Pati’s parents have already left when I suddenly tested positive for Covid, but the work on our sailboat doesn’t stop. The list is getting smaller and smaller. For what feels like half a year, we say that our journey down the Sea of Cortez will start in ten days. And yet we’re still stuck in Puerto Peñasco. But good things take time. That’s how it is. And in between isolation, switching Marinas and wrapping up projects all of a sudden, it’s happening. We’re standing on the doorstep to the biggest adventure of our lives.
I had a slight cough and fatigue, feeling like I was about to catch a cold. Since the symptoms were suspicious, I did a rapid Covid test. Lo and behold: I had picked up the virus somewhere. Pati’s test was negative. Lucky her. Nevertheless, Milagros would turn into a no-go quarantine zone. I moved into solitary confinement in our V-berth, from which I could climb in and out the boat trough the hatch in the deck. In this way, Pati and I were able to isolate ourselves from each other easily and still move forward with projects. I took advantage of the situation and decided to service our winches.
On a sailboat, these cranks help to operate the lines on the sails and create a lever so that they can be operated safely despite the massive forces pulling on the sails. The mechanics of the winch consists of a large number of gears and bearings, the larger the winch, the more of them you’ll have to deal with. The mechanics differ depending on the size, type or brand. Sometimes things are very simple, sometimes they are more complicated.
Servicing our winches
On Milagros we have a whopping 14 winches distributed over the entire cockpit and foredeck. Since we simply didn’t know when our winches were last serviced, I let myself be surprised. Time to get to work, time for a bit of winch surgery. When I took a look at the inner workings of the first patient on the bench, it was clear: I had a lot of work to do. The previous owner had not skimped on the grease. Thus, the winch service became more of a winch cleaning service. I spent hours and hours removing excess and dried-on grease, dirt, old exhaust deposits from Ensenada, and other grime. But the work was worth it: little by little our winches were brought back into shape. And just when I thought I was done with my winch project, Pati pointed out that there were more specimens hiding under our covers that I had overseen. Argh.
The isolation flies by
The isolation on Milagros worked out smoothly. When I was on deck Pati was in the boat, and when Pati was on deck I holed up in the V-berth. Since our forward head has two doors it turned a bigger version of a food flap. As soon as Pati was in bed in the evening, I could briefly go to the salon with a mask to plug in my various electronic entertainment media (cell phone, tablet and Nintendo Switch). The 10 days passed in no time, we also received occasional visits from our friends at the Boatyard, who provided us with pizza deliveries or other errands. Thanks for that!
With a little help from my friends
When our isolation was over, Pati went straight to helping a family on a catamaran called «Dappere Dodo» in another marina that had to replace their forestay. At the last moment before leaving Peñasco, they found that one of their most important mast supports was about to fall apart. Not good and that had to be fixed. Finding out that we had replaced all of our standing rigging single-handedly, they asked us for help. Of course, we were happy to do so and we did so successfully. When the Flying Dutchmen took off, they took the opportunity to stop by in our corner of the harbour and wave goodbye. Who knows, maybe we’ll catch up with them.
Time for our own rigging
And so, it was time for our own rigging. This finally had to be ticked off the list. We hoped we could count on Jamie from SV Totem for help as they were in the process of dismantling and reassembling their boat at Cabrales Boatyard. Totem are a super experienced and well-known family of sailors who have traveled all over the world. Jamie is a sail maker and very knowledgeable about rigging and pretty much anything else to do with sailing, so we had high hopes that he could lend us a hand with our steel cables. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case, because Totem are so busy at the moment that they probably don’t even know where their heads are. But they tackle it all like the champs that they are. At least we think they do.
An important part of the boat
So, we had to help ourselves. Not a problem, we can do this. Marga provided us with a “Loos Tension Gauge”, a device with which the tension of the steel cables of our mast supports could be measured. Or something like that. Most probably, it’s a lot more complicated than that. From the Kelly Peterson 44 Owners Group, an online gathering of proud KP44 owners, we got a PDF from which we could read the tensions for our rigging. Tension can be adjusted with turnbuckles on deck, which in turn bolt to our beautiful new titanium chainplates (you may remember our chainplate disaster) which in turn are bolted to Milagros’ hull. Getting the tension right is incredibly important, since the rigging is responsible, among other things, for our mast remaining firmly the mast step, no matter how adverse the conditions, not moving where it shouldn’t, bending unfavorably and generating incorrect loads or even breaking.
What the hell is going on here??
After initial complete confusion on our part, which almost turned into desperation because we felt all our steel wires were too long, we only averted a nervous breakdown when we found out halfway through that a small cord was where it shouldn’t be, and had completely distorted our measurement results. After a bit more swearing and about 5 excursions on the mast, during which I felt like a contortionist at times, it was done. We’ll spare you the gory details. Every time we tightened something somewhere, something else untightened or overtightened, and yet we somehow managed to adapt our rig pretty much exactly to the information in the PDF. We’ll only know if everything is set correctly once there is a little pressure in the sails. Also, the fine tuning can only be made once Milagros is actually sailing. But our work was good enough for a test ride.
Our very first test run!
Our first test run took place on a sunny and windless afternoon. Chris and his son Brett from SV Avalon jumped in when we asked them if they were interested in tagging along. Not only because they are two cool dudes, but also because we knew we could use a few more hands, eyes and ears. Our program included heading out of the harbor basin into open water, testing the engine under load and a bit of anchoring. We wouldn’t be able to hoist the sails yet, because a few new swivel blocks for our lines had to be installed on deck. The old blocks slowly but surely had UV damage and we didn’t really trust them anymore. One even burst into a thousand pieces during the voyage from Ensenada to Peñasco at the end of 2019.
On the open water, finally
No sooner said than done and we were chugging out of the harbor basin of Puerto Peñasco. Out on open water we quickly realized what had awaited us: An impressive experience. For the first time since her arrival in November 2019, Milagros was able to leave the port. The engine purred happily in her belly and we just sucked in the scenery and sea air while Milagros happily bobbed along on the calm waters. We tested the steering cables by turning a few tight laps, checking whether everything that needed to be watertight was watertight and whether our numerous new or overhauled installations were doing their job under load. Everything is fine so far, and our very first anchoring maneuver at a depth of 8 meters over sandy ground directly in front of the beach went smooth without any incident worth mentioning.
Taking over a slip at Fonatur Marina
Before our little trip, we had decided to take over the slip at the dock of another marina, which had been vacated by the departure from Dappere Dodo. The reason for this was simple: we felt that we had a lot more space available to cast off and dock at Marina Fonatur.
In addition, the charges are half the price than at Safe Marina where we were before. Mooring went fairly well, also thanks the help of a couple of guys on the dock who work on the numerous fishing charter and party boats. They’re hanging out and working all day in the marina anyway. So, we had all sorts of people to throw our lines at from the boat when we arrived.
Some last little tweaks
A successful test run under engine – that could only mean one thing. We had to get Milagros ready to set sail. The new blocks were mounted quickly because we had prepared everything before the test run with Chris and Brett, so we only had to drill holes, mount bolts and seal them. They look nice, our brand new and inexpensive Garhauer Swivel Blocks. So, all the lines could be mounted again and everything was ready for a few hours of test sailing.
Let’s try that again!
We chose a quiet day again and got everything ready to leave for the second time. This time Laura and Marc from SV Liquid were in tow. If you think we’ve done a lot of work on Milagros, check out the SV Liquid Instagram. Next f***** level! Marc and Laura will leave Puerto Peñasco on a steel boat that has no equal. Liquid is a beast. With Marc and Laura on board, nothing could really go wrong. So, the five-pointer made up of Milagros, Pati, David, Laura and Marc got a move on. Maybe next time before we leave the dock and turn on the engine, we should make sure the thruhull for the water supply of the engine is actually open. But everything is fine, Laura was attentive and quickly noticed the lack of cooling water coming from the exhaust.
We’re actually sailing Milagros!
Out on the big blue we quickly realized what was going on. A pleasant, light breeze from the south caressed our skin. So, we quickly hoisted the sails and: Milagros still knows how to sail! She immediately pulled forward, taking us with her on her back. A wonderful hour of sailing followed, during which Pati and I were able to do a few maneuvers for the first time. It will probably be a while before we are a well-established team where every move is perfect. But we’re not worried about that. No one is born a master.
What test runs are for
Despite all the joy, we still found a problem. Something must have gone wrong with one of the winches because instead of just turning one way and locking in the other, it was able to turn backwards and tried to release line again. We were lucky that we had little wind and therefore little pressure in the sails, otherwise a loose headsail could have whipped through the air in front of us. Again, nothing to worry about too much. That’s why we did these test runs.
That’s it! We’re outta here!
Back at the dock we got a little lesson from Marc and Laura how to get the ship sideways to the dock relatively easily. A great afternoon came to an end and we ended this fun and instructive sailing afternoon with a few beers in the cockpit. Then it was time for the Friday ritual at the Cabrales Boatyard. We gathered around the fire with the other residents and chatted, drank, laughed and enjoyed the evening. Pati and I especially. Because now it was clear: Milagros and we were ready for the big blue. At least we think so. We’re as ready as we can be at that point. A calm weather window suggests: Our voyage with Milagros begins on the 24th of January 2022. More than a year after we started work on the boat. What madness!
However, we did not expect that the whole dream of a sailing adventure would almost disappear into thin air…
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