Monday 11 March 2013

Ruminations on a refit (back in La Cruz)

It is Sunday afternoon again La Cruz.  We have surfaced from our 6+week refit, made our way for a week of surfing to Punta de Mita (and back), and are starting to look ahead to the next few months.

As I mentioned in our last post we were offered the use of a friend’s boat for four weeks in early January, and we set to work on Fluenta with a long list of jobs.  How grateful we were to our friends on SV Aphrodite for the calm place to sleep while we worked on our workshop / boat.  Formal school kind of took a backseat to learning on the go for Victoria & Johnathan, and the two of us (especially Max) spent our days working on the boat... here is a quick (ok  not so quick ...)  list of the jobs that we tackled –
  • Removing and fibreglassing the port bulkhead in the kids’ room (and now we're looking at doing the starboard one - stay tuned)
  • Re-caulking (re-seaming) a section of our teak deck (about 1/4 done and 3/4 to go)
  • Replaced over 100 teak bungs in our deck (that seems to be all for the moment)
  • Re-sealing (re-gasketing?) several of our hatches/portholes (more to follow, including one that apparently needs to be removed and re-seated because it leaks around the frame not around the glass) 
  • Overhauling one of our winches (vinegar to the rescue when the old grease just wouldn't budge and the alternative was a great big press to push the components apart!)
  • Buying leather to cover our shrouds (haven’t made them yet)
  • Replacing all the hoses leading into the holding tank for our head, cleaning the holding tank and the v-berth compartment, and replacing the level sensor (so we will know when the tank is full)
  • Changing our dingy gear oil and giving it a new propeller (symptom - we turned up the throttle and the dingy just wouldn't go ... we put it off for several days, being not quite sure what the job would entail, and then when we did it, the replacement was surprisingly easy)
  • Cleaning our hull of barnacles - twice (they grow so fast in the marina that we pretty much have to plan to clean the bottom once a month, which generally involves diving on the hull and scraping (both the hull and one's hands/head) with a plastic putty knife so the barnacles go and the paint stays); also replacing the propeller zincs (that corrode so that our propeller won't)
  • Tuning (and retuning and retuning) our rigging (this has been the source of much angst over the last six months - it seems that something is not quite right, either in the bulkheads or in the rig, so we have been working with a number of riggers/surveyors to get to the root of the issue.  Not sure we are there yet, but we are hopeful that we are making progress).  We also removed the bolt that had been passing through our mast below the deck collar - when something shifted over the last few months, we started getting a terrible creaking noise when the boat would pitch, and it seems that the bolt (rather than the foot of the mast) was taking all the strain.  Now we have "install new mast retaining device" on our list of things to do!
  • Replacing the "flapper" in our aft head (a.k.a. toilet - this job presented itself with a direct hit of vertical gushing water when it got tired and the original flapper let go.  Lesson learned - we had a significant amount of calcium built up within the mechanism, and it just let go.  We had a spare on board, and I had already taken the head apart several times in August, so at least this job was a "here we go again" deal rather than a first-time lesson).  Ditto for the joker valve we had to replace in the forward head.  Note to self - stock up on head parts, because these ones seem to be working on a six-month cycle!
  • Installing a new dodger (ok, even better - watching as someone else installed our new dodger for us!)
  • Replacing all the hose clamps in the engine compartment and elsewhere
  • Replacing our exhaust elbow hose (we were just about to leave the Marina, Max checked the location of some of those hose-clamps he had just replaced, and we saw water where there wasn't meant to be any ... )
  • Removing and cleaning the grey water tank; Replacing the grey water float switch (yuck!); making the whole thing actually work by removing the Lego from the grey water strainer (double yuck!)
  • Installing a new alternator fuse holder (after the first one melted when our alternator self-destructed leaving Cabo)
  • Installing a new diode isolator (this time last year, I didn't even know what one was.  I'm not sure I do even now ... good thing that Max does!)
  • Re-running the furling line for our furling mainsail (now we have enough wraps on the drum that the whole sail can be lowered in one go)
  • Installing a new bilge pump and bilge pump float switch; cleaning the bilge.
  • Replacing the LockTite for the set screws holding the forestay extrusion together (after discovering the need for this job on our one day-sail: "Honey, is there meant to be a gap at the front of the genoa like that??")
  • Installing an LED light in the aft head (this was just about the only non-LED light in the boat, and of course, the only one that I could never remember to turn off.  Nothing says true love like a new LED instead of nagging! The power-draining fluorescent bulb quit the next day in defeat.)
  • Integrating the new GPS to the VHF (one less box in the cabin - yeah!)
  • Installing our new stereo (another less box in the cabin!)
  • Topping up the the battery water - twice (which of course entails tearing our bed apart because one of the banks is waaaay in under the mattress, and then hoping to goodness that you get the levels right, don't spill anything, don't touch anything, etc, etc)
  • Repairing the floor boards in the v-berth (Gorilla Glue and clamps)
  • Unsticking two huge snatch blocks (vinegar and rock)
  • Cleaning the engine pan and replacing the absorbant pads (patience & bandaids.  That engine bites the unaware)
  • Installing Alternator #1 (three times!) (which entailed learning everything there was to know about alternators, getting a driver to take Max to the shop where they were supposed to know everything there was to know about alternators, and teaching them same, and then eventually getting our alternator back and putting it into place.  We now have over 100 glorious amps coming into our house bank even when the engine is at a low idle.  Praise be!)
  • Constructing new panels for the lazaret (think fibreglass, new plywood, old teak slats superglued to the rotting old plywood, and patience ... lots of patience)
  • Using our brand new fiberglassing skills to (together) repair to the EPIRB panel that had been loose since the very early days of our trip.  Max mixed the resin and I cut the pieces and smoothed it all into place.  A good teamwork day.  Our EPIRB panel is not going anywhere now!
  • Prepping and painting parts of the the mast & boom where the metal was starting to corrode.
  • Installing and configuring our Wifi antenna (pet name Orca) (another box that is no longer in our cabin! Now we can pick up local wifi signals from further away)
  • Polishing the barometor and clock (now they look really smart on the newly repaired wall - and they are off Max's to-do list for a little while)
  • Changing the watermaker charcoal filter 
  • Re-bedding numerous deck fittings
  • Taking our Genoa for repair where the extrusion ripped it, and installing spreader patches so that the spreaders wouldn't rip it (and getting our rigging guy to finally make the spreader boots that have been on my to-do list since last summer - he was done in less than a day.  It would have taken me a week)
  • Reworking the hanks (the brass things that hold our sail onto the wire that holds it up) on our stay-sail (they used to be fabric and now they will be brass)
  • Getting the local stainless steel magician to make us a new spinnaker pole fitting and struts for our wind generator
  • Making a set of hoisting strops for our dingy sling (and while I was at it, making a couple of strops to make our hard to reach cleats on the stern of the boat a little easier to access)
  • Installing a fitted outboard lock so that our outboard engine will stay put on our dingy. (We already lock the dingy so it will stay put on our boat)
  • Cleaning and drying (and inspecting) the contents of our storage lockers. 
  • Installing a new Carbon Monoxide detector
  • and last, but not least - Scraping & Repainting the engine (yeah!  That shiny workhorse makes Max smile every time he looks at it)
And of course, our list of "things to do" remains just about as long, and continuing to grow!

Having been a La Leche League Leader, and having journeyed with lots of new moms as they welcomed babies into their homes, it often seems to me that our first year of cruising has been kind of like the first year of having a new baby: nothing you read can really prepare you for the experience, and reality and expectations do not always correspond! 

It is fair to say that this time last year (when it was cold & snowy in Halifax, we were both working full time, and everything we did seemed to be done in a rush) we looked forward to a winter spent idyllically by the beach, on a tidy well-maintained boat, helping tidy well-behaved children carry out tidy well-planned school assignments and sleeping in tidy well-organized cabins.  We read with hearts of hope the blogs of our friends, and looked forward to the time when their stories of local tacos, sweet little villages, and pacific sunsets would be our stories too.  Although to some extent these are, indeed, our stories now, there is also a strong sense of how wrong we were!  (Or maybe we just didn’t pay attention to the times when our cruising heroes wrote about yet another maintenance issue, about learning new skills through trial and error, or about figuring out how to home-school their children without causing anarchy).  A parenting book that one of my favourite people lent me last winter talked about how having children is really like going on an 18-year meditation retreat, where you will learn life’s greatest lessons with instructions tailored specifically for you ... let’s just say that so is cruising!  Clearly, we had a need to learn about patience, openness, and perseverance, whether we wanted to or not : )  

On the other hand, sometimes we just need to adjust the focus of our vision. This has also been a season of developing friendships (generally cemented over dinner sometime after sunset and with much commiseration/comparison of the day's efforts), gaining confidence in new skills (the next section we re-caulk on our teak deck will go a bit differently…) encountering local history (five grownups and five kids packed into one vehicle to go visit the ancient petroglyphs of Altavista), practicing yoga (almost at sunrise, almost every day, for almost six weeks), and remembering to pause to go whale watching in our kayak even when the maintenance list wasn’t all checked off yet!  Here's another (in my view, equally important) list from the last few weeks - the quick list of highlights that we will remember long after the maintenance lessons have become old hat and the refit is complete - 
  • making regular trips to the Sunday Market in La Cruz (local honey, fresh bread, pub pot pies, and fresh strawberries were a few of our favourite things) and the cruiser swap meets (especially the one where Johnathan negotiated for a great new fishing rod)
  • participating in two more Full Moon paddle competitions and bonfires (winning a pizza dinner felt good too!)
  • visiting the Altavista Petroglyphs with Kenta Anae and SV Breeze
  • eating a Yucca Fruit that Allison of Kenta Anae shared with us (she told us that it would be better than anything we had ever eaten - and it was true - I really have never tasted anything so yummy!)
  • attending the CD release party for Luna Rumba
  • watching the kids sail the Fatty Knees dingy (and the excitement of finally owning it - our kids will have it to play with at least until we head for the South Pacific next year)
  • watching Victoria learn to sew with a SailRite and crochet with our friend Laura from Pacific Hwy
  • attending a King's Day party for the kids from the local orphanage (and watching how quickly kids of any culture will gravitate towards sugar and candy rather than veggie sticks and casseroles - the universal language of sweets!)
  • welcoming Frankie back from his extended Christmas holidays in early Feb (Johnathan and Victoria had been counting the days for ages - once we decided to do our big refit, he was gone for almost two months instead of the originally planned three weeks)
  • singing our way through a songbook my mom gave me years ago (harmonies and all) with Allison and Victoria, and later with all our kids.  Music is good for the soul, and we have missed it. 
  • surfing at Punta de Mita with our friends from Shindig, Wizard, Cat2Fold, Heavy Metal and Destiny then following it up with bonfires on the beach, cocktails in the cockpit, and watching whales and dolphins swim near our boat (Frankie had an especially cool experience of seeing whales swimming under the boat at night - all he could see was the (huge) trails of bio-luminescence).
  • Attending a dowsing and hands-on healing workshop led by Allison (Kenta Anae ) and Cyn (Alcyone)
  • Joining with a circle of women, all far from friends and family, to celebrate the imminent birth of baby Lyra (and picking up the phone one evening a couple of weeks earlier to hear that my own family's newest member had arrived safely in Barrie, ON - Congrats, Ian & Jodie)
  • Fishing, fishing and more fishing for Victoria and Johnathan (and eating, eating, eating fish for the whole family).  They loved to fish literally from the time they opened their eyes in the morning until we dragged them back to the boat for bed at night.
  • Enjoying fresh calamari, caught by friends, cooked by friends and shared with friends (recipe: receive with gratitude three fresh squid straight from the ocean, have a seven- or eight- or nine- or ten-year-old dissect them with a sharp filleting knife, smash the fillets on the dock 100 times or so to soften the fibres, soak them in milk to soften them some more, dredge them in rice flour, deep fry them in coconut oil, and enjoy them as a starter with lime squeezed on top as they emerge from the pan - yum!)
  • Watching the confidence with which Victoria and Johnathan learned to identify every fish in the La Cruz marina, tell us how to catch it, what it would eat (or not eat) and whether it was good for us to eat (or not)
  • Participating in the "Shake It Out" 18 nm sail race in Fluenta (hooray! - we finally got off the dock for an afternoon).  
  • Max racing on the 65' catamaran Profiligate (owned and skippered by the owner of Latitude 38) and sailing on a friend's 60' aluminum boat Heavy Metal.
  • Seeing our comments published in 48 Degrees North
  • Finding wonderful new books to read at the book swap at the marina building (The Sweetness of Tears and Simple Abundance being two of my new favourites).
So, as with any new beginning, sometimes it seems like the chore list is longer and sometimes we have the wisdom to see that the joys are there a-plenty.

To everyone who has been wondering where we have been, what we have been up to (and if would we ever post to our blog again), we send you greetings, blessings, and a season in pictures … our journey (inward, outward, and onward) continues!

Fluenta at our slip in La Cruz - as with the outer decor of the boat, the "laundry list" of chores has begun...

Look what we found when we aired out the contents of the deck box (we would drag this to slow down in heavy weather - hope we never have to use it!)
Another heavy weather item from the storage locker under the v-berth - here we are with our storm sails on a calm day.  When the going gets tough, and the tough have to keep going, these will provide more than enough drive (And now we know how/where they attach - even better!)
 The before picture of the winch that Max fixed - note that those flat-headed bolts were actually about 6" long and went all the way through to the ceiling below.  Of course, they had to come out to finish taking apart the winch.  That ended up being a job in itself!
Kids swinging at the pinata at the King's Day party.  Victoria is waiting in the pink hat.
With Victoria at the King's Day potluck.  The anchorage where we are staying now is in the background.
Musical chairs, Mexican style (first the little ones, then the girls, then the boys.  Johnathan is in the front)
The port bulkhead, mid-repair (there isn't usually a window into the kids' room - that is where our speaker used to be)
The port bulkhead from the other side.  Note all the rot/discolouration below the hole
Ready for fibreglassing.  We filled in the box where the speaker box used to be with fiberglass, and we'll find another way to deliver music to that area of the boat.  (Wireless and small, anyone?!)
The deck view of the corner of the hatch above the kids' room.  If you look closely, you can see right through the corner of the frame ... no wonder water was leaking and the bulkhead was rotting.  Just changing the gasket wouldn't do - we took the hatch out, had the corner welded, and then replaced the gasket.  Just another day of cruising ...
A very happy boy who has just caught his first barracuda - chose his hook, tied it on, went down the dock and caught it, all while I boiled the kettle for tea.  The first I knew of the catch was when he showed up excitedly in the galley:  "Mom, I need a knife!" Then he filleted it by himself, with the grownups looking on.  Of course, all of this happened well after his Canadian bedtime!
A few highlights from visiting the petroglyphs -- former home of the "throat cutters"...

There are 59 images carved into the rocks - themes are spirals, squares, crosses and people
At the end of the hike is an extraordinary place where the water flows and then pools, and the rocks are like stacked cubes

We stopped at a fruit stand on our way home - Victoria is reaching for yucca fruit that are still growing - can't get more local than that!

Can't wait to taste those pineapples!

Did I mention that we skipped yoga one morning to go whalewatching in our kayak ... you can just see the splash of a mom or calf a few hundred yards ahead of us.

Enjoying a ripe yucca fruit with Allison and her children.  She invited everyone on the dock to come and try this incredibly yummy treat.  The trick is to cover everything (knife, hands, plate) with coconut oil because the milky juice is soooo sticky.

Max finally has success unjamming two snatch blocks that have been stuck since we arrived onboard - vinegar, WD40 and a big rock did the trick!
Tacos on the Street.  One of our two favourite taco spots in La Cruz.
A few sights of the Sunday Market ...
... Johnathan is holding a big cup of "Agua Fresca" - a local drink that is a super refreshing mix of water, fruit and vegetables.  Ours had a lot of mint and green veg - surprisingly tasty.  I have a loaf of wonderful French bread.
...And a few views from the top of the mast, taken when Max went up to re-install the set screws in our forestay extrusion.

Gotta love our Canadian Frigate bird repellant device, eh! (Kid-installed prickly seizing wire protruding from the blade is an added bonus)

Calamari! So yummy - a photo of the filleting and galley crew.
Corrosion ... we are always on the lookout for corrosion!  I think this is that diode thing.
Lego City has taken over our main cabin.  In this case, there is some pretty heavy trading going on, as Victoria and Johnathan swap pieces with the kids from Kenta Anae.
Victoria sharing recorder tunes - both teaching and learning, while Allison accompanies on the piano.

 The offending mast bolt.  It seems that the mast was effectively hanging on the bolt instead of resting on its base.  We have since removed it, the squawking has stopped, and now we need to come up with another way to secure the mast to the mast collar.  Stay tuned ...

This is where our holding tank goes ... under Frankie's bunk.  Every inch was cleaned & scrubbed & disinfected and all the hoses were replaced.

 Look ma, no grey-water holding tank!  Max removed it from its home here in the bilge, cleaned it, gave it a new float switch, and replaced it ... and now it works everytime!  Amazing what happens when you take the Lego out of the pipes :)

The exhaust elbow hose ... water is *not* meant to come out around those hose clamps when you start the engine.  Now it doesn't.
 Ready to paint the engine ...
Shiny & painted !
 Johnathan with the new locker floor that he helped Max build.  The plywood is new.  The teak cross members were laboriously removed from the old board and then glued to the new, fibreglass resin coated, board.  

Messing about in boats ...

When it was time for cleaning stations, all the kids pitched in...
...and soon the job was done !

We finally got out sailing!  Thanks to our friends who were close by and remembered to grab a few shots for us as proof :)

Hanging out at anchor.. even though it's rolly, it doesn't get much better than this!

As you can see, we've been busy.  We'll try to post an update a little shorter and a little sooner next time!



  1. Reference your mast bolt. I have something similiar on my C&C 30 in the form of mast straps. Two stainless straps that hang on the upper lip of the mast collar and attach with a bolt through the straps and the mast, somewhere about 1 foot below the mast collar. The rigger pointed out they are important as it distributes the rig load between the keel (keel stepped) and the deck. Without the mast straps in place, my rigger felt the load on the keel would be higher than the design loads.

    - Dave
    S/V Eclipse

    1. Thanks Dave. Our present plan is to put in tie rod fore and aft from the mast collar down to either the mast step or the mast itself with a turnbuckle to allow for adjustments. This will take the halyard loads and reduce deck flexing from the shroud loads.



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