The last time we sailed in solid winds and big seas was when we were in the Papagayos going into Costa Rica’s Gulf of Santa Elena in 2014. The scenery rounding Punta Blanca that day was spectacular with the indigo seas slamming white spray high up the sheer rock walls of the point. The bright sunlight, crystal clear air, and deep blue sky brought a vibrancy and purity to the sailing. Bahia Santa Elena was in sight and we were in a hurry to make it to shelter in the strong conditions and we focused on working Wings upwind. We pushed the boat hard. In those conditions Wings blasted the waves aside and we took quite a lot of water on the deck.
Some of that water found its way down the starboard chainplate into the cabin.
Normally a trickle of water down a chainplate is no big deal but this water came in looking dark brown, like coffee, and it left a dark stain on the chainplate. This gave us some concern. Brown water coming from the vicinity of a stainless steel fitting like a chain plate is a sign of rust and possibly cracks in the stainless. Those problems can happen where the steel is wet and deprived of air (or more precisely, oxygen); it’s called crevice corrosion. In our case, where the chainplate came through the inch thick deck was where the stainless could be deprived of oxygen. The presence of salt in that water made for a witches’ brew.
Our chainplates are fairly new and beefy as hell so we weren’t immediately worried about them however the starboard one needed an inspection and we put it on the list. To inspect the chain plate we have to take it out of the boat and that means disconnecting all the shrouds. This is a big project and we have been putting it off for over a year.
Finally, Sunday night, I told Judy, “Tomorrow I’m going hammer and tongs on that chain plate inspection.” And the next morning I tore into it.
To take out the starboard chainplate you have to remove the starboard shrouds. That means loosening the starboard turnbuckles. You also must loosen the port turnbuckles because tension on only one side would pull the mast over and probably break it. There are four turnbuckles on each side so I had to loosen eight in all which is hard work and requires big wrenches. Also, this must be done gradually so as to keep the loads equal. First you do one side a little, then the other, then back, and so on. All together this took over an hour. Finally, before you remove the shrouds, you have to provide some temporary support for the mast. I ran halyards out to the sides of the boat and tensioned them. Only then could I pull the pins and bingo the chainplate was ready to be removed. Oh, you also have to unbolt it inside the boat, which I did, and then, it turns out, thanks to Sean Langman’s boys at Noakes shipyard who put these in a few years back, you have to grind out the fiberglass which encapsulates it. I did that too. And finally you use a 4 lb sledge to break it loose. All of this I completed by early Monday afternoon. I was sweating.
Now comes the important part; the inspection. The chainplate was covered in flaking, coffee colored, rust in the places where it could not be viewed and this needed to be removed before a thorough inspection could be completed. I put the chainplate down on the dock and hit it with the wire brush wheel on my grinder. Only then could I look for cracks. At first I didn’t see any, but looking closer I spotted one. A long, thin, horizontal crack, partially through the chain plate just inside where the deck covers it, was visible. It was surprising to me how such a small crack could make such an awful lot of rust.
OK, off to the welder at the top of the hill. Not that I like this guy’s work very much but he’s the only game in town and welding a cracked piece of flat stainless wasn’t exactly rocket science, so he got the job. Two hours and $25 later he gave me back my well battered starboard chainplate and it looked good enough to me, so before dinner that night, with Judy’s help, I put it back in. Not permanently, just with one bolt, but enough to hold it. We hooked up one shroud which gave us some comfort that at least the mast wouldn’t fall down if we had a squall during the night.
On Tuesday I replaced all the remaining bolts, filled the gaps with 3M sealant, attached all the shrouds, and re-tuned the rig, and we were back in business.
I’m pretty happy to have this big project off the list and really happy that I found, and fixed, a dangerous crack.
Oh, you might ask, “What about the other side?”
Well, no trickle of water and no brown stain so I’m not worried.
I’ve always been impressed by the size of the outboard motors on many of the sports fishing boats seen around the marina. Big V6 Mercury Verados and bigger V8 Yamaha’s with 300 or more horse power are common, and I know from my powerboating days that one of these would be sufficient to push a 30 open boat at 30 or 40 knots and out on the water they are usually seen chuffing along with wives and kids going about 25. So why all the power? Ok, there is a safety issue at work: dual motors gives a “get home” security if one fails. But if it was just about safety how about two 175 hp motors? Nope you never see that. You see twin 300’s or twin 350’s. I guess it’s just machismo. Apparently no self-respecting Mexican boat owner would settle for less than two huge motors as long as his buddy down the dock has two. So we see rows of these boats with dual monsters on the back. Top Dog
But I was blown away to see the yellow Everglades 32footer with THREE Yamaha 350 V8’s on the back. Now that’s some lot of power, 1050hp, $60,000 worth of motors, and they weigh 800 lbs each! I have no idea if the owner has them set up and prop’d to extract all that power, but if so I’d image we’re looking at a 100mph fishing boat. Hardly seems likely.
But it’s toppable.
When in Malaysia I spotted in Telaga Marina a big rib purportedly owned by Mahathir Mohamad, Malaysia’s Prime minister at the time, which went one bigger.
Puerto Vallarta staged a taco festival in old town last Sunday where local restaurants set up booths to sell samples of their tacos. It was going to be free admittance, featured some folk dancing, and lots of good Mexican beer would be on hand. The taco prices were to be 10 pesos ($.55) so we thought we’d go and sample some of our favorite Mexican street food, drink some cervesa, and shoot photos of the dancers. It was also a good excuse to go to old town, which we love and don’t get there too often.
Well, we’re glad we went, the expedition to old town was nice, but the taco fest was a bust. First of all it was packed and the lines were 20-30 minutes long. Even then they could not keep up with the demand. We picked the place with the shortest line, and got what we deserved: second rate tacos. Plus it was an unbearably hot evening, the sun absolutely stung us, and there was no place to sit down. We fled to a nearby bar, ordered two pints of Modelo, and sat in the shade until the sun went down.
Oh, the dancing? Well, it was pretty nice, but the light was bad and the photos were pretty much impossible. One thing I could have done was to shoot photos of the crowd and the taco cooks, but the heat just put me out of the mood. We went home early.
There are times in our sailing lives when we yearn for excitement; like perhaps sailing a Volvo ocean racer through the southern ocean or rounding the Horn. Mostly these are in our younger days when we’re filled with energy and exuberance and we think we are immortal, although for some of us that yearning lingers on far longer than it should. I admit that from time to time I like the thrills and I’m not above pushing things a bit. But just as often I am happy with the easy life and simply having a lazy day on the water suits me fine. Judy and I were ready for just such a day last weekend and since the hydraulics were fixed we were free to go sailing. Except for the propeller.
A welder has set up shop here in La Cruz; a pretty crude shop with lots of hammering and grinding going on and not so much machining or measuring, where they probably never saw a propeller before let alone a Martec folder, but I let him recondition our old spare prop a few months ago because some other boaters had given him a good recommendation, although that in itself isn’t always a good reference. Anyhow, he’s close by so I went there but when he delivered the finished prop I didn’t like the look of his work nor the trouble he was having as I watched him try to fit it together and I don’t trust the thing. Consequently I thought that until we can get a new propeller we shouldn’t stray too far from home.
Then Mike said he and Katrina were taking a borrowed Santana sailboat to Yelapa to celebrate Katrina’s birthday and he asked, “Are you guys going to come?”
Now Yelapa is this scenic little town in a tiny harbor across the bay which you can’t get to by car. Yes, it’s a tourist town, but as tourist towns go, it’s pretty nice. Beautiful in fact. Small, mostly quiet, and pretty much unspoiled. But it’s 15 miles away. What if the wind died and we had to motor?
I made some excuse about the propeller but Mike wasn’t buying it.
“Hey, you’ve got a sailboat right? Anyhow, the boat we’re taking doesn’t even have a motor. So let’s go.”
That’s how we got signed up for the Yelapa trip and it was nice that we did because it turned out to be one of easiest, laziest, most pleasant sailing weekends we’ve had in a long time. No thrill or excitement here and that was fine with us.
Given our propeller problem we were hoping for wind which we got, not much, but enough. At 2:00PM a gentle 8 knots from the west filled in which made the leg to Yelapa, on a heading of 195, a close reach and we set off in pursuit of Mike and Katrina who started on the Santana half an hour ahead of us.
We set the genoa and trimmed onto the reach and sat around on deck letting the autopilot run the boat. Catching Mike wasn’t too hard and I finally took over the helm to steer down next to them and we chatted a bit. As we sailed by his first comment was, “Yep, she’s a duck.” I guess he was referring to how slow his boat was but they were clearly having a good day too. We took photos of each other.
Yelapa was terrific. After a little negotiation with the panga driver who came out to meet us, we got a mooring fore and aft which would keep us from swinging sideways to the swell during the night, I paid him, and we were set. A little swim and then dinner in town with M & K at a Mexican restaurant where they served cool strong Pina Coladas in tall glasses as big around as cantaloupes. We had a few.
Sunday we dove on the boat, just to check out that propeller for cracks, and then, at 2:00 PM (of course, that’s when the wind comes up around here) headed back to La Cruz. Once again, one long single reach, this one a little broader than the trip over, and in another 2.5 hours we were there. We used the autopilot the whole way. The best part was while we were sailing along and I was enjoying myself sitting on the high side with my feet over and Judy was napping below. The sun was shining and the wind was gentle and the warm Pacific waters were splashing up on my bare legs. The feel of it made me laugh.
You know, sailing doesn’t get much easier, or better, and I didn’t miss not having any excitement or thrills. We might even do that again.
On the race course it is important to “keep your head out of the boat”, meaning to look around and see the big picture. Being able to see past the trees and notice the forest can be helpful in boat maintenance too.
A couple of days ago I installed some new gauges for hydraulic system. To make sure the new gauges worked I pumped up the system. The gauges looked fine but I spotted a leak in the backstay cylinder.
OK, change the cylinder; that’s why I have a spare (head in the weeds).
The spare leaked too. Damn (head still in the weeds).
I took the leaking cylinder down to the workbench, rebuilt it, and then put it back in place (I still had my head down in the weeds).
The rebuilt cylinder briefly held pressure but then it spouted fluid like a sprinkler.
Finally it dawned on me that something bigger was going on here.
Let’s see... We keep an online record of all of our equipment failures and maintenance projects so I did a search to see when that backstay cylinder was last worked on. (Actually this record is on the Internet on our Log Book Pages site, so it is very accessible. You can review these records too, if you want to. Just click on this link and scroll all the way down the index on the right side, it's extensive.)
I was astonished to find out that the backstay cylinder had failed 10 times in the last 15 years! That was a pattern I had not recognized. In fact I didn’t remember most of the occurrences until I saw them spelled out in black and white.
It was time to take a step back and figure out what is happening to these cylinders instead of simply fixing them each time they blew up.
With three failures in two days I had a good sampling of broken parts on my workbench to examine. I quickly found that in every case the initial point of failure had been the rod seal. No other parts seemed to be damaged except by my subsequent removal. The rod seals were all from the same batch I bought in Hong Kong in 2004, right about when the backstay failures started to become frequent. I took a look at these little green bits of plastic. They looked so nice, and I had been so proud to score them in that little hydraulic shop in Mongkok back in 2004. But even the one I just put in yesterday seemed soft and the broken bits in my hand were crumbly. No wonder the cylinders were failing; the rod seals were disintegrating.
After some internet research on rod seals I headed off to my new favorite hydraulics shop in Las Juntas, near Puerto Vallarta, where Rosalia helped me find the nearest replacement part she had. There were two of them and they looked good, a lot more substantial than the ones I got in Hong Kong. I took the two she had and ordered four more from Guadalajara. Just for safety sake I went online and ordered another four from the Seal Shop in Portland, for a total of 10. (Well, I have five of these -12 size cylinders on Wings, I might as well have enough parts for all of them.)
With my new seals in hand I was back in the workshop rebuilding the backstay cylinder one more time. It wasn’t easy. The new seals were tough and they resisted being stretched into place, plus they were a little too tall and I had to carve them down a bit, but finally I got one cylinder completely refurbished and installed. I put 3500lbs on it. It worked. No Leaks. I then rebuilt the spare and, confident now in my work; and put it in the spare locker in case we need it in the future. That’s five rebuilds I’ve done in four days. Judy thinks that’s my new life: standing at the workbench all day rebuilding hydraulic cylinders.
But that’s all behind me now. Since I have now seen the big picture I’ve been able to solve the underlying problem. I don’t think we’ll have backstay failures for a while, or I hope not anyhow.
In 2003 we sailed from Australia to Papua New Guinea where we cruised for a few months. The country made an enormous impression on us. We posted a few stories back then and now we've posted a few more and several photos.
Here are each the stories from Papua New Guinea:
(or you can click here to read all the stories from Papua New Guinea)
Click here to hear our thoughts about Papua New Guinea, as we were leaving (new)
Click here to read about our arrival in Papua New Guinea (new)
Click here to read a story about a local girl who sang to us.
Click here to read "Spinning in the Louisiades" (new)
Click here to read about the secret spot called Ebora
Click here to read about some wonderful traditional sailing craft and the men who build and sail them (new)
Click here to read another short story about Ebora
In 1993 I bought a sewing machine. I fixed Judy's shorts and then I made a mainsail. My sailor friends, looking up at that main, said, "That took some balls", but it worked.
Then I made a dodger. That was a bit harder. Professionally built dodgers were running three thousand dollars back then. The good canvas people get paid well for their skills. The dodger I made cost me about $200 in materials and four days of work and it wasn't pretty. However it did the job.
The sewing machine is now over twenty years old but it still works and I'm still making dodgers; I just finished the forth one for Wings. Also we have a lot of the supplies which I bought with the machine. Supplies like thread and tapes and spare bits of sailcloth and especially canvas snaps and fasteners. I've done a lot of projects over the years besides those dodgers and it's amazing that the cache has lasted this long. And the cost to make a dodger is still under $200.
But, even after twenty some years to practice, I'm still making dodgers for Wings which aren't pretty. I guess they work. I have to say, though, I am disappointed in the latest dodger. Geez, I thought I'd get it right sooner or later. But this fourth one isn't much better than the first one. A sail maker once told me that if we screw up on a sail or a piece of canvas we'll have to look at it for years. How true.
Maybe there is an convergence happening here. As years go by I learn more about what needs to be done so the graph of that knowledge slopes upward. At the same time I get older and my capabilities decline. Where the declining line crosses the upward line is where things start getting worse. Maybe that has already happened.
Well, I finished the dodger and we'll use it and it will be fine. I hope I never have to make another one, but I could if I had to. It would remain to be seen if it would actually be better.
There was one nice little miracle which occurred during this project. Right in the middle of it the sewing machine broke. Not a little failure, a total failure; the rotary hook assembly broke. We weren't doing another stitch. I started to think about how to get another rotary hook assembly down here from Sailrite. Wouldn't be fast, that's for sure, and there would be expense out of proportion to the size of this little, but critical, part.
Then a light bulb went off somewhere in the dark folds: I remembered a bag of parts which I've been hoarding for twenty years. What's the chance of one of these assemblies being in that bag?
I dug it out and held the plastic up to the light. Nope. None of the parts inside were anything close to a rotary hook assembly. Then I saw a little white cardboard box sealed with packing tape. Bingo!
So I had one and in a few minutes I'd replaced the broken one and was back in business.
That made my day. It even made up for the somewhat crummy finished product I rolled out two days later.
Last week's clouds and thunderstorms made us think that with the coming of summer the good sailing was over but recent days have shown us that even in June the Banderas Bay thermals can still occur given a clear sky and a bright sun. In those conditions the bay continues to be great for sailing.
Sunday was one of those days, and when the breeze started to fill at noon we decided we'd go out. It was a snap decision. No planning, no discussion, just go.
I guess we just can't get enough sailing because just the day before we had competed in the "Downwind Umbrella" race, part of the marina's Summer Sailstice festival, not in Wings but in Mike's old yellow snark, which we borrowed and sailed to a clear victory. We had a new umbrella (from Walmart), color coded shirts, and hell, we even practiced the day before, so maybe we should have won, but it was Judy's faultless steering and the boat itself which gave us the victory; the snark has a centerboard and a rudder, and when the race turned into a reach the kayaks and dingys just slid off to leeward. Judy held us high and we glided to the finish line first.
video footage-rick flucke
Downwind Umbrella Race Video
It was all part of the grand Summer 'Sailstice' festivity put on the marina and organized by Katrina and by Mike Danielson of PV Sailing. Oh, it was fun! Paddle board racing, giant paddle board racing, live music, Thai food cart for those who feel Mexican isn't hot enough, prizes galore, musical chairs competition, and the headline event, the downwind umbrella race for any dingy, kayak, or other craft powered by an umbrella or other homemade wind capturing device. Wally, from the yacht Stella Blue, sewed a square sail out of women's underwear and rigged it on his kayak, which looked cumbersome to me with all of its top/bottom hamper and rigging and sure enough, he and Antoinette, his crew, broached spectacularly right after the start. They got the wipe-out prize.
But we got a prize for first place, Judy got second place prize for her speed and agility in musical chairs, and we ate Thai food and drank beer and had a good time. Thank you Marina Riviera Nayarit and Mike and Katrina.
Sunday was spectacular. Clear and hot, totally blue sky, beautiful blue ocean with white caps showing, and a great breeze in the high teens. The conditions were stunning. There is nowhere as beautiful for sailing as Banderas Bay on a nice day. We set sail and sheeted in on starboard and sailed upwind along the north shore. We held a big lift all the way up to Punta de Mita. After a pass through the anchorage there we turned downwind and set the spinnaker, executed a perfect jibe, and reached for home. The wind built to the low twenties and with the pole on the headstay and a long swell we were charging. The high speed for the day was 9.25 knots and I made Judy nervous by steering with one hand while taking photos with the other. But it was alright and when we got back to La Cruz we'd covered 27 miles. A good day's sailing!
Well, they say life is a reach and then you have to do a take-down. "No problem," I said. We turned downwind and put the sail in the lee of the main and dropped it on the foredeck. It went perfectly until I took the halyard off and then a wind gust blew the whole sail over the side into the water. We had to turn upwind to slow the boat and pull it back on board, and of course besides being soaking wet there is a pretty good hole in it. Dang! Well, I have a few sewing projects on the list already, I'll add that one.
Oh, then the engine overheated. Whew, another item on the project list.
So that's the report from La Cruz, despite everything, it was great.
It’s getting hotter here in La Cruz but we’re doing fine; we’ve lived in hotter places. Like everyone who has chosen to stay here during the summer we spend a lot of time sheltering from the heat.
Mornings and evenings are cooler however, and cloudy days are also good, and we do what we need to do outside, even on the hot days. Normally, however, we hang out where there is an air-conditioner, in Wings’ cabin, for instance.
We also know that sailing will be rare for us this summer because it is really a lot of work in this heat, but we’ll go out occasionally despite the heat if it is a perfect day and we know we’ll like it when we do.
Some days I grab the Nikon around sunset and venture out. That’s when the light gets good for photography. I am often surprised at how many people are out at that time. During the day it is a ghost town around here but in the evenings you find Mexican chicas jogging along the Malacon with their pony tails flying and Mexican families playing in the surf over at the beach. There are always the boys playing soccer. The locals know how to cope with the heat. To that extent, I guess we do too.
Meanwhile we have hurricanes to think about. This is hurricane season and they have already started brewing. Blanco went by already, and Andreas before that, and both missed us. The local experts say that the hurricanes always miss us in Banderas Bay, but Carlos, the next one, seems to be curving right towards us. People are preparing. We are watching closely. So this season will be interesting I guess.
Click here for more photos, including the projected track for Carlos!
It was another one of those wonderful sailing afternoons in Bandaras Bay which we see on most clear days: light breeze out of the west starting about 11:00 AM, building to around 20 knots by mid-afternoon, then shifting to the NW and tapering off before dark. We've started to hear from people who live here year 'round that the wind changes in the summer. The afternoon thermal winds we see every day will go away when the rainy season starts.
This could be one of the last great sailing days of the year.
So we grabbed a couple of neighbors, Leslie and Ian from the yacht Fandango, and we just went out and set sail. We sailed to windward for a couple of hours, did a couple of tacks. Then turned back and set the chute. The sailing was excellent.
We sat on deck and had some cold drinks and talked about life and sailing and whatever else came up.
Three wonderful hours on the water; pretty simple.
OK, we dropped the spinnaker into the water on the takedown, and had trouble with the jib takedown too, but nothing major (I guess we need more practice).
When we got to the dock the cold beers came out and we all sat around in the afterglow of a good sail.
Strangely, it might seem, one of the most satisfying times for me other than the eight knot broad reach we had coming home under spinnaker was the clean up. The two hours we spend putting the boat away after we get back are part of the deal, a good part from my way of thinking.
Ian and Leslie wanted to help and offered repeatedly, but Judy I and like to keep this part for ourselves. It is a ritual for us; we do it do it slowly, together, just plugging away at our own pace, coiling sheets, folding sails, and generally tidying up. It is a ritual which we've done together for many years and we wouldn't miss it for anything. Besides, we didn't invite Ian and Leslie on board to put them to work. So we declined their offers, tipped up the last of our beers, and got up to tackle the job.
By the time all the lines were hanging on their hooks below, and the sails were folded and in the forepeak and I had finished hosing off the boat the air conditioner was purring and the cool cabin was inviting. I looked over the boat with its white deck glistening and clean in the late afternoon light and I felt a joyous exhaustion. I knew that I'd done something which was important today, and that included the clean up as well as the sailing. It felt really good.
We also got another chance at the kiteboarders at the Fiesta Del Viento in Bucerias. It was a big deal, well over 100 boards out for the Long Distance Race. We shot the start but there was no way for us to keep up with them and see the finish, even with our dingy going flat out.
The cruisers sail away one by one, off towards the South Pacific or north into the Sea of Cortez. By May the anchorage at La Cruz has largely emptied out and the marina has a surplus of available slips.
It’s quiet in the town as well, more so since the week-long festival that wasn’t really a festival ended last Sunday. The festival activity, what there was, was mostly at nighttime. During the day you could walk the streets among the idle carnival rides and closed street stalls and the dogs sleeping in the shade barely looked up when you stepped over them.
The Kite Surfing contest in Bucerias was one; Eighty kiters, mostly from elsewhere in Mexico, were coming for closed course racing and free style competition. I thought I would photograph the event and I arranged a ride on the committee boat but somehow we got our wires crossed and he never came to pick me up. So Judy and I thought we’d shoot it from the beach but the sailors went the other way and we didn’t see much from the beach either. And anyhow, the traffic disruptions due to the police actions taking place over the holiday reduced the turnout.
When we came back through La Cruz on the way home there was a crowd just breaking up. Apparently some big show had happened in the square and we just missed it. Our neighbors told us there were horse shows, beauty contests, and beautiful folk dancing, happening right when we were over at the beach waiting for the kite surfers who mostly didn’t show.
So the expected photo opps were pretty much a bust for us this time, but next year…then we’ll know exactly what to do.
Several events were planned in La Cruz for Earth Day 2015 and we tried to participate in all of them. We had a busy day.
To start off with, we joined the La Cruz Birders for a bird watch hike around the area. It was our first bird watch hike but the group were experts and they had done the same route on Earth Day previously and they were really interested to see the state of wild birds in our community this year. We sighted over 50 species compared to 35 from last year. Sadly, it was felt that the construction for the new highway just outside of town has driven many birds out of their natural habitat and into the urban area, accounting for the increase, and probably many of them were stressed by the displacement. I have to say that I found the photography challenging, but I got a few shots and we enjoyed the walk.
By 9:30 we had shifted over to the beach for the annual beach clean-up. Some two dozen members of the cruising community hit the beaches armed with large garbage sacks, scouring the shorelines for any inorganic matter. The interesting result was that very little trash was found. La Cruz’s beaches are pretty clean.
In the afternoon we turned Wings into a garbage scow as we set sail in the Bay with several other boats to pick up floating trash. We took a contingent of kids but even with their keen eyesight and a competitive urge to get more junk than any of the other boats, again, we found very little.
Apparently the problem of garbage, primarily plastic, which plagues the world’s ocean and which we have seen firsthand, doesn’t start in Bandaras Bay. That evening I reminded the group of cruisers who collected around the bonfire on the beach to reflect on the day’s activities about how lucky we were to live in a such a beautiful place and as cruisers, many of us whom will soon depart for the far corners of the globe in our boats, we can and should spread the word about caring for our oceans to other places, and that we might hope someday, through our efforts and the efforts of others, to find all of the world’s oceans as clean as Bandaras Bay.
After picking up what trash we could find the young crew on Wings turned to the sheets and we got on the wind and had a boisterous sail back up to Punta Blanca before we turned downwind and headed for the barn, not getting home until 6:00PM. One maneuver we tried, successfully it seems, was to drop all of our sails at once when we arrived at the entrance to the marina. As we neared the marina I assigned all of my young crew to positions on the halyards and decks and told them we would sail at full speed in perfect trim until I gave the word, then we would turn up into the wind and quickly drop the main and jib together, in a demonstration of seamanship that would impress their friends on the other boats.
Judy pointed out later that in 28 some years we have never before tried that maneuver and she wondered why I would subject our young crew to such an experiment, a question to which I had no answer, but everyone did their part and I’d say we looked rather smart doing it.
Anyhow we ended Earth Day at the bonfire on the beach where everyone told of the day’s adventures and we all agreed that Earth Day 2015, was good.
With a solid “chunk” the car door closed and we started the engine. We had to go to Texas on an immigration run so we were back in the Chrysler and off on an 11 day trip, first to Texas, then Florida, then back to Texas, and finally, back to La Cruz. Texas? Why Texas? Well, we had to get back to the US to apply for Mexican residency and Texas is the closest border. But anyhow, why then, Florida? That hardly seems on the way.
Once we got to McAllen Texas we found out we had to wait five days for interview appointments. OK, what do you do in McAllen Texas for five days? Go to Florida. After all, we were already half way there and Judy’s sisters live in Florida. So off we went eastward at a mad pace, and arrived in Pensacola a day and a half later.
Maybe I should explain the “mad pace”. Pretty much the same as when we travel by boat, when I get on the road I want to cover some ground. I drive fast and we don’t stop. We drove for as many as eleven hours a day and we pushed hard. Speed limits are advisory. The point is: how fast can I go without getting a ticket or killing us? (Pretty fast, Judy less so). Stops for gas and lunches are short. It helps when the roads are straight and traffic is light, which it was for most of this trip. And we did cover ground: on this trip we covered about 3800 miles in roughly six days of driving. There were a few hours stuck in traffic in some of the cities (mostly in Texas) and on the Pacific side of Mexico, some curvy roads which slowed us considerably. Oh, there was a day of really heavy torrential rains in Louisiana and Mississippi and a couple of times traffic stopped completely in that rain.
Still, it was fast, and fun and the visit in Pensacola was very nice and we loved being with family for a few days; sisters and hubbies doing fine and kids growing up, but we had appointments back in Texas, so we hopped back in the car and sped off again. This time we were westbound, and it took a day and a half to get back to McAllen, rain and all, where we got our applications submitted and approved. Then we were back into the car one more time and we sped off again at another mad pace and arrived back in La Cruz in another day and a half.
The only problem with this kind of travel is that we don’t get to act like tourists. We miss some of the nice historic cities and other vistas we could see if we slowed down or made little detours. If you can’t see it from the highway, we don’t see it. Sometimes we’ll stop for photos, but on this trip we didn't stop much, not even to take photographs. Lots of time the weather wasn’t conducive for photos, and on some of the most scenic highways there weren’t many places to pull over, but mostly it was my need for speed; I just wanted to keep going. So I can live with that I guess, but there is not too much to show for all this driving (except the much needed resident permits).
I will mention that we did see some spectacular sights, such as the new Mazatlan to Durango highway and the city of Monterrey situated in a valley surrounded rugged mountains, and lots of desert. And we did get some shots one evening in Guadalajara.
wingssail images-fredrick roswold Guadalajara
Next time we'll take it easy and stop to smell the roses.
We just went out for an afternoon sail in the stunning Bandaras Bay and we had over 20 knots of breeze and flat water. Perfect conditions. It went well.
This was our first sail since the regatta, and our first sail by ourselves since December. No crew today, just Fred & Judy.
We headed out through the anchorage, turned into the wind and set the number 4 jib and the Dacron main . We went up wind for an hour. We made a couple of tacks. We adjusted the sheets and halyards and marked the settings. We hit 7.15 upwind in 24 knots, and sailed high as we did it.
We drank a beer, then changed to tequila. The combination of good wind, warm Mexico air, and flat water, to say nothing of the tequila, was just right.
The sun got low on the horizon and we turned back towards home and put on the auto pilot.
Judy said, "Watch the wind for the northerly shift, don't want an accidental jibe with the autopilot on."
We're starting to know the bay.
We saw a boat set with racing sails luffing into the wind and dropping their sails on deck and then go into the marina ahead of us, and we saw another, setting a big genoa, come charging out, heading downwind toward Vallarta with a bone in their teeth. There is some sailing on this bay.
We returned to the slip, as we often have before, wind-burned and flushed, and with maybe a bit too much tequila in our belly, and with what seems like acres of sail dumped all over the deck; we have chaos onboard, but we're happy.
La Cruz is a popular departure point for the "Puddle Jump", the Pacific Crossing, and there has been a bit of radio chatter lately from boats announcing their departure and from well wishers giving one last wave goodbye over the radio. The community of boats here preparing to cross the Pacific is small and many of the crews have drawn close. Now they must set out alone, or watch their friends do the same.
Other boats are heading north, to La Paz and Mazatlan, and others, a few, are heading south to the Panama Canal. The marina is clearing out. Every day people are waving goodbye.
Some of these partings are sad and all are filled with emotion, as ship's departures always have been; you can hear it in the voices on the radio and see it in the last hugs on the dock.
I would be lying if I said that I am not yearning to join them. There is excitement in joining the others, in setting out across the unknown. For this year's puddle jump crowd it is the culmination of all their dreams and preparations and they have the anticipation and, I am sure, the fears, that come with this undertaking. For those setting out this year I have a warm feeling and I wish them well.
I know this trip will be a major life event for them.
As it was for us in 1998.
But this year Wings sits still in her berth.
My yearning to join them doesn't last long. We had a good crossing back in 1998 and many adventures and breathtaking landfalls in the Pacific that year. We remember them all fondly. But I know the reality of a Pacific passage and a Pacific cruise; it is a long haul and a lot of work. Of course you have to do it once, and it was wonderful when we did it all those years ago, but once is enough and we have no real desire to sail across that ocean again.
We are happy to remain behind, but still... a little sad.
Two people: Fred & Judy , drawn to each other and yet somehow drawn also to the sea, and both intrigued by the idea of living aboard.
I saw her, blond and asymmetrical, beautiful, boarding another’s boat and I followed her and wooed her, or she wooed me. That was 1985 and we fell in love and we thought that to buy a boat and make a life together on the water was only natural.
So we did.
The boat was WINGS.
For the next ten years we lived on Wings in Seattle, had jobs in the city, sailed every chance we got, and 40-50 times a year, went racing. It was great.
Then we left Seattle and began our cruising life. We voyaged across the world, across the seven seas, to faraway places, and made them our own.
Wings was our home, and is still, and we lived wherever the sea met the land and people welcomed us, as they did everywhere.
For twenty-five years we’ve lived this life, and more to come, we hope.
Join us now, and sail the seas.
Fred Roswold & Judy Jensen, SV Wings, Caribbean