Monday, December 22, 2014

Three Weeks in The Vortex

Finisterra arrived in La Cruz on November 30th and we immediately entered a whirlwind of socializing with lots of friends, old and new. Some had recently arrived from the US and Canada while others spent the year more or less full time in Mexico, but everyone was pretty much in a partying mood and we enthusiastically went with the flow. Two days after we arrived here I was surprised to find that Caramba, a boat I had designed way back in 1977 was a few slips down from Finisterra. The owners, Terry and Jo Reish had sailed down from California last year and spent the summer in the Sea of Cortez. It is really nice to know they are enjoying the boat.

During her stay in the Sea of Cortez, Caramba acquired a full sunshade as well as an air conditioner.

While in the slip at the Marina Riviera Nayarit, I went aloft and scrubbed all the grime leftover from our stay in Los Angeles off of the mast, spreaders and rigging. After that, Finisterra's hull and deck were polished and waxed, the engine serviced and bottom cleaned. We also got out the sandpaper and varnish and are in the midst of adding three more coats of varnish to the teak cap rails.

Off Cabo San Lucas the autopilot linear drive started making strange noises. I think it was trying to tell me that it's getting ready to die. It lasted until we arrived in La Cruz, and is still working now, but the grinding sound it was making is still there. I ordered a replacement drive from Defender Industries in the US, which assured me that they ship to "Yachts in Transit" in Mexico all the time. A "Yacht in Transit" is a foreign yacht that is traveling through Mexican waters with a Temporary Import Permit.  Unfortunately the package got stuck in customs at Guadalajara. The paperwork from Defender was incorrect and incomplete and the Mexican authorities wouldn't release it. So it was eventually returned to Defender and I ordered the drive through a local distributor in Puerto Vallarta. It was a hassle getting the situation sorted out but eventually Defender did reimburse me for the parts I didn't receive from them. The lesson here is that it's important to have your parts shipped from the US through a customs broker and not to rely on American suppliers that say they ship to yachts in transit in Mexico.

This will be our second Christmas season in La Cruz and the town really gets into the Christmas spirit. Last night we were walking up to a restaurant in town when we came upon a large group of locals who were watching a reenactment of the night Joseph and Mary showed up in Bethlehem looking for a place to stay. The kids did a beautiful job but I didn't have a camera with me so you'll have to take my word for it.

Finisterra dressed for Christmas

A few days ago we drove through Puerto Vallarta toward Mismaloya and stopped at the zoo. It was a nice zoo as zoos go, but some of the animals, particularly the big cats, looked fairly miserable in their rather cramped quarters. I'm coming close to making the decision to boycott zoos in the future.

We plan to sit tight here in the La Cruz Vortex another couple of weeks, until some parts I ordered from the States arrive. There are few places in the world I'd rather be stuck in. Until then, Feliz Navidad y Prospero Ano Nuevo!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Arcona 410 Review

Arcona is a name we seldom see in the USA, which is unfortunate because this Swedish company builds a line of nice looking and fast boats that I think could do well in this country. All of their current products were designed by Stefan Qviberg, another name that is pretty much unknown in the USA but I must say his firm's work is impressive. The 410 is the latest collaboration between Qviberg and Arcona.
Simplicity and balance are main elements of the Arcona 410 design

As I studied the drawings and photos of the 410, the theme that came to mind was simplicity and balance efficiently combined. In the profile view above, notice the delicately sprung sheer and balanced bow and stern profiles. The cabin trunk is low and blends perfectly with the subtly sprung sheerline. Simple designs are often the most difficult to execute well.
The 410 is fitted with a tall fractional rig with non-overlapping headsails. Notice the oversize spinnaker pole.
This boat will be a serious competitor on the race course.

The Arcona 410 is intended as a racer/cruiser and I would place it on the racier end of that spectrum. With a displacement of 17,200 pounds on a 36.75' waterline, it has a displacement/length ratio of 155 and a sail area/displacement ratio of 22.0. These numbers are indicative of a light and fairly powerful sailing yacht. By comparison, my Beneteau 423 has a D/L of 152 and a SA/D of 16.0. While the two boats have similar D/L ratios, the Arcona has roughly 33% more power in the rig. It's going to be a lot quicker in light air, and have higher speed potential in a breeze. The Arcona will be a the more interesting boat to sail. 

Wide side decks, non overlapping jibs and an Admirals Cup style mainsheet system show the 410's emphasis on performance.
I like the distribution of volume in the plan view below. The overall beam is 11.48 feet and the bow is relatively fine. Notice that the stern is not as wide as you find on some other recently designed cruiser/racers. There has been a faddish trend toward extremely wide sterns on this type of boat in recent years, and while that hullform has obvious advantages when a boat is in planing mode, I think a more balanced hullform offers better handling characteristics in a seaway.

The decks of the 410 are wide and uncluttered, perfect for racing. The cockpit is a good compromise for both racing and cruising, with big seats and plenty of space for working the boat or lounging. The open transom and twin helms are convenient for boarding from the dinghy and enable the helmsman to sit well outboard.

Notice that there is no provision for anchor storage on the bow. This is great for racing but you'll want to order your 410 with a bow roller and windlass if you plan to anchor. I like the recess for the dodger that is molded into the cabin top. The way we cruise, there is never a time when we want the dodger put away, but if you race as much as you cruise, a fold-away dodger makes a lot of sense.
Notice the recesses for sheet and halyard tails, and the mainsheet traveler mounted on the sole. Another nice feature is the block and tackle backstay adjuster, which is lighter and faster than a hydraulic unit would be. This boat has teak toe rails that are smaller than I would like for cruising.
Near perfect accommodations plan.

Arcona offers the 410 in two and three cabin layouts, and I could live with either, but the two cabin version would be ideal for a cruising couple. The aft stateroom incorporates a huge berth, a large hanging/stowage locker and plenty of shelf space.  

The small deadlight in the hull will provide a surprising amount of light in the aft stateroom. 

The aft head is just large enough to incorporate a shower. The three cabin version of the 410 offers a single head, located aft, while the two cabin includes an additional small head in the forecabin. In the main salon you find a large galley to port, with lots of counter space. Notice that the lockers above the stove are raised a few inches above the counter. This cuts into locker space a bit but creates more counter space.

Scandinavian styling: simple lines and high quality woodwork.
The arrangement of the galley wouldn't be very convenient to work in when the boat is under sail. This is probably a reasonable compromise if you don't do a lot of cooking at sea. Once in the slip or on the anchor, I think the cook would like this wide open arrangement. the nav station, opposite the galley would be a nice place to work anytime. The chart table is an ample size and there is plenty of storage space.

 The main salon includes a large dropleaf table and plenty of seating space, but the settee to starboard doesn't look quite long enough to be a good sea berth. We have the same basic arrangement aboard Finisterra and I added a lee board in the quarterberth to convert it to a usable sea berth when we're underway.

The forward cabin includes the aforementioned head, a large v-berth and smallish hanging locker. The accommodations plan shows that the berth has been pushed aft a bit to allow for storage room aft of the anchor locker but I don't see an access hatch in the photo below. Aside from that, the forward cabin looks bright and airy.

V-berth in the 3 cabin version of the 410

The styling of the interior of the Arcona 410 fits nicely with the overall theme of clean, simple lines. While some might appreciate fancier design elements in the accommodations, I think this approach will wear well over time. The corners and edges are softer than we see in the latest designs from competitors like Beneteau and Hanse, yet it is a thoroughly modern looking interior. I like it a lot.

Overall I give this boat high marks for design and it should be a worthy competitor in the marketplace as well as on the race course. Add a few amenities such as lazy jacks and an anchor windlass and you'll have a fine cruising yacht. I encourage you to visit the Arcona web site, which is where I found the information on this boat:

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Passage to La Cruz

Finisterra departed Puerto Los Cabos at 1130 on Friday, November 28th after five pleasant days in the marina. Conditions were expected to be mostly light air for the entire passage to La Cruz, which would be a nice change from the more boisterous conditions we experienced on the Pacific side of Baja. Our water tanks were nearly empty so as soon as we cleared the harbor mouth I started the watermaker and over the next 18 hours we added 125 gallons to the tanks.

Throughout that day and night the wind remained constant at 15-18 knots out of the north and we made good progress under sail. With light air in the forecast we were thinking of passing to the north of the Islas Tres Marias and stopping at Isla Isabella before turning south to Bahia de Banderas but the seas were still fairly rough, left over from the strong northerly blow of the previous few days, making it uncomfortable to sail toward that island. I was just as happy to leave the Marias to port and sail the more direct route.

Early the next morning the wind backed around to northwest and lightened to about 6 knots, which gave us a speed of about 3.5 knots toward our destination. I fired up the diesel and we motorsailed the rest of the way to La Cruz. I had been watching another sailing vessel on AIS that left San Jose an hour ahead of us. It was a nearly new 50 footer with a code Zero headsail up, which gave it good speed in light air, and it stayed about three miles ahead of us for the entire passage.

As we approached Bahia de Banderas I noticed that the other boat was headed directly for the Islas Tres Marietas instead of the safe channel between those islands and Punta de Mita. By the time we were within about ten miles of the Islas it was pretty clear that their intention was to thread their way through them. As it was a dark and moonless night, and knowing that the folks aboard that boat had never been in these waters before, I called them on the VHF and offered to give them some waypoints in the channel between the Marietas and Pta. de Mita. The skipper thanked me and altered course about 20 degrees and made the entrance to the bay safe and sound. The Tres Marietas are beautiful but there are lots of rocks and shoals around them, and it's not a place to be on a moonless night if you're not armed with very good local knowledge. Even then, it's better to visit them during the daytime.

Finisterra entered Bahia de Banderas just after 0300 local time. With no wind at all, we motored slowly toward La Cruz, timing our arrival for first light on Sunday, November 30th,  Nevertheless, was still pitch dark when we got there so we loitered just outside the anchorage until the first streaks of dawn appeared over the mountains to the east, then entered the harbor and took a berth on Gangway 10.

It was great to arrive back at our favorite harbor in all of Mexico.