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A Cross Ocean Experience
Seven thousand miles of outstanding cruising since November 2008 means it's time to do a little renovation and more planning for the future. Find out what ...
Projects update
02/22/2009, Tenacatita, Jalisco, MX

Whilst in the marina and at anchor in La Cruz we have been able to complete the following:


Goal To give us some protection from wind and wave in our slightly exposed cockpit
Efficacy So far seem good, although not yet tested in weather. Give some sun and wind protection. Restrict visibility somewhat. Helps with privacy for our showers (the cockpit is the shower for us).


Goal When driving hard to weather the mast used to leak a little at the partners. Before leaving San Diego we had a stainless steel collar fabricated which is screwed and bedded to the deck. With this boot now completed it should be water tight.
Efficacy Not yet tested, though it looks fine. I think longevity will be the only issue but it will be easy to replace.

Sand sausage

Goal Don't laugh. Mandy has no coamings and low freeboard so any water taken over the side runs aft and across the bridge deck. This means a wet arse. We fashioned these sand bags and can tie them at various angles across the side decks.
Efficacy Not highly tested, but we did ship some seas coming down from Corrientes and I believe they helped. If they are no good we can use them as movable ballast .... No need for further railmeat.

Jib net

Goal To facilitate the corralling of our foresails when we need to get them down and under control quickly.

Efficacy So far a big success. With the downhaul the genoa can be dumped down in the net and tied easily with one or tow ties. If conditions are such that I would rather not go out on the bowsprit immediately to remove the sail, it is safe there for a while. We have not yet tried this with the big nylon drifter which is a lot more slippery and evasive. However we try to get this down before the wind gets up too much since it is really a light air sail.

Mosquito net

Goal The boat came equipped with brass screens for the four opening portholes. We have made mosquito nets for the forward and cabin roof hatches. This left the companionway. As a first step we made this hatchboard replacement.
Efficacy We will shortly be anchoring in the lagoon at Barra de Navidad which will be our first mosquito test. Report to come.

Other pictures in the gallery

The BCC, maintenance & gear
Identity crisis
01/24/2009, La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, Nayarit, MX

To justify its space and weight everything on this little vessel, with the notable exception of the skipper, is supposed to have at least two uses. In the last frantic weeks before our departure we acquired a lot of new gear, hoping we were choosing correctly, but knowing that only time would sort out the vital from the fluff.
The 60 lb Sailrite sewing machine, bought because it seemed such a bargain at a swap meet, was always near the top of our "it must earn its keep or its gone" list, partly because of the storage issue, but also because Virginia's past relationships with sewing machines have been volatile and sour ... not pretty. How wrong we were.
Within the cruising community out here there are various overlapping sub-sets. For budgetary reasons we are firmly in the anchor outs, "no marinas for us" sub-set.. So what to do when our Dutch friends Ewout and Judith from "Bravado" offered to trade three days in the adjacent slip to them for a couple of days of Virginia's time on the sewing machine. Struggling hard with this identity crisis the promise of a hot shower, not enjoyed since Ensenada, lured us in, and so, thanks to the sewing machine, we have joined the marina sub-set and enjoyed three days of semi-luxury.
In addition to the mending and various storage pouches completed for Bravado the number of projects we have done for ourselves is growing. Most useful has been a vinyl liner for a West Marine storage crate we already had. This liner has flaps in the bottom, and suspended from a pole with weights attached to the bottom is really effective as a flopper stopper. Most of the anchorages here are subject to the Pacific swell wrapping around the headlands and rolling at anchor can be significant. The "Pardey" style flopper stopper, simple and taking up no storage room, is a big quality of life improvement.
Weather cloths, mast boot, chain bin liner, dinghy chafe pad and sun awnings are either completed or in the works. We even repaired a 2' by 1' rip in a huge asymmetric spinnaker belonging to friends David and Suzy from Sidewinder. The sail and its sock filled Mandy's cabin from floorboards to side decks, but the big kite has flown since and seems fine.
The sewing machine stays. Virginia is forging a kinder relationship, and we will continue to barter and keep our identity options open.

p.s. The photo of Mandy sandwiched between Bravado and a behemoth catamaran, gives some idea of the size of what is now considered an average cruising boat.

The BCC, maintenance & gear
Maintenance layover
01/08/2009, San Blas, MX

If cruising is doing maintenance in beautiful places, then we are cruising. The estuary here in San Blas is surge free and reasonably quiet, albeit a bit of a panga highway, and as such it seemed a good place to hang for a while and catch up on some boat keeping.
Our Douglas Fir bulwarks, channels, and whalestrake are varnish over Cetol and will usually last six months between re-coats. The starboard side was last done in April 08, so the salt and sun coming down here blasted the last respectable vestige of varnish off most of the horizontal surfaces.
So we have spent the last week or so sanding, and re-coating with 3 to 5 coats of Captains varnish. We have an issue with the Cetol bubbling off the wood in areas ranging in size from a dime to a tennis ball. Mandy's wood was steeped in Dolphinite when she was constructed and although good for rot resistance, I have a feeling it makes for difficulties with adhesion fro the Cetol. Any suggestions?
While Virginia has been varnishing away I have glued, trimmed and sanded about 50 wood bungs down below. Over the last two years whilst building the refrigerator and changing other cabinetry I have put off covering the screw heads, but it is good to now have Mandy cured of the pox.
Also we have now got our Mac Mini and Sony monitor running directly from the house 12v batteries through a Carnetix P1900 DC/DC regulator. This seems like a good bit of gear, only a little blue smoke was evident during installation, and it is more efficient than running either the Mac or the PC lap top through the inverter.
I have found a couple of stays (one whisker, one boomkin) with some bleeding rust showing through the serving. We had this on the opposite whisker stay before and, with Brian Toss's "The Rigger's Apprentice" in hand, it was not too difficult to unwind the serving and parceling, wire brush and reslush the stay with Lanacote, and then re-serve. Trying our best to follow Evans Starzinger and Beth Leonard's mantra of " Find it. Fix it" this will be the next job.
The rest of our down time here has been spent re-stowing. It is staggering how much time on a small boat is spent finding things and then covering them up again. We have everything on the boat inventoried in a spreadsheet, which is anal but nevertheless vital. As we proceed we are trying to order the storage so that the least amount of over storage (moving one thing to get another) occurs. It's not a battle to be won but a war to be waged.
Now we have used all the varnish we have and want to sail again, so tomorrow we will leave the estuary and head south again to look for another beautiful place to do more maintenance.

The BCC, maintenance & gear
01/13/2009 | Rick
I can't think of a better place to do some work on the boat. Thanks for the life reminders. That there is more to this then work and sleep.
Always use multiple sources of information!
12/27/2008, San Blas, Nayarit, MX

In navigation classes it was repeatedly stated .. the chartplotter might fail, the chart might be wrong, you need to know how to pilot without electronic aids.
For those who may wish to disregard this advice the attached photo might bring chills. The chartplotter (Raymarine C70, using Navionics Gold charts) has the boat somewhere between the Plaza and the medical clinic in down town San Blas, when we were at the time crossing the bar at the entrance to the Estuario de Pozo.

Does anyone have a line on whether other charts are more accurate?

Sure glad we didn´t do this at night.

The BCC, maintenance & gear
12/27/2008 | ken & lori
What charts are you using?
12/28/2008 | Shoal Bay
Ahhh yes, the GPS, a technology developed by the U.S. military,...... they never miss their targets.

Keep the paper charts!!!
12/29/2008 | Malcolm
Hmmm... Interesting ... have had similar with my GPS in the car - except I did not end up in the Sea...
but it does make life a bit more interesting .. We wish you a happy, safe and safe voyages for 2009
Nuts and Bolts recap
12/20/2008, San Blas, Nayarit, MX

Since, after our first month, we are now settled in San Blas for the Christmas period and will not be making way for a while it seems a good time to recap the passages so far and go over how the boat and the systems have faired. This may be of interest only to other sailors, and I apologize to the disinterested for the shop talk.

Total distance traveled Nov. 22nd to Dec. 19th 1081 nautical miles

From To Distance (nautical miles)
Elapsed time (hours)
Sail (Hours)
Motor (hours)
San Diego
Ensenada 70 28 13 15

Turtle Bay 300 74 56 18 5 hour aborted lunch stop in San Quintin, outside Cedros, included 24 hrs run of 105 miles

Turtle Bay
Bahia Asuncion 50 15 10 5 First night arrival in unfamiliar anchorage

Bahia Asuncion
Bahia Santa Maria 184 51 30 21

Bahia Santa Maria
Puerto Magdalena 32 8 2 6 Sailed off anchor, but then had to motor sail most of the way

Puerto Magdalena
Cabo San Lucas 170 39 13 26 Prevailing wind does not prevail. Midnight arrival in CSL

Cabo San Lucas
Bahia Mantanchen 275 69 41 28 Arrived off Isla Isabella at 0400, waited for light, anchorage looked only fair, pushed on to San Blas. Included 102 miles in 24 hrs

Total miles
1081 284 165 119 Average speed 3.8 knots

The boat
No surprises here. Bristol Channel Cutters are supposed to be sweet sailing boats and Mandy is that. Although small she is easily driven and keeps going in most conditions (experienced so far). She doesn't point as well as we'd like (does any sailing boat?) and not yet sure if that is a function of the somewhat strange rig, deficiencies in the sailing skills of the skipper or false expectations. I suspect it is some of each and we continue to experiment with sheeting angles, trim etc.
Having quite low freeboard she can be very wet, and this is exacerbated by having no dodger or coamings. However she is very easy and forgiving to sail. Being a cutter all the sails a relatively small, and with the main on hoops it can be reefed easily at any angle to the wind.
The widowmaker (bowsprit) was at first a little intimidating, since we have no roller furling, but practice is making it easier and with multitudes of sail changes coming down here we have had plenty of practice. We will be making a jib net shortly to make capturing the dropped jib a little easier.

We have eight bags of sails, no doubt excessive. The main is easy to handle, but being loose footed it slats horribly in windless conditions. The loose luff above the lower shrouds is weird and surely not efficient, but it still seems to work. When we put in the second reef I drop the main completely, lace the top 12 feet and then re- raise it.
We have boom end attached preventers rigged as per Roger Olsen (previous builder of BCC's). These are easy to deploy and re stow after use. Also from parts purchased at various swap meets and an old halyard I cobbled together a three part purchase vang which we attach with a rubber yoke mid boom and via a webbing strap to the aft chain plate. This combination has kept the main well tamed so far.
The staysail is club footed on a traveler, permanently attached to the staysail stay on rings, undersized and cut from very heavy Dacron. We have a lighter, flat cut staysail that overlaps the mast a little and which I can sheet inside the shrouds. We have used this (hanked on above the dropped staysail) in 8 - 10 k upwind and it seems to help.
The working jib, we have not used on this trip yet. It is high cut of very heavy tanbark Dacron.
The lapper (genoa) is around 125% (guessing), of quite heavy Dacron and pulls us along really well in winds from 10k to 20k and from any direction but directly downwind. We have no spinnaker or whisker pole (and not sure how we would rig it with the main being on hoops) which makes dead downwind tricky. We have had good success sheeting the lapper through a snatch block on the end of the boom and using the boom as the pole.
We also carry two storm jibs (small and smaller) and a storm trysail, none of which we have used and we are hoping to put that off as long as possible.
Shortly before we left San Diego we purchased a used 1.5 oz. nylon drifter (originally from an Allied Seabreeze) from Minney's in Newport Beach. This has been a star. In wind from almost nothing to 10k from anywhere abaft the beam this sail is quiet and draws well. We usually drop the main and glide along silently. Here's hoping there's a lot more of that in our future. The only hiccup so far was one night in the dark I left it up too long, and tried to take it down after we rounded up to go into the anchorage. Big mistake. It was like trying to tame a wild beast and I was very lucky not to tear it to shreds. Now we try to collapse it in the lee of the main, or if no main at least on to the foredeck.

We repowered in 2007 with a 26 h.p. three cylinder Universal M25 -XPB. After some missteps with the installation, it is now well mounted and has given no problems. It sprayed a little transmission fluid on our shakedown cruise, which I now believe came from the pin hole in the filler cap and was due to being over-filled. We burn about ½ a gallon of diesel per hour, but have only a 20 gallon tank (we also carry one 5 gallon jerry can). Therefore we must learn to use the motor less.

Monitor Self steering vane
This came with the boat but was not mounted. Upon inspection it was quite badly battered and bent and we have spent time and $ replacing and unseizing parts. It seems now well installed and balanced, yet we have had only partial success with it. We are hoping to meet an expert along the way. It is the single most important piece of equipment that we need to bring on line full time.

Autohelm 1000
This tiller pilot is rated for boats 10,000 lbs and under, so our 14,000 lbs is eventually going to kill it (if it hasn't already). So far it has been incredible, though it has its down moments. I think the best we can do it nurse it along and keep looking for other second hand ones so that we have redundancy in numbers.

Having a reliable way to not have to steer is our number one goal at present.

Electrical System
Four Group 27 Trojan AGM's are the house bank, along with an Optima Blue top as a starter, all run with a combiner and regulator by Ample Power. These are charged by a 105 amp Leece alternator (which replaced the 50 amp that came standard with the Universal) along with solar panels (see below). This system seems to be in balance given the sunlight and usage to date. We are very low users of power, with the reefer using about 20 amp hours per day. Other than that the chartplotter and tiller pilot together can suck it up if we are sailing a lot and it is overcast. We have not yet had to run the engine for charging purposes only. Perhaps if we can learn to motor less we will have to. We have only four light fixtures, all LED's, whilst the anchor and running lights are kerosene. A small 700 w inverter runs the laptop, and various other small do dads with little drain.

Solar Panels
We have a 65 w Kyocera mounted on the forward scuttle hatch, hinged so that it can be angled towards the sun even when the hatch is open. Also an 85 w Kyocera on a bracket off the back of the radar post, also adjustable. Lastly a 30 w flexible panel that we can place anywhere. These all feed through a Blue Sky regulator. The placing of the panels on such a small boat is problematic and at best a compromise. The forward one is aesthetically displeasing and threatens to snag nylon foresails at time. The aft one is less of a compromise, but is sometimes shaded by the radome. Together they give us plenty of power under current circumstances.

Chartplotter/Radar/Depth Sounder
A Raymarine C 70 mounted on a swing out arm in the companionway. It has been easy to use. We have one glitch. At times, only when the radar is on, the GPS will lose its signal and we have to reboot the whole thing to get it back. I am not sure if this is due to the relative positions of the mounting of the GPS antenna and the radome or some other factor but we have to correct it. Again looking for an expert. Any ideas?
We also carry paper charts and keep an (almost) hourly log. We plot a D.R. before we leave and plot our position approx. every six hours, whilst recording Lat and Long to the log every hour. We carry a sextant, tables etc. and great ambitions to learn to use them.

In 2007 we replaced the wood hopper and wood burning stove with a reefer of 4 inches of Dow blue Styrofoam glued together with Liquid nails, and lined with fiberglass panels. This has a top opening purchased as a kit from R-Parts. The reefer works, a 12v air cooled Danfoss compressor along with solid state controls are from Frigoboat and have performed really well so far, being quite miserly with the power. We keep the aluminum evaporator plate cold enough to keep ice, but not to make it. We are praying it will continue to perform as well when the ambient temperatures increase.

The 40 gallon integral fiberglass tanks in the keel were shot when we purchased the boat in addition to being too small. We have placed two 14 gal. Nauta flexible bladders inside the old tanks, and added two further 23 gal. bladders, one in the bilge and one under the starboard cockpit seat. These can all be pumped up through a hand bilge pump and a valve assembly to a 3 gallon day tank. We now can store approx. 70 gals in tanks along with a further 12 in a jerry can and solar showers. So far this has worked well. We have learned to be very miserly with water and reuse a lot of it. It is amazing how one can stay reasonably clean with a two bowl sponge bath. It's even more amazing how good a hot shower feels when one gets one.

With running lights, the anchor light and four cabin lights all running on kerosene we installed a six gallon tank under the bridge deck. This gravity feeds through a shut off valve to a small copper tube spigot, making filling the lights relatively simple. To be truthful, although I love the cabin lights, in today's world of LED's that draw almost no power, the running lights are more hassle than they are worth. We will look for some battery powered LED's that we can install inside our trad looking lights and be done with it.

We carry two, both on the cabin top. A fiberglass Montgomery 7' 11" (same designer as the boat) is just cleared by the boom. It is easy to hoist into the water and back using the three part vang, suspended from the main halyard. Also a West Marine inflatable. So far we have no outboard. Rowing is OK, but we have also cadged plenty of rides off friends.

We have a 35lb CQR on 300' of 5/16th H.T. chain as our main anchor. A 25 lb CQR on 30' 5/16th H.T and 250' 5/8th nylon three strand is the second. It would be better if the second anchor was a different type than the main, but it is what we had. These are stowed on a double bronze roller at the base of the bowsprit and retrieved with an ABI manual windlass. We rig a 15' snubber as per the Pardey's and Olsen through a snatch block attached to the cranse iron at the end of the bowsprit. This seems to be OK, but no big tests yet.

OK, enough of all that for now. The boat is simple and a bit Luddite. That makes it hard to live on (all of our recent acquaintances have showers and water-makers, some have washer-dryers), but easy to keep going.
We went to a talk in San Diego before we left given by 26 year cruiser Paul Mitchell on the subject of self sufficiency. He made the point that all in the room (about 15 or 20 cruising couples) had a minimum of 5 electric water pumps on their boats. "These will fail and you will have to learn to fix them" he warned. Somewhat smugly I recalled that we don't have any. Whilst we are rowing ashore to find and carry water they will be powering ashore to find parts. It's all a choice.

The BCC, maintenance & gear
12/23/2008 | Ben Eriksen
Great Post. Thanks for the equipment list and your findings along the way.
12/24/2008 | harold cross
All that technical stuff was great and answers my recent Email quetions.Everything I have ever read about distance cruising mentions all the electrical gadgets packing up so I am sure you are on the right tack.Love your blog.Love Dad
Universal shame
Richard Cross

Amongst the multitudes of spares and supplies that we have been trying to stow in some kind of manageable system, are engine parts. We re-powered in 2006 with a Universal M-25 XPB, a process not to be taken lightly, and hopefully never to be repeated. A complete "offshore" spares kit from Universal is priced at $1,300, so I opted to play Russian Roulette and try to reduce the cost by guessing what would fail first. Pictured above is what we chose. For this paltry collection, which surely will either be not enough or never needed, we paid $610. It included a package (far right) of 9 copper washers and 4 steel ones priced at $75 the pack. Have they no shame. These people must think that because we sail we are stupid. In this they may not be alone.
This, and other last minute paperwork hassles and money woes all bring to mind the wonderful (if fictional) character Jack Aubrey .. totally at ease and in balance when voyaging, but "all at sea when on land". He longed to escape the hassles of shore bound life for the more predictable challenges of the sea. We can only hope that we will enjoy some of the same balance.

The BCC, maintenance & gear
11/14/2008 | JF
Aubrey also said he
"never knew a man that didn't think about money."

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There Goes Mandy!
Who: Richard & Virginia Cross
Port: San Diego, CA USA
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