Thursday, November 26, 2015

SV Shannon's Spirit... Adjusted plans.

Hi everyone,

CJ here.... With a short update from San Carlos.

As you know our plans this year included prepping Shannon's Spirit and heading across the Sea to the Baja... And then to sail, with our friends Sue and John, down the coast to La Paz. We started off pretty well but have now realized we need to adjust our expectations. We are nearing the end of November and for many reasons (including a late start, the need for more repairs than we had known of or planned for, and Mother Nature's determination to toss Norther after Norther down the Sea...along with totally uncharacteristic Tropical Storms... and thereby creating sea and wind conditions that are more than uncomfortable... they can be dangerous) we four have had discussions regarding the situation and what is the best thing to do, given the circumstances.

Sue and John have decided to head home for Christmas. They've enjoyed their visit and, even though we worked them hard, they insist they've had a good time...AND... We have a grand plan for next year (a non el niño year). We will pick them up in Loretto (by which time we will have worked out all the kinks and already beat the northers to cross the Sea) and we will then sail slowly down to La Paz... This year we have been blessed with their company, their good humor, and their huge assistance and support both with the work and the decision making; and we will miss them very much.

We have decided to stop what kind of feels like running up hill, on one leg, with your hands tied behind your back. We are going to slow down (continue working on the boat but at a much less frenzied pace), take some time for our selves (rest, relax, recharge our systems...) and enjoy life here in San Carlos. We ll live in our floating condo at the San Carlos Marina (beautiful location by any standards), focus on our health, and do some fun things. We can still go out for day sails and fishing... Maybe an overnight or two... And we have found a tennis court and know of many beaches within a short distance... Suitable for long walks and Sophie.

So, sorry there won't be any stories of wild rides across the Sea or isolated anchorages with the north winds ravaging all around us... And we are very disappointed yet another year will go by before we get to visit with friends Tom and Jeanne in La Paz. BUT, we are adjusting to this new plan and feel better about how we re dealing with it each day.... We are looking forward to spending the next couple of months resting and rejuvenating as well as using the time to finish most repairs in SSpirit and divesting ourselves of all the 'stuff' we have and do not need. Who knows, may even find time for some writing.

I m sure there still will be stories of interest for the Blog and I ll try not to bore you....

So, for now, know we are well and enjoying life... And somewhat relieved to have given ourselves permission to slow down and take a breath.....

Hope all of you are well and have special plans with family and friends for the Christmas season.


Carolyn and Kathy (and PSophie)

Sent from my iPad

Thursday, November 12, 2015

It’s wonderful to be in the water…

San Carlos Marina is really quite beautiful.  A malecon/walkway circles the marina from A dock (closest to the exit) all the way around to G or F, inland and next to the marina office, Barracuda Bob’s (a good morning coffee shop) and Hammerhead’s (a sports bar with good food and a lovely setting). Docks A thru D are pretty much filled with cruisers like us (while the rest of the marina is filled with large, flashy fishing boats..some charter..some private).  Our neighbourhood changes almost every day as some boats get to leave, having completed their preparations and repairs, and other boats arrive, eager to roll up their sleeves and get themselves ready to depart as soon as possible.  Shannon’s Spirit is on Dock C.  We’re sharing our slip with SV Swan, a sister ship… a few years newer and a great role model.  We met Andy and Deb in San Evaristo our first season.  They taught us the finer nuances of ‘Happy Hours’ and shared tons of information with us about cruising in the Sea.  Now, they’re still mentoring us, this time about our boat.  It’s great to have someone to share notes with and ask questions.  They’re hoping to get away this weekend, although the weather gods may have other plans.

The northers have indeed begun to show themselves.  Some of you may know them as the Santa Anna’s; those nasty winds that blow through southern California.  For us in the Sea…  those same California winds swoop south and pick up speed as they blow into the Sea of Cortez.  When they arrive, they appear with such gusto that most of us either stop in our tracks or run for cover.  Luckily, in the Sea, there are lots of little hidey holes where a few boats at a time can hunker down and wait them out.  The one place to NOT be is midway across from the mainland to the Baja side.  For those of us who aspire to such a crossing…. well, we must monitor the weather very closely and choose our date and time of departure carefully.  It’s going to boil down to getting the boat and ourselves ready… and then patiently waiting for a break in the weather.  For instance, the forecast this morning (covering the next 7 days) spoke of winds up into the high 20’s and low 30’s coupled with seas of up to 14’…. (and the worst part) with approx. 5 seconds in between each swell….  That is NOT the kind of conditions we would ever choose to set out in.

While we’re finishing up several smaller jobs on the boat, we’re waiting for the arrival of a new water pump.  Those of you who know marine water pumps will understand when I tell you that we’re looking forward to replacing our old (beyond repair) Sherwood with an Oberdorfer.  It’s supposed to arrive tomorrow which means we might be lucky enough to get it installed on Saturday. And so, for now, we continue to improve dear SSpirit and begin to prepare ourselves for the adventure of finally setting sail sometime next week – once Mother Nature allows us passage.

Much to their delight (life on the water is ‘sweet’ compared to any other), Sue and John are happily ensconced aboard SSpirit, enjoying life at the dock and in the marina.  Kathy and I remain at the apartment which we are still sharing with a wall full of blue bins… all vying for space on the boat for their contents.  We’re now going through the contents for the fourth or fifth time, trying to pare down the load.  Poor SSpirit is just a boat after all, not a warehouse; and we seem to have brought enough ‘stuff’ to fill the Queen Mary! Luckily I can report the stack for the boat is getting smaller and the mountain of gear going back into the truck and heading home is growing.  And, that’s a good thing!

We think of you all lots…  hope all is going well out there.  Know we are well… a little tired of work but there’s a great light at the end of our tunnel and we’re getting closer every day.  Take good care of yourselves…..  Talk again soon…  adios  CJ

Sunday, November 8, 2015

A lot can happen in a week…

Hola friends…I can’t believe a whole week has passed.  To say we’ve been busy would be an understatement, so let me give you a quick synopsis of how we’ve done.  Sue and John have been marvellous!  They have managed to take a mountain of stuff (most in blue bins requiring an unpacking and repacking) and sort it into several ‘collections’ based on purpose/description/likely future.  And then we were able to go through and pull out yet more stuff for the Swap Meet. We then decided to warehouse the gear designated as either going home with us in the spring or not needed until the spring when we put SSpirit back to bed… into our apartment.  They kept the stuff going to the boat in their room… the plan being to unload their room first and, perhaps, move them onto the boat Monday or Tuesday.  Then we can pack the rest into the truck, give up our apt. and move onto the boat as well.  That’s the plan for that.

As for what’s been going on over the last week… well let me tell ya.  The engine has had an almost complete overhaul (exhaust elbow had to be cleaned up and one end refurbished/welded; the heat exchanger was cleaned and re-zinced; the water pump? well it’s pretty much toasted.  Omar was able to jury rig it to get us from the launching ramp to our slip, and now we wait.  Our good fellow Earl (at All Bay Marine) is sending us a new Oberdorfer and until it arrives, we get to enjoy the quiet calm. We also had to replace some of the hoses in the engine and I moved the raw water intake filter.  It had been screwed sideways into the sea cock.. not an optimal position.  It now sits upright against one of the bulkheads.  I look forward to exchanging it for a basket style filter next year.  If we had that kind, it would save us a lot of work when it comes time to flush the engine with fresh water.  As it is now, we have to detach one of the intake hoses, put it into a bucket and use a hose from outside to keep the bucket full of water so the hose can deliver it to the engine.  With the basket style water strainer, we would just have to unscrew the top and pour the water directly into the filter… a much easier proposition. Add to the ‘new’ list an impeller, V belt, thermostat, air filter element, fuel filters, oil and oil filter, and a few gaskets here and there… and the engine is feeling much better.  An in-water alignment will happen next week and, with the installation of the new water pump, we should be good to go in the mechanical department.

Electrically speaking, all seems to be in order.  Now we clean.  The major wash-down started yesterday and Sue did a fabulous job on the galley.  I expect she’ll start on the cabin itself today or tomorrow. While she’s busy with sponges, water and vinegar…  John has been seeing to the new dinghy.  Oh yes, another story.  Unfortunately the ministrations of John and Kathy did not cure the leaking problem on the starboard side of the old, patched dinghy. And just as we were scratching our heads about what to do (you can’t just go out and buy a new dinghy down here…. they don’t exist, or at least not anywhere near most of our budgets). Just as we were thinking out the next attempt to patch… a cruising friend put us in touch with another cruising couple who had sold their boat and had a dinghy for sale…. and…. not just any dinghy but one of our beloved Aquapro dinghies.. just like our 8’6” which is now resting at home.  And, this one had an aluminum hull… just like our little one.  Well, you guessed it, we hustled over to Guaymas and met up with Fran and Jean Guy… a terrific couple who were living, of all places, in a little Casita 17’ trailer… just like our Lucy.  Well, friends at first sight.. we went, we saw, we bought.  Done deal!  We are now the proud owners of a 10’ aluminum bottom Aquapro inflatable dinghy…with a double hull (yes, it’s a bit heavier), a spray cloth at the bow, dinghy wheels, and a beautiful set of chaps….. just perfect for four people and lots of room for two. All we have to do now is ‘adjust’ the stern ladder so that the dinghy davits can pull it up properly and stow it without leaving it to rub against transom ladder legs (the demise, we suspect, of the last dinghy).

Working on a boat in Mexico is interesting to say the least. It brings out the McGivor in each of us.  You remember him?  The guy on TV who could fix anything with a Bic lighter, a piece of tinfoil, a bit of string and well, ingenuity.  For instance…  we discovered the engine coolant tank was empty.  Should have inspected it more closely before we poured in more coolant… hmmm, we found out the hard way why it was empty as the coolant we poured in the top, streamed out the crack in the bottom…  No problem, right?  Just buy another one.  Off to the Auto Zone in the next town I went.  Finally found someone to understand my desire for a new tank and returned to the boat with my purchase.  It was larger than the old one… no problem I’ll just mount it higher.  It had more volume that the last one… shouldn’t be a problem.  So, I mounted it.  Oops.. too high.  Need to lower it to open the lid to pour the stuff in.  Hmmm..  then I won’t be able to access the top of the FG500, a sailors dream of a fuel filter.  OK…. worked all that out.  Now all I have to do is attach the hose. OOOOOPS.  The little nipple the hose attaches to is too big for the hose. What to do…what to do.  I searched high and low through all my hoses and bits and pieces…looking for a solution.  Finally had to sit down and ask “what exactly is the problem?”  The answer:  the nipple is too large.  The Solution: make it smaller.  How?  Hmmm some more.  Aha!!!  the light bulb went on.  I have a dremel tool on board… In five minutes I had ground the edges of the nipple down to the point the hose would fit.  Phew! A successful McGivor moment.

I am delighted to report we had the standing rigging inspected by the best rigger in town… and he has declared it like new!  I was very worried about the rigging as no one could tell me how old it is.  I was further worried about the fact that it well may be the original… which sounds crazy as the boat is a 1986, but our neighbouring Catalina 34 is a 1989 and still has it’s original rigging (also in good condition).  Those two facts have eased my mind considerably… and we feel confident in the rigging now and it’s ability to do the job.  We also carry spectra lines set up to act as emergency stays or shrouds if needed.

For those cruisers in or coming to San Carlos who are interested in the service people we have found and trust.  They are: Electrician – Salvadore Mitre Aguilar; Mechanic: Omar Garza; Rigger: Carlos (contacted through Garth Jones); Refrigeration: Jesus Salas; Dog Groomer: Manuel. We’re also told the following people are good. Wi-Fi and plastic fabrication: Albert Klettke; Stainless Steel: Luis Hernandez.

In closing for today, let me tell you we had a fantastic time at the Saturday Swap Meet (the first for the season).  We unloaded the vast majority of the items we had designated to go; even the dinghy.  I’m told we had the “best prices” but then we were motivated to get rid of the stuff… no more toting it around.  So we had a very successful day and walked away much lighter in the shoulders. 

We splashed last Wednesday… and we’re in slip C7 at Marina San Carlos.  We have our sister ship Swan beside us with Andy and Deb aboard, and more and more folks we know are arriving every day.  The place is filling up.

A few photos follow… some of the trek SSpirit took from the yard to the marina; and a photo of Miss Sophie enjoying a visit (under the hats) at our local lunch stop Bar and Grill.

We hope all is well with you out there and that your fall weather is not too harsh.  Our temps are finally dropping (down to low 80’s today).  Take good care one and all….  will write again soon.   Cheers…   CJ


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Sunday, November 1, 2015

Cheers to Thursdays…

Howdy folks, and happy Thursday.  We hope yours is going well.  Ours has been quite productive.  These past few days have contained periods of mad, crazy flurries of activity, interspersed with the rest and refreshment demanded by over-heated and dehydrated bodies…governed by the temperatures and humidity levels. We’ve all been working in different directions, sometimes independently and other times in couples or as a team.  It’s about the only way to move forward on the several projects on the go.  The only stable one, Miss Sophie, has continued to exhibit her fine sense of humour and her patience with all of us as we have left her stranded on her couch, or laying on her floor bed… while we run about in ever-decreasing circles. At least she’s got air conditioning  :-) and I haven’t heard her complaining about her comfy couch bed too much.

The weather has, at least, been stable… high 80’s to mid 90’s during the afternoons and fairly cool (relatively speaking) over-night. We’ve had no more thunder storms and no more leaking ceilings, walls or floors.  All is well.  It’s been fun in the yard watching old friends arrive.  Working on SSpirit we get to watch as their boats get moved into the works yard from storage.  The yard guys are fantastic at moving boats safely, quickly, and precisely.  They can take a 48-50’ boat and park it parallel to another with about 3’ in between… no problem. It’s absolutely amazing how many boats they can fit into a small space.  It’s also no wonder the boats don’t fall over in the hurricanes… there’s no where to fall! 

The same two old yard dogs are still around..  ‘she’ is getting pretty decrepit now and just moves from one patch of shade to another… very slowly at that. The ‘he’ dog is a little younger and a bit more spry.  He gets up enough energy to wander over for a pat, it you’re not too far away.  Otherwise they just both wander and ‘look’ like yard dogs.  I’m not sure if they actually scare any one or anything away… but at least they look the part. 

Anyway, as I was saying, the boats are coming in now, more and more each day.  Katy G, Juce, Dream Catcher, Cahoots, and soon Swan… all cruising friends… all in line waiting for their spruce up before splashing. We’ve had a chance for brief get togethers with a few of the cruisers…  longer gatherings may occur, or not, depending on work schedules.  As well, everyone tends to splash at different times.. then some, like us, spend at least a week in the marina getting ready before taking off.  Others splash and go… we’re not that brave.  Especially with a new boat, we want to be sure all systems are working well and, hopefully, will continue to do so as we cruise.  There will also be some ‘in the water’ work that needs to be done… such as rigging check-over, in water engine alignment, finishing the engine service.  Then it will be up to us to pack the boat without over-stuffing her (as has been our tendency in the past).  We’re really hoping Sue and John can control us as we sort through what we ‘think’ we need vs. what we ‘really’ need.

For now, know we are well and enjoying some progress.  Work on the dinghy has progressed to the stage where tomorrow, at precisely 1400 hrs., air will be introduced to the newly patched (and sealed we hope) starboard pontoon…. and we shall see then whether or not Sue’s kayak will have to be donated as an outrigger. Work on the engine began today.  We are delighted to report we found Omar… or rather he found us… thanks to some cruising friends we are now connected.  Wonderful guy, skilled mechanic, and even speaks English very well.  We are in good hands and will spend the next day or two re-juvinating the engine into the fine piece of machinery it was intended to be. Our splash day is moved to Monday to accommodate the engine repair and we’re all looking forward to getting on board and cleaning and packing… sounds horrible but it’s not.  Once the boat is in the water life on board will be cooler and life at the marina is very pleasant… imagine, floating in the Sea of Cortez, in a nice marina, surround by like-minded people… it’s pretty awesome!

Oh yes, a quick note.  You’d be proud of me.  I’ve turned into the thrift shop at the works yard..yup, spread out all the stuff we trying to get rid of…under the boat (on the shady side of course).  There’s no swap meet coming soon enough for us and we really want to move this stuff along so I now remind them on the morning net that ‘a few’ things are under SSpirit and they’re welcome to come take a look.  I’ve even got repeat customers!

So I guess that’s all for now….  Except Kathy wanted to show you the “after” picture of the DC panel rewiring job and our new favorite Mexican electrician….   she’s been working with Salvador for over a week and we now have a new SSB radio, a new propane system, a new DC subpanel and a bunch of spiffy lights, fans and other wiring upgrades. Salvador is a wonderful guy, so competent and resourceful and  worked for hours at a time, without complaint in hot, cramped conditions… always with his gentle and respectful sense of humour.  Thanks Salvador, you are the best!!


Hope all of you are well and your fall/winter weather isn’t too awful…  Talk to you soon….  CJ

please disregard last post re netbook.

Hi folks,

For some reason the IT gods saw fit to redistribute the January 2015 post re dropping my netbook.  Please disregard (and thanks for your concern to those who have expressed it).  All is well and we are moving forward in leaps and bounds (more later).

Take good care...  Must get back to sorting my notes about the engine service and launch date, etc.

Having  fun in San Carlos....  CJ

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Checking in…

This is a post I wrote just before Hurricane Patricia roared onto the coast….  so it’s a little out of date…. hope you enjoy the read anyway.  As of today (Oct. 25th) things have settled down and we’re starting to see a brighter light at the end of the working tunnel :-)  We’ve even managed to tidy up the chaos in the house and move some of the bins into Rikki. Kathy and Salvadore should finish up tomorrow and then the rest of us get to move our attentions into and onto SSpirit.

What follows is the update, written a few days ago.

Howdy folks… It’s been a while since I’ve checked in… we’ve all been working hard here in sunny, rainy and windy San Carlos.  Yes, not only have the northers started to show themselves (early in honour of El Nino) but Hurricane Patricia is claiming fame down near Manzanillo and rumours have it we may experience some of her wrath (in the form of wet sunshine) up here some time in the future. All in a day of Mexican pleasure :-) We are all enjoying the slight drop in temperatures… it’s much nicer to work in the 80’s than the 90’s.

SSpirit is taking shape and beginning to resemble the lovely lady of our dreams.  Just yesterday the yard fellows applied her second coat of primer and the first coat of bottom paint.  Her bottom (pardon the phrase) looks wonderful!  Inside she still resembles a rummage sale at an electrical shop but Kathy and Salvadore have been slaving over the electrical system and repairing and updating as they go.  They’ve re-arranged the batteries so that the house batteries (4 of them) all live together and an added benefit to that move is that we now have a good place to store some canned goods in the vicinity of the galley. If not to day, then tomorrow, they will be hooking up the new propane lines to the new composite propane tank which will live on it’s new bracket outside the pushpit.  That little manoeuvre has created some more storage space in the cockpit locker (hurray!). And the navigation station is taking shape.  An 802 SSB radio and MATRIX (VHF/AIS) radio now grace the place.  These are wonderful additions as we will now be able to gather weather forecasts more easily, communicate with other boats on SSB, and even send and receive short emails while at sea. On the outside, we are re-running the running rigging (all but the Jib halyard which managed to get itself stuck for now) and today John and I are going to don knee pads and work at removing all the goop on the deck left over from the Duct tape we used to hold down covers etc. over the summer. If we can, we may even get the main sail back on… it depends on the wind.

I’m having fun on the morning net.  We’re part of the early group of folks down here and each morning there is an opportunity to offer things for sale (Swaps & Trades) on the radio.  We have so much stuff looking for a new home that I’ve separated them into categories.  Yesterday was “mechanical”,  today is “domestic” and it’s kind of a chuckle in the boat yard as I mention that fact. Because there’s a smaller group here for now, no one else has much to sell so I get to use the radio time.  Had our first sale yesterday… so fingers crossed we can unload a lot of our excess baggage.

With respect to the service folks down here.  It changes every year.  Some are allowed to work in the service yard, and some aren’t. It seems to be more political than anything else but you have to kind of pick and choose based upon reputation, availability and political affiliation.  None of the staff that the previous owner used are available or even still in San Carlos. Well, one is… but he’s not allowed in the yard anymore.  The rest have either retired, fallen from favour or disappeared.  I think we’ve identified who will do what in the near future…  As you know, Salvadore is our electrician this year. His partner Jesus will do the engine alignment and re-charge the refrigeration. A gentleman named Garth (who seems to run a loose crew of service people) has a rigger who will do the rigging inspection, install a radar reflector, and retrieve our Jib halyard. And finally, we will be using the mechanic out of Star Marine (also named Jesus… not too confusing) as our mechanic.

Our home team has been moving forward as well.  While Kathy slaves away on the electronics, the rest of us have been working on jobs off the boat, while we wait to be able to get inside and start cleaning.  John has been busy with the dinghy. Seems the ‘slow leak’ of yesteryears has turned into a gusher and the starboard side prefers to lay down flat than hold any air.  Thankfully the port side is solid.  We’ve located the leak and now await the arrival of hypalon adhesive… being carried down from the US by cruising friends.. thank gawd or, as Sue has suggested, we’d have to lash one of the kayaks to the SB side of the dinghy to create a floating raft. John has also begun the installation of new dinghy wheels onto the transom and they look great.  They’re the kind that you only have to push down on to engage and release… as opposed to the variety that require you to hang over the back of the dinghy with your head in the water, attempting to push a stubborn pin through four (too small) holes while the dinghy bobs up in down in big (thankfully warm) waves. These pneumatic wheels are fantastic!  Thankfully John is a very versatile fellow and as well as the dinghy work he’s also our painter and stainer.  We now have nice white shelves and barge boards and a brown stained slim-line book case. Sue has been caring for us splendidly…with 5 star meals as well as kicking in with the bin sorting and inventory, linen sorting (we have enough to open a store!) domestic chores, and planning. She will also be the lead hand when we can finally get into SSpirit to prepare the interior for packing. CJ (me) well I putter… a little bit of this and a little bit of that… 

The big picture is… we’re moving forward and things are beginning to shape up.  Our house looks like a semi-organized warehouse.  There are bins piled in several locations (to the boat; to home; to swap meet) and very soon we’ll be able to start moving them into their new locations. Rikki will become a storage locker mobile garage sale.

For now.. we shall move brightly forward… working on the boat and enjoying San Carlos.  We wish you and yours a good day and will check in again when we can.  Bye bye for now.  CJ

Friday, October 23, 2015

Hurricane Patricia...

Hi everyone...  A longer post will follow tonight but we wanted you to know we are safe from Hurricane Patricia.  The worst for us will be an increase in rain (and maybe a bit more wind) as she continues to curve over land.  We are very worried about the residents and visitors of Manzanillo and Puerto Vallarta, and areas inland from them...  if you're interested in following this and other storms, you can check into and  This is a terrible storm and there is another brewing in the Pacific (named Olaf) which should peter out before hitting land.

We'll be battening Dow our hatches and praying for those in the path of Patricia. Talk to you later.  CJ