Boat relaxes in MX, humans toil in CA

OK, good people, I’m finally figuring out how to transition from a mostly-photos blog to more videos. You guys are the guinea pigs here; can you stand the amateur editing job you’re about to see? We have a lot of good footage from Ravenswing in Mexico, but that’s too valuable for hacking with first time iMovie attempts. This Memorial Day weekend has been the time to figure out the editing software. I’m completely humbled by the people making their livings as “YouTubers”; S/V Delos, Salt & Tar, and all the rest spend hundreds of hours making their high quality movies. Here at we’re just going to work to the limit of my attention span :)

Ravenswing is fine, according to the folks keeping an eye on her. I hate this separation, and we’re missing prime Baja cruising season. But of course we’re really only concerned about the safety of friends and the Baja Sur residents, avoiding a COVID outbreak. With all the uncertainty of what’s coming in the next year, our current thought is to sail the boat home to San Francisco as soon as it’s permissible. But right now I need to heal up from last Friday’s prostate surgery, and get the prior trips’ videos out to you all. And as you’ll see here, we’ve got some new retaining walls to build…  yea, it ain’t a boat video yet, but just think of it as taking care of the boat workshop back at home.

Let me know what you think about video production. Clearly I need to get help on the audio side. Hopefully we’ll get some sailing videos out soon for your entertainment.

Click here to see the latest on the Videos page:



Gates are coming along well

We’ve turned that pile of scrap steel purlins into the gates cladding. First up was about six hours of cleanup work with sanding disks on the angle grinder. With 27 big pieces it took four hours with the car/boat painting compressed air rig. That was a lot of painting detail. It will really help the final paint to have all that primer done as parts.

My drill bits are getting dull and rather than suite up for the hardware store, it’s “be patient and use lots of cutting oil” time. Tonight the two big gates have teachers their final size (a bit under 7’ tall).

Tomorrow it’s the smaller side gate’s turn to gain a couple feet taller.

Puerto Backyarda

(Title courtesy of Cap’t Holway ;)

Yeah, this is going to be a stretch but I know most of you are sitting at home in the evenings wishing there were better movies or at least a sports event to watch. I’m supposed to talk about the trimaran in nice places or doing risky things. But how about we follow the project of making over our Novato yard to make it boat-work friendly? Cartershouse here is a mid-80’s two story sited at the street-front side of a one acre lot. We have a huge yard but there’s no vehicle access to it. The old wood fence and narrow gate off the garage are slowly falling down, and the space outside the garage isn’t wide enough to park anything bigger than our tiny utility trailer. All this room, but no where to work on a trailer boat. A travesty of lot layout! Plus it means our land-yacht (26’ travel trailer) can’t live here so we pay a storage fee monthly and a 30-40 minute drive each way to fetch the trailer. We want that to come home.

So, the fence and old gate need to come out, retaining walls get torn out, plumbing work, grading done, an RV & boat parking surface, and new gates built.

To be honest, we actually started back in January when I rented a bobcat and began tearing out the rotted wood retaining walls. That was tremendous fun until we learned why you don’t tractor-work NorCal clay in the winter.

And that would be the sticky mess that jams up the drive sprockets and tracks. We got about half way done moving earth, did the needed concrete sawing of the driveway edge, then gave back the powertoys and went to Mexico instead.

Here in April and COVID-19 time, we’re getting back to the yard.

When I was home in late February, having left Ravenswing in the LaCruz marina, we got these ranch gates installed.

It was no fun boring the corner post hole through the driveway cement, but a mix of numerous small-bit holes drilled as a perimeter circle, then cold chiseling, finally got it done. The center pole between the two big gates is removable, as it’s seated in an underground sleeve. This all will swing open to make a 16’ wide access to the yard. Even I can back the trailer through that without hitting the sides!

Those ranch gates are the skeleton. Now we’re going to clad them with hopefully tasteful looking ‘skins’.

We’re winging it here on the design, and one drizzly day we headed to the AMAZING scrap yard of

in Petaluma. So much fun to wander 7 acres of old building materials and get ideas. By the way, are any of you following YouTube stars as they hand-build the wood ship Rediviva over at the Napa Valley Marina? In one of last year’s videos you’ll see Salt’s Garrett cruising around Maselli’s finding parts for their boat’s driveline. When non-essential travel is OK, go check it out!

Back in late Feb we drug 25 of these purlins home. Nice 18 gauge steel from an old building.

The price was right because of surface rust. As of tonight I’ve done 4 hours of cleaning with the angle grinder and flapper disks, resulting in about 40% of the job done. I’m afraid the stay at home neighbors are pissed about the noise so I’ll space it out over a couple more days of short-ish sessions. They are cleaning up nicely though.

Should be ready for primer this weekend with the HVLP gun.

I haven’t left the compound since Jeanne brought me home from the airport last Friday, and we’re thinking I’m clear for a paint store run (with mask) on Thursday. But tomorrow eve I’m going to the Northwest Multihull Association April meeting at 7pm, because it’s by videoconference! Speakers include whoever is finishing up the build of a Marples 38’ tri, also in Napa (how did we not know about this???) and a cruiser’s report from LaVentana, exactly where Ravenswing was during the SuperBowl weekend. If anyone wants to join that meeting, find the Zoom link of the NMA site or hit me up for an email tmrw.

Ok, go look at those Salt and Tar YouTube videos and if you like what they’re doing, sign up on Patreon to support their build. Trust me, it feels good ;)

An appeal from quarantine

Ravenswing sits on her mooring ball and her skipper sits at the kitchen table under California’s Shelter In Place order. I was actually disappointed that no public health official during my travel home Friday either suggested or ordered me a duration of physical isolation due to international travel into the USA. So we’re following the Centers for Disease Control ‘suggestion’ of a two-week self quarantine at home. Of course I’ve come back with boat projects to do, and thus will have more stuff for you guys to read about in the coming days.

There was a LOT of apprehension about the airplane travel journey. Jeanne asked me to wear the face mask the whole time. At first I was annoyed by that, then I thought of RickH’s timeless corinthian advice about being prepared for the contingencies. The greying beard has been a badge of honor for the whole salty sailor theme during ’19/’20, but it really doesn’t work for the “do not touch your face in times of COVID-19” lifestyle. So there was a painful hack job for 30 minutes in the La Paz marina bathroom with a dull little disposable Gillette razor.

During our two weeks apart, the co-owner also hounded me to work on coming home healthy, unlike my prior two returns from MX with bouts of respiratory and GI tract ‘issues’.  So eating well became a mission gladly undertaken. I’m not used to cooking for one, meaning it’s hard to throttle back to appropriate amounts. Steak fajitas for two, eaten by one!

It’s raining here this morning in the San Francisco area. Good, the summer water table needs it. Back at the boat, the weather is gorgeous. Wouldn’t it be nice to hang out at the marina pool, then paddleboard back to the boat for sundowners tonight?


It looks idyllic, and yet that’s what I really want to explain. This is a message to friends in Mexico. You are facing choices about plotting your course through the coronavirus pandemic; I was not sufficiently informed while in Banderas Bay or Baja and I’m compelled to share these words of observation and learning from my first 48 hours back home. has been up and running for seven years and we’ve tried very hard to stay unpolitical and on-point about the boat life. This posting is about the safety of friends, not my feelings on the governments of USA or MX, so it should be fair game…

  1. I thought it might be OK to go ahead and contract COVID-19 and ‘just get it over with’. The reports in MX didn’t seem that bad, it’s just a kind of flu. BAD IDEA – this thing is a monster when it gets in you. CNN host Chris Coumo (also brother of NY’s governor) is video sharing his COVID fight and the his descriptions of a now 12 day fever battle are awful. 80% of the patients who end up on a ventilator due to COVID are dying. Yes most people survive it, but catching it now while you’re healthy or getting it over with as I heard in MX is severely misguided.
  2. “Social distancing” is confusing in another language. In La Paz last weekend the face masks were just starting to appear and businesses were beginning physical distancing rules. Everything was still open though. Mi Espanol is rudimentary at best, and I didn’t get a proper explanation of the need:  Coronavirus is transmitted by physically pushing it from one human’s lungs to another’s, carried on the breaths one exhales and the other inhales. The connection is made when you pick up someone’s exhale within about two feet. So the medical guidance is staying 3x, or six feet apart. And the mask is knocking your exhale down to a shorter distance, helping to protect the other person from catching virus particles YOU may be exhaling (even if you don’t show any  symptoms). All of this was totally lost in translation to a voyaging solo sailor who was very pre-occupied about getting my boat to safety and myself back across the threatened border shut down. Point is, I was focused on completely the wrong things!  The border is not the problem, contracting this disease is. I should have been wearing the mask as I took “my air” to new places.
  3. Disinfecting what you take aboard: I also didn’t understand that the virus is staying potent on surfaces to varying degrees, and that everything coming on to the boat should be considered. Again in LaPaz, on Sunday a week ago I was proud of ‘social distancing’ by walking three miles from the marina area to the mega-stores, and provisioning at Home Depot and Wal-Mart because at least I could trust the American product safety protocols. Took an Uber back to the boat with my load, but completely forgot Griffin’s text about disinfecting the packaging as I brought all the food aboard. Besides, this sounded pretty much absurd in an idyllic Baja anchorage. But now knowing how easy it is for people to be infected and not know it, and they keep doing their grocery store stocking or delivery jobs in small towns, it makes total sense to wash down purchased goods. I had some chlorine-based disinfectant aboard, and in the last couple of days had mixed some in to a spray bottle with general household cleaner and gave Ravenswing a thorough wipe-down.
  4. Prepare the sick-room. I’ve seen some voyaging boats with excellent full medical kits. We made an effort last year in building out Ravenswing’s first aid supplies. But in retrospect, we do not have virus containment & relief equipment aboard. It is a tiny space, and if one person was aboard caring for an infected crew, what are the needed supplies? The boat should have masks, disinfectants, proper washing capabilities (bedding, clothing, etc). First aid kits are generally focused on injuries; I had barely considered long-duration illness care aboard. What’s in the box for fever management, for example? Do we even have a proper thermometer? For any boats reading this now, are you fully prepared in this regard? If not, let me know how we can help you supply up for it.
  5. The escape plan… friends, and friends of friends, are on their boats right now with perhaps some anguish about where to be located during the pandemic. I just spent a week in the state of  Baja Sur, MX. It felt quite safe and generally isolated from coronavirus. But that was false security. For example, the lovely, remote Puerto Escondido Marina looks sparkly clean and the staff is now following COVID-fighting protocols. Yet Americans are coming and going through the nearby Loreto airport, and almost all of the food and service products come to mid-Baja from California distribution companies (I saw the trucks and spoke with store managers). The trends and odds are VERY HIGH the virus will sweep through the Mexican Pacific coast just as it is doing through the US Pacific coast, mostly because all the social practices and travel have been the same in both countries. The border won’t be stopping this. One can continue social distancing on a boat. Very easy out at anchor, and with more discipline in the marinas. But I would keep a sharp eye on the medical facilities current-capability resources for hospitalizing and caring for you within a realistic ambulance distance from your boat, should a bad infection occur. Sadly, it looks like many of the superficial government reports are complete bullshit; public medical information employees are overwhelmed in their jobs and the stats are not reliable. My front-line doctor friends and paramedic son are seeing much higher numbers of symptomatic patients than is being press-released. Do what you can to get real facts about the state of medical services near your boat right now, and consider repositioning your boat to be within reach of facilities you’d feel OK about trying to save your life from COVID-19.  Maybe put on a mask and go take a look at the nearby hospital?  I’m NOT saying west-coasters should immediately sail back to the USA  or BC. Just please convince yourself that the resources nearby are truly adequate for your potential needs. The incorrect information mistakes being made by American and Mexican elected officials right now are staggering. Find the local truth.

It’s great to be home, re-engaged as a spouse, father, son and sibling again. Life here in the ‘corona hot zone’ of California is much harsher than hanging out on the boat in MX, and yeah, I severely miss that already. On the boat it is easy to work the program of unplugging (from sad news) and anchoring one’s self. It’s easy to recharge the body with enough sleep, exercise and good diet. For those of you on your boats, please keep living this healthy lifestyle and when you do go ashore, drop the self-conscious thing and put on the darn masks. And tell other cruisers to do it too. This should be on the morning radio nets  (it wasn’t as of two days ago in Escondido, for example). The world needs everyone to do their parts in slowing the disease spread, and that all starts with speaking up and staying 2 meters apart for a while. I can’t wait until we can sail together and hug it out again :)

Peace to you good people, and sail safely.

Headed home

Writing a quick one to you guys sitting in 6A of an Alaska Air flight waiting to taxi out of LAX. I’m one of 8 paid passengers on a 200+ capacity jet.

It took 2 mins to clear both immigration and customs. LAX seemed like the safest place to be today in the USA. Constantly being sanitized and so few humans around.

When we can go back to MX, this island just two hours of sailing north of the Puerto Escondido looks like a good first destination! The turquoise water cove caught my eye from the plane.

Well, that’s the end of RW’s spring 2020 Mexican cruise. I completely fell in love with The Baja. The sea animal life is amazing, and the visual drama of the desert abruptly falling in to the deep blue sea is a show stopper. Yes the last week or so has been a personal escape from the pandemic reality, but I’ll prefer to look back on it years from now as an A+job of social distancing / sheltering in place. This place:

PS – our man Lucio at Cristiani Marine Services will check the mooring lines weekly and scrub the bottom monthly. Such a relief to be so welcomed there and know that someone has eyes-on the boat.

Guaymas bound

OK kind followers, the bird is on the move (or will be before sunset). Too antsy sitting here at the marina. After much info gathering the plan is to sail over to mainland side, about half way up the Sea of Cortez, and haul Ravenswing at Marina Guaymas. They have a dirty but secure yard that welcomes DIY. That will be good when the crisis has settled and travel is once again allowed. I hope to haul the boat on Friday, and I have a ticket on American Airline’s last scheduled flight out of Hermasillo next Monday. There was a just-retired Boeing engineer docked next to me yesterday and he explained the air filtration systems on modern jets. Now I’m feeling way better about the airplane than a bus, etc.  Just gotta get through the airports without touching anything/one.

Tracker is on. Part 2 begins tonight….

Where’s the best place to put an oil tanker?

BEHIND you, of course! Here’s the one ship that crossed paths with Ravenswing on the passage from Puerto Vallarta to La Paz.

Zoom in; it’s 3 miles away, seen above the tiller. I heard five ships talking to various port officials over the VHF. They were all efficient, Indian-accent skippers, which matches our experience at EagleRail. A nation focused on career opportunities via the maritime trades. This is the kind of stuff you ponder when faced with 89 hours of solo time on the Pacific. Didn’t see any of the other northbound cruising boats once beyond 10 miles from Banderas Bay. It was motoring for the first 9 hours of the trip and we were much slower under power than the diesel powered boats. RW covered 469 miles in 4 days/3 nights. Other boats made stops but our sailing and constant motion got us here before the other Monday departees. RW averaged about 5 and a half knots, meaning it was a slow upwind ride. The sea state basically sucked. Not enough wind to power past the bumps, but enough boat speed to rise up the waves and pound down every third or fourth one. The sounds are fairly awful, and somewhere deep into night two Ravenswing was actually for sale very cheaply priced! Thank goodness none of you actually heard me. RickH gave me a Psychology of Sailing book; haven’t it read it yet but apparently my psyche decided to go ahead and act out all those behaviors in one trip. No, there was no GoPro filming of those lows and highs. Probably the worst part was unexplained dagger board sounds deep in the night. So I stalled the boat, hove-zero and pulled up the board. It’s fine. But still weird hull noise. Go forward and find the bowsprit in the water smacking the bow. All because a locknut had come off due to repeated motion. I had seen this never-pinned nut months before but didn’t get it on the ToFix list. JeffL is probably screaming at me from CO for this one. I get teased for my boat-lists, but even they aren’t good enough sometimes. That was the trip low point, but it was easy to assess no bad damage had been done.

RickWS insists food is very important at sea. On his RW trip southbound we ate quite well. I kept it up solo. Jeanne made a lovely roasted pepper salsa before she got on the plane home.

And yes, that’s non-alcoholic Corona (which this spell-checker just tried to turn into Coronavirus!). I don’t drink while we’re underway. But do indulge the sweet tooth. Still can’t believe I get to have ice cream aboard an Fboat!

Some of you are wondering how I stayed awake for 89 hours. Yeah right. Here are my helpers:

First we define the alarm types and range limits, utilizing the same AIS ship-finding technology as the original track-us-at-sea websites you checked. But out here we get the AIS signal directly from the other vessel’s radio antennas so this is much more relatable than the spotty satellite issues Mom and Pat had watching us last September.

Next we set up the radar alarm zone(s) and configure the screen for the info wanted. This is what I have up at night:

The purple pie slice is what we see from the bow of the boat, starting a half mile out and looking for three miles forward. If anything gets in the pink box, this sucker screams loud enough to wake me up. I got four alarms in three nights. Twice it was birds. Being a fan of ravens (flying tricksters), I laughed it off. Once it was a boat that needed my attention but no course change. And number four i have no idea – Never saw anything out there.

In general I slept enough. At night I set an alarm clock for every one to two hours, depending on the conditions. After a quick check i did well falling back asleep. Used the ‘pilot berth’ next to the nav desk in the saloon, with the lee-cloth netting hooked up to keep me in place during the bucking waves. I always had the autopilot remote on a neck lanyard, and faced the computer display so i could open one eye and change steering if wanted. During the days I tried to take a least a couple of half hour cat naps.

There were no sail changes, and only had to reef the main once. Mostly it was about dropping the jib in disappointment and getting the motor fired up again.

Late on Wednesday the mountains east of Cabo came in to view. That evening it got close enough for a glorious moonrise cap.

That meant familiar waters, having made it to where the Sea of Cortez meets the Pacific. And Thursday morning a half dozen visitors died on the forward nets.

I don’t think shrimp can jump; pretty sure it was punching through waves that tossed them up. Made me more committed to start reading last night John Steinbeck’s Log from the Sea of Cortez (a marine biology expedition on a Monterey shrimp boat in 1940).

Weather was a factor; we had one glorious bit lof sailing in the Cerralvo Channel, at about mile 430, where the wind finally built into the teens compressed up against the mountains. I short tacked the boat racing style right up against the rocks (turning each time at 40’ depth) doing 9-10kts upwind, thinking it would be an easy afternoon into LaPaz. Nope. Forecasted wind died out and the engine came back on. Anchored up actually before LaPaz around 10pm in Balandra Cove which has an amazing turquoise water shallow section that made the idyllic paddleboard landfall in morning. But no lazy beach rest day to be had, because despite all the motoring, this was headed our way. The pen shows my approx track in from the ocean toward the Baja coast.

That folks is a Baja Norther blow. The dark red means 30-35kt wind. That comes with 7-10 short period waves that would be throwing spray all the way over the boat. Not a good place to be. So of course 1/2 way through my 7am paddle on Friday that red wind started to build, and it was a hustle to up anchor and sail the last ten miles into La Paz. Sailed all the way in the LaPaz Channel and docked again at Marina Cortez, this time no drama. It’s been blowing like snot here for 30 hours. So i figured I’d earned Sunday brunch by Saturday morning.

Got the bowsprit reinstalled today, including some minor rigging improvements, and reprovisioned for heading north assuming I won’t be stopping for supplies again. The LaPaz anchorage can be a gem.

Tonight I’ve been putting together some fishing lures, going for mahi and grouper in the Sea. These will be on the hand lines during motoring or slow sailing.

Weighing heavily on the mind is how exactly to get home. Ravenswing needs to be placed in a spot where I’m comfortable she can sit without the Carters’ presence for perhaps a long time. I don’t think that’s here in LaPaz. The hurricane-safe marinas don’t have room for us. The dry storage yards are possible but don’t look secure to me. It would suck to have her gear stolen. And I want a long DIY work session upon return, so hauling out and storing her in the northern Sea, within a reasonable drive of California, is the goal. Carlos and Rick are helping with info about Puerto Penasco vs the Guaymas / San Carlos area. There are many factors of strong tidal currents, little to no shelter up north, a much longer drive to San Carlos than PP, etc. I’ve got two more days here to sort it out then get underway. COVID-19 makes it very tempting to take a slow, idyllic spring cruise northward, stopping at so many great anchorages. But what if the US/MX border gets weird? Or shut? Where will I get quarantined? What land transport to use after storing the boat? Must I shave off the beard tomorrow so as to stop touching the face? I did one right thing today – bought Jeanne two refill packs of liquid bleaching disinfectant for about 50 cents apiece in a big store here with full shelves. Maybe i load up Ravenswing with toilet paper and Clorox products, and one of you can drive my pickup to Penasco and fetch me and our high-markup booty? We’d make a bundle if we were ‘Those Guys’.

Hey, did you all find the little updates from the sea on the side of the boat’s tracker map? Is that the info you want? Hit me back with comments here about the enroute messaging. I can be better, just need your guidance.

Now go wash your hands again. And stop touching your face, Griffin!