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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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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Feb. 26, 2015-Adventures in Paradise-Tale of Two Blades

wingssail images-judy jensen
Ready to Haul Us Out

We made it out of the slip and there was some extra vibration but when we tried to motor up the coast to find some breeze everything got smooth and the boat just wouldn't go.

Like the wheels were slipping on ice.

I dove in and looked for the ice. No ice but also no propeller.

It seems that the propeller blades took off on their own. They left without us.

Well it was race day and who needs a propeller in a sailboat race so we went sailing without it and won the race.

Then we sailed all the way into the slip which got the marina all a twitter (sorry, not really, but they sure noticed it when we sailed in.)

Our other propeller went to the shop the next morning for some quick refurbishment and a few days later we hauled out to put it on. (Ray and his brother towed us there with his dingy, Barry helped me install it.)

wingssail images-judy jensen
New Prop

Now we're all better except we have no spare propeller and this one, like the one which just broke, is about 27 years old. Guess we should buy another new prop.

Just in case.

Click here for more of Judy's photos.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, La Cruz

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Feb 26, 2015-New Blog Postings-Adventures in Paradise

wingssail images
Fred & Judy

Well, we've been here in Puerto Vallarta (La Cruz, to be exact) for a couple of months and nothing big has happened.

But lots of small things have.

So, instead of waiting for the big story we've decided to write about some of the small things.

Since we think this place is truly "Paradise" , we'll title these " Adventures in Paradise".

Won't be as exciting as sailing across a wild ocean, but at least you won't think we died.


We'll have the first "Adventure" up soon.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, La Cruz

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Sunday, January 25, 2015

January 25, 2015-Showing the fleet our heels

jl digital media imageJLDigitalMedia: Vallarta Cup Jan 24 2015 &emdash; Great Start

Down at the leeward end of the line Wings slides out into the lead. After a few races here in Puerto Vallarta we are now seeing some results; we haven't won yet, but we are improving.

It feels good.

The best part of it is that our crew is really coming on, we can call for whatever we need to do on the race course and the crew can get it done, and they are having fun doing it.

This is the best part of racing; the teamwork and camaraderie that comes when you work together well. We love it, we love them and they seem to be having fun.

More later.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Puerto Vallarta

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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

January 13, 2015-Liveaboards, not Cruisers

jl digital imagesWings sailing off Nuevo Vallarta

It's been a month since we arrived in Puerto Vallarta. This has been a month of transition for us. We've transitioned from cruisers to liveaboards. We've found a permanent marina berth in La Cruz Huanacaxtle, a delightful, laid back, Mexican town near Puerto Vallarta, which we love. We've moved a lot of cruising equipment off the boat. We've got our car here, which we planned all along. We're making friends, and we've started local sailing. There is a low key racing program and we've lined a crew and have already done two races. We didn't win, but we have time to get better.

So we plan to live here, on Wings, do local sailing, and not do any more long distance cruising.

Pretty major change for us after 18 years of cruising.

I don't know what kind of interesting stories we'll be able to write about this new life, but we'll try.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Puerto Vallarta

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Sunday, December 21, 2014

Dec. 21, 2014- Highway 200

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
Family at the Parade in Melaque
The Pan American Highway, also known as Highway 200 in Mexico, is the road which runs up the coast from Guatemala, through all the coastal towns including Acapulco and Puerto Vallarta and then continues north from there. In some places it is the main road between towns, in others is it definitely a back road, the major routes being those which radiate to and from Mexico city.

It was Highway 200 on which we drove to bring the car to Vallarta. We could have gone inland and hit the freeways but we wanted to see the coastal towns, and we did.

For a Mexican back road it is pretty good but it demands the full attention of the driver; there are countless obstacles including topes (speed bumps), potholes, sudden surface changes, road work, and curves, to say nothing about a lot of crazy drivers.

The topes are everywhere. Some have warning signs but many others are not even painted and those become visible only just in front of you and hard braking is all there is between launching off into the sky with a broken suspension instead of just a simple bounce and bump. We hit one at speed, a little one, fortunately, and don't want to do it again. Often the topes seem to be placed in the shadows of trees, making seeing them even harder. After a while you learn to anticipate the topes; when you see a clearing ahead and a house or two, you can guess there will be speed bumps, and you begin to slow down. Then one appears and you brake like hell. There are plenty of skid marks going right up to the topes but the skid marks disappear at the apex of the tope where the wheels of the car which made them ostensibly left the road. They are scary.

Then there are the sudden changes in the road surface where the good black top suddenly becomes a potholed dirt and gravel one-laned mess. You slow for these too, as you do for the road work projects, amazing road work projects, which are also encountered virtually anywhere, with diversions and mystifying lane manipulations, none of which you want to come upon at speed, and finally curves, endless curves.

Tight curves.

We passed through forests and jungles as well as valleys and plains. We zoomed around headlands far above the ocean where the road clung to the cliffs and which provided spectacular views. Before we reached Vallarta we got high up into the mountains among pine tree forests, which surprised us, before dropping down to sea level again at Banderas Bay. It was all hard driving.

To cover ground you have to drive fast when you can. So you drive 60, maybe 70 MPH to keep the average up, and then when you encounter an obstacle, hit the brakes hard, drive at 10 mph for a while, get through the tough spot, then you go again. Sometimes there is traffic, other times none. For two hours north of Lazarus Cardero we saw not a single car going nor coming. It was like there was a road block at either end and we were the only car allowed to go through. But it was a curvy section, and we were constantly turning, barely able to go 30 or 40 MPH. It was hard driving and we were glad to have the road to ourselves although in the back of our minds were the warnings we'd heard about driving on lonely Mexican roads. But we saw no banditos.

One other thing we didn't see much of on this trip were the macho Mexican daredevil drivers we've encountered on other stretches of Mexican highways.
Those crazy guys in sedans, large or small, and particularly in pickup trucks, who appear in your rearview mirrors and stay glued to your bumper no matter hard how you yourself drive, then pass you, grinning, at the first opportunity, or maybe not even an opportunity, and simply disappear around the next curve never to be seen again. We saw those on the freeways south of Mexico City and on the twisting roads south of Oaxaca, also on the road to Huatulco, and we gained a huge respect for the capabilities, or at least the cojones, of these drivers and their vehicles, but on this trip, we saw not many. Maybe they were sticking to the main roads.

But traffic or not, obstacles or not, we drove, and we drove hard, and the rewards were the miles covered.

More than that we were rewarded by the stops we made in the fishing towns along the way: Puerto Escondido, Zihuatenejo, and Melaque.

These towns were the reason we came this way. They are not big tourist towns. They don't have the high rise hotels and big airports. They have those funky beach hotels and little bars that we all dream of when we think of Mexico, "Night of the Iguana" and all of that.

We found them, found them all. We found small bars at night with good music and cheap tequila, and in the day we found fishermen on the beaches, working on their boats, getting ready to go to sea, and working their trade. We found the fishermen to be hardworking but relaxed as they went about their shoreside tasks, quick with a smile and a joke.

In the towns we found little stores and shops and quiet streets and we ran across celebrations, street fairs, parades and minor festivals with kids and moms and fireworks and costumes. But all very low key and charming, giving a happy view of Mexican family life.
We passed through these towns and chose them in which to stay the nights.

And in the end we found Puerto Vallarta where we've decided to stop for a while.

So now we are in Marina La Cruz, at this moment in the act of starting a new life. One without travel.

We'll see how it goes; we've been sort of addicted to movement but perhaps we can change.

Click here for more photos.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, La Cruz Huancaxtle

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Tuesday, December 09, 2014

December 9, 2014-Vallarta

Just a quick note to keep our followers up to date:

We sailed for Barra de Navidad on Dec 3, spent a night anchored in Melaque after a quick reunion in Barra with Gene and Sue and our sister Serendipity 43 Peregrine and then on to Puerto Vallarta, arriving in Nuevo Vallarta on Dec. 7 and moved to La Cruz on Dec 8, 2014. We had another two great sailing legs. The last section up the coast to Cabo Corrientes was amazing; 20kts of wind on the nose and some healthy waves but it was wonderful sailing and Wings went to weather like the thoroughbred she is. We wound up doing two sail changes as the wind lightened again as we crossed Banderas Bay at dawn. It's great to be back in Puerto Vallarta after sixteen years.

In La Cruz we've run into some old friends and the new marina, Riviera Nayarit, is truly luxurious.

Tomorrow we fly out to return to Huatulco to fetch the car.

Sorry, no photos yet.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Banderas Bay

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Tuesday, December 02, 2014

November 26,2014-Fantastic Days of Sailing to Zihuatenejo

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
Fred Sailing

Coming out of Huatulco we found a light sea breeze just as when we left Chiapas, and, from my perspective, this was expected; it’s a daily occurrence on the Pacific Coast of Mexico. There had been talk of storms going around the marina, but it was just that, talk.

What was worrying the other cruisers in Huatulco was that the first really big blow of the season was pumping up in the Tehuantepec with 50 knot winds and 25 foot seas and it was being called a “storm”.

Some thought that heading out when a storm was going on, even if it was seventy five miles away, was foolish.

But I was looking for some breeze up the coast and the forecast promised a couple of days of it. Anyhow, if there was some wind or swell in the Gulf it should be from behind, helping us. And 28 miles down the coast we’d turn the corner at Puerto Angel and after that anything coming out of Tehuantepec couldn’t reach us. We dismissed the worries of the other cruisers and left as planned at noon.

We set sail close hauled on starboard tack, standing out to sea to clear the headlands to the southwest of Huatulco. Then we tacked and the wind lifted us around and we found we could carry our course right up the coast. It was great sailing; winds around 10 knots and flat water. In fact, it was two fantastic days of sailing up the coast as far as Acapulco and beyond, some of the best ever, long beautiful sunny days with steady wind and Wings speeding silently along.

We loved it.

It was good sailing but I wondered how many of the other cruising sailboats would have thought so.

When we go out we put up our sails and then we look to see which way the wind is blowing. If it is from astern, terrific, but if it is a beat we just sheet in and resign ourselves to a day or two of tacking. People with a different view of cruising come out of the marina with the motor on and just turn onto their desired course. When they then look aloft and see that the wind is right on the nose and they say, “Can’t sail in this stuff,” and they switch on the autopilot and motor for two days.

Having the right boat helps. Wings, with its big sail plan and deep keel, can really go to weather. Actually we think we can go just about any direction we want in whatever conditions we encounter, not that we’d want to, but we can. On this trip it was easy sailing. We were close hauled, 44 degrees off the wind, going 5 knots in six knots of breeze. And that’s with the cruising sails; with the racing sails, well, who knows. At other times, on other passages, we’ve faced strong winds and big seas. The sailing has been tough but the boat can do it if the crew is willing. Usually we have been. This time we didn’t need to be tough, it was a piece of cake.

So we sailed up half of the Mexican coast. The Mexican Riviera they call it. Past towns like Puerto Escondido and Puerto Angel. On the morning of the second day we spotted Acapulco when the sun’s early rays glinted off something that could only be a high rise hotel. We might have gone into Acapulco, but the marinas there quoted us high prices when we inquired by email before leaving Huatulco. That, and the wind just didn’t seem to want us to go there. All day it blew us offshore, away from Acapulco. We might have tacked and gone in but for the marina rates. Instead we caught some good wind shifts and made tracks north. By dusk Acapulco was far astern.

Now we have reached Zihuatenejo and are anchored in that beautiful harbor. Z-town, we’ve been here before. It’s nice to be back after 16 years.

In a day or two we’ll sail on north to the next Mexican port of call.

Click here for more photos.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Zihuatenejo

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Monday, November 17, 2014

November 17, 2014-Chiapas to Huatulco

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
Judy Works the Pole

We left at noon and set sail on port tack in a light sea breeze, holding our course up the coast all afternoon. The wind veered and dropped a little as the sun got low and we tacked out looking for a starboard lift but actually we expected it die altogether, which it did, and we started the motor.

Four hours later the ongoing motor problems reappeared and the oil pressure went to zero. We had to shut down the motor. This time, however, the oil level was up, not down as before, and it was thin. Fuel dilution? This new symptom was familiar since it has happened before when an injector failed, and gave us a new clue, but added to all the other symptoms, the diagnosis was still unclear and we hated to be heading across the Tehuantepec without a reliable motor. However, we were convinced that Huatulco was a better place to get work done than Chiapas. We just had to get there.

But we had some wind; the nightly offshore breeze came up and we set sail again and sailed through the rest of the night, worried about the motor.

The next day we changed the oil and the motor seemed OK for the moment, and we had enough oil for three more oil changes, so we felt better. We could use motor if we had to.

During the morning the wind came more from the east and in perfect conditions we set the spinnaker. It seemed surreal to us, and we felt it must be a rare event, sailing east to west across the Tehuantepec under spinnaker, but with a good weather forecast we were not expecting any problems and we had none; we sailed across the Tehuantepec without issue.


On Wednesday we arrived in Huatulco, which, as Judy wrote, was the actual crossing of our outward path and marked the completion of a circumnavigation, which we feel good about. Even though it wasn't what we had necessarily made as the focus of our cruising life this past eighteen years, getting around the world is an accomplishment, and most of all, it has been a wonderful experience. All the beautiful countries and people we've encountered have given us a rich life.

On Thursday night we headed back to Chiapas by bus to collect the car and we drove here on Friday.

Road Block

It was an interesting drive, that one to Huatulco from Chiapas. At a place just over Oaxaca state line the local motortaxi group blocked the highway, right on a bridge. We think it was a protest over the motortaxi rates. Anyhow, we were stuck for 2.5 hours and traffic got backed up about 2 miles in both directions. Some people turned around and went back, to where I don't know, but a big double semi truck driven by a guy sympathetic to the motortaxis came in and blocked both lanes, so we were blocked from getting out that way. The State Police came, with lots of guns, talked to the taxi guys, then left. Then the Armada de Mexico came, also with a lot of guns, talked to the taxi guys, and also left. Finally two Federales came, with fewer guns, and there was some announcement which made the taxi guys cheer, ( I heard "cinco pesos") and ten minutes later the blockage broke up. In the three months we've been driving in Mexico we been in three roadblocks, two in Oaxaca.

The roadblock delayed us by 2.5 hours and we wound up driving into Salina Cruz in the dark, to Judy's total dismay, and so we stayed in a hotel there that night and came the rest of the way here the next day. It's beautiful country, all the way from Chiapas to Huatulco, sensational, but we don't feel like driving it again; lots of curves and too many humungous speed bumps and machismo Mexican drivers. The wind when we were on the bus east of Tehuantepec, at Chivela Pass, was strong and gusty and we saw trucks blown over on the side of the road. The bus itself was swaying mightily, but that didn't prevent the bus driver from flying at 70MPH on what was a very narrow and dark highway, with oncoming swaying trucks doing the same. Geez! Thankfully the wind didn't affect us as much when driving the car but the trucks and buses still scared us.

Now we are enjoying Huatulco while Wings' engine is temporarily out of order without a fuel pump, which we inspected and found to be defective, so that is good news: at last we have a definite problem which we can address. A new pump is on the way from San Diego and due in a couple of days. Then, just maybe, we'll find out if it fixes the multiple oil problems we've been having since June. If not, next we'll check the injectors and injection pump.

Next stop, whenever we're ready to go onward, is Acapulco.

Click here for more photos.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Huatulco

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Thursday, November 13, 2014

November 12, 2014-Arrived in Huatulco

Today we sailed into Huatulco, Mexico, crossing the track we laid in March 1998. Officially, we have circumnavigated the world, but our journey has encompassed so much more than counting the miles. This is an amazing planet. Humans around the globe are generous and loving and have the very same desires of freedom and opportunity to pursue their goals as ourselves. We are so much more alike than we are different.

Judy & Fred, SV Wings, Huatulco

(Fred will post a story soon, with photos, of the Tehuantepec crossing, obviously, we made it.)

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Sunday, November 09, 2014

November 9, 2011-Anticipating the Tehuantepec

wingssail images-fredrick roswold

It’s just that we’ve been hearing about this one for twenty years. Even the word itself, Tehuantepec, has sort of an evil rhythm: "two wan to peck". I can hear the soft southern voice of our friend Kathy from the yacht Tumbleweed, talking about those awful “Tehuantepeckers”. She shuddered some when she said that and she was a little throaty, not quite a laugh, not quite a choke. It must have been, oh, about 1996, when she told us about the Tehuantepec. She said it was scary and they was glad when they got across it.

The problem is that the Tehuantepec has scared a lot of sailors, us included. It’s not that we haven’t faced rough crossings before: the passage from Fiji to New Zealand was a fearful one which we survived. Sailing the Agulhas current off of Africa’s East Coast was another. And Cabo de la Vela on Colombia’s north coast is a leg that sailors just about universally dread, such is its reputation, and we sailed that one.

In each case we just swallowed our fears and set out. In each case we made it through.

But this one...

Bad Day for Tuhuantepec Crossing

I have to say I’ve been stressed out about it.

Like a huge malevolent back draft, the Tehuantepec seems to pulse and roar with evil intent. So says NOAA. When NOAA personifies a weather phenomenon, then you wonder.

Even so, we need to cross. I sat at the computer and studied the weather maps, the web sites, the NOAA models. I sensed Judy behind me, looking over my shoulder. She didn't say much, but she was watching. Finally I managed to find a weather window; a period of time when the winds should be manageable. Not a period with no wind at all, we must sail. If the motor quits when you are out there without any wind you are a sitting duck for the next pulse. No, we want a window with wind between 10 and 15 knots, out of the north; that would be fine.

We’d leave around 6 AM Friday, noon at the latest. I know what they say about Friday sailings, but we don't pay that any mind, and we'll cross the Tehuantepec by noon on Saturday and be safely into Huatulco by Sunday morning. It was a tight window, because we had to be off the water by Sunday when the next pulse was due, but we could do it.

We swallowed hard and got the boat ready. More than ready, we did everything.

Then Mexico screwed up the plan: they couldn’t complete the paperwork in time to make the weather window. Just one little clearance paper. That’s all we need. It isn’t even an international clearance, just a zarpe for our next Mexican port. They couldn’t do it on Thursday, couldn’t tell me why, so we started on it at 8:30 Friday morning, already late. Then I wound up sitting for hours in one office after another while people typed on their old Underwoods. By 1:30PM we still weren’t cleared to leave and the Port Capitan wanted to bring his drug sniffing dogs to search the boat, so we scrubbed.

We told them we’d leave on Monday.

If everything goes a little better than it did on Friday we’ll get out of here on Monday night. The window isn’t as good, the winds will be light and from a contrary direction, but we’ll have more time, so we’ll go.

Meanwhile, we wait, and after all the stress about deciding when to go, then not going... it put me into a really foul mood. I sat in a funk on my settee berth and thought about all people I’d like to kill. I drank some Tequila. Nothing helped.

But, I’m over it now, and Judy is OK, she thinks if plans get changed it all happens for a reason anyhow, so we’re fine.

Monday, unless the weather changes dramatically, we'll try again to cross the Tehuantepec.

Click here for more photos.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Chiapas

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Monday, November 03, 2014

Just Posted-Blast from the Past-New Zealand Airshow

We've just posted a story and photos from our South Island trip in April 2000, including the Warbirds over Wanaka Airshow.

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
Bleriot at Wanaka

Click here to go to the story, or

Click here to go right to the photos.

We've got a quite a few more old stories to put onto this blog but give us time, they are sometimes hard to find.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Chiapas

Friday, October 31, 2014

November 1, 2014-Getting Ready to Go.

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
Working on the B & G

“Why is the wind speed showing zero?” I thought, “There’s obviously a little breeze, we’re sailing in it.”

I looked up at the mast head and the wind speed cups looked back at me; they were stationary.

Houston, we have a problem.

I walked forward and shook the head stay, giving the mast a good jiggle, the equivalent of hitting it with a bigger hammer. The cups rotated about half a turn, then stopped again. This time nothing moved them.

When you have thirty year old instruments you are not surprised to see them break. Not happy, but not surprised. A trip up the mast and back down with the recalcitrant mast head unit in my hand revealed nothing in particular; the cups seemed to turn fine. Maybe the bearing was a little loose; after all it’s been up there spinning for thirty years. The anemometer was the one part for which I had no spare

I wrote Myles, in Florida, who has been faithfully sending me B&G parts for about 20 years. I wasn’t even sure if he hadn’t retired by now, but he did reply a year ago when I had the last problem, and, sure enough, he wrote right back to me yesterday too.

“No, I don’t have an anemometer to sell you but I might be able to put a bearing in that one of yours, if the screws still turn, and if you are in the US where we can send things back and forth.”
Wrong on two counts: The screws seemed pretty stuck to me, and anyhow, I wasn’t going to be in the US anytime soon.

But I dove into it. On the workbench I laid out all my parts. I replaced what I could and cleaned and serviced the rest. The thing was, when I got finished, it seemed to work fine. The slightest breath would make the cups turn. OK, I’d still love to find another anemometer, but meanwhile, we’ll put this one back up, which we did, and it works perfectly.

How did this happen? Judy provided a possible clue: She said she noticed that there were a bunch of cobwebs all over the cups when I brought it down. Yeah, I noticed that too. Do you suppose a spider lashed that thing to a stop?

We also tried out the new mainsail. In fact that was the purpose of the trip. There wasn't much wind, but enough to see the shape. The guys at Fareast Sails in Hong Kong built a nicely shaped main, but it’s small. Not so small that we can’t use it, but small enough to aggravate me every time I look at it. It clearly does not match the dimensions I sent them and that is disappointing, but, I guess when you buy from a Chinese company, and they already have your money, you don’t have much leverage. I’ve been writing to them and they say it’s fine, and anyway, they seem to think, through some twisted logic, that if it isn’t fine, it’s my fault. Their emails skipped completely over my point that it does not measure to the specs. Well, we didn’t pay much for this sail, so maybe we got what we deserved.

We also worked on the dingy, trying to fix some leaks but when I mixed up the epoxy the mix went off and started fizzing and smoking. Funny, I thought I had the portions right. Next thing I knew it was hot and hard and had melted the plastic cup. Good thing it didn’t catch fire. The next batch was better.


So that's life in the marina; other than fixing things and socializing with the other cruisers who have finally started to show up here, we’re just waiting for the Tehuantepeckers, those strong winds which are blocking our path north, to die down. When they do, we’ll head out, ready or not.

Click here for more images.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Chiapas

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Sunday, October 19, 2014

October 19, 2014-Boat Work in Chiapas

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
Quiet Day in Marina Chiapas

We’ve been back in Mexico for more than a month. It has been an enjoyable time of tranquil days mostly spent working on boat projects.

While boat maintenance can sometimes be viewed as tedious drudgery, it can also be an enjoyable pastime depending on one’s attitude and approach. Our approach has been to have a relaxed routine with some time for work each day but also with time for daily exercise, for preparing and enjoying home cooked meals and with evenings free for a little good tequila and our favorite TV show.

The days run together as we tackle the boat projects one after another at a gentle but steady pace. If the work it takes to complete some minor task often seems disproportionate to the result, we don’t mind, our satisfaction comes from the time spent doing it and knowing that, in the end, our boat will be a little better.

When we are involved in a project there is a zone we can enter where we shut off the outside world and just putter along, focused entirely on the work, and where neither schedules or objectives matter. The activity becomes an end unto itself. Before we realize it we come to the end of the day and maybe we have accomplished something or maybe not, but we knock off feeling good for having done it. And anyway, the tequila calls to us.

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
Now the cleaning task begins

Take winch servicing for example. Our eight Barient sail-handling winches were made 35 years ago by a company no longer in existence, so parts and repairs are not readily available, and they live in a salt-water, sun-drenched, and dirty environment. We use them for all everything, in all kinds of conditions, and they take a real beating. It would cost a fortune to replace our winches, so we try to take care of them.

To keep winches operating smoothly requires periodic cleaning and oiling. We disassemble each winch and inspect every part. There are many gears and roller bearings and a lot of other bits and pieces, each of which must be scrubbed in solvent with a brush or scraped to remove the grease and dirt. When I have finished cleaning I inspect the pieces closely and often I find it is still not clean; it needs more brushing or scraping. Sometimes I just start over. It doesn’t matter. It’s the doing it that counts.

When everything is ready the parts are and oiled and greased and we reassemble the winch then spin the drum to test our work. If it whirls effortlessly and nice clicking sounds come from the pawls we are happy. Then we put in a winch handle and see that everything turns the proper way and works perfectly. When it does, which it usually does, it is nice. It takes a day to do one of these winches, but it’s worth it.

At the beginning of this month we had a long list of projects, mostly little things but a few major items. Hammering away at them every day we’ve managed to get the list pretty much checked off. In addition to the winches we had many small electrical repairs to make and several mechanical items to fix. We also had several sewing projects. Judy worked a week making new bug screens for our hatches. We made the old ones when we in Mexico 15 years ago and they needed replacing. Fortunately, and amazingly, we still had netting and material left over from the first job to make new ones. She got into the task and did a great job and we know the new ones will last another 15 years.

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
Ready for Re-launch

We also did a haul-out this month. We just finished the haul-out and re-launched the boat on Friday. It involved some keel work and replacements of through-hulls and sea-cocks, as well as the normal sanding and painting of the bottom. The project went well; while we tackled the repairs, the workers at Marina Chiapas did the sanding and painting and we were happy with their cheerful and steady progress.

Much is going well but we do have our problems. Our new mainsail, which we ordered from Fareast Sails in Hong Kong, has disturbed our tranquility. When we put the sail on the boat and measured it we found it did not match the design specifications. We’ve been communicating with Fareast Sails to understand why this happened and what are going to be the consequences of the discrepancy. At this point they are giving us a bit of double talk and basically denying responsibility. They say we asked for a custom shape and that caused any problems there might be, and can only suggest to us that we ship the sail back to them so they can look at it. Then, if they don’t agree that there is a problem, we have to pay for the shipping both ways, plus, presumably, the import duty to get it into Mexico again. Meanwhile we would be without a suitable mainsail which we need to sail north. Will we ship it back? Probably not. So far, from how they have responded to us, we have no confidence that they will acknowledge the problem. We think the sail, while not optimal, will be usable. In the next week or two we will go sailing and check it out more thoroughly. If it is not usable we’ll have to look at our options.

Was it a mistake to buy a sail from China? We saved a lot of money by going that route and if the sail turns out to be usable we’ll just consider it a lesson learned but not too much harm will have been done. Otherwise, I don’t know.

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
Judy at Casa Mexicana, Tapachula

Meanwhile, what else has been going on? While the boat was in the boatyard we moved off and stayed in a delightful little boutique hotel in Tapachula. Called the Casa Mexicana, it was filled with art and had a virtual jungle in the inner courtyard. Casa Mexicana was a haven of peace and quiet. We enjoyed it.

But we are back aboard now and we will work towards finishing off our list and getting ready to set sail again. The hurricane season is drawing to a close, and like migratory birds, we will soon be on our way.

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Click here to see the whole work list.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Chiapas

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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

September 23, 2014-Coffee Country

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
Coffee Beans

The State of Chiapas is mountainous and from our berth in Marina Chiapas we can see some of those mountains and even two volcanoes, weather permitting. One volcano we can usually see is in nearby Guatemala, and the other one, closer, visible even more often, towers over the town of Tapachula where we go to do our shopping. That volcano, Tacana, is only about 75 kilometers from us, and closer by far to the town of Tapachula than Mount St Helens is to Seattle, if that means anything to you (so maybe if we don’t have to worry about hurricanes, at least we should pay attention to seismic activity).

We thought that a nice Sunday drive would be to head up into the mountains and see if we could get some shots of the volcano, take a little hike or two in the cool mountain forests, and maybe buy some local coffee beans from one of the fincas for which Chiapas is well known.

It didn’t seem too hard; the roads are reported to be good, the Chrysler had a full tank of gas and seemed to be straining at the bit, and we had all day. Off we went. We took the bypass around Tapachula, stopped at the Izapa ruins to see what is left of one of the most important pre-Olmec, pre-Mayan and pre-Aztec cities in Mexico, dating from a few centuries before Christ, and found it interesting but steaming in the humid lowlands, then hopped back in the car and headed up hill towards the cool mountains.

Getting to the mountains from Marina Chiapas is pretty easy: it’s about a 50 mile drive from our dock up the slopes of Tacana, to the town of Union Juarez, where the hiking trails start, the coffee fincas abound, and a nice restaurant lies waiting to serve us lunch. Easy, as long as you stay on the main drag. We made the mistake of turning off the highway to visit a small town, Tuxtla Chica, on the way, which was nice, but at that point our Google Maps navigation program decided we wanted to take the local route and pretty soon we were on a one lane road paved with loose boulders. Five miles per hour was way too fast, we were bottoming out the car, and the locals were giving us funny looks. This can’t be right, we thought, let’s get back on the main highway, but the main highway seemed to have disappeared from the database. It wasn’t on the map anywhere. According to Google, this was THE ONLY route. Boy, was that fun. But anyway, we followed the donkey track, or river bed, whichever it was, and finally made it to the next town, Cacahoatan, where the highway mysteriously reappeared, and continued to Union Jaurez.

Tuxtla Chica Market

Problem number two, which wasn’t a problem really, but it did change our plans a little, is that Tacana was completely socked in on that day, and in fact the whole mountainside was drenched in steady rain. We never saw the mountain. Never took a hike. But the restaurant was nice, we had a great lunch and the damp mountain air was cool, chilly actually. While there we also enjoyed the work of a wonderful Mexican photographer, Dasha Hornita, which is on display in her mother’s restaurant, Donde Morayma, where we had lunch. Later, on the way back down, while we knew there must be a better route, Google again insisted that we take to the back roads. That we refused to do, instead followed some nice Mexican road signs, (who would have thunk?) and found our own way to the main road, which was smoother and faster. If you ever go to this place, for God’s sake don’t get off the road at Tuxtla Chico, or if you do, turn off Google Maps and ask a local for directions.

Oh, the coffee beans? It turns out you have to get them at the Walmart store in Tapachula.

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Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Chiapas

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