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.

Making a place for the outboard

The ‘69 SeaFlite got her beefy transom upgrade in the last couple of posts, and now we’ll recap building the outboard motor well. The theme of this project is “up cycling” i.e. taking old stuff for free or low cost and make it go faster!

The old motor cover donated itself as panels for the motor well
Didn’t have quite enough width from the old stuff, so the front face is leftover plywood from the transom thickening
The sides come together. The yellow squiggles are old glue that held crappy “sound insulation” around the Merc inline 6
Tying the motor well to the transom gussets
Had to rebate some of the old engine bed to get the new 3/4” floor panel to fit.
This 50 year old boat now has a bit of modern carbon fiber foam core bulkhead panel composite structure in it! (We has some scrap pieces available)
This is under the new motor well; we’ve left a bilge where the old transmission was. Will put in a pump and keep the original drain plug hole.
Finished product, ready for some fairing. Didn’t take any photos of the monotonous fairing passes. Mainly because I wasn’t as particular back here like we were with Ravenswing;)
Pulled up the filthy old carpet and found the original plywood floor had been left untreated. So we did an epoxy skimcoat. That old plywood drank the epoxy like an Annapolis cadet on shore leave. So we’ll probably fill gaps tomorrow with some putty before painting it.
Yea! Glassing work done and first primer applied. I think once we mount the engine this thing will look pretty close to a factory original outboard model.
Yesterday I dove in to the electrical and removed the entire old system. We’re not saving the stylish dashboard and gauges, but hopefully some restorer will buy it all! The tape is around the old MerControl throttle. Sadly I had to cut the old unit because they installed it before bonding that interior panel to the hull. Damn, those old units get $150 on eBay and this one was in good shape.
Making the 3.5” hole for a 1990’s throttle assembly
I’d really like to use the old chrome Merc handle but it just won’t retrofit. Trying to figure out how to “sixties-ize” the used stuff we bought. Stay tuned.

Next up is a bit more primer then hopefully our International Orange from Ravenswing is a good enough color match. I spent Sunday in Sacramento pulling a 90’s Evinrude 120hp V4 from a going-to-recycling boat. mid 90’s heat and it took from 9:30am to 2, including throwing my chainhoist over the old guy’s front yard tree, but we got everything we need including gauges, shifter, a nice Teleflex steering system and the full wiring harness. The motor had recent work by a reputable mechanic, and it fired up and ran well, so FINGERS CROSSED!

A lot of orange

We’re seeing orange these days. You guys will cut to the final scene here, getting the new transom ready for the motor install.

That’s actually the second paint job. Using Ravenswing’s int’l orange Awlgrip was not even close on color matching. Looked kinda silly to have a different color tail. So the nearby Kelly Moore paint store made a decent match with their toughest enamel, then we also sprayed three layers of automotive clear coat. It’ll do, and if we like this boat, it’s going to need a pro repaint someday anyway :)

Ok, just above the garage doors are the usual big header beams. I’ve bolted on a sturdy piece of aluminum angle with a hole big enough for a huge shackle.

That’s our anchor point for my hillbilly chainhoisting adventures.

No problem, except I noticed a bit of oil leaking from the lower unit. Hmmm, it was serviced and hasn’t been run since. That’ll need investigating before we launch :(. On to the install! The boat was staged just outside the garage for a quick swap of the two trailers, to minimize ‘hang time’ of the motor in the garage doorway.

We sized the well expecting to find an inline 4 cyl motor, which are quite narrow. Ended up with a wide body V4, so when it’s tilted up, the side to side range is limited. Not a problem, but before I hooked up the steering it flopped over and scratched the fresh paint, of course. Oh well.

The motor fits this boat really well, and as RickWS says, it’s all going to look ‘period correct’.

It’s funny how the very easy stuff ends up taking forever. This is the new control box that came with the motor.

Actually, that’s the guts of it that none of us should be seeing. It’s a universal retrofit unit; nothing is labeled and i could find no instructions. The gear selector wasn’t moving and there are many holes / different combos of ways to set it up. This turned in to a six hour ordeal, chasing down ball and roller bearings that weren’t seating well, getting throttle but no gear, then vice versa. And on about the ninth try of various little configuration choices, it all suddenly worked. Phew. It’s averaging upper 90’s here this week, so I was a sweat drenched cussing fool.

After showering and calming down, we got the dashboard going.

Today was wiring day, and this went smoothly.

It’s a good mix of old and new. The 50 year old switches cleaned up very well, but the fuse holders shattered as I twisted off their caps to check fuses. Things that were reused all got proper cleanup.

Learned from a radio guy in Puerto Vallarta to smear Vaseline on the electrical connections, to fight marine corrosion. But because this is a fresh water inland boat, I didn’t do full heat shrink protection on all connectors. It’s more like a factory wiring job, vs. our hard core offshore job on Ravenswing.

We’ve also spent some time cleaning up the shiny bits, and I look forward to the weekend when hopefully we’ll be adding back a bit of bling. Inspired by the amazing detailing we saw in MX of Cam & Vicky’s big tri. We all watched the Marina LaCruz guys spend three+ days polishing all that metalwork and it looked fantastic.

Also in the mix last week was retrieving boat #5 of the Five Little Boats odyssey, doing some cleanup, and getting it quickly moved to a new home. I’m thrilled that 14 yr old Liam up in Lake County is really in to sailing and needed more than his family’s Capri 13. This Coronado 15 will keep him and a friend busy, with its racing hull and double hike-out trapezes. I had to say no to the two senior citizen guys that wanted it – they need a mellower O’Day or similar! The faded red C-15 only stayed in our driveway 6 days. That’s pretty good movement for a scrounger like me.

Well, I just went back outside after dark to check the day’s work. All the electrics work. Motor key kicks over, cell phone (USB) charger good, horn – check, bilge pump, check. The last switch … you guys can see for yourselves :)

PS, those are 50 year old bulbs in the bow and stern lamps!. We’ll probably get some LED swap outs.

Making the cut

Can I go to New Zealand and do some boat work apprenticing? Those people sure do it right. Needed some guidance on how to size this new outboard motor well, and here are the answers on   And we could meet the good people at PredictWind, the amazing weather and wave forecasting software we use to guide Ravenswing’s travels.

Click to access transom-specs.pdf

So we took these figures, grabbed a level, tape measure, pencil & tape, and dove in.


Grabbed the hole saw and made the first cut; no turning back now!

 To plug the old outdrive hole, there was just enough of the cutoff to form the patch. Last night we started the wiring & rigging removal. Took the seats out and dove in to the dashboard. Kinda fun disassembling stuff that was properly installed 51 years ago. Except for finding the mouse turds and wasp nests up in the fore peak.

Thank you Todd, Tony & Rick for really questioning moving the engine weight out behind the boat with a new outboard motor bracket. The info I was reading showed some cuddy cabin boats where the outboard bracket worked well, but those small boats have a bunch of weight up forward to balance against the motor. RickWS asked the pros at Kitsap Marine in Washington, and they have seen the mistakes of 15-19′ boats not able to get up on plane with this new engine mount. Apparently it’s really tricky to get the balance back, and you’re adding trim tabs (expensive and complicated). We then spent an evening considering an old-school outboard well in front of the boat’s transom, sort of mimicking an inboard V-drive. But in the end, let’s just convert this boat as inexpensively as possible to a normal outboard back end. And we’ll try to make it look ‘factory’ like other late 60’s boats, re-using panels from the original motor box…

Ski boat transom work

We’re splitting time these days finishing the rock walls, working on vegetation, and rehabbing the ‘69 SeaFlite. After 57 tons, I’m pretty f’ing sick of lifting rocks. So let’s work on boats.

Got some 3/4” ply, cut it into approximate size to fill the original thin-wall sections, and glued up double layers with fiberglass in between. Now we have 1-1/2” solid transom material to fit…

Then made up a bonding paste of chopped strand mat and thickened polyester resin, and clamped & temp-screwed them in to position.

It’s thick goo, to deal with the irregular surface of the existing boat.

A layer of 18oz kyntex went over the top and was tabbed to the hull.

As an inboard engine boat, this was designed to put the propulsion force into the old engine beds, and not all on the transom. So we’re structurally tying the forces from the new motor mount area to the original zone. We’re using composites to unify the transom, stringers and original engine bed. It starts with offcuts from a big carbon fiber, foam core panel that Cozmo gave me a while back.

Did you catch the glassing boo-boo? Second to last photo, in the middle of the transom. I did a big 78” wide, 20” tall Kyntex single piece across the whole area. It got very hot in the late morning sun and I’m using the last ounces of my fast set good epoxy. After I had it all peel-ply’d and squeegeed out, I took off for the rock store to get the last retaining wall stones. Came back to the boat late in the day and found that big spot had bubbled. Pretty sure that part in the direct son kicked off too fast and trapped some air. Darn, had to end the day by grinding away some of the morning task. That’s boat repair life.

Now we’re stopped until we get more epoxy, hopefully tomorrow. It’s cardboard time again anyway – need to mock up the new outboard well this weekend.

Coming back to life

We had a good weekend in COVID times, gathering a small tribe to put some love into an old boat. Say hello to Triple Zero. This is the prototype, the actual first boat built, of designer Dick Newick’s Summer-Salt 26. The model was picked up and a dozen or so built in Chicago as the Outrigger 26. Check that out here:

Our man Anton responded to a “free boat” ad a few years back. It was in Colorado with a man in his 70’s who realized he just wouldn’t get the boat going again. Anton convinced him the Newick would splash again if she went to California. I got to see it in Anton’s barn as we discussed what would be needed to get her sailing. Since that day the barn creatures and Father Time further conspired against seaworthiness.

Fast forward to last week, when various parties got a rallying call – grab your facemask and grubbies, drive to the ranch, and join the Newick work party. He promised to tow it out into the open, power wash the owl crap off, and provide some COVID-safe hospitality. We got ten folks across the weekend, and kept things socially distanced and/or alcohol wiped. No handshakes, only the Wuhan ToeTap for personal connections.

The day 1 inspection found damage to repair. Main hull transom rot, starboard ama deck/hull join delamination, and rotten net lashing bars on the ama decks. So Saturday was consumed with prepping the structural repairs. A couple of us were assigned to make trampoline nets between the hulls. It made me realize again how thankful we were for Carlos and Dean four years ago in Napa when they did that amazing job installing Ravenswing’s nets in Napa. So hey, Damien and Beth, do you recognize this?

Rumor is this is Brizo’s (awesome refreshed Catana y’all saw in MX with us) former bow net. We cut it in half which is just about right for this:

You can see the new temporary nets lashing bar at the bottom of that photo.

By 7pm of the day that hovered in upper 90’s, and featured itchy fiberglass grinding, Anton called for an Eldo Run to Lake Berryesa. (Above Napa). Good thing, because they weren’t going to let us each go in the house for showers!

Kinda surreal to spend the day cleaning up an 80s boat then joyriding a mostly clapped out ‘76 Cadillac.

PS my mask flew off when he hit 65 down a country road. That’s after he cleaned the car with the leaf blower.

We swam in the lake for sunset, rinsing off old-boat grime. Ate some good food back at the ranch, watched the comet, and hit our distanced tents / vans / pickup beds.

Sunday morning after fresh goats milk & chicken eggs, it was time to slew some West Systems epoxy. I was thinking about the Gougeon brothers and Dick Newick; figured they’d be pretty happy about today’s work.

The new transom work was dubbed red neck vacuum bagging.

Here’s a net lashing bar underway.

And the ama deck / hull join repairs underway

The nets are important with this design; they hold the amas, beams and main hull in tension together. So once we had them laced up, it was time to roll out of the barn into the former horse arena.

You wouldn’t believe this rusted out trailer covered the 1500 miles that got the boat to Anton’s place. Today as he tugged it over bumps we watched it falling apart like the comet. Leaves rust trails when the frame touches the ground!

Time to stand up the rig! Doesn’t everyone have a man-lift in their yard?

The mast and boom are in very good condition. It’s a 26 footer with a proper rotation foot setup and a nice CDI furler. The production boats had 31’ sticks but we’re thinking this will be enough power for windy SF Bay.

Such a good feeling to see your friend excited. This guy is ready to see what all his hard work has earned!

Keith, we ended up with perhaps all the needed cordage, but that’ll get checked carefully soon.

I’d never seen a boat rehab party done entirely on the scrounge. Not one trip to a store the whole three days, and this thing is about ready to sail. Judy says he’ll have to buy her a few little sailmakers notions to get the jib repair done next weekend, and that should do it.

The trailer was deemed by group consensus as, “none of us will help you launch the boat from that piece of shit”, so Anton will borrow an actual boat trailer (already onsite). There’s a bit more uni fiber to add on the stern before refitting the rudder on the rebuilt transom. The dagger and trunk look ready to go. I’ve implored him to take a few more hours now, during the trailer switch, to sand off the failed bottom paint and epoxy barrier below the waterline. Despite that old brochure, this is not a frequent-trailer-launch boat. Some bottom paint now will save potential headaches soon.

We want to know any history on this boat. Found a mooring license sticker from the public marina in Chicago for 1987, but no other info is known. If anyone had any clue on the life of this first hull, please comment back here or on the Multihull Anarchy thread I’ll start tomorrow. Thank you!

So there she sits. The prototype of Newick’s SummerSalt design. Almost ready to relaunch after a couple decade drought. Stephen will approve- another Golden Oldie will live on.