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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 ...
Virginia in the sweatshop
05/27/2009, Bahia del Sol, El Salvador

The awning in the making

The BCC, maintenance & gear
Red light, Green light
03/20/2009, Las Hadas, Colima, MX

In my luggage on the flight back from Los Angeles to Manzanillo was 80' of electric cable, two computers, a fluxgate compass, a control head, a tiller pilot ram, two high gain antennas, assorted software, 144 tea bags and 10 bars of chocolate. All for our personal boat use, but highly suspicious to a vigilant security guard or worse customs officer.
The customs procedure in Mexico is a simple lottery. You present your forms, press the button and if it's red you lose, if it's green it's "Bienvenidos a Mexico". Mustering the steady hand of a surgeon I pushed the button, scored green and high tailed back to the Barra lagoon to find my two girls, Mandy and Virginia.
Most of the contraband was the new Raymarine SPX-5 Tiller pilot. We have been using, with decreasing efficacy a 30 year old Autohelm 1000, spec'ed for a boat under 6,000 lbs and therefore always struggling with Mandy's 14,000 lbs and huge transom hung unbalanced rudder.
The new Raymarine is spec'ed for up to 13,500 lbs so we are still at the outer reaches of its intended use, but anything bigger was way too costly. As it is the step up has come with a significant increase in complexity. Whilst the old tiller pilot was a self contained unit, this version has four components, all requiring their own cabling and bulkhead installations.
Three days and two more holes in the boat later, installation complete, it was time to calibrate, so we upped anchor and proceeded to proscribe the required two 360˨ two minute circles inside the Barra lagoon to calibrate the fluxgate compass. Wave goodbye to new found friends, but no matter, we'll be back in two minutes. With the system apparently functioning we motored out of the lagoon and mostly sailed the twenty-five miles to Las Hadas with the tiller pilot doing all the work. A big relief.
The new wireless system, assembled for less than $100, was recommended by our friend Ewout Mante of Bravado, now on their way to the Marquesas. It consists of an Alpha Wi-Fi transceiver, connected to either a Hawking 15 dBi corner antenna for when the boat is reasonably stationary or an Airlink 101 omni directional antenna for when it is rolly or the boat is swinging at anchor.
This has proved really effective and we have pulled in a usable signal from more than two miles away. Three cheers for Ewout.

The BCC, maintenance & gear
03/22/2009 | Ma Cross
As a dutiful Mama I have read all your diatribe Rich and I don't understand a bloody word of it! However I love the piccy, and you and am glad things seem to be going to plan. Lots love to you both x
03/23/2009 | harold cross
Glad to here that Mandy 's bottom is again gliding (or bouncing )through the ocean.Hope the pilot continues to work ok. sent Email .All the best Love Dad
Raymarine Tiller pilot installed
03/20/2009, Barra de Navidad

Mostly people go from Mexico across the border to the States looking for work. Our tiller pilot, being very confused went across from the States to Mexico in search of work.
Amongst the lads from Mexico that used to work for me at the track an ultimate put down was to be from Pihuamo. Sort of like a Kerryman in Ireland .. very simple, country and red-neck.
So, in honor of his confusion the pilot has been dubbed "auto-Pihuamo"
The default setting of the response level is 5, at which the pilot hunts around and is very noisy. Tuned back to level 1 it settled down and was almost silent.

The BCC, maintenance & gear
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.

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