While cruising, there are moments of absolute joy and splendor where we can’t believe how lucky we are to be out here in our floating home in these amazing places… And then there’s those times when we think, what did we get ourselves into, and the saying, “Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong” seems much more appropriate.

Whatever you want to call it… we seem to suddenly have a whole bunch of pretty important repairs and fix-its piling up on us here in Zihuatanejo.

First and foremost, we yet again have some dinghy repairs that need to be urgently addressed.

While out at the Revillagigedos diving, our little dinghy, Arjuna, got tangled up with a big, heavy inflatable, which ripped the oar stand out. This turned into a much bigger problem when we realized that not only had the oar stand come off, but the gunnel and ply had also been cracked, creating a major structural impairment.

To strengthen it, we will need to replace a section of the gunnel, as well as patch the cracked ply hull with another layer of ply, some resin and fiberglass. Luckily, we stumbled upon a great woodworking shop in town that sold us some scrap hardwood, cut to size for the gunnels for just 20 pesos, or a little over a dollar! Not a bad start. Now the challenge will be finding a place to work on the dinghy, as it is our only transportation to and from Varuna (there is no dock to pull up to here in Zihuatanejo). The other challenge will be working with resin and fiberglass in very hot, humid conditions, which is not ideal.

Along with our dinghy repairs, we ran into more transportation problems…

Our very last day at Isla San Benedicto we started to have problems with our trusty old outboard when it cut out on us as we were coming back from a dive. Luckily, we were able to get it running and get back to Varuna, but upon our arrival here in Zihuatanejo, it refused to start.

The motor is a 1980’s 3.5 HP Nissan 2-stroke, which although old, has been pretty dang reliable. We went through the regular checks of cleaning the carburetor and changing the spark plugs, and still nothing. Then, we tried changing the gear oil and adding oil to lubricate the cylinders… nothing. Although this sort of problem is exactly why we wanted to avoid getting an outboard in the first place, it normally wouldn’t be a huge deal to have the outboard out of commission for us, as we almost always row everywhere….

Well… Sometime during our first day in Zihuatanejo, we managed to also LOSE AN OAR!! It was at this point that our day really took a turn for the worse. I mean seriously, a broken dinghy, non-working motor, and now somehow we’re down an oar too?! Careless us had left the oars in the oar stands while the dinghy was tied up behind the boat. Well, one must have worked its way out of the oarlock (the rubber stopper holding them in place isn’t 100% secure) as we bobbed in the swells and floated free.

While Ty continued to try to get the motor running, I got out the paddle board and went out paddling around the bay and along the beaches and rocks looking for our oar, with no luck…

So now our main mode of transportation is a broken dinghy, with one regular oar and one SUP paddle (trying not to damage the paddle too much). Needless to say, getting to and from shore is not easy.

We were able to find a local outboard mechanic who agreed to work on our little tiny outboard. We were assured it was an easy fix, but after a whole week in his shop, he’s determined that it’s either a cracked cylinder or ring, which means we don’t have compression. This is bad news because it’s the kind of thing that costs more to fix than the motor is worth.

Now, it would be great if these were the end of our problems, but we have TWO MORE major issues that also need critical attention! Yikes.

As you may have seen in our Episode 107, on our sail from Magdalena Bay to the Revillagigedos we managed to bend our whisker pole pretty badly. It sat on our side deck while we were out at the islands and as we made our 550 nm passage back into the mainland, but now that we were back to civilization, we needed to get it off the side deck and see if it was fixable.

Wandering around town, we found a local aluminum shop and a guy that agreed to come take a look at it. The damage is to the inner extension part of the pole, and there’s basically two options to fix it… cut off the bent section and significantly shorten the pole, or replace the inner extension with a new section of aluminum.

We weren’t a huge fan of the shortening option, as it would significantly reduce the effectiveness of the pole. Problem is, we couldn’t find any aluminum tubing in the correct size, and even the aluminum shop didn’t have a supplier that carried the required 2 ½ inch tubing. We did our own searching around town, and came up with nothing. To get the correct size, we would either have to order on our own from Mexico City or from the US.

After researching, and not being 100% certain on the sizing and type of tubing or the packing and shipping options we’d be negotiating in spanish over the phone from Mexico City, we decided to order from the US. We have previously ordered from Industrial Metal Supply in San Diego when we built our Solar Arch and know they have great prices and service. After talking on the phone to their sales rep, they have promised to provide extra packing to do everything possible to help it survive the trip down here to Zihuatanejo. It should be showing up next week, and we are keeping our fingers crossed it arrives undamaged!!

Is that all?? No… there’s one more thing on our list that we haven’t gotten to yet… Geez!!

Our all-important third crew member, Dan (our windvane) has been struggling to pull his weight! We bought our Fleming Major windvane used, and for the most part he has done an excellent job steering for us. However, he’s always had a bit of trouble making turns to port. We usually compensate for this by adjusting the center point on the helm a bit to port and this usually gives him enough help to steer us. Well, lately, even this adjustment hasn’t been enough.

The Fleming Major is a servo-pendulum style windvane. Without getting too technical, basically it works like this: The vane is pushed to one side or the other, when its pushed it rotates a pendulum that’s hanging in the water, when the pendulum rotates it’s pushed by the force of the water to one side or the other, this pulls a line through and pulley to turn the wheel. Well, the problem seems to be that when the vane is pushed in the direction that should turn us to port, the pendulum isn’t rotating, which means we don’t turn.

With everything else, we haven’t had too much time to really investigate this problem, but in order to see what’s gone wrong, we really need to take the whole thing apart. And that’s not a simple thing to do at anchor! Yes, we have an autopilot that we can use, but we don’t like to use it too much, as it uses a lot of power, and doesn’t let us steer based on the wind while sailing.

Sooo where does that leave us? Not getting out of Zihuatanejo or Mexico as quickly as we had hoped….

Our first order of business will be to make the repairs to our dinghy. We also tried to find an oar here locally, with no success, so along with the aluminum tubing, we (hopefully!) will be receiving an oar from the US soon!

If the aluminum tubing shows up in one piece, that should be an easy repair.

We have pretty much put the outboard out of our minds for now. The mechanic is going to check around locally for another used one we could buy, and also check with a fellow mechanic in Acapulco to see if he would want ours for parts, as they have no use for such a small motor here.

There are a few other projects that we had been hoping to tackle while here before everything else came up…

We wanted to find someone to weld (I think there’s a different term for bronze?) a piece of bronze onto our hawse pipe. This will help our chain flow better from the windlass drum into the hawse pipe, as there is a big gap right now, allowing it to occasionally free itself while it’s being hauled in.

Another possible project… replacing our mattress. That’s right… the glued-together foam we got in San Diego has not held together. Despite attempts to re-glue it, it has just come apart, creating a gap in our bed and ruining our sheets.

And just because we happened across a great woodworking shop, we were considering just one more project… In order to install our diesel heater for higher latitudes, we will need to remove some cabinetry. Because neither one of us has very good carpentry skills, and we found a skilled carpenter, we are considering having him take on the project to take it off our list for the summer.

However, with everything else, I’m not sure if we’ll have time for these less-critical projects. Our Mexican visa is up in just over 3 weeks, and the summer hurricane season is approaching quickly, so we really do need to begin making our way South!

One thought to “Breakdowns, Failed Repairs and Struggles in Zihuatanejo… Because when it rains, it pours!”

  • Erika Cooper

    Ugh! It’s always something. I love watching and reading about your solutions.


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