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Archive for December, 2014

I’m seeing spots … !

Hey, when you sail the mainland of Mexico you encounter a few small problems with moisture.

While re rigging the boat, one of the riggers noted that we had the beginnings of mildew on our sails.  These are three year old sails and I do not want to replace them because I was inattentive.

But, OMG …… spots!

The cure.  Wash the sails.  Well, maybe not quite that simple but you raise the sails… and go after the mildew.  Fold-by-fold-by-fold of the sail.  Turns out, that the sail covers had gotten wet in the last big storm before we left Barra de Navidad.  We had already dealt with problems of mildew inside the boat, so we were not totally surprised.

The process:

cleaning the sails

Pick a sunny day.  With no wind!

Supplies:  Soft brush,  hard brush, Oxyclean (or the Mexican equivalent), a spray bottle of Green, a healthy supply of white vinegar.  The vinegar is the key.

Wet sail,  spray with oxyclean, scrub, rinse, brush hard with vinegar, rinse.  Dry.

“OUT, OUT, damned spot(s)!” paraphrasing Lady Macbeth.

Spots about 80% gone.  Easy process–just a bit of work!

Now in the real world of sailing,  raise the sails and the wind comes up … but only if you are at a dock.  If you are on the water and raise the sails, the wind dies.

Scrub and rinse.  Unless, of course, that is the day that the marina looses all water pressure.  Get a bucket and a soft brush and scrub rinse with water from the boat’s stores.  Adds two more hours, but hey, it has to be done.  And, of course, as soon as you are finished and go to put the useless hose up …. Tada!!! … the water pressure is back!  Now you can rinse the sail again.  15 minutes to repeat your two hours of work.

Wet sail … dry it.  Raise … wind comes up.  Lower … it stays wet.

We will dry it tomorrow.  Tomorrow, of course, it rains for the first time since we have been here.  Wet sails again … what makes mildew …oh, yeah … wet sails.  Leave uncovered maybe?

I am sunburned, tired, cranky, and arthritic after all the washing … and, of course, we are leaving in the morning for Mazatlan.  Oh, and it is raining on us as we get ready for bed.

Don’t you just love sailing/cruising?

WHIIIIIIIINE!  Or as Carolyn says ….”Drama Mine!”

Rigging by Peter Vargas

We came to La Cruz on the way to La Paz.  Our intent was to spend about a week then continue on to Mazatlan and then La Paz.

Then we discovered that the shipyard had a Master Rigger named Peter Vargas with SeaTec.  He has a shop in the shipyard across from the marina.

Our rigging is original to the boat.  It is in the neighborhood of 25 years old, give or take a year.  It is Caslok which is not even made anymore.  This type of rigging uses a chemical exothermic reaction to attach the rigging to the head that attached to the turnbuckles.  It is firmed in a process like mixing two halves of the epoxy to get a solid hard mass that seals the fitting to the wire.  Was used originally in elevators and then in sailboat rigging.

Twenty five years on rigging that is usually rated for ten as a useful lifespan.  Hmmmm.  We decided to replace all rigging from the turn-buckles up.  We kept the chain plates after consulting with the rigger.  They are in very good shape and can be easily accessed for inspection.



We decided to replace this type with StaLok and Norseman fittings. The other end of each stay was machine pressed.

Every piece of rigging on the boat was replaced save two whisker stays on the bowsprit.  The bob stay was also replaced.

You can easily see the rusting strands.  This is not from misuse or neglect … it is from constant exposure to salt water over 25 years.  Our bob stay actually has one end under the water at all times.



This process took about two weeks or at least it was spread over two weeks.  Also included three days of sailing to set and stress the new rigging and a second tune of the standing rigging.

It is a little unnerving to see the old rigging coiled up on the dock and compare it to the new.





We also made a decision after sailing Spiritus for 3000 miles, and more than 4 years, to remove the stay sail rigging and sail.  We have never used it. With it removed, the furled head-sail can now cross the deck with ease making it much easier to tack and jibe.  Before you had to take in the furler, let the sail cross, then let out the furler after a tac or jibe …. lots of work and very complex. Now Spiritus tacs like a smaller sloop rather than a cutter.  Our stay sail was also a hanked-on so pain to raise and lover.  I should note that our furler was designed to be flown from mostly closed, to all-the-way open, and all settings in between …. costs a bit more but makes it much more useful.  Here is the new set up.


The wire inside the furler was also replaced and the entire set up inspected and serviced. Looks funny to see your furler rig laying on the dock.


The end result, she sails easier.  We also rest a little easier knowing that rigging which bears most if not all of the force of the wind that moves Spiritus is now new again.  Shiny and strong.  Since we are again using her for what she was designed for, cruising, it seems appropriate to make sure she is ready and safe.

At the same time, we had the riggers replace the anchor light with a new LED bulb.  We had the insulated back stay that is the antenna for the SSB radio rewired.  And, we unsuccessfully tried to repair the mast top antenna for the VHF radio.  Both topping lift cables were replaced as well.

We chose to keep the rigging for the stay sail just in case we decide we made a mistake.  And we kept the best and longest back stay intact as a spare piece of rigging for repairs as all the sailing books say you should.

Then we took three days of sailing to test everything.  The same days that the fleet from La Cruz and Puerto Vallarts was on the water in the Banderas Bay Blast.  It was  crowded and fun three days of sailing.

Tomorrow,  we finally leave here and head for La Paz.  Maybe we will spend New Year’s at Mazatlan.


TIPs (Temporary Import Permits) and the Journal of Ir-reproducible Results

There used to be a journal for soft sciences like anthropology and sociology called the Journal of Ir-reproducible Results.  It was for experiments where there could be no scientific confirmation under the rigors of the scientific method because the results from the experiment were not reproducible.  Each time the experiment was run a different result followed.

This posting is about our most recent encounter with Banjercito and registering our boat under the Temporary Import Permit process here in Mexico.  That process is the bane of many cruisers in Mexico and difficulties with how it is interpreted led to over 300 boats being ‘seized’ in Mexico last year for ‘errors’ in their TIPs.

The many issues with this process last year can be found by searching the Lectronic Latitude 38 online sailing magazine.  We have never had a problem with the process.  Indeed, there are at least two postings in this blog on the process of modifying a TIP document to stay current with the listed items on your boat while in Mexican waters.  Most of our experience has been with the Banjercito and Aduana offices in Pichilingue which is just north-east of La Paz.

So when we found a big poster on the door of the Yacht Club restrooms at Marina La Cruz from the agencies who administer the program, telling all cruisers that they had only ’till the 31 of December to get their TIPs updated to reflect any changes or additions, we went …. big sigh … time to go ‘there’ again.


The issue according to the morning radio net among the cruisers was registration of dingy and outboard.  Spiritus had an inflatable dingy and a 3.5 hp Tohatsu outboard that have never been listed in the boat’s equipment list.  It was an oversight that happened in the initial permit process in Ensenada in the 2012 Baja Ha Ha.  The official there told me that the dingy and outboard were not required to be on the list.  Good enough.

Turns out now, evidently, they are.

So, since we are somewhat familiar with this process.  We type up a letter in Spanish, detailing what we want to add to the existing TIP.  Usually, this is a simple process with no cost associated with it.  You file and register a simple supplement to the list, an amendment.

We find out where the office for Banjercito is in Puerto Vallarta.  We gather all receipts and proofs that the dingy and motor were on the boat when we entered Mexican waters two years ago.

We hop on the bus.

The day is December 18, 2014.  That is the last normal thing that happened to us all day.

The story I will unfold now is (I swear) true.  I am telling it to the best of my ability.  It is about three boats, each with an unregistered dingy and outboard, three experienced cruisers with three existing TIP documents.  It is also about three absolutely different outcomes from the same process.  All cruisers were in the same office in La Cruz within eight hours of each other and all dealt with the same small staff.

The first boat, ours, requested a supplemental addition to our existing TIP.  We were told that no, the motor and dingy could not be added.  It would require a new TIP (cost $51.00 plus 16% = 800 pesos more or less).  We were told to surrender our old TIP which still had eight years on it.  We got a new TIP with 8 years on it.


The old one listed all items on our boat that were required to be listed except the motor and outboard.  The new TIP lists Spiritus and the dingy … no outboard was added in spite of our request to add it.  No other items are listed.  Thank God we still have a photo copy of the OLD TIP.

Boat two was there at approximately the same time.

Boat two got an amended TIP.  No cost.  They ‘added’ their dingy and outboard motor to the list of boat items.  They left with their OLD TIP and the amendment.

Boat three arrived sometime after we left.  Boat three requested to add the dingy and outboard motor to the boats existing TIP.  They were told “No” you did not need to add them because “we do not require them to be listed in Mexico.”  They left with their OLD TIP.

I write this because frankly I am past puzzled.  All of this came out the next morning when I asked over the morning net to talk to someone familiar with the TIP process.  Turns our from talking to the other boats being familiar with the process does not guarantee a predictable outcome.  Hence the title of this piece.

So we have a NEW TIP that you see above.  We are now headed to La Paz which I am told requires that the dingy and outboard motor be listed.

Evidently, this is a Federal document with local interpretations of what is required.


Christmas Night from the anchorage at La Cruz, Mexico


Not a creature was stirring … not even a whale!  Well, maybe an anchor light or two in the swells.

To friends, readers, and family … Feliz Navidad from Spiritus!

A whale of a tale or a tale of a whale?

We are now in the anchorage, just outside Marina Nayarit (Marina La Cruz).  Carolyn was on deck (port-side, up near the bow) hanging out some wash.  I heard an excited, “There’s a whale up here!”

We are anchored in 32 feet of water . . . the boat is nearly 6 feet deep . . . and there are other boats all around us.  A whale?

Admittedly, I am somewhat skeptical.  “Are you sure . . . did you see it?”

“No . . . .” she answers, with a decidedly punctuated pause. “BUT, I heard it!  Come up here!”

Heading for the stairs, I venture a gentle, “Dolphins sorta sound like a whale . . . when they breath . . . if they’re close.”

“It was . . . a whale.

“Okay.”  In forty-one years of marriage, one of the wisest things you can learn is that some arguments just aren’t worth the investment.

Sooooo. . .Up the stairs I go.

Nada! . . . Nothing!  Nary a whale in sight!  I don’t say a word; in answer to which, Carolyn immediately assumes her Do Not Mess With Me–hands on hips–position.

“It . . . was . . .a whale!”

I think to myself, None of us ever grows up . . .I am convinced of that; but, I don’t say it out loud.  Instead, I graciously inquire,”Which way?”

“Over there,” and she points toward the stern–3 o’clock–at a half-way position between us and another anchored boat.

We wait … still surface, small wavelets, morning sun. No bubbles, no disturbances.  Hmmm . . . .

“It might have been a dolphin,” I muse.

“It was too loud . . . .”  At this point, her chin juts forward and she arches her right eyebrow.  (With my wife, an arched eyebrow is somewhat akin to cocking a Colt-45.)

Then a blast of fetid air . . . hot moist . . . LOUD . . .  and very close . . . .

“Holy shit!”

“I told you  . . . . See!”   Again the pointing.

As we watch, it  moves away–passing slowly thru the anchorage. No one else seems to notice , just us.  She looks at me, beaming the ‘I told you so, but I am still your friend’ look.

Slowly it turns, now headed directly towards our anchored boat in a “T” approach, directly abeam and midships.  My mind goes, 32′ feet- minus 6 feet–equals is 26′ feet.  How big is it?  Don’t know, but this will be very close.’

“Get the camera . .  . get the camera .  . . .”   I dash down into the cabin and back up  . . . camera in hand.   The tail is just sliding under the water about 30 feet from our boat. Where should I stand?   Will he come up on the other side this side . . . how far?   I decide to stand at the main mast, so I can shoot off either side of the boat.

If you have never had the chance to take a picture of a whale, let me tell you, they are sneaky.  They pretend to be predictable, but then they hold their breath longer than you can, they turn under the water, they get curious and come up early.   All of this means that shooting a picture of one is . . .  .

“Look, there he is!”  Again the finger pointing.  A loud exhale. He is right on the stern of the boat . . . click  . . . click …when you see the pic below, you will understand.  Try to imagine  the excitement . . . focusing the camera . . . wait for it . . .look in the wrong place . . .and then turn suddenly like a gun fighter, only to find the whale sinking below the waves . . . laughing and blowing bubbles at your efforts.


I swear to God, it is there . . .  right under the . . . behind the solar panel . . .

We could see the whole whale’s shape below the water at the stern.  It is small, maybe 25 feet long, with long flukes and a wide tail. What kind of whale is it? Don’t think is is a humpback . . . but similar shape.  There is no hump in front of the fin . . . hmm.

“Where do you think he will come up . . . ?”

“There he is!”

All we get is a nice pic of his back and tail as he heads out, after swimming under the boat. Still, it is proof at least that it happened. This is not a whale of a tale but a tale of a whale.


Spiritus, our boat’s name means ‘God’s breath moving on the waters’.  Perhaps, ‘Whale’ somehow means “God’s breath moving in the waters’.

For a certain priest-friend who reads our blog . . . “Ruah” … the sound of the Holy Spirit … that great divine breath of creation … or God’s sigh …. may be exactly the same sound a whale makes when he exhales.  You may want to think about that.

That night, after sunset, we were laying in the cockpit bed when breaking water and small breaths exploded off one side of the boat.

“Dolphins, listen,” I pointed into the lingering twilight.

She smiled.  I did not see it, but I could hear it in her voice.   “I know. They don’t sound anything like whales . . . do they?”