Back in the writing groove

Well good people, I offer a big thank you for the patience in the long gap of these updates. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed the Ravenswing videos on YouTube. Turns out they are quite consuming to make, and I ran out of energy to come back to this blog.

But, that’s “old thinking” because it’s too difficult to get video stories done quickly, and some of you guys want to know what’s going on NOW! So I’m thinking we’ll still work to capture Ravenswing adventures for sporadic video releases, but get back to the quick iPhone photo hits here on the website. So here goes…

I departed home Monday Feb 1 towards Puerto Penasco. Made it to the Salton Sea that night and slept six hours in the back of the pickup. This was timed to get to the Calexico US border patrol office for a 7 am “hearing” about being reinstated for Global Entry. My $100 hard to get card was confiscated on the prior trip because i shouldn’t have taken the passenger Marvin through the special lanes at Mexicali. Things can be rather tense on the southern border. Got the card back quickly as the hassle to retrieve seems to be the designed penalty.

February is dedicated to finishing all the upgrades and ‘shoulda dones’ from the boat build. The (Covid partial) year of voyaging showed what needs to be different.

I’ve had five work days here now, getting a ton done daily. The new motor mount, radar tower and swim platform all got final fairing yesterday and first primer coat today.

The holes with blue tape are the new conduits to pass the engine controls, wiring and fuel from the cockpit through the aft cabin and out to the new engine placement. The new swim ladder is a major upgrade for Veterans Dan and Rick!

The anchor has come up quickly a few times with its heavy pointy end bashing on the boat. So we beefed up that area with extra glass and a Kevlar layer.

Alongside the stern-end projects has been the huge job of replacing the fixed “dead lights” with opening ports. That was in the prior video. It’s finally warm enough to paint, so the white cabintop was done and the new portholes cut yesterday while y’all watched the SuperBowl. The Vetus ports fit great, but await install until the black accent goes back on.

We’re also mixing in small tasks during these days to combine batches of epoxy or fairing compound or paint. For example, the old through hull that passed engine rigging was below the starboard aft beam. That was plugged and glassed back in yesterday.

Before sunset tonight the version 2 dinghy engine holder got roughed-in. No metal fasteners; all composites for light weight and zero maintenance.

Yeah, that string and clamps nonsense is improvising to ensure the block doesn’t slip down while the epoxy sets up. What can I say, it was the end of a long day.

I type this tonight from the Cabrales customer lounge. There’s a slightly intimidating task, as each crew is asked to sign the wall before splashing their boat again. How are these people copying their boat graphics here? How will i get our Ravenscript done with my lousy art skills? Do you know any of these other Penasco travelers?

And I just realized I never sent out the link to the most recent YouTube video. So if you haven’t seen that one yet, here you go.

Puerto Penasco boat work, part 2

The funny thing is, I left home for this trip telling Jeanne I’d be back in ten days, including the drive time. Did I actually think this was 7 days of boat work? 15 days in to it, it sure is looking like 30+ days. And that’s the same reality that took our imagined fall 2013 original launch in to June 2016. Some day I’ll learn, “it is what it is”.

In this video there’s a first. First time since launch of cutting away part of the hull for something more than a planned thru-hull fitting. I had subconsciously organized the first week in MX to avoid starting on the engine project, because I was dreading doing this surgery. But it was pretty magical on that cold Monday morning to once again have the amazingly strong smell of the cut Western Red Cedar. That wood needs to stay entombed between the fiberglass skins for the life of the boat, but getting a fresh hit of that aroma right before Christmas was a lightning bolt. Also thinking here that Ravenswing is fairly unique – an old-school technique wood core boat with the latest carbon fiber, poly foam core, and synthetic fiber cordage for her fittings and upgrades. Not a big race boat, but not a houseboat either.

Here you get to watch more days go by, all of the hours consumed by the many steps of composites fabrication work. Blending the new flat-planes into the curved cabin sides, in order to get a fair and watertight mount of the new port lights, was painstaking work. That’s all done now, sitting in MX waiting for painting weather. It’s not explained in the video, so the issue is that below 70 degrees F, it’s “iffy” that the two-part linear polyurethane (the toughest, best wearing) marine topsides paint will ‘flash’ fully enough to result in the hi-gloss finish. If it doesn’t get warm enough, it will still harden over time, but the surface goes matte / dull. This is what happened in Nov 2018 back in Sausalito when we did the cosmetic damage repairs from the dismasting. It never got warm enough, but we had to paint anyway because Ravenswing was blocking the Spaulding Boat Works wharf / crane and they just couldn’t keep other customers held up. So I had an insurance-paid repair that had an inferior paint result. We’ll finally be fixing that here in this haul out.

Enjoy the show, and meanwhile we’re busy again back in the home workshop getting more parts ready to take back to the boat.

A shipwright on the road

It’s time to be a boat builder again, this time in northern Mexico, to make some major upgrades. The Cabrales yard in Puerto Penasco seems like a good place to tackle projects that solve stuff that we’ve found less than ideal during the year+ out cruising around. The first wave of work happened over 15 days in December. I had figured on ten days total. That was a big underestimation. It’ll probably take another 15 days or so in January to finish the list.

This first video shows the first week of work. In the second week, the new engine mount was built and I’m really happy with it. I didn’t originally put the motor on the back of the boat because of concern for it being subjected to waves coming from behind. That will be a risk now, but it’s rare. The existing side-mount subjects the motor to wave hits between the hulls, during choppy seas. This has been a danger because sea water has hit the powerhead hard enough to sneak around the seals. The other big advantage we’re going for is the ability to steer the engine with the main tiller. Turning the motor thrust will be a big help in low speed, tight quarters maneuvers like backing into a dock.

The big project in the video is changing out our on & off leaky deadlights, ie the polycarbonate fixed windows in the main cabin. They fit around the curved cabin sides, but didn’t stay sealed well enough. Living in the warm climate, there’s not enough ventilation, so we decided to cure all of this with six opening, screened ports. They have to be mounted on flat surfaces, so that means a big job to create flat planes in the curved cabin top. When I left the boat the other day, all of the prep work was done, with the interior complete and the exterior in primer. I decided not to make the cuts until the painting is done, to minimize the time with open holes in the boat. So that will be a big motivator to get back to Cabrales.

Merry Christmas to you all, and I hope we can keep you entertained for 26 minutes here…

Swimming with Seals

Isla Garda got even better on the second exploring day, as the sea mammals came out to play. We hope you all enjoy this final installment in the 2020 voyages series.

Where you see the boat at the end of this video is also were I just drove back to last Friday. Our pickup is a moving workshop / tool shed, and I’ve moved back aboard Ravenswing with a very busy weekend starting the upgrades projects. This is going to take a couple of weeks of non-stop work. Get up with the sun, work til it’s dark and too cold. Clean up, eat, sleep, and do it over again. The camera is helping, so you’ll get a good summary of the work.

In the mean time, please enjoy the favorite paddle boarding and 100-mile beat to weather of the year!

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…