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Sunday, January 31, 2016

Jan 31, 2016-Vallarta Cup Wrap Up

john pounder - jldigitalmedia
Heading for the finish

There have been three more Vallarta Cup races. We won all three although one entire race was tossed out over a race instructions flap. That was race two.

Race three went our way from the beginning. The line was heavily favored to the pin end due to a wind shift in the last ten minutes before the start. We saw the shift and decided on a pin end start on port, even practiced it once. Even though our practice run should have showed the whole fleet what we were going to do most of our competition stuck to their normal bargy starts at the boat end. It cost them around a minute and a half. We crossed on port, sailed well, and led from start to finish.

Race four was also good for us. Another pin favored line and another start on port (the race committee hasn’t been able to put enough mark boats in the water to be able to shift the pin when they need to) although this time we weren’t alone. Four boats started out there and we were a bit slow out of the gate. Rounding the weather mark third we protected the right side expecting a shift back to the right, which came eventually, and we took advantage of a big lull in the middle of the long first reach to pull into the lead. Then we fought it out with Olas Lindas the rest of the way around, finished second behind them and corrected out to first by 7 minutes over our toughest competition, Olas Lindas, and 2 minutes over Brain Waves who got second. That’s when we popped the champagne corks.

The most excitement of the race however was the last half mile to the leeward mark down by Puerto Vallarta city front. We were leading Olas but they had wheels on us and were trying to pass. I told my crew we’d hold them off as long as possible, but we expected them to get by. They actually never did on that leg. Three times they tried. First they went below us but got stopped by our wind shadow. Then they tried to go over us but we sailed high and they gave that up. Another aborted attempt below us, with the same result as the first one, and finally they got really serious and came at us hot, attempting to take our wind and roll right over us. When they became overlapped they were very close and I saw that I could probably throw a luff at them enough to hold them off one more time. I turned to them and hailed, loudly, “Coming up, Coming up, Coming up!”. Then I pushed the helm down and carved a nice turn right up into the wind to block them, which the rules allow us to do. They responded with an equally sharp turn, as I knew they would. In fact I wouldn't have done this type of maneuver if I wasn't confident of their helmsman's skills but never the less I am sure she was a little startled by how far and how quickly I took them up. When their spinnaker brushed against our rig I turned our boat away and yelled, “You fouled us, do your 360". You know, they weren’t the only people who were shocked at my maneuver. The experienced hands on our boat knew what to expect, because we been quietly talking and expecting Olas to make a run at us, but the others hadn't caught on. Our tactical conversation was quiet and the boat steady, until I hailed “Coming up.” Then, in a second all hell broke loose and there we were, two 40+ foot race boats, side by side about 10 feet apart, and nearly head to wind, with spinnakers flying and mains flapping. Then I turned the boat down and it all got quiet again. What fun.

Olas sailed away to weather and we got to the leeward mark in front of them and I think they will never try to sail over us that close again.

It was all in good fun however, when we realized we would win on corrected time we withdrew the protest. Why risk getting disqualified in a protest hearing, and anyhow, the yacht club doesn’t like protest hearings. At the awards party Linda and her crew were smiling and gracious, a far cry from what they would have been if we forced them to go the table and spend an hour arguing about who was wrong and who was right.

wingssail image-deby mantis
Happy Crew

Now we have a month of Weds night beer can races before the Banderas Bay Regatta comes up in March. We hope to have some new sails by then.

Click here for more photos

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, La Cruz Huancaxtle.

Jan 30, 2016-Building a Successful Racing Program

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
Sex Sells

So far this year we have had excellent results on the race course. We’ve won most of the important races and we got first overall in the Bandaras Bay Blast and dominated the Vallarta Cup with four firsts out of four races, (although one of those races was completely thrown out and nobody was scored due to a race instruction foul up).

This has been thoroughly enjoyable for Judy and I and our crew is ecstatic about our success. After the last Vallarta Cup race we toasted our victory with champagne and arrived back at our dock with smiles that could not be contained.

There is a lot of luck at work in winning any sailboat race but in our case there was also a plan. We decided last year that we would focus on three things that we thought would improve our chances.

They were:

1. Upgrade the Crew

2. Upgrade the Sails

3. Work on the Rating Problem

By now, 2/3’s of the way through the season, we feel that the progress we’ve made on each of these three items have produced results. Let’s look at each one.

1. Upgrade the Crew.

Last year we had a team of mostly beginners and they became a good crew. With practice their boat handling skills became excellent but Judy and I spent too much of our attention watching every move they were making and further, they didn’t have the racing experience to be able help us with fine sail trim or tactics on the race course. Our sail trim was poor, and we missed a bunch of tactical calls and I was often distracted from my driving. This year we purposely set out to add some people with skill levels in those areas.

Our crew-finding challenge here in Mexico is complicated by the fact that we mostly use other cruising sailors as crew, most of whom have arrived here on their own sailboats, and who, while they tend to have good sailing skills, often want to go cruising on their own boats so we lose them after a while.

We were constantly alert for good sailors who planned to be around a while we when ran across one we asked if they wanted to sail with us for the season. Some did, some didn’t. Some couldn’t commit and just came once or twice and then moved on but others came and stuck. It has worked out well. We found some great people and we now have built a great team with several solid racing sailors among them. Our boat handling, as usual, is very good, our tactics are much better than before, we have good navigation, and we have good sail trim. One area however which has been more challenging has been finding a good bowman who can stay around. Our latest guy has been absolutely dynamite but he has work commitments so we are back looking for a permanent Bow Person. That’s where the poster you see at the top of this story came in.

But, in fact, the whole team has been pretty solid. It has exceeded our expectations and it has helped us win on the race course this year.

2. Upgrade the Sails

Our racing sails were getting pretty old (8 years) by the end of last season and we felt that we were lacking in pointing ability and speed. They were also falling apart. Buying new sails is costly and time consuming. To get ones which we could afford was even more difficult and more time consuming, if not impossible, but we set out to do just that and that effort is still underway. In the meantime we took the our main and genoa, the most important sails and the ones with the worst problems, to the sail loft and discussed some recuts with Mike Danielson at North Sales. Mike understood what we wanted to do and he made some minor changes which really improved the sails. He also cautioned us about the condition of the sails. “These have limited life left in them”, he said.

Well, the recuts worked some magic on the shape. On the race course they are fast and they have held together so far this season thanks to a bunch of PSA sail repair tape and lots of patches.

We are close to having some new sails on the way, but in the meantime we feel we have achieved our sail upgrade objective and it shows in the results.

3. Work on the Rating Problem

Last year, even when we sailed a good race, we could not correct out over the top boat, a relatively new production racer from Europe. We felt they had the wrong rating but since it was the only one in North America there were no other results to base any change upon. It could be that their consistent wins were just the result of excellent sailing.

We lobbied for nearly a year for a handicapper’s meeting and when it finally happened in December we got some relief; the rating was changed, not the 24 seconds I lobbied for, but 12 seconds, and it helps.

Other improvements:

Judy and Nick have nailed the navigation task and we no longer miss marks. It is hard to overestimate the importance of this.

Dick has been calling the laylines perfectly and that has solved a bugaboo from last year.

I have had some really good starts, I mean really good starts, which is always a key factor in any win.

And all of the excellent crew work has allowed me to focus on steering which has also improved this year as well. Judy helps a lot with this by constantly watching the tell tales and my steering and coaching me whenever I need it.

We have had “guest visits” by some really super sailors and each has left us with some tips which we have been happy to follow.

All in all, we are pretty pleased with how our program has advanced. We hope we can keep it up for the rest of the season.

Click here and here for photos of our crew.

catrina liana image

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, La Cruz Huanacaxtle.

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Tuesday, January 12, 2016

January 11, 2016-Another Great Race!

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
Crew Happy (composite photo)

We had another good race yesterday; we won overall on corrected time and beat our class by over four minutes, a great finish: First in class and first overall.

We know we can't do that every time, but it is nice when we do. For those of you who want to read the nitty gritty details, read below.

Otherwise, we are working hard to figure out a solution to our rapidly deteriorating sails and that will certainly be expensive, and we'll keep you up to date on that, and we thought we'd share with you photos of our Christmas Dinner, which was fun.

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
Turkey Dinner

Fred & Judy SV Wings, La Cruz Huancaxtle

Click here for more photos

What a race!

It wasn't just a good race, it was a great race.

Like all the really great ones it started with a great start.

The line was short and the committee boat was favored and we came in on port looking for a spot but there wasn't one, just a crowd of other boats all barging on starboard and trying to find a spot up by the committee boat. We had to go onto starboard soon ourselves but I could see that if we tacked we'd be early. I told the crew "Jibing" and we jibed around to leeward of Nuevo Luna, the lead boat. When they looked at getting their bow under our quarter I ducked down and encouraged them to stay up, which they did, thankfully; that was the break we needed.

When they went for the line we came up under them.

Dick was counting down and he said 9 seconds. Nueva Luna was up on my hip going slow. I turned the boat down to gain some speed and stay away from the line and I saw the pin just ahead and then looked at Paul on the bow. He glanced at his watch and then down the line and I could clearly tell he didn't know where we were on the line. What to do?

Dick shouted GO! GO! I glanced over my shoulder and saw Nuevo Luna and three other boats between us and the committee boat and I knew we were safe; if we were early they couldn't see us. It was time to go and I turned for the line.

Somehow we poked our nose out in front of Nuevo Luna and I saw we were under their lee bow. I told Dick to grind in the main; I wanted to stuff some dirty air at them, and we used our speed to come up in front of them. It worked better than I hoped. We stuffed them up and they, in turn, dumped dirty air on the crowd to weather of them, which slowed the whole group, and then we bore off and went for speed.

So that was the start: in a couple of minutes we were clearly out in front and the whole pack was behind us and going slow and trying to get some air to breathe, but there wasn't any. I saw Olas Lindas, our real nemesis, way back and going nowhere. They tacked away.

We got to the weather mark first, easily, and turned for Punta Blanca, four miles away on starboard tack. The nearest boat was Bright Star, just astern, and then Olas Lindas who came out on our hip. We struggled to gain on Bright Star and Olas for a while and finally I said out loud, "I have to get the speed up, I am going to bear away until we hit 6 knots". The six knots came fast once I put the bow down and all of a sudden we started to point on Bright Star and foot on Olas Lindas. Magic! It was our wind.

There was a bunch of radio chatter about the next mark and its location and if it was even in place anymore but we stayed out of that conversation and Judy looked with the binoculars and I think we were the first boat to find it. It was deflated and was just a puddle of yellow in the water but anyhow we found it, rounded, and had a good set.

If we made any significant mistakes it was on that leg. I had the heading wrong and we sailed too high for half the leg. But as we got halfway down the leg and couldn't find the last mark Judy finally went below to check the chart.

"We're way above it, go down! " she said, which I did. So our course for that leg turned out to be a great circle route; very slow. Bright Star was way back but Olas Lindas was close and the extra we sailed distance allowed them gain. We held them off during the last half mile when we jibed twice to keep the speed up and they rounded the last mark about 30 seconds behind. Probably our mistake on that run prevented us from finishing ahead of them in the end but it didn't matter; they owed us six minutes and there was no way they could get that far ahead in the last mile and a half to the finish.

We jibed at the mark and then changed to the jib for the finish and came in one and a half minutes behind Olas Lindas, who were able to carry their kite all the way in.

So that was the win, we loved it.

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Sunday, December 27, 2015

December 27, 2015-Racing Blast Off

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
Approaching the Finish

Going up the shoreline, playing the beach hard, was clearly paying off. By mid point in the race the other boats had all been overtaken and they were fading. Local knowledge said to stay in and that’s what we were doing, but it was nerve wracking. We sailed almost into the surf line. The swells rose up, the tops blew off like a mullah’s beard, and the combers started their shoreward march just to leeward of us. The rocky points jutted out ahead and were awash in white water. There was no small talk on the boat; we were all alert. Everyone’s eyes were on the depth sounder. When we got in to 20 feet and it seemed like we could touch the shore with our toes we took a tack out but the tacks out were short. We were committed.

No other boats were working the beach like that and we watched as they fell away. One by one they tacked out, looking for breeze or deeper water, or I don’t know what, but when they did they immediately began to lose ground. I don’t know why they couldn’t see what it was doing to them but they kept doing it. They became distant on the horizon. The final big gain for us came in the last few miles before Punta de Mita, when the wind inshore turned North West and lifted us in to towards the finish line. The boats outside didn’t get the lift and by the time we finished the race, in first place, we couldn’t even see them.

The realization that Wings had performed a “horizon job” on the fleet came on us gradually and when it sunk in we savored the feeling. You don’t get then like that very often.

The Banderas Bay Blast was three races. We got a first and two seconds. It added up to first overall.

And that was after two Wednesday Beer Cans where we also finished well up. The season is getting off to a great start but we are not letting it get to our heads; the racing will be tough this year and we’ll have to work hard to keep it up.

We intend to try.

Click here for another photo and the sail bag project photos.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, La Cruz Huanacaxtle

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December 27, 2015-Bag Time

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
Pink Bag Looks Tired

The Dacron number 2 genoa is OK, not great, but OK, but the bag looked terrible. The bright red cloth we got from Ket in Phuket had turned to pink. Sitting on the foredeck or stowed down in the sail locker it gave a bad impression.

So we made a new bag. The sail is still the same old Dacron 2 but the bag looks fantastic.

It was a good one-day project.

In Progress

Click here to see the finished product.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, La Cruz Huanacaxtle.

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Friday, December 25, 2015

December 25, 2015-Merry Christmas

wingssail images-fredrick roswold

Click here for a few other photos we considered

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, La Cruz Huanacaxtle, Mexico

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Monday, December 07, 2015

December 7, 2015-Racing Season is Upon Us.

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
Cockpit Floor Repaired

The summer in La Cruz was long and the days were hot. We moved slowly during those hot days. We had work to do on the boat before the start of racing season but that seemed far in the future and we never really felt much pressure about the work; there were many days in which to do it. In all that heat and humidity we were happy if we did at least one thing constructive every day but we let siesta take up most of the afternoons. July rolled by, August, September…October. October? Oh my gosh. It hit us that there wasn’t much time left. Now, all of a sudden, racing season was almost upon us and we were just barely getting the boat ready. Or were we even doing that? There were still some issues, big ones.

So when October came we knuckled down to work. First, the cockpit. The cockpit sole was soft and had been for a while. The balsa core was rotten. Replacing it was a job we’d been putting off, for years actually, but it got worse over the summer. We began to worry about the possibility of someone crashing through the sole to the main salon below. We attacked it with a grinder and a cutting blade. We ripped off the fiberglass skin. We ripped out the old balsa. Then we replaced it with new wood, good Mexican wood, and plenty of epoxy, and put all back together. What a job. Well now it’s done, it’s plenty strong, and it looks good.

We also got the primary winch fixed. The drum on starboard primary winch broke one afternoon. Like a sailor with scurvy it started losing its teeth. The aluminum teeth were falling out like crazy. Remedying this took some decision making. We could buy new drums from Allen Hutton in Australia, at a price which was pretty high for us, or we could buy some used winches, sight un-seen, on EBay. We decided instead to try to get a local machine shop to fix our broken one with new stainless steel gear teeth. I’d almost rather have gone to the dentist. It took nearly a month to complete this work and there were several return trips to the machine shop to get it right. I won’t say it’s perfect yet, even now it clangs like a cow bell when free-wheeled but we think it will work.

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Jim & Fred enjoy a nice day

Then there are the sails. The heavy #1 genoa was cupping in the leech and needed a bit of a recut. The mainsail also needed some minor repair work on its leech, but to increase the longevity not to change the shape. We took them both into the loft earlier in the summer and got them back in October. Jim Slosson, my old college buddy, went sailing with us to take a look. The jib was good and it we knew it will help us this year but the main still needed more work. Back to the shop it went. This was getting old. When it came back a second time and still wasn’t right I did some sewing on it myself. But it’s ready now.

All this last minute stuff was somewhat nerve wracking; the first race was scheduled for November 25 and we weren’t ready. We would have gone out, ready or not, even if we had to use the Dacron main, but on top of everything else crew was an issue. So we were relieved when the race was cancelled.

Actually, as of that first Wednesday race, we didn’t have a crew. Last year’s bunch has largely broken up and moved on. We needed a new group. Finding them was one task we couldn’t do much on during the summer; there isn’t anyone around here to recruit from then, although I tried. We did line up a team for the second race, which was Dec 2, and we sailed. The new crew turned out to be terrific. In fact they were great. Now if only we can keep them. Most of this bunch are cruisers themselves and cruisers tend to move on so we don’t know. Right now things are still fluid. By January we hope to have a solid, well trained, regular, crew.

katrina liana image
Fred Scares Mike Danielson

That race on Dec 2nd was our first of the season, and it turned out pretty good. The wind was light, almost nonexistent, but we sailed well in it and kept moving. We led most of the way. The finish was close and Blue, the J-160, which finally overtook us on the last leg, beat us over the line so we finished second. But we believe they didn’t finish properly so in that case we won, but, of course, that was argued for hours at the after race party, to no conclusion. We’re happy anyway.

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
In the boat yard

Now we’re in the boat yard, hauled out for bottom paint and a new propeller, so we’ll miss the next race, but after that the season will be in full swing and we’ll be back at it...

for another year.

Click here for more photos

Click here for more of Katrina's pictures from the race.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, La Cruz Huanacaxtle

katrina liana image
Another Season Starts

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Sunday, November 01, 2015

October 31, 2015-Dia de los Muertos

Dancing in the Rain

The Day of the Dead. It’s three days of holidays honoring the dead in Mexico and it kicks off on Halloween. We heard that the locals would be building private altars using sugar skulls and marigolds and placing on them the favorite foods and beverages of the departed. We also knew there would be Halloween parties at some of the local expat bars over the course of the weekend, but nothing seemed exciting enough to get us in the mood to venture out. On Friday night, to top off the gloom, it was raining. We planned to stay home the whole weekend.

But at 6:30PM Friday a sudden radio announcement broke the silence: “A Day of the Dead ceremony will be held at the altars to the dead, in Marina, at 7:30. Dancing of the Dead Catrinas will be featured.”

This was a surprise; we hadn’t heard anything about it, and it was pretty short notice.

And what ARE the Dead Catrinas? We looked it up: “La Catrina has become the referential image of Death in Mexico, it is common to see her embodied as part of the celebrations of Day of the Dead throughout the country;” There were photos of skeletons dressed as women.

I said that it might be a good photo opportunity despite the rain (it was still raining pretty much cats and dogs).

Judy said, “Go ahead, I’ll do the dishes and get a movie ready.”

So I pulled on some long pants (just to honor the dead), put a long lens on the Nikon, and headed off to town in the rain.

Well, I found the altars and the favorite foods and beverages and the ceremony which was already in progress. It wasn’t much, just a few dancers braving the rain and the “Dead Catrinas” huddled under a tent nearby. What with the dreary weather and the late notice there wasn’t much of a crowd either. And, from a photographer’s point of view, there wasn’t much in the way of light. There was music, there were dancers, but there were darn few lights around. I started shooting anyway; maybe I could get a few shots.

The lights that were there disappeared when the first act packed up their stuff and left and I realized that any more photos were going to be pretty much impossible. I wondered if I should rethink my abhorrence of artificial light and buy a flash unit someday; there are times, I thought.

I used the light on my phone once or twice. Well, I tried, it seemed feeble.

It was a short ceremony and it was over quickly.

People drifted away. I went back to Wings.

Things are low key in La Cruz.

We like it that way.

Click here for more photos.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, La Cruz Huancaxtle

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Saturday, October 24, 2015

October 24, 2015-Just a short update about Hurricane Patricia:

The strongest hurricane for the western hemisphere on record fizzled out pretty quickly after it hit land on the south coast.

In La Cruz we got a little rain, not much, and no wind. The mountains around us seem to have protected us again. Even the reports from down south seem minimal.

All the preparations turned out to be just good practice.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, La Cruz Huancaxtle

Friday, October 23, 2015

October 23, 2015-Hurricane Watch

Hurricane Patricia

Yeah, Hurricane Patricia is big news. We've been watching it, as a tropical storm, for a few days. Then this morning we got the following warning:


They also said it was the strongest ever hurricane in western hemisphere (which includes the Caribbean and storms such as Katrina, etc.)? I can't quite deal with that concept, I'm just shaking my head in wonder. How does this happen?

Historically no hurricane has ever come into Banderas Bay. This bay is surrounded by mountains which have always protected it. We all watch the weather models and projections and listen to the forecasts hourly and wonder if this is going to be the exception. Right now there is a very high likelyhood that Patricia will miss us and hit land south of Puerto Vallarta, outside of Banderas Bay, right against the Sierra Madre Mountains, then move to the NE toward Guadalajara and then onward towards the USA (Texas). In that case we can expect stormy weather, winds and rain, and flooding, but not really dangerous conditions here. However we have all made a lot of preparations, such as taking down all awnings and anything else which is on deck, and adding double dock lines, making sure we have water. food, and fuel, just in case.

A worse outcome would be if the storm stays offshore and goes along the coast. In that event we would get higher winds and big waves. Stil, that is not thought to be unbearable for our location, and anyhow, we don't expect it. With each hour, as we watch the storm's progress, that becomes less likely.

The worst path, which nobody thinks it will take, would be to hook right and come directly into the Bay. If it does, well, that would be pretty bad.

One thing we are not doing is piling into the car and heading for the hills. With the most likely path of this thing being just to the east of us, in the hills, and with torrential rain and flash flooding expected, we don't think we would want to there.

To be honest with you we are more concerned about the Mexican people south of here who are going to be hit with devastatingly strong winds and lots of rain and lots of floods. I expect a extensive damage and high causality counts south of us in Jalisco and east of us. And with the projected landfall being Barra De Navidad, where a very low lying town, basically on a sandbar, is right on the coast, and behind that, a big marina with a lot of boats... It could be very bad for the people in Barra de Navidad tonight. I'm just glad we are not in Barra now.

But we believe we are going to be safe here, however this hurricane could be the one to break all the rules. We can't do much about it in that case, so, for the next twenty four hours, we will just wait and watch.

We will send an update tomorrow.

Click here for more images and some photos of the preparations.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, La Cruz Huanacaxtle

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Tuesday, October 13, 2015

October 13, 2015-In The Beginning

Kelly O'Neil Photography
Wings Sailing in Seattle

I had a good crossing from Victoria to Port Angeles that morning in 1985 sailing my Mega 30, Song of the Siren. At first it was a beam reach in a gentle northerly with the spinnaker up, riding the swell, and then a nice beat up inside the spit with salt spray in my face as the westerly filled, but now, as I folded my sails at the transit dock, the afternoon grew more blustery and I was glad to be in the harbor. Port Angeles can be a bit raw when the wind blows in off the strait. The smoke streams horizontally from the stacks of the pulp mills, the sea gulls wheel, the air smells of salt and fish and fresh cut fir logs, and the gusts of cold pacific wind blow directly into Yacht Haven. Sailors out in the Straits are happy to find shelter in places like Port Angeles but those seeking shelter there have one last test: landing in that small and gusty harbor.

I saw the first wind-blown boat coming in, a thirty something sloop with two sailors in foulies, salt tangles in their hair, flushed from the wind and then as they turned toward the long pier the wind caught their boat. I saw a crash on the way unless I did something and I ran to catch a line and got it on a cleat which snubbed their bow and they swung in alongside, safe.

The next one was close behind and this time there was some shouting on board as the skipper, just at the worst time, saw that his control was gone. Again I caught a bow line and another man hurried over to get the stern line and we got them safe alongside as well. There were more boats blown in from the Straits that afternoon, large and small, but the scene was always the same: the landings at Yacht Haven were near disasters but that guy and I worked all afternoon and into the evening without saying much to each other and we made the day turn out a lot better for quite a few boaters.

In the midst of all of this activity of rescuing boats I saw a sight which intrigued me: in this rather rough harbor, on a definitely wild day, there appeared on the docks a rather glamorous, and tall, young woman, dressed to the nines, who came down the pier, slipped off her high heels, and boarded one of the boats in the back of the marina. “Wow”, I thought. As she disappeared down the hatch I turned back to the business at hand with quite an image in my mind.

We caught a few more boats, that guy and I, and we enjoyed it, but the day was getting long and the harbor was filling up.

Finally things quieted down and I was standing there next to him and I stuck out my hand, “I’m Fred”.

He had a friendly smile, “I’m Jim.”

I guess Jim knew who belonged there and who didn’t. He asked, “You come in on a boat?”

“Yeah, that blue sloop down there. I guess I was lucky enough to get in without your help earlier.”

He laughed and he invited me to his boat for a drink, motioning towards a Choy Lee cutter in one of the permanent slips, the same boat I’d noticed that well dressed blonde woman boarding earlier.

I didn’t hesitate. “Sounds good.”

That blonde was Judy and striking up a friendship with Jim Jones, while working the docks of Yacht Haven Marina in Port Angeles, was how I came to meet her that night on board that Choy Lee sailboat.

Judy had come straight from the office to help Jim and his wife Jean plan a summer cruise and she might have been in a business suit then but she was a sailor and pretty comfortable in jeans and boat shoes too. We hit it off right at the start and we talked boats and racing for a few hours and then she accepted my invitation to see my boat. I told her that, by most accounts, it was an ugly boat, which she found incomprehensible, so maybe there was some curiosity on her part, but after seeing it she said she liked it. By that time I think I was already hooked.

She asked me if I liked Hurricane Ridge and I told her I’d never been there. She said we could drive up there the next day but I said I was leaving in the morning. She gave me her number and said if I stayed another day, I should call her.

I stayed and called Judy the next day and she drove us up to Hurricane Ridge and while we walked on the trails and enjoyed the view we talked about our dreams and aspirations. She said she wanted to own her own boat some day. I didn’t know any other women who said they wanted that. We had quite a few dreams in common too, including the dream of living on a boat and going cruising. She also told me she was moving to Seattle soon and I know we were both thinking that we might see more of each other then.

I did sail away from Port Angeles the day after that, but I came back before my trip was over and I saw her again and we made plans to see each other when she came to Seattle, which we did.

wingssail images-doris mast
Fred & Judy

And that’s how it began, 30 years ago.

Click here for more photos from the early days.

Fred Roswold, SV Wings, La Cruz Huanacaxtle

September 28, 2015-Eclipse of the Moon

On September 28 we watched a full eclipse of the moon. Click here for Photos of the Blood Moon including the full eclipse

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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

September 23, 2015-Chainplate Repair

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Removing Shrouds

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.

Click here to see more photos of this job.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, La Cruz Huancaxtle.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Sept. 15, 2015-Big Motors and Taco Fest

Big Motors

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Big Motors

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.

Taco Fest

Blue Dress

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.

Click here for more photos.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, La Cruz Huancaxtle

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Monday, September 07, 2015

September 7, 2015-Sailing to Yelapa.

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Pulling in the Jib

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.

Click here for a few more photos.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, La Cruz Huancaxtle

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

August 31, 2015-Hydraulic Pains

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Cylinder on the workbench

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.

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
Job Complete

Now if I could only apply that principle to our racing strategy.

Click here for more photos.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, La Cruz Huanacaxtle.

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