Update # 14 – And I thought parking in Manhattan was hard…

Greetings all:

Today was a frustrating day. Actually, that overstates things a bit, in that I know that I’ll solve it and all will be fine, but sometimes things require more energy than you expect, and I’m going through a bit of that now.

Here’s what I’m talking about:

On Nov 7th, Sans Souci (Roberta’s and my boat) will cross the US border, headed south, on the first leg of our 3,500 mile run to Costa Rica. From about mid-November through the end of January, our plan has been that the boat would be in a marina near our home in San Jose Del Cabo Mexico. To ensure that we had a place to “park” the boat, we signed a lease on a boat slip, and prepaid several years moorage. At the time I paid for the slip, in February of 2005, the marina was projected to be open in February of 2007.

In three short weeks I hope to put my boat into this slip. As recently as a week ago, the marina was saying that the slip would be ready, but that I might not have power for a few weeks. When I was at the marina yesterday, there was a diagram in the port captain’s office showing where my slip will be, but looking at the marina, there is just open water where my slip will someday exist.

Please do not interpret from my comments that I am disappointed in the marina or the people at the marina. The marina (Puerto Los Cabos) is incredible, and the people have been responsive and terrific to work with. They have worked very hard on my behalf, and have kept me informed at all times. Someone told me that it was the most expensive marina to build in North America, and I have no reason to doubt this. The marina is a part of a larger 2,000 acre development with multiple golf courses, hotels, condos, homes, beach clubs, etc. They’re creating a city, and that isn’t easy. Building a major new marina in Mexico is not a small effort. They have fought their way through all of the environmental issues, engineering challenges, protests by local fisherman and even Greenpeace volunteers chaining themselves to bulldozers.

And, the fact of the matter is that the marina has successfully opened. There are boats in slips, and there are slips with power. However, my particular slip does not have power, and as I mentioned before, it doesn’t quite exist yet. I am not worried that a slip will exist in the near future for my boat, but I am very worried that it will exist during the ten weeks that my boat is here.

I knew months ago that the scheduling was going to be tight, and that my slip might be a few months late. In January of this year I explored renting a slip in Cabo San Lucas as a potential backup.

After submitting the application, and calling a few times, this is the response I received:

“…Most of the slips in our marina are rented on a yearly basis. We need to wait to see if we receive a cancellation. Some boats decide to leave between now and mid-July but most of them continue paying to hold the same slip for the next season, this mean that we are not able to rent them, but some others may cancel. I need more time to know if a slip will be open for you. To tell you the truth, I really don’t think we will be able to offer a slip, as right now, which is a slow season, the marina is rented on yearly basis with more than 85% and the rest are small slips (34,39 feet available). For the waiting list we will take first the boaters who will stay for longer: yearly, 8 months, 6 months and the rest. Anyway, I have you in our waiting list and we will make the best we can for you….”

This is a somewhat encouraging response. She was very candid and actually quite helpful. I have a fairly good sense, in reading the response, what my odds are (slim, but not impossible). At the time, I didn’t spend too much time thinking about it because I felt pretty good that my slip in San Jose would come through.

I’ve been thinking about how I’ll handle it if my slip at Puerto Los Cabos does exist, but I have no power for some portion, or all, of the 10 weeks that the boat will be in the area. To give a sense of what this means, here is what usually occurs when we are at anchor: Prior to going to bed, I usually wait until the very last second to shut down the generator. I then kill all interior lights, and kill the breakers for anything I think we can live without. This is usually around midnight or 1am. Then, when I wake up, at around 7am, I rush to check the voltage on the house batteries, and fire up the generator as soon as I can do so without awaking any guests staying on the boat. Usually this happens around 8:30. This system works fine, and I usually know that I have another four to six hours of capacity before I’d really have a problem.

For the analytical of you, I’ll quantify this. The boat has a “House bank” of 24v batteries. When I am not plugged into shore power, or creating my own power via a generator, these batteries provide power to the boat. I have 1530 amp hours in my battery bank, meaning that if I were draining 100 amp hours, per hour, I could last a little over 15 hours. There is a meter on the stairs that shows how many amps I am consuming at any given point in time. In normal conditions, this runs around 200 amps. By sailboat standards, this is a huge amount of power, but this isn’t a sailboat. We have two refrigerators, two freezer drawers, another large freezer, an ice maker, a wine cooler, several computers, a file server, a media server and more. I have experimented with trying to shut things down to reduce the power drain but have never gotten it lower than 99 amps.

In other words, without extraordinary measures, 15 hours is the limit. Recharging the batteries takes around two hours with the generator, and let’s think about how I’d do this if I am four miles from the boat at our home. To add a further bit of complexity, let’s add to the situation that I really don’t like to have the generator running while I’m not on the boat. Although the term generator implies that it is a box that generates electricity, that doesn’t tell the whole story. Hiding inside the box is a real diesel engine, of the sort that could be used to power a car or a tractor. I have run the generator from time to time without us on board, but have never felt comfortable about it. Obviously, unless I want to be spending a lot of time on the boat, I am going to need to get over this. Our current plan is to remove everything from the refrigerators and freezers, and shut off about everything except the bilge pumps. In this mode, the boat should be able to go for a couple of days. We shall see.

More recently I’ve started thinking about what I’ll do if my slip isn’t in yet. Last evening I applied once again at the Cabo San Lucas marina. I suspect that they’ll respond once again saying that a slip is not possible. However, I remain convinced that when my boat is physically here they will find space. I doubt I will like the cost, but I’ll grumble and be happy to have it. Puerto Los Cabos proposed an interesting option yesterday. They offered to let me drop anchor in the center of the marina basin. This could work, although it means using the tender to go back and forth to the boat daily to charge the batteries. It also means 10 weeks sitting at anchor, hoping the marina really does provide good shelter from the wind. Perhaps this is ok. I haven’t thought it through. The marina is well protected, so maybe…

The scenario I was working on yesterday is to move the boat 80 miles north to La Paz. Marina space there is also limited, but usually better, and cheaper, than Cabo. That said, the Fubar rally, of which I am a part, terminates in La Paz. This means over fifty power boats all arriving in La Paz at the same time, each in need of a slip. La Paz is a three hour drive from my home in San Jose. If I get into a slip I wouldn’t need to be going back and forth to charge the batteries, but I still don’t think I’d want to leave the boat completely unattended. If we go this route, I’ll need to hire someone to clean and monitor the boat for me. I have a good lead on someone, and may go this route.

All of this is just a small sampling of the logistical nightmare that we’ll face as we circumnavigate. Our vision is not to race around the world. Our plan is to begin each cruising season by moving, or having moved, the boat somewhere interesting. For six months or so we’ll live aboard the boat, primarily at anchor, exploring the region. Arguably, we’re already doing that this year. Over the next six months we’ll explore the Pacific Coast of Mexico and Costa Rica. After working our way south, the boat will be transported back to Seattle so that we can explore Alaska next summer. After that we head to Hawaii. At all times I’ll need to be planning where the boat will be, a couple years out, thinking about where we’ll be on the boat, and also, where the boat will be when we’re NOT on the boat. Planning for time spent on the boat may turn out to be easier than solving the power, cleaning, and safety issues when we are not.

The Fubar rally leaves San Diego on Nov 7th. The first time I drop anchor in warm water, and start the dive compressor going, all of this will be forgotten, and real boating will begin.

Thank you,
Ken Williams Nordhavn68.com, Sans Souci

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