Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Puerto Chiapas to Bahia Jiquilisco, El Salvador: 15 Mar 15:00

We officially cleared out of Mexico this morning and left Puerto Chiapas around 10:00.

We almost didn't leave because we have a puzzling situation with our saildrives, the drivetrain that connects the engine to the propeller which looks like the leg of an outboard motor coming out the bottom of the boat ahead of the rudder. The starboard saildrive leaked a small amount of lubricant into the engine compartment. When I removed the cap to chec the lubricant level in the port saildrive, lubrIcant came gushing out. That is very strange and would indicate a significant failure of the oil seals which is allowing salt water to enter the drive. Not good. But the lubricant was clean and should have looked frothy and/or milky if water was getting into it. The engine compartment was really hot and the boat has been baking in the sun for almost two week, so maybe the pressure causing the gushing was due to heat?

I did some thinking while "asleep" (another sailor referred to this as being a "bunk mechanic") and decided that I would check the lubricant in the morning when it was cool. If it still gushed, we would delay our departure until we figured out what was going on In a place where we could haul out and had excellent support from the English speaking marina management. If it didn't gush, we would depart as planned. It didn't gush, so we took our chances and left.

I ran both engines in gear at cruising speed for a couple of hours. With the lubricant circulating through the drive, if there was any sea water contamination, I should definitely see it. I didn't, which is a good. And the port saildrive gushed again when I checked it, correlating to a hot versus cool condition. A bit of a mystery, but we'll monitor carefully and look into hauling out in El Salvador to investigate better and replace the oil seals, as they are supposed to be replaced at 1,000 engine hours, which we are approaching. It will be "fun" to figure out how to get parts in El Salvador; fortunately replacing the seals doesn't look that difficult to do.

At about 13:00 we crossed the border between Mexican and Guatamalan territorial waters. There was no fence or visible boundary, so we had to eyeball it. When eyeballs determined we crossed, we lowered our Mexican courtesy flag to a random martial tune I hummed while Renee rolled her eyes. I also lowered our Baha Ha-Ha flag, as it has served it's socializing purpose and we have become independent, non-aligned sailors now.

We are reaching along under full main and Code 0, doing a solid 6-8 knots over ground. Beautiful sailing. A bit tricky though, as there are dozens of fishing pangas out here with lines running between them, to floats with flags on them, to floats without flags on them. You have to look carefully to figure out where the lines attached to the gloats and pangas are to avoid them. We accidentally snagged one line, but we're able to get it off the rudder using the boat pole. Needless to say, it slowed us down quite a bit and the fisherman didn't seem too pleased to have us dragging their gear along.

It's a little less than 48 hours to get from where we are now to Bahia Jiquilisco and Barillas Marina. If we see any evidence of developing problems with our saildrives, we'll likely divert to Bahia del Sol, about 5 hours less sailing, which has haul out repair facilities.

Meanwhile, back to great sailing and dodging fishing gear. We're heading further out to sea to see if we can get out of the fishing lane. It will be impossible to dodge all this stuff sailing at night.