Monday, March 27, 2017

La Cruz: Leaving for Mazatlan, John Steinbeck's vs My Outboard Engine

We have spent a pleasant four days anchored off La Cruz, not doing much. We've roamed around town, had a couple of nice meals. We enjoyed a really nice dinner at Marc and Marci’s place on Saturday night; good food, good wine and great conversation. Yesterday we spent the morning at the La Cruz farmer’s market and stocked up on organic coffee, yogurt, strawberries, bread and peanut butter.

But it’s time to get moving again. We have a good weather window of mostly light headwinds with occasional stronger breezes favorable for sailing if we leave for Mazatlan tonight around 9 pm. Before we leave we need to top off our tanks at the fuel dock. And, yes, I will be rigging jacklines and making sure all the hatches are closed before we depart.

Unfortunately, I don’t have much original material to draw upon for a more interesting blog post today. I could delve into my psyche and state of mind, a diverse environment to explore, but of a bit dark of place right now and, in any case, too personal and narcissistic for this sailing blog. I could try to describe in poetic detail my surroundings, the weather, the sea, the search for meaning in it all, but my writing talent is limited in such areas and wouldn’t do the topics justice. So instead, I will write a few words about our outboard motor.

I bought the 15 hp, four-stroke Yamaha for our dinghy a few years ago. It is powerful and quiet. It’s much heavier than a 15 hp two-stroke, but it is about as environmentally friendly as a small gas engine can be. What I appreciate most however, is its reliability. Other than the first annual mandatary service required per the warranty, I have performed absolutely no maintenance on this engine. It has sat around unused for months in Costa Rica and then again in Chiapas. Yet, it  always starts on the first or second pull and then runs flawlessly. We have put quite a few hours on this engine since leaving San Francisco 18 months ago and it has lived in an aggressive saltwater environment on Intermezzo’s stern since, yet it looks almost new, with only a few scratches and little bit of corrosion on some mild steel parts. I’m very pleased with our outboard, which serves faithfully together with the dinghy as our taxi to and from the boat and as a vehicle for exploring estuaries, inlets, coves, islets and snorkeling sites.

Contrast this with the description of the outboard in John Steinbeck’s The Log from the Sea of Cortez, a book I’m belatedly reading as we sail back to that wondrous body of water.  To avoid a lawsuit for slander by the manufacturer, Steinbeck calls his outboard a “Hansen Sea-Cow” and considers it a living being. “Our Hansen Sea-Cow was not only a living thing but a mean, irritable, contemptible, vengeful, mischievous living thing.” He observed the following traits in it (original text edited here for brevity):
1. Incredibly lazy, the Sea-Cow loved to ride ride on the back of the boat, trailing its propeller daintily in the water while we rowed.
2. It required the same amount of gasoline whether it ran or not.
3. It was able to read our minds, particularly when inflamed with emotion. When we were driven to the point of destroying it, it started and ran with great noise and excitement.
4. When attacked with a screwdriver, it fell apart in simulated death, a trait it had in common with opossums, armadillos and several members of the sloth family.
5. It hated Tex (the mechanic).
6. It completely refused to run: (a) when the waves were high, (b) when the wind blew, (c) at night, early morning and evening, (d) in rain, dew, or fog, (e) when the distance to be covered was more than two hundred yards. But on warm, sunny days - on days when it would have been a pleasure to row - the Sea-Cow started at touch and would not stop.
7. It loved no one, trusted no one. It had no friends

Having once co-owned an ancient British Seagull outboard with my father many years ago, I am familiar with outboards of the Sea-Cow’s vintage and their unique personalities. I observe with some nostalgic sadness that decades of mechanical evolution have rendered my Yamaha devoid of the personality and soul that our British Seagull and the Sea Cow would regularly express. I wonder if that is too high a price to pay for starting every time on the first or second pull and running flawlessly. But I admit, I don’t wonder for long.

Many thanks to the great American writer John Steinbeck for helping me pad my blog today. I hope I do the master some justice. It’s humbling to write in his presence.

Sunset anchored off La Cruz

Handmade hats and baskets at the La Cuz Farmer's Market 
The elegant schooner "Shearwater", anchored next to us off of La Cruz

Our Yamaha, reliable but devoid of personality