Friday, December 27, 2013

A few pics while walking around today

I forced myself to take my camera with me as I walked around La Paz today, doing a few chores before taking off for an excursion.  Here are a few pics (pics, not Photographs.)

I walked down to Chedraui, one of the local supermarkets.  The selection in the stores in La Paz is really good, they have pretty much everything you would want.  There are a few things I can't find, but nothing essential and I haven't hit all the stores in the area yet...not by a long shot as there are a lot of them.

A mountain of coffee on display.  Behind it are cartons of milk.
Mountain of chips 
There are constantly these big mountains of various types of food in the stores.  I walked by a mountain of Pepsi that reached the ceiling yesterday.  I keep wondering how often they fall down.

One of the bakery shelves
The bakery sections of the stores are pretty cool.  There are several racks of these shelves with the baked goods out for you to see.  You grab a tray and some tongs, walk around and fill your tray up with whatever you fancy, and then take the tray to the bakery counter where they wrap the things that need it (such as glazed donuts), put them all in a bag and stick a price on it.  Its all fresh and if you arrive too late in the day the display is pretty much picked through.  I'm working my way through the selection.  So far there have been more hits than misses, but there have been a few misses.

The Malecon runs along the water front, and every now and then there is a statue.  This is one of my favorites, I'll keep walking along the water front when I get back to remind myself of what they all are later on.

I'll be heading out to the local islands for some exploring, starting on Saturday the 28th.  I have enough food to eat pretty well for around 10 days, fairly well for maybe 5 more days, and then have enough food to survive for months.  So I'll be away for something like two weeks, perhaps longer, perhaps shorter.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Arrived in La Paz!

I need to figure out  the panorama mode on my camera still.  Here's an early experiment.
I arrived in La Paz on Saturday.  I left Muertos on Thursday after visiting with s/v Discovery (Andy and Betty) Wednesday evening.  Discovery left the anchorage Thursday at 2:30am, I left at 6:30am, leaving two boats remaining there from the 10 who where anchored the previous evening.  There were a lot of early departures.

I had wanted to stop in the islands briefly before heading over to La Paz, and I pulled in San Gabriel for two evenings.  Its a beautiful anchorage.  The water color is amazing, there is a nice walk across the island from there, you can swim, there is a beautiful long sand beach.  Unfortunately when I arrived the wind started to blow - from the south and later south west which is directly into the anchorage.  I didn't get off the boat for the time I was there, the trip to the beach would have been a little crazy.  I was able to dive off the boat which was nice.

I left San Gabriel on Saturday morning, arrived in La Paz anchorage just before noon and was very happy to shut the boat down and stay stationary for a while!  Its been a trip getting here.  I feel like I've arrived now and look forward to relaxing for a while.

Happy holidays everyone!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A few pics from Baja

Sailing.  South of Ensenada
Cabo San Lucas!
Luckness and I in Cabo from s/v Discovery
Cape Falso, at Cabo
1535 at Ensenada de los Muertos

I've been here for a week now and will probably stay for another day.  Maybe two.  Maybe less.  Its nice to not have to make plans!  Life is pretty easy here.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

At anchor Ensenada De Los Muertos

Date: Dec 12, 2013, Time: 5pm MST
23° 59' N 109° 49' W
Barometer: 1015, Water Temp: 74.3f
Log: 10515

Wow. Sailing upwind in mid-20 knot winds for a little over 40 hours sure makes you appreciate downwind sailing. Sailing downwind is all sweetness and light. Upwind when the waves and winds are developed isn't like that.

I had a great sleep at Cabo and woke up refreshed, prepared some food and left anchor at 6pm. The plan was to be able to arrive at my first target anchorage, Bahia Los Frailes, in the daylight the following day after having sailed all night.

Leaving Cabo the winds were light, as you would expect due to the cape wind shadow. Within 50 minutes of motoring, wind had found me and I started sailing in 11 knots, upwind. This was the best sailing - I love upwind sailing when the seas are flat and the winds are moderate. At around midnight the wind died away quickly. I waited two hours and then to be able to make my afternoon arrival at the next anchorage I started to motor toward my destination. By 3:30am I was sailing again and it stayed that way for the rest of this trip.

When the wind returned, it returned from the same direction, but with increased intensity. Rather than 11-15 knots I started to sail in sustained 18-25 with gusts slightly higher. The highest apparent wind I saw was just over 30. As you would expect, the seas started to develop - or I suspect, rather, arrive from further north where the wind had been blowing like this for a while. This is when the northward bash started.

I bashed northward toward Los Frailes where I arrived by around 4pm, as expected. I decided to continue on toward Muertos as the weather information I had been receiving showed a short weather window for moving around followed by likely being holed up in the anchorage you had chosen until early next week. I would rather be holed up in Muertos than Los Frailes. Muertos has a beach bar, wifi you can use on land, a large anchorage with good holding, and good memories from my last cruise where I spent over a week here with Sockdolager and Clover.

By the end of the trip I had dialed in the sail combination which worked best for these conditions (M2SG2) and the boat was making mid 5 knots through the pounding waves, close hauled, tacking back and forth toward my destination which was where the wind was coming from. This is pretty active sailing. The boat is constantly healing, often with the 'rail in the water'. The motion of the boat is far from gentle, crashing through and down onto waves creating cascades of salt spray. When moving around the boat you need to be very careful, planing hand holds and foot positions deliberately, as the boat is rising and falling by several feel while rocking side to side, constantly. Its nice to be doing this sailing where its warm as I was covered in salt water from about 1/2 way through the journey to its completion.

I hadn't sailed upwind in these types of conditions for quite some time, and my decision to keep on sailing was partly to stress the boat and myself a little. If I do continue on to my possible destination of New Zealand, there will be some upwind sailing involved, far out to sea where you need to accept the weather that arrives. I feel good about the upwind side of things again, although I would like to avoid upwind in heavy weather if its possible...

Anyway. I'm at anchor with the wind blowing 20-28 knots. I arrived at 11am, making the journey 41 hours. I've spent the afternoon starting to clean up the boat and made a good dent in that. I had a swim, and although the water has cooled from Cabo San Lucas, its still awesome. I have a few chores to look at while I'm here. My list of 'things that broke' has one item, which is easy enough to remedy, and my list of 'things that I can improve' is longer. I'll be making a few adjustments to some of my equipment during my stay here.

I'm looking forward to getting to shore to look around, and then to continue my journey to La Paz early next week.

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

At anchor, Cabo San Lucas

Date: Dec 10, 2013, Time: 2pm MST
22° 53' N 109° 53' W
Barometer: 1037, Water Temp: 78f
Log: 10348

I rounded 8nm south of Cabo Falso yesterday morning, which is the cape just south of Cabo San Lucas, at 5:45am PST. This is pretty much the end of this leg of the passage, which makes it a 6 day trip - 9:30am on Dec 3rd I left Ensenada and 5:45am on Dec 9th I was within a few hours south of Cabo. It was a nice passage, downwind for all but the first few hours and sailed all but a few hours as well.

As I rounded the cape I wanted to try to get north to Muertos and anchor there. This is roughly a 110 nm route from where I was to the anchorage (shorter if you stay closer to shore.) The winds at the cape had fallen off to the point I couldn't sail in the waves, which is what the GRIB (weather) files had led me to expect. This wasn't just a cape effect, it was in a wider region. After bobbing around until 11am I got fed up and started motoring NE for 40 minutes until some wind found me. This wind was strong enough, and from the NE that if I had been a little more patient it would have found me bobbing where I was before I started motoring. Oh well.

The wind picked up but the seas were fairly flat for a while. Then the wind picked up some more as did the seas. By 3pm I was only 6nm away from Cabo, headed upwind into 16 knot winds looking at 30 or more hours of sailing until my destination. I weighed the choices. Head back to Cabo and anchor for a night, get a nice long sleep, prepare some food for the passage and leave the following evening. Or alternatively, continue bashing north from where I was. Going upwind is a harder than downwind. Its harder to move around the boat, harder to prepare food, harder to sleep, harder to make miles toward your destination.

I decided to turn around and prepare myself a little better for the bash north. By now, I've had my rest, had a swim, prepared some food for the following two days, read a little, rested some more. I'll leave this evening for my way north.

There is a norther blowing further north in the Sea, but it looks like I have a short weather window to make some way north. If I can pull into Muertos on my conservative schedule, and the weather agrees to follow its forecast, I'll get there and then stay for a few days for the winds to die down. If something changes, I have a few alternatives for anchorages.

s/v Discovery left La Paz this morning and came over for a chat, I hadn't seen them since Seattle. We are both headed to La Paz so I will see them there if not in some anchorage north of Cabo before then.

The folks from API, the port authority, came by a few moments ago collecting their 200 peso's for a single night of anchoring. Luckness is the only cruising boat at anchor in the anchorage, and its a big anchorage. They charge 200 peso's or $18 per night. I was paying around that while at Oxnard, in a nice marina, with facilities. The clearly don't want cruising boat off the beach here, better for the tourists to have a view toward the ocean I guess.

I'm in the tropics now! La Paz is north of the Tropic of Cancer, the line is at 22° 30' N, so this tropical stay will be a short one.

While coming down the coast from Seattle you keep passing capes along the way. A lot of them are known for something. Beware the storms at this cape, beware the fog at that cape, at some other cape it suddenly becomes warm. A lot of those things may or may not be true. Well, as you round Cape Falso, if you weren't already wearing short pants and had stowed your fleece you will here. Its beautiful. Coming down from Ensenada I was wearing a jacket, t-shirt and long sleeved shirt, sweats and foul weather pants. A swim suit is good enough here at anchor and I'll be wearing less than I was when arriving when I leave later tonight.

All is well. Later eh.

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Sunday, December 8, 2013

Approaching Cabo San Lucas

Date: Dec 8, 2013, Time: noon PST
23° 26' N 111° 22' W
Wind speed: 16 / wind dir: N, Heading: 120, Speed: 6.0
Barometer: 1017, Water Temp: 73.4f
Log: 10230

(I believe my previous post had a wind speed of 115 knots? No worries, that should have been 15. The most wind I've seen this passage so far is around 24 knots.)

I passed Mag bay last night and decided to keep on moving. The wind is still favorable and I'm feeling good. Hour to hour I keep changing my mind about whether or not to stop at Cabo San Lucas or to continue further north. In the end the decision will be left to when I arrive and the sea state, wind state and my state at the time. The water has warmed up nicely! From what I recall, as I move north up the Sea of Cortez the water starts to cool slightly again.

I'm continually surprised how far east I'm sailing. My natural thinking is that the coast is north-south and that as I head down it, I'm heading south. But I'm really heading south east. To put this in perspective, Calgary is at 114° 5' west. I'm currently around 100nm east of Calgary, still heading SE. I passed beneath Calgary two days ago, at around 10pm on the 6th. I still find this somewhat surprising, although I don't know why - the coast is what it is.

As I head toward Cabo now I'm heading more east that I have been for the last day or two. I have been sailing in mainly dense low clouds for the last three days and this morning finally passed underneath an arch of clouds that delineated the dense cloud from more patchy blue skies. My solar panels are finally starting to generate more power again - I was down 43Ah this morning (around 10%) and am now down 23Ah with the panels generating 16 amps as I type this (5min later, 9 amps, its variable.) Its nice to have free power. My wind instrument battery is also solar powered and its low voltage alarm went off last night at around 3am, although it did continue to work all night and morning. Its charging again now so I should have the convenience of knowing the exact wind strength and direction rather than estimating it. Its not required, but its useful.

Happy December 8th to everybody! All well here.

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Friday, December 6, 2013

Past Turtle Bay, heading south

Date: Dec 6, 2013, Time: noon PST
26° 13' N 115° 06' W
Wind speed: 115 / wind dir: N, Heading: 120, Speed: 6.3
Barometer: 1020, Water Temp: 67.1f
Log: 9986

There has been good sailing for the last two days, no serious lulls or calms. Last night the wind rose to around 25 knots and so I reefed the sails. Now its falled off again and the genoa has been unfurled out to its full size. I'm making good enough speed for my taste and so will leave the main with a reef in it.

I realize that the numbers I type into this post above are somewhat artificial. The boat is constantly in motion, riding the waves, swell, and changes in wind direction and speed. The boat speed is ranging from mid 5 knots to low 7 knots, depending on whether we are riding down the face of a wave in a gust, up the face of a wave in a short lull, etc. Having said that, these sailing conditions are close to ideal. These are really fine conditions for my heading south down this coast.

The water has warmed up continually and when the sun comes out from behind a cloud its starting to warm up. However the sky is cloudy enough that this isn't happening very often. The battery bank ended the day yesterday down 9Ah, which is close to having been fully replenished. At the moment they are down 22Ah and the solar panels are having a hard time with my direction and the clouds. The direction means there are many shadows falling on the panels from the rig and sails. I know that the last time down this coast I had to run the engine for short periods to give the batteries a charge, I'm curious if that will be needed this time.

I'm a little over half of the way to Cabo San Lucas. There are some stops I could make along the way, however with the wind conditions the way they are I'm reluctant to stop and take my chances in the wind fading. If the wind stays with me, I may just keep moving. And the forecasts I've read so far indicate the wind may just stay with me. I'll download a fresh forecast just after this email is posted.

Everything is fine on board. I've been hunting down the sources of squeaks and think I have them all nailed. Now onto some items in lockers which bang around a little. But after lunch, its time to eat!

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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Sailing south toward Turtle Bay

Date: Dec 4, 2013, Time: 1pm PST
30° 21' N 116° 50' W
Wind speed: 13 / wind dir: NW, Heading: 160, Speed: 5.7
Barometer: 1015, Water Temp: 63.5f
Log: 9758

I left Ensenada at 9:30am yesterday morning in light wind. I motored out toward the open ocean and by noon I had found some wind and was sailing upwind toward my destination. There was a big front to my west - a definite line of clouds, dark and grey - advancing toward me. The front came across me at around 3pm and the wind fell to 1 to 2 knots. I bobbed around for a while and then got fed up and motored SW across the front. Within 15 minutes I had found wind again and resumed sailing, this time on a beam reach. This wind lasted for around 40 minutes at which pint it fell off again. Then came back, then died again.

By 7:30 I had eaten dinner, washed up, done a few more chores and the wind was still nowhere to be seen. I was far enough off shore to wait the wind out this time. The weather forecasts I had before leaving indicated that there should have been a nice steady wind and I suspected that the front disturbed the local area and that eventually the wind would return.

At 3am the wind returned and I raised all my sails again. This wind held, and has held as I write this. 1/2 an hour ago I changed direction to head slightly more east and changed my sails to be wing-on-wing, with a poled out genoa. I'm moving nicely in 6 to 8 feet of swell, downwind and down swell.

The sun has come out, the sea is gradually warming. Everything is A-ok here.

* For land-lubbers. Wing-on-wing means the main and genoa are on different sides of the boat, with the wind almost directly behind. This configuration lets you sail deeper downwind than if the sails are both on the same side of the boat. A poled out genoa means the genoa is being held out and up by being attached to a pole from the front of my mast out toward the side at around a 45 degree angle (but horizontal.) If that's too much detail, its the sail combination that makes sense for lots of downwind sailing. There you go, a little more boat talk.

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Monday, December 2, 2013

Ensenada + Mexico!

Cruise ships & Luckness

I checked into Mexico this morning after sailing all night from San Diego to Ensenada. The checkin process was even less painless than the last time I did it two years ago. One of the steps two years ago was to go to a local bank and pay for one of the services - there is now a bank in the same building so you just go to a different window, pay and then continue. After checking in I had a few tacos, went for a wander followed by a nap. Its nice to be back in this country.

The sail over was good, although once again having a schedule can interfere with the quality of the sailing. I left San Diego with decent wind right away, west 10 or so and so I was making good speed toward my destination. That was a problem, as Ensenada isn’t very far away and at the speed I was going I was going to be arriving at around midnight rather than the following morning. So I started to slow the boat down. I went from a full main and genoa to reefed main and double reefed genoa. Then to a double reefed main and double reefed genoa. I ended up sailing on a broad reach toward my destination in around 16 knots of wind with only a double reefed main and was still going too fast. Then I almost centered the main, which when going downwind de-powers the sail and ended up going at around 3 knots, which was perfect for my arrival at around 8am the following morning. Unfortunately, once I had done all of this slowing down, the wind died and I was left bobbing around 35 miles from my destination without any wind. I ended up motoring the rest of the way, arriving at 8am with the wind blowing two or three knots.

There are remarkably few crab/lobster pots in this area which I thought was really nice. There are lots of pots scattered around San Diego waiting to catch your boat if you aren’t watching. As I was arriving toward Ensenada it was still dark, so the lack of pots was handy, although the glow of the city lights reflecting off the water in front of me allowed me to see directly ahead.

At around 5:15am, pitch dark, 8nm from the city with lots of its lights shining around the horizon I saw a few lights from a boat a few miles ahead. The boat wasn’t on AIS, so I couldn’t look it up on my system and see what it was, where it was going, etc. It was far enough away, so I did a sleep cycle (20 minutes.) When I got up it was closer, but still comfortably distant, and I got my binoculars out to have a look. It seemed like it might be a fishing boat towing a net or something? As I got closer and closer I could see the line streaming off the back of the boat but then it just disappeared. As I got to within a few hundred yards I was finally able to identify the dock the tug was towing - the dock was slightly to my left, outside of the city lights reflection in front of me, the tug to my right, which put my course just ahead of the tow, to the stern of the tug. Yikes. Time for a quick about face and some maneuvering to get behind the tow. Once I was on its other side, looking at the tow with the sea as a background, I could see two lights on the tow which had been completely lost in the light pollution as I was looking at it from the sea side toward town. The dock was low in the water and didn’t occlude any lights itself. As I was approaching the tow the first time I heard a stream of spanish on the VHF and had no idea what it was. Shortly after that outburst I saw the tow - I suspect the tug’s captain was saying something along the lines of “you might want to turn around before you hit my tow” or some variant of that message. This is one of the reasons I like being on a passage hundreds of miles away from anything, things are really peaceful out in the middle of nowhere!

As part of my checkin process to Ensenada, I also checked out with the Port Captain and I’ll be leaving tomorrow to continue my journey south. The weather seems like it may cooperate and give me some decent sailing opportunities. Once I leave here I’ll won’t have a schedule, which will be nice.

I’ll try to check in from time to time with updates to the blog via my radio.

Yipee! I’m in Mexico again!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

San Diego

Luckness arrived in San Diego on Thursday as planned and is docked at the guest dock in Shelter Island.  I reserved a slip at the dock online before leaving Bonita Cove and paid for three nights ($40/night.)  I walked around a little on Thursday, Friday I started working my way through my shopping list, picking up little odds and ends that I wanted to get while they were handy.  Today I pretty much finished off the list - there were a few items that I wasn't able to get due to some of the stores being closed over the Thanksgiving weekend and I don't want to hang around until Monday to get them - nothing was safety related, just convenience items at this point.

Tomorrow morning, Sunday, I leave for Ensenada - Mexico!

Ensenada is only 77nm away and the checkout time at the marina where I am is 11am.  If I average 3 knots I can travel 77nm in 26 hours.  If I go 4 knots I can get there in 19 hours.  I can't really arrive before the marina's in Ensenada open (there is no anchorage there.)  So I'll be happy with a little wind, enough to keep me moving between 3 and 4 knots, but not much faster or I'll arrive way too early.

My stop in San Diego was just a quick visit, Ensenada will be the same.  I'll check into Mexico in Ensenada and then take off either the next day or Wednesday.  By Wednesday the forecast is for the high temperature in San Diego to be 59 degrees.  Thursday's forecast is 57.  Its clearly time to be much further south!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

In Millers Bay/Mariners Bay/Bonita Cove

In my last post I left my route from Oxnard to San Diego up in the air, waiting to see what I felt like doing once I got out on the water.  In the end, I sailed through the night and arrived where I am now, at anchor in Bonita Cove.  This place seems to have three names, if you know the area you should recognize one of them.

The sail here was actually mostly a long motor.  There was some nice wind out of Oxnard and I was able to sail for around three hours right away.  That was sweet.  Then the wind died and the motor came on and stayed on all night until some more wind arrived in the morning.  That wind lasted for a few hours at which point it fell off and I motored the remaining 15nm into the bay where I am now.

Bonita Cove is an awesome little anchorage, 6nm north of San Diego.  Its fairly rare to be able to anchor out without any hassle, permits or fees this far into California.  I arrived here on Monday and will leave here tomorrow.  I have a spot at the public dock at Shelter Island reserved for Thursday, Friday and Saturday.  I leave Sunday for Mexico!

I have a few things to buy in San Diego, not a lot, but odds and ends that I generally know where to pick up.  I'll buy some courtesy flags for my visits to islands in the South Pacific later next year.  I can buy an external GPS receiver for my AIS unit, as well as some parts for my SSB radio, and this and that.  Nothing critical, but good things to pick up easily rather than having to scrounge for them later.

I haven't planned my trip down the coast in Mexico in any detail.  The last time down the coast I did the trip in one leg, going from Ensenada to Cabo San Lucas in one passage.  I may do that again, or stop along the way several times, or once.  I'll decide along the way.

I'm looking forward to getting into the Sea of Cortez.  I'm hoping to arrive in the area with a supply of provisions so that I don't need to head into La Paz right away to buy more food.  It would be nice to be able to head immediately into the islands and hang out at anchor in the beautiful blue warm waters again.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Preparing to leave Oxnard!

When I was in Oxnard in 2011 I pulled in for a short visit and ended up staying much longer than I had anticipated.  This time I planned ahead of time to stay for around four weeks, knowing that I could make a good dent in my boat project list.  Well, as of tomorrow, I will have been here for six weeks.  Its been a good stay but its time to move on.  Its freezing here!  The daytime temperature has been getting up into the low 60's, but not the 70's anymore.  Down in La Paz right now the days are routinely in the low 80's.  Sunshine, warm days, cool evenings and warm water - that's where I'm heading.

I'm around 80% certain that I'll be leaving tomorrow, Sunday, the 24th.  There are a few things I want to pick up in San Diego, so I'll stop there before crossing the border and checking into Mexico in Ensenada.  The checkin process needs to happen on a week day and the stores in San Diego will be closed for Thanksgiving on thursday and possibly friday, so I have a little scheduling to do.

If I do in fact leave here tomorrow I have a number of plans on where I'll go.  I could head back to Smugglers anchorage as there is a hike I would like to do there.  When I was last there the government was shutdown and the island was closed.  It was actually surprising that everybody at anchor respected the 'do not land' edict broadcast via VHF that the island was closed.  Since nobody else was landing their dinghy's onshore I felt like I shouldn't either.  So anyway, there is a hike I missed there, so that is one possibility.  Second possibility is Anacapa Island.  Its an easy distance away slightly more toward my destination.  Third possibility would be to head to Santa Barbara Island, 42nm away in a good direction.  This would breakup the journey nicely, putting Catalina island an easy daysail away.  If I choose any of those three options, then I could mosey along to Catalina eventually staying at an anchorage or two.  I was in Avalon for a few weeks on my last trip and they have a good deal on moorage right now - pay for two days and get five for free, so staying there would be cheap.  Once on Catalina getting to San Diego is something like 80nm away which means its an overnight sail.  The only way to avoid an overnight sail would be to coastal hop, and I don't want to do that.  The last option would be to just leave Oxnard and head directly to San Diego, 144nm away.  I've been going back and forth on the options for a few days now.

So, with those two topics out of the way (when do I leave? Maybe tomorrow!  Where are you going? I'm not sure, Mexico eventually!) I can talk about boat projects for a bit.

I've been busy here.  Although, by 'busy' I don't mean I've been working 8 or 10 hour days.  I try to get a solid 4 or 5 hours of work in a day.  I am retired after all.

I mentioned that I was going to rebuild my Monitor wind vane in my previous post.  That project actually went very well.  I managed to take the whole thing apart, clean it all up and install all new bearings and other sacrificial parts without losing anything.  I did take the Monitor off the stern of the boat and brought it into my cabin to work on it.  I don't know how I would have done this with it mounted, probably very poorly and with many trips back to Scanmar's site ordering new parts.  Now the Monitor is de-mystified a little more.  Its a nice piece of machinery.

I finished teak oiling the entire interior of the cabin, this took a few days, believe me.  The boat's topsides have been waxed, the non-skid was waxed with a non-skid wax (which isn't slippery), I've waxed the hull.  The exterior varnish has been done again.  The stove is fixed again (a rivet had fallen out and required my tapping a bolt in to fix it.)

I cleaned up my batteries, and this might be interesting for boat-project geeks out there.  I had found acid had pooled on top and was dripping from my AGM 'sealed' batteries down into a dry food storage area (all food was bagged, no damage) and into the bilge.  This freaked me out a little when I saw it - leaking batteries!?  That can't be good.  All of the batteries had traces of acid near their lids, so the problem wasn't with only one of them.  I phoned Odyssey, the maker of the batteries.  It turns out to be somewhere between 'ok' and 'normal'.  All AGM batteries can vent gas slightly for a variety of reasons, but it seems to increase as they age.  I knew this, and pictured a little vapor coming out and then silently disappearing never to be seen again.  It turns out that when the gaseous acid in the vapor interacts with moisture in the air it recombines and forms liquid acid.  So what looked like a leak was in fact just acid recombining from the acidic venting vapor.  If a teaspoon of gaseous acid is vented this way, four teaspoons of liquid acid are formed.  Presumably the liquid acid I found was four times weaker than the actual acid in the battery.  Cathy, the Odyssey tech-rep I spoke with, pointed out where the vents were on these batteries, which lo and behold was exactly where the acid was forming.  So problem solved.  I cleaned them off with a dilute baking soda/warm water combination until they were clean.  I've also taped little soda filled rag squares over the vent hoping that the rag/soda will absorb the gas in the future.  So if any of you notice acid dripping off of your AGM's, there may not be any reason to panic.  There might be, but maybe not too.

I did a little painting in my bilge, I've changed the engine oil, I bought an inflatable stand up paddle board.  I worked on LuckNews, my RSS reader and software hobby, and have released two new versions of it to the Apple App store since being here.

The dinghy is stowed, the water tanks are full, as is the fridge.  The fridge contains a pecan pie, a ham, bunches of kale, fresh veggies, 6 pounds of cheese (I'm still eating through the cheese I bought in Seattle...) along with all sorts of other goodies.

All systems are a go.

Maybe I'll leave tomorrow?

Monday, October 28, 2013

In Oxnard, Channel Islands Marina

I pulled into Oxnard on October the 14th, checked into the marina office and almost immediately started to work on boat projects.  The folks at the marina are as friendly as they were the last time I was here in 2011.  Since I'm staying for more than a week or so they are charging me a pro-rated monthly rate which works out to $138/week, which is pretty fantastic for a marina in California with all the amenities.

I've been here for two weeks now and expect that I'll be here for possibly two more.  I've had a flurry of mail delivered from Seattle that I had pending, along with some boat parts that I ordered to fix things that had broken on the way down here.

Its been a busy two weeks.  Today I just finished refinishing my cabin sole (my floor to you land lubbers) and finally I can cross this project off my list.  I started this project two days after arriving here, so its taken almost two weeks to finish.  Living aboard has been...interesting.  After stripping the floor of the old finish I pulled all the hatches from the floor, stowed the saloon table and started applying the finish.  Once that started that there were many days where I couldn't walk on the sole - so I was left with treating my boat as a small set of monkey bars and getting from the companionway to the forward bunk by walking along edge pieces of teak trim at cushion height while grabbing the handholds available.  Its nice to be able to walk around normally again.

I've also fixed the problem I had with one of the clevis pins shearing on my strong track attachment; inspected a strange noise in my new furler (which turned out to be normal, I'm getting used to the new normal noises in my new equipment); cleaned up; started waxing; along with other small projects.

Today I took my Monitor wind vane off and now have it down below in preparation for ripping it apart to replace all the bearings.  One of the nights on the passage down the coast I was doing an inspection of the desk and my equipment and discovered a weird piece of plastic coming out of the back of the pivot tube on the Monitor.  It turns out that a plastic flange had broken which meant that there was more play and friction on the monitor from there on.  After speaking to Scanmar, they suggested that if I had to take the Monitor apart enough to get to that flange, I might as well replace all of the bearings while I was there.  So I have a complete set of replacement bearings along with the instructions and tomorrow I'll be starting the process of tearing it apart...hoping that I can get it all back together again!  I've put 9000 miles on the Monitor, so its ahead of schedule for the bearing replacement (scheduled at 15,000 miles.)  I guess the plus side of this project is that I get to learn how the monitor is serviced...yay.

On my remaining list I have things like: varnishing all my exterior teak; teak oiling my interior teak; waxing the topsides; waxing the hull; change the engine oil; fix a rivet which has come out of my stove leaving the top grill loose; along with various other projects.

I'm looking forward to getting out of here and continuing my trip into Mexico.  The last time I was down this way I didn't leave San Diego until December 4th.  I think I'll be ahead of that schedule this time, but perhaps not by as much as I first expected.

All is well here.  Even though I'm working on boat projects, live in Oxnard is pretty easy.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

At anchor in Smugglers Cove

I arrived at Smugglers Cove last night at 8:30pm, 1/2 hour after sunset. There was a moon out which helped me see the boats already at anchor, but once again my radar was very useful. I set the anchor in near calm conditions, 1000 feet from shore and with lots of room all around me. I ate a quick dinner, watched a hour of 'tv' and went to sleep.

The sail here was excellent. I was able to start sailing within minutes of leaving San Simeon on Friday and sailed the entire way to this anchorage. The winds were in the range 12 to 22 for the entire journey and the seas were relatively calm - or at least, when the seas were more active so was the wind, so I was able to keep good pressure in the sails and keep myself moving as well as keep the sails quiet (no slatting or banging as the boat rolls in light air and large waves.) The sail was excellent, but the weather is not really what you expect when sailing in Southern California. Nights are still chilly and I'm wearing many layers of clothes and coats all night as I sleep/get up/sleep/get up every 20 minutes.

As I rounded Point Conception and entered the Santa Barbara channel at around 4am the seas slowly started to warm up again. The temperature of the water has risen from 56.3 at the entrance to 62.6 where I am now. I was able to get into the water today, but its not exactly water you want to lounge around in. That should come later this trip!

I'll leave here tomorrow and head over to Oxnard where I'll start working through my boat project list again. I've added a few items to the list on this trip down the coast. Last night one of my main sail batten cars broke off its strong track slider - the head of the pin which holds it in sheared off - very strange. I had one backup pin onboard (thanks to the Hasse sail loft!) and have fixed it now, but from saturday morning at 12:30am (it figures these things happen at night) until I arrived, I had to keep my main double reefed in order to keep the missing sail-track connection protected. More on projects in a post I'll write in Oxnard.

By my log meter, which does not account for current but does count every tack and jibe, I've traveled 1025nm so far, with around 12 more to go. Today is the 21st day since leaving Neah Bay. Even with all my stops along the way, one week in Coos Bay, I'm looking forward to slowing down again for a little while. I'm also looking forward to being in warmer water, where diving off the boat is easier than it was today! So while I'll be slowing down and working on projects for a while, I'm looking forward to moving on with this trip as well.

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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

At Anchor in San Simeon

I'm currently at anchor in San Simeon.

I was 20 miles offshore last night at around 11pm when I turned on the weather radio to listen to an update.  At the time, I was sailing in 20 to 25 knots of NW wind, gusts to 30.  I had my main sail doubly reefed and my genoa also with two reefs - the monitor was steering well and the boat was balanced making good speed (6.8kn and up past hull speeds.)  The wind waves and swell were annoying.  I was needing to jibe inshore and offshore in order to make my way generally south east in the north west winds.  On the offshore tack I was taking the waves a little aft of my beam but the boat motion was pretty active.  On the inshore tack the boat was still active but a little less so.  There was lots of spray in the cockpit as the occasional wave would crest just at it met the hull, splashing up into a vertical spray of water.   It was pretty dramatic, especially when you throw in the phosphorescence.

The forecast I was sailing in called for NW winds 20 to 30, which was what I was seeing.  The forecast also called for wind waves 6 to 9 feet, NW swell 11 to 14 feet at 11 seconds.  This is also what I was seeing.  As I rounded Point Conception the winds were forecast to fall to 15 to 25 with local gusts to 35, combined seas 10 to 13 feet at 10 seconds.  I suspected the local gusts would be where I would be, rounding Point Conception.  These are conditions which are acceptable to sail safely in, but its a little annoying and physical.  Ever movement you make on the boat needs to be considered, always keeping both hands holding hand holds, placing feet carefully, constantly in motion.  I've done this before, for longer periods of time.  However...  the following day the forecast winds fall into a comfortable range.  Over the forecast period, the highest waves and winds are due at exactly the time I was rounding Point Conception.  Humm.

Back to the radio forecast.  I was sailing along at 11pm and decided to listen into the weather radio.  I picked up a station doing an update of the LA area which included Oxnard and its area as its close to LA.  Oxnard is my destination for this part of the trip.  The fellow was relaying the forecast of strong winds in those areas - 50 miles per hour and up.  He talked about a strong high level low passing through, and 'when this storm passes...' something or other.  Land folks talk about storms all the time, but rarely mean an actual storm.  Its windy one night, and we talk about 'last nights storm.'  At sea, winds all have very specific names - gales are less than storms which are less than hurricanes.  The word 'storm' in a marine forecast is serious stuff.  When I heard the storm word I realized that I hadn't seen a surface analysis of the weather for a while and wasn't really sure what I was sailing into.  The text forecasts for the regions have been very accurate and were forecasting conditions I liked, but with the possibility that a storm was in the area just outside one of the zones I was planning to be in, I wanted to gather some more information.

At that time, I was at the point I could jibe into shore and be on a direct line to San Simeon, an anchorage I had stopped in last time down the coast.  I did that, and at 3am dropped anchor and shut the boat down.  There were three boats here, two with anchor lights on, one without.  My radar was handy.

Now that I've updated my weather info for the areas and have a good idea of what's going on again, I think I'll leave tomorrow morning and continue the journey.  I may stop in Cojo anchorage just around the corner from Point Conception and then may or may not stop at Smugglers Cove on Santa Cruz.


Update Oct 10th, 2013.

San Simeon has AT&T cell phone coverage.  My smart phone provides a hot spot, so I have internet here.  Sweet!

I've decided to leave on friday rather than today.  The pzz670 regional forecast is saying 10-20 knots from the NW today, but my grib files are showing the winds closer to shore are light and that I would end up motoring most of the way.  The pzz670 forecast is for 10-60nm off shore.  The point is 80nm away, so heading 40nm offshore to get wind doesn't really make sense - I'll be staying closer to shore from here to the point (15-20nm off?)  From interpreting the info today, it looks like if I leave tomorrow, around noon, I'll motor for a while and then meet light but sailable wind in the early afternoon.  There's a chance I'll be able to sail a big chunk of the way from there - so with that possibility, I leave on friday.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Sailing south in good wind

Date: Oct 8, 2013, Time: 9am PST
36° 13' N 122° 33' W
Wind speed: 20 / wind dir: NW, Heading: 116, Speed: 6.5
Barometer: 1015, Water Temp: 55.4f
Log: 9216

I left Drakes Bay as expected, Monday morning at around 8am. I motored for three and a half hours until enough wind arrived to start sailing, and I've been sailing ever since. The waves started small but have now grown to 6-8 foot wind waves at around an 8 second period. These are fairly short and steep waves which creates an 'interesting' motion for the boat. Lots of changes of direction as the waves wash under the boat, speeding her up, slowing her down and changing direction on the front and back sides of the waves. The monitor self steering is working like a champ!

Last night I had another phosphorescence experience. I was leaving a bright wake behind me, showing the course the boat was taking through the waves (not a straight line.) Also as the occasional wave crested just as it reached the hull and splashed the boat it would create a bright area of light, so cool. The bow wake was also glowing. Phosphorescence is so cool.

I've sighted whales and dolphins so far, no sure of the species. I was happy the broaching whale was 1/2 to 1 mile away, but the dolphins of course were right beside the boat keeping me company for hours.

The winds are forecast to lighten a little this afternoon, and then freshen tonight through tomorrow night with increasing waves accompanying the wind. If everything remains constant, I should be around Point Conception Wednesday night which is close to my planned anchorage. I may be at anchor sometime Thursday morning/afternoon.

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Sunday, October 6, 2013

Anchored in Drakes Bay

Date: Oct 6, 2013, Time: 1pm PST
38° 00' N 122° 58' W
Wind speed: calm, Anchored
Barometer: 1017, Water Temp: 51.8f
Log: 9091

As expected, the winds turned light on Saturday and as I rounded Cape Mendocina the winds collapsed and I went from sailing nicely to motoring south. I had been sailing in mid 20 knot winds most of Friday and I rounded the Cape at around midnight. The water immediately started to flatten out - even before I was behind the cape, suggesting that lighter winds were to be arriving soon. As the NW wind fell to below 10, sailing downwind became tedious with speeds below three knots and I started to motor at 3am. At 9am an E10 wind arrived and I started to sail slowly making a VMG (velocity toward my destination, velocity made good) of around 3.5. That was just fine. By 12:45pm the wind fell to 5 and I started to motor again. I motored the rest of way, except for an hour when some wind arrived and I jumped on it to watch it fall off again within an hour. Three hours north of Point Reyes some east wind arrived and this time I just motored through it, wasting an opportunity to sail but wanting to get to Drakes Bay. This wind died off by 10:30, lasting around three hours. (It was cold when the wind arrived! That's my excuse for missing an opportunity to same some fuel and move in peaceful quiet. The sea temperature was down to 49.1.)

I'm currently at anchor in Drakes Bay, arriving at 11:30am. I've decided to break the trip up by spending a night here. The forecast, which I've now updated and verified, has light wind today with some NW wind starting to fill in tonight. By tomorrow, Monday morning, there is expected to be NW 5 to 15, which is a big range, but with the afternoon becoming NW 15-25 and 20 to 30 at night (in this weather zone, pzz570.)

I plan to leave Drakes Monday morning and motor until wind arrives. I should be able to be out of this weather zone during Monday, and the winds further south didn't go as high as 30knots. After leaving Drakes, I think I will be able to sail toward my destination, which at this point is still a little fuzzy, but generally "south." I may break the trip up again with a stop along the way, or I may sail directly to Smugglers Cove on Santa Cruz island in the Catalina's. Smugglers Cove will be a nice little break and is an easy sail away from Oxnard where I'll end up for a little while. I plan to return to boat projects there, working on varnish, strip/seal my cabin sole (floor) among other things. Smugglers cove is roughly 350nm away from Drakes.

I put another 15 gallons of diesel in the tank on this leg of the trip, making the total since leaving Neah Bay 32 gallons. This is way more than the last time I did this trip, where that total was something like 3. But that time I left earlier in the year with a well established high and no low's ripping through. This trip has been shorter, only 6 days of 'sailing' to get here compared to 11. Last time down I hove to in a gale for a day and waited for wind to arrive several times, very patiently, bobbing around in swell. This was part of the training I was doing for the trip to Hawaii and back later that year. This time I'm staying much closer to shore (15 to 40nm) and am much less patient. I want to make progress while the weather windows allow for it. I left late and will be happy when I arrive in southern California.

My 6 day estimate does not of course count the week I spent after ducking into Coos Bay two days before the forecast south gale, which became an actual storm, to arrive. The highest wind I saw out on the water last time was 37 knots, this time (so far) has been around 27.

It was good traveling in company with Juguette. They caught a tuna! They have now continued on to Half Moon bay. I hope to meet up with Peter again in Mexico if not before, as happens when cruising the same coast with the same ultimate destination (La Paz for now.)

Lastly, a plan which did not work out so well. Last time I was in Drakes Bay I was annoyed by all the fly's which find you. I mean, I'm anchored off the shoreline by at least 1/2 a mile, and there are fly's everywhere. All during the remainder of my last cruise, and this year as I planned, I kept thinking about the fly swatter I would have on board during my stay here in Drakes the next time. Well, here I am, the fly's are here, and I pulled out my fly swatter. First swat was a hit, killed it dead. Next swat the head of the fly swatter went flying as it broke off the handle. Drat. I have backups for some of my equipment, but a fly swatter!? No backup onboard. I'm glad I'm leaving after a single night!

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Friday, October 4, 2013

Left Coos Bay heading south again

Date: Oct 4, 2013, Time: noon PST
41° 21' N 124° 58' W
Wind speed: 15-18 / wind dir: NNE, Heading: 225, Speed: 6.5
Barometer: 1025, Water Temp: 60.8
Log: 8870

The storm that rolled through Coos Bay passed by Sunday and from Monday onward the seas have been settling down. The wind was strong (mid 20's) from the south on Monday so the seas stayed up. By Wednesday I thought I should be leaving, however the bar at Coos Bay was still closed to recreational vessels 40' or less. Thursday the bar opened and Juguette (Peter, Bob and Mike) and I left approaching high tide, around 12:15pm. The winds were pretty good and we were able to start sailing once we had given plenty of room to the entrance channel and the boats arriving and departing.

Thursday evening the winds were in the high teens and overnight they rose into the low twenties - beautiful downwind sailing. The highest gust I saw was 28 knots, which is in a very comfortable range downwind. I've been making good time south so far, however the forecast is for the winds to become light on Saturday and I may end up motoring over to an anchorage to wait for more wind to arrive.

I woke up with the batteries fully charged from the wind generator having run all night, that was nice! I have blue skies and I'm heading toward warmer weather - I'm glad to be leaving the rain and grey skies I had last week behind!

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Friday, September 27, 2013

Transient in Coos Bay

I left Neah Bay knowing the weather window I had to travel south comfortably (which is a relative term at sea) was short.  I thought there might be a possibility that I could have rounded Cape Mendocina and gotten far enough south of it to avoid the worst of the weather that is approaching, but that didn't happen.  So what happened was...

The forecast strong south winds arrived in Neah Bay as expected on Sunday the 22nd.  The winds had past by mid afternoon and the rest of the day was nice.  It was forecast as a strong but fast moving system.  Any strong low on the ocean stirs up the seas and so leaving on monday I expected to the seas to be pretty active, and they definitely were.  This was probably the worst seas I left port into so far.  It wasn't serious, but after being on land for a while its nice to have a gentler introduction to the seas again.  After four or so hours I started to get hot and burpy, both signs of sea sickness approaching.  I ate some Trader Joe's candied ginger and shortly afterwards had a large dinner (of Dinty Moore stew and a baked potato added) and everything was just fine.  So far my not-being-seasick run is unbroken which continues to surprise me.

I left Neah Bay and pretty much motored for 24 hours.  There was some nice wind generated by a few rain cells which passed and I sailed a few of those.

By Tuesday at 3pm some W to NW wind had filled in and I was able to start sailing.  On a beam to broad reach I was able to head directly south, which was perfect.  This trip was going to be all about making my way south as fast as possible.  It was all about VMG (velocity made good, a sailor term for those landlubbers among you) south, not just boat speed.  By the evening, long enough after sunset that it was dark, the wind veered north which put my heading more SW than purely south, and I started losing VMG but had picked up boat speed.  The extra speed was satisfying, but as I wasn't heading as directly south anymore the extra speed wasn't useful for my goal.  I jibed a few times that night to keep my distance offshore between 20 and 40 miles.  When daylight arrived I poled out the genoa and was able to head directly south again.  The boat slowed a little as it does when heading almost directly downwind, but my VMG improved, so it was good.

By noon or so on wednesday the wind backed and slowed which put me heading more toward shore than I wanted to be for what I thought was my plan over the next few days.  I dragged the genoa back onto the port side and was on a starboard beam reach making good speed south again.

During this time I had been downloading weather updates via my SSB/Pactor/Sailmail.  The next low was forecast to arrive saturday and sunday and it looked like I didn't want to be in it.  A south gale is forecast with winds up to 35 gusting to 45.  A south bound current of up to a knot meeting gale strength south winds with a NW swell thrown in sounded like a mix I didn't want to experience.  I thought that if I could round Cape Mendocina by early or mid friday and be 20 or 40 miles south then I could stay out and would miss most of the bad weather that was fast approaching.

Thursday evening I had good wind and good VMG south with my plan still on.  By early morning the wind started to fall, but not yet enough where motoring would make a big difference.  By mid morning I started to motor and I saw my opportunity to avoid the weather disappear.

All along, I was thinking of Coos Bay as my fallback plan.  Coos Bay is a: "harbor of refuge, and can be entered at any time except in extreme weather...  It is one of the most important harbors between San Francisco and the Columbia River."  Coos Bay was 44 miles away and it was time for a decision.

A lot of things had to go exactly right for me to make my goal of being south far enough for me to be comfortable about avoiding most of the weather.  If the speed of the approaching gale changed, the winds altered sooner to more southerly which slowed down my speed heading south, or this or that, then I would be out in weather which could have been uncomfortable and which I could have avoided.

I decided to motor directly toward Coos Bay as the winds were down to around 4 knots.  As I approached I called the Coast Guard to ask for a bar report.  All of the harbors along the Washington/Oregon coast have bars across their entrances.  The bars can be exciting when there is swell arriving - you end up with large waves in the entrances which can play havoc with our boats and hence our ego's.  This was my first bar crossing.  I misheard the bar report and heard that the Coos Bay bar was closed to recreational boats less than 220 feet.  When I heard this I thought: crap!  That's serious swell arriving to be closed for boats that large.  I started heading south again going through the scenario of being out in the gale.  I later heard the hourly report on the Coos Bay bar and heard that it was closed to recreational vessels 20 feet or less.  So I changed direction and headed toward it.  As I was heading there I was stressing a little about the crossing - until I realized the bar report was being broadcast at around peak ebb for Coos Bay - so you have an ebb current leaving the bay meeting the arriving swell and there were breakers all up the channel.  I was planning to arrive early in the flood tide and expected the bar to be open to all vessels when I arrived.  It was!  Crossing the bar was completely uneventful.  There were "wrap around breakers on the north jetty" but the channel is wide enough to easily avoid those.

I motored over to the fuel dock where I bought 17 gallons (10 to replace the fuel I had added from my gerry jugs and 7 into the tank.)  I then moved over to the transient dock where I am now and where I expect to be at least until monday, possibly longer.

So far I've ended up motoring for 35 hours and have burned around 18 gallons (after refueling I realized the fuel I put into the tank was probably a gallon or two short of being completely full.)  This puts my burn rate at around 0.5 gallons/hour.  I was surprised by this.  I had in my mind that I burned 0.8 gallons per hour.  During my last cruise I was motoring at around 2200 rpm and as I kept speaking to cruisers I realized that most of them cruised at a lower rpm - so I've slowed to 1800 now and make just over 5 knots in flat water, less in seas, but its an efficient speed.  After slowing I never established a new baseline for fuel consumption.  0.5 gallons/hour rocks.

One thing broke and I noticed a number of things I want to now change.  I started finding ball bearings on deck after being out for a couple days.  I immediately assumed this was my new furler with some sort of problem, and went through all sorts of disaster scenarios of losing my furler.  But after walking the decks for a while I noticed my main sheet turning block at my mast organizer had blown - it was missing its ball bearings.  The block still turns and won't break apart, but I'll go through the spares I have on board and replace it in Coos Bay.

The amsteel lines I have on my Monitor have now been adjusted.  When I did this work a while ago I put knots in the ends of the control lines where they meet the wheel hub lines.  Amsteel is incredibly slippery and the knots were slipping with my ending up with a shorter and shorter lashing between them in order to keep tension on the lines.  I've now spliced eyes into the lines and have a separate lashing line connecting them which is cow-hitched to the control line and lashed between it and the hub line.  This setup shouldn't slip as the eye's all have brummel's which lock.

A lot of things worked really well and boat boat continues be very satisfying out on the open ocean.  It felt really good to be out there again.

Coos Bay doesn't appear to have to have a lot, but the folks are friendly.  The transient dock is used by people who catch crab, a lot of locals and visitors throw their pots in.  A lot of them have stopped by for a chat and I've been talking with a bunch of them as I walk the docks, its nice.  One couple visiting from the interior, Greg and Angela, asked a bunch of questions about my trip, single handing, plans and so on.  Angela later dropped off some salsa she had made along with a number of tomato's from her garden.  You meet the nicest people when out cruising!  I can see a cruise in their future :-)

Angela and I in Coos Bay

Last time heading down the coast I had a much different experience.  There was a strong well established high pressure system off the coast and I could take my time heading south and sailed the whole way.  I was becalmed for a while, hove-to in a gale for a while, went far offshore and generally had a good time for my first ocean passage.  This trip is much different, if feels like its going to be scrappier, with my making my way south in the opportunities which arise with the option of always heading back into harbor if the weather suggests that would be a good idea.

I've found that being offshore 40 miles or so is pretty comfortable.  Its far enough to avoid most of the traffic, and now that I transmit AIS the other boats seem to avoid me - or perhaps its coincidence that all my passings have been so distant.

I've been here thinking a little bit about "what if I had been out in that gale."  I continue to think it wouldn't have been a risky move.  Uncomfortable yes, risky no.  Luckness heaves to well, and I could have easily hove to during the worst of the gale, or fore reached with my trysail, run with bare poles or deployed my drogue (in order of increasing seriousness.)  So I never felt like I would be at risk, but being at dock for a few days is no hardship either.

One of the boats I met in Neah Bay, Juguete with Peter, his brother and a friend aboard pulled into Coos Bay this morning, so I'll have some buddies to hang out with.

The low that's coming.  This forecast is for sunday at 5am PST.
"California here I come!" just a little later than I was hoping.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Heading to California: day 1

Date: Sept 24, 2013
47deg 06.4' N, 125 16.5W
Wind Speed: 4 / wind dir: South, Heading: South, Speed: 5.4, Motoring, Sail Plan: M1S
Barometer: 1012, Water Temp: 61.7
Disance since rounding Tatoosh: 82nm

I decided to leave Neah Bay yesterday and was underway by 3:45pm. The wind has not cooperated and I have been under motor all by three hours this afternoon when a rain cell was passing and generated some stronger winds. I'm about to download weather information and will make my plans based on what I see over the next few days.

The first night was choppy as I expected leaving so soon after the last system passed. The ocean is finally starting to settle down and the motion is becoming much nicer now. Still waiting for wind to arrive.

Everything is well here. Its actually relatively warm out here today.

Bye for now.

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Sunday, September 22, 2013

Anchored in Neah Bay

The last few weeks have been pretty busy, but everything has worked out and I've now left Seattle and am presently anchored in Neah Bay waiting for a weather window.

The last few projects went well.  I was on the hard at Canal Boatyard for 7 days refreshing the bottom paint of the boat.  Without getting into a lot of detail, I used SeaHawk Cutoke Biocide plus and put three coats on all over, using three gallons of paint.  The paint is $285/gallon.  For those of you thinking of repainting a room with a nice latex paint, enjoy your paint prices.  Canal boatyard is a great place to haul out, I recommend it.  (Going through the locks isn't that bad...)  

I splashed the boat on Monday the 16th and moved back into my slip at Shilshole.  I sold my car on Tuesday and made my way back to the boat to add the sea going equipment such as jack lines, fuel jugs, hanked on the staysail, mounted the trysail to the mast base and generally walked around looking for anything that looked wrong.

I left Seattle Wednesday the 18th at 5am to catch the morning tide.  There were light winds all day, and I ended up motoring all the way to Port Townsend where I met with the good folks at the Hasse sail loft as well as the now famous Jim and Karen of Sockdolager, who I hadn't seen since we both left Mexico for our different destinations (South Pacific for Sockdolager, Hawaii for Luckness.)

Looking back at sunrise down Puget Sound after leaving Port Townsend
I left Port Townsend early again to arrive at anchor in Port Angeles by 11am, again riding the favorable current the whole way.  In Port Angles I decided to test my SSB radio setup again and found a problem.  I last tested the radio a month or so ago.  After that test, Parallels came out with a new version of their product which I downloaded.  Parallels is what I use to run Windows on my MacBook, which is needed to run Sailmail which in turn controls my SSB.  The update promised generally faster, better along with more efficient battery use - but I foolishly did not test the radio setup again afterwards.  It no longer worked.  So after a few colorful words and holding my head in my hands, I headed into Port Angeles to buy a new Windows laptop.  There is a Radio Shack in town and I picked one up for $350.  It feels cheap and runs Windows 8, which is a little annoying, but I installed Sailmail on it in the store, got back to the boat and the radio is working again.  I'll try to get the Mac controlling the radio again in California.

After getting that sorted out, I left on Friday for Neah Bay.  There is a current station just off shore at Neah Bay and it showed a 0.5 flood tide starting around an hour before I expected to arrive, as the winds were again light.  Motoring the whole way was uneventful and I arrived fighting a 3 knot flood for the final few miles, making 3 knots toward my destination.  The current forecast may have been accurate for the station it represented, but closer to shore the current had increased - which is not surprising in hindsight.  After arriving, I added fuel to the tank, refueled my jugs and generally got the boat ship shape.  

I arrived in Neah Bay expecting to have a wait for weather.  There was a gale forecast to be arriving on Sunday (today as I write this) and I would definitely not want to leave facing 25 to 35 knot south winds.

With the dingy being in the water I headed over to a sailing catamaran in the harbor to talk to them.  They are also heading south and were planning after leaving Victoria to head straight to San Diego.  They holed up in Neah Bay waiting for this system to pass as well.  After speaking with them for a while I headed to shore again and walked over to the marina where I found two more sailboats.  Both of them are also heading south and are here waiting for a weather window.  We talked weather for a while, then I got a little involved with trying to figure out why one of the boats SSBs is not working (high SWR, can not connect.)

Before going to shore I used my wi-fi amplifier to connect to the marina free wi-fi and downloaded some weather information and grib files.  The grib files were showing the gale arriving on Sunday followed by generally light wind gradually increasing from the north and then dwindling again when a second larger system would arrive with strong south winds.  So on Saturday it looked like the weather window would open on monday evening or tuesday and then close again friday evening.  That's a pretty short window.

I passed along the information about the second system to the boats I met and we talked through some options.  We all feel like we are rather late in this season and don't want to miss opportunities to make some progress south.  But I do not want to be at sea facing 35+ knots from the south.

After downloading weather again this morning, Sunday, the second system forecast has changed dramatically.  Looking 8 days out on a weather forecast is prone to having large errors.  The current forecast is showing generally light and slightly variable conditions after tuesday as far as the forecast goes now.  The winds south appear to be forecast for stronger but from the north which is ideal.

I do not need to commit to the leave/stay decision until I actually leave.  The town has a good grocery store, pizza and staying here is comfortable.  When the conditions look favorable, I'll leave.  When that happens, I'll update the blog to let you all know.

After leaving Neah Bay I won't be committing to a destination.  I'll be heading south of course, but am not sure where my first stop will be, or how many stops I'll be making along the way.  I'm late in leaving this time, so will likely make my way south faster than the last time I did this trip.

Everything is well here.  I'm pretty excited to be underway again.  Its been a hard slog these last few months.  i seem to have started and completed more boat projects than I expected and am pretty happy to stop working on the boat for a while and start enjoying the cruising life again.

Warm waters, here I come!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Thoughts on my auto pilot

Ok, there may be a few more boat project posts before I depart...

I did a little work modifying my autopilot a few months ago but was hesitant to post details.  I've basically violated its warranty and made it a little weaker in order to achieve a tighter turning radius for the boat.  This was a tradeoff that I wasn't even aware I was making back when I had the autopilot installed.

A little background.  If you're considering buying an autopilot for your wheel steered boat (tillers are a whole different thing), you should be aware that Raymarine, Simrad and possibly other manufacturers, limit the angle the rudder is able to deflect to each side to around 35 degrees.  In talking with the Raymarine folks, they felt that if the rudder deflected much more than 35 degrees that the forces that could be imposed on the rudder could overwhelm the autopilot and reduce its lifespan.  So, they require that when you install the autopilot on the boat that you restrict the maximum rudder deflection to each side to 35 degrees.

I believe my Pacific Seacraft originally had a 55 degree maximum rudder deflection - so when the autopilot was added, I lost 20 degrees of rudder travel to each side.  This is almost a 40% loss of rudder deflection.  This means that the turns I used to be able to make were tighter than they were after installing the autopilot.  This doesn't matter when you are out in open water sailing around.  But when in close quarters maneuvering the boat to dock or move around a marina - being able to turn tightly is nice.

After realizing this limitation I started thinking about how I could compromise the system to achieve a tighter turning radius.  Basically, if you end up with something that allows the rudder to deflect more than 35 degrees, you violate the warranty.  In the end, I decided that I wanted to be able to maneuver the boat more easily and have modified my setup.

A few pictures to clarify how this all works.

The autopilot computer controls a linear drive which can push or pull a rod attached to a tiller arm which is attached to my rudder post.  This is how the autopilot turns the rudder.

The bronze arm is the tiller, the autopilot arm on the left is attached to the tiller and the tiller is attached to the rudder post.  At the top of the rudder post is the quadrant, which is how the steering cables attach to the rudder.

The steering cables wrap around the quadrant, so as  you turn the wheel you pull on the cables which rotate the quadrant and the rudder turns.  But clearly you don't want to be able to turn the rudder around until it hits the hull, so manufacturers build a support bar which crosses above the quadrant, and then there is a post on the forward part of the quadrant.  As the quadrant rotates, the post (seen with a short hose chafe sleeve above) will hit the bar and stop the wheel from turning the rudder any further.

Originally there were no pieces of wood on the support bar, which would give the maximum deflection of the rudder - it could rotate on one side until the center post hit one side of the support bar, and then rotate to the other side until the center post hit the other side.

Without the pieces of wood in the above picture, you can get 55 degrees of travel in each direction.

After my autopilot was installed, there were two pieces of starboard where the wood is now.  The starboard stops were 1 3/4" wide, which limited the travel to around 39 degrees to each side.

My modification was twofold.  I moved the attachment point of the autopilot from being 10" out along the tiller to 8".  This gave a larger deflection for a given amount of travel of the autopilot rod.  The Simrad unit uses the same tiller arm and attaches at 8" so the tiller arm is strong enough to accommodate this new attachment point.  I then found the maximum limits of travel for the autopilot and created the wood stops to have the rudder stop travel before pulling or pushing the autopilot rod out of/into the linear drive stops.

I ended up with the two pieces of wood being different sizes and my rudder now travels out to 50 degrees when turning to port and to 43 degrees when turning to starboard.  I gained a little to starboard and 11 degrees to port, roughly a 30% improvement to port.  The boat doesn't turn as well to port as starboard, as to starboard you can use prop walk in reverse to tighten a turn, this doesn't work to port.

After realizing the limits my autopilot imposed on me and going through this process, I started to think about my choice of autopilot.  There are different autopilots made which are mounted above deck and which drive the wheel directly.  These autopilots may not be as elegant, but they wouldn't impose any limit on the rudder travel.  See the CPT autopilot for example.   I would be tempted to go something like this route if I was to do it all over...

Monday, September 2, 2013

Garbage can

Oops.  I thought there would be no more project posts.  One last little one...

This is one of the simplest boat projects ever.  Other Pacific Seacraft 37 (and maybe 34?) owners may appreciate this.

The garbage can in my galley came with the boat when I bought her.  I suspect its over 20 years old.  There was some duct tape on the bottom holding a crack together, and some more on the side.  There were more cracks on the side and toward the top which were getting worse.  The garbage can was leaking and falling apart.  So I needed a new garbage can.

I pulled the can out, and looked for identifying marks.  It was made by rubbermaid, and there were the numbers 2957 on the bottom.  If you google 'rubbermaid 2957' you'll get a lot of hits.  Its pretty cool that the same garbage can has been made for so long, I thought I would be out of luck buying a new one.

Home depot sells this garbage can and you can verify online to make sure your local store sells them.  It cost me a little less than $10.  So if you happen to have an old, cracked garbage can in your PSC 37, head on over to home depot and pick up a new one.  It will have four tabs you need to cut off.  As you need to modify the garbage can you buy, I'm claiming that it qualifies as a boat project - one of the simplest ones.

Last project post prior to a lot done!

I plan to leave Seattle for my next cruise in early September, perhaps around the 12th or so, maybe sooner, maybe later.  More on that later - hopefully my next blog post will be about my starting to move with a few details about my plans over the next few years.  Without giving too much away - think endless summer, blue warm waters, topical paradise's and interesting destinations.  Its sooo close at this point, but not quite there.

In the mean time, over the past six weeks I've been busy on all sorts of projects.  Some of these things probably deserve their own separate post but I'm going to glom everything together into one massive post - the mother of all blog posts.

I don't really expect anybody to read all of this.  Here are some of the things I've been working on...

Small things first:
  • Following up on my post detailing how my new locker gaskets were formed, I've also sealed the cockpit engine access on the cockpit sole.  There was a small leak in one corner of this hatch.  Fixed now.
  • I've written about how I've made it easier to remove the stove from my galley by carving little indentations in the teak surround.  This has been useful, as I had one last project to do on the stove.  After I replaced the stove gimbal pivots I discovered that the aft stove gimbal pivot lock was in the wrong spot.  There is a way of locking the stove from rocking back and forth which involves sliding a short rod into a hole in the surrounding enclosure.  Well, the hole in the aft enclosure face was in the wrong spot.  So I marked the new spot, removed the stove, made some measurements, replaced the stove, tested the spot, removed the stove, started drilling the hole, replaced the stove, tested the hole, removed the stove, adjusted the hole, replaced the stove, tested the hole, removed the stove, marked the hole, epoxied the hole, replaced the stove, tested, removed the stove, finalized the spot by adding a metal cover and sanding the epoxy, replaced the stove.  I'm pretty happy that the stove is easy to remove and install now.  The stove now locks solidly in place.  See how tedious boat projects can be...if you're really attentive to every little detail?
  • Bought passage charts for my known coming voyages.  These are charts which cover a very wide area.  One chart covers the west coast of America down to San Diego.  Another covers San Diego to Mexico and part of the South Pacific.  I had some similar charts for my trip to Hawaii and back to Seattle.   I found them useful - as I would update them daily just to prove to myself that I was actually making progress.  On longer passages its nice to have a way to track progress.  It was pretty exciting looking over my new charts and looking at my upcoming voyaging areas!
  • Created two amsteel pendants to lower the attachment point for my lazy jacks from the bow shackle at the mast where my running backs attach.  The lazy jacks were chafing my running backs as I ran them up and down.  This is now solved.  I realize this is hard to visualize.  Just think of it as yet another problem that was fixed.
  • Created new fitted sheets.  I spent some time visiting family on Vancouver Island and Vancouver.  While on Vancouver Island visiting my Mother I had her teach me how to create fitted sheets for my forward berth.  New top and bottom sheets.  They're awesome.  This sewing stuff isn't so hard.
  • Started to clean and lube my winches.  At this point I've done four of six and have found one broken spring.  The two on the mast will be finished tomorrow.
Some of the larger projects, most with pictures, follow:

Installed a new fridge:

My old fridge was a alder/barbour cold machine, one of the original DC fridges using the then new danfoss compressor.  The fridge was working - but I suspect that it was 20 years old and I just did not trust it anymore.  I wanted to do a little preventative work now to try to avoid it breaking down over the next few years.  On the one hand, changing a working system introduces the potential for the new system breaking instead...but I felt that I should do this.

I bought a frigoboat capri 35 with a Merlin smart speed controller and a Guardian thermostat.  The thermostat is digital, and is therefore much more accurate than what I used to have.  The new system should be much more efficient.  

The merlin smart speed controller is cool - it keeps track of how often the fridge comes on, and for how long, and optimizes the speed at which the compressor runs.  It turns out that to be most efficient, the compressor should be run for as long as possible - which means at a low a speed as possible.  My old fridge had a single speed (high) where it would draw 6 amps - my new fridge has 6 speeds it can run at and the most efficient (slowest) speed only draws 2.1 amps.  The speed controller will adjust the speed to try to achieve a run time of 20 minutes an hour which is can do in Seattle by running at the slowest speed for 8 minutes and then being off for 20 at which point the fridge box has risen from 40deg to 42 and the thermostat turns the cycle on again.  The guardian thermostat is accurate - it allows me to set the set point for the fridge and how many degrees it can rise before turning on.  

In the tropics I'll monitor my power usage and may need to raise the temperature of the fridge from its current set point of 40 - on my last trip I had the temperature quite a lot higher which was fine for the types of food I kept in there.

This project was fairly straight forward, just installing hardware I bought.

Installing thermostat wire high in fridge box
A little cage surrounding the thermostat
The thermostat needed to be installed on a wall of the fridge box where the evaporator wasn't.  I choose a back wall.  However I tended to pile food up in the fridge and I didn't want food to be piled up against the thermostat.  So I ended up buying a 4" PVC pipe, quartering it and drilling a bazillion holes to aid airflow.  I'll find out if this ends up being effective - if not, I'll relocate it later...
The guardian thermostat panel
Aft water tank:

This is the second time I've had to work on my aft water tank.  The last time I worked on it, I was hoping never to see the insides of this tank again.  The last time I worked on the tank it was due to their being a leak - I fixed that.  As part of that project, I decided to finish the tank liner with an epoxy in order to seal the tank better.  I don't recall spending too long on surface preparation for the epoxy step - I spent quite a lot of time fixing the leak and then gel coating the fiberglass I used - but the preparation for the final epoxy step was a little light.  I used to think of all epoxy's as some sort of magic glue which would stick to anything.  It turns out this was wrong.

When I got back from my last cruise I inspected my water tank carefully and noticed a small bubble in the epoxy which after a little prodding turned out to be a massive delamination of the epoxy from the tank interior.

Its a little hard to see from the picture, but there is a large piece of epoxy sitting on top of the divider between the aft and forward sections of the tank.  Once I had pulled some epoxy out, I could pull sheets of it off.  I briefly considered turning this into a storage area to avoid all the work on fixing the tank to make it potable water safe again, but decided to return it to use as a water tank.

Getting the lid off is a chore.

Lid removal tools
Cut and pry the bar into a gap you create, then pound the bar down between the lid and tank
Use wedges to create gaps, and pound them around the tank lid
Once the lid is off, you will have a lot of silicone to clean up.  Its not a lot of fun.

Once it was cleaned up, I needed to remove the old epoxy liner from the tank.  This should have been pretty much impossible as the epoxy should have bonded to the tank in such a way that it needed to be ground off - but by applying a lot of pressure with sharpened putty knives I was able to scrape all of the epoxy off.  I also scraped some of the gelcoat off, notice the pitting in the photo below.  This took about three days of hot sweaty work - balancing like a tripod while pressing carefully and hard on the sharp putty knife to have the epoxy flake off and shoot in all directions.  I had the whole area tented off with plastic - no photos of that, sorry.

Gelcoat pitting after removal of old epoxy liner
At this point I don't really want anybody to follow how I approached the repair and lining of the tank - its hard to get definitive answers to how to finish a potable water tank.  Companies tend to shy away from this area, as government regulations require that if a company declares a product safe for some use - they need to prove it for a particular tank size, construction and process.  Nobody is interested in certifying their product safe for water tanks on small sailboat fiberglass water tanks.

So after a lot of reading, I decided on using an epoxy liner - but with a much better epoxy than I used last time and also much better preparation to the surface.  The epoxy is a 100% solids epoxy.  I think it will be ok...

I first needed to repair the damage to the gelcoat I had inflicted with my putty knives removing the failed epoxy.  I used an Adtech product, P-17 white with a black hardener, a high head resistant rigid polyester filler.  This is an epoxy as well - combine filler and hardener, mix and apply to tank before it hardens.  I applied a good solid coat to the entire tank and then sanded with 80 grit all around to create a good surface to epoxy to.  

The epoxy I used was Fiberlay Pro Glas 1200 UV epoxy resin and the fast hardener.  Do your own research and pick your own route if you need to pursue this type of project...

The final piece of this puzzle is what type of silicone sealant to use to seal the tank.  I used the 3M marine silicone last time but have discovered that it contains chemicals that may not be good to have in a potable water tank.  I couldn't find a source for a food safe silicone, so after reading, discovered that aquarium silicone sealants are good for water, as they are used to seal tanks which have fish swimming in them, and tropical fish are very sensitive to chemicals.  So that's what I bought, through amazon.  A little later I was in Tacoma Screw here in Ballard and saw they have their own branded silicone sealant which is NSF 51 food safe - that would have been a good choice.

I replaced the lid to the water tank yesterday, sealed it and will wait 7 days for the silicone to fully cure.

Bomar deck hatches:

I noticed some delamination between the silicone seals in my deck hatches and the polycarbonate lenses.  I didn't want these to leak and my buddies at Yacht Fitters have gotten good and fixing these hatches and they passed along some advice on how to proceed.  I removed the hatches, popped the lenses out and cleaned everything up.  I then saw a little corrosion on the hatch frames and thought I would just spray paint a patch as I wasn't too concerned with the appearance.  So I sanded away the corrosion, bought a zinc spray paint primer, applied it, and then added two coats of spray paint.  To cut the story short, the spray paint failed badly and I ended up sending the frames to Seattle Powder Coat, which did a fantastic job.  Clear cut plastics in Fremont cut new frames for me.  Yacht Fitters fit the frames into the hatches with my helping out.

The sealant used was Dow Corning 795, which is used in glazing.  

Looking out my new hatch!
The new hatches are really nice.  I can see through them again!


By the end of my last cruise, I discovered that my jib halyard had chafed badly.  The chafe happened just as the halyard entered my halyard restrainer.
My old jib halyard,  at the top of the splice at the sail attachment end
I've heard about riggers adding dyneema chafe guards to halyards from a few sources.  Luke at Yacht Fitters does this, and I had him build two new halyards for me - I thought I would have a new main halyard made with a chafe guard as well.  The results are really nice - I recommend Yacht Fitters for this work if you're in the area.
My new main halyard on left, my old-old main halyard which has become my trysail halyard
The new halyards are core dependent - a dyneema core with a polyester cover.  Luke removes part of the cover, splices on the dyneema chafe sleeve and then performs the eye splice in a manner which I don't really understand but which ends up being much nicer than the Samson splice they present in their splicing manual.  

Also halyard related, I added a little more organization to my mast by adding line holders to hold my lines up:
Hooks to hold halyards at the mast
Furler and halyard restrainer:

My original jib furler was as old as the boat, 22+ years.  It was another piece of gear I was losing trust in.  Getting new parts would be difficult, and there are better designs out now.  I bought a Schaefer 2100 furler, Luke came by and installed it one day.  I helped out, it was pretty interesting seeing how a furler is installed, while the mast is up.

Schaefer 2100 furler
The furler came with a new halyard restrainer which was much better than the model I already had on the mast - so I went up and drilled the old restrainer out and drilled and tapped the new restrainer in.  

The schaefer restrainer is much nicer.  I suspect that if I had the new restrainer that I wouldn't have had the jib chafe I experienced last time.  With the jib halyard having a dyneema chafe sleeve and a new restrainer at the old problem location, I think that problem should be fixed.  I'll find out...

The schaefer furler manual suggests that the top of the upper swivel be less than 6 inches away from foil top cap.  Originally the distance was 12 inches, so I constructed a circular strop made from 1/4" amsteel.  The strop worked out really well.  With the strop installed, the top of the swivel is just under 6" away from the end cap.

Sail head to strop to swivel to halyard to restrainer to sheave's and down.
Reef lines:

While I was out on my last cruise, I also noticed that my reef lines were chafing in the region of the aft boom end cap.  There are sheaves in this region, with aluminum plates separating the sheaves from each other - the plates rise above the sheaves, and the reef lines were chafing on the plates.  I ground the plates down to be smaller, which will help with the problem.  I also installed dyneema chafe sleeves in the region of the chafe - I did this work after a few hints and some instruction from Luke at Yacht Fitters.  The chafe sleeve goes on pretty easily.  I placed one of the sleeves in the wrong spot and was able to cut the whippings, remove the sleeve bury's, move the sleeve to where it needed to be and install it again without any damage to the reef lines.  Nice!

I discovered after adding the chafe sleeve to the reef lines that they no longer fit out of the boom end cap - the diameter of the line increased enough that they would not exit cleanly.  So I ground down the end cap to accommodate - no big deal.

I decided to buy new reef lines before adding the chafe sleeve - one of the lines was chafed badly enough it needed to be replaced anyway, and the second line was ok, but I wanted to keep them both in sync and so bought two new lines.

There are a few things going on in the picture above.  I have a new topping lift - I had used amsteel for the line which exits the boom, goes up to the pulley and back down to the boom cap.  Amsteel is slippery and I found it tedious to cleat it off - I needed to have a lot of wraps around the cleat or it would slip - its pretty surprising.  I had some warpspeed on board intended for something that was no longer needed, so I used that for my new topping lift - the polyester cover cleats off much easier.  This was my first core dependent splice - it worked out, I used the Samson recipe.

You can see the chafe guards on the reef lines.  The other new thing I added are two short amsteel lines which attach to the reef lines as they wrap around the boom.  These straps hold the reef lines back toward the end cap.  On the port side of the boom you can see an amsteel line going from the padeye, under the clew strap to the reef line wrap. This is to hold the reef line from moving forward.  I wanted the reef lines to pull back on the new sail clew, not simply pull down.  I found that the wrap around the boom would continually move forward to be under the reef clew rather than remaining further back.  I'll see if holding them in place like this works - it seems simple enough.

Monitor trim line:

On the monitor self steering wind vane, there is a line which is used to adjust the trim of the vane to allow you to make course corrections.  This line is a loop which goes around a large sheave at the monitor and then for Luckness, forward along the starboard side of the cockpit to a SS ring which is under tension by some shockcord.  

The important piece of this is that you pull on the loop of line to adjust the vane direction.  

When I was leaving last time I didn't have a good solution for this line - I used a small diameter dinghy control line and fastened the ends together by stitching and then whipping.  It was a bit of a mess.  The join would enter the sheave and then get tripped up most often popping the line off the sheave.  So I continually had to watch were the join was and adjust it to remain far from the sheave.  Anyway, it was tedious.

The Scanmar Monitor manual talks about this control line being 1/8" dacron, but beyond that, doesn't say anything else.  I couldn't find 1/8" dacron - is it even made anymore?  High tech lines have taken over now.

Once again, I'm using amsteel.  Amsteel is super easy to splice into endless loops, but is a little slippery for this application.  If I find the control line slipping, I've decided that I will add some wax to the equation.

I now have a new 7/64" amsteel trim line.  Here are my old and new trim lines, in the join areas:

New amsteel monitor trim line splice region - slick!
I don't show the bury region of the new splice - I taper the amsteel tails nicely so as you run your fingers along the line you can't feel where the bury happens at all.  I can now pull on the trim line and as the splice enters the sheave nothing happens, the line isn't tripped.  It is now a real endless loop.

This is only a small thing - but during my last cruise I was finding myself, at night, in large wind and waves, leaning over the back of my cockpit holding the monitor sheave while I tried to adjust the old splice to a more favorable area of the line.  I won't miss those moments.


During my last cruise, I found that while I was on the same tack (either) for a long time while getting water over the deck, that my port side dorade would leak.  The water was entering the headliner under the dorade, leaking into a light which is mounted there, filling it up and shorting it out.  It got to the point where the on/off switch was inoperable due to corrosion and the light was dimly staying on all of the time.  I adjusted something in Hawaii but the dorade leaked again on my trip to Seattle.

I recently took the dorade apart again.

The port side dorade
The dorade box surrounds a mushroom vent which can be closed.  I thought the mushroom vent was the problem, that water was intruding between the top of the vent and where it was meant to seal.  I took the vent off and while doing so discovered that there was no sealant between the vent base and the cabin top in a few areas - and that there were rust streaks under the vent base over to the vent hole - showing the path the saltwater was taking.  I cleaned everything up, sealed the vent well and this problem should be fixed.  Then I did it for the starboard dorade - it wasn't leaking but it ended up having the same lack-of-sealant problem, so I'm happy I fixed it.

Teak vent in hanging lockers:

My two hanging lockers continually have a mildew problem, mostly in the lower region of the locker where the air doesn't circulate due to clothes hanging above.  I think a way of helping the mildew problem will be to allow air to circulate - so I've just cut two holes in this region of the lockers and will install teak vents.

Holes ready for their vents
Teak shelf in navigation station locker:

There is a small locker beneath the nav station which was designed as a hanging locker.  I use it for footwear, but this only occupies 1/2 of the locker - the upper region was unused. 

I installed a shelf in this locker.  After measuring and cutting some teak grating, I mocked up the shelf and then epoxied four hardwood tabs into the walls of the locker.  Once the tabs were in place, I continued building the shelf, applied teak oil and have installed it.  The shelf is removable, but fits snugly when installed.  I'm not sure how I'll use this space - possibly food storage, but its now a large handy area to store something.

The four hardwood tabs to support the shelf
Note vertical tab on left of picture in front of grate to hold shelf in place

I think of my last cruise as a year long sea trial.  I came back with a big list of things I wanted to improve on Luckness before heading out on a longer cruise.  I think I've pretty well gone through the list now - there are a few things left, but they will either be done before leaving or early in my next trip.