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Tuesday, September 01, 2015

August 31, 2015-Hydraulic Pains

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
Cylinder on the workbench

On the race course it is important to “keep your head out of the boat”, meaning to look around and see the big picture. Being able to see past the trees and notice the forest can be helpful in boat maintenance too.

A couple of days ago I installed some new gauges for hydraulic system. To make sure the new gauges worked I pumped up the system. The gauges looked fine but I spotted a leak in the backstay cylinder.

OK, change the cylinder; that’s why I have a spare (head in the weeds).

The spare leaked too. Damn (head still in the weeds).

I took the leaking cylinder down to the workbench, rebuilt it, and then put it back in place (I still had my head down in the weeds).

The rebuilt cylinder briefly held pressure but then it spouted fluid like a sprinkler.

Finally it dawned on me that something bigger was going on here.

Let’s see... We keep an online record of all of our equipment failures and maintenance projects so I did a search to see when that backstay cylinder was last worked on. (Actually this record is on the Internet on our Log Book Pages site, so it is very accessible. You can review these records too, if you want to. Just click on this
link and scroll all the way down the index on the right side, it's extensive.)

I was astonished to find out that the backstay cylinder had failed 10 times in the last 15 years! That was a pattern I had not recognized. In fact I didn’t remember most of the occurrences until I saw them spelled out in black and white.

It was time to take a step back and figure out what is happening to these cylinders instead of simply fixing them each time they blew up.

With three failures in two days I had a good sampling of broken parts on my workbench to examine. I quickly found that in every case the initial point of failure had been the rod seal. No other parts seemed to be damaged except by my subsequent removal. The rod seals were all from the same batch I bought in Hong Kong in 2004, right about when the backstay failures started to become frequent. I took a look at these little green bits of plastic. They looked so nice, and I had been so proud to score them in that little hydraulic shop in Mongkok back in 2004. But even the one I just put in yesterday seemed soft and the broken bits in my hand were crumbly. No wonder the cylinders were failing; the rod seals were disintegrating.

After some internet research on rod seals I headed off to my new favorite hydraulics shop in Las Juntas, near Puerto Vallarta, where Rosalia helped me find the nearest replacement part she had. There were two of them and they looked good, a lot more substantial than the ones I got in Hong Kong. I took the two she had and ordered four more from Guadalajara. Just for safety sake I went online and ordered another four from the Seal Shop in Portland, for a total of 10. (Well, I have five of these -12 size cylinders on Wings, I might as well have enough parts for all of them.)

With my new seals in hand I was back in the workshop rebuilding the backstay cylinder one more time. It wasn’t easy. The new seals were tough and they resisted being stretched into place, plus they were a little too tall and I had to carve them down a bit, but finally I got one cylinder completely refurbished and installed. I put 3500lbs on it. It worked. No Leaks. I then rebuilt the spare and, confident now in my work; and put it in the spare locker in case we need it in the future. That’s five rebuilds I’ve done in four days. Judy thinks that’s my new life: standing at the workbench all day rebuilding hydraulic cylinders.

But that’s all behind me now. Since I have now seen the big picture I’ve been able to solve the underlying problem. I don’t think we’ll have backstay failures for a while, or I hope not anyhow.

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Job Complete

Now if I could only apply that principle to our racing strategy.

Click here for more photos.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, La Cruz Huanacaxtle.

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Monday, August 17, 2015

August 17, 2015-Stories from Papua New Guinea

Just Posted! New Stories of our 2003 trip to Papua New Guinea

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Drummers of Papua New Guinea

In 2003 we sailed from Australia to Papua New Guinea where we cruised for a few months. The country made an enormous impression on us. We posted a few stories back then and now we've posted a few more and several photos.

Here are each the stories from Papua New Guinea:

(or you can click here to read all the stories from Papua New Guinea)

Click here to hear our thoughts about Papua New Guinea, as we were leaving (new)

Click here to read about our arrival in Papua New Guinea (new)

Click here to read a story about a local girl who sang to us.

Click here to read "Spinning in the Louisiades" (new)

Click here to read about the secret spot called Ebora

Click here to read about some wonderful traditional sailing craft and the men who build and sail them (new)

Click here to read another short story about Ebora

Click here to read about the parting of friends

Click here to read about some of the people we met.

Click here to read about a too-windy place (new)

Click here to read about a sail between the Islands (new)

Click here to see all the photos from Papua New Guinea

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, La Cruz Huancaxtle

Sunday, July 19, 2015

July 18, 2015-The Fourth Dodger

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Working on a new dodger

In 1993 I bought a sewing machine. I fixed Judy's shorts and then I made a mainsail. My sailor friends, looking up at that main, said, "That took some balls", but it worked.

Then I made a dodger. That was a bit harder. Professionally built dodgers were running three thousand dollars back then. The good canvas people get paid well for their skills. The dodger I made cost me about $200 in materials and four days of work and it wasn't pretty. However it did the job.

The sewing machine is now over twenty years old but it still works and I'm still making dodgers; I just finished the forth one for Wings. Also we have a lot of the supplies which I bought with the machine. Supplies like thread and tapes and spare bits of sailcloth and especially canvas snaps and fasteners. I've done a lot of projects over the years besides those dodgers and it's amazing that the cache has lasted this long. And the cost to make a dodger is still under $200.

But, even after twenty some years to practice, I'm still making dodgers for Wings which aren't pretty. I guess they work. I have to say, though, I am disappointed in the latest dodger. Geez, I thought I'd get it right sooner or later. But this fourth one isn't much better than the first one. A sail maker once told me that if we screw up on a sail or a piece of canvas we'll have to look at it for years. How true.

Maybe there is an convergence happening here. As years go by I learn more about what needs to be done so the graph of that knowledge slopes upward. At the same time I get older and my capabilities decline. Where the declining line crosses the upward line is where things start getting worse. Maybe that has already happened.

Well, I finished the dodger and we'll use it and it will be fine. I hope I never have to make another one, but I could if I had to. It would remain to be seen if it would actually be better.

There was one nice little miracle which occurred during this project. Right in the middle of it the sewing machine broke. Not a little failure, a total failure; the rotary hook assembly broke. We weren't doing another stitch. I started to think about how to get another rotary hook assembly down here from Sailrite. Wouldn't be fast, that's for sure, and there would be expense out of proportion to the size of this little, but critical, part.

Then a light bulb went off somewhere in the dark folds: I remembered a bag of parts which I've been hoarding for twenty years. What's the chance of one of these assemblies being in that bag?

I dug it out and held the plastic up to the light. Nope. None of the parts inside were anything close to a rotary hook assembly. Then I saw a little white cardboard box sealed with packing tape. Bingo!

So I had one and in a few minutes I'd replaced the broken one and was back in business.

That made my day. It even made up for the somewhat crummy finished product I rolled out two days later.

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Marina Scene at Sunrise

Click here for more photos.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, La Cruz Huanacaxtle

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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

June 28, 2015- Volkswagens at the Marina


Volkswagens have always been popular in Mexico and even though the beetles are no longer manufactured here the locals still love them.

Each summer they bring a few dozen to the marina for a show, and lots of customs are included.

We photographed a few here (and look for the video).

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, La Cruz

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Thursday, June 25, 2015

June 23, 2015-Summer Fun in Banderas Bay

Last week's clouds and thunderstorms made us think that with the coming of summer the good sailing was over but recent days have shown us that even in June the Banderas Bay thermals can still occur given a clear sky and a bright sun. In those conditions the bay continues to be great for sailing.

Sunday was one of those days, and when the breeze started to fill at noon we decided we'd go out. It was a snap decision. No planning, no discussion, just go.

I guess we just can't get enough sailing because just the day before we had competed in the "Downwind Umbrella" race, part of the marina's Summer Sailstice festival, not in Wings but in Mike's old yellow snark, which we borrowed and sailed to a clear victory. We had a new umbrella (from Walmart), color coded shirts, and hell, we even practiced the day before, so maybe we should have won, but it was Judy's faultless steering and the boat itself which gave us the victory; the snark has a centerboard and a rudder, and when the race turned into a reach the kayaks and dingys just slid off to leeward. Judy held us high and we glided to the finish line first.

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Downwind Umbrella Race Video

It was all part of the grand Summer 'Sailstice' festivity put on the marina and organized by Katrina and by Mike Danielson of PV Sailing. Oh, it was fun! Paddle board racing, giant paddle board racing, live music, Thai food cart for those who feel Mexican isn't hot enough, prizes galore, musical chairs competition, and the headline event, the downwind umbrella race for any dingy, kayak, or other craft powered by an umbrella or other homemade wind capturing device. Wally, from the yacht Stella Blue, sewed a square sail out of women's underwear and rigged it on his kayak, which looked cumbersome to me with all of its top/bottom hamper and rigging and sure enough, he and Antoinette, his crew, broached spectacularly right after the start. They got the wipe-out prize.

But we got a prize for first place, Judy got second place prize for her speed and agility in musical chairs, and we ate Thai food and drank beer and had a good time. Thank you Marina Riviera Nayarit and Mike and Katrina.

But Sunday!

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Judy Trims the Jib

Sunday was spectacular. Clear and hot, totally blue sky, beautiful blue ocean with white caps showing, and a great breeze in the high teens. The conditions were stunning. There is nowhere as beautiful for sailing as Banderas Bay on a nice day. We set sail and sheeted in on starboard and sailed upwind along the north shore. We held a big lift all the way up to Punta de Mita. After a pass through the anchorage there we turned downwind and set the spinnaker, executed a perfect jibe, and reached for home. The wind built to the low twenties and with the pole on the headstay and a long swell we were charging. The high speed for the day was 9.25 knots and I made Judy nervous by steering with one hand while taking photos with the other. But it was alright and when we got back to La Cruz we'd covered 27 miles. A good day's sailing!

Well, they say life is a reach and then you have to do a take-down. "No problem," I said. We turned downwind and put the sail in the lee of the main and dropped it on the foredeck. It went perfectly until I took the halyard off and then a wind gust blew the whole sail over the side into the water. We had to turn upwind to slow the boat and pull it back on board, and of course besides being soaking wet there is a pretty good hole in it. Dang! Well, I have a few sewing projects on the list already, I'll add that one.

Oh, then the engine overheated. Whew, another item on the project list.

So that's the report from La Cruz, despite everything, it was great.

Click here for more photos.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, La Cruz Huanacaxtle, Mexico

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Sunday, June 14, 2015

June 14, 2014-Looking for the Good Light.

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
Flowers and Still Water

It’s getting hotter here in La Cruz but we’re doing fine; we’ve lived in hotter places. Like everyone who has chosen to stay here during the summer we spend a lot of time sheltering from the heat.

Mornings and evenings are cooler however, and cloudy days are also good, and we do what we need to do outside, even on the hot days. Normally, however, we hang out where there is an air-conditioner, in Wings’ cabin, for instance.

We also know that sailing will be rare for us this summer because it is really a lot of work in this heat, but we’ll go out occasionally despite the heat if it is a perfect day and we know we’ll like it when we do.

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Some days I grab the Nikon around sunset and venture out. That’s when the light gets good for photography. I am often surprised at how many people are out at that time. During the day it is a ghost town around here but in the evenings you find Mexican chicas jogging along the Malacon with their pony tails flying and Mexican families playing in the surf over at the beach. There are always the boys playing soccer. The locals know how to cope with the heat. To that extent, I guess we do too.

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Hurrican Blanca

Meanwhile we have hurricanes to think about. This is hurricane season and they have already started brewing. Blanco went by already, and Andreas before that, and both missed us. The local experts say that the hurricanes always miss us in Banderas Bay, but Carlos, the next one, seems to be curving right towards us. People are preparing. We are watching closely. So this season will be interesting I guess.

Click here for more photos, including the projected track for Carlos!

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, La Cruz Huanacaxtle

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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

May 25, 2015-Sailing Days: Even the Clean Up is Fun

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
Nice Sailing Day

It was another one of those wonderful sailing afternoons in Bandaras Bay which we see on most clear days: light breeze out of the west starting about 11:00 AM, building to around 20 knots by mid-afternoon, then shifting to the NW and tapering off before dark. We've started to hear from people who live here year 'round that the wind changes in the summer. The afternoon thermal winds we see every day will go away when the rainy season starts.

This could be one of the last great sailing days of the year.

So we grabbed a couple of neighbors, Leslie and Ian from the yacht Fandango, and we just went out and set sail. We sailed to windward for a couple of hours, did a couple of tacks. Then turned back and set the chute. The sailing was excellent.

We sat on deck and had some cold drinks and talked about life and sailing and whatever else came up.

Three wonderful hours on the water; pretty simple.

OK, we dropped the spinnaker into the water on the takedown, and had trouble with the jib takedown too, but nothing major (I guess we need more practice).

When we got to the dock the cold beers came out and we all sat around in the afterglow of a good sail.

Strangely, it might seem, one of the most satisfying times for me other than the eight knot broad reach we had coming home under spinnaker was the clean up. The two hours we spend putting the boat away after we get back are part of the deal, a good part from my way of thinking.

Ian and Leslie wanted to help and offered repeatedly, but Judy I and like to keep this part for ourselves. It is a ritual for us; we do it do it slowly, together, just plugging away at our own pace, coiling sheets, folding sails, and generally tidying up. It is a ritual which we've done together for many years and we wouldn't miss it for anything. Besides, we didn't invite Ian and Leslie on board to put them to work. So we declined their offers, tipped up the last of our beers, and got up to tackle the job.

By the time all the lines were hanging on their hooks below, and the sails were folded and in the forepeak and I had finished hosing off the boat the air conditioner was purring and the cool cabin was inviting. I looked over the boat with its white deck glistening and clean in the late afternoon light and I felt a joyous exhaustion. I knew that I'd done something which was important today, and that included the clean up as well as the sailing. It felt really good.

Click here for more photos.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, La Cruz Huancaxtle

Kite Boarding Fiesta Del Viento May 23, 2015

We also got another chance at the kiteboarders at the Fiesta Del Viento in Bucerias. It was a big deal, well over 100 boards out for the Long Distance Race. We shot the start but there was no way for us to keep up with them and see the finish, even with our dingy going flat out.

Free Style

Click here for more Kite Board Photos.

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Sunday, May 10, 2015

May 10, 2015-Slow days, Missed Photo Opps

The cruisers sail away one by one, off towards the South Pacific or north into the Sea of Cortez. By May the anchorage at La Cruz has largely emptied out and the marina has a surplus of available slips.

It’s quiet in the town as well, more so since the week-long festival that wasn’t really a festival ended last Sunday. The festival activity, what there was, was mostly at nighttime. During the day you could walk the streets among the idle carnival rides and closed street stalls and the dogs sleeping in the shade barely looked up when you stepped over them.

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Business, La Cruz Style

Since then even those attractions have drifted on.

Life moves slowly in La Cruz this time of year.

But there are some events worth getting out for.

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Man with Foiling Kite Board

The Kite Surfing contest in Bucerias was one; Eighty kiters, mostly from elsewhere in Mexico, were coming for closed course racing and free style competition. I thought I would photograph the event and I arranged a ride on the committee boat but somehow we got our wires crossed and he never came to pick me up. So Judy and I thought we’d shoot it from the beach but the sailors went the other way and we didn’t see much from the beach either. And anyhow, the traffic disruptions due to the police actions taking place over the holiday reduced the turnout.

When we came back through La Cruz on the way home there was a crowd just breaking up. Apparently some big show had happened in the square and we just missed it. Our neighbors told us there were horse shows, beauty contests, and beautiful folk dancing, happening right when we were over at the beach waiting for the kite surfers who mostly didn’t show.

So the expected photo opps were pretty much a bust for us this time, but next year…then we’ll know exactly what to do.

Click here to see what we did get.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, La Cruz Huancaxtle

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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

April 22, 2015-Earth Day

Bird Watching

Several events were planned in La Cruz for Earth Day 2015 and we tried to participate in all of them. We had a busy day.

To start off with, we joined the La Cruz Birders for a bird watch hike around the area. It was our first bird watch hike but the group were experts and they had done the same route on Earth Day previously and they were really interested to see the state of wild birds in our community this year. We sighted over 50 species compared to 35 from last year. Sadly, it was felt that the construction for the new highway just outside of town has driven many birds out of their natural habitat and into the urban area, accounting for the increase, and probably many of them were stressed by the displacement. I have to say that I found the photography challenging, but I got a few shots and we enjoyed the walk.

By 9:30 we had shifted over to the beach for the annual beach clean-up. Some two dozen members of the cruising community hit the beaches armed with large garbage sacks, scouring the shorelines for any inorganic matter. The interesting result was that very little trash was found. La Cruz’s beaches are pretty clean.

In the afternoon we turned Wings into a garbage scow as we set sail in the Bay with several other boats to pick up floating trash. We took a contingent of kids but even with their keen eyesight and a competitive urge to get more junk than any of the other boats, again, we found very little.

Bay Clean Up

Apparently the problem of garbage, primarily plastic, which plagues the world’s ocean and which we have seen firsthand, doesn’t start in Bandaras Bay. That evening I reminded the group of cruisers who collected around the bonfire on the beach to reflect on the day’s activities about how lucky we were to live in a such a beautiful place and as cruisers, many of us whom will soon depart for the far corners of the globe in our boats, we can and should spread the word about caring for our oceans to other places, and that we might hope someday, through our efforts and the efforts of others, to find all of the world’s oceans as clean as Bandaras Bay.

After picking up what trash we could find the young crew on Wings turned to the sheets and we got on the wind and had a boisterous sail back up to Punta Blanca before we turned downwind and headed for the barn, not getting home until 6:00PM. One maneuver we tried, successfully it seems, was to drop all of our sails at once when we arrived at the entrance to the marina. As we neared the marina I assigned all of my young crew to positions on the halyards and decks and told them we would sail at full speed in perfect trim until I gave the word, then we would turn up into the wind and quickly drop the main and jib together, in a demonstration of seamanship that would impress their friends on the other boats.

Judy pointed out later that in 28 some years we have never before tried that maneuver and she wondered why I would subject our young crew to such an experiment, a question to which I had no answer, but everyone did their part and I’d say we looked rather smart doing it.

Anyhow we ended Earth Day at the bonfire on the beach where everyone told of the day’s adventures and we all agreed that Earth Day 2015, was good.

Click here for more photos.

MORE BIRDS-We have lots more bird photos, click here
to see the list of blog posts with birds featured in them.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, La Cruz Huanacaxtle

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Saturday, April 25, 2015

April 18, 2015-Dash to the Border

Revision (Why? Oh, I don't know, just 'cause)

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Our route (Green, the other colors represent other driving trips we've taken)

With a solid “chunk” the car door closed and we started the engine. We had to go to Texas on an immigration run so we were back in the Chrysler and off on an 11 day trip, first to Texas, then Florida, then back to Texas, and finally, back to La Cruz. Texas? Why Texas? Well, we had to get back to the US to apply for Mexican residency and Texas is the closest border. But anyhow, why then, Florida? That hardly seems on the way.

Once we got to McAllen Texas we found out we had to wait five days for interview appointments. OK, what do you do in McAllen Texas for five days? Go to Florida. After all, we were already half way there and Judy’s sisters live in Florida. So off we went eastward at a mad pace, and arrived in Pensacola a day and a half later.

Maybe I should explain the “mad pace”. Pretty much the same as when we travel by boat, when I get on the road I want to cover some ground. I drive fast and we don’t stop. We drove for as many as eleven hours a day and we pushed hard. Speed limits are advisory. The point is: how fast can I go without getting a ticket or killing us? (Pretty fast, Judy less so). Stops for gas and lunches are short. It helps when the roads are straight and traffic is light, which it was for most of this trip. And we did cover ground: on this trip we covered about 3800 miles in roughly six days of driving. There were a few hours stuck in traffic in some of the cities (mostly in Texas) and on the Pacific side of Mexico, some curvy roads which slowed us considerably. Oh, there was a day of really heavy torrential rains in Louisiana and Mississippi and a couple of times traffic stopped completely in that rain.

Still, it was fast, and fun and the visit in Pensacola was very nice and we loved being with family for a few days; sisters and hubbies doing fine and kids growing up, but we had appointments back in Texas, so we hopped back in the car and sped off again. This time we were westbound, and it took a day and a half to get back to McAllen, rain and all, where we got our applications submitted and approved. Then we were back into the car one more time and we sped off again at another mad pace and arrived back in La Cruz in another day and a half.

The only problem with this kind of travel is that we don’t get to act like tourists. We miss some of the nice historic cities and other vistas we could see if we slowed down or made little detours. If you can’t see it from the highway, we don’t see it. Sometimes we’ll stop for photos, but on this trip we didn't stop much, not even to take photographs. Lots of time the weather wasn’t conducive for photos, and on some of the most scenic highways there weren’t many places to pull over, but mostly it was my need for speed; I just wanted to keep going. So I can live with that I guess, but there is not too much to show for all this driving (except the much needed resident permits).

I will mention that we did see some spectacular sights, such as the new Mazatlan to Durango highway and the city of Monterrey situated in a valley surrounded rugged mountains, and lots of desert. And we did get some shots one evening in Guadalajara.

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Next time we'll take it easy and stop to smell the roses.

Click here to see a couple other photos.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, La Cruz Huanacaxtle

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Thursday, April 02, 2015

April 2, 2015-A Good Day Sailing

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Sky and White Sails

We just went out for an afternoon sail in the stunning Bandaras Bay and we had over 20 knots of breeze and flat water. Perfect conditions. It went well.

This was our first sail since the regatta, and our first sail by ourselves since December. No crew today, just Fred & Judy.

We headed out through the anchorage, turned into the wind and set the number 4 jib and the Dacron main . We went up wind for an hour. We made a couple of tacks. We adjusted the sheets and halyards and marked the settings. We hit 7.15 upwind in 24 knots, and sailed high as we did it.

We drank a beer, then changed to tequila. The combination of good wind, warm Mexico air, and flat water, to say nothing of the tequila, was just right.

The sun got low on the horizon and we turned back towards home and put on the auto pilot.

Judy said, "Watch the wind for the northerly shift, don't want an accidental jibe with the autopilot on."

We're starting to know the bay.

We saw a boat set with racing sails luffing into the wind and dropping their sails on deck and then go into the marina ahead of us, and we saw another, setting a big genoa, come charging out, heading downwind toward Vallarta with a bone in their teeth. There is some sailing on this bay.

We returned to the slip, as we often have before, wind-burned and flushed, and with maybe a bit too much tequila in our belly, and with what seems like acres of sail dumped all over the deck; we have chaos onboard, but we're happy.

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Acres of Sails

It was a good day's sail and we'll fold these bloody sails when we get in.

This is a good place to be.

Click here for more photos.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, La Cruz Huanacaxtle

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Sunday, March 22, 2015

March 22, 2015-Mixed Feelings

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Wings at the Dock

La Cruz is a popular departure point for the "Puddle Jump", the Pacific Crossing, and there has been a bit of radio chatter lately from boats announcing their departure and from well wishers giving one last wave goodbye over the radio. The community of boats here preparing to cross the Pacific is small and many of the crews have drawn close. Now they must set out alone, or watch their friends do the same.

Other boats are heading north, to La Paz and Mazatlan, and others, a few, are heading south to the Panama Canal. The marina is clearing out. Every day people are waving goodbye.

Some of these partings are sad and all are filled with emotion, as ship's departures always have been; you can hear it in the voices on the radio and see it in the last hugs on the dock.

I would be lying if I said that I am not yearning to join them. There is excitement in joining the others, in setting out across the unknown. For this year's puddle jump crowd it is the culmination of all their dreams and preparations and they have the anticipation and, I am sure, the fears, that come with this undertaking. For those setting out this year I have a warm feeling and I wish them well.

I know this trip will be a major life event for them.

As it was for us in 1998.

But this year Wings sits still in her berth.

My yearning to join them doesn't last long. We had a good crossing back in 1998 and many adventures and breathtaking landfalls in the Pacific that year. We remember them all fondly. But I know the reality of a Pacific passage and a Pacific cruise; it is a long haul and a lot of work. Of course you have to do it once, and it was wonderful when we did it all those years ago, but once is enough and we have no real desire to sail across that ocean again.

We are happy to remain behind, but still... a little sad.

Click here for a few more photos.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, La Cruz Huanacaxtle

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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

March 11, 2015-Regatta Over

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After The Race

Two and a half months of preparation, hard work, training, and competition in minor races were the lead-up to this moment. It was the first rounding of the top mark in the last race of the Bandaras Bay Regatta.

The water was as blue as India ink, the sun as bright as the high desert, the bobbing yellow windward mark was flashing by as the spinnaker was going up. When that sail filled the boat surged ahead and we went flying straight downwind in the fresh breeze. The wind was right, the course was perfect for us, and the crew was hot. The next few minutes made the whole two and a half months of preparation and hard work worth it: In 200 yards we passed one boat and were reeling in the next. The leader, Olas Lindas, looked closer. At the bottom mark we were in second place and closing on first. No we didn't go on to win, we were still minutes behind Olas at the finish, but it was the closest we'd come the whole regatta and it felt good.

It was really nice to have a good day; we'd had some tough sailing in the first two races, hard sailing, and while we were always in the hunt, we finished well down both days. The starts were fine, and each time we came off the line leading, but we never could hold off Olas on the beat. A bad habit of overstanding the windward mark let another boat, Bright Star, by twice. There were some other mistakes and when the courses, with the long reaches which didn't suit us, were thrown into the mix, we struggled.

But this, THIS! Now this was sailing and this is what we came for. When the race was over we were exuberant.

Now we have finished the Bandaras Bay Regatta, the focus of our campaign this year, and the racing in Puerto Vallarta is essentially over for the season. We put a lot into it, hard work, some money, and a lot of wear and tear on the boat and sails. But the effort was worth it in many ways besides a good finish in one last race: We refreshed our racing skills, picked up some local knowledge which we can use next year, and we had some wonderful times with our new crew. And most importantly, we were in the arena, as Teddy Roosevelt said, which is something. And in the end, you get out of something exactly what you put into it, and we put in a lot.

So, we shift gears once again. Spring is here, and Summer is soon to follow. We won't be racing, but, once we take a breath to recover from this season of competition, we have work to do. We have boat projects to do, Mexican immigration to deal with, and a summer's heat to adjust to. Next year, if we do this again, we'll have to refresh the crew, repair the tired old sails, and make the effort all over again.

We'll see.

wingssail images-carol dand
Fred & Judy

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Fred & Judy, SV Wings, La Cruz de Huanacaxtle

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Sunday, March 01, 2015

March 1, 2015-Adventures in Paradise-Fish Market

La Cruz Fish Market

Most places we've been have had fish markets where the catches of the local fishermen are sold. Wherever there is ocean there are fishermen, and there are fish, and you find the fish in the markets.

But mostly there aren't many fish. There are lots of fishermen, everywhere, but the seas are fished out pretty much world-wide. In Asia, for instance, so few fish are caught that the fish markets are just a wet table in the public market between the veggies and the fresh chickens. Not much, not big, and not looking too wholesome. The Caribbean is about the same; not much in the way of fish or fish markets.

So we were really surprised at the fish markets in Mexico, and La Cruz in particular.

The La Cruz fish market is big, clean, and filled with fresh fish and low prices. The stall pictured above is one of six. We love it.

Not only can you get whole fish, fillets, steaks and all sorts of shellfish, but it is really cheap.

We like Yellow-fin Tuna or Mahi Mahi, and a couple of big streaks from either variety, about a pound of cleaned fish, costs around $8-$10.

Big Tuna

What also surprised us were the huge sizes of fish being landed here. For example check out this tub of Yellow-Fin. The tub is two feet tall and six feet long, so you can see the tuna are about 4-5 feet long, and they are as big around as a basketball. The fisherman said the one underneath (you can just see his tail), was twice as big. He said if I want tuna, just call him.

This isn't the only good fish market we've found; Gizo, in the Solomon Islands is pretty good, and also the market in Kota Kinabalu, in Borneo.

But the fish market at La Cruz is the best we've seen.

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Fred & Judy, SV Wings, La Cruz

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Saturday, February 28, 2015

Feb 27, 2015-Adventure in Paradise-Beer Can 101

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
Lets Move to Leeward

We have some low key racing here in La Cruz on Wednesday nights. Usually only a few boats come out and the marks are often just GPS waypoints but we use these races as practice, and the sailing has been fun, even challenging sometimes.

Take last Wednesday for example:

We had very little breeze at the start, not much at all, but we had the whole crew move to the leeward rail to keep the boat heeled over and we could move and we started well, on starboard, at the pin end. We covered Gypsy, our main competition, and we were leading after the start. It was light, but we were moving well.

Ahead, inshore, we could see a convergent zone which constituted a big hole to sail through, and we saw more wind outside. Which way to go? The boats in the class ahead went out, but we felt that inshore would offer some tide relief, so we stayed in, even though the wind was pretty flat there. Our main completion on this day was Gypsy, a very well sailed older Colombia 52, which in these conditions, was plenty fast. They started with us, and were now just behind, and we watched them closely. If they went out we'd have to tack out to cover.


So here we were, 1/3 of the way to the weather mark, the boats outside had breeze but bad tide and weren't moving all that much, and we were struggling in light wind, but Gypsy, behind us, stayed in too, confirming our choice. There was some tension aboard as we watched the situation develop.

There was breeze ahead and we could see the whitecaps, but would they come to us first, or the boats outside? Finally, abeam Point Blanca we broke into the new breeze and Wings heeled over. Now this was sailing! The boats outside were fighting the tide and weren't moving, but we were. All of a sudden we were leading the race. I called for the crew to hike the boat, and everyone moved to the high side. Eddie, our foreword hand, started getting the kite hooked up.

Next came our big foul up. These races don't always have a windward mark to sail round, just a GPS waypoint, and we have been having a problem getting right exactly to the mark on the GPS. Tonight was no exception. We sailed right past it before the navigation team decided we had missed the turn. Gypsy, behind us, turned exactly at the mark and now they were already headed home.

We spun around, set the kite, and headed after them, but 200ft is a lot of ground to make up. They were ahead and moving.

Then there was the convergent zone which we had to sail back through. Gypsy dropped their kite and sailed through under genoa, and we tried to make up the lost ground by keeping the spinnaker up. It didn't work. They moved through the dead spot and then just picked up their skirts and left us. Every time I looked at them they were farther ahead. We dropped our kite too, but it was too late.

So... we finished second. Not great, but a good practice.

What did we learn?

Good navigation is essential.
When you are behind, don't go for flyers.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, La Cruz

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