Sunday, November 28, 2010


Having delivered the boat back to Mexico and, now, spending the holidays at home in San Diego has given me time to follow-up on other cruisers, via their blogs. Revisiting the latest adventures of friends we've met while cruising, as well as others we haven't met but have shared a kinship through cruising, gives me pause to consider how fortunate we all have been.

One common thread we all share is the support of our mates and families. I know that I am guilty of not telling my wife how much she has given to make my cruising dreams a reality and how much that means to me. I could never have done it without her support and encouragement. From cajoling me to buy our boat, to tending to the often tedious task of provisioning for our journeys, to putting up with my own foibles and insecurities when undertaking new challenges, her love, support and, most of all, patience have always embraced me. I can't imagine a better partner to share life's journey. Forgive me for not expressing my love and appreciation to you as selflessly as you have to me.

I'm envious of all those of you who have had the wisdom and courage to share your cruising dream with your children. I marvel at those who have. Contemporary families on s/v Just A Minute, s/v Don Quixote (Toast Floats), s/v Third Day, s/v Whatcha Gonna Do and s/v Endurance (to name a few) by allowing their children the freedom of a family adventure, have imbued in them a sense of wonder, responsibility and respect for the world around them that they otherwise may not have had. It's a wonderful gift to be able to share with your children.

The cruisers with families also comprise a subset of the larger group of people who recognized the advantage of undertaking a sailing adventure when they are still young, fit and capable of surviving by their wits. Windtraveler (s/v Rasmus), s/v Ocean Girl, s/v Sea Biscuit, and S/V Rebel Heart represent a few of these people who have chosen to live life rather than be paralyzed by the future.

I can barely wait until we return to our boat and continue our adventure. Meeting other cruisers and people in the communities we visit is a large part of the joy for me. I am very fortunate for this opportunity in life!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Fire Safety

During our delivery of Citla to La Paz in November, we witnessed the horrific fire aboard Ker-Tidou, a Privilege 495 catamaran. If there is any silver lining to this tragedy, it is that it occurred in an anchorage (as opposed to off-shore) and the owner escaped without serious injury.

We are not certain what led to this fire, but the pangero on the Gordo Jr. fuel boat indicated
that he heard it was a burst propane line. Since the fire seemed to start inside the cabin and grew within minutes from a small plume of smoke to an all encompassing inferno, we guessed the flexible hose between the bulkhead and the stove may have been the cause. Given the wear on this connection due to the movement of gimbaled stoves, along with possible chafe, it seems reasonable that this may have been the culprit.

Since we didn't hear a distinct "explosion" near the start of the fire, we
assumed this wasn't due to a propane leak that occurred over time into the boat, but rather a spontaneous leak that had an ignition source near by. It may have been something as innocent as heating water for morning tea. Once ignited, the propane would have acted like a blow torch spewing fire out of a whipping hose end. Without being able to shut down the on-board solenoid valve to the tank, the fire would continue to grow and spread.

Whatever the cause, this incident reminded us not to become complacent about the use of our stove and oven and to review proper safety precautions when using it. Fortunately, Citla has a number of redundancies when it comes to propane safety. In addition to a proper propane locker with a solenoid shut off at the tank, there is also an emergency propane shut off switch, which controls a secondary solenoid before the propane enters the stove. This switch is located on our aft bulkhead, in the galley, within easy reach of the person at the stove. The last safety device on Citla is a propane sensor installed directly under the Force 10 stove. The indicator and alarm for this sensor is located directly next to the emergency shut off switch.When both solenoids are switched "on", we allow a few more moments before starting the stove to insure we have the continuous green light indicating the absence of free propane around the stove.

These mechanical safety devices, while important, should be viewed as contingencies in case individual attentiveness fails. Routine inspection of the hose and connections should be made regularly. In addition to this routine maintenance, discipline in operation of the stove must be followed. While we used to shut off the valve at the tank after each usage, when we were cruising for months we only shut off the propane at the tank during long passages or when we'd leave the boat for a period of time. Otherwise, we'd leave the valve open and put our trust in the redundant solenoids and propane sensor to keep us safe at anchor or in a marina. When operating the stove, we only leave the solenoids on while cooking; as soon as the flame is out, we shut down both the emergency shut-off as well as the main solenoid valve at the tank (this switch is located on our main electrical panel).

As an additional precaution, whoever is cooking is obligated to maintain watch in the galley as long as the propane is on. From a safety perspective, it is unacceptable to leave the stove unattended while it is in-use or ready for use. The emergency switch is useless if there is no one present to use it.

While the fire in Tortugas was horrible and left us sickened, it did serve as a reminder to review our own practices when it comes to safety aboard.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Back in La Paz

We left San Diego, heading south from channel buoy #4 at 12:20pm,
Tuesday, November 2nd. For the next eight days, we made one seven hour overnight stop at Bahia de Tortugas to pick up more fuel and two more overnight anchorages at Los Frailes and Ensenada de Los Muertos before arriving at Marina de La Paz at around 15:30 on Wednesday, November 10th. Traveling a little more than 1,000nm in eight days left all of us a bit punchy for the first few days after arrival.

The trip was uneventful, as far as the weather went, but our seven hour
stay in Tortugas was punctuated with a horrific fire aboard a large cruising catamaran that took about 40 minutes to burn to the water line. There was an apparent failure of a propane hose that began the conflagration and all we could do was gape in horror, 200 yards astern of the burning cat, hoping that none of the crew were trapped aboard. Thankfully, the single-hand sailor doing the delivery escaped the fire and was treated at the medical facility at Tortugas.

This was essentially a delivery mission to get Citla to La Paz. With the able help of my nephew, Peter, and Alicia, our friend from our sister-ship, Tumbleweed ('82 Cal 39 MRK III),
we were able to make the trip in short order. While we experienced large swells the first three days in, the period between swells was long enough to make the 10-12 foot rollers manageable. We had very little in the way of wind for almost the entire trip. A majority of the time found us motor sailing. We were treated to wild life along the way, including whales and a number of different species of dolphins. We did manage to catch one skipjack tuna south of Bahia Magdalena.

Our luck with fishing changed once we entered the San Lorenzo channel, separating the Cerralvo channel from Bahia La Paz.
Within 30 minutes, Peter had hooked a bull dorado that I estimated to be approaching 40" in length as it jumped several times after being hooked, flashing its' green, yellow and blue body colors as it fought to get free. We rolled in the jib and centered the main in an effort to slow the boat while the dorado continued to strip out line from Peter's reel. As the fish appeared to be weakening, it made a run parallel to the boat, easily closing the distance from over 50 yards off the stern to being perpendicular to the boat in a few short seconds. It then turned towards the boat and made a run. The line slightly slackened and the dorado slipped the hook and was gone.

We barely managed to have the adrenaline rush of the hook-up subside and get the boat back into trim when the second fish hit the lure. This time, the fish ripped line off the reel as if the drag was off. Rather than coming to the surface, the fish sounded and continued to take line with it. In under two minutes this denizen had also managed to shake the hook-up. The best we could determine, judging by its behavior we had probably managed to hook into either a large tuna or possibly a marlin.

Both bait and dorado were visible during the remaining trip into the City of La Paz, our fishing was over,
along with the long ocean passage from San Diego. We side tied to the outside dock, astern of the 120' motor yacht, Tully, and finally were able to step ashore after being out for eight days. What was even more exciting, after checking into the marina, we all headed for hot showers followed by the best margaritas served at the Dock Cafe in the marina. We were all exhausted, but pleased to be clean and having the night watches over for the time being.