Welcome to Season 4

So for folks who only follow our blog here as opposed to our posts to Instagram and Facebook you must be wondering what happened to Season 3. Rest assured, Season 3 was great and at some point I may post a recap. But since it was much of the same as previous seasons I fell off the wagon and got out of the habit of posting about our experiences here. I think mostly this was because we were returning to many of our favorite anchorages of past seasons instead of discovering new places, I needed to find a different impulse to start writing.

But there’s always something to write about, so I’ll be rediscovering posting about things like maintenance, general cruising, lessons learned, and life aboard in addition to the places we cruise.

Late to the starting line

One of our first challenges for Season 4 was that we got bit of a late start arriving in San Carlos in mid October to start getting Sonrisa ready for the season. To add to the time pressure we had planned for several significant upgrades which I’ll cover in project posts. This all added to the time pressure to get out of the Gulf of California by Thanksgiving or shortly after to avoid the incessant northerly winds that start almost like clockwork a few days after Thanksgiving. Once the northerlies set in, it gets difficult to move around the sea as you’ll only get a couple of days of reprieve from the strong, cold northerlies and port closures get increasingly common, trapping boats in port for potentially weeks on end.

The plan

We packed our car with all of the supplies we could fit and drove 2,000 miles from Bellingham to San Carlos in 3 days. Once in San Carlos we had exactly 2 weeks to get Sonrisa moved from the storage yard to the work yard, slap on a coat of bottom paint, re-commission all of the utilities, and install our planned upgrades and replacements we brought with us this year. Once in the water in early November, we have just a few weeks to get about 700 miles south to La Cruz the Huanacaxtle in time for our marina reservation. From there, we are into the more tropical weather and can slow down a bit and think about getting to Tenacatita by either Christmas or New Years. Come February we’ll then plan the trip back north again when we can hopefully can spend a bit more time in the Gulf of California as we work our way north back to San Carlos in May or so.


With our Mexi-mobile (aka our 316,000 mile Prius) fully packed we hit the road on a Friday, unsure of if and where we’d stop for the night. We were determined to put on as many miles as we safely could the first day when we’re ‘fresh.’ We were bringing sails down with us this year, so the car was unusually full and we had to forgo some of our usual Trader Joes and Costco goodies to preserve room for the gear.

The first night we made it to a rest stop somewhere in the Central Valley south of Sacramento. We slept in the car, but the nice thing about a hybrid is that it has an electric climate control, so we just park with the car on and the AC (or heat) on and the system will run off of the hybrid battery until it gets low, then the gas engine kicks in for a few minutes to recharge.

The next day we made it to Kristin’s sister’s place in Arizona where we could recharge ourselves and prepare for the 6-hour drive across the border to San Carlos. There’s also always some last-minute things to take care of before crossing the border such as renewing our Mexican liability car insurance and pre-printing our visas and paperwork for our check-in at KM-21.

Hola San Carlos!

We arrived in San Carlos on a Sunday and checked into our favorite local hotel Posada del Desierto. It’s a charming little family-run hotel a short drive from the boat yard and just perfect for us. Since Sonrisa was locked away in storage until the next day, we took the opportunity to celebrate our arrival by visiting one of our most favorite restaurants La Calaca for some well-earned tacos and cervezas.

Two weeks in the work yard

The next day we arrived in the boat yard nervously waiting for the Marina Seca crew to haul Sonrisa to the work yard where we’d see how she fared in the Sonoran summer. Kristin was also anxious to see if her potted agave plant that was gifted to us in La Cruz survived the summer in the cockpit. Since there were no big storms that swept through the area this year, we were able to leave the cover on Sonrisa for the entire summer. We think this helped keep some of the dust of the decks compared to other boats, especially after the haboob that surprised everyone in July.

The biggest upgrade this year was to replace our sails with a fresh set from Zoom Sails and swap in a roller-furler for the staysail to match our other headsail. We also had a new radar and chartplotter to install along with the gimbaled radar mount that Greg rebuilt over the summer. We were also going to put another coat of bottom paint on and clean and coat the propeller. This was in addition to all of the usual cleanup and re-commissioning of all of the onboard systems.

Once Sonrisa was in the water again, we the go through the rest of the systems that require water in some form (intake, drain, etc.) or require going up the mast to check.

With the exception of needing to clear some disintegrated tarp remnants that ended up wound up in our instruments at the top of the mast, most everything else still worked on Sonrisa once she was fully re-commissioned for the season. In the intense summer heat it seems that pumps take the biggest hit. Rubber seals dry up or shrink, plastic parts get brittle and crack. If there’s something that’s most likely to fail while stored for the summer it’s most likely a pump.

Because of that, the one item I worry about over the summer is our Spectra watermaker. We really love being able to make our own water and not needing to haul potable water in garafons back and forth to the boat and worry about if we have enough water or if we need to find a port. I don’t like running the watermaker in the harbor because of the risk of contaminants (oil, fuel, waste, etc.) getting into the system and fouling the filters.

So our procedure for the last few years has been to pump 30 gallons of the (watermaker) water from our tanks at the end of the season into jugs to store for the summer and drain the rest so that our tanks are empty all summer. Then in the fall when we splash we isolate one of our two 75 gallon water tanks and put the 30 gallons back in to use for washing and buy a few jugs of bottled water for drinking for the first few days on board. Then once we’re in a clean anchorage we start up the watermaker and fill the other tank while we use-up the stored water from the first tank. Once we’ve used up the stored water we start filling both with watermaker water we can drink.

This means that for the first few days we have to have some contingency plans for water in case the watermaker doesn’t work after the long summer.

Since we were late starting this year, we ended up being in San Carlos for the Dia de los Muertos celebrations. We did take some time celebrate the holiday and visit with our friends who either live in or happen to be passing through San Carlos. The place is certainly growing on us as we meet more people and get to know this wonderful little town better.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *