Thursday, July 3, 2008

Shiriri Saga #27 Pt. Conception. The Shepherd.

                                            The Shepherd.

Two little white masthead navigation lights swing and sway as they dance across the dark waves ahead of us. We are traveling in convoy with Wylie E Coyote and another sailboat we met in Monterey called Apogie and we are all southbound around the last big California cape we will see before we reach our next main destination, San Diego. The forecast is for light winds after midnight and so far so good. We pass a brightly lit oil platform to seaward, and a weird structure on shore that we will later find is a launching site for the space program.

Shiriri rolls heavily in the sloppy beam seas. There is not enough wind to properly fill her sails and keep her steady but the engine pushes us along as best it can. As we reach the cape the wind increases suddenly and once again Shiriri is off on another cape sleigh ride. We leave only the staysail up and continue under power as well to maintain our place in the convoy. The wind leaps to forty knots and builds a particularly steep and nasty sea. “Here we go again” we think, as we slide and lift, slide and lift through the pitchy dark night. We notice that our engine is losing power and soon it will only run at low rpm`s. This is no time to start diagnosing the problem.

Dawn finds us angling in behind the cape to a little anchorage called Cojo. Jim, in Wylie E. Coyote sails back to escort us in. He has put in a long night all by himself and could now be at anchor and resting but here he is standing in his cockpit in the windy morning light shepherding us toward a kelp filled rocky stretch of coast: the best shelter to be found. We drop anchor and Jim is over immediately to try to help me repair the engine. We are a little disconcerted. “Now? We were thinking of sleep!” He is right of course, a boat with an ineffective engine is a vulnerable boat and the sooner fixed the better. In the end, we cannot solve the problem in our tired state and sleep the windy day away.

We smell oil! The next morning, away from the windy cape, the surface of the calm sea has an iridescent sheen from natural petroleum seeps, as we slowly motor along bound for Santa Barbara. Our two buddy boats keep us company and we finally anchor not far from the big wooden pier. That night I read books on diesel engines and decide our problem is a plugged air filter. Diesels need lots of clean air and our filter is within the box in the rear cabin that encloses the engine and it has picked up rubber dust from a poorly adjusted fan belt.

The next morning our first item of business on shore, once we have climbed the very high ladder on the pier, is to find a replacement air filter. The store does n`t have our Isusu`s brand so we learn to adapt by buying another. Back on Shiriri I dig into our spare-bits-of-useful-junk box and come up with a length of rubber exhaust hose, attach one end to the air intake, lead it out of the box, up under the deck head and attach the new filter to the end. The engine now has a snorkel that sucks in clean filtered air from outside the engine compartment. It is louder, but it works!

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