Sunday, April 6, 2014

Banderas Bay to Mazatlan

Finisterra finally sailed from La Cruz around 0900 on Sunday, March 30th bound for Mantanchen Bay and then Mazatlan. It was a beautiful morning with a light offshore wind early and the promise of a nice beam reach to Mantanchen in the afternoon. We motored out around Punta de Mita and turned northward in almost no wind, but by noon we had enough wind to sail. We hoisted the main and set the jib and settled down on the reach to Mantanchen in about 10 knots of wind. It was looking like a beautiful day-sail all the way.

Mantanchen Bay sunset

Shortly after we got the sails set and trimmed, I heard a strange creaking noise coming from somewhere down below. This was a new noise, not the typical creaks that I was accustomed to. I searched around the boat in all the likely places that creaks might come from, but couldn't find the source of the noise until I opened the starboard lazarette hatch. When I looked down into the compartment I noticed that the bracket for the autopilot ram was moving back and forth in an unusual manner. Then I realized that the bulkhead was flexing and the joint where I assumed Beneteau had spliced or scarfed together two pieces of plywood to make the aft bulkhead was not a joint at all. It was not lapped or scarffed, or even glued together. Nope, Beneteau apparently saw fit to just butt the two pieces of plywood together without the benefit of any adhesive or mechanical fasteners. Then whoever installed the autopilot ram drilled the mounting holes less than a quarter inch of the edge of this imaginary joint. The bracket was mounted with massive 7/16" bolts and a stainless steel backing plate so it looked like a proper job, but looks can be deceiving.

By mid-afternoon we were gliding into Mantanchen Bay and got the anchor down in about eighteen feet of water three quarters of a mile from the beach, which I hoped was well beyond the range of the no-nos that live around here. Then we had a decision to make: We could go back roughly 50 miles to La Cruz or continue on to Mazatlan, another 130 miles north from here. After looking at the weather forecast we decided to press on to Mazatlan. The wind would be on the nose the entire distance but it would be light most of the way. We would be motoring into it and that would put the least stress on the wobbly bulkhead.

Mountains behind Mazatlan at dawn.
To put this little problem into perspective, we were in no danger and the worst that might have happened to us was that we might have to hand steer if the bulkhead failed completely, which was very unlikely. But it certainly annoyed me as a boatbuilder that the boat was built in this manner. And of course the problem needed to be fixed before we ran into any real weather, which is always a possibility in the Sea of Cortez.

View from the aft side of the bulkhead.  When I replaced the autopilot ram back in 2012 I assumed this joint was lapped but it's not.

View from the forward side of the bulkhead.

The repair was easy enough. I went over to Marine Services Mazatlan, which is located in the shipyard next to Marina Mazatlan and had them cut out some plywood reinforcements that I bonded to both sides of the bulkhead with WEST epoxy. Once the epoxy cured it was a simple matter to reinstall the bracket and ram.

Both sides of the bulkhead were sanded and prepped.  

Plywood reinforcements bonded in place. The screws were used to clamp everything together while the epoxy cured.

Bracket and ram reinstalled and ready to go.
With the repair completed, we were able to spend some time around the pool at the marina and wander around the beautiful city of Mazatlan. In a few days we'll head northwest across the Sea of Cortez to La Paz.

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