Saturday, April 25, 2009

Sail Repair 101

After we got over the shock of ripping a sail, we got down to business. We borrowed The Sailmaker's Apprentice from Pisces and read up on patching sails. Of course, our situation was different than any of those discussed, but still fairly basic. The jib foot had caught on the bow pulpit life line connection and created a 9 inch vertical tear with the Dacron parted but the foot tension line still intact. Early the next morning we pulled out all of our sail repair gear and our sewing machine, Elna, and lured Jacob with his sail loft experience over to our boat. After discussing the rip and our options we followed Jacob's recommendations (backed by his old boss as well!) and used our butane hot-knife to melt the rip and burn a rectangular 22" X 3" piece of Dacron for a patch. We then added basting tape and placed the patch perpendicular to the foot of the sail, still encompassing the entire rip diagonally. We used 4.4-oz material and folded it in half in order to patch both sides of the 7.5-oz Dacron sail. Elna worked like a champ with a #100/16 needle and #69 polyester thread. As preventative maintenance, we plan to improve that patch by adding Insignia (adhesive backed Dacron) material over both sides of the quite large area that chafes on our pulpit. Yay! First sail repair mostly complete!

While we had all the repair gear out and Jacob still there, we decided to tackle an issue that happened somewhere on the Outside. Our lowest hank spur grommet had pulled free of the material so the hank was chafing directly on the leech of the sail. This turned out to be a bigger job than the first. We used the hot-knife to cut out the old material and to cut 2 patches out of 7.5-oz material (borrowed from Pisces). The inner patch was 3.5" X 3.5" and the outer patch was 5.5" X 5". Elna's limit was reached and she was unable to sew through four layers of 7.5-oz Dacron. Lucky for us, Jacob offered to pull out their SailRite machine designed specifically for sail making. It powered through those layers and gave us sewing machine envy. Still there was more work to be done. Chris spent what was left of the afternoon making our die tool which was not quite the right size work with our spur grommets. Three grommets and several curse words later, voila! Now our new improved sail is better than ever.

Although it was a little intimidating to have to repair such an important sail, over all we are happy to have had the experience. Not only is our sail in better shape that before we started working on it, we got to go through our sail repair kit and realize what we had that was good and what we still need. So, added to the project list is beefing up the sail repair kit. Much thanks to Pisces for sharing all their knowledge and supplies as well as encouraging us (specifically Shawn) throughout this project. Of course we hope that you will come to us first if you want to use Elna to embroider something... Thanks you two!!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Rip, not a sound a sailor likes to hear...

One sound any sailor dreads is ripping material. No, not the bathing suit; the sails, the engine. But we're getting ahead of ourselves. We last left you with expectations of a good night's sleep in a near all-weather anchorage, Escondito. Unfortunately for us, we did not have a restful night there. To start, just after setting the hook, we had a plumbing issue. A 3-way valve failed allowing seawater to dribble into the boat and rendering our head system, shall we say, closed for business. So, after wrestling with poopy pipes long after the sunset we were awaken at 1:30 in the morning to our friends Scheherazade weighing anchor because strong winds from the mountains were pushing them too close to their closest neighbor. There were good westerly winds and we had a long passage planned for the next day trying to get north to a safe norther anchorage. For over an hour we debated weighing anchor ourselves, but sleep won out, at least we attempted to sleep. Soon after, the winds shifted to the SE, bringing with it swell directly into the anchorage and pushing us toward the cliffs we were hanging off of when we had set the anchor. Still we held tight as we were preparing Tao and Eeyore to sail and we saw Pisces heading out, we decided that we had waited so long we might as well wait until the morning breeze picked up to get us out into the San Jose channel; but it never came. The anchorage was devoid of wind with 2-3 foot swells at 4 seconds making Tao look like a hobby horse. Rough start, but post weather, around 9am, we finally motored out of the now nearly deserted anchorage into perfect spinnaker winds pushing us toward our new destination- Agua Verde.

Our buddy boats Pisces and Scheherezade were way ahead of us and we had 44-nm to go. We figured we would likely just have a night at sea. But the winds were up and they held. We sailed under spinnaker and mainsail for 8 straight hours with our colors flying high and our speed over ground seeing up to 8.2 knots with several hours solidly just below 7 knots. We had our fishing line out but our lucky lure got chomped and we had no other nibbles. As days end approached we were close to making it when the winds disappeared leaving us bobbing in sloppy seas. Hoping for a good night of sleep and staying with our buddy boats, we fired up the engine and motored the last hour past a large reef an onto anchor nestled at the base of large mountains looming to the west. We collapsed into bed and slept comfortably with 7:1 scope out as the gale on the Outside sent gusts over the Baja mountains throughout the night changing our conditions from no wind to 30 knots with little warning. And the forecast norther marched closer.

Although Agua Verde has a small lobe with great protection from the north, we did not relish the thought of having to jockey for position in it and deal another night with a crowded anchorage. So we weighed anchor and sailed out early, around 7:30, the next morning hoping to make it under sail to Isla Carmen to wait out the norther in a safe anchorage yet away from the crowds. It was a fun filled full-wind-spectrum sail. After a mellow downwind sail off our anchor, when we exited the safety of the harbor, west winds were spilling over the peninsula from the gale on the Outside creating 25-30 knot conditions. We double reefed the main and had some feisty sailing for a couple hours. As we sailed away from the peninsula, the winds diminished until we had the full main and drifter up, and then diminishing to nothing we brought the flopping main down and let the drifter catch every breath that fluttered past. Just after noon the winds filled in from the SE creating some beautiful sailing with flat seas under full main and 100% jib to our destination- Punta Perico on Isla Carmen. We set our anchor in a near deserted anchorage that our three boats soon filled up and settled in to await the norther.

We spent a little over 4-days there with plenty of space to let out tons of scope to feel comfortable enough to leave Tao to snorkel, head ashore for hikes and yoga, and make visits to eachother's boats for happy hours and meals. We even tested our 22-lb Danforth stern anchor, freshly spliced together by Chris (to remove the weak link created by the shackle), in the 30 knot winds setting it as the primary; both it and the splice were bomber. (Just in case, we left Rocky set and ready should it fail and we move more than 20 feet, and we didn't mention our experiment to the boat that had anchored downwind of us). Comforting to know our back up is solid, but we're still in the market for a 70-lb Luke storm anchor. Excited to see more of Isla Carmen, on the 20th the winds finally abated and we decided to sail a few miles into Salinas Bay home to a deserted salt mining town and another spot that had been filled with boats hiding from the norther.

We put the sails up, brought Rocky aboard and wrestled with our salt encrusted lines. It was as we poked out around Punta Perico heading out for a sail to stretch our legs that we tightened in our 100% jib and heard the rip. The jib foot had caught on the bow pulpit life line connection, a known area of chafe, and finally succumbed- ripping 9 inches vertically. Immediately we took down the injured sail, hoisted our 80%, and turned around to sail directly to Salinas. Shocked that we had sustained injuries to our main working sail, we set the hook and went ashore to discuss our plan... For the first time we felt like we were "at the beach" as we walked down a mile of white sand with lapping bright blue water to the interesting little mostly abandoned town. More exciting for us, however, was visiting the huge inshore salt pond whose perimeter was lined with rocks colored white with inches of salt deposition on each. The next day, devoid of wind, was dedicated to sail repair. With the invaluable help of Pisces, Jacob's sail loft experience, our as yet unintroduced crew member Elna (a Swiss made first model computerized home sewing machine), and a few strong stitches from Pisces' solid SailRite machine, it was a very rejuvenating day for our little sail loft and we went to bed looking forward to putting our new improved sail up the next day.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Escape from La Paz, Shawn's birthday, and weather in the Sea

It's been a busy while. After nearly three weeks, we finally escaped the vortex of La Paz. It's funny, the whole trip until we got there we'd been saying "we'll fix it in La Paz." Well, La Paz was such a scene in itself that we didn't end up with much time to actually do most of those projects. We enjoyed it, but more importantly, we realized that the cruising scene in La Paz although fun for a short time, is not what our dream cruise is about. We want to see beautiful untouched places, be connected to nature, spend time talking with people from the places that we are visiting. Not spend our days finding internet and only hanging out with (I mean this in the best possible way) other gringo sailors. So, moving toward removing ourselves from its pull, we enjoyed the sailors we met and ate lots of amazing Mexican cuisine daily (corn ice cream 5 peso tacos were revisited many times!). We did our taxes (which by the way is a pain from another country even when they are easy), overly reprovisioned, and spent one last day with Chris fighting a stomach bug. On the 3rd of April we sailed away from the city with the wind at our back and the tide in our favor.

We went a short distance (18 nm) to Balandra Bay and spent two nights with our friends Pisces and Catspaw. On the 5th we awoke to swells rolling into the anchorage and decided to weigh anchor and start the much anticipated voyage northward into the Sea. We had a beautiful 7 hr beat upwind to Ensenada Grande on the north end of Isla Partida again (we've so far had good luck there with Coromuels). We spent two nights there with Pisces doing yoga on the beach and waiting for the seas being blown from the north to lay down a bit. On the 7th (yes Shawn's birthday!) we both very patiently beat out of the bay and made the best of the few breaths of wind that fluttered by leading to the afternoon calm. Finally, we decided to work the iron genoa a little and spent a few hours motoring through clear and calm seas with perfect views of rays, billfish and even electric blue suckers riding on the backs of dolphins in our bow waves until we finally set the hook at the east side of Isla San Francisco. There we had a birthday celebration on Pisces with overwhelming amounts of yummy food, durazno mimosas that made us feel like we had been at their wedding, and then it was topped off with coconut chocolate cake and freshly whipped cream- thanks so much Julia & Jacob! All that followed by a comfortable calm night of sleep adds up to a rather amazing birthday!

It's been nearly a week since then and we've been enjoying this area. More yoga on the beach. Then a sail to Isla Coyote and some amazing snorkeling. The stars all aligned and the full moon rose as "Team Young" Scheherazade, Pisces, and Tao shared a wonderful spinach and brown rice dinner together at a deserted anchorage on the south end of Isla San Jose. With northers predicted and a bad batch of bugs Scheherazade ran with brief southerlies to Everisto on the Baja peninsula while we sailed the short distance north around the spit with Pisces into Bahia Amortajada and spent the day exploring the mangroves and lagoon that connect to the other side of the island. After returning to our boat feeling very lazy and relaxed, the sun set and the winds piped up- from a very undesirable direction. The fetch was enough that the waves rolling in on us were 3 to 4 feet at 2 seconds and we were hanging over the sandy moving shoal we anchored on toward shore. Finally around 10pm, as the moon rose we both weighed anchor and motored back around the spit to our previous anchorage for protection from the westerly swells.

Three blissfully secluded nights passed as we waited out some unfavorable SE winds followed by the forcasted northerly blow in solitude. Plenty of space to let out as much scope as we wanted as 30 knot winds burst over the spit of land. Hikes to high points allowed us to see white frothy waves blowing down from the north and radio contact with Scheherazade from the protected but packed Everisto anchorage assured us that we were perfectly situated. Yet we feel itchy to move northward (literally for Shawn whom the hay-hay-nays, the Spanish pronunciation of no-see-ums, have been feasting on). So today (the 13th) we weighed anchor and had a magnificent San-Francisco-Bay-like sail, beating 7 miles to windward averaging nearly 6 knots with our 100% jib and double reefed main for 3 hours up the San Jose Channel to our current home- Everisto. For the past week we have gone out of our way to find and been spoiled by safe, isolated, and deliciously deserted anchorages and it is a bit of a shock to currently be anchored with 20 other boats. But we'll enjoy this well protected anchorage for a night and reassess our plans tomorrow. Planning is really overrated.