Joli' Elle

Joli' Elle
While in Alameda

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

 Ahh, Mexico. A nice break from the Northern California winter.
     I had the usual problem crossing into Mexico and that was getting a visa. A year and a half ago, I brought my truck down through Otay Mesa. After crossing over and having my truck inspected, I could never see a building of any sort to obtain a visa. This time I used Tufesa bus service from Sacramento to Guaymas. We crossed over into Nogales. I asked both the bus driver and the border person screening my luggage where I could obtain a visa, naturally assuming it would be at the border right? Nope. They both shrugged their shoulders and off we went. I later learned it as at kilometer marker 21. Of course the driver sailed right by it. I really wish Mexico would get their shit together with their infrastructure. I thought I could fix it at Immigration in Guaymas but no luck, I would have to bus it back to Nogales.
      My intent was to spend 6-8 weeks here. Crank on the boat for around 3+ weeks and maybe shake her down a bit. Thinking about the visa issue and the fact I would put expensive bottom paint on for just 3 weeks of sailing, it didn't make much sense. I have 7 qts of Pettit Trinidad hard bottom paint. It is the old 78% copper content stuff. They have since reduced it to 60%. I know this would be the last time Joli Elle would get the "good stuff". In Mexico, the only bottom paint available is ablative (sloughing) paint. Then you cannot put hard paint over it. So I made the decision to just crank on the boat now on all the projects and come back down in late October to finish up a few details and launch. This way I end up with a 5 year bottom for the South Pacific.
On to Boat Projects:
In previous posts, I had measured for my new hatch board with "Joli Elle" milled into it. I had made all my dimensions 1/8" oversize in order to "fit" the board in later. I was very surprised to find that the board fit perfectly...
Then it was on to trying my new Porta-bot cover that my friend/canvas guy made for me. Again a success.

Next, my Engineered anchor light...

As you can see it is quite bright. It comes on at dusk and is off by the time I get up at day break. I walked across to the main yard to the far end and my light was very visible. It drew a whopping 100ma.
     I installed a new propane heater vent, the old one being a really thin Stainless unit that I constantly beat up while wrestling with the mainsail in the dark. I will add a low profile shaped rod guard around it later. It worked fine but the heater still blows out with anything over a 12 kt. wind passing over it. Such is life.
     Working on the bilge pumps, I discovered the electric auto bilge pump gave up the ghost. It had been giving me problems for the last few months in the Sea and finally quit.  The manual pump had also given me grief and upon disassembly discovered the flapper check valves were in backwards. How, I have no idea. Factory?, Previous owner?, Me with my head up my ass? It's works good now.
     I have removed the thru-hull for the knot meter paddle wheel. I have found these to be a useless addition to a boat. When I had my Ingrid 38, my crew at the time compared the GPS to the meter. If we calibrated the knot meter around 1.5-2kts, we found it was off by maybe 20% at higher velocities. The same was true if we calibrated the unit at high speed...then the lower velocities were off. That and one less thru-hull to worry about.
     I also replaced my bronze thru-hulls for the cockpit drains. They were original. Since they were in a really tight corner of the engine room, I had to grind the tulip end off them outside the hull and pound them up and out. A process that was only 15 minutes a piece. Now that they were out and upon inspection, I found the 42 year old thru-hull were in perfect condition. Such is life. I will also add that the old ones were not bonded and lived under the waterline.
     I have learned to balance work and health. Every other morning either a new met friend or just alone, I would walk about 3 miles at a brisk clip. It was good for the body and mind.
     I was able to get the KISS Ham radio, ground radials in place, without much grief.. Basically it looks like a 12ft. black garden hose. Doing an inventory for the rest of the Ham radio auto tuner I could see I was short a few parts and have been keeping a list of more "stuff" to buy. It was the same for mounting the new engine instruments. The connections were different than my original ones and will require some female push on connectors. But they look good mounted!
My crew, Paul and I, had some funny readings crossing the Sea. The engine looked as if it was overheating and the volt meter was dead. The panel always felt super hot to a point it was melting and distorting the plastic. I'm pretty sure the volt meter was shorting out as its brass body was discolored when I removed it. I still have to practice boat yoga and crawl into the engine room and change out the sending units.
    I spent the rest of my time designing a method to hold my new SSD laptop under the dodger for navigation. Also a cockpit table and wiper for my prop shaft to attach to an external zinc. I'm tired of the prop shaft end zinc which continues to fall off. It's a really stupid design. As soon as the zinc loses 10%, it becomes loose on the shaft end, creating a lousy connection, in turn inadequate protection.
My continued take on Ferro-cement boats:
I know it's hard to believe that I argue with people (ha ha) but I always get these blow-hards defending their cement boats. To me, it's one rock looking for another. I hear the stories how when on a reef, they last for days before crumbling. Maybe that's true but at their ridiculous weight, that's where they stay. Everyone of them have 7+ft. of draft because of weight and lack of buoyancy. Structurally they are very inferior. There is no linear strands like in fiberglass to create surface/linear strength. Once I was asked to crew with a Marine Surveyor to take a South African built Ketch to Hawaii. The surveyor hauled the boat to look at the bottom to find crazing patterns all throughout the bottom. The yard that hauled the boat was hired to investigate and with a needle gun, chunks of the hull began to fall off the internal (now rusty) wire mesh. The pounding in seas had beat the boat to death.
     I bring this up because, across from me in the yard is a recently abandoned dream. She was a double-ender around 41ft. Apparently, while anchored, the owner would see a sheen around the vessel. Just to back up a little, this boat was laminated on the inside with layer of epoxy and glass in order to have a method of attaching bulkheads. Apparently at some point the glass had been breached somehow. Then somehow, a large amount of oil ended up in the bilge and migrated through the cement. After that, it was delam-city. They had bought a ply-glass Catamaran. To me, not much of an improvement structure wise. The boat was stripped, parts sold and the hull crushed. Here are some pictures of that disaster...

     Being social and making friends:
Being in a boat yard and especially in Mexico, you meet all sorts of characters. I met a fellow, Ed who is one of the best fabricators, I've ever seen, and that's coming from a Toolmaker. He bought a Roberts 39, stretched to a 41, steel boat and has removed it's engine in lieu of a propane powered outboard on an exotic raising and lowering boom as well as removing all the hydraulics and replaces with a tiller that would steer a 100ft. Viking ship. I wish I had taken pictures. Apparently, Ed is very allergic to oil.  Another friend is Greg, a retire contractor with a Morgan O/I 41. Enough interior room for a man and his horse.  Greg and I share a similar past with family dynamics and our heart issues. He and I walked in the morning a few times. He was very friendly and helped me get into town a number of times for boat and food supplies. 
     My neighbors, Ian and Ellen, port of me, had a Endurance 35 which they sold while here. They had a mini flea market where I scored some good offshore items at 1/4 of new.
 Then there are the not so common friends I have made here...

But all in all, the biggest surprise came one evening as I was walking around in the dark with my coffee in hand and was invited to join in on a bull session of a motley crew, two fisted beer drinkers . Various characters would drift in and out of the group and when a fellow entered seemed vaguely familiar. A few of the guys addressed him as "Ted" and I asked if his last name was Nehry? It was. I had met Ted along with my other friend, Chris Catterton back in 1990. 
     Both Chris and Ted had done a delivery for another friend of mine, Noah on a Cheoy Lee 30, from Hawaii back to California. A week out of  the Islands, they were hit with Hurricane Iniki. I wrote an article for Latitude 38, outlining the event. Ted and I were reacquainted a year later when he bought "Anna", a 1926, 60ft. Alden Ketch. I would bump into him on occasion in various cities and yards throughout California. Although I have been in the Guaymas yard for almost 2 years, I had never bumped into him.
    Ted had Anna in Puerto Escondido, when another Hurricane came over the area and a large vessel dragged anchor and holed Anna slightly above the waterline. Ted was not onboard at the time but got down to her quickly, limped her into Guaymas and has been there the last 9 years. 
    Ted has set up camp there. It took him some time to figure out what to do with her injuries, rotting planks and decided to completely tear her down re-plank her with a Mexican hardwood and lay a few layers of glass epoxy over her. It's a daunting project for sure and Ted described himself as determined but I told him that he could better be described as tenacious like a Jack Russell Terrier.
     He has hired locals and trained them the art of being Shipwrights.

And I thought I was ambitious! It takes a certain type of person to work on boats. Most boat owners nowadays don't have the stomach for it. They buy their "bar of soap in the water" and when work is needed, they either hire it out at $150@hr. or simply sell the boat. The day of the self-sufficient sailor is almost gone. Alas, we'll turn off the light and lock the door on the way out.


Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Here we go again

 Mexico bound...again
A lot has happened since my last entry. So here goes. I just officially retired. I came back from Mexico in 2014 to shake the money tree and now I can collect Social Security. When I came back I worked at a secured Aerospace facility in their Machine shop, plying my trade as a toolmaker. I worked on a few neat projects and had a fairly high clearance on a few projects. Mostly safety equipment on aircraft. Thats about all I'm allowed to disclose about it.
       Another great event that took place, was that I re-married. We have known one another for 13 years when I lived in Santa Cruz, Ca. At that time we were both fairly recent out of a marriage and I was off to Hawaii and she was still raising children on her own. Somehow she found me in Mexico (via the Internet). We waited a year and then married in August of last year.
      Nancy is into horses and I enjoy sailing. Somehow we are working that out and letting one another have personal space.
In two days, I am heading back down to Mexico to finish up the upgrades to "Joli Elle", plunk her in the water and continue to shake down new systems. Working alone, things will go slow. I think I have finally burned out all my friends to help me on projects, so I'm on my own. My goal is to finish up the radar, watermaker, new Ham system and navigational systems. This is to have the boat ready in a year for the Marquesas in 2017. The one advantage to being alone is a heightened self-sufficiency and self-reflection. It tends to center me and build on my self confidence. More later...

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Why me?

I had decided to take a trip down to the boat in October to take a load of great boat junk in order to finish the refit I had started last December. The batteries I was sure were in need of water and generally it would be nice to visit "Joli Elle".  My intention was to clean things up some and maybe start recommissioning the boat after a year and a half of storage while I worked my way toward retirement this January.
     In the past, I have used Tufesa Bus line which travels parts of California to Mexico. In fact, Sacramento to Guaymas. For $369. a round trip. I booked a quickly long weekend turnaround, leaving on October 15th to October 18th. Basically, it's a 24 hour bus trip each way. So basically two full days in Guaymas. It might sound crazt, I know. Never the less I felt it was necessary to do it.
     On Tufesa, there is an 85 pound limit. So I would take the gear this time around and my tools and anything else I forgot in January...It wasn't to be.

Nancy, had dropped me off at the bus at 8am. 10/15/15 and by 9am. we were on our way. By mid afternoon very dark clouds began to form and before long, thunder and lightning. I-5 began slowing until almost gridlocked. We turned toward Hwy. 58 as an alternative route but that also had gridlocked. I began noticing all big rigs were parking as we turned north back to Bakersfield. I googled hiway closures to find it had been mudslides, virtually cutting off Northern from Southern California.
     Most of my fellow travelers  were from Mexico. They were convincing the driver to stay put to wait out the weather and see if the roads would re-open. We slept in a parking lot for the night with a typical Mexican bus with an inoperable toilet...nice!
    I am going to attempt to find someone at the yard to check on my batteries. Then try to figure out a means of getting twice as much luggage to Mexico in January.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Making my time count

I have been back in Cali. for two months now. I have started to accumulate more boat "stuff". Not like the pickup truck full of boat gear I had last time, but a suitcase (possibly 2), of items I'll need to finish up things when I go back down to Mx. Speaking of which, I will go down around September to water up the batteries and cabin jugs to continue the humidification of the interior cabin. If I fly down, I'll take the non-lethal items as I doubt the airlines will allow bottom paint in my suitcase. The bus is a different story. They could care less. After the September trip, I will most likely go down in late December/early January, to crank on the lingering projects. If all goes well, I might be able to do the South Pacific leg. The Marquesas in particular. If I can't do it this year, I will at least do Mexico south of La Paz. I'm not getting any younger!
     Earlier in the blog, while I was living on "Joli Elle" in Alameda, Ca., I replaced the 2 of 3 hatch boards in the companionway with dutch doors. I left the lower one in as teak is so freaking expensive and I was looking at the over-all picture of outfitting the boat in a financial way. While on "Joli Elle" in Mexico December, last year, I took measurements for the last lower hatch board and as I had the remnants of the Burmese teak I used for my boarding ladder, I just had enough for the new hatch board.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

10 days in Guaymas and the Big Blue Burrito

     A few posts ago I mentioned traveling down to the boat over the Christmas holidays. I did, for a week in Guaymas, 2 full days total on the road and a couple of days at home to recuperate. The big change from the conception of the idea to now, was the price of gas. I estimated the trip at $4.00@ gallon for gas. As it turned out, I averaged around $2.40@ gallon, reducing the trip to $240 and because I received a $30 ride share, it was $210 total. The UC Davis clown I let in my truck and wanting to go to San Diego, was a young Indian fellow who showed up with alcohol on his breath and slept all the way to L.A. At that point I let him drive a little but wanted to go faster than I felt safe (for him) and  took back the wheel outside of San Diego. So no sleep for me.

I thought I would relate a story of my drive from Ca. to Mx. all went well state side. I crossed just east of San Diego at the Otay Mesa crossing. I was told this was easier when crossing with a ton of boat gear. They are set up as a commercial crossing and are more knowledgeable about boat gear and TIP's.
I have a TIP (Temporary Import Permit). The permit clearly allows me to bring gear across the border without the 16% import tax. Most of the gear were items that belonged to the boat while others were more generalized hardware. Since I didn't have anything to declare for tax reasons, I went through the "no declare" line. The nice military lad waved me through and I was on my way.
A mile or so later, I was flagged over at a check-point. Lets call it check-point alpha. He wanted to look in the back of the pick-up, so I opened the shell to a knee-deep pile of boat gear and of course my Potabote on the racks on top of the truck. He was clearly lost as what he should do. With a smile, he said "Gracias" and I was on my way. I was traveling on a Saturday because I had been informed that this was the best day as things tend to be a little more relaxed.
There were many other check-points...bravo, charly, delta, echo, foxtrot and so on. Each extorting receiving a little cash each time. Funny how I kept thinking...oh oh...this is it...they're going to want "tax" money. It never happened. One check-point was a young lady, sitting in a federal truck, texting and waved me through without so much as laying eyes on me.
      So as you see, the import process was pretty cool. But let me tell you about Mexicali. I had heard, being a border town that it had become pretty corrupt. I guess the story is, when Fox ran the country, everything got semi cleaned up. But here is an interesting thing that happened to me there while driving down. First, Mexico's GPS maps are very inaccurate. You can be driving on Mx. Int. 2 and on the screen it shows you 500 yards away from it. Needless to say, I got lost once. Finally, I got my bearing straight and passed a familiar church....again. So I know I had done a big circle.
      What became strange were the Police. One would get on my tail, so I would change lanes. The PD car had difficulty changing lanes and gave up. I thought..."Hum...I wonder what that was about"? 2 minutes later, I notice a Motorcycle cop. Not the usual 1985 Yamaha 185cc. No...this guy was decked out on a brand new 700+cc white stallion bike. I have heard the cops have to buy their own bikes. If that is true, he was doing pretty good. He was back 2 vehicles from me and in the 3rd. of 4 lanes. I was in the 2nd. lane. The speed limit was 60kph. I was doing maybe 65 with cars on both sides of me passing me at 80kph. As the cop came closer on my left, I noticed him looking at the back of my car. Ah ha!...California. He whipped around the left of me, scooted up 3 cars and then cut off traffic to get all the way over to the right into some kind of alcove. I shrugged it off as strange but hey...I'm in Mexico.
Not 15 seconds later, He was on me with lights on. I pulled over and he explained to me that I was speeding and this was a serious infracsion (Spanish). He pointed up to the 40kpm sign and the one english sign under it, written in English stating..."controlled by radar". Technically, I had not reached the 40kpm. indicated sign but oh well. I will also add both the speed and radar signs were brand new and very shiny. Unlike everything else in Mexicali with is filthy, faded and in disrepair.
Here is the conversation that took place. For humor reasons and the fact I have no idea of this guys name, lets call him the Big Burrito in Blue, or BBB.

BBB: Espanol Senor?
Me: No Sir, not a word (not exactly true)
BBB: Oh Senor...big trouble today. You infracsion...very bad. You too rapito.
Then BBB starts telling me how much it will cost. I play dumb as I'm trying to figure out what this guy is really after. I'm hoping for the best and expecting the worst. He keeps telling me the fine is $100 US. I keep saying...Pesos?, pesos?
BBB: Oh no Senor (and then walk back to his bike, opens a saddlebag and brings back an empty ticket book no less.
He rights at the top 1098 pesos and below it $98 US. I keep playing dumb, scrunching my face up all the more. I can see at this point he is becoming a little irritated with this dumb gringo.
BBB: Maybe Senor, we go Policia Stacsion. (Perfect...this should show if he is legit or not.
Me: Oh Si Senor...I follow you. (At this point he is clearly perturbed).
BBB: No Necesario amigo. We fix here. (and points again at the $98 us.)
I pull out a 20 peso bill with my face scrunched up again and he is clearly loosing patience with me. I'm feeling this could go badly soon and I have a truck full of boat gear that does not need to be impounded or lightened up.
Finally he writes $60us. So I try one last time to barter it down by pulling out 3, 20 peso bills ($4 us). He blurts out...
BBB: United States money. (my...his English has improved). I look astonished...
Me. Oh much (as I'm slowly pulling out 3, $20 bills)
He slips his gloved hand into the interior of the cab to conceal the transaction. I immediately hold the 3, $20's outside the window for all Mexicali to see. He quickly grabs it, rolls it up and assures me justice has prevailed.
      The only place I feel where I had gone wrong was telling him my destination. I had a feeling that he might call his buddies ahead for some further fleecing. While pulling out the $20's I was trying to conceal the many larger bills I had with me. But all was well and I made my destination, although $60 lighter and a fun story. 
      All was good back on "Joli Elle". Initially, I had left out 4, 5 gallon water jugs. These had a 2" opening. I found them 1/2 fullafter 9 months and no sign of any damage to the interior wood due to the heat and dryness. Others had told me that after they putout 5 gallon, open buckets, the water was gone when they returned months later. That was my motivation for the water jugs i used with a small opening at top....regulated evaporation. It works. I had left 100 watts of solar panels on, faced in towards one another as to not over charge. I calculated around 10-20 amps over the course of the day. That also seemed to work. If the batteries are allowed to sit, discharged, there is a high probability they would be trashed. 
      One thing I did find after 9 month was that the water level in the batteries were just at the top of the plates. For 3, #31 batteries, I used 1/2 gallon of purified water (no minerals) to top them up.
      I mounted my new solar panels since the older ones where always in the way and looking a little sad. They are the same 50 watt panel but 40% smaller. 

Also added was my Frankenstein Spectra Watermaker. I bought a dead one in Florida and had the membrane and Clark pump rebuilt (at Spectra) and  created a boost pump system on a remote panel with parts from Spectra. I probably have around $1500 into it but it was a whole lot cheaper than the $9,000. for a new one! Initially, I was going to put the Clark pump in the port lazerette, on a shelf and the boost pump panel on the side of the hull in the starboard lazerette.
     I had found when I started the job, that I could put the boost pump panel under the Clark pump on the Port side. This is better for a few reasons. 1) Shorter plumbing runs and 2) I can run wiring to the battery compartment directly behind the the adjacent bulkhead from the panel. This way I can run an independent breaker/switch in the battery compartment. The negatives is that the access to the area is tight but doable. I'm hoping this piece of machinery is hassel free.

As I mentioned earlier, I brought down the Portabote. When my friend/crew-member, Paul and I traveled back to California, from putting the boat in Guaymas, we stopped into Yuma Az. to check out a Potabote. I bought a 10 footer. I really enjoyed having the 7 1/2ft. Livingston as a dinghy but alas, storing it on the foredeck was a pain. I never had a good view of what was ahead of me. For me it was a safety concern. I had had a kayak on the Starboard side of the boat in kayak rack, extending outside the lifelines. The Portabote fits well there. Over the next few months I will make a canvas bag for it to protect it from the UV and store the oars as well. The thwart seats will be stored under the foredeck in the v-berth area. It will be a pain to set up but no dinghy is without problems.

Lastly, I have ground bottom paint off other boats I have owned. This time I hired it out. My last haulout, I had Svendsens sand the bottom to remove the old bottom paint which had poor adhesion due to a poor prep from the previous owner. This created pockets between coats of bottom paint and looked just like blister. However just between the 3rd and 4th layer of bottom paint.
     Svendsens put their short, fat (I could give a shit) yard worker doing the sanding. The night I came home from work, my headlight from my truck exposed quite a few more paint blisters. 
     So for $600 in Guaymas, I had a yard worker there take it down near to the original gelcoat. I had thought about a barrier coat job...but why? She had never had osmosis and against the all familiar con job that all boats gets laminant blisters, all the Hallberg-Rassy Rasmus 35 owners state their boats have never has osmosis either. My hull is over 40 years old. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

I have not figured out the next time I'll be down see her but I know it will be on a Tufesa bus. I did not get as much done as I hoped but I got as much done as I suspected. The goal of this trip was to get the new boat gear down to Joli Elle, unscathed and untaxed. For that I am grateful.
      While in the yard for the week, I went to a cruisers New years eve party...great fun but it does confirm my suspicion that alcoholism is alive and well in the cruising community. Maybe one out of ten. I also met Scott and Connie on "Traveler", a Passport 42 who was having running gear problems with their engine. They invited me over with Shane and Lisa off of a Colvin steel schooner, for a spaghetti dinner and great conversation. Life is good.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Weathering the storm

Hurricane Odile is wreaking havoc on the Baja peninsula. I just recieved a forwarded letter from Shelly at La Paz yachts. 20 boats have dragged on shore. Four people are missing, including Gunther who is well known on the La Paz cruisers net for his uniqueand light humor.
      The hurricane is moving north, then east towards "Joli Elle". As of now, models are showing it going north of Guaymas and so far 65 mph winds which is not too bad since she is on the hard but these beasts are unpredictable.
    Below are is a picture of what La Paz usually looks like. The pictures after is what is going on there a few days ago. At the bottom is the most current model.