Pat and Ali Schulte

It’s a Sailboat, Sail It

30 Jul
All right, it’s been two days—where do I start? Well I don’t really know. After a few hours, reading e-mail, talking to friends, I came to a conclusion: the head gasket is blown and the cause of the overheating that caused it was the Bar’s Head Gasket Repair that I used when I originally thought the head gasket was blown. I think what happened is that when I dumped the can of Bar’s in it jammed up the thermostat or at least restricted the flow. I’m guessing this because the temp just went straight up—it overheated at idle in under fifteen minutes. And actually I probably shouldn’t say it overheated because I was watching the temp gauge and shut it down before it hit 200 degrees—more accurately it was on it’s way to overheating, and when I opened up the expansion tank it was bone dry. Okay, anyway, so I’ve got a blown head gasket. Not the end of the world. It’s only a gasket after all. Problem is that this was not in “the plan” for the summer. We’ve got a house rented in Mazatlan—a house in which Ali, the kids, and I are supposed to meet at next Monday. A house we can live in while the boat is torn apart or on the hard this summer. So with that the question became, “How do I get the boat down there?” And eventually it dawned on me—it’s a sailboat, I can sail it down there. Right? It’s only 360 miles. I’m pretty sure this tank can cover 360 miles in a week. Okay, so I can sail it, but I still need to be able to get out of the marina. And I’d like to know that I can count on it in an emergency, or for getting me into the marina once I reach Mazatlan. So instead of replacing the head gasket (which is a pretty major job requiring the removal of roughly half of the engine piece by piece, including all of the really important bits) I’ll just try and jury rig it. Not with bailing wire, but with more of that Bar’s crap that I think caused—or at least contributed—to the problem in the first place. Here’s what I did yesterday and today. First I removed the expansion tank to get at the thermostat. I boiled a pot of water and dropped the thermostat in it. It slowly opened, just like it is designed to do. I took it out of the water and it closed back up. Okay, so the thermostat is working. But instead of putting the thermostat back in, I left it out, and put the expansion tank back on. Wha? Well the thinking is that without the thermostat in the engine will run cooler. A lot cooler. And cooler means less pressure. Or at least I think it does. And less pressure could mean less leakage through the head gasket. Fingers crossed. Before you start typing up that e-mail telling me why this is a bad idea, remember that the idea is for me to be able to run the engine for maybe an hour at a time, just a couple of times on this trip south. With that out I ran a radiator flush through the system and then did something crazy. I tried some more Bar’s Head Gasket Repair. A different one—but still. It’s too early to tell if that worked because I decided against testing it out. Why? Because I’m tired of changing the oil, and right now there is fresh oil in the engine. I skipped a few steps in the above explanation, but let’s just say that in the last two days I’ve changed the oil four times. Four milky white times. Big deal right? Well, my engine takes two gallons of oil. At twenty-five bucks a gallon that comes out to two-hundred dollars in oil changes. And I’m planning on bringing enough oil along for another four oil changes en route. If the Bar’s hasn’t blocked up the blown head gasket then I’ll basically need to change the oil every one to two hours that the engine is run. Fun. I don’t even want to add up what this nonsense has cost. Anyway, now that I’ve done everything I can think to do short of actually repairing the problem, I’m kind of excited about the trip ahead. The other night when this happened I actually thought for a while about just continuing on, but decided instead to see what I could do about fixing it. Turns out I can’t do much, so I’ll just continue on. The weather looks good for the next week. Some light head winds here and there, but for a good part of the time it looks like I could have 10-15 knots on the beam. The boat will hum along nicely in those conditions, because hey, it’s a sailboat dammit. Note: I did buy a new thermostat anyway and have that aboard. Should this little trick not work I’ll drop it in. ——— Ouest has been getting a little homesick lately. She’s missing Bumfuzzle. She told Ali today that she likes Grammy’s house but it doesn’t go to new places like Bumfuzzle. Then tonight while Ali was singing Twinkle Twinkle to her in bed Ouest said that she wants to go on a hike when we get to Mexico… in the rain… with her new umbrella. ——— Should have just bought an RV. Read More

Trouble

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. 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.   Read More

Overheating

27 Jul
Man, that day did not go as planned. It started off well enough. I picked up the fish—yay! Still alive. I can’t believe it. This is how you transport a fish on a Mexican bus. Then I got back to work on the engine. A while back I noticed that I seemed to be losing coolant. This could be from a head gasket leak, so I decided to try Bar’s Head Gasket Repair. Step one was to drain all the coolant in the system. I did that and flushed it a bunch of times. Then I disconnected the hot water heater hoses and just ran a new hose directly between the two engine fittings. Next it was time to add the Bar’s. This stuff is basically tiny flakes of metal and who knows what else. It’s supposed to run through the system and when it gets sucked through a crack I guess the metal piles up and seals it. Following the directions I ran the engine for five minutes then added more water to top it off. Next I ran it at idle for fifteen minutes. About twelve minutes in the engine overheated. I did not see that coming. I shut the engine down and immediately drained the system again, getting all of that Bar’s stuff out. After draining everything I refilled the system with water and decided to run it again for a few minutes and see what happened before draining it once again. The temp quickly climbed beyond normal and I shut it down again. Now I was getting worried that the Bar’s screwed something up. At one point I managed to bust a wire off of the alternator. It broke off because it was so corroded. I consider it a small miracle that I was able to get it reconnected. A new high-output alternator was supposed to come down with me but didn’t quite make it in time. That will be a nice upgrade. I didn’t have enough coolant to fill the system so I made a trip to the store, came back, and filled everything up yet again—this time with nothing but a good clean coolant mix. I fired up the engine and crossed my fingers. Five minutes, one-hundred-five degrees. Ten minutes, one-hundred five degrees, higher RPMs, one-hundred-fifteen degrees, five more minutes, one-hundred-fifteen degrees. Breathing a sigh of relief I left it running and went outside to work on securing the propane tanks. Half an hour later the engine was still humming along at one-fifteen. So it appears to me that the problem was with running only water through the system. With the coolant back in I’m good to go again—though I probably didn’t fix any problems. Because I had to wait for the engine to cool so often this little project ate up my whole day. I need to get out of here. The weather looks good, though it does appear there will be liberal use of the engine as there is so little wind forecast. Not a hurricane in sight. And though I try, I just can’t get inspired to take pictures here. Read More

Alone in Mexico

25 Jul
I kissed Ali and the kids goodbye and walked into the airport at eight o’clock in the morning. I finally reached the boat at six the next morning. Nobody said flying to Tucson and hopping a bus to Mexico was an efficient choice. But it did turn out to be a good choice for hauling boat gear over the border. I had five boxes, one piece of luggage, one surfboard, and two shoulder bags to get back to the boat. All of which had been sent to a Bum friend’s house in Tucson. Bruce picked me up from the airport and we spent a few hours out at his house enjoying a good dinner and amazing views over the city and straight out to the mountains beyond. He dropped me off at the Tufesa station around ten, and by midnight I was crossing the border. “Who has all the boxes?” asked the customs agent walking down the aisle. Crap. But no, not crap, because I had my magic piece of paper from the Banjercito office in Guaymas. The blank, signed copy, that the big round lady with the inappropriate cleavage had given to me, and that I had had the foresight to actually fill out before climbing on the bus. She took one quick look at that and I was good to go. The bus was about to pull away when it suddenly occurred to me that I didn’t get a tourist visa. Oh crap again. I ran up front and told the bus driver. He was hesitant, but eventually led me off the bus and over to the immigration office where the officer spent about fifteen seconds scribbling out a visa for me. Okay, now we can go. A taxi delivered me and my goods to the marina just after the sun came up. I found Bumfuzzle right where I left her with nothing but a dirty cockpit to indicate we hadn’t been there for a month. I opened the door and no bugs or critters scurried across the floor—always a good sign. Best of all the bilge pump wasn’t running. But since it wasn’t running I pulled open the engine compartment just to be sure it hadn’t simply failed. It hadn’t. I spent the morning working on the engine. Basically repairing all the stuff that I discovered (i.e. broke) right before leaving last month. I finished up the fuel pump and repaired the basket for the raw water filter. Online they wanted like eighty dollars for one of those things—instead I mixed up some epoxy, pushed the broken pieces together, poured the epoxy in the bottom, twirled it around so it would get in all the mesh, and it was fixed for free. I also began the process of draining and flushing out all of the coolant so I can use some Bar’s Head Gasket Repair. I think the head gasket may be the culprit in the case of the missing coolant lately. I’m not certain, but figure this is worth a shot. Then I worked on getting the wind instrument working again. I grabbed the new unit, ran through the setup procedure, and lo and behold we are back in business—after just eight months. Now I can head out and look for a gale. Read More

Gearing Up

24 Jul
Ouest, Grammy, and I went off to the rink again today. Another month and I’d have her tearing up the ice. That will have to wait until another time though as I am gearing up for my return to Bumfuzzle tomorrow. I’m headed back to San Carlos with loads of boat gear, getting the boat ready in a day or two and then sailing south to Mazatlan where Ali and the kids will join me for the summer. We’ve rented a house in the Old Town to help us ride out the heat while exploring a town that we’ve really learned to enjoy the past couple of years.  I’ll do as much boat work as I can before they arrive and then pop on out to the boat whenever I can this summer in the vague hope of having the boat fully cruiser friendly by next season. Leaving the kids is getting harder and harder—even if for only a few days. At a hundred random times today Ouest told me she didn’t want me to go. I’m not looking forward to the airport drop-off in the morning. Lowe doesn’t care now, but the morning after I’ve left he’ll care when he can’t find anybody to chase him around the kitchen and living room at seven a.m. I’m gonna miss ‘em. Read More

Family and Friends

23 Jul
Haircut complete. For some reason she has absolutely no qualms about letting Ali cut her hair. Ouest got the thrill of the month when her cousins (actually my cousin’s kids) showed up for an afternoon of fun. Oh how I wish those girls lived right down the street from Grandma instead of way up north in Seattle. The girls are six and eight and about as sweet as any two girls have ever been in history. Ouest was immediately inserting her hand into theirs and happily being led anywhere and everywhere. Not to be a slouch in the happiness department Lowe walked around the patio giving big fat kisses to anybody who would accept one, and it would have to be one cold-hearted villain to turn down a kiss from Lowe when he leans into you with those chubby little cheeks and puckered lips. My cousin David (and his brother Chris) and I spent our first couple of years of life more or less as brothers before I moved out to Minnesota. It was great to see our kids together having so much fun. I wish we could do it a lot more often. Someone has been promising to make me oatmeal cookies for weeks now. And with the help of Ouest that someone finally succeeded. Ali and I are both hoping that Ouest will someday become the cook aboard Bumfuzzle. These cookies didn’t go off without a hitch though. First the mixing bowl wasn’t locked down and when it started up the whole contraption became jammed up. Then Grammy dropped an egg, shell and all, into the bowl. And finally Ouest managed to miss the bowl with an entire cup of flour. It was worth all the pain in the end. Thanks for teaching Ouest how to make cookies Grammy. Visited our favorite biker (pedal variety) bar today. The restaurant/bar dedicated a small corner of the place to a play area for the kids—a genius marketing ploy. While the patio and bar area are filled with laughing, buzzed customers, the kids area is surrounded by frazzled parents trying to stick an organic french fry into their kids’ mouth while sucking down an IPA brewed on site. We’re all in the same boat—order another beer. Read More

Hanging

20 Jul
This is about it around here right now. Spending time luxuriating in the grass (Mexico often appears to be completely devoid of green grass), eating popsicles, and hanging out with good friends. Somehow, despite having only spent a grand total of a few months in Portland over the years this is where almost all of our friends are. Portland just seems to be a hub for wanderers and we are constantly meeting other travelers who’ve either taken a break here or are just passing through. We took the kids to the Central Library downtown again this morning. To mix it up we took the train—knowing that the kids would enjoy it. They did. It was a typical Portland sort of morning, dreary and drizzly, and the homeless were queueing up outside waiting for the doors to open. Once inside it seems they either ran to stake a claim to a particularly comfortable seat or to get into the public bathroom. If you ever need a jolt to show you just how good you’ve got it, 9:45 a.m. out front of the library should do the trick. Read More

On Ice

18 Jul
I was six when I convinced my parents to let me play hockey. And for the next twelve years hockey was pretty much my life. I was good enough to be All-Conference and to talk to a couple of Junior A coaches about playing for them in Small Town, Iowa, but I was smart enough to know my limits as well—I was never going any further than that. I played a bit after high school, coached a team after college, and then… Fifteen years pass in the blink of an eye. I skated once in those fifteen years—then today I got to take my girl skating for the first time. Skating is like riding a bike and I got around good, but Ouest? Well, she got around great. Seriously, she clickety-clacked right out onto the ice and took off. Sure, she fell—a lot, but she always got right back up, never complained, and continued chasing me around in circles. For two hours! I couldn’t get her to stop. “Ouest, do you want to take a break and get something to drink.” “No, me not thirsty. Let’s go.” I haven’t had that much fun in a long time and I couldn’t have been more proud of Ouest—for being excited, for being fearless, for getting up time and again, for being a pretty good skater, and for never even mentioning that the skates were rubbing two raw sores into the sides of her calfs. You know what else I loved about the day? The smell of that black rubber flooring in the locker rooms. That smell permeates my memories. Later on we went over to my aunt’s house for dinner. She has a new puppy that the kids immediately fell in love with. Especially Lowe. He wanted nothing more than for that little puppy to follow him around, crawl up into his lap, and lick his face. Read More

Just a Trim

16 Jul
We brought our camera in for a cleaning and check-up (just like going to the dentist) and have now felt completely naked and uninterested in my surroundings for 36 hours. Will have it back in the morning just in time to document a trip to the library. Phew. Not much happening around here. The weather has been gorgeous so we’ve been spending a lot of time at the parks around town—and Portland has a lot of parks. The kids have been playing better together every single day that goes by, and Ouest has slowly started taking on the big sister role a bit more. It’s almost possible to envision the day that we take them to the park and they run off to play without us. Almost. The kids have also been incredibly lovey-dovey lately. Lowe goes downstairs in the morning and runs right to Grammy to give her hugs and kisses. At night, after bath time, it’s Ouest’s turn to lay it on her. Throughout the day Ouest announces at the most random times that she loves us and Lowe will give up kisses any time now too. And man, our buddy Nick is pretty much molested whenever he stops by. Hopefully this is all just a reflection of the love that they are feeling from everyone around them. We took Ouest to the mall today to get her haircut. She is three-and-a-half now and has only had two trims from Ali, refusing anything else. Today was no different. We got outside the salon and she planted herself on the floor. “Never!” she cried. We eventually got her inside to have a look at the booster chair and the animal cape and all the rest, but she was having none of it. We haven’t been pushing her on this, but have been letting her know that her rat’s nest really could do with a trim. Some days she is slightly responsive to the idea and others it’s, “Nope, never.” My balls-to-the-wall girl who is seemingly up for anything is somehow afraid of getting her ends trimmed. Read More

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