Getting those parts ready

Here’s a quick update on the various bits being made for the next trip to Ravenswing, after Thanksgiving.

The three carbon panels needed for new radar mount. I won’t assemble until on-site to decide how high to mount the intermediate “shelf”; that will house the PA/loudspeaker/foghorn unit.

Top one is the new escape hatch outer panel, lower profile and traced out for exact fit (boat side is not a perfect circle).

These are 6” inspection hatches for the float forward bulkheads. The 3” versions I took last time are too small. Couldn’t get a hand thru to mop up stray water up front! Made these with a couple bucks in materials, vs about $90 to get two Armstrong hatches shipped here. Same design.

Revised outboard motor transom plates for the TacoCat dinghy. Drew, the smaller one has beefed up routed notches top and bottom to lock in place with the tabs on the SS cross bars.

Just some polyurethane clear coat left to do on this handy little shelf that goes where the chartplotter used to be, just inside the companionway. Will help reduce cockpit clutter of binocs, handheld electronics, etc.

This one is a bona fide project. That’s the boat’s second, and better rudder. Here we are taking a mold from the section of the blade that sits in the steering cassette when underway. Recall from when we launched, the very heavy helm because the rudder wasn’t “balanced” with the right ratio of surface area ahead of and behind its pivot axis. I think I built the rudder gudgeons angle of attack to Farrier’s plan spec, so I don’t know where things went a bit haywire. For those wanting more info, go back in time on this site and search on ‘rudder’ or send a comment. Anyway, the original rudder has an ugly wedge adhered to the top 2’, which pushes the head back and the bottom tip forward under the boat. The helm is very well balanced with this revised angle. So four years later I’m finally making a proper wedge to permanently install in the cassette.

We repeated the process to get two shaped sections. They need to be flush together on the lower end, and 1-3/4” apart on the top end. So tonight one side is getting some nice light old dry fir that I’ll shape tomorrow.

The upcoming work trip will also feature a total re-do of the main saloon ports. All the fixed lexan panels will be replaced with three-per-side Vetus opening ports.

Yeah, I’m the weirdo who today took a grand worth of nicely anodized aluminum window frames, scuffed them up, primed and painted black. I really want them to blend in to the big black stripe section of the boat, and was most disappointed to be told by the factory they have suspended making black anno frames during the pandemic. Or at least they won’t promise them within four months. So hopefully our careful spray can job will hold up well enough. I plan to let them cure a week before handling.

And on a Thanksgiving note, Griffin and Taylor drove west (after negative COVID tests) and the new skipper got to see his speedboat for the first time! They love it, and I’m not totally heartbroken the engine isn’t fully sorted. The boat will stay here until spring thaw in CO, so the elder Carters plus Anton & others can do some ripping around soon. Bill at Marine Outboard in Sausalito is about six weeks backlogged with work!

Hope you guys are enjoying the Ravenswing videos. They take a long time to make and at some point I should get decent software. But please do let me know if it’s boring or you want to see different stuff about our H2O travels…

Hello from the new boat shop!

Hello friends, here’s my little bit to distract you from the anxious times around us.

We know it was a huge relief to launch Ravenswing in 2016. But that also came with giving up the 1,000+ sq ft boat-build workshop in Santa Rosa. I’ve really been missing a working space over these past four years. Until this week, that is ;)

Welcome TuffShed…

Recall our tractor work to reshape the yard earlier this year. The ‘tailings’ became a big flat space over what had been unusable hillside. Now we have a handy 12×24’ shop. Didn’t take me very long to make it look like this tonight.

There’s still some sorting, binning and cleaning up to do, but we’re not letting that get in the way of fabricating! Went to Svendsen’s in Alameda for a half sheet of 1/4” foam core and got to cuttin’

The idea is to make various bits here at home and take these projects to the boat in Mexico soon. Tonight the vacuum pump is running while these laminations cure.

On the table, with foam, fabrics, peel ply and breather all cut, are:

Adding a sealing flange to the inner disk of the emergency escape hatch (its wedge fit isn’t perfect and it shifted a half inch at sea – this will stop movement)

Making a replacement outer door disk for the escape hatch. The existing one is 1/2” core, and with the rubber seal on the hull ring, the door stands too proud out from the hull. Making a skinnier replacement, and getting the shape more exact.

Panels to make a different radar mount. I’ll move the radar to the center of the stern tower. That’s good, but it signals a surrender on what was a huge project. Decided to ditch the self steering, unpowered wind vane steering. Our unused “Autohelm” brand vane will be sold (cheap!) I’ve never installed it on the launched boat – only back in the build shop in parts. It was wishful thinking seven years ago, and our reality is the Pelagic Autopilot steers very well and is energy efficient. So we’ll streamline the tower this way. I’ll tell you about the rudder next time.

Also on the table you’re seeing a new shelf for holding sailing gear, just inside the companionway.

And a new transom plate for the dinghy. The Takacat ships with a coated particle board plate. Yeah, that cracked and got mushy.

It took about 1.5 hours to get everything wetted out on both sides, and properly fitted to the table with bagging consumables in place.

By 9:30pm we fired up the pump and got a nice -25bar suction bag. I really like this red plastic mesh spacer fabric. Learned about it two years ago in Mastachusettes during the mast build project. It allows for a very even bag suction pressure with only one air port in use.

Meanwhile we unwrapped 3 carbon parts made yesterday evening.

You’d never guess from their unfinished state, so, top one = a stiffening spacer to finally fill in between the bowsprit tangs that stick out of the hull. Needed because we changed the sprit mount style after sea trials. Will show you that when back at the boat.

Middle item is a new mounting bracket for the chart plotter. Raymarine bracket is very heavy steel and doesn’t allow the right swing angle we want. This little number should be just a couple ounces.

Bottom item is a new sheave box to add third-reef in-boom routing for the mainsail. Today it’s external, and we’ve needed this bit of surgical addition to match the third reef routing with the system already working for reefs 1 and 2.

So you guys are going to hear about a bunch of upgrades as I get it all ready for the road trip to AZ, the border and Puerto Penasco. Not sure when to roll, but certainly not before we know the next president.

Speaking of great new things, we got a ride on F27 Papillon today to watch Drew’s joy for the first hoist of her spiffy Pineapple Sails carbon main! Holy cow what a piece of work. Look out BAMA folks, team Papillon will be gunning for you in ‘21 :)

Yep, that’s the man Kame Richards driving Drew’s Fboat!

Papillon’s a 1991 vintage that can pop that pink Asym chute and do 14 kts on the Bay in a 12kt true wind. Not many <30’ boats designed in the mid 80’s can do that. It was SO GOOD to be sailing the bay for my first time in at least six months. Phew.


Ravenswing started her long trip home with a 120 mile run from Loreto to Isla Partida off LaPaz on Sunday. It was Colin’s (our elder son) first overnight sea sail and the heavens treated him to an amazing meteor shower thru the Milky Way as I slept around 2am or so. This was hours after we tried out those pink squid lures made in the last video. Ten mins in the water and the kid pulls in a Mahi for dinner!!!

Colin filleted and we ate like Kong’s; Fish tacos on night one, and lovely pan seared fillets over rice last night.

LaPaz was our first trip goal, to meet up with Brizo and do our repairs / prep / provisioning. This was the first time I’ve been too early, meaning I slowed the boat down to 3 knots from 5-6am so we could pull in to an anchorage at Partida Cove for daybreak. We anchored in 8 feet of turquoise sand and went to sleep. The afternoon was an amazing long paddleboard exploration. A sea turtle visited Colin on his board. Then we did boat underwater scrubbing – the divers last Wednesday did a decent but not thorough job. Sadly Colin found a big gouge in the daggerboard, which has me worried for the trip. Finished the day with a mast climb to install better (ie finctioning!) lazyjacks turning blocks, while looking at a desert/sea paradise

Got up this morn after a peaceful night and motorsailed in to LaPaz. Damien and Beth drove us around to various shops and we got everything on the list, including underwater epoxy that I plan to dive and fill the board hole tomorrow morn. Yikes.

Great dinner tonight with our Brizo heroes, having made their dream come true and are living a new lifestyle on the boat in LaPaz. Their playground is the Sea of Cortez. They are on to something here…

Back on Saturday we finished up the mainsheet base strengthening project, and it worked just right on the journey’s first leg. The mobile workshop:

Here are the reinforcements laid inside, and the new carbon compression-resistance bridges on deck.

The bird theme continued as we uncovered the main for the first time in five months to find a bird nest at the outer end.

Tomorrow morning we’ll hit it hard with a new brace to better anchor the autopilot, the dagger patch, resealing a leaking saloon window, installing a new windlass circuit breaker and some minor stuff. We broke a tiny trip lever on the breaker, which surprisingly rendered the windlass dead as we tried to drop the hook in AguaVerde. But it got me to open up the electrical area and learn about manual free-falling the windlass (which doesn’t seem to work on ours).

After work we’ll hopefully get in a visit to see Brizo’s fancy new dinghy and in-boat air conditioning. That’s a must for living aboard and still working a remote business job during the summer down here! We’ll try to pry them away for a little beach time and Mexican Independence Day tomorrow before we have to shove off.

Feeling better about the journey prep, and keeping our eye on the tropical storm that has thankfully taken the expected left turn out deeper into the Pacific.

Leave you tonight with our feet at the pool of Puerto Escondido, minutes before departure, sucking up the courage to start this trip…

All’s well at Puerto Escondido

What a huge relief! Colin and I got to Ravenswing around 4pm yesterday and found her in good shape. Our biggest problem is copious amounts of bird poop. Like, enough to block out two solar panels. Gross!

Early today we dove into the mainsheet base problem. After sanding back paint and drilling small core-sample holes, I’m thrilled to say there is no core damage! I LOVE our western red cedar hulls :)

The first fix is to replace strength in broken unidirectional glass. I’m pointing at the cracks here.

We sanded back the paint inside the aft cabin and laid in two layers of big reinforcement patch (1708 bidirectional glass). These should have been added when I originally installed the mainsheet with this flying Vee system. Oh well, doing glass work in paradise…

We prepped everything for replacement uni on the outside of the hull, and to add little foam core ‘bridges’ made at home to now create a flat plane from the tops of these little towers over to the deck. Tonight we’ll lay down uni carbon to handle the forces that pull from the boom running sideways across the boat.

We also cleaned out the bolt holes and reapplied epoxy to seal the wood fibers where the bolts pass by.

I brought supplies and tools to remove and replace damaged wood core. None of that was needed, and this whole thing is a single day repair, so we can get moving Sunday. Tomorrow we’ll do normal trip-prepare stuff, including restarting the PredictWind tracker for you guys.

The dinghy motor didn’t store well, and needs some work tomorrow. So for now, we have a long paddleboard upwind from the restaurant here, back to the ship. Time to put the phone down and grab a paddle.

So far, so good. Thanks for all your good wishes. We love your energy, good people.

Solo sailing

Hello Good People, here’s what it looks like when the skipper has no one else to talk to for a week. This is the late-March trip repositioning the boat from Puerto Vallarta to Baja, thinking she would get hauled out at Puerto Penasco and be stored on land during the summer COVID scare. Funny how things change, isn’t it?

Today Colin and I are finally flying to Loreto and should be at the boat in a few hours, to begin the long journey back to San Francisco Bay. I should have the real-time tracker running again by Saturday, and we’ll post short text updates on the map. I set up an account with Commander’s Weather for personalized forecasting. We’ll have PredictWind satellite updates at sea, and Colin’s Garmin InReach as a backup. We should be adequately informed in advance of any bad weather.

The boat’s tracker is here:

It’s why we do the work

We got a message today from the family that took over the Coronado 15. Liam and his dad got on the horse to fix their new ship, and it’s already out sailing! The original owner is thrilled to see this result. Here’s the new owner taking his grandfather out on a lake a couple hours north of San Francisco.

It was a little overwhelming taking the five boats from this Sacramento family, but seeing them getting used again makes it all totally worth it. I love these rehab stories (and figure Sewell Mt. Bob does too!)

Meanwhile, our thoughts have turned southwards… we’ve made the big decision, due to COVID disruption, to postpone tropical cruising and sail Ravenswing back home to San Francisco this month. Colin is on his way to California, and we will fly to Mexico together in a few days. We’ll start with a 300 mile trip in the wrong direction, to get around the corner at Cabo San Lucas to the Pacific coast. The 1,200 miles from Cabo to California is considered the Baja Bash. We of course will be hoping for a nice southerly push. Sometimes it happens! Normally, it’s a long upwind slog. We’ll probably take a bit of a rest in the Los Angeles area before the 400 mile leg back to SF.

I will let you guys know when the real-time boat tracker is going live.

Right now, it’s the pre-voyage mad scrum. My main worry is that we have to start with a boat repair. When I sailed in March from Puerto Vallarta back to Baja, the port side mainsheet anchor point had caused some skin delamination from the hull. Sharp eyes might catch this coming up in the next video; watch for the black-line barber hauler being used to steady the mainsheet block. This is the part in question.

The triangle shape thick carbon piece is very securely attached to the hull, but I didn’t build sufficient reinforcement onto the hull in this area. That will be our task before setting sail next week. So I’m packing a suitcase of West Systems epoxy, various cloths, festool sander, cutoff saw, and all the working supplies.

Supposedly I have the boat all set up to simply drop in without packing. But there’s always a list. Beyond the composites repair stuff this time, the bag includes:

a dozen new vinyl-graphics feathers to extend the Ravenswing logo on each hull side :)

backup solar charging controller

jackline that came home to get 15″ chopped out (to tighten it up) and resewn

spare maintenance parts for the suzuki main engine

an extra water bladder to carry another 13 gallons of fresh for the long trip

dog latch cams to hold the dodger windshield closed

2nd attempt at a proper pin for the boom’s new reef-lines sheave box (there’s been a temporary bolt in use, and the one I fab’d and took last time was 3/8″ too short)

another propellor. Recall last year we switched to a larger (10″ vs 9″) 4 blade (vs. stock 3 blade). The Suzuki people recommended the 5″ pitch; the new prop was game-changing good for low speed maneuvering, but being so shallow it cut our max motoring speed too much. This new one is a 10″ x 7″. Sounds quite similar, but I’m expecting to get another knot of cruising speed. That can really matter if we spend a couple days motoring northbound!

We also made some 3″ inspection ports for the forward bulkheads inside the float hulls. The forward solar panels sit on top of the occasional-access ports on the forward float decks. So we need a new way of accessing those watertight areas for airing out, and draining if necessary. We’ve had great success with the Armstrong hatches, but they don’t offer them small enough. So we made these for just a few dollars.

You just slip the white bar through the new hole in the bulkhead, center it up, and wing-nut tighten the whole thing to press the watertight rubber ring against the bulkhead. So yeah, I’ve packed a 3″ hole saw in the suitcase, and there’s already epoxy work happening so we’ll seal up the newly exposed foam edges before installing these little ports.

OK, I’m certainly anxious about preparing and executing the very long upwind trip. Been watching the weather everyday, and thankfully the tropical cyclonic activity in the Pacific is calming down. But we’ll stay ever diligent, and expect that here in 2020 we’ll be dealing with some crappy weather issues. Or some other calamity. And of course, all the worries about traveling during the ‘it ain’t getting no better yet’ pandemic :(

Finished the orange boat & next video

It wasn’t quite right looking, that ’90s motor on the ’69 boat. So Griffin realized the motor hood should be white, the way they used to do it. Good call. While we’re at it, might as well fix the various paint flaws all around the whole thing.

Got the dashboard buttoned up, and it was finally time to take this boat for a real spin. Anyone know where this is?…

Launching from Korth’s Pirate’s Lair in the California Delta, near Rio Vista, was the perfect return to the water spot for this rebuild. We got her fired up and set out on the San Joaquin River to do some exploring in the nearby sloughs. Unfortunately, we only made it about a mile before we hit some day-ending engine trouble, in the electrical / spark control system. Anton did a great job troubleshooting, and I was working on keeping us off the rocks as, of course, the afternoon wind and chop built up. Managed to flag down a fancy boat, and they towed us back to the Pirate’s Lair while they sipped their Chardonnay. Do any of you have long stem wine glasses on your boat? Dad and Valda would approve.

So, Griffin & Taylor’s new boat needs one more go-through by a pro engine mechanic, and I’m sure Bill at Outboard Marine in Sausalito will easily sort it out.

Well, no one said they couldn’t stand edited video #1, so we’re going to keep going. Here you go, take a look at how Ravenswing and her various crew enjoyed February and March on Banderas Bay, before we abandoned the boat in the COVID rush home. This was a helluva good spring break, before 2020 went to hell…

Need a sailing fix?

It’s been nearly five months since I’ve hoisted a sail, and that’s just too darn long. Hope you all are getting out there on the water. Yeah we’ve kept busy with the five little boats, but I also finally focused on figuring out i-Movie so we can share video of the Mexico travels. OK, drumroll please… edited video #1 comes your way tonight!  Holy crap, movie making is hard. You guys get what you pay for here. We’re picking up the story after the 2019 Baja HaHa and my solo sail from Cabo up to LaPaz. Recall we left Ravenswing in the marina just before Thanksgiving. In this video I go back to the boat in February, and with two crew-shifts, we adventure towards Puerto Vallarta. Sailing the Pacific side of Mexico has been magical so far.  Perhaps you’ll agree…

35 knots

We ticked a lot of boxes on the punch list for the SeaFlite ski boat over the past week. The old gas tank was unsalvageable so for now we’ll go portable.

With gas in the tank, the new battery tucked in, and a hose hooked up to water pump feed ‘earmuffs’, the engine fired right up. So I towed a mile over to the Petaluma River ramp, and just like that the 33 years streak of sitting on that trailer came to an end!

No leaks and nothing suspicious. The interior wasn’t installed yet so I grabbed a footstool for a captains chair and pulled off the dock. Made some circles near the ramp, in case there was any trouble. Made bigger and bigger loops, and stepped up through 2,000 and 3,000 rpm. Wow, this is fast with the 120hp outboard! It stalled a couple times and wouldn’t hold an idle, and the wind and current really picked up. So I put it back on the trailer and pulled up to the flushing station (our river is actually a tidal slough). Here the engine ran perfectly, so I relaunched the boat, removed the motor cover and fussed with the spark dwell setting, and got a good idle. I had great plans of giving you guys a first-launch video, but with my new GoPro chest strap I managed to capture ten minutes of the dashboard and knees. We’ll do better for you this weekend!

Anyway, with the idle sorted it was time to open up the throttle. Got a sailing phone app open and saw 35kts boat speed at about 5200 rpm. There’s more speed in that throttle, and probably more top end with a higher pitch prop. This one is only 15” and it planes pretty much instantly. This little boat is a screamer. 35.5kts is 40+mph, so we hit that goal I told Rick a couple weeks back ;). Satisfied, I pulled it out, rinsed out the salt, and happily marched home to do cosmetics.

Got some indoor/outdoor carpet off the 12’ wide roll at Home Depot.

Then spent an evening scrubbing 3 decades of shed grime off the while vinyl upholstery. It’s still serviceable!

And yes, you old timers are wondering if the seats fold down flat… yep, total 70’s day bed loungers.

Got Jeanne out to the driveway and she was inspired to polish up some metal bits. I went after scrubbing the orange paint. We removed what was left of the registration numbers and a deep layer of DMV stickers. Last one in the pile shows about what year it was painted (originally dark olive gelcoat).

You can see in that stern photo the motor is low in the water, and at speed it threw some side spray, meaning the anti-cavitation plate is too low in the water. So we hooked up the chain hoist over the garage again, and it was a fairly easy task to loosen bolts and take the motor up about an inch and a half.

After this, we kept on with some interior trim stuff, and today found a used full boat cover from Craigslist. Not photographed, but definitely sweat over in the heat, was a complete rewire and new fixtures for the trailer lights, new safety chains and winch/retrieval strap. Four rubber keel rollers and the bow stop are rotten, and being replaced at the next launch time. But we’re leaving the hideous 70’s carpet on the trailer bunk boards for the kids. We’ve got one last big cosmetic item, painting the motor, and then it’s time to go enjoy some river time before this little number slips away to the younger Carters in Colorado. Griffin doesn’t know it yet, but after this much work I’m giving it to him with the caveat of anytime I want to drive to Denver and grab it for a trip to Lake Mead or other western hotspots, it’s fair game. I

f you’re local and want a ride, speak up now. Just bring a chin strap for your hat.