Amp Wanking

This entry has more technical discussion than most. After 3 months of cruising we are figuring out our energy budget. This is not about how we fight sloth and remain active. It is about how we generate and use electricity on the boat. We can generate amps with the two 85 watt solar panels or the 110 amp engine alternator. We have many many ways we can use the amps. The lighting inside and outside the boat has become a minor issue because I switched to LED bulbs , at some expense, over the last two years. Interior lighting used to be a major power consumer. Now , the major major power consumers are all the electronic toys and tools we have aboard. We have 4 laptop computers.Five digital cameras with rechargeable batteries. Four ipods. Two cellphones. Three handheld radios. They are all recharged using the invertor. Also we have the ham radio and the two vhf radios that don’t use much power to listen, but to talk or transmit e-mail requires lots of juice. The refrigerator, a novelty in this boat,is deluxe and draws 2.2 amps for 2 minutes and is off for just over 5 minutes and so on. At the moment , all we have in the fridge is a bit of cheese, some jam , some margarine , and some leftover rice and tortillas. We have no beer left. It has been a month since we left the grocery store in San Diego.

The solar panels are good , putting in 6 -8 amps at mid day , but the days are short and some are cloudy. Today , though , I decided to try to improve the solar panel output and modified the mounting system to make the angle of the panels more easily adjustable. Today I was able to get up to 11 amps flowing , so the attention to angle is well worthwhile.

Since San Diego we have either been at anchor or sailing so the engine has een very little use.All of the anchorages on the west coast of the Baja are open on at least 2 quadrants so sailing in and out is easy , and that is what we usually do. The 55lb Rocna anchor so far has set well without using the engine. we may be pushing our luck in that regard , but I’ll wait until we drag a bit before changing behavior. So far we haven’t had over 40 knots. We have gone for 7 – 10 days without starting the engine – and then it was for less than an hour.

It is a little surprising to me that in this land of sunshine we are coming up a bit short in the amp department. Now that I can adjust the solar panels that will help. Perhaps we should motor around some more and burn diesel.

Get a wind generator? We already have too much stuff at the stern of the boat. Probably we will just be more careful with our radio talking , photo-editing, e-mailing and blog-writing.

On a completely different subject ; two days ago we made a day trip up the buoyed channel to Puerto San Carlos , about 8 miles from where we are now anchored. It is a quiet sandy fishing village where we had agood lunch and procured a few groceries in a good store. The anchorage was adequate off an industrial fish-processing quay. We were prepared to deal with any port officials as needed but we were not called on the radio or approached on the waterfront or in the town. Our paperwork is all in order so this would not have been a problem. A well-known and widely used cruising guide explains that there are few services at Pto San Carlos and that it is best bypassed by cruising yachts. It is possible that is why so few visit San carlos. Too bad , the tacos and cervezas were great.

The Blood of a Coyote Dripped on my Head

We are anchored under the lee of Punta Delgada inside Bahia Magdalena. The large (110 personas) fish-camp village of Puerto Magdalena is 2 -3 miles away. The beach is 150 m to windward. We are in 15′ of water. It’s blowing 20 knots NW.

The sun is about to set in a mostly cloudy sky. It is a little cool ,but warmer than home.

Along the beach about a mile, one can paddle into a mangrove area. Calm saltwater with narrow channels,leading deep into the sand dunes. In the kayaks we approached birds without scaring them.

American Bitterns , White Ibises, Tri-coloured herons , Little Blue Herons , Great Blue herons , Kingfishers, Snowy Egrets,Black-Crowned Night Herons, American Oystercatchers (not Black), Magnificent Frigatebirds , along with the ,now usual , Marbled Godwits , Long Billed Curlews , Brown Pelicans , Royal Terns, Ospreys , and a host of smaller shorebirds that are daunting to try to identify.

A mile into the mangroves is a camp with a man and a woman working at tables. There is an open kitchen set up. Meredith was able to ask fluent questions of them and we discovered why there were bloody carcasses suspended from the rafters of the palapa-type shelter. They were from the Center of Biological Investigations of the Northwest based in La Paz , which is a hundred miles away or so.

The carcasses were of the local Jackrabbit and the Coyote. Both species were robust looking animals , even with the skin off. There are lots of Jackrabbits and lots of Coyotes around here. They are doing population, DNA , Food , reproductive studies. Sampling with shotgun and leghold trap. Telemetry is done in Mexico but not at this site. The staff we met were very knowledgable and gracious. Meredith’s Spanish and my scientific latin knowledge combined so we could try to understand what they were explaining.

Now we sit in the cockpit having a beer. We picked up a copy of ‘The Worst Journey in the World’ at a used bookstore in San Diego. Meredith is reading it so we are discussing Antarctic travelling. Our trip is not so hard.

How do you poop at minus 72 degrees ?

We shall sail to Cabo in another day or so , coordinated a bit so Meredith can jump ship to get a ride on another boat heading across the Sea of Cortez , while John and I head north towards LaPaz. The cold weather in western North America from a big high pressure system over Utah etc means that cold north winds are sweeping down the Sea of Cortez. We may take several days to sail the 150 miles from Cabo San Lucas to Lapaz , waiting for reasonable sailing conditions.

In 1987 Barb and I were under the pressure of getting to Lapaz to meet family for Christmas. We motorsailed into worsening conditions off East Cape and ended up with a seized Volvo diesel and a cracked cylinder head. We were windjamming after that. Never Again. John has plane reservations out of Cabo on Dec 17 for Vancouver (I thought he wanted warm?). No problem. Lots of time.

cheers , Steve

Beach of the Dead

When Barb and Gavin and Susan and I came to Bahia Santa Maria in 2001 we hiked from the beach up to the end of the mangrove lagoon , into the sand dunes and on to the 30 mile-long ocean beach north of Cabo San Lazaro. We were with another family on a boat from Anacortes. The beach was amazing mainly because of the astounding variety of dead and living animals.

This year we repeated the trip and saw more dead animals and more live animals. It seemed there was a big thick-coated coyote behind every dune (we saw 4 or 5). There were Turkey Vultures in flocks , like 20 or 30 at a time.

The wind was blowing onto the beach at 20 or 30 knots , a great lee shore.

Dead whales , yes , several. None fresh. Lots of clean white vertebrae. I picked one up to bring it back. It weighed about 15 lbs , dry and white. I left it there. Whale skin and meat washing back and forth in the surf. A comb of baleen embedded in the sand , looking like some kind of sea-grass.

Turtle shells from 3 ‘ diameter down to 1.5′ diameter. Turtle skulls with grimacing beaks.

Dead sea-lion carcasses in every state of decomposition.

Two wrecked ships , old , maybe 50 or 60 years.

A wrecked yacht. Recent , only 4 or 6 weeks ago. A singlehanded sailor fell asleep in the wrong place , and woke up in the surf. A really bad way to wake up. The hull of the 40’ fiberglass boat was more or less intact, but the deck and cabin was arriving on the beach in pieces as the surf did its work. No rig left and , by report , not much gear aboard anymore. The yacht was named Tachyon and had a homeport of San Francisco. New home port : San Lazaro beach.

The sand dunes are big and pure. Big enough to get lost in. Plenty big enough to indulge in T.E Lawrence fantasies or , even better, to fancy oneself Wilfred Thesiger in the Empty Quarter. This time we didn’t find the dug well with a rope and a bucket. Last time we wondered exactly how thirsty we’d need to be to drink that larval broth.

A day or two before this hike we had walked up into the near mountains between our anchorage and Cabo San Lazaro. Steep and bare. Meredith , Lyneita, Doug, and I walked up an arroyo then up a peak to the north. Nobody was lost. In 2001 we lost Susie and her little friend (whose name escapes me).They went up a different arroyo and it took an hour or two to find them coming back down the arroyo heading back to the beach where we had left the dinghies. More than a little parental anxiety in that scene.

After a few days at Bahia Santa Maria we left at 0900 this am and headed for Magdalena Bay. A strong downwind sail to the bay entrance , then hard on the wind in steep chop. We had hoped to get as far as Punta Delgado but after a couple of hours beating into it , we have ducked behind Punta Belcher for the evening. We were invited to another boat for a Thanksgiving gathering at Pta delgado , but we have canceled due to head winds.

Doug and Lyneita on Ka’sala wisely have taken advantage of a fair wind and are sliding on down to Cabo San Lucas.

We have just listened to a weather discussion between a Mexican fisherman and the Puerto San Carlos Port captain on channel 14 VHF radio. I could understand perhaps 30 percent of the discussion , but Meredith got more than the jist of it. The wind and seas are forecast to decrease tomorrow, so we may well proceed to Puerto San Carlos for tacos.

No photos can be posted until I get within wifi range. Not until LaPaz unless we stop near Cabo san Lucas.