Thursday, December 30, 2010

Splash, Christmas, and Feliz Ano Nuevo!

We splashed on the 22nd and were quite happy that we managed to get back to the water before Christmas! It was nice to once again be floating on liquid. Splashing is such a crazy transitional time- the boat, out of it's element being wheeled backwards along a highway by a huge Caterpillar tractor is pushed to the ramp and after a steep entry, hopefully she floats... Of course Tao did brilliantly. Several people showed up to welcome us to the water; our new friends Paul and Cate Bishop of Coconut Express, Caleb from La Carencia, Chuck from Pura Vida (along with his dinghy/engine all ready to go that is Chris' Christmas present) were there, and before we pushed off the dock Jenny and Randy from Mystic showed up with an entire gallon ziplock full of yummy cookies. We love this San Carlos cruising community!

After a quick run on the hard to check her the evening previous, Yannie worked well in the water to get us out to the anchorage, which is good because we hadn't yet had time to bend the sails or get all of the rigging set- all of the above waterline work still awaited attention. So, a successful splash it was. Once the anchor was set the rest of the afternoon was spent reorganizing for life in a liquid world and creating a system (using the boom, a stainless steel extension out the end of the boom, the main halyard, boom topping lift, and our life sling 5:1 block and tackle) to haul up our (Chris') new 15-hp Yamaha dinghy motor (born in 1991 over 10 years younger than the rest of our engines).

Christmas Eve we joined the Bishop's in their beautiful home on the Caracol (called "the snail" for the winding roads around the peninsula at the east edge of Bahia San Carlos) for a shrimp feast put on by Jacqui whose brother Luke and friends Sean and Kim had arrived from the states and were pouring quite strong beverages making for a tasty and rowdy celebration. In turn, Christmas was a slow day for us, recovering from the craziness of splashing and celebrating.

We did manage to Skype many of our family members from the anchorage which was very special and then joined Chuck and Linda of Pura Vida and some of their friends for a gourmet Christmas celebration at their home (aka "the Rose cafe" which is the name of the restaurant they used to run together in Prescott, AZ), on the northwest side of the bahia. We brought mulled wine and decorated shortbread cookies and were treated to fun conversation and a culinary feast (starting with a tomato bisque and strawberry-pecan-spinach salad to a delicious Christmas ham along with sweet potatoes and garlic beans topped with a french apple crisp and ice cream). With our bellys full we ended our Christmas day with a mellow beach bonfire.

Although much still needed to happen on Tao, all work basically ground to a halt for the holidays. We opened presents on boxing day and set up our "Charlie Brown Christmas" tree (thanks Mum!) and sold our newly acquired dinghy (which came as a package deal with the engine) to Coconut Express, as Eeyore is just what we need aboard Tao (fully collapsible, 10-ft, high pressure inflatable floor perfect for short trips with the 2-hp Seahor and the new-to-us 15-hp for longer excursions to come). We continued the holiday by visiting with Jenny and Randy of Mystic the next day, catching up over tea and fruit, and hiking the cliffs along the west edge of the bahia after which our day was spent organizing a new "To-Do" list.

Back to work (except for the afternoon Shawn slipped away for an kiteboarding lesson from Jacqui)! It felt great to get our working sails (mains'l and 100% jib) attached and ready for use. Although there is still much to do before we'll be ready, not only did it make us feel closer to sailing, but created some much needed space in the V-berth for organization. Chris has been climbing the mast near daily and often more than once a day to run more lines (flag and spinnaker halyards, lazy jacks, reef lines), replace the mast head tricolor and wind indicator, remove the radar reflector from the backstay (to be moved to the mast head) and run a new flag halyard there for our US flag, and still more remains aloft. We have also tackled some maintenance and upgrades on Yannie- changed her oil, insulated all near engine galley hoses, re-tapped 1/8" NPT for a new oil pressure gauge and also a 3/8" NPT for a new temperature gauge and have started the never ending process of reorganizing and reprovisioning our food stores.

Some southerly flow brought swell into the bahia making the anchorage a bit uncomfortable (and mast work like riding a bucking bronco) so we've moved inside to our "secret" triangle of space that is more protected; enough for one small boat located between the mooring field and the fairway near the marina. So as the new year rolls in, we continue to chip away at projects to get all (or at least most) of the improvements that we've been plotting for the past several months underway if not fully functioning for this upcoming season of sailing. We are grateful to be together where we are as the year changes and hope you all are also taking steps toward your dreams for the amazing year to come!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Week two on-the-hard, Check!

Another long dusty week gone by and so much has been done. Our decision to go big on the bottom relegated us to a very dusty environment. Since we were going to be wearing our ventilator masks anyway we figured it was a good time for a little sole sanding. Two days of Sergio throwing up old toxic bottom paint dust, Chris stripping what was left of the sole varnish with his drill and Shawn following with a random orbital sander (thanks to Caleb of La Cadencia since our sander pad gave up after several revivals). We survived and relished blowing all of it out of the cabin and off the deck with compressed air for a slightly cleaner environment.

We have continued to trudge forward with the projects. Chris finished plumbing the anchor locker and cockpit allowing us to reassemble the windlass, get Rocky ready for launching, load up the V-berth with our sails, and now after a couple days of drying we'll soon be able to reload the rest of the gear on our cabin top into the lazarettes. While waiting, we've been reattaching gear to the stern pulpit. This included a basic monitor wind vane repair (replacing a bushing) which turned a little bigger when one of the stainless bolts sheered, and became even bigger upon reinstallation of the gear linkage, some of the bearings came out... Another black box revealed. We're very grateful to have had Moni ashore for the improvements and that Moni is back in action; better than ever attached to the transom and and ready to steer.

"Slight" detours happen during every project, and we're trying to take advantage of our power-rich environment, so while loading more gear onto the stern pulpit, Shawn has been using the drill to buff clean our rusting cowl vents and Chris has been cutting stainless tubing to the correct lengths for new cockpit lifeline bars as well as the stern arch that he is creating (all will be revealed as that comes together). As always, more epoxy is flowing, this time into new holes in the cabin top created for our two new-to-us Lewmar 25 2-speed winches that are replacing the original four Barient 10 one-speeds.

It felt good to begin installing the running rigging as Tao has started to look like a sailboat again. The anchor was connected to the bow, the lifelines went up, the boom was installed, all of the plastic deck hardware that was removed for dry storage has been reinstalled, and halyards were hung by the mast with care in hopes that sailing soon will be near (anyone get the Christmas reference there?). We cleared the cockpit to check the fit of our new (ala Noah of Scheherazade) teak cockpit grate/outdoor bed and only minor adjustments had to be made for it to fit- though we realized we should get on staining it and decided also to start layering varnish on the 7-ft wooden oars we brought down for Eeyore.

Through all of this, Sergio has been diligently continuing the 9-day bottom job which included stripping the bottom down to the gel coat, followed by epoxy touch-ups when down to the fiberglass, then sanding with a finer grain and detailing (5-days) plus a half day on Saturday to tape everything and work on the propeller to finish the sanding. Monday was a big day with 3 coats of epoxy barrier, 1 coat of primer, and 1 coat of bottom paint. Tuesday the Lowboy showed up to move us so he could get underneath the keel and stands and repeat the same treatment there as well as apply a second full coat of bottom paint. Today is the final day with the third coat everywhere, all the detail work, blue tape pulled and voila, a beautiful new bottom!

For us today, we started with a hearty steak, egg and potato breakfast and we're now in high gear focused on getting Yannie up to speed and organizing everything that has been on the cabin top for the past weeks, maybe even bending sails; basic minimum preparation for life afloat. Spirits were lagging for a brief period in there, but we were reinvigorated by the full lunar eclipse on the winter solstice. And although a heavy marine layer has been hanging around for the last two days, we are fired up to splash tomorrow! Back to work...

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Week one on-the-hard, Check!

Shawn and Griz taking a much needed break

Hey Crew! We have survived our first week on-the-hard. What have we been doing, you might dare to ask? We've been focused on everything "bottom," getting all work ready for handing over the bottom job to Marina Seca here in San Carlos. That means we've pulled everything out of our bow and the stern lazarettes in order to access points of improvement. (Where does all the stuff go? On deck of course...)

One of our main goals is to improve drainage and to do this we have:
(1) closed the original anchor locker drain (now below water line) which required Chris to do his first epoxy hull repair (he reglassed with 24 layers of fiberglass!), add added a new 1 1/2" through-hull much higher to drain from the anchor locker above it, which also got a new bigger drain
Chris in the V-berth, accessing underneath the anchor locker

(2) added two new 1 1/2" cockpit drains to the after portion of the cockpit
Chris doing crazy yoga moves to fit into the lazarette

(3) moved the engine exhaust from the bottom of the hull transom to the back of the transom to improve drainage and reduce the possibility of back flow, which required one new through-hull and some replumbing (still to do).
This is looking into the aftermost lazarette and obviously still needs to be plumbed, but the new engine exhaust is at the top (2"), the three on the bottom (all 1.5") are the automatic bilge pump, both cockpit drains, and the manual bilge pump T'd in.

At the same time, we have been chipping away at other projects. Most important to have ready when we splash is our anchoring system, so we have flipped the chain over and re-marked it for easy annual flipping. Another project that has been hanging over us, we have done everything possible to rebed the toe rail without actually removing it- i.e. removed all old caulking material on outside edge and inside edge, sanded, cleaned, taped, and recaulked with black Sika-Flex along both sides of the entire boat. We have also removed and rebed the few deck fittings that we had not yet done, epoxied numerous small areas, and have spent an inordinate amount of time reviving an old random orbital sander pad as there are apparently none available in all of Guaymas without purchasing a new sander. Currently, there is dust everywhere as Shawn decided to sand down the weather worn sole, Chris (sporting two different shoes as he managed to lose one of each along the trek down here) is on deck reattaching our windlass since the anchor locker improvements are done, Sergio from Marina Seca, is sanding the bottom, and Grizzly is trying to find a quiet dustless area (pretty much only happens at night, sorry 'niz).
Chris' work shoes

Any recommendations on what to seal our cabin sole with once we're done sanding? Most natural looking option possible while still protecting the wood...

During this year's bottom job, in addition to covering the boot stripe with bottom paint, we have decided to go all out and have the bottom resealed to avoid any possible blister problems and hopefully any big bottom work over the next years of cruising. Translated that means we will be in the yard (drum roll please...) another 10 days, that's until Christmas Eve. But don't worry, amid this work zone, we have tried to have a semblance of normal life by
organizing all of the food stores to enable easy cooking and designating the main salon a "safe" zone that is always easily transformable into a comfortable home. We've been eating okay, getting to bed early with the sun, and getting to work each morning by 8am. And it is nice to have a reliable and strong internet connection while here. That's it for now, time to get back to work!
Close up of very early stage blisters
What you're seeing is last years blue paint, previous red paint, and minuscule almost green blisters just possibly starting in the gelcoat underneath.

The Princess and her new pillow

Monday, December 6, 2010

Back to Mexico!!!

Just a quick hello to everyone wondering how our trip south went. We made it!

After one last trip to our storage unit and packing Pepe full, we had a nice dinner with Dave and Anette, and hit the road to Mexico the next morning. Of course, as usual, our road was winding. We left LA Friday December 3rd and drove to Flagstaff (which is almost on the way to Mexico) to see our great friend from graduate school Angie. We had a fun evening and morning filling each other in on recent life and Angie helped us get some final printing done and one last important mailing before the USPS closed. That afternoon we left bound for Tucson. On our way we ran errands in Tempe making last stops at the hardware store, pet store, and outdoor gear store and then had a nice sushi dinner before heading the last hours to Tucson.

Sunday the 5th we made our final push to Mexico. After a one last stop to fill up gas and buy nibbles, we crossed the border at around noon and weren't even stopped for questioning about our loaded down vehicle! We made it to Marina Seca in San Carlos at sunset and Tao was awaiting our arrival in the work yard as promised. Several hours of craziness ensued to get the boat liveable, and finally home, we all slept well. Wish us luck as we buckle down for the next several weeks hard at work on upgrades for Tao while on the hard.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

November 2010; Cape Cod, Seattle, Juneau, Ithaca, LA

Our path to the boat has been a winding route over the past month. We started November on the cape spending our time organizing ourselves and doing yoga at BY Cape Cod. Besides great classes from the owner Meg, we got to take classes from Shawn's fellow teacher trainee graduates Lee and Ocean and Lee took her class along with Chris of course (her biggest fan). From here, we headed toward Chris' sister and new niece in Alaska, but we couldn't go through Seattle without stopping...

(Nov 7-11) Seattle- four fantastic days were spent with Julia and Jacob from s/v Pisces, a bit farther north than previously... As our sailing adventures have evolved together, it was great to see them in their newest iteration of cruising- graduate school from the dock. Great discussions of life, as always, and although we had great weather while there, we tried to ride their bikes from Shilshole to town one day while they were at work and aborted due to pouring rain... We were also able to see our friends Adam and Kris from s/v Estrella who have sold their boat and are starting land life anew in Seattle excitedly expecting a baby.

(Nov 11-19) Juneau- after the rejuvenating stop in Seattle we headed up to Alaska to visit Sarah and Jimmy and new baby Hazel at the same time as Chris' mom, now Nana Jane. We spent our week there holding Hazel, walking Skye-dog, doing errands, hiking whenever the sun was out (which was actually quite a lot), living at the sweet "cottage" (compost-able toilet and all!) and generally enjoying time with Sarah, Jimmy and of course Hazel. It was very special to be able to be part of Sarah and Jimmy figuring out life with their newest addition. Best of luck to the new parents!

(Nov 20-25) Ithaca- post Alaska, Shawn took another quick trip back to Ithaca to visit her Mum one more time, ensure that her radiation treatments and house renovations were coming along, and of course pick up Griz for the next stage of sailing. In addition to helping hang pictures on newly painted walls, she managed to go to a Cornell hockey game with both of her parents, have a nice dinner with Leah and Gretchen and their twins, and even saw Chuck briefly in a post-hunting-flyby.

(Nov 25- Dec 3) LA- after our time drew to a close in Alaska, Chris flew down to LA to start final preparations for leaving the States and concurrently take care of his dad's dogs Abby and Penny while Dave and Anette visited Juneau. On Thanksgiving, Chris bought a new-to-him surfboard (5'10" quad fish) for the sailing trip, enjoyed a vegetarian celebration with Al and Noah from Scheherazade at their place in Silver Lake, then picked up Shawn and Grizzly at LAX where we headed directly to Ledy and Angie's for a nice family Thanksgiving celebration. The last week of crazy stateside preparations was spent running around like chicken's with our heads cut off at Chris' dad's place in Rancho Palos Verdes. Now the proud renters of a storage unit in LA, we did manage to mix some pleasure with the business of heading south by taking a sunny sanity-saving-sail on Scheherazade, who got home to Marina del Rey from Mexico two short weeks ago. Quite a busy month, hopefully our next post will be from Mexico!