Thursday, December 24, 2009 | Author: Julia
People in La Paz take their Christmas celebrations very seriously. City streets downtown have been closed all week to make room for stalls selling Christmas gifts and decorations and in the supermarket entire aisles are dedicated to Christmas chocolates and shiny toys.

We've been having a great time out at anchor, generally working in the mornings on our graduate applications and in the afternoons heading into town or working on boat projects. Our biggest project at the moment is our dodger. It's still in the works, but once we get it finalized we'll post more info and photos.

This afternoon I'm going to attempt to roast a 5lb prime rib in our boat-sized stove, this will be the first time I've ever cooked prime rib, let alone on a boat, so I'm going to open the wine early and hope for the best!

Merry Christmas!
Tuesday, December 15, 2009 | Author: Jacob
After a quick stop in Escondido to see how Noah is living (think lots of fiberglass and hot dogs and sleeping in the back of a pickup truck with Virgil his dog and his new engine) we had a great sail down to La Paz. Conditions were pretty ideal, with between 5-15 knots behind us the whole way, and a clear night with some of the most amazing meteors (apparently the Geminids) we have ever seen.

We are currently anchored in La Paz, where we plan on staying through the next little bit as we work on graduate school applications.

Hot Dog Mixtos: Hot Dog, steamed bun, onion, tomato, bacon, carnitas, mustard, crema, pepper, and more all served in a family's carport.

Round Dos, sampling the competition.

Sunrise in Escondido

Lat 24 09' N, Long 110 20' W
Friday, December 11, 2009 | Author: Jacob
It's a bit hard for us to believe that it's already been over three weeks since we arrived back to Pisces. At that point she was covered in about a centimeter of yard dust & dirt, had no sails or halyards on, and was missing a rudder. We were fortunate that Pisces had weathered the summer well and we did not find any unexpected problems.

For the past several days there has been a constant barometric contour running down the middle of the Sea of Cortez, bringing steady wind from the North & Northwest. Yesterday, after a last minute filling of our water tanks, we said goodbye to San Carlos, and we headed back out to do some sailing!

It didn't take long to find the wind, and fairly quickly Pisces was flying downwind under jib alone making an easy 6-7 knots. The seastate was a bit confused, with 3-6 ft chop at about a 4 second period. It wasn't always the most comfortable sailing we've done, but it was incredible to have Pisces back underway, Brutus (the windvane) steering, and everything back to how it should be. Even better was that the wind held steady between 15-20 from the NW all night, allowing us to reel off an easy 135 mile or so day. At about 3AM we decided that by beam reaching a bit West towards Baja we could tuck in to Salinas on Isla Carmen, and then go visit with Noah & Chris in Escondido. So, at about 10AM this morning (mainland time, we're still pretty confused on the time zones down here) we anchored under sail, the only boat in this huge anchorage.

Our current plan (weather permitting) is to spend tonight here on Isla Carmen, tomorrow in Escondido (Noah promises he's going to take us to the best hot dog stand in the world -- or at least Loreto), and then leave Sunday morning for the sail to La Paz.

Lat 26 00' N, Long 111 07' W

Saturday, December 05, 2009 | Author: Julia

We've been happily at anchor for a few days and punching through our list of projects to accomplish on Pisces. Some of our projects are routine maintenance such as servicing the winches, tuning the rig and removing rust from our propane tanks but my favorite projects are the ones where we are actively improving on systems that were in place last season to make things better and more convenient this season. I think of this latter group as giving Pisces some loving attention.

These loving projects include things such as: re-designing the dinghy lifting process and hoist, rebuilding the galley pumps so both salt and freshwater pumps are fully functional, creating chafe protection between the mast and boom gallows and making changes to our cupboard latching system so they positively latch (this last project has been "in the works" for a couple of years now and I'm optimistic that we've finally found a lasting solution).

I've also started provisioning for this season and spent a super fun morning re-discovering the joys of shopping in the massive super-mercado in Guaymas.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009 | Author: Jacob
We're in the water!

Thursday, November 26, 2009 | Author: Jacob
We trust everyone at home is gorging themselves on the traditional Thanksgiving meal, we miss you and would love to eat ourselves into a food coma with you today! Instead we are celebrating by paying someone else to sand the bottom paint off Pisces, thereby saving us hours of standing in a cloud of toxic copper-based paint dust, it's well worth the cost.

Equally as exciting as having the bottom sanded is that we are in the home stretch of our monster rudder/skeg project. Here is a bit of a recap of the steps we undertook to rebuild the skeg:

1) Grind...grind...grind...angle grinder with 24 grit disks...lots of disks...

2) Have a brief freakout about how much fiberglass we took off of the hull of the boat.

3) Apply 6 layers of medium weight fiberglass cloth with epoxy.

4) 2 coats of unthickened epoxy to fill the final weave.

5) Dry fit the rudder, mark hole positions.

6) Drill out all thru-bolt hulls oversize (3/4") and fill with chopped fiberglass and epoxy.

7) Patch small hole where we got too enthusiastic with an orbital sander.

8) Re-fit rudder, drill bolt holes.

9) Apply 3 layers of epoxy barrier coat (generously donated by a fellow cruiser!).

10) Go to local bar, check internet and write this blog.

11) Put rudder in place, seal bolts with 4200.

Most of the last week has required a Tyvek suit.

Fitting the rudder. Alignment turned out to not be much of an issue, everything is smooth and no play in the system.

Grey is the epoxy-based barrier coat, you can also see the patches on the rudder where we did exploratory surgery this summer.

That's all for now, today we are going to dinghy out to Tao, grill some arrachera and enjoy being on the water. Miss you all!
Sunday, November 22, 2009 | Author: Jacob
As most boat projects tend to, this one has cascaded a bit, and what was originally a rudder repair has now also turned into a rudder skeg rebuild. (For those of you who don't know, a rudder skeg is the bit at the bottom of the hull where the rudder attaches).

As we mentioned in a previous post, we decided to have IdaSailor Marine make our new heel fitting before we came back down to Pisces. We raved a bit in the previous post, so I'll be brief, but IdaSailor did a fantastic job. There was a slight hiccup in the production schedule, but Joel at IdaSailor was completely on top of it, and went way out of his way to ensure that we had the piece in our hands before we were in Mexico. I think that in some ways this is a better testament to their great customer service than if everything had gone completely smoothly, there was a slight problem, but they were all over it and made it right. On top of the great customer service, the fitting is a real piece of art, and we've already gotten a lot of interest in it around the boat yard.

While the advantage of having this piece built ahead of time was that it supposedly minimizes boat yard time, the disadvantage is that we didn't have access to the boat for accurate measurements, so we more or less guessed at sizing (we had very rough estimates, but that's it).

As it turned out, I ended up spending about 15 hours in the last week with an angle grinder, full tyvek suit, respirator, standing three feet deep in a hole (I know the guy if you need a hole dug in the Mexican desert), grinding the hell out of our rudder skeg. We got everything in the right shape, and have been doing some serious fiberglassing work to make our new shape permanent and watertight. So far so good, we've got 6 layers of medium weight glass & epoxy on, and will be putting some finishing coats on tomorrow or the next day. Everything is looking great, and in the end will definitely be a big improvement on what it was before, but this project has definitely been huge, perhaps the biggest one we've done yet. You know you're in trouble when a day laborer comes by and tells you 'mucho trabajo'!

We managed to get the rudder in place in about a day, progress!

Home sweet home, notice the new skeg look.

Fiberglass goes on, it's a bit of a complicated shape, we've been alternating wraps around the bottom and around the back.

Fitting is now at the machine shop getting the lower strap shortened and bolt holes drilled.

View of the boatyard from the road, note the cow on the left.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009 | Author: Jacob
We've been at Pisces for two days now, and everything is going smoothly, and we are happy that Pisces seems to have weathered the summer incredibly well. The batteries (wet cells) didn't even need to be topped off!

We spent yesterday making the interior livable, and today we did some fiberglass work on the rudder, got the yard to dig a hole, dry fit the rudder, and even managed to get some other miscellaneous tasks taken care of.

Here's a picture for proof:

More to come soon, we're having a goodbye dinner tonight for Jeff & Claire who drove us and all our stuff to Mexico in an air cooled 78 HP 1981 VW Vanagon...way to take one (actually a whole bunch) for the team!
Wednesday, November 11, 2009 | Author: Jacob
We are headed back to Pisces in the morning, almost everything is packed, and we managed to get a few last minute purchases in...including our new anchor.

We've included Tao's new primary anchor in the photo for comparison purposes.

Okay, don't worry, that's actually a dinghy anchor.
Friday, October 30, 2009 | Author: Jacob
I have to admit, I'm quite surprised that even after extensive polling not a single person recommended that I replace the rudder. I mean, even among some seriously big-thinking boat work type people the unanimous opinion was to at most sleeve the inside with some stainless rod. For example, Noah on Scheherazade seemed of the opinion that even sleeving with a solid rod was potentially a waste of time...and this is coming from a guy who is about to move his engine to a new spot halfway across his boat.

Being the type to not be satisfied with unanimity across a broad swath of experienced people, here's the steps we undertook.

1) Drill more holes. Maybe under that next little piece of fiberglass the answer to what to do will become crystal clear. We drilled a (ahem) moderate amount of inspection holes, primarily to ensure that the lower weld where the shaft attaches to the skeleton was not compromised. Everything looked really good and solid, and interestingly, it turns out that the lower pintle of shaft was not in fact continuous with the upper shaft. They were joined via the skeleton plate.

2) Excavate the fiberglass plug in the lower shaft. To keep water out of the lower shaft it had been filled (to a length greater than about 18") with solid epoxy. In order to inspect (or sleeve) the shaft we needed to be able to get most of this out. We spent a whole lot of quality time with big drill bits, drill extensions, and a massive screwdriver-as-chisel.

3) Get a quote on a new one. We called a few places for quotes on a new rudder, and ended up having the pleasure to work a bit with Joel and his whole crew over at IdaSailor Marine. These guys really know their stuff, are friendly and easy to get in touch with, follow-up on what they say they will (!), and generally provide a level of customer service that I have rarely (or never) gotten within a marine industry. We didn't end up buying a rudder through them, but we are getting the heel fitting fabricated (more to come on that topic) by them. I really can't say enough good things about these folks, go buy something from them :)

4) At a certain point we decided that whatever objective sense of reality we had started with had disappeared during the hours spent staring at the damn thing, so we decided to take the rudder to a 'prominent' local boatyard. We borrowed Chips' styling Jeep Comanche (thanks again!) and drove the rudder over to them. The foreman took a look, and pronounced it 'pretty light corrosion' and said that if we put a solid rod in and welded it in place it would be totally fine. He quoted us an upper range price of $150 to put the rod in and weld it in place, including the need to put the rod on the lathe to get the fit right. We went, had a cup of coffee, decided to go for it, brought the rudder back, unloaded it, filled out the paper work, and then...'okay, it'll be a minimum of $200 plus materials.' WTF? Price of steel just go up in the last 30 minutes? He then told us that the materials would cost $5/lb of stainless. When we saw that he was going to use a piece of leftover prop shaft we were done for. The prop shaft would have been fine, but it was ridiculous in our opinion to jack up the price, and on top of it charge us market rate for materials that were probably left over from the last job. We took the rudder and bailed out.
Luckily Chips and Mike had hooked us up with an amazing machinist closer to home. He welded in a solid rod of 316, and also welded up some of the larger pitting on the outer shaft, for less cost than the (original) boatyard quote. He also threw in two stories, one about killing someone's tame pet fish in Mexico, and the other about being swept out to sea off Pt. Bonita.

5) So here we are, rudder is awaiting some fiberglass (to be completed in the next week or so), and a burly heel fitting on order from IdaSailor. We are starting to actually be the smallest bit optimistic that we might not have to languish in the work yard for too long...
Saturday, October 17, 2009 | Author: Jacob
Saturday, October 10, 2009 | Author: Jacob
That's my wife on a Friday evening after working a full day...her idea to grab the dremel and start in on the rudder...I'm a very lucky guy.
Wednesday, October 07, 2009 | Author: Jacob
Well, we got off to a strong start with the rudder 'repair'. First stroke of inspiration was to use a commonly available stud-finder with metal mode to non-intrusively map out the inner structure of the rudder skeleton. It turned out that Pisces' rudder had a nice big wing-shaped section of stainless steel attached to the rudder shaft. We confirmed this with one test hole, and also confirmed that the foam was nice and dry inside the rudder. Awesome, a little epoxy and some fiberglass tape and everything should be as good as new.

So, we set up some makeshift saw horses, got the epoxy ready, and...crap...noticed that there was good bit of corrosion on the lower end of the rudder shaft. This is a potentially huge problem, as it can progress quickly (or slowly) and lead to significant weakening of the rudder shaft...which is bad.

Here's a list right now of our thought process. It's helpful for me to just get it written down.

Technical details:
- Shaft is 1 1/2" Nominal Sched 80 304 stainless (wall thickness ~.2")
- Surface corrosion (estimate less than 10% penetration) covers a several square inch area, primarily low on the shaft.
- Deeper corrosion/pitting (estimate less than 25% penetration) in groups, some in the area around where the shaft enters the fiberglass body of the rudder and some more randomly distributed on the exposed shaft.

Thoughts on possible causes:
- Not galvanic corrosion, as this piece is in contact with no other metals.
- I don't think it's stray current corrosion, as I haven't seen any other undue corrosion/problems with paint or anodes.
- Could have been caused during the time period when Pisces sat in Oxnard seeing very little use. At this point the shaft probably sat in one particular orientation for long periods of time without use/water flow.
- Could have been due to improper polishing/prep of the shaft by builder.

Thoughts on Outcome:
Really everything falls in one of two categories, fix or replace. Fixing is very tempting as the rudder is extremely well built in every other way, and fixing would also be the simplest and cheapest thing to do. On the other hand, if the shaft breaks we are in some real serious trouble. Here are some random thoughts/brainstorm ideas on the fix/replace options:

- As shaft is hollow, could insert solid stainless rod inside that would fit snugly and extend up past the end of the area affected by corrosion. This would perhaps give a bit of extra strength in addition to the shaft wall.
- Looking into epoxy/ceramic materials such as Belzona. These apparently are used by the Navy and merchant ships to resurface/repair shafts as well as to inhibit future corrosion. This is probably also pretty expensive for what it is.
- We still need to get a lower gudgeon/rudder shoe fitting made. It's possible that we could somehow find an option that kills two birds with one piece of bronze. For instance, we could potentially move to a more traditional gudgeon/pintle set by strapping the pintle onto the rudder, thereby removing load from that section of the shaft. Or, we could cut off most/all of the corroded shaft, insert a pin up into the remaining good shaft, and use this as the pintle.
- Could do some combination of the above, most likely would be Belzona or similar coating combined with internal shaft for extra strength.
- Seems also possible to me that since we will have a new gudgeon with the ability to add a sacrificial zinc, that it's not unreasonable to think that the corrosion would be significantly slowed/stopped from here on forward. (or am I just engaging in some seriously wishful thinking?)

- We got a couple quotes from rudder manufacturers, and it's not outlandishly expensive to get a new one built...I mean don't get me wrong, it's not cheap, but it wouldn't break the bank right now. We don't have the time to do it ourselves, at this point it's all we can do to get up in the morning, go to work, etc. We want to get through with what we have to do, and then get back out cruising.
- Plus of a new rudder is that it's new, no corrosion.
- One downside is that I don't think a new rudder would be built as well overall, for instance the metal skeleton inside would be substantially smaller, and the glass would be much thinner.
- Also, a bit of a logistical problem as we have to ship the thing across the country, then have them ship the other one back to somewhere depending on how long it takes (Tucson?). Also, although the manufacturers seemed to think they could get it done quickly, this is definitely the option most likely to cause delays in our cruising plans.
- If we are going to go through with the trouble of doing a whole rebuild, I'd like to take the opportunity to significantly improve some pieces of the rudder. For example having a solid shaft would open up some superior tiller attachment options, etc. Problem is I get quickly bogged down in trying to deal with these new options, and suddenly the job is even bigger than 'just' getting a new rudder built.

Alright, that's my current pain. Take a look at some photos (click to enlarge), and tell me what I should do :)

Thursday, October 01, 2009 | Author: Jacob
A while back I promised to write a post on gear, what worked and what didn't work in our first season cruising. Well, that idea got lost in the shuffle as we quickly fell back into work and other 'real-life' type responsibilities. Now though we are starting to get ready to head back to Pisces, and as part of that preparation we are buying a whole bunch of fun new stuff. So, rather than talk about all the gear on Pisces that worked well, I thought I'd talk a little bit about a brief selection of gear that we are excited about replacing or adding for this second season of cruising.

I am currently deep in anchor obsession mode (ask Julia). Last season we used a 45lb CQR and a 45lb Bruce, with 300 ft of 5/16" High-Test Chain. The setup worked great, and we never dragged, really it's plenty big for our boat.

But here's what I'm thinking...if a 45lb anchor works great...then a 60lb anchor would work greater! I talked to a guy the other day with a 60lb anchor on a 37' boat who called it his '60lb sleeping pill.'

I am pining for a 55lb Rocna anchor. These anchors have have been getting consistently great reviews...and it's bigger! We would most likely sell our 45lb CQR and keep the Bruce as a secondary anchor.

There are a couple complications to this lovely plan, not the least of which is that our current windlass (a vertical style older Lewmar Ocean) is pretty much maxed out with the current ground tackle, and has some major problems such as no manual mode. If the purchase of a new anchor also necessitates the purchase of a new windlass, things get very pricey very quickly. When we left Pisces in June we wrote ourselves a note along the lines of "No matter what, buy a new windlass, don't try to back out, do it!!" Now that we've spent a little time looking at the prices of windlasses we are seriously considering creative ways to justify backing out of purchasing a new one.

On a more technical note, I've learned some interesting things about the load ratings of various pieces of the anchoring system that might prove helpful to someone else.
- BBB Chain has a Working Load Limit (WLL) of 1/4 of its Breaking Load Limit (BLL).
- High-Test Chain (Grade 43) in the U.S. has a WLL of 1/3 of its BLL.
- Shackles generally have a WLL of 1/6 of their BLL.

So, in order to compare the pieces of the anchoring system you need to do a bit of normalizing. For instance, our 5/16" HT chain has a WLL of 3900 lbs, and therefore a BLL of 11,700lbs. Our shackles (3/8") have a WLL of 2000lbs, however they have a 6-1 safety factor and therefore a BLL of 12,000lbs. On the other hand 3/8" Proof Coil chain has a WLL of 2,650lbs and therefore a BLL of 10,600 lbs.

However, please go verify the above for yourself, and let me know if you find a flaw in my numbers! (Also, if the above isn't geeky enough for you then check out: for an in-depth discussion of anchoring physics)

Boat Cards!
Okay, so now that I've driven almost everyone to give up on reading this post...we are making boat cards so that we can more easily exchange info with the variety of people we meet along the way. As it was, we ended up writing our information on the backs of other people's cards (particularly Tao's cards) and feeling like everyone was way more organized than we were. We're using VistaPrint for our cards.

Outboard Engine!
Having a hard dinghy is awesome, and rowing is awesome too. Probably 90% of the time it was totally fine, but there were some instances where, due to wind/chop or sheer distance, rowing was enough of a pain to keep us boat bound. Yesterday we bought an awesome little used Mercury 2.5hp. We're hoping that this will expand our dinghy horizons a bit, without meaning that we get too lazy about rowing.

Fancy Jib Halyard!
Pisces is rigged almost exclusively with Sta-Set line that, while being durable and reasonably priced, can be a bit stretchy. This has been particularly problematic on our jib halyard. As the wind picks up we have been making frequent trips to the mast to tighten up the halyard and keep the jib shape looking good. We're going to swap the current halyard out with something fancy like T900, and hopefully we won't have to adjust the halyard tension every time the wind kicks up another 5 knots.

Gratuitous wood boat photos:

Monday, September 28, 2009 | Author: Julia
The official hurricane season is coming to an end and we are gearing up (literally and figuratively) to head back to Pisces. We are having another round of The Big Buy, looking at our lists of spares and projects and spending a lot of time online pricing boat parts and other miscellany.

Our list always makes me giggle, it's a hodge-podge of marine spare parts and "life on the boat" items. Here's an excerpt:

Spare Y-Valve for head
Star Book
Halyard Shackle
#4 Grommets
More shorts
Trader Joes multi-spice seasoning
120' T900 line
2 rebuild kits for galley pumps

You get the idea. Luckily it's on a computer, so therefore easily sortable and understandable. But it still makes me giggle just a little.

Yesterday we waved a very sad goodbye to the human crew of Tao who spent a few days with us here in the Bay, talking non-stop about all things life, love and sailing. They are heading back to Mexico, but on a slightly different schedule and agenda than we are, so we may see each other less. However, after popping my head out of the cockpit in Los Frailes last season to see them sailing past our stern was so exciting that I can't wait for our next reunion in some remote anchorage when we all least expect it!

In the meantime, the next weeks will be filled with The Big Buy, seeing our family and friends and gathering up everything to head back down to Pisces.
Saturday, September 19, 2009 | Author: Julia
Today I started a Jason 35 google group. This group is intended for people who are either current owners, past owners, or interested in Jason 35 sailboats. The Jason 35 was designed by Ted Brewer and built by Miller Marine up in Bainbridge, Washington. When we started looking at our Jason 35, we couldn't find a lot of information on the internet about them, so hope that this forum will be a space for people to meet other Jason 35 owners, ask questions, get information about gear, and find solutions.

This is the first time I've started a group so I'm not sure if this will work out, and please let me know if you have any suggestions.

Saturday, September 12, 2009 | Author: Jacob
We are currently up in the Pacific NW, visiting friends in Seattle and Portland. This weekend we are getting all geeky about boats at the Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival.

Julia is enjoying the opportunity to point out crusty old guys who have crazy beards: 'Look at that guy's beard, he's making you look like a total rookie!'
Monday, September 07, 2009 | Author: Jacob
Great news, Pisces looks to be safe & sound! Our friend Adam from Estrella trekked through the mud at Marina Seca to check inside of Pisces and pump out any water there might be. When he arrived he found that Pisces had already been opened up by the Marina staff, and the interior was dry. A huge relief.

We have been extremely impressed by the professionalism of the Marina Seca staff during all this. They sent out a great email to all boat-owners detailing the damage done to the yard, and reassuring everyone that all owners of damaged boats had already been notified. They had six crews working hard to contain the damage, including going boat to boat, opening them, and pumping out any water. Word is they have even ordered 300 padlocks to replace those locks which they are cutting off, and in the meantime the yard is continuing to maintain the good security they are known for. A huge thank you to Marina Seca!

Even though we were a bit preoccupied with worry about Pisces, we spent this past weekend racing onboard Fancy in the Jazz Cup 2009, a 27 mile race from Treasure Island to Benicia. We had a great time, took 5th in our division, drank a bit too much tequila (after the race), and spent the next day bashing our way home in various states of disarray.

How did we end up on foredeck?

My 70's look.

Best wind of the day was in the last mile or so. We managed to douse just in time, after watching some 50+ footers getting worked as the wind built and moved forward of the beam.
Sunday, September 06, 2009 | Author: Julia

We've been getting emails and photos from friends who are down there and friends of friends.

Adam from SV Estrella sent these pics today, thankfully Pisces is still standing:

We also got these photos from another friend who documented the damage in general:
SV BlueMoon Pics
Friday, September 04, 2009 | Author: Jacob
Hurricane Jimena wreaked havoc on San Carlos & Guaymas, right where Pisces is. Information is hard to come by, as San Carlos has apparently lost most of its infrastructure. Initial reports say 22+ inches of rain, causing massive flooding.

Marina Seca sits right next to an arroyo, which apparently flooded into most of the yard and offices. A friend who is down there reports that initially things look generally positive for boats on hurricane posts but that the work yard and trailer yard are a disaster.

We will update as we hear more, or we recommend checking in with our friends on Estrella who will undoubtedly be reporting more first-hand information:
Tuesday, August 18, 2009 | Author: Julia
Refrigeration/Ice Box:
We do have a fridge on Pisces, but it is the original fridge and we decided early on that we didn't want to spend the money to replace it or to be constantly fixing it underway, so we deliberately excluded it from our electrical budget and assumed that the area would be used as an ice box. The few places that we had easy access to blocks of ice (United States and La Paz) we stocked the fridge with up to six blocks and those lasted over a week (closer to two weeks in colder California). During those times we bought more fresh meat and cheese than normal, and were meat gluttons for a few days. We never kept the meat on ice longer than 3 or 4 days (it probably would be ok, but we were usually so excited to have fresh meat that we used it up quickly). In towns where block ice was unavailable we tossed in a couple bags of cubed ice but used it mostly for putting into our drinks, as it never really lowered the temperature of the ice box/fridge at all.
Ruining a fridge-load of food:
Our fridge shares a wall with our engine. Somewhere along the way down Pacific side of Baja we had a stretch where we motored for a while to beat a nasty storm system. When we were comfortably tucked into a protected anchorage I opened the fridge to whip up dinner and was assailed with the sights and smells of sour melted butter and cheese all over the fresh veggies, meat and beer with plastic bag remnants of our blocks of ice pathetically deflated at the bottom of the box and a slight green tinge all over everything. After this I realized the wisdom of turning the fridge on whenever the engine is running: 1. the food doesn't spoil and 2. it's "free" electricity and therefore won't deplete our energy budget.
Creative food preservation:
As a result of the irregular cooling schedule of the fridge/ice box, we were often without the means to keep things cold for any length of time. I picked up some great tricks for preserving fresh food, and invented a few methods along the way. The primary breakthrough for me was that in general food stays good longer than I previously thought, particularly if it's never been refrigerated.
Fruit and veggies: Fruit and veggies will last a couple of weeks in a cool(ish) dark place where they don't get thrown around too much and if it has never been refrigerated. Onions, limes, garlic, potatoes, sweet potatoes, cabbages, oranges and jicama were long term staples on Pisces, and lasted up to 8 weeks.
Cheese: Cheese will keep indefinitely if stored in an airtight sealed container filled with olive oil.
Our good friends on Catspaw treated us to a fantastic taco feast one night in Muertos when none of us had been able to provision for weeks. Their fresh grated cheese was from a cheese block stored in olive oil five months previously. We stored mild cheddar (which turns into sharp cheddar as it ages in the olive oil), jack and feta (with added peppercorns and herbs) in glass jars in the bilge on Pisces for the remained of our trip.
Eggs: I bought non-refrigerated eggs (difficult to find and expensive in the US, but a standard in Mexican markets), and turned them every couple of days to keep the shell moist internally. We always ran out of eggs before they went bad. The longest time I kept eggs like this was 8 weeks (then we ran out). By the end I was cracking the eggs in a separate bowl from the rest of the ingredients just to make sure they were ok, but they were fine every time.
Condiments: Ketchup, mustard, mayo, peanut butter or jam lasted without refrigeration if we made sure that we used a clean knife every time we used a condiment. The condiments never went off or moldy.
Sour Cream: Thanks again goes to Catspaw for introducing us to the joys of sour cream. It's possible to buy small half cartons of cream in Mexico that do not need refrigerating before opening. To make sour cream, Catspaw recommended adding limes until sufficiently sour. When our limes ran out I substituted white vinegar, which did the trick perfectly.
Our first few large provisioning trips were MASSIVE! Over time I developed a feel for the things we liked to eat while on passage and at anchor; definitely a different set of menus.
A few items emerged as clear favorites: canned corn (I always ran out), onions and garlic (went through about one onion and one head of garlic a day), flour (always ran short and had to borrow from Tao).
In addition to the staples, I splurge on our provisioning trips for special tasty items that I can throw into a meal with no fresh food to make it more interesting.
Special tasty item examples: olives, jalapenos, bacon bits, fancy pasta sauces, hearts of palm, fancy crackers, canned asparagus, miso soup, pesto, fancy dips for crackers or veggies.
Canned and non-fresh food staples: pasta, rice, sugar, beans, canned soup (especially concentrates ie mushroom soup makes a great base for special pasta sauce), evaporated milk, oatmeal, canned meats (beef and chicken), canned veggies (especially peas, mushrooms, tomatoes), basic pasta sauces, condiments, curry sauces and powders.
Meat: Cooking without fresh meat can be a bit of a drag and in general I liked the canned meat we bought in the US over the canned meat in Mexico. Trader Joes has some great canned beef, and Costco has good canned chicken. Salami was a big favorite of ours on the boat, it goes well in pasta, on pizza, on sandwiches and as part of a cheese, pickle and cracker plate.
Fresh bread items: With flour, yeast, evaporated milk, eggs and cheese the world of bread products is wide open. Bread items that I made included: regular bread (oven and pressure cooker), onion bread, naan-imitation, muffins, pancakes, cakes, pizza dough, corn and flour tortillas.
A splash of fresh herb: I picked a stalk of basil off a plant that we came across at an anchorage and nurtured it in a small container with water for the rest of the trip. It grew roots and was happy growing new leaves. A few fresh basil leaves added to a plate will make any meal taste brighter.
It was an adventure to provision in Mexico primarily because my Spanish is minimal so a lot of the time I made an educated guess about the contents of a can. I had basics covered (ie I knew I was buying canned chicken) but wasn't sure what type of spices or veggies would be included.
Overall the range of food options is comparable to the United States, with a little variety added in the translation. Jacob and I are pretty relaxed eaters, so we enjoyed the dinner adventure involved in making dinner with canned surprise.
Items for next season:
  • Right before we left I found canned brie cheese. This was great, and will become a regular item on Pisces.
  • Items that I plan to bring back from the US: Trader Joes canned meats, salamis, dried herbs and seasoning mixes.
  • Pressure cooker meat and veggies: I hope to have a pressure cooking extravaganza with our friends on Plume (a Nor'Sea 27, also back in the Bay Area for hurricane season) to can some fresh meat. We had some delicious meals on Plume in Mexico using their homemade meatballs that they canned before they left.

Friday, August 07, 2009 | Author: Jacob
Just wanted to let you know that there are two Jason 35s currently for sale in Seattle. I think you can find them both on Seattle craigslist.

The two boats have both cruised quite extensively, one to the South Pacific, and the other up to Alaska, so they should be well-shaken down.

Here's a photo of "Swallow" taken from craigslist, looks like a beauty with a new paint job:

Actually, we got interested in buying Swallow (pre Pisces of course) when we stumbled upon their 'for sale' website several years ago. Unfortunately for us, by the time we emailed about the boat, an offer had already been accepted and surveys were underway...
Wednesday, June 24, 2009 | Author: Julia
Here's our first attempt at gathering our photos together from the trip.

Pisces slideshow
Wednesday, June 10, 2009 | Author: Jacob
The van is dead, killed by the desert.

We don't even want to think about this thing (sold on craigslist in LA in under 12 hours)...but, in more positive news we are back in the San Francisco area, seeing friends and family.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009 | Author: Jacob
Cutting the rudder off. Tools used (in increasing order of desperation): Angle Grinder, Hacksaw (x2), Jigsaw, Hand Blade

An extremely bad idea on how to drop a rudder, jack the trailer up on wooden blocks like a game of Jenga.

Our sweet new ride, alongside the mother ship.

Pisces' home for the next few months.

Marina Seca San Carlos is a popular choice, we've certainly been impressed by their professionalism.

We now live in a van...
Friday, May 22, 2009 | Author: Jacob
It's hot here, and there are clouds of mosquitos, and fire ants that attack, and cows roaming loose outside the boat yard. And, today we found a small, but important, crack in our rudder.Most likely it will be a relative simple fix, however, as all boats owners will understand, getting to a point where we can have enough access to fix the rudder is a huge job in itself.

The crack is in the leading edge of the rudder, through to the shaft, in between the hull and the rudder (with a clearance of ~1/4"). To take it off, we need to remove the tiller head fitting (done), remove the below deck autopilot arm (done), remove the prop, pull the prop shaft, and (drum roll) cut the fiberglass heel fitting off (, and then lift or tilt the boat forward to get enough clearance below to pull the rudder off.

Then we need to get the rudder back to the Bay Area so that we can work on it this summer.

Still all in all, we are extremely lucky to have found this crack here and now.
Thursday, May 21, 2009 | Author: Julia
Yesterday we made the transition from Marina San Carlos to Marina Seca work yard in preparation for heading into dry storage on Monday. It's been an adventure already, there are bloodthirsty mozzies here who seem to love my back, and around 1am last night we had a wild thunder storm. Talk about feeling vulnerable, sitting in the work yard up on stands with 500 masts around...

As work yards go it's good and the crew there was really professional and organized in transporting Pisces. Shawn and Chris came along for the short ride to Marina Seca for moral support, they rode the tractor with Jacob, I rode on Pisces. Gotta love Mexico.

At the launch ramp.
It's a busy time here, they hauled 2 boats at once

On the road

Turning into Marina Seca
Sunday, May 17, 2009 | Author: Jacob
Here's our current list of To-Do's to prep Pisces for dry storage. It's in a rough order, but we've been skipping around a bit.

Check Insurance
Talk to yards/marina
Spray Key switch with WD40
Change engine oil
Find Impeller Vane (one missing piece still in cooling system)
Change out coolant (50/50)
Remove Tri-color
Remove Blocks
Add extra biocide?
Clean off anchor chain/locker
Get rid of some books
Slack rigging
Wash down running rigging
Pull Halyards
Remove Mainsheet
Remove Running Backs
Remove Sails
Clean Sails
Remove Windvane
Cover Boomgallows
Wash down boat
Remove solar panel
Cover winches
Clean Pesky
Top-up battery fluids
Clean/oil fishing rod/reel
Lash down anchors
Empty water tanks
Sort out air circulation
Go through for disposables
Grease Turnbuckles
Clean all clothes, large bags
Spices low in boat
Lube Galley Pumps
Dispose of Perishables
Oil Tools
Pack spares for preservation
Inventory Spares
Disconnect antenna leads
CD/DVD's low in boat
Check temp sensitive medicines
Remove spray paint/propane accelerants
Wipe lockers with vinegar/bleach
Clean entire interior (all lockers)
Alum foil in hatches/portholes (using car windshield reflector material)
Inventory Medical Supplies
Remove dry cell batteries
Go through purchase list and take measurements
Haul Out (Wed. 20th AM)
Plug all gaps (companionway)
Lock cockpit lockers
Foil on engine instruments
Foil the compass/instruments
Take off tiller-head fitting
Freshwater flush of engine
Antifreeze flush engine
Air-out fridge
Liferaft stored below(?)
Mineral oil in manual gusher
Prep Bottom (letting it dry this summer)
Close all thru-hulls (except cockpit drains)
Steelwool/Nylon Pads Thru hulls/vents
Inspect Rudder
Tape cover all thru hulls
Open all lockers
Rinse/empty holding tank
Vaseline/S.G. portholes/hatches
Oil in head
Stack cushions
Cockroach Poison on interior surfaces
Remove electronics, put in oven
Check/Grease all Deck Fill O-Rings
Towel around mast step

Friday, May 15, 2009 | Author: Jacob
We are currently in San Carlos, Sonora, having made the crossing of the Sea of Cortez in approximately 30 hours from Bahia Concepcion. The crossing itself was a mixed bag, we had great fast fun sailing, and then we got to sit in the leftover sloppy cross-seas when the fun sailing wind went away after dark. We reverted to our cup-a-noodles dinners (Julia observed that c.o.n. are a great sailing food not only because they are easy to make but also because 'it's not too bad to throw them up'...yeah it was that sort of night). We put too much faith in the weather forecasters (again) and tried to shape our course based on expected windshifts, which never materialized, meaning we ended up beating upwind for almost the entire time. We saw dorados plowing through the water in hot pursuit of flying fish. And, when we finally fired up Alpha Beta to do some motoring we noticed there was no cooling water in the exhaust, necessitating an impeller replacement in the aforementioned sloppy seas...

But, the thing which was the most strange about this particular passage, was that it was our last for the season. We are here in San Carlos (in a marina, with electricity, and water, and internet, and showers!) about to put Pisces away for a summer of dry storage. We have very mixed emotions about it, the experience up to this point has been the hardest, scariest, most intensely rewarding thing we've ever done, collectively and individually. We've both learned a huge amount about who we are, how we fit together, how people fit with nature, how other people are living, and how we might want to live in the future. We have also been pushed pushed pushed just up to our limit (and some times a bit beyond it), and we are both incredibly excited about thing slow afternoons at coffee shops with internet and newspapers, not getting up once during the night, cold everything, running water, friends & family, chinese food, indian food, pizza, hamburgers, milkshakes, frozen yogurt, etc.

We will post a few more blogs in the coming weeks, we'll post our list of to-do's so you can get a sense of how hard we will be working to prepare Pisces for the heat and winds of hurricane season, and we'll probably write a bit more of a wrap-up for the season. But now, we'd be interested if you as a reader have any questions!! An old salt wanting to know whether we use monel or stainless steel seizing wire? A landlubber wanting to know why some sails are white and some are not? Can't wrap your head around how we managed to spend the last 5 months on a boat doing ___ ? Ask away via comment or email and we'll let you know while it's all fresh.

And, to end this blog off, here's a blog post from Julia written yesterday while sailing that failed to upload due to technical problems:

We left Bahia Concepion this morning, following the fog out of the bay.

We are currently about 20 miles out of the bay barreling towards San Carlos at 5.7 kts. The wind is from the East and we are having a great sail with jib, staysail and single reefed main. The fishing line was out for a while earlier, but attracted too much attention from some nosy boobies and sea gulls, so we hauled it in not wanting to catch a bird on the line.

We can already hear the port traffic to the marinas and port captains of Guaymas and San Carlos as vessels clear in and out.

Hot, freshwater shower here we come!

Lat 27 11' N, Long 111 41' W

Tuesday, May 12, 2009 | Author: Jacob
A couple of days ago we had one of those days that makes everything else worthwhile, the kind of day that you dream of when you decide to go cruising.

The day started with a dinghy exploration of the North side of Coyote Bay in Bahia Concepcion. With the crew of Tao we dinghied out to a small reef to do some snorkeling. As soon as we dove into the 10-20 foot deep water we realized the bottom was scattered with clams, both the small butter clams and the larger chocolata clams this region is famous for. With an hour of easy diving we had enough for dinner.

After snorkeling we headed to Santispac beach to try and arrange a ride to Mulege for the following day. After walking around the beach and talking to a couple of the locals we looked out and noticed some huge fins only a few hundred yards offshore. Turns out that there are a couple of very large whale sharks currently calling Bahia Concepcion home! We jumped in the dinghy, and slowly paddled out to within a few yards of one, who was at least 25 feet in length. After a mild bit of coaxing, persuasion, and exhortation we all donned our snorkeling gear and jumped in the water to snorkel with this gentle giant. He seemed unconcerned by us, and would let us get quite close, within a few feet. It was an amazing experience, especially given the general turbidity of the water, to see coming out of the darkness the gaping mouth which was probably 4 feet across!

Pilot fish on his head, thanks Shawn for the photo!

That evening we had a dinner of linguine with sun-dried tomato alfredo sauce, fresh clams steamed in a garlic, butter, and white wine sauce, fresh bread, and a couple bottles of great wine. The moon was almost full, and the anchorage was completely calm and the water was like glass reflecting the stars.

Lat 26 42' N, Long 111 53' W
Wednesday, May 06, 2009 | Author: Jacob
Pisces sailing between Isla San Francisco and Isla San Jose.

Isla San Jose, we spent a good bit of time here shuttling around either side of this sandspit according to weather.

Dead puffers are ubiquitous on the beaches around here.

Mangrove expedition on Isla San Jose

Bahia Salinas on Isla Carmen, an abandoned salt flat operation.

And when we say abandoned we mean abandoned...not sure exactly what the back-story is on this truck...

Isla Los Coronados, a great anchorage, this photo is from halfway up our climb of the 1000' cinder cone.

La Ramada, the first time we've had an anchorage completely to ourselves!

Punta Pulpito, with Tao.

Sunset over our current home, Bahia Concepcion.

Lat 26 45' N, Long 111 54' W