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Tuesday, March 20, 2018

March 20, 2018-Random Leg Wednesdays

Our sailing on Wednesdays has been ‘anything goes and everything unexpected happens.’ We tell the story in four parts.

Part 1, Random Wind

I went to visit Mike on Tuesday and he asked me if I could set the race mark for Wednesday’s Beer Can Race. Not my favorite job but I said ‘OK, just get it down to my boat by 2:00PM.’

So that is how we became the Race Committee for the Beer Can Race.

Reaching in light wind, weight to leeward

When we got out of the marina we found the wind blowing straight offshore, direction 330 degrees. Setting the mark in its normal place, 2 miles up the shoreline, would result in another one of the boring reach, reach, races we get here too often in February, and with plenty of the wind holes that frustrate everyone.

I decided to change things up. I headed Wings off downwind straight away from the beach towards the deep water offshore.

I got on the radio.

‘Atttention all Beer Can Racers. This is Fred on Wings, your committee boat for today. We are going downwind to set a start line about a mile away from the marina. Please follow Wings to the new starting area.’

I thought it would be a great race: Upwind start, sail directly into the building NW breeze, round a channel marker near the marina, and turn downwind towards the start mark. Twice around would be four miles, just right for a beer can race.

Only the wind did not cooperate.

Once we got down there and set the start mark the wind totally switched around and blew from 130 degrees, making my upwind start into a downwind start.

Well time was passing and everyone had already trekked down to my fancy new starting area so we just said, ‘Screw it, we’ll have a downwind start.’

Only the wind changed again, twice more.

First it went to 180 degrees, then died entirely, and then filled in from 330 again. All in about 15 minutes.

This happened as we were all trying to sail the course. Finally, on the second downwind leg to the turning mark near the marina it came back out of the NW. On Wings we had the assym kite up, working downwind in a dying breeze. I saw the dark, wind-blown, water coming offshore again, right into our faces.

‘Drop the kite, right now, get a jib up…’ Then BAM! We had wind on the nose.

‘Paul, repack that kite, we’ll need it in a couple of minutes as soon as we round.’

We got around the mark, Paul frantically repacked the kite and got it on deck.

Now we were going downwind towards the finish, about half a mile away, and in second place. I saw that Double Take, the first place boat, didn’t have the breeze yet and there was hope for us. We finished the hook-up and re hoisted the kite.

BAM! Again, just as the sail filled, before anyone was actually settled into their positions, the wind hit us like a ton of bricks, twenty or more knots from behind, and we took off like a bat out of hell, swerving and rolling and trying to keep the boat upright and under that sail.

It was wild, briefly, and we surged across the finish line, unfortunately only in second place. Then the wind stopped again, and we had to wait 30 minutes or more for the other boats to finish. As Race Committee we were supposed to be on station to record all the finishers, so we stayed around.

It was almost dark when we finally picked up the mark and went back to the marina. I lost track of how many wind shifts we had that day, but they came randomly from almost every direction, and quite rapidly.

It was a random leg Wednesday, for sure.

Part 2: Blow Out

wingssail image-judy sawyer
Repairing the damage

The day before the Beer Can race Mike Danielson at PV Sailing again asked me if Wings could be the committee boat and to do race committee duties for the race. At least he didn’t expect me to set the mark since it was not holding air and we’d use a ‘virtual mark’ which was just a set of GPS coordinates that everyone had to go around.

Ok, we can do that, but on this Beer Can Wednesday that just added to the complications for us. We were already short four people, our Canadian contingent, who for a variety of reasons were going to miss the race. Now we had to run the race as well as sail our own boat. Well, OK, let’s go do it.

With our substitute crew on board we headed out to the race course only to find more complication: twenty knots of wind. Now, twenty knots isn’t too much wind, and we just went through a twenty knot puff last week, but it does put a premium on boat handling. Excellent boat handling without our top sailors would be unlikely. The day would be ripe for a foul-up. It gave me a case of nervous stomach. That seems to be the norm these days. I don’t know why.

In that breeze it was definitely number three weather and I called for the old Kevlar J3. Paired with the Aramid main, our mid-sized main, it would be the right call except for one problem, that old Kevlar sail didn’t have much life left in it, as we’d soon find out.

We got on the radio, organized all the other boats, and got the race off. Then we set out behind everyone else for the imaginary top mark. The boat actually felt good with the breeze up, and even with the new crew our tacks were excellent. We felt fast and we were soon passing the fleet.

I decided I would take it easy on the downwind leg. I had planned on some more practice with the symmetrical spinnaker but with new crew I knew using the asymmetrical spinnaker would be less risky.

So I called, ‘Set up the asymmetrical spinnaker.’

At the top mark we bore away, jibed onto port and hoisted the A1 asymmetrical, but not before we noticed some small tears in the Kevlar J3 jib as it came down. I made a mental note to check it out when we got back to the dock.

Now we were going downwind and flying, but the downwind leg was not without drama of its own. On our port jibe we were heading towards the shore off Point Blanco. The wind was shifting left and that pushed us ever further towards shore and the off lying rocks. I turned more downwind, away from the rocks, but it wasn’t enough. Now it was clear we needed to jibe but as much downwind as we were sailing now it was difficult to do the jibe. Time ran out, we had to go now!

‘Ready to jibe!’

We cast off the spin sheet and I turned the boat to the right. The kite collapsed into the fore triangle. The foredeck hands tried to get the sail around the front of the boat. It was slow to come and wanted to fold inside. Paul and Carol on the foredeck were struggling and I heard Paul urging the sail to come around,

‘Come on baby, come on’, he said.

I pushed the boat up a bit, back to the left, closer to the rocks, to get a little more air flow and with our speed and with the current we swept towards the jagged pinnacles. I asked Richard, ‘Are we OK here?’ He didn’t answer.

The sail popped around and filled on the new jibe and Richard threw the main over. I turned the boat away from the rocks.

Richard turned towards me, ‘You know, Fred, I don’t even swim that close to those rocks.’

‘Now you tell me.’

But we finished, and finished first. We dropped the kite and waited for the other boats to come down to the finish line, giving each boat a “horn” on the radio as they went through. Everyone agreed it was a fun day, but I knew it was also a lucky day.

Back at the dock however we took a close look at the Kevlar J3 Jib. It was a total blow out. It was ripped in dozens of places. The cloth was just weak everywhere and could not take the stress. I was surprised it held together for the whole beat.

The next night, after everyone left the clubhouse, Judy and I, with the help of two good friends, took the sail in and laid it out on the floor. Time for some major repairs. It took 5 hours and almost all of my spare Kevlar sail cloth but we patched it back together the best we could. Well, we won’t have much use for spare Kevlar once this sail is gone, and that won’t be very long from now, so I didn’t mind using the cloth. But it was hopeless. I figure we will be lucky if we can put that J3 jib up even one more time without a complete destruction.

It was a blow-out.

Part 3: Buy, Sell, Or Trade

Heard on the VHF radio net:

‘This is Fred on Wings. Wings is looking for two Barient winches, size 27 or 28. Our new main is too big and it takes two people to grind it in with our existing size 23 winches. Either we have to get a bigger mainsail trimmer or bigger winches. Since I am rather fond of Richard I’d like to keep him so we need new winches. It’s an all Barient boat so we’ll stay with Barient. Yeah, we know those winches are obsolete but so is everything else on our boat, including us.’

‘Contact Wings’

Part Four: Twenty Five Knot Winds for a Beer Can Race

We had a busy day Wednesday: Workout in the morning, a stop at the Mexorc race center, and racing in La Cruz in the afternoon, plus a few more items on the itinerary meaning we really pushed ourselves all day. In the gym, with Judy and I side by side on rowing machines, both of us going all out, I hit my best time ever and that’s going back 15 years but afterwards my body was jittery from the effort and I could feel it the rest of the day. Then we visited the Mexorc site. Mexorc is the big scene this week and we stopped by to check the results and take photos, but we didn’t hang around long. Time was short to get back to La Cruz and get the boat ready for the Wednesday Beer Can racing.

I honestly have to say that I was a tad nervous when we got out to the race course that afternoon. For the third week in a row it was windy. The wind was over 22 knots true as soon as we got out of the marina and at times it was blowing a steady 25. My plan had been to get some spinnaker practice in on the downwind leg that day but in that breeze I was doubtful that we could do it without a disaster. Even getting the sails up was going to be tense; our new main is huge.

On top of this we were acting as Race Committee again; another distraction.

But we hoisted the main without a problem and John got on the radio and announced the course and start times for the five boats which came out, and we got ready for our own start. With at least 22 knots of wind I knew the J4 was the right jib, called for it, and it too went up smoothly. So far so good.

wingssail image-Fredrick roswold
John Ryan center and from left, Paul, Dennis, and Carol
John Ryan, our navigator, ran the clock and the radio for all these races while I steered the boat and got us across the line without hitting anybody.

I should not have worried, everything went well. The boat handled perfectly with the full main and the J4 and other than a couple of niggles we had no real problems. The niggles involved the new main and included the fact that with just the main up, before we got the jib on, I could barely steer. The big roach of the main controlled the boat. I found that we had to ease the sail out a quite bit and keep our speed up. Once we got too close to the wind and got slow we couldn’t bear away and get going again without the motor. That was good to know if a bit disconcerting. We also discovered that sheeting the big main all the way in was going to take two people. Richard just couldn’t turn the winch handle by himself. With me sitting right next to him it was easy for me to put my hand on the handle with his and together we could do it. I’m going to look for a pair of bigger winches. And yeah, and we have to tack fast with this sail to avoid a lot of flogging of the leach against the backstay where it overlaps. There is a price to pay with this big new sail.

We had a perfect start and settled in for the beat. The conservative approach was to take longer boards and fewer than usual tacks as we beat up the shoreline towards Punta Mita and that is what we did. The boat was fast and pointing really well. We quickly overhauled the boats ahead. I saw the breeze lessening a little I announced to the crew, ‘If the wind goes below 20 we’ll set the kite, and it looks like it is doing that, so let’s get it ready.’ The S3 bag tumbled on deck and the foredeck crew ducked spray as they hooked up the sail. This was real sailing.

We tacked to starboard for the final approach and the wind was only 19.7 knots, so the spinnaker was a “go”.

‘Get the pole up’.

We rounded the mark.


The big sail went up fast and filled. The boat surged but handled perfectly on the broad reach with speeds showing of 8-9 knots. We were flying. Halfway to the finish line in La Cruz I called for a jibe and talked the cockpit crew through the maneuver. The jibe went very well. The crew is getting practiced at this stuff. We were all pretty pleased.

The wind speed came back up as we approached La Cruz but the boat remained in control. I turned downwind to see how that would feel and called for the pole to come back. Going dead downwind in the resurgent breeze we hit 9.7 knots with the boat starting to roll, but not outlandishly. Controlling it with steering was not difficult. Over nine knots on this boat is exciting and the crew was thrilled with the speeds we were seeing. I was having fun.

We dropped the kite at the finish and sailed into the anchored fleet, then came around under main and waited for the other boats to finish. We sailed into the marina.

It was just a beer can race but it was a good sail.

We headed out for some socializing without putting the boat away so that night, four hours later, after a party and dinner out, we got home to a trashed boat, bushed, there were sails all over the cabin and a spinnaker to pack. We got through all that and crawled into bed, not saying much but both of us going over the day in our heads.

Finally Judy said, ‘It was a long day’


‘Actually it’s been a long month.’


‘The boat can sail.’


Click here for more photos.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, La Cruz

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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.

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
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

wingssail images-judy jensen
From Fred & Judy

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Dec. 23, 2017-December Round-up

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
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

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
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.

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
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

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
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

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
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

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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.

beken of cowes
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

wingssail images-fredrick roswold-judy jensen


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.

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
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.

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
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.

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
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.

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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.

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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.

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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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