Orion and the Sea

Too hot to handle

August 2015

Just as our surroundings started feeling like an oven set on broil (aka August) we made a last minute decision to head across the sea to the town of Guaymas on the mainland. They say cruisers make their plans in the sand at high tide and I can attest to this fact. We had plans to spend the rest of the summer near the hurricane hole in Bahia de Los Angeles, and then one night on a whim we decided instead on a two-month multi-state, land trip that we would leave for in a week. Well, we knew we eventually wanted to head back to the states to visit family and friends and do some work for the family business… and leaving during the broiling months all of a sudden made the most sense.

Jonah boiling water on deck. We stopped cooking down below in July

Jonah boiling water on deck. We stopped cooking down below in July

Abandoning a boat for two months is not something to take lightly. We have no plans to leave Orion on anchor for longer than a couple days without someone to look after her… and we wouldn’t even do that during hurricane/storm season. We generally steer clear of marinas because they are expensive, but we’d heard that leaving a boat on the hard is less expensive and would give us a chance to do some work on her underside. So with all this in mind we headed to Guaymas.


Some of Guaymas’s fishing fleet

Guaymas is an industrial town with a navy base and a fishing fleet and very little tourism. It is known to be the cheapest and safest place to store your boat in the Sea of Cortez during hurricane season, so many cruisers who live the seasonal life get their boats on the hard (out of the water on stands), put them to bed, and flee before the summer sets in. While there is no international airport, the border with Arizona is a cheap and comfortable 5-hour bus ride away. This is very convenient for us because Jonah’s dad, his family business, and our “land boat” (van) are all located in a town called Patagonia, AZ, a mere 20 min. from this border crossing.

Marina Fonitur in Guaymas

Guaymas’s Marina Fonatur, one of many government-run marinas along the coast of Mexico

There is a big marina seca (meaning dry marina) that people have been going to for years. It is a dirt lot, is really dusty, has lots of dead or dying boats, becomes a muddy lake when it rains, and pretty much sucks…. but the price is right. We had plans to go there, but the night we arrived to town we ran into friends anchored in the bay who told us to go instead to the Marina Fonatur. This small government built marina is well-appointed and has a cement, well-drained lot, a shiny new travel lift for taking boats out of the water, nice facilities (showers, pool, wifi, library, etc) and had just lowered their prices to be cheaper than the dirt lot. No brainer. We thanked our friends profusely for this information and made reservations to be hauled out.


Check out that shiny new travel lift… and Orion’s undersides

The controversial issue about whether or not Guaymas is the best place to haul out for the summer rests in the fact that it is hotter than hell. The temps are regularly well over 100 F, with high humidity, so the heat index often reaches 120F. Most sailboats don’t have A/C so living on board can be torture. Sealing the boat up for the summer means that inside temperatures can reach highs that are known to melt all the elastic in your underwear and bathing suits, degrade hoses, and warp wooden interiors. Seriously. The advice is to shade the deck as much as possible, wrap machinery, lines, and wires with foil to reflect the heat, leave buckets full of water down below to keep the wood moist, and foil portholes and hatches. We took this advice seriously and followed every annoying bit of it.

Bye bye main sail

Bye bye main sail… now to find a place to store this beast

We foiled portholes and hatches to reflect the sun's rays

We foiled portholes and hatches to reflect the sun’s evil rays

We arrived to Guaymas with 5 days until our planned getaway bus ride up to the border. These turned out to be the most difficult days we’ve spent on the boat yet. It. Was. So. Hot. We were devastated to find out that swimming is not recommended anywhere in the bay. The water was so dirty that we thought that a fish had died in our salt-water toilet inflow line until we realized that the smell was just the water. Gone were the days of diving overboard every hour to sizzle away the heat. We made a pact to put Orion to bed and blow this popsicle stand as fast as possible.

94 degrees inside the boat at midnight!

94 degrees inside the boat at midnight!

Watching your home being lifted from the water by a few straps requires no small amount of letting go. I mean, it doesn’t always go well. Type “boat lift fail” into Youtube’s search bar sometime and see if you’d surrender your most valuable possession to strangers who may or may not have done this before. Fortunately it did go well, the guys were great, and before we knew it we were balanced on stands in a cement lot with a 12 ft. ladder for a doorway. If you can believe it, it was even hotter away from the ocean breeze. We got to straight to work, but it was slow going because often we just had to sit down in the shade and catch our breath. Nights cooled off to a balmy 95F inside and 90F outside so we made our beds out on deck, surrounded by swarms of the friendliest mosquitos. Sleep was more or less a rare phenomenon. Living “on the hard” is hard.

Please don't drop her!

Please don’t drop her!

The marina lot was also inhabited by impressively large cockroaches that came out in herds at night. They were huge and while they reminded me of my childhood in south Florida, nostalgia was not the emotion they evoked in me. For your information, they charge! Bleary-eyed midnight bathroom walks invariably turned to wide-eyed jerky slam dances, suggestive of possession by the devil himself. Usually when anchored, the chances of your boat being infested by land-based creepy crawlies are pretty low. But as soon as you tie up to a dock or prop up on stands your boat is fair game. We’ve heard horror stories from friends involving various insects and rats and didn’t want to take any chances. We packed all dry food into storage bins, cleaned and dried the bilge, and closed all thru hull valves except the cockpit drains. We then plugged the outside of all holes with sponges soaked in bug spray, sprayed bug spray around the bases of all the stands, placed all over the boat 20 plastic poison bait cartridges, covered many surfaces with boric acid and put out a couple sticky rat traps (which we each stepped in exactly once).

Making sunbrella covers for all the hatches

We made sunbrella covers for all the hatches

We found that Orion was in some serious need of shade. We broke out our 60’s vintage Read’s Sailmaker and got sewing. Our first project was to make snap-on sunbrella covers for our three clear acrylic hatches. The towels that we had been using as covers all summer had officially disintegrated into threads. Then Jonah designed and constructed two beautiful shades out of a plastic material to cover the bow and stern. The guys at the marina took pity on him sewing outside in the heat and let him use a big empty room that just happened to have magical, amazing air conditioning. He really is quite the talented seamster, which I think is sexy.


Jonah hard at work on our bow shade cover


Most excellent seamster

bow shade

Our new bow shade

Guaymas is not completely out of the hurricane belt, even though it is said to be well protected by the natural harbor of tall mountains surrounding the bay on three sides. The advice is to be ready for storms and reduce windage by removing everything possible from topsides including all sails. So this is what we did and our cabin slowly filled with sails, surfboards, paddleboards, buckets, ladder, throw rings, and solar panels.

Clear decks, crowded below

Clear decks, crowded below

Clear decks, crowded below

Clear decks, crowded below

When we left Orion we did so with the feeling that she was secure. We paid for two and a half months in the yard, 8 weeks for traveling and 2 weeks for doing dry projects when we returned. The cost to haul out/into the water ($300) and to spend 10 weeks in storage ($445) came to a total of $745. Ouch. It was far more than we’d been paying in all our free anchorages for the past 7 months, but was worth it to know she’d be in one piece when we returned. It would also be a good opportunity to do the bottom work we were unable to do before we left the states.

We couldn’t travel north fast enough, to our loved ones and to air conditioning and higher latitudes. We would miss Orion, and we were glad that it would be autumn when we returned.

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