Sunday, January 30, 2011

Chainplate Repair and Ham Radio License Test.

Sorry we haven't posted in a while. We are bad bloggers. (Christine just told me that I should stop apologizing. She said, "They're lucky we post anything at all".) Anyway, we had fun surfing out at Punta Mita for a few days. We even filmed a few short clips of us surfing. I'm going to try to edit together some of the video clips (sailing, working on stuff, wandering around, etc) we've filmed so far into a little movie I can post on here. Unfortunately, video editing on a laptop takes a long time so we'll have to see when I can fit that stuff in. We've been back in La Cruz for a while but we've been too busy to get around to posting.

We just finished one repair that's been nagging at us for a while. We had a problem with our bobstay chainplate. (The bobstay is the bit of rigging (wire cable) that attaches to the bottom of the bowsprit (pointy wooden thing on the bow) and the chainplate is the bronze piece that attaches that cable to the hull). If this chainplate were to break while we were sailing, it would probably cause both masts to break off boat and fall in the water. That would be unfortunate. The chainplate wasn't in immediate danger of breaking but it was bent and that's not the kind of thing I like to see going on up there before crossing the Pacific.

We decided that the best way to fix the problem was to add another bolt to the chainplate to hold it to the hull. This would require drilling a hole through bronze and fiberglass at an angle that would put the drill underwater. Electric drills don't work so good underwater and, at first, I didn't think my hand operated "egg beater" drill would be powerful enough to do the job. We resigned ourselves to having to go to the boatyard in Puerto Vallarta and pay around $700 to haul out and make the repair out of the water. Then I had to drill a hole in a piece of bronze for another minor project so I decided to give it a try with the egg beater drill. It worked fine so I decided to rethink the haul-out requirement for the repair.

There was a bit of bus travel required to round up all the necessary parts and tools but once that was all taken care of, we were able to do the repair in the marina in a single day! As you can see from the photos, it was a bit awkward to drill a hole in the boat from under the water but it worked out fine and was way better than forking over that much cash. We also had to move all 200 feet of anchor chain (and the anchor) to the stern to get our bow high enough but, again, that's way easier that spending $700.

Once that project was all wrapped up, we had to jump into cramming for the ham radio license test. The yacht club down in Nuevo Vallarta hosted the test. We had wanted to get our licenses before we left the US but ended up running out of time. The stuff we want to do requires the general license and, in order to get that license, you have to get the technician license first so we had to study for both tests. We got up early, spent about an hour on the bus getting down there and took the tests. I took the technician test and failed it by two questions. Damn. However, they give you the option to pay the $16 fee again and retake it (with a different set of questions). I was feeling lucky so I decided to give it a try. Besides, I'd spent more time studying for the general license and felt like I'd have a better chance with that test if I could just make it past the technician test. Meanwhile, Christine finished her technician test and failed it by just one question. She didn't feel at all prepared for the general license test so she decided not to retake the first level.

It turned out that the second version of the technician test they gave me was quite a bit easier than the first and I passed by two questions. Having passed that one, it was free to take a crack at the general license. I took it and found myself guessing at far more of the answers than I would have liked. Apparently, I guessed well though because I passed. ...just barely - if I missed one more question, I would have failed - but I passed. It was quite a relief to finally get that taken care of. Now I will be able to use all the capabilities of our fancy HF radio. Well, I'll be able too once we finish installing it anyway. I think we have all the parts we need. It should be just a matter of bolting everything in place and wiring it all up. We intend to have that all taken care of by the end of the month. It might be sooner except that we just bought a used wind vane self steering system. We got a great deal on it and it will mean that we won't have to run our electronic autopilot across the whole Pacific. That, in turn, means that our solar panels should be able to easily take care of all our electricity needs and we won't have to run the engine to keep our batteries charged. On the down side, this thing isn't going to install itself. More on that process later.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

There's swell coming!

The forecast says there's some swell coming so we're probably going to leave La Cruz this morning and head over to Punta Mita where the good surf spots are. We'll probably be over there for a few days and we have a hard time getting the internet connection out there so we may be a bit out of touch. In the mean time, check out the pictures I posted below of our trip to Los Arcos marine park.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Los Arcos

We got a chance to go across the bay on Jeff and Dory's boat Journey and visit the Los Arcos National Marine Park. Check out the pictures below and their captions. I'm too lazy right now to write much more. Sorry, I'm a bad blogger.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Surfing our brains out

We spent about a week anchored out at Punta Mita at the northwest end of Banderas Bay.  We only went ashore once the whole time.  The general routine was to load the boards into our dinghy in the morning and  go around the point to a really exposed surf spot and surf until about noon or so.  Then after lunch and a siesta, we'd take the dinghy to a different break or sometimes just paddle over to the break close to the anchorage.  We ended up seeing a lot of the same surfers every day and made friends with a few of them. We surfed with a guy named Jeff the most.  He's also from Ventura and he's on a sailboat called Journey (  We visited him and his wife Dory on their really nice Passport 40 to get some more information about the surf breaks to the south of us.  We ended up having a bit of boat envy after seeing all the space available on their newer, larger, and more expensive boat.  Jeff told us they have an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of what is located in the over 100 storage locations on the boat.  Oh well, that boat would cost about six times what ours cost so there's no way that we could be cruising on something like that at this point.

We kept up our twice a day surfing routine until Christine's birthday on the 8th.  Then we decided to head back to La Cruz to have some birthday dinner and get some shore based chores done. We ended up at Philo's for dinner due to our gringo craving for pizza. Had the pleasure of some more live entertainment while there since Philo's band was playing. Leon was the highlight of the night, with his washboard, cow bell, and charismatic disposition. There was a belly dance performance during the band's break to change it up a little. Barb would have loved it! Some old fart with a sweater tied over his shoulders got up to dance with her for a while. Very entertaining to say the least.

Yesterday we went on a mission to Bucerias to find some spare surf stuff. When none could be found, we wandered around and ended up at a bar on the beach called Sunset drinking delicious 2 for 1 margaritas. A live band started up shortly thereafter playing covers of the Dead and the Band to name a few. Wish the rest of the Donahues could have been there with us! They would have loved it. As I type right now, a band is playing across the street at Ana Banana's covering every famous classic rock song there ever was. Are you seeing the trend? With the overwhelming majority of gringos in town being over  50, it really isn't all that surprising I guess.

(Please note that all comments that might, in any way, appear at all complementary towards the Grateful Dead were written by Christine, not Jared)

Sunday, January 09, 2011

We've been out surfing

Sorry we haven't updated for a while.  We spent about a week anchored out at Punta Mita, the point at the north end of Bahia Banderas (the bay that Puerto Vallarta is in the center of).  We surfed twice a day most of the time and only went ashore once.  We had a great time and we're back in La Cruz right now.  We found another repair that we'll need to make to the boat but we'll write more about that later.  I'll also post more pictures later. We'll be dating the blog entries to the relevant dates so they'll show up before this one.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

New Year's and a Move from La Cruz to Punta Mita

We spent New Year's Eve hanging out with our new friends Kevin and Gio on Kevin's boat, Tuatara.  They are in there twenties and, like us, cruising on a budget.  Tuatara is a really cool but rather spartan Ingrid 38.  I'd guess that Tuatara and Architeuthis would be worth about the same amount if they were for sale right now.  Architeuthis is quite a bit smaller and, arguably, not quite as stoutly built but has a lot fancier electronics and other systems and equipment.  It was cool to see what might have been and I'm still not sure which is the better strategy.  More importantly, we had a good time watching the fireworks from Tuatara and hanging out with those guys.  It was nice to get a break from the typical cruiser scene and spend time with people a little closer to our demographic.

In the morning we picked up the anchor and sailed out to the anchorage at Punta Mita to spend some time closer to the surf.  We saw a bunch of whales, dolphins, and sea birds again.  I keep hoping the whales will do their jumping out of the water stunts close enough that I can get some good pictures with my not-so-telephoto lens but no luck so far.  Other than waiting for that, we're getting so acclimated to humpback whales that we don't even pay that much attention to them any more.  "Hey Christine, there's another whale over there."  "Whatever."  Okay, we're still not that jaded but we're getting close.