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Captain’s Log – Mission Bay Crossing the Mexican Border

Here is a tale about heartbreak and triumph all within 48hrs.

Sunday 15:00.

Never had we felt so ready to leave an anchorage, never had the boat been so ready to leave. We had just spent the last week at beautiful Mission Bay in San Diego. We celebrated Bentleys 8th birthday riding roller coasters at a theme park on the beach, and Meraki got some much needed upgrades. She was full of food, water and fuel. Today is the day we are finally heading to MEXICO!!!

Or so we thought……

Kate’s right foot hit the black rubber button on deck and the anchor chain sprung to life clanging it’s way back into the bow of the boat. “All clear” she yelled back, the anchor was up and we slowly chugged away under engine power.

We had an 80nm, 16hr passage ahead of us, hoping to arrive in Ensenada at first light to check in to our second country of our trip. The wind was very light with a calm sea, as the day came to an end we were treated with one of the most beautiful sunsets so far.


Kate took over the helm and I went down below to check the mechanical systems, and also have a rest as we started to settle in and prepare for our night watches. I noticed the engine rpm’s were at zero and the battery voltage was lower than usual. After some diagnostics it was discovered the alternator was playing up and turning on and off intermittently. This time of year the days are short and our solar struggles to keep up with charging our battery bank. We’d been relying on the alternator to keep things topped up so this was a big blow to the operation of the boat. Now a decision was to be made, do we continue on and get it fixed in Ensenada, or do we turn back and head in to San Diego Bay to get it fixed?

The tough decision was made to turn back. We were shattered. The thought of trying to source or repair parts in Mexico was a little daunting, especially when our Spanish vocabulary was non existent. Heading towards San Diego Bay, a slight smell of smoke came from the cabin and the boys were quick to get themselves up on deck as I went down to investigate. Night had fallen and we were still an hour away from our anchorage. I lifted the engine hatch and smoke billowed out instantly filling the boat, smoke alarms went crazy, for a few seconds it was a big “ OH SHIT” moment. I quickly disconnected the alternator from an external switch and Kate brought the engine back to idle speeds.

When your car breaks down on the side of the road it’s very simple to just pull over and the drama stops. Not so much when you’re out at sea, things can turn ugly real quick, especially at night.

After a few minutes at low idle with the alternator off, the smoke started to clear. The alternator was cooked, we were lucky it didn’t catch fire. The external regulator had failed causing it to go in to overdrive. Then the laughter set in. I don’t know why this happens, whenever there seems to be a stressful situation or something goes wrong, we always start laughing.


The engine was put back in to forward gear and we were soon anchoring in the darkness and cracking beers to celebrate our arrival in to San Diego… again.

Fast forward to Tuesday 15:00

The engine started up first go as always, our faces all smiles.

Some how we managed to find a direct replacement alternator and external regulator (after dozens of calls to nearby stores), extract all of the old parts and wires from the engine bay, install all the new bits and program the regulator to suit our specific needs. The anchorage was pretty exposed to the Pacific Ocean swells so we were constantly rocking. We had never undertaken anything like this so we were very pleased when everything worked first go, and especially pleased that we got everything out and back together so quick.

The area was teaming with military action as we said our final goodbyes to America. Jets were flying overhead, and soldiers were jumping from helicopters in to the water as they practiced their drills. It seemed like a fitting end as we set off again in to the setting sun, it would be a perfect overnight passage and flawless arrival into Mexico.

Capt Mick

This Post Has One Comment

  1. carol walker

    I love all your informative and fun family posts!

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