More Varnish and a Meeting With Tohu

Varnish, varnish, varnish.  Once you start it never ends.  Almost.  Actually, the rail project is ending tomorrow.  That will be the 4th coat which is considered “done” for Cetol.  Later I’ll move on to maintenance coats on the other wood, but for now, it’s going to be time for a break from boatwork.  It’s been five solid weeks and we need to take a short vacation.

In the mean time-today we met with Tohu, our Marriage Celebrant.  What’s that you might ask?  Well, it’s the person who does the ceremony and makes you legally married.  Tohu as you might have guessed is Maori.  And a delightful person he is.  We had a wonderful chat today and found that; He is not only religious (he’s a Ratana minister), but he’s also spiritual.  Perfect for the two of us (bet you can guess which is which).  And, he had a feeling on the way over that Ann and I were special; a miracle for each other — so true! We both think he will be a wonderful Celebrant for our marriage and will be meeting with him again to more formally discuss the ceremony.

So, boat-work, marriage-work.  Both important parts of life.

Closer, Closer, Closer…

But not there yet.  We have two coats yet to go on the varnish, but the clouds make each day “touch and go”.  If I varnish and it rains, it’s ruined.  Two days ago it rained.  Fortunately it was late at night and didn’t wreck the varnish.  Today, was potentially coat #2, but the forecast was for some showers in the afternoon.  I spent a “while” on the online weather apps and decided to “go for it”.  Turned out a good decision.  We’ve got another coat on-two to go.  I’m getting burned out by all the boatwork, so we’ve decided that after these last two coats, we’re going to take a couple days off and go somewhere.  Will be nice to get away for a bit, but there are still projects!

Anyway, here’re a few pics of what we’re up to:

Here's 1/2 of the varnishing. I can do the port side on the dock, but the starboard side is "all dinghy". Very tough on the back muscles. I'm taking a LOT of aspirin.

Our 'comic' relief. "The Girls" or as Ann calls them; "Thelma and Louise". These two female geese hang around here. All Ann has to do is call; "hey girls" and they fly over, crash land and start honking like crazy looking for a handout. They are hilarious!

And one last thought on the engine front:  my worst expectations came about on the injectors.  The engine guy came down to the boat yesterday and said (rather sheepishly) that the nozzles were so far out of spec they couldn’t be repaired.  New nozzles times four!  So, $900 later we’re the proud soon to be owners of completely rebuilt diesel fuel injectors.  Oh well, better that that breaking down in the middle of nowhere like our friends on Hana Hou.  Cost them over $3000 to rebuild theirs!

One of the guys on the dock reminded me today of the definition of cruising:  Repairing your boat in exotic places!.  Nuf said.

Santa Cruz Yacht Club Hospitality!

We spent another relaxing day doing small projects preparing for our departure from Santa cruz tomorrow morning. It was a gorgeous day filled with a lot of swell (waves) coming into the harbor. Wisely Bob decided we would wait until tomorrow to head to Santa Cruz Island (off Santa Barbara).

I got in another fun run up to the Boardwalk while Bob again did some small projects.

Then we joined friends at the Santa Cruz Yacht Club for a barbecue. Great people. A foreshadowing of the fun people we are yet to meet!

Watched a string of boats go out for a fun Wednesday race. A beautiful sight to see. And again the full moon guided us out to the lighthouse on a lovely evening walk.

Our next leg is a 40 hour overnight – a test of our two-man ability. We will check in with you when we get back to land!

Walking along, strumming a song…

Today we spent a relaxing, restful day enjoying Santa Cruz.

I started my day with a fun jog around the harbor and out to the lighthouse. I was watching for Ha Ha flags on boats but found none. What I did find was a young guy walking along strumming his guitar. The epitome of Santa Cruz relaxation.

The Captain was not quite so relaxed. He spent his morning doing some the minor items on our list that we had not gotten to before leaving Berkeley. (captains have the tougher jobs).

We are docked next to Gandalf, the boat that Bob races on here in Santa Cruz. One of Gandolph’s owners, Bob Dewitt picked us up for a delicious lunch at a local golf course. And on the way back to the dock he dropped us by The Dollar Store to find a few more items. Great lunch. Thanks for the taxi service, Bob.

We went out to the lighthouse nearing sunset. The lure of a cocktail on the wharf convinced Bob to continue the walk down the beach. We watched the sun set from the restaurant and were thrilled to see a gorgeous full moon that guided us back to the harbor. We spent the whole walk turning back to see the sun’s final kiss goodbye and then turning around to glow in the full moon. Full moons let me know those that are no longer with us will always be watching. So glad they can enjoy this too!

Wow, It’s Time…

What a stressful week, getting ready to go.  It kept being; “one more day” and then “maybe tomorrow…”.  Always one more thing that needed to get done.  Ready to go?  Not quite, the head just clogged.  Two days and ten feet of new hose later; “Uh, I think it’s going to work now”.  So hard to anticipate what you’ll need for a year or more.  The answer; “no-one really knows.  Just go!”

So, with that mantra in mind, we ARE leaving tomorrow (Sunday) morning.  8AM.  Sitting here right now after a nice break having a farewell cocktail with Mom and Dad and daughter Kelly, who also stayed for dinner.  Right now, we’re filling the water tank and doing some final packing.  Actually storing.  We’re finding places we didn’t know existed and stuffing “this and that” into the little cubby-holes.  Ann figured out that there was two inches of room underneath the three drawers in the main cabin floor and bought some low profile cases where we’re storing all kinds of stuff from emergency antibiotics to extra toothpaste.

Well, that’s it for now; we’re exhausted.  We’ll be starting to blog with more frequency once we get out on the “deep blue”, which would be tomorrow.

Getting Ready To Go

Been a while since the last post, but been spending time getting ready for the big trip.  In October, 2011, Ann and I leave for Baja where we’ll spend a couple months, then in March, 2012 we’ll leave for French Polynesia.  Don’t have a firm plan yet, just know we’re leaving and once we get there we’ll see how long we want to stay.

So, in preparation it’s been a busy Spring and Summer:

  • Put in a Spectra Watermaker (pic below)
  • Hauled and painted the bottom
  • Put in a Frigoboat refrigerator (pic of Keel Cooler, the bronze looking thing, below)
  • Bought a new boom (the old one had a permanent bend and was looking like it was getting ready to break.  Ballenger Spars made a new custom one)
  • Took the Cetol off the teak cockpit seats/floor with a heat gun.  The Cetol was waaaay too slippery when wet.  Took two days, but result was excellent.  Now I just have to bleach the wood, sand a bit and recaulk a couple seams and we’re good to go.
  • Bought a new “blue water” fishing pole and reel.  The other one was too small for the kind of fish we were hooking.

Those are the “big ones” and my wallet is lighter, but Charisma is happy.
Also got some brand new storm sails, wheels for the dinghy (to make it easier to haul up on shore) and a bunch of smaller projects to get ready to go.  We’re now in full speed ahead mode with about one month to go before we leave.

Still to come:

  • Solar panels that I will hang on the lifelines/rails
  • A water generator.  Ferris makes a unit you can tow behind the boat.  A small prop and 75 feet of torque-rope and it turns a small generator that puts out quite a lot of electricity for the batteries.  Great for tradewind sailing.

Well, that’s it for this catch-up note.  The blog’s gearing back up.  Keep in touch!


keelcooler.jpg   watermaker.jpg

The Bash Back Home

We’re doing the “Bash” off Big Sur right now.  6 foot seas, very closely spaced and about 20 knots of wind.  Just rounded the lighthouse a little while ago and have a course now set for Pillar Point, about 50 miles North.

Before the rest of the update:  HAPPY BIRTHDAY ANN!!  The Dolphin Whisperer’s birthday is today.  She’s garble, garble years young!  Have a great one, sorry we didn’t make it back in time, but will only be a day or so off.

So where were we?  Oh yes, we left King Harbor (Redondo Beach) at 0730 two days ago in thick fog.  Used the radar to pick our way out.  Couldn’t even see the navigation buoys until we were right on them although the radar clearly showed where they were.  Other than the fog on leaving, which lifted a couple hours later, it was an uneventful ride to Santa Barbara.  Got there around 2200 and tied up at the fuel dock for the night.  That way we were first in line for fuel when the attendant got there at 0700.  So, fueled up and out of Santa Barbara on the 12th after a brief 9 hour stay.

Flat water out of Santa Barbara toward Conception, gave Geoff time to do some baking (he’s so domestic!)  So, we kneaded a bunch of bread and he made biscuits and almost made French Bread.  The French Bread didn’t rise, so he made it into breadsticks and a scary looking brick.  Well, really more of a discus.  I used to throw a discus that was about the same size, shape and weight.  Anyway, the biscuits and breadsticks have been tasty and the smell of the baking alone was worth all the effort.

12/12/10.  1430.  Dolphins everywhere.  A hundred or so dolphins came over our way just now.  They look to be feeding so didn’t hang around to play, but always nice to see our friends.

I was just thinking that I was looking forward to doing a bunch of reading on this trip, but actually have only just finished two books that I started back in Berkeley.  The reason is that after two months I’m still not tired of just watching the ocean and sea life.  It really doesn’t get boring and is always changing so I can’t get motivated to crack open a book.  Also, I’m spending my time navigating and taking care of the boat, so that’s my excuse.

12/13/10.  0430.  About 12 miles North of San Simeon.  Really thick fog.  Can’t see anything past the bow lights, so I’m just sitting in the nav station watching the radar.  Fortunately from using it the last two months, I know that it will pick up something as small as a 10 inch crab pot marker (in flat water), so I have confidence anybody else out here will show up on the screen.  Still it’s a little spooky that you can’t see a thing.

1700.  The middle of Monterey Bay.  Right about sunset I noticed the oil pressure was dropping.  It normally never moves, so that caught my attention.  I watched it for a while and it was clearly but slowly going down.  Once it moved out of the “green” zone, I decided we needed to take some action, there’s clearly a problem here.  We throttled down and just doing that made it go back up.  Hmmm.  I checked the oil and it seemed high enough-about 3/4’s full which is where I usually leave it.  However given the situation, I added almost a quart.  We re-started the engine and the pressure is back to normal. Now we’re going to watch it and have set an alarm for 30 minutes which we’ll keep going all night.  For now, it’s been steady for over an hour now.  Maybe it was just a bit of dirt or something in the sensor that got pumped out when we changed the RPM.  We have been at the same 2450 RPM for over 30 hours, but I don’t know.  Keeping fingers crossed.

In King Harbor, Redondo Beach

We got in around 8AM. Geoff grew up in this area, so he took the boat in to his old stomping grounds and was up the dock ramp at the King Harbor Yacht Club in one bound. Before I knew it, he had secured “guest privileges” for us and we’re comfortably ensconced here. Showers, leather couches and wi-fi.

I want to give a big shout-out to Dinah, who is the club manager. She has been a fixture here for quite a few years. Her hospitality is most appreciated and we have a nice spot for Charisma right outside at the guest dock.

How long has Dinah been here? Well, as Geoff, his brother (who lives in the area) and I were heading to the grocery store, Dinah cornered those two and wouldn’t let them out of the club until they stood by her “kids wall” where she penciled in their current height and wrote them name by the “mark” on the wall. It’s a special thing she does with “her kids” where she tracks them over the years. Geoff has grown about 12 inches since his last measurement. 😉

So…we’re just hanging here waiting out the weather. It’s Thursday. There are 13 foot seas and 30 knot winds a little ways up North. Nasty conditions given we want to go North, so we wait. Looks like we have a window starting Saturday. We’ll go from here to Santa Barbara (Hi Kelly!) for a quick fuel stop and then onto Pt Conception. Looks like Conception might be in a good mood by Saturday night or Sunday morning. We’ll round as it lets us and then head up the coast.

Back in the USA!

Whew, after almost 3000 miles by ocean and about two months, we’re back in US waters. A brief stop at Customs (they were very nice other than confiscating our limes, apples and some other vegetables!) and then the fuel dock and we’re off for King Harbor at Redondo Beach where Geoff grew up. He’s going to visit home and I’m going to catch up on my sleep and clean up the boat a bit.  Also we’re waiting out some weather before making the final leg North.

(Enroute to King Harbor, an overnight trip from San Diego. Warning: Vaguely philosophical musings ahead. Proceed at your own risk!)

Time: 2000-There’s a supertanker off our port side that’s bigger and has more lights than 99% of the cities and towns we’ve been through over the past two months. From fish camps to little towns, both Geoff and I have commented on and been impressed by the low-key, use-what-you-have, attitude in Baja. Inspired by the peacefulness and beauty of this starry night, the tanker and lights on shore are signaling that we’re bidding a wonderful, simple life, adios (for now).

2100- The Pacific Ocean is to Port. It’s dark, mysterious even a little ominous at times, but the darkness and emptiness provide a sharp and brilliant contrast that sharpens the stark beauty of the glimmering starlit sky. Los Angeles is to Starboard. Bright lights, lots of action and excitement but the stars in the sky become so diminished you can hardly make them out. Wind on my face, watching our course looking forward we’re going right down the middle between the two sides as Charisma works her way North.

In a similar way, I’ve also seen (and experienced) two different economies. In one, you can accumulate vast wealth but sometimes all that wealth can diminish a sense of life’s natural beauty and simple pleasures. In the other economy, you can accumulate beauty, nature, friendship, as well as maple syrup and chocolate brownies (my “payment” from several other boats I’ve run across for being a single sideband “expert” and helping them to figure out how to operate their radios. I’m working on a business plan for expanding on this in the future 😉 ).

2300- We’re getting close to King Harbor and SHOWERS! I think it’s been over a week since we’ve bathed. We sail 24 hours a day and take three hour watches at night, so you can only sleep for a few hours at a time and it’s gotten too cold for sun showers.

It’s late. I’m at the helm somewhere off Long Beach (Hi Christine!). Geoff is asleep until his watch comes up later.
My nose is cold.
My butt is falling asleep.
My tea burnt my tongue.
My bruises hurt.
I’m sleepy.
I put my nose in my jacket. Now my nose is getting warm, but my glasses have fogged up and I can’t see.
My hands are cold.
I put them in my pocket to warm up-my pockets are wet from the wave I took over the bow.
My hands are still cold. Now they are wet too.
I smell.
I love it out here.


The blood in my veins ran cold. We had some rough weather all night and were finally just 20 miles off San Diego when something told me to go check the bilge. When I opened a floorboard the shock of seeing water sloshing against the bottom of it gripped me by the throat.  I knew Charisma has a four foot deep bilge, so water within an inch of the top was a LOT of water. Instantly I pulled off the rest of the floorboards exposing the manual bilge pump and started pumping like hell.  Almost right away it jammed.  A problem I was having as I tested it two months ago before leaving, but I thought it was solved. There had been a lot of shavings and junk in the bilge and the filter kept jamming.  I had cleaned it six times while in Berkeley and it seemed to have cleaned the bilge out, but now the same problem again.  Probably two months of sailing and some small sloshing had dislodged more “gunk”.  I ran to the electric bilge pump and turned it on.  It started running, but watching the bilge, there seemed to be no reduction in water.  I could hear that it was primed and pumping, but not fast enough!!  That possibly meant a BIG leak.

Quickly now, my only alternative was to tear down the filter to the big pump and clean it.  Jumped to it, cleaned, put back together, pump more.  Air was leaking through the filter so the pump wasn’t working.  Broke down the filter again, cleaned the gaskets and back together.  Some air still leaking, but pump working to about half capacity.  Now I’m pumping for all I’m worth and envisioning evacuating the boat into the liferaft I had bought but never intended to actually use.  Thinking my arm is now getting really tired and sore and I’m not sure how much arm strength I’m going to have left, and then I noticed that the water was slowly decreasing.  Yes, definitely getting lower.  I’m making progress!  Another couple minutes and I finally heard that awesome (at this point) sound of the pump pulling only air.  The bilge had emptied.  For now.  Watching deep into the bilge for more water coming in I saw none.  Hmmm.  A mystery.  Looks like we’re not sinking, at least for now.

With a reprieve, I took apart the filter in the large manual pump more thoroughly, especially the gaskets which seal it from air being sucked in and put that back together for the fourth time.  Another look in the bilge, still no more water, so I can finally relax a bit and really start looking around inside the boat to see what the water damage might be.  Turned out we had been on starboard tack all the time so it was the port side that received the water (not the starboard side where my clothes drawer is!)  Unfortunately the port side is where a lot of the food is stored near the floor.  Oops.  Pulled up the cushions looked under the seat into the big bins and…oh yeah, water got in here big time.  Soaked all the vegetables and other stuff, but fortunately most of it was sealed in plastic.  Tortillas, crackers, cereal, rice, pasta and other such “long term” stuff were all protected.  In fact the only casualty was a box of macaroni that had soaked through and “sloshed” its way through the food locker with some no doubt making it to the bilge.  OK, clean the locker, dry the veggies (turned out this didn’t matter too much as most of the citrus, miscellaneous vegetables and apples were confiscated by customs in San Diego a little later that day).

OK, clean up done, still no water in the bilge, time to find out how the heck somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 or so gallons of water made it into the boat.  Boats are supposed to keep this much water OUTSIDE.  Started the mental checklist; chainplates, toe rail, deckplates…too small… anchor hawsepipes… (!!!)  Ah ha, maybe the little holes where the chain went through the caps were sucking down water when we were burying the bow in the big waves all night.  I went forward to have a look and found it big time.  The port anchor chain hawsepipe had been knocked completely off leaving a gaping four inch hole right down into the chain locker with subsequent draining into the bilge.  Yipes.  How did that happen?  Every wave must have dumped a couple gallons of water as the bow went under.  A closer look revealed that the foot or so of chain running along the deck from anchor into the pipe had been getting knocked around by the big waves (I saw chafe on the deck) and finally one wave must have bumped it so hard it knocked the cover up and off.  Actually a big relief to discover the problem.  Now I can fix it and not worry about some invisible leak in the boat.  I have now put a clip on the cover and attached it to a couple feet of chain hanging into the locker, so it’s now weighed down pretty well.  I might yet also put a pin on it when I get back, but that should work for now, especially if I check it periodically if we get into some big seas again.

I think I’ve just found out what they say; “you can never have enough bilge pumps”.