Changing Gears

Or not.

Sunday, we met with the Capitania del Puerto to make sure we were on the up and up (along with the drug sniffing dog, two heavily armed marines and a few other folks who I wasn’t sure what their role was. So be it.

chipapa welcome crew

Notice those two fine strapping lads on the left. They muct have been on thier way to the NRA hunter Safety Class an stopped by. Also, the second guy from the right obiously is a dog lover because he brought his pooch aboard. When yo arrive in Mexico, you get noticed. Within 15 minutes of being tied up at the dock, we met “Ronnie” who let us know that the Capitania del Peuerto would be stopping by. We got our preliminary paperwork checked and the dog did a sniff around Bones and they were off. Because it was Sunday, we couldn’t do the rest until Monday when all of the offices would be open.

So, this morning, Monday, we were going to into wherever we were going to into, to get our Mexican Zarpe, and do the customs and immigration thing. We met Enrique who runs Marina Chiapas. Enrique made some calls and said “Nope. Not today. They won’t be ready. We’ll go tomorrow at 9:00” OK. I’ve never had customs and immigration work that way, but cool.

In fact, that is one important distinction between traveling by air and traveling by boat. Via air, they get you before you have a chance to get out of he rooms with no doorknobs. By boat, once you arrive, you get a cab, maybe the next day or so, and drive into town to find them. I could have brought two whole liters of booze into their country and they wouldn’t know it. I might have even run with scissors down the dock – how would they know? Oh well.

Quick note. Marina Chiapas is first class. Well done, well executed. It is only 3 years old. Four years ago, it was a field. Now it has first class docks, NICE showers, an excellent restaurant and a boatyard with a 50 ton travel lift. All developed with private money, because the Mexican Yates wanted to have a place to bring their boats and they wanted it to be done right.

It is.

It is also only 3 years old.

Marina Plaque

And has a pretty nice restaurant, Baös:

baos 2

With very nice food, too!

Back to changing gears. Or not being able to. As those of you who are loyal readers of this blog will no doubt recall, our shifter troubles started as we tried to tie up in Golfito. It didn’t work. The gear shifter was stuck in forward. So, we had a mechanic rebuild it. That warranty apparently was good only within the confines of Costa Rica. When we approached the dock in Nicaragua, it was stuck in forward again. But we were ready and had a plan.

When we got our comeuppance with the Chubasco squall, we took the shifter apart and disconnected the shift cable from the shifter. From now on, shifting the transmission was going to be mano a mano! Capitán would be boldly in the cockpit piloting Bones, and I would be his dutiful engineer in the bowels of the machinery space manually moving the shift linkage into the desired direction.

 

As we approached Chiapas, I went to my duty station and everything worked perfectly! Capitán called for ‘neutral’ and neutral it was. He called for ‘reverse’ and reverse happened. It was a team of beauty. I was beginning to mist up. In fact so much that my vision was clouding. Then I realized, that being below, in 90 degree heat with 90 percent humidity hovering over a diesel engine was causing me to projectile perspire. I wiped it away and helped with the dock lines. A beautiful tie up.

Today, Enrique asked us if we could move one dock over into a smaller slip, so that he would have room for 80 footers (did I mention this pace was first class? Did I mention it was maybe 40% full, with no 80 footers?), “sure”, Capitán told Enrique, but he also added the part about the transmission, and Enrique said that he would have someone come right over. Someone was actually someones. Three to be exact. They were to be our line handlers (where did I hear that before?) But they were there and they were ready.

So, the plan was, Capitán would be Capitán. I would be ‘Scotty’ the engineer, and the tres amigos would be the line handlers. What could possibly go wrong?

Never. Tempt. Fate.

We backed out of the slip flawlessly.Capitàn initiated a turn to get Bones pointed in the right direction. “Forward” came Capitán’s order. “Forward aye” was my response. I dutifully thrust the lever of the Borg Warner ‘Velvet Drive’ transmission into forward.

Sidebar

Capitán selected the Borg Warner Velvet Drive transmission over the Hurst transmission when he upgraded Bones’ power plant several years ago. He did this on the recommendation of a well respected marine engineer in San Francisco, who told him “Hurst units are fine for going out on the bay, or up and down the coast, but for your intentions, get the Borg Warner.” So Capitán did. He only gets the best.

 

End sidebar

“I said forward!” Capitán barked. “It is!” I confirmed. “The boat is not slowing!” he said. Yikes, a concrete abutment was rapidly closing in toward Bones stern. I hurriedly opened up a floorboard to reveal the propeller shaft. The engine was madly turning at about 2,500 RPMs (that’s way fast for a marine diesel), and the propeller shat apparently didn’t get the message. It was lollygagging along at (literally) 3 RPM. Yes, Three.

I tried shifting forward, neutral, reverse, and any combination. Our line handlers saw what was happening and ran toward the stern. In the end (no pun), 35,000 pounds of Bones was no match for, maybe, 500 pounds of line handlers. They valiantly tried to fend off, but to minor avail. We slowly made contact with the concrete structure that was built to endure the forces generated by a travel lift with a 50,000 pound payload in its slings. It was one of those moments that distort time. It could have taken 5 seconds, 5 minutes, 5 hours or 5 weeks. You just couldn’t tell.

This is a travel lift:

travel lift

We stopped, and after about 10 seconds, the propeller shaft started acting like it should. We had forward propulsion. We made our way into the slip and tied up. Then Capitán announced “that hitting the stern was like an injury to my own body. I feel ill.” I totally understand. Muy Simpatico. Capitán has spent the last 26 years of his life knowing every sound, vibration, movement of Bones and can differentiate when it is not right. While the wound to bones was cosmetic, it was as if Capitán had let his trusty steed down.

After we were secured at the dock, we immediately went to work on trying to understand what happened, and more importantly why. OK, ‘velvet drive’ implied a hydraulic shifting action I queried Capitán. He confirmed. So, with the powerful Volvo turbocharged diesel engine at idle, I ran a series of test shifts to see what the relationship between the shift lever and the rotation of the propeller shaft was.

It turns out (no pun), that it looked like it took about 8 seconds from the movement of the shift lever until the propeller shaft was genuinely turning at proper RPMs. It could be that ‘velvet drive’ thingy. Perhaps I had been too hasty in disengaging/re-engaging the transmission when that concrete behemoth approached. We were not sure. One thing that was sure, is Capitán now wants to drain and refill the transmission to possibly reduce the chance of that happening in the future. As well as the new shift lever – that you can only get in the US.

What a day.

Oh yeah, here is a picture of a ‘squadron’ of baby manta rays going by next to the boat. Aren’t the creepy looking?

Manta Rays

Well?

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The Morning After the Night to Remember

Neither one of us slept well. No surprise there. My mind kept going over the worst case scenario (in fact, on year for Christmas Lori got me that very book). I kept going through it logically. Worst case, the prop was fouled, but the sails still work. We have water and food and can make electricity. It will just be slow.

Next worse case, we somehow damaged part of the power delivery system (transmission, clutches, propeller, shaft, shaft log, cutless – yes, cutless bearing) and we can limp along at 3 knots, supplemented with wind. As I tossed and turned, I was assessing all of these things and how we could quickly make a fix once the sun was up.

Capitàn and I were both up at first light, about 4:30. We discussed problems and strategies. I looked at the jib in the water and my heart sank. It was bad. Capitàn and I tried raising the jib out of the water using the jib halyard, but it would go up all but the last 20 feet on the hoist. Then, the sail was a tight as a drum going under the boat back toward the propeller and rudder.

I suggested that we put my GoPro camera on the boathook and use it for a little underwater reconnaissance to try and diagnose the problem before going in the water. Capitàn  was impressed. So I rigged it up and this is what we found:

Jibsheets wrapped firmly around the propeller and shaft. It looks ugly, but it was the least bad of the worst cases. In fact, Capitàn said “That happened to Angela and I coming back from Hawaii a few years ago. Now, here’s what were going to do…”

Did I mention that Capitàn is a first class stud? Yes. And 84 at that. Last night he was wrestling the big old jib down during the opening credits of Gilligan’s Island, and today he announces that he is going under the boat to clear it. Whoa.

It took about an hour, but Capitàn was successful! H cut the bowlines at the clew, and unwrapped everything along the shaft and prop. Nicely done. Look below, those are 5/8 inch diameter jibsheets twisted into the Gordian Knot just by the power of the wind! Unbelievable.

Now, the all-important question of the engine and powertrain. Last night, after disassembly, we demonstrated that the engine would run. What about the transmission and the rest of the drivetrain? This was crunch time. Mega crunch time. Engine start… check. Engage transmission in forward… check. Any weird sounds, smells or vibrations?… Stand by. None… Yet. Advance throttle. Any boatspeed? Standby… Yes! We’re making 2 knots and accelerating. Capitàn says to advance the throttle to 1,600 RPMs – cruising power. If all is OK, we should be doing about 5 knots. We watch patiently as the speed builds, and builds. Five knots it is!

Man did we dodge a bullet on that one! That’s going to be a night I will never forget.

Capitàn and I though we wouldn’t be underway (whatever that might look like) until about noon. It was 7:30 and we are underway. Not too bad. In the 11 hours that we had our ‘goat rodeo’ we even made 5 miles toward our destination. We’ll take it.

The jib, however, is another story.

It was nearly new. The leech line (the back edge) is shredded. The luff tape (that holds it in a groove on the forestay) looks like it has about 60,000 miles on it. The problem: it is a nearly new $6,000 sail. Let’s hope North Sails can resurrect it.

The shackle below was bent by the force of the squall. For those of you in the know, it was the tack shackle (that holds the bottom front corner onto the boat), and has a breaking strength of about 8,600 pounds. We didn’t break it, but we sure tried.

shackle

Whew. Today is going to be a lazy day of heading north and licking our wounds with a few naps tossed in for good measure.

 

Slurpee Day!

Those of you in the know, know what July 11th is. Those of you in the really know, know what is really is.

July 11th is Slurpee Day! Every 7Eleven has free 7.11 ounce Slurpees on this glorious day. It also is Delaney Jane’s birthday. So, it is a natural Green family tradition that on 7/11 we get as many Slurpees as we can. That has always been a dad job. Until this year. I feel like I let Delaney and Max down. I’ll make it up when I get back, but…

Here’s the birthday girl!

delaney with candles.jpg

And here she is with her Slurpee.

delaney with a slurpee

Happy Birthday Delaney Jane!

A night to Remember

It started out nicely enough. A nice day, sailing up the Americas, headed toward Mexico. As the day faded and the sunset came, I snapped this picture of Capitàn. It really shows him in his element.

Peering off pensively as if to wonder what the weather will be like tonight. Will it be like the more southerly climes, with mild squalls and a nice rain shower, or, now that we are north of 12 degrees north, with the birthplace of Pacific hurricanes shows its power? Last night’s thunder storms were impressive, but they stayed well away from us. Good thing!

Dinner was over and cleaned up by 7:20. The weather was pleasantly warm, and with an 8-10 knot breeze off of our port beam. The motor and jib were combines to push us along at a comfortable 6 ½ to 7 knots.

I had taken the watch ending at 11:00 PM, and Capitán was in his bunk resting. In the distance, pretty much all around, there were lightning flashes in the distance, not unlike last night. I though that maybe it would be another pretty light show – as long as the lightning stayed away. Far away. So far, that was the case. I could see the flashes, and began counting: one one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand. I could never hear anything except a very distant rumble.
A light rain began to fall. More like a sprinkling. I went below and shut the hatches and ports to keep everything dry. I noted that it had been 4 or 5 days since we had precipitation, once a daily event. In a very few minutes, the wind built to 18 knots. It looked like perhaps we were going to get a squall. I called forCapitàn below, because it seemed like we should probably roll up the jib before the squall hit.

That was not going to be the case. In the time it took for me to call Capitàn and for him to get on deck, maybe a minute, the wind was instantly blowing 35 knots, gusting higher. With it was drenching rain and near constant lightning. I mean constant! It very seriously looked like the beginning of Gilligan’s Island. I in no way mean that humorously, I am trying to create a mental image.

gilligan's storm

I instantly disengaged the autopilot, because there was NO way it could handle the steering loads. Capitàn was on the bridge deck rolling in the jib. Given the wind and the loads on the sail, no easy feat.

For 15 minutes, I had no idea which way the boat was traveling. I was steering by the apparent wind indicator, when i could see it, and by feel the rest of the time, to give Capitàn the best possible angle to furl the jib. It was unmitigated chaos. The instruments were eight feet in front of me and I couldn’t read them, the rain and wind were so intense. Capitàn was locked in a struggle with the jib and the boat was racing through the waves. The highest gust I saw was 45.6 knots, but it was now sustained in the low 40’s. One important note: that was True Wind Speed, not apparent (Capitàn has only the best sailing instruments; they do the trigonometry in real time to tell you true vs. apparent windspeed). The apparent wind speed – that’s how fast the wind feels like it is blowing, the peak was between 60 and 70 knots – those are freeway speeds!

Sidebar

If you use the formula of pounds per square foot of wind pressure being equal to the formula: S^2 * 0.00431, where S = windspeed in knots, the at 60 knots apparent windspeed, the pressure was between 16 and 24 pounds per square foot. Let’s say on average, a person is 5.5 feet tall and 2 feet wide. That’s 11 square feet. Imagine, having a horizontal force of between 175 and 300 pounds (yes) trying to move you horizontally, and at the same time shoving that rain at you at freeway speeds.

Most impressive.

 

End sidebar

The takeaway is to understand that the forces with the wind go up in an exponential function – double the speed and the forces quadruple, triple the windspeed and they are eight times. Go from 10 knots to 40 knots and the forces are 16 times what they were 4 minutes prior. It’s that fast, and that violent.

Was Capitàn sacred? No way. He was giving Neptune a what for, for giving his new jib a ‘what for’. Me? Not really. I’ve been all over the oceans with Capitàn and I know he knows what he is doing, and I know that he taught me well to know what I was doing. Sure it was very dramatic and scary, but we both know what needed to be done, so we did it. Not really another choice.

The engine was able to help give us directional control, as the jib was no luffing wildly. There was no way I could verbally communicate with Capitàn, just 15 feet away. Just as the jib seemed to be almost rolled in, when BANG! Something let go. The jib was now out all the way, just as when we started.

Capitàn raced to the foredeck to drop the jib. Lunacy! No harness, 84 years old, and a squall rolling through in the 40+ knot velocity (more on that in a bit), and he is taking the jib down?!? There was nothing I could do, as I had to keep the boat on course. After about 10 minutes of Capitàn trying, I heard a sickening noise. The engine was vibrating and making a sound I had never heard before. Something had fouled the propeller!

Not good.

Blowing, literally a gale, surrounded by lightning and  rain coming horizontally like a fire hose and we have no propulsion. Very bad.

OK, I yell at Capitàn that the prop is fouled. He yells to put it in neutral. Once again, like clockwork, the shifter is stuck in forward. We can’t disengage!

“Kill the engine!” Capitàn yelled. I did.

We are now in the cockpit, trying to take stock of our situation. We are 15.5 miles offshore, about 145 miles away from our destination, and things are grim. Very grim.

First things first. Capitàn opened the bilge to make sure no water is coming in. Check. Not sinking. The jib is down, but it is in the water – that’s candidate number 1 for what is wrapped around the propeller. No way to do an assessment until daylight. No way we are sailing until the jib is on deck. No way we are motoring either. The motor and transmission just spoke.

Next things next. We are unhurt. We are floating. We have water and food. Next, let’s fix the shifter so we can maybe make electricity, if the propeller fouling didn’t cause more damage. It is 9:30 now and the wind is in the low 20’s. Not great, but way better than 30 minutes ago. The lightning is still pretty spectacular. It would be nice if it would stop. I set up a layline to shore. We are 15.5 miles offshore. Time to start recording our drift track. I decide to monitor it every 30 minutes. It appears initially that we are being blown offshore. That is good. For now.

This is what our situation looks like:

squall track 1

We disassemble the shifter and decide that the best idea is to unhook the forward-neutral-reverse cable from the shifter, so it is throttle only. We can shift on the transmission using vice grips if we can unfoul the propeller. After 20 minutes or so, that is done. Now the first of many tests. Will the engine start? Capitàn has turned off all non-essential electrical loads to allow the batteries a fighting chance to keep us in power. I hit the starter. It starts! OK. We have electricity generation capability.

We are both shivering nearly uncontrollably from fatigue and cold from the rain. The wind is steadily abating. It’s down to bout 11 knots now. I go up forward to take stock of what is in store once it gets light (there is NO way to do this in the dark). The jib is a mess. Part is in the water off of the port bow, going under the boat to the starboard side. From there, it goes aft and is really tight. No. Good. At. All. Nothing can be done until we have sunlight.

2200

Capitàn needs rest. Well, yeah, he has been on the foredeck wrestling a huge jib in a giant Chubasco squall. I offer to take the first watch, looking out for other traffic and monitoring our drift, every 30 minutes. So fry, it looks like we are being pushed slightly offshore (good) and slightly north (good, up to a point…)

We will have to monitor the situation and be rested and ready at first light, about 5:19AM. This is going to be a very long night. Mother Nature is not happy with Bones today. Let’s hope we can be self-reliant and fix this. If anyone can, Capitán can. Between the two of us, we can do this. The question remains, what’s going on under the boat. No way to know until morning.

2330

Capitan has been asleep 1-½ hours. That’s good. The only lights that I see are on shore. Our track seems to be slightly offshore (good) and northerly (good for a while, then the shore starts coming out – bad). No other lights around us. The lightening has mostly abated, but it still is drizzling. No more squalls, OK?

2400

I went up on the foredeck to see what was going on with the jib. Half was in the water on the port side of the bow and the other half trailed back toward the stern. That’s not good. Either the jibsheets are fouling the propeller, or the jib itself. Neither is good. The jib even worse. If a line or a sail gets wrapped around the propeller, one of the bad things that can happen is it can bend the propeller or the propeller shaft. Neither allows you to use the engine until you get the boat hauled out and replacement parts are installed.

This is hardly the place to find a boatyard or parts.

Another particularly nasty thing tat can happen is the engine can tear the propeller strut out of the bottom of the boat, leaving a 12” by 12” hole. Obviously tat didn’t happen, or I’d be in the water with but strobe and EPIRB waiting for someone to come along. The best case is that the jibsheets wrapped around the propeller and shaft, causing the shaft to quit turning. The bad news is that the boat smelled like hot transmission and hot clutch. We could win with an easily cleared propeller, but a burned up transmission. Given that until last night, a good day had 8 knots of wind.

Sleepless night.

Capitan

and I took turns with restless sleep, scanning the horizon for boats that never came, and stressing that ultimately we might get pushed inshore. As you can see on the track below, the wind was offshore and from the southeast, which meant that we were getting pushed offshore – good, and more or less northward. Notice that big 90-degree turn on the yellow line. That is our track over the bottom.
That 90-degree turn is when the squall hit. Big, fast and a huge wind shift. The jagged part of the yellow line is our drift line for the past 3 or so hours. At least we are 17.5 miles offshore, and getting more so.

Sleepless night.

Time and Tide

It is said that Time and Tide Wait for no Man. That is certainly the case today. We were supposed to be cleared by those famous 1-2-3 (and in Nicaragua, 4) this morning by 9:00.

Nope.

Maybe 10:00, Señor.

Nope.

Maybe 1:00, Señor.

Nope

Señor, we will come and let you know when the officials arrive, they have been calling, but they are detained. Muchas Gracias.

So we waited. The thing is, we need three things to be able to leave:

  1. Food
  2. Water
  3. Diesel

Food, we took care of two days ago (pretty good post – share it with a friend). Water was easily taken care of this morning on the dock. All that is required is a hose and people. We have both. Diesel, on the other hand (en el mano otro) is different. AS I discussed in Quepos, no Zarpe, no diesel. Same here. All we need now to leave, is fuel for the last 325 mils north, and a Zarpe. But they are both intertwined. You can’t have one without the other. Seriously.

So, Capitán and I made sandwiches and ate lunch. We talked, we red paperbacks, we checked passageweather.com, I downloaded some GRIB weather files and checked tides and currents.

And we waited.

High tie was at 4:17 PM today. Capitán and I planned to be out an hour or two before high tide. At about 4:45, there was a knock on our hull. It was time! We were beig summoned to the combined forces of Nicaragua. The … tribunal

officiales

They look so official. That is because the are. Anything they don’t like keeps us from getting a stamp. No stamp, no Zarpe. No Zarpe, well, you know.So it took the better part of an hour to get the requisite stamps. Once stamped, we could call for the diesel guy. Oncce he got there we could move Bones. All of this takes time.

Did I mention who Time and Tide wait for? Oh, yeah. Well, by the time we had Bones to the fuel dock, with the engine control working, well, about OK, but not 100%, we fueled up. By now, the light was starting to get scarce, and the tide was falling. Here is what we know about Time and Tide:

The origin is uncertain, although it’s clear that the phrase is ancient and that it predates modern English. The earliest known record is from St. Marher, 1225:

“And te tide and te time þat tu iboren were, schal beon iblescet.”

A version in modern English – “the tide abides for, tarrieth for no man, stays no man, tide nor time tarrieth no man” evolved into the present day version.

I have a hard enough time with new English, so I am not even going to try my lengua with Old (Olde?) English. I’ll just take it on faith. So, Capitán decided it would be best to wit for the first high tide in the morning after the sun came up. Good idea. And so we wait.

Once again, we have about 325 miles to go to Chiappas to the end of our journey. I’m pretty much certain that today’s events cemented Capitán’s resolve NOT to stop in El Salvador, Guatamala or Honduras. While I’d love to see these countries, I can hardly argue.

Look for an update in about 3 days, or if my cellular data plan has room, earlier. Thanks for following, and please spread the word!

Little Miss Magic

Today, Jillian, also known as”Jillian Pillian” is leaving. As in going away. Far, far away.

familyFirst, she is going to Hong Kong to teach, for her third summer. That totally rocks! She is competent, smart, assured, capable and ready.

Then, in about a month, she is moving to Stockholm Sweden, to teach. Sure, Lori and I are as proud as can be that she has become a capable, beautiful, kind, loving, independent adult. And has become everything that we had hoped and dreamed that she would, but the reality of my ‘Little Miss Magic’ going away so far, and for so long; it hurts as it sinks in.

It seems such a short while ago that I was rocking her to sleep as Little Miss Magic was playing softly in the background. Now those far off lyrics have come true…

God Speed, and God Bless You, Little Miss Magic. I miss you already.

Jillian's First Bid DayLittle miss magic and Lolo.

Last Leg

We have come a long way from Panama City, two plus weeks ago. I think  Capitán is ready to have Bones secure in Mexico, and is getting tired of all of the officialisssimos along the way. It’s bout 325 mile from Puesta del Sol to Chiappas, Mexico. Looking at the weather, it looks like a big motor boat ride. maybe 5 to 10 knots of wind, from all over. Hopefully, we’ll get some more sailing in. Here is the course:

Puesta del SOl to Chiappas

Here’s the wind:

Screen Shot 2016-07-05 at 4.04.58 PM

Not much from here to Mexico. I’ll post when I can. Maybe a bon voyage tomorrow before we leave, but if not, in about 3 or 4 days from Mexico.