“I don’t know how to tell you this,” my diver said after pulling himself up onto the dock. My stomach dropped at his nervous tone. It was two days until I planned to cast off for Ensenada, the first leg of my singlehanded “puddle jump” to the Marquesas.
“Just say it.”
“There’s a big crack in your keel. I can see the lead. I can see light through it; I can see completely through to the other side.”
That’s how my adventure down the California coast to Ensenada, Mexico, for a quick, planned, pre-jump bottom job led to two haulouts in two weeks (550 miles apart), and learning a lot more about my bolted-on keel than I had planned.
Windfola, a 1985 Sabre 34 MkI, has been a sturdy bluewater boat. She took my dog and me safely to Hawaii and back within the last 20 months. In fact, when I talk about our voyages together, I refer to the three of us as “we,” further confusing the people who can hardly believe I singlehand anyway. I’m a first-time boat owner, and despite boating my whole life, I’ve only been sailing for less than six years, so learning to care for Windfola continues to humble me. I’ve quietly made her a commitment that I will take care of her physically if she will only take care of us, and I honor that commitment by studying, learning, and DIY-ing everything that I possibly can.
I hadn’t had anyone dive on Windfola since before my return trip from Hawaii to San Francisco last October, and I’d delayed this until close to departure so as to have her as clean as possible for the trip south. I didn’t anticipate any structural issues, and I’m certain that when I cleaned her hull last, there was no crack in the keel beyond the paint where her bolted-on fin keel flexes (also known as a “smile”). But after such a significant upwind voyage, I feared there was unknown damage. Did I hit something and not feel it in my delirious mid-ocean sleep? Did the rowdy winds that buried my toe rail in the water before I could get in another reef cause too much flexing?
The diver was concerned, and told me he’d never seen anything like it. I could tell he felt bad. I lent him my GoPro, and when he came back up, I looked over the pictures. They were worrisome. There was cracking both fore and aft on the keel, with the aft split at least an inch and a half long, the missing material illuminated by backlighting.
I’ve heard enough horror stories about bolted-on keels falling off that I wasn’t going offshore like that. But the coming week had a good weather window to get down the coast and around Point Conception, and I’d already been waiting a couple of weeks for this break. I called Bob Hennessey at KKMI first thing the next morning and explained the situation. Could I haul out ASAP and relaunch if it was minor? Could we do this without killing my tiny remaining nest egg of savings? He welcomed me the very next day, and we did a “haul and hang” at the end of the afternoon.
Up close, the crack looked just like the “smile” I’d seen in the past, except it went much deeper than the paint. There were places where whatever putty had been under the paint was falling off in chunks, leaving holes behind. Scary.
Bob took a look. “This is just cosmetic,” he said with a relaxed tone. To my untrained eye this was difficult to believe. Pieces of my boat’s bottom falling off at the seam between the hull and the keel didn’t seem very “cosmetic” to me.
He explained that not only is the paint too rigid to flex with the keel, but there is putty under the paint that fairs out the seam between the bolted-on keel and the flange of the hull. This putty was old and too rigid to flex well, so it was falling out. If I wanted a smooth seam, I needed to rout it out and fill it anew with a more flexible putty.
I was also worried about the moisture weeping out of the seam, thinking it might be some horrific issue with a keel bolt. He recommended that I torque the bolts and confirm that none of them “spun,” which is what they would do if they were compromised. I had done this two years before, when I purchased the boat, so I knew exactly where to find the socket wrench I reserved for the job. The boat was resting on its keel on a block, making this a good time to check them. I sponged out the bilge for a visual inspection of the nuts and washers. Everything looked clean. I went through all of the bolts, fore to aft, wrenching with all of my body weight. Every bolt was solid and tight.
Before departing for the evening, Bob gave what may be the funniest and most relieving boat issue-advice I’ve ever received: “Just throw some paint on it and go, Elana.”
We’ll bring you part 2 of When the Keel Smiles later this week . . .
Recreational boaters who live or berth their boats in Alameda County will have the opportunity to properly dispose of their expired or unwanted flares on Sunday, May 26. Make an appointment for the exact location and drop-off time between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. by calling (800) 606-6606 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. They’ll accept handheld and aerial flares and smoke signals. Don’t bring other hazardous waste like batteries, oil or paint. And don’t bring military-type devices or flares from commercial vessels. Do remember to bring proof of residence or marina slip in Alameda County.
Every year the Grand Poobah of the Baja Ha-Ha expects there to be a big drop-off in the number of entries.
“With more than 3,000 boats having done it in 25 years,” he says, “it would seem that at some point we’ll run out of sailors who haven’t done it or who have continued on to the South Pacific and never come back.”
Early indications are there will be no significant drop-off for this year’s Ha-Ha, as 73 paid entries were received in the first 48 hours. That’s one more than the average number of first-48-hour entries for the last three years. Those three years had final paid entries of 183, 154 and 168, respectively. It should be noted that each year about 15% of paid entries don’t show up. Boats don’t get ready in time, there are business or job issues, and worst of all, there can be health issues.
A couple of this year’s entries stand out. Number one, for example, is Myron and Marina Eisenzimmer’s Swan 44 Mykonos. This will be the couple’s 10th Baja Ha-Ha.
And we couldn’t help but notice entry #62, Rick Jakaus’ Cygnus Montanus. Not just because her homeport is Stockholm, Sweden, but because the nearly new beauty is 111 feet long! She’s the biggest entry in Ha-Ha history.
If you’ve been underwater for the last 25 years, the Baja Ha-Ha is the annual 750-mile cruisers’ rally from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas, with R&R stops at Turtle Bay and Bahia Santa Maria. Over 10,000 sailors on more than 3,000 boats have done the event in the first 25 years.
This year’s dates are November 3-16. It’s a week later start than in previous years, and will feature one more day in Bahia Santa Maria — the response has been extremely positive about this — and one less day in Cabo San Lucas.
Notice of the Rally and entry information can be found at www.baja-haha.com. Please note that Ha-Ha discounts in the States and in Mexico can easily more than offset the entry fee. Indeed, in years past some folks signed up simply to get the discounts. We hope you sign up, but to do the event, not just to get the discounts.
The first 73 sign-ups (there are already more) were:
|1||Mykonos||Swan 44||Myron & Marina Eisenzimmer||San Francisco|
|2||Moonlight Lady||Catalina 355||Owen Provence||Long Beach|
|3||Rum Away||Lagoon 450S||No Worries Group, LLC||San Diego|
|4||Dolfin||Crealock 37||Bill & Patty Meanley||San Diego|
|5||Alibi IV||Beneteau 411 Oceanic||Frederick J Humphrey||San Diego|
|6||Descanso||Wauquiez Centurion 42||Craig & Annika Lacy||Seattle, WA|
|7||Kyrie||Prout Snowgoose 37||Joe & Kristen Grieser||Juneau, AK|
|8||Spinnaker||Hylas 54||William Partin||Bainbridge Is, WA|
|9||MsChievous||Hylas 49||James & Susan AuBuchon||Portland, ME|
|10||Wikd||Baltic 43||Scott Selover||San Francisco|
|11||Day Dream||J/122||Robert Day||Newport Beach|
|12||Believe||Beneteau 41.1||Stan Pawlak||Richmond|
|13||Dharma Girl||Tatoosh 42||Chris & Carrie Williams||Portland, OR|
|14||Rochambeau||Lagoon 400||Beverly van de Velde||Marina del Rey|
|15||Juliet||Mason 44||Charles & LeeAnne Clark||Channel Islands|
|16||Thisldu||Rafiki 35||Garrett Ruhland||Sausalito|
|17||Tess||Beneteau 38||Klaus Kaasgaard||Redwood City|
|18||Shamaal||Outbound 46||Jane & Jerry McNaboe||South Lake Tahoe|
|19||Prana||Hunter 45cc||Tom Mangold||San Diego|
|20||Tesa||Catalina 42||Steve Haas||Brickyard Cove|
|21||Jacquot-Bateau||Irwin 38||Jacques Lorch||Long Beach|
|22||Alexsea||Hylas 46||Darrell Jelle & Turi Drake||St. Croix, VI|
|23||Caroline||Islander 36||Benjamin Fisher||New York, NY|
|24||Scout||Hylas 44||Bill Blumlein||Newport, OR|
|25||Arinaar||Bristol 40||Eric Meiier||Portland, OR|
|26||Kanumera||Spindrift 43||Doug Villepique||San Diego|
|27||I’O||Davidson 44||Mark & Linda LeVander||Ventura|
|28||Rum Line||Dehler 38||Timothy Andrew Lorenzen||San Francisco|
|29||Amenomania||Oceanis 45||Cliff Newell & Katy Jacobs||Sausalito|
|30||Shanti||Jeanneau 469||Daniel Casey||Santa Barbara|
|31||SoLunaMare||Saga 43||Roger Neiley||Newport Beach|
|32||Tranquility||Catalina 36 MkII||David & Becky Elmore||Port Orchard, WA|
|33||Wilderness||Aerodyne 38||Jeff Rothermel & Naomi Neville||King Harbor|
|34||Sundance||Island Packet 370||Paul Rupple||Seward, AK|
|35||Galene||Cooper Seabird 37 PH||Greg & Laurie Yellenik||Vancouver, BC|
|36||Delphina||Waterline 55||Tracy & Richard Perdue||Rapid City, SD|
|37||Tally Ho||Nauticat 43||Rich & Laura Brazil||Point Richmond|
|38||Nota Bene||Beneteau 411||Jack Vetter & Carly Hegle||Vallejo|
|39||Lasirena||Catalina 35||Steve Beu||Long Beach|
|40||Tulum V||Aleutian 51 Ketch||Chad French||29 Palms|
|41||Quijote||Hallberg Rassy 37||Roderick Mercer||Seattle, WA|
|42||Aeolian||Sceptre 41||Todd & Maria Millen||Alta, UT|
|43||SEAduction||Catalina 42 MkII||Daniel Lawler||Salt Lake City, UT|
|44||Blue Sugar||J/42||Jay & Marina Zucca||Alameda|
|45||Seaquel||Catalina 400 MkII||Michael & Jacqulyn Carssow||Portland, OR|
|46||Luna Rossa||Beneteau 49.5||W J, LLC||San Diego|
|47||Concerto||Cheoy Lee 52||Ron & Jo Nieman||Homer. AK|
|48||Andiamo||Islander 32 MkII||Paula & Russell Sunn||San Diego/Chico|
|49||Nai’a||Islander 37||Hans Juergen Johnson||Brickyard Cove|
|50||Sail La Vie||Hunter 49||Peyton Robinson||Chula Vista|
|51||Ciao||Bruce Roberts 34||Eric Olsen||Portland, OR|
|52||Just Passing Wind||Sundeer 60||Jeff Wahl||Yankton, SD|
|53||Caprica||Beneteau Oceanis 411||Robert Wakeman||Redondo Beach|
|54||Brainwaves||J/46||Deb Ehler & Jim Brainard||Golden, CO|
|55||Shanti||Manta 40||Tricia Mallia||San Diego|
|56||Raven||Catalina 42 MkII||Kevin & Gina Stenberg||Portland, OR|
|57||Boundless||Passport 42||Julian Jones||San Francisco|
|58||Samadhi||Tayana 55||Ashley & Dan Murphy||Seattle, WA|
|59||Silver Linings||Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 45.2||Mark LaFevers||Channel Islands|
|60||Pellucidar||Moody 47||Walt Drechsler||Everett, WA|
|61||Kristina Marie||Hudson Force 50||Ken & Kristie Nairne||Long Beach|
|62||Cygnus Montanus||Frers 111||Rick Jakaus||Stockholm, SWE|
|63||Wind Angel||Beneteau 361||Gerald & Vicki Marquart||Queen Creek, AZ|
|64||Anita||Morgan 382||Christopher Pride||Point Richmond|
|65||Clapotis||Lagoon 450F||Charles Devanneaux||Marina del Rey|
|66||Winston||Fountain Pajot Lipari 41||John & Sue Adams||La Jolla|
|67||Ivanica||Morgan 461||Zoran Kajmakovic||San Francisco|
|68||Unicorn||Hylas 44||David Rowe||Las Vegas, NV|
|69||Naughtical||Beneteau 46||Calvin Cote||Half Moon Bay|
|70||Sophia Claire||Hunter 450||Gregory Beu & Pamela Maher||San Diego|
|71||Starfire||Tartan 4100||Diana Baumgartner||Ventura|
|72||Ran||Beneteau 423||Bram Arnold||San Diego|
|73||Animal Cracker||Hunter 460||Scott & Tami Birdzell||Marina Coral|