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TUESDAY, JUNE 12, 2007

Jacaranda Passage Notes #15:  It's either the Sea of A.C. this summer!


Thanks to those who have inquired if we were still floating around since we havent written for a while. Well the truth of the matter is we are being held hostage in Marina Mazatlan by our new engine installation! Yes, the engine saga continues but we are still looking ahead to the summer: It will be either the Sea (of Cortez) or A.C. (an air conditioner in the hatch while in our slip in Mazatlan). Why the choice? Lets back up..

The last passage note from months ago found us in Nuevo Vallarta tied up to a pile mooring while Linda went back to visit son Joe in Boston. Once she returned we departed and began our trip north to Mazatlan with the intention of putting in a new engine and transmission there with Mechanic Bob. We spent the night at Punta Mita on the edge of Banderas Bay stowing away all the items that seem to come out of the woodwork when we are in shore side mode.

Departing before sunrise the next morning we began our trip north to Mazatlan thinking we would make a direct shot with the option to stop at Isla Isabella since it was directly on the rhumb line. We approached Isla Isabella at dusk and stopped for dinner. Anchoring just as we lost daylight we decided to spend the night since it was so flat and calm. The next morning we awoke to thousands of frigate birds and boobies flying around and the usual clear water we have experienced from our previous stops here. The following evening happened to be Easter Sunday and we departed for the 100-mile trip north. It turned out to be the perfect time to be traveling, as we normally would have been surrounded by many shrimp boats, forcing us to be hyper attentive on our watches to track each one and stay clear. But on this night trip we did not see one boat  even the shrimper crews were home with their families on this most major of holidays in Mexico - and that made for very relaxed traveling. We arrived to a reserved slip in Marina Mazatlan and were reunited with many old friends!

Bob the mechanic came the next day to verify that the new engine we wanted to purchase (Yanmar 40) would fit in the engine room and had the same transmission angle. Assuring us all was well, he placed the order. I disconnected our antique engine (35- year-old Westerbeke 4-107) and we pulled it out, necessitating the removal of our hard dodger and using the boom as a lift. Luckily we were able to sell it to the Blues Brothers (it happened to be running fine just now. like a persistent toothache that mysteriously disappears the day of a dentist appointment) and they carted it off the next day. Work now began in earnest while Linda went back to Boston to spend three weeks with Joe (hoping she would return and Voila! all the engine work would be completed and off wed go!).

But the combination of boat and Mexico undoubtedly conspires to mean that things will not go like clockwork. I spent about 2-3 weeks rebuilding the engine beds (reshaping, fiberglassing, adding metal plates), removing the years of grime and painting everything white. So far, so good. The plan was to replace the old shaft (with a slightly longer one) while in the water, averting the need for a haul-out. A loose and apparently worn cutlass bearing changed all that! Glitch #1: now a haul-out was required but the new boatyard was not scheduled to open until June 1. Although the travel lift has been tested on one boat, there are still no jack stands or cradles - and there hasnt even been a Grand Opening Party yet  and nothing can open in Mexico without the party!! As I write this, the date for the yard opening is still manana.

Linda arrived back in Mazatlan for a quick stop to take a look at the shining new engine in its crate on the dock, pick up papers for her taxes, and head to San Diego to celebrate son Davids 24th birthday. I was to follow her a week later. Just before traveling to San Diego, Bob and I lowered the new engine into the engine room. Two things became quickly apparent: (1) the new one was a few inches taller than the old one, making access to the rear of the engine totally impossible (with the old engine I jokingly said I had to exhale to slither in to check the transmission fluid or do any adjustments), and (2) the new engine beds I so carefully built with daily directions from the mechanic appeared to be too high for the back of the engine. Glitch #2: Technically the engine did fit but I couldnt get in to service it! Upon returning from SD we pulled the engine out and placed it back on the dock until we could come up with a creative solutionwhich is to cut out the galley counter top and sink that sits above the engine and hinge it so it can be lifted up, giving me the access I need. That work is currently underway and were hoping to get it completed by early next week. The mechanic will modify the engine struts so luckily the engine beds will not need to be changed.

We just bought a window air conditioner for the midship hatch of the boat  a very chilling thought, both literally and figuratively. Literally, the summer heat switch really flipped on here while we were in San Diego - the temperature increased by 6-8 degrees to mid-afternoons in the high 80s and the humidity went up by 20-30% (to 85% in the mornings). each climbing a little every day. Figuratively, committing to an air conditioner means accepting that we may indeed be stuck in Mazatlan for the whole hot and steamy summer until the boat yard opens (??). We didnt want to delay buying one too long on the hope that we would be leaving soon because these small air conditioners tend to disappear fast in the stores with the approaching heat.

Even with the unfolding saga, we remain optimistic that we can resume cruising for the summer. We could get everything installed and working by mid July and attempt a trip up to the Sea of Cortez before we get too far into the hurricane season (which has just begun). Its been blowing out of the south for the past 3-4 weeks and we could still jump on a southerly and hustle up to the Baja side so we could be close to a couple of hurricane holes and just hang out in the Sea for the summer.

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