Saturday, October 27, 2012

Rigging update

Scott at the second spreaders
Alright, we got all excited thinking we're going to have to yank the mast out of the boat in order to get to the top-most attachment points.  Horror of horrors, how awful to be at the mercy of the boat yard while the clock ticks and the money streams out of our pockets. 

After diligent work aloft I think I've figured out a way to avoid pulling the stick.  With careful study I found that you can remove a little mast cap on top of the big mast cap and see the very top of the stem ball fitting.  To do this you must get hoisted to the very top of the mast then rig some slings from the top so you can stand up into the slings to finally get your torso above the whole shebang. 

I was able to extract one of the really big shrouds out the top of the mast, then with enough persuasion was able to to get the spreader tips opened up to release the same shroud.  Broke some tools getting that done.  Now I have in my possession new intermediate shrouds and new to shrouds.  Once those are installed all that is left is the backstay and the forestay.  Perhaps we'll leave the forestay and all its roller furler complications alone for now and concentrate on the big backstay next.
Shiny parts galore

Baptiste showed up this morning, fresh from adventures sailing into hurricane waters and Rebecca arrives this coming Friday, so I should have someone to crank me up the mast for more torture.  And all this will be done before Connie arrives on November 14th.  We will push on.  We will persevere.  We will get south!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Rube Goldberg was right

As I lay in bed this morning I’m amazed that I’m waking up inside a big piece of complex machinery that will not only take Connie and I from one place to another, but is also our home, complete with bedroom, kitchen, bathroom, guest room and salon.  Traveler is an amazing conglomeration of fiberglass, wires, wood, plastic, piping, stainless steel and paint that is designed to be multiple-purpose.  It is able to be a house where you can cook and sleep, even doing so when tilted over 30 degrees.  But while a home, it is a complicated bit of engineering that is capable of traveling completely around the planet… by water, exploiting clever loopholes in the fabric of space and time.

Starting at the bottom of this magic yellow submarine like structure, the thick fiberglass hull does not have one straight flat area in its composition.  It’s shaped fore and aft like a teardrop with a pointy nose and a perfectly rounded butt.  At the bottom of the teardrop is a deep long keel that weighs 10,000 pounds, a third of the overall weight of the ship.  The keel extends 6.5 feet into the water.  With this much weight so low when the boat gets tipped over by strong winds she will come back up to a vertical position.  She will; she must.  It is science. 
Inside the bottom portion of the boat are 14 holes that connect the sea to the inside of the boat.  This is done via various pipes that either bring in cool salt water or push out waste water, warm water, or exhaust.  Each of these through-hull fittings are double clamped with stainless steel to insure they never fail.  Inside the boat in the lower bowels there is two to three feet of machinery, wiring, and piping necessary to keep the whole shebang running.  It’s a complicated bunch of stuff down there below the floorboards.  Remember the movie “Brazil” when   Robert De Niro, the renegade air conditioning specialist, opens up the wall and exposes the mass of breathing pipes and wires?  That’s what it’s like when we pick up one of the floorboards to look down into the bilge.  It is my job to make some sense of this mess and I’ve been spending my afternoons diving down into the bilge with a flashlight and a pair of needle nose pliers to defend myself.  Occasionally when it gets too overwhelming, I holler for Connie to come grab me by the feet and pull me out of there.

With all this chaos down below it is surprising just how civilized and clean it is above the floor.  To start with, everything inside the boat is made of teak.  In 1981 when this boat was made in Taipei, Taiwan those craftsmen had plenty of quality wood and great expertise creating what is essentially one big piece of furniture 42 feet long that is the interior of Traveler.

Imagine your grandma’s fancy hutch with all its clean curves and curlycues.  Now imagine that hutch growing out of control, stretching 13 feet wide and 42 feet long.  That’s Traveler.  Every surface is precisely jointed.  What is amazing is that not one part of the interior, like the exterior, is in a straight line.  Everything is curved and every piece of wood is custom fitted.  It’s like the fun house at a carnival where up is down and something that looks tall is actually uphill and short.  

Starting Aft, on one side is a quarter berth where one person can comfortably sleep.  Across from that is the master cabin, with a door that has a bronze plaque saying specifically, “Captain’s Quarters”.  This cabin contains a double berth and a couple of closets and drawers, with lights overhead and reading lamps for reading in bed. This is where we have our morning tea and contemplate the pleasant day ahead.  Forward of this is a navigation station to one side and a galley (kitchen) on the other.  The galley has a freezer, refrigerator, sinks, hot and cold water, and lots of drawers and cabinets again with plenty of lighting and an endless supply of bottle openers.  The nav station has lots of gadgets and switches and little red lights.  I think much of that stuff is connected to the morass below the floor boards.  

 Forward of the galley is a dinette with a table and a settee (couch).  Again, lots of lighting and cabinets and bookshelves on all the walls up to window height.  Forward of the dining area is a bathroom (the head) with a toilet, sink, and shower. And forward of that is the guest cabin with a door and plenty of closet space. 
Above and throughout the cabin are lights in the ceiling and opening ports to scoop in cool breezes.  All in all there are eleven ports that can be closed tightly for when it rains or when the boat is plunging into steep waves that sweep the deck. Handholds abound throughout the cabin for holding on when pitching in rough seas.   Every door, drawer, shelf, and cupboard has safety latches that keep everything in its place, even if the boat pitches over on her side.  There are so many drawers, and cabinets, and shelves, and cubby holes that we keep a database active so we can find things.  “Honey, were did we put the whatchamacallit?”  Don’t know? Gotta boot up the laptop.

Keep in mind that while at anchor or at the dock, the boat is calm and you can set down a glass of juice and it stays put. However, later, once underway, everything must be in its place, secured.  Otherwise that juice glass goes flying across the room. Gravity ceases to exist at sea.  We have a stuffed animal named Monkey who just hangs out in various places.  After a brisk sail it is fun trying to find where he ended up.  Needless to say, everything has its place.

 A companionway ladder leads from the back of the cabin up to the back deck and cockpit.  There the helmsman and guests sit or stand drinking foo foo drinks and having amazingly witty conversations while driving the boat.  This area is covered from the sun and protected with canvas covers.  Stepping up to the side decks there are walkways leading forward on either side that take you to the front of the boat and the front deck where the anchor is located and there is room for sunbathing. 
In the middle of the boat is a huge 40 foot tall mast held in place by 13 large cables.  On top of the mast is a teeny tinny arrow that points towards the wind. There is some magic involved there that I don’t quite understand.  Sails fore and aft drive the boat when there is wind.  A diesel engine (sometimes) pushes her along when there is no wind.  In this manner this cross between a tree house and a space ship is capable of galloping large distances across vast expanses of ocean blue delivering us to strange and foreign lands.

I’ve tried to explain the marvelous bit of machinery that is our boat in a manner that landsmen and sailors alike can understand.   It is a crazy life we’re leading where we’ve given up our land based and sane activities and moved aboard this strange craft that is two, three, or four things at once.  I remember as a child reading Jules Verne and I imagined what it would be like to go off adventuring in an odd foreign contraption.  I’m finding out.    

We head south for Los Cabos on November 15th.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

La Bufadora

Yesterday the local cruisers held a swap meet at the marina. By 9:30 there were multiple piles of “perfectly good” marine gear.  As the season ramps up and half the dock prepares to head south everyone tries to jettison extra gear so there was all sorts of miscellaneous stuff. We bought two inflatable kayaks and traded some of our old rigging for a couple of bottles of wine.   And so today, we decided to take those new kayaks to the estuary south of town and paddle around in the grassy backwaters.   

The Bufadora!
We headed south on the main highway and found the road out to the famous Bufadora ( blow hole).  Approaching via a winding road that went up and over a rock crest, we eventually popped out on a cliff top.  And then we saw our destination, or what we thought might be our destination, clearly labeled with spray paint on a rock. “Bufadora parking $ 1.00  Pull in.”   Was this the real Bufadora or a little camp ground Bufadora?  While Connie and Scott wanted to pull in, Keith, with a cooler head, persuaded us to press on, feeling that this little junky place could not be the famous blow hole of Ensenada.  And he was right because around the corner the view opened up with a beautiful rocky bay with a little town with dozens of dirt parking lots and a road pressed in on either side with little shops selling tourist trinkets. 

The Gauntlet of Vendors leading to the Bufadora
We drove by the Bufadora restaurant, the Bufadora gem shop, the Bufadora pharmacy (no prescription needed) and into the main tourist drag which was hard pressed on either side with little shops and hawkers lounging about. It is like a tourist funnel where you were supposed to pay to park then walk the gauntlet through 300 meters of vendors. As shown in the picture here, you have to walk from the left of all the way to the right.  Being Tuesday, a slow tourist day with no cruise ships in town, we continued to drive through the gauntlet until we could not drive any farther.  Then the vendors motioned that we had to stop and they let us park right there in town without charge.  We disembarked the automobile whereupon we were set upon by the few vendors who could muster the energy to attempt to sell us something.  

Connie was looking at some ear rings just to be polite, well knowing that she’d not purchase anything.  The tienda operator saw her handling a pair of silver and amber ear rings and told her his special price was 45 dollars.  Connie begged off,  “No, but thank you, they are beautiful, I really don’t have enough money to buy these.  He then offered them for $35.  Connie said “These are really nice but really, I cannot buy these.  Then he lowered the price to $25, then later to $20 and $15 and finally to $10.  Connie walked off saying politely that she had to ask her husband.  Well, it turned out that Keith wanted to buy some ear rings for his wife Lisa so when Connie told him the story of the silver and amber set they decided to go back and buy the $45 dollar jewelry for $10 bucks.  The vendor then upped his price to $15 but Connie held him to his bargain. 
After buying a Pina colada drink in an actual pineapple, the three of us walked around the corner to the blow hole and saw the object of our desire, the Bufadora.  When a swell came in, it filled the chasm and squirted out the top with a huge gush of saltwater spray going as far as 50 feet into the air.  Quite exciting! 
Exiting the area we drove back down the rocky peninsula and found the turn off to the estuary.  Soon off the dusty road we found an access point where we could get to the water.  A huge flock of birds were in the distance. So many birds!  Egrets of various sizes, curlews, pelicans, sand pipers, terns, and osprey.  We launched the kayaks just off the road where an old man was herding cattle through the sparse grass .  Once launched,  we headed toward the reeds and found small channels to try out. But the tide was running out and we were at risk of running aground so we headed back into deeper water.  The reed banks were thick with mud clams and snails.  The current with the wind behind it pulled us north away from the car.  We were at an extreme tide as it was a new moon the night before.  Eventually we decided to paddle back.  Returning to the launch site, the mud banks were extensive. When we stepped onto land our feet sunk deeply into the mud.  Keith lost a flip flop and Scott went in knee deep.  Connie just danced across the mud being fleet of foot and light of weight.  

The cows were very interested in us so they came to help us pack up the boats and the herder tried to herd them away but they insisted on walking through our gear.  Covered in mud, bare foot, we eventually got the kayaks cleaned up , deflated, and into the car.  Apr├Ęs paddle, we toured the sand spit in the car, wandering into a community dividing the estuary and the ocean.  On one side was a beautiful beach facing the ocean, on the other the mud flats and reed fields.  The community was one of those ivory tower developments where gringos buy time shares and most of the year the property lies vacant.  Unfortunately most of the area recently went bust and now lie vacant.  So now very few people are able to enjoy the area.  What a waste.  There was an huge complex sitting gated in ruin.  Rusty gates kept us away from the beautiful long beach but we were able to get a little access at the end of the spit and enjoyed walking the sand dunes and seeing the ice plant succulents and trying to catch the ant lions who lie in wait at the bottom of their cone shaped depressions in the sand. 

Cold beers at the local La Tienda and we were off for home… stopping only at the organic chicken ranch were we found live chickens but nobody to sell them to us.  That’s just as well. We imagined what it would be like to buy one and have its head chopped off and Connie refusing a plastic bag (as she always does) and us having to hold the chicken carcass out the window all the way home. Then we’d be plucking the bird off the back of the boat with the feathers blowing downwind over the neighbor’s boat. 

A good productive day off it was.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Life without internet. Life without phone

The last week or so the WiFi at the marina has been up then down, up then down, then non-existent.  Those of you who were hoping for an email response from us didn't get any. While this disturbs some of the residents it does free up the day to do more interesting things besides checking for email and paying bills online and researching boat gear.

And at the same time my new (used) cell phone went kaput. So I was out of phone until Keith could come deliver me a new cell phone.  Have to have a quad band, unlocked phone to work in Mexico and the states. 

Keith is now here visiting and we're doing all sorts of boat chores but doing fun stuff too. We find that in the middle of the day we can split a big Ballena of Pacifico and it tastes so nice.....

He has been busy ripping the old life raft supports off the deck and patching the holes in the coach roof.  To do so, he had to go below and rip out the ceiling.  Then he went up top and squeezed some 5200 sealant into the holes while I went below to stop the stuff from dripping to the floor below.  I replaced an autopilot cable and then we horsed around with the roller furler for a while.  Once we got that working Connie looked up and noticed the the whole thing was wrapped up backwards with the white sail cloth exposed and the protective Sunbrella fabric tucked away inside. So we had to unfurl, lower the sail, rewind the drum and try it again.  Duh!

Then we took the boat out into 25 knots of wind and huge rollers that almost swept the dinghy off the davits.  What a wild ride!  That didn't last too long as we had the good sense to retreat back into the safety of the harbor.

We've been sewing on the headsail for days, repairing the protective cover.  This started as work with the sewing machine then proceeded on to hand (palm) sewing where you take this huge needle and stiff thread and use a heavy leather palm thing to push the needle through the seven layers of sail cloth. Exhausting work no doubt.  Afterwards we had to take a nice long lunch break eating our favorite taco carnitas (pork) and drinking another Ballena of Pacifico.

On Friday Keith and I drove off and found a place to galvanize the anchor.  The road was not marked but we found it using a Google map that Luis at the marina store printed out for us.  We met with Roberto at the Galvanizor who told us "no problem, it will be ready in a week, no.. maybe two weeks, depends."  When I asked if he wanted to give us a receipt or put my name on the anchor somehow he said it was not necessary and I can just check back in a week or two and pick it up.  Simple.

Keith and Connie at the Emeve Winery
As a reward for a week of working hard, and we are working hard (Lisa), we decided to go to the wine country just north of Ensenada. We drove up the Ruta del Vino, route of the vines, to a series of dry valleys chock full of grapes hanging on the vines.  We sampled at two different wineries and had a nice little time spending too much money on wine but making up for it by having lunch of home made tamales a nice lady was selling on the side of the road.  Lunch for three: 60 Pesos.  Wine tasting for three 300 Pesos.  We enjoyed the tamales as much as the vino. 

And then there is the trip to the fish market where they have tons and tons of fresh fish and shrimp.  This guy had a way of holding the shrimp by the head and making it look like it was twitching, still alive. 

Those big bad shrimp are wild caught locally and are selling for 200 pesos a kilogram. That's about 80 pesos a pound or 7 dollars.  The normal sized ones go for 150 pesos per kilogram or about 5 bucks.  We usually get about a third of a kg and eat shrimp till we pass out.
Cruiseport Marina facilities, sans WiFi
It's been great having Keith here.  He takes really good pictures and we are relying on him to document our affairs this week.   A storm is coming up the coast, hurricane Paul is off the southern Baja coast and we're expecting some weather from that system this week.  We're a little worried about our friends Baptiste and Chris who left a week ago.  They are probably at an anchorage with rain dumping down as that entire region is getting soaked.  Tomorrow we hope to go kayak the estuary then on Thursday I'll be taking Connie and Keith to San Diego where she takes an early flight and Keith takes a later flight north. Connie will be doing some work in California for a little while and Keith has many customers waiting for his magic touch in their gardens and yards.  I'll be staying on in Ensenada alone.  Just me and all those lonely Ballenas.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Corinna Embarcation

Chris Pinko and Baptiste Mandon on Corinna heading out of the marina for points south.

Sunday, October 7, 2012


In the last blog I reported a collision at sea in the Newport to Ensenada yacht race.  That accident actually happened in April and the boat was found to have collided with an island, not a ship.  The race we had here in Ensenada this weekend was the San Diego to Ensenada race and all went well with that race except some people would have prefered to have had more wind.  But they still celebrated and had all night drunken parties.

So now my reporting reputation is ruined.  I am in disgrace. Some suggest I should retire. So retire I shall.  I'll keep writing but under the caveat that nothing, absolutely nothing I say, holds a shred of truth.  I'm just a grumpy old man now, telling lies and spitting into the wind.


Grumpy old men and the sea

 For some reason as some men get older they think they have earned the right to be grumpy.  Earned the right to insult people and jettison normal polite behaviors.  Here at Cruiseport Marina there are some guys who have been without female (and possibly human) companionship for so long they have lost their social mores.  Now most people on the docks are friendly but a couple old grumpy guys here are downright obnoxious and one in particular actually stinks!

Last night two of those foulies got together here in the internet room at the marina and they started talking louder and louder and cursing more and more until Connie and I could not concentrate on our business and we started to get pretty pissed off at having to listen to a negative, foul, evil, repugnant conversation.  Finally it ended with Connie putting them in their place and Scott shoving them both out the door and shutting it behind them.

and while I'm at it....   gripe... gripe...

The San Diego to Ensenada yacht race came in last night with the first boats arriving at about 01:00 in the morning.  Just one dock over one of the winning boats came in and at about 2:00 in the morning they started drinking.  By 03:00 they were loud.  By 04:00 they were extremely loud.  Our peaceful little marina had been taken over by brutes!

But on a more positive note, we tackled the genoa repair job today.  Dragged the big old bag out to land and set up the sewing machine in the little palapa ((a Spanish word of Mayan origin, meaning "pulpous leaf") is an open-sided dwelling with a thatched roof made of dried palm leaves) next to the marina office.  That sail is huge!  Well, Connie set upon the job with enthusiasm and by day's end we were halfway done repairing the UV degraded Sunbrella strip on the leech and foot of the sail.
I'm putting in the GIANT battery charger tomorrow , the Xantrex TrueCharge2 60 Amp.  And soon we'll get a little Honda portable generator that can power up that big boy when we are on the hook (anchored) without shore power on a cloudy day.  Our friends Patrick Dayshaw and Kirsten Rohrbach on Silhouette in the South Pacific recommended having a way to charge the batteries if the sun failed to do the job while at anchor so we are taking their advice and adding another power source.  Here at the dock the solar panels are just keeping up with the electrical load but it has been rather sunny every day.

We took aboard a couch surfer named Baptiste Mandon for a few days and he helped us out on the boat sanding and scraping the old varnish off of the teak.  Wow, what a good worker he is!  And now the teak looks great and Baptiste has found a ride south on Chris Pinko's big Porpose ketch going to Cabo and LaPaz.  I tell you, these docks are full of big beautiful boats with crewing opportunities.

Here is Baptiste with Chris on Corinna, a 51 ft Bill Garden design ketch built in 1970.

Good sailing all!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Pulling the stick

Ten days here and we're in the tick of a refit.  Sanding the teak, changing out a cable, grinding a rusty anchor, trying out LED lights and most of all, replacing the standing rigging.  We've had two trips to San Diego to the rigger and took two batches of wire rigging to the rigger for replacement.  We're about halfway done with the rigging working our way up the mast. 

Trouble has arrived, though.  The big stays (forestay, backstay, and upper shrouds) terminate at the mast head.  It looks like to access those connections we'll have to remove the mast cap and this is a difficult thing to do when hoisted 50 ft off the deck and when the very thing that is hoisting you is the thing you are removing.  Add a dose of salt water corrosion and yes we have a problem.

When I consulted with Ed, the San Diego rigger, he gave me this sad look then reluctantly said, " I hate to say this but you are gonna have to pull the stick."  That means the mast has to come off the boat.

In a way it is a relief because I'd certainly rather be on the ground trying to get that mast cap off then up in the air, but what's not good is the hit to the schedule.  I just checked with Baja Naval here in town ( the boatyard who can pull the mast out for me) and they are pretty well booked for the month of October.  This month is the busy month here as everyone is doing last minute repairs before heading south on November 1st when hurricane season ends. 

With every challenge comes an opportunity.  If we pull the stick then we can clean it up and get everything connected with the mast working properly:

Fix steaming light
Lubricate squeeking sheaves
Install new mast collar at deck level
Seal the mast to deck fitting which leaks now
Renovate the roller furler
Fix the wind speed and direction indicator
Replace bulbs with LEDs

I swear we will not get stuck here as happens to many people.  We WILL go south this winter.

But, hey... gotta go.  It is time for lunch, then some little projects, then fish on the grill.  It's all good!