Saturday, February 28, 2015

Another crossing in the books.

Another short crossing in the books.   As I pulled anchor in Bahia San Carlos and motored out to the sea I was looking forward to a smooth, no frills crossing over to the other side.  The last time I went across my weather reports were for calm seas and light winds.  If you read my post “Rough Crossing" from a few months ago you will know that it turned out to be a LONG way off from “calm seas and light winds” as I got into the worst storm I have yet to experience on a boat.  Anyway, my crossing this time was a far cry from the nasty storm I had 3 months ago but it was extremely unpleasant.  As I left San Carlos I immediately put up full sail in a nice 10-12 knot breeze and set off toward Escondido Bay about 130 miles to the south which would take about 24 hours before I would drop anchor on the other side.  The first few hours before dark it was a beautiful sail moving along nicely in the breeze and not wasting any fossil fuels.  Around 8pm the winds picked up to aroung 18-20 knots and being a single hander I tucked two reefs into main and and genoa and continued onward.  Unfortunately the wind switched from the east to the south and so I began to tack into it.  Tacking alone at night can be a struggle sometimes so I rolled in the genny, started the motor and then ran under the main only assisted by my 55hp Yanmar.  It wasn't perfect but from past experience I knew it could be a lot worse. 

Making a solo crossing has a major downside…no sleep.  I tried to doze off every so often for 10 minutes or so then to get up, check around for other vessels, check navigation, wind and the radar screen.  Every hour on the hour I would write in the log all of the pertinent information…time, barometric pressure, direction and speed of winds, sea state, course heading, boat speed and distance away from my starting point.  The night passed slowly and my ability to doze off became much easier as the hours passed. 

By 5am or so when the light had just begun to allow sight across the ocean I could see land out to the west.  The excitement of that was diminished by the fact that the winds had picked up considerably and were now blowing steady between 25-30 knots off of my starboard bow.  Sea state had gone from a light 2 foot wind chop to heavy white caps off of the 5-6 foot waves.  I decided to give the autopilot a rest and hand steer through the rough waters.  I was clipped in with my safety harness on and got a regular dousing from the chop that splashed up from the side and into the cockpit.  This was not a dangerous situation, just extremely uncomfortable, especially after my long, nearly sleepless night.  I hand steered for about 2 hours and by then the wind died down to a comfortable 10 knots and the seas settled almost as quickly as the wind.  I was tired but enjoyed the next 8 hours of travel under very nice winds and calm seas arriving at Puerto Escondido at 3:30 pm, exactly 24 hours from the time I left the mainland side.

In Escondido I fueled up and gave the Liahona a nice, fresh water bath with the hose off of the fuel dock and then headed to the outer bay know as “The Waiting Room”, dropped anchor, fixed a nice, hot meal and then easily fell asleep around 8pm.  The next morning I awoke to turn on  the Ham radio in order to get the weather for the next few days.  Looking out the port window I saw several small fins gliding past the boat.  I went up top to discover that I was nearly surrounded by small manta rays sunning themselves in the early morning warmth of the sun.  It was a great reminder why I’m here. 

Today I will head south toward Agua Verde, about a 5 hour sail to the south and then continue my trek southward toward Cabo to pick up my friends Dave and Stephanie deVilleneuve who will accompany me on my 2 1/2 day passage from Cabo San Lucas over to Puerto Vallarta on the mainland side.   There is zero internet connection between here and Cabo so my next post will be from there in about 2 weeks.  Wherever you are, whatever you are doing…take a deep breath in and be present for THAT moment and be grateful for life and all of the blessings that are yours.  Life is indeed amazing, enjoy it.

SV Liahona

Tuesday, February 24, 2015


It seems like it has been a long week and a half here in San Carlos preparing the Liahona for the next three months of cruising.  I have struggled with slow and sometimes dishonest locals, difficulties in finding the specific parts I needed, spending more money that I wanted to and in general clawing at each project until it was complete and then moving on to the next one.  However, along the way I did find some help from a couple of local, very knowledgeable, honest and hard working guys that without them I would not be ready to go.  Most notably, Jesus Salas from Phoenix Marine Service.  He is a wealth of information and as honest as the day is long.  Thanks Jesus!
The following is NOT a complete list of fixes and/or new additions that were tackled over the last several days…
2 new solar panels added to my array which now gives me a total of 800 watts of sun power.
New stainless steel rack to mount the solar panels on.
New Outback MPPT solar charge controller.
New Xantrex 1800 watt power inverter wired to the starboard/galley side of the boat.
New Xantrex 60 amp, 3 bank battery charger.
New Icom 718 ham radio with a new antenna tuner and Pactor 4 modem.
New LED back deck light to help putting the dinghy up at night, cleaning fish, etc.
New LED Steaming/Deck light. (this completes my goal of having ALL lights onboard be LED)
2 new, higher capacity bilge pumps wired for manual or automatic operation.
New ablative bottom paint.
New cockpit cushions.
New RAM mount for my iPad on the binnacle.
Various 12v outlets for charging “stuff”.
New Selden CX25 furling system for my new Code 0 headsail.
Completely new circuit breaker panel including breakers, diodes, cable ends, etc.
Additional memory foam added to the Pullman berth.
Pullman closet redone and now more secure during passage.
Port lights (windows in hull) redone and secured so we NEVER repeat that disaster again!
Hull, deck and all chrome polished and waxed.
Anchor chain newly marked in 25’ increments.
All standing rigging checked and tuned.

I have probably forgotten a few things but I think that covers most of it.  Whew!  It has been busy but I am super excited to be all tidy and ready to set sail for the Baja side as soon as I get a good weather window.  It is supposed to continue to be pretty windy, 20-30 knots, until late tomorrow.  If all looks good, I will leave for the other side tomorrow or Thursday late afternoon.

A shout out to my girlfriend Marne whom I am sorely missing and can’t wait to see in a few weeks and also my kids, sister and niece…I miss everyone and am looking forward to seeing you soon in the warm waters of the Mexican Riviera!  Let's do this!
Before...circuit board being rebuilt after the broken port light debacle last fall.
After...all new breakers, diodes, amp and volt meters.
New solar array.
Wiring in the new inverter to the house bank under the aft bunk.
All gussied up and ready for a date with the Sea of Cortez and south to PV.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Splash and drag.

After about 5 days in the work area of Marina Seca dry dock here in San Carlos the Liahona is back where she likes it best…in the water.  The tractor/trailer ride from dry dock always makes me a little nervous but everything went well and by about 9:30am we were all wet and floating on the high tide that had about a foot and a half under the keel.  I tip toed past all of the slips in the shallow marina and then out to the bay where I dropped the anchor. 

After picking up Jesus in the dinghy we quickly went to work on the various projects that needed to be completed before leaving San Carlos.  The wind was blowing pretty hard in the bay, around 20 knots most of the afternoon.  While we were below, another boat hailed me on the VHF radio and said they thought I might be dragging anchor.  I poked my head out of the compainionway and discovered we indeed were dragging anchor and we were only about 75 yards away from the rocky shoreline and closing.  Holy crap!  I instantly started the motor and winched in the chain and anchor.  We repositioned at the head of the bay and dropped the anchor again.  It was obvious immediately that we were still dragging anchor.  WTH?  There are marks on my anchor chain every 50’ that tell me how much chain I have out and in 30’ of water, 150’ of chain would give me about a 5:1 scope, which under normal circumstances would be plenty.

So up came the anchor and chain again, back to the head of the bay and let’s try this again.  After a brief head scratching trying to figure out why the heck my anchor was dragging the light finally came on.  The aha moment.  The awakening. Or as Homer Simpson would say “DOH”!  Those marks on my chain that are, I previously thought, 50’ each…ya...well…each mark is 25’.  So that meant I had a whopping 75’ of chain in 30’+ of water.  Last time I checked a 2:1 scope is not so bueno. Or in other words, the angle of the chain from the boat to the anchor was WAY to steep for the anchor to grab hold of the bottom.  Dang, how stupid could I be?  So, after putting the anchor down and putting out 200’ of chain…viola…the anchor held like it was tied down to the Empire State Building! 

In reality, I dodged a bullet with that mental lapse.  It would not have been dangerous for me personally but my boat, bank account and ego would have taken a serious blow.  Whew.  Pretty sure that mistake won’t be made again.  On a side note, if Tarren would have been aboard, I can pretty much guarantee that would never have happened.  She is the bomb anchor chick!
On the trailer leaving dry dock.
 Down the ramp we go...

Anchored safely in Bahia San Carlos...after two failed attempts. ha

Monday, February 16, 2015

Bottom paint.

For non boaters bottom paint might sound a bit strange.  Bottom paint is applied every 2-3 years to the surface that spends it's time below the waterline.  It is designed to slowly ablate over time and thus discourages marine growth because barnacles, moss and such can't take hold to something that is continually dispersing from the surface of the boat.  That said, today was bottom paint day.  The day was actually quite frustrating as I was hoping to have both coats done today but unkept promises by a Mexican chap named Eduardo kept me from reaching that goal.  He is a slippery one and after promises of having the paint here at 9am, then 10, 11, 12, 1, get the picture.  Finally at 2:30pm I went into town and bought paint from someone else.  Oh ya, did I mention that bottom paint costs $200/gallon?  No worries...I only need 3 gallons! Yikes, that hurt. 

Other problems arose today to add to the mix not the least of which was another total screw up by my good buddy Eduardo, the chief of maintenance here at Marina San Carlos dry dock.  Long story short, the keel joint (the silicone seal between the bottom of the boat and the 11,000 lb. lead keel) was improperly sealed and needed to be redone.  I tried to have this done while I was in the States but Eduardo never got around to it.  When I got here 3 days ago we again talked about it and he said he would get on it.  Well, he got on!  So now I have areas on either side of the keel that I can't paint until tomorrow when the sealant is dry.  Grrr! 

Launch day is Wednesday, the only day for a month that the marina has enough water in it to launch my boat, and I am hoping that all of the stress I have been enduring worrying about that launch date are completely unwarranted.  I hope that is the case because if I don't get in the water on Wednesday I won't be able to go in the water for another 3 weeks and that would not be good for those coming down to visit and hoping to see me. 

Moral of the story, it's not all Mai Tais, sunshine and white sand beaches in the world of a liveaboard cruiser.  Plain and sucked!  I am hoping for a more positive day tomorrow and that is just the reality of things.

 3M 4200 sealant on the keel joint...was supposed to be painted...but no!
1st of two coats completed.  

Friday, February 13, 2015

Oregon to Mexico.

It's a bit of a drive from my home in southern Oregon to my new home on the water which is currently dry docked in San Carlos, Sonora Mexico.  26 hours, 1500 miles and 3 days of driving to be exact.  It was good to be home in Oregon and spend time with the family but every day I was there my mind was somewhere else.  So 3 days ago I loaded up the work truck (my trusty 1991 Honda Civic who goes by the name of White Lightning) and headed south.  During the 2 months that I spent in Oregon I was busy sourcing parts for the Liahona which somehow I managed to squeeze into White Lightning.  I might add...not without a considerable sag in the suspension. 

The trip went off without a hitch.  Day one consisted of driving from Medford to Huntington Beach California where I spent the afternoon and evening with one of my best friends and old college buddy Gregg Watt.  It is always amazing to me that no matter how many years goes by nothing ever fades between us.  When I get there it is always laughs and smiles and invariably the visit, regardless of duration, always seems too short.  Then it was up early the next morning to beat the insane and very ugly southern California traffic and off to Tucson for day two.  In Tucson I stayed with the Rundels, an amazing family that I met the first trip down to San Carlos after buying the boat.  They too have a boat, a 45' Bavaria named Pura Vida.  After leaving the Rundels  this morning I just couldn't help but think how good life is, especially how new friends are presented into your life along the way.  The Rundels are amazing people and I so appreciate the friendship that we have formed.  I hope they know how extremely grateful I am for their abundant and gracious hospitality.  I look forward to many more hours spent with them whether it be on the water or the land.  The drive for day 3 was a bit shorther so I slept in until 7 or so, had a great German breakfast with Bernd and Sibylle and headed out.  After crossing the border into Mexico it was a very short 5 hours and I arrived into SC around 2:30 in the afternoon.

Without delay I went straight to where the Liahona is dry docked.  Do not pass go, do not collect $200, do not stop at Oxxo for a soda or candy bar!  I couldn't wait to see her, climb the ladder up to the decks and just take it all in.  After 2 months on the dry I found her fairly clean and everything mostly in order.  No surprises...yet.  haha.  I spent about 2 hours or so and only managed to unload about half of the contents out of  the car.  The unloading process is slowed by the work of removing all of the gear and bits stored down below on the boat that normally don't live there.  Tomorrow should allow enough time to finish the unpacking and then I will get underway with the many tasks that need to be accomplished before we  "splash" on Wednesday, Feb. 18th.  Most of the work that needs to be done involves replacing/installing new equipment, this time mostly electronics.  On the list are 2 new solar panels, a new solar charge controller, ham radio, antenna tuner, pactor modem, power inverter, battery charger, several 12v plugs, a couple of LED nav lights and about $1500 worth of breakers and diodes that were destroyed when a window blew out and we took on about 300 gallons of salt water while on a upwind beat with Pura Vida last fall.  The ugly part is that the window that broke was directly about my electronics panel and nav table and as one would imagine...a good salt water dousing over your ship's electronics panel is not necessarily "good".  How that all happened is another story and maybe some day when I have a spare few moments I will recount the drama and add it to the blog.

As for now I am onboard and couldn't be happier.  Well, that is not entirely ture, I will be happier when she is in the water.  However, for now I am all smiles (something that boats tend to change at unannounced, inopportune and unforeseen times along the way).  However, whether it is smooth sailing or a load of problems I wouldn't trade it for anything.

White Lightning loaded down.  Complete with 2 new solar panels on the roof.  Tucson.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

On the land blues...

Once you have spent time living on the water going back and living on land is not easy.  Yes, there are benefits but for me they are far outweighed by the daily hustle and bustle that goes along with normal life on the stable surface that most just refer to as earth.  Being home I have to deal with mail, phone calls, bills, expensive meals, traffic, appointments and even normal showers.  Yes...I like bathing in the ocean way better even if there is no "hot" knob to twist to add instant comfort to your shower. 
It seems like it has been a long two months here in Oregon but I have been busy with sourcing parts and getting things ready to go back down to the boat.  Along the way there have been plenty of other distractions, not the least of, my shop nearly burning down.  Fortunately nobody was hurt but there was extensive damage to the building.  That happened yesterday and I am scheduled to leave to head down to Mexico early next week.  Timing of that situation wasn't exactly optimal but it is what it is. In the aftermath of my thoughts and emotions centered around the fire I carefully guide my mind towards the clear skies, warm blue waters and cell phoneless days of my cruising life.  It is the way I cope and it makes the bad man go away. 
So a few more days here gathering boat goodies, handling details of life on land and I will be off.  I should leave Tuesday or Wednesday of next week and after 2-3 days of driving I will be there.  Yes, I'm looking forward to that.
Here are a couple of pictures of my most recent land disaster...ugh.