Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Cockpit Project -- Replacing the Teak Decking

Finisterra arrived at her new home on June 26th and we took a few days to unload cruising gear and get moved back into the house. Then I got right to work on the biggest project on my work list, replacing the teak in and around the cockpit and transom.

The teak doesn't look too bad in the photos but it is pretty well worn down between the caulking lines and occasionally offers up a splinter. There are also rows of bronze staple ends that are beginning to emerge from the teak in several areas. 
The dots in the foreground are staple ends sticking up through the wood. 

I think the way Beneteau makes the teak panels is to lay the teak planks on a table with the caulking grooves on the bottom, then staple them together to make panels. After the planks are stapled together into panels, they flip them over and fill in the grooves with silicone caulking. This makes the finished panels flexible enough to conform to the curvature in the seats. Then they fit the panels into recesses in the deck, bedding them in what looks like black 3M 4000 Polyether adhesive.

It was fairly easy to pry the teak off the deck, but much more labor intensive to remove the black adhesive. I finally resorted to a set of sharp chisels to scrape the black gummy adhesive off the fiberglass. The bead around the perimeter is similar to Dow 795 silicone and was fairly easy to remove with a razor knife and a chisel.

In this photo the teak has been removed, but you can see a few spots where some of it stuck to the adhesive. Notice the parts where there are vertical lines. Beneteau applied the adhesive with a serrated trowel and then bedded the teak in the stuff. You can see where the teak was actually in contact with it and where it wasn't. You can also see the bead of silicone around the perimeter.

To get the teak off, I first cut the silicone around the perimeter with the razor, then using the hammer, carefully drove a chisel in between the edges of the teak and the fiberglass.  Once it was started, I could drive the screwdriver further under the teak and pry up large chunks or complete planks of it.

Here you can see where I have removed the adhesive from part of the portside cockpit seat. 

To remove the adhesive, I used a razor knife to scribe sectional lines into it, then worked a sharp chisel between the adhesive and the fiberglass. I was able to remove most of it this way. Then I used the chisel to scrape off as much of the remaining adhesive as possible. Later I will sand the rest of it off.

It took several long days to get all the adhesive off the deck. It was fairly dull work but there is a lot going on in the industrial part of the harbor and I often paused to watch as ships came in to unload their cargoes from all over the world, then reload and head out to sea again. There was also no shortage of interested passersby, many of whom stopped to check my progress and offer advice, so the days passed quickly and before long the job was done.

I decided to replace the teak with PlasDECK synthetic teak instead of real teak for several reasons, not the least of which was the cost. The price Beneteau quoted for replacement teak panels was a little north of $3,000, while the synthetic material runs about $1,000. But price is only part of the reason for choosing PlasDECK. It's made of recycled plastic and I like the idea of putting less plastic in landfills. It is easier to keep clean and is quite durable. Of course no knowledgeable person is going to mistake synthetic for real teak, but I'm okay with that. You can learn more about this material by visiting

The next step was to make templates for the replacement panels. I used 6 mil poly sheeting as pattern material, and glued it in place with a light spray of aerosol contact cement. Then I inscribed the outline of the perimeter of each piece along with all the other information the manufacturer needs to fabricate the replacement panels. I'll send them off tomorrow morning and in about three weeks the panels will be delivered.

The pattern material is temporarily glued in place, then marked with all the necessary information.

It's important that the "caulking lines" of the new panels line up properly so the patterns were carefully marked to show where they should be.

While I'm waiting for the finished panels I'll have lots of time to finish removing the black adhesive from the seats and maybe even spend a couple of days at the Island.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Salona 41

I first noticed the Salona 41 a couple of years ago when we were still searching for a new boat. Salona Yachts is located in Split, Croatia. As the American sailboat industry has declined in recent years, eastern European countries have developed a strong presence in the sailing industry and Salona Yachts is a good example of why this has occurred. They build solid, well engineered boats that look good and offer excellent performance. The Salona 41 was designed by J&J Design, which is part of the Seaway group of companies. Over the last twenty years J&J has created an enviable portfolio of designs, including most of the Salona boats.
Sensible keel and large rudder on the 41.
In studying the sailplan and photos, I was impressed by the conservative approach to the hullform. We don' t have the lines plan for this hull but based on the photos and drawings, it appears that the longitudinal centers of flotation and gravity are somewhere near the aft end of the hull/keel joint, roughly at the deepest part of the hull in the drawing above. This indicates that the bow sections are finer than a typical cruising yacht but not extreme, and the stern is pulled in a bit compared to many new designs in which the beam at the stern is nearly as wide as the beam amidships. This boat will have good manners even when pressed hard. With a displacement of 16,424 pounds on a 37.56' waterline, the displacement length (D/L) ratio is 138, which might be a bit light for an all-out cruiser of this length but is about right for a racer/cruiser. I like the big, aft-swept keel. It isn't as hydrodynamically efficient as a vertical fin and bulb but it will shed kelp and is, in my opinion, the best solution for a performance cruising yacht. Salona offers four different keels of 5.74', 6.56', 7.38' and 8.79' draft on the 41. For cruising in most parts of the world I'd choose the 6.56' version. But for racing on the west coast, the deep keel would be my choice.

In cruising mode, the 41 shows off her  clean lines.

I like the rig on this boat. The chainplates are located a foot or so inboard from the sheer, making it possible to run overlapping jibs but I'm not sure they are far enough inboard to allow the tight sheeting angles needed for racing. For cruising, the large rig, with a sail area/displacement ratio (SA/D) of 22.2 means you can leave the genoa home and cruise with nothing bigger than about a 105% jib and a cruising kite. The mainsail is set up with an Admirals Cup style mainsheet that is led aft on the boom and down to a traveler located on the cockpit sole. This is an efficient arrangement but most cruising sailors accustomed to the traveler on the cabin top or even on an arch will find that it takes some getting used to. Notice the stackpack mainsail. Salona has wisely chosen not to install a roller furling mainsail on the 41.

Sleek deck lines, twin wheels and no chines. Notice the short bowsprit on this boat. You'll want one if you plan to do any cruising on your S41. It will keep the anchor chain from rubbing the gelcoat off the bow.

I like the wide open cockpit with the traveler recessed into the sole. 
The cockpit is well designed for racing and cruising. The coamings are wide enough to sit on and the seats are long enough for lounging, yet neither would hamper a racing crew. A large and uncluttered cockpit is essential for quick boathandling in racing situations, and is just as important for cruising. After living aboard for a month or so, you'll appreciate every square inch of space in the cockpit.

Two cabin version works best for a cruising couple. 
The boat can be configured with two or three cabins and one or two heads. For cruising I would choose the two cabin, single head version. The forward cabin is large and incorporates a good sized berth, two hanging lockers, a seat and plenty of open space. This kind of space gets important quickly for liveaboard cruisers. The main cabin is open and features a big enough galley and a big dropleaf table amidships. The accommodations plan above shows a forward facing nav station, but the photo below shows the three cabin layout with an outboard facing table with a stool instead of a seat. I would demand the configuration shown above. Those little round stools are great for the local pub, not so good for working at the chart table, especially underway.

The three cabin version, shown here, is okay but the two  cabin version is ideal for a cruising couple.

I like the fact that the builder chose a basic, straightforward interior design, without gimmicky features like angled bulkheads and foldaway tables. This is a comfortable and useful interior plan that will wear well over the long term. If you visit the Salona web site, where all of the photos I used here came from, you can see 360 degree views of all the interior plans.

Salona uses vacuum infusion technology to fabricate the hull, deck and other fiberglass parts of their boats. This process results in light, strong parts and minimizes styrene emissions into the atmosphere, which is important for the health of the people who build the boats, and good for the environment. They also incorporate a structural steel grid in the hull to accommodate keel and rig loads. This is not the easiest or least expensive way to build boats, but ensures they will be strong, light and stiff for years to come.

Overall I give the Salona high marks for design and construction. The boat will be fast enough to be a lot of fun to race, yet has enough cruising amenities to make life aboard quite comfortable. It's a good looking boat that avoids extremes and faddish design elements. The nearly vertical transom lacks a swim step, which would be desirable for cruising, but other than that minor point, this boat is ready to go racing or cruising.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Home For The Summer

Finisterra left Avalon at 0900 on June 23rd for the short trip to the Isthmus, or Two Harbors as it is called on the charts. We picked up a mooring there at 1130 and sat back to enjoy the view of one of our favorite places in the world. Though we've anchored in many beautiful coves and harbors in Mexico, there is something about the Isthmus that makes it more special to us than anywhere else. In the afternoon we hiked over to Wells Beach in Cat Harbor. It's a beautiful walk with views of the surrounding hills and the broad bay below. It was nice to be back.

The following day we hiked three or four miles up the road toward Avalon until we reached a peak that overlooks the Isthmus and out toward the west end of the Island. Catalina, like the rest of California has been suffering from a prolonged drought and the vegetation along the way was pretty dried out. But compared to the sere landscapes of the islands we visited in the Sea of Cortez, Catalina still looks fairly lush.

The superyacht Attessa IV was at anchor off Avalon when we arrived. We've crossed paths with this well traveled yacht in Cabo, Puerto Vallarta and La Paz.  For more info on this magnificent vessel visit:
After the shark, the next fish to come aboard was this plump little perch, which we released after taking its portrait. 
Two Harbors. The coves on the far side of the bay are called Fourth of July and Cherry cove.
This pretty little schooner's home port is Dana Point. Ship Rock is in the background.
Another schooner passes by Ship rock.
Walking back to the harbor, we stopped and chatted with a couple of people chipping golf balls in a little clearing near the village. Turns out they cruised in Mexico a few years earlier aboard their Morgan 44, "Missteak" and will be heading south again about the same time as us. They had found this little makeshift chipping range, so the next day we went back and I spent an hour or so learning how to hit the ball with a wedge. Fun. The following day we hiked toward the west end, passing Fourth of July cove, Cherry Cove, Little Geiger and Big Geiger Coves, and Howlands Landing. It was great to get back in touch with what we consider our home island.

When we left Long Beach back in January we had no intention of coming back, so we gave up our slip in Alamitos Bay. Of course that marina is full now, so we were forced to look elsewhere for a place to keep Finisterra. We had once kept a boat at California Yacht Marina in Wilmington and after checking with the folks there, we took a slip on gangway E. The location is not quite as upscale as Long Beach, but the people are really friendly and it's a great place to get work done on the boat. We'll probably stay here until we head south again next fall.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Catalina Golf

The harbor was fairly full when we arrived at Avalon so we were fortunate to get a mooring near the Tuna Club. We had arrived just in time to relax in the cockpit and watch the sun set over the hills behind the town. The next day we went ashore and visited some of our favorite places in town.

One of my goals when I retired last year was to learn to play golf and we actually took clubs with us to Mexico, but we never got around to playing, and to this day I still haven't played on a regular course. So we made a point of playing a round of miniature golf in Avalon. Lisa is an experienced tournament golfer, with a handicap of 22, so I need to work hard to catch up. The course in Avalon is not like the typical miniature golf course on the mainland, with rotating clown faces and castles, etc. It is more like a botanical garden with artificial greens. Anyway, we teed off around 1:00 pm and Lisa played the front nine pretty well, with two birdies and couple of bogeys to be even at the turn. I stayed close with two birdies and three bogies until the eighth hole, a tricky dogleg fairway and a fairly rough green. I was on the green in two, then blew up and four putted the hole. On the back nine Lisa scored two holes in one while I struggled, with a couple of birdies and three bogeys. Now I know how Tiger Woods feels. After golf we retired to the 19th hole where we spent an hour or so relaxing and people watching. 

Here's a link for more info on the mini golf course:

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Back in the USA

Arriving in Ensenada after the long passage up the Baja coast is always fun. The hard part of the voyage is over and we are rewarded with hot showers, good food and plenty of friends around.  Ensenada also marks the end of the long, cold overnight passages which for a two person crew can be tiring. Fortunately we had good conditions for most of the trip from Cabo so we arrived in good shape and after a hot shower and a good night's sleep we spent the next three days enjoying Ensenada.

Big new tugs in Ensenada
The weather was perfect for long strolls along the city's bustling Malecon. When there is a cruise ship in port, it's full of foreign tourists, mostly Yanks. On other days Mexican vacationers come to breathe the fresh air and feast on street tacos. Mexico has enjoyed strong economic growth in the last couple of years and the tugs pictured above are an indicator of that growth. With the increasing likelihood of a west coast longshoreman strike in the US later this year, we can expect more US bound cargoes to pass through the Mexican ports of Ensenada, Manzanillo and Lazaro Cardenas.

The Carnival Inspiration calls at Long Beach and Avalon as well as Ensenada.
Even with a bit of haze, the San Diego skyline is beautiful from the top of Point Loma
A sailboat picks its way through the vast kelp beds off Point Loma

On Monday, June 16th we cleared the breakwater at 0100, bound for San Diego. It was a calm and uneventful 65 mile passage up the coast and we arrived at the customs dock in San Diego at 1130. We were met by our good friends, Tom and Mary Ellen when we arrived and we shared a toast to a voyage completed before the customs officials arrived. By 1330 the paperwork was completed and Finisterra was tied up at Southwestern Yacht Club's guest dock. We stayed in San Diego until Saturday, June 21st, then departed for Finisterra's home port of Avalon on Catalina Island, arriving at 1830. We often drop a hook over the stern when conditions are good in hopes of catching dinner. On this day, about 15 miles southeast of Avalon, we caught something else.

We couldn't figure out what it was at first. This was Lisa's fish so she was reeling it in while I went for my camera.
She said, "I think it's some kind of shark." We guestimated that it was about 40 inches long and weighed roughly 12-15 pounds.

One look at those jaws and we knew we had a baby great white on the hook. 
This was just a baby, but it looked dangerous enough to me.
I'll never forget the sound those jaws made as he snapped and bit at the hook in his mouth. It didn't take long for him to bite through the 40 pound test nylon leader, which was a good thing because there was no way I was going to bring this bad boy into the boat. Unlike other fish, Great White sharks are born live after a gestation period of 11-18 months (different sources claim various gestation periods). While in the womb, the baby shark apparently feeds on its siblings. Once out of the womb, the baby shark is on its own. This fellow had to be very young, which means his mama was probably not far away.
In this closeup you can see two rows of teeth, the large eye and the olfactory sensor near his snout. Even as a pup, this was one scary looking fish!

After that bit of excitement we arrived at Avalon at 1830 and took a mooring just off the pier, where we stayed a couple of days before moving up to Two Harbors.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Homeward Bound: Bahia Santa Maria to Ensenada

Finisterra remained in Bahia Santa Maria all day waiting for more favorable winds, and by 2200 the strong northwesterly had died down to about ten knots. We got the anchor up and slipped out of the bay at 2330 under a beautiful gibbous moon and rounded the south-facing Punta Hughes around midnight. From there we headed northwest toward Turtle Bay, about 225 miles up the coast. We headed offshore a couple of extra miles as we passed Cabo San Lazaro, giving it plenty of room. The last time we passed this way, in 2011, we watched a large sailing yacht that had strayed too close break up after it was stranded on the rocks there.

Once past San Lazaro, it's a straight line to Turtle Bay and we motored comfortably into the northwesterly wind and swell, which remained mild until the next morning. By 1000 we were punching into a fifteen knot headwind and a short, steep swell. Fifteen knots of wind on the nose translates to 20 knots of apparent wind, which is enough to send spray flying across the deck. These conditions stayed with us well into the night, then eased around midnight. The next morning we were greeted with the same lumpy conditions, which finally eased about ten miles out of Turtle Bay.
Finisterra's route to Turtle Bay. Notorious Cabo San Lazaro is the point just north of Bahia Santa Maria

We made the entrance to the bay at midday and were tied up to the fuel dock at 1245. We took on about sixty gallons of fuel and checked the weather forecast. It looked good for us to continue north, so we headed out again at 1330. From Turtle Bay, we could go inside Cedros Island, which is roughly the size of Catalina Island,or head further out to sea and pass to the west of it.  We chose the westerly route and headed well out to sea, passing to the west of Cedros and its neighboring islands of Natividad and San Benito. This turned out to be a good decision because that night we passed well to the west of a very large fishing operation instead of threading our way through it. We could see the bright lights of a dozen or so large fishing boats and many smaller lights around them. Throughout the night we could hear the radio chatter of other sailboats that were dodging their way through the fishing fleet. I was glad have a few miles between us and the fishermen, which were most likely after squid. Commercial squid fishing operations use "light boats" and purse seiners. The light boats are fitted with very bright lights that are shined into the water to attract large schools of squid. The purse seiners deploy a net around the school and reel it in close. With the net drawn up close to the boat, a pump is lowered into it and the squid are pumped aboard. I love calamari!
Turtle Bay to Ensenada

The passage from Turtle Bay to Ensenada is about 280 miles. It was all upwind and into seas that varied from easy swells to vicious lumps that we slammed into, making life aboard something less than comfortable. We had those lumpy conditions until we were about 40 miles from Ensenada, where conditions eased and we had a smooth ride between Isla Todos Santos and Punta Banda, and on into Ensenada harbor where we secured a berth at the Cruiseport Marina at 1230 on June 12th. Total distance traveled from San Jose to Ensenada was 824 nautical miles in six days and three hours.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Homeward Bound: Los Cabos to Bahia Santa Maria

We stayed about a week in San Jose del Cabo at the luxurious and expensive Marina Puerto Los Cabos. Actually it’s not really luxurious. It doesn’t have a pool or much in the way of amenities for cruising sailors. Instead it caters to sportfishermen and mega yachters, a totally different type of clientele. It is very well maintained and has a nice little open air restaurant where you can get a hamburger for only about $13.00. That’s dollars, not pesos. The marina is beautifully landscaped and the docks are perfectly maintained, while the staff is mostly quite friendly and helpful. On the other hand, it has a sterile, soulless ambience along with plenty of security. I credit this to the mostly absentee ownership of the boats that call this place home. Of the hundred or so boats in the marina there were only five or six sailboats, most of which had people living aboard who were, like us, simply waiting for a weather window to head north to the US.

While we waited for the window to open, we spent a little time preparing the boat for the arduous 900 mile trip up the outside coast of Baja, but there really wasn’t much to do, as Finisterra was pretty much ready when we left La Paz. I had the bottom cleaned, changed the fuel filters and gave the engine a thorough inspection because we expect to be motoring or motorsailing for the nest 900 miles. There are very few places on the outside of Baja that have fuel or any kind of marine services so we want the engine systems in tip top shape. We also want the sails and rig to be in top form. There was nothing to do in that respect except give it all a thorough once-over. The only thing on the to-do list was to make a set of sail ties for the reef points. With all that done, we spent the rest of our free time checking out the beaches and hanging out in the very upscale environs of San Jose. It really wasn’t a very fun place to be and I confess that I checked the weather forecasts several times a day, looking for the first opportunity to get out of San Jose.

One of the new “attractions” at the marina is a Dolphin Discovery exhibit. It consists of three or four large pens next to the marina where they keep a half dozen or so dolphins in captivity. Tourists pay for the experience of getting into the pens with the dolphins for a personal encounter. We walked past the place several times in the early mornings, before the customers arrived and watched the captive dolphins swimming around in the pens while the “trainers” got ready for the day’s show. The poor dolphins looked pathetic compared to the exuberant ones we always see in the wild, and the whole concept of keeping these animals in captivity for profit disgusts me. I hope you never pay to pet a dolphin.

My primary sources for weather information are Predictwind and GRIB files. GRIB’s provide a good overview of winds in the region while the information from Predictwind is more detailed and specific. By Monday, June 2nd, the forecast started looking good for a Saturday departure, but as the week wore on, the forecast for the area around Cabo began to worsen. So we could either leave on Friday morning or wait for the forecasted adverse winds to pass by, which could be another week or more. We decided to take advantage of the current conditions and quickly checked out of the marina and got underway at 0930 on Friday, June 6th, bound for Bahia Santa Maria.

The wind was light when we left San Jose but quickly built to 20-25 knots on the nose as we approached the Cape. In the twenty miles between San Jose and Cabo San Lucas the sea temperature plummeted from 83 to a surprising 68 degrees and we prepared for a chilly passage. But after rounding Cabo Falso, the last point of land before we could turn northward, the wind began to ease and the sea temperature rose to a much more comfortable 77 degrees. For the rest of the day and throughout most of the night we motored in balmy seas and a light wind. It was still on the nose though.
Finisterra's route from San Jose del Cabo to Bahia Santa Maria

That night there was a waxing gibbous moon amid scattered clouds until around 0200. After the moon set the overcast sky cleared and we were kept company by the vast Milky Way, with Polaris, the north star off our starboard bow. The next day we continued in lovely light conditions until around noon when the wind and seas built. By 1500, when we arrived at Bahia Santa Maria it was again blowing 20 with a bumpy sea throwing spray over the dodger.

We are anchored in the northwest corner of the bay now. The wind is still blowing hard outside the bay, but I expect it to lie down a bit this evening. If it does, we’ll get underway around midnight, and head toward Turtle Bay, 220 miles away.