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May 13, 2019

When the Keel Smiles, Part 1

“I don’t know how to tell you this,” my diver said after pulling himself up onto the dock. My stomach dropped at his nervous tone. It was two days until I planned to cast off for Ensenada, the first leg of my singlehanded “puddle jump” to the Marquesas.

“Just say it.”

“There’s a big crack in your keel. I can see the lead. I can see light through it; I can see completely through to the other side.”

That’s how my adventure down the California coast to Ensenada, Mexico, for a quick, planned, pre-jump bottom job led to two haulouts in two weeks (550 miles apart), and learning a lot more about my bolted-on keel than I had planned.

Windfola, a 1985 Sabre 34 MkI, has been a sturdy bluewater boat. She took my dog and me safely to Hawaii and back within the last 20 months. In fact, when I talk about our voyages together, I refer to the three of us as “we,” further confusing the people who can hardly believe I singlehand anyway. I’m a first-time boat owner, and despite boating my whole life, I’ve only been sailing for less than six years, so learning to care for Windfola continues to humble me. I’ve quietly made her a commitment that I will take care of her physically if she will only take care of us, and I honor that commitment by studying, learning, and DIY-ing everything that I possibly can.

A boat, a diver and a dog — and the boat’s owner, shooting the picture — prepare for some unexpected news from the depths.
© 2019 Elana Connor

I hadn’t had anyone dive on Windfola since before my return trip from Hawaii to San Francisco last October, and I’d delayed this until close to departure so as to have her as clean as possible for the trip south. I didn’t anticipate any structural issues, and I’m certain that when I cleaned her hull last, there was no crack in the keel beyond the paint where her bolted-on fin keel flexes (also known as a “smile”). But after such a significant upwind voyage, I feared there was unknown damage. Did I hit something and not feel it in my delirious mid-ocean sleep? Did the rowdy winds that buried my toe rail in the water before I could get in another reef cause too much flexing?

The diver was concerned, and told me he’d never seen anything like it. I could tell he felt bad. I lent him my GoPro, and when he came back up, I looked over the pictures. They were worrisome. There was cracking both fore and aft on the keel, with the aft split at least an inch and a half long, the missing material illuminated by backlighting.

The camera does not lie. An unexpected crack in the keel led to unexpected haulouts and some unexpected work. Fortunately, a good cruiser expects the unexpected.
© 2019 Elana Connor

I’ve heard enough horror stories about bolted-on keels falling off that I wasn’t going offshore like that. But the coming week had a good weather window to get down the coast and around Point Conception, and I’d already been waiting a couple of weeks for this break. I called Bob Hennessey at KKMI first thing the next morning and explained the situation. Could I haul out ASAP and relaunch if it was minor? Could we do this without killing my tiny remaining nest egg of savings? He welcomed me the very next day, and we did a “haul and hang” at the end of the afternoon.

Up close, the crack looked just like the “smile” I’d seen in the past, except it went much deeper than the paint. There were places where whatever putty had been under the paint was falling off in chunks, leaving holes behind. Scary.

“. . . Scary,” said Elana Connor.
© 2019 Elana Connor

Bob took a look. “This is just cosmetic,” he said with a relaxed tone. To my untrained eye this was difficult to believe. Pieces of my boat’s bottom falling off at the seam between the hull and the keel didn’t seem very “cosmetic” to me.

He explained that not only is the paint too rigid to flex with the keel, but there is putty under the paint that fairs out the seam between the bolted-on keel and the flange of the hull. This putty was old and too rigid to flex well, so it was falling out. If I wanted a smooth seam, I needed to rout it out and fill it anew with a more flexible putty.

I was also worried about the moisture weeping out of the seam, thinking it might be some horrific issue with a keel bolt. He recommended that I torque the bolts and confirm that none of them “spun,” which is what they would do if they were compromised. I had done this two years before, when I purchased the boat, so I knew exactly where to find the socket wrench I reserved for the job. The boat was resting on its keel on a block, making this a good time to check them. I sponged out the bilge for a visual inspection of the nuts and washers. Everything looked clean. I went through all of the bolts, fore to aft, wrenching with all of my body weight. Every bolt was solid and tight.

The author contemplates the unexpected lifestyle changes that come with cruising.
© 2019 Elana Connor

Before departing for the evening, Bob gave what may be the funniest and most relieving boat issue-advice I’ve ever received: “Just throw some paint on it and go, Elana.”

We’ll bring you part 2 of When the Keel Smiles later this week . . .

Collecting Flares in Alameda County

Box of flares
A box o’ flares. Some of these explosives have passed their use-by date. What to do; what to do?
© 2019 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Chris

Recreational boaters who live or berth their boats in Alameda County will have the opportunity to properly dispose of their expired or unwanted flares on Sunday, May 26. Make an appointment for the exact location and drop-off time between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. by calling (800) 606-6606 or emailing [email protected]. They’ll accept handheld and aerial flares and smoke signals. Don’t bring other hazardous waste like batteries, oil or paint. And don’t bring military-type devices or flares from commercial vessels. Do remember to bring proof of residence or marina slip in Alameda County.

Plenty of Entries for the Baja Ha-Ha

Every year the Grand Poobah of the Baja Ha-Ha expects there to be a big drop-off in the number of entries.

“With more than 3,000 boats having done it in 25 years,” he says, “it would seem that at some point we’ll run out of sailors who haven’t done it or who have continued on to the South Pacific and never come back.”

Beach party
Beach Party fun during last year’s Baja Ha-Ha.
© 2019 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Mitch

Early indications are there will be no significant drop-off for this year’s Ha-Ha, as 73 paid entries were received in the first 48 hours. That’s one more than the average number of first-48-hour entries for the last three years. Those three years had final paid entries of 183, 154 and 168, respectively. It should be noted that each year about 15% of paid entries don’t show up. Boats don’t get ready in time, there are business or job issues, and worst of all, there can be health issues.

A couple of this year’s entries stand out. Number one, for example, is Myron and Marina Eisenzimmer’s Swan 44 Mykonos. This will be the couple’s 10th Baja Ha-Ha.

And we couldn’t help but notice entry #62, Rick Jakaus’ Cygnus Montanus. Not just because her homeport is Stockholm, Sweden, but because the nearly new beauty is 111 feet long! She’s the biggest entry in Ha-Ha history.

Cygnus Montanus at sea
Cygnus Montanus
© 2019 A.Grocz/M.Crawford

If you’ve been underwater for the last 25 years, the Baja Ha-Ha is the annual 750-mile cruisers’ rally from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas, with R&R stops at Turtle Bay and Bahia Santa Maria. Over 10,000 sailors on more than 3,000 boats have done the event in the first 25 years.

This year’s dates are November 3-16. It’s a week later start than in previous years, and will feature one more day in Bahia Santa Maria — the response has been extremely positive about this — and one less day in Cabo San Lucas.

Notice of the Rally and entry information can be found at Please note that Ha-Ha discounts in the States and in Mexico can easily more than offset the entry fee. Indeed, in years past some folks signed up simply to get the discounts. We hope you sign up, but to do the event, not just to get the discounts.

The first 73 sign-ups (there are already more) were:

1 Mykonos Swan 44 Myron & Marina Eisenzimmer San Francisco
2 Moonlight Lady Catalina 355 Owen Provence Long Beach
3 Rum Away Lagoon 450S No Worries Group, LLC San Diego
4 Dolfin Crealock 37 Bill & Patty Meanley San Diego
5 Alibi IV Beneteau 411 Oceanic Frederick J Humphrey San Diego
6 Descanso Wauquiez Centurion 42 Craig & Annika Lacy Seattle, WA
7 Kyrie Prout Snowgoose 37 Joe & Kristen Grieser Juneau, AK
8 Spinnaker Hylas 54 William Partin Bainbridge Is, WA
9 MsChievous Hylas 49 James & Susan AuBuchon Portland, ME
10 Wikd Baltic 43 Scott Selover San Francisco
11 Day Dream J/122 Robert Day Newport Beach
12 Believe Beneteau 41.1 Stan Pawlak Richmond
13 Dharma Girl Tatoosh 42 Chris & Carrie Williams Portland, OR
14 Rochambeau Lagoon 400 Beverly van de Velde Marina del Rey
15 Juliet Mason 44 Charles & LeeAnne Clark Channel Islands
16 Thisldu Rafiki 35 Garrett Ruhland Sausalito
17 Tess Beneteau 38 Klaus Kaasgaard Redwood City
18 Shamaal Outbound 46 Jane & Jerry McNaboe South Lake Tahoe
19 Prana Hunter 45cc Tom Mangold San Diego
20 Tesa Catalina 42 Steve Haas Brickyard Cove
21 Jacquot-Bateau Irwin 38 Jacques Lorch Long Beach
22 Alexsea Hylas 46 Darrell Jelle & Turi Drake St. Croix, VI
23 Caroline Islander 36 Benjamin Fisher New York, NY
24 Scout Hylas 44 Bill Blumlein Newport, OR
25 Arinaar Bristol 40 Eric Meiier Portland, OR
26 Kanumera Spindrift 43 Doug Villepique San Diego
27 I’O Davidson 44 Mark & Linda LeVander Ventura
28 Rum Line Dehler 38 Timothy Andrew Lorenzen San Francisco
29 Amenomania Oceanis 45 Cliff Newell & Katy Jacobs Sausalito
30 Shanti Jeanneau 469 Daniel Casey Santa Barbara
31 SoLunaMare Saga 43 Roger Neiley Newport Beach
32 Tranquility Catalina 36 MkII David & Becky Elmore Port Orchard, WA
33 Wilderness Aerodyne 38 Jeff Rothermel & Naomi Neville King Harbor
34 Sundance Island Packet 370 Paul Rupple Seward, AK
35 Galene Cooper Seabird 37 PH Greg & Laurie Yellenik Vancouver, BC
36 Delphina Waterline 55 Tracy & Richard Perdue Rapid City, SD
37 Tally Ho Nauticat 43 Rich & Laura Brazil Point Richmond
38 Nota Bene Beneteau 411 Jack Vetter & Carly Hegle Vallejo
39 Lasirena Catalina 35 Steve Beu Long Beach
40 Tulum V Aleutian 51 Ketch Chad French 29 Palms
41 Quijote Hallberg Rassy 37 Roderick Mercer Seattle, WA
42 Aeolian Sceptre 41 Todd & Maria Millen Alta, UT
43 SEAduction Catalina 42 MkII Daniel Lawler Salt Lake City, UT
44 Blue Sugar J/42 Jay & Marina Zucca Alameda
45 Seaquel Catalina 400 MkII Michael & Jacqulyn Carssow Portland, OR
46 Luna Rossa Beneteau 49.5 W J, LLC San Diego
47 Concerto Cheoy Lee 52 Ron & Jo Nieman Homer. AK
48 Andiamo Islander 32 MkII Paula & Russell Sunn San Diego/Chico
49 Nai’a Islander 37 Hans Juergen Johnson Brickyard Cove
50 Sail La Vie Hunter 49 Peyton Robinson Chula Vista
51 Ciao Bruce Roberts 34 Eric Olsen Portland, OR
52 Just Passing Wind Sundeer 60 Jeff Wahl Yankton, SD
53 Caprica Beneteau Oceanis 411 Robert Wakeman Redondo Beach
54 Brainwaves J/46 Deb Ehler & Jim Brainard Golden, CO
55 Shanti Manta 40 Tricia Mallia San Diego
56 Raven Catalina 42 MkII Kevin & Gina Stenberg Portland, OR
57 Boundless Passport 42 Julian Jones San Francisco
58 Samadhi Tayana 55 Ashley & Dan Murphy Seattle, WA
59 Silver Linings Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 45.2 Mark LaFevers Channel Islands
60 Pellucidar Moody 47 Walt Drechsler Everett, WA
61 Kristina Marie Hudson Force 50 Ken & Kristie Nairne Long Beach
62 Cygnus Montanus Frers 111 Rick Jakaus Stockholm, SWE
63 Wind Angel Beneteau 361 Gerald & Vicki Marquart Queen Creek, AZ
64 Anita Morgan 382 Christopher Pride Point Richmond
65 Clapotis Lagoon 450F Charles Devanneaux Marina del Rey
66 Winston Fountain Pajot Lipari 41 John & Sue Adams La Jolla
67 Ivanica Morgan 461 Zoran Kajmakovic San Francisco
68 Unicorn Hylas 44 David Rowe Las Vegas, NV
69 Naughtical Beneteau 46 Calvin Cote Half Moon Bay
70 Sophia Claire Hunter 450 Gregory Beu & Pamela Maher San Diego
71 Starfire Tartan 4100 Diana Baumgartner Ventura
72 Ran Beneteau 423 Bram Arnold San Diego
73 Animal Cracker Hunter 460 Scott & Tami Birdzell Marina Coral
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