Sailboats Belong in the Sea

As it turns out, we had to take care of a few more pressing items before getting in the water. Sailboats are funny like that, as soon as you think you have repaired everything, something else breaks.

After hooking up the new batteries, we noticed our started battery was overcharging. We quickly disconnected it and decided to have someone else look at our wiring and electrical system. Tim and I don’t trust ourselves with electrical problems and boat electrical systems.

Victor is a highly recommended Mexican marine electrician and was able to work on our boat the next day. He spent all day analyzing our system. It was too late for our starter battery, so he installed a new one and our battery switch, which will keep the starter battery separate from our house batteries. It’s often we learn important lessons about our boat when something breaks and we have to figure it out, or in this case hire someone to help us figure it out. We paid close attention to Victor’s work, so we would have a better understanding of how our boat should be wired.

Boat Electrician

Victor, the boat electrician, re-wiring our system.

 

Another issue we had to fix before launching was a broken sea cock — part of the plumbing that goes through the boat to the water. This is key to function properly. We replaced it, did a test start on the engine and declared ourselves ready to splash!

Sea Cock replacement

Tim working on replacing the head sea cock (plumbing).

We were very anxious to get into the water where the boat belongs. It was really a quick process, Tim took the helm and drove about one hour to the La Paz anchorage, while I took the car down into town where we could access it after moving the boat.

It went pretty smoothly until we needed to anchor. Our friend Jasna picked me up in her dinghy and dropped me on our boat to help Tim anchor. We hit a little snag here, as our chain did not want to come out of our Windless anchor wench. With a little more help from Rick and Jasna, we were finally able to drop anchor in La Paz.

Finished anti-fouling paint

We finished a new layer of anti-fouling paint on the boat bottom.

Boat back in the water

Capitan Tim manning the boat as she gets back in the water.

Sailboat splash into the water.

Luckiest back in the water. the Splash went smoothly and Tim motored down the La Paz Channel to anchor.

Life on the water is sooo superior to the boat yard. It’s cooler, less bugs, more beautiful sunsets.

La Paz Baja sunsets

Life on the water is so much better. The Baja sunsets are some of the best we have ever seen.

Sunrise in La Paz, Mexico

Sunrise this morning through our v-berth porthole aka “bedroom window.”

 

We still have a bit of work ahead of us before we head out for a couple of weeks at the islands. Tim discovered a leaky sea water impeller, so we are trying to repair this today. That, plus attaching the sails will be key before heading out. We have never reattached sails, and it has been 1.5 years since we removed them, so it could be interesting.  We think we can do most other items out at the islands.

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Major Progress

We have come pretty far now. Tim and I are living in our home finally. We moved in the week his parents arrived for a visit at the end of January. Talk about cutting it close, but they were super helpful while they were here. We got everything livable and even had time to play a little.

I’m going to back up a bit, and walk you through some of the bigger projects we tackled in January. Tim had a guy’s snowboarding trip planned to Steamboat, so I took the opportunity of alone time at the house to start the cabinetry overhaul. I knew this would be a big job, but also would have a big impact on the way the space looked. Tim would be gone for a week, so my goal was to have all the cabinets (and some doors if I was lucky) sanded and primed before he got back. I will try to be specific for those of you who might be wanting to re-do cabinets one day.

Thanks to my local Benjamin Moore dealer Lucas Paint, I had a good idea of where to begin. The plan was to end up with a white, shaker-style cabinet, even though I started with faux wood laminate.

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What the kitchen looked like the day we bought it.

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Kitchen with pantry cut in half to make an island, the wall paper gone, and the popcorn ceiling scraped.

Mr. Lucas, from the paint store, told me to clean all the surfaces with dry dishwashing detergent powder before sanding. This is a strong degreaser, and I noticed it seemed to kind of change the laminate surface too… made it more penetrable to sanding, if that is possible. This was really hard on my hands, so I was sure to wear gloves, goggles and a mask. The process went like this: wipe down with water, scrub with detergent, wipe off detergent (if any was left during sanding, it would ruin the sandpaper), let dry, sand. I used an old palm sander and 120 grit paper, which I was very grateful for. Doing this by hand would have killed me.

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The wall-mounted cabinets during the sanding process. You can see we have already textured and painted the walls.

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Me sanding the doors. I had an assembly line where I would scrub them down, wash them off, sand them and clean them again. All before priming.

After all the sanding was cleaning. I had to repeatedly wipe down the surfaces for the cabinets to make sure all the fine laminate dust was gone. This seemed to take forever and I even took the Shop Vac to the doors after sanding. I also ended up using a lightly dampened cloth with a water and vinegar spray. It seemed to do the trick and dry quickly. Then I could move on to primer. I used BIN primer. It is alcohol based, so it has a really strong smell, but it dries quickly and sticks to anything.

Bottom cabinets done and drying.

Bottom cabinets primed and drying.

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All cabinets are primed, but the doors took a while because I had to lay them flat to dry on each side.

I had reached my goal when Tim and his friend Drew got back from their trip. Drew had offered to stay a few extra days and help! He replaced every outlet and light switch in the entire house making it look instantly more updated.

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Drew and Tim cutting wood to reface the cabinet in a shaker style.

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We had to make the wood strips 3.75″ wide to hide all of the outdated design that was on the cabinet face.

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I used wood glue to adhere the strips to the door faces.

I used Benjamin Moore Advance in semi-gloss finish and White Heron color. It’s a slightly off white that really lends itself to gray, looking nice with the wall color. The Advance paint was again recommended by Lucas Paint in Denver. It is a Latex paint that behaves a lot like an oil-based, leaving no paint strokes and wears well over time. I realized along the way that using a small foam roller left some bubbles in the paint, so I would roll the paint on and run over it with a high quality 2″ angle brush. This technique worked well and left a smooth finish.

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Tim and Drew are hanging a kitchen fixture. You can see the first coat of paint on the cabinets.

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I’m rolling the paint onto the new cabinet faces.

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Tim installing the refinished cabinet doors.

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Kitchen after two coats of paint. We decided to add the trim to the face of the drawers as well.

The next big project we had to complete before Tim’s parents arrived was the flooring. We chose a laminate that looks like a dark hand-scraped hickory by Evoke. Tim was confident in his flooring installation skills, but had no experience leveling floors. We had a very  unlevel particle board sub-floor on top of a layer of plywood, which made it tough. We got several different opinions on how to level the floor, but were still unsure which route would be the best. Finally, Tim decided which one he felt more comfortable with — a self-leveling concrete-based product that you prime, pour, and spread.

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Tim working on leveling the floor. We had the biggest dip in the floor near the back door.

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All the gray areas are low spots in the floor.

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Once the floor was level and dry, we laid down a moisture barrier.

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Yeah, flooring, finally! We had to maintain the correct spacing from the walls and make sure the seams were staggered. I laid out the pieces and Tim installed them.

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The last few pieces of flooring going in with our neighbor Travis helping.

The morning that Tim’s parents arrived, we had new countertops installed. We got an amazing deal after hunting around the city. We picked a Kashmir White granite because of the look and the price. We still have to put on the finishing touches, but we are getting there!

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We moved in some of our furniture and Debbie helped me arrange and rearrange. We had to clean the floor over and over from all the construction dust.

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My white kitchen. We have to trim it out, add the cabinet pulls and work on the island, but it is a vast improvement. It’s finally functioning, most importantly.

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Dreaming of White Textured Walls

Renovation update: we have made and repaired many holes in drywall, removed every little scrap of remaining wallpaper, demolished the powder room, removed 2 layers of linoleum flooring, cut the pantry into a kitchen island and opened up the entryway coat closet to be a tiny mud room. It is almost time to put everything back together — the fun part.

We have primed every surface of the main and upper levels, so we can have a pro come texture all the walls and ceilings tomorrow. Once the texture is done, we prime again, paint and get carpet upstairs! We have been picking out paint colors, carpet and flooring for downstairs this week.

Here are some pics of our progress : )

Drywall repair is not too fun.

Drywall repair is not too fun.

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Raised the frame for the new mud room

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We scraped off two layers of linoleum flooring in the kitchen.

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What’s this? Someone used an old ping-pong table to make uneven subfloor repairs. Tim replace all the once-wet and ping-pong table subfloor.

The master bedroom wallpaper put up a fight coming off, so we had a lot of patching to do in this room.

The master bedroom wallpaper put up a fight coming off, so we had a lot of patching to do in this room.

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We sanded and primed the ENTIRE house for texture and then we get to prime it all again.

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The kitchen is beginning to take shape and all the walls and ceilings are white.

It snowed just in time for a white Christmas.

It snowed just in time for a white Christmas at my parent’s house.

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Tim’s Parents’ Visit

Steve and Debbie were not quite sure what they had signed up for when they decided to visit us in La Paz, but I think they were very pleasantly surprised. They had booked a hotel for the five nights they were here and left the option open to possibly stay on board the Luckiest. They only stayed in the hotel the first and last nights and stayed with us on the boat at the islands the other three nights.

We all had a wonderful time. Tim and I really enjoyed being able to share some of our experiences with family – especially at the islands – and it sounded like Debbie and Steve were enjoying it all. We got to show them the world of discovery we have been finding over the last few months.

We took them to the grocery store and the market the first day and headed out to the islands the next. We did get stopped by the Mexican Navy on our way out of the La Paz channel, but we had heard that they were friendly and courteous ambassadors that simply wanted to make sure nothing funny was going on. This was our first time being stopped, and machine guns always make me a bit nervous, but the troops really were pleasant and kind. One man boarded our boat while another four stayed on theirs. He asked to see our documentation, import permit, passports and if we had life jackets. Thanked us for our time and off they were. No big deal at all. I was glad it was just like we had heard.

As we got out to the channel, I convinced Tim to do a bit of sailing, even though we were making good time with the motor. Tim has decided he doesn’t like sailing too much, but I was able to get him to show Steve and Debbie some of the things we have been learning. We had a great smooth sail in about 10 knots of wind.

Our first stop was Candeleros Bay, which is one of our favorite anchorages because of the great hiking and the cool rock formations. We anchored there about an hour before dark. That night we all piled into our sad little deflating dinghy and zipped around in the dark water watching the bioluminescence glow. It is so magical looking and hard to describe without seeing it. we had a sparkling wake and as we would approach fish we could see them scatter surrounded by glowing plankton. It doesn’t get old seeing that. In the morning we all went up to the beach to do some hiking and exploring. We took Steve and Debbie up the center ridge just as we had done a couple weeks before. It’s great because we were able to get a great view of the bay without having to work too hard. We all went on a hike back into the valley. Steve did hurt his toe, but it was a easy-going hike other than that.

After lunch on the boat, we scooted over to Caleta Partida, a popular and well-protected spot. The winds had kicked up some, and Tim was feeling a bit adventurous, so we put up the sails at his insistence. I think we scared Debbie pretty good this time. We had Steve at the helm, just to give him a bit of a thrill as well, but I’m not sure he was quite ready to take on that task in those winds. We did some whipping back and forth (accidental tacking). We regained control, I took the helm and eased us into the anchorage. After we all settled down, Steve and Tim donned their wetsuits and went looking for some fish.

When they returned (no fish) we all decided to play cards and have something else for dinner. Little did we know that when the guys had returned from spear fishing, the dinghy was not properly secured to the boat, so before Tim and I tucked into bed (in the convertible dinette), he checked outside and we had no dinghy! It had floated off somewhere, and with light winds and lighter current, we knew it couldn’t be too far, but it was far too dark to see anything. This was pretty frustrating for Tim knowing he might be able to save it if he could see, but there was nothing we could do until the morning.

First thing in the morning we all hurried to eat and ready the boat to either go find the dinghy or head back in to La Paz. With no dinghy, there is no way off the boat, so our trip would have to be cut short. I was plotting ways to get a new dinghy and how we would get off the boat, etc. as we pulled up the anchor. Tim and Steve had binoculars on the bow and scouted to find it. It seemed unlikely because it had been missing for about 12 hours and the north winds had really kicked up in the night, which would have blown it out into the open sea. As we came out of the anchorage we checked one side along the shore and turned to head toward the other side. Then, shockingly, Tim spotted it! It had almost made it out of the large cove, but as it neared open sea the waves kept it pinned to the rocks.

Tim quickly suited up in his wet suit and I got him as close to the rocks as I could. He tossed our foam surfboard into the water and jumped in after it. We joked about his Seal Team Six dinghy rescue mission. He was great. He bailed it out, pumped it up, and paddled away from the rocks against the waves until we could pick him up. He was afraid the fuel had water in it, so he waited to replenish it before starting it up. We really were the Luckiest.

The rest of the trip had far less drama, thankfully. Our refrigerator did quit on us, but the food stayed cold enough for the whole trip. We made one more stop on the way back to La Paz – Bahia San Gabriel. This is where Tim and I had spent Christmas. It has a huge white sand beach, and Debbie was really enjoying looking for shells, so we spent lunch there before heading back.

We drove them back to the airport and they were wishing they had planned for more time to stay. Now we are regrouping before we head back to the states ourselves. We are taking the ferry across the sea on Sunday and driving back out to Galveston to join up with more family for the company cruise. Yes, we are leaving our boat on one side of the Mexican coast to go to a cruise on the other side of the Mexican coast. Kind of ironic, but it should be relaxing, which we both need.

After the cruise we are heading up to Austin, Dallas, Evergreen, Colo., and end in Corpus Christi for my dear friend’s wedding on March 3. From there we will head back to our boat here in La Paz. We feel like we are ready to cut strings in La Paz and head north into the sea as soon as we return. We shall see how it goes.

Exploring the rock ridge in Candeleros Bay.

 

Nice View

 

Tim and Steve off to spear hunt and snorkel.

Tim rescuing the dinghy.

 

Steve snorkeling in Caleta Partida

 

Debbie looking for treasures on the beach. She went home with loads of shells.

 

Well, the Sunsets are Nice

I’m catching up a bit because I had no internet access for nine days. This is from Nov. 30, 2011.

So far, we are really enjoying the beautiful orange sunsets lined with palm trees on the horizon… and that’s about it.

We have been working non-stop on this boat and feeling like we are getting nowhere. As soon as we finish a project, something else breaks or pops up. It’s not all sunsets and margaritas. In fact, we are having trouble finding a good margarita at all. I’m starting to think margaritas were invented by a Mexican in Texas.

I was laughing to my sister about how it seems that living on a boat might be really good preparation for motherhood: If you hear a strange noise, you have to check it out no matter what you are doing day or night. It also requires constant attention to detail and all the patience you can muster.

There are so many aspects that have been challenging – we have moved where we don’t know the language, where to buy parts or get service or how to fix what’s broken. It also seems like if a projects seems easy and everyone says it’s a breeze, for some reason it won’t be. Oil change – no big deal, right? One week later and we still have no clue and are tired of getting covered in oil. It has been hard to stay positive about everything and enjoy our surroundings. We both have had days where we just wish we were back home. The trick there is that one of us freaks out while the other stays calm and holds on to the idea of adventure, and then we trade. This is fun, right? I guess we have to remember that we decided to take on an enormous learning curve that will hopefully start to round off soon.

We finally drew a line in the sand and decided no matter what the projects on our list are, we were going to head out to the nearby islands and try to enjoy ourselves. So we are headed out today to find the reason we left everything comfortable and easy to challenge ourselves and move out here.

Day by Day

A typical day aboard The Luckiest: We wake up as the sun makes its way up around 6:30 a.m. and are out of bed by 7 a.m. We make coffee and eat something for breakfast while we give ourselves time to realize we are still on a boat in Mexico. At 8 a.m. the local Net comes on the VHS radio. There is a format followed every day, except Sunday, that the net controller handles. It is a great forum for announcements, trades, news, weather, tides and other useful information. I volunteered to help organize an order for Mexican Navy Charts (navigational paper maps), so I have been announcing it every day on the Net. After listening to the Net, we get ready and load up our dinghy with any trash or maybe a water or gas jug to fill. We strap on a backpack (always take a backpack into town) and head in for morning coffee. It takes about 5 – 7 minutes to ride in from our boat to the dinghy dock at Marina de La Paz. We chit-chat at coffee with lots of cruisers who have found themselves here in La Paz for now. It’s a great time to get advice on projects we might be considering or already doing. Then we usually run whatever errands we have planned for the day including dropping off trash, getting drinking water or gasoline, grocery shopping and looking at the 4 marine stores for parts that we need to work on the boat. Whatever we buy ideally fits in the backpack. We then head back to the boat and work. Currently on the anchor chain and chain locker.

Luckily, we had a friend allow us to use his slip in the marina while his boat is being repainted, so we are able to accomplish a lot of projects that would otherwise be very challenging at anchor. Tim and I removed all the 300+ feet of chain from our boat, measured it out and marked every 20 feet. We had to cut some bad chain off and splice the good stuff together. We are planning to put it all back where it goes today so we can get back out on our anchor. We also have to replace our “spreader boots.” This is not very expensive, but it does require Tim to go high up on the mast. The spreader is the cross-bar on the mast that holds the rigging wires away from the mast. These have to have bumper pads on the ends so they do not rip the sails. Ours were kind of a mess (see below). We are being very productive because we have such a short time here in the marina to get stuff done. Also, so we can get our boat ready to sail! Jasna and Rick are getting ready to leave La Paz for a while, so we want to get a sailing lesson in with them next week before they go. We are so looking forward to a day or two out with the wind.

Our back porch at anchor

Dinner with Jasna and Rick on their boat

Cooking Enchiladas Verdes at home

Moving the boat into the slip for repairs

 

Working on the anchor chain

Measuring chain on the dock

 

Tim hoisted on the mast to replace the spreader boots

Some things I have been taking for granted in the U.S.:

Unlimited internet access, Long warm showers, air conditioning, watching TV at night before bed, a microwave, knowing the language, dishwasher, pizza delivery

Setting Sail Tomorrow

And not today because you never leave on a trip on a Friday in the sailing community. Today we learned a lot, some good things, some bad things. But I suppose learning is always good.

Tim and I went into town to get a few more items before we take off including some gasoline and oil to use our Honda generator, a few more food items, drinking water and some money.

Gary stayed behind on the boat to run the engine to repower up our batteries, which unfortunately took longer than we expected. Gary was able to track the progress on the charging cycle, so when we got back we had an amp hours lesson. We have to be very careful not to overuse our batteries. We will likely be a couple of power hogs onboard, but as long as we balance our usage out, it should be OK.

We also talked about maintaining the bottom of the boat. We will likely need to get some sort of diving gear, something simple and cheap if we can. That way Tim can go down and scrape the barnacles off the bottom of the boat and clean the rotor and propeller. It’s quite a job that will take several days once a month. Gary also said if Tim doesn’t mind that work, he could easily charge other cruisers a dollar a foot (our boat would be $35) for the service on their boat. It could give us a few more “cruising chips” here and there.

Some other things we learned were not so fun. Since we have been sitting here on a mooring at this little marina in Puerto Escandido we have been using up water and power, etc. We decided to fill up our water tanks and our “jerry cans” with diesel before we take off. We sat at the dock filling our water tanks. We notice it seems to be taking a long time to fill up our port side tank. We begin to wonder how big it really is and joke about it filling our boat. Tim gets down inside the boat and starts looking and listening for leaks inside. And there it was. Filling up our bilge, the lower belly of the boat. That is what the bilge is for – catching leaks, but we were just pouring water into it. So we found out two VERY important things from this: our water tank has a pretty big leak, and our automatic bilge pump to remove the water, doesn’t work. Interesting. Well the pump does work if you turn it on, but not automatically if there is a leak. This will have to be fixed immediately when we get to La Paz, and based on the amount of water we were using on board, I would say we will want to fix our water tank too. What is that saying… BOAT stands for Break Out Another Thousand. Yup, we are experiencing a bit of that. But we are very happy to have figured these problems out right away, especially while Gary is on board to tell us what to do.

I can’t imagine ever trying to start this life at sea with no help or guidance. You would have to have a captain Ron or ease into the whole idea for years, which I suppose is the more practical way of going about this.