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!

Social Isolation tactic

So while many of you are dealing with various shelter-in-place orders, Ravenswing has been prepping for a coastal voyage to get repositioned for an unknown duration. Tomorrow morning in the dark RW and her skipper will slip away from Marina LaCruz on Banderas Bay, bound again for Baja. Our Tracker page (on this website) is back up and I’ll be posting text daily on the right side of the map. Don’t really expect to be hanging with humans for a couple weeks here. Hoping for dolphins and turtles. Kinda had our fill of whales for a while, after that near-collision last week.

On Friday with the news of a midnight border shutdown we panicked and got Jeanne on a plane back home. That went fine. Thx to Chris and Suzie for gathering her at SFO.

The last day of her trip we had a nice long sail on Cam and Vicky’s amazing 53’ French tri Koa e’ Kea. Cam is a veteran Farrier F9 racer and long distance singlehander. Some of you know they bought Koa in Italy and he spent the fall and winter sailing 9,000 miles from the Med to Caribbean to Panama and the long run up to PV, Mex. I guarantee none of you will ever see a finer trimaran interior. Crazy good joinery, leather, slate, etc. What a nice high performance home for these guys!

Tomorrow’s trip is a big change in plans, and needed prep for singlehanding. The folding bike was a champ this weekend! Hit the hardware store for a big blade putty knife, then a bunch of banks looking for an ATMA that actually had cash. There’s plenty of toilet paper on the shelves here. Cash not so much.

I can sail the boat just fine, but as Drew knows am not the best swimmer. So it was a pretty cool accomplishment yesterday to complete my first ever proper cleaning of the main hull. The bottom is smooth for this trip. Hull divers earn their money in my book! I worked pretty slowly which resulted in mild hypothermia- geez, it’s 80 degrees and gorgeous here but I’m out on the nets like a lizard in the sun trying to regain my wits. What a dork – bring the damn wetsuit on the plane next time!

Next up was cooking then freezing some dinners for the Pacific portion of this trip.

And doing laundry on the cockpit floor because there aren’t coin machines here and the services wouldn’t be done before departure time. The lovely breeze dried it all easily today.

Banderas Bay has been every wonderful sailing thing Jim said it would be, and we’ll be back. It’s totally surreal to experience a pandemic in a place that isn’t seeing the cases yet but you know it’s all around / or coming. The Canadians were all called home by their government and tensions at the airport and on the docks were high. By tonight (Sunday), it’s turned to resolution as boats are either prepped to stay here or their owners are aboard and setting sail to less populated anchorages. I for one look forward to some solo time to think about our planet, but it’s burning a hole in my heart to not be with my loved ones right now. We’re all facing tough choices these days.

Godspeed to you, good people.

What, no Regatta???

The CoOwner finding her sea legs

The smile in that photo is what it’s all about. Many years, hours and dollars passed between build day 1, Jan 1, 2012 and Jeanne being aboard her boat in a beautiful tropical setting. Colin joined us for a lovely overnight to Yelapa, a big cove on the south shore of Banderas Bay. We snookered Brizo away from work and out of the marina for our first buddy boat trip. Damien, Beth and super boat dog Bella made steak and chicken tacos aboard their lovely Catana 431 and although it was a rolling anchorage, we all slept OK and really enjoyed the place. Later you guys will get GoPro videos of all this. But I don’t have the internet access needed to upload big stuff. So as the kids used to say a long time ago, “come on Dad, can we have another story from your mouth?”

Backing up, we’re writing in the midst of a two week stay in Marina Riviera Nayarit, La Cruz de Hunacaxtle. This is the north side of Banderas Bay, about a 30 minute ride to Puerto Vallarta. Carlos, Rick and I brought the boat here from Cabo, then we all flew home. Jeanne and I came back last weekend. Colin joined us for a week, but then corona virus first hit in the form of son Griffin not being able to fly in. We had way too much food here! Colin got home via flight delays but safely back into his Raleigh NC paramedic life. He’s probably telling stories about his hard round up at 9kts because he spotted a humpback whale on an intercept course just a few boat lengths out. We JUST MISSED that one! We were looking at the whale through our nets – that close. The three of us were in post adrenaline shock for the next 15 mins or so. (Tammy is not thrilled to read this :)

Hanging around LaCruz is our preferred pace of foreign travel. Light on the agenda and just absorb the local culture. Cobblestone and dirt streets. No banks or ATMs. Chickens and horses mixing with cars. A restaurant actually named Tacos on the Street, but they do have some inside tables and amazing BBQ.

Last time you met Yann’s family. Today was epic – Jeanne and I took Gaia (mom), and sons Inti & Keenan out to the start line of the MEXORC regatta day 4. Yann and eldest son Nahmki are crewing on Fleet B’s leading boat, Olas Lindas. 2nd son Sanka has a ride on a big J boat Double Time. So at this point we still haven’t officially raced Ravenswing, but shadowing just outside the start box today got my blood boiling! We saw the maneuvering up close. First the A fleet of multi million dollar big boats, then 8 Farr 40’s, and the B fleet of 35-45’ fast boats. After the B start, Inti (who doesn’t really speak English yet) and I got itchy, and hoisted the jib with our reefed main. We played catch up, outside of the racing lanes, and dang if the ol’ girl didn’t pull in the back part of B fleet! We were on a great lay line on starboard for the 2 mile upwind mark, but reluctantly and wisely tacked away for a port tacker who was actually in the Grand Prix regatta, unlike us. Way fun and we got great looks at Olas Lindas and all the other boats turning the mark and setting chutes. We hove-to and watched the second race from the top of the course. All of this happened just hours after learning next week’s Banderas Bay Regatta is cancelled due to Mexico’s rapidly evolving response to Corona threat. Jeanne is bummed the big Sunday market is gone, along with any other public gatherings and boat cruisers scheduled events.

So, “we” are a few hundred people in the three marinas and big anchorage struggling to comprehend what’s happening at home and how it’s changing peoples’ plans. Of course it’s also a very local story and painful to watch small businesses get hit with various closures.

Some of us are talking about informal boat racing next week in lieu of the regatta that drew many boats here. But that gets overshadowed by needs to change plans and get boats underway. We had booked Ravenswing for a marina slip here throughout April as we flew home to Bay Area life. New plan is Jeanne returns home early next week and I stay to sail back to the Sea of Cortez , and get Ravenswing situated to survive without us for many months if needed by travel restrictions. Otherwise it would be sailing back up the whole coast this spring, but I don’t want to leave Jeanne under our county’s Shelter In Place order that long. Weird shit, people!!!

So this week is a balance of hanging with good people, prepping the boat for a sea voyage, and trying to get some tropical vacation in.

Another of the flexible solar panels went bad (producing zero amperage). This time it was the five month old one, installed in LA before the HaHa, on a proper glue & screw down full mounting plate. Thankfully the good people (live aboard cruisers) on Carvannah gave us their used panel that had recently been pulled out of rotation. They’ve had enough of these fail that they keep a bunch of extras. This summer we’ll be switching to glass & metal frame rigid panels.

Bought a new-in-box fancy tube style radar reflector from a couple leaving from here across the pacific. He took whatever I could come up with in the wallet. And she was relieved to get more stuff off their crowded small boat. The bartering / selling vibe among cruisers is fun!

Ron on the daily VHF radio net gave a short lecture promoting use of petroleum jelly (Vaseline) to completely fill all electrical and antenna connectors, to displace salt water and inhibit corrosion. This is a great tip for DIY mariners. Similar in spirit to the new devotion we have for butyl rubber hardware bedding gum, talked about here a few years ago.

Well, all this to say it’s rather surreal right now. Ravenswing is a good constant. I’ll repair her windlass, keep tweaking little rigging upgrades, and over-provision for an unknown duration “social isolation” endeavor. We’ll keep you posted on when I fork over the big bucks to Iridium to fire up the tracker upon leaving Banderas Bay. And we’ll post videos when I get home.

A new hero

Yann and Gaia live in La Crux de Huanacaxtle, near Puerto Vallarta, with their four sons: Namkhai, Sanka, Inti, and Kinan. Can you guys imagine their grocery bill? Oh my. Their six, plus Jim and Sewell Mt. Sailing Bob, and Jeanne, Colin and me, made a crew of 11 for a Banderas Bay daysail. Gaia had to get back by 3:30 to her midwifery work, so we ran a tight ship beating upwind. The two ladies enjoyed some female company among 9 sailing dudes.

Namkhai & Sanka are México national team-level laser sailors, plus getting big boat experience in next week’s MEXORC Grand Prix Regatta. Inti was my navigating driver today, and Kinan was all over the boat, here as future pro surfer.

The older boys drove Ravenswing upwind smartly, doing 7&8’s in 10kts of breeze. As the wind built towards Punta Mita we executed a big bear away and rolled out the reacher. What a warm weather sleigh ride as we drive downhill doing up to 15.5kts. Just before it got to hairy we rolled up the a-sail and not long after the wind shut down. Us San Franciscans are not used to such dramatic wind drops, except maybe hiding behind Angel Island in a summer blow. Ravenswing held up the load of 11 humans plus all our cruising gear really well today. Keith, you would have felt OK about it – she has perhaps a bit more load carrying buoyancy than we originally thought.

I feel a little guilty Jimbo and Bob never got near the tiller with all those boys aboard, but the guys didn’t have a crappy afternoon at all :)

So, who’s the hero? Yann for making sure all four boys fall in love with sailing? Gaia, hard working mother of four sons? I think this photo says it. It’s the family unit. We should all find this kind of joy being a family together!

And lest you think it’s all whales, sailing and bon-bons down here, boat work continues. Drew will dig the new lightweight carbon transom boards for TacoCat

Finally, a few shots from yesterday’s cruise to Puerto Vallarta. Just a couple with their grown son, loving the day. So great to have Colin aboard and the three of us await Griffin coming in Thursday.

The co-owner was asked to steer a few times on this run, and she did great. Banderas Bay in the spring is a good place to learn to drive your big boat, so we’re easing in to it over these two weeks. Thank you! Honey for being a good sport about it. (She was actually pretty impressed when her floating house was holding 14kts today!)

The captain must remember to provide ample fun shore time with the Co-Owner!

Passed the torch

A well built boat should be like a high distance relay race… a good long run for each person and a careful handoff in between.

This time it was love at first sight.

Wendy bought her boat then immediately had to say “see you in a couple days”

Wendy’s flight to SFO had a significant mechanical delay, so in order to complete the sale before we leave for Mexico in the morning, I sailed Maggie to SF pier 1.5 (the city’s only true private boats public landing), met Wendy, and together we sailed her back to Sausalito for the shakedown/sea trial/training handoff cruise. It’s been a while seeing someone fall in love with a new-to-them boat like that, and WOW is that a special moment to be in. Maggie has been a tough topic for my siblings as we watched Dad grow increasingly unable to sail and maintain his boat. I kick myself for having let Maggie become a burden and worry. Today’s beam reach solo romp across the bay at hull speed was a great reminder we’re always fortunate to have sailing at our fingertips. Maggie wasn’t a burden, she just needed a little help getting her baton passed. Job done, and we made a great new friend today. I think that wasn’t my last sail aboard the Carters’ ol’Cat30 :)

Do we have any women readers who might be interested in joining Wendy for a Basic Keelboat women’s-only course on SF Bay this spring? She’s interested in small group training like the one Jeanne and Leslie enjoyed a few years back. Let me know if you want to reach her.

PS Wendy, the white bubbles wake show you were driving pretty straight when we were hamming for the camera :)

Old photos

Found a number of iPhone shots that didn’t get uploaded for you from Mexico on the last trip, so we’ll go back in time a bit tonight. Still no new videos for you though because a certain blogger seems to have left the GoPro at the boat. Oops.

Adding a t-splitter to fill both water bladder tanks concurrently instead of sequentially
… and had to patch one tank to remove a now-unwanted drain. Dinghy repair kit did it!
Coz & Carter enjoy Espiritu Santo off La Paz
Catholic Church in LaPaz
… and the cathedral in Puerto Vallarta
Tucked in at Cabo San Jose after retreating from the Nirther’ blow
The osprey at Cabo San Jose threatening to crap on Carlos’ clothesline laundry
Sadly I took no photos of Rick or Carlos, but this guy was at the bar we frequented together
Enjoying Banderas Bay anchorage after the mellow crossing from Cabo
Cruisers’ dinghy landing just beyond La Cruz marina
Amazing Sunday market at LaCruz. 100’s of great vendors
La Cruz night life with the Scott family
Our visit coincided with a government backed murals beautification/promote tourism project in La Cruz

Meanwhile, back here in NorCal, we finished up Maggie today and I’m pretty happy with this KiwiGrip nonskid stuff. Application couldn’t be easier. Zoom tin check the finish.

Now working a small punch list to get packed up to fly back. Gathered hardware bits today, put more paint on the swimming ladder and dinghy transom boards, and made the 1/2” pin that permanently replaces the temporary bolt at the boom sheave box (for clew reefing lines)

Once you learn the tricks, 316 stainless steel is so workable!

We got more happy boat vibe in Dad’s marina, as friend Sophie took the big plunge on her dream boat, this sweet Baba30

She works with (our-bro-in-law) Joe in a local sailing charter business, and is embarking on her captain’s licensure process. She sold her Catalina 25 right next to our Catalina 30 Maggie at the same time. Can’t wait to see Sophie get the boat rechristened Clementine and once again sail to Baja, this time on her own ship.

77 F degrees & 30% humidity…

… you know what that is? That’s darn good boat painting weather, people!

Drew, we got those notches routed out for the Taco transom. Will probably paint these grey next time RW needs some touch ups. Also have to transfer the stainless steel thumbscrews plate over once we get back to the boat.

Maggie’s cockpit sole got finished up this morning, after a couple of fairing-curing days.

Primer went down this morning and tomorrow the job should be finished with a heavy coat of grey KiwiGrip non skid. The cockpit is rock solid once again.

Just before leaving the boat in Banderas Bay a few weeks back, I offered up on the morning radio net bringing small stuff down from the Bay Area for other cruisers. Two guys came over before my airport run, saying they would each really appreciate a bit of ferrying. Well crap, now I have 45lbs with of zincs, big Garhauer blocks and clutches, and four huge docking cleats that have arrived in various shipping boxes. Careful what you offer up, I suppose. Going to get crafty about making disposable luggage. And I’m carrying our Temporary Import Permit to help argue that I don’t have to pay duty on all this fancy new gear :(

Ok, the boys and Jeanne just had a family phone meeting; we’re still flying to Ravenswing this weekend, but agreed we should wear N95 masks at least through SFO. Keep your corona virus off my face!

It’s good to be fabricating again

This week we made a run up to the Lost Sierra for some Trails Stewardship work.(after meetings, 7 of us did a great ride on brand new SantaCruz Heckler e-bikes – now I gotta raise some cash to get one – wow).

Indian Falls Ridge above Quincy, CA

Connected with crewman Cosbey at the right time, because a boat-builder friend had just brought him extra carbon-skinned foam core panels. Cozmo graciously put a couple in our pickup. And we’re going to town with this stuff!

During the Scott family’s time on Ravenswing we cracked the painted particle board transom plates on the TacoCat. Drew had already noted this was the Achilles heel of the excellent Takacat line. Perfect first use of the 3/4” carbon foam board…

Tomorrow we’ll seal up the edges, router-out the notch where it fits into the steel bars, and add a fiberglass abrasion resistance skin. Or maybe Kevlar just because we have some extra :)

DanM will be relieved that we’re getting serious about a real swim ladder. (The one built pre-HaHa, to hang next to the rudder, was too weak)

This is our existing boarding step that ties on to the starboard float deck, helpful at low docks.

Now we’re making an extension that will bolt on to the sides of the orange one, and serve as steps down in to the water.

The messy stuff on all the edges is leftover bonding glue being used to seal up the raw foam edges where the panel was sawed. That’ll be a quick flush-sanding before painting.

Went back to Maggie today and was satisfied with yesterday’s layup of final floor skins. Today we taped the new sole to the original edges. That’s under the peel-ply you see at the perimeter. And we spread a first coat of fairing compound. Tomorrow it gets real fairing, and hopefully painting on Monday. Weather turned cold today, so we’ll see how this goes. Might need some heat lamp tenting this week. We’ll take Dad to his boat tomorrow to inspect the work and get him to help me clean up the construction mess :)