Thursday, December 30, 2010

Panama City to David

It's been an interesting three days trying to get to remote Bocas del Toro. Flight delays, missed connections, holiday travelers, etc. have conspired to keep us from reaching our destination, but we are pretty sure that with a little ingenuity we'll finally reach Almirante tomorrow, where we can catch a water taxi to Bocas Town. From there it's a short ride in a panga to Bastimento Island, where the Red Frog Marina is located. We left Puerto Vallarta on the 28th and I expect to arrive at the Red Frog a few minutes before the new years eve festivities begin.

Right now we're in the city of David (pronounced daveeed). The ride, around 350 kilometers in a taxi, took us through the heavily industrial parts of Panama city, through rough looking suburbs, and then through wildly beautiful tropical countryside. Looking out the windows of the truck that served as our taxi, we saw people living in squalid tin-roofed shacks, caballeros astride beautiful horses tending their herds of brahma cattle, poor people trudging along the road carrying all manner of things, including chickens in cages, sides of beef, and other small caged animals. At one point we passed an overturned tractor trailer that had split open and kids were taking cases of soda that had burst from its seams. At another point, we passed a scene where the police had captured, handcuffed and roughed up two men alongside the road. Life in Panama is a long way from how we live in Orange County.

I just finished reading David McCullough's fascinating book, "Path Between the Seas". It's an account of how the Panama Canal was built and the forces, political, economic and military that were brought to bear to accomplish that stupendous feat. Just as important to humanity was the discovery and implementation of effective means of controlling and eradicating yellow fever and malaria in ths region. The USA played a key role in the founding of the Republic of Panama and has been involved in many of this country's most important historical milestones, from Teddy Roosevelt's support for it's secession from its mother country of Colombia in 1903 to George 41's decision to invade the country and capture Manual Noriega, Panama's president, in 1989. That particular adventure was called 'Operation Just Cause'.  I suppose it should be no surprise that the local people of this country have shown us little of the buoyant friendliness that we have constantly experienced in Mexico, but I should also say that in spite of the delays and frustrations of our travels, we've been enjoying our time here. Delays are part of travel everywhere in the world at this time of year, and we're very glad that it's not snowing and freezing here. Wherever you are, have a rockin' good time ringing in the new year!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas in La Cruz

Well, what can I say? We had intended to head south for the holidays, but were waylaid by circumstances and friends and found ourselves once again in the marina at La Cruz for Christmas. In the afternoon we went to a potluck dinner at Philo's. There was enough food for an army, great music and dancing, and over 500 gifts for local kids in need. One has to admire Philo's efforts to help the local children, his excellent and very reasonably priced drinks and food, and the great music. If you are so fortunate as to find yourself wandering down Calle Delfin in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, do drop in to Philo's. You won't regret it.

We are off to Panama in the morning to hang with our good friends, Craig & Liz aboard their 42 foot cruising cat, Salida. In Panama we'll tour whatever we can of the canal, Grab a flight to Bocas del Toro and, once aboard the Salida, explore the Caribbean side of Panama. Then we'll head back to La Cruz to get the boat ready to head south...This time we really are going to get out of the bay to explore Mexico's Costa Alegre...maybe.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Yelapa


We were ever so glad to get out of Puerto Vallarta. It's not that PV is a bad place, it's just that life is better away from the hustle and bustle of the city... any city. Once out of the harbor we headed southwest along the beautiful southern coast of Banderas Bay, looking in on picturesque small anchorages along the way toward Yelapa. We arrived there around 1500 and took a mooring instead of anchoring in the small and very deep bay. The village of Yelapa is situated at the head of a small cove backed by beautiful little valley that is fed by a small river. It is a very photogenic spot. Access to Yelapa by land is limited to a single road that tends to wash out in severe rains, so the place is quite isolated and most people arrive by boat. Unfortunately the place was discovered by hippies in the 1960's, which led to a continuous deluge of tourists ever since. Before the hippies arrived and coined the phrase "a palapa in Yelapa...." it was a sleepy fishing village. Now everyone who lives there is an entrepreneur in the tourist industry, hawking jewelry, photos with Pepe the Iguana, clothing with 'Yelapa' across the front and back, tours to the waterfall up the river, sightseeing boats, fishing boats, horseback riding, four dollar beers and eight dollar coco locos. (We took advantage of the iguana photos, the beer and the coco locos).  It's a bit disappointing to see this stunningly beautiful place converted to a cash cow, but it's their place and they can do with it what they want. Anyway, we spent the afternoon sunning and touring, sipping and pondering the scenery, then got back aboard the boat for a rough and rolly, and fairly sleepless night. The cove faces northwest, exposed to every swell that rolls in from the Pacific Ocean. With the night breeze blowing down from the mountains and the swells rolling in from the opposite direction, the Honcho was rolled and bounced all night long, leaving the crew rather unhappy in the morning. But it sure is a pretty spot.
Jaime working on the coconut

Lisa working on the coco loco







Mexican Anchor made of rebar

The Honcho in Yelapa


A palapa in Yelapa beats a condo in Redondo?!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Downtown

The Honcho has relocated from the anchorage off La Cruz to the famous Marina Vallarta, just outside of downtown PV. The reason for the move is that it is much more convenient to take care of business matters and to reprovision here than it was in romantic La Cruz. The banks, UPS, Walmart and Telcel distributor are all within an eight or ten Peso bus ride from the Honcho's slip on gangway E in the Marina. These days a Peso is roughly equal to 8 cents USD. We are absolutely committed to getting out of here by Tuesday morning, and moving on to more interesting places.

In the meantime, I've taken care of a lot of maintenance and repair items. First on the list was the squeak in the steering system. I took the steering pedestal partially apart in Cabo San Lucas and thought I had solved the problem. but on the passage from there to Banderas Bay the squeak came back. This time I tore the whole system down. It's made by Whitlock, a British company, so naturally it is quirky and complicated in ways that only the Brits can devise. In typically British fashion, the bevel gears and shafts that connect the steering wheel to the rudder are elegantly designed and beautifully machined. But the upper bushing is a cheap plastic affair in which the stainless steel steering shaft rides. Since the system was installed 12 years ago, the grease that lubricated this stainless steel-plastic interface has turned to black clay and squeaks to high heaven. It's all gooped up now with Lewmar winch grease and is smooth as silk.

Other items on the list:
1. Replace the main halyard. It was at least 5 years old and was starting to show some signs of wear before we left Long Beach. It wasn't bad enough to warrant replacement then, so I decided to use it on the trip south, but brought a spare along. After a thousand miles of sailing, it was looking a pretty tired.
2. Change the fuel filters. Diesel engines are hardy and reliable machines, but they absolutely need clean fuel. The Honcho is equipped with a 10 micron primary and a 5 micron secondary. It's a fun job if you like the smell of diesel fuel.
3. Change the oil in the engine and transmission. Second to clean fuel, diesels demand clean oil.
4. Clean the primary filter in the watermaker. the Honcho has a Katadyne 80e unit. It's very efficient and reliable, but here in Banderas Bay, where the water is just this side of putrid, the filter needs to be cleaned regularly.
5. Scrubbed the waterline of the hull which was beginning to look a bit skanky. Also gave the entire boat a long needed complete fresh water washdown. It looks like new. Now that the boat is all shiny, the engine purrs like a 30 horsepower kitty and the bloody squeak is history, the Honcho is ready for the high seas again.

We always keep a sharp lookout for whales wherever we go, be it on land or sea. But we never got a good up close and personal look at one until we made the short trip from La Cruz to PV.  We left La Cruz around 1000 and as we motored away from the anchorage we spotted some boats all clustered in one spot about half a mile south of us. It looked to me like they were stalking some whales so we wandered on over for a look. Sure enough, as we got close we saw a pod of humpbacks breach and blow. We followed them for a while and shot some photos then bore away for PV, thinking that was a cool experience. Ten minutes later we spotted another pod 10 degrees off our starboard bow and headed straight at us. I altered course to avoid them and we sailed on for another ten for fifteen minutes then encountered a third pod on our port bow, maybe fifty yards away. We're now old hands at whale watching and hardly jump around and shout when we see them anymore.

Banderas Bay is an interesting place. It's large, well protected, very deep and is apparently the perfect place for humpback whales to spend the winter. Humpbacks are baleen whales that feed on krill and small fish. They are migratory and travel from arctic seas to the tropics annually. They feed and fatten in the high latitudes then come south to mate and calve in the warm waters of the tropics. Here they fast and focus on other, more important things such as finding a mate and stuff like that. Humpbacks are frisky and playful, and quite active considering that they can be 50 feet long and weigh more than 50,000 pounds. They are among the most famous of whales, appearing in television ads for big insurance companies and recording hit whale songs that are especially popular with the Greenpeace types. Like all whales, they have enormous brains. I sometimes wonder what they think of us humans.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Brief Survey of the Cruising Yachts Anchored Outside La Cruz


The Honcho on the hook in La Cruz

Some boats carry lots of stuff on deck.
I wanted to give you a sense of the number and type of boats we see as we sit anchored once again outside La Cruz. So this morning while eating my papayas and lime, I scanned the anchorage with a pair of binoculars. Here is what I can see:

Date: 12-14-2010 0900 CST
Approximately 31 boats anchored outside of La Cruz Harbor
Type:
26 monohulls
2 catamarans
1 trimaran
2 powerboats

Sailplan: 4 cutters, 4 ketches, 21 sloops

Boats I can identify:
45' Steel center cockpit sloop
Beneteau 36s7 (Honcho)
Catalina 38
Formosa 41
Hans Christian 38
Horstmann trimaran (approx 45')
J-124
Morgan 41
Nordhavn 47 (poweryacht)
Passport 42
Passport 456
Peterson 44 (2)
Tartan 41

I cannot identify the other boats but there are several that look like a Formosa, with clipper bows, bowsprits and center cockpits. The largest boat in the anchorage appears to be about 55 feet and the smallest is the Honcho. There are a couple of others that appear to be in the 36 -38 foot range, but are too far away to say with certainty. It appears that most of the cutter rigged boats were built as sloops, with an intermediate forestay added.  Rigging a sloop as a cutter is probably a good idea for boats with roller furling headsails. Rolling up the big jib and unrolling the little jib is easy to do in a blow. Aboard the Honcho, the only boat I can see that doesn't have roller furling, I simply douse the big jib and set the small jib on the same headstay. This boat is too small to rig as a cutter. It's certainly more labor intensive this way, but the sailing qualities of the boat are not hampered by the weight and windage of the furling gear.
Some boats have been 'rode hard and put away wet'.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Davidson 44






A few days ago an interesting looking boat showed up a few slips down from the Honcho in Paradise Marina. It's all rigged for cruising, with a dodger, dinghy, kayaks, windscoops and lots of the other things that cruising boats carry on deck, but beneath the cruising gear I could see the lines of a grand prix type racer from a bygone era, and a familiar one at that. So I spoke to the guy who was washing it down, and sure enough, it's an old Davidson 44.

I'o showing the original bow.



Laurie Davidson is a yacht designer from New Zealand who is probably best known for his work with Americas Cup racers, but he has also designed a string of custom racers for individuals. The D-44 was one of his more successful racing boats, but an unlikely design for a cruiser. Imagine converting something like a Maserati Ghibli into an SUV.  The I'o (formerly Shockwave) is a very high performance cruising boat. The folks aboard love it and include in their crew three humans and a pair of german shepherds. Over the last fifteen or so years I've worked on another Davidson 44 called Pendragon. My previous post shows what it looked like back in 1993. I'o looks a lot like that drawing. The 2002 version is the result of our program of continuous modifications and upgrades over a roughly five year period. During that time we changed the bow and stern, added a new keel, rudder and rig including a carbon fiber boom, converted the steering from tiller to wheel, redesigned the deck layout, and many other smaller changes. The owner's most recent changes were to enhance the accommodations below to make it into a comfortable live-aboard boat for two.
44 Davidson 1980 Pendragon San Diego
Pendragon II  after I redesigned the bow and converted the steering from tiller to wheel.
Photos courtesy of Yachtworld.com
The D-44 may not be everyone's first choice for a cruising boat for several reasons. First, it has a tall and powerful sailplan with running backstays and checkstays. This type of rig is requires more of the crew than a shorter, stouter rig would.  Second, the interior is designed for racing with a crew of 12. That means that the bunks are pipe berths, there is no place to stow cruising gear, and cruising comfort was not a significant part of the equation when the boat was built. But the question is whether the D-44 is, or can be made into a good cruising yacht. I would venture to guess that the owners of both boats would say the answer is yes, after they customized the deck, the systems and the interior to meet their needs. Both owners are happily living aboard their boats as well as actively sailing them. Pendragon and I'o are fast boats that perform very well in light air. Speed and light air performance are valuable commodities for cruisers. Both boats are very solidly built and have lots of room below, and the owners of both have made major changes to the interiors to make them suitable for living aboard. Finally, both boats are beautiful. That's important...everyone wants to live in a nice looking house.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Crocs

After living four days at the edge of a swampy, overgrown, mosquito infested tropical estuary and hearing innumerable stories about the crocodiles that inhabit the place, Lisa could stand it no longer. We had to go on a crocodile hunt! So, armed with a camera and a full can of bug repellent, we set off in the dinghy in search of a croc. We wandered up and down various channels of the swamp that backs up to the marina with the motor set at dead slow for hours peering into the dense mangroves that overgrow the banks on both sides. In some places we felt a little like Charlie Allnut and Rose in the African Queen when we had to use the oars to pole our way across shoals, in other places we would round a bend and see a palatial estate with exquisitely landscaped grounds running down to the water's edge. We saw lots of exotic birds, creepy viney things hanging from the trees, dark shadows that looked like crocodiles lurking but turned out to be mangrove branches, even mistook a large green iguana that swam across our bow for a croc. But in the end we didn't see any. I told Lisa we could come back tonight and hang out in the mangroves with a flashlight, where we'd be sure to see some crocs, but she said she'd rather go out to dinner at the yacht club.

There really are crocodiles around here. They are of the American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) species and they range throughout the tropical, and some subtropical, parts of the Americas. They generally inhabit swamps and marshes, but also spend some time in saltwater harbors and bays. These are big animals. Starting as a hatchling 9 inches long and weighing a couple of ounces,  the average adult male grows to about 13 feet long and weighs over 800 pounds. Females are somewhat smaller. Normally they crawl, but they are capable of galloping along at speeds up to 10mph for short distances on land, and 20mph swimming. Needless to say, they are at the top of the food chain in their habitats and can eat whatever they can catch. But they don't waste energy chasing prey, instead they lurk in the water or shadows, waiting for unwitting critters that happen to get close enough for them to lunge at and grab before they know what hit them. Apparently anything from small mammals, birds and fish, to larger prey such as cattle and humans is lunge-worthy to a crocodile. In 2007 a croc ate a human a few miles south of Puerto Vallarta. In other, more remote areas, crocs take humans frequently enough that such unfortunate occurrences don't make the headlines on CNN.  Fortunately we learned all this after we went poking around in the mangroves in our little 8 foot inflatable.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Nuevo Vallarta

The days were slipping by way too fast in La Cruz and we had to get out of there. There are more than a few people who set out on an ambitious voyage...until they got to La Cruz, where there are many reasons to stay and few reasons to get up off your anchor and move along. The Honcho is now in Nuevo Vallarta, about 6 miles closer to downtown Puerto Vallarta. We didn't even hoist a sail to get here. We're in a slip in the Paradise Village Marina. Paradise Village is a destination resort with hotels, marina, yacht club, all manner of restaurants and shops, and plenty of traffic. Reminds me a bit of Marina Del Rey. Being one of the smallest boats here, we were assigned a slip way back at the far end of the marina, up a long and narrow estuary far from the center of things. Way back here the sounds we hear are a curious mixture of wildlife and auto traffic, but we are spared the throbbing beat of the nightclubs that serenaded us all night long in Cabo. The "Please Don't Feed The Crocodiles" signs have made Lisa a bit nervous, though.

The plan is to hang out here for a few days, reprovision, then head south. Yesterday we took a bus into downtown PV and wandered down the Malecon and up Cuale Island, which is located at the mouth of the Cuale river and is in many ways the cultural center of the city. We found the Museum of Mexican Naval History and entered a world that most Americans don't think much about, the Mexican Navy. Among the many exhibits we saw scale models of the Manila galleons that brought treasure across the Pacific Ocean from the Philippines in the 1500's. The ships used Banderas Bay as a refuge from storms and pirates and by the mid 16th century permanent settlements had been established. Later, when gold and silver were discovered in the Sierra Madre mountains inland from the bay, a thriving business in salt was established. Apparently salt was necessary to extract the precious metals from the ore that was mined up in the hills. Later a town was established, called Las Penas. The surrounding countryside was fertile and soon ranching and farming also became important parts of the local economy. This was lucky for the people of the area because when gold was discovered in California in 1849, the mining industry here collapsed. By the early 20th century there was a thriving agrarian community in the area. The place was doing so well that around 1915, the town was renamed Puerto Vallarta in honor of Don Ignacio L. Vallarta. Senor Vallarta was a big time lawyer in the area who eventually became governor of the Mexican state of Jalisco, and so got the city renamed for himself. We learned all this and more at the museum. I especially liked the photos and models of the Mexican Navy in action apprehending narco traficantes and protecting the territorial waters from threats of all kinds.

All that museum work made us thirsty so we found a beachfront bar nearby. The Spanish Merlot was pretty good and the Italian Pinot Bianco was so-so, but the view was spectacular. Banderas Bay is the largest natural bay on the west coast of North America. For you yacht racers out there watching the billionaires bicker over where to host the next Americas Cup, this bay makes San Francisco Bay look like...not much. It's roughly 12 miles east-west by roughly 20 miles north-south and is blessed with reliable northwesterly winds. With the near perfect sailing conditions along with excellent facilities and many thousands of hotel rooms, my vote is to have the next AC regatta right here in PV.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Banderas Bay Blast

We've been enjoying our stay in La Cruz in very low key fashion... Early morning jog on the beach, midmorning breakfast at a waterfront cafe, nap in the afternoon, wander around the town and dinner with friends in the evenings. Then we heard about the Banderas Bay Blast. It's three days of very informal racing or rallying between Nuevo Vallarta, La Cruz and Punta de Mita. All the money raised from entries, t-shirt sales and other promotions goes to help disadvantaged kids in the surrounding areas. So we entered the Honcho, which in cruising trim is no racer by any measure. But I thought it would be fun to for Lisa to steer the boat in a very low key competitive situation. So we entered for one leg of the event, an 8 mile beat from La Cruz to Punta de Mita. There was a total of 19 boats entered and we were the smallest. The competition ranged from fairly seriously prepared boats to fat old cruisers. The Honcho, in its current trim, is a pretty small tub compared to the racers we wanted to beat, but we got our race faces on for today's event. Here in La Cruz, we're on mountain time, but 12 miles away in Puerto Vallarta it's central time. With today's race/rally starting in La Cruz we assumed it would be on La Cruz time so we puttered out to the start line a bit more than what we thought was an hour early only to learn that the start is in 7 minutes instead of an hour and 7 minutes. I rushed around and got sails up and we barely made the start on time. Fortunately we had just time to run the start line before the horn and managed to win the start on starboard tack in about 8 knots of wind. We sailed out to Punta de Mita in a couple of hours, during which time the wind piped up to about 18 knots. We won our class and were the fourth boat to finish, behind a J/160, Beneteau Farr 42 and a Jeanneau 40. All of these boats were in the next higher class. We beat the second place boat in our class, a well sailed Wauquiez Praetorian 35, by around 14 minutes. Lisa was thrilled by her class win in spite of the fact that it was just an informal rally. But the fact is that whenever sailboats have a start line and a finish line IT'S A RACE! Aftewards we all went ashore for dinner and music at the El Dorado. I'm not sure how much money was raised for the kids, but we sure had a great time.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

La Cruz de Huanacaxtle

People just call it La Cruz. What a beautiful place! We left Punta Mita around 0930 yesterday for the short eight mile trip and anchored outside the small harbor here. Located on the northern coast of Banderas Bay about twelve miles from downtown Puerto Vallarta, La Cruz is the kind of place cruising sailors can spend a lot of time...It's an old and colorful small town with lots of great restaurants, well equipped marine hardware store, plenty of dive bars that cater to expats and yatistas and a mellow pace that makes me want to sit back in the shade of the rooftop palapa at the La Cruz Yacht Club and sip a tall cool margarita. Which is what we did as soon as we got ashore yesterday. I like this place and think we'll hang out here a few more days.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Cabo to Banderas Bay

A View of the Cockpit
Starting on the left, the Lifesling is for recovering a person who has fallen overboard, the silvery bags cover stereo speakers, the mushroom shape is the GPS receiver.  On the pedestal is a small platform for the swivel-mounted GPS, it has cutouts that can hold a wine glass by the stem, so no matter how far the boat heels, the glasses stand firm. Below it, the orange thing is the automatically inflatable life raft. Just to the right of the outboard motor is the 'MOM 8'. An automatically inflatable life ring. All this safety gear is nice, but probably of little use, since when one of us is on watch, the other is below sleeping. The most valuable of all these features is the GPS, after the wine glass holders.
Departed Cabo San Lucas around 1130 Tuesday in light air. We heard from some people who had just arrived from Mazatlan that conditions would be windy on the passage, but it was pretty light when we left so I hoisted a full main  and our all purpose jib, which is a 135% or #2 size. The wind never showed up. In fact it was pretty light all the way to Banderas Bay. Our course was to take us south of the Islas Tres Marias, but the wind was so light that I had to steer well to the north of them to maintain our boatspeed. As night fell the wind did too, and we started the engine around 1800 and pointed the boat south of the Islas. The next morning the wind filled in a bit and we were able to sail, but were forced to head in a more northerly direction than I wanted. Once again, as evening fell the wind dropped and we motored southeast. The next day we had enough wind to sail pretty much the direction we wanted. All the while, the seas were lumpy and confused, making for a rather uncomfortable ride. This is because we're sailing through the region where the Sea of Cortez meets the Pacific Ocean. Cortez waves come from a more northerly direction and Pacific waves come from a more westerly direction, and where they meet, it's lumpy.

The Islas Tres Marias consists of four islands: Tiny San Juanito is the northwesternmost, then ranging to the southeast are Maria Madre, Maria Magdalena and Maria Cleofas. Only Maria Madre, the largest of the group is inhabited. It is there that the Mexican government has located a penal colony housing around 1200 prisoners and staff. Sailing past it, I was reminded of that old Steve McQueen movie, Papillon, in which the protagonist was sentenced to life on Devils Island. From a distance all the islands look drab and forbidding. There are a couple of bright notes though, the Mexican government prohibits people from venturing near them so they have become a de facto nature preserve, which I believe the government has now formailzed. Second, conditions for prisoners there are apparently fairly good. They are allowed more freedom than we might expect and can even have family stay with them at times. The Mexican government abolished the death penalty many years ago, although the Mexican drug cartels have not.

Once past the islands, we continued southeast toward Bahia Banderas, arriving at the entrance to this large and beautiful bay around 2100 on a night when the moon did not rise until around 2130. So we slowed down and waited for some moonlight before entering the bay, being careful to avoid some uncharted rocks in the area. Navigational charts are notoriously inaccurate for Bahia Banderas, and even with our state of the art navigational equipment, I was amused to see that where we anchored is a quarter mile inland on the chart. At any rate, after a passage of about 300 miles, taking two and a half days, we groped our way into a snug anchorage in the lee of Punta Mita around midnight without knocking any of those uncharted rocks out of the ocean.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Cabo San Lucas

We arrived in Cabo Saturday afternoon. It was very light all the way, until we got within 10 miles of the cape, then it blew 22kts. We managed to get to the fuel dock in the high winds and take on 34 gallons of diesel and then got a slip. After we got into the slip we took care of periodic maintenance items, did laundry, checked the internet, got groceries, and generally rested up for the next passage. I also disassembled and lubed the top gear in the steering system.

We'll leave here at noon tomorrow, which is 11:00am Pacific time. Our next destination is Puerto Vallarta, which is about 300 miles from here. In some ways this will be the most challenging part of the trip so far. From Long Beach to Cabo, it's all downwind, but from here to PV, we have to cross the Sea of Cortez, which will put the prevailing winds on the beam. Right now the forecast is for strong winds tomorrow and Wednesday, then ease up for the last miles into PV. We are sailing very conservatively so I'll start with a reefed main and small #4 jib. If the predicted winds don't show up, I can always shake out the reef.
 
Cabo has changed so much since the last time I was here in 2005. The city now boasts a permanent population of 56,000, plus at least that many tourists on any given Sunday. They've built thousands of condos, dozens of hotels, and miles of shopping centers as well as a new marina and expanded the existing ones. But the slow American economy has made itself felt here. In 2005, the marinas were full...no slips available. Today, we're in a slip on a gangway that is literally half empty. Most of the gangways here are in the same condition. Five years ago, there were at least 300 moorings just outside the harbor. If you wanted to anchor for free you had to anchor way down the bay. All those moorings are gone now, and I counted only five boats anchored off the beach, right in front of the Hacienda hotel.  There is still a lot of hustle and bustle in the main commercial part of the harbor, with the Rolex, Armani, Harley Davidson, Saks and other stores still going strong, but the cafes are only half full. The famous Giggling Marlin and Cabo Wabo clubs were absolutely dead when we walked through them. We wandered up the hill to my old favorite haunt, the venerable Hotel Finisterra and had a drink in the old bar overlooking the Pacific. It was quiet and peaceful. I remember wild times there when I used to do the Cabo races in the 80's and 90's.
We are well, no sickness or injuries. The boat is doing very well, aside from that annoying squeak in the steering system, which I think I fixed. The only casualty in the roughly thousand miles we've sailed so far was a broken antenna on my handheld VHF, which was easily repaired. I expected more trouble and was prepared for it, but it never showed up, thankfully. Many people might think the long hours of sailing, with nothing around but the sea and sky would be boring, but that's not the case at all. I haven't had a single moment of boredom yet. Sometimes it feels like what we are doing is enormous, sometimes it feels like it's just a folly of ours, but most of the time it's just plain fun. I should say that sometimes we get tired, keeping watch, cooking, writing up the log, tending the sails and all the other jobs that need to get done to keep this boat running. But the vast majority of the time we are happy and content to sail the boat and look forward to the next adventure, however small or large it may be.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Bahia Santa Maria to Los Cabos

It's 1600 and we're sailing on a broad reach toward Cabo San Lucas. The wind is just strong enough to keep us going at 6kt. I came off watch and am lying in my bunk listening to the sounds of the boat, the wind and the sea. If this wind holds, we'll have a glorious night of sailing. The moon, already aloft, is nearly full and will light up the sea tonight. This is a big part of why we chose to travel by sailboat. There are certainly faster and more comfortable ways to see the world, but nothing quite compares to the ineffable pleasure of being at sea on a beautiful moonlit night, with a warm (well, at least not freezing) breeze and following seas. I wouldn't trade this for all the five star hotels on the gold coast. Even the work I do while sailing is pleasant. Aside from the actual sailing of the boat, trimming sails, steering and keeping the boat well organized, there are maintenance and repairs that are constant. I listen to the rush of the water along the hull, the creaks and groans of the hull and rigging, the sounds of all the systems from the watermaker to the autopilot and I know what the boat is doing. In my mind I can isolate each sound and tell if it's normal, or something needs adjustment, or if it's a sign of trouble. Right now there's a squeak in the steering pedestal that has developed over the last few days of sailing. It started as the tiniest little chirp when the autopilot moved the wheel. Now it's clearly audible, especially for the person sleeping in the quarterberth. I took the steering wheel off while the autopilot was steering the boat and tried to lube the bushing there, but it didn't help. After investigating it, I know it's nothing serious and I'll disassemble the top gear in the pedestal and lube it all when we get to Cabo.

Bahia Santa Maria

It blew hard most of the night, but by morning the wind died and was replaced by more fog.  I woke up before dawn and started getting the boat ready to travel. We had planned to spend a couple of days here but the cold temperatures are driving us south. By 0600 we were once again groping through the fog as we slowly motored out of the bay. About 5 nm out the fog began to lift, but there was still very little breeze. I started the watermaker around 1000hrs, which makes about 4 gallons of pure water per hour. It’s easy to tell the boats that have watermakers aboard. Those that don’t, usually have as many blue jerry jugs tied down on deck as they can, and maintain constant water discipline. Aboard the Honcho we have plenty of pure water.  It’s a luxury for a small boat that saves me the hassle of finding, buying and, worse, lugging 5 gallon jugs of water from shore to boat wherever we go. Without a watermaker,  water is a big deal.

A fish story:
 For most of this voyage Lisa has been trolling with a cedar plug in hopes of catching a dorado. As far as I could tell, we were just towing the thing from Ensenada to Cabo, without a fish so much as looking at it. This morning she changed it to a pink trolling lure, then went below to take a nap.  Half an hour later the reel lit up.  I quickly grabbed the rod because it looked like the fish was going to take it with him.  A couple of minutes later we had our first fish aboard, a five pound skipjack. Lisa came on deck toting a half gallon of rotgut rum. Maybe she thought I needed a shot of courage before I bashed in the head of the fish that was flapping around in the cockpit. Instead she poured a double shot down his gullet. With a couple of stiff ones under his belt, the fish relaxed in the back of the cockpit, then died in his sleep. I really don’t know jack about fishing, but I sure like the idea of standing any fish we bring aboard to a drink instead of beating him to a bloody pulp with a winch handle.  

Ten minutes later, Lisa had a couple of fillets carved using our specially engraved "Honcho" filleting knife by Messermeister, and I had the cockpit cleaned up. The knife was a gift from our friends, Steve and Deb. Deb owns Messermeister, and thanks to her, we are very well knived. I think the cleaver is Lisa’s favorite.  Thanks, Deb!!

Log entry 11-18-2010 1200hrs

Position: Anchored in Bahia Santa Maria

Rounded Cabo San Lazaro at sunup, going about 5 kts. We could see dense fog rolling out of the mouth of  Bahia Santa Maria, so we slowed down to let it burn off before entering the bay. After a couple of hours, we had about 150 yards of visibility, so we slowly rounded Punta Hughes and crept north into the bay. We groped about a mile and a half up the bay through the fog and got the hook down in the lee of Punta Hughes around 1030 hrs. A little while later the fog lifted and revealed the starkly beautiful bay stretching away to the east and south, and hills to the north and west. There are no facilities here except for a small Mexican fish camp. Bahia Santa Maria is known as a windy place and right now it's blowing about 25 kts. We'll stay here overnight, and leave around 0600 tomorrow morning.

Log entry 11-17-2010 1800 hrs

Position: 25d, 25.9m N, 113d, 00m W
Course: 150d magnetic
Speed: 6.2 kt
Wind: 13 kt @ NW
Sea: 3' swell @NW
Sky: 100% clr

We've traveled 176 nm since leaving Bahia de Tortugas, average speed is 6 kt. Our positon puts us about 70 miles from Bahia Santa Maria and about 50 nm from the coast, a fairly lonely piece of ocean. Speaking of distances, here are some others, as the crow (or gull) flies:
555 nm from our home port of Long Beach.
235 nm from Cabo San Lucas
521 nm from Puerto Vallarta

Seen little sea life on this passage, except for the ever-present dolphins. Did see a long-tailed Tropicbird, the first of its kind to be seen on this voyage, earlier today. Sailing conditions are excellent, with a waxing gibbous moon high overhead and a solid breeze. We are sailing with a full main and #2 jib. I brought a spinnaker but it's not feasible to fly it with only one person on deck. So we're sailing hotter angles, keeping the apparent wind at about 120 deg. and jibing when it makes sense.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Log Entry 11-16-2010 1800hrs PST

11-16-2010 1800 hrs.
Position: 27 deg. 06.5 min. north, 114 deg. 35.3 min. west
Course: 105 deg. M 
Speed: 5.8 kt
Wind: 13 kt @ NW
Sea: 4' swell @NW
Sky: 100% clear

Broad reaching under full main and #2. Early afternoon the wind built to 18-20kt and gave us a big push south. We are now headed southeast and will pass about 8 nm off Isla San Roque, then a few miles further, Isla Asuncion. There is a good anchorage in Bahia Asuncion, protected by the island. We won't stop there now but will when we come back this way next year.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Turtle Bay

We left Ensenada Friday morning, motoring in no wind. Our course took us southwest between Isla Todos Santos to starboard and Punta Banda, home of the famous La Bufadora, to port. Once clear of the island we caught a fifteen knot breeze out of the northwest and the Honcho headed south toward Isla Cedros, about 260 miles away. On the way we would pass well out to sea from San Quintin and the notorious Sacramento reef. Cedros lies at the southwest corner of the vast Bahia Vizcaino, just northwest of Punta Eugenia. The famous Scammons Lagoon is in the southeastern part of Bahia Vizcaino.  The lagoon is a breeding and calving ground for Gray whales which migrate annually from the arctic sea. In the winter the place is teeming with whales and while spectacular, it is not a good place for a sailboat. Scammon's Lagoon got its name from captain Charles Scammon, who discovered this breeding ground in 1857 and was the first to harvest the gray whale for its oil. On many maps the bay is called Bahia de Ojo Liebre.  Scammon and other whalers set up shop in the lagoon and over the next few decades nearly drove the grays to extinction. In fact, by 1900 they were thought to be extinct. Think of the David Crosby/Graham Nash song, "Wind on the Water". Fortunately the taking of grays was banned and their population has rebounded, and now thousands of them make the annual trek along the Pacific coast to breed and calve not only at Scammons but in many of the bays and inlets along the Baja coast and Sea of Cortez. We'll see lots of these animals as we cruise south from here.

Anyway, we passed about 60 miles out from Scammons lagoon, and to westward of Cedros Island and tiny San Benito Island as well. Turning southeast we rode a strong wind and rolling sea toward Turtle Bay, arriving at 2:00pm after sailing a distance of almost exactly 300 miles, taking a little more than two days.  This place got its name for the large number of sea turtles that once used it for the same purpose as the Grays at Scammons, only the story ends differently. There are virtually no more turtles left in Turtle Bay.

Here in Bahia de Tortugas we took on fuel, had a nice lunch at Enrique's, wandered around the dusty town of 4,000 and generally lazed about for a couple of days. Rested and ready, we'll leave this afternoon for Bahia Santa Maria, 225 miles down the coast.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Cruising boats of Ensenada






A fine example of a luxury sailing yacht, about 65' long. Probably here to serve out its year out of the states to avoid taxes. This is by far the nicest sailboat in the harbor.

I couldn't resist taking a photo of this Nordhavn 63. Also new and likely serving its year out of the States. Nordhavn's have a well deserved reputation as very capable long distance cruising motor yachts.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Ensenada

Had a nice sail down from Long Beach. Mostly light air all the way. Got a bit of rain twenty miles out, but, all things considered it was a near perfect ride. Yesterday I wandered around the marina looking for interesting cruising boats to write about. Unfortunately there was only one to be seen, and I already know all about the Honcho. There are quite a few cruising sailboats here, but they all look like they've been here a long time and their owners have no plans to leave anytime in the foreseeable future. Both the boats and their owners look pretty old and kind of scruffy...I fit right in!

The weather forecast is for warm temps and fair winds,  so the Honcho will be out of here in a couple of days.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Catalina

Spent the weekend in Catalina, at Two Harbors. There was no wind on the 24 mile trip from Long Beach to the Island so we motored the entire way. On the way we ran the watermaker and topped up our starboard water tank, tested the autopilot, GPS, Maxsea software and other systems...all worked well.  At Two Harbors we picked up a mooring in front of the village and made the boat all snug, as we expected some weather later. A fast moving cold front passed through overnight, bringing wind and rain from around midnight to dawn, and left us with a cold northerly wind the next morning. We hiked over to Cat Harbor around midday to enjoy the scenery of that idyllic anchorage. It's a short hike across the narrow isthmus, to the southwest side of the island where Cat Harbor is located. On the way we came across two bison grazing in the field next to the road. Bison roam wild on Catalina. They were originally brought over from the mainland in 1924 for the filming of a Zane Grey silent western.  Since then, the Catalina Island bison herd has been carefully nurtured and controlled by the Island Conservancy, and number about 150 head. Shaggy and prehistoric looking, they are the undesputed kings of the animal life on the island, except for us humans.

Viewed from aft, the transom extension is hardly visible

On the mooring with the swim ladder deployed

Nice, clean wake
We had a fine sail home on Sunday, and for the first time I was able to observe the new transom extension under sail. It worked as I had hoped, reducing turbulence and drag, and increasing our sailing performance. But most of all, it made a perfect place to board the boat from the dinghy.

The autopilot does the driving while Catalina recedes in the Honcho's wake.


Monday, October 25, 2010

The Pace Slows

It's been about six weeks since I started working full time on preparing the Honcho for extended cruising in Mexico. Until yesterday it's been long days and nights of work to get the boat set up and prepared. Today I can say that we're basically ready to go. All that's left is final provisions and fuel. For the first time I could sit back and relax a bit. With my workload tapering off I've had time for a morning jog on the beach the last few days, and time to reflect more on the voyage instead of the multitude of tasks to be completed before I could say the boat and crew are ready. But now the days are getting shorter and the nights colder, telling me it's time to go.
Our course south will take us first to Ensenada where we'll clear customs and collect all the necessary permits for a vessel traveling in Mexican waters. This will take a couple of days. Then the Honcho will leave the cities behind and head south along the coast of the Baja Peninsula. Our first landfall will be Bahia San Bartolome, or Turtle Bay, about 300 miles from Ensenada. We'll spend a couple of days there, then continue on to Bahia Santa Maria, another 225 miles south. Bahia Santa Maria lies at roughly 25 degrees north latitude, and it is at this point where the weather usually turns from colder north Pacific conditions to warmer, more tropical conditions. In spite of the tropical latitude, the landscape there, as nearly everywhere else on the peninsula is arid and desert-like. We'll hang out in Bahia Santa Maria for a few days, then continue south past Cabo San Lucas, at the tip of the peninsula. Cabo lies about 175 miles south of Bahia Santa Maria and in addition to being a tourist destination, is the point where we'll leave the Baja Peninsula and cross the Sea of Cortez, making landfall at Puerto Vallarta. PV is about 300 miles southeast of Cabo San Lucas. That will conclude the first leg of the voyage.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Building the transom extension

Well, the transom extension is finished.  It took longer to complete than I expected. This was due mostly to weather.  Since starting the project we’ve seen weather records here in Long Beach matched or beaten in September and October.  In late September we had a heat wave in which the temperature reached 111 degrees. Then in October everything changed and between the first and 23rd, we’ve had ten days of rain. This kind of weather is not conducive to doing fiberglass work outdoors.  In spite of all that, the thing is done and the boat is just about ready to head south.




Before
Okay, back to the process of building the extension. Step one was to take photos and dimensions of the existing transom geometry. This enabled me to develop the basic design and dimensions of the extension in the computer. Then I moved all the movable weight in the boat as far forward as possible to get the bow down and the stern up. This brought the bottom of the transom up a couple of inches…not nearly enough, so I put a couple of plastic trash barrels on the bow and filled them with water.  This added another roughly 500 pounds on the bow, bringing it down a total of about seven inches.  You would think that seven inches down in the bow would result in the stern going up a roughly equal distance.  This is not the case on the Honcho.  On this boat, the stern rises only about three and a half inches. The reason for this is that the longitudinal center of buoyancy, what you might call the flotational pivot point, of the boat is located aft of amidships.  This is not so good for working on the transom while lying on the dock, but it helps the motion of the boat underway.
 
After getting the boat situated in the slip the real work began.  I mocked up the basic shape of the extension with bits of wood, poster board and hotmelt glue to confirm the design. Using the mockup, I made a few minor changes to the CAD file and then produced working drawings of the mold that I would build onto the transom. This, and all subsequent work was done either lying or sitting on the dock and working on a part that was six or eight inches below that level.
With the mold in place I glassed in the lower part of the extension, which would be a faired extension of the hull bottom. If I was doing this in the comfort of a shop I would have vacuum infused all the glass parts, but on a boat floating in a slip there was no way I’d be able to get a workable vacuum bag on it. So I did it the old fashioned way with a bucket, brush and roller.  When this part was cured, it was time to build the upper deck of the extension.  Using half inch marine plywood, I shaped a deck piece so it fitted perfectly onto the lower part. I applied a layer of chopped strand mat to the underside of it and tacked it in place with Duraglas. The next step was to apply layers of mat and cloth to the top and fair it to the transom. A couple of coats of gelcoat were sprayed on using a little Preval sprayer. Then I created a pattern for the nonskid and rolled on thickened gelcoat.  The last step was to bolt on the boarding ladder and go out for a sail. Total cost for the extension, not counting the ladder was about $200 in materials and 40 hours of labor.   

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Transom Extension

The first time I sailed on the Honcho I noticed that the transom was immersed as we motored out of the harbor, dragging a small wave along with it…. Not good. Later, under sail, even with the boat heeled ten degrees, there it was, a little wave following the transom around everywhere we went. That little wave was telling me that Honcho’s transom sucks.  I mean it sucks a little wave along behind it, squandering energy that could and should be used to make the boat go. For a yacht designer this simply won’t do.


Beneteau 36s7 with Immersed Transom Trouble
Later, another problem became apparent. There is a very stylish recess in the transom that serves as a step and a place to bolt on the boarding ladder. It’s very French.  That is to say that it looks good but, mon amie, it does not work so well. There is a nice recess for the ladder, but no place to put stuff or stand if the ladder is not deployed. Having an inconvenient boarding ladder is, well, inconvenient.  But having a transom that sucks, that's just wrong. 

So I decided to build a small transom extension that will do three things. First it will stop the transom suckage (an industry term). Second it will provide a place to put stuff and stand on when boarding the boat from the dinghy or just checking the transom, which I do periodically. Third, it will increase the sailing waterline length by about a foot.  As all students of yacht design know, the theoretical hull speed of any boat is 1.34 times the square root of its waterline length. I’ll save you the math, on the Honcho that translates to an increase of approximately one tenth of a knot in theoretical hull speed. Putting it another way, Honcho with the extension will go roughly two miles further than Honcho without the extension in a 24 hour run. Let’s face it, that’s not much….But, I’ll be a lot more relaxed over the next 10,000 miles, or however many we sail, whenever I look over the transom and see a nice, clean, non sucking wake behind us. After all, cruising is supposed to be relaxing, right?

Here is a J/44 with Transom Trouble that was vastly improved by adding an extension. In this case we added a very substantial extension that included engine exhaust, cockpit drains and bilge discharge thruhulls. Honcho's modifications will not be nearly as extensive as these
   
Over the next week or so, I’ll explain how to build a transom extension.



Saturday, September 11, 2010

Some Interesting Circumnavigators

I think of Joshua Slocum as the first world cruiser. In 1895 he set out from Boston in an old wooden sloop that he rebuilt, and sailed solo around the world by way of Cape Horn, Torres Straits and Cape Agulhas. The Spray, as it had been named years before he owned it, had the following dimensions:

LOA: 37'
Beam: 14'
Draft: 4'-2"

When the Spray left Boston in 1895 it had a 14' long bowsprit and a 34' boom, In South America Slocum shortened them to about 10’ and 25’ to make the boat easier to handle. Still, the fifty-something year old Slocum had to be fairly acrobatic to set, reef and douse its sails.  Another interesting fact is that the Spray had no cockpit for shelter at sea, no self steering gear and no winches. Everything aboard the Spray, including the anchor windlass, was ‘handraulic’. Slocum must have been the epitome of a sailor in every sense of the word to sail that boat single-handed around the world. Since his historic voyage, many people have circumnavigated the globe.

One thing Slocum wrote in his classic narrative of his voyage was that you need not be an expert sailor to circumnavigate, and that point has been emphatically driven home recently. I refer you to seventeen year old Zac Sunderland, who managed to stagger around the world in an old Islander 36, and the even younger Jessica Watson who accomplished a solo nonstop circumnavigation in a Sparkman & Stephens 34. One of the most interesting recent circumnavigations was that of Pat and Ali Schulte in their 35 foot catamaran. I highly recommend their lighthearted and amusing book about their travels. You can find it at www.bumfuzzle.com.

One of my favorite circumnavigators was Harry Pidgeon. Harry built his 34 foot Seagoer yawl on the beach in San Pedro, California. Harry was a rafter, a rambler, an accomplished photographer and a pretty good story teller too. His book, “Around the World Singlehanded: The Cruise of the ‘Islander’” is well worth searching for. I always admired the calm, confident way he set about building his boat and simply sailing over the horizon. You can find out more about this fascinating sailor at: http://captainharrypidgeon.org/

It’s interesting to note that all five of these circumnavigations were done in boats with an average length of about 35 feet, none of which was designed or built with such ambitious voyages in mind. Yet these fairly average people ranging in age from 16 to pretty old achieved these admirable goals without any serious problems.  You can find a list of notable circumnavigators at http://www.joshuaslocumsocietyintl.org/solo/solotable.htm

Wind Child


Congratulations to Rudy Heessels and crew on the completion of their Pacific voyage aboard Wind Child, his Beneteau 36s7. From their home port in Washington, they sailed down the coast to San Diego in time to participate in the 2009 Baja Haha. Then in the spring of this year they took off on the Pacific Puddle Jump to the Marquesas, then on to Tahiti, and finally returned to Sequim, Washington by way of Hawaii. You can read all about it on their blog: http://www.sailblogs.com/member/rpo/

Honcho as a Cruising Boat

Honcho Glides Into Cat Harbor
Honcho is a Beneteau First 36s7 designed by the French firm of Berret/Racoupeau. Jean Berret had some very successful IOR designs back in the dark ages and eventually teamed up with Olivier Racoupeau to design production boats and BOC type racers in the 1990's. During that period they designed several boats for Beneteau. Today the B/R firm, sans Berret, still does a lot of work for Beneteau. The First 36s7 is typical of the work they did for Beneteau in the 1990's. The hull is beamy, wide in the stern and of moderate displacement. The proportions of this hull make it quite fast reaching and running, and tricky to sail fast upwind. For me, that's a nice compromise in a cruising boat. Here are some stats:

LOA: 34.50'
Bmax: 12.50'
Draft: 6.10'
Ballast: 3,650 lb
Disp: 11,684 lb (Honcho weighs about 12,500 in cruising trim)
SA: 605 sf (100%)
D/L: 173
SA/D: 18.8
Bal/Disp: .31

For you students of yacht design, the displacement/length ratio (D/L) is an indicator of the weight of the boat relative to its length. These days a D/L ratio of 173 is fairly conservative. You could say the same for the sail area/displacement ratio (SA/D). As old Josh Slocum once said, "The calculations are well and good, but how does she sail?" Well, as you would expect, the Honcho is a bit sticky in light air compared to a racer, but trundles along quite nicely in 12-18 knots true with a full main and #2 up. Point the boat downwind in a breeze with the big kite up and it's fun to sail. But I would say that this boat is happiest on a reach in 15 knots of wind.

The sailplan is excellent for a cruiser. The main is big, with efficient controls and the foretriangle is fairly small. This is an easy boat to balance and once you find the groove you can lock the wheel and boat will steer itself if you pay a little attention to the traveler. All the sail controls are handy and I've dialed in the block and tackle on the sheet, vang, traveler, outhaul, cunningham and backstay so that everything is easy.

I’ve made a few changes to the boat that are designed to make it more seaworthy or more comfortable:
  • Reinforced the stemhead with a chainplate and tension rod. It was originally simply bolted to the deck and had a tendency to lift when the backstay was tensioned up. At the same time I reinforced the deck in that area and extended the stemhead fitting to accommodate stowing an anchor as well as provide a tack fitting for the asymmetrical spinnaker.
  • Installed an anchor windlass.
  • Replaced the batteries with 2 group 31 and 1 4D Lifeline AGM batteries.
  • Installed an autopilot.
  • Installed a watermaker and replaced the hot water heater.
  • Installed a manual freshwater pump in the galley (the boat came with pressure water only).
  • Replaced a leaky, slow hydraulic backstay adjuster with block and tackle.
  • Installed a dodger and replaced the bimini.
  • Installed an outboard motor hoist along with padeyes so the dinghy can be lashed to the deck forward of the mast.
  • Replaced all the portlights. The old ones were crazed and leaky.
  • Replaced the old mainsheet with a coarse/fine block and tackle system.
  • Replaced all the old beat up rope clutches with new Spinlocks
  • Replaced all the sheets, halyards and control lines.
  • Installed a SSB radio.
  • Added a transom extension/swimstep 
  • Replaced the nav lights with new LED Aquasignals
  • Added all the safety gear necessary for passagemaking.
  • Installed a GPS chartplotter in the cockpit
The stemhead attachment gave me pause, but after thoroughly inspecting the boat from keelbolts to masthead crane, it appears to have been the only structurally deficient part of the boat that I could find.

Notice the gap between the stemhead and deck. There was no reinforcing structure underneath it except for a backing plate.

Honcho

Honcho is a Beneteau 36s7. All sailors have their own criteria by which they measure the ideal boat for their needs. For me, Honcho is about as good as it gets. My particular set of criteria is a combination of performance, comfort, construction, aesthetics and cost. When I balanced out these factors it turned out that only a select few boats would match up. I could have easily designed and built a custom boat that would be a whole lot better in terms of performance, comfort, looks and construction, but it would have cost roughly four times the price of the Honcho. On the other hand, I know of a lot of boats that would have excelled in one area or another, but fell down in some other important way. I'm not saying that there aren't other boats out there that would do just as well as the Honcho, but I have to say that this boat fits right in the middle of the sweet spot of my concept of a good small cruising boat. It's big enough but not too big. It’s engineered and built, for the most part, strongly enough to sail anywhere I would care to go. It'll easily put away 120 miles a day, and that's fast enough (just barely). As for aesthetics, that's a subjective judgment, one man's dreamboat is another man's blowfish. Finally, it fits the budget.





36s7 Driving upwind in about 12 knots. Notice the 'patio' built into the transom. Honcho will get a transom extension