Sunday, October 31, 2010


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 undisputed 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.

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.