Monday, June 20, 2011

Bahia Santa Maria to Ensenada

The Honcho stayed in Bahia Santa Maria five days, waiting out the strong northwesterly wind. I was glad that I put extra large ground tackle aboard the boat, as it never gave us any reason for worry in spite of the rough conditions in the bay. When the wind finally blew itself out, the sea was still pretty lumpy, but we got the anchor up early on June 11th and headed out around Punta Hughes and northward once again. Our destination was Bahia San Bartolome, also known as Turtle Bay, about 225 miles in a northwesterly direction. Our course would take us past Cabo San Lazaro, then we would bend slightly northeast, about 25 miles east of the rhumbline, or direct line, to Turtle Bay. This course would keep us in relatively milder conditions than we would expect if we headed straight for TB. As it turned out, we had an average of about 15 knots of wind on the nose throughout the passage. During this time we were listening on the VHF radio to other boats that chose the direct route. They were facing 25 knot headwinds and rougher seas. The Honcho sailed more miles, but arrived at roughly the same time as those boats and had a much nicer ride. Sometimes it pays to go around rough conditions instead of banging headlong into them.

As we cleared Cabo San Lazaro, we observed a 60 foot ketch which had wandered too close to the Cape and foundered on the rocks that lie off the tip of the land there. We were about 2 miles off, and knew it had already been reported to the Mexican Navy, so we continued northward while monitoring the radio in case we could be of help. When we first saw the vessel it was standing upright with the mainsail hoisted, but as we watched, it began to heel over until the masts were nearly touching the water. Surrounded by large breaking surf, it would take little time for the vessel to break up. We later found that the name of the vessel was the Nordic Light, with three people aboard. The Mexican Navy rescued them but the boat was a total loss.  Cabo San Lazaro has claimed many vessels over the years. It's not a place to trifle with.

With that rather grim sendoff from the Cape, the Honcho continued north and arrived in Turtle Bay at 0730 on June 13th. We anchored in the bay and quickly got Enrique "El Gordo" on the radio and ordered some diesel which he delivered in his panga at about 1000. By 1100 we had the anchor up and were once again headed north, with our next destination of San Carlos about 130 miles distant. Our course would take us northwest through the Dewey Channel and past Punta Eugenio. From there we skirted along the east side of  Isla Cedros for a few miles. As we approached the northern end of Cedros, the wind piped up to about 28 knots and we opted to bear off a few degrees and make for Bahia Blanca, which is well inside the mighty Bahia Sebastian Vizcaino, where we expected easier sailing conditions. After a long, cold night of sailing we arrived at fog shrouded Bahia Blanca and waited for dawn before groping our way into the bay. There we anchored and spent the following day in comfort while the wind offshore continued to howl.

The following morning we were up early, headed for San Carlos. For most of the 55 mile passage we motorsailed directly into a light wind, but about 20 miles short of San Carlos, the wind picked up and before long we were punching into a 30 knot headwind. About three miles from the anchorage the engine died and we sailed into the anchorage under a double reefed main.

Once we were anchored I refilled the fuel tank from Jerry jugs we carry on deck. The 24 gallon tank took only 19 gallons so I knew we hadn't run out of fuel. I've gotten dirty fuel in Turtle Bay before so I checked the primary and secondary fuel filters, but they were all clean. Then I began to suspect that with all the bouncing around we did in those last few miles, maybe the pickup in the fuel tank sucked up some air.  I bought a service manual for the Yanmar engine before we left California, so I got it out and reviewed the procedure for bleeding the fuel system. I carefully followed the procedure as outlined, but couldn't get the engine to start. By this time it was nearly midnight so I decided to sleep on it, maybe a solution would come to me in the morning.

The next morning I woke up early and tried bleeding the system again but had no luck. So we decided that since we had a prediction of good sailing conditions for the next couple of days, we'd pack up the tools, hoist the mainsail and sail off the anchor, bound for Ensenada where I could take a more thorough look at the engine.

From San Carlos, Ensenada is about 165 miles distant. It turned out to be a delightful sail, with winds in the 15 knot range and relatively calm seas. We sailed west past the notorious Sacramento Reef, which has also claimed a large number of ships and boats, and out about 60 miles from the coast. Tacking north from there we fetched the land just north of Cabo Colnett. Tacking offshore again, we went about 25 miles out before tacking north again. From there we could just lay the channel between Isla Todos Santos and Punta Banda, arriving at the Cruiseport Marina at 1500 on June 18th.

We had not set foot off the boat since leaving Los Cabos on June 2nd, so the first order of business was a hot shower and a steak dinner ashore, one of the finest meals we've eaten in a long time. Arriving back at the boat in the early evening, I took a more serious look at the engine, did some reading online about the fuel system and discovered a secondary bleed screw on the high pressure fuel injection pump. Within ten minutes I had the system bled and the engine running. I was very glad to get it running again without having to pay a mechanic, but I was more that a little chapped that the service manual makes no mention of this vital step in fuel bleeding procedure.

No comments:

Post a Comment