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S/V Exit Strategy
A tough decision but bright possibilities ahead
01/29/2011, San Anselmo near San Francisco

I last blogged in June, 2010, when we were leaving one of our favorite places in Mexico, La Cruz de Huanacaxtle. That marked the end of our first season in Mexico. We brought the boat up to Ensenada for hurricane season with the plan of returning to La Cruz and points south this winter.

John Lennon sung the prophetic words "Life is what happens when you're busy making plans" and while his analogy about the Beatles being more popular than Jesus had detractors, I think he was spot on about life. So why am I writing you from the lovely village of San Anselmo rather than La Cruz or some other great spot along the Mexican Riviera?

Jean and I arrived in Ensenada in late June after a surprisingly smooth Baja Bash. Shortly after arriving we drove up to Redding to see the grandchildren and Jean's then 8 months pregnant daughter. Then we left to go back to Ensenada and start getting the boat ready for the upcoming cruising season. We stopped in Los Angeles to measure the rig on a Hans Christian 43 that we were outfitting with an entire new sail inventory from my company, Island Planet Sails. We were planning on continuing to Ensenada but that morning we got a call from Jean's daughter who thought she was going into labor early. We finished the rig measure, quite enjoying our time with our customer Marty. Then we headed back north to Redding.

The early labor prediction turned out to be a false alarm. We spent about 3 weeks waiting for the real labor to happen and the arrival of an incredibly cute grandson named Nolan. Then we hung out a few weeks longer. During our stay in Redding I got a massive amount of work accomplished, doing some major website revisions and SEO (search engine optimization). Jean was able to accomplish quite a bit of work on her business as well.

At some point in September we found ourselves back in Ensenada after a lengthy absence. We were pleasantly surprised that the boat was in fine shape. There we no odors in the cabin and aside from a layer of dirt topsides all was well. We found one problem after using the Lavac. The rubber valves inside the Mark V pump didn't appreciate being dry so long so I changed them out.

October was highlighted by a visit from our friend James who spent about 10 intensive days working on Jean's web based livestock management application. Jean and James alternated between working at the large dining table on the boat and the local Starbucks.

With the arrival of the new grandson we committed to holidays with family. So leaving for the tropics was put off until January of this year. Now things started to get complicated. I made the decision to have a booth at the Strictly Sail show this April in Oakland. We missed exhibiting at the show in 2010 due to cruising and our absence cost us revenue. So we knew Jean and I would need to be in the bay area for the show and follow-up work. We have some other commitments in California that will require a few more trips and by the time we penciled out the expenses of several round trip airfares and slip fees in La Cruz, we realized that as much as we wanted to be in the tropics with our friends that it didn't make sense this season.

There were other factors as well. Jean's business, which some of you are familiar with, is nearing product launch. Easykeeper is not too exciting for cruisers since the application is designed to manage records for people who own livestock. Yet it's exciting for us as it represents several years of Jean's efforts and some amazing potential. Jean's business is our ticket to long term cruising. It does not require the daily high speed internet access that my business relies on and it has far better earning potential. So our focus is on growing EasyKeeper. By the time we leave again I will have a general manager for Island Planet Sails so I can be unplugged for passages and not have to hunt for elusive wi-fi in French Polynesia.

Our goals for the next three years do not dovetail well with returning to cruising right now. We both find ourselves getting a lot more done when we're working from an office environment which allows us to spread out with multiple monitors for each of our systems and set up whiteboards and other planning tools. Fortunately both of our businesses are web based so we are not tied to a specific geographic area.

After a lot of discussion we have decided to put our beloved ketch Exit Strategy on the market. We have found that a shore base is working really well for our life and businesses. We have settled on buying a lifting keel aluminum boat like a Garcia or Ovni when we head back "out there" in about three years. We really want the flexibility of shallow draft and while we haven't ruled out a multihull, especially after visiting Sea Level, Rotkat and some other great cats, we're leaning towards a monohull. We anticipate a budget of $500K so it will be fun shopping.

If anyone wants to know more about Exit Strategy click here for information.

02/27/2011 | Jeremy Fox
Wow. I didn't expect ES to be put back on the market. But since possession is 9/10 of the law, I will give you 10% of her value right now! Offer expires as soon as we get her back up to Dan Diego...

I will be looking forward to seeing what you come upwith in a few years...
02/27/2011 | Dave Benjamin
That 10% would be a nice down payment. Maybe we could take Avocet in trade which would bring your loan amount down even further. I could see you living pretty comfortable on ES. And I'm sure it would be a chick magnet for you. ;-)
06/27/2010, Turtle Bay, Baja

Just a quick post to let everyone know how it's going. The first parts of our bash was the proverbial walk in the park. We motorsailed to Cabo in idyllic conditions. We stopped briefly for fuel and then were on our way around Cabo Falso and up to Bahia Santa Maria. Thanks to tropical storm Blas going around Cabo Falso did not even put spray on the deck. We had good conditions all the way to Bahia Santa Maria.

From Bahia Santa Maria to Turtle Bay was a different story. Short steep seas and lots of wind made for a very uncomfortable passage. Crew Clay "rode the bunk" the entire way due to seasickness. My heart stopped at one point when Jean was tossed across the cabin. Thankfully she was bruised but not injured.

We blew up a deck organizer and had a lot of leaks in the forepeak. As of yesterday repairs and modifications are pretty much complete.

We hope to leave Turtle Bay tonight.

I should have more to share midweek.

06/29/2010 | Katje Sabin
Aww, poor guy. Hope the rest of the way is a bit smoother!
Thank you La Cruz!!
06/14/2010, La Cruz de Huanacaxtle

In a few days we are leaving La Cruz for a place called Puerto Salina on the Pacific side of the Baja peninsula near Ensenada. When we arrived in La Cruz on February 6th we figured we would stay two or three weeks. My parents were coming into town for a week and thanks to our friends on S/V Proximity, we were able to arrange a gorgeous condo for them to stay in, overlooking the water in Punta Mita. Then our three week visit stretched into four months.

After my parents departed Jean and I had a lot of work to do with our businesses. La Cruz proved a good place to get caught up. And after a while we really fell in love with the village here. We enjoy walking through town with a combination of chickens, stray dogs, and little kids running around on the street. The food is fantastic and reasonable. Tonight we are wandering up to an unnamed taco stand on the other side of the highway. It is only open Friday through Sunday. We have probably introduced 30 different people to this place. The proprietor is Sandra. Sandra grew up in La Cruz. Her father owned a beachfront restaurant and Sandra grew up around visiting cruisers, long before Banderas Bay became as popular as it is today. Back then La Cruz was a sleepy fishing village. One night Sandra told us about an American couple who had befriended her 25 years ago and sent Christmas cards to her from exotic cruising destinations. She remembered the boat name and first names of the couple. I happened to have my Asus netbook PC in my backpack when I heard this story and managed to track the people down before we left the restaurant. I will check in with Sandra tonight to see if she has been enjoying an email exchange with them.

As I sit in the cockpit writing this blog post I am enjoying some live music emanating from Ana Banana's, a fun bar and restaurant that used to be right on the beach until the marina development and resultant landfill put them hundreds of yards from the marina and nowhere near a beach. Part of me wishes this marina had not been built, as some of the charm is undoubtedly dimmed. No account of La Cruz would be complete without a mention of Philo's, a near legendary bar and eatery with great music. Philo has been around a number of years and does a great deal to support the local community. In addition to his generosity he is a genuine nice guy. Right now he is escaping the summer heat and playing music in San Miguel Allende, a mountain community about 8 hours from here.

Next season we will have a more formal presence for Island Planet Sails in Banderas Bay. I was able to help several cruisers this season with not only getting their new sails ordered, but the more challenging task of actually getting the sail shipped down here without paying a fortune in duties. Our shipping partner has proved reliable and reasonable, a marked contrast to some who specialize in shipping boat equipment to Mexico. I installed a windvane for someone who was readying their boat to transit the Panama Canal. This poor gentleman was charged $2000 to get his windvane down here. Unbelievable.

We have met a number of great people here in La Cruz, cruisers and locals. Thank you one and all for making our stay muy especial (very special). We look forward to seeing old friends and meeting new ones here next season.

06/15/2010 | Carla
Safe sailing up north. Looking forward to seeing you back down here next year.
06/18/2010 | Ray and Sandy Klatt
Hi Dave,

New sail looks and works great! It got a work-out the other day as we had a hard sail (20-25 knot winds) and she performed great! As an aside...would appreciate any knowledge you all have about anchoring out in San Diego. I've contacted Rich on 3rd Day as he is there now but looking for more info etc.
Ray and Sandy
S/V Pure Joy
The Things We Do for Love (and to keep cruising)
05/27/2010, La Cruz

Many people that meet Jean and I ask if we're retired. We're a young (well 40 something) couple with a pretty nice boat so it's not an unexpected question. We wish we could say we are retired but that is a long way from the truth. In some respects we are like the proverbial ducks, our feet paddling madly under the surface, with the illusion of tranquility above. Many of our fellow cruisers are surprised to find out we work quite a bit. So I thought I should explain what we do and how we are able to cruise and run our businesses remotely.

In late 2004 I started Island Planet Sails, which has since grown considerably. We build high quality sails and ship them to customers worldwide. Our production is handled by three lofts in Asia (where almost all sails including brand name ones are made.) Design work is handled by a couple of highly competent designers with decades of experience. Our shipping and other logistical support is handled by a capable woman in Oakland who has been working with us for the past few years. So all I need is a steady internet connection and the business runs smoothly. We have built some sails for people we met while cruising. In those cases, rather than the customer taking their own rig measurements, I have jumped in the dinghy and motored over to their boat. I have to admit a great deal of satisfaction has been derived from being able to show up for work in my shorts and bare feet. Jean and I joke about my "commute" after I have returned.

Island Planet Sail is what allows us to be out here cruising. Otherwise I'd still be flying planes for a living. So feel free to visit the website and please tell your friends about the company.

Jean owns a web development company which is somewhat dormant. Her focus right now is on launching a web based livestock management application that has been in development a little over a year. Known as, the app has been in beta for several months. The subscription based service is going live soon which will finally start rewarding Jean for thousand of hours of her time and tens of thousands in programming costs. The service is saving the beta testers many hours of time every month and doing wonders for improving their record keeping. Those who do not know Jean well may be surprised to find that she spent her formative years raising championship dairy goats. She is combining her animal husbandry experience with her product and project management background to produce a first rate web based application.

And now we can return the blog to our regularly scheduled programming, chronicling the cruising adventures and lifestyle of Dave and Jean aboard S/V Exit Strategy.

(this post edited 8/5/11 for corrections)

Of new plans and a zinc headache
05/16/2010, La Cruz anchorage

First things first. We have made yet another change in our plans. We are still going to leave the boat in Mexico this summer but we will be heading up to a place called Puerto Salina between Ensenada and San Diego. Although it will take some time and effort to get up there the logistical advantages of having the boat in relatively easy driving range and close to suppliers in San Diego trump the inconvenience of having to go up the Pacific side of the Baja. This passage is frequently referred to as the "Baja Bash," as the waves and wind are on the nose.

So what does this mean? Sometime next month we will make our way to Cabo San Lucas to top off the fuel tank and add some fresh fruit and vegetables. We'll also get our "zarpe", the clearance document to leave Mexico. Once the weather looks somewhat benign we will begin the trip north. We will stop at Turtle Bay for fuel unless the winds do something odd like come from a favorable direction, reducing our motoring time. Depending on the weather we may make some stops along the way, particularly at Bahia Magdalena. During our trip down the coast with the Baja Ha-Ha we stopped at Turtle Bay and Bahia Santa Maria.

So what do we need to get ready for the Baja Bash? Since the boat will be moving around more than it has lately we will have to get things pretty well stowed. I recently changed the engine oil, clutch oil, and fuel filters. Some of you may recall a recent blog post about the fuel filter change. Tomorrow I'll be doing a bit of work on the rig. Our friend and rigger Adrian will be stopping by to install a pin at the mizzen masthead we had fabricated to facilitate a future improvement. When the previous owner of our boat had the masts pulled and standing rigging replaced at a cost of $14,000 you would assume that the "reputable boatyard" that did the work would have managed to stay within the realm of industry standard practices. Not. We'll be giving that yard an opportunity to make things right by supplying us with the hardware and wire we'll need to bring things up to snuff. If they don't want to play ball I'll be putting some photos of their work here and on the most popular sailing website in the world.

One project that has taken an inordinate amount of time has been replacing the zincs. For those unfamiliar, zincs are pieces of, well zinc, that are attached to some of the underwater metals that we need to protect from corrosion. Zinc corrodes before the metal we really care about so these bits of zinc are sacrificial and corrode away over time. We carry a good supply of spare zincs so we don't have to find them while cruising. One of our zincs is attached to a special nut that goes on the end of the propeller shaft behind the propeller. These are predictably referred to as prop zincs. A picture equals a 1000 words so that's why I included one. See the second piece from the left in the picture? That's the special nut. The threads on the very end of that special nut deteriorated so they won't hold a fastener. So I needed a new nut.

Here in Puerto Vallarta lives a pirate named Zaragoza. He owns and operates a chandelry by the same name. We have renamed his chandelry "There it goza" which refers to your money if you are doomed by whatever foul circumstance to have to purchase something there. The nut I needed was only sold as part of a complete kit as shown in the picture. The price was double that of stateside prices. When I got there they only had one on the shelf. When I got back to the boat and unwrapped it I realized that the zinc was not zinc. They had sold me a freshwater zinc. I think they use aluminum or magnesium for freshwater boats. Apparently this isn't the first time they have foisted a freshwater zinc on an unsuspecting gringo. In any case all I really needed was the nut. So I donned the scuba gear and overboard I went.

Imagine my disappointment when I discovered the threads did not match the ones on the propeller shaft. Drat I said. Well maybe it was something stronger. So back to Zaragoza I went. This involves a 16 peso bus ride and about 45 minutes to an hour each way. I couldn't find the receipt and predictably they did not want to exchange the assembly for a salt water version. I kept repeating. Mi velero es in el mar, no in un lago. (My sailboat is in the ocean, not in a lake). There was only one 1 3/8" prop zinc assembly on the shelf and finally a sympathetic parts manager that recognized me from my prior visit relented and allowed the exchange to happen.

This afternoon I got the zinc installed. Special thanks to Adam on Estrella who gave me a 2x4 that used to be part of a futon to use to keep the prop from turning while I tightened the nut with our 18" crescent wrench.

Tomorrow we head into the marina for topping off our water tank and doing some cleanup. About once a month we usually visit a marina. After a brief stay we will be on our way to La Paz where we will leave the boat for about a week to attend to a family matter in the states. On our way to La Paz we will visit some of the beautiful islands like Espiritu Santo. When we return to La Paz we'll begin making our way to Cabo and on to Puerto Salina.

On second thought....
05/04/2010, La Cruz anchorage

Monty Python fans reading this blog post may recall the scene where King Arthur and his knights of the round table are at the base of the hill leading to Camelot. Upon spotting the famed castle Arthur says "Shhh! Knights, I bid you welcome to your new home. Let us ride... to Camelot." A song breaks out with video clips of knights dancing-

We're knights of the round table
We dance when e'er we're able
We do routines and parlour scenes......

After this bit of ridicule Arthur flatly states:
Well, on second thought, let's not go to Camelot -- it is
a silly place.

Recently Jean and I found ourselves at the bottom of a hill figuratively speaking. Our plan, using the word loosely, as those who know us understand that our plans tend to be as fluid as the ocean, was to bash uphill to San Diego for the summer. Being in San Diego would mean rejoining the rat race to an extent. That got us thinking. We all know the rat race has no winners. And does it really make sense to enter a race that nobody wins?

Well on second thought, let's not go to San Diego -- it is a silly place. Right!

So we will be staying in Mexico, most likely Mazatlan where slips are less than $400 a month for a boat our size. We will spend the hottest months visiting friends and family in the states. Jean will have a third grandson in August so we will be hanging out in Redding for that special event.

We will sell the 2004 Honda Element that I bought new and get something we can more easily camp out of. So if anyone is looking for a nice one owner AWD Element with all the goodies and some cool after market extras let me know. It's been very well maintained as I never thought I would sell it until the wheels fell off. And if anyone knows of an economical camper, or better yet has one they can loan us for the summer (never hurts to dream does it?), drop us a line. I used to have a VW Westfalia which I absolutely loved camping in. Since those are pretty pricy we may look for something like one of those Sunraders that sits on a Toyota truck chassis.

Jean has decided to sell her sexy little sports car, a 2002 Toyota Spyder. It's a fun black 2 seat convertible that is a blast for a Sunday drive or even an overnight if you aren't bringing too much with you. This car was a gift Jean gave herself for her 40th birthday. It's a lot of fun but not much use to her these days. Both vehicles are in Pacifica, CA.

05/13/2010 | Jonathan
Hello! A friend suggested I troll sailing blogs and forums to find a summer adventure/possible job. I apologize for the unexpected message, but, well, here goes: I'm a 4th year jr. high teacher/tutor living in Walnut Creek, CA (all core subjects, esp. English, and also Bible, photography, volleyball), 29 years old, very fit, with sailing experience (including some racing in Marina Del Rey) and EMT trained. Jack of several trades (including cooking, guitar, etc). Are you willing/able to point me towards any wholesome people needing crew for a voyage this summer? Priority would go to a boat where I could earn some supplemental income or at least have expenses paid (especially a family with kids that I can tutor/teach onboard while also crewing). Crewfile and other sites haven't really turned up anything like this, so I hope word of mouth might! Again, sorry for any inconvenience, but I do hope to hear from you. Thank you!

-Jonathan Vince
05/14/2010 | Dave Benjamin
There is a Force 50 down here looking for crew right now. No kids and it's not likely to be a paid gig but I can put you in touch with the guy. For anyone looking for crew positions the best thing to do is show up. Seriously. It's best if you're down here so you can meet and greet.

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Adventures aboard Exit Strategy
Who: Dave and Jean
Port: San Francisco
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