Help me out here. Larry has not had a haircut since the end of December – this is cruising and pandemic hair at its worst (finest?).
Share your vote with us!
Help me out here. Larry has not had a haircut since the end of December – this is cruising and pandemic hair at its worst (finest?).
Share your vote with us!
Next on the itinerary after Dana Point was Newport Beach. As we entered the harbor, we were stunned by the sheer density of houses and boats on the shore and in the harbor. We were heading for the (very nice) public docks at Marina Park, which is a couple of miles into the 2.5-3 mile long harbor.
There are some marinas and yacht clubs with docks, but most people keep their boats, from sub-20 footers to fairly large yachts, on mooring balls in one of the many mooring fields that line the harbor. We were fortunate to reserve two nights at the municipal marina so we didn’t have to haul our bikes back and forth to shore in the dingy.
We explored riding on the bike path along the beach and on Lido Island, dined at a boardwalk lunch spot, and later on dingied to dinner at another popular spot with a dingy dock. We also dingied along the entire harbor gawking at houses and boats.
Houses are packed in all along the sides of the harbor and the small islands – Balboa and Lido Islands. Prices range from 2-3 million to as much as 32 million, according to Zillow! And this harbor has the highest concentration of Duffy electric boats we have ever seen. It’s a popular pasttime to tootle around the harbor in these little boats.
Constant work appears to be needed to maintain the beachfront and prevent erosion.
Not much wildlife can persist the in the density of humans in this area, but we did see a few animals.
We enjoyed our two day stay and also got a few chores done. Next stop – Long Beach and our long awaited visit with Miranda!
Our next stop after San Diego was a short hop up the coast to Dana Point. We are spending much of June making short hops in Southern California to explore and wait for our daughter Miranda to join us for a visit before we continue the serious journey the rest of the way home.
Dana Point is the home of the Nordhavn manufacturer Pacific Asian Enterprises, or PAE. They were very gracious and arranged for us to spend our first night on their dock, where they also have boats being commissioned. We met Brian, one of the Project Managers, who gave us a tour of one of their new boats, the N41, and hooked us up with some awesome swag afterward!
Dana Point was under a pall of “June Gloom” the entire time we were there. We rarely saw the sun, which surprised us, since we thought it’s always sunny in Southern California!
Dana Point is named after Richard Henry Dana, the author of Two Years Before the Mast and famous for his descriptions of his few years on a clipper sailing ship in the 1800s. He saw this harbor and felt it was “the only romantic place on the coast”.
The harbor itself is completely man made, with long breakwaters that destroyed the famous Killer Dana surf break when they were constructed in the 1960s. The marinas are jam packed on both sides of the fairway, and clearly this is a popular spot for all kinds of water activity.
They have some nice walking paths around the harbor, which is bisected by a bridge. On the jetty side, I was quite surprised to see dozens of little critters running around that looked like a cross between squirrels (which we hadn’t seen since Anacortes) and prairie dogs, with the way they sit up on their hind legs and pop out of holes. Turns out these are ground squirrels.
And, Dana Point is also known for being the home of the rare white ground squirrel, several of which took me by surprise when they ran across my path. They live in a very circumscribed area of the park. Apparently all the ground squirrels are considered pests in California but for some reason I just loved them.
On one afternoon we broke out the folding bikes and road south of the harbor alongside Doheny State Beach on the Coast Highway Protected Trail. This ran right alongside the main highway going toward San Clemente. I was amazed by the densely packed houses right on the beach between us and the bike path. At other areas there was obvious beach erosion repair work going on. I can’t imagine how these homes are going to avoid serious damage or loss over time.
At the park, even with the surf not being very active, there were many wetsuit covered figures waiting in the waves with their boards.
We enjoyed our stay at Dana Point, next stop Newport Beach.
We arrived back in San Diego on Sunday June 6, after an uneventful 65 NM run up from Ensenada. Entering the channel on a Sunday afternoon was quite an event, with sailboats, motor yachts, fishing boats, and runabouts of all shapes and sizes converging on the outer markers. To make it more interesting, a submarine was heading out of the harbor with Naval patrol boats clearing a path. This was more boat (and radio) traffic than we have experienced in a couple of years.
We used the CBP Roam app to check in after entering the harbor channel, and it couldn’t have been easier. A customs officer called us and asked some questions about where we had been and where we were going, and then assigned a clearance number that came back from the App.
Soon we were tied up at the Police Dock (formally called the visitors dock) at the head of Shelter Island. It is run by the Port of San Diego and provides inexpensive moorage ($1 per foot) for up to 15 days. They have an online reservation system that makes it easy to reserve a spot. The only downside is that the dock is frequented by San Diego liveaboards that seem to do a continual circuit between the anchorages and the police dock, occupying slips that are not reserved. Not a big deal, really but inconvenient when we had to changes slips and wait on one of these boats to depart the slip we were scheduled to move to.
Not long after after we arrived, we saw the beautiful blue steel hull of Varnebank, owned by Ken and Christy Donnelly, off our stern. We had traveled with them during CUBAR 2019. They were our hosts during our stay, giving us a car to use and having a couple of dinners with us in spite of just closing on their house and having two daughters in town shopping for wedding dresses. Thanks, Ken and Christy!
Our main project for San Diego was getting our second COVID vaccination, which wasn’t scheduled until the following Monday. While waiting for that we made good use of the car, shopping for provisions and boat parts. In the middle of our first week (following a domestic altercation on one of the liveaboard boats that brought the police to the police dock) we learned that Southwestern Yacht Club was able to reopen their reciprocal docks. We stayed there for a few days in 2019 and really appreciated the hospitality. Southwestern member and 2019 CUBAR fleet captain Bill Roush was able to secure us a member’s empty slip for the second week of our visit. Thanks, Bill, and thanks to Southwestern YC!
We did a few touristy things around town. We drove up to the Cabrillo Monument (on one of the few sunny days) for the spectacular view of the harbor and Pacific Ocean. We also visited the USS Midway and the San Diego Zoo. Both were VERY crowded with newly free San Diegans after (well actually a few days before) California reopened completely. After mostly keeping to ourselves for the past five months, the crowds were a bit of a shock.
We also drove down to Chula Vista to visit Diesel Guru Bob Senter, and spent a little time on his Roughwater 37 cruiser. Bob put the spare time afforded by the pandemic to good use, bringing the classic Monk-designed cruiser up to Bristol condition.
Finally, we refueled over at Pearson’s on Shelter Island. While the price wasn’t great by US standards it was much cheaper than Mexico and the attendants provided outstanding service.
All in all it was a great stop, but we were ready to go by Thursday, June 17th. Next stop, 60 miles to the North, was Dana Point, mecca for Nordhavns and home of PAE – Pacific Asian Enterprises.
From Puerto Los Cabos to Ensenada is a 700 mile journey around the notorious Cabo Falso, then heading northwest along the Pacific coast, straight into the prevailing winds and seas. There is a good reason that this is called the “Baja Bash”, as we learned this past week. We had been waiting in Puerto Los Cabos for over two weeks to find a suitable weather window to make the trip. Finally, Bob Jones of Ocean Marine Navigation told us that there was a window opening on Memorial Day and potentially lasting the entire first week of June, which would be enough time to make a 100 hour passage all the way to Ensenada.
There was some possibility of less than optimal conditions over the first couple of days, but the forecast improved further up the coast. Part of the reason for this window was the formation of a tropical low pressure system well to the South that eventually became Tropical Storm Blanca. As Bob explained it, this low pressure system weakened the normal gradient between the high pressure system that tends to sit off the Baja Coast and the low pressure trough South and East. This pressure gradient causes almost constant NW winds off the coast, which can build to 20+ knots in the afternoon and create unpleasant conditions. By this time, we were ready to go, having learned not to pass up on decent weather window for a perfect weather window that might never happen.
We departed at 5 AM on Memorial Day, which would allow us to round Cabo Falso just after sunrise, hopefully minimizing the often challenging conditions. As it turned out, we timed it well, and rounded the cape in pretty thick fog, but relatively mild winds and seas. After a few hours we seemed to have broken out of the cape effect and had much reduced head seas. After 28 hours or so, we passed Magdelena Bay, which was the first option for a rest stop. We were making good progress and wanted to press on, knowing that if we stopped, the weather conditions would deteriorate due to swell from the tropical storm.
We rounded Cabo San Lazaro just north of Magdalena Bay, and then crossed the very large Bahia San Lazaro, with the next opportunity to stop at Turtle Bay, some 230 miles to the North. On this second day, conditions began to deteriorate, with the wind picking up in the early evening, getting into the 15-20 knot range and creating short, steep head seas that caused a constant pitching motion and pretty frequent slamming as the bulbous bow came out of the water going over the tops of waves and hitting hard in the troughs.
Unfortunately Gwen had the 4 hour watch during this stretch, and when I came to take over at 2 AM, she was looking quite green in spite of having taken her seasickness medication.
Above is a page from our voyage log on Tuesday night. I have highlighted Gwen’s entries from that fateful night. You can also see that as soon as I came on, conditions started to improve. Sorry, honey. After Gwen discharged the contents of her stomach she got a little bit of sleep, and we decided in the morning to make a stop at Turtle Bay, which was only a few hours away.
We got into Turtle Bay around 2 PM on Wednesday, June 2nd. This was a good time to stop regardless, as the winds were up into the 20 knot range by this time in the afternoon. Conditions were forecast to be much better in the morning. We anchored just inside the bay, set out the flopper stopper, had a meal, and a good night’s sleep. This first leg wound up covering 420 NM in 57 hours, for an average speed of just under 7.4 knots and fuel economy of 1.37 NMPG at 1700 RPM. We were pushing into adverse current most of the way, and this combined with the head seas made for a slower, less efficient passage.
We headed out at dawn on Thursday morning. This final leg to Ensenada started with rounding Punta Eugenia (named after Gwen’s mother), and crossing Bahia Vizcaino. This is often the most difficult leg of the passage with the open bay and potential convergence zone off Cedros Island. We followed the advice of our friend and Nordhavn Broker/Delivery Captain Devin Zwick and took the “inside” route, passing through the Canal de Dewey and East of Isla Cedros.
As we continued along, we had an unusual visit from a seagull. It was flying above the boat and made many passes across the bow, seemingly interested in the burgee staff. It came closer and closer on each pass, and finally, on one pass… it tried to take a bite out of the top of the staff.
As you can see from the photo, conditions were much improved on this leg. As predicted, winds were well under 10 knots and seas nearly flat calm. Gwen had an uneventful night watch and the next morning we had calm winds and pretty flat seas, with overcast skies and temperatures in the high 50s. I spotted several Gray whales off Punta Colnett, and we had several visits from groups of Pacific White Sided dolphins. One was playing in the bow wake, and as we were watching from the foredeck, flipped over, swam upside down and seemed to look right at us as if saying “I’ll bet you wish you could do this”.
We could soon see the Todos Santos Islands off Ensenada and by mid afternoon we arrived at Marina Coral. We bumped up our speed on this leg, setting the throttle for 1800 RPM. As a result, we covered the 280 miles in 35 hours for an average speed of 8 knots and a fuel economy of 1.3 NMPG. We were happy to trade a little more fuel burn for saving a couple of hours of travel time.
The only boat-related issue we had was a problem with our drinking water. We have a separate drinking water supply with a dedicated charcoal filter and faucet. This also supplies the icemaker. We began to notice that the drinking water was tasting salty, as were the ice cubes. In fact, Gwen thinks that this may have contributed to her bout of seasickness. We tested the drinking water and found that it was 2,980 PPM of total dissolved solids (i.e., salt), compared to the tap water (from the other tanks) at 191 PPM. Clearly salt water had gotten into the forward tank. We realized that the vent for the tank is up on the bow of the boat on the port side. Our theory is that with all of the slamming into the head seas, salt water was forced into the tank through the vents. This would also explain why the forward tank level was higher at the end of the passage than the beginning.
We are very happy to have the Baja Bash behind us. We waited for what seemed like a long time for a good weather window, and while this one was not ideal, it was good enough to make it the entire way up the coast in almost a single shot. We learned when we checked into the marina on Friday afternoon that we would be able to clear out of the country and cancel our Temporary Import Permit for the boat on Saturday. That will allow us start on the last 65 mile leg from Ensenada to San Diego on Sunday. Miss Miranda will soon be back in the USA for the first time since November of 2019.
While we were still in La Paz in early May, the temperature started to climb and the weekend was predicted to be in the high 90s. This sounded unpleasant to us, so we looked for an escape and figured out that we could spend the time on the Pacific side of the Baja peninsula where it was significantly cooler. I quickly booked a really nice Inn and we planned to use our friend’s Penny and Lawrence’s (on N50 Northern Ranger) trusty little red truck to get ourselves there and back.
A day or two before we planned to go, we came out to the truck to find the battery was dead. Larry got to put his battery fixing talents to work sourcing parts and replacing the terminal connectors.
On Friday we drove out of La Paz, which seemed to go on forever in the hot sun, with the same type of urban sprawl we have in the US. About halfway across the Peninsula, we suddenly felt a welcome and distinct drop in temperature as the Pacific breezes kicked in.
Approaching Todos Santos we drove through lush irrigated fields growing crops we couldn’t quite recognize. In town, we found the old streets to be narrow and quaint in the restored part of the town. Our hotel, The Todos Santos Inn, was in a recovered sugar plantation home, with a lovely interior courtyard and small swimming pool. Our room was at the far end, opening onto the courtyard, and it felt like we were nearly the only people there.
This was the first time we had been off the boat overnight in nearly 5 months. I luxuriated in the very large shower where I didn’t have to keep my elbows in, and unlimited hot water.
The town is popular as an artist enclave – mainly American and Canadian artists from what I read – and has many galleries. Nearly all of them were either closed or only open for appointments because of COVID, so we decided not to focus on looking at art. The historic section of town was a few streets lined with beautiful old restored buildings, and the town square was bordered by the church. The square itself was not the focus of town activity though, a change from most Mexican towns. Rather, the commercial streets with restaurants galleries and boutiques seem to be the most heavily traveled. There were a fair number of tourists around, fairly evenly split between Mexicans and Americans.
There were a number of restaurants with outside seating. Because of the slow season, we were fortunate to get a table at the last minute at El Refugio Mezcaleria, which serves traditional indigenous dishes and mezcal. Noel Morales, the chef, is a Mexican man from Guerrero and an expert in traditional arts and food, and his wife Rachel Glueck is an American writer who published a beautiful book called the Native Mexican Kitchen, which I am enjoying reading for a lot more background on the culture and the explanation of foods and how to use them. I am inspired to make some of the dishes now that I understand the different types of chilies and how to use them.
Strangely, it is difficult to get to the beach at Todos Santos. We are not sure if that is by design, since the waves are quite strong and the reason this is a popular surfing area, so maybe they don’t want unsuspecting tourists to drown, or it’s just the way the town developed, but we spent a good bit of time driving carefully down narrow one lane sandy roads toward the beach side attempting to find an actual path to the beach.
We finally succeeded by following the instructions to reach Laguna La Poza from some blog posts and Google maps, which does map out the dirt and sand roads. The trip took us up the hill between the town and the water, past a neighborhood of vacation casitas and larger homes, through a lowland area with dense tropical vegetation and barbed wire and the sudden appearance on my side of the road of a man in camouflage gear and a machine gun who was talking on a cell phone, before we found a place to park the car. We avoided getting stuck in the sand, and crossed the dunes to the beach and the lagoon.
I had read a variety of information in articles and blog posts discussing Laguna La Poza as a bird watchers haven. But I had also seen some complaints about the decreasing water levels in the lagoon from development and other issues, and so was not totally surprised to see both the homes right on the edge of it and the lack of any real sign of bird life.
We enjoyed watching the crashing waves and the fog that drifted across the scene. All in all, an enjoyable respite from the boat and the heat!
After spending a bit of time in La Paz to have some more boat work done, including the fuel system, repairing the spotlight, a good wax job (for the boat), a side trip to Todos Santos (more on this in another post), stainless steel cleaning, a couple of coats of varnish, and a bottom cleaning (again, for the boat), it was time to head South toward Puerto Los Cabos and the long journey back to the Pacific Northwest.
The first leg of the trip brought us to Bahia Los Muertos, where we last stopped during CUBAR in 2019. There appears to have been quite a bit of development in the area, including a high end resort on the beach and a fair number of houses outside the north end of the anchorage. Notably, the N end of the anchorage by the restaurant(which has the best protection from the prevailing winds) now had 5 very large (but unoccupied) mooring bouys, making it impossible to anchor close in. We don’t have any idea who the bouys belong to.
The next morning we were off bright and early for the 72 mile run down to Marina Puerto Los Cabos. The day was warm and sunny, and the water temperature was up close to 80 degrees. Gwen read a Facebook post from one of our CUBAR buddies reporting successful fishing along this route a couple of days before, so I tossed out a couple of lures to see what would happen. Not much, as it turned out, until it was time to pull the lines in. As I was reeling in, I got a strike and brought a very small tuna into the boat. How small? I didn’t need the gaff to land it. I saw that it was hooked pretty cleanly through the mouth and decided to return it to the sea to get a little bigger. Over the side it went and off like a shot!
We entered the surprisingly uncrowded marina and settled in to our spots on C dock. Of course, now that we are down here and ready to go, the weather has not been cooperative. The trip up the west coast of is known as the Baja Bash because of the prevailing NW wind and seas, which can build quite a bit durning the hot, sunny days. We don’t have a timeline, so we are settling in to wait for a good weather window that will allow for a little less bashing. How long that will take, we don’t know… but we did pay for a month of moorage since the daily rates are quite a bit higher.
We filled up with fuel and have prepared for a passage. We’ve had a couple of calls with OMNI Bob, and have already decided to take a pass on the first (marginal) weather window. There could be another one opening in early June, but a bit early to tell. We just need to be ready to go on 24 hours notice. Meanwhile, Miss Miranda’s air conditioning systems are getting an extensive workout in the warm weather.
After waking up at Isla San Francisco (previous post here) to strong westerly winds and wave action, we retreated to the safe anchorage at San Evaristo. We had a secure but very windy night. Before bed we watched a sailboat get blown clear across the anchorage not once, but twice, during the high winds in the dark (we had watched them set their anchor and clearly it wasn’t done well).
The next day we contemplated the weather and after some emotional conversation (mainly from me), decided to head to La Paz. We already had paid up moorage for the next month in order to get work done, and we acknowledged that no one is going to award us a trophy for hunkering down in the wind at anchor for days.
On the way, we had the good fortune to see a spectacular blue whale pair. Maybe it was mom and a baby, as they usually travel solo. They were majestic. Over the next few weeks, we would see a blue whale several times in the same general area around Espiritu Santo – not sure if it was the same one, but very exciting to see him or her. We have now seen at least 4 species of whales in the Sea.
Back in La Paz, summer has arrived. We now believe that our Airmar weather station doesn’t have the ability to go above 99.9 degrees (F) – we’ve seen this several times. So we have also given in and become familiar with our air conditioning.
As Larry wrote in the fuel post, our follow-up boat work has gone really well. We were able to get out and spend a final weekend at Espiritu Santo in Caleta Partida (earlier post here), and again were visited by turtles every day.
We are back in La Paz and I made arrangements for Rob Cross to help me get to the bottom of the fuel system issues. From the last post we know that the air leak that I see as bubbles forming in the Racor filter housing must be coming from somewhere between the tanks and the supply manifold. I had the opportunity to talk to a technical specialist at Racor since the last post and he agreed with my conclusion about the potential source of the leak. He also convinced me that the fuel levels in the filter housings have reached a steady state around halfway full, and that still provided adequate filtration. Any additional air coming in was passing through and going out as bubbles in the output line. He said that the bubbles in the output is common and not a concern. So, I eventually stopped refilling the housings every day and in fact have not even checked the levels since leaving Marina Puerto Escondido at the beginning of April. That has been 289 miles and 49 hours of engine run time over 14 voyages in the last month. I am pretty sure that this leak is not going to cause the engine to stall at an inopportune moment, but I am still determined to track it down.
Rob got to the boat and we started by pressure testing the fuel supply lines. To do this, we removed the supply line at the tank and plugged that end. Then we used the fuel transfer pump to create positive pressure in the fuel line. We shut all the other valves in the supply manifold, leaving open only the valve for the fuel pump input and the line to the tank. We turned on the pump and… no leaks. The pump is rated for 8-11 PSI of pressure, equivalent to 16-22” of mercury, which is easily 4-5x the amount of vacuum on the system when the engine is running. No leaks on either side.
The next step was to take the inspection plates off the tanks to inspect the fittings and dip tubes. As I observed before the thread sealant on the fitting that goes between the plate and the fuel lines was old and cracking. Bad thread sealant could be the source of the leak.
On removing the inspection plate we saw the dip tubes for the supply and transfer circuits, both with stainless steel screens at the ends. The welds on the tubes looked good, as did the tubes themselves, and the screens were free of debris. Rob took them to his shop for pressure testing, and they are fine. He used a high quality thread sealant on the fittings, so that should be eliminated as a leak source.
The next step was to reprime the system and fire up the engine to look for the telltale bubbles. Before we did that, Rob suggest that we pressure test the Racor manifold and supply manifold, again using the transfer pump to create positive pressure. The pump is rated for 8-11 PSI or 16-22 inches of mecury, the unit of measure displayed on the Racor vacuum gauge. This is at least 4 times the normal vacuum level when the engine is running (2.5-4 inches of mercury). We found no leaks anywhere.
Next, we primed the transfer and supply dip tubes using the transfer pump, and topped off the racor filter housings. There was about 3″ of fuel in the housings before we topped up, one month after I last checked. The filter elements are 5″ tall, so we were about 60% full, as good as I have seen when I was measuring every day.
We selected the starboard tank for fuel supply and return because it has a shorter hose run and therefore lower vacuum in operation compared to the port tank. We selected the forward filter on the Racor manifold and then started the engine….
Disappointingly, there were still bubbles forming in the filter bowl. We could reasonably expect some bubbles from residual air trapped in the system as we disconnected and reconnected various lines. We used a rubber mallet to tap on the supply manifold and the filter manifold hoping to dislodge residual bubbles. Even after tapping for a while, we were still seeing a small but steady stream of bubbles, perhaps less than before, but the goal is zero bubbles (or, at most, tiny “champagne” bubbles). When we switched the selector to operate both filters, the bubbles disappeared (after some transient air bubbles in the aft filter bowl). What remained were champagne bubbles in both bowls. Progress, but I was not satisfied. At Rob’s suggestion, we checked the fuel tank vents to eliminate the unlikely possibility of blockage there. Then, just to be sure, we plumbed some clear line into the input port of the Racor manifold reasoning that if there was any air at all, we might see at least some sign of bubbles. Nope. None. The fuel going in was absolutely clear. There was nothing more we could do. I believe we addressed any and all possible leak sources, summarized on the table below.
At this point, we called my technical contact at Racor and reviewed all of the findings. He had no suggestions for additional tests, agreeing that we had covered all the possible sources. He said that the bubbles we were seeing were due to cavitation, which, in his experience occurs when the filter is undersized compared to the delivery demands of the engine. However, he confirmed (what I already knew) that my filter unit was well within spec for the engine, and also confirmed that the vacuum levels were well within the normal range. His one suggestion in this regard was that I could replace my filter manifold with the next size up, whose filters were twice the size. The other area we touched on was the fuel supply and return to the tanks. When we told him that there was not a return dip tube into the tank he speculated that the return fuel dropping from the top of tank could be aerating the remaining fuel in the tank, which he called the “aquarium effect”. He suggested that adding a dip tube returning the fuel to the bottom of the tank could negate this effect. In my opinion, neither of these suggestions are worth the time/effort/expense to implement at present.
As the last step, we removed both sections of clear hose from the Racor input and output ports and fired up the engine again. This time, we were seeing some small amount of bubbling when running the front filter, no bubbling at all when running both, and, surprisingly no bubbling at all when running the back filter. I suppose it is possible that it took a fairly long time of engine run time to clear all of the residual air out of the system, but this was quite encouraging. We observed this running the engine at normal cruise RPM, but at dockside. We will need to do a sea trial to be certain of the results.
We got out of Marina CostaBaja on a warm, sunny Saturday morning. After we got everything stowed and up to cruising speed, I went down to the engine room to check on the filters. I decided to run the Racor on the aft filter and was drawing from the starboard tank. The first video shows me checking for bubbles selecting the aft, then both filters, then the forward filter. The results were pretty encouraging. Very little bubbling from the aft filter alone, some bubbling from the forward filter alone, and still less when both were selected. Pretty good, but not perfect.
I continued to run on the aft filter for the 22 mile, 2.5 hour run up to Caleta Partida. When I checked the fuel level in the housing, it was down to about 2″ or so of the 5″ height of the filter element… lower than I’d like to see.
On the way back from Caleta Partida, I decided to run in tandem filter mode, after having refilled the aft bowl. Here is the video with the results.
Again, better, but by no means perfect. There is still a little bit of bubbling even running in this mode, although less than I was seeing before. I’d REALLY like it if there were NO bubbles at all. However, I remain pretty convinced from following this all season that this amount of bubbling is not going to lead to an engine stall at an inopportune moment.
Here is everything we did to test the system:
I can’t think of any part of the fuel system that we didn’t look at and/or test, and I am as certain as I can be that there are any extraneous leaks in the fuel system. I now believe that the residual bubbling that I see is normal for the filtration system. In fact, a Racor Technical Bulletin discusses air separation in diesel fuel, and starts by listing these facts:
Fact #1: There is AIR entrained in diesel fuel.
Fact #2: A very slight pressure drop can cause air to form visible bubbles.
Fact #3: Air can cause problems.
Racor, Products Parts, Service
and Technical Information, 7480F
I love how understated they are with fact #3. In another Racor document, “Turbine Series Rebuild”, they state in the troubleshooting section that “It is normal for fuel level inside housing to be about 1/2 full after lid removal“. They also mention that if the fuel level gets too low, the engine will stall, and that excessive bubbles indicate either a system restriction (high vacuum) or an upstream air leak.
Going back to the very beginning, I did have engine stalls on two separate occasions last year. I am certain that both of those stalls were due to leaks within the Racor manifold itself, which I replaced back in January. From then until now, I have still seen some degree of bubbling, and have seen the fuel level in the housing consistently down to half full, but not lower. Until now, I have not been able to rule out an upstream air leak as the source of the bubbles. After this week, I conclude that there is no upstream air leak. The final question – is the bubbling that you can see in the videos excessive. I have decided, because it has never caused the engine to stall, that it is NOT.
Done. Really. Finally.
Waking up in Isla San Francisco on our third morning to southwesterly winds and rolly waves, we headed over to Bahia Amortajada as planned so we could hit the high tide at 9am to dingy into the estuary. We planned this trip after marveling at what a difference a few months makes in Isla San Francisco. Instead of having it to ourselves, with just a few other sailboats, there were multiple 100 foot plus crewed yachts setting up tents and lunches on the beach for their guests, jet skis and water skiers zooming around, and music playing out across the anchorage. We still enjoyed beach walking and snorkeling in the 70- degree water early in the day and lounging back on our boat on floaties in the water off the cockpit out of the action, but were also happy to move on.
We’ve explored other estuaries while here in Mexico and were looking forward to this one. Armed with long sleeves and a thick layer of bug spray against the reputed jejenes (little tiny flies) that bite, we got in our micro-tender and headed to the opening just before high tide. An inward current helped our little engine. The mangroves looked very healthy, and the entrance had a crowd of pelicans and scattered herons to greet us.
As we went further, we looked for fish in the relatively clear water. We saw a few – some trigger fish, some long coronet or pencil fish, some puffers and some groups of small fish – but much of the time the water was empty. This probably explains why we didn’t see birds in much of the estuary. We looked hard but didn’t see any of the usual mangrove crabs either.
We made it to the other side and the other entrance – which looked hairy and quite turbulent. Not a good place to take one’s tiny tender through!
Overall, it was a fun dingy trip and a worthwhile visit. We rank it number three on our explored estuaries – behind La Tovara at San Blas and Tenacatita, south of Puerto Vallarta, both on the mainland side of Mexico.
As we were wary of bugs and swarming bees – which have quite the nose for a single drop of fresh water – and of predicted strong southerly winds affecting the wide open anchorage at Amortajada, we headed over to the north side of Isla San Francisco a short mile or two away. As soon as we dropped the anchor, some fishermen from nearby Isla Pardito came over and showed us some humongous crabs, harvested from 200 feet deep out on the far side of the island. We took one, and I was scared to bring it in the boat. But I “womaned up” as Larry said, grabbed its two foot long front arms with big claws and held it while Larry sent it to heaven with a sharp knife and a mallet. It made a wonderful dinner for us, plus another meal, and a good paycheck for the fishermen, so we thank it for its life.
We were joined in the anchorage by 4 other boats, one a beautiful crewed 80-foot sailboat, seeking protection from the southerly winds stoking rolling waves. And we all woke in the middle of the night to 25-30 knots winds and rolling waves, despite the good protection. It’s never dull around here.