Thursday, April 30, 2009

Google's Colin Archer News Timeline

Google has a news archive feature that shows a time line of stories and events for a particular subject. The Colin Archer time line starts in 1820. Around 2003, the trail of articles muddies a bit with the explosion of on-line articles. At that point, you begin to see a lot more references for Colin Archers that are not the naval architect.

Another Triumphant Pig

Found this at Free to F.

AIS Class B Filtering is running a piece on AIS Class B filtering from displays such as Coastal Explorer and other tracking systems.

I spoke to a sales guy from Rose Point a year ago. He said the first feature request they got after adding AIS tracking was a filter for Class B.

Personally, I think it is crazy. We shouldn't have to have somebody in a small vessel die before this attitude is legislated away.

What we need is intelligent filtering based on speed of approach or time to collision. If the display is unreadable due to too much data, then there are known techniques in the user interface world to fix it.

If you read the accident report of the 2007 Ouzo Incident where a small yacht was run down by a ferry in the English Channel, you will begin to understand how important Class B transponders are to small boat safety. The small yacht did not use their radio effectively, visibility was poor and radar reflectors were useless.

AIS might have saved lives if a Class B transponder were installed on Ouzo and no Class B filter was in use by the ferry. It is also a common issue in operational software that features such as a filter are dangerous because the operator may forget to disable it after leaving congested waters.

I personally had an encounter with two freighters off of San Diego in poor visibility. I would not like to be in a situation where large ships maneuver to avoid each other and run over me because I am not visible.

The Ouzo case was also covered in depth by Practical Boat Owner.

I should also say that I purchased Coastal Explorer, because I think it is very good software separate from this filter issue.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Far Out Man

The EVK4 blog has reposted a great video of a 1976 woody regatta held at the St. Francis Yacht Club. The regatta included ICs, Bears, Birds, Knarrs and Folkboats. The Sea Room video was originally found on the San Francisco Folkboat Association Site. In addition to vintage sailing footage, there are great explanations of the San Francisco weather patterns and the origins of the participating boats.

What, me worry?

Earth First has a good article about Americans believing that global warming is happening, but that it won't affect them.

This is probably just a side effect of not yet fully understanding that Americans were a major cause of the problem.

More Ensenada Pics

Here are some more photos from Ensenada. These also include pictures of our trip to La Bufadora (the blowhole) and the Baja wine country in the Valleys of Guadalupe and Calafia.

Interesting Bumper Sticker

I saw this sticker on a San Diego Harbor Police car. Being from Oakland, I have been following the sorrows of the Oakland Police Department, even though some of the bad attention was generated by a BART officer. I did not know that there was a support group.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Back in San Diego

We got back to San Diego about 4AM this morning. We really wanted to stay a while longer, but thought the prudent choice was to get closer to English speaking health care before possibly getting sick. We did not hear of cases of the flu in Ensenada, but mathematics says it was only a matter of time.

We are at the Police Dock deciding where to go next.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Flight to Smellville

A couple of guys we met here in Ensenada have put together a Bearospace program. This is Spike and Gary's film using remote cameras mounted on an RC aircraft.

National Geographic Photo(s) of the Day

Great nature photography at the National Geographic Photo of the Day.

Friday, April 24, 2009

View from the South

The cartoon came from this week's issue of the Baja Times. It pretty much summarizes the feelings of expats and native Mexicans.

Oakland is probably more dangerous than Baja. It is hard to top recent events in Oakland where the police shot a handcuffed man or four policemen were killed in one incident. Despite this, Oakland is safer than the freeway for the average citizen.

The cartoon is the work of Ramses II. His blog is mostly in Spanish and the majority of his work is about Mexican politicians. It is still worth a look for non-Spanish speakers.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Baja Naval Experience

Baja Naval is probably the only yacht-oriented yard between San Diego and Cabo San Lucas. The high yard costs in San Diego may limit a cruiser's choices even more.

We just finished a four day stay in the yard. Several cruisers have asked me how it went since we got out. I came away with these observations:
  • The yard seems to specialize in paint and bottom jobs, though they do a lot of other work.
  • They have a lot of experience with fiberglass and a lot less experience other hull materials (Steel, Aluminum, Wood and Ferro-Cement).
  • The crew is very friendly and helpful, though many of the workers speak little English.
  • One usually tells the yard/job manager what is wanted and then it goes down though two or more layers to reach the worker.
  • The workers are very hard working and somewhat zealous about doing their jobs.
All of this adds up to needing to manage the process and watch the details closely. It may mean that one should avoid having work done on non-fiberglass hull types. Speaking good Spanish, so that you can deal directly with the worker doing the job may help. You may need to explain why doing something a particular way or doing less is important to the success on non-fiberglass hulls.

I can give one specific example. We have a barn-door, stern-hung rudder on our Ingrid. The rudder is held on by very large hinges. The hinges are usually covered with an eighth to a quarter of an inch of epoxy. It is not pretty, but it keeps water off that important steel.

It is apparently normal for the yard to take a grinder to the underwater metal work, clean it up and then use an epoxy primer under the bottom paint. They took the epoxy off the flat areas of the hinges, but fortunately skipped the large through-bolt heads. They then left the raw metal exposed two days before applying the epoxy primer. The steel began to turn gold, the beginning of rust. I don't believe they etched the steel before the primer went on. They did not remove all of the epoxy off the bolts, so they could not argue right or wrong, that the removal was for adherence of the paint. This was gratuitous cleaning with no actual purpose. I am now left with some partial layers of different products covering the metal. When I brought it up, they did not really understand of my reasoning. Similar incidents been shared with me by other owners who are deeply involved the the building and/or restoration of their non-fiberglass boats.

On another front, they did an excellent job on a small fiberglass fix on the rudder. The price was amazingly low.

I must also say this is the first yard that I have ever dealt with that hit their estimate for both time and money, modulo the small extra work we discovered after the haul out.

Overall this was a positive experience. Just don't walk away if you care about the details.

Like many California yards, what is missing is a thinking chair. The best boat wrights tend to to ponder the job for a while before acting. In other words, measure twice and cut once.

Baja Naval was recently written up in Cruising World.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Dueling Races

In a earlier post, I described how the entry list for the Newport-to-Ensenada Race was smaller than usual. This can be attributed to the recession and some very bad press about drug violence.

A third factor has been reported by the Los Angeles Times. The Border Run Race has been organized and billed as a safe alternative to entering Mexico. It is essentially the same race, but it is 35 miles shorter and ends in San Diego. It also has a dogleg that is upwind in the prevailing winds.

As it turns out, the new race may have been born more out of a personal dispute than out of concern for the safety of Mexican waters.

Randy Reynolds created the Border Run because his radical catamaran was denied entry in the Ensenada Race by the Newport Ocean Sailing Association. The Ensenada organizers claimed that Reynolds' catamaran is too prone to capsize for safe offshore racing. Reynolds claims that he has a right to be extreme and that N-to-E is a terrible race because of poor winds in recent years. The weather in Southern California is usually matched to the weather in Baja. This suggests that the Border Run should have taken a different course or a different date.

As of April 22, Newport-to-Ensenada has 272 entries, Border Run has 109. The total approaches the 400 boats of the glory days of the Newport-to-Ensenada Race.

The main losers are the struggling Mexican economy and the gentlemanly tradition of yachting.

Book: Cruising the Northwest Coast

Some friends here in Ensenada, told us about a good book for those contemplating a coastwise cruise from San Francisco to the Puget Sound.

Cruising the Northwest Coast was written by George Benson. He describes lesser known anchorages along the coasts of California, Oregon and Washington. Many of the stopping points are only a days sail apart. It is a good supplement for the Coast Pilot on the better known anchorages. The book provides one or more photographs of the approaches, anchoring tips, weather warnings and a listing of services for each anchorage.

The book seems to be self-published and does not have an ISBN number. It is not available on It can be ordered from in association with Compatible Manufacturing for $23.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Good Luck Ship

A friend of ours pointed out the site of the 1871 schooner, Stephen Taber. The ship is the oldest US documented vessel in continuous service. It is engineless, but has a fairly large tender to help them out of tight spots on windless days.

The ship hails from Rockland, Maine.

They offer cruises and famous New England cuisine. The cook has published a book called A Taste of Taber.

As Bridget Jones might say, "Sounds like a minibreak".

Monday, April 20, 2009

Stuff You Are Required to Know in Paradise

It is 99F, the day's painting is done and you are ready to cool down...

Ahhh, Tequila!

Robin Knox-Johnston Day - April 22

A group of sailing bloggers led by Adam Turinas at Messing About in Sailboats have declared April 22 as Sir Robin Knox-Johnston Day. Sir Robin was the first man to ever sail solo, nonstop around the world. He won the famous Sunday Times Golden Globe race 40 years ago on April 22, 1969.

Sir Robin's vessel was Suhaili, a William Atkin's "Eric". The Eric is the little brother of our Ingrid and the prototype for the Kendall and Westsail 32s. Atkin drew up the Eric in 1923 as a derivation of Colin Archer's Norwegian Life Boats.

I would like to add my humble congratulations to Sir Robin Knox-Johnston.

Offshore sailing can be a tough thing today even though we have so many inventions that make it very easy and safe compared to 1969.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Painting Weather

It is over 80F now here in Ensenada. We have hauled out for a bottom job and varnishing of the nether regions. We are at Baja Naval on the central Ensenada waterfront. It is strange being on land in the boat 15 feet above ground.

There is a very large Carnival Cruise ship, the Elation, in port a couple hundred yards away. Additional there is a Rosarito-Ensenada bicycle race and party here today. This all adds up to Gringo hunting season for the hawkers of trinkets. As you walk down the street, guys try to lure you into there restaurants. It is much nicer to be a few blocks out of Gringo Gulch where people act normal and the food is generally better.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Latitude 38 and 48 North Go Digital

As you go south, Latitude 38 gets harder to find. has reported that you can now download an entire issue as a PDF. This follows last week's release of an HTML version of the issue's classified ads.

48 North has not been left behind. They have online versions as well.

Good for the sailor, good for the planet.

Suunto köper Tacktick

In case you don't read Swedish, Suunto has acquired Tacktick. I picked this up at the great Swedish racing site The blur post has a press release describing the merger of the Finnish and UK companies.

A Whiter Shade of Pale

David Heath (alegria_1976) of the Ingrid 38 Group has posted a very interesting discussion of how the choice of paint color can affect the temperature of a boat:

Janet & I have spent many years in tropical areas in our boat. In 1993 a very nice engineer at AwlGrip (International Paints) gave us some amazing information about which paint is cooler in the hot sun and how much cooler. In the chart below, notice that G8044 absorbs about 3 times as much heat as G8001. This translates that if G8001 in the sun is 5 degrees hotter than the temperature in the shade. G8044 will be about 15 degrees hotter than the temperature in the shade. Dark colors can actually melt some plastics.
When we had painted part of the deck. We could easily walk bare foot on the G8001, but our feet (toughened by years of going barefoot, often on hot sand and hot concrete, could NOT step over onto the G8044. We'd hop over it like a frog in a skillet.
We noticed that our boat was much cooler in the summer sun after we painted it with AwlGrip G8001 Pure White. Glare is not noticeably different. There is glare, but no worse than the hotter "whites".
This table below is from 1993. Perhaps some of the colors are no longer listed by AwlGrip. With some paint companies, they change the color of a paint, but do not change the name or number. Woolsey Paints did this to us in about 1985. This caused us a LOT of trouble and expense and I hope that AwlGrip & International Paints is much smarter than Woolsey.
Here is what I got by email from Awlgrip about availability:
G8001 Pure White is still available, but is no longer considered a `standard' color. It can be purchased through any of our distributors that are set-up with the Awlmix system, or can be ordered from our Union, NJ warehouse by those distributors that have chosen not to participate in Awlmix. Your assumption is correct in that it is straight white blending paint Q8154 that is used as the base for mixing colors.
We have been using AwlGrip since the early 1980s and we like it. But, there are many good paints. All I am trying to say is that some paint colors make a BIG difference in how comfortable you are when it gets really hot out.
Also, In the 1980s we felt that AwlGrip primers were NOT doing the job for us and stopped using them. We used WEST epoxy, but long ago switched to System 3. AwlGrip works great over either WEST or System 3 and probably over any excellent epoxy.
HOWEVER, if you have not already noticed. Paints and resins and sealants are tricky stuff. I STRONGLY encourage you to use ONLY a single system, know to be compatible and follow the directions. 47 kinds of Hell can descend upon those who do not.
Putting incredibly expensive bottom paint over the wrong equally expensive primer or old paint can fall off in a week or all turn to cottage cheese or some other nightmare.
Be suspicious of what I tell you and any other pundit online or in the haul out yard. But, we believe that in the above, even the manufacturer did not know.
Back in the 1970s, our first 2 part Linear Polyurethane Paint was only sold industrially. But, we bought some. The 2 part primer instructions said to mix the clear hardener with the yellow base. Our base was gray. We phoned them and they went out into the warehouse and opened several cans. All were gray. "Its OK. Go ahead."
But it did not get hard. We called again and were transferred to the head chemist. He was astounded! "WHAT! The base is yellow, not gray. I will call you back."
A few minutes later he called back, with the bad news that ALL of their cans of primer had the wrong label.
They gave us new primer, but we got to drive 50 miles to get it and spend hours cleaning the crud off of the dozens of parts that we'd painted. It was a sad day in Muddville.

He also included a table of the reflective properties of AwlGrip colors. Any color is cool as long as it is Pure White.

Number Color % Reflects % Absorbs
G8001 Pure White 95.47 4.53
G8044 Snow White 86.43 13.57
G8029 Blue Tone White 86.14 13.86
H8010 Oyster White 84.14 15.86
G8003 Matterhorn White low 80s abt 17
G8010 Off White 81.98 18.02
G8004 Vestal White 81.03 18.97
G8022 Insignia White 80.21 19.79
G8009 Off White Revisited 79.47 20.53
H8087 Fleet White 79.38 20.62
H5004 Ice Blue 78.30 21.70
H8002 Cream 78.06 21.94
H8015 Egg Shell White 77.22 22.78
G9059 Tender Yellow 74.67 25.33
H8086 Chevy White 74.45 25.55
G8036 Etherial Blue 71.11 28.89
H5002 Beyonda Blue 71.04 28.96
G6004 Moon Dust 62.20 37.80
G9001 San Mateo Wheat 61.84 38.16
G8035 Whisper Gray 59.65 40.35
G1040 Graystone 58.26 41.74
G1008 Pearl Gray 57.40 42.60
G1001 Light Gray 47.60 52.40
G1009 Kingston Gray 44.69 55.31
G6002 Desert Sand 42.58 57.42
G6003 Prairie Beige 41.65 58.35
G6006 Castle Tan 41.57 58.43
G1007 Medium Gray 33.80 66.20
G5036 Bahama Blue 27.89 72.11
G1002 Dark Gray 19.44 80.56
G579 Electric Blue 14.75 85.25

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Real Time Hurricane and SatelliteTracking is a mashup site that combines Google and Yahoo maps with entities in the sky. They track many satellites including Navstar/GPS, Iridium, and the ISS. So if your out on the ocean and see something bright go over, this site can probably help you figure out what it was.

We have a little time left before hurricane season in the Americas, but they also have a graphical real time hurricane tracker.

Thanks to Matt for suggesting this site.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Hold On Tight, Gale Tonight

It is friggin freezing Mr. Bigglesworth!

The bad wind from the Bay Area has made it all the way to sunny Baja. We are expecting sustained 25 knot winds with gusts to 47 tonight and tomorrow in Ensenada. It is 55 F plus wind chill.

BTW, the cat's real name is Ted NudeGent.

Norwegian Colin Archers for Sale

Colin Archer aficionados can do some virtual window shopping in Norway at the Finn båt site. After looking at a few listings, you get the hang of the site which is displayed in Norwegian.

There are a large number of Archers available from 20 to 60 feet ranging in age from 3 to 90 years old. Most boats are wooden, but there is the occasional steel or fiberglass hull. Many of the boats have pilot houses as well. Most are gaff-rigged.

Prices are in Krone (NOK), which in April 2009, are running 6.6 to the US Dollar and 8.8 to the Euro. Here is the Yahoo! Currency Converter.

If you like Euro, racer-cruisers this may be your site as well.

Ensenada Pictures as a Video

This is a set of snapshots from wandering around town. Many shots came from the Riviera del Pacifico. This was formerly a hotel from the 1930s, the Playa Ensenada Hotel and Casino managed by Jack Dempsey. It now serves as a civic and cultural center. The Andalusia Bar still exists where the Margarita was created in 1948 (although this seems to be disputed by others).

Other shots come from the fish market, tile work, and some quite amazing graffiti from the walls facing the river.

The pictures are a bit better as stills and can be found here.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Bowsprit Details

A member of the Ingrid 38 Group has been working hard on finishing an Ingrid for the last couple of years. He posted interest in bowsprit designs for the Ingrid. This is a cleaned up version of the reply I posted to the group.

Maitreya's sprit is made of a 5 x 6 inch piece of clear,
straight grained fir. It is about 120 inches long. It overlaps the
deck about 55 inches and extends before the deck about 65 inches.
Before the deck it, gradually tapers to about a 3 or 4 inch diameter.
The aft end is through bolted to the bits which penetrates the deck
and are bolted to the hull/stem.

I have seen much longer sprits on a couple of Ingrids/Colin Archers.
Bristol Pilot Cutters go even further. These allow much larger
yankees. The staysail can also be enlarged if the stay is moved
outboard. Our modest yankee adds about a knot of speed in low 5 knot
winds. Caution may be warranted on a larger fore triangle as it may
unbalance the rig and make self steering difficult to adjust.

The paint and brightwork in the photo gallery are quite beat at the moment after a couple thousand miles offshore.

A few notes:
  • The black painted hardware is galvanized steel and probably all came from the Davey and Co. catalog in England. They still make all this stuff. I ordered a replacement wildcat for the windless last year.
  • Bronze fittings were cast by the builder. The only pattern that I have is the tiller to rudder fitting. Larry Pardey has donated his patterns to the Spaulding Wooden Boat Center in Sausalito. They have good photos of the patterns which are similar to many of my fittings and might help with dimensions.
  • The bobstay is served and painted. There is a sacrificial tang that connects he bobstay to the stem. Brion Toss and others have said this is an important detail. First, the part that is wet most of the time is a simple, strong piece. Second, the most common area of damage is there, at the waterline. Third, a replacement can be made by most anybody anywhere in stainless or mild steel with simple tools. It is possible that wire, splicing and/or swaging might not be available in many anchorages. Members of Brion's Spar Talk Forum were quite negative on using chain for the stays.
  • Above water standing rigging is all 7/16 1x19 stainless wire. The shackles are Suncor and/or Wichard stainless.
  • The pulpit is 1 1/8 inch stainless custom made. A couple of the welds are cracking after 33 years of plunging.
  • The pendants are over sized, high modulus, 12 strand dyneema which is easy to splice and tougher than hell.
  • You might want to move the anchor roller inboard if you can find a way. A 75 pound anchor that far out is a lot of weight. I use a bridle with a chain grabber when anchored.

Sea Fever's Easter Post

Bathtub IV from Keith Loutit on Vimeo.

The Sea Fever Blog always has unique, high quality postings. This is just one example that I'm reposting to suggest you checkout Sea Fever.

Happy Easter

Friday, April 10, 2009

20,000 Watts Over the Sea

 has begun construction of a 13 million dollar, solar powered catamaran designed to circle the globe. Funding has been provided by the Swiss clean energy investment firm, Rivendell Holding AG.

The circumnavigation is expected to take 120 days at 10 knots. The deck will be paneled with 470 square meters of PV cells.

Among the participants are Jules Verne's great-grandson Jean Verne. has a story and more photos here.

Thanks to Matt for suggesting this thread.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Fuel Cell Potential

Fuel cells may be a promising source of energy for cruisers. Engadget has an article about Samsung's DMFC (Direct Methanol Fuel Cell) that is set for release to the military next year. A 3.5 kilo (7.7 pound) brick will supply 1800 watts. This is enough to run a military laptop and other gear for three days without recharge.

1800 watts is also about the three day output of my modest solar panel installation. It is easy to imagine a slightly larger unit supplying power for a week or two during an offshore passage. There is also the potential to recharge the methanol from a small day tank.

You can find background and technical information on DMFCs here and here.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

FUR Nightmare

Check this out. You are sailing east along latitude 40, a thousand miles west of San Francisco. You are returning from Hawaii after an exhilarating ocean race. You have been keeping a good watch, there is nothing on AIS or Radar. Suddenly there is a loud bang accompanied by a huge lurch. You look below and there is water over the floor boards.

You have just hit a reef. What you ask? This is not the Tuamotus. There are no reefs out here. Sure there are. You just found a floating uncharted reef (FUR). They are deployed by ships like depth charges in some old WWII movie. Only they don't sink like depth charges. They float at or below the surface and are filled with Salad Shooters, Gameboys and Soy Sauce. These are cargo containers lost in heavy weather by container ships.

One such "deployment" occurred this week when the M/V YM Taichung lost 14 containers in heavy weather 1000 miles west of San Francisco. Where are these FURs now? Who knows. Some may have sunk, others just lurk. Sure the odds of hitting one of these are very low. The chance of detecting and avoiding one is even lower. It is just a little scary.

The Coast Guard News has a story about the YM Taichung here.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Another cruising gadget

OK, I do get some funny looks at times in a marina bathroom when my Sonicare electronic toothbrush starts humming but I have to tell you this gadget is absolutely the best! Whenever we have access to shore power the battery is fully charged and it lasts for two weeks so I won't have to compete with the whales for who-has-the-worst-breath-out-on-the-Pacific:-)

Well....if this free marketing for Sonicare does not qualify for a whole year of free brushes I don't know what does :-)

Our own little offshore Farmers Market

Since we have been using our regular nearly twin sized bed propped up with extra pillows and a sturdy lee cloth as our at-sea-berth on this trip, the area on the port bunk became available for perishable food storage. Besides a couple of other hanging nets, I decided to pick up a couple of cute little plastic containers that turned out to be perfect for the tomatoes, eggplant, apples and cucumbers. I'm still amazed how well we can preserve fresh food for a long time without refrigerating too many items. In fact, I'll probably cut up the watermelon for lunch today....

The same area is used for easy-access-storage for our storm sails, para-anchor and emergency grab supplies if we ever may need to abandon ship.

Organic Ensenada

Our new friends from Easy Breeze, Andre and Victor, have been showing us around the Ensenada shopping scene. They took us to Walmart, an electronics store, a great Oaxacan restaurant, the reverse osmosis water depot and a number of other useful spots.

They also showed us some special health-oriented stops. These included a health clinic, a dentist and some upscale grocery stores. The took us to Maria Luisa, a small US style market with very nice produce, meat and fresh tortillas.

La Milpa was our next stop. This is a health food store that is comparable to those found in the Bay Area. They carry all kinds of supplements and organic foods.

Hogaza is a very nice artisan bakery that sells bread at Maria Louisa, L.A. Cetto Cava, and other spots around town. We visited their bakery at the Escina de Bodegas, an old winery building. In addition to bread, they were selling French style fruit tarts, chocolate and some other gourmet items.

Also located in the old winery are a nice Pescadería DGaro fish and produce stores. Garo had some very nice homemade yogurt along with many spices and sauces. The Escina de Bodegas is on Miramar between 6th and 7th.

Bear Market Luxury

The economy and drug wars have lowered the price of luxury at Marina Coral in Ensenada. At $10.40 a foot for monthly berthing, the cost is about the same as Berkeley and half of Shelter Island in San Diego.

The weather is warmer than Berkeley and the fees include use of the hotel's three pools, three jacuzzis, saunas, steam rooms, weight room, and other niceties.

It is generally clean and quiet here. Last Saturday evening, a local wedding was held on the terrace above the marina and Mexican folk and ballad music floated across the anchorage.

Many Saturdays and Sundays, some local ladies bring homemade tacos, empanadas, and tamales to the head of the docks. They are really wonderful and at $.80 a piece quite a bargain.

The harbormaster, Feto, and his staff have been very welcoming and helpful.

Diesel is about $2/gallon.

Sea Magazine has a number of small articles about Coral and the surrounding areas.

Monday, April 6, 2009


I tried something new today. Cuitlacoche was in a can near the jalapenos at the local store in Ensenada. The can contained contained Cuitlacoche, jalapenos and green onions. It came out of the can very dark like squid ink. It had a mild, nice flavor and was not spicy at all.

After finishing the can, I googled it. It turns out that it is Ustilago maydis or corn smut, a rather ugly fungus that grows on ears of corn. I had not heard of the smut since Ag school.

The James Beard Foundation calls Cuitlacoche Mexican Truffle and has held special dinners with the fungus as the centerpiece. It is also known as Huitlacoche and is used as a filling in tamales and tacos.

Update: Garbanero Hot Sauce

I made Silver Bill's recipe today substituting Herdez Salsa de Chile de Arbol for the Goya Hot Sauce. It has a nice kick, but is not nearly as hot as many habanero dishes. Part of the burn comes from the sheer amount of raw garlic. I think it would go much better on roasted meat and tacos than for dipping chips.

An interesting variation would be to roast the garlic and chilis before mixing. This would add some carmelization and complexity and take away some of the raw garlic twang.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Silver Bill's Garbanero Tongue-Twister Hot Sauce

Continuing our foody Sunday... NPR concluded their garlic recipe contest today. The winner was a hot sauce submitted by William Maxwell of Vandalia, Missouri (aka Silver Bill). His sauce combines the garlic with Habanero (Scotch Bonnet in the Caribbean) chili peppers. Normally, habaneros are bordering on too hot even for my cast iron mouth and stomach. Apparently, there is a synergistic effect that calms these bad boys in this mix. The audio story can be heard here.


  • 1 quart peeled garlic cloves
  • 6 to 12 bright red habanero peppers
  • 2 6-ounce bottles Goya Louisiana Hot Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon seasoned salt
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper


Snip the cluster end off each garlic clove. Remove seeds from the habanero peppers. Use at least 6 habaneros or more, depending upon their size and the maker's taste and/or threshold of pain.

Combine all ingredients and liquefy in a blender. For a thinner sauce, add more Goya Hot Sauce.

I have not tried this recipie yet, but I'm going to get some habaneros the next time I go to town.

Congratulations to Silver Bill.

There are other garlic recipes at NPR.

Fresca Salsa Verde for Fish Tacos

We met some guys from Reel Adventure, a sport fisher that goes out every weekend. Yesterday, they caught a couple Bonito and some Lingcod. We decided to make some fish tacos out of this extremely fresh Lingcod.

I wanted some spice for my tacos, so I whipped up a quick green salsa.
  • One jalapeno pepper.
  • One bell pepper.
  • 3 or 4 good sized green onions.
  • Black pepper.
  • Splash of fish sauce - not too much.
  • Juice of one large lime.
  • A couple splashes of Tabasco, regular or chipotle.
Chop the vegetables finely, mix all ingredients well and let it marinate for at least half an hour. The fish sauce gives it a slight Thai flavor. You can substitute salt for the fish sauce if you don't have it.

This goes great with the white fish and Mexican beer.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Wilkins Ice Shelf Ready to Break Free

The European Space Agency (ESA) has been monitoring the Wilkins Ice Shelf in Antarctica. They have pictures taken by their Envisat satellite showing that an ice bridge is about to break. This may cause the ice shelf, which is about the size of Jamaica, to float away free.

The ice sheet has been formed by thousands of years of excess snowfall. It began to shrink in the 1990s.

The Associated Press has a report here.

Mike Perham Reaches Hobart

You might remember a previous post about Mike Perham, a young British sailor attempting to become the world's youngest solo circumnavigator. We we last caught up with Mike, he was in South Africa. He has since moved on to Hobart, Australia. He is dealing with more repairs to his battery charger, rudder and ballast pump.

You can check out Mike's blog here. is running an Associated Press story.

Friday, April 3, 2009's Flickr Favorites has gathered together a great maritime photo stream from across the Flickr-sphere. You can find it here.

This shot is an example. It is called At Play by oneEighteen.

March Trip Recap IV: The Bash North

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Monday morning at sunrise, we got started north. This is the north half of the Baja Bash. It is called the bash, because you travelling to the northwest directly into the prevailing winds, current and swell. There are also no fuel stops or protected anchorages. In our case, the wind was very light and from the northwest. We motored out of Turtle Bay and then threaded the Dewey Channel between Punta Eugenia and Isla Natividad. Once out of the lee of Isla Natividad and into the Keller Channel, the wind picked up to 14 knots. We spent the afternoon beating north in 14 to 18 knot winds. These winds were in the lee of Isla Cedros about three miles off the coast.

A bit after 4pm, we began to move north out of the lee of the island and winds seemed to wrap around the headlands. The winds rapidly rose to 22-24 knots. We started to reef down and this was first time we tried the second reef on the main. Steep swells were coming around the point at 8 to 12 feet.

As the sun was sinking we started to get gusts at 28 knots or so. Some waves would come over the bow and we would get green water on both the lee and windward decks. We had been tacking to make progress towards the Isla Cedros North Anchorage and the helmsman had to duck breakers that would hit the dodger or go over and soak the tiller. The winds were forecast to drop, but conditions seemed to be getting worse. We did not want to move further north into unprotected waters with the wind rising. It became a race to tack into the anchorage before dark.

The Cedros Island North Anchorage is affectionately called the Yacht Club in one guide we have. The first arrival becomes the commodore, which was Corine in our case. Rest assured that there are no facilities here. The club consists of a 40 0r 50 yard sandy crescent against cliffs that are several hundred feet high. There is a beach that is probably 10 yards wide against the cliffs. The sandy bottom only extends out 50 or 60 feet from the beach. The bottom then drops off rapidly to a couple hundred feet.

Once inshore, the winds dropped off dramatically except in front of some deep canyons that were cut in the cliffs. In front of these arroyos, the wind would funnel and you could get 20+ knot bursts. We had lost the race with sundown and when we arrived it was completely dark. This necessitated a new skill be learned - anchoring by braille. There are no lights here and no other boats for a landmark. We tried to position the boat over a set of GPS coordinates given by the guide. In very close proximity, a distance and direction to a waypoint is not that useful. We started to watch the actual fractions of seconds on the GPS position. You have to do this in two dimensions at once, taking into account a 2 to 3 second delay for the GPS transmission. Given the narrow sandy areas as an anchor drop target, accuracy was fairly crucial. At one point, we were right above the correct coordinates, but I found the anchor had been wedged into the roller chocks on the bow by the heavy seas. It took me a lot of beating and prying to free the anchor and we had to go around a couple more times. We finally dropped the anchor in about 50 feet of water. It was difficult to see the marks on the chain as it went out. I was surprised to see my big red mark at the end as well as the yellow nylon line that secured the bitter end to the post in the chain well. We had 180 feet of chain out. We started a night of slow turns on the anchor. We kept an anchor watch all night and recorded our position and depth every half hour. The depth varied from about 39 to about 70 feet. All of this spinning was done within 60 to 100 feet from the beach.

The beach is a rookery for sea lions and you can hear strange singing all night. Another interesting feature of the place was an enhanced bio-luminescence in the water. When the anchor chain moved rapidly or a sea lion swam by, there would be a turquoise glow about 10 feet below the surface.

In the morning the wind had dropped and we got up at sunrise to to motor sail north. There were still 8 to 10 foot swells north of the island but with lower winds they seemed a lot less menacing than the night before.

In the mid morning, we had a start. The engine coughed and died. I switched diesel tanks and the engine restarted. This was 9 or 10 hours earlier than we expected we would run out. A calculation showed that we were using 1.3 gallons per hour rather than our usual 1.0 gallon. We attributed that to strong currents, headwinds and swell. With q couple hundred miles left to go and the winds dropping, we began to worry quite a bit about fuel. I dropped the rpm from our cruising speed of 2500 down to 2200, hoping that this would save fuel. We don't have fuel gauges and a dipstick was not too useful in the rolling sea. The surface of the water did smooth out as the wind dropped a bit, so we were able to make 3.8 to 4.8 knots. It began to be a game of motoring in a straight line versus trying to beat into the wind and use the sails to help make progress. We must have done various speed-distance calculations in our heads a few hundred times.

In a fairly calm sea, we decided to refill the empty tank from our 16.5 gallons of jerry cans. When I tried to open the tank, I could not turn the cap. I resorted to my largest pair of channel lock pliers to get the cap off. There was a loud "phifft" of air rushing into the tank when I freed the cap. Looking in, I saw a fair amount of fuel. Hmmm, it seems the tank vent was clogged causing a vacuum lock so that no more fuel could be drawn down to the fuel pump. All of a sudden, we had more diesel than we thought. We were just not sure how much more.

We motor sailed in 5 to 8 knot winds for the next day and a half. We would occasionally tack away from the next cape on the coast that we needed to clear. Uneventful miles passed,with a nagging concern about fuel in the background. We kept the motor at 2200 rpm. At one point we sailed for 6 or 8 hours until the wind died back to below 5 knots.

We cleared the narrow channel into Bahia Todos Santos around 9:00 in the morning and made to Marina Coral a bit after 11:00.

When we filled the tanks, I realized that the engine was only using .76 gallons per hour at 2200 rpm. We had made it with plenty of fuel.

So ended our loop that was somewhere between 1000 and 1100 miles over thirteen days with three nights anchored. It was time to sleep for about a day and half.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

March Trip Recap III: East Bound Leg

When we made our turn for Mexico, we had our choice of destinations. We could beat back at 10 degrees to Ensenada for about 370 miles, we could head east to Turtle Bay about 350 miles on a reach or we could fall off much further south to Cabo San Lucas. We decided to take the middle road to Turtle Bay (Bahia San Bartolome).

This was a fairly uneventful trip. We stumbled into a high pressure system with glassy seas and less than 2 knots of wind. This caused about of day of motoring.

By the time we were approaching Turtle Bay, we were on the other side of the high and the wind picked back up to 15 to 18 knots. We anchored in Turtle Bay on Saturday the 21st at about 11 am. There were about a dozen sailboats anchored, so we picked a spot at the far fringe away from shore. Turtle Bay is not a point of entry, so we could not check in or go ashore.

We were greeted by Ernesto who was piloting a panga marked as Enrique's Fuel and Taxi. Ernesto agreed to come and refill our jerry cans with diesel the next morning. We promptly went below and fell asleep.

That night, the wind came up to 25 knots or higher as it blew across the peninsula. We were awoken about 12:30am by a loud bang. Corine looked out and saw a 20 foot panga drifting by the beam after it had bounced off our anchor chain.

By the next afternoon we had taken on about 20 gallons of diesel and had re-secured all of the gear loosened by the ocean passage. The high had caught up with us dropping the wind below 5 knots. With little wind, the swell would be down. It looked like the perfect time to start motoring north on our half Baja Bash.

One must also point out that Turtle Bay is the only all weather anchorage for a few hundred miles either north or south. It is also the last place you can really count on diesel before Ensenada.

to be continued....

Shrinking Newport Ensenada Race?

The Newport Ensenada Race is the largest international sailboat race in the world. Some years, up to 400 boats have participated in the 125 mile test.

I do not have historical data on the rate of registration of entries for past years. The race website shows 126 entries as of March 27. This seems very low for only four weeks prior to the start.

The low number is probably a combination of the economic conditions, the drug violence in Baja California and the terrible press about the violence. The local Mexican economy seems to be suffering. In my opinion, the bad publicity about the violence is greatly overblown. We hope that more boats decide to participate in the 60+ year old classic.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Ensenada Agua

There was an interesting discussion about the tap water here in Ensenada on the morning radio net (VHF 21a 8:00am). Most cruisers have 5 gallon Sparklettes bottles of water on board that they get filled locally. When I asked about this, one yachtista mentioned getting typhoid and not trusting the water. Another old hand claimed that he drinks the water and that typhoid, which is endemic here (the colored areas on the map show endemic areas, red is shows stronger tendencies), is mostly likely transmitted through human contact. Shaking hands is a common practice among the friendly locals.

I googled and found that typhoid infections may be a fairly common occurrence among cruisers passing through the area. It is very possible that locals have some natural immunity that tourists do not.

We got vaccinated against typhus before we left California, but the uncertainty still causes you to pause. I suppose as our tanks empty, we will purchase water. We may think twice about grabbing that taco without washing hands. All in all, this is a treatable and preventable disorder and should not be a major concern.

March Trip Recap II: Outbound Leg

Once past the Coronado Islands, we turned the boat a little more southwest. This allowed us to sail on a broad reach in 8 to 18 knots for 350 miles. We varied between 4.8 and 7.1 knots of boat speed. Except for a cross swell, the was premium comfort sailing.

Sailing conditions aside, I began to get very tired. We had decided to take five hour watches at night, which seemed to be an improvement over three hours. I started having trouble sleeping and was only getting one to one to three hours sleep in an off watch. This gradually raised the stress level and I became rather ragged.

Around this time, the swell came up. These waves were not that bad, maybe 15 to 20 feet, but quite steep. The odd swell would catch the boat and roll it ten to fifteen degrees. This further contributed to the lack of sleep.

We decided that we were not really up for two more weeks of this, followed by heading north only a month later. We decided to turn back for Mexico as we were southwest of the Isle de Guadalupe.

Three or four times on this leg we were visited by very large pods of dolphins. Each time there were probably 1-200 members of all ages and sizes.

We also had one or two albatrosses with us. This is always nice and a sign of good luck.

to be continued....

First Oceanographers were Vikings

New Scientist has a story about the Vikings using a combination of religion and science for strategic decisions.

The science included watching where objects such as coffins washed ashore. It was believed that the point an object made landfall was a naturally good location for a boat's landfall and a settlement. Reykjavik, Iceland was one successful settlement located by this technique.

This is an interesting read.

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