving in Mexico makes me highly anxious, but Brian is getting used to constant near-sideswipes. Except it’s not an easy weekday. It’s Friday. And it’s 5:30pm. And the entire city is driving down this chokepoint. We end up taking the wrong turn, getting stuck in traffic, playing Frogger avoiding the clueless mopeds & bicycle carts & everything else trying to kill us, and then maneuvering back onto the right road only to drive amid a damn parade which took up the right lane while everybody is still driving normally in the left lane like it’s no biggie. Eh, just another parade.
After dinner the road is just as bad. Several emergency vehicles are up ahead blaring sirens. Except wait, there IS NO emergency… they were part of the parade…yet they continue to pretend there still IS a parade going on, driving slowly with shrieking sirens back to the opposite end of town, holding up traffic, waving to their buddies, just because they can. Meanwhile, the 5 lane road becomes a free-for-all. Non-tailgaters are losers. If you don’t tailgate you WILL get cut off. Apparently, it’s appropriate to use the left turn lane as a passing lane, just to get one car length ahead. Oh, and make sure to use those “all-is-forgiven” hazard lights when doing so, that MUST make it legal. See, hazard lights allow you to do damn near anything: drive into oncoming traffic, stop in the middle of the road, double-park anywhere you want for as long as you want… go ahead and go grocery shopping while double parked, no it’s OK, really.
Oh, and watch out for those metal 20km/hr signs sticking up in the MIDDLE of the left turn lane. Yup, why wouldn’t you plant a big signpost in the pavement of a left turn lane. Duh. Several cars didn’t notice these signs while hurtling in and out, so they just swerved into oncoming traffic to avoid the signs. Sure. Why not? We saw two cars side mirrors pass over/under each other they were so close. Finally, we figured out what the holdup was: the 2 lanes out of town went down to one lane. But do you think there would be ANY sign of this happening? Nope. Bam…all of a sudden the lane ends at a fluorescent orange construction barrel blocking the lane in front of torn up pavement. Arrow light? No way, too expensive. OK, I’ll give you that. But... how about some cones narrowing the lane? Cones are cheap! (But easily stolen.) OK. Merge signs? Lane closure signs? Bah humbug. That’s just cotton-pickin’ toooo helpful. Just stick a giant barrel in front of it and call it good. Why should we care about traffic flow? Or safety? Or logic?
Saturday. Moving right along, we finish the blue taping and apply one coat of varnish to everything. Looks great. Happy day.
3 hours of varnishing on a Sunday morning. It’s the perfect time to do the last coat of varnish - no one is supposed to be working today, or so I thought. Instead, it was a Sunday circus. Yard tractors and pickups keep driving around kicking up dust, a boat across from us is doing messy fiberglass work, and while it has been dead calm every morning, it’s windy today. Sigh.
Movie in the afternoon = Inferno with Tom Hanks. Good movie. Why did we really go? Air conditioning.
Back to the boat at 4pm to finish the caprail. I stayed in front of Brian wiping debris before he painted. Except one time I wiped a spot he had just done. With my blue shop towel. Adding bits of blue threads to our growing collection of dust and fiberglass hairs. Oh, the look of death I got. Could it get worse? Yes. Apparently Sunday was garbage day. And we are two boats down from the garbage bin. Thank goodness the wind was blowing the debris parallel to our boat. Mostly. Still, what else can happen?
DEW! Dust is only one nemesis of varnish; dew is its evil twin brother. What a big mistake, varnishing our final coat late in the afternoon. This morning, our caprail was wet with dew (the one and only morning we’ve had dew over the past week). Our beautiful, glossy topcoat is now cloudy and dull. Arrrgh. More accurately, cloudy and dull filled with bits of fiberglass and dust. Soooo pretty. Fortunately, it’s only on the top and forward half of the rail; we’ll just have to fix it later. It’s better than a hole in the hull.
This morning, I finished the last coat of varnish on our handrails while Brian changed out our engine impeller. This took him two hours, all the while cussing out Yanmar for making our impeller impossible to reach, impossible to change out in an emergency, impossible period. I call this: Rage Against the Yanmar Machine. It finally came out, except for a 1” x ¼” portion of the rubber gear sheared off. He can’t find it anywhere; he thinks it was sucked into the heat exchanger. Bad news.
I felt like I had the beginnings of the crud, so I rested in the cockpit for an hour. Last night, riotous laughter from revelers in the hotel courtyard kept us awake all night long. Plus, we’d been going, going, going… getting up at 6:30 and working in the hot sun for 4-5 hours every morning, and then again for a couple more hours in the afternoon. Climbing up and down the ladder, crouching, stretching, walking… baking in 95-100 degrees…it was getting to me.
Sounds of the Yard. Resting in the cockpit while Brian ranted below, I zoned out to the cacophony of noise…the squeal of a grinder rang out in the distance, the whir of our neighbors’ circular saw on plywood, the buzz of an orbital sander smoothing bottom paint, the tinking of someone banging on a metal mast, the water gushing as another owner washes yard grime off their boat in vain. There’s a constant crunch of cars and trucks, zooming in, dropping off supplies and leaving a cloud of dust in their wake, accompanied by the screech of metal track gates opening and closing. The boat tractor trailer must have hauled a dozen boats past us today… rigging rattling, mast swaying, fiberglass hull flexing & creaking along…rolling from the storage yard into the workyard, from the workyard back into storage, from the workyard out to the marina and reverse. We are situated about 15ft up in the air, so feet shuffling can be heard below on the ground, as well as chattering employees, cruisers yapping about boat projects and the fiberglasser singing along to his portable radio. The tractor’s slow backup warning ‘beeep, beeep, beeep’ underlies all this clatter… as is a rapid and urgent “beep, beep, beep, beep…pause” every five seconds of a battery monitor alarm from the boat next door. I am amazed at the racket. But I am so tired, I actually fall asleep, just for a little bit. Then I get around to washing fenders so we can swap out our nasty, shredded fender covers with brand new (experimental) ones made from sweatshirt material.
Check your slip. We check into the marina office one final time to verify our launch tomorrow. When possible, we always physically check our slip to make sure no one is in it…or storing their dinghy there… so there are no surprises mid-docking. Which, we have had more times than we care for. Then we go pay our yard bill.
Final job: grease prop. This is usually an easy job. But the grease gun won’t attach right, then the gun won’t squeeze, then the grease itself won’t come out of our old tube, so we open up a brand new one, then as soon as we have aaaalmost given up the gun to being broke… it finally works. Errrrr.
Final, final job: more sanding. Crap. We forgot about sanding the hatch boards. So we get out the sander, sand down one side of each of 4 boards and put the sander back in the truck. We get out the plywood board that Brian pre-cut in Atlanta & brought back down to be our temporary hatchboard while varnishing for 5 days. Except when he inserts it into the slot, it’s too high and a touch too thick, almost getting stuck. Back to the truck for the sander (again), round out the edges, cut off the top with a handsaw and it now fits. Are we done yet? Please? Tomorrow, Brian assures me, after we put in the boat, we can rest for the remainder of the day. Promise? Pinky swear?
Day 9: Tuesday, Oct. 18th - Go For Launch
8am Launch. At 8am, Indigo is literally pushed down the road, shoved into the water and we are in our slip by 8:30am. Brian performs a flawless landing with the help of pre-positioned line-handling-friends on the dock. Big sigh of relief. Happy to be in the water at last, we fiddle with lines, chat with other boaters, generally dawdling. Just before we leave to go relax on our day off, Brian checks the bilge… Remember that pinky swear about no work today? Out the window. There’s water in the bilge.
Brian finds slow leaks in two places: the shaft seal (where the prop shaft enters the boat) and cockpit through hull (if water gets in the cockpit it drains out this hole into the ocean, except this hole is below the water line and now saltwater is leaking up into the engine room – not good). Brian is able to tighten the shaft seal which solves half of our slow-as-molasses sinking ship. Then he removes part of the plastic through hull. It’s not broken; it just needs tightening and more goop. But Brian would prefer a bronze one (bullet-proof). So we take it to Star Marine on the off-chance they’d have it…they didn’t. It is interesting to note though…the parts desk guy was incredulous as to why on earth we’d try to replace it when it wasn’t even broke! Different mentality. Tomorrow’s task is re-gooping the original. So as promised…at 2:30pm I get a partial work reprieve to regroup and recoup. In an air conditioned hotel room. Because we aren’t even close to being able to sail away…
The One-Day Launchers
I cannot fathom launching our boat after 6 months in storage and leaving the following day. Even in two days. It just boggles the mind. But we see others do it…often. I used to envy their speed, but now I’m convinced this so-called “speed” isn’t based so much on preparation but on minimal effort expended. I’m sure all food was left on board, sails still on (OK, maybe you took the jib down), bimini left up, solar panels up, no need to go up the mast, don’t bother washing the boat (OK, maybe a quickie-rinse), testing any equipment or performing any maintenance. Just fire up the fridge, add water & stow your gear. Engine starts? Sweet. Get gas and go.
20 Days of Boat Prep – Yard to Sea
That kind of frenzy is impossible for us… We have more of a slow boat to China approach…
We left Atlanta on Oct. 3rd, messing about in Tucson for 3 days. Then we entered Mexico on the 9th. Got the boat in the workyard on the 10th. Worked for 8 days. Launched the boat on the 18th. Then we started the long process of arranging and rearranging the boat back to normal, from Oct. 19th to the 29th. This is 11 more days on top of the 9 already detailed… so 20 days of boat prep. We plan to leave San Carlos and cross the Sea on Sunday the 30th, darn near one month after leaving Atlanta. Why so long? Once in-water, we could leave in a week, if pushed. But in THIS heat? We weren’t pushing.
It is HOT. Stinking hot. Almost stupid hot, but not quite (save that for summer). But even though it’s already October, it’s 100 degrees by midday, so whatever we don’t get done by 11am, doesn’t happen. Accordingly, we read or internet during the hottest part of the day, or nap, or go to Hammerhead’s for iced tea and some blessed air conditioning. We take our time and get things done, little by little.
Our 11-day task list is extensive but here’s the gist…
- Fix leaks so boat stops sinking!
- Wash boat thoroughly. Put up dodger and bimini (ahhhh…shade). Put up solar panels. Reinstall wind generator blades. Start fridge. Fill stove fuel. Fill water tanks.
- Restock food. I started out with a near-empty pantry except for spices and a few hardy staples, so I had to re-buy EVERYTHING. We bought some specialty items at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base Commissary and Trader Joes in Tucson. Once we moved back onto the boat, we made multiple Walmart and Ley’s grocery trips. Good thing we have the truck. For every hour I spend shopping, I spend 2-3x that stowing it away and logging it in my spreadsheet (so I avoid the whole try, yet ultimately fail to remember what food I put in which locker debacle).
- Go up the mast 3 times. Re-run all rigging lines. Measure and order new topping lift that broke. Put up sails. Drill hole in mast for L-bracket to stop banging of electrical wires.
- Buy gasoline for dinghy motor & generator. Test generator. Fill diesel jerry cans. Find distilled water for batteries, fill.
- Buy fishing license. Don’t forget to do the bills. Blog. Laundry twice.
- Engine work: Change coolant. Search in heat exchanger for missing impeller tab lost when replacing the impeller in the yard. Found it! Adjust packing gland.
- Varnish hatchboards – 45 minutes every morning for 5 days.
- Store truck: gradually remove items we brought down and stow in boat. Vice-versa… put unessential items back in the truck that we are tired of kicking around the boat. Prep for truck storage on the last day.
- “The best part of wakin’ up…” is knowing we’d be going out to dinner every night with Bella Luna and Cuba Libre, sometimes Liahona, Starshine or Shannon Spirit would join us. We also got to eat lunch and catch up with Sea Dancer and Leaway. These outings were the highlight of our days! See you in the spring! Stay regular, my friends.
Setting Sail for our 3rd Season in the Sea
On Oct. 30th, we will set sail on an overnight crossing for Punta Pulpito, 90-miles away and across the Sea of Cortez. Over the next 3 weeks, we’ll make our way down to La Paz again, hoping to explore some new anchorages in between. Sometime around Thanksgiving (as always, dependent upon weather), we’ll be meeting up with our friends on Lorelei who are currently sailing to La Paz from San Diego on the Baja Ha Ha, just as we did exactly 2 years ago!
Until La Paz…!