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Friday, October 31, 2014

November 1, 2014-Getting Ready to Go.

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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.

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Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Chiapas

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Sunday, October 19, 2014

October 19, 2014-Boat Work in Chiapas

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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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