We are finally taking Milagros out of the Marina once again and Pati becomes head of gas installations onboard the sailboat. Together we work ourselves through the necessary work onboard and we benefit from the unique sailing community. With David’s arrival we are approaching the first big sailing trip of our adventure in big steps.
A first milestone is imminent
When preparing Milagros, we always had our first big target in mind: The approximately 1,400 nautical miles (2,600 km) long sailing trip to Puerto Peñasco. In order not to slow ourselves down unnecessarily, we artificially increased pressure on ourselves and set a first milestone 8 days after my arrival: A test sail. To make everything official, we invited Steven and Susanne to join us – it should be a nice Sunday cruise. However, due to the complications with the gas hose and anchor windlass, it ended up being a Tuesday cruise. But more on that later.
Nothing works without the sails
For the first excursion of Milagros in 2020, the most essential thing was missing: The sails were not yet mounted. The best time to mount them was early in the morning as there is usually no wind. Carmen and Iñaki had to set their first alarm clock in a loooong time. I on the other hand had to get up early anyway for business meetings due to the time difference of 9 hours.
So that we could hoist our headsail, a shackle made of Dyneema had to be spliced, because an extension that was mounted high up in the mast was showing signs of wear and tear and had to be replaced. Iñaki kindly took over and spliced a so-called “Soft Shackle” with the help of instructions from the Internet.
In contrast to previous projects, we were able to complete this one within a day and were rewarded with delicious chicken tacos from Susanne and Steven.
Next up, I had to aim high: The inspection of the mast and rigging was due. It was not up for discussion whether I wanted to go up there or not. I had to. Sitting in a Bosun chair and well-prepared, including knee pads, to protect myself from the sun and injuries, Iñaki pulled me up the mast. David from SV Millennium Falcon looked after the second safety line attached to my climbing harness. My job was to use a damp rag to clean all the mast mountings. I also checked for cracks and corrosion.
The reward is immediate
My efforts were rewarded with a great view of the sunset from the 14m high mast. And as far as I could tell as a layman, our mast and rigging luckily looked pretty good. The subsequent analysis of the GoPro pictures that I took from above confirmed this impression. Nonetheless, our mast urgently needs some love, as in certain places the paint has already peeled off. We will take care of that after we have arrived in Puerto Peñasco. With the sails hoisted and the mast thoroughly checked, we had now met all the requirements for the test sail.
Finally sailing Milagros again!
Two days after the originally planned date, we started early in the morning with the preparations for a small day trip. Our destination was the petrol station at Hotel Coral, which is around 2 nautical miles north of our marina. Steven, Susanne and David (from SV Millennium Falcon) accompanied us. When we left the marina, we encountered a nice wind of 15 knots (approx. 30 km / h), which brought us almost to the gas station at a good speed of 5-6 knots (approx. 10 km / h). Unfortunately, we had to cover the final stretch with our engine on. The wind suddenly eased way too much.
Who’s scared of Pati at the helm?
I was allowed be at the helm, of course, but since we have no wind indicator, we had to improvise and make so-called “tell tales” out of kitchen rags.
It was not easy for me to determine the wind direction and to steer Milagros correctly so that we didn’t lose our speed. Of course, it happened in spite of the tell tales and I had to use the engine to keep us from stalling. All beginnings are difficult.
A well-deserved break
After refueling Milagros, we enjoyed sandwiches we had brought with us right at the diesel dock. Lucky for us, due to the Corona virus, the only diesel station within a radius of over 100km was not particularly well attended.
Highlights and lowlights
The absolute highlight of the trip was that we were escorted by a couple of dolphins along the way. They swam at our bow when we left the harbor. Another highlight, almost as big, was that everything was so far in order: The newly installed steering cables work, the spliced intermediate part held firm, the sails were correctly installed and the engine did its job. And of course we could finally do what we are all here for: Sailing!
A small lowlight – but basically an already known one – was that the inner forestay was simply in the way when tacking. The genoa (headsail) got blocked each time and made sure that the maneuver dragged on and we lost speed. Since our inner forestay is not permanently installed, Steven and Iñaki have removed and relegated it to the shrouds on the side of the boat.
The work goes on
Although Milagros was basically ready to sail, two important components were still missing for a longer crossing: A working stove and a working windlass. The division of labor worked very well. I looked after the stove, Iñaki took care of the winch and Carmen took care of our physical well-being. There was a lot of potential for frustration in my gas project, and also quite a risk. A gas leak can be fatal under certain circumstances.
A gold-plated gas system on Milagros?
Although my project was actually quite simple – dismantle the gas hose, buy a new one and pull it back in, connect the solenoid – the topic occupied me every day for around a week. Although at some point I managed to get all the necessary parts, the installation was tedious. First I was missing the Teflon tape to seal the gas fittings tightly. Then I was missing crimp connectors and the associated tools to crimp the solenoid wires. Then I missed the terminals to connect the solenoid to the power. When according to a soap test, everything was finally tight, we still lost gas pressure somewhere. Aaaarrrrghh.
Crimp connector: Metal sleeves to connect two cables together
Solenoid: A solenoid valve that opens and closes electromagnetically
Crimping: Two components are connected to one another by deformation, e.g. by squeezing
Soap test: You can test for gas leaks by spraying soapy water on connections of two gas fittings. If you see bubbles, that’s bad. If nothing happens, that’s good. Connections are tight.
Is this the end of our stove?
I was about to throw our stove out the window. We dismantled everything possible on it and cleaned the entire oven and its burners. But it didn’t help. So we cooked our menus outside on an emergency camping stove that Steven brought us from the USA from now on.
And what about David?
Two weeks after my arrival in Ensenada, the time had come: We picked up David at the bus station by taxi. We received him joyfully. But would he be allowed into the marina this time? Everything fine, we were simply waved through the gate. David’s suitcases were packed with useful items and some goodies from Switzerland. For me there was a Rivella Blau, to enjoy in a nice bay on the way, he had raclette and fondue with him and of course the chocolate from Grosmi (my grandma).
Finally, for the first time all four of us were on board Milagros together and could begin with the final preparations for her transfer.