03/12/2009, La Cruz
Our last 7 days have been filled with construction projects working with vendors and installing all the stuff that came down in our recent shipment from the states. The biggest of these was the stainless work, providing a support structure for the solar panels, a mount for 800 feet of nylon line on a spool and our stern anchor. Carlos and the rest of the stainless crew did a very nice job but required lots of attention to get the design details right. Then the rigger showed up (a week late) but did a great job helping ensure our rig was up to the task at hand. Next the electrician showed up to survey the rough-in of all the electrical cables for the solar, and then to top it off, "Teapot Tony" the Yanmar engine guru showed up ahead of schedule, and I was close to losing it, moving between 4 vendors at the same time feeding them what they needed to know for what seemed like an eternity. Four days later, the intensity has subsided and all of the big jobs are done. See the gallery for detailed pictures, but in short:
1. New stainless support structure for two 175W Kyocera solar panels, connected to the arch and the stern pulpits. Lots of fine tuning required getting them level and low enough where they don't conflict with the traveler. They also provided a base for the satphone antenna and stern light, removing a flimsy pole mounted to the starboard rail.
2. Two new halyards, one replacing the useless topping lift, which can be used as a spare main halyard, and a second halyard made of spectra, which is VERY strong facing forward, which will be used as a topping lift for the new whisker pole, but also can be used in an emergency as a replacement forestay or shroud. Along the way Jorge inspected and lubricated the in mast furler and main halyard, re-tensioned the forestay and fixed the jib furler so it furls more cleanly. We found two shackles at the top of the mast that were loose, normally buried inside the mainsail that could have easily come loose on the long passage. They both now have stainless wire holding them together for safety.
3. The trusty Yanmar turbo-diesel is now trustier after Teapot Tony installed a relay between the starter switch and the starter. Refer to our earlier blog entry about starter motor drama, but this will solve the intermittent starting problem. We also changed coolant and transmission fluid, adjusted valves, aligned the propshaft and blew out the carbon on the turbo exhaust blades. She's now purring nicely.
4. The new solar panels are delivering 15 amps at peak sunlight to the batteries, and over the course of the day, should deliver about 100 amp-hours, which will supply everything the fridge/freezer needs and about 60-70% of our daily needs, dramatically reducing the need to run the generator.
5. Installed the 6-man Viking offshore liferaft just in front of the companionway. Easy install, then Rina built a nice sunbrella cover for it.
03/09/2009, La Cruz
The picture above does a pretty good job of showing an overview of our passage to the Marquesas. We plan on leaving March 21st weather permitting, and arriving in Hiva Oa between the 10-15th of April. The boats that are leaving now are running into light westerly winds and making only 80 miles a day. Visual passage planner says we will average 144 miles a day, but we are planning on a more conservative 125 miles a day.
Leg 1 is usually the most difficult, and many cruisers motor this section due to the fickle winds off the coast of mexico. Our strategy is to quickly get out to the Northern tradewinds, about 2-300 miles offshore, which are more consistent in speed and direction. Leg 2 and 3 takes us to just above the equator, where the wind usually dies somewhere around 5-8 degrees North latitude. Whenever that happens, we will turn due South and motor across the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) to avoid the frequent squalls and thunderstorms. (Leg 4)
We will stop right on the equator to toast Neptune with a bottle of Vueve, take a swim, then keep going until we run into the Southern tradewinds, where we will turn west again and sail downwind to the Marquesas. (Leg 5 and 6)
During our passage, we will be communicating with the fleet every morning to provide our position and let them know everything is alright. We will plan on doing daily blog updates via satphone where you will be able to watch our progress on the "current location" section of the blog and hear how the crew is faring on this long passage. If we miss a day or two, please do not fret, as sometimes life does get busy on the boat. Knowing that you all will be watching closely will motivate us to update it, however. We will also have email aboard from our fyfm2008 email account only, but please make your messages short and with no attachments, as there is a filter that will defer all messages larger than 10Kbytes. If you do a text email, rather than html, you can easily write several paragraphs and get under the 10K filter. Further emergency contact information will be provided to Gene Wollen, who will be monitoring our passage.
If you have any questions about the plan, whether or not we have lost our sanity, ask now, as we will be largely "off the grid" in just under two weeks.
03/06/2009, La Cruz
Check out the March Latitude 38 for an article, including Rina and I, about people who have attended local sailing schools and went on to cruise. The interview, by John Riise, was conducted while we were in Barra, via a skype call on our computer, which was a first for John. He especially got a kick out of the fact that we bought the boat before we really knew how to sail her.
Rina and I took many classes at Club Nautique in San Francisco Bay, then Orange Coast College's Alaska Eagle, with a trip down the Baja coast. We followed that up with a series of more and more challenging voyages with the help of friends and family over the last 5 years. Special thanks goes out to Gene, Corey, Pep and John for their guidance, inspiration and assistance.
We are still learning TONS out here every day, and the humility engendered by stubbing our metaphorical toes is wonderfully grounding. We expect to be on a steep learning curve for quite a while as we head west.... frankly it freaks me out a bit, but I (we?) love a challenge.
You can find Latitude 38 online at http://www.latitude38.com/eBooks/Mar2009.html
03/06/2009, La Cruz
Over the past month we have been fine tuning our float plan for the South Pacific, working with friends and family to coordinate visits with us and make sure we have all the navigational aids we need for safe passage through the region. Here is the current plan, subject to change and the vagaries of mother nature.
Big news is that we will be joined by 2 crew for the crossing to the South Pacific. We had such a great time with Jan Selderijk on the way back up from Ztown that we decided to invite him for the the crossing to the Marquesas, giving us 3 qualified crew. Our 4th crew member will be daughter Alyssa who will join us for 2 months before starting summer school at Gavilan college in Gilroy.
Depart PV on or about March 21st
20-30 day passage to Hiva Oa, Marquesas 2800 Miles
Arrive Hiva Oa April 15
Crew: Allan, Rina, Alyssa, Jan
Marquesas April 15 - May 5
Visit Hiva Oa, Nuku Hiva, Fatu Hiva, Tahuata
Crew: Allan, Rina, Alyssa, Pep and John
May 5 - May 9 - crossing to Tuamoto Islands 450 Miles
Tuamoto Islands May 9 - June 2
Visit 3-4 islands, some combination of Makemo, Tahanea, Raraka, Kauehi, Fakerava, Toau, Apataki, Rangiroa, Tikehau
Pep and John depart Mid May
June 2-6 - crossing to Tahiti 350 Miles
Crew: Allan, Rina, Alyssa, Jan
Society Islands (Tahiti) June 6 - July 15
Visit Tahiti, Moorea, Huahine, Raiatea, Tahaa, Bora Bora, Maupiti
Megan arrives early June for 2 weeks - Schedule TBD
Alyssa departs Mid June
Jan Departs early June
Megan arrives for 2 weeks early June
Jeffrey arrives for time TBD in June
July 15-21 crossing to Cook Islands 610 Miles
Cook Islands July 21- Aug 15
Visit Rarotonga, Aitutaki
Aug 15 - Aug 22 - crossing to Vava'u/Tonga 862 Miles
Vava'u/Tonga Aug 22 - September 22
Visit Vava'u/Tonga ( more islands TBD)
Sept 22 - Nov 15 TBD
Nov 15 - Passage to New Zealand via Minerva Reef
02/28/2009, La Cruz
Follow You and many other boats are busily preparing for the puddle jump to the Marquesas, with the first boats departing next week. The best time of the season for the 2800 mile crossing is mid-March to end of April, when the tradewinds are more consistent and best for an easier downwind sail. The docks are a veritable hive of activity, with most boats finishing up boat projects and loading provisions. There is no relaxing around here, as Rina and I can attest. We plan on departing on or about March 16th, when we'll have plenty of time to chill on the expected 20-26 day crossing.
We are making good progress on our own projects, especially after receiving 4 boxes of goodies from the states. A very large debt of gratitude is owed John Papadopoulos and Stephanie Faillers for staging many many shipments in their living room, providing guidance on a whisker pole purchase and then schlepping it all down to San Diego where it was driven across the border and put on a plane to PV.
We now have all the spare parts we need to deal with most contingencies, and Rina is busily sewing our last shade covers. If there is one thing we did not anticipate, it was the need for easy to deploy shade for the cockpit that can handle significant winds. We also got many treats not easily found in Mexico, like thin swim skins, LOTS of earl grey tea, Jasmine Rice, Sushi making materials, 12 boxes of tofu and spicy curry. The liferaft and solar panels are still in transit and will arrive next week, but we have lined up the electrician and stainless steel guys, so those projects are likely off the critical path.
The biggest and most important part is provisioning, which we will start next week. We've done all our research, comparing prices at Mega, Soriana, Mexicana Commercial and Costco. It's a big deal too, since we are buying significant quantities of most staples with are hard to get or very expensive in the South Pacific. For example, we are buying 3 months of orange juice in 1 liter boxes. At one box a day between us, that's 90 boxes, presenting both a storage issue and a cost one. We have been paying up to 20 pesos per box, but found it at one store for 10. And don't get me started on the alternatives.... Frozen vs. powder vs. gallon jugs, etc....
Upper left picture , project 1 was cleaning and lubricating the steering system to try to get rid of an annoying squeak. Lubing did not work, so I pulled it apart and found the culprit... the wheel brake, which doesn't work, had a bunch of dirt that caused all the noise. Cleaned and re-greased all the gears and re-aligned the autopilot (Phil will be happy) and made sure everything was fastened down securely. Rina getting reeelly tired of sewing all these little projects I come up with. Bottom left, the bow has a 3 x 8 inch opening for the anchor chain to drop into a big locker. Problem is when you hit big seas, you can stuff your bow into the wave ahead of you and fill that anchor locker with more water than can drain out quickly. The additional weight helps stuff your nose further into the waves and the boat hobbyhorses. I cut Â½" rubber to cover the opening and mounted to the anchor locker cover. Bottom right shows the new stanchion mounted whisker pole on the port side. Now we just need to learn to use it!
02/26/2009, La Cruz
Nothing like a nice dock environment to get your stuff done. After pulling the floorboards and finding a local carpenter with a table saw, I was able to fabricate the access ports to the starboard side bilge. I got immense pleasure from the excercise in woodwork, countersyncing screws, sanding and finishing the access hatches and putting it all back together again.
Pane 1 - Blue tape outlines the cuts in the floorboard, pulled away from the starboard captains chairs.
Pane 2 - securing the braces for the floor boards so that the new openings do not weaken the structure
Pane 3 - Gluing the braces - liquid nails is great stuff
Pane 4 - The finished product - clean looking access ports that are solid to walk on and do not rattle.
02/26/2009, La Cruz
We arrived at 1am Tuesday in La Cruz, looking forward to hanging out in the Marina after being on the hook (at anchor) for 4 weeks. At anchor, we always have one eye and ear open for what is going on around us... winds, anchor holding, power and water management, rocking and rolling with the swells. In the Marina, the power and water is endless and there are noooo swells.
We are at dock 3 at Marina Riviera Nayarit, populated with 10-20 other boats that are going west to the South Pacific in the next 30-45 days. After 5 months of cruising, the conversations with other boats come easy and frequently. Dietmar and Suzanne from Carinthia are here and throw a "welcome back" dinner, inviting Richard and Suzanne from Kuamoana as well.
Bending Time - Over the past weeks, we have built a list of 75 items to complete before we head to the Marquesas. In classic manic driven form, I hit the ground running, wanting to ensure that we get a fast start and are on a path to getting everything done by March 15th. All the supplies from the US will arrive next week, so this week is focused on lining up vendors to fabricate stainless steel, electricians and riggers. It also helps greatly that Carinthia has rented a car for the next two weeks, making it MUCH more efficient to get into PV in 20 minutes for supplies and provisions. MUCH easier than the 1 hour chicken-bus ride or the $35 taxi ride. We have already knocked off 15 items, giving us confidence we will make our date. SJ and Theresa would be proud of our project management skills!
Bending Space - We need to bring enough food on board for 30 days, which really means 60 days, in case something goes wrong. Conventional wisdom and sailing orthodoxy says 6 lbs per person per day.... Do the math... That's 720 lbs of provisions for 2 of us! Add on top of that the fact that the South Pacific is not populated by Wally-worlds or Costco's, much less Cost Plus or Whole Foods. This means we have to think way in advance about what we want and where we will store it. To make space we have purged clothes, un-needed supplies and goo-gaws, and cut into the boat to find more storage. Interestingly, Hunter saw fit to NOT open the bilge on the starboard side of the boat, but weighted the boat with 100 gallons of diesel, galley stores, washer/dryer and settee (dining room) seat storage on the port side, resulting in a 2 degree list to port. I learned from another Hunter 466 owner that the bilge on the starboard side was wide open. Sure enough, I pulled the floor boards and found 3 compartments for storage. Finding a local carpenter with a table saw, we cut up the floor board and punched holes similar to the other floorboards, added bracing, sanded and finished for a clean looking increase of storage of 15 cubic feet.
The compartments on the left hold 3 batteries providing 675 amphours of power, good for 2 days of cruising. The bottom left compartment contains the manifolds for the 4 water tanks, twin water pumps, gyro compass, starting battery and 3 bilge pumps. The bottom right compartment holds one of the 4 25 gallon water tanks. The other 3 compartments are empty for the time being.
02/23/2009, Chamela Bay
We were doing boat projects here in Chamela Bay after feeling guilty for laying around for several days... I was trying for the 3rd time to fix the leaky mast base and noticed that the generator was running dry... no water in the exhaust. I turned the genset off and tried to restart and got a coolent temp error. Here is where I usually go try to solve the harder problem first before trying the simple stuff.
First, checked the sea-strainer. It was clean, but noticed that the inflow was reduced. Checked the impeller, it was fine. Dove into the water and checked the thru-hull to see if there was barnacles growing in or around it.... cleared out some, but it didnt account for the slow flow. Ok, time to pull the hose off the sea-strainer and see if I can see any blockage.
Sure enough, when I took the hose off, out popped two little fishies at a 90 degree elbow. I *did* notice that there was a bunch of small fish swimming around the bottom of the boat when I was down there.
A scene right out of "Finding Nemo" without the happy ending....
02/23/2009, Chamela Bay
We had a tough time reeling this guppy in, but in the end we won. Sushi for everyone tonight!
Rina, Jan and I enjoyed several days touring Barra de Navidad, attending a benefit concert for local children's shelter, and generally soaking up the atmosphere of this funky little town. (for the second time)
As we walked the sleepy streets of Barra to check in with the Port Captain, we could see where many American expats have made this their home, building small houses with high walls around them. Built on lots 50 by 100, they are little gringo oasis's (locals too, for that matter) and by all accounts inexpensive to build and maintain. The local infrastructure, however, leads a bit to be desired. Streets, electricity, water are all dicey affairs here. Rina and I often play a game of "could you live here?" in each place we visit. While this kick back town has a vibrant music scene, a nice blend of gringo and local businesses and a great marine environment, it's just a bit too rustic for Rina. We've come closer to saying yes in places like La Cruz, Mazatlan and Zijuatanejo, each for very different reasons. (Don't worry mom, it's just retirement fantasizing!) The common theme has been proximity to the water, a vibrant arts scene, rural, yet close enough to modern commerce, and oh yea, away from heavy industry that spoils many otherwise great areas of the Mexican coastline.
On Wednesday we left Barra and made the short 10 mile hop up the coast to Tenecatita Bay. While the Barra lagoon ensured quiet nights with no rocking from ocean swells, the water in the Barra lagoon is not very clear nor conducive to swimming. At Tenecatita, northwest ocean swells are mostly inhibited by the rocky point but the bay is open enough to ensure good circulation for swimming and running the watermaker. The weather has been perfect, with ocean breezes keeping the boat cool, a bright blue sky reflecting in the waters of the bay, cool nights in the low 70's and a fine-grained sandy beach for walks. An added recreational bonus is the jungle river, which winds for 2.5 miles to a nearby bay with beach palapas and small tiendas.
We met up with Justin and Dalia from Steady Beat Thursday and made the journey up the river, which at times narrowed to only 8 feet, with thick Mangrove trees beside and above. We forded the bar at the mouth of the river, with waves nearly breaking over the stern of our little dinghy. Luckily we came through unscathed and dry, thanks to our wheels, which were extended down to keep our prop off the rocks. Others before and after us got sideways and flipped over, sometimes with an out of control outboard motor at full throttle coming close to the boats former occupants.
The first part of the river had many shallows, requiring constant vigilance, but later, as the jungle canopy closed in, we were mostly concerned with the pokey roots of the mangroves reaching for our vulnerable inflatable pontoons. While there are many reports of crocodiles in the river shadows, we did not see any. Rather, we saw a wide variety of birds, colorful crabs and fish. The most exciting part (Rina would say un-nerving) was the pangas flying down the river at high speeds. Panga drivers have no concept of "slow" and can be counted on to zip by your boat in the quiet mornings at full speed, rocking you till you wake. The same held on the river, with only 1-2 feet separating us while they passed us with their boatloads of camera-toting hotel tourists. The end of the river opened into a pristine wide open lagoon that backed into the beach palapas where we had a long lunch with several other cruisers and caught up on current events with Justin and Dalia.
We plan on catching up with some boat chores Saturday before heading to Chamela Bay on Sunday. Our long list of "to-do's for the South Pacific has been getting steadily shorter, but the excitement will start when we return to La Cruz on the 27th and receive/install all the gear we have been gathering in the states. Our preparations and an update on our South Pacific itinerary will be coming in the next blog or three.
If I can keep this shaky internet connection, I'll update the gallery with more pictures of our river raft adventure.