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…

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: