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August 2013

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With reports this month from Escapade in the Bahamas and the Northeast; from Esprit at Tunisia, Sardinia, Corsica and Monaco; from Dreamcatcher on replacing the diesel in Singapore; from Alegria on waiting a year to Puddle Jump; from Mintaka on cruising toward Panama; from Profligate on boatwork at the La Cruz Shipyard; and Cruise Notes.

Escapade — Catana 52
Greg Dorland and Debbie Macrorie
Up to the Northeast
(Lake Tahoe)

We've been lying low, maintaining the boat, and trying to stay positive through our most recent lightning episode. We're currently in Newport, Rhode Island, but we did spend a wonderful month in the Bahamas. We were mostly at Harbor Island, where they have an unbelievable three-mile-long pink sand beach. We walked nearly five miles almost every day, and hung out with our Parisian cruising friends, whom we first met in Cuba. The woman, Isabelle, was finishing up a book on Paul Gauguin, so she had to stay near a Wi-Fi connection.

Harbor Island is the Bahamian version of St. Barth, so there were shoreside diversions when we wanted them. Sip Sip had great lobster quesadillas — but not at the prices we remember from our days cruising in Mexico.

In order to get into the harbor at Harbor Island, you have to negotiate the 'Devil's Backbone', a very tricky rock- and reef-strewn passage at the northern tip of Eleuthera. Most people hire a local guide. We'd been there the year before in calm conditions, so we felt comfortable inching in, with Debbie on the bow. Our Parisian friends followed us in their boat, which draws six feet. They were nervous, but both our boats made it.

After getting a little more lightning-related work done in Ft. Lauderdale, we decided to have the mast and boom trucked to Hall Spars in Bristol, Rhode Island. Then we started up the Intracoastal Waterway with our spar-less Escapade, jury-rigged for the lights and radar. It was actually okay, as we'd motor for about 12 hours a day, then generally stop for the night and get off the boat to go for a bike ride or long walk. But Debbie got tired of the bugs somewhere in southern Georgia, so we headed offshore.

After stopping for fuel in the colossal dump that is Atlantic City, we motored up the East River to Long Island. We took the train to Manhattan, and rode all over town on the new bike-share program. Given the New York City traffic, it was pretty dicey, but we saw a surprising number of bicycles on the streets.

From New York, it was a quick trip up to Newport, where it was an unusually wet and gray June. But what a boat show this place is! We plan to re-step the mast in late July after we return from a two-week trip to California. After that, we'll cruise around the Northeast.

— greg 07/02/13

Esprit — Peterson 46
Chay, Katie and Jamie McWilliam
Tunisia to Monaco
(Boulder City, Nevada)

After our arrival in Tunisia — see the July Latitude — we were busy with a mix of touring, sailing and the typical cruising craziness. We arranged for a two-day tour of the southern part of the country, which included a Roman coliseum, Troglodyte homes, three kinds of oases, the first and oldest mosque in Africa, and, of course, the Sahara Desert. The sand of the Sahara is so fine it's a wonder that it doesn’t fill in the Mediterranean Sea.

Once back aboard Esprit, we prepared for our next passage, to the Italian island of Sardinia. After a few meals at Le Gourmet, our favorite restaurant, we arranged to get diesel — which cost us one-eighth of what it later would in Italy. We departed Tunisia on June 17, and picked just the right window. We had an absolutely wondrous downwind sail to Sardinia — except for a close call with a ship the first night out — and once again saw sea turtles all along the way. The winds died the last six hours of the 45-hour passage, but we were still able to sail 87% of the way.

We arrived at Sardinia's small port of Arbatax, anchored just outside the breakwater, and dinghied ashore to check into Italy — and the European Union. It was déjà vu of our entry into Venice last year, as nobody knew what to do with us. One of the customs officers put us on a city bus to the police station to get our passports stamped. But when we arrived at the station 50 minutes later, they didn't know what to do with us — especially since we'd left Jamie on the boat to make sure Esprit stayed put. After the police made a few phone calls, they drove us back to the port and took us to the Marina D’Arbatax office.

Apparently the marina office handles the paperwork for checking in, and you can only check in if you come into the marina. To expedite the process, police drove us to our dinghy and waited while we dinghied out to Esprit, pulled up anchor, got the fenders and dock lines ready, and Katie filled out the paperwork. We tied off in the berth and went to the marina office where, yes, we were cleared into the country. It doesn’t appear that the officials in Italy see many non-EU/Schengen boats checking into their country.

In between touring and sailing, Chay had to clean and repair the watermaker motor, as the watermaker is a critical piece of cruising equipment. The motor was almost full with carbon dust, the bearing was frozen up, and the brushes were oddly worn. It’s a wonder that it had worked so long.

So far we've met few cruisers who will be heading west across the Atlantic, as we plan to do. For the most part, the cruisers we've met spend a few months cruising the Med, and then settle down in a marina somewhere for the winter to wait for the next cruising season. The Med appears to be like the Sea of Cortez/Mexico — a sort of Hotel California you can never leave — although the Med is much larger and has many more countries and cultures than does Mexico.

The weather has been cool so far this year, with mid-70s during the day. This is drastically different from last May, when we were sweating out 90-degree temps in May. The night passages are cold, but comfortable for sleeping.

Thanks to a gale with 45-knot winds — we only saw 27 knots in the marina — we waited until June 26 to move north up the 100-mile-long east coast of Sardinia. So after a week in Arbatax, we moved north to Olbia, a small city on the northeast coast of Sardinia. We anchored in the old port near the old town, and found it to be quaint and slow-paced. A large gale continued to blow for a week to the west of us, so we were cautious about our weather windows.

On June 30th we motored up to Porto Cervo — the port where 'rich & famous' spend their summers with their megayachts. Porto Cervo felt a lot like Newport Beach or La Jolla — except that people have yachts as long as 300 feet. Porto Cervo apparently goes dormant at the end of summer, as the superyachts all move to the Caribbean. In fact, there's now a high-end Porto Cervo YC at Gorda Sound in the British Virgins.

We were surprised when we learned that we had to Med-moor using our own anchor at Porto Cervo. Ten minutes after our getting secure, a departing superyacht pulled up our chain and dragged our anchor.

As it was still low season, we paid 50 euros — about $68 — our first night at Porto Cervo. The next night was the first night of the high season, and we had to pay $330 U.S.! It's a bit pricey hanging with the 'rich & famous', so the next day we sailed to the French island of Corsica.

We had a great sail across the Strait of Bonifacio — which is normally very rough — to Corsica. Great except for the fact that our 23-year-old Robertson J100B autopilot apparently needed a new 'brain'. We have spares for all the other pieces of the autopilot, but not the control box/brain. None of us was looking forward to hand-steering until we could get a repair or replacement.

The marina at Bonafacio, considered one of the most beautiful in the Med, is nestled back in a calanque, which is a fjord-like inlet. A very busy port of call, Bonafacio has restaurants and shops lining the waterfront. The medieval town, with its narrow, curvy streets and old buildings, overlooks the marina from a bluff above. We had a beautiful 85-foot classic yacht berthed next to us for two days — although they weren't happy about being put with us smaller boats. But they were pleasant folks, and we enjoyed chatting with them.

We celebrated the Fourth of July in Bonifacio with delicious hamburgers and fries at a small local restaurant, plus a sundae and chocolate chip cookies. One of the bars was all decorated in Americana, and had a Fourth of July party that night. Although we didn't attend, we ended up with an 'Uncle Sam'-style hat atop our flagpole the next morning.

After enjoying Bonifacio, we moved north to Anse de Roccapina, an anchorage on the west coast of Corsica. It was here, after the Fourth of July, that the water was finally warm enough for swimming. The water was crystal clear, and the sandy beach was one of the best we've seen in the often rocky Med. The anchorage was a bit rolly, so the next day we moved about 20 miles farther north to Campomoro, another anchorage with good protection from the prevailing winds.

After Campomoro, we motored north to Ajaccio, where we berthed in the old port — Port Tino Rossi — for a few nights. The angels were guiding us again, because there was a marine electronics shop in the marina with an older gentleman who was able to repair our autopilot brain! When he returned all of our parts, he informed us that one of the controllers didn't work, and that we should use our spare, which did work. Fortunately, we had written down the serial numbers for the parts we had given him, and realized that the non-working controller he gave back to us wasn't ours. It turns out he "inadvertently" gave us the wrong controller because he was testing three of them, our two good ones and his bad one. We'll never know whether his was an honest mistake or if he just wanted a working controller in his inventory. But we were grateful to have our autopilot working again. Nonetheless, we ordered a spare autopilot brain off eBay just in case.

We toured the old town of Ajaccio, the birthplace of Napoleon, which is also the capital of Corsica. It's a typical French city, so there were sidewalk cafes everywhere. When we went to customs and immigration to check into France, we were told that there was no need. As long as we had a stamp from Italy showing that we had checked into the European Union, we were good.

After Ajaccio, we headed to Calvi on the north coast of Corsica. It looked like a nice fortressed town with a good sand beach, but we didn't go ashore. Because the winds were supposed to be light, and Monaco was 93 miles away, our plan was to depart mid-morning and sail at five knots for an early morning arrival in Monaco. However, the winds were perfect for Esprit to sail at 6-7 knots!  This would have gotten us in way too early, so we tried to cut the speed in half. When we arrived at Monaco, we found that the marina office opened at 7 a.m. — but not until noon for arriving boats! So we motored the length of the Monaco coast — about two miles — and then anchored for breakfast before heading into the newer Fontvieille Marina.

We thoroughly enjoyed Monaco. The old town is immaculate, and it almost felt as if we were in Disneyland. We toured the old town on the hill where the Prince's palace and Cathedral are. The Cathedral is one of the nicer churches we've visited in our travels. We took several long walks to the old port — famous Port Hercules — next door, where we checked out the superyachts. We were actually more impressed with the myriad of luxury cars: Ferraris, Bentleys, Rolls-Royces, Jaguars, etc. But where were the Porsches?

On our last night we took the bus to the famous Monte Carlo Casino. Unfortunately, 18-year old Jamie was too young to be allowed in. We were, however, able to get a streetside table at the Café de Paris, where we people-watched and, even more fun, car-watched! After yummy ice cream sundaes, we decided to walk the two miles back to the boat. Monte Carlo is a grand, unique place.

— the mcwilliams 07/29/2013

Dreamcatcher — Cal 3-46
Glenys Henry and Henry Mellegers
Diesel Rebuild in Singapore
(Singapore/Oakland YC)

It's with joy that we can report that for the first time in nearly five months we are able to start our 'new' 36 year old Perkins 2-436 engine and leave the dock for sea trials.

Our tale of woe started on January 9, when Dreamcatcher was fully loaded with provisions, and a friend, ready to start our annual 550-mile pilgrimage from Singapore up the Malacca Straits to Phuket, Thailand. We had the VHF in hand to call the marina staff to slip the lines, but when we tried to start the engine, there was no response.

We started looking at the usual suspects: battery power, wiring, even fuel. We took the starter motor off for inspection, but found no obvious problem. Four hours into our dockside angst, we called a mechanic for phone support. He suggested that we remove the injectors to see what we might find inside.

We found seawater in the number four cylinder. Ouch! Our mechanic arrived the next day and decreed the head had to come off the engine. Poor boat. Poor us. The villain was the exhaust manifold. It was found to be corroded and leaking seawater into the cylinders. It took us several days to process the fact that we had a catastrophic engine failure on our hands. Despite the fact that the engine — which had 5,000 hours — had started several days before, the cylinders had seized to the block.

We soaked the cylinders with ATF for days, hoping to free them. But they wouldn't budge. That meant the engine block, transmission — everything — had to come out. We were facing the prospect of a $2,000 tow to the boatyard. Fortunately, Keppel Bay Marina allowed us to tow the boat alongside the restaurant pontoon early one morning, where we had arranged for a crane to lift the engine out.

The engine on a Cal 3-46 is not directly beneath the cockpit access opening, so we had to build a belowdecks scaffold, move the engine to the extreme port side under the opening, and then attach the belts and tackle for the crane lift. The crane driver was excellent, and the donk came out with just a half-inch to spare on each side of the access lid!

Concurrent with this, we'd done a ton of research on engine rebuilds and, of course, repowering. We would have done the latter, except that Perkins no longer makes the 85 hp 4-236. The next model down, 65 hp, would not have the grunt we needed to push Dreamcatcher's hull through strong opposing currents. The next model up wouldn’t fit into the engine room. We looked at Volvo and Yanmar, but both have right turning props. Ours is a lefty, so a repower with either of them would have meant a complete new drive train, propeller, and different holes in the bottom of the boat. That would necessitate a haulout.

Our problems weren’t over. Our engine was soon in several different locations: the head at the re-grinder, the block and transmission at our mechanic’s shop, and various other bits on the boat itself. We were dealing with Multico, Perkins’ S.E. Asia agent for parts, and North American Boat Services for mechanical support.

Without going into great detail, Multico screwed up. Despite their being given the correct engine serial number, the replacement parts they ordered and implanted onto our block were wrong. There were some expensive consequences. We had already purchased most of the parts kit ourselves: cylinder linings, pistons, rings, connecting rods, camshaft bearings, head rebuild kit, new exhaust manifold, transmission rebuild kit, new engine mounts, and so forth.

We escalated the issue to Perkins Worldwide, who sent their Asia Pacific vice president to meet with us. Issues were documented, expectations made clear, and Multico, under the authority of Perkins, made good by re-assembling the engine with all the proper parts.

We also replaced all the inaccessible parts that come into view while the engine is out — including having a new exhaust elbow fabricated.

A big fillip for us was seeing the whole shebang running under test at Multico’s premises. After the successful test bed run, the whole thing had to be unbolted and transferred back to the dock, crane arranged, and short block engine lowered back into the boat, moved into position on the new mounts, and head, and the wiring and plumbing woven back together.

At the same time we had the work being done on the engine, we had our Borg Warner Velvet drive 71C transmission rebuilt. We had excellent parts support from Jim at Federal Marine. He knows his transmissions!

We’re not too proud to admit that we both shed some tears through all this. Dreamcatcher’s heart had been torn out and our cruising season totally shot. It was a depressing and anxious five months. And the work hasn’t stopped yet. Our genset needs to be re-installed along with a new hot water heater. The rebuild project took a lot longer than we expected, but we did have several personal interruptions during the process that took us away from the task.

But Dreamcatcher now has a totally rebuilt engine, all 1,100 pounds of her, which we are required to 'run in' for 50 hours before a complete fluid change, settings review and tappet adjustments. All up, the cost to us has been around $12.5k, including crane, our mechanic’s time, parts and a multitude of sundry expenses. Our takeaways from all this:

— Replace or at least pressure test your exhaust manifold every five years.

— Consider installing a fresh water valve system so the engine can be flushed with fresh water after use.

— A diesel engine rebuild takes twice as long and is twice as disruptive as you think it will be.

— Our Perky is still a great engine, and Perkins is an excellent company to deal with.

— No matter whether you can afford him, get the best mechanic possible. Ours — Jeff of North American Boat Services in Singapore — was great.

— Don't discount help from owners of sisterships. The owners of Molly J and Liberty, both Cal 46s, offered invaluable suggestions, photos and sympathy during the process.

We look forward to starting our cruising season in August, this time on the other side of Malaysia!

For those who don't remember from previous reports, we participated in the 2003 Baja Ha-Ha, and subsequently sailed across the Pacific to Australia, and then on to Singapore. We plan to make Singapore our home for the rest of our lives. Dreamcatcher regularly sails throughout Asia. Cal boat and/or Perkins owners are welcome to contact us for further details on the engine rebuild and challenges thereof. We can be reached at: .

— glenys 06/15/2013

Alegria — Caliber 40
Brian and Mizzy Black
Waiting a Year Was The Right Move

We left Alameda in early October of 2011, just in time to make the San Diego start of the Baja Ha-Ha. We’re very glad we did the Ha-Ha, as it provided us with a definite departure date and was great fun, and we were introduced to the cruising community. Dear friends crewed for us, which was priceless.

From Cabo, we went north to La Paz, and enjoyed that city and the local cruising. But it was a tough time of year to be there, as the Northers came through nearly every week. By this time we were already enrolled in what one sailor described as "the year-long post-Ha-Ha course in anchoring and resource management."

After Christmas, we sailed from Frailes across the Sea of Cortez to Mazatlan. This 210-mile trip was our first significant doublehanded passage. We then worked our way as far south as La Cruz on Banderas Bay, and can enthusiastically recommend Isla Isabella, San Blas and Chacala as stops along the way.

We began attending the Pacific Puddle Jump seminars and other activities in La Cruz. These were great, and many of our dear friends from the Ha-Ha were getting ready to make the Jump. This had also been our dream/plan, so we became very enthusiastic about going across, too! But it was also clear that, while we probably could make the crossing, neither we nor our boat were really ready. Plus, we still hadn't had enough time in Mexico. So after considerable anguish, we decided to spend another year in Mexico. For the first time we watched our friends cruise on without us.

We sailed back up to La Paz for the start of a summer in the Sea of Cortez. We made it up to Bahia Concepcion in time for Geary’s Fourth of July Party, and then north as far as Refugio on Isla Angel de la Guardia.

We’d been doing boat projects — to either fix or upgrade our Caliber 40 — the entire time we'd been in Mexico. The upgrades were to make her better for long-term cruising and the Puddle Jump.

For instance, we upgraded the refrigeration and added a large freezer. Naturally, that meant we needed more solar power, so we added two more panels to bring the total to 540 watts. We put a whisker pole on the mast, and acquired a large light-air headsail. We upgraded the anchoring setup to improve chain handling and to provide a strong attachment at the bobstay chainplate to attach an anchor snubber in heavy conditions. We replaced the stove with a new one that has a larger oven — we can put a chicken in! We replaced the prop with a MaxProp feathering prop for better performance. And we've done a thousand other smaller repairs.

In the process of completing our projects, we've learned about getting parts and supplies down to us in Mexico. We can assure everyone that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) does not include free trade from the U.S. to Mexico. But shipping agents in San Diego do get things across the border, then ship them via truck or air to points farther down in Mexico. It's expensive and sometimes slow, but it's possible.

The best and least expensive delivery option, however, is to have family, friends or fellow cruisers bring the goodies down. So friends and family who came down to visit us were usually surprised to find strange packages arriving at their doorsteps before they departed, and having to bring heavy bags along with them on the plane.

We’ve greatly enjoyed our time in Mexico, as the Mexican people have been wonderful and have taught us much. Among other things, they taught us better manners, and to be less suspicious. For example, our dinghy and outboard were never stolen.

We’ve also greatly enjoyed the cruising community. In fact, we've never been so well connected socially with people who share the same dreams and obsessions. We’ve made great friends who we expect will be our friends for life. We’ve also learned how valuable our friends are to us, and we spent time every day maintaining these relationships. Participating in the VHF and SSB nets has been a learning and growth experience for both of us.

We went without air-conditioning and/or a portable generator during our summer in the sizzling Sea of Cortez. We relied on our solar panels, and found that they generally kept up with the loads from our lights, refrigerator, autopilot and watermaker, both at anchor and while underway. A string of cloudy days would make us anxious, but there weren’t too many of those.

Yes, it was hot, but we got used to it. The hottest spots were probably Bahia Concepcion and Santa Rosalia. It was cooler out at the islands. We learned to sleep on bath towels so we didn't end up sleeping on sweaty sheets. Ice cubes and limes helped us ingest the amount of water our bodies required.

The heavy rains in August seemed to break the heat, and when we got to the far north, Baja was shockingly green. Isla Angel de la Guardia looked like Ireland, and Agua Verde resembled Polynesia!

In late August we crossed the Sea of Cortez again, and spent time in the San Carlos/Guaymas area. This was great, too. The harbor at San Carlos is beautiful, and the expat community there took us in and fed us. Friends had also arranged for a post office box in Nogales, Arizona, so we furiously shopped online, then drove to Arizona to pick the stuff up. The little car was packed with stuff on the way back. We actually made several such trips with cruising friends. One trip was extended to an overnighter in Tucson so we could make rushed stops at REI, Sears and Whole Foods.

We hauled Alegria in Guaymas and had a good experience. We liked Guaymas better than San Carlos, as it had better ferreterias (hardware) and tornillerias (machine shops).

After hauling, we recrossed the Sea to San Juanico. By this time overnight crossings were fun rather than intimidating. Our anchoring skills had also improved. We continued south again as far as Barra de Navidad, with family flying into the nearby airport for a visit. Then it was back to La Cruz to complete final preparation for the 2013 Puddle Jump.

It turned out that we had more prep work to do than we'd thought, so we missed out on many of the seminars we had attended theyear before!

The high points of our time in Mexico? The people we met, of course. Mexico also provided us with an ideal environment in which to discover whether we liked cruising in a foreign — but not too foreign — land. Mexico is remote and isolated — but not too isolated. We loved La Cruz and the variety of street tacos available. La Paz felt like 'home' every time we returned. We learned to sail and handle our boat better. We ended up spending a fair amount of time in marinas, mostly when we were intensively doing boat projects. This was fine, as the prices were comparable to rates in the U.S. The snorkeling was good in Mexico, and we caught fish while underway.

Things that worked? Spanish classes that I took at night at a local junior college. Being able to speak a bit of Spanish greatly facilitated getting things done in Mexico, and enriched our experience. Our boat has proved a good choice, and she’s taken care of us.

In hindsight, staying an extra year in Mexico was an excellent decision. We learned and enjoyed so much during our extra year. We're writing this on Day 25 of our Puddle Jump to the Marquesas. We're enjoying the crossing so much more than had we jumped off a year ago.

— brian 04/07/2013

Mintaka — Triton 28
Stefan Ries
Mexico to Panama

This is the fourth summer that I've cruised south to Costa Rica from the Palladium on Banderas Bay, where I worked until recently. This time I'm not coming back.

My trips to Costa Rica have fallen into a nice routine, but it makes it difficult to write because there hasn't been that much excitement. No storms, no pirates, not even any jumping fish spearing me in the thigh again. I'm just doing my thing, which is mostly sailing and surfing, and enjoying it.

I had a slow and easy crossing of the Golfo de Tehuantepec. I made it the 500 miles from Huatulco to the Gulf of Fonseca in nine days. I stayed in Nicaragua for a week and got good waves at Manzanillo in the Rivas Province. It blew offshore every day.

I cleared into Costa Rica at the end of May, and have been going back and forth between Ollie's Point and the Playas del Coco area. It's about 20 miles between them, so I always stayed two or three days at the remote surf break. I never did see the park rangers who like to charge $15 day, so I got to surf for free. A Costa Rican patrol boat came by one afternoon and checked my paperwork, but it was all fine.

One swell brought overhead waves, and I still got some solo sessions before and after the pangas full of surfers arrived or after they left. What a beautiful wave!

I will continue to sail south again, with my destination being Golfito, Costa Rica, where I plan to leave my boat for two weeks while I fly home to Germany in early August. When I return, I'll be heading south for the waves of Panama.

— stefan 07/18/2003

Profligate — Surfin' 63
Almost Made It Back In The Water
La Cruz Shipyard
(Punta Mita, Mexico)

We came sooooo close to getting Profligate launched so Doña de Mallorca and the Wanderer could do a Bash and make it up to California in time for Fourth of July festivities. But we didn't. Even though it means we missed one of the best Baja Bash windows in ages, and the Santa Barbara to King Harbor Race, we're glad we didn't go back in the water.

On June 20, everything looked set at the La Cruz Shipyard in Riviera Nayarit for the launching the 63-ft cat that is the mothership of the Baja Ha-Ha. The starboard daggerboard had been repaired; the Flexofold props had been serviced; and the yard crew had applied a new coat of Micron 66 bottom paint. All the Wanderer and de Mallorca had to do was provision, top off the fuel, and head north for Profligate's summer home at the Driscoll's Boat Yard work dock in San Diego.

There was just one problem. The shipyard's huge Travelift — there are only four Travelifts between San Francisco and Panama that are wide enough to handle Profligate's 30-ft beam — was down for three to five days for maintenance. Believing that idle hands are the devil's workshop, we started to think of other things we could have done to the cat. And thus we began our trip down the boatyard slippery slope.

Because we seldom get the opportunity to haul Profligate, we'd already had Peter Vargas and his Sea Tek crew paint the glossy areas of the 13-ft long back steps. It's a job that had to be done out of the water. Peter's guys did such a good job at such a reasonable price that we had them patch some minor stress cracks and paint the aft exterior of the house as well. Looked good, too.

One funky thing about the haulout had been that two small cracks had appeared on the bottom of the hull where it was supported by jacks. The cracks were so small they were missed by the surveyor because the bottom hadn't been sanded yet for painting. We consulted with multihull expert Gino Morrelli about the issue. He told us that he recommends that owners of big Morrelli & Melvin cats have the cats supported by the bridgedeck rather than the hulls when hauled. And if the cat has to be supported by the hulls, the core in the small areas where the jacks go needs to be cut out and replaced with all resin and cloth. If you don't, the core can get compressed a tiny bit, causing a little crack. Gino told us how to fix the problem, and said not to worry, because when the cat is in the water, the load on the hull is distributed over a much greater area than when held up by just jacks.

Despite the easy repair, Gino's assurances, and Chuck Driscoll saying he's seen the same thing happen on his J/109, we'd never been completely happy with one aspect of Profligate's composite hull. The vinylester resin and Divinycell core are a great combo; we just wanted thicker skins because ultimate performance has never been our primary interest. True, we hadn't had a problem with the composite hulls in 16 years of sometimes hard sailing, but because we were stuck out of the water for a few days, we asked Peter for a quote on adding two layers of mat and a layer of woven roving for two feet on each side of the centerline, and for the length of the hulls.

While he was at it, we asked Peter to throw in beefing up the existing athwarthship frames and adding a few new ones. Such an addition to the inside of the hull(s) of most boats would be all but impossible because the interior structure would make access impossible. But Profligate has such a simple and open interior, all that would be needed for complete access would be to remove the floors.

Oh yeah, the floors. Profligate's floors are composite, too, but with a balsa core. In the right applications, balsa is a superb core material — but not when the skins are just a millionth of an inch thick. No wonder that over 16 years of hordes of people coming through the boat, and moisture seeping through the ultrathin skins, some of the balsa core had devolved to the strength of soggy oatmeal.

Since access was critical to properly do the work on the inside of the hulls — and we were already picking up speed sliding down the slope, we decided now was also the best time to completely replace the floors in both hulls. While we were at it, we decided it would be nice if Peter's crew completely sealed off the bilges for about 40 feet of each hull, giving four very large watertight compartments, and for all intents and purposes, a double bottom in those areas. Yeah, we might be getting conservative.

Summer is the slow season for boat work in Mexico, so Peter told us that if his crew could do the work right then, as opposed to November when every boatowner would want jobs done yesterday, he could do the job for X dollars. We shook on it as quickly as we could. Not only did it seem like a fair price for a lot of nasty work, but these were itches we'd badly wanted scratched for a long, long time. We'd just never found the right place at the right time. To seal the deal, Peter said he'd throw in four custom-shaped hull cradles for the next time we hauled out.

But the things that really sent us sliding down the boatyard slope were Profligate's balsa-cored decks. As we mentioned, balsa is a great core as long as the skins are thick enough, no moisture gets in, and you don't have as many as 156 people walking on them at once. Alas, we'd violated all the provisos. As a result, we'd been playing Whack-a-Mole with little mushy spots in the deck for years. We'd also been annoyed that the decks weren't completely level and didn't have waterways. So in a fit of madness, we asked Peter for a quote on tearing off all but the inner skin of the deck, putting in a new core, adding two layers of mat and a layer of roving, then fairing and painting the whole shebang. Peter's quote was so low that we asked him to recalculate it. Even after he raised it by 33%, our heart still skipped a few beats. It was going to add another two weeks to the initial two weeks of work, but it was something we really wanted.

Peter is a smart guy, so before taking a router to the deck and cutting all the top skin off and core out, he had his guys sand all the paint off — a monumental job in the summer heat and humidity of the Vallarta Coast — "so we can see what's really there". This was a wise move, because it turned out that all of the core that hadn't previously been repaired was actually fine. It didn't need replacing, it just needed a thicker skin on the top. So Peter and his crew added a layer of mat, a layer of woven roving, and another layer of mat. The deck didn't need to have a quarter of an inch more glass on the top, but we're into overcompensation.

Every day for the last four days we've jumped up and down on the decks for minutes at a time, elated with how strong they finally are. And smooth? After yard hours, when there is nobody around but the security guard, we get down on our knees and caress the smooth surface that's almost ready for primer.

As someone who plans on actively sailing Profligate for years to come, it's hard to describe how good these improvements make us feel. Finally, there is peace in our lives.

Profligate may not look like a different boat for the start of the 20th annual Ha-Ha, but in many important ways she will be.

By the way, many sailors in Southern California already know Peter Vargas. He started out as a small time pot peddler, but quickly decided that a life of crime wasn't for him. So Alan Blunt of Sea Tek Rigging hired him as a minimum wage janitor. Peter ended up working for Blunt for 26 years, learning everything there is to know about building and maintaining rigs. When Blunt retired, Peter bought the business and had 13 employees. But after eight years, the economy went to hell, and so did his business.

"The first thing people stop spending money on when the economy goes bad is their boats," says Vargas. "The economy kicked my butt. I lost one of my houses and the business went south. So a little more than five years ago, I came to La Cruz and started a new rigging and boatyard business. I'm very happy to be here. I have 10 workers, so it's a big payroll, but I've got good workers and we're growing."

We'll let you know how it all turns out.

— latitude 07/20/2013

Cruise Notes:

With a new cruising season approaching, it's time to tease first-time cruisers with tales of how frugal some folks have managed to be in a month of cruising.

"Seventy-eight dollars," is the number given to us by Kit and Deb Caldwell, formerly of the Long Beach-based Wauquiez 43 Alma in Quieta. "It was a couple of years ago, and we spent most of the month at the Partida anchorage about 20 miles east of Bahia de los Angeles in the Sea of Cortez. While there we caught a lot of grouper and triggerfish, and the Mexican fishermen gave us lobster, scallops and clams. After about three weeks we came into BLA and really blew the budget, spending the $78 on a lunch, a dinner, fruits, veggies and beer. As you might expect, our boat was well stocked to begin with. When we sold her last fall after five years of living aboard, we were still taking stuff off her. We spent between $200 and $300 the other months of the summer. There just aren't many places to spend money up in the Sea. We now live ashore in La Cruz. It's inexpensive, too, but we spend much more money than we did when we lived aboard."

Having Alma in Quieta equipped with 435 watts of solar panels helped the Caldwells with their frugal cruising. "The solar power meant we never had to start the engine, because all our batteries would be topped off by 2 p.m," said Debbie. "That's when we'd fire up the watermaker. The only time we used the engine was when we used our Sail Rite sewing machine to make awnings for the back of the boat. The summer heat of the Sea isn't too bad if you have plenty of awnings and fans — and like to swim. It was so beautiful up there, with lots of whales sharks for entertainment."

What about you? Have you had any ultra-frugal months or even seasons?

"When we sailed to Mazatlan in late April to leave our boat for the summer, we heard on the morning radio net that the Alberg 37 Jazz had been lost near San Blas, Mexico, but that the owner was safe," report Ha-Ha 2012 vets Bruce and Bridget Eastman of the Brisbane-based Alberg 35 Sojourn. Does Latitude have any information about how the boat was lost and where?"

We're sorry, we don't have any information on Jazz. Perhaps some of our readers can help.

For those who waited until June to do the Baja Bash, there were some excellent weather windows. Bill Lily of the Newport Beach-based Lagoon 470 Moontide reports:

"As of 2 p.m. on July 1, we are a bit north of Punta Baja. I don't want to jinx my partner Judy Lang and myself, but here is what we've had for weather since we left Cabo:

"Cabo Bay to Cabo Falso — 22+ knots on the nose with bouncy seas for about four miles. We had to drop down to 3 knots of boatspeed for a bit.

"Abeam Falso — 12 knots WNW.

"Two hours north of Falso — 6 to 8 knots from the NW.

"The rest of the way to Bahia Santa Maria — Less than 8 knots.

"BSM to Turtle Bay — Never more than 6 knots.

"Turtle Bay to Cedros — 12-14 knots from the NW for 30 minutes, then down to under 10 knots the rest of the way.

"Cedros to San Carlos — Under 12 knots, mostly from the SW.

"San Carlos to Punta Baja — Less than 10 knots from the E to SSW.

"The forecasts have been calling for such benign weather that we've been stopping at night instead of continuing on in placid conditions. Our plan is to overnight to Ensenada, have dinner at Sano's, then run up to San Diego in time to clear Customs by 9 a.m. so we can get a spot to anchor in La Playa Cove for the Fourth of July. The weather has been so mellow that I'm telling Judy that she doesn't get to count it as a real Bash."

A short time later Lily reported that the wind had come up to 16 to 18 knots . . . out of the south! "It was almost worth putting up a chute," he said.

Moontide wasn't the only boat that had an easy Bash. Patsy 'La Reina del Mar' Verhoeven of the La Paz-based Gulfstar 50 Talion reports that she and crew Bob Martin and Bruce Bloch had an "easy" seven-day trip from La Paz to San Diego, which is about 880 miles. We even spent two nights at Turtle Bay," Patsy writes.

Of course, good Bashing weather and good luck doesn't last forever. Craig Shaw and Jane Roy had great fortune doing a Baja Bash with Craig's father's Hunter 54 Camelot, but the luck didn't last for the California and Oregon Bash.

"It only took Jane and me five days to do the Bash up to San Diego," writes Shaw. But it took us almost four weeks to get around Pt. Conception! We did, however, have fun in Southern California, enjoying a few days visiting friends in San Diego and Newport, then a fun week kayaking and hiking in Catalina, before a sail to Santa Barbara in blustery conditions. Jane had to fly to her son's graduation, so a friend flew down to help me with an easy two-day motorsail to San Francisco Bay. We really enjoyed our 12-day stay in Sausalito, waiting for the perfect weather window that allowed us an easy three-day run up to the Columbia River. I'm sure glad I took the advice of Bob Smith of the La Paz-based 44-ft custom cat Pantera to set aside two months instead of one for getting back to Portland. Being patient meant that our Bashes weren't really Bashes at all."

Craig and Jane are now working hard on Craig's Columbia 43 Adios getting her ready for this fall's 20th Baja Ha-Ha. Come to think of it, Lily and Verhoeven also are getting their boats ready for the Ha-Ha.

"We didn't make it to the Puddle Jump Rendezvous in Tahiti," writes Michael Moyer of the Newport Beach-based Alajuela 48 Cherokee Rose. "The problem was that two different reefs wanted our boat. We didn't succumb to them, but we now need a shipyard, which is why Anita and I are headed toward Raiatea. I have a couple of years and several miles of cruising experience, but I seem to be completely unprepared for the passes of the Tuamotus. The first time we had a problem the pass was just too shallow. I knew it would be tight, but I thought we could make it. We went aground on sand, and the constant outflow of water finally washed the sand away. After being flushed out the channel sideways, we laughed it off as a 'Do you remember when?' incident.

"On the second reef strike," Moyer continues, "I tried a little harder to do everything perfectly. We arrived at slack/flood, followed the range lights in like a laser beam, turned to port to enter the well-marked channel — but still got hung up on the reef! With every wave we were inched forward and sideways. When your boat is your everything, the crunching and grinding of fiberglass is a sickening sound. Then the locals showed up, secured lines, and pulled with their boats. Cherokee Rose's keel is now sanded, gouged and gored, and has two holes into the lead. The toe of the rudder needs glassing, filling and fairing, and the feathering propeller looks like I used it to cut bricks. Unfortunately, I have no photos, as taking photos didn't occur to me at the time. But I can say with authority that Katiu's Pass won't allow for a 6'9" draft, and Raraka Pass, the well-marked one the port side, is for small local outboard-powered boats only. Oh, it's deep enough, but you wouldn't get out the back side anyway. I know of a least one other boat that had a 'coral crunch, but that's a story for the folks on the Anacortes-based Lagoon 440 catamaran Double Diamond to tell."

"We circumnavigated with our Grainger 46 cat Infinity, which was equipped with hydraulic steering," reports Ross Linton of New Zealand. "After sailing the Tasman Sea with the rudders fighting each other, we spent a lot of time to finally get the system fixed before the start of the big trip. The solution to our hydraulic problems may or may not work for Scott Stolnitz of the Marina del Rey-based Switch 51 Beach House, who reports he's had a lot of trouble with his steering all the way across the South Atlantic, but it might. First, we swapped the 'equalizer' valve between the two circuits for one rated for extreme pressure. Our original was apparently just a water valve and not up to the loads involved. Then we replaced the seals inside the rams. It turned out that one of our rams was leaking internally from one side to the other when under heavy loads. We carried a spare set of rams, as we guessed replacing the seals in a remote spot wouldn’t be easy. They turned out to be just ballast, as we only had to realign the rudders about once a year after the fix."

Scott Stolnitz, who is currently in French Guiana with Beach House, forwarded his thanks for Linton's suggestion.

"I am currently in Palau after a season of cruising north from Fiji to the Marshalls and Micronesia," reports Bob Callaway of the Pleasant Harbor, WA-based MacGregor 65PH Braveheart, a vet of the 2009 and 2010 Ha-Ha's. "I keep meaning to write, but this cruising lifestyle has given me a chronic mañana attitude. The Palauan heat, humidity and microbrew don't help. The outer islands of Yap, particularly Lamotrek, are everything I thought the South Pacific was going to be."

Callaway is not the first cruiser to report that Micronesia greatly exceeded his expectations. It's also outside the tropical cyclone zone.

On June 18, a Coast Guard C-130 spotted a suspicious panga 100 miles southwest of San Diego. The cutter Edisto was sent to investigate, and found an estimated 250 bales of marijuana weighing between 10 and 40 pounds each. The suspects, who claimed Mexican nationality, were turned over to the Mexican Navy. Prior to stopping that attempted smuggle, joint agency counter-smuggling operations have seized or disrupted the smuggling of 60,000 pounds of pot so far in 2013, and as far north at Morro Bay. In addition, 200 suspected illegal immigrants have been apprehended.

"I've been coming to Catalina's Avalon for some 55 or so years, many times in the company of my lifetime sailing buddy, Ernie Minney of famed Minney's Marine Surplus in Newport Beach," writes Chester Salisbury of the Herreshoff Nereia ketch Siouxsie. "So it was with great pleasure that I could introduce Ernie to a new friend, Cynthia Shelton, author of the LiveAboard DocuComic, Dock Dorks. Get a copy, it's a riot! Cynthia showed up in Avalon in March after singlehanding down the coast from San Francisco with her Lindsey 30 La Bonita. She was rowing around the harbor handing out the first printed copies of Dock Dorks, which was recommended as a Christmas stocking stuffer by Max Ebb. When Ernie showed up, I gave him my copy to read, and he decided to carry Dock Dorks at Minney's. It sounds to me as though Cynthia has come a long way. She first appeared in Latitude during the haulout issue in July of 2010, full of confidence. Of course, it's one thing to manage a haulout and another to sail out the Gate and turn left — as she promised she would. And she did it with style! Cynthia's been in Avalon for about three months, and has decided to stay a while. I think she'll do fine, as she's now working for the Catalina Islander newspaper, and has just started a two-hour radio talk show for mariners called Lifelines, which is on KISL 88.7, and can be picked up online.

"After a crackerjack sail from the mainland up to Puerto Escondido, we arrived to find: No diesel. No gas. No cell phone service. No navigation lights at the harbor entrance. And surprisingly enough, virtually no people." So reports one sailor who cruises the Sea of Cortez each year, but because of his criticism wishes to remain anonymous.

"While anchored in the Ellipse," he continues, "we had the company of four Mexican Navy vessels, which I assume had taken refuge from tropical depression Erick, which had been a hurricane a few days before it arrived. It was no big deal, as the gusts maxed out at 25 knots. The arrival of the Mexican Navy must have awakened the Fonatur staff, because there is now a green port light on the breakwater. Attempts to get a red one working started this afternoon, but the short chop made it difficult for the fix-it guys to get ashore. Had they landed a hundred yards north, where there is protection, they could have easily walked to the light. I might add that during hurricane Paul in 2012, the Fonatur staff flouted international maritime laws governing safe refuge when they insisted on charging for anchoring in a harbor of refuge. This was well-documented with the port captain, who sided with me and a Mexican maritime lawyer who just happened to show up. He suggested paying the Fonatur fees, but under protest, in order to document the disregard for Mexican maritime law and international maritime law. I'm not writing this negative review for the fun of it, but rather in the hope that it will help improve things at Puerto Escondido. I'm been coming here a long time, and it seems to me Puerto Escondido has forever been trying to attract big money and run the sailors out. If and when the fat goose lands, I wonder if it will kill and eat the golden eggs before they have a chance to hatch."

In defense of Puerto Escondido, it's relatively remote and has yet to attract the amount of year 'round business to support significant services and facilities. As you know, when you go north of La Paz, you'd better be prepared to take care of yourself. As for big changes there, when we first cruised there in 1978, officials were touting the fact that the "fat goose" had arrived. On various occasions large sums of money have poured in, but Puerto Escondido has never gained traction as a significant tourist destination. We think much of it is due to the fact that it's primarily a spring and fall destination rather than a summer or winter one. In any event, we wish the area the best of luck, although it suits self-sufficient cruisers pretty darn well just the way it is.

"Excuse me waiter, how is the bat tonight, and does it come with a sauce?" When recently reminiscing about her five years of cruising the South Pacific with her family aboard the F/P 56 Rhapsody, Caren Edwards of Tiburon told us that her husband Sam once ordered the bat entree at a fancy French restaurant in Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu. It came with a brown sauce. While Sam — an old Peace Corps hand in India and Africa — ate the bat, he said he probably wouldn't order it again.

Eaten anything interesting while cruising? We'd like to hear about it.

Missing the pictures? See the August 2013 eBook!


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