Saturday, December 17, 2016

Cruising simply redefined.

We met Josh a year ago in the Sea of Cortez while we were anchored in Agua Verde on the Baja side of the Sea of Cortez. We watched as Josh sailed his 1969 Dufour Arpege 29' sloop named Maistral through the light breeze tacking among the other boats anchored in the small bay before dropping the hook in his selected spot. To set his anchor he pulled the main over by hand, backwinding it and held it there as the breeze pushed the small boat backward until the anchor chain came taut and the anchor set into the white sand below. A few moments later he hopped in his hardshell dinghy and rowed ashore to explore the area.

Josh rowing into the beach in La Paz BCS to get supplies in his dinghy/liferaft.

La Cruz anchorage.  Banderas Bay, Mexico.

That was a little over a year ago and this year we have had the pleasure of spending more time with him, sharing stories and meals. Isn't that what cruisers do? Josh is not the typical cruiser and after a meal or two on our boat and a couple on his, I wanted to share his story. Not because I think he is crazy, nor because I want to be like him and cruise with seemingly nothing other than a dry boat and sound sails. Rather because both Marne and I love his perspective on life and his desire to find peace and live free. His journey is to explore the oceans of the world as simply as possible, without relying on electronics, technology and luxuries as much as possible. We all have our own opinions on what it means to cruise simply. Josh redefines that for us and takes us back to what sailing used to be.

First of all let me tell you a little bit about Josh. He is 31 years old. He was raised in Canada and following high school he went on to college gaining a degree in engineering. He didn't grow up sailing, rather picked it up later in life as a matter of coincidence and then purchased Maistral about a year and a half ago. His boat is simple. A 29' sloop rig built in 1969 with a good quiver of sails and excellent pedigree but little else. His engine is a 9.9 hp Yamaha 4-stroke outboard and he carries just over 10 gallons of fuel on board. He has a handheld VHF radio but no Ham radio, no SSB, no EPIRB, no liferaft, no generator and no GPS other than his cell phone which serves as his primary navigation device where he uses the free Open CPN application to navigate with. He does have a second cell phone as a back up as the primary one is starting to glitch and looks like it has been ran over a few times in the street. His one prize luxury is his electric tiller pilot. However, with only one battery that has a capacity of about 100 amp hours and two small and very dated solar panels, a few cloudy days could easily put a temporary end to that luxury. He is currently teaching himself to auto steer using a backwinded storm jib attached by a bungy to the tiller which he says is totally viable.

The Dufour 29 "Maistral"

 The ample galley.

 Nav table.

 Looking forward through the salon.

 View from the foredeck.

His sole guide to the South Pacific.

Josh's current plans are to head down the Mexican coastline to Puerto Vallarta this winter and prep himself and Maistral to make the 2500+ mile passage across the Pacific Ocean to French Polynesia and the other islands of the South Pacific. I didn't ask him how long it would take in his small boat but I would estimate about 25 days. 25 days alone crossing the largest ocean in the world. If things go bad, he has no way of communicating with the outside world to plead for help and very little resources for rescue other than his own abilities to set things right and that is just the way he likes it. When his parents offered to buy him a satellite phone, he politely declined telling them he just wanted to keep things simple.

 Maistral at anchor in Chacala Mexico.

 Fun, food AND exercise.  

Stateside, before his journey south of the border.

It is true that many others have made that passage and even circumnavigations in similar or smaller boats. He is not the first, nor will he be the last. But in his mind, who is counting? He isn't doing this for notoriety. He is not trying to be the first, nor the last. He is doing it because he cherishes his own internal peace, which is completely independent of anyone else's approval. That peace is nourished by his travels about the sea in his simple craft Maistral. You won't see him blogging or making any fanfare of his journey. What you would see if you had the chance to meet Josh, is a huge smile and inner peace that seems to be rarely found, whether you are 31 or 71.

Many would say he is reckless, careless or naive. If you met him and spent some time with him I believe your opinion would be different. Yes he is carefree, but he is also intelligent, calculating and thoughtful. He doesn't sail to accomplish something big and garnish accolades, he sails to continue in peace. For Josh, although not for all of us, peace is plain and simple. 

Marne and I both wish him the best and bid him farewell with fair winds and following seas. We hope to cross paths again and share a meal or two and hear of his adventures along the way.

Live. Love. Enjoy. Josh, you've got it figured out and we applaud you. Good on ya!

Until next time,

SV Liahona

Bret and Marne

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Eclectic Energy D400 Wind Generator field review.

We bought and installed our D400 wind generator about 2 months ago and thought that some of you
might want to hear some actual results from a user instead of company printed propaganda that may
or may not be accurate. As we all know, while putting the product to the test in a marine
environment the phrase "Your results may vary" is certainly applicable.

To clear the air early and let the cat out of the bag I will say that the Eclectic Energy D400
has not disappointed in the slightest and has fully lived up to it's billing. Having said that here is my review.

Installation of the D400 was fairly simple and once the pole, with proper supports, is in place
it will take a non-electrician, handy type 2-5 hours to install. Most of this time is simply
running the wiring and mounting the controller and heat dump in their respective places. The time
will vary depending on how long the run is and how accessible the run is from the wind gen
location to your batteries. One note, if you are outside the USA or traveling to your boat with
the D400, be sure to measure the length of the cable run from the top of the pole to your
batteries and mount location for the dump and controller as that wire is not included with the
unit. Everything else comes with the unit if you buy it from Southeast Marine Services located in Scappoose, Oregon. BTW, they were wonderful to work with and had excellent customer service with all of my questions!

 2" pole and supports just to the right of the blue barbeque.

 Our pole is 3 meters from the deck and on the aft, port corner of the boat.

We mounted the heat dump (which never gets even barely warm) and the charge controller on the bulkhead of the port lazarette.  Both come with the unit from Southeast Marine.

Actual performance.
 I would rate it "As advertised", or at least pretty close to it. The only
caveat to that is that you should not expect to see much of anything usable in the "turn on
speed" of 5 knots of wind. Realistically you will start to see an amp or 2 once you have 8-10 kts
of wind. After that the results of power production are noteworthy and seem to be very close to the graph shown
below. Once wind is in the teens you start to see numbers that make you smile. High teens will
produce about 8-10 amps/hour.  

 Actual reading in about 16-18 knots of wind. The analog amp meter is not included but I am a geek and wanted to actually see what it was producing at any given time so I wired it through this gauge.

This is hard to see but it is reading 29.3 amps of input into our batteries via the D400 and our solar at 11am here in La Paz Mexico with the D400 contributing about 8 amps. What you don't see are the 5 amps that are being drawn by the fridge and other items. So you can add those 5 amps to that net total on the Xantrex.  If that doesn't make your captain smile then he needs to find a different path for his life!

This is the graph that is found on the Southeast Marine Services website and we have found that actual performance is pretty darn close

Another shining point of the D400! Right after we installed the D400 we had winds from 25-30
knots for an hour or so out in the anchorage and we could sit in the cockpit directly below the
D400 and carry on a perfectly normal conversation without raising our voices a bit. It is quiet!
We have both mentioned that the very slight blowing sound that it makes is music to our ears and
we smile knowing that we are putting in green power to our batteries. No matter what the wind
speed is we have never had a negative comment about any noise from the unit and to the contrary,
many visitors comment on how quiet it is. One note on noise...when we made and installed the pole, which
is 9.5 feet above the deck, and it's two angled supports, we mounted them directly to the deck
screwing the stainless steel feet on the bottom of the poles directly to the glass. I would
recommend putting in a form of thin rubber or plastic gasket between those surfaces to dampen any
vibration. In our case when the wind is in the high teens or twenties there is a vibration hum
that is not annoying but can be heard from inside the boat. When we are on dry dock this next
summer we will add those buffers.

Actual results on our boat as compared to cruising last year without the D400.
Along with the D400 we have 875 watts of solar which is plenty during the better solar months of
the year, March-September. However, during the winter months last year, due to low solar angle
and total solar hours available each day, we had to run our diesel generator about 1 hour/day in
order to keep up with our electrical needs. This year, after adding the D400, we have yet to
turn on the diesel generator! With solar and wind, we have had zero need to burn diesel. THAT
is a beautiful thing!

Overall rating and satisfaction.
Overall we are stoked! We have no regrets whatsoever. For us, the D400 has only two
drawbacks...the price as compared to some of the other units in the market and the actual weight
of the head unit. It is definitely a heavy unit, coming in at almost 50 lbs, which will require
you to build a solid tower. The price is a bit higher than many units but the phrase "you get
what you pay for" is true in this case. If you want the best, we believe the D400 is it.  

Clean power!

Where to get it.
I am sure that you can purchase it from various sources.  We bought ours from Southeast Marine
Services because they offered a competitive price with FREE shipping and they also package the
unit complete with a charge controller and heat dump that they have tested and know to be
complimentary to the D400.  No hassles, no worries.  Just plunk down the bucks, install it and
watch the amps flow.  A solid two thumbs up from the crew of the S/V Liahona!

That's a wrap!

SV Liahona
Bret and Marne

P.S.  Sorry about the spacing issue.  I wrote the blog in notebook and then imported it into blogger and it left me with this.  I am too lazy to re-type it all in blogger so this is the way it is.  My apologies.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Just added a "Follow" button to the blog.

Ok, I know this is not the most interesting post ever conceived of but we just wanted to inform those out there that do enjoy our blog posts (both of you! haha) that we have added a "Follow" widget to the blog so you can click on that widget and automatically follow our blog through Google +.

The "follow" widget is found at the top right of our blog homepage.  Just click on the link and you will be added to the follow list.  Sorry for the boring post, we are just trying to make the blog easier and more useful.

On a side note...we are still in La Paz having the new bimini and sun shade made which is a lengthy process and we will definitely do a post on the process and results of that project.  Until then, ciao for now!

SV Liahona
Bret and Marne

Thursday, November 17, 2016

A visit with the whale sharks. La Paz, BCS.

We had most of our day planned out today taking care of chores as well as having two workers coming aboard to do a couple of repairs that were above my pay grade.  The first one showed up, even on time, to help sort out the issue of the alternator not charging the appropriate battery banks.  At the beginning of the season we installed a new battery isolator and I figured there was something amiss with the install but couldn't figure out what.  It wound up being an incorrect connection of wires and within a half hour or so we had the wires swapped around and charge heading to all three battery banks.  Problem solved.

The other worker was going to help with our Raymarine wind instruments.  When Hurricane Newton blew through San Carlos this summer it took my wind speed transducer on top of the mast with it as it stormed through town.  I replaced the transducer with a new one but we still are not squared away.   Our wind speed shows correctly but the wind direction does not.  I have spent plenty of time researching the internet and talking to Raymarine tech support but still have not figured it out.  Anyway, that worker had problems with his dinghy so he was unable to make it.

So, around 1pm or so Marne and I decided to take a little dinghy trip out to the Magote to see if we could find some whale sharks.  We traveled much farther than we thought and almost ran out of gas on the way back to the boat which is anchored out front of Marina La Paz.  We got home with about 2 cups of fuel in the tank.  It would have been a LONG paddle.

However, we did find a large group of 10-15 whale sharks and hung out there visiting most of them over the course of about an hour or so.  The are amazing animals.  Slowly moving along opening and closing their enormous mouth to scoop up huge amounts of plankton and krill. They are very passive, very gentle, very LARGE animals.  One of the ones we saw was easily 35+ feet long.  I hope we never take experiences like this for granted because...who gets to do that?  Right?

No bad days!

SV Liahona
Bret and Marne

Monday, November 14, 2016

Finally getting our feet wet in the Sea of Cortez!

 One of two Dorados that we caught 2 days before getting into La Paz.  The sail was amazing.  All down wind.  It doesn't get any better than that. (This photo is out of order but was a much better header than some fiberglass repair pic.  The rest of the pics are mostly in chronological order.)

Dry dock repairs update:

 Abran, Jorge and another prepping the final layers of glass.

 This was not a small project and although it took a lot of time we wated to get it done right.

 The last layers going on before final sanding, a barrier coat then the red primer coat.

Primer is on and now ready for the bottom paint.  

 Welding the stainless pole and supports for the new wind gen.  I will most likely do an entire post on our first impressions of the D400 wind generator.  (A sneak preview...we love it!) More later on this subject.

 Salvador making some last connections before more green power starts to flow into our battery banks.

Final bottom paint was done around the 26th or so of Oct.  At this point we are ready to hit the water!

 Dia de los Muertos is a big deal here in Mexico and throughout Latin America.  It is much more than our Halloween costumes and trucks loads of candy.  Here they celebrate and honor their relatives who have passed into the next realm.  We went to a seminar put on by the local college in Guaymas that gave us an overview of their beliefs and why they do what they do on these important few days.  Very interesting and so much deeper than our Halloween.

 The cathedral in Guaymas lit up in lavender for the celebration.

 Many of the skeletons had puppy skeletons along side.  Their belief is that you should be buried with a dog and he will protect you and watch after you in the afterlife.  Marne loves the thought and sentiment of this tradition.

 As we wandered the streets of Guaymas we were among thousands of Latins with nay a Gringo in sight all evening .  It was pretty awesome.  Good food, great people, wonderful traditions.

This is our buddy Brian on S/V Cat 2 Fold.  A very unique folding catamaran that he can put on a trailer.  He went out for a short day sail that afternoon to make sure everything was working ok and wound up just never turning back into San Carlos harbor crossing the Sea of Cortez overnight and landing on the Baja side somewhere near Loreto.  We look forward to spending more time with him.

 Marne on the bow enjoying one of MANY of our wonderful downwind sails as we head south toward La Paz.  The water was about 82 degrees and crystal clear.  You gotta love this place!

 We ran into several pods of dolphin who shared the waters with us.  The water clarity made it a magical experience.

 Snorkeling at one of our favorite anchorages in the Sea, Isla Danzante.  The diving was fantastic but we arrived back to the boat to find a massive swarm of bees on board.  They come looking for fresh water and I guess they found what they were looking for.  Marne went to the bow while I tried not to step on or sit on one of thousands of bees that were sharing the boat with us.  They forced us out.  We picked up anchor and headed toward Puerto Escondido.  After about 30 minutes the last of them had left and we managed to somewhat coexist receiving not a single sting.  They really are not aggressive and are just looking for water, fresh water.

 More dolphin.

 The above and below pics are of S/V Harmony.  Some of our dearest friends.  They, along with Jeff and Pamela from S/V China Cloud came over for dinner as we shared our Dorado catch with them, Marne outdoing herself whipping up Coconut Encrusted Dorado and curry cauliflower.  Before dinner we had this amazing display played out over 30 minutes or so.  Gorgeous.

And last but not least for this post is the captain lounging on the foredeck as we sail wing on wing with the genoa and the drifter quietly but swiftly toward Isla San Francisco just north of La Paz.  

We love the Sea of Cortez in the fall.  It is an amazing and magical place.  Soon the northers will start to blow more consistently stirring the waters, cooling them down and sending the cruisers seeking the warmer waters of Pacific Mexico.  We will follow them in time but will hang here as long as the conditions permit.  We are so grateful to be able to experience the joy, peace and beauties of cruising.  Leaving behind the stresses, expenses and worries of the "real world" back on the hard stuff.  There is no other place we would rather be.  

Ciao for now.

SV Liahona
Bret and Marne

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Launching the boat for the coming cruising season.

It is definitely a little late as we launched the boat at the end of Oct but we have not had good enough internet until now to be able to post.  It was a long 3 1/2 weeks on dry dock taking care of several smaller projects and one large, unanticipated one in order to splash.  Here is a quick vid of the splash.

We are currently in La Paz, BCS and enjoying amazing water and weather here in the Sea of Cortez. We will post again soon to update with some of the happenings along the way.

SV Liahona
Bret and Marne