CW’s Sailing Adventures

December 17, 2010

Home for Christmas

We haven't gotten far but this one's wrapped up. We left Guatemala and had a prop shaft problem. We had to haul to fix it. We spent a week in the La Ceiba Ship Yard. It wasn't all bad.

We just put the boat away at Isla Mujeres, Mexico. Gonna get some sleep before I fly home.

Isla Mujeres - Woody Tracker

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GPS location Date/Time:12/17/2010 09:06:15 PST
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December 16, 2010

Off the Yucatan - Woody Tracker

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Message:Just checking in.,-86.61356&ll=19.52066,-86.61356&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1

December 15, 2010

December 9, 2010

48' Tayana, La Ceiba Honduras, (136)

We were holed up on Honduras's Roatan Island, side-tied by the dive boats at Fantasy Island Resort . The boat was a real nice 48' Tayana cutter called Island Time. Onboard was first mate Phil and deck crew Chris. We were supposed to be headed east but were sidetracked by a serious prop shaft wobble and some other issues. A mainland boatyard visit was our immediate future.

When I arrive on the weekend, sometimes I'll wait to do the official country check-in on Monday. It's always faster and usually cheaper. It's not good advice, it's just what I do when I think I can get away with it. I called the port captain and arranged to meet him at his office. I cabbed to town and waited for him. He was only 40 minutes late, pretty good for third world. He was a frowner, which had me regretting I hadn't dressed up more. Dress shorts were all I had clean. Always wear a collared shirt and clean full pants (I prefer those thin khaki pants that zip into shorts - For that or some other reason, he sent me to the airport for immigration. Two more cabs. On the bright-side, the women who helped me there were beautiful and cheery. The PC had left by the time I got back, contrary to his word. And I noticed the immigration office had opened up across from his. Probably best for him that he had left. I decided to complete our check in when we got to the mainland boatyard. Again, not sound advice ... unless you have a plan.

The good news was while I checking out downtown Coxen Hole, aptly named, I bumped into some cruisers and one of my 7 fans. Wayne, Elda, James and Carol had just sailed down from the states on sv Big Fun. They were staying at the best dive resort on the island, Coco View. After a group shot for posterity (what does that mean?), they dragged me off on a Roatan inland tour - love the cruising community. We ended up at a jungle lunch place for cocktails and burgers. Later I got a tour of Coco View, the perfect low key dive resort.

We wanted to arrive at the entrance to La Ceiba before sundown so we left Fantasy Island at 0430 ... with no moon. Still without a chart, we took it slow and followed our path out. The sea opened up to us and we set sail and shot off to the south. As we closed with the high mainland we lost our wind and fired up the chopper. With the shaft wobble, the spinning prop made a thump-thump. I had dove on it back at Fantasy. The movement was slight, the shaft was heavy 2”, damage at low RPMs was unlikely.

We were getting clouds and rain off an on which obscured the already tricky entrance. I thought back to a few days before when I misplaced an entire peninsula in my navigating. What I've learned to do is to get up close to a confusing obstruction in order to properly decipher the situation. But not so close where there is not an easy, sure-thing, way out. We pulled up, just outside the breakers, watched a set go through and cruised in. It got shallow but we made it. Inside were some more obstructions: a dredge, an oil drum, fishing boats (why are they whistling at us?) stacked out across the channel.

We did make it to the boatyard dock. I miscalculated the current and had to use the training wheels (bow thruster) to keep it clean - don't tell anyone. We were greeted by the security guy. He had to set down his shotgun to tie us off. Hal was parked in front of us on a very kewl ancient Colin Archer. The kind with the low house and long bow sprit. Hal was good about giving us the low down on how the yard operated and where to get parts. Look him up if you get there, he intends to stay forever.

Onelly was the very sweet office manager. She got us checked in. The owner Giovanni met with me and we figured out our plan. I know how these places work. They are blackholes for the unsuspecting. You need a solid plan and the ability to second guess your obstacles. We met many cruisers there who had fallen into the yard and couldn't get out. I got more funny looks everytime I explained my in and out plan to the afflicted.
I quickly got to know the main yard guys, the guys responsible for getting the work done. George ran the travelift and was good entertainment. David was the labor organizer. They all spoke enough English to make things easy. The yard had an outside 'mechanic' that had the tools to pull the shaft and the old bearing. I got him right to work. I got the yard to do an estimate for bottom paint and checked with the owner. That was a go. It's a good thing to do whenever you haul. I could tell where the first hold up was going to come from. The yard wasn't sure how long it would take to get the new bearing. I asked around and found the part in town that same day from Raul at Kawa Motors. Cut off the delays before they happen.

We spent the evenings with the yardies (yachties living in the yard). Carl was the crazy happy German dude with burns all over his head - I didn't get a chance to ask. There were a pair of catamarans and their owner's, Mark in one and Jim and Marley in the other. And you may have heard of Steven Ladd and his book “Three years in a 12' boat”. This guy still hadn't had enough. Now he's in his new, big 18' boat which of course invites the question, why not have crew join the adventure. He was sailing with some young hot treehugger.

The town of La Ceiba was adventure in itself. You could take a cab for 20 Lempira if you secured the deal upfront. Or you could walk out and catch the bus for 6L - don't ask the price, just hand the money. I always take the bus to get 'in touch' with the locals. On the way to wave down the bus, we dropped off laundry and picked up some fresh hot tortillas from the corner shack.

Once in town, we followed our new friend Hal to the wood place. It was someone's backyard filled with amazing jungle hardwoods of the stateside unobtainium variety. Between the piles of the nearly free priceless wood were some of those old-school belt driven saws. After that we split up. I walked into town while Hal tempted the boys into his favorite bar - Expatriates. An adventure from which they would not soon emerge, I reckoned.

I walked through the mini city of La Cieba ending my trek on the misty, wave pounded beach by the entrance jetty. It seemed like a violent place in contrast to the tranquil draws of the happy town. It never seems that way at sea, just at the transition from sea to land. Sort of a heads-up to the contrasting perils as you switch sides.

Day 2 in the yard got the bottom sanded and paint started, we changed a batten in the main, cleaned the decks, got the coupling off the motor (after suggesting heat) and pulled the shaft. I started narrowing down a marina for our next destination. We got cleaned up and had dinner with some yardies and watched a movie back on the boat. It was a nice balance, enjoying the crazy other-world machinations and challenges of La Ceiba and then retiring in the evening, showered, to the beautiful relative luxury of a modern boat interior. Screens on the ports and hatches, we could still enjoy the breeze, sounds and scents from the jungle around us.

Day 3 was a Friday and the day I had imagined, with some luck, we could have possibly splashed. The paint got done including some nice two-part barrier coat work where the boss had found some reef in Belize. I was checking on Louis, our shaft mechanic, as I did often. He said he was building a tool to pull the bearing. This sent me back to the yard guys who had told me that they had a puller. They couldn't find it. Monday splash? The bearing did come out right around quitting tme, coincidence? I checked the weather (wx) for Monday, it looked a little bumpy.

Isla Mujeres and our continuing adventure, next month. Quality, Balance and a Clean Wake.

December 8, 2010

Update from a boatyard in Honduras

I left the big cat to come down to Guatemala to move a Tayana 48 from the Rio Dulce to St. Thomas.  The cat has arrived at her destination in Ensenada with my crew and a skipper we flew in from San Diego. 

On the Tayana, we made it to beautiful Roatan before developing a shaft wobble.  We redirected to the mainland to haul out and replace the thru hull cutlass bearing. 

We're at La Ceiba Ship Yard.  It's going good so far. 

December 7, 2010

La Ceiba Honduras - Woody Tracker

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GPS location Date/Time:12/07/2010 17:24:17 PST
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Click the link below to see where I am located.,-86.76007&ll=15.78827,-86.76007&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1

La Ceiba Honduras

Quick update: the big new cat made it to ensenada

December 5, 2010

48' Tayana, Roatan (135)

Last month we started moving a 48' Tayana cutter called Island Time out of Guatemala.  Onboard was first mate Phil and deck crew Chris.  The boat was supposed to go to the Virgin Islands but ... sea happens.  We had made it out of the jungles of Guatemala, down the amazing Rio Dulce and over the shallow bar at her entrance.  Finally, we were at sea.

The boat had mainsail furling so we had to head into the wind to hoist.  We brought in the headsail, fired up the engine and turned into the wind and waves.  Once some main was up we fell off the wind, shut down the engine (peace), re-launched the headsail, and Island Time charged off across the low swell.

We had a great morning sail.  It was sunny and we had that perfect, warm, el Carib breeze.  The wind slowly moved forward and we sheeted in the sails until we were beating.  As the wind get's stronger you want to flatten sails a bit to depower them.  This worked good on the headsail but we couldn't flatten the in-boom main.  We fired up and motor-sailed for the rest of the afternoon.

Then the helicopter arrived.  We could hear a quick thump, thump, thump, thump.  It was coming from the boat.  Changing engine rpm did change the speed of the thumping which meant that it was drive line related.  It wasn't louder in the engine room - good news.  I could hear it best in the aft stateroom.  Something wrong with the prop or shaft probably.  If it was kelp, you would want to back down.  We slowed slightly, pointed to Roatan and listened for change.

We were briefly distracted from the chopper landing on the aft deck by smoke rising into the dodger.  There is nothing worse than a fire on a boat.  Where do you go if you can't put it out??  And the autopilot wasn't autopiloting.  We quickly determined that the whiff of smoke did not come from the cabin but from the gauges above the companionway.

We later figured out that the Raymarine Seatalk system had fried.  There was nothing wrong with the autopilot.  It stopped working because it stopped getting signals from the rest of the system.  And then the GPS went down.  Lame.  Buy the TV and DVD player separate.  You want modular.

Out came my trusty portable Garmin gpsmap unit which got me around the world and then some.  The only important 'gauges' on a traveling sailboat are the depth sounder, working gps and the masthead windex.  The depth sounder was fortunately, a separate unit here.  We were back in action.
With the faint smell of burnt electronics and a growing helicopter sound, we hoisted our colors and made landfall at the beautiful island of Roatan, Honduras.  We had considered stopping there anyway to top up fuel.  Did I mention the mainsail furling line had removed it's own cover?  I can't check everything pre-departure.  I should point out that the charts on my old gps were not entirely accurate.  I sailed us up to the wrong side of a peninsula.  I had to consult my pc charts for the in close navigation.

The sun falls fast in the tropics.  By the time we arrived at the entrance to the reef it was night.  I had a good cruising guide and my charts.  They didn't agree so we pulled up close to decipher what buoys were what.  We got lucky when a big fishing trawler made it's way out.  We followed it's path and parked on the back side of Fantasy Island.  “Zee Chopper, Zee Chopper!”

In Tatus place, we got Jerry, and he was kewl.  He welcomed us and gave us the lowdown about the restaurant, pool, diving, internet, and cruiser happy hour.  Full use of the island was $20 a day for the whole boat, love it.  We'd make the most of it.

We cleaned up the inside and gave the outside a quick rinse to get the salt off.  The boys headed in for a meal.  For me it was an outdoor shower at the dive center and dinner onboard.   Mmm better, and ready for tomorrow's assault on our boat issues, third world style.  Bring your sense of humor.
I meet other delivery skippers in ports like these.  Some have been poolside for days.  They broke something on the boat and they tell me, “I don't work on them, I just move 'em”.  It doesn't seem right and besides, there's no challenge in it.

In the morning we left Chris to oversee fueling while Phil and I caught a ride to town with the marina cruisers.  We hit the bank, got a local sim for my cell, and some food to keep us out of the restaurant.  We were waiting on a couple still in the store.  We were 8 people in a minivan and it was tropical.  The consensus was to close up the van, rev it up and run the air conditioner.  On the downside there were gas cans onboard and the fumes were strong.  They persevered.  Old habits chosen above health, interesting human experiment.

We got back and moved the boat around to the front of the resort and I hopped in the water to see where the helicopter was hiding.  The strut cutlass bearing was good but there was some play at the shaft log/stern tube where the prop entered the boat.  I pulled a piece of shredded plastic out.  While I was there I cleaned the dirty prop, it's the best way to raise motoring speed and save fuel.  I couldn't get the techs at Raymarine to help me isolate the other gauges.  They just wanted us to send everything in for some hi-budget service.  Not very convenient for most cruisers.

And then there were monkeys!  Between projects I would whip into the lobby to wifi the owner, do part searches, find boatyards, and send poolside pix home.  On my route there were monkeys leaping between palapa beach shades.  Are you kidding me?  Monkeys??  They never got tired of playing the same games and I never got tired of watching them.  Everyone loves monkeys.  Right?

That night we got to chill with the cruisers at the dock BBQ.  It was great to hang out with my fellow adventurers. They were all very nice, in various stages of their adventure and all from crazy different walks of life.  The food was awesome.  We brought hot dogs while others brought real food.  There was quesa dias, flan, brownies and on.  Jerry had the old school rap mixed with easy listnin', cranking out the back of his vessel.  It was awesome.

I had to break the news to the guys.  We were going to have to haul out to change the stern tube bearing.  We weren't going to make it to the Virgin Islands on this trip.  The blow was softened when I explained that there were hardly any virgins left anyway (I'd been there 6 times).

The cruisers in Paradise were mostly Texan.  It made sense, we were close.  I'm a big fan of characters.  An old timer waldled up and gave us the lowdown on “the best boatyard in these parts”.  He explained about the entrance to the harbor and the town of  La Ceiba and “the 1$ beers and 2$ women”.  Chris perked up, “Where's that?”  Chris likes beer.

La Ceiba and the Island of Women, next month.   -Quality, Balance and a Clean Wake-

December 4, 2010

Paradise island

On a particularly brutal upwind delivery, a quick fuel and repairs stop. 

December 3, 2010

Roatan - Woody Tracker

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GPS location Date/Time:12/03/2010 18:24:41 PST
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Click the link below to see where I am located.,-86.43872&ll=16.35856,-86.43872&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1

December 1, 2010

48' Tayana, Rio Dulce Guatamala (134)

I had moved the 48' Tayana cutter called Island Time once before. Professional cowboy Phil and I, sailed her downwind from Curacao to Honduras across the southern Caribbean. It was a beautiful trip. The boat's very cool owners, Paul and Maggie then did some extensive cruising of that part of Latin America. After getting their fill of paradise, they called us back in to move her again. This time we would be driving her upwind, upcurrent, upswell. Paul kept a tight ship so I figured the cruise would be a breeze ... if a little on the nose.

For this adventure I re-enlisted my old friend Phil. Originally from TX, Phil and Vicki now run a ranch in CO. Our third was an easy going young Floridian named Chris. Phil, Chris and I all met up at a hotel in Guatemala City. We had some early morning grub and then made our way to the bus station. The ticket lady didn't like the looks of my older US dollars. I produced a couple fresh ones and we were on our way.

We were treated to a long bus ride through the green mountainous interior of Guatemala. We even got a restaurante stop along the way. The bus is a good way to get to know a place. I had to change money and buy some stuff. The locals always offered me the good rate and when I overpaid, they corrected me. That says a lot to me about the people.

The boat was at Marios Marina (a Lats Harbor Hangout), way the hell up the Rio Dulce. We arrived at Fronteras and called Marco for a boat ride to Mario's. He said 15 minutes. That means an hour and a half in local time, by the way. It was tough waiting at the pick up point; an overwater bar where we sat in the shade while a beautiful local girl served us dollar coldies. Phil bought trinkets from the Indians. This place was warm and jungly, the way I like it. There was no rush now as we eased into third-world time.

At Mario's there was a fun cruising group hangin' out at the bar but I headed up to the office. I thought I'd get things rolling with the checkout. Young Myrna faxed our paperwork to port captain Raoul in Livingston. With that done I had a look around. The mini pool was empty for repairs. There was a kewl overwater bar/restaurant that was connected to the docks. I met the owner Jim and gave him a fresh Lats burgee. He said Mario's was for sale but I wasn't ready to settle down. Cruisers Trish and Bob introduced themselves and gave me the full low down on check out, the river, provisioning, etc.. It's what cruisers do, and it's much appreciated.

I met up with the boys. Chris stayed to represent us at the bar while Phil and I went down to check out the boat. It didn't look bad considering it had been sitting for two months. We did some quick cleaning and got some electronics fired up. I downloaded satellite weather off the efficient Skymate system. I still had the software on my netbook from last trip.

We spent the next morning, prepping the boat for sea. Trish and Bob dragged us out on a harbor cruise and we saw the old fort, and then they helped us provision in town. It set us back a couple hours but it was a nice thing to do. We got off the dock in the early afternoon, just in time for the afternoon rain. We parked at the fuel dock and waited for a break in the wx so we could fill up.

And finally, we were underway. I'm not a huge fan of inland cruising, there's always a bunch of stuff that you're about to run over or into. I prefer the serenity of the open ocean. Cruising the Dulce in the evening provides a unique challenge as fishermen lay their nets right across the navigable part of the lakes. We survived with some focused maneuvering and interesting hand gestures between us and the fishermen. Not those ones. So you know, random arm waving means come this way.

And finally, we made it to Texan Bay. Well, I thought we were in Texan Bay. We anchored up and enjoyed a perfect night on the hook. We had a light breeze and no moon and the stars were spectacular. The next morning we found the real Texan Bay and parked in front of the marina. It was recommended to us that we don't try to anchor off Livingston because it was not safe. Sherrie, owner and manager of Texan Bay Marina, could shoot me down to Livingston to check out. That sounded fun.

She rolled up in a big center-consul panga with a boy driving. Paperwork in hand, we took off and headed down the river. While it's open and wide up river, as it winds down to the sea the Dulce turns into a gorge. They must have had this gorge in mind when they came up with the word gorgeous? Crazy beautiful and understated in the guide. We sped through towering jungle walls and past the occasional reed roof shack with a dock out front. Back home you know you've made it when you have a dock in front of your house.
Sherrie and I walked up through Livingston, got some bread and hit the bank. The town didn't seem so bad. I'll probably do the anchor check out next time without the pre-faxing. I suspect those are what singled us out for the high fees. Roaul charged us 630q ($81). And there was a fee for the launcha. I saved a couple of bucks by putting a temporary fix on the outboard, (filter had clogged, bypassed it).

Back at Island Time we hauled the hook and headed down the gorge again at a more civilized pace. We ambled by dugout canoes hand fishing, the jungle huts, and a riverside bar/restaurant with a dock ... tempting. We got a good look at the vertical limestone walls, large white birds contrasting against the dark green of the gorge face. With a sailboat, the shoals are suddenly relevant. We followed the cruising guide track and kept to the deeper water.

The Dulce has a serious river bar at it's entrance. It is 6 feet deep at high tide and we drew ... six feet. We arrived an hour and a half before high tide which gave us some time to get off if we found a shoal. We had waypoints from other cruisers, the advice of the cruising guide and the previous track from when the boat came in. I played it by ear. We saw 5.7 at one point but never felt the bottom. Our patience had paid off and we were back in the safety of the sea. - - -

More next month on our cruise to Fantasy Island and our boatyard visit. Now an update on our cruising environment. There are people that believe that the world is flat (it's not, I checked), that the earth was created a few thousand years ago, or that man's doubling of CO2 won't affect our Climate. Most don't agree. But everyone agrees that high CO2 is wrecking our oceans. The ocean sucks up most of our CO2 which is causing the destruction of the food chain base and our coral reefs. See: . The good news? The switch to renewables has begun. To help, we must maintain our firm stance against pro-pollution companies and their reps in congress that profit by injuring our friends, family and our living planet . It is a time for heroes. Step up.

November 30, 2010

Rio Dulce, Guatamala - Woody Tracker

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GPS location Date/Time:11/30/2010 17:27:12 PST
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Click the link below to see where I am located.,-88.9827&ll=15.67511,-88.9827&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1

November 20, 2010

46' Sailing Cat, Mexico (132)

Last month we had just survived an exciting Tehuanepec crossing on a brand new Leopard 46' catamaran. With me was my right hand, Oc and our trusty third, 'the commodore'.
We were headed for Acapulco to fuel. Running one motor as usual, we lowered rpms to get in after sunrise. The boat had an experimental square top mainsail. The square top trailed off the wind and luffed when reefed. Best not to put experimental gear on a cruising boat. The boat had stack pack style mainsail reefing, a joy to use.
As the CO2 content of the oceans shoots up, things like shellfish, corals and the base of the food chain are at risk. On the bright side, jellyfish love it. And which animal eats jellies? Turtles. We saw tons of turtles, aka Guatemalan speed bumps. We could avoid them during the day but at night they had to fend for themselves … thump. It was good to have them around.
I do enjoy the pre-dawn watch. We had a full golden moon setting on the port bow, my Pleiades overhead and the Southern Cross aft to port. There were no stars on the starboard bow, just the high darkness of land. There was a nice warm breeze running through the exposed cockpit.
As it was, we arrived while it was still dark. We rounded the corner and were treated to the 'bowl of diamonds' city-lights view (per Rains). I got the boys up to enjoy the spectacle and the arrival. We took a mooring off of the Club de Yates Acapulco. We had made the rough crossing with fuel to spare and minimal wear and tear. I went below for a cat nap while the boys stayed up on deck and chased down some coldies with good sea stories.
First thing in the morning we cruised into the fuel dock at the Yacht Club. As the boys topped her up I went in and asked about a slip and about checking into Mex. The office started the paperwork for us. Turns out we had the wrong zarpe. The zarpe I had was for a big power boat. That's right, the drunk American dudes on the motoryacht (see last month) distracted our young agent with their pawing and she gave us the wrong zarpe. I should have checked. The good thing about using an agent is that the right zarpe got faxed over with a phone call.
I sent the guys to the bar and spent the rest of the day washing the boat and checking fluids, etc. We all met up at the pool later. I shot off an email to the next skipper before enjoying the sprawling pool. The challenging part of the delivery was over and I had to get back to the Caribbean to finish up a different boat. We walked over the hill for an awesome dinner on the beach, gourmet tacos, natural pina coladas and 'cheers to us' for our impressive sailing prowess ;).
The owner's skipper got back to me in the morning with bad news. He was sick and could not come down. He didn't seem right for the job anyway. I shot off some emails and got some responses. Two responded with “I'll need to check the schedule.” Ya, I thought, you go do that. There are lots of part time delivery skippers. Full time skippers say, “Yep, where do you want me”. Lee Pearce of is one of those guys. Two hours after the search began, Lee had a plane ticket.
Modern phones make these kinds of fast foreign arrangements easy. Mine is a Droid but I hear the others work well too. I keep it in airplane mode so there are no accidental cell calls. I can do email, internet, phone calls etc, through wifi. In civilized, wifi is everywhere and almost always free. Oddly, Skype renders itself useless by mandating a cell data connection. No worries, Fring offers the same web phone service for pennies a minute. And then there are the awesome and cheap, Navionics charts that run with the phone gps giving you a chart plotter too. Tides, celestial ... the list of things this freak device offers is nearly endless. And then there's Google Voice that will transcribe your voicemails into text and email them to you.
I enjoy these beautiful stops and the crew deserves a good restaurante now and then (and I get paid by the day) but we were there to make miles, so at 1400 we pulled away from the dock. Even when cruising I don't tend to linger in one place too long. I say leave a place while you still like it. Leaving Acapulco during the day gets you some beautiful scenery. Fun vacation homes crown the steep rocky shoreline. We stayed inside Isla Roqueta to enjoy the tourist beaches and maybe catch a glimpse of the famous Acapulco cliff diving.
It was an overnighter to Ixtapa. A quick tip on diesels. I had heard this from mechanics and the new Yanmars manual confirmed it: Operate your diesel at no less than 60% of horsepower. 70-80% are preferred. For these engines, 60% is max achievable revs under load minus 500 rpm. 70% is m.a.r.u.l. minus 400 rpm. If you have to run the engines light for a while, run them at marul minus 100 for a bit. Diesels love to be loaded and can experience glazing if run to lightly.
We rolled into the little entrance early in the morning. Oc, always impressing me, had his lines ready to go and, even more surprising, done the way I like them. Elsa and Erica run Marina Ixtapa and were professional, knowledgeable and helpful. Cost there is $1 a foot. A 50 cent bus will take you downtown, over to Zihuat, or anywhere else in the area.
We headed into town and made final arrangements for the skipper switch. Oc's family had a beautiful condo in the hills, overlooking a sparkling, golf course-side pool. After the work was done we headed up there for dip and some homemade guacamole and salsa. Got the boat laundry done too. Oc's expat neighbors, Scott and beautiful Georgia, own strip clubs in Canadia. They were great fun to hang out with. They had Harley's and a boat in the harbor which they took out almost daily, and great stories.
The guys stayed at Oc's while I enjoyed my last night spread out on the boat. At sunup, I washed down the boat, changed the oil and filters x2 and checked fluids. Around lunch I went over the boat again with the guys. Then I skipped town, headed to my next delivery, a Tayana 48' on the Rio Dulce in Guatemala. ---
I'm not much for causes, but if you've seen what I've seen out there ... . You all have been good about my including environment references in my pieces. I haven't been getting the pro-pollution emails (kinda miss 'em). I think the corporate emailers have given up on me. I do get questions about what more we can do. As you know, cruising is about the cleanest way you can live your life. This month's tip: mind your $s. Spend less with companies that don't represent your interests. When convenient; shop local, recycled or more natural products. See you next month in el Carib. Quality, Balance and a Clean Wake.

November 19, 2010

In the Tehuanapec - Woody Tracker

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GPS location Date/Time:11/19/2010 17:44:35 PST
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Click the link below to see where I am located.,-97.19235&ll=14.04783,-97.19235&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1

November 18, 2010

46' Sailing Cat, Tehuanepec (131)

Last month, we were stuck in beautiful Marina Papagayo in Costa Rica on a plastic-on-the-sill-new, 46' Leopard Catamaran. With me, was top crewman Oc and our trusty third, 'the commodore'.

Monday morning, lovely paperwork agent Natalia brought a group down to the boat: migration, customs, agriculture and the Cocos port captain (too macho to take off his shoes). Four officials that required 14 signatures. That's more paperwork than my Cuba visit. Plus, she had to take our passports to the airport and into Cocos del Playa.

An 80 foot motoryacht from the states pulled in. Three old fat drunk dudes rolled off - the delivery skipper and his crew. They were funny around the pool and in the bar but when they joked about giving the check-in group a hard time, the comedy ended. Our paperwork was being done at the same time. Surprise, there were problems with the motoryacht's paperwork ... which held up ours too.

With the Saturday, Sunday, and all day Monday check-in, check-out process, we were no longer ahead of schedule. We motored over to the fuel dock to take fuel before they closed. We'd wait for our paperwork there. I didn't want to be trapped for another night. We only took fuel on the starboard side since we hadn't run the port motor since filling in Balboa.

25% of Costa Rica is protected national parks. That's a world record. I'm sure it's no coincidence that Costa Rica has one of the world's highest standards of living. That is by the new standards they are using that value health and lifespan instead of number of TV's in the house. Marina Papagayo was part of the environmental program. They were super careful at the fuel dock and we were charged a small environmental fee. It seemed more than reasonable as we enjoyed the health and beauty all around us. Also benefiting from the clean environment were marina tenants, the locals, the fishermen, the fish, and the people eating them.

The big guys helped us push off into the wind as the sun was setting. We had great conditions - clear, light wind, light chop, doing 7kts out the bay. This next leg would take us across the deadly Tehuantepec. That's where 100 knot winds shoot through a pass from the Gulf of Mexico. Since we had the range, I thought we'd try the outside route. Instead of hugging the coast in cower mode, we would head out past the winds and cruise, at speed, to our next destination, Acapulco.

This boat had the new Raymarine chart plotter with touchscreen - E120W. That was fun. A few of the traditional problems with Rm plotters had been licked. We did find a new issue, the bearing line would jump over a few miles, while you were watching it! This is a very dangerous software issue if it decides to shift while near rocks or land (and you tend to rely on the video game more than your sea sense). When I got home I shot off an email to see if there was a software fix and to ask Rm to issue a warning or recall. The response dismissed the bearing line shift but did include detailed fixes to problems we weren't having.

During the night we got some sprinkles but missed the big rain that swept by to port. In the morning, conditions were still nice and fast. As the sun came up, we noticed that the fuel gauge on the port side was lower than it should be. I sticked the tank and sure enough, we were missing about 40 gallons of fuel. We deduced that it had to have happened on the mooring at the Balboa Yacht Club. That was the only time we were away from the boat long enough to be robbed. Nothing else was missing. It was my fault for not checking it before.

This was our longest leg as well as the one most fraught with danger. I always factor in worse case conditions (not enough wind to sail) when figuring range. With less fuel, this one would be close. I adjusted course to cut into the T-pec danger area to shorten our route.

We had easy conditions up to the T-pec boat graveyard. It was clear and oddly smooth way out, which made for good fast miles. Maybe heading outside is a good way to go? I lost track of mpg with the lost fuel so we ran the port motor dry to start a new tally (my estimate was 6nm off). The downside of running a tank out is it removes the rest of the dirt from the tank and puts it in the filters. That's also the upside. I bring extra filters and don't mind changing them out. Usually you also have to bleed, which I like learning to do on different engines. These were Yanmars so I didn't learn anything - it self bled.

And we re-fueled ... at sea. There are many ways to do it. As always, I prefer the easy way and if there's a kewl gadget involved, all the better. There is a good chance of spilling if you try to pour a jug of diesel at sea. Much cleaner and easier is to tie the jug near the fill and use the Super Siphon (our buddy Ron sells them at Shake the fitting on the hose for a couple of seconds and it will drain the jug on its own. Then I drop the empty hose in a large freezer zip lock with a piece of oil absorbent pad and it's ready for next time.

After two days at sea we entered the danger zone, where winds could suddenly shoot up and make running for our lives a possibility. At 2100 we registered our first significant swell. You can tell a lot from swell. If they are far apart then the big wind is far away. If they are closer together and steep, your wind is near. The swell built all night and was close and steep by morning.
The good news was we started getting wind, and it was building. At 0315 we reefed down, shut off the motor and brought out a speck of headsail - the boat took off. The commodore had concerns about shutting off the motor in the building conditions. “This is a sailboat,” I told him, “she's prefers to sail.” I get that the motor comforts people but to me it is just one extra thing to be concerned about. And it drowns out the audio hints of other potential issues. Unless pointing too high to sail (making port?), the motor should be off, especially in bad conditions.

It was a sleigh ride. That big empty cat ripped along on her beam reach at over 9 knots. If it were a race we would have opened her up but alas, we're just lowly delivery crew with minimum wear and tear as our priority. 31.5 kts of wind was all we saw. You could tell from the swell that there was a whole lot more wind in the center of the bay; the part we had avoided by sailing out 294nm. Still, the swell we got was high and steep enough to crash over the boat.
Even the person on watch, on the second story seat, got soaked on the bigger ones.

And then, at 1700, the wind shut off. We had sailed out the other side. The swell soon disappeared and we had a calm flat droning motor the rest of the night. You gotta take the wind when you can get it. Our day rip had given us the range extension that we wanted. We closed fast and flat on Acapulco. More next month.

Quality, Balance and a Clean Wake.

November 17, 2010

Off El Salvador - Woody Tracker

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November 14, 2010

Marina Papagayo, Costa Rica - Woody Tracker

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Marina Papagayo Pic

With no weather information available onboard, we´ve stopped into the last port in northern Costa Rica for fuel and weather report for the dreaded Tehuanepec crossing.  They used to let you fuel without checking in but no more.  The officials will not be back in the office until morning so here we wait at Marina Papagayo.  Could be worse.

November 13, 2010

Off Costa Rica - Woody Tracker

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November 12, 2010

46' Sailing Cat, Panama - Costa Rica (130)

Last month, we had just completed a Panama Canal transit, from el Carib to the Pacific, aboard a new 46' Leopard sailing cat. We took a mooring in front of the Balboa Yacht Club. First thing the next morning I said goodbye to the owner and his friends. They were a hilarious group.

The hard part of the delivery was over. Boats, weather, the sea, all make sense to me. Humans? Not so much. I went back to the boat and to clean in advance of my own crew's arrival. I switched off and isolated the stuff we wouldn't need: aircon, generator, freezer, icemaker (that's a tough one). If it's not on, it can't break. The boat was ready for our cruise north to Mexico! ;)

On easy (downwind) deliveries, I'll usually take one crewmember with me. Someone I know or have sailed with. He/she usually gets paid. Upwind, or for more challenging trips, we take a third whose only job is to ease the watch schedule. The third is often someone I don't know, from people who have contacted me or from Hank's crew list - The third crew doesn't get paid and flies themselves in. What's in it for them? Some offshore miles and a steep learning curve .

What makes good crew? I would sum it up by saying that the crew's job is to make the skipper's job easier. Sounds selfish, but when the skipper is left to focus on weather, routes, trim, fuel consumption and range, maintenance, anchorages and marinas, owner communications, officials and documents, transportation, money, etc.; things go smoother for everyone.

I got lucky on this trip. I invited a friend from the docks back home and our third was an older CG licensed commodore of a sailing club. As the skipper of power boats all his life, the commodore had to adapt to our sailing and motorsailing operations.

The crew bar was set to a new high by my friend Octavio. I had to do a lot of explaining to owner and insurance company about Oc's lack of offshore experience. I don't consider that a factor in my choice of crew. What Oc does have is adventure experience and a calmness, which is invaluable at sea.

I rounded up the boys and we got their gear stowed. We had lunch at the club. I speak enough Spanish to make these trips easier but Oc is fluent. We negotiated an hourly rate for the cab. We scoured Panama City for parts and did the big food provisioning. Our agent, Tina McBride, would have our departure paperwork in the morning. Back at the boat we secured everything for an upwind sea, got cleaned up and got to bunk late.

And finally … we were at sea! And zooming downwind in the big beautiful new cat. Did I mention I had the entire starboard ama to myself? Picture this: a king size bunk aft (pillow-top view of the helm through the hatch). Moving forward, rows of drawers, hanging lockers and a desk. A big head with stand up shower forward. Large viewing ports all along the hull.

We rounded the bottom of the Golfo de Panama and started making our first northing. Oc made beans and rice. Ya, he cooks too. During provisioning, he bought cheap, good for you, food-of-the-earth stuff. He made a big hot meal every day, so us non-chef types wouldn't have to eat out of the can. Off to starboard, lush green hills drifted by while brilliant sunsets kept us entertained to port. Sunny, warm, some clouds; nice cruising.

And we had some bumpy times, as expected. The afternoon breeze would kick up that perfect short swell that brings out the jerky motion and loud banging that cats have made famous. Though these cats have dual motors I only run them both when parking. The second motor only gets you about one knot more. Skippers with power boat backgrounds tend to want to power into swells, both motors a-chuggin'. That's a lot of extra engine hours and juice wasted. Not on my watch.

When heading to weather, I still use the one motor and deploy a tight sail and crack off the wind and swell. My VMG goes up. With less wear and tear on boat and crew, I'll beat the smokers everytime. And when there's usable wind, we sail, and this boat hummed. We all burn fuel in our day to day. It's how our infrastructure is currently set up. But there are ways to decrease the burn rate while increasing our quality of life.

And then it was time to sail. Log entry: “1828: motor off and screaming 8kts in 14t. Quiet, flat, cat conditions. M1 H0” That's 8kts boat speed in 14kts true wind. My Low Key won't do that. And that was with a reef in the main and full headsail. Oc spent his off watches that day cooking … a turkey. Back at the Mega 99, I had sent the commodore for frozen chickens, they help the fridge chill (and they taste good). He came back with a turkey. It came out perfect. The crew, and the fish that could keep up, ate like kings for next few days.

We cruised into Marina Papagayo in northern Costa Rica at 0400, intending to catch some Zzz's at the fuel dock. I figured they'd wake us up at o'tooearly and we'd fuel. But security was on us with flashlights and walkies, they didn't want us to tie up. Tied up, Oc did the negotiations. They figured out we weren't going to leave and offered us a slip. I guess we'd fuel on the way out.

The slip was only $104 but it was $350 for the check in, check out of CR. That price had gone up. It's a good scam. You used to be able to do the whole process right in the town of beautiful Playas del Coco. No longer, you now have to do the trek into Liberia (where Capt. Bitchin spent time in prison on our Lost Soul cruise) to get the paperwork done. But difficult checkins are what happens when the agent cuts the port captain in for a piece of the greenback pie. So I won't be back.

This being my last visit … I figured we should live it up. The marina is spectacular. It's surrounded by steep green hills. The bright buildings, lusty cantina and immaculate docks, crown a beautiful swimming pool area. There's a shop, nice showers, laundry, a computer room and even a TV viewing room complete with a dozen loungers. The commodore was in heaven as he was a big football fan and it was Saturday. Our paperwork got started and wouldn't be done until Monday. On the brightside, the agent's assistant, who tended to us, was supermodel quality. At least our top dollar was getting us something.

After a quick interior wipe down I sent the boys off to play. Oc is an ocean swimmer so he jumped in and headed out across the bay. He ran into a sea snake which made sense when he learned the bay was called Bahia de Culebra. I washed the boat and checked motor fluids etc.. I shot off some emails to the owner, the next skipper, the blog and my better half. And I checked weather. I'm still using, awesome, when ashore.

The crew and I had a great dinner in the cantina (Dorado salad's worth a go). Afterward, we took turns getting beat by the locals at table shuffleboard. Good guys, good times. More next month …
Quality, Balance and a Clean Wake

November 11, 2010

Leaving Gulf of Panama - Woody Tracker

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November 10, 2010

Depart Panama?

Owner's are gone, boat's cleaned up and provisioned.  Just stretching out in the owner's cabin, which takes up the whole starboard ama. 

We have a broken Harken batten part ... but we're in Panama.  The boat has an experimental square top mainsail.  I guess it's back to the drawing board.  We'll try moving a lower car up.  

The BYC has served us well as usual.   Wx looks good.  If all goes well, you won't hear from us for a while.  Planning on fueling in beautiful Costa Rica.  

Hasta luego

November 9, 2010

Balboa Panama, 46' Sailing Cat

I am moving a new Leopard 46 from Panama to Mex.  We have just transited the canal and are headed north soon.  The owner and his friends were hilarious.  I've got my crew, Octavio and Eric, coming in in an hour or two.  We'll provision and head out by Wednesday.

November 8, 2010

46' Sailing Cat through the Canal (129)

They're always saying you have to pay your dues. To move up in my 'industry' you might have to crew for room and board for 13 months under a pirate named Bitchin and his lovely cohort Jody. Then you could move up to a low paying position doing watches on the Raja Muda's circumnavigation. You might then qualify for your Coast Guard license and start skippering mid 80' private yachts for a Roll's Royce supplier or Bruce Springsteen's music producer. If you're lucky you'll have scraped together enough dough, and found a worthy enough companion, to help you sail your own coastal boat around the world. If you survive all that you could find yourself of some value delivering boats, moving up from previously sunk boats being delivered upwind across el Carib in hurricane season to a nice new 46' luxury sailing cat over nearly flat water … 'cause you've paid your dues.

From the air you get a good look at the grossly green and flooded landscape that feeds the needs of the world's greatest lock-through canal. I landed at the airport, breezed through migracion and customs with just a carry on, got a cheap sim card for the quad band phone from the beautiful Movil girls, negotiated $20 off my cross country fare and was chillin' in the back of the cab in less than an hour.

On the Carib (north) side of the Panama Canal there is now only one place to slip your boat. To get out to Marina Shelter Bay you have to cross the canal and take a trip through the jungle. But it leaves you in a safe spot, away from the high crime of Colon.

The guys were on the boat when I got there. Rick owned the boat and had hired me to move her through the canal and up to Mex. He was a good guy. He had two friends with him who had helped him sail the boat down from FL. One of them was a sweatshop mogul and the other was their rum drinkin', cigar smokin' pastor. Those two snuck off to drink at the club while Rick went over the boat with me. I tend to come across as young and I'd imagine it's hard to hand over your half million dollar yacht to a 'kid'. Rick was good about it.

The owner and friends were just doing the canal part and then heading home, switching out with my crew on the other side. It was raining on transit day. I don't mind the rain when it's 80 degrees. I put on my foulies and went out and set up lines and fenders. Lines for the canal are 120' each and fenders are a bunch of tires tied to the side, all rented from our agent.

The owner had hired agent Tina McBride. She was our agent on the first boat I ever transited on. Both times, now and then, things went smoothly. We also got two locals from her to help with lines, old Rudy and young Juan. I hopped up into the flybridge and took the new cat out to the Flats. Though the Panama Canal Yacht Club is just a memory, low end cruising boats who can't afford Shelter are still welcome to anchor in the flats though getting to shore is more of an adventure now.

A heavy steel pilot boat carefully dropped off our canal advisor Francisco. He was a young tall fit black dude, calm and cool. This was his side job but he knew a lot about the canal. We slipped in behind a large ship as the sun set over the upper locks. The ancient monster-holding doors, silently swung shut behind us, no escape. There were no other small yachts in with us. We were center tie. I had briefed the guys on what to expect and how to make our adventure less eventful. They all followed directions except the mogul, he owned a Hylas so he was beyond instruction. I compensated for his mistakes with the helm.

Going up, when the lock is flooding and the fresh and salt waters are aggressively mixing, it is the roughest. Don't think you can control the boat with the throttle and helm. You are at the mercy of your line handlers. Basically, they need to remember to never try to take in slack when there is, or is about to be, tension on the line. And never take all the wraps off the cleat. The rest is easy.

We made it out the top, 70' up, and motored full into the blackness of lake Gatun. We soon rolled up on the big red, yacht mooring buoys. Local Rudy had us tied up the right way quickly. I recalled the many times had I toasted lock survival with various excited crews while tied to these buoys.

Below the pastor was cutting up chicken for dinner. The ceramic blade slipped and made a nice deep cut in his ankle. They handed me the med kit. I don't mind doing it, it just seems strange that people always assume I know how to patch people up. On the bright side, I am a fast learner.

The locals and I slept in the saloon, shivering in the cold and listening to the grind of the generator and the ever cycling air conditioners. There are humans among us that have devolved to the extent of requiring excessive climate control. I refer to them as Morlocks (H.G. Wells) as they will inevitably breed ever more dependent, weaker humans, forgoing moral constraints. We hammer the sea (acidification), the global climate and the next generation, with every twist of the thermostat. I found myself envying the simpler boats on the lake that were enjoying the comforting warmth of the high jungle air and the sound of frolicking monkeys as they lived in synch with their environment. Fortunately, those privileges are allowed to even the purest cruiser, especially so.

I got up early to do a re-patch of the pastor's blood soaked foot. Getting the tention right is important. Wrap too tightly and the appendage turns blue, wrap too loosely and the wound will bleed. I think we got it right the second time. Breakfast? Mogul-made freeze-dried scrambled eggs. A good hot morning meal is always appreciated.

It was a first for me but the advisor was almost three hours late. We got underway. Jose was a cool cat. The short cut was closed but he did let us do some sailing. Sailing was cut short when I discovered that you can't actually see where you're going, through the sail, from up on the flybridge. Panamanians love talking global issues. Our economic situation had not affected Panama's unique industry but they were glad for the stimulus that prevented global collapse.

It was a beautiful day to enjoy the canal. After raining hard all week, this day turned out sunny and nice. The boat was running perfect of course – Yanmars. I reminded the gentlemen that the canal had a webcam at Phones were deployed, loved ones were notified and waving commenced. We locked down, left Jose with his transport and dropped our wounded at the dock in Balboa. Rick and I took fuel and secured the big cat to her mooring.

After a clean up, we headed to shore and caught a cab out to the chandlery for some parts. The store owners drove us back to the club! There are nice people everywhere. After a long day of 'work', it was time to chill. Rick and I pulled up barstools and coldies, overlooking the boat, at the Balboa Yacht Club. It's a perk of the job, hanging out with interesting people. We had an amazing conversation. For his work, he invested money … at a high level. I enjoyed his purely financial breakdown of economics generally as well as our current situation, leading and lagging indicators and what to expect moving forward. He discounted the gloom and doom reporting we're seeing that I think is done for political benefit. End report: things are getting better, a slow recovery is a good recovery, I'm holding on to my speck of a stock portfolio. Our cruise north, next month.

Mid Panama Canal - Woody Tracker

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November 7, 2010

Lake Gatun Tie-up Diagram for Cruisers

Lake Gatun - Woody Tracker

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Shelter Bay Colon - Woody Tracker

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October 13, 2010

Two Harbors Catalina - Woody Tracker

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August 11, 2010

Stuart Island, WA - Woody Tracker

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August 8, 2010

Lopez Island, WA - Woody Tracker

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August 7, 2010

BJ's at Whidby Isl, WA - Woody Tracker

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July 28, 2010

Straights of Juan de Fuca - Woody Tracker

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GPS location Date/Time:07/28/2010 13:34:00 PDT
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Just heading into the Straights of Juan de Fuca

Safe and sound, 'round the corner, Neah Bay

July 24, 2010

Port Orford - Woody Tracker

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GPS location Date/Time:07/24/2010 16:57:58 PDT
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Port Orford, OR

Port Orford, knarly rocky high fueling.

July 23, 2010

Off Humbolt - Woody Tracker

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GPS location Date/Time:07/23/2010 10:05:16 PDT
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Off Humbolt, sailing up the coast.

July 16, 2010

Bodega, CA - Woody Tracker

Woody Tracker
GPS location Date/Time:07/16/2010 16:36:11 PDT
Bodega, CA

Arriving at Bodega.  First stop fuel dock.

Cool local fishing boats.  

Rates, FYI.

Hiked to the beach.  Bunch of driftwood shacks. 

Reeds and waves.

 Driftwood comes in all sizes.

Gotta pay attention to markers and tides.

July 14, 2010

South Bay, SF - Woody Tracker

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GPS location Date/Time:07/14/2010 08:40:08 PDT
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South Bay San Francisco


Sailing out the bay.

June 30, 2010

40' Sailing Cat - San Diego to Sequim, WA (128)

And it was back to San Diego to finish moving our friends 40' Leopard cat up to Washington. We had a long leisurely trip up from the Panama canal. During the beautiful cruise north, I had done a respectable amount of maintenance on the diesels and Saildrives. Four years of brutal charter company servicing had taken their toll on the new boats underachiever drivetrain. It was time for some much needed professional servicing.

We were in the right place, if you can break it on the water, San Diego has a place you can get it fixed, if not cheaply. We finally found an authorized Volvo mechanic. These guys must have all the work they can handle. After tens of thousands of dollars and four weeks of servicing including new fuel pumps, rebuilding alternator mounts, replacing a cracked case (manufacturing defect) and even a haul out to fix a small leak in the starboard Saildrive, we were back at sea.

I've said it before, 'Buy a fixer and you may end up doubling your investment'. One thing that worked great was the solar panels. We never plugged in and even in the yard, the boat maintained it's own batteries and systems stayed online, unattended. Credit to the panels and the Blue Sky controller.

Paul took us out of San Diego bay while Sheila and I enjoyed the parade of boats traversing the waterway. Just out of the harbor we had problems with the cooling water. I wasn't going back. We drifted for a bit while I coaxed water through the system. Was it sucking air? Time would tell. It was a quick beat to Catalina. I wanted to show the kids where the locals went for our sailing getaways.

We rolled into beautiful Two Harbors and took a mooring. I gave the kids the lowdown on what to do and, “Don't forget the Buffalo Milks”. I dropped them ashore and went back to wrench … just for old time sake. That night, cleaned up, we had a grand dinner at the little Harbor Reef restaurant.

Bright and early we motored off and up through the Channel Islands, dolphins aplaying at the bow, whales lingering off to port. Off Santa Barbara we cruised through the oil slick I always find trailing off the rigs. We took a slip in Santa Barbara, nice people, cute town. Paul and I worked on some close quarters boat maneuvering.

But it was time for the big Oakland Boatshow, excuse me, the Pacific Boatshow, ya that sounds better. Which means I got to ride the train. Amtrak goes from downtown Santa Barbara straight to the boatshow in Oakland … perfect. I grabbed some snax and reading material and was All Aboard in no time – front-facing ocean-side of course. The kids didn't need me for the short SB-SF leg. They made it up to the bay and to the show before it closed on Sunday.

I met the boat at the new West Point marina in SF's south bay. They've done a nice job there. We had a big ribs dinner with the kids and their son Paul, our SF mechanic Lloyd and his beautiful wife. The next morning, Lloyd joined us for the short run up the bay to fuel at Coyote Point marina, nice spot.

We sailed out with the tide, the city on our portside lit up with the orange glow of the setting sun. That's a beautiful town. The head wind and short chop kicked up to make us work for the bridge. We cracked open some headsail and shot off across the bay and into the lee of Sausalito. Tacked again and cruised out under the north end of the Golden Gate. Another epic scene.

We arrived at the entrance to Bodega Bay before sunup and in the thickest fog I could remember. I was alone on watch. I had been in the bay before. Using the radar as my eyes I eased up between the breakwalls at half a knot. The one on starboard was too low to show so I had to guess where it was. Once further inside, visibility opened up to a good 50 yards. That was enough to lay eyes on the marker posts.

We ended up at the end of B dock, for transients, where we chilled for a few days. It's only $30 a night there plus a deposit for the bathroom with the solar-heated firehose-pressure shower. We had an out of season system pounding the coast just to the north, so we were not in a hurry to get right back out. We spent some time honing our close quarter maneuvering skills and even did the walk around the bay to the little town where The Birds was filmed. We ate dinner at the new version of the diner and then watched the movie back at the boat … and then slept fitfully.

We finally got back out to sea, into the big swell aftermath of the storm. We had a lucky couple of days before the normal 20kts on the nose kicked back up. We pulled behind the wall at Port Orford. I know, I've never heard of it either. It's basically a 20' sea wall with local small fish boats sitting on it. They lower the boats with cranes to go fishing - cool. I finally raised the locals on the radio and they said we could take fuel. We tried parking sideways but it didn't seem safe. We went out a bit, dropped the hook and backed in. I got a line around a pylon and with the boat in forward to keep us off the wall, I called up for the fuel hose. The guy didn't like my set up but agreed to fuel. We paid in a coffee can on a string, Turtle Bay style. It all worked out.

Back at sea it was rough going around the point. Alone on watch with the boat launching off waves and landing in holes, spray shooting aft with the strong breeze and Nickelback blaring on the mp3 player. The big roach main driving us ever forward as we headed for the last and most treacherous cape on our 4,000nm voyage to weather, Cape Flattery. I felt alive.

On that last ocean leg we saw ships, whales and found out that wooden fishing boats didn't always show up on radar. We put the great Pacific behind us as we rounded the pinnacle, Cape Flattery and eased gently into the Straight of Juan de Fuca. A satisfying sense of achievement warmed me.

And what was that odd sensation? I almost forgot what tail winds felt like. But there they were, easing us gently to our destination. All the way up from San Francisco we had bitter cold and grey conditions and now, a quarter mile inland, it was warm and sunny.

We enjoyed some nice downwind running to Sequim Bay where the kids had a house over the water and the boat had its own home, a permanent slip. As we entered the marina triumphant, we enjoyed some odd stares from the locals who hadn't seen a lot of adult catamarans in these parts. And there's a reason for that.

As I type this I am sitting at the wide nav station of a big new Leopard 46 cat, watching the calm sea in front of Nicaragua slip by the rail. I just brought her through the Panama canal and will be relocating this work of art to Mexico. Two beautifully running Yanmars aft and a full length stateroom to myself in the starboard hull. I've earned this. Unless something more exciting comes up, I'll be filling you in on the details next month.

June 25, 2010

40' Sailing Cat - Turtle Bay to San Diego (127)

Our adventure on the Leopard 40 catamaran continues. After attending a beautiful ceremony to celebrate Turtle Bay's 60th anniversary, we headed back out to sea. Turtle Bay is a protected anchorage and fuel stop – thank you Anabell's – about halfway up Baja CA. The afternoon breeze had just started to lay down. There were whales everywhere. We cruised up inside the island of Cedros and popped out the top ... to smooth water. I had never seen it smooth there. I celebrated quietly inside myself, careful to not let the sea know that something was amiss.

But the wind did come on that next day and blew hard. I saw a chance to get a break from the mean chop by shooting up inside the Sacramento reef - sinker of ships and cruising boats alike. But we ran into one of the shortcomings of cats. They won't go into the big wind/bad chop combo, no matter what you do. I used to stay out and bang it out all night, getting nowhere, but thankfully, I've outgrown that. I turned tail and we ran 12 miles back to San Carlos. An hour and a half later we were anchor down in a beautiful, calm spot.

We were very close to the states now and the urge to jump back into the fray was strong. But the weather turned worse and sanity kept us in port. We spent the next day gleefully parked in flat water as 30kt gusts whistled through the rig. To kill time I pulled apart the starboard heat exchanger and found a couple impellor pieces clogging key channels. Yep, if you are missing an impellor fin, make sure you find it. For fun, Sheila made brownies and we enjoyed movies and coldies all afternoon.

That night I walked out onto the bow. There was a tiny fishing village ashore. The pueblo generator had shut down and all the fishing shacks were dark. I looked back over my shoulder to see our array of cabin lights and big screen TV aglow. I remembered back to my trip up this coast on my little Low Key. If it were back then, I'd be sitting under the warm glow of my oil lamp, reading some adventure book. Was one experience better than the other? Maybe.

Our weather reports indicated that the weather was going to break soon. We picked a time that would put us at the reefs with some light. At 0400 we tried to leave. The bow roller on these cats is not on the bow, it's back toward the middle of the boat. To ease tention on the chain you have to motor into strong wind. Not being lead from the front, the boat tended to pivot allowing the chain to come up and grind on the hulls. It was not a clever design. It took us about an hour but Paul and I got the chain up, and with the morning land breeze, we sailed out. The breeze whisked us quickly up through the reef. It was eirie sailing with land to starboard and breaking waves to port.

And I spent more time in the engine rooms, nursing the motors so they would survive 'til San Diego. About mid day we started to smell rotten eggs. It didn't make sense, Sheila kept the boat immaculate. I've had that smell on boats when I haven't pumped the head in a long time (the life in the seawater dies eventually).

That day I learned another very important event that makes that smell. One of our big house batteries was failing and heating up. The worst thing you can have on a fiberglass boat is a fire. They say that if you don't get a fiberglass boat fire put out early you won't be able to, it burns too hot. I re-wired the batteries taking the offending one out of the loop.

We cruised into Ensenada putting the worst of the Baja behind us. We fueled up and took a slip at my favorite marina, just north of town, the Coral (say: corral). It felt good to have made it so far on less than perfect motors. We headed right up to the salon to get our showers and then cabbed into town. Unusual for Mexico, you can do a whole check out in one building! Then it was lunch and a coldy at my favorite roasted chicken place where a never ending train of mariachi groups played and plyed for our business.

After walking out of the 22nd chandlery of the trip that didn't have the impellers we needed, we headed back to the boat. We relaxed for a couple of hours, savoring our last evening in Mexico. At 2200 we got underway so as to have a morning arrival in San Diego.

The sea was smooth for our cruise across the border. Morning brought us to the mouth of San Diego Bay with its sail, power and submarine traffic. Our tired cat plowed in, pushing steam out both sides. After two months of Latin American adventuring, we drifted up and secured to the first US Customs dock since Florida.

Once we were inspected and checked in, we moved over to the public dock. They gave us a spot on the inside next to a small sloop that looked familiar. It was a tight squeeze but I'd had a couple months of practice parking with motors and gear boxes that were not always reliable. Once on the dock I recognized the boat next to us. It was the wreck I had brought down months before, the one we had to sail and finally row up to the dock. I wrote about it. It looked pretty good. It must have just rained.

There was a different kind of cruising crowd at the dock than I'm used to seeing. I suspect it is something we are going to see more of. There were a bunch of young people, 20's and 30's, with classic plastic rigs, prepped and ready to head south to begin there own unforgetable cruising adventures. It was good to see and it brought back the feeling of cruising my own boat, just a few years ago. I hear there's a book on the subject.

But I was home … or pretty damn close. I was ready to take a little vacation from my vacation. I was going home for two weeks. But first there were some details to be worked out, mechanics to be called and a haul out to be arranged. When my part was done I called for my ride. Dena made good time coming down from our South Bay, a couple hours away. Though she had visited the boat often in the two months, I think she still missed me.

Fond farewells were doled out. I chucked my bags in the back of her truck and she whisked me off to blissfull post delivery leisure. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy my deliveries. But it's about striking a balance. If done right, I accept the number of deliveries that keeps me on the continuous happy-go-round of being excited planning the next trip, excited being out on the cruise, and then being excited to be home. And start again.

Land life is renewed for me when I spend a chunk of time on the water. We stopped off in tiny Encinitas and pulled up a coldy at a little Mexican food place (I know, I didn’t care what I was having). No concern about getting back quickly or maintenance that needs to be done or plans to make for the next day. No where to be. Just us, catching up.