Prepping for Mexico – The Big To-Do List

The list...at least one of them.
The list…at least one of them.

First off let me say just how happy we are with our boat.  When I explain to people all the things that we are upgrading, changing or fixing on the boat they furrow their brow and say “So do you think you made the right choice on the boat you bought?”  YES YES YES.  We are so happy with Banyan.  She is incredibly sturdy with a perfect layout for us.  She is big enough for all of us to feel comfortable, but small enough that we can handle her well.  She sails well, has a nice motion at sea and at anchor and has a hull that’s tougher than a brick _ house.

There are always things to fix and change.  But, changes beget changes.  Be careful what you change on a boat, because it will create a waterfall of adjustments.  As we are heading off to Mexico with the Baja Ha Ha on October 26th, we are down to the wire and before we leave, there are a few things that need doing.

Happily, Cameron’s parents and sister have been here visiting.  The ladies take the kids off on adventures during the day and Cameron puts his Dad to work.  I arrived home from a two week work trip up to Napa and Canada just a few days ago, so I am still settling back in to the boat life again after working on the wine grape harvest.  Cameron is happy to be plunging into boat work after being a boat Dad for the last few weeks.  While I was away he had tons of fun with the girls – it’s a really special time for them.

The fires up in the Okanagan came right up the edge of the vineyard, fortunately the wind was is the right direction and smoke taint is not a concern...amazingly
The fires up in the Okanagan came right up the edge of the vineyard, fortunately the wind was is the right direction and smoke taint is not a concern…amazingly
Tasting through some of the wines up in Canada.
Tasting through some of the wines up in Canada.
The Vancouver waterfront at daybreak - the nice part about land living is that it's easy to go for a run!
The Vancouver waterfront at daybreak – the nice part about land living is that it’s easy to go for a run!

So What’s To Do?

  1. Remember that waterfall of changes?  Well, because we got greedy and purchased a bigger and better dinghy (which we are beyond happy with by the way and wouldn’t change for anything), this means that we have to find somewhere to put the thing!  Since we got it, we have been strapping in onto the bow on top of our life raft which sits in front of the mast.  This is a less than ideal place for it since, if we needed the life raft in an emergency, we would have a two step process to get it ready.  It’s really a safety issue.  So, we have to move the life raft as well as install pad eyes  for strapping down the dinghy when we are under way.  This involves filling and drilling holes into the coach roof of the boat.  This is not something to be taken lightly since we don’t want the top of the boat to resemble swiss cheese, it’s hard to drill through and sealing/reinforcing holes.  It’s not always a perfect art.

    Doug looking through a porthole and working with Cameron to figure out just where the new holes are going to end up. The life raft is the big white box.
    Doug looking through a porthole and working with Cameron to figure out just where the new holes are going to end up. The life raft is the big white box.
  2. Having a solid anchor is important.  We have been really happy with our CQR, it has been a very good anchor, but for the trip we are embarking on, we need a third anchor.  We already have an awesome Fortress (Danforth) aluminum anchor that is great when we set a stern anchor, but we need another backup.  All anchors have their strengths.   Danforth anchors set well in sand and mud, hold extremely well for their weight (especially the Fortress), but they don’t reset worth a darn, so if you swing around it, it could pop up and drag.  The CQR sets well in everything but sea grass and typically does a good job resetting.  SO!  Enter the new anchor:  Rocna 33.  Cameron has been researching and drooling over this anchor for months now and it’s finally here.  Now we have three solid anchors with diversity and strength (Yea!)  Now let’s see if it fits on the bow with the CQR….

    Fitting the new bubble covered anchor onto the bow
    Fitting the new bubble covered anchor onto the bow
  3. You are only as strong as your weakest link right?  After the fun we had off the Painted Caves it became extremely clear how important strong chain is.  When we looked into our chain it is smaller than we thought and we have no idea how old it is.  After many conversations with chain producers it’s probably 8mm DIN with an 8800 lb breaking strength and 2200 lb working load.  It’s not bad chain and has served us and previous owners well from the Med to the East coast of the U.S. then all the way to New Zealand and back. But, it’s time to replace it as our primary day to day chain.  We’ll keep it as a backup and for laying in heavy weather or when we need two anchors.  Enter 300 feet of 5/16th inch G70 chain being shipped from the east coast..  sheesh.. this is getting expensive!  This has a breaking strength of 14100 lbs and working load of 4700 lb.  The beauty of 5/16th G70 is also that it only weighs in at 1 lb/foot so pulling it up by hand if necessary isn’t the end of the world.  So with that, for our 43ft boat with 28,000 lbs of displacement, we will have 600 feet of chain and 300 feet of rope anchor rode.  This might be considered excessive by some, but feels safe to us.  The more chain you lay out and therefore the higher chain length to water depth ratio you have, the stronger your holding power.  We like to lay 7:1 scope when we have the room.  It helps us sleep at night.  After watching several boats slip by us while their anchors dragged, we have a keen appreciation for the sticking power of a good anchor and chain when the weather kicks up.

    The new chain laid out. First we have to mark the distances so we know how much chain we lay out.
    The new chain laid out. First we have to mark the distances so we know how much chain we lay out.
  4. Remember that waterfall effect?  Well, now that we have a bigger anchor, can our Windlass pull it all up?  If you will recall, the windlass is made up of a motor, gearbox and the gypsy which grabs the chain and it’s job is to pull up the anchor so we don’t have to (thanks!).  Our windlass is of mysterious origin, unknown age and indifferent performance.  We have toyed with the idea of replacing it, but have decided to work with it as we like the fact that it’s old, simple and really heavy duty.  It strained at times when pulling up the anchor so Cameron has been deep into his mechanical books to give it some love.  He has replaced the switch (it actually died), cleaned all the power terminals and replaced some undersized wiring which was contributing some voltage drop (not good for a motor).  Cameron pulled the motor off yesterday (we’ll be pulling up that anchor by hand for a week or two) to have it rebuilt so fingers crossed that it will give us another 5 years of successful anchoring.
    The windlass from above decks
    The windlass from above decks

    The windlass motor just below decks
    The windlass motor just below decks
  5. The other funny thing about fixing things on boats is that, like houses, it can open up a can or worms.  There is a system of cables that go from the steering wheel to the rudder which control the steering of the boat.  We have an emergency tiller and our auto pilot would also steer in the case of a snapped cable, but since it’s an area of the boat we have never dug into, Cameron thought it important to sneak a peak.  Good thing he did too.  The wire to chain connection was frayed to the point of scary and he replaced both cables, as well as purchased an extra set for the next time they need replacing.  It also brought to light some less than perfect issues with the gear shifter and throttle which will need some work sometime soon.

    It's not supposed to look like that....
    It’s not supposed to look like that….

The list goes on; solar panels, fans, lights, outboard maintenance, replacing corroded bolts, put in 3rd reefing lines and move outhaul, isolate a water tank for the water maker, install a splinlock for the genoa furler, install a second bilge pump and another alarm, fix refrigerator.… it goes on and on and on.  Suffice to say, we will be busy.  In addition to all of the spare parts, additions and replacements, there is a good amount of paperwork to be done.  Licenses for importing the boat and it’s dinghy, long stay VISA’s, evacuation insurance, fishing license and other bits and pieces that the authorities require are flying around our desks and computers.  It’s not as simple as sailing off into the sunset and leaving it all behind!  But it’s worth it.

Our new flexible solar panels that sit on top of our  cockpit shade.  We now have buckets of power!
Our new flexible solar panels that sit on top of our cockpit shade. We now have buckets of power!

The girls are doing very well, loving the warm water and weather here in San Diego.  We have enrolled them into KUMON, a tutoring program which they go to twice a week while we are here.  It’s been a great way to get extra practice in math for Adelaide and reading for Isa.  We are both learning our way around homeschooling and finding our path.  It’s an amazing education and I’m realizing just how many possibilities there are.  Though bumpy it may be, its going to reap great rewards for the girls and quite honestly for us as well.

Playtime on the paddle board!
Playtime on the paddle board!
School time!
School time!  Schooling while still in PJ’s is the best.

In the mean time we rest at anchor in the San Diego bay, at times in the A9, long term “cruiser” anchorage closer to downtown, and on the weekends, we pop over to Shelter Island, a much more pleasant spot with a nice little beach that the girls love to play on.

So please send us some good vibes, prayers and thoughts as we work toward our departure.

Happy Sails!

12 comments

  1. Cathie says:

    I love what you are doing and look forward to the updates – hopefully we will see you here in the BVIs on your adventure of a lifetime … Fair winds to Mexico x

    • Anne Vawter says:

      Hi Cathie,
      Cameron exploded in a huge smile when I read your name and your comment. Thanks for the well wishes! I hope we will hook up in the BVI’s, great to know there are friends along the way!
      xoxo
      Anne

  2. Roger I says:

    Will the new chain fit the old gypsy of the windlass?. 5/16″ =0.3125″ while 8mm=0.3149 so it seems to be a near perfect fit, but did you check it with your gypsy?

    • Anne Vawter says:

      Good catch Roger! Yes, we did test it. We bought a length of it and Cameron hung off the bow in a bosen’s chair attached to the end of the chain and we cranked him up without incident.
      Cheers!

  3. Ren Harris says:

    Vawter Gang

    Marilyn and I have enjoyed following your adventure and look forward to each new edition. We just finished our 52nd harvest and it was the earliest ever. We finished picking on September 27th and finished pressing on October 3rd. Our crop was normal in size but I think the valley as a whole was down a bit – fantastic quality.

    • Anne Vawter says:

      Hi Ren! So good to see your name here. I’m glad you are enjoying the updates. Yes, crazy harvest. I’m glad your vines carried a normal crop this year, we were 20-50% down with most of our contracts. I’m glad it’s all in… Not pressed out yet, but getting there! Best of luck to you all. Miss you tons but glad I have some Paradigm in my cellar to reminisce with.
      Cheers,
      Anne

  4. Ralph Myers says:

    Thanks, Anne, for all the great newsy posts! Loving all the details!
    How’s the first aid kit holding out. Need any new prescriptions before heading to Baja?

    • Anne Vawter says:

      Hi Dr. Myers,
      You are so sweet to think of us. I think we are still good for now. I haven’t had to crack anything prescription at all luckily… at least not yet! I have used lots of bandaids, essential oils, Neosporin and bonine though! We have been all really healthy fortunately (knock on wood). I will let you know if I need anything!
      Cheers,
      Anne

    • Anne Vawter says:

      Hey David,
      We are buddies with Eric too! Lived in the Napa marina with him for a while. Good people. We look forward to seeing them again. Hope you are well David! Glad to see your comment!
      Cheers,
      Anne

  5. Mary says:

    I am a friend of Jennie Cunningham, and she told me about your blog! I am so enjoying your updates, especially as we come to fall here in Indiana! I pray the best for your journeys!
    Mary Pifer

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