David celebrated his second birthday in Puerto Peñasco and has soon spent 1/34 of his life here. We experience another sweaty moment as we set our mast. With big steps we move towards the launch of Milagros.
There was a special date recently: 20 November was not only David’s birthday, but also the anniversary of Milagros’ haul out in Puerto Peñasco. We had always hoped that David could spend his birthday somewhere on a nice beach. Unfortunately, this was not the case. So, we planned a camping trip for his birthday instead. We loaded Dogfish Marga’s truck with camping gear, food, beer, firewood and Cabralians, then we drove a little way out of Peñasco to the seafront. There we set up camp and lit a small campfire. With a view of Puerto Peñasco at night, we barbecued. The resolution not to talk about boat projects was broken in no time. There is no other way: cruisers just want to philosophise about materials, technology and challenges.
The night brain
We also had an interesting discussion about the ‘night brain’. This is when you wake up in the middle of the night or can’t fall asleep and your brain starts rummaging through boat projects, to-do lists, experiences and memories, usually bringing up all kinds of irrational fears and worries. Everyone in the group had already made acquaintance with their night brain. We toasted to our night brains and enjoyed Candy Cake’s birthday cake. Unfortunately, I had forgotten to organise candles. But then, you don’t blow out candles in these covidy times, do you? We recovered from the far too noisy boatyard under a starry sky, only the sound of the sea in our ears and the wind in our hair. And then, on a far too hard floor with far too thin sleeping mats we slipped into the night.
Back on the boat, however, we immediately had to get back to work, because the next day our mast was to be stepped. We had already fitted the new rigging and wrapped it in plastic to protect it from dirt. The lights had passed their function test and the radar was in place. We had also cleaned the aluminium rails in which the sails are hoisted. Everything was ready. Jamie from SV Totem took the time to come by and check our work.
Fortunately, there was no “it doesn’t work like that”, but “just” a few suggestions for improvement, a few of which we implemented. One of them was to use plastic spacers between the tangs to ensure the correct angle of the rigging when tensioning. As we didn’t have any suitable spacers to hand, we got ourselves plastic cutting boards (unfortunately there were no white ones), made some ourselves with a hole saw and drill and mounted them. Then nothing stood in the way of putting up the mast.
We get help
We had organised a few helpers to assist us with yet another visual inspection and to prepare everything so that the workers could attach the crane to the mast. And of course, also to support us mentally. Because if something goes wrong, it can be very troublesome and also expensive. Thanks again to Doug, Paul and Hazel!
Where is the hydraulic oil?
Of course, the whole procedure was not without a typically Mexican incident. When the mast was halfway up on deck on the crane, suddenly the whole action came to a full stop. A short time later, the boss of the boatyard showed up and said that new hydraulic oil was already on its way and would arrive “ahorita” (Spanish for “soon”). What had happened? When the crane was extended, all the hydraulic oil had been pumped into the hoses, and since the crane had an oil leak, at some point there was no longer enough oil to continue lifting the mast.
So, our mast was hanging in the ropes for about half an hour. And we just hoped that the oil pressure wouldn’t collapse in the meantime and that the new oil would really be there right away. Because by now we know what the Mexican “ahorita” really means. It can mean “in 5 minutes”, or “in an hour”, or “if I can make it in time”. Just as “mañana” (Spanish for “tomorrow”) means “not today, but maybe tomorrow or the day after or sometime”. That’s how it goes around here. The oil did indeed arrive within a very short time and the mast was successfully erected. Once the mast was supported on all four sides, a boatyard worker could climb the mast and unhook the crane. All’s well that ends well.
One halyard (a line used to hoist a sail up the mast) didn’t make it to the right side of a spreader, and in the evening, when we tested the lights again, we found that the LED bulb of the navigation light was inserted 180° the wrong way round. That is annoying. Anyway, we still have to climb the mast to mount the anemometers on the masthead. Why did we not mount them right away, you might ask? There is always the risk that the top of the mast touches the crane and the instruments are damaged. That’s what happened to us, and we were glad we hadn’t mounted anything up there just yet. Nevertheless, another milestone had been reached and we duly toasted to it. Milagros finally looks like a real sailboat again.
Drive shaft reassembly
The last part we needed to reassemble our drive shaft had arrived at the border. It had turned out that the shaft seal I had ordered in August didn’t fit. I don’t know what I had measured then, but we had to send it back and order the right one. Then we were ready for the assembly. We soaped the shaft so as not to damage the cutless bearing on the outside of the boat. Then we pushed the shaft into the stern tube.
On the inside of the boat, we first fixed the shaft seal in place, then we put the shaft into the pillow block bearing and finally we pushed the shaft coupling onto the shaft. On the other end of the drive shaft came the propeller and a sacrificial anode. Last but not least, we installed the water lubrication for the shaft seal, for which we divert some water from the engine cooling system to lubricate it.
Last but not least, the engine had to be realigned. Incorrect alignment can lead to a variety of undesirable events, from excessive vibration and fuel consumption to bearing or shaft failure. For the shaft to be centered in the stern tube, the position of the motor had to be changed quite a bit. To achieve perfect centring, we would have had to move the motor about 1 cm to starboard. That would have meant an enormous effort. So we decided to do the best we could without having to drill new holes for the engine mount. Nevertheless, we had to raise the engine by about 1 cm.
We think the alignment of the engine between the transmission output coupling and the shaft coupling is good enough now. Good enough to put it in the water and then adjust it again after a few days in the water, if necessary. How good our alignment is will only be seen again when the blade bearing is in good condition the next time we haul out. We can also keep an eye on developments with regular dives for close inspection.
Thanksgiving was also just around the corner. Pete from SV Mazu had booked a table at a restaurant near the boatyard. On the menu was a typical Thanksgiving lunch. The meal looked like an everyday lunch back home: Mashed potatoes and turkey in cream sauce, served with red cabbage and peas and carrots. For dessert we had a Pumpkin Spice Panna Cotta. Very tasty! A few other sailors had organised a potluck in the evening and we contributed to the buffet with a homemade apple pie. Afterwards, we all sat around the fire and were collectively grateful for everything we have.
Moving on with projects
Another step towards making Milagros ready for her big day were the last two coats of antifouling, for which we chose to go with Pettit Premium HRT. We were really looking forward to the painting. Firstly, because painting the antifouling is usually one of the last official acts before splashing. And secondly, because Milagros’ appearance would be complete afterwards. And she looks really great now! All that’s really missing now is the boom fitting, which we’ve been waiting for for 3 months. We think it will be there ‘mañana’.
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