Water and Power and Silence

Posted by John

On the morning of January 1st we started the New Year by cleaning the cockpit of the random bits that gather when it is your living room, dining room, workshop, front porch and patio; taking down the sun shields we’d erected, disconnecting the shore power cord, firing up the engine, and backing out of the slip that we’d called home for the last six weeks. Our neighbor said we’d been great, very quiet; quieter than him. We left the marina, but we didn’t go far. We anchored out in the La Paz harbor, a little bit north of the marina, just off the central waterfront.

Still in La Paz, but a different view. The convenience store with the ice cream is no longer convenient. We could get pizzas delivered to the marina, not so much out here.

As a Christmas present to ourselves, we replaced our badly leaking crappy little dinghy with another inflatable of the same size, although with a one-piece rigid fiberglass bottom. It is an improvement, we think. If nothing else, there is no wooden transom to rot and crumble away.

We had discovered rot in the transom of our old dinghy while in Half Moon Bay. Even though it looked solid, the rotten wood did nothing to keep water from flooding in as soon we put weight in the boat. We dug out what we could of the rot and patched it with wood filler. It worked for a while but the rot had spread by the time we got it back into the water here, and it was leaking as badly as ever.

Almost looks new from this angle.

Our new inflatable is well used and came pre-marked up with orange spray paint on the front. Marking up dinghies and outboard motors—making them ugly and identifiable—as well as lifting them out of the water at night, is a common practice that seems to help ensure they are still there in the morning.

The dinghy came to us by way of Baja Inflatable Repair, a heavily relied upon mom and pop business owned by an ex-Seattleite (apparently everyone has lived in Seattle at one time). He drove us to his shop (dirt floor surrounded by a high concrete wall with a metal roof above) to look at the boat. We agreed on a price. He took our old dinghy as trade-in. Even with the crumbling transom, things like floorboards, oarlocks, valves and attachment rings still have value as repair parts. With no practical way to complete the deal other than with cash, I got up the next morning and set out to learn about the cash withdrawal limits of Mexican ATMs. By the time I got back to the marina, I saw his truck with our old dinghy sitting on a trailer behind. The swap had already been made. Besides coming back with the money, I had also picked up a bag of bagels from The Bagel Shop, and a fairly large socket for a socket wrench from Ace Hardware. So it was a happily successful day to help make up for having to say goodbye to Rover, who was happy, if not momentarily wild, to see his family back on Waponi Woo.

I’ve always enjoyed walking around and exploring new places, especially foreign cities, but I’ve never had so much time in which to do it. A week or two of vacation, usually with a tight itinerary, or even worse—a business trip with work involved, is the extent of the opportunities I’ve had in the past. This whole retirement thing of every day being a Saturday is still odd. Having all these Saturdays for working on projects—the boat provides a never ending supply of them—and needing to go off in search of parts or tools in an unfamiliar place with everyone speaking a language I can’t easily communicate in, is somehow a bigger part of the experience than I had considered it would be. It adds a certain extra dimension to the whole thing. To the Sears clerk in the Craftsman Tools corner on the third floor, a one-and-a-half-inch socket for a wrench is “muy grande” and bigger than anything he has. Two Ace Hardware clerks, an older guy and a younger guy, probably discussed with each other what the Gringo with the bag of bagels might be doing down on his hands and knees reaching into the glass cabinet of sockets before they came over to find out. After I wrote down for them what I was looking for, all three of us were reaching in and pulling out sockets. Then the younger guy triumphantly handed me one, nodding his head and assuring (“si, si”) it was the correct size. In the dim light I could not read the markings he was pointing at until after I got it outside in the sunlight. He was correct.

We tested our water maker by running it at the dock. It worked great when running on shore power, which means that everything seemed to work as it was supposed to and there were no major leaks. But we obviously need to be able to run it when we are away from the dock. The two pumps in it, one 12 volt DC and one 120 volts AC, require a lot of Amp-hours to produce a meaningful amount of water. We can run it off our battery bank, but we have to be running the engine at the same time to try to keep the batteries charged. Although the alternator puts out a lot of power (not sure how much), the batteries do not adequately charge when using the engine alone. There is a net Amp-hour loss from the bank and we have to recharge it either by running the engine a few hours more, or doing additional charging with a small Honda 1,000 watt generator we carry onboard. Either way, we are still experimenting as to what works best.

We wanted to test the water maker away from the questionable murky water in the harbor, so we ran up to Isla La Partida, just north of Isla Espiritu Santo, running the water maker most of the way there. Then we spent a few days in El Cardonal bay.

Robyn got this picture of a dolphin escorting us out of La Paz harbor.

When we anchored in El Cardonal and shut down the engine, the silence was startling. There was no traffic noise, sirens, music, random shouting or cheering or any of the other sometimes odd, but always present sounds coming over the water from La Paz. The wind was dead calm and the only noises we could hear were our own. We were anchored in about 25 feet and could see the white sand bottom. It was a very eerie experience after dark to look over the side of the boat. The nearly-full moon lit the water beneath the boat so that it glowed like a lit swimming pool at night. The moonlight cast a perfect shadow of the entire boat on the bottom of the bay. You could clearly see this shadow was some distance beneath the boat, but in the dark you could not really see a definite water surface. It was as if the boat was suspended in space, perhaps like an airship.

Nice while it lasted. An eco-tour mini cruise ship came into the bay and anchored, the metallic clang of each link in the anchor chain resounding off the surrounding rocks. I’m sure the passengers all had a great time with their kayaking and hiking excursions the next day, but with their ship’s generators running and bright lights on all night, I know none of them experienced what we did just prior to their arrival. They left before the second night. The silence returned, but even though the moon was still big and bright, for whatever reason the airship illusion did not.

El Cardonal, Isla La Partida.
Not the same effect as in moonlight, but that’s my foot on the edge of the boat; looking straight down at the boat shadow on the sandy bottom.
Sailing Vessel Mysticeti, January 12, 2017.
The end of the bay gets quite shallow a long way out.
Robyn and I tried to get to shore in the dinghy to look at the cactus, but we started to run aground on an outgoing tide. We didn’t want to get stuck having to carry the dinghy a long way through shallow water so abandoned the idea for another day.
Looking out from the entrance to the bay, with the east coast of Baja California in the far distance.