Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy V-day and We're Sailing!!!

The first two weeks of February we were feverishly finishing projects that we’d started in hopes of setting sail soon. After much discussion of longer term options, we received a thumbs up from Don Anderson (the HF radio weather guru) that May is a fine time to do a crossing to Hawaii and locked that plan in. The shorter term was a little bit more difficult as there is so much to do and see in Mexico’s beautiful sailing waters we kept putting off making a decision about where we were going. Chris’ dad, Dave, was hoping to visit in late February and was still awaiting a decision on where he should fly to. After much more discussion regarding either more time on the Baja seeing places we’d missed or visiting the mainland with which we were less familiar, we both agreed that we wanted to focus our time on the mainland this season. Dave bought a ticket into Mazatlan and out of Puerto Vallarta, so with that set, we continued our projects, staying warm through a very cold and eerie norther that we were well protected from in the Bahia.

1.) Electrical panel(s): one of Chris’ big hanging projects has been to get our electrical system organized. This included making a new hinged lighted electrical switch panel in the cabin above the engine, adding a hinged fuse panel accessed from the quarter berth, and creating a new water tight engine instrument panel with new improved gauges in the cockpit. For all three panels we used ¼” black polycarbonate and a clear piece to cover the external panel. We opted away from more complicated and expensive marine grade breaker switches (which in our experience have shorted due to moisture) and instead chose to install an easy to maintain ATO fuse junction box. In addition to the already existing Faria tachometer and hour meter, we installed a 4-in-1 Faria engine gauge set to monitor: alternator status, fuel levels, water temperature, and oil pressure. So far so good and we have room for another 16 switches should we choose to wire anything else new.

2.) Head salt water foot pump/vented loop: our head sink was originally plumbed to our fresh water tanks with a difficult to use vertical hand pump. Before we left Berkeley we replumbed it with a T to the saltwater head inflow. This worked fine, but the system begged for a footpump and at the same time our head system begged for a vented loop for the saltwater inflow. After a dinner with loving and not-so-gentle reminders from Coconut Express that how our head inflow was plumbed was a safety concern we reprioritized and quickly finished that project.

3.) Top stripe/Galley sole: with a vision of all of our projects coming together we have started to shift Tao’s colors from white and blue to white and red. We have purchased terra cotta sunbrella material for our in-the-works dodger and this year’s bottom job was red covering the original blue boot stripe. That left only the blue top stripe. So, we got the local Santa Rosa Sherwin Williams to mix us a liter of 2 part polyeurathane paint to match. As the container they provided it in was not going to last very long, we decided we had to implement it before leaving San Carlos so Shawn jumped on it. We mixed half of the paint and had plenty left after three coats on the top stripe (affectionately called our racing stripe) so did an imprompteau coat over our previously painted cabin sole at the base of the ladder in the galley and under the navigation station (which we had previously put sand into for traction). It all looks quite fresh and clean!

4.) Complete reorganization for sailing: After having spent two months using electrical tools for projects every day, the boat required a complete reorganization stowing power tools deep and pulling sailing gear (sails, charts, foul weather gear) to the top. We also moved all the stainless we’re carrying for that planned dodger from the stern lazarette to the V-berth to balance out our water line.

After having spent over two months in San Carlos working on Tao, we finally felt close to ready to have people over. Over those two weeks, we had dinners with Brady and Jodi the young enthusiastic new crew of Anum Cara, fun and supportive Cate and Paul of Coconut Express who are living on the Caricol, Jenny and Randy of Mystic who plan to head to the Marquesas this spring, and an honorary almost pizza dinner with Hermy and Jack of Iwa. Several more trips to Guaymas for final provisions and Valentine’s Day, our hoped for sail date, was upon us. The winds were up and forecasts were looking good but we had yet to get the new computer with Window’s 7 to talk to our HF radio (USB to 9-pin serial port adapter issues). Since we kept our older computer aboard that could still connect and figuring that we could keep coming up with excuses not to go, we decided to deal with it underway... And we're off!

Friday, February 4, 2011

End of January and plans...

Although still laden with projects, we planned a mid-January date for Chris to take Pepe back to the States to be stored. We moved out to a safer anchor spot in the bay, got the dinghy frame built so Eeyore could be a rowing machine if the outboards were being difficult, wired enough of the electrical system to start Yannie if it became necessary for Shawn to move, etc… Chris pulled out of the Marina San Carlos parking lot at 0815 on Monday the 17th, only one day later than originally planned and proceeded to drive 15-hrs straight (thanks to Estrella for the books on tape) making it to his mom’s in Santa Monica and her hugs (and an amazing dinner) just after 10-o’clock. (In case you're wondering, Grizzly did not manage to stow away in Chris' luggage...)

The next week was a whirlwind for Chris, busy with Stateside tasks while also making time to visit with all of his LA area based family members. To further several on-going boat projects, he got Lexan that we had purchased (clear weatherboards and 3 electric panels) professionally cut, obtained an estimate from a US welder for a possible solar panel “turret” to increase the efficiency of our currently stationary panels, went to Boatswain’s Locker for a few Yanmar parts, and had a fun trip to Minney’s Yacht Surplus with his dad where he found several things we “had” to have. Chris also visited several groceries to bolster our provisions with some favorite American foods difficult to find or very expensive in Mexico (good peanut butter, nuts, pesto sauce packets, teas, etc). And of course, the purported reason for the Stateside visit, he parked Pepe in Ledy and Angie’s (many thanks!!) extra garage and mailed the planned non-operation paperwork to the CA DMV. So many details to tie up…

While Chris was Stateside, Shawn and Grizzly were continuing to chip away at projects aboard. With all the daily chores and a computer crash, not much got done quickly. However there was a serendipitous meeting of Tao’s younger sister- Sula, hull #17 (Tao is #10 of 19). Shawn headed into the marina and enjoyed sharing Nor’West stories and getting aboard such a similar vessel to our own and is very appreciative of the perishables they donated to Tao at their haul out the next morning. Unfortunately Nic and his wife are planning to truck Sula back to Seattle and may sell her so no foreseeable Sea of Coretz sister-ship-sailing. It was an exceptionally windy week and time flew by as Shawn attended an unplanned toga-dinner on Mystic one night and a carne asada and Caesar dinner with amazing desserts on Elan another. With much appreciated curb-service from our friends on Coconut Express Shawn was happily reunited with Chris and his two 50-lb bags and carry on at the Guaymas airport.

Over the past week, Chris has neared the end of his grand rewiring project and Shawn has reattached new foredeck netting to the lifelines and pvc turnbuckle covers on the shrouds. Still, unpacking new project parts brought from the States, we realized that we had more work than until our hoped for departure date at the end of January. Trying to go with the flow, we have come to terms with the fact that we can’t fit everything in. The window of time has passed to implement our original plan of sailing down mainland Mexico for a couple months surfing and then jump across the Pacific in March. So, we took a sanity break to climb the Tetas de Cabra we see so frequently from our anchorage with Mystic. We made it into an even bigger adventure by taking Eeyore and the 15-hp (the new surf seeking mobile) several miles out of the Bahia and up the coast to approach our hike from a known trail head on the other side of the mountain from our anchorage and then testing the new dinghy frame rowing back in 3 to 5-ft swell.

Still anchored in Bahia San Carlos, we are alternatively continuing our project work and discussing our newest options. All long passage making is dominated by weather windows and determining where you can safely spend each hurricane season. Our other major constraining factor is that we have realized that we like to move slowly and do not want to feel rushed along (which is why we exchanged our original lofty ideas of circumnavigation to just sailing and possibly crossing the Pacific). Consulting our World Cruising Routes by Jimmy Cornell we have tossed around ideas from: sailing to Hawaii this spring, to sailing to the Marquesas and spending the hurricane season in the Society Islands, to crossing to Hawaii in November in order to spend more time here in Mexico. As we weather the most recent dust-laden-Norther (40-knot winds and 10-ft seas forecast in the Sea) here in the safety of the Bahia, we are still trying to organize our long term and thus the consequent short term plans. What is for sure is that we are nearing the end of this round of project-making and will be setting sail soon.