Monday, December 26, 2011

Colin's 1st Christmas

Santa made a visit to our little boat and brought Colin his first Christmas presents.  He was very excited to find toys under the tree on Christmas morning, and giggled with joy as he unwrapped them.

Looks like Santa thought Colin was a very good boy this year...

...and although he won't remember any of it, this year will always be a particularly special one for his parents.

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Saturday, December 24, 2011

Feliz Navidad

The crew of Jean Marie would like to extend holiday wishes to all our friends and loved ones back home.  Feliz Navidad y Feliz Año Nuevo!  We miss you very much.

We are spending Christmas on the dock here in Puerto Los Cabos with some friends we've met on other boats. 

Here are a few images from Christmas in Los Cabos...

...Merry Christmas from James, Millie, and Colin.
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Thursday, December 15, 2011

New Email Address For James

If you have been trying to reach me by email lately with no response I apologize.  It's not that I'm intentionally ignoring my email.  For some reason Yahoo has locked my account and I've been unable to get them to reset the password.  This has been going on for over two weeks now and my opinion of Yahoo has dropped dramatically as a result. 

So...I created a new Gmail account.  Please send email to the following address:

Sorry for the confusion.  Please resend any messages you may have sent recently.  I really do enjoy reading them so stay in touch.
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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

San Jose Del Cabo

After a little over two months of sailing we finally put the Pacific Baja coast behind us and made our way to Cabo.  Needless to say, it took a lot longer than I'd anticipated but the important thing is that we made it without any major issues, gear failures, or mutinies. 

Traveling with an infant presents it's own unique set of challenges which have played a large part in our slow pace.  But, according to other sailors I've met, it's also been an unusually strange year for weather.  The reliable NW winds that typically blow down the coast this time of year have been hard to find.  We've been chased down by one low pressure system after another since leaving the Bay Area and have been mostly motoring or sailing in light easterlies or southerlies since leaving Santa Barbara. 

This last leg was particularly painful as we motored for two days from Mag Bay in 3 knots of wind and flat seas.  I had to stop twice and add oil to our weeping diesel.  We rounded the cape to Cabo San Lucas at dawn on Friday as the wind finally began to fill in -- directly on the nose.  We then motor-sailed into 15-knot headwinds for the last 12 miles to the marina.  Brutal. 

Yet, none of it matters now.  We're happy to be here, tied up to the transient dock at Puerto Los Cabos in the town of San Jose del Cabo.  It's hard to believe we've been here five days now.  We decided to sail past Cabo San Lucas and tie up here to avoid the ridiculous Cabo prices.  We're enjoying this modern and peaceful marina, and are currently sharing the dock with a few other boats we've met along the way. 

The plan was to depart today for a 3-day sail to Banderas Bay and Puerto Vallarta but can't seem to muster the energy or enthusiasm to shove off.  We still plan to spend Christmas in Banderas Bay but may spend another week here enjoying the company and exploring the area.

  On Monday we took the long bus ride into Cabo San Lucas and spent the afternoon walking the town, marveling at the dichotomy of luxury resorts and mega-yachts in a developing country where most live a simple life on meager wages.  It reminded us more of Miami Beach than Mexico.  Cabo is quite the spectacle and would be fun if you have the money to spend.  But, for us, a day trip was enough.
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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sailing to Mag Bay

Spinnaker Run

Colin Says Hi
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Sunday, December 4, 2011

Bahia Magdalena

Hola from Mag Bay. We are currently anchored in Man-of-War Cove off the little fishing village of Puerto Magdalena. We all got a shower, hot meal, and a good night's sleep. So, all is well on Jean Marie.

We motored out of Turtle Bay early Wednesday morning in light wind and fog. After 8 hours of listening to the drone of the engine I pulled out the spinnaker bag and hoisted the chute for the rest of the day. We made some good miles broad-reaching under sunny skies.

By sunset the wind was beginning to fill in and stayed with us almost all the way down to Mag Bay. We sailed into the bay yesterday morning and I threw out a lure as we tacked up to the anchorage. A few minutes later I reeled in a beautiful mackerel. I'm still waiting for that first mahi or tuna strike.

Yesterday I took a 20-minute panga ride to the port of San Carlos for a provision run with some people from the other boats here. As we work our way down the coast we're sharing the anchorages with some very interesting and friendly people, many of which we've already met.

One of the benefits of this lifestyle is the comraderie that develops with other boats along the way, and the sharing of information and telling of sea tales. There are some real characters out here but, for the most part, there are some genuinely hospitable and competent sailors. We've enjoyed many of these encounters and are looking forward to meeting the same boats again down south.

Our plan was to spend a day catching up on rest and getting the boat ready for the 2-day passage to Cabo San Lucas but, once again, we're forced to duck an early winter storm working it's way toward us. These storms seem to be following us down the coast. I thought we'd be clear of these low pressure systems once we got south of Turtle Bay, but here we are again waiting for a weather window. We're expecting this system to blow through on Tuesday and Wednesday and hope to get out on Thursday. Fingers are crossed.
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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Happy Birthday in Turtle Bay

After years of planning and preparing, and reading countless accounts of other cruising boats sailing into this sleepy bay on their way south, I finally get to see Turtle Bay for myself.  Admittedly, it's a rather uninspiring place but the feeling of accomplishment overshadows all else. 

We were happy to drop the hook at around 7 AM yesterday after a 3-day passage from Ensenada and immediatley went down for a nap.  We had some nice sailing at times and motored when the wind died off. 

At sunset on Sunday we were still about 30 miles out so we decided to slow down and wait for a daylight entry into the bay.  I'm glad we did as we had to dodge lobster traps motor-sailing with 15 knots of wind on the nose.  We anchored near the village among a half-dozen other boats, some of which we recognized from San Diego. 

After getting a little sleep and a much-needed shower we hopped in a water-taxi with Peter and Jim from Mwelu, whom we met in SD and sailed down the coast with.  The four of us (with Colin) walked down the beach to Enrique's for margaritas and fish tacos.  It was an important day.  Not only had we sailed half-way down Baja, but it was Millie's birthday.  Feliz cumpleaños mi amor!  We sat on a patio overlooking the bay and celebrated with the friendly owner and her familia.  Colin made a big impression as usual.  It was a nice ending to a special day.

We plan to spend another day here before setting sail for Magdalena Bay, a 2-day sail down the coast.  All is well aboard Jean Marie.  The engine is dropping oil but running fine, which is forcing us to rely more on the sails when the wind drops off.  This is a good thing as it helps us develop our sailing skills and, more importantly, our patience.

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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Hola Ensenada!

After two failed attempts we finally crossed the border and are now tied up at the Marina Coral in Ensenada, Mexico. 

I've worked out our engine problems for now, spending a day with a local diesel mechanic in San Diego who checked everything out.  I was able to fix the transmission leak and that seems to be fine now.  We're just going to live with the oil leaks for now.  Fixing it would require a large effort and expense that we can put off until the problem gets worse. 

Oil leaks are common for these old British-made Perkins diesels.  I read a comment online that stated the only reason the English don't make computers is because they can't figure out how to make them leak oil.  Apparently, I'm not the only one struggling with this issue.  We're carrying extra oil and will be keeping a close eye on it. 

And, now we're in Mexico.  It took a while but we made it.  We left San Diego at midnight and motored for 13 hours in light winds to get here.  The plan was to do our immigration check-in and wait out a little weather over the weekend before sailing out on Monday.  We pulled in yesterday around 2 pm to find the port captain had already closed his office for the day and Monday is a national holiday.  Once again, our plans fell through.  It looks like we won't get our visas until Tuesday now, so we'll be here a few days.

The next stop will be Turtle Bay, a protected anchorage about half-way down the Pacific Baja coast.  It's a 2-3 day sail from Ensenada and the longest leg for us. 

After a little time in Turtle Bay we'll do a few day sails to anchorages south of there until Bahia Magdalena, a large protected bay where we'll spend a few days.  From there it's a 2-day sail to Cabo San Lucas where we plan to spend a night on the hook before moving on. 

We were planning to jump across the Sea of Cortez to Mazatlan and work our way down the mainland coast to spend the holidays in Zihuatenejo.  We're a little behind now so it may be Christmas in Puerto Vallarta. 

It's hard to put a date to any destination as nothing seems to go as expected.  At some point you just have to drop all expectation and just go where and when the circumstances allow.  But, for now, that's the general itinerary.  We'll be posting updates as they come.  Hasta luego.
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Friday, November 11, 2011

Still Here

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Saturday, November 5, 2011

San Diego Scenery

I can't believe we've been here a week now.  It seems like we just sailed in yesterday, but here it is November 5th and we're still tied up to the police docks.  

The past few days have been very busy, as we get the boat ready for Mexico.  The top priority was to get our insurance worked out, which took some time.  With that done we focused on a few minor boat projects and provisioning. 

And, we had a welcomed visit from the family this week.  Thanks to mom, dad, uncle Bill, and aunt Keck for driving us all around town.  You have no idea how helpful that was. 

At this point we're ready to go as soon as the weather cooperates.  We seem to be a magnet for winter storms as, again, we sit and wait for a weather system to pass.  We decided to make our first stop in Ensenada -- a short overnight passage where we can check into Mexico and refuel.  The plan is to leave tomorrow or Monday.  Hasta luego California.

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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Sunny San Diego

What a sailor's haven this is.  There are boats everywhere, the sun is shining, and a nice westerly breeze comes up in the afternoon for some pleasant day sailing.  I could really get used to this town.  It's nice to get back to some bay sailing.  And this bay doesn't require you to put a reef in before you leave the dock.

We left Catalina on Thursday evening and had a relatively peaceful overnight sail.  A light breeze filled in just before the sun went down and stayed with us for the first half of the passage.  So, we were able to get some miles in under sail.  We fired up the engine for the last 25 miles or so and motored into the bay after sunrise with a navy warship and submarine just ahead of us. 

This is a very busy harbor with a large military presence.  We had a lot of targets on the radar as we approached the bay and kept a close eye on approaching ships.  Sunrise at sea is always a welcomed sight, especially in a shipping lane near land.  We motored down the channel in flat water to the police dock on Shelter Island where they assigned us a guest slip for the week. 

I'm not sure a week will be enough time for us here.  We have a few boat projects and some provisioning to do, but we'd also like to check out some of the sights before leaving for Mexico.  So, no departure date just yet.

The last time I sailed to southern California was in June of 2009.  That was on my friend, Gary's, boat when I crewed for him to the Channel Islands and then to Santa Barbara.  I haven't spoken to Gary since that time.  He continued south and dropped out of touch and I went back to Alameda and got married.  I tried to contact him on a few occasions without much luck but heard a rumor that he was living in San Diego so I thought I try to find him when I got here. 

A few hours after we tied up I was walking back from the showers and noticed a very familiar boat motoring past our dock.  Could it be?  I watched to see where the boat docked and hopped in the dinghy for a quick row over.  There was Gary, standing on the dock, chatting up his neighbor.  We had a laugh together and caught up a little on the past two years.  Turns out he was easier to find than I thought.  What are the odds of that happening again?

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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Avalon Harbor

We're still on Catalina Island, sitting on a mooring in Avalon.  This is a very  busy little harbor.  It feels like Disneyland after the last few anchorages we've been to.  It's always buzzing with activity here, which is why we avoided the weekend.  We're very comfortable at the moment, though. 

We've spent some time walking around and enjoying the little beach-front town.  On Monday morning we left Catalina Harbor (on the other side of the island) and spent 4 hours motoring in fog and flat seas to get here.  Then it was high-anxiety as we manuevered through the spider web of mooring lines to find our assigned spot.  Since then it's been very relaxing.  The sun finally poked through the marine layer today and we're enjoying the warm southern California weather.

It's been almost three weeks now since we left the bay area.  It seems much longer.  We've packed months of activity into those three weeks.  We're still waiting for the moment when we finally relax, kick up our feet and really start enjoying ourselves. 

At the moment we're still adjusting to the lifestyle and the challenges of taking care of a baby, a dog, and a 40-foot sailboat.  We knew we would be challenged but there are times when it's a little too much.  I expect a few months for the adjustment process to complete.  We're looking forward to getting south of the border where the water is warmer and the pace a little slower.

The next stop is San Diego.  We plan to leave here tomorrow afternoon for an overnight sail so we can arrive in the daylight hours.  We'll be spending at least a week there getting a few last minute things done and visiting family before heading south.  Neither of us have ever been to SD so we're looking forward to it.
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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Pelican Bay

October 19th, Santa Cruz Island
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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Santa Catalina

We tied up to a mooring buoy in Catalina Harbor after an all night sail from Santa Cruz Island. It was a long and sleepness night, but the sailing was good at times. We had to motor the last 20 miles when the wind died and dodge a few container ships getting in here but then we could finally shut down the engine, crack open a cold beer, and relax. We got a hot shower and a hot meal, Colin is bouncing in his jumpy chair and we're feeling pretty good at the moment.

We spent two peaceful nights anchored in the scenic little Pelican Bay over on Santa Cruz Island before pulling up the hook yesterday around 5pm. My estimate of 16 hours to get here turned into 22 -- sometimes the wind just doesn't want to cooperate. So, we were happy to finally get here.

This is a well protected harbor and pretty quiet at the moment, which suits us just fine. The plan is to spend a few days exploring Catalina Island before setting sail for San Diego. Tomorrow we'll go ashore to check out Two Harbors and then sail over to Avalon after the weekend crowds have left. We'll post some pics and video when I get an internet connection in SD.
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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Prisoner's Harbor

We're sitting at anchor in Prisoner's Harbor on Santa Cruz island after a nice day sail from Santa Barbara.

The plan was to check out Pelican Bay but there were too many boats and the wind was really blowing when we came in. So we made the short sail around the point to Prisoner's. The wind just dropped off and we have the place all to ourselves. This will be my third night on this island and this is the only anchorage I've been to. We plan to find another spot to drop the hook tomorrow.

We had a relaxing 4 days in SB, which provided a well-needed opportunity to wind down after our first week of sailing. Thanks to my very good friend, Monica, for playing taxi and hosting a fantastic dinner on Friday night where April and Madison joined us. And thanks also for the wonderful send-off. We had our own little cheering party on the dock. It made it a little hard to leave.

The plan is to hang out here on Santa Cruz Island for a few days and then sail for Catalina Island. Rick and Maria are going to try and meet us there next weekend. I really hope they make it. It should be fun.
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Saturday, October 15, 2011

Life at Sea

Approaching Point Conception

Dolphin Play
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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Santa Barbara

We're currently sitting peacefully in the Santa Barbara marina.  It's been a busy and eventful week with little sleep and much anxiety.
After the second of two storms swept through the bay area last week we made a run out the gate on Friday.  As sailors know, it's bad luck to leave port on a Friday but we threw caution to the wind and took a chance. 

We had an easy exit in sunny skies and made our final left turn down the coast.  The forecast called for light winds and lumpy seas, so we planned to duck in at Half Moon Bay if the ride was too uncomortable.  But by the afternoon all was well so we made the decision to continue on to Port San Luis -- a two-day sail away. 

Neither of us had done much sailing recently so we were a little rusty with our boat handling skills.  And, given that I was the only one on the boat that had ever done an overnight passage, there was an understandable level of anxiety with the crew.  As the night progressed the wind and swell increased, heightening the tension on board. 

We had a minor meltdown off Santa Cruz when the depth sounder suddenly dropped to 10 feet and the captain convinced himself that the chartplotter was leading us onto a beach.  It turns out that depth sounders aren't very accurate in really deep water -- like the Montery canyon.  I should have recognized this behavior since I'd seen it before on other boats but the combination of darkness and sleep deprivation resulted in an abrupt course change and upwind beat away from the coast.  I've been much more attentive to navigation since that first night.

We were both happy to see the sunrise and had mostly uneventful although lumpy sailing over the next day and night until we finally approached Port San Luis where the wind shut down and a thick layer of fog fell over us.  We crept in to the anchorage using GPS and radar as the sun came up on Sunday morning, dropped the hook, and sipped coffee as sea otters played in the kelp nearby. 

The plan was to spend a couple days unwinding and visiting family nearby before making a late night departure for the Channel Islands.  Point Conception, otherwise known as the Cape Horn of the West, stood between us and sunny southern California sailing.  This landmass is best approached in the early morning to avoid the strong winds that typically blow around it.  It was a good plan, a prudent plan -- a plan we quickly scrapped when I checked the weather again.  The forecast showed two high pressure areas converging on Tuesday to create windy conditions along the coast.  We decided to get south as soon as possible so we went back to the boat, got some sleep, and pulled up the anchor on Monday morning.  We added a much welcomed crew member when my brother, Rick, joined us for the sail to Santa Barbara.

We sailed all through the night passing Conception around 10 pm.  We saw moderate wind and the forecasted 6-8 foot swells but the boat handled it without issue under a conservative sail plan.  I was expecting more weather as we rounded the cape and felt relieved that it didn't show. 

My relief was short-lived, however, as a few hours later the wind began to blow.  I turned off the autopilot and took the helm as the wind speed hit 30 gusting to 38.  Again the boat handled it well and an hour later the wind fell off as quickly as it came on, leaving us with moderate conditions again. 

As sunrise approached we were sailing along in flat water and a gentle southern California breeze.  We steered for Prisoner's Harbor on Santa Cruz island and dropped the hook.

The next day was spent relaxing in the cockpit.  We decided to hang out here for the night, do some fishing, and fire up the BBQ.  Again, these plans were laid to waste when an evening NE breeze came up leaving us on a lee shore in 15 knots of wind. 

Staring at rocks off the stern as the boat swings in the wind is not a comfortable feeling.  So, we pulled up the hook and motor-sailed out into the channel.  I was betting on the wind dying off with the sunset so we sailed around in circles for a while waiting for the anchorage to settle.  If it didn't we were in for another long night at sea.  Luckily I was right and the wind died off as the sun went down and we dropped the hook again a boat length from where we spent the day. At least we could all get some sleep.

In the morning, after coffee and a hot breakfast, we pulled up the anchor again and motored off into the channel.  Rick had set up a ride home from Santa Barbara on Wednesday afternoon, so we made our way back to the coast and a snug berth at the harbor.  We plan to spend a few days here visiting friends and taking care of some unfinished business before sailing for Catalina Island.   But you know how it is with plans.

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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Throw Off the Dock Lines

Well we finally did it.  After a couple extra days to provision and pack we threw off the dock lines and sailed away from Alameda -- just in time for the first winter storm of the season.  I can't believe the timing. 

So, at the moment we are anchored in Clipper Cove (Treasure Island) waiting out the weather before making a run down the coast.  It's very peaceful here and we're enjoying a little down time at the moment.  We still have our cell phones if anyone needs to contact us.

Colin did very well on his first sail, strapped in his car seat and watching everything happen with an intense gaze.  He's been very comfortable on the boat so far -- a natural sailor.

Thanks to everyone who came out for the potluck.  We really enjoyed the chance to say goodbye and spend time with our friends.  Hope to see everyone again next summer.

For those who want to follow us, I will be updating our position report soon.  Stay tuned.

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Monday, September 19, 2011

Getting Close

D-day is fast approaching.  We've given notice at the marina and expect to be out by the first of October.  All major boat projects are complete and we're working now on cutting all those strings that hold us in place for so long. 

This week we'll be cleaning out our storage and loading the boat.  Next week we'll be working out provisions.  The past few months have sped past like a runaway train.  It still seems like we have a lot to do but the list is definitely getting shorter.  I would have liked to get some time on the water and relax before leaving but it just didn't work out that way.  We're planning to drop the hook over in Sausalito for a day or so just to unwind before making the day sail down to Half Moon Bay.  At this point I'm not sure I remember how to relax.

For those who would like to say goodbye and see the boat before we throw off the dock lines, we will be having a little get-together on Friday the 30th.  We rented the yacht club for one last potluck dinner with all our friends.  Bring a dish or just stop by for a drink.  The bar will be open.

Friday, September 30.  6-11pm
Ballena Bay Yacht Club
1150 Ballena Blvd
Alameda, CA  94501
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Friday, September 9, 2011

Let There Be Light

The long running solar panel project is now complete.  It's been about a year now since I designed the arch, and now I can finally see it put to good use. 

I mounted two 135-watt Kyocera panels on top, which took a little more time than expected due to fabrication of custom brackets.  I was looking for a mounting solution that would be strong but easy to remove if necessary.  If the forecast calls for strong winds I want the option to remove the panels quickly and stow them below. 

With the brackets finally in hand I bolted everything in place and plugged the panels in.  I had already installed a charge controller and ran the wires for the panels.  The charge controller is installed between the panels and the batteries with the purpose of optimizing the charging voltage and preventing the batteries from being damaged by overcharging.  I wired all this months ago so everything would be ready to go when the panels were mounted.  I'm glad I did, it's nice to just plug them in and see it work.

And, the addition of a third panel provides a nice boost to the system.  I mounted an 85-watt panel on the new hard dodger and wired it to the existing bus.  By sheer luck the panel mounting holes lined up with the existing dodger mounting holes.  So, I didn't have to drill any more holes in my shiny new dodger.  I can't tell you how pleased this made me. 

I originally planned to mount two panels on the dodger but it would have been a lot more effort and a little too much hardware for that space.  I was concerned about the sharp edges of the panels hanging over the edges of the dodger.  I decided to just go with a single panel instead.  It's a clean install and out of the way.  We'll see if it's enough.
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Sunday, August 28, 2011

New Hard Top

I'd been toying with the idea of building a hard top for the dodger for a couple months, since the day my friend Greg sent me a link to a blog about a cruising couple who built one for their boat on a dock in Mexico.  It got me thinking.  A hard top would be nice to have -- it would hold up a lot better in the sun and spray than canvas and provides a nice mounting platform for solar panels.  It would take some time and effort but I knew I could do it.  The more I thought about the project the more obsessed I got with it.  Unfortunately, There was no turning back.  Thanks, Greg.

After studying the cruising couple's blog I decided to do things a little differently.  They took an FRP wall panel from Home Depot, tied it over the dodger frame, and layed 6 layers of fiberglass over the top.  I liked the idea of the panel on the bottom.  This would give it a nice finished look and cut in half the amount of fairing, sanding, and painting I would need to do.  But instead of solid glass I decided to go with a foam core sandwiched between two layers of glass.  This would result in a lot of strength and stiffness without a lot of weight.  So, I bought a sheet of CoreCell, tied it over the frame, and cut it to size.

Since this was the biggest fiberglass project I'd ever attempted and I knew Greg had a lot of experience working with epoxy, I recruited him to help me lay it up.  We put a layer of 17-oz biaxial cloth over the foam core and followed it with a layer of 6-oz cloth and fairing filler.  The next day we moved it to the dock, turned it over, and layed down a layer of biaxial on the bottom side of the foam.  I had already cut a sheet of the FRP wall panel to size so we then epoxied that down to finish the glass work.  That was the easy part.

I spent countless hours over the next week filling, fairing, and sanding, followed by more filling, fairing, and sanding.  Until, at last, I had a nice smooth finish that was ready for paint.  A week later and I had 3 coats of glossy topside paint applied.  The conceptual hard dodger that had been living in my head for months was finally becoming a reality.  And, I have to say, it looked pretty good.

One minor miscalculation on my part involved the existing dodger frame.  It simply wasn't strong enough to support the additional weight of a hard top and solar panel.  I knew I'd need to beef it up a bit.  So, the next couple weeks involved buying new hardware, mounting bases in the deck, and cutting stainless tubing.  I added four additional struts which provided the necessary support.  No more wobble.

For the sides, I decided to reuse the existing canvas dodger and simply bolt the hard top over it.  Millie spent a day sewing chafing patches to help extend the life of the fabric.  I expect to get a couple more years out of the soft dodger, after which time we plan to make a new one and attach it directly to the hard top.   I ordered a solar panel to mount on top and once that has been done we'll stretch the canvas back on.  I can't wait to see it finished...really.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Watermakers 101

Last year I started researching reverse-osmosis watermakers.  Since we plan to spend a lot of time in the Sea of Cortez and considering that my wife isn't really thrilled about salt-water showers I decided I'd better put one on the boat. 

However, buying one of these units for a small boat can put a big dent in the cruising kitty.  The concept is pretty straight-forward and most parts can be purchased online or at your local hardware store so why not  build it yourself?  With an internet connection and a little time you can dig up everything you need to know to put a system together. 

Essentially, you use a high-pressure pump to push salt water through a reverse-osmosis membrane.  Most of the water is discarded as brine while some is pushed through the membrane as fresh water.  I was looking primarily for a system that I could run every 2-3 days which would produce enough water for two people and use a minimal amount of battery power to operate. 

There are essentially two ways to go:  AC-powered or DC-powered.  Both require a significant about of power to operate.  AC systems produce a lot of water and can be powered by a generator and high-output inverter or run directly off the main diesel engine through an additional pulley.  For larger boats with an engine room you can put together a very modular AC system for a few thousand dollars. 

On Jean Marie space is a luxury we simply don't have.  So, I decided to go with a DC solution and created a spreadsheet comparing current DC-powered watermakers in terms of amps per gallons (that is, the number of amps required to produce one gallon of fresh water).  In this comparison Spectra Watermakers with their patented Clark pump came out well ahead.  Two problems: (1) Spectra watermakers are very expensive and (2) they don't sell the Clark pump separately. 

I went back and forth on the pros and cons of building versus buying until the annual boat show in Oakland.  After about twenty minutes with the sales rep I pulled the trigger on a new Spectra Cape Horn.  Their boat show price was just too good to pass up. 

The Cape Horn is perfect for our needs, producing up to 14 gallons per hour at 18 amps.  It comes with two feed pumps to the Clark pump and has the option of running on one pump or both as needed.  Installation was challenging due to space constraints but, after some effort, I got the system up and running. 

I was so impressed with the product and the company that I signed up for their roving rep program.  Roving reps are cruisers who are trained and authorized to provide maintenance and support for Spectra watermakers.  I spent a week at their office in San Rafael learning all about watermaker design and the Clark pump and am now an authorized Spectra Roving Rep.  I have no idea what that means for us yet.
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Friday, August 19, 2011

Boat Yard Blues

I pulled the boat out of the water in April just after Colin was born.  It was a good time to tackle this project since Millie's parents were staying with us at the time to help.  A typical haulout entails sanding and repainting the bottom, waxing the topsides, servicing the prop, and lubricating the thru-hulls.  I hadn't hauled the boat in the 6 years I've owned it so I wasn't exactly sure what I'd find and how much work was needed, but I gave myself a week to do the work and get the boat back in the water.  I thought this would be enough time if I worked all day.  And, the fact that the yard rates doubled after 10 days provided the motivation to get it done quickly. 

The hull looked pretty good at first look.  The old bottom paint held up well.  It seemed my routine dives to clean the hull kept most of the large growth away.  I was thinking I'd need a couple days to sand off what was left of the old paint and then start rolling on the new paint -- no problem.  But after a day on the sander the job suddenly became much more bleak.  There must have been six coats of old paint on the hull which should have been removed before recoating at some point in the past.  Unfortunately, the layers just kept accumulating; and the perfectionist in me just couldn't leave it all there to be painted over again.  So, with some much needed assistance from my brothers we geared up and attacked the old paint with air-powered sanders and garden hoses, leaving a sea of blue in our wake.  

In the process of removing the paint we uncovered a number of gelcoat blisters.  These appear when water works it's way into small voids in the fiberglass.  I expected to see a few of them and was prepared to grind them out and fill them wtih epoxy as needed.  So, each time we came across a blister we'd turn the sander on it to open it up and dry it out.  More and more blisters appeared from under those layers of paint until the hull looked like someone tossed a grenade at it.  It was about this time that I also uncovered a large gash in the bottom of the keel hiding beneath old paint and boat caulk.  It looked like a bad repair gone horribly wrong.  This was going to take some time to fix.

So, my week of routine maintenance turned into two weeks of back-breaking labor.  I guess that's to be expected with any estimate for a boat project.  I was very thankful to get help from Ron and Ricky for a weekend and then spent the next week filling, sanding, and painting all the holes we put in the hull.  I hired the yard to fix the botched keel repair which bought me some time on the yard rate increase, and got busy waxing.  In the end I was able to get all the work done, and exactly two weeks after she came out Jean Marie went back in the water. 

There isn't anything that time and money can't fix.  That seems to be my mantra now when it comes to boat work. 
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Friday, June 10, 2011

Daddy Love

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Monday, April 18, 2011

Introducing Colin Ash Wilson

We named him "Colin" because Millie really likes the name, and "Ash" in memory of his little cousin Ashley whom we all miss so much.

Colin was born at San Ramon Regional Hospital on Friday, April 15th at 10:22 pm.  He weighed in at 6 lbs 13 oz and 20 inches long.  He's a very healthy little boy.  Both mom and baby are doing well.

We arrived at the hospital at 8 pm on Thursday night where Millie was given an IV drip to induce labor.  This was necessary as Colin was 2 days overdue and Millie's blood pressure was getting dangerously high.  24 hours of contractions, increasing in pain and intensity, and Millie was still not ready to deliver.  At around 9pm on Friday she was given an epidural and soon after the baby's heart rate dropped.  After several attempts to re-position him to make sure the umbilical cord was clear his heart rate came back up and then dropped again.  The scene became a little more intense at this point as we realized that a natural birth was probably not going to happen.  The nurse called the doctor and began to prep for a Cesarean delivery. 

As Millie was wheeled off to the OR I suited up in "dad scrubs" and waited alone in the room for my call to join her.  At this point we were both a little anxious and concerned but had trust in the very competent and attentive staff of doctors and nurses.  We were in good hands.

I held Millie's hand behind an operating screen as the doctors worked to get little Colin out.  Up until this moment Millie had showed very little tolerance for pain and voiced her doubts about her ability to endure childbirth.  But, as I told her before, she's tougher than she thinks she is, and on this night she proved me right.  Throughout the entire 26-hour process she possessed such a quiet strength and determination that a husband could only look on with admiration and pride.  I tried to to do my part by showing support and sympathy as she lay on the operating table.  

And after some tense moments of tugging and pulling little Colin was free and we soon heard the wonderful sound of a newborn baby's cry.  They were not sure why he was in distress as he was clear of the cord and appeared to be strong and healthy.  I sighed in relief and as the nurses moved him to the cleaning table I got up to take a few pictures and get a closer look, expecting to see an unrecognizable mass of wrinkled and discolored flesh.  What I witnessed instead was a perfectly proportioned and beautiful baby boy with dark hair, light skin, and blue-grey eyes.  The nurse handed him to me and I stared in wonder as he blinked and grimaced trying desperately to understand what was happening to him.  I comforted him as best I could with soft words and a gentle touch and brought him closer to Millie so she could share the moment with us.  We both smiled with amazement at what we had created. 

Welcome to the family little Colin.  I hope the years to come are filled with happiness and good health.  I hope you find joy and peace in your odyssey of life.  I hope you meet every challenge along the way with strength, patience, and wisdom.  I hope I can be the father you deserve.

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