02/02/2013, Anchorage, AK
We begin. After many years of preparation, effort, and expense, we are finally beginning the preparation for the Big Crossing. I leave on Sunday afternoon and fly to La Paz, Mexico where I'll work on boat projects for ten days.
I will be carrying a single blue box and my big duffle, both stuffed to their tops with supplies and gear. Amazingly, most of the items are already in La Paz, courtesy of friends' efforts and Econaviera's (our ship's agents in La Paz) efforts to ship items directly to La Paz from various points in the US. The desalinator and roller furler are in La Paz, as are the paint and other items. I called the Chula Vista West Marine and ordered paint. That store very kindly trucked it to a freight expediter which trucked it to La Paz and Econaviera's office. I fetch the items when I arrive. We pay for the service but it sure makes things easy!
Wings is on the hard in Atalanta Boat Yard. My chores will begin with painting the boat's bottom with anti-fouling paint. I'll change all of the zincs and grease all of the sea cocks, at which time we'll launch the boat and I'll take her the 1/4 mile to Marina Palmira. There, I'll install the water maker (desalinator) and complete as many other tasks for which I have time and return on Feb. 15. Conni and I leave on Feb. 28 and return to Mexico. We'll spend a week at Playa Grande, then take a bus to La Paz. A few weeks of prep and stocking will have us ready to go. Our shipmate, Chip, will meet us there, and we'll head across the Sea of Cortez to Puerto Vallarta (on the mainland), from which we'll leave for the South Pacific. We're working on a place to leave the boat.
I'll have some email and web connections so I hope to post photos and progress reports during this time in La Paz.
Wish me luck.
12/23/2012, Not Alaska
We're far from the sea, here in the bosom of the Ennis family in the deep South. For a few weeks, we've laid down our preparation efforts to cross the Pacific, but will continue them on our return to California in late December as we visit Conni's family.
We purchased a desalinator from Cruise RO, a 20 gallon per hour unit powered by a 2000 Watt Honda generator, also purchased. These two items are now in La Paz, courtesy of the kindness and effort of Cruise RO's Rich and our friends on S/V Eagle, Tom and Jeanne. Thanks to you all.
We have to replace our roller furl, the "window shade" sail rolling device for the jib (the foresail). The torque tube, part of the main casting, broke. I repaired it for the last leg, but not permanently, and certainly not well enough to cross the Pacific. We purchased a new, "last year's model" of Harken roller furler that should be a direct fit. The stainless steel cable on which it resides also needs to be replaced since the cable has permanently swaged ends. We'll buy this cable with one permanent end attached and a removable end for the other end while we're in Oakland. We'll haul it back to AK with us and I'll haul it down with me in January.
We have officially registered for the 2013 Pacific Puddle Jump and plan to leave La Paz in mid-March, 2013 and sail to Puerto Vallarta, on the mainland. We'll leave for the South Pacific from there. With so much installation/repair work to accomplish (desalinator, roller furl, a few important repair projects), I'll return to Mexico in late January and work a few weeks before returning to AK. We'll stay there for a while, then return to Mexico for our Leg 6.
We have our third crew member. Previously, we had sworn that we'd do everything ourselves and dreaded another personality interfering with our smoothly working system. However, we had so much fun on the Baja Haha with two more crew, and the night watches were so much easier, that we opted to ask a third person.
Conni and I both made a short list and only one name was on both: Chip Derrick. Interestingly, he had offered several times to join us for the crossing, so when we both had his name, our request for him to join us seemed to follow naturally. He quickly assented. He's a retired engineer and, more importantly, a respectful and easy-going person. We both enjoy his humor and good nature. Although we agree on few philosophical ideas, he shows no disrespect for, nor distaste in, our thoughts. He's a live-and-let-live guy. He's also a Southern Gentleman, with a quiet drawl and flawless manners and decorum. He's simply a competent, industrious person and easy to be around. His presence means a four hour night watch rather than a six hour watch, as well as an extra strong hand when we need it.
I posted a draft of our journey on the site, so people will have a sense of where we'll be going and what we'll be doing. Few seem to know that we send in our latitude/longitude with each blog post, and that information is posted on a world map on the right side of the blog page. As we cross the Pacific, we'll post blogs every few days and those positions will be available to you. All of our communications with the world will be via the single sideband radio that I installed last leg. It can send and receive text but the system is much too slow to send photos or update a website. All of that must wait until we are near a Wifi source. In other words, all we'll have is our blog site to inform people of events, crew health, and such.
The decision to purchase the desalinator (watermaker) that we did was in response to several outstanding problems. We have labored long and hard to use only renewable energy (wind, water, and solar) to power our travels. While at anchor, we simply could not keep up with demand, even though we are on the low end of usual cruiser's use: fewer than 100 Ahr/day. We had been considering low energy watermakers but they made lower quantities of water: 4-6 gallons per hour. Even at this rate, we might have needed to run the engine when making water. In La Paz, we happened to be assigned a slip next to S/V Eagle whose crew of Jeanne and Tom owned a Cruise RO watermaker. Made to be powered by a Honda generator, it makes 20 gallons per hour, a sizable quantity of water. In addition, we can use the excess Honda output to charge the batteries and all the various electrical devices on board. In a single blow, we eliminated two vexing problems, energy regeneration and desalinization. Running for more than 5 hours on a 1.1 gallon of gasoline, and our making 20 gallons of water per hour, means that a single five-gallon jug of gasoline will produce 500 gallons of water plus several re-charges of the batteries. That's a LOT of water! I'd rather not take any gasoline at all, but the dinghy motor uses it, so we have to have some, so why not 5-10 gallons in one or two jugs? We'll also carry one five-gallon jug of diesel and one jug of water, just in case.
While we have these itms to install, and some sizable repairs to complete, we see no other items to buy for the trip. I'm so surprised that we've accomplished all of this!
We know that few read these words, and perhaps the entire blog is simply to allow us to voice our thoughts, but we'd like to thank everyone for the many years of support and good wishes. Christmas is a good time to officially thank our family and friends for all that they've done to help us along. Conni and I often think of ourselves as isolated, and geographically, sometimes we are. But in the end, we are able to follow this dream because of all of you. Thank you.
Be safe during the holidays because we need you all.
11/18/2012, Playa Grande, Cabo San Lucas
At 0630, we awakened on the boat for this last day of work. Although we had a lot to do, we began working immediately and by 1130, we were done and were stacking the two blue boxes, two duffles, and our personal packs: seven items. Compared to the eleven items that we brought from Alaska, this seems trivial.
It is always a bittersweet moment when we say goodbye to Wings. There she is up on stands, a mere boat among many others, rather than our floating home and sanctuary. The starboard bottom of her keel bears the marks of the grounding, but otherwise she faired very well. She has a lot of new items that make her more useful to us, and when we have completed the repair work we have planned, and the water maker is installed, I think that she'll be ready to take on any challenge that we might plan. Only our courage and vision limit us.
By taxi to the Aigle (Eagle) Bus station in La Paz, and for $30 for both of us, we rode the bus to Cabo. Another taxi ride to Playa Grande and we were ensconced in our lovely air conditioned room. Hot water, lots of room, cool air: the luxury is overwhelming.
Just having the ability to cool down is a huge luxury. It's also a luxury to bathe when we wish, and to have both hot water and room to move. Are we getting soft?
We're reviewing our "To Buy" lists and we'll start doing that soon. We'll see family at Xmas and be home in two weeks.
11/16/2012, Atalanta Yard, La Paz, MX
I love many things about cruising. I love sailing on the salt. I love sitting at anchor in some tiny, lovely cove. I even love being in a marina, now and again. Ready, hot showers, no boat rocking, AC power for charging, Internet access: there are many attributes of a marina that are wonderful breaks from the cruising life. What I do NOT like, though, is living aboard a boat that's on the hard. There are never good restroom/shower facilities. It' always dirty since it's a work place. Power is problematic. There's rarely Internet access. It's out of the way and difficult to reach stores and towns. The worst, though, is hiking up a ladder to get aboard. At night, it's slightly more dangerous than during the day, but take a header off the boat, and you're in trouble. The boat is resting on her keel, so a fall means a full 12 feet to the ground.
And we are living aboard on the hard. It's hot, dusty, uncomfortable work, but it must be done. We have all day Saturday to accomplish our most pressing tasks, Sunday mid-morning, we'll leave by bus for Cabo and we'll live like humans again, a point not lost on either of us. I've said that I'm going to stay in the air conditioning for at least two days. I WILL NOT SWEAT FOR TWO DAYS! I've even considered taking all of our meals via room service: hamburgers and French Fries!
We have decided to purchase the water maker from CruisiRO, so that's exciting. Very exciting. We've both already imagined a LOT of uses for the power that we'll have: charging computers, running an AC vacuum (Conni's happy!), operating power tools, and much more. Along with AC is having plenty of water. During this leg, we found that we need to shower more to keep ourselves healthy. We plan on carrying at least one 5-gallon Jerry can of gasoline. At 100 gallons of water per gallon of gas, that's 500 gallons of water per jug and that should see us across the Pacific. Gasoline, not necessarily cheap gasoline, is a commodity that is easy to find almost anywhere in the world.
Remember that the islands that we'll reach first, the Marquesas and the Tuamotus, are without fresh water sources other than rain, so even when we reach them, there may or may not be water for sale at any price. It would a bummer to survive the Pacific crossing and then remain thirsty for the week it takes to reach Tahiti. After all, it's 1000 miles from the Tuomotos toTahiti!
Things look a bit more possible right now. If we accomplish the repairs that we need, the boat will be in better condition than ever. The remaining piece of gear that we're considering is a new outboard motor and we could do without if need be. Repair items is a bit extensive: a rudder cage replacement (requiring some fabrication and installation), a new roller furling unit, and a new steering cable. There is some engine work that I'd like to have done, but we can get most of this done at a local boat yard when I return in January.
I'm sure that I'll have at least one more entry, but this leg is quickly drawing to a close. It's been a difficult leg and shorter than we'd have liked, but we have this Pacific crossing in front of us.
11/15/2012, Marina Palmira
Wings will be pulled from the Sea of Cortez tomorrow, and become a thing of the land. We have many tasks to complete below deck, and a fair number above deck, too. The last task will be to put her cover on. We'll take a cab to the La Paz bus station and hop the bus to Cabo, where we'll take a cab to Playa Grande.
We've both decided: air conditioning all day and night, and we'll stay in the first day and shower several times and order hamburgers from room service: no more sweat for a day or so. Decadent? Yeah, I guess. It's been damned hot, though.
We're serving dinner to our slip mates, the fine folks who introduced us to the water maker that interests us. The plan is for me is to return to La Paz in January for a few weeks and complete as much work as possible. We can't afford to dally here in March when we all return since we've got a date in Puerto Vallarta for the Pacific crossing. There is some big repair that we must accomplish, and some that are beyond what I can do: some welding and fabrication. So, if we can get that completed and I can install some kind of water maker, we'll be in great shape. Things remaining to do? Yep, but we can get them done.
11/14/2012, Marina Palmira, La Paz, MX
As those of you know who have either been on the boat here in Mexico, or have tracked our blog, we have an ongoing issue with energy. This is not a Wings issue but a cruising issue. We use LED light when we can, use appliances as efficiently as possible, and have spent both time and treasure in trying to acquire alternative energy sources to power our lives aboard. We have two solar panels and a new solar charge controller. We had hoped that the two panels, in conjunction with our hoist-when-needed wind generator and our beloved towed generator would do the trick.
The sad tale is that they could not. They have not kept up with our minimum needs when we've been at anchor and we're planning a new, energy-hungry device, a water maker. I've been at wit's end trying to think of a solution that we can afford. Perhaps two more large panels could do the trick, but perhaps not. They'd also be expensive and mounting them a nightmare. A new, permanently mounted wind generator is a possibility, but again the expense would be at least $3K.
Now, this is not to say that we can't generate all the energy that we need: we've been doing that for a LONG time. We use the main engine. Like it or not, we motor a lot, and when we do motor, we can make all the electricity that we want. The issue is that when we're sitting and the motor is off, we can't keep up with our power needs. The worst thing for a diesel engine is long hours at idle. We want our trusty friend to survive for a long time to come.
A "water maker" is a cruiser's term for a reverse osmosis desalinator. The device takes in sea water, pressurizes it and pushes it through a membrane that has pores small enough that only water molecules can transit, but salt and other minerals, bacteria and such, can't. Not only are the units expensive, but they require large amounts of energy to operate the high pressure pumps and other parts. An excellent example of a water maker that we've considered is made by Spectra: the Ventura model. It makes 5-6 gallons of water per hour at a 9 amp cost. The unit costs $5100. With that level of performance, the unit must run for several hours several days a week just to keep up with use. The energy to operate the machine must be collected from somewhere.
As luck would have it, our slip mates happen to be representatives for a small company of cruisers that manufactures an innovative device. The company, CruiseRO, uses off-the-shelf parts so the unit is much less expensive than many, and the consumables are very inexpensive compared to any other manufacturer. Not using proprietary parts can provide considerable savings.
Here's the catch: it is designed to operate from a Honda 2000 W generator. It's not green. It's not ecological. It's expedient and it's efficient. While making water, we can also charge batteries or use other 120VAC devices. The payoff is that it makes 24 gallons per hour. Folks, that's a LOT of water for an hour's work. So, we could crank up the generator, plug it into our AC shore power outlet, and charge our batteries and make water. Conni and I use 7.2 gallons of water per day: 3.6 gallons per person per day. That's including showers every three days or so. Visitors mean more water. Extra crew, inexperienced with water conservation practices such as we'll have on the Pacific crossing, means a lot of need for more water.
The generator runs for 4.5-5 hours on a gallon of gasoline. For each hour of that, we make 24 gallons. We're figuring 100 gallons of water per gallon of gas: not bad. The selling point for me is that I've solved both of my problems: making water and restoring our batteries, even at anchor, and no wear-and-tear on the main engine.
The device is about $4200 and the generator another $1000-$1500 so the prices are commensurate with any other water maker, but the water output and energy production trump other solutions.
The unit is not small since it has AC components that produce a lot of water, but we've removed a long-defunct marine sanitation tank to make room. The tank was part of a now-illegal system for sanitizing waste, so it need to go, anyway. I'll re-plumb the aft head with a new and smaller holding tank. Removing the old system has supplied us with a lot of empty space without sacrificing any newer gear that we need.
We are seriously considering this device, and expect to make a decision when we can borrow a generator and see if it fits in a few locations. If we haul a 5-gallon Jerry can, we'll have plenty of fuel for the big crossing. Don't want to, but will probably have to.