Like most sailing (and travel) blogs, ours tends to focus on the fun, the beaches, and the weather along with food and drinks. Our hope is to share this wonderful experience with you and, perhaps, make you landlubbers or boaters of the frozen north a little jealous. However it’s not all cervezas and fiestas so if you want to keep the illusion of us “living the dream”, stop reading now as this post is for those of you who want to know what’s gone wrong – so far!
To clarify, when I say what’s gone wrong it’s primarily to do with the boat and mechanical problems. If you’re looking for the scoop on if we’re ready to throw each other overboard, you may have to follow Audrey’s facebook page. Just kidding, other than me snoring there are no marital issues – that I’m aware of…
The first issue, as we noted in an earlier post, was having to turn tail and head back to our marina after sailing 40 miles on our first day because the wind was blowing over 40 knots in the anchorage where we planned to spend the night. After that, we headed for Catalina Island where, besides our anchor dragging and being called out in the middle of the Buccaneer Days Party, we spent two enjoyable weeks.
Then, as we were leaving Catalina, we had our first really traumatic experience. Before we left we’d been having minor issues with an oil pressure switch that was setting off its alarm sporadically. It wasn’t a big deal as I had a new one and planned to change it when we got to San Diego. However the switch had other plans and the alarm was going off continuously as we were getting underway for a 12-hour day. Of course, there was no wind and no way in hell we were going to motor for that long with the alarm going so I decided I’d change it underway.
The repair is a simple replacement so I didn’t think anything of changing it with flat seas. However, it is an electrical component and the engine was running so, in hindsight, doing anything electrical with the engine running is just STUPID. Needless to say I touched one of the wires to the engine block and shorted out the entire electrical system. No engine, no chartplotter, no depth sounder, no radar, no joy on Celebration.
Audrey was at the wheel and when she heard the swearing and cursing coming from below – as well as the systems shutdown – she thought I’d electrocuted myself. Fortunately, I still had all my fingers and toes but as I’m no marine electrician I figured our trip was over as it seemed like a major problem to me. By this time, we were getting close to shore and fortunately a little wind had come up so we rolled out the sails and slowly crawled toward the mainland.
At 2-3 knots, getting to the mainland was going to be a long day so I got out the manuals to see if I could figure out how to fix it. Long story short, there’s a hidden electrical reset for just such “STUPID” occasions. Anyway, I replaced the switch, crossed my fingers and told Audrey to try starting the engine. The sound of that diesel chugging was the most beautiful sound ever and we motored all the way to Oceanside not willing to shut it down until we were tied safely to a dock.
After Oceanside we made our way to San Diego, where we spent a few weeks without incident, then departed on the Baja-Ha-Ha. I wish I could say this was also without incident but we did have a couple of hiccups. The first was the “motor chute” in which, after swearing to never fly our Gennaker at night, we did and got it stuck and wrapped around the forestay. It was so bad that we were unable to get it down and, after the wind died, had to motor all night with a giant sail wrapped around our furling. What made matters worse was the wind piped up later and we had a heck of time trying to control it. Fortunately, the wind died just after the sunrise and we were finally able to see the mess of lines that were holding it to the forestay. After a few jibes and unraveling of lines it came free and we dropped it on deck quicker than doing a tequila shot. Needless to say, the “never fly the Gennaker at night” rule is now carved in stone and we didn’t fly it again for a couple of months.
The other Ha-Ha hiccup was a sporadic spiking on the voltage meter that showed our 12-volt system being charged at over 17 volts – which is not good. I suspected a short but there wasn’t much we could do until we got to La Paz, where after my frantic search for a solution we had the alternator rebuilt and life was good again – for a while!
A few weeks later the sporadic voltage spikes returned and, once again, I set out to find the problem and after checking and re-checking the connections it stopped – for a while. Then, when our friends Sharon and Graeme were visiting and we were heading to Yelapa it started again BUT this time there was a distinct smell of something burning. I looked in the engine compartment and saw that one of the batteries was “cooking” so we turned around and headed back to the marina where we were staying during their vacation. After trying and failing to get two electricians to come to the boat, I had Audrey take our guests to Sayulita while I disconnected the errant battery and checked every connection to the battery and charging system. Lo and behold, with that battery out of the system everything was working fine so we headed to Yelapa with no issues.
After a few weeks of no voltage spikes, I started feeling confident that removing the errant battery had fixed the problem for good. But, the electrical gremlins were not smiling at me as one day the voltage meter just fell to zero. The good news was it wasn’t spiking high and cooking another battery. The bad news was the batteries weren’t getting any charge at all. Once again, I took the boat apart and checked all the connections. I didn’t see anything obvious but since it wasn’t getting a charge I removed the alternator and had a local shop check it. Sure enough, the alternator that we’d had rebuilt in La Paz was completely burned out. With limited choices, we had it rebuilt again and everything has been working fine ever since. Not that we want to jinx anything but we ordered a brand new alternator from the US and it’s been sitting safely in our storage locker ever since. Frankly, it’s comforting to have a spare but I hope we never need it and I never have to look at our charging system ever again.
There have been a couple of other issues such as our furling mainsail getting stuck whenever it’s in the mood, an overflowing holding tank that you really don’t want to know about, and regular maintenance items – such as dreaded oil changes but nothing like the voltage gremlin. I know there will be other issues during our adventures. I just hope they don’t interrupt too many of our happy hours..:-)