Anchor Windlass Comebacks and other Wonders

Dave sitting next to the anchor windlass, trying to understand the miracle

It’s the final countdown! I was finally able to travel to Ensenada to visit Milagros and join the others in the preparations. Although it was a long journey, I didn’t let it stop me. Once there we experienced an anchor windlass miracle and were pampered by fellow cruisers.

David in the marina of Ensenada

I packed two huge bags with all kinds of stuff and was accompanied by my parents to Basel airport. The trip to Mexico was long but quite unspectacular. I am used to spending a lot of time at airports and on airplanes from work, so I don’t mind long trips. At customs in Mexico City, I was promptly charged $ 150 for our camera drone, even though diving material should have been inspected. This despite the fact that there was a kilo of raclette cheese and just as much fondue cheese right next to it, which I probably shouldn’t have imported. But it is what it is.

A happy reunion

The overnight stay in the capsule hotel in Mexico City was, as already described by Pati, very pleasant. So, I had enough rest to take on the flight to Tijuana and the subsequent bus ride to Ensenada. Once there, I was received by the others. This reunion was particularly lovely, as I hadn’t seen Carmen and Iñaki for over half a year. I had been on the road for over 30 hours and as a result, I was tired as hell. But I didn’t have much time to take a break. Milagros had to be made ready.

Work starts immediately

Although Pati, Carmen & Iñaki had already done a great job in advance, we were still by no means ready to sail. The windlass was still causing problems and the stove was still leaking gas. The planning of the passage, the provisioning and the safe stowing of everything that was not nailed down was still to be done. As a friendly greeting gesture by the others, I was sent up to the mast straight away, as we wanted to install a small analogue wind indicator up there. But that didn’t work out because we couldn’t find a suitable place. So, I quickly had solid ground under my feet again. The adrenaline rush dangling at a height of 14 meters was still not bad.

Gas miracles happen

The propane bottle from Steven’s camping stove was empty after only four days. We had just started frying meat when it quit working. So, we decided to reconnect our original gimbal oven to the gas system. Out of curiosity, we then did another gas pressure test, and behold: Everything was suddenly tight! The gas alarm next to the stove didn’t go off either. So, we unexpectedly had our galley back. We don’t know why, but we can now treat ourselves with 4-star menus again.

Anchor windlass miracles happen

We experienced a similar story with the motor of the anchor windlass. Although it had already been approved by two independent mechanics, it was still drawing too many amps. Apart from the motor, we had eliminated all the causes that came to mind: Our batteries and their connections are OK, the grounding is OK, the voltage on all connections from the anchor windlass to its fuse is fine. Nevertheless, we brought in another mechanic to reopen and overhaul and service the anchor windlass motor. His call a day later brought little news: It was in excellent condition. What did we miss?

Our Anchor windlass is picky

The mechanic brought a starter battery for the re-installation to rule out that the problem lied with our on-board battery bank. When the motor was installed again and we did the test … suddenly everything worked. We could hardly believe our eyes. Was our anchor windlass just waiting for the right mechanic and service? Looks like now we have a working and picky windlass.

Ordering parts in the USA

Now all that was needed was a new brake disc for the anchor windlass, as the old one had reached the end of its life and therefore no longer worked properly. After a replacement the system would be good to go again. We found what we were looking for in the USA and ordered the part with an express delivery to Ensenada.

Coffee on Tranquila

The initial restrictions caused by our faulty gas system also had their advantages: We were invited by other sailors for morning coffees. The first few days the other three went to Susanne from “Tranquila” for coffee at 7am. Usually three cups of coffee and a ready-made thermos to take away were waiting for them.

Pampered by Captain Max and Sophia

When I arrived, Captain Max from SV “Galena” also invited us to his boat. A ritual has developed from a simple coffee. It started with a coffee tray on which Max served us delicious French press coffee. Two days later there were already two trays with a small breakfast. Two more days later there were three trays, because green tea and black tea were added. Every day he surprised us with something different. Be it pancakes for Sunday breakfast, delicious churros, fresh carrot cake muffins from the bakery or pain au chocolat from the café. And we didn’t just drink and eat – we discussed our upcoming projects every day and gave each other tips, listened to music and chatted about God and the world. Everything under the watchful eyes of Sophia, Captain Max’s dog lady and first officer.

Inaki, Carmen and Max enjoying the coffee ritual
Inaki, Carmen and Max enjoying the coffee ritual

A lost day

Aside from all the enjoyment, Iñaki and I also had to go overboard (not literally), of course. After a hard night of partying with Stacy and David from “Millennium Falcon” with beer, bourbon, tequila and a final rum tasting at Captain Max, we vegetated in our bunks for a whole day, completely destroyed. Meanwhile, the girls spent their day with fine dining and a ride on our dinghy. Good news here too at least, because our dinghy is in good shape and the outboard motor runs like melted butter.

The meteorologists of Milagros

The days passed and we always kept an eye on weather development. We paid particular attention to the hurricane forecasts from NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), the US weather and oceanography authority. The atmosphere along our planned route was a bit more active at the end of the prior week. Approaches of a storm moved directly along our route. But now the track seemed to be free for a few days. The two- and five-day forecasts no longer showed any significant storm developments.

Planning the passage

Our plan became really specific when we sat down with Iñaki to plan our passage. He explained to us how to correctly plan a sailing trip from A to B and what to consider. You start by getting a rough overview of what the route looks like and whether there are any dangers. Depending on their type, these could even make a voyage unfeasible. So, it makes sense to first plan the whole route on a rough scale. You don’t want to do all the work for nothing.

Passage Planning for Milagros

Detail work in a second step

If it is possible to sail along the desired route, we worked continuously from large-scale maps to detailed overview maps. In this way, we could effectively rule out overlooking important factors. We decided that Carmen, Patricia and I plan three passages. Carmen took care of our actual 4-5 day crossing from Ensenada to Bahia Magdalena (Mag Bay). Pati and I each planned a trip from Ensenada to Bahia San Quintin and Bahia Tortugas (Turtle Bay) respectively. So, we had complete passage plans for two alternative ports at hand, should we have to go ashore unexpectedly.

Equipped for all eventualities

As a reward for the passage planning we had done, we enjoyed the fondue that I had brought with me from Switzerland to traditional Swiss music. A piece of home in Mexico.

Swiss Cheese Fondue in the Cockpit of Milagros
Swiss Cheese Fondue in the Cockpit

With full bellies, we then went back to our planning. We looked through all three plans together. This enabled us to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the different approaches and benefit from each other’s work. Iñaki had some inputs, but overall, he was happy with our plans. Each of these can be carried out as planned. So, we are ready our long journey and even have two fully planned backup plans in hand.

The boat is being filled with provisions

While Iñaki and I stayed on board Milagros, Carmen and Patricia went on an errand tour with Susanne, Steven and their pickup truck. Supplies had to be bought for over 4 weeks. We decided to only buy non-perishables for the time being. We don’t want to store vegetables, fruits and other fresh products until one day before departure.

I would like to mention the most important finding of the week here. We have found the perfect place for our beer stock on board. I don’t know whether the stairs to our rear cabin were built for beer cans, but exactly nine rows of cans fit into the crate.

Time is running out

Although we made good progress in general, there was still a major setback. Since the complications with our anchor windlass and gas stove postponed the whole planning a little, the schedule got too tight for Pati to sail with us as far as La Paz. When the news came in that the brake disc for the anchor windlass would arrive three days later than planned, we had to make a decision.

Go with the flow

Pati had to go home a few weeks earlier than me. So, after a short discussion we decided that she would spend the rest of the week with Steven and Susanne on “Tranquila”. With a heavy heart, Carmen, Iñaki and I would only set out as a three towards Puerto Peñasco. It would have made no sense to cram all of the planning into an increasingly narrow time window.

So now we are still counting down. Milagros is ready, we are ready. We would have loved to have Pati with us, but that’s the way it is. If everything goes well, we will still have enough opportunities to be on the open water together.

Ready to go?

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