Baja or Bust: Small-Boat Refit
Lucore has an abiding love for the nearly 1,000-mile-long Baja Peninsula, going back decades.
“I came to Baja as a 12-year-old, camping at San Felipe,” Lucore recalls. “That was in 1952, before the roads were even complete. I bought a house here in the 1980s.”
Lucore and fellow crew members Gary Bruntsch and John Hunt comprise Brown-Eyed Girl’s FUBAR crew. The three men, all retired firefighters from Encinitas, California, have known each other for more than 30 years.
Lucore says the sturdy, rugged Skipjack — named for his brown-eyed wife, Della — is more than capable of long-range cruising, with a few modifications. Two critical steps were repowering and adding fuel capacity.
“According to FUBAR rules, you have to be able to cruise 450 miles at 8.5 knots between fuel stops,” Lucore explains. “So I increased the capacity of the main fuel tank from 140 gallons to 175 gallons and added an extra 50-gallon tank forward. And I replaced the twin diesels with a [single] 270 hp Cummins MerCruiser Duoprop. That gave us our range for the first FUBAR in 2007.”
It was the third repower for Brown-Eyed Girl. First, Lucore repowered with twin gas engines, then with twin Volvo Penta diesels. In 2005, he went for that single diesel engine. Hunt observes that the single engine had two noteworthy benefits.
“With that one engine in the center, we have much better storage,” he explains. “It’s also easier for maintenance and battery access. You don’t have to be quite so young and agile.” More space is safer than a shoehorn installation for working on an engine in offshore rollers.
Next, Lucore added a smaller dinghy to the boat. He downsized from an 8-foot to a 7-foot model, the smallest available. It still can carry a whopping 760 pounds, yet it won’t interfere with the windlass and anchoring equipment as its predecessor had.
For the 2011 FUBAR, Lucore also added weather curtains to the bow rails, which has made a difference.
“It makes a bigger nose on the boat, so it’s better going into weather,” he observes. “And we get less spray up here. The dinghy didn’t even get wet. Eyes twinkling, he adds, “We used to drive this boat with a mask and snorkel. We almost had to put our fins on.” We’ll file that tidbit away for our next Skipjack test.
The final addition: a pilothouse to replace the canvas and clear window curtains. If the weather’s agreeable, the windshield panels push outward and the side windows slide open. If it’s not, the captain and crew stay dry.
There was a concern with the pilothouse, because it added 500 to 600 pounds to the boat. “The windows alone are more than 300 pounds. When we left California, we realized she was top-heavy. We just hadn’t factored in the extra weight,” recalls Hunt about the problem.
Once they crossed the border and arrived in Ensenada, the crew spent time reorganizing provisions to better balance Brown-Eyed Girl. Once that was done, the little Skipjack was ready; aboard, Lucore fitted a complete electronics package including GPS, autopilot and FloScan fuel-flow instrumentation.
“We have everything the big guys have, but smaller,” Lucore says.
“Remember when we used to steer with just a compass?” Hunt asks him, laughing.