Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Amazing Lavonne

Our friend, former owner and builder of Maitreya is at it again. Lavonne is one of the most adventurous people we know and an inspiration to everybody who meets her.

We ran into Chris of CC Rigging in Oakland, here in San Diego. He and Lavonne worked on the new standing rigging for our boat about three years ago. He said that Lavonne assembled most of the Norseman fittings herself.

Anyway, we just got an update from her. She is back in Antarctica. The enclosed pictures are of a trip she made to explore some large ice caves.

She said that she also met Shackleton's great-grandson who is retracing the famous trip. She even got to hold Shackelton's original compass... pretty cool.

As always, we have to thank Lavonne for building such a strong and beautiful boat.

Tired of Reading about Us?

Check out a few of the cruisers that we like to read about here. Some of these are historical. We will keep adding links as we meet people with sites.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Close Encounters of the Large Kind - Part II

There was quite a bit of shipping activity along our route. Out past San Clemente Island is a north south corridor. Given the relationship of Los Coronodos, San Clemente and the Banks, traffic is funneled east-west along the path we took.

Once we had turned around, I noticed a tanker running parallel behind us a few miles on AIS. This turned out to be the TI Africa that was moving slowly at 9.5 to 10 knots. It took him hours to catch up since we were doing 6.5 to 7 knots. During this time it got very dark and started to rain hard. I had been on watch a while ducking under the dodger.

Occasionally, I would go down and heck the AIS display on the computer since when you looked around the boat you saw nothing. I was surprised to see that the TI Africa was only .75 miles behind us since I could not see him. That was no big deal compared to what I saw next. The Oakland Express was 4.5 miles off the port bow doing 22 knots on it's way to Panama. The Express seemed to be coming at the two of us on the display. I sat and watched the little triangle between the three of us growing smaller. You start to think things like, "Big ocean, wonder why everybody is HERE".

TI Africa
was now about a half mile back on our port stern quarter. I began to see scenarios like he would catch up and then be forced to turn away from the Express, towards us. I still could not see him or any lights. I decided to call the Express and see if could see us on radar or AIS. He saw us and said in a very heavy Panamanian accent that he would pass 1/2 mile **** of us. Was that before or behind, I could not tell, but I think before. I hear the TI Africa call the Express and to ask if he sees him. He did. Must have been before or he would hit the Africa?!

About this time, the Express was less than a mile off and the Africa was between a quarter and a half a mile. I still could not see anything. The triangle shrinks some more. Zoom in on the map and the triangle gets bigger -- that's better, for a couple minutes.

I now saw some dim lights aft of the beam on the port side. I think that it must be the Africa back there. AIS shows it is the Express, who burns across our bow at a sharp angle over the next few minutes. 22 knots looks really fast when you are used to six. He could only be 1/4 mile away at the most. Now I can see the Africa right off the port stern about 1/4 mile away. These are big ships, 300 meters or so. We all must have been crowding into a half mile circle. I spent a few minutes counting rivets. The Express disappeared into the dark and rain never to be seen again. I could see the Africa for a half hour or so as he slowly pulled away.

I began to wonder where we stowed the single malt.

Giving back to the sea

We had a pretty rocky ride with at times wind and/or swell waves coming at about 30 sec or so at 90 degrees to the hull. Hard to tell the height as it was dark most of the time. Overall sailing in the dark was not too bad and better than I had guessed before we took off but honestly there are times when one thinks "People, turn on the lights please".

Anyway, I was able to cook Corine's (that's the "other" Corine) famous Italian broccoli dish and I must say, when one's hungry, wet and tired after two nights and three days at sea that's definitely the best time to cook for Jak, the real chef of our household as I got a positive remark that the bowl was the best he had in a long time :-)

Overall, things stayed really good in place with the exception of half a container of Baya sea salt that came out of the cabinet and emptied itself behind and under the oven. That's when I decided it's appropriate to give it back to it rightful owner.

We took on a decent amount of water over the bow and Jak had to pump the foreward bilge three times to prevent any water flowing inside. The boat is really dry inside, just the ocean environment being damp and dragging wet sailing boats and foul weather clothes inside makes the carpets pretty soggy so those are still drying outside in now sunny San Diego. Today we are both shopping independently for materials and stuff to make life at sea easier and more comfortable.

Close Encounters of the Large Kind - Part I

On our way off shore we were headed southwest. The southern wind bringing in a low was keeping us a little more west. We passed about twenty miles south of San Clemente Island and then five to ten miles southeast of Cortes Bank. Cortes Bank is an interesting underwater mountain chain where the sea floor rises several thousand feet in only a few miles.

I first learned about the Bank when I saw the surfing movie, Step into Liquid. A group of the best big wave surfers arranged to shoot the bank during one of the largest storms of the decade. Swells came thousands of miles from the Gulf of Alaska and were suddenly forced up, creating waves of 60 to 100 feet. Some of these waves may not break for 100 miles when they hit Mexico. I would have to say that Step into Liquid is the best adventure documentary I have seen. The Cortes Bank is only one of several stories that are told. I would strongly recommend it.

A little further west we ran into the largest Dolphin pod that we have seen. I would say there were at least two hundred performers in this circus. There was a tanker a few miles away and the pod would swim around in a large radius between the two vessels. After a couple passes, you could begin to identify individuals.

The procession was usually led around by the "Jumpers". These were about twenty or thirty in this group of larger, faster guys. Individually, we could usually pick out "Gorbachev" and "Thumper". Gorby was leading the gang and had a white spot on his dark forehead. Most of the Jumpers would come completely out the water three to four feet. While traveling at twenty miles an hour their arc would probably cover ten yards or more. Then there was Thumper. He had figured out how to get as high or higher than everybody else and would then interrupt his arc, hitting the water as hard as possible. At his peak he would squeal and seemed to have a huge tuna-eating grin.

The procession would continue with smaller members. There were the "Girls" who would swim exactly side by side and come out of the water in synchronised threes and fours looking like chariot horses. The last were the moms with the little kids who were as small as two feet.

I know you may be thinking, "What is so big about this?". Your right, we are getting there. This went on for maybe two hours with small lulls. After one lull, the procession came back in force. The Jumpers seemed ever more animated. Suddenly as the group passed the bow, a huge whale blew about twenty or twenty fve yards in front of the boat. At 6 knots, the boat covers twenty yards in just a few seconds. We were so suprised, that we barely had time start hoping that the whale would dive quickly. Four feet off our starboard beam, we passed two large oily patches where the whale had been. Whale snot.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Back in San Diego

We got back into San Diego Wednesday night after about 5 days and nearly 500 miles. We got caught in a relatively minor storm with a lot of rain and moderate winds. We saw a couple more lows in front of us. These combined with a finicky autopilot and a few other problems made us rethink a crossing this late.

We have been drying out and resting a bit before figuring out what to fix and when we might go to Mexico as a warmer, closer alternative.

We had a few adventurous details that I will talk about in upcoming posts.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

South by Southwest

Just completed our first 24 hours out of San Diego. We are about 70 miles west. Wind has been very light, varying between 0 and 5 knots. We are clearing past San Clemente Island. There have been 4 cruise ships, 2 whales, and probably a hundred dolphins.

At sunset we were in the middle of a large migration of dolphins or porpoises. We had dolphins with us most of the night. We could not see them, but you could hear the jumps and blows. There was an occasional phosphorescent streak as they looped from the bow back and around.

All is well.

radio email processed by SailMail
for information see:

Friday, November 21, 2008

Hal Roth Dies

We only recently learned of three time circumnavigator, Hal Roth's death last month. There is a remembrance posted at Yachting Monthly. He wrote many books. If you want to go offshore, I would recommend How to Sail Around the World: Advice and Ideas for Voyaging Under Sail He had a simple, spartan approach to cruising.

Maitreya's Ancestors

As we are about to set out for Hilo, I thought about the voyages of Maitreya's great, great Aunts. Here is a wonderful site about earlier Nordic designs and their active recreation today.

Havhingsten fra Glendalough still invades Briton on a yearly basis.

Peace at Last

Peace at last. No, not over there, but in our mast. Some of you may remember me posting about a severe mast slap caused by loose electrical wires. Kasey and Max of KC Performance Rigging found a fix using seizing wire to pull the wires snugly to one side of the mast interior. Silence is golden.

We are looking good for heading south west Saturday morning.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Bluewater Ingrid Sightings

We met two Bluewater Ingrid 38s in San Diego. We had run into the Scotts who are the new owners of Faiaohe in Santa Barbara about month ago. They are now at the Police Dock. The boat looks great with it's new hailing port of Hilo, Hawaii (ex Victoria, BC). Part of the story of the boat can be found here, at the Na Hoa Holomoku of Hawaii Yacht Club. She is ketch rigged.

The second yacht was Les Preludes from Seattle. I talked to the skipper briefly. He said he had finished the hull in the early '80s. The boat has more freeboard than many, as he raised the deck five inches and added some hefty bulwarks on the top. The boat had a lot of beautiful bronze work done by a friend. The forward hatch was on the house top leaving a large foredeck. She is cutter rigged.

Foggier than the Bay Area

What a change in the weather. It is now 54F and heavy fog.

We are on "D" dock also known as Dennis's dock. At the end, the old America's Cup boat Stars and Stripes is still tied up. Dennis Conner is offering charter rides.

Maitreya Muffins

Indeed, we totally love it over here at the San Diego Yacht Club!
The very friendly folks at the Silver Gate Yacht Club could accommodate us as well but I got a little nervous that we may not have a space for the last few days and since we had to leave at 11am we jumped ship early to get here. Wonderful jacuzzi and pool, which was very nice after dinner and before movie night at home. Nice people here too, although we are already blamed for bringing the foggy SF weather down here :-)

Anyway, updates from the galley: the 36 farm fresh eggs from early September are all gone into muffins and some for pasta Carbonara so time to share the recipe.
The Luke Heritage oven is great and with one burner inside only takes a little longer to heat up and finish the product compared to the big one in our old place. Although, Jak misses a large size for his serious cooking (and I miss his cooking!) and a space to fit a turkey for next week. Hopefully we'll catch some nice fish with the new 300lb fishing line for a more salty Thanksgiving dinner this year.

Maitreya muffins (makes 6):
Preheat oven to 350 and spray your muffin tin with cooking spray.
- 1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour (I sometimes mix in a little bit of Trader Joe's "just almond meal", great for "wet ones")
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- a decent amount of cinnamon
- 1/3 cup sweetener (a nice mix is molasses and honey but any combination with brown sugar or healthy artificial sweetener as Stevia works well but beware the latter only needs a tiny little bit)
- 1/6 cup or 3 tablespoons olive oil

Mix all the dry ingredients together and work in the molasses/honey and olive oil.

In a separate bowl, whisk together one egg, 3 full tablespoons non-fat yogurt (or cottage cheese) and one of those small containers of apple sauce. A nice addition is a few drops of vanilla or almond extract depending on what kind of muffins you'll make.

Spoon the dry ingredients into the wet ones. Then comes the creative part, or more practical which fruit is about to go bad or you have an abundance of (like after a Costco shopping trip :-). Add a banana, mash it up or slice an apple into small pieces, or both. Nut wise, pecans, walnut pieces or almond slices and sometimes dried cranberries or raisins complete the feast for the much needed diversity.

Pop the tin in the oven and in a regular home oven they should be ready within 15 minutes (time to clean out the dishes, make the coffee and shuffle the cards for our extended card game. Yes, I'm ahead big time but we're not in Hawaii yet).

Reprovisioning of the fresh stuff for the trip is nearly done. A new supply of 36 farm fresh eggs from the Little Italy Farmers Market occurred last week and one more bike trip to Trader Joe today or tomorrow should get us happily to the Islands Saturday.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Real Time AIS Tracking shows real time positions of vessels that have AIS turned on. If you want find Maitreya, you can visit the site and search by name or MMSI for 367145180.

When Customer Servce Becomes Pissy

In past updates, I have been positive about Downwind Marine and their services. I have had an experience that makes me question some of that.

I went there last week looking for a replacement handheld VHF or preferably a remote mic for my Icom M502. They did not seem to have any around, so I asked. All they had was one old Cobra model. I checked with their parent and sister stores, San Diego Marine Exchange and San Diego Sailing Supply. None of them had the items.

That lead me to a large store that we all know and that exists in every port in the US. They did not have the remote mic and as usual, the other items were more expensive.

This lead me to on the web. They had the remote mic at a good price.

The first day that I was in Downwind, a salesman gave me a big pitch about how they were differentiating themselves from the "big blue box company" on service. One of the services that they offered was mail reception and forwarding. I decided to take them up on the offer and had my Defender order delivered to there.

Today,, showed that they were going to deliver the package. When Corine went by, they said that they had refused delivery of the package because it was from a competitor. I went to ask them about this and they waved their cruising guide at me saying it was policy. When I checked the guide it was not clear that they wouldn't accept things. It did say they might charge something. As the guide asked, I did try to purchase from them and their conglomerate first.

I did spend over $300 with Downwind, Marine Exchange and Sailing Supply in the last week. I suggested them to two other cruisers. I plugged them a couple times on the blog. I tried to purchase the item from them first.

There are many items that are commercially available that a cruiser might want or worse yet severely need. Only a fraction of these are sold by Downwind Marine. I would warn cruisers against sending anything through them with a commercial label on it. The label police might not be in a good mood.

Conditional service is worse than no service at all.

Skedaddle to the SDYC

We hopped across Shelter Island to the San Diego Yacht Club. So now we can pee and poo again -- in style. This place has a pool, sauna, jacuzzi, tennis courts, a sous chef and looks a lot like the San Francisco Yacht Club.

The temperature has dropped about 20 to 25F in the last day. There is fog and a decent wind from the north west. If we can get the rigger to show up, we will shove off on Saturday.

Trouble at San Diego Police Dock

The plumbing has failed for the heads and showers at the San Diego Transients Police Dock. Early estimates for a fix are mid December. Porta Potties are coming, but no showers.

Monday, November 17, 2008

San Diego Photos

It has been hot in San Diego (about 85F), but nothing has been on fire. Here is a new slide show:

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Theoretical Hull Speed Calculator

Ever wonder what your hull speed is supposed to be? I have added a hull speed calculator in the lower right of this page. Note that most boats exceed their theoretical hull speed in the right wind, wave and tide conditions.

Weak Point of the New Yanmar

Lets start by saying we love or new Yanmar 4JH4E. It will push our 15 ton boat at 6.5 to 7 knots in the open ocean. The repower installation done by Bill Engel of Bill's Marine/Golden State Diesel Marine is truly top shelf.

The weak point of the new engine is the voltage regulator. To be fair, this problem would be found on all engine brands that I know of. The engine came equipped with an 80 amp Hitachi alternator that is internally regulated. This is an automotive type setup. The regulator is either off or on at a set battery voltage. Marine-oriented smart regulators sense the battery voltage and temperature and usually have three settings to optimize the charging of deeply discharged house batteries.

The second weakness of this alternator is the small output post combined with a tiny wire on the wiring harness. This causes a voltage drop that cuts the alternator's ability to produce peak power.

On Maitreya and many other boats, the alternator is hooked to a battery isolator. The isolator allows the alternator to charge two batteries or banks, but keeps the batteries separate during discharge. This is meant to guard the engine battery so that is is not drained by appliances used on the boat. These appliances are only allowed to draw from the house battery. The problem is that the simple regulator can only sense the higher voltage of the two batteries. This means that the house battery might be empty and the engine battery full. The regulator sees the full battery voltage and turns off the alternator, leaving the house battery undercharged.

Additionally, the isolator uses diodes that allow electricity to only flow one direction from the charge/input post to the battery. This works well, except that the diode causes another voltage drop and produces heat reducing the alternator output that reaches the battery further.

Given these conditions, what can be done to get the house battery charged properly?

1) Increase the size of the alternator output wire from the standard 18AWG to 4AWG. The larger wire will let the alternator output current travel more easily to the isolator or battery.

2) Use the isolator to only isolate the engine battery. If we move the house wire from the house output post on the isolator to the input post of the isolator, we skip the path through the diode. This could allow the engine starter to drain the house battery. In practice, if you could not start your engine, you would probably use the the house battery to help anyway. The engine battery is still protected from the house load.

3) Use a smart or multi-stage regulator rather than the internal automotive style regulator. These are made by Balmar, Powerline, and many other manufacturers. There are two catches. First, these cost $150 to $400. Secondly, the Hitachi alternator must be modified to allow external regulation. This costs about $75 at an alternator shop.

4) One could fit an aftermarket high-output alternator that would allow external regulation and output 100 to 400 amps. These are made by Balmar, Powerline, Electrodyne and many others and cost $250 to$1000 depending on capacity. Other than the price, the catches here are that you may need a custom bracket to mount the alternator and that your tachometer may not work properly. For years, Yanmar tachometers were driven mechanically off of the engine. Starting in about 2004 some models started shipping with VDO-supplied instrument panels that have tachometers driven by alternator pulses. Accuracy of the tachometer will depend on the size of the alternator pulley ad possibly the number of internal posts contained in the alternator.

In general, I know this list works well. Maitreya's old engine had an Electrodyne 80ES alternator with a Powerline isolator and regulator. This charged the two battery banks well. We have two 12 volt starting/engine batteries (250 amp/hours) and four 6 volt house batteries wired for 12 volts (525 amp/hours).

I am currently having my alternator modified for external regulation by Barry Kessler of in San Diego. Barry builds Altra Regulators and works closely with the folks at Downwind Marine.

Electrodyne builds brushless, industrial strength, high output alternators. I learned about them from a recommendation by Steve Dashew.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Ingrid 38 Information

There is a new compilation of history and information about Ingrids and related designs on Maitreya's web site.

Police Dock Entertainment

We have moved over to the Police Dock. In addition to being the customs check in point and the general working dock for police boats, it is a cheap place to tie up your boat for ten days.

This is the place to meet the hardcore cruisers. You can also find a fair share of sea gypsies with boats that barely float.

This combination of circumstances can make for some entertainment.

In the first couple of hours here we witnessed a drug bust. The Border Patrol had found a 20 foot power boat loaded with 1000 pounds of marijuana floating offshore. We saw them unloading brick-sized packages and posing for a bust photo.

The next event was the embarkation of a 1970's era fiberglass sailboat of about 25 feet. The bottom looked like it had not been cleaned in several years. At the helm, was a lady of about 50 who resembled Keith Richards. The motor did not work so her husband was in a dinghy tied to the bow. He began to row, pulling the boat out of the the marina. About half way out, we heard a large scream, "Oh shit, the cat is not on board! Here kitty, kitty! I'm not leaving without kitty. Oh sweet bejebus!". The "outboard" was turned around and an hour search began, with the lady walking all over the marina yelling for kitty and shaking a bowl of food. It was unclear, if kitty ever reported back on board for duty.

Just twenty yards away is Kona Kai Resort, where the other one percent of the boating community stays. This included M/V Terrible, the Johnny Holmes of powerboats. This picture does not do the full 150 foot length justice.

By the way, there is no fishing allowed on the Police Dock. This means you.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Shelter Island Cruising Resources

View Larger Map

There are an amazing number of businesses serving cruisers in the Shelter Island/Point Loma area of San Diego Harbor. If you want new or used books or charts go to Seabreeze Books.

There are two local chandlers plus a large West Marine. San Diego Marine Exchange is large industrial-oriented marine hardware store. One block away is Downwind Marine which stocks normal stuff plus a large selection of wind generators, solar panels and alternators. A block in another direction brings you to West Marine.

I have counted about five boat yards, six sailmakers, two riggers, and four or five canvas shops all within a mile of the Silver Gate Yacht Club. This is like taking all of the bay area's boating services and putting them in an area about as big as the Berkeley Marina.

Miramar Air Station

We are less than a half mile from the Miramar Air Station. This was formerly the home of the Topgun school. The Marines took it over in 1996 when the El Toro station was closed.

The guys go completely vertical over the harbor and then roll out a couple thousand feet up. You can just see your tax dollars flame as those after burners turn bright red.

Dana Point to San Diego

Tuesday morning, we departed Dana Point and made a short hop to Oceanside. This took us past San Onofre Nuclear Power Station and Camp Pendleton Marine Base.

The warm water discharged by the power plant must of had quite an effect as the ocean is a tropical turquoise much different from the rest of the coast. As a coincidence, this story of an artificial reef to repair damage was on a local NPR station the same day.

We had a brief overnight stay in Oceanside and then headed south for San Diego on Wednesday. We rounded Point Loma at about 3pm to enter San Diego Bay and pulled into Shelter Island. We are staying at the Silver Gate Yacht Club.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Detour by Land

Mom is sick, so Corine and I have headed north by car to San Luis Obispo to visit her.

We left the boat in Dana Point. We would like to thank the great people at the Dana Point Yacht Club for helping us out by allowing us to squeeze into a member's slip.

It is a bit strange driving down the freeway after being car-free for six weeks.

Yanmar turns 50 hours

We have not had much wind, so the Yanmar has made it through the break in period pretty quickly. She had her checkup yesterday and all was well.

If you need any mechanical work done in Dana Point, I would recommend Mechanical Marine Center (949-661-0332). They did a quick and thorough job of the 50 hour service.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Goodbye King George

This is your captain speaking, get out there and vote. Regime change begins at home. Spread democracy the democratic way.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Cheek to Cheek

Here is a shot comparing the Queen Mary to the Carnival Paradise as they lie in Long Beach Harbor. The dome in the middle used to house Howard Hughes' Spruce Goose, which is pretty big too, for a wooden airplane.

Dana Point

We had a nice 30 mile sail to Dana Point. There were moderate winds most of the way and we made 4 to 6 knots close hauled under full sail.

This is where Richard Henry Dana, Jr. spent some time dragging cow hides up and down the hill in 1834-36, as chronicled in Two Years Before the Mast. The book shows an amazing view of 19th century sailing and California history before Americans came to power.

We are staying at the Dana Point Yacht Club.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Aquarium of the Pacific

Today we visited the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, California. I would have to rank this pretty high among the aquariums that I have visited. It reminds one of the Monterey Bay Aquarium. There is a photo album here.

The Cruising Yacht SiteRing

Previous | List | Random | Join | Next

SiteRing by