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Saturday, February 17, 2018

February 17, 2018-Racing Intensity

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Racing upwind on Bandera Bay

The racing season is now on and we’ve been going hard at it since the 12th of December when we began racing every Wednesday. Also there was the "Blast", a three-day regatta one weekend in December. By January we were up to racing twice a week, Wednesdays and Saturdays. This level of participation made the racing intense.

That intensity peaked on January 20 for the third race of the Vallarta Cup. We hadn’t won either of the first two races in that series and we wanted this one. We didn’t know if we could actually win based on the first two races where we sailed well but fell slightly short, but we knew we were going to try.

To win any competitive sailboat race you have to first get the boat handling down. There has to be a lot of close coordination and team work. Ten people working together like a machine. We’ve learned time and time again that when racing against top competitors there can be no boat handling mistakes, no foul-ups; nothing that can cost us even a few seconds. The other boats are ready to seize on any error we might make, as we are of theirs. For this, we practice. And practice. We treated Wednesdays as practice sessions and sailed hard in them and after each race we held debriefings to improve our boat handling. We prepared ourselves for the hard work and extreme mental focus it would take to win race three.

There is also the boat-speed requirement. Even if our boat handling is perfect we still need to sail the boat through the water as fast as is possible. That calls for perfect steering and perfect sail trimming. This is my job. I am the helmsman. I steer the boat and call the sail trim adjustments. Others on the boat, Judy or Richard, can relieve me for periods, but mostly it is my job as helmsman. In this role the demand for focus and attention is relentless. For a race like this it means three hours of intense concentration.

And on top of this there are the tactical decisions. Boat handling and speed isn’t enough; we need tactics too. We have to go the right way, position ourselves to catch the best wind shift, to counter our opponents’ tactics with our own, keep our air clean, and avoid traffic and congestion. These are the tactical decisions we must make, they are another layer on top of boat handling and boat speed. These decisions are required constantly. If you lose your situational awareness of the overall fleet and don’t make the critical move at exactly the right time, seconds or minutes can be lost. A lot of this tactical decision making also falls on me.
It shouldn’t. I’m not good at it and anyhow I should be keeping my focus on helming, but right or wrong it does. I have tactical help from Judy, Richard and John, but they all too often defer to me. Whether it is lack of self-confidence or lack of experience, or maybe my own opinions are just too strong for them to feel comfortable opposing. Whatever the reason they too often keep their tactical thoughts to themselves. I make a call, no one objects, and we do it, right or wrong. So I have to get it right.

All of this takes, for me, a lot of mental energy. I am determined to get to the level needed, to guide the crew through the maneuvers, to keep my attention on the steering, and to make good tactical calls. I need to do all these things for the whole race; for three hours.

To be at the level needed I put myself into a zone.

It happens before the start.

In the last minute before the start of the race, on the final approach to the start line, my mind and body seems to go somewhere else, into a zone. I am still there on the boat, but I’m not. I don’t feel aware of the deck on which I am sitting, of my hand on the helm, of the people around me. There is no thinking, Just intense focus. My intensity connects me with the boat, the sails, the wind. I stare at the tell tales, but I see the wind. My hand moves the tiller, but my mind is moving the boat. My crew talks to me, but they are just disembodied voices.

“Do you see the mark, Fred?”

“No, I can’t look for it. You watch it and guide me.” My answers are brief; my mind stays on the task.

Then I do have a glance around at the other boats, at the wind, where the mark is. I make a tactical call. We do it. As we turn the boat my line of sight to the sail tethers me to an orbit on the back of the boat. My feet find their own way around the back of the boat. Even while I move to the other side the connection with the sail and the wind is not lost.

Now a mark rounding is coming up. Some part of my mind splits off to maintain my steering while with another part I talk to the crew and describe the upcoming maneuver. The crew nods, or answer, or ask for a clarification. My focus shifts for the briefest time, I speak back to them, then I am again blocking out everything but my mental and physical control of the boat.

I have to keep that up for the whole race. Then, at the finish, I can throw down the tiller and walk away.

On that Saturday we did this and it all worked well for us.

We had a plan for the start but in the last few seconds the plan all fell apart and I had to improvise. By then my head was already in the zone and we were on my mental autopilot. Olas Lindas tried to take us up above the committee boat but I stalled and let them through. They were early and ran down the line and so we had a hole to leeward to accelerate into. There was no planning no logic, no reasoning, just doing, and somehow it came right and we won the start. We had boats underneath us but our air was clear and we were fast and sailing high and they could not tack and we drove them off to the left. When they were committed to that side we tacked and went up the right side, where we found more pressure.

We led at the top mark by two minutes.

Olas Lindas is faster than we are and we knew they would pass us but our plan was to hold them off as long as possible, and then stay close. If we did that, we could win.

And they did get by but they never really got away. We dogged them all the way on the long reaches. We stayed close at the second windward mark.

There was a tense moment for me, a long tense moment…several moments.

The decision on how to round the mark at the start of the first run made me nervous. Jibe set or bear away? To call it wrong would cost valuable minutes. I called for a jibe set, based on the wind direction I was seeing when we were still 15 minutes out. Then the wind gradually shifted, making the decision to jibe less definitive.

The nervousness I felt on those long minutes as we approached the mark was unusual. I don’t feel that way during a race. Once I get on the race course my nerves go away, I’m in my zone. But this time was different. We had a great race going at that point but I knew a lot was riding on the next leg. Call it wrong and we could throw it all away.

I stuck with my call; even with the wind shift I figured the jibe set was twenty degrees favored. But if the wind shifted more, well, anything could happen.

The Olas rounded. They did a jibe set and took off on a broad reach directly for the downwind mark. That confirmed my decision.Excellent! What a relief.

We ourselves rounded and completed the jibe set and took off powering down that next leg. Dick called that Olas had us by only two minutes. I knew they needed around eight minutes to beat us. Perfect, there was only 4.5 miles to go. We just had to follow them to the finish, not screw up, and we had them.

We went into conservative mode. Don’t push for that last second of advantage, don’t make any mistakes. Another windward leg, another jibe set, and coast to the finish; that’s all we had to do.
We won, by a good margin. We crossed 3:38 behind Olas Lindas, I knew we beat them. Bright Star was also back too far to be in the game but what about Mony? They were running forth but they could still win. We watched them come down to the finish. Their sails looked soft; light wind, good.

jldigital media-John Pounder
Finishing under kite

Dick called out their time: Nineteen minutes and five seconds. Yes, we had them.

Our hard work and extreme mental focus held up. We were jubilant.

I was exhausted.

“John, take the helm please.”

By the end of the race I am completely knackered. I give John the helm and wander around. I go below. I look at the computer screen and I see our track and I start to recap the race in my mind. On deck the crew is shooting Craken Rum and celebrating, but me. Well, I’m done. I put in the times of the other boats just to check and see that we have them by minutes to spare.

Slowly I come back to this world. I go up, I take a shot of rum myself, but funnily, I can’t savor it. My mind is still elsewhere.

In fact, I’ve lost the time for three hours, I don’t remember anything but the images which remain in my brain of tell-tales, of sail trim, of the race.

Each week, each race, we have to be ready to go through it again. It doesn’t always go was well as it did this Saturday.

The next Saturday for example, the fourth race, could have been the same as the third. A win in the fourth race would have sewed up the series for us, but it didn’t. We blew it. Or I blew it.

In fact we were doing exceptionally well. We had a better performance going right until the last run to the finish. We were ahead of everyone except, as usual, Olas Lindas, but we were even closer to them than before. Again, it was just hold on to win.

But I made the wrong tactical call. Like the previous week the wind had shifted south. The final run would be right-hand favored. Again I called for a jibe set.

Olas rounded and did a bear away. They looked right. My call was wrong. We were only seconds from the mark, too late to change the set-up.

Richard said, “It’s not a jibe set!”

“Too late, we can’t change now. We’ll jibe back as soon as we can.”

I could have, should have, held off on the jibe. I should have just borne away and held off on hoisting the chute until we could get it switched over. We were close to Olas, we had the time. But I didn’t see that option in the instant of time when we still could do it.

After the mark we jibed and swerved off on the wrong angle. The crew did it perfectly but I’d called it perfectly wrong. It cost us about 3 minutes and 17 seconds. Enough to lose the race. My zone wasn’t good enough. My calculation on the wind angle was wrong. Maybe I was too tired. Maybe the cold I was coming down with dulled my senses.

Whatever, we held up under pressure for almost three hours then lost it in the last three minutes, the three minutes that counted.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, La Cruz Hunacaxtle

We have a few more Wednesday races this year, then the big final in late March: Banderas Bay Regatta. After the Vallarta Cup Series, described above, was finished we’re taking a deep breath and we’ll re-set our focus on the BBR. It will be more tough racing, but we’ll prepare all over again, and go at it just as hard as we did this time.

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Carbon MXL Main from China Sail Factory

The new mainsail finally arrived, after two months of flying air cargo around the world to the wrong destinations. It came Friday February 2. We put it on the boat, used it once on the Wednesday night race, and we’re happy. The race was a disaster but the sail looked great. Perhaps this will help us in BBR

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Sunday, December 24, 2017

December 24, 2017-Merry Christmas

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From Fred & Judy

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Dec. 23, 2017-December Round-up

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Birds on the mast

Just woke up from a nap. Maybe I should write a blog; it’s been a while.

Holy cow! I haven’t written since October. Where did November and December go?

I guess we’ve been busy with boat projects and guests.

How about a short round-up?

Bad Bad Birds

In November the little birds return. We get swamped with these little birds, swallows, I think. They flock to the marina every morning during November and December. Hundreds of them. One thing they like to do is land on sailboat masts. Like this bunch on our mast.

I don’t like them on our mast. It’s not that they will damage it like the bigger ones do, but they poo-poo on our boat. In fact they poo-poo on the shade awning which we also use for a water catcher. One thing you don’t want on your water catcher is bird poo.

There is a way to get rid of the birds. You just go outside and, with the flat of your hand, sharply hit the shrouds which makes a big noise and a sudden vibration which scares the birds. So, each morning, when I get up, I look out the bathroom hatch to see if there are birds on our mast. If so, and in November and December there usually are, I go outside and whack the mast. They all fly away.

(Try Full Frame)

The birds are actually pretty smart. If you do this tactic for a few days they learn not to come to your mast. In fact I’ve watched them come flying in for a landing on our mast then swerve off at the last minute. However, if you go away for several days they learn that too and then they start landing on the mast again and you have to train them all over.

But, in the meanwhile, we’re drinking bottled water.

San Blas Haul-out

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Boat Work

This year we decided to do our annual bottom job in San Blas. The prices are better there than in La Cruz and it’s only 60 miles away. So, to save a $1000 we’ll take a little trip to San Blas, and have a holiday there as well.

Some really good friends of ours, Jimmy and Robin from Orcas Island, said they would come with us for the sailing and hang out in San Blas. That was great news!

So on Dec. 5 off we went to San Blas. The sailing was great (but sadly, we took no pictures of that) and on the morning of Dec. 6 we hauled out in the Fonatur Marina in San Blas and promptly got going on the bottom job.

There were two complications on this trip: One, we misunderstood the racing schedule back in La Cruz and we only had 5 days to finish the bottom paint and get back for the first race. Whew! We had to hurry. The other was that we found the water depth coming into the river in San Blas was quite a bit shallower than expected. We got in OK but getting out wasn’t going to be easy because of a lower tide on the day we expected to leave.
The first problem we solved by hiring a fast worker and encouraging him to get done according to our schedule, which he did.

For the water depth issue Jimmy came up with a good idea, “Lets hire a boat and go out to the river mouth and survey the channel. Maybe we can find a deeper route.”

That’s what we did. For $600Pesos we hired a panga and driver for an hour and we set out on a little Lewis and Clark style (updated with modern equipment) survey. Jimmy had his GPS and a notebook and I had my leadline. Forty minutes later we’d checked out the whole entrance and had our deep water channel located. Back on Wings (in the boat yard) we updated our electronic chart with all the new soundings.

Two problems solved.

Nothing left to do but hang out at the hotel pool and do some exploring.

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Hotel Hacienda Flamingos

San Blas is a historic Mexican colonial town and once was one of the most important ports in the Mexican galleon trade. Some of the old structures still exist, such as the “Contradura” or fort at the top of the hill. We went there and looked at the old buildings and the view. We also saw the old church (from 1773).

And we sampled most of the restaurants and bars in the town. It was lots of fun and re really enjoyed re-connecting with Jimmy and Robin. Robin was a great hostess in their hotel suite, Jimmy was a huge help on the bottom job, and there were some fun scrabble games in the garden each night. The trip home was uneventful except that while the river channel we surveyed was deep enough, the travel lift was not. We stuck our new bottom paint in the mud when they let us down. Shoot!

Click here for images of San Blas from our previous trip.

Monster Spars

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Monster Spars

There is a shortage of racing marks in the La Cruz area so for our local races we have to use temporary marks. Sometimes an inflatable mark is set but this has to be taken in after each race, and that, plus setting it, is an onerous task. Often a home-made spar buoy mark which can be left on site for a few months is used and both last year and this year I made some spar buoy marks for that purpose.

To make a spar buoy like this you buy a long piece of PVC pipe, 200cm (10 inches) in diameter and 4 meters (12.5 feet) long. You fill the bottom with concrete and hang a anchor chain off the bottom of that, put foam in the top, and slap in some red paint. Eureka! You have a spar buoy. However, a 12.5 foot, 200lb spar buoy is really pretty big. So we call them, “Monster Spars”. I made them bullet proof tough and they should be unsinkable, but as we’ll see later, there must be some design flaw. Read on.

As soon as I finished these two I donated them to PV Sailing and told Mike Danielson they were his now.

But, just as last year, the first one he set only lasted a few days. In less than week it disappeared. We have no idea where it went. Did it sink, get stolen, or drift away? We just don’t know. But for sure, it is gone. Well, we have one more and if that one goes, I’ll make more.

Racing Season

I’ll do another story soon about our racing season which kicked off the day after we got back from San Blas. Suffice it to say however, that we’re doing OK so far. We’ve had four races and got four first places. (Well, four first-in-class finishes. For overall, we’ve got three firsts and a second. Still, not bad.)

We’ve been sailing with an older Dacron mainsail because our new mainsail got lost in shipping. We’re hoping that is resolved soon.

So, stay tune for an update.

Meanwhile, Merry Christmas

Click here for more photos from December.

Fred & Judy, S/V Wings, La Cruz Huancaxtle

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Sunday, October 22, 2017

October 22, 2017-Bagaman

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2D Bag

Being an old fashioned sailboat we have our sails in bags. We have bags of sails. Many bags of sails. Between racing sails and cruising sails, we have 15 sails, all in sail bags. Most of the sails are in pretty good shape but over the years, as we reused bags when we replaced sails, the bags have gotten scruffy.

Some were torn, most were getting dirty and faded, and some were turning into rags.

So as nice as the sails themselves were, the unsightly sailbags gave a bad impression.

I like our boat to look good, as much as that is possible for an old war horse, so this summer I got into my “Bagaman” mode and began sewing new sailbags as well as rejuvenating some of the old ones.

Besides looks, there is a practical side to this project: when it comes time to grab a sail from down below and get it on deck we often don’t have a lot of time to search through the pile looking for the right sail, especially in a race situation when the afterguard is hollering something like, “get the J-3 on deck, right away.” So putting the sails in brightly colored bags, with large code numbers on the bag, helps speed along that process. It is a lot easier when the sewer-man (the crew member who goes below to fetch the sail) can be sent with the following instruction, “Get the J3 up here, that’s blue and yellow bag with the J3 on it, pronto, if you will”.

Another change to the sailbags which I knew would be helpful to the crew was the addition of good grab handles and handy, big, zipper enclosures.

With those criterion in mind I ordered a variety of bolts of bag cloth, in the colors I wanted, and plenty of webbing and zipper stock, did some designs, and set about building a bunch of bags in cool colors and with great handles and zippers. I also designed strong reinforcing panels to help prevent ripping out bags when some strong forward hand roughly throws a bag from one side of the boat to another.

Actually this was a fun project for me; it’s kind of an art project, if you can stretch the concept of art to include a sailbag. Anyhow, I love this kind of sewing and I knew I’d love the finished products.

It took me a couple of weeks, (and some time for the bags I finished previously when the first material arrived). Judy was gone through most of this and the boat was a mess but now it’s finished and we have all these nice bags.

One thing I learned though: There is a good reason why the sail lofts charge $300 or more for a sail bag; they are a lot of work.

Check out the photos of some of the bags. Never mind what might be inside of them, don’t the bags look really nice?

Click here for more photos.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, La Cruz Huanacaxtle

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October 21, 2017-San Blas, Cartel Territory

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San Blas

The U.S. State Department recently published warnings about visiting San Blas, a small port town in Nayarit, Mexico a hundred miles north of here. But we wanted to go to San Blas to check out a boat yard which promised cheaper boat work than the yard here in La Cruz.

What about the U.S. State Department warnings?

I’ll admit it gave us a stop at first but thinking about it we decided that the U.S. State Department was being too conservative, too alarmist. After all, there are about 9000 people living there who are not getting shot each day. Besides, the State Department has travel warning about almost all of Mexico, including La Cruz. La Cruz doesn’t seem too dangerous to us.

We decided to go.

So last week we piled into the Chrysler and headed off, with a full tank of gas, to reconnoiter San Blas.

It turned out to be a delightful trip. The roads were good, and clear, and the town is very nice. We found a historic Hacienda to stay in at a very good rate and we checked out, in detail, the boat yard. We decided that San Blas will be a good place to have our next haul out. We even already hired a team of Mexican boat workers to sand and paint Wing’s bottom when we arrive. (That’s so we can hang out and explore the bars, restaurants and hotels of this delightful little town.)

Our friends Jimmy and Robin from Orcas Island are coming down to sail with us to San Blas and to hang out with us while the boat is being worked on.

There are forts and other historic sites to visit in San Blas. San Blas was once the biggest port in Pacific Mexico, so it seems like there will be a lot to see and do. The hotel we have booked was built in 1883, one of the newer buildings in town.

We only stayed one night this time, but we think it will be fun to go back in December. If there is any worry, it is not the drug cartels; it’s the slightly dangerous channel we have to negotiate to get in to San Blas Harbor. Well, we’ll watch the weather and adjust our plans if need be.

Stay tuned for an in-depth San Blas report.

Click here for more San Blas photos.

Fred & Judy, San Blas, Nayarit, Mexico

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Monday, September 11, 2017

September 10, 2017-Boat Design

wingssail photo mashup-fredrick roswold

I embarked on my boat design project just for fun. I just wanted to see, after a long time dreaming about it, what my fantasy boat would actually look like. We have no intention of building this boat, this is just a design exercise.

In August I sat down at the computer with a new CAD program, and inspired by a boat I saw in a photo on the wall of a restaurant in Phuket,Thailand in 2009 and a lot of photos and measurements of other boats, I went about designing a 70’ performance cruising boat, one that had a certain traditional look.

That boat in the photo I saw in Phuket was Bloodhound, a William Fife II design from 1870 and the photograph was taken by Beken of Cowes in 1910, but that wasn’t the first time I’d seen the look represented by the boat in that photo. There had been others: A hulk floating in Opua Harbor in 1998 without masts or engine had that plumb bow, low transom look; a couple of Bob Perry’s boats which were on the scene in Seattle in the 1980’s, Night Runner and Eclipse, also struck a chord with me. I just liked that certain traditional look which they all shared.

Since seeing that photo in Phuket I started collecting pictures and stories about other traditional looking cruising boats. Most were big. Huge actually, boats like the 180’ Dykstra designed Kamaxitha , and the 219’ Hetarios also by Dykstra and Pugh Yacht Design, and more recently Carl Linne, Holland Jachtbouw, 106’also a Dykstra design, and Toroa , a 72’ design by Botin Partners.

Click here for photos of all these boats and more.

Bloodhound itself was replicated in the 90’s and this 98’ exact replica has been sailing in California and even, for a time, Mexico. It is beautiful. But it has a full underbody and its performance must be more like 1870 than 2017.

I wanted a 1870 look and a 2017 performance.

Here is how the project proceeded:

At the beginning I envisioned a 65’ boat with a 20’ beam. This would give me the interior volume I needed for the accommodations I had in mind. I drew the hull and rig and keel and we mocked it up on the computer. This was about a week’s worth of work, taking into account that I had to learn the software system I was using. Both Judy and I looked at the result. It was ugly. The bow was too short, the boat too wide, and it looked tubby.

I started over with a 70’ boat and an 18’ beam, narrowed the bow, and moved the mast back.

Now we had something.

The next issue was the look of the main salon. It was cramped and didn’t feel right. So we redesigned the cockpit to be farther aft, reshaped the galley, and opened up the salon. This was better. Then we decided the forward cabin was not going to work as a master stateroom. Chuck that. We moved the master to the stern, behind the aft head. Little by little the boat took shape. The fact that we could view the model in 3 dimensions, rotating it and exploring the inside, helped to see how it would look.

The process was fun. It was almost like building the boat. When I put the motor in it was a big day, just like it would be in a real build.

After the walls and cabinetry were in place we added the paint, upholstery, counter tops, and cabin sole. This brought cause for further changes. We decided dark blue leather would be better than woolen cloth, and dark mahogany and ash sole was better than oak parquet. We made those changes.

It began to look very nice.

wingssail designs-fredrick roswold
70' Cutter Design

The last change was to move the helm aft, leaving more room on deck for winches (and passengers).

So, is it done? No, the deck is not finished; there is no sailing hardware or winches and no rigging. Inside we have not added doors or wood trim (it will be primarily white walls with dark teak and mahogany trim) nor have we done the mechanical or electrical drawings. I have them all in my head but this project has taken three weeks and I need to get on with other things. Maybe I’ll come back to it sometime in the future.

Oh, we named this boat Judy D Jensen.

Click here to see the step by step process and the results.

Click here to see the other historic designs again.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, La Cruz Huanacaxtle


Saturday, September 02, 2017

September 2, 2017-The Lazy, Rainy Days of August

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Rain in the Marina

The days of August slid by. They were sweet days because we’ve continued to go to the gym and the hard workouts leave us with a glow which lasts through the rest of the day. They were slow because other than go to the gym we didn’t do much. We did a few small projects but not many worth mentioning. There were a lot of naps.

There were some things which we had on the list and which we wanted to do that didn’t even get started. They are still on the list. There were sewing projects and we’ve been waiting for materials to do them. August was supposed to be a sewing month. The material was ordered in June and it still has not been delivered. We’re learned the hard way not to depend on others to bring things into Mexico for us. It’s better to use a shipping company and pay the customs duty.

It’s been a rainy month and we enjoy that. When the dark clouds move in and the mountains are lost in the lowering gloom, somehow that makes us content, and there is something about being down below in our boat when the wind and rain thrash around outside which makes us feel cozy and safe.

We’ve taken a few day trips around the area, like up to the dam on the River Amica. We thought we might see some pleasant countryside and even get up into the mountains. We took the camera. But a flat tire which had to be fixed gave us a late start and by mid afternoon, before even getting far up into the foothills, we turned back. The weather looked threatening and we’d already crossed several low spots on the road where streams flooded the highway. We worried about getting back down that road if the rain came in heavy, which is not unusual this time of year. The overall grayness spoiled the photo ops a bit too, but the dam was interesting.

Another trip to San Pancho for lunch was pleasant enough. Lynn went with us and while our favorite BBQ restaurant was closed we found another one, had a nice lunch and afterwards got margaritas to go.

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Bloodhound, William Fife II, 1910

One thing I’ve been working on, just for fun, has been a boat design project. Inspired by a photo I saw on the wall of a restaurant once long ago, and remembered ever since, I decided to replicate it in a modern boat, not replicate the boat itself, just do the design. Learning a new CAD/CAM program and working out the details of large sailing yacht has kept me busy for many hours this month. It has been fun and it is getting close to being finished, at least to a point. I’ll share it when it is. Judy has been observing and offering suggestions through this process and her input has improved the design.

Now it is September, hurricane month. We have been watching the storms march up the coast and then turn away before they reach Banderas Bay all summer. But in September they can get stronger and sometimes stay closer to the coastline. We have to watch them closely.

Other than that it is workouts, boat projects (if we ever get our materials), and time to start thinking about the arrival of the winter sailing season.

Life goes on.

Click here for more photos from a lazy August.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, La Cruz Huanacaxtle

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Saturday, August 05, 2017

August 5, 2017-Note to Our Crew

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Racing season seems a long way off in August but maybe it’s not too early for us to touch base with our racing crew.

It seems like we all split up very quickly when the racing was over in March. Judy and I converted Wings back to a cruising boat and headed south to Mexico’s Gold Coast for a few months of cruising. Some of you turned your attentions back towards your own boats after several months of helping Judy and I look after Wings. Others of you headed north to cooler climes or went on vacations to other exotic destinations besides Mexico. In short, we’ve all gone our separate ways.

But the seasons continue to turn. Before we know it sailing season in Banderas Bay will be back upon us.

We thought you’d like to know what things we are doing to be ready for this next year.

In the first place you know I promised that I was going to do something to make Wings faster every year. So what have I got up my sleeve for this season you ask?

For one thing, I think we will have a new main. After the delaminating problems we had with our racing main last year I’ve been working with China Sail Factory about how to address that issue. They agreed it was a warranty issue but they determined that the sail couldn’t be fixed. The only solution then is a new sail. We agreed, but coming together to this point of agreement has taken several months. Now I have designed a new main and I have hopes it will be faster than the last one, which was no slouch. It’s not built yet and its delivery is still months away but it seems like it will happen and we are planning on having it long before we start racing again.

Another change, with less obviously tangible benefits perhaps, is a new navigation and tactical package. This is a tablet computer with specialized software for use on deck. Ruggedized tablets with daylight viewable screens, tied into the boat’s instruments, are common on high-end raceboats. We have come up with a low cost solution that should give us access to this technology. There is still work to be done on this project, but we have time.

On the other side of the coin, it appears that the ratings game is still being played and at first glance it seemed like the changes being talked about would hurt us (we might lose our cruising adjustments, which could result in a faster rating; not good). Nothing is set in concrete, however, if it happens we’ll be ready. If we no longer get an adjustment for all of our liveaboard and cruising stuff we would have no reason to sail with all of it. So, Wings may go on a diet. If we can take off 1000lbs it would go a long way to compensate for the faster rating.

And then there is the crew. Judy and I know that people have lives of their own and maybe not everyone will be back this year. If there are changes that have to be made we will focus on finding the best possible replacements. How that will work out we don’t know, but we will remain positive.

One crew issue for which we do have a plan is already being addressed. Judy and I have decided that we will be better crew members ourselves if we become more fit. It was painfully obvious when we got back from our cruise in June that our fitness level was way down; we couldn’t do anything that required strength or flexibility, so we hit the gym. Since the beginning of June we have been in the gym three days a week doing strenuous workouts. Our fitness levels have been coming up, and by the way, we feel great. If you watched the America’s Cup on TV this summer you would have seen that the top sailors keep fit and spend a lot of time in the gym. So if any of you have been thinking about doing more fitness training (other than those of you who are top specimens already) we encourage it (there is nothing like a reformed sinner, right?)

So that’s it: new sail, new navigation equipment, new ratings, and new bodies. Any other ideas you have would be welcome.

Click here to go to wingssail images.

See you in November.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

July 18, 2017-Bird Wars

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B&G wind Instruments

I don’t know when I last wrote about the “Bird Problem”.

Maybe it was in Mauritius when our windex (that little arrow at the top of our mast which points into the direction of the wind) fell broken to the deck after a crow tried to sit on it. That crow was cheeky and smart, as crows are known to be. After breaking off the windex he flew down to a nearby railing to watch me and see what I’d do about his handiwork. Smart or not I didn’t like what he did to our windex which I had to spend a day fixing (since no replacement windexes were available in Mauritius).

I know it wasn’t when a Bald Eagle tried to grab onto our masthead long ago, in British Columbia, and his strong talons nearly crushed our delicate B&G wind instruments, which are right alongside the windex. I was pissed off about that but I never wrote about it.

I think probably it was back when we were anchored in Mexico with Carl and JoAnne on Far Niente. I wrote,
The first voice I heard on the radio this morning was Carl, from Far Niente, calling “Wings, Wings".

When I answered he just said, "Look up!"

I stuck my head out the hatch and craned my neck upward, and there on the spreaders staring back at me were two large Boobies. When Boobies are up on your sailboat mast, look out below! We just spent hours the previous day cleaning up after the last Boobie. Up on deck I went, and I grabbed the end of a wire Spinnaker halyard and swung it wildly against the mast, which caused the Boobies to gracefully drop off their perches and to glide off across the water towards...

Yes, you guessed it, Carl's boat, where they landed and decided that so much excitement called for a little relief; on Carl's boat.

I happily called Carl on the radio to notify him, you see we help each other out.

Later the Boobies flew over to John's boat. Both Carl and I called John.

That was Zihuatenejo in 1998. Now I am writing again about the bird wars because that’s what they are: wars! Not only do they make a mess, they can break things, expensive things.

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Frigate Bird on a neighbor's instruments

Here in La Cruz there are very few Boobies but plenty of Pelicans and Frigate birds. The Pelicans will land on your railings and poo all over the place, but they don’t bother the boats in the marina, only in the anchorage. So we’re safe from Pelican poo. Frigate Birds, however, are a problem. They love to perch on the top of sailboat masts in the marina. Not only do they drop their stuff all over the boat (which is devilish hard to scrub off) but they can break sailboat instruments. Our sailboat instruments are very good, but old; irreplaceable in fact. So when the Frigate Birds started landing on our mast, and squishing our wind direction unit, it meant war.

Now there are a couple of ways to fight against these birds aside from banging on the mast with your hand whenever you notice one or someone tells you about one which scares the Frigate bird off. This is not a good way to prevent damage because the bird can sit there for hours before anyone notices it. One way to prevent damage is to take down all your mast head instruments. That definitively prevents damage to expensive parts but it doesn’t stop the birds from landing up there anyhow and littering your deck and sail covers. It is also inconvenient to go up the mast and replace the instruments every time you want to go sailing, then take them back down again afterwards.

Another approach is to put a garden rake up the mast, supposedly to prevent the birds from getting close to the wind instruments. I say supposedly because while several people have put rakes up their masts it hasn’t stopped the Frigate birds. The Frigate birds just land on the rake and poo like crazy. At least they can’t get down alongside the rake to reach the instruments. One poor boat owner, while putting up a rake to protect his instruments, broke the instruments with the rake, and the birds still land there to do their duty.

No, I decided to think outside the box.

wingssail images-fredrick roswold

One thing I know is that these birds do not like landing on sharp objects. Modern windex units have a needle like rod sticking straight up. Frigate birds won’t land on that needle. I guess it hurts their butts. We have one of these needles on our windex. It works. The B&G wind instrument, which has its own vane for pointing into the wind and a set of spinning cups to measure wind speed, is not so equipped and those are the parts which are at risk on Wings.

I decided to add a needle to my B&G. Just something simple but sharp, which would stick right up the Frigate bird’s rear end should one try to land there. My solution, simple but hopefully effective, was to attach a piece of sharpened stainless steel rigging wire to the wind direction vane with wire ties. I figured it would add some windage but probably would not stop the device from operating, and should discourage the Frigate Birds.

That is what I did.

So far, so good.

No Frigate Birds have been sighted on our mast since I did this. Happy Happy.

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Two Birds in the bush

Click here for more photos.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, La Cruz Huancaxtle

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Sunday, July 02, 2017

June 26, 2017-Doug Peterson

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Doug Peterson

The world of yachting lost a great designer when, after a long battle with cancer, Doug Peterson died in a San Diego Hospital on June 26, 2017.

We only knew Doug slightly, but we consider him to have been a great friend of ours; after all Doug Peterson designed Wings, this lovely boat of ours, so we have a connection with him. And now he is gone.

For giving us Wings we owe Doug Peterson a lot, and we will miss him.

Doug was a boat nut. He grew up in Los Angeles and moved to San Diego as a teen-ager and was often found hanging around the San Diego Yacht Club. Members there remember a scruffy young man who really liked boats. He stated in an interview: "I started putting boats down on paper when I was 10, and have never wanted to do anything else." "My father is an aerospace engineer, and he taught me a lot from the beginning about design," Peterson said. "I was the kind of kid who used to crawl around boat yards looking at things. I was the one always looking over the side of a boat at the wake."

Doug sailed a lot and as young man decided to make his career designing yachts. He drove to the east coast and got a job with one of the established firms but he must have had his ideas already in his head and he was impatient. He only stayed one week, sleeping in his car, and then suddenly, he announced that he was going back to California to build a boat. That boat was Ganbare, a wooden 35 footer which turned yacht design upside down. It was his first boat and it won just about everything.

But it wasn’t easy. Doug was 28 years old 1973, still wore his hair maybe a bit too long to get a real job and he was not an established designer. He didn’t have a commission from anyone to design a boat for them. He didn’t really have the money himself. He had however impressed some of the local sailing community with his ideas and enthusiasm, including Carl Eichenlaub, the fabled San Diego sailor and wooden boat builder, and Carl agreed to build Doug’s design, on a budget. In eleven weeks they completed Ganbare, an IOR One Tonner which shocked the IOR fleet with her speed and sweet sailing ability.

After nearly winning the 1973 International One Ton Cup with Ganbare, clearly the fastest One Tonner in the series despite being built on a shoe string budget, Doug’s career took off. He sold the boat in Italy, paying back all of his costs, and was rewarded with several new design commissions.

Another of Doug’s boats, 'Gumboots', swept the fleet the next year. By then Doug Peterson was a design sensation and his office was producing design after winning design. After Ganbare,and Gumboots, he produced many well known and successful boats including Kindred Spirit, Vendetta, Racy, Great Pumpkin, Petrified, High Noon, Anabelle Lee, High Roler, Country Girl ( Half Ton ), Louisiana Crude, Stinger, Checkmate, Eclipse, Yena, Rubin, Ragamuffin', and Moonshine. Besides pure speed, Doug Peterson’s designs were known for being moderate boats with great all around sailing characteristics. Because of this his designs dominated both offshore racing and production racer/cruisers fleets as well. Production boats such as the Contessa 35, the NY 40, the Baltic DP Series and the Serendipity 43, sold well, were commercially successful, and sailed well, being winners in race fleets around the world.

Wings was the first Serendipity 43, a production boat built from the Louisiana Crude lines by Tommy Dreyfus in his shop in New Orleans.

By the early 80’s much more radial boats, which the IOR rule encouraged, were being designed by others. Peterson preferred moderate boats and his later IOR designs, still moderate instead of radical, were not winners. In a way though, Doug was right about that. The new boats were not popular with the owners and IOR racing soon faded from the scene. Doug continued designing boats even though the IOR design faded from popularity. He moved on and designed several well known cruising boats such as the Peterson 44 and later became involved in several Americas Cup campaigns. He was a key design member of the winning 1992 America3 and in 1995 the was part of the Team New Zealand design team which produced NZL 32 Black Magic, another breakthrough boat. Black Magic dominated the 1995 America’s cup series. He designed the winning Louis Vuitton Cup boat for Prada Challenge in the 2000 cup.

We met Doug the first time in the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club basement on a snowy night when he and Laurie Davidson attended a workshop with the owners of several IOR boats for the purpose of adjusting the IOR rule to make older designs, such as Peterson’s Serendipity 43, competitive with the newer boats, such as Davidson’s fractionally rigged one tonners (Mad Max was an example). Doug and Laurie understood why the newer boats rated better under the IOR and they proposed an adjustment which leveled the fleet. Although Judy and I did not win many races under the IOR in the 80’s even with that rule change, we appreciated Doug Peterson’s easy going approach to solving the problem.

Later I spent a little time around Doug in Auckland New Zealand while I was covering the 2000 America’s Cup and Doug was working for Prada. One time I mentioned to him that I owned one of his boats, Wings, and that it had turned out to be a great cruising boat. Doug was surprised, he said, “It did?” I replied, “Yes, it did.” He seemed happy to hear that.

On another occasion I shared with him a joke I had made to people we met cruising that the Serendipity 43 was one of Doug’s better design and that he had taken many features of it over to Black Magic, his famous breakthrough AC boat. When I mentioned this joke to Doug he surprised me by agreeing, “Yes, I did.”

Doug was hard to manage in a corporate world however, and the America’s Cup was definitely corporate. When I tried to schedule interviews with him, he never showed up. Other reporters had the same experience. Finally a rather flustered Prada PR manager told me I’d just have to find him myself and that the press conferences were a good place start. It was and once I buttonholed him he was friendly and open. He told me one day that he loved the lines of a Swiss AC boat called “Be Happy”. When I saw the boat on a pier prior to being shipped back to Europe I understood Doug’s statement. I liked the boat too and if Doug Peterson thought it was a good boat, I knew it was. I thought of making it into a cruising boat. What a fantasy.

Through the 2000’s Doug continued to design beautiful super yachts for European clients and builders, and he spent time racing classic wooden boats in Europe as well. In 2008 the 227ft replica of the schooner Atlantic, for which Doug was the consulting engineer was launched. Atlantic, built at the Van der Graaf BV shipyard in the Netherlands, was completed in 2010.

His most recent design is a 104ft Jongert Sloop, the design was done in 2015 and the boat is under construction now.

In March 2017, Naval Architect Doug Peterson became the fourth SDYC member to be inducted into the America's Cup Hall of Fame

Doug Peterson isn't the first of Wings' creators to die. Tommy Dreyfus Wings' builder, died in 2007.

Peterson died Monday, June 26, 2017 in a San Diego hospital after a long battle with cancer, aged 71.

click here for more photos of Doug and his boats.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, La Cruz Huancaxtle

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Saturday, June 03, 2017

June 3, 2017-Sailing is an Outdoor Activity

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Nikon Selfie

Sailing is an outdoor activity. We love that part of it; we love being outside.

When we can sail on the open ocean in the sunshine under a clear blue sky with the wind in our face and with salt spray flying...we love that most of all.

Like today
The sun is shining, the wind is blowing, the ocean is gorgeous, its warm but not hot. It's fantastic. Judy is off watch. She is sleeping on the settee. I think Judy is missing out by being below deck.

But me, I'm having a great sail.

The wind vane is steering. I am sitting in the companionway. I scan my instruments which are right in front of me. I look around, I have 360degrees of unobstructed visibility. The boat is going fast (we're going 6.4 knots upwind in 14 knots of breeze) and the windvane is locked onto a great 15 degree lift. We are already sailing a beautiful course up the Mexican coast and the wind looks to be lifting more. Most of all, I am outside, on the water, on a wonderful day and it is great to be alive. This is the kind of sailing I love.

Not every cruising sailor feels this way. In fact apparently few do. Most boats have complete canvas covers over their cockpits. They are walled in on all sides from the wind and the sun, from all the elements really. I don't get it. I wonder how much to trust a sailor who is OK with never feeling the wind in his face. As far as wind goes, many sailors are as good at avoiding wind as we are about finding it. Yesterday two boats arrived in Chemela from Barra after motoring the whole way even though there was a nice SW wind blowing which would have been a beam reach for them. They both left today before daylight headed for Banderas Bay, the same destination as we have. I heard them discussing it on the radio.

"If we leave before daylight maybe we can get past Corrientes before the wind comes up, and anyhow, Banderas Bay will be calm by then too."

So why have a sailboat?

We left at 1:00 in the afternoon. It had been blowing all morning at about 12 to 13 knots, and we usually leave when the wind comes up, but we want to arrive tomorrow in the daylight, so we delayed our departure a couple of hours.

The wind was westerly and our course made for long tacks up the coast on port and short tacks out on starboard. We expected the wind to shift to the right and so we stayed on the right side of the rumb line and played the beach. Close some times. Once Judy took us in to 60 feet, just outside of the surf line before she called me on deck to tack. That was unusual for her, she usually sails more conservatively than that.

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Making Speed

This afternoon the wind has been building. From 13 knots of true wind speed it has increased to the 18-20 knot range. That means up to 26 knots over the deck; quite enough I think. The boat speed is up too, to 6.6. I check the chart plotter and on the last 60 second average we have been sailing at 7.2 knots over the bottom. (Later I see 7.8, maybe we have some positive current.)

To deal with the stronger wind I've changed gears. By adjusting the sail trim, flattening the jib, flattening the main (but not too much, we need the power to drive through these waves) I've reduced power of the sails. I also cranked on more backstay and eased the runner. We've already been carrying the mainsheet traveler below centerline and now I ease it way down. At this point the boat is optimized for the heavier breeze and bigger waves. If the wind goes up much more we'll put a reef in the mainsail but right now we are fine. It is only the waves which are bothersome. They are bouncing us around quite a lot; we are in constant motion. It's hard to hang on even below decks. There is the danger of a fall down below; we try to be careful. Sometimes we hit a big wave and the boat pounds pretty good. It's not a good sound.

We are expecting conditions to ease off after dark. We are hoping the wind will drop and the waves will flatten but so far the wind stays in the same range, or at least it is staying over 16.

We are again approaching the shoreline. I shudder as I think about what would happen if I fell asleep on watch. The boat would sail right on relentlessly until it hit the beach. I am not confident that the depth alarm would wake us up. There are some risks in this type of sailing.

I watch the land as we draw closer. In the late sunlight the long sandy shoreline and the brilliant dunes in front of the dark green low hills is quite beautiful.

I can't tell how far off we are; the charts show us on land already and the breakers are pretty close. There are no rocks or reefs on the charts but these charts are notoriously inaccurate. The bottom is coming up steadily it's now under 78 feet.

It's time to tack out again.

I put my head down and peer into the companionway.

"Judy", I say softly.

Judy opens her eyes and asks what time it is.

"7:00 O'clock" I say. "It's time to tack out".

Judy comes up and she surely wants to tack out, the shore looks too close to her.

She sets up for the tack and calls, "Ready".

We tack. I release the windvane and turn the boat. Judy throws off the jib sheet, puts on the new runner, then turns to the other side of the cockpit as the boat rolls to the new angle and her arms flail as she tails in the new sheet. I release the old runner and reset the wind vane. She finishes off grinding the jib with the big double winch handle. It is smoothly done. We're good at it, but I guess after thirty years we should be.

On the new tack the solar panels need to be changed to face the low sun now on the other side of the boat. I adjust the windward one then swing across back of the boat, hanging on the backstay like a monkey, thinking about what happens if my hand slips, will I fall off? Maybe. I hold tight and rotate the other panel. This will keep the voltage on the batteries up for another hour.

This will be a short tack, just enough to clear Cabo Correintes up ahead and then we will tack back. By midnight we should be around the cape and into Banderas Bay. If we do we will have averaged 6.75 knots along the course we actually sailed (longer than the straight line due to our tacks) and a VMG of 5.25 up the rumb line, which is very good.

It has been a great sail and we're close to the end of it now, but there will be more.

Click here to go to wingssail images for more photos.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, on passage

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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

May 30, 2017-Stops on the Way North

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Barra de Navidad

We’ve finally turned around and are headed back towards La Cruz. For the last month we have been cruising alone on what is called the “Mexican Gold Coast”; all the other cruisers who were on this coast over the winter months, and there were many, have all departed northward. It has been a good cruise for us, the weather has been spectacular, and the anchorages and towns have been fantastic. We think the boats that have gone north already have missed out on a good thing but maybe they got their fill of cruising this coast during January and February while we were up in La Cruz racing.

Whatever the reasons, we haven’t seen a soul for weeks, so coming to Barra de Navidad on our way north was like arriving into a small frontier town after being in the wilderness; seeing people was pleasant for a change.

There is a lagoon in Barra de Navidad where we like to anchor. The lagoon is one of the few places on the Mexican coast which we’d consider a “bullet proof” anchorage. It can get windy in the afternoon but it is safe from storms. The very nice little town of Barra de Navidad sits on the sand spit which separates the lagoon from the Pacific Ocean. This is where we shop, get laundry done, and enjoy good food and drinks. We don’t put our dingy together when we are anchored in the lagoon; instead we call “taxi aquatica” on the radio and get a ride to town from one of the pangeros (the Mexican men who drive the panga water taxis). During the winter months we can also call “the French Baker” who comes around the lagoon in his boat every morning with fresh bread and goodies. Umm! Delicious! Too bad the French Baker is not here this time of year either.

There is also a marina, largely empty by the way, which is part of the Barra de Navidad Grand Hotel, where we occasionally get a berth for the night but we prefer to save our cash by anchoring in the lagoon. We did however come into the marina for one night to wash the boat, fill our water tanks and play in the hotel pool. The pool is awesome with different levels and waterfalls and water slides and, of course, a pool bar. We had a great time, loved the pool, and the next morning we even got up early and went back to swim laps for exercise. We really miss having a pool like this in La Cruz.

Water Sliding in the Grand Hotel Pool

Leaving Barra, and getting totally frustrated trying to sail to Tenacatita in light, light light winds and lumpy waves, and getting only half way of a 10 mile trip in 3 hours, the motor went on for the rest of the way. At least that way we did get there that afternoon and anchored near Nakamal.

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Wings at Chamela Islands

The sailing the next day, however, was fantastic. We sailed to Chemela Bay, and upwind sail of 25 miles, and we had moderate breezes, wind shifts to play, a lot of tacks to do, and we arrived at the islands of Pajarera and Cocinas tired and sunburned, but happy. These islands are home to thousands of Pelicans, Frigate Birds, Boobies, Sea Gulls, Vultures, Ibis, Ducks, and many more kinds of birds, and they are all flying overhead all day and making a racket 24 hours a day. We anchored right in front of Pajarera Island and it really feels like nature there.

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
At least the Vultures were quiet

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Punta Perula

Now, after four days at Pajarera, we have moved to Perula. This is another nice anchorage with more wild scenery, a quiet little town with a few bars and restaurants, and a great beach where you can walk for miles and miles if you want to. At night, however, the anchorage is rolly.

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On the Beach at Perula(Chamela)

To be honest, except for the Barra Lagoon, all of our anchorages on this trip have been rough. We can take it, but sleeping is sometimes difficult when you are getting rolled around all night. It will be nice to get to La Cruz and back into our berth in the marina there.

Tomorrow we will set sail for La Cruz.

Click here for many more photos and even another video.

Fred & Judy, s/v Wings, Chemela

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Saturday, May 20, 2017

May 18, 2017-Manzanillo, Revisited

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We are back Manzanillo this week wandering around old town after being gone 19 years. It feels like we'd seen these streets before. We have.

We took a bus to “Centro” and got off the bus and headed into the neighborhoods. We looked in shop windows and went up and down streets turning corners left or right wherever we felt like it. For my part, I knew what I wanted to spot in old Manzanillo: the same stairs up the hillside that we saw and photographed in 1998. I was following my nose with nothing more but instinct to guide me and the memories were distant, fuzzy, but something led me on.

“Let’s go this way”, I said, pointing down a side street.

Judy answered, “That’s what I was thinking.”

We both realized at that moment we were on the same quest and we laughed.

But things quickly began to look familiar. We became surer of ourselves and we quickened our pace. Finally we found ourselves in the same neighborhoods looking at the same buildings as we had all those years ago, and we saw the same stairway and the same jumbled hillside.

Nothing much had changed.

The Last time we were here we stopped in this neighborhood for lunch and a drink and again this time we had the idea that a pina colada would be nice. There was only one place, then and now, for a drink around here: the Colonial Hotel. We went in. Yep, it’s been remodeled but it was the same establishment. We also realized that our previous visit had another similarity with this one. As we sat in the bar sipping our drinks we recalled that then, as now, there were no other cruisers with us on our exploration, it was just us, Judy and I, wandering alone in an interesting and different Mexican town.

But Manzanillo has changed. Suburbs have grown up in the valley behind the beaches between Santiago and old Manzanillo. Instead of a sleepy interurban road fronted with seedy old beach hotels, now the divided highways of the colonials of Savagua and Brizas are all strip mall modern with big box stores, franchise restaurants, and miles of housing developments. Old Manzanillo remains but the town has moved on.

The Port facility has also grown up and Manzanillo has become Mexico’s largest container port. Freeways and elevated bypass roads carry traffic around the port to and from the old town and the suburbs. We took the bus along Avenue de La Madrid and the bus was packed with city workers returning home. We stopped by Walmart and shopped, it’s the same as Walmarts everywhere.

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
Las Hadas

Back on the boat we gaze at Las Hadas. Wings is anchored in the same spot as it was before on the far left side of Manzanillo Bay, 5 miles from old town, in front of Las Hadas resort.

We’ve always liked Las Hadas; it has the feeling of a Greek or Moorish hillside town gone a bit crazy. It’s sort of a Disneyland. In fact the whole Point Santiago peninsula where it is has a feeling of an ancient Mediterranean town overlooking the ocean, like it ought to be on the island of Corfu or something, just slightly carried away in its wild exuberance. We also realized after our revisit to the old town that the Las Hadas look and feel was actually a reflection of the old Manzanillo look and feel.

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Inside Las Hadas

The Las Hadas condominiums are actually bizarre. They are a jumble of white boxes and dark hallways and short connecting elevators climbing back up the rocky hillside. As I walked around I saw that the condos are mostly empty, with padlocked doors and broken light fixtures, the hallways were dark and the buildings quite run down although my photos don’t really show it (I was looking a different set of images and I did not try to capture the neglect). I felt like I was almost in a ghost town, and I wondered if I’d run into Bo Derek around the next corner, but I didn’t.

I wandered there for half an hour before a security guard started to follow me and finally asked me to respect the privacy of the owners and leave. However I didn’t see many owners. Looking out one balcony I did notice a couple lounging on a patio a few levels below me. When the woman saw me she waved excitedly and I wondered why she was so outwardly friendly. Then I decided that her excitement was just that there might be a neighbor in the building. At night only a handful of the 200+ units had lighted windows.

wingssail images-fredrick roswold

The hotel, By Brisa, on the other hand, is gorgeous, busy, and alive. The paint is fresh and the staff alert and friendly. Too bad they changed the rules and no longer allow a marina customer like ourselves to utilize the pools or other facilities, although we didn’t know that and we used them anyhow until the security guards finally noticed we didn’t have the proper wrist band and kicked us out.
The marina is in a serious state of disrepair, but that apparently is normal for Mexican marinas, and they charge us $15 a day to park our dingy there, which seems too much. We could take more time to explore Manzanillo, but we don’t need to spend any more money and, besides, now it’s time for us to head north.

We wonder if it will be 19 years before we return again, and what we’ll see when we do.

Click Here for more images.

Click Here to read our original post, Feb 20, 1998.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Manzanillo

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Monday, May 15, 2017

May 12,2017-Wild Carrizal

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Ensenada Carrizal

We’ve been anchored in Ensenada Carrizal for a week. It is a wild place. I mean it has a wild feeling. Here the wind and rocks and the trees and the sea around us remind us more of some remote place on the West Coast of Vancouver Island than a small bay in Mexico.

One thing is the sound. The crash of the ocean as it rises against the rocky shore and then hisses as it runs back into the sea and the moan of the wind through our rigging are constant sounds. They are wild sounds, untamed.

Swell hits the Shorline

The sea here is a restless sea. It is like a living creature whose breast we watch rising and falling against the rocky points of land at the mouth of our bay, and whose breath we can hear, a long whooosh, from the blow holes. The water around Wings undulates with the swells, always in motion but seemingly with no direction, just moving, and on top of it the wind waves, sparkling silver in the sunshine against the indigo blue water, sweep past towards the ocean behind us.

The gusts roll down the bay, off the hillside, and come towards us like a dark shadow on the water and the moan increases as they hit the rigging of the yacht, which turns and rolls away from the wind then rights itself. The moan dies as the wind passes.

This sound and this motion: they are eternal and it is clear to us that we have no part in it. They would and will go on the same if we were not here, and they have done so for countless centuries. We have just arrived here to observe for a short time and Ensenada Carrizal ignores our presence. When we leave it will go on as it was before and never remember we were here.

High rocky cliffs surround the bay. They tower over us and cut off the sun in the mornings and evenings. At their bases the shale is broken and dark and the water reflects that darkness. A white bird wheels and turns and stands out in contrast against the cliff, and plunges into the sea, then rises flapping. Above there are steep hillsides covered in jungle growth, a mixed jungle of leafy brush and dense, stark, dry white trees and shrubs bereft of any greenery. But it is dry season and I think that when the rains come the hills will blossom out in green with a startling suddenness. But now the hillsides of dry tangles seem to add to the impression of wilderness.

And the air here is cool. We sit on deck, in the cold sunlight, the cool wind blowing and the sea constantly moving, looking at our surroundings, and we feel the wildness of it all.
The waves also hit the rocky beach at the head of the bay and wash up high, white, then slide back with astonishing quickness. That beach you can hardly walk on due to its large gravel and steep angle. It is a difficult beach on which to land a small boat; the waves carry a power, and there is no sand over which you can drag up a boat. We’ve landed our small boat here twice, and both times we were nearly upset. Once Judy was thrown out and swept under the boat, but that was on the other side of the bay, where there is sand, and she was only doused and not hurt. At the main beach we had a different strategy: I stayed at the controls of the motor and approached the beach, whereupon Judy jumped out with our duffel bag and scrambled up the steep shore while I backed out quickly before the next wave came. Then I anchored the dingy off shore and swam in.

To leave we reversed this: I swam out and got the dingy, then I came close enough for Judy to jump in between the waves, and we roared out before the next big wave came. Still it was a close thing, and that was a very calm day. Today the waves are much bigger, and the white wash from each of them extends 30 feet up the rocky beach before receding. I would not try to negotiate that surf with the dingy today.

There is wildlife here, mostly birds, but not many. I see some small white terns or gulls flying in circles near the cliffs, and diving into the water, and there is a red tailed hawk we see each day, patrolling the hill side. A few pelicans have flown by but I don’t see them diving, or in the numbers of, say, Bahia Tenacatia. Nor frigate birds; once in a while one soars overhead. Some other bird screes from the trees but I don’t see it. There are also some animals on the land. We saw tracks of a large cat or perhaps an otter and nearby there were scraps of crabs, legs pulled off, where some creature was eating. When we walked up the hillside and found the road, which we followed, there were beautiful magpie-jays and other birds.

But this is a remote place and there are no swarms of birds here or people. No houses or signs of humanity on the land around the bay other than the road which comes down the hillside and ends just above the beach at the head of the bay. We saw a man come in a pick-up truck and he parked and then raked the area at the end of the road, some landscaper perhaps, then he left. So maybe the remoteness of this place is an illusion. But it seems real.

Now the sun has dropped behind the hillside, it is late in the day, and we’re running our engine to charge batteries. We have retreated to the cabin where it is warmer. Once the sun goes down the air is even cooler. Again, it seems like Canada, not Mexico. Soon I will pull on some jeans and a long-sleeved sweatshirt to go outside and BBQ our evening meal.

We’ve come to like this place. There is peace in wildness.

We are at peace here.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Ensenada Carrizal

Note: We were last here on Feb 25, 1998. It was windy then also.

Next Up: Las Hadas

Arriving at Las Hadas

We'll update the blog soon with a report of our return to Las Hadas, in Manzanillo, after 19 years.

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Tuesday, May 09, 2017

May 9, 2017-Ensenada Carrizal

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Wings in Ensenada Carrizal

The gusts rip through Ensenada Carrizal; from ten knots to twenty, then over twenty. The boat swings and pulls on the cable and the awning flogs. We let out more chain and we listen to the awning flogging. Should we take it down? The shade is nice, and it looks solid. We leave it up for a while. Then, just as quickly, the gusts pass and it is momentarily calm.

Two days ago when we motored here from Barra de Navidad there was no wind to speak of, maybe four knots at best. We didn’t even set sail. The wind came up after we got here. Now the is wind frequently strong and coming from the head of the bay but it does keep the seas in here flatter and lessens the rolling, so we don’t object.

We think our anchor is well set but we left the anchor alarm on to alert us if we move at all.

We wanted to get out of Barra and Tenacatita where we’ve been for over a month. We came here because it looked interesting on the chart and we had heard good things about it. Well, the scenery is nice and the snorkeling here is good. After swimming along the rocky reefs yesterday when the wind was down we were amazed at the coral and fish and again we wished we had an underwater camera to capture the beautiful fish. Maybe next year.

Yet we wonder why people rave about this bay. Yes, it is sort of pretty, in a dry sort of way, and the crashing swells surging along the rugged shoreline are stunning to watch, but it is not a quiet place to anchor. In calm weather outside it is rolly in here due to the refracting swells bouncing off the rock walls. When the wind comes up from the north outside it is gusty in here, as it is today. In a south wind it will be untenable. We like calm anchorages better and Ensenada Carrizal is rarely calm.

We were the only boat here when we came in. Last night another boat arrived, Vicarious, from North Carolina. We talked on the radio and then I visited with them at the side of their boat, and asked if they had any coriander which we needed for our pasta sauce, but they didn’t. Vicarious has come up from Panama and are headed for Alaska, a long way north in all of the strong northerly winds which are present in this time of year. They came in for shelter, tired already of bashing against the northerlies. I think that 3000 miles more to the north is going to take them a long time.

At this time of year, when almost all the other boats have already turned north, we’ll be alone in most places down south here so we make friends quickly when we encounter another boat. This reminds us of our time in Vanauatu when all the other boats were headed back to Australia but we turned instead towards Papua New Guinea. That was a very lonely feeling for us then, and we felt it for weeks as we followed our own path going north among the isolated and rarely visited islands seeing no other boats. When we did encounter another cruising boat, and there were a couple, we stayed together in anchorages even though our schedules beckoned us onward and we clung together like lost strangers meeting unexpectedly in the wilderness.

This is not like that. Now it’s just part of doing our own thing. Whether or not this is a good anchorage it is a good season to be here, the weather is still cool and, obviously, crowds are down. We are not sure why everyone else heads north so soon; probably it is just a mob reflex, but we have never been followers. Anyhow, we are only two days away from La Cruz, one day in a pinch, so it’s not like we have ventured into a new hemisphere.

Finally we take down the awning. We will sleep better if it is not making a racket all night, and we’ll put it back up tomorrow if we need the shade. We have already put the dingy on deck after a gust nearly blew it upside down on the side of the boat where it was hanging. With these two preparations the gusts don’t seem so daunting.

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
Wreck of Los Lanitros

On the passage here we passed the wreck of the Los Lanitros, a 700plus foot cargo carrier which was driven ashore off the headland at Barra de Navidad in Hurricane Patricia in October, 2015. There is little I could find about how they came to be driven ashore there, just some speculation that they were late to leave Manzanillo when the port was closed just before the hurricane, and that the vessel was unable to make headway to sea and instead ran north along the coast. Maybe the captain hoped he could weather the rugged point at Barra and find some shelter in the bay, which I doubt he could have done anyhow since the bay is not large enough or protected enough to shelter a large ship.

At any rate they did not clear the point; they missed it by about a quarter of a mile. It must have been terrifying for the crew to realize that, against all hope, they were converging with the shore, and then to strike the rocks at the base of a large mountain.

The 27 persons on board survived and were airlifted off after the hurricane and the ship remained largely intact.

One writer noted with astonishment that the Mexican authorities took no action after the wreck to protect the environment or remove the vessel. He noted that their official position seemed to be it was the affair of the owners and they were satisfied to watch from afar. This is pretty similar to how the local authorities in La Cruz deal with shipwrecks in their jurisdiction. For example in April when the sloop Atoz went adrift the Port Capitan appeared mildly concerned but simply stated that it was the owner’s problem.

Jody, from the yacht Pickles, and two of her teenage boys and attended by the cruisers from Katie G, streaked over the rough waters in their dingies with their own anchor and rode, and in the rough seas, somehow got onboard, secured the vessel, and set the new anchor close to the beach in Bucerias. I thought this was an act of amazing seamanship, the waves were big and even coming alongside must have been exceedingly difficult, but they got it done. Mike Danielson pleaded with the Port Capitan to be permitted to go to rescue the vessel before it went up in the beach in Bucerias, fearing the temporary anchor wouldn’t hold. Finally, after an hour, they gave Mike authority to do so. I went with Mike in a borrowed a launch from the sailing school (while the Port Captain’s panga remained idle at the dock), and along with Jody and Guy from Pickles we rescued the Atoz, towing it into the marina. The point of this is that the Mexican authorities, whether by culture or policy, seem shockingly reluctant to step in even when an environmental disaster threatens. I don’t know, maybe it is the same in other countries, but it seems odd.

Since we have been here in Ensenada Carrizal we had one interesting problem aboard Wings: We were awakened during the evening by the sound of water sloshing back and forth in the bilge. We are not currently equipped with an automatic bilge pump (that is another story) so the sloshing water was our first warning that we had a leak somewhere. Pulling up the floorboards we found about an inch of water in the bilge and were mystified about how it got there. Reluctantly (because bilge water is always foul stuff) I tasted it and found it to be salty. OK, it was not water leaking from our water tanks; it was coming from the sea. But where was it coming in? We checked all the through-hull fittings, and they all looked OK. We pumped the bilge and went to bed. In the middle of the night the sloshing was back. There was another inch of water, which I pumped at 03:30 AM. We were not panicked, but there was obviously a leak and it needed to be found and fixed. After breakfast we dug into it. I methodically checked every opening in the hull. All were secure and no water was seen running in from any of them. Then I noticed a drip under the sink in the head. Pulling some pipes out of the way I found the problem: a plastic pipe nipple in the sink drain was broken, and with each roll of the boat in the waves of Ensenada Carrizal, the water level in the drain system rose up enough to flow out of the broken pipe into the bilge. Well, no harm done and it was an easy fix since we had spare parts on board, but we don’t know how it became broken or how long it’s been that way. When we left the boat last week to go to Vallarta we closed all the through hulls, including the sink drain. Glad we did that since the automatic bilge pump is out of action. It’s fixed now.

That is cruising life. We don’t know how long we’ll be in Ensenada Carrizal, or what we’ll do next.

We’ll let you know.

Click here for more photos.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Ensenada Carrizal

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