It was a dark and stormy night . . . . yeah, a cliche I know, but it was one of those times.

 

On March 2nd, 2016, we sailed/motored Impulse from Marina Vallarta north 55 nautical miles to Chacala in normal 10-15 knot winds without incident.  We, meaning Cindy and I, anchored in Chacala Bay, the same as we had two times prior.  The bottom is sand and the depth is 20′ at low tide.  The bay is protected from the prevailing north/northwest winds that sometimes reach 20 knots, but high winds are rare for this time of year.  Most of the time the bay is calm with 2′ swells at 30 second intervals.  Pretty nice overall.

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We dinghyed around the point and proceeded to stay on shore with a view to our precious boat where we could watch our anchorage.  The anchor is marked with a 12″ floating white ball that indicates the exact anchor position and tells us if the anchor is dragging, which it never has.  The anchor is an oversized Danforth model with 40′ of chain connected to a very strong 1/2″ rode (sailing term for an anchor rope), so ‘no worries’ holding our 34′ boat.  Total length of rode and chain is 150′, plenty for this depth.  Other boats anchor here so no need to exceed the recommended 7:1 scope.  Impulse likes to ‘dance’ around her anchor with the tides and breezes, so in the morning, she is usually outbound facing the shore with the prevailing sea breeze, and in the evening, she is inbound facing the ocean per the prevailing land breeze – usually but not always due to the shift in tidal flows.  Generally, her dance is happy.

On March 5th, Cindy and I invited a local Mexican, his two boys and a young friend for an afternoon sail.  It was perfect conditions and fun was had by all.  As we were drifting in 5 knot breezes, our guests were body surfing off of the swim platform in 80 degree water that is so clear, you can see your feet.

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My Mexican friend, known as Tyson due to his size and build, was very helpful in prepping the boat, steering, etc., things most guest like to do.  One of his crew duties was to untie the jib so it could be unfurled.  No big deal.  Anyone can do it.  However, after our leisurely sail, Tyson was quick to retie the sail, pretty much as he remembered it.  I was busy with Cindy anchoring Impulse and didn’t check Tyson’s knot.  Anyone with knot tying abilities know that most people don’t know how to tie knots, and if they do, they don’t always tie the correct knot.  I wasn’t overly concerned due to the lull in my thinking about the very calm, mostly always calm, Chacala Bay.  So off we went back to shore.

Two nights later, without advance weather warning, a strong wind blew in from the west, something that ‘never happens’ this time of year according to locals.  The wind increased to, I think, 30-35 knots, which results in tall white caps and a heavy swell, just what you don’t want in a ‘protected anchorage’.  From my comment in paragraph 1, the bay is protected from N/NW winds, but not from the west which is a view directly out to the Pacific Ocean.  We were woken from our sleep by a loud slapping sound that was like a drum beating at 100 beats a minute, loud enough to wake up the neighborhood.  I looked out to the bay and saw Impulses’ jib partially unfurled and flaying wildly.  That was totally unexpected and caused considerable alarm because the sail would add more pulling on the anchor in addition to the wind and swells.  And then it started to rain, heavily.

I arrived at the nearest shore location to Impulse which is the ponga dock around 11:30 pm.  Fishermen, who normally go out at night, were huddled in their pickup trucks with headlights pointed in the direction of their tied up boats, watching with the same concern as I had for Impulse.  We made quick friends in our angst, hoping all would be okay but realizing there was nothing we could do.  Nobody would venture out in these conditions in any sort of craft.  Impulse swayed, tugged and bucked like a scarred horse.  The flapping jib added to the tension.  After a couple hours watching and worrying, I crawled back to bed, exhausted physically and, mostly, mentally.

I woke before dawn to look down on the situation, not immediately seeing Impulse due to an obscured view.  Finally, there she was, floating around the anchor ball, as I hoped.  The wind had died to 10 knots, a manageable speed for getting on board.  I hired a ponga driver who shuttled me back and forth, not wanting to spend the time motoring the dinghy around the point in heavy swells.  I inspected the anchor line and made necessary adjustments to the scope and chafe points.  The jib was tattered on the following edge known as the leech, but was otherwise okay.  I refurled the sail and resecured the knot that normally holds the sail closed.  Tyson’s knot held, but was loose and slipped down the sail causing the sail to partially unfurl.

We extended our stay a few days to allow the sea to calm down.  Swells can last several days following a storm, making for difficult boating conditions.  The day we left, the sea state was calm, so we pulled up our anchor and noticed a slight bend in the shaft.  Nothing to worry about, but it shows the incredible holding strength against the pull of the anchor line.  The shaft steel is maybe 3/8″ thick.

Back at our slip in Marina Vallarta, I contacted a sail repair company and for less than $100 US, the jib will be ‘tuned up’ as the representative advised.  We removed the sail and folded it up for a trip to the sail loft.  The extent of the patching was negligible, but necessary.

Lessons learned include checking knots and trusting our holding tackle, well, most of the time.  Benefits included getting to know the local ponga fishermen who were very helpful in watching over Impulse before and after the storm, who shuttled me back and forth, who became first name friends whenever I met them on the streets of this little town, who took my phone number and called me on one instance when they thought the anchor was moving (it wasn’t), and who offered any assistance I requested at any time.  Specific names are Fede and General.  I will always make a point of saying Hola to my new Amigos whenever I am in Chacala.

 

 

 

 

 

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EXPLORING PV – 2015

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This is an update from my last blog post. We never moved Impulse to La Cruz because the distance from there to PV was inconvenient – about 10 miles. Bus rides are crowded with people, chickens, etc. and noisy due to not enough duct tape holding the busses together. So Impulse is staying put in Marina Vallarta – not a bad place by the way. We were assigned to a new dock with electricity and water, a security gate with a 24/7 guard on duty, the marina is bordered by shops and restaurants, laundry service is close by, there’s a Starbucks with excellent WiFi, and the neighbors are fun and enthusiastic with loud Latino music blasting from neighboring boat caretakers.

One day, the fishing boat next to Impulse arrived with fresh tuna.  The crew set up a table on our shared dock and started cooking for themselves, their families and anyone on the dock.  We were included.  With our Spanglish, we thanked them very mucho for the fresh tortillas, tuna and salsa.  What a treat.

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We hired a boat caretaker, Jesus (aka Chewy), who works for several absent boat owners in the marina. He checks the interior weekly for leaks, smells, etc. and washes the topsides monthly to keep bird poop, dirt and grime at bay. Waxing and buffing are extra, but the boat looks like new with his care. His colleague Pancho dives under the boat monthly to replace the zincs, to check the prop and to scrub the water line where sea weed likes to grow. Our insurance company requires weekly inspections, as do we. If an unlikely hurricane were pointed at PV, Chewy has a long list of insurance mandated duties to perform, but so far, not an issue due to PV being considered a ‘hurricane hole’ due to geography (mountains and a big bay separating PV from the Pacific Ocean).

Cindy and I spent most of February in PV, moving around from hotel to hotel to experience the many Vallarta neighborhoods. Some nights were spent in VRBO’s and a few nights were on board Impulse with some sailing in between. Our mission was to select a neighborhood where we could rent a comfortable apartment for the upcoming winter of 2016. We kept up with work projects with our laptops and reliable internet. Because of coincidental factors, many of our closest friends from Denver were in PV for part of February, so of course we partied and sailed with them as much as we could.  There’s talk of another group gathering next year.

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Cindy’s sister Julie joined us and surprisingly bought a home in the up-coastal town of Chacala. She did so mostly due to our interest in living in PV. Julie insisted we be 100% committed to being ‘in the hood’. We offered 99.9%, but that wasn’t good enough. So now we are ‘all in’ with PV being a second home, whether in an apartment, house or boat.  We don’t know but after spending a winter there in 2016, we will have a better idea of our retirement plans.

We returned to PV from April 29th to May 12th to lock in a place for winter living. High season lodging is in high demand, so like college accommodations, getting a lease early is a good idea. We toured 5 apartments that met our criteria for location, size and price. We settled on one located in the Amapas neighborhood. That location is high on the hill in the south part of town within easy walking distance to Old Vallarta. The views are spectacular and the apartment is new and nicely furnished. It’s not on the beach, but our boat is as close to the beach as we will ever want.

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We sailed to Chacala with Chris and his friend Amy who joined us for a few overlapping days. Chacala Bay is the quintessential tropical cove with a sandy beach, beach bars, coconut trees and clear blue water. The town, located directly behind the beach, is a very small authentic Mexican town with potholed dirt roads, barking dogs, chickens everywhere, small open air stores, a fish market about as big as a backyard patio with a chest style freezer, and very friendly locals, most of whom don’t speak English.  But we don’t speak Spanish, so there.  Cindy is learning however and Julie is quite fluent.

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On our 50 mile sail to Chacala, we were approached by a high-speed military patrol boat that circled us several times with armed soldiers staring at us. The officer in charge checked our boat name and registration via his computer against what Mexico has on file. With our paper work in order, he waved us off but not in a friendly way. Scary occurrence but inconsequential.

We anchored for several days with no other significant events. Well, there was the instance where five local boys swam out to our anchored boat and were diving off of it. We could see them from Julie’s house so we scurried down to confront them, and they seemed innocent and apologetic. The local security people scolded them so it probably won’t happen again.

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Our stay at Julie’s house was fantastic.  And yes, that is our boat Impulse in the photo.  Nice.

We can’t wait to return in the fall. Meanwhile, back to Denver for the summer to work and hang out with our many close friends.  And I have to add, I look forward to teaching sailing every Sunday on Chatfield Reservoir to keep my skills polished.

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REFLECTIONS ON AN OCEAN VOYAGE

Portland, Oregon to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico   –   2014

AUTHOR’S NOTE – This lengthy blog is a memoir of a trip of a lifetime.  I wanted to jot down as many thoughts and facts as I could while they were fresh in my mind and on our computers.  This will be shared with crew mates, family and friends.  Cindy has prepared an accompanying video set to music for fantastic visuals.  I borrowed a few photos to insert into this narrative.

OVERVIEW

This sailing trip began about 3 years ago when Chris asked my opinion on what to recommend for his upcoming 8 week sabbatical that is a perk to Intel employees after working 7 years. The sabbatical is in addition to 3 weeks of vacation time.  I immediately suggested buying an ocean rated sailboat and sailing to Hawaii and back.  He thought that was a great idea.  Being an avid sailor myself, I volunteered to be on board.  I mentioned this big picture plan to Cindy and she was ‘not on board’ due to being so far from land, so another discussion ensued resulting in moving the proposed trip to a coastal cruise along the west coast of North America.  A bit of research revealed a group voyage opportunity from San Diego to Cabo Mexico every fall called the Baja Ha Ha.  So Chris had a crew and a plan.  He talked it up with work colleagues and soon discovered that he would have top bragging rights in ‘what did you do on your sabbatical’ discussions.  The enthusiasm and planning began with Chris polishing his sailing skills with ASA (American Sailing Association) certifications.

IMPULSE

Chris had a membership to a Portland sailing club that allowed access to a 30’ Catalina sailboat. He reserved it for a weekend when Cindy and I were in town for a visit.  The boat was big enough for an overnight trip, so we set off for St. Helens, Oregon, a small town on the Columbia River.  Except for losing an anchor to underwater rocks, the trip was routine.  We had a good time.

How does that relate to Impulse? Upon our return from St. Helens, we had a couple of hours of dock time to spare, so we kicked the fenders on some sailboats for sale.  They were all interesting, but one jumped out at us due to its 34’ size, its price, its layout and its condition.

It was a school boat that Chris actually sailed on for his ASA certifications and was kept up with no significant abuse.  We thanked the broker for the showings and went out for Mexican food (note the connection to Mexico here).  After a couple of margaritas each (hence the boat name IMPULSE), I suggested we phone in a low ball offer and the broker was okay with presenting it to the owner for consideration.  The offer was countered and accepted per our conditions of a haul out, a hull survey, an engine survey and a rigging survey. ‘Survey’, in boat-speak, means a professional inspection with a written report that insurance companies want to review before writing a policy.  We of course wanted the inspections as well.

Haul Out 2014

The survey recommendations were doable so repair estimates were gathered and the offering price was reduced accordingly.  After some minor negotiating, we wrote a check and became boat owners with Chris taking title to avoid sales tax.  Oregon does not have a sales tax.  Insurance was researched and to move the boat to a permanent marina, we needed a couple of immediate repairs.  That done, Chris chose a wonderful marina on Hayden Island in Portland and we settled in. A nice surprise was the previous owner left a brand new head sail called a Reacher on board and also threw in near-new dinghy davits, both very expensive items that we probably would not have on our A List of needed equipment.  And the previous owner left us lots of loose equipment that we would have had to acquire, so we came out okay with the overall purchase.

Making a list was perhaps the first thing we did to upgrade the boat from a basic fresh water river boat to a salt water, safe, ocean cruiser. Because of our collective lack of time and expertise in boat upgrades, professionals were contracted to make needed improvements.  Our list included safety items, routine and preventative maintenance items, comfort items, living aboard items, communication items, and miscellaneous equipment.  We prioritized our many lists into items we could do, items specialists needed to do, and items we only wished for.

Here’s the completed A List in no particular order:

  • Register boat with State of Oregon – get required boater safety cards for operators
  • Boat insurance for America and Mexico
  • Haul Out for detailed inspection with needed repairs including two coats of salt water rated bottom paint, replace thru-hulls above the water line, replace zinc on shaft, true and test propeller, reinforce delaminated fiberglass, replace crooked shaft, replace coupling and cutlass bearing, buff and polish hull
  • SSB (Single Side Band) radio with antenna tuner with Sail Mail account
  • AIS (Automated Identification System) unit – B rating with transponder
  • Chart Plotter with nav maps for cruising area with custom stainless steel bracket
  • Radar reflector
  • New music system with IPhone input
  • Tools including multi-meter, multiple screwdrivers, socket set, drill bits, hack saw, wire cutters, needle nose, allen wrenches, wire stripper/crimper, channel locks, hammer, tool bag/storage, sand blocks, Loctite, duct tape, electrical tape, rigging tape, 2 part epoxy, tap set, padlocks, flexible hoses, tank hose with water filter, knife sheaths (Grandpa Rockne donated several tools from his collection)
  • Equipment including Columbia River Charts, navigation equipment, brass clock, binoculars, hand held VHS (Very High Frequency) radio, PLB (Personal Locator Beacon), long dock line, ditch bag with survival supplies,
  • Main sail shackle to gooseneck (worth listing – very expensive ‘boat part’)
  • LED flashlights in convenient locations (5-10) plus headlamps
  • ·         Tethers and PFD’s (Personal Floatation Devices)
  •           Rechargeable batteries for AA, AAA with charger
  • ·         Second 5 gallon propane tank
  • ·         Repair BBQ unit with parts from Chris’s stand-up unit
  • ·         Refrigerator lid latch
  • ·         Reinforce stern pulpit
  • ·         Replace stern light due to existing one being blocked by the dinghy
  • ·         Bimini with cockpit lighting
  • ·         Replace vinyl windows in dodger
  • ·         Cabin items including pots, pans, dishes, silverware, towels, glasses, paper products, coffee maker (French Press), basic food, Tupperware, fruit hammock, doorbell (for helm-to-cabin alert), cork screw and bottle stopper, water jugs, cooler,
  • ·         Blankets, pillows, sheets, mattress pad and cover
  • ·         Bucket, sponge, flares, fire extinguisher, CO2 detector, padlock, battery case strap, boat hook, deck brush, rags, toilet scrubber
  • ·         First aid kit and basic OTC medicines and ointments (lots of sun block)
  • ·         Reinstall table leaf
  • ·         Replace outhaul running rigging and add under-boom cleat
  • ·         Replace sail ties
  • ·         Fix 2 leaking windows (aft port light and bow hatch)
  • ·         End-caps for the traveler
  • ·         Re-mount Boom-Kicker and fill previous bolt holes
  • ·         Rebuild engine starter and replace starter button
  • ·         Dinghy and outboard engine including Oregon registration
  • ·         Helm step (two versions were built – second one was perfect)
  • ·         Non-skid tape on helm step and companionway stairs
  • ·         Rugs for wear areas
  • ·         Boat name decals
  • ·         Fishing equipment
  • ·         Replace mast head light with LED model
  • ·         Fuel jerry cans with mounting straps
  • ·         Replace fuel sender unit
  • ·         General boat maintenance supplies including oil, rags, belts and filters, stainless steel screws, nuts and bolts, sail repair kit, impellers
  • ·         Flags (American, Mexico, Quarantine)
  • ·         Personal items including all weather clothes, bathroom kits, medicines for ‘what if’s’

There were lots of little improvements too numerous to mention, but all in all, it was a good upgrade and the boat performed very well throughout the 2,000 mile journey. Seems like a lot, and it was a lot, but with 3 of us working on the list for a year along with professionals, we had fun with our numerous emails, FaceTime crew meetings, the satisfaction of crossing off completed items and feeling proud of our collective accomplishments.  Because I have a perk that goes with my ASA Sailing Instructor status, all West Marine parts and supplies were heavily discounted by presenting a ‘Port Supply’ card.  This entitles me to a wholesale price, and because Chris was the primary purchaser of equipment, he too was allowed to use my card that is otherwise non-transferable.  Pretty nice savings when buying thousands of dollars of boat equipment.

Here’s most of the uncompleted Wish List:

  • ·         Replace or clean/repair main and jib sails
  • ·         Replace non-functioning autopilot
  • ·         Replace functioning hot water heater due to rust concerns
  • ·         Replace helm VHF radio due to static
  • ·         Add solar panels to charge batteries to minimize engine use while sailing
  • ·         Connect and test the holding and water tank gauges

PLANNING

We purchased Impulse in the summer of 2013.   We set a goal of a significant coastal cruise in 2014 knowing that lots of improvements and sailing practice would be needed prior to shoving off.  In 2013, we did a practice ‘Bar Crossing’ from the Columbia River to the Pacific Ocean to test the boat and equipment.  There is a previous blog entry that details that adventure.  Chris, living in Portland, was able to sail Impulse with friends almost every weekend during 2013 and 2014 so he became an expert on boat docking, handling and navigating.  Chris got to know the boat well and he personally did a lot of work on the above list.  Chris made so many trips to the local chandlery (sail speak for a boat store) that he became a regular.

Doug was busy in Denver charting the course and that included researching marinas and making reservations in advance of our arrival. Cindy was planning provisions and menus and learning our new SSB communication system that allows email, weather information and voice conversations around the world.  While underway, Cindy became the communications officer, checking weather and staying in touch with the fleet, friends and family.  Chris mastered our waypoints on the chart plotter and kept us in the right direction while making course adjustments along the way.  Our electronics are truly amazing.

Of course there is never enough planning, but we decided we were ready and could enter the Baja Ha Ha fleet in 2014 and that requires meeting certain experience and safety requirements. The ‘Ha Ha’ starts in San Diego, so we also joined up with the Coho Ho Ho fleet that organizes boats from the Pacific Northwest to San Francisco.  There were considerably less boats in the Ho Ho, but it was a good feeling to sail with and meet fellow cruisers along the way.  Chris attended the Seattle Boat Show last winter to attend seminars on both group flotillas.  We developed a trip itinerary that fit our work schedules and Chris’s vacation/sabbatical schedules.

Cabo San Lucas is not an inexpensive place to stay, so we decided on Puerto Vallarta as a final destination. PV, as Puerto Vallarta is called amongst travelers and sailors, is another 300 miles from Cabo, but worth the trip due to pleasant weather, more affordable slip fees, having lots of things to do there, and having direct flights to Portland and Denver at reasonable costs.

Getting Impulse from Portland to Puerto Vallarta is a 2,000 mile effort, so we split the trip up into four manageable legs. There was a month break in between two legs so we could get back to work and allow time to fix whatever broke on the boat along the way.

LEG 1 – COHO HO HO – PORTLAND TO SAN FRANCISCO

AUG 19 – ARRIVE PORTLAND

AUG 20 – PROVISION

AUG 21 – PORTLAND TO CATHLAMET (OVER NIGHT STOP)

AUG 22 – CATHLAMET TO ILWACO (OVER NIGHT STOP)

AUG 25 – ARRIVE IN NEWPORT (OVER NIGHT STOP – 2 NIGHTS)

AUG 27 – NEWPORT TO CRESENT CITY (FUEL STOP)

AUG 27-28 – CRESCENT CITY TO FT. BRAGG (FUEL STOP)

AUG 28-30 – FT. BRAGG TO SAN FRANCISCO (BRISBANE MARINA)

AUG 30-31 – HOTEL IN SAN FRANCISCO (BARB TO VISIT)

SEPT 1 – LEAVE SAN FRANCISCO

LEG 2 – SAN FRANCISCO TO SAN DIEGO

SEPT 25 – ARRIVE SAN FRANCISCO

SEPT 26-27 – PROVISION (BARB AND PAM TO VISIT)

SEPT 28 – SHOVE OFF DURING SLACK HIGH TIDE

SEPT 28-30 – SF TO MARINA DEL RAY, LOS ANGELES (OVER NIGHT STOP)

OCT 1 – LA TO CATALINA ISLAND (OVER NIGHT STOP)

OCT 3 – CATALINA ISLAND TO SAN DIEGO

OCT 5 – LEAVE SAN DIEGO

LEG 3 – BAJA HA HA – SAN DIEGO TO CABO

OCT 24 – ARRIVE SAN DIEGO

OCT 25 – 27 – PROVISION (JULIA AND JON TO VISIT) (CELEBRATE CHRIS’S BIRTHDAY)

OCT 26 – 11:00 – SKIPPER MTG – WEST MARINE

OCT 26 – 1:00 – HALLOWEEN COSTUME PARTY – WEST MARINE PARKING LOT

OCT 27 – 10AM – BAJA KICK-OFF PARADE, 11 AM START

OCT 27-30 – SAN DIEGO TO TURTLE BAY, MX (OVER NIGHT STOP – 3 NIGHTS)

NOV 1-3 – TURTLE BAY TO SANTA MARIA (OVER NIGHT STOP)

NOV 5-6 – SANTA MARIA TO CABO SAN LUCAS, MX

NOV 6-11 – CABO MARINA

LEG 4 – CABO TO PUERTO VALLARTA

NOV 11-13 – CABO TO PUERTO VALLARTA

NOV 13–20 – MARINA VALLARTA & WESTIN HOTEL

NOV 20 – LEAVE PUERTO VALLARTA

NOV & DEC – CHRIS STAYS IN PV WITH SIDE TRIPS TO COSTA RICA AND CHICAGO BEFORE RETURNING TO PORTLAND THE LAST WEEK OF DECEMBER

FEB 14 – LAST DAY OF SLIP CONTRACT IN MARINA VALLARTA

THE VOYAGE

Sailing is a 24/7 operation when off of the dock, so we invited additional crew on each leg of the trip except for the Baja Ha Ha portion where the 3 of us went it alone for various reasons including having more room to move around for the 2 weeks of that leg and being confident in our ability to cover the night watches. Warm nights had a lot to do that that decision as well.  Regarding night watches, we rotated 3 hour shifts to steer Impulse through the night.  We started with 4 hour watches but quickly learned that 2 hours was enough along the cold Oregon coast.  Then we settled on 3 hour watches in the warmer climates of southern California and Mexico.  Three hours actually goes by pretty fast when you are listening to music or podcasts with headphones, watching stars and not having heavy winds or seas to fight.  Steering is a full body workout with constant core, leg and arm movement.  The reason sailboat steering wheels are so large is due to the leverage you need to counter the force of wind and waves with a 6 ton boat.  We mostly motored through the night to allow crew members time to sleep without waking them for sail adjustments.  You cannot let go of the wheel even for a moment, so any adjustments needed crew to assist.

LEG 1 – PORTLAND TO SAN FRANCISCO

Portland is located 100 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean on the very wide Columbia River. We have sailed the Columbia many times and got to know its currents, tides and low bridges.  It takes two days to travel to the mouth of the river with overnight stops.  Why did we stop for over-nighters?  Because the Columbia River is hard to navigate at night – too many buoys and sand bars to avoid, so we played it safe.  Our first stop in Cathlamet resulted in a damaged dinghy outboard motor due to insufficient cooling water circulating through the motor.  This is another story better told by Chris or Cindy as they were in the dinghy ‘up a creek without a paddle’ – really.  Funny story worth hearing or reading if they will tell it.  The second stop was in the small fishing village of Ilwaco.  Chris switched out the fuel gauge because it wasn’t reading correctly.  Turns out it was the fuel tank sender unit that needed replacing, but we didn’t get to that until later.  Empty was full, and full was empty, so no problem.  We sailed the Pacific in August, the warmest and calmest month along the Oregon coast.  We had a cold, foggy ride that can be seen in this photo taken by a passing cruiser:

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Dave Cooley, an experienced sailor and friend from Denver, joined us to share in the 4 hour watch schedule. Turned out the 4 hour rotation was a bit much so it was reduced to a 2 hour schedule.  That allowed more sleep and warmth and was a good compromise.  Dave was invaluable as crew.  He came up with new solutions to old problems too numerous to mention.  He kept our spirits high (inside joke regarding the amount of alcohol on board).

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Perhaps the biggest issue we had on this leg was insufficient fuel on board. Due to low winds we motored to keep our schedule, and due to high winds we motored to keep pace with large waves that sometimes towered 10 feet above the boat.  Without the motor, the waves could have turned us sideways and that could result in overturning.  We stopped for fuel twice in unscheduled ports – Crescent City and Fort Bragg.  Both stops were successful and interesting.  The interesting part of the Crescent City stop was watching whales in the bay and nearly missing the closing time for the fuel dock.  The interesting part of the Fort Bragg stop was waiting 4 hours for high tide to enter the fuel dock that was located deep into the narrow river entrance.

The Fort Bragg harbor is old and decrepit, making for some interesting pictures.

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Okay, there was a slightly bigger issue and that was a malfunctioning macerator. A macerator is a pump that ejects poop from the holding tank and it did not work, so we manually pumped the nearly overflowing toilet out of the port window.  This is legal as long as we are 3 miles from land, and we were.  Stinky job however.  We used our unscheduled fuel stops to use the land facilities as much as possible until we reached our scheduled stops.

We made it to San Francisco in daylight, opting to keep the boat in the Brisbane Marina, a very nice modern facility located in SF Bay closest to the San Francisco airport. Sister Barb met us and offered to take our damaged outboard motor to the Suzuki shop in Sacramento which was much appreciated.  We checked into a hotel to wash up and rest.

LEG 2 – SAN FRANCISCO TO SAN DIEGO

After a month break, we met up at the marina late September with a new macerator in hand. A mechanic was hired to install the unit and we discovered that not only was the impeller on the old macerator broken, but the O-ring on the pump out cap was missing causing a suction break, so that was installed.  Back in business.  (Side note:  Cindy was promising to ‘jump ship’ if this item wasn’t fixed, so it was a very high priority item).

We met up with Barb and Pam for a day sail in SF Bay. Great sail and a great time.  Barb brought us our clean laundry and a repaired dinghy outboard motor that was given her when we arrived a month earlier.  After sailing 7 miles across the bay to Alameda, we missed the fuel dock closing time by 5 minutes, so we had drinks in the yacht club instead.  We sailed back in gusty SF Bay winds and went out for a Mexican dinner.  Barb and Pam drove back to Sacramento after dinner.

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Cindy and I celebrated Cyn’s birthday (September 26th) in SF by walking Fisherman’s Wharf.  Good food, great scenery and a nice way to spend the day.

Chris met us the next day and we prepped the boat for our next leg to San Diego. Chris’s college friend John joined us to help out with the watch schedule.  The watch schedule was modified again to 3 hour shifts due to warmer nights.  We left the dock at day break for the Sausalito fuel dock that we had trouble finding, but eventually, after a light grounding, found.  A funny memory is the old timer at the dock making fun of our destination of Puerto Vallarta by mispronouncing it several different ways.  I’ll try – Puta Valuta, Pota Valota, Vuta Poluto, etc. etc. Very funny.  We repeated his humor several times on our way to PV.

Back under the Golden Gate for a brisk sail down the coast.

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When sailing south along the coast, there are northerly and northwesterly winds consistently pushing us with a 1 to 2 knot current. Hence the name Baja Ha Ha.  The return trip is called the Baja Bash, but that’s another story if we ever go north.  We used our downwind sail called a Reacher that sometimes moved us along at 8 to 9 knots – pretty fast for a sailboat.  To avoid potential sail and hardware damage, the sail sometimes was taken down in strong winds.  Taking down the Reacher was always a challenge.  It carries a lot of wind and it doesn’t cooperate when forced down.   Cindy was the willing and enthusiastic ‘Sail Wrangler’, doing the dangerous work of being on the bow bagging the sail as we both wrestled the sail down.  Imagine lots and lots of noise with a sail that whips you and tugs at your arms.  John would handle the halyard at the mast and Chris would steer.  If a line wrapped around your leg, the sail has the power to pull you overboard.  It didn’t, but could have.  We didn’t always wear our life jackets, but should have.  We sometimes ‘clipped in’ with tethers to a life line so if we did go overboard, we were attached to the boat.

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Memories on this leg included ‘Super Pods’ of dolphins that numbered in the hundreds. We sailed through several of these pods and they didn’t seem to mind.  Sometimes they would chase our bow for several minutes, playing with our wake and looking at us while swimming just under the surface of the water.  And whales were occasionally seen, but not as much as on Leg 1.  Locals say it’s the water temperature that is keeping whales north of their migrating schedule.  Water temperatures were up 10 degrees over normal.

We scheduled an overnight stop in Las Angeles in Marina Del Rea, a wonderful facility that allowed us a peaceful night at the guest dock. We had time to walk a bit so we set off for a three mile hike to Venice Beach where we got a taste of southern California.  If you haven’t been there, just imagine Arnold Schwarzenegger in the muscle beach area surrounded by people of all types and styles on the beach and on the malacon proudly strutting their stuff on roller blades, Segway’s, bikes, as well as walkers and joggers.  The outfits were sometimes so minimal that you had to look twice.  We knew we were in southern California for sure.

The weather window was good to sail on to Catalina Island the next day, so after a refreshing shower, we set off for the ’26 miles across the sea’ island. We arrived in time for a nice dinner.  Chris and John stayed out late and found the ‘cougars’ in the town could be aggressive, so they had funny stories to tell the next morning during coffee in the cockpit.

Catalina Island is a busy place so we were politely asked to check out by 11AM so others could use our mooring ball. Okay with us so we set off for San Diego.  It’s a 24 hour passage so we had the option of slowing down and getting in the SD marina the next morning or staying on course and having a night arrival, something that is not advisable in a strange port.  I called ahead and the marina assistant said the channel was well marked, so we decided to go in, arriving around midnight.  All hands were on deck with flashlights to light up the crab pot and sea weed infested waters around the channel entrance.  Chris expertly steered around the obstructions, keeping our keel, rudder and propeller free of debris.  Once in the channel, no problems were encountered except for heavy fishing boat traffic.  We arrived at our slip safely and went to sleep, only to wake up to neighbors who were concerned that we were lost by using so much flashlight power needed to find our dock.

With hotel prices high, we opted to stay on the boat a couple of nights and use the excellent marina shore facilities. We met up with Baja Ha Ha cruisers who were also staged at this marina.  We could identify them by the flags we all flew high in the rigging.

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LEG 3 – SAN DIEGO TO CABO SAN LUCAS

This was the start of the Baja Ha Ha, a group of 130 sailboats and over 400 sailors that signed up to ‘caravan’ to Cabo together, a distance of about 700 miles. Their reasons were about the same as ours; strength in numbers, reliable weather forecasting from different sources, communicating with fellow cruisers via SSB and VHF radios, the planned stops along the way for socializing, learning together about ocean cruising, and taking advantage of the best time of year to head south without fear of hurricanes and winter storms, though the hurricane factor didn’t pan out as expected.  Hurricane Vance was looming south of Cabo so the voyage was held up a day, but the storm dissipated prior to our sailing in its proximity.

We arrived in San Diego a couple of days early to provision for the two weeks on the water. Julia and Jon met us for a couple days of partying, including a kick-off Halloween costume party where we took second place.  If you look closely, Chris and I are holding smoking incense bundles that are mostly sage but smelled and looked like marijuana.  It fooled most people and we think it contributed to our second place finish.

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The scheduled parade of boats was impressive and was featured on local and national news broadcasts. The flotilla spread out by night fall but their lights were evident all night long, making our watches even more attentive.  Not all boats have AIS, a type of radar that shows our boat and others on the chart plotter.  Watching our boat move in real time on the chart plotter is comforting as we follow a line that was plotted to our next way point.  But sailing by the stars is better so we don’t get too mesmerized by staring at the computer screen.  Having headphones with music or podcasts passes the time and makes the 3 hour watches seem shorter than they actually are.

A highlight of this leg was a simultaneous sunset and near full moon rise. These photos don’t capture the moment as well as being there, but it was majestic.  It’s rare to have a cloudless sky in both directions with sailboats in the foreground.  Seems nearly impossible.  These photos were taken minutes apart.

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I saw 2 ‘green flashes’ during our voyage. The Green Flash is a split second of green as the sun sets in a cloudless ocean.  It happens when the very last piece of sun is visible.  The flashes were verified by other cruisers on the radio, but Cindy and Chris must have blinked because they didn’t see either one.  They suggested I was hallucinating, but I wasn’t – really!

Recall that there were only 3 of us on board, so night watches were 25% more frequent, but we were used to the rotation by now and really appreciated the extra room in the cabin where guests had to sleep and store gear.   At no time was a watch missed or was the reliever late to their post.  We spent 3 nights on the water getting to Turtle Bay.  We weren’t the last boat to anchor, but almost last due to our relatively small boat that goes proportionally slower than boats even slightly longer than ours.  This speed issue is due to the physics of sail area and wake dynamics than controls our maximum speed.  Oh well, sailing isn’t about speed anyway, it’s about cruising safely and comfortably, and we accomplished both.

The stop in Turtle Bay allowed us to use our dinghy for the first time with a properly running outboard engine. The dinghy preformed beautifully, shuttling the 3 of us to shore and to the fuel dock with jerry cans.  We shuttled to the scheduled beach party and to tour the town with its dusty streets and beach bars.

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Hurricane Vance kept us in Turtle Bay for a day longer than we were scheduled, but we were not in a hurry to leave. We enjoyed the rest, scenery and cold beers.

The fleet was given the ‘good to go’ on the radio one morning and we all left by 11AM to our next stop, Bahia Santa Maria, a protected cove on the Baja peninsula next to its bigger cousin, Magdalena Bay where whales go to have their young. We sailed for 2 nights and arrived in the morning in good shape with food and fuel to spare.  Good thing because there is no town there, only empty cabins where drug smugglers hid out until the Mexican Federalies shut down their operation with gunfire and killings years ago.  The ghosts of the past were gone, so we partied with our fellow cruisers.  A rock band drove several hours to hook up their generator to blast music while we ate fish tacos put together by locals.  We started to get to know the same cruisers that we met earlier.  We were making friends instead of just acquaintances.  Cruisers are known by their boat names more than their first names, but we got to know both.  We tended to hang out with cruisers with boats the same size range as ours.  Maybe it’s a class thing, but we had lots to talk about including break downs, where to cruise next, where you are from, and how is your cruise going so far.

We stayed in BSM for only a day and a night in order to make up the time lost in Turtle Bay to Hurricane Vance. We were all excited to shove off to Cabo San Lucas.  It was only a night sail away.  The entire Baja Ha Ha was staged nicely between stops with a 3 night passage, then a 2 night passage, and finally, a 1 night passage.  Notice we don’t count days as much as nights.  Days go by quickly without a watch schedule.  We all pitched in to steer when we could see where we were going and there was much to do on deck and down below.  The Ha Ha was a nice pace and left us with enough energy to enjoy the cruise around Cape Falso into the Cabo marina.

Prior to arriving, the engine light and buzzer went off during my midnight watch. Alarmed, I throttled down and called Chris up to investigate with me.  We shut down the engine and decided to sail to keep pace and to look into the overheating problem in the morning.  After Chris’s 6AM shift was over, and Cindy could take the helm, Chris and I inspected and cleaned out the fresh water strainer and inspected the water pump.  Turns out the impeller in the water pump had broken and missing fins, so we replaced it with one of several spares we had on board.  I ruined the gasket when separating the water pump, so we had to manually pump water out of the engine compartment every half hour until we reached Cabo.  Once in Cabo, I bought a tube of liquid gasket that worked perfectly, and we now have lots of the stuff for future repairs.  It sure is nice to have a mechanical engineer on board.  Chris and I worked well together to solve problems.

We were lucky to be assigned a slip in this crowded marina thanks to Chris who signed us up early on. Slips were assigned in the order of the Baja Ha Ha sign-ups.  We were number 17.  We had to ‘raft up’ to another Ha Ha sailboat however, but they didn’t mind us walking across their boat to get to ours.  Many had to do the same thing due to limited dock availability.  Bad news however was we didn’t get to plug into shore power so we had to run the engine to keep our batteries topped off.  Not exactly pleasant to our close neighbors with engine noise and exhaust for 2 to 3 hours a day.

We went through a long ‘paperwork shuffle’ with the immigration office and Port Captain, and that included putting money into an account at the bank. Very unusual, but very Mexico.  We wondered who’s account that was . . . . the Port Captain’s perhaps?

The Ha Ha wound down with a beach party with awards given for various categories including most time sailing vs. motoring, most time spent naked while sailing, loudest snoring with wives imitating snoring husbands, etc. etc. We took third place, but everyone who didn’t finish the Ha Ha in first or second got a third place certificate.  Fun time with our new friends whose first names and boat names we finally got to know.

New crew members Pat and Cathy met up with us for the next leg to Puerto Vallarta. We were once again delayed due to a tropical cyclone that was in our path.  Cindy had the SSB radio working great to download forecasts and weather charts onto our laptop computer.  Without it, I don’t know what weather services might be available in Mexico.  No need to rush into heavy weather and seas, so we stayed put for a couple of days.  We whiled away our time in the adjacent hotel pool, went out for lunches and dinners, toured the scenery by Ponga (Mexican open boat you see below), and re-provisioned our boat with food and fuel (diesel and alcohol varieties).

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Prior to departure, we moved the boat to another dock location with electricity so we could leave with fully charged batteries. We were rested and ready to commence our final leg of the voyage.  Because the cyclone was still a threat, we moved the boat to Cabo’s sister town of San Jose del Cabo, a 4 hour sail around the peninsula.  We docked in time for happy hour at the local beach bar.  By the way, arrival times tended to be around happy hour not by coincidence.  Okay, getting in before sunset was the real reason, but having an ice cold cocktail or beer was a good reward after a good sail.

LEG 4 – CABO TO PUERTO VALLARTA

This leg was going to be 2 or 3 nights, but we didn’t know for sure due to losing our coastal current and following seas that added a knot or two to our speed. And fuel was a concern because we were at the limits of our motoring range, so sailing was an absolutely necessity.

This is a good time to state that sailing was only 1/3rd of our moving time with motoring accounting for 2/3’rds of the trip.   I mentioned earlier that too much or too little wind requires motoring, and the night watches kept the crew in their beds with the motor on, but this leg was different.  We had extra crew for sail handling 24/7 and we needed to preserve fuel, so we sailed at least half of the 300 miles to PV.  It was only a 2-nighter however due to good winds which translated into good speed, about 6 knots.  We arrived in PV around 5PM (happy hour once again) on a Friday, easing Impulse into our reserved slip.  We were anxious to check into our reserved hotel for a shower and sleep.  As exciting as sailing is, getting there and getting off of the boat is also exciting.  And eating out at restaurants with real tables and chairs, and ice, and side dishes, and service, and, and, and are good things too.

The next morning we went through a check in process at the marina but could not check in with the Port Captain due to Mexico Time (closed Friday afternoon, all weekend and for a Monday holiday). Chris took care of that logistic on a Tuesday with a minimum of hassle.  He and Cindy were very prepared with copies of boat ownership and registration, crew list, insurance, passports, temporary import permit, equipment list with serial numbers and other documents that were not all needed but ready in case.  Everyone we encountered was polite and professional with mostly English spoken.  Our dock security guard recommended restaurants, helped with dock lines and looked after our boat.  We felt very safe and comfortable in Puerto Vallarta.

Time in PV was spent walking and touring the town, taking Impulse to the Marietta Islands for a day cruise with snorkeling via dinghy, eating out 3 meals a day, enjoying the hotel pool with swim up bar, and walking the beautiful beaches. The weather was in the high 70’s night and day, and the ocean water was in the 80’s, so we were never hot or cold.

Puerto Vallarta is a charming, authentic, modern by Mexico standards, coastal town with a high mountain backdrop with a rain forest cover.   When Chris inquired why no tours of the jungle were offered by the local hawkers, only one Spanish word was understood, “Jaguars”.  Okay.  No jungle tours.

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Cindy and I had previously arranged a meeting with a couple of expats to discuss life in PV. We bought lunch at a nice beach restaurant for a 2 hour chat about life outside of America, costs of living, speaking Spanish and legal requirements for residency.  We could live here.

Chris stayed on the boat all but 2 nights and was not happy with the marina facilities. Specifically, the marina bathrooms and showers were locked up from 6PM to 9AM.  No other marina we visited locked up their facilities overnight so that was a surprise and a major inconvenience.  With the high slip fees, you would think the marina would be a bit more considerate of ‘live-aboards’, but apparently not.  Subsequently, Chris, Cyn and I set out for a day trip to a ‘sailor’s marina’ in La Cruz, only 10 miles up the coast.  We took a bus with its low fares for a bumpy ride and walked to the marina through the small, dusty town.  It’s nearly the same price as the PV marina but with relatively new and very modern 24 hour facilities, so we decided over lunch to move the boat in February to this more accommodating marina.  We have a 3 month contract in PV, so the February 14th term limit will coincide nicely with Cyn’s and my 4 week return visit starting February 3rd.

EPILOGUE

This was a fantastic adventure with lots of unknowns before we started and while we were voyaging down the coast. We now have a great experience under our boat shoes that will be useful in future adventures wherever they lead us.

Here are a few more ‘reflections’, in no particular order:

  • Impulse was well prepared and, except for a couple of surprise maintenance items, held up beautifully.
  • We had fun. We were never bored.  The entire crew got along great.  We all worked well together.  It’s amazing how time flies, even when you are relaxing.
  • Nobody got sick. No sea sickness (though Dramamine was occasionally taken as a preventative measure), food poisoning or from drinking Mexican water.  We weren’t sure about Mexican ice however, but, no issues.
  • Drinking lots of water is essential when sailing to avoid dehydration.   We only drank water from bottled, trustworthy sources.  We had about 10 gallons on-board most of the time, and had many small bottles of water available but preferred to fill drinking cups from a handy dispenser.
  • When filling our 75 gallon water tank with dock hoses, we added a few capfuls of bleach to kill bacteria (as recommended from many researched sources). We couldn’t taste the bleach but it kept the tank water clean, un-smelly and fresh.  Tank water is for cleaning and showering, so we didn’t drink it or cook with it.  We flushed the tank several times if the water sat too long, like between legs of our trip.
  • The Oregon coast was the worst for weather. It was cold, foggy and wet (dew and fog moisture – no rain) most of the time.  You can’t be too warm when on the helm, so lots of layers were needed.  A typical wardrobe for me at night was a long sleeved winter underwear top, sweater, fleece vest, and a very heavy marine waterproof overcoat.  Legs were covered with the other half of the long underwear, jeans and rain pants.  My feet typically don’t get cold, so just heavy socks and rugged tennis shoes were worn.  BTW, classic boat shoes get wet and don’t dry out very fast, so hiking shoes with non-slip soles were preferred by me.  I also wore large waterproof marine gloves that went up over my sleeves.  Glad I bought those.  Head gear was a stocking cap covered with a hoodie from my overcoat.  I was able to zip the large collar from my overcoat up to my nose and pull my stocking cap down to my eyes.  I sometimes shivered uncontrollably, but eventually warmed up because of the shivering and managed to keep ‘warm enough’ through the night.  I would alternate standing and sitting to keep moving, and that added another opportunity to stay warm.  Fortunately, the Oregon and Northern California coasts only lasted a few nights.
  • The flip side to the Oregon and Northern California coasts is when the temperatures got into the 70’s and 80’s night and day. That’s when a swim suit, tee shirt and sandals were all that were needed.  Very welcome and comfortable attire.
  • For most of the night watches, we ‘clipped in’, meaning we wore tethers from our life jackets (aka PFD’s) attached to the helm. Purpose being, if the steer’er went overboard for any reason (hitting a sleeping whale for instance . . . yes, it happens), the crew member would be recovered and a search and rescue would be avoided.  When on duty, we wore headlamps and a whistle.  We dispensed with the safety gear on the last leg of the trip, though we shouldn’t have.  We fell into a ‘we can do this’ lull after completing most of our voyage and being more sea savvy, whatever that implies.  We were confident and perhaps cocky.  Nothing happened, but if anything were to happen, it would have been when we were unprepared.  In the future, safety first.
  • Food was plentiful and tasty. Cindy made certain we had at least one hot meal a day.  Snacks (in our pockets) were essential during night watches.  Drinking wine, rum and vodka was moderate while sailing in order to stay alert.  Drinking after anchoring or docking was another story.  We went through a lot more than we provisioned, so shore bars were sought out frequently.
  • I lost 5 pounds on this trip, but it wasn’t for lack of eating.   Sailing on the ocean is a constant workout but not too tiring.
  • Speaking of ‘tiring’, sleep was good. Sailing requires stamina, flexibility and muscle, but not too much of each.  So when naps and bedtime came around, no problem with a deep sleep.  I was alert and awake when necessary, but so sound asleep when not necessary that I was hard to wake up as Chris and Cindy can attest.  Both tried to get my attention to deal with semi-serious helm matters but alas, I was in dream land.
  • Sailing on the Pacific Ocean wasn’t as scary as we expected.   We watched the weather very closely so we avoided storms.  Chris even sailed around a dark cloud to avoid potentially heavy wind and rain.  Our navigation was perfect with charts, cruising guides and a ‘state of the art’ chart plotter.  We were very cautious by staying far from shore to avoid fishing boats and crab pots, to avoid unmarked hazards and to allow ‘wiggle room’ for course changes.  When sailing close to shore, we were vigilant and perhaps lucky because not all hazards can be seen or avoided.  Examples are kelp beds that can foul the prop, floating debris (didn’t see any, but . . . . ) and buoys.  Not all buoys show up on the chart plotter.
  • If we could do it all over again with near perfect success, we would have tested and replaced our macerator, but who would have thought that item needed replacing. And we should have noticed the dinghy engine wasn’t cooling before it over heated.  We assumed the store where we purchased it would have checked it out.  We couldn’t pre-check it ourselves without putting it in water, so that was a surprise.  Though we never ran out of fuel, having more jerry cans of diesel would have eliminated worry because we checked the (sometimes backwards reading) fuel gauge way too often.  I wish the water tank gauge was working because we often wondered how much on board tank water we had left, though we never ran out.
  • Taking salt water baths in the 85 degree ocean and rinsing off on the swim platform with 85 degree fresh water was delightful. We felt clean and could simultaneously wash our clothes for another day or two (or three) of wearing.  Cindy made me toss my stinky shoes into the dinghy, along with our bags of trash.  My sandals didn’t smell (as bad) however, so I was allowed to wear those for most of the trip.
  • Deciding our own schedule and course was really liberating as compared to airports and highway forms of travel. Granted, the pace was slow, but moving slow on the highway is frustrating whereas moving slow on the water under sail is fascinating.  I highly recommend it.

THE END (for now)

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Trepidation

Ok so I’ve been encouraged by my fellow sailors to contribute to The Blog. So there is ‘lake’ sailing which we’ve been doing for years and then there is ‘island’ sailing, also experienced, such as in the Caribbean or the San Juan’s. Fun stuff but always with a umbrella cocktail, beautiful sunset and jazz at Foxy’s waiting at the end of the day. YES, I can get behind that! But Nooo….now these two guys rope me into buying a boat in the northwest and sailing 2000 miles to Cabo San Lucas. Now the anxiety kicks in….several days at a time without stopping ( SLEEP DEPRIVATION) and the ROUGE WAVE, statistically they are becoming far more prevalent according to the discovery channel. Or….do I really understand that ‘Man Overboard’ drill much less how to operate a SSB. I feel seasick when I look over Doug’s shoulder as he reads a 700 page manual (volume one) on ‘storm tactics’. And knots, I will finally have to learn how to tie knots, and spanish words for boat parts, foul weather gear – will my Colorado gear be sufficient? I did stand in the shower with it on -no leaks. As we continue to prep, I have calmed down a bit or is it the anti-anxiety drugs?

 

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What’s in a name?

When people first visit a marina inevitably they first notice (and often get a chuckle at) the variety of boat names.

There are a few approaches people use for their boat names.

Some people name their boats after a loved one, like Elizabeth or Victoria. When those people upgrade to the next sized boat or add to their fleet, they will often keep the same names but add a modifier like Elizabeth II. Some other people prefer to use a pun; these ones can be quite clever and result in the aforementioned chuckle. Like Seaduction, Rest Ashore, Devocean, Sea-Esta, or Yacht-To-Be-Working. Still others want their name to reflect an emotion or spirit they feel when they are at Sea. Names like Quest, Destiny, Serenity, Dream Catcher, or Moonshadow.

I would put our boat’s name, Impulse, in this third category.

I talked before in the blog about how we didn’t actually pick our boat’s name. It was named Impulse when we bought it, and we liked the name enough to agree to not change it, as agreeing on a name amongst us might prove to be difficult. While someone might think a pun is clever like Paradocs, others might think it is stupid. So we stuck with Impulse. And it was of course fitting that we made our decision to buy our boat a bit ‘impulsively’; there was a whopping two hours between when we saw the boat, and made an offer…

two Impulsive hours that provided three margaritas each.

When I heard the name, I knew it had some meaning that I had heard before. I couldn’t pin it right away, but decided to consult the Oracle…I mean Google. When I saw it, I knew immediately. Impulse is a term used in Physics. I had learned about it while pursuing my degrees in Mechanical Engineering. While not among the most common or useful terms like Velocity, Force, Time, or Rotation, it does hold meaning and utility. I imagine it is used primarily in the realm of rocket science and space travel.

I will try to keep the following explanation satisfactory to both my engineering colleagues and my mathematically challenged friends alike…

Impulse is often expressed as a capital ‘J’, and has the units of N*s (Newton Seconds). Since a Newton is a unit of Force, a Newton second is the amount of time that force has been applied. Say you are a sailboat, the wind is flowing across your sails, and providing you with enough Force to propel through the water. You could express that Force with Newtons. Now let’s say you have had this Force for an Hour; you can take that Force you found previously and multiply it by 3600 (there are 3600 seconds in an hour). That is the amount of Impulse the boat experienced in that amount of time.

It is in this thought that I see some special meaning.

In a way, the amount of Impulse my boat has (the total amount of force multiplied by the total amount of time it has seen those forces) is a record of her Journeys . If we were able to calculate that amount of Impulse, it would reflect exactly how long its been under sail, and how strong the winds were. Pretty damn cool if you ask me….but I’m an engineer, so if you’d rather think of it as a margarita-induced Impulsive purchase, I won’t blame you.

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Upgrades, Lunch, and Sailing with Co-Workers

Most of the Spring Upgrades were completed at a boat yard called Schooner Creek in May.

Single Sideband Radio (SSB) is installed and working.  Chart Plotter mounted on a custom fit bracket.  Upgraded Battery System with more than 6X capacity of the previous system.  Fiberglass Repair, Bottom Paint, Re-Conditioned Propeller, Re-Aligned Engine Shaft, New Zinc Anode, Re-Conditioned Thru Hulls, and some Electrical Wiring Repair.

But there were still items that needed completion!  Namely we needed to install an Automated Information System Transceiver (Garmin AIS600).  AIS is a device that uses the VHF Antennae at the top of our mast to communicate our coordinates to surrounding vessels.  When used in conjunction with our Chart Plotter we can see vessels around us, and they can see us as well.  This is crucial is collision avoidance.  The neat thing about this device is anyone at home can log on to the internet and watch our progress as we head down the coast.  We have a unique identifying number.  I will be sure to post a link to the site before we are underway, so anyone who is interested can check in on us.

To install this device I decided to recruit some assistance from my top technicians from work.  These guys are talented at troubleshooting and installing electrical and mechanical systems.  In return I provided a couple 12 packs, lunch, and an afternoon pleasure sail.

Mick checking the AIS before installation.

Mick checking the AIS before installation.

Cesar wiring the AIS into the VHF system.

Cesar wiring the AIS into the VHF system.

We also needed to characterize our electrical system, so we do not over-draw our batteries based on our daily usage.  Each DC Breaker uses energy.  The longer we leave them on, the more battery power we consume.  We need to balance our usage with our charging capabilities.  I borrowed a Fluke Oscilloscope from work to measure the amperage of each device.

Wayne using his electrical system knowledge to make Current measurements.

Wayne using his electrical system knowledge to make Current measurements.

Labor is rewarded with Coconut Shrimp, Lobster Wraps, Veggie Wraps, and Burgers at the Island Cafe.  Couldn’t have been a better day for this.

Josh (Cesar's son), Cesar, Wayne, Mick and Virginia's son, Virginia (Mick's wife), Mick and Myself.

Josh (Cesar’s son), Cesar, Wayne, Rowan (Mick and Virginia’s son), Virginia (Mick’s wife), Mick and Myself.

 

Of course, no day on the boat is complete without an afternoon sail.  Perfect day for it: 12-15 knot winds and 78 degrees.

Intel Sailing Crew.

Intel Sailing Crew.

 

At the end of the day, the battery system was fully measured, and the decision was made to replace some key lights with LEDs since they consume way less energy.  The AIS wasn’t functional, but we believe that it just requires software setup.  The AIS box, power, RF antennae, and NMEA2000 communication cables are all installed.  More updates to come.

 

Thanks to a group of talented technicians, sailing Crew, and good company.  It’s great to spend some time together away from the office.  Let do it again!  I have more projects.

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My Sailing Passion

I must be a reincarnated pirate or Viking because I just love sailing.  Nobody in my land locked midwestern family taught me to sail nor did they ever take me sailing.  I’ve been fishing in small boats growing up, and I’ve paddled canoes, but that isn’t even close to operating a sailboat.

I’ve always loved sailing because it gives me freedom to go where ever I want with a minimum of rules and cost.

So let me begin my story at age 16 during a summer visit to a Minnesota lake cabin with a high school friend whose family had a small sailboat – maybe 12′ long – big enough for the two of us.  We pushed it off of the dock and raised the sail.  We were about 200 feet from shore when we tipped it over and had to swim it back – no problem.  We didn’t know what we were doing, but I was hooked.  The idea that you can take a boat without paddles or an engine to wherever the wind blows seemed too easy.  Subsequent sails were more successful.  I think I had an intuitive knack for knowing what to do with the tiller, the daggerboard and sails.  So while my friend went power boating with other lake rats, I was taking that little sailboat out single-handed.

There was a big space between that summer and my next foray with sailboats.  I went to college, got married and started a business, none of which were very conducive to sailing.

But one day, walking by a trailered sailboat in a back yard, I knocked on the door to inquire if it was for sale. The retired doctor/resident indicated that his sons didn’t use it anymore and that I could have it for $700. Sold. Off it went to my back yard for a polish and a test sail – yes, in the back yard. I rigged the mast and boom, led the lines properly, and had fun sailing on land before launching in water. I kept that 16′ boat for 3 summers, trailering it to the local reservoir a few times each year. Sons Chris and Russ joined me a few times but were too young to really get a grip on the sport. An ad in the local paper resulted in a quick sale for . . . . yup, $700.

That brings me to age 50 when I decided to take lessons from the American Sailing Association (ASA). The local school here is Victoria Sailing School. With Cindy and friends, we took our classroom and water lessons resulting in basic certifications for boat handling. My instructor, Jim Benson, had his own boat, a Catalina 27. He and I got along quite well, so I was invited to crew on his boat many times over the next several years.

Jim asked me to step up to a teaching role due to a lack of instructors so I reluctantly agreed to a series of 5 consecutive afternoon classes with a bunch of high school kids who were assigned to the school’s fleet of 7 boats, each with an instructor on board of course. The assignment on the last day was to race. My crew was a bunch of giggly girls who were semi-interested in racing, so we didn’t pay attention to the announced course. Off we went, the wrong way. Realizing that the rest of the boats were headed to a distant buoy, we changed course and caught the wind just right, beating all other boats handelly. The other instructors were amazed at how I, the novice instructor, could possibly beat them, and I told the truth (with a smile) – we were off course. They didn’t believe me and I was considered to be pretty damn good and received a lot of respect from the school owner and my fellow instructors.

There’s a saying that if you want to really learn something, teach it.

I was getting confident in my teaching skills. In order to be a certified instructor, I had to take many more classes including coastal and celestial navigation, charter boat sailing, ocean sailing and finally, an instructor exam that was as difficult as you can imagine with both book knowledge and sailing ability testing. I’ve been teaching for almost 10 years now, mostly on summer weekends.  I think I’ve logged 200 – 3 hour on-the-water lessons.  That’s 600 hours of sailing, and getting paid to do it!

Not being content with sailing 22′ school boats, a student and his wife, both of whom I taught to sail, asked me if Cindy and I would buy a fixer-upper sailboat with them, and so we did.  A derelict 26′ Balboa was on a trailer in a weed infested storage yard looking pretty bad.  We knew it was going to go cheap, so we offered $4,000 and got a pretty nice boat. We tore it apart and in 3 months had it back together with lots of learning along the way.  We scrubbed, cleaned, replaced, painted, polished, and added lots of boat stuff.  The best part was sailing it, first in Pueblo Reservoir, then Cherry Creek Reservoir, and finally, Chatfield Reservoir.

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Keeping a boat isn’t cheap.  Dock fees, winter storage, trailer licensing, boat licensing, and general upkeep add up, so we will probably sell it this year.  That will free up some needed funds to keep Impulse wet and ship-shape.

So there you have it.  That’s my story about my passion.  There’s more to come with Impulse adventures way beyond little boats on little reservoirs.

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