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Sailing Gear Not Required- But Nice to Have

We’re about ready to head back south to San Carlos for the rest of the Winter. We have a little more work to soon the boat and a few day trips to make sure all the gear works before we drop the mooring and head farther south.

We’ve been slowly working on the outfitting the boat for cruising in the sea of cortez for a family of four with two small children. As you guessed, we operate on a pretty slim/non-existant budget. Each piece of gear we add REALLY must be important for the time and money invested.

One thing we noted last year while sailing on the Baja side of the Sea of Cortez, the VHF is pretty much useless for weather reports. Too far, too many mountains. I ordered a SONY ICF-SW7 600GR World Band Radio from Amazon for $103 including shipping so we can listen to the daily nets weather reports on single side band. A transceiver (a radio that transmits and receives) is an order of magnitude more expensive and the install is a two to three day ordeal. This little guy is about 6″ x 8″ and runs off four AA batteries. Pretty simple.

We added the Spot Connect as detailed in another post because of family concerns. The Grandparents offered to buy us a Mexican cell phone with a monthly plan but as soon as you get offshore or leave the big cities you lose any reception at all. It’s not really in our sail plan to stick to areas with cell reception. The Spot offers a better compromise and is cheaper over the course of the season after purchase price is factored in amortized over a few seasons.

I’m picking up a 3rd BBQ propane tank. We wanted a gauge to keep on eye on our propane levels. Last year in the Bay of Conception, far away from any shopping, we ran out of propane for both tanks we carried. We had to scramble and borrow a small backup tank from friends and stop everything while I hitchhiked to town to get a refill. Frankly, I was lucky they had propane in Mulege. A day earlier and I would have been out of luck because the truck the drives up and down the Baja refilling propane tanks at stores arrived just that day. I was looking around for a gauge and they run about $36. Why not just buy a third propane tank instead? When the other two run dry, we know it’s time to fill them up. With average use, we can extend a 20lb propane tank about three weeks. We’ve started using the Instant hot water heater more for baths and dishes which is a nice luxury but eats propane faster than cooking or the domestic fridge. With three tanks we can last about 8 weeks without refill. Propane is cheap in Mexico. It costs about 100 pesos to fill a 20lb tank, which translates to about $8.50 plus or minus the exchange rate. So our housing fuel runs $12.00 per month.

We upgraded by horse swapping gear last year for an 8hp Nissan 2 stroke outboard. I really wanted a 6hp 4 stroke, but the 8hp showed up. We traded for the rowing/sailing dinghy which was heavy and took up a lot of deck space and we didn’t use much when sailing. I had it tuned up last year and it runs great! The increased speed makes getting in and out from the middle of the bay a non-issue. It also means sight seeing from an anchorage will be possible versus the 2hp putt putt we had last year. The down side, we are using more gas. Not a lot more than the 2hp, surprisingly. I think the increased speed/decreased time running offsets the increased fuel burn of the 8hp.

Your Dinghy is your prime transportation source on a sailboat from the mothership. You use it A LOT! It’s the SUV, the commuter, the work truck, the emergency vehicle all wrapped up in one. For a family of four, we LOVE the porta-bote. It’s light, has high freeboard for a dry ride, can fold up on deck easily, and we can stow it inside the boat during the summer hurricane season to prevent theft.

One issue we’ve been weighing since last season, davits! Both the outboard and the port-bote are invaluable to us and would be incredibly tough to replace financially. You don’t see a lot of theft in Mexico, but outboard theft occurs. Every couple of months in San Carlos an outboard goes missing and it’s far worse in more populated ports father south. The banditos ether take the outboard off the dinghy or they take the whole boat and strip it somewhere remote. Our port-bote and outboard are both pretty rough and tumble looking, but we can’t take a chance.

An effective counter measure is to rig the main halyard to lift your dinghy out of the water on the beam of the boat. Not so easy on the Gemini with a 14′ beam compared to a 10′ beam of a mono hull. Also the porta-bote is rather flimsy lifting versus an inflatable and scrapes the side of the boat. All these things can be overcome but I just hated it so we nixed that option.

Another effective measure is to remove your outboard every day and lock it on the stern rails. Boy- what a work out! Almost 70lb to remove and 70lbs to install. I have a feeling that statistically, it’s only a matter of time before I drop the outboard into the sea accidentally.

Davits are stern mounted and use a block and tackle system to raise the dinghy from the bow and stern. You can raise the dinghy with the motor on the dinghy nightly for security. You can also remove the outboard and raise the dinghy to go day sailing. Another bonus, a lot of people mount a solar panel on the cross brace because it’s clear of the boom and mast with good solar visibility.

Installing a davit system on our Gemini poses a few problems. First and foremost, a davit system runs about $1500 new. Second problem, a davit would have to custom made to have enough support off our stern. The 1993 Gemini doesn’t have a traditional stern pulpit to mount a davit. Lastly, I want to the davit to look clean and serve multiple purposes. I’d like to be able to use the block and tackle as an engine hoist, I’d like to be able to store the porta-bote or our kayak on top during crossings to get them off the side deck. I want the solar panel to be mounted and adjustable. All that added up to designing and building a custom davit system for our Gemini Catamaran.

We decided to build a prototype and after using it a season or two (or three if we are lucky) we’ll have a final version built. We can’t afford the stainless tube, after hunting salvage yards, metal suppliers, I opted for the Home Depot Marine department. I bought fence post. The main pipe is 2-3/8″ diameter 16ga. hot dipped galvanized pipe. The stanchion and cross braces are 1-3/8″ diameter 16ga. hot dipped galvanized pipe. I cut and welded (with extensive help from my cousin Hugh TIG welding the joints) the parts. Then we metal prepped the parts, primed with self-etching primer, poured a rust inhibitor inside the tubes, a finally sprayed a white appliance epoxy paint on the outside. It’s been drying and hopefully hardening for three days now. Ironically, the stainless steel mounting hardware cost more than the galvanized pipe. Total, I’m into the davits for about $150.

Water is a big deal in Mexico. While in San Carlos I port all our water to the mooring. We use 25 gallons of dish/bath water every 5 days and use 5 gallons of drinking water every 5 days. That’s 30 gallons at 8 lbs per gallon for a total of 240 lbs I have to lug to the dinghy, lug to the boat, get on the boat, and pour into the tanks. The problem becomes more extreme when in places like Conception Bay where I had to hitchhike 15miles to Mulege to get gas, propane, and water. Imagine trying to lug 240lbs in the back of a pickup every week.

Reverse Osmosis water makers are expensive and problematic. New they start around $3,500. WAY WAY out of our price range. I’ve found some small units that would run off our solar array daily without draining our battery bank or requiring we run the generator. We can use a PUR 35e or the newer (still in production) PUR 40e manufactured by KATADYN on our sailboat. It draws 4amps per hour and produces 1.4-1.5 gallons of fresh, sweet, drinkable water. We could run it every day for about 4 hours to fill a 5 gallon container and still have enough solar to charge the batteries, run the iPod, VHF, and power lights at night.

I put the word out over the net and visited some work yards (Camp Dirt as we affectionately call it) and had two hits. There’s an old unit with a firm price of $800, which we can’t afford. Then there’s a newer PUR 40e that’s been sitting in a lazarette for about 7 years for $400 with a money back guarantee if it doesn’t work. That’s good because just the replacement seal kit runs $185 and a new membrane is $385.

So I will investigate the water maker when we return but otherwise we will port water again this season and save up for one in the future.

IF ANY READERS HAVE A LEAD ON A CHEAP FUNCTIONAL WATER MAKER PLEASE CONTACT US!
(or a pot of gold at the end of rainbow:)

I’ll post more photo’s once we get the davits installed. Time to pack for the ride south.

You know an ICE COLD draft beer in Mexico is a very affordable price of approximately $1.25! Click Here to Buy Us a Beer.

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