28 Jul

I was ready to go yesterday by about 2:00. The boat was ready and I was just unhooking the shore power when a gust of wind hit me. I stopped, looked up, and suddenly twenty knots was blowing white caps through the marina. The runways at San Carlos Marina are basically one boat length wide plus three feet, so I knew I wasn’t going to get out of my slip without risking some ugliness. I plugged the shore power cord back in and went below to pout.

Around seven the wind died down to manageable levels and I decided spur of the moment to get the hell out of there before dark. I wouldn’t be able to get the fuel I needed to make it to Mazatlan, but figured I could swing up in Topolobampo at the halfway point to get what I needed.

Getting out of the slip was still a pain in the butt. In reverse the boat would kick the front end so violently to port that I couldn’t get turned around. It would kick out to port and before I could get a burst in forward the same direction the wind would push the bow back around. I was wedged between boats in front and behind me for a full five minutes. It was like trying to back out of a parking space with your steering wheel stuck in a hard right turn. I crabwalked down the runway like that until I could make my escape. I’d taken a picture right before I cast off and another as I was exiting the marina. Eleven minutes elapses between the two in what should normally take thirty to sixty seconds.

I motored out with a close eye on the engine temperature, though I wasn’t really expecting trouble. I’d convinced myself that the root cause of the previous days overheating was the use of water instead of coolant in the system. I’d run the engine at the dock for an hour at pretty high RPMs without issue, so surely I’d be all right. My only real concern was that I wouldn’t in fact have enough fuel for the 180 mile trip to Topo.

Two hours out the engine looked good—running at normal temperature. Then ever so slowly it started to climb. I willed the needle to stop moving, but it didn’t listen and I was forced to shut the engine down and turn around. There was five knots of wind and I was sailing at 1.5 knots. I figured I’d spend four hours creeping back in the direction I came from and then bob around until first light when I could get back in the marina.

Then it occurred to me once again how much I dislike San Carlos and that the idea of being stuck there with a f-ed up engine was the exact nightmare I’d had the night before. Guaymas! A light bulb went on. I was the same distance away from Guaymas as I was from San Carlos right at that moment. I made an achingly slow one-hundred-eighty degree tack and sailed for a new place I didn’t want to really be.

Before I’d shut the engine down I’d seen something that I really wished I hadn’t seen. Coming out of the cylinder heads emission valve was water. Or coolant. Or whatever. Point is, nothing should be coming out of there except maybe some oil. Once the engine had cooled I took a closer look. The expansion tank was dry—completely devoid of any coolant. Then I uncapped the oil fill on top of the cylinder head. Inside the cap was a goopy white mess. That can’t be good. Somehow I just knew that Bar’s Leak stuff was a bad idea, despite the many claims to the contrary.

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I changed the milky brown oil, filled the engine with coolant, and sailed right up alongside a fishing trawler in a temporary anchorage before firing the engine up and anchoring for the night. At three a.m. I fell asleep.

It seems like it would suck to have this happen at night, in the dark, but I was so thankful it did. It was so ridiculously hot that I ended up taking three showers outside during the night. Not rinses, but showers, complete with soap and vigorous armpit scrubbing. If it had been mid-afternoon I surely would have melted.


This morning I woke up refreshed from my three hours of sleep, raised the anchor, and proceeded to motor cautiously to a completely empty Marina Fonatur Guaymas. Oh how I wish I were in Mazatlan right now.

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