Saturday, November 7, 2015

Sydney GTS43 Review

The GTS43 was designed by Jason Ker and is intended as a racer/cruiser. It's pretty clear that by racer/cruiser they mean racer that has enough amenities below to accommodate the family for an occasional weekend cruise. But make no mistake, this boat is really all about performance. It caught my eye because the designer and builder have collaborated to create a unique and distinctive yacht that I think is going to attract a lot of attention among those who need a few amenities in their race boats.

The GTS43 looks fast under main, kite and stays'l.

Jason Ker is not a household name in the USA but over the last twenty years this British designer has built an enviable reputation with his IRC racing yachts. The builder, originally based in Australia, has contracted with AD Boats in Split, Croatia to produce the GTS43 as well as the new GTS37. As you may know, this company also builds the Salona line of yachts. AD is owned by the Prevent Group, a multinational manufacturing corporation based in Wolfsberg, Germany that serves a variety of commercial and industrial markets. I think this is a business structure that we will see more of in the future. Yacht building has become so technology driven and capital intensive that for all practical purposes, the small independent boat builders are finding it harder and harder to survive.

The GTS43 represents a very different approach to hull design than more conventional racer/cruisers such as the Beneteau First or Elan lines. In the plan view it looks similar to other IRC inspired racer/cruisers, with a fine bow and wide stern. The same can be said of the boat in the profile view. But where those boats have full, or chined stern sections, the 43 has radically flaired sections aft.

Beneteau First 40. This Farr design incorporates what we think of as a conventional stern shape.
 Photo courtesy of

Elan 400  sports the currently fashionable chines.
Flaired stern on the GTS43.  
Why, you might ask, has Ker designed this boat with a stern that is so different from the more conventional Beneteau and Elan, or most other IRC racers. I think the answer may lie with his interpretation of the IRC rating system, or he may simply like the looks of this stern. I don't have a lines plan for this hull but we can make some judgments based on the photos. Let's deal with the stern first. The hull near the waterline is actually relatively narrow by today's standards so there is not a lot of reserve buoyancy there. This, combined with the somewhat slab sided midship sections of the hull leads me to think this boat may have a lower prismatic coefficient than a typical IRC racer. This means the boat will not require a lot of horsepower to get up to speed, but is likely to generate a bigger stern wave, which we refer to as induced drag as it moves through the water at hull speed. One benefit of the very wide stern is that the crew weight can be placed well outboard and aft, where it does the most good in heavy air. Here are some statistics:
LOA: 43 feet
Beam: 13.78 feet
Draft: 9.02 feet
Displacement: 15,320 pounds
Sail area (IJ+PE): 1,029 sq. ft.
Disp/Length: 86.0
SA/D: 26.8

This view provides an indication of the fine waterlines forward and the extreme flair aft. Photo courtesy of Sydney Yachts.

Maximum beam is carried all the way to the transom. The cockpit is spacious and side decks minimal.   

The high SA/D and low D/L indicate a powerful sailing machine that will demand a good helmsman and solid crew work when the breeze is up, but in return it will deliver stellar performance. Of course when it's just you and the wife out for a sail, you may want to tuck in a reef and put the small jib up, which is a small compromise for such a high performance boat.

The cabin trunk is an interesting blister shape, with the aft ends of the cabin fairing into the wide cockpit coamings. The seats are tucked behind the cabin trunk, leaving lots of room in the aft half of the cockpit for working crew. The twin helms are located well aft, but it looks like there is enough space there for the helmsman and tactician.  The mainsheet traveler is located on the cockpit sole just forward of the helms, with the mainsheet winches within easy reach. This is another boat with an Admirals cup type mainsheet arrangement.

The rig incorporates a carbon fiber two spreader mast.  The mainsail luff length is about 60 feet and the foot is 19 feet. This is a big sail that will require some muscle to handle.  The jibs are non overlapping so tacking will actually be fairly easy. Notice the long, fixed bowsprit. It does not include an anchor roller so you may want to ask them to work on that when you place your order for a new GTS43.

I don't have any drawings or photos of the underbody of the boat, but Ker states that the keel incorporates a thin fin and bulb. My guess is that the rudder is also thin, deep and very efficient.

This is the keel on a Ker designed 46 footer. You can assume that the keel on the GTS43 is similar. Photo courtesy of

The bowsprit is not retractable.

The GTS 43 is  what I call a "live ballast" boat, which derives much of its righting moment from crew on the rail as shown here.

This boat has reasonably livable accommodations that would make cruising for a week or so tolerable for the family. The forward end of the boat has a snug v-berth which might be a good place for kids.
The dinette in the salon is smallish and offset well to port and the settee opposite is also situated well outboard. This leaves plenty of room amidships for packing chutes, which is important on a boat of this type. There are provisions for pilot berths above the dinette and settee. The nav station is large and has lots of storage space. The galley, opposite the nav station, is small for a 43 foot cruising yacht, but almost luxurious compared to the typical race-boat galley. There is a pair of private quarter cabins aft, each with a hanging locker and a pilot berth. Overall, while this is not what I would call a pretty interior, it is very functional. I could imagine spending a week or so aboard.

The v-berth looks fairly tight.

Lots of light and space in this limited but functional interior.

A single sink, two burner stove and limited counter space. 

It seems to me that the racing world is becoming more separate from cruising.  These days there are many forty foot daysailers on the market that make no pretense of being cruise-able.  This was almost unheard of twenty years ago. I give Sydney Yachts credit for attempting to bridge that gap and producing a racer that can be cruised even if it's just for a week at the island. For more information about the GTS43 visit

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Finisterra is For Sale

All good things come to an end eventually and after three and a half years, 18,000 miles and a zillion wonderful moments aboard Finisterra, the time has come for us to turn the page and start another chapter. So we are reluctantly putting Finisterra up for sale.

Finisterra on a mooring in Catalina at the end of our last voyage to Mexico.

Finisterra has been the perfect cruising boat for us. She's been tough, reliable and extremely comfortable to cruise aboard and we are going to miss her. I've created a web site that describes the boat and equipment so if you'd like to know more about her, visit her web site at

Monday, October 5, 2015

Alaska Cruise

We've been home a couple of months and the time has flown by. It took a couple of weeks to get settled back in Costa Mesa. During that time we had to contend with the the passing of Woody, our English Setter. It was a sad time around the house, but he lived to the ripe old age of 14 and  certainly enjoyed a pretty good life.

As soon as that little ordeal was over we took a road trip to Vancouver, BC where we met up with friends for a cruise to Alaska aboard the MS Noordam. But before we boarded the ship, we spent a couple of days touring the city. One of the highlights of our tour was hiking up Grouse Mountain. The hike is known as the Grouse Grind, 2,800 feet of vertical ascent in about 1.8 miles. There are actually two ways to do the grind. The first and most commonly used route is the staircase, which consists of  2,830 stairs. It sounded kind of boring to us so we chose the secondary route, a trail through the forest. Both routes are unrelentingly steep climbs but you are rewarded with beautiful views of the city at the summit. For more information visit
The weather was a bit hazy but the views from the top of Grouse Mountain were spectacular.
After hiking the Grind we made a side trip to the Capilano Suspension bridge.

Capilano Suspension Bridge is 450 feet long. It spans a river of the same name, some 220 feet below.  It's privately owned and is the gateway to several nature trails on the far side. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

We boarded the Noordam on Saturday morning, September 12th at the cruise ship terminal in downtown Vancouver.

The Noordam
The Noordam was built in Italy and christened in 2006.  Here are some dimensions:

LOA: 936 feet
Beam: 105.8 feet
Gross tonnage: 82,500 tons
Power: 84,000 horsepower
Passenger decks: 11
Capacity: 1,916 passengers and 800 crew

The ship is powered by a CODAG-Electric (Combined Diesel and Gas) system of diesel and gas turbine powered generators that drive Azipods instead of conventional propellers.

An Azipod consists of a propeller and electric motor unit installed where a conventional propeller and rudder would be on the ship. "Azipod" is a trademarked name for ABB Group's version of this type of propulsion system. The Noordam is equipped with twin Azipods.  Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

The diesel and gas turbine engines don't actually turn the propellers through shafts like a conventional boat, but drive large generators that supply power to the enormous electric motors encased in the Azipods. Pretty cool stuff.

After boarding the vessel and settling into our stateroom on deck 4, we went through a lifeboat drill while the crew cast off the dock lines and the Noordam puttered out into the channel. The stateroom was quite spacious, with a king size bed, sofa, shower/tub in the head and, best of all, the wall facing outboard was all glass, giving an excellent ocean view. Actually it was an excellent view of the 40 foot motorized lifeboat that was stowed just outside the glass, but we still had a pretty fair ocean view. Our first destination would be Juneau, Alaska, which we would reach on Monday around noon. To get there we transited most of the Inside Passage, which stretches from Washington state to Skagway.
DowntownVancouver viewed from the stern of the Noordam. The cruise ship terminal is the white structure on the left.

Lions Gate Bridge, viewed from the bow of the Noordam.

The Noordam headed northwest, passing under the beautiful Lions Gate Bridge and entered the Strait of Georgia, doing about 20 knots in fairly calm and balmy conditions. The Strait separates Vancouver Island from the mainland.  It is about 150 miles long and varies between 11 and 34 miles wide. That sounds pretty spacious but it is actually full of islands and narrow channels, especially in the northern part of the strait. I was told that the Noordam's crew includes three navigators, so the vessel trundled along at 18-20 knots night and day through the narrow parts as well as the wide parts of the channel.

The scenery in the Strait is beautiful. Evergreen forests cover the rugged terrain and surround the occasional small towns and villages on both sides of the channel. Whales were plentiful in this region and we saw orcas and what appeared to be humpbacks from the observation deck as well as from our stateroom.
Lighthouse near Vancouver. 

In the early hours of the next morning the Noordam passed into Discovery Passage, which is a narrow channel that connects the Strait of Georgia to Johnstone Strait by way of Seymour Narrows.
The Narrows is an interesting place for big ships, or small ones, because it's about 3 miles long and averages about 750 yards wide. It is a place with strong currents, sometimes up to 15 knots.

Seymour Narrows with a rough approximation of the Noordam's course.
Unfortunately it was quite dark when we passed through the Narrows and I really couldn't see much of it. Back in the 1790's when Captain George Vancouver was exploring this region he is reputed to have described the narrows as "One of the vilest stretches of water in the world."  There used to be a serious navigational hazard near the south end of the Narrows called Ripple Rock, which consisted  of two submerged peaks rising to a depth of about nine feet below the surface. These rocks had quite a career, sinking 119 vessels between 1875 and the 1950's. By 1956 the government had seen enough of the Rock, so they spent over two years tunneling into it and packing it with 1,375 tons of high explosives. On April 5th, 1958 they blew it up. At that time it was the largest intentional, non-nuclear blast in North America.

The Noordam transited the narrows without mishap, and passed into the Johnstone Strait and then the Queen Charlotte strait, which carried us to the northern end of Vancouver Island and into Queen Charlotte Sound.  The Sound is roughly 100 nautical miles long and is exposed to the Pacific Ocean, so the Noordam rolled just barely enough to feel it for about five hours. Then we were in the Hecate Strait which runs about 140 miles northwestward to Dixon Entrance. It averages about 45 miles wide and we seemed to be going right up the middle of it so there was little to see. The Noordam passed from Canadian to US territorial waters at the northwest end of Dixon Entrance.

We headed out toward the open sea from the Entrance and reentered protected waters at the southern tip of Baranof Island. From there it was another 150 nautical miles to Juneau by way of Frederick Sound and Stephens Passage. The Noordam tied up to the dock around noon and shortly after that we went ashore.

Juneau is the capital of Alaska and boasts a population of around 33,000 people. It is located on the mainland coast of Alaska but the surrounding terrain is so rugged that no roads have been built to the rest of the state, so the city must be supplied by boat or air. Most residents of Juneau work for the government, but there are lots of locals working in the tourist trade and fishing industries as well.

Instead of signing up with an expensive tour company our group of six hiked into town from the terminal and found a taxi driver that would take us out to see the Mendenhall Glacier and falls.
It was drizzling rain most of the time we were at Mendenhall, but the grandeur of the glacier was impressive anyway. In 1958 the glacier came right up to the trees in the foreground. Since then it has receded 1.75 miles, creating Lake Mendenhall.
Growlers on Lake Mendenhall. It was here that I learned that a growler is a tiny iceberg that rises no more than 3 feet out of the water.  A bergy bit is larger,  rising 3 to 13 feet out of the water.

Mendenhall Falls.
By dusk we were back aboard the Noordam. Dinner aboard the ship was always a fun time. Our group, Wolf and Judy, Vic and Susan, and us always shared a table and usually had a pre-party in one of our staterooms. The food was consistently very good and we had each brought a couple of bottles of wine in our luggage, so the drinks were quite good as well.

The Noordam cast off at 2200 hrs. that night, bound for Skagway. It was a cold and overcast night and I was glad to be aboard a large and well heated ship instead of the Finisterra. The ship arrived around 0600 the next morning and we went ashore just after breakfast and boarded the narrow gauge White Pass/Yukon train. It's basically a tourist train that takes you directly from the dock to White Pass, which lies at an elevation of 2,865 feet. I couldn't help comparing it to El Chepe, the train that took us up to Copper Canyon in Mexico. The main difference is that there is no bar car on this train. We all agreed that it could use one.  Aside from that, it was a pleasant ride up to the pass and the narrator who talked constantly over the loudspeaker was only a little bit annoying. The train was full of tourists snapping pictures of the passing scenery. Somehow it made me not want to take any photos myself.

The town of Skagway isn't much. It has a year round population of around a thousand souls, which doubles during the tourist season. It was founded in 1887 by one Billy Moore, who thought it would be a good jumping-off place for miners seeking gold. Sure enough, gold was discovered in the Klondike region of the Yukon Territory and miners flooded into Skagway.  By 1898 the town had swelled to a population of around 9,000 and was the largest city in Alaska. That lasted a couple of years and by the turn of the century Skagway's economy collapsed.

Nowadays tourism is the primary driver of the town's economy, with about a million tourists per year arriving, mostly by cruise ship. The few streets in town are lined with tourist shops, a few bars and restaurants, and not much else. We reboarded the ship in the afternoon, having seen pretty much all there was to see in Skagway. The dress code for dinner that evening was coats and ties for the men and dresses for the ladies. I hadn't worn a tie since I retired a couple of years ago, but the formal attire did not detract from the excellent steak and lobster that was served so I didn't grumble too much about it, and the women all looked beautiful as well.

The Noordam sailed for Glacier Bay while we were  enjoying dinner. At dawn the next morning the ship came to a stop at the head of the bay and, using its rotatable Azipods and 7,500 horsepower bow thrusters, executed a 360 degree turn in place, so the passengers could all get a good look at the glaciers and sea life there. Earlier a ranger from Glacier Bay National Park had boarded the ship and she described the wonders of the region over the loudspeakers as the boat rotated. The bay is populated by fifteen glaciers, including Margerie, Grand Pacific, Johns Hopkins, and McBride.

Johns Hopkins Glacier deposits massive amounts of rock and debris into the bay. It is roughly 12 miles long, a mile wide and 250 feet high at the water's edge. It is one of the few in the park that is not receding. It travels at around 8 feet per day.
The icy face of the Johns Hopkins
For a chunk of floating ice to be officially categorized as an iceberg, it must rise out of the water at least 16 feet, with an overall thickness of  98 to 164 feet and cover an area of at least 5,382 square feet. These are bergy bits.

The Noordam stayed in Glacier Bay until about 1800 hrs, then headed southeast toward Ketchikan, arriving at 1000 the following morning. We'd heard that there were lots of bears here and the shipboard tour company as well as a dozen or so tour operators on the dock were most anxious for us to see them. They were shouting at the tourists as we came off the ship offering special prices and guaranteeing that we'd see bears and eagles up close and personal for only a hundred dollars per person. They all seemed disappointed in us because we failed to take advantage of their offers.

Instead, we wandered down the street and found a taxi van whose driver who looked like he was doing nothing but texting on his I-phone, so I approached him and we struck a deal. For $140 bucks he'd take us to Herring Cove, where the bears go to catch salmon and pose for the tourists. He turned out to be an amiable sort and spent three hours with us while we lingered at the cove watching the occasional bear emerge from the forest a couple of hundred yards away. The best part of the excursion was hearing his stories of his life in Ketchikan. After an hour or so, the place started filling up with tourists so our driver took us back to town, stopping to show us various points of interest, which were not many, along the way. It was a pretty good tour at a bargain price.

Ketchikan is fairly cosmopolitan compared to Skagway, with a population of over 8,000. Many Ketchikanians fly south for the winter, but our driver stays on. He said it's much more peaceful after the hubbub of the tourist season dies down. I believe him.

We sailed from Ketchikan around 1800 hrs. bound for Vancouver. The weather forecast was for strong southerly winds and the ship veered away from a direct course and we sailed through a labyrinth of narrow channels instead of bucking bigger seas in Queen Charlotte Sound. The Noordam arrived in Vancouver at 0700 Saturday morning and we were back at Wolf and Judy's home by noon where we played Mexican Train all afternoon.

The next day we visited friends Howard and Lynn at their flat on the 33rd floor of the Shaw building in downtown Vancouver. The views from their balcony were breathtaking. By mid-afternoon on Sunday we were back on the road, headed south. I wanted to get past Seattle to avoid the traffic gridlock that usually plagues the I-5 freeway between Lynnwood and Tacoma on weekdays, so we didn't stop until we got to Olympia.

We got back on the road around 10:00 the next morning and headed south at a leisurely pace. The plan was to check out a few wineries between Portland and Corvallis in the early part of the day, then visit Lisa's alma mater, Oregon State University. With football season in full swing she needed a new flag and some flannel pajama bottoms with the OS logo on them. She's still an avid fan of the fighting Beavers. Unfortunately, they aren't doing too well this year, with a 2-2 record. She has high hopes for the upcoming game against Arizona though.

It's harvest time in the Willamette Valley.

We wanted to visit Crater Lake on this trip so from Corvallis we drove to Roseburg, where we spent the night. We had an excellent dinner at Dino's Italian Ristorante and chatted with our waitress who was a student at Umpqua Community College. As we drove back to our hotel we remarked on what a sweet small town Roseburg is, unaware of the tragedy awaiting the people here. Our hearts are grieving for them. It's obvious that no amount of senseless carnage is going to change the minds of people who treasure their guns and would rather continue on the path of killing than adopt reasonable gun laws. It's a uniquely American malady that we will probably only cure when we discover a cure for stupidity.

We turned off of I-5 in Roseburg and drove for miles along the beautiful Umpqua river. We stopped occasionally to wander along the banks of the river, where we spotted the occasional fisherman standing on a rock in midstream, fly rod in hand. Idyllic scenes. We arrived at Crater Lake a little before noon and spent the afternoon hiking and enjoying this pristine natural wonder.
Photos can't quite capture the beauty of this lake.
Wizard Island

The lake was created when a volcano named Mt. Mazama collapsed in on itself around 7,700 years ago, creating a caldera or bowl over 4,000 feet deep in the middle where the peak used to be. Over time, rain and snowmelt filled the bowl, creating the lake. No rivers or streams flow into the lake so its only source of water is rain and snow. Over the next several hundred years there were more eruptions within the caldera, creating several cinder cones, one of which eventually rose out of the water and became Wizard Island.

There is a crater in the top of Wizard Island.
We got back on the road in the late afternoon and continued south, spending a night in Redding, California before heading up into the Sierras to visit family in Nevada City. It's always fun to hang out with Brian and Karen at their beautiful home nestled in the hills above the town. We stayed long enough to spend a day soaking up sunshine as we floated on tubes in the Yuba River, then got back on the road.

We drove south to Paso Robles where we spent the night and did some wine tasting in the surrounding area, and picked up some wine that had been waiting for us since last November. From there we headed home, arriving around 9:00pm, all safe and sound.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Varianta 37 Review

Back in 2011 I was wandering around the docks in the marina in Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico, and came upon a Varianta 44. The thing was beautiful in a stark and business-like way, with pure white decks and minimal deck hardware set off by a tall carbon fiber rig. I didn't know it at the time, but I was destined to follow that boat, named Olas Lindas, around the buoys in a number of races over the next few years, much to my chagrin.

The Varianta 44 is built by Hanse Yachts and they have followed up on it with a 37 footer based on the same concept of a plain vanilla racer/cruiser with an excellent turn of speed. The idea behind these boats is an interesting one in that the hulls are actually from the molds of older  successful Hanse models. In the case of the 37, its predecessor is the Hanse 370, of which over 900 were built. The Varianta 37 incorporates a new deck design, all new interior and a more economical price tag. The result is a simple, sleek and Spartan cruiser/racer for the budget minded sailor.

Extremely clean lines on the 37
The original Hanse 370 was designed by the Judel/Vrolijk design firm so I assume they are responsible for the conversion to the Varianta. The hull is a conventional shape and appears to be designed with IRC measurements in mind. With fairly high freeboard and minimal fore and aft overhangs the hull looks beefy. This look is accentuated by the skinny boot stripe and lack of a cove stripe. It's not particularly stylish, but it is economical, and stripes add nothing to performance. Below the waterline we find a standard T-bulb keel of 6'-4" draft. With much of the keel's 5,060 pounds located in the bulb, the V37 should be stiff and weatherly. One of the benefits of a bulb keel is that a boat can have a relatively low ballast/displacement ratio and still go upwind well. The V37's B/D is 33%. Of course, the downside of this type of keel is that it's prone to snagging kelp and other floating stuff. The rudder is a big spade that looks like it will steer the boat very efficiently. A rudder this size will also generate considerable lift to weather if the boat is well balanced.

In studying the deck drawing below, note that the bow is full-ish at the deck level, but the photos show a finer shape closer to the waterline. The fullness allows plenty of room to maneuver on deck without sacrificing the fine entry near the waterline. The stern is wide, but not nearly as wide as the latest 38 footers from the likes of Beneteau. There is plenty of flare in the aft sections and no chines. This is going to be a slippery and well behaved yacht in a seaway.

The cabin trunk is low and nicely proportioned in the profile view. It is wide and allows for just enough room to walk forward on the side decks. With non-overlapping headsails the chainplates are located at the sheer and jib tracks are mounted on the cabin top. The photos show the jib sheets led through a pair of rope clutches to the cabin top winches. My guess is that this arrangement won't last long. A better solution would be to mount the tracks alongside the cabin trunk and lead the sheets to the cockpit winches. You can easily rig up a set of barber haulers if you really want that jib in tight.

 I like the way the cockpit coamings fair into the cabin trunk, accentuating the clean lines of the boat. The drawings show six winches, which would be necessary for serious racing, but the photos show just four, which is sufficient for cruising. The cockpit is large enough for shorthanded cruising, but will be snug for a racing crew. The deckplan shows a short mainsheet traveler mounted on the cockpit sole. It's short enough that it would not provide much better control than a single point for the mainsheet and I believe the production boats are leaving the factory with just the single point. Racers may find that annoying but you won't miss the traveler at all if you're cruising.

The cockpit looks comfortable and spacious enough for a cruising family. Notice the instrument displays on the aft ends of the coamings. 

Plenty of freeboard and cabin-top jib tracks.

The sailplan of the V37 incorporates aluminum spars in a fractional rig. With a sail area/displacement ratio of 21.2 there is plenty of power for racing. The mainsheet is a simple six-part tackle led to a the end of the boom. For racing you'll want to rig up a coarse/fine trim system instead. The sailplan shows a masthead asymmetrical spinnaker with the tack located a couple of feet forward of the bow. I'm not sure if the plan is for a short bowsprit or some kind of pole arrangement for it, but I would vote for a bowsprit that also incorporates an anchor roller and chock. The combination of a nearly plumb bow and the bow roller shown in the photos pretty much guarantees that the anchor is going to bounce off the stem occasionally.

Nice proportions
All of the photos and drawings here are courtesy of  the Hanse Yachts/Varianta web site.
The accommodations plan for the V37 is fairly ordinary for a racer/cruiser. Twin double quarter berths are located aft, each fitted with a hanging locker and enough space to dress. The head is fairly large and the galley smallish but adequate for coastal cruising. A pair of 6'-8" long settees flank a dropleaf table in the salon. Outboard of the settees are cloth bins for storage. The forward cabin  incorporates a rather snug V-berth and a pair of lockers. There is just enough wood here to add a bit of style. My sense is that the layout is quite workable, while the styling is a bit stark for my taste. Of course we have to keep in mind that this boat is built to a strict budget, so plain white surfaces and square corners are understandable.
Lots of white laminate  and square corners make the accommodations look right at home in the Ikea Catalog.
In the final analysis we have to decide whether this boat will meet the owner's objectives. If you're searching for a boat with an excellent design pedigree, good performance and reasonably good build quality at minimal cost, this boat should fill the bill quite nicely. Aside from those qualities, it's a very nice looking boat. Hanse just might be on to something with this type of econo-yacht.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Back in the USA

We stayed in Ensenada about ten days, then just after midnight on July 6th we took our last departure from a Mexican port, bound for San Diego. It was a cool and uneventful trip, and we arrived at the customs dock just before noon. We waited 45 minutes for the inspectors to show up and when they did, it took all of about five minutes to clear the paperwork. We took a berth at Southwestern YC where we stayed four days. During that time we plugged in to American phones, changed the boat insurance policy, and had a grand time with friends.

Our plan was to head for Dana Point, where we anchored in the west basin. It was pretty crowded in the little anchorage and around 1700 a powerboat came in and tried to anchor next to us, fouling our anchor in the process. After that little adventure we met friends for dinner at the Yacht Club, being careful to take a table with a view of our boat, just in case. The next morning yet another big powerboat came in and tried to anchor in a sliver of space next to another sailboat. They promptly got into an argument about who was crowding who. The powerboat won, forcing the sailboat to move. After watching this drama we decided to leave immediately for Catalina.

It was a beautiful day, light air and crystal clear skies so we were happy to be underway. A few miles off the island we caught a pair of 30 pound blue fin tunas. They were a bit too big for our appetites so we released them.

We picked up a mooring at Two harbors and spent the next week relaxing and enjoying the Island. One day we hiked up the ridge that overlooks Cat Harbor and encountered an Island fox just above the Banning House. The Catalina Island fox is a distinct subspecies and is specific to Catalina Island. It has close relatives that live on five of the other Channel Islands, all of which are descendants of the mainland Gray Fox. The Catalina fox is believed to have arrived on the island 800-3,800 years ago.

The Catalina Island fox has had a rough time over the last 25 years. In 1998 a canine distemper epidemic swept through the population, killing 90% of them. Not long before then, Golden Eagles began to arrive on Catalina as a result of the depletion of the Bald Eagle population on the island.
Bald Eagles are fishing birds, while Goldens prefer to feed on land dwelling prey. The state and island authorities have made efforts to rebuild the Bald Eagle population on the island, which has had the effect of chasing the Golden Eagles back to the mainland.  According to the latest statistics, there are approximately 1,300 foxes on Catalina, up from around 150 fifteen years ago. I collected all of this information from Wikipedia.

Usually shy and elusive, this fellow lingered long enough to for me to get a photo.

A bit further along the trail we encountered a bison relaxing in the morning sun. We passed within 60-70 feet of this big bull and continued up the trail where, just around a bend we encountered a group of hikers coming from Little Harbor. We stood and watched as they rounded the bend and caught sight of the bison standing nearly in their path. They stopped and took pictures, then gingerly picked their way around the bull.

We continued up the ridge and near the top found that an artist had hung a metal sculpture on the barbed wire fence next to the trail. We'd seen it reflecting the afternoon sun the previous day from Cat Harbor and had been wondering what it was.

Sheetmetal sculpture that reflected the afternoon sunlight.

A flying boat lands just outside the moorings at Two Harbors

After a relaxing interlude at the Island, it was time to head for the mainland. Finisterra is now in her new berth in San Pedro while we get reintegrated into life ashore.