Boatyard Tales

There is always plenty to do on a boat. We had her hauled out in February before Nancy and I left for Mexico. You see her here in a TravelLift. Pretty common boatyard tool to move boats in and out of the water.

Katrina and Roddy got busy and removed the prop and drive shaft.

There are a few moving parts in this prop.

And they are carefully machined and balanced to work well together.  Ya gotta love brass!  The purpose of all this engineering is to build a prop that will rotate it’s blades to be parallel with the direction of the boat’s travel when the motor isn’t used. That way there is less drag when you are sailing. A normal prop is fine when you are motoring, but when sailing it provides as much drag as a towing a 5 gallon bucket. A prop that feathers it’s blades can gain you 1/2 a knot. And 10% more speed amounts to a day faster passage on a thousand miles.

Here’s Roddy taking the prop apart. Note the greasy bit still on the shaft.

Anyway the prop can be greased while out of the water. And prop removal was required to allow replacement of the prop shaft cutless bearing.

The cutless bearing lives in the strut. The press rig is set up to remove it.

Next was to remove the prop shaft and send it off to make sure that it was straight. Katrina is victorious! Shaft is removed. And turned out to be strait.

There is a concern. One of my crew bumped a rock in Fiji 5 months ago. Didn’t seem like too hard of a blow at the time.

But it did fail the joint between the forward end of the keel and the hull. Lets water into the joint. Not a big deal I thought at the time. Now the question is whether the keel should be removed to properly be resealed.

If you look closely you can see water seeping out of the joint. Problem is it has been out of the water for three weeks. This should have stopped long ago. Unless the fiberglass itself is saturated with water and gradually letting it go. Oh boy. That doesn’t sound good.

Anyway that answers the question of whether the keel needs to be removed or not. It does.

This was a doing. Todd from the boatyard spent a day chiseling at the joint. It’s bolted and glued. You want to weaken the glue by 80% or so. Then when you release the keelbolts the keel can be separated from the hull without too much drama.


Carl was a lean mean keel removing machine. This guy knows a lot about his work and is quite interested in sharing that knowledge. Great to work with this whole team.

After the keel separated we noted that there were 6 inch deep pockets in the top of the keel. And they were full of water. Hmmmm. So the pieces now fit. Seal failure. Seawater ingress fills pockets. Boat on the hard and joint weeps. Then it rains and fills the pockets again. And on you go. So it was the pockets weeping, not my fiberglass hull. Well that’s good news.

Team dried out the pockets and painted the top of the keel. Boat hangs overnight in the TravelLift to dry the paint.

This is an uncomfortable situation. My mast is 63′ high. Normally there is 7000 lbs of cast iron on the bottom of the boat to make it not so top heavy. Problem is the keel is no longer attached. Spill the Wine is top heavy now. I put a couple lines from high on the mast to the ground to stabilize it. And there wasn’t much wind thank you very much.

The next morning the team applied sealant then lowered the boat back on to the keel. Then the 10 keel bolts, 1 cm each, all need 450 ft lbs of torque. They brought in a 5 foot torque wrench to get that done. I worked with Dave on this project and it was a lot of torqueing. 450 is a large number.

Another bit of business was aligning the motor. There is a flanged bit of steel that bolts to the end of the propshaft. It is then bolted to the transmission. These have to be square with one another. They’re not quite right.

If you look closely you’ll get it. I’ve placed a light source beneath the joint. You can see light on the right side of the joint but not so much on the left. Not square.

So one merely loosens the motor mounts and wiggles the motor around to get right and left edges aligned. Then you adjust the tilt of the motor to align top and bottom and bolt it all back up. No problem! Four cylinder diesel engines are easy to wiggle!

I’ll have to do this again when she’s been back in the water a bit, but I wanted to get it close since it was taken apart.

Then it was time to tighten up the engine mounts.  Three of them tightened up ok.  One wouldn’t.  Turns out the engine mounts are secured with bolts with a washer ad a nut on the inside of the beam the motor rests on.  You did catch that right?  On the INSIDE of the beam.  Now in the case of the three that happened to tighten up anyway, there was access provided so you could get a box wrench on the nut to make prevent it from rotating with the bolt (and not tightening anything).

It turns out I have a selection of hole saws on board.  Used one of them to put an access hold into the side of the beam.  Sounds easy enough.  Trick was there is almost no room to get this bit done either.  I had to put the drill under the motor.  Very little room to do that.  Then mount the hole saw in the drill chuck.  Then put the battery on the drill.  These three pieces had to go down separately to get them under the engine.  Then I went after the beam and made holes about 1.5 inches across that would let me get a wrench on the nuts.  Next time it will be easier!  And stop laughing at me for packing hole saws!


Biking Northland

A friend of mine, John Larsen, has his boat in a boat yard about 20 kilometers from here. He’s having some interesting work done I wanted to go over and see how his progress was coming along. The trick is he doesn’t have time to give me a ride back so do I hitchhike or maybe I should ride my bike…

The roads here are all 2-lane and the drivers tend to drive… enthusiastically let’s say. As pretty as the country is that’s really not a formula for the most enjoyable ride.

So I ask the Google. I got three choices.

The the top route goes along the two-lane Highway. So does the bottom one. The one in the middle got to go straight and it goes through the Opua Forest. That has to sound attractive. Google has a slick feature that tells you about elevation gained and lost so you’ll know how much up and downhill you have to worry about on your bike.

If if you look at the bottom of this image you’ll see there’s a profile of the trail that I’m about to undertake. Sure there’s some vertical but it doesn’t look evil.

I set out from John’s boat yard. He loans me a helmet because I didn’t bring one from Seattle, and they’re required by law here. I found a little bit of pavement at the beginning and a little bit of pavement at the end but the rest was all gravel road through very rural terrain.

As soon as I left the main highway behind, I saw three cars the rest of the journey.

Now there looks like a lost bike in high weeds. By now you might have noticed that my bicycle is my subject. I’m out here by myself here and it’s hard to take a picture of yourself without it looking kind of selfie.

HitchHiking in New Zealand

Best place to HitchHike ever! Pretty easy. And I’ve met some interesting cats. My trips have been limited to local. It’s been raining frequently through our every day. Accordingly a three hour trip to Auckland is bound to soak you. And there’s bus service to Auckland anyway. But I nick over to Paihia or KeriKeri a couple times a week for groceries or parts. I made up some signs for these destinations as well as Opua for the return trip.

I’ve probably got 50,000 miles HitchHiking over my lifetime and I’ll share with you some tricks I’ve used to help the drivers more quickly decide whether to pick you up or not. You have 10 seconds to make the sale.

Attitude matters. Just about everybody wants to give you a ride. But there are reasons to say no. They don’t know whether their trip will get you closer to your destination. They might think you look scary. Hitchers as a category don’t enjoy the best reputation. Everything about how you approach HitchHiking has to work to defeat that stereotype.

Here’s an attitude sketch for you. Guy picks me up in the US Southwest in 1980. We are chatting and he wants to know what I’m up to. I tell him that I’m on a tour that started in Toledo Ohio then went to Seattle, then south to LA, and now I’m on my way to Atlanta where I’ll head back North for Toledo. He was impressed. I was a bit startled by the journey myself (I was 20).

Then he asked me how long the different legs had taken. When I told him he was astounded at the pace I was making. I was getting rides way more easily than he would have expected.

And why were his expectations so different than my reality? Turns out he’s done some HitchHiking himself. Told me it took him 2 weeks to hitch from Chicago to LA. I went into listen mode and he described the trip. He carried a pistol in his backpack. Because he was afraid of the drivers. One might do him wrong. People can see fear in your body language. And they won’t want you in their car. Living a fearful life really takes the fun out of living.

I’ve had exactly zero times in the many miles when I was worried about what a driver’s intent was. Some maybe didn’t drive well but that’s another issue.

One trick I’ve already mentioned. Have a sign. You have destination. You are not some lost soul that will be burden the driver. And they can sort out very quickly whether their trip would do you any good.

No sunglasses. Eye contact helps the driver connect with you and helps convince them that you are not a loony. Smile! It’s a beautiful day!

Look clean. No weird message T-shirts. One bag would be plenty. Too much gear and you look a burden. I tried hitching with a 6 pack of beer once. If that made any difference I can’t say I noticed. Maybe I shouldn’t have drank all of them… But that was so long ago.

Pick a spot where there is plenty of room for the driver to safely get on the shoulder. The last deal breaker is “I woulda picked ’em up but there was no room to pull over!”

I’d have to add, one of the strangest rides I ever got was at night on the Florida freeway. A woman driving a Pinto (you remember, the ones that were famous for exploding when rear ended) backed it up across a freeway bridge to pick me up. Long story but alcohol was involved on her end.

I hitch alone. I’ve found that my worst luck getting rides was when there were two of us. Two women would probably do well as a pair but it never worked for me.

Remember drivers have very little time to sort you out. Anything you can do to simplify their decision process will get you to your destination sooner.

Once you are on board your function is to make the driver’s day a better one for having picked you up. Sometimes that means you tell stories, sometimes that means you listen. Sometimes you feel like you are hearing a confession. Especially if you are in a car with a driver on a longer leg.

So for my first go I’m off to KeriKeri for supplies and maybe the bank. I get a ride immediately with two women that are on their way to go golf. We chat a bit then our paths diverge at a bottle shop. They need some beer for golfing. Maybe I should have been a golfer…

Another guy on that trip was maybe 30. He was just coming from a farm. He’s a livestock broker. He puts livestock buyers and sellers together. He tells me about some of his farmers being kinda crazy. I get that, as an optometrist I’ve had patients that were kinda crazy. ( You know who you are!)

When I arrived on the plane on Feb 28th I hitched to the marina. First guy was a short hop. On his way to a meeting. But he got me to an intersection where more of the traffic was going my way. That’s progress.

Then a couple Mauri guys took me on. The Mauri were the original inhabitants of NZ before white people came along. They were having a good day. It was a pleasure to share part of it with them.

The next two rides turns out to be sailors. No surprise really, NZ is full of sailors. Extensive experience in and about the South Pacific. You know we got along!

So that was 4 rides from airport to marina. Probably 20 miles. If I rented a car it would have taken longer. Surprised I don’t see more hitchers here.

Yesterday I hitched to Paihia. I had to mail Nancy her computer. It’s maybe four miles. I got a ride with Cindy. Top down Mazda Miata. And a good thing too as I was a tight fit in that little shoe of a car. She does work to help people with body energy. No shortage of energy for her. I definitely went into listen mode. We got along and she offered to take me back to Opua when our mutual shopping was done. She was also a bluewater sailor. And seemed to know everybody in Opua. Ok. Opua is only so big…

Today is Feb 3 and I’m off for Auckland on the bus. An old friend from Ohio State Optometry will be in Auckland with her husband for a few days. I’m going to try to catch them there. If I can’t find them I’ll go find the America’s Cup and prostrate myself or something.

But there is a problem. The bus that normally comes to Opua will not be doing so. There is a mudslide somewhere causing trouble with traffic. Now this has been a problem for weeks. And when I booked the bus yesterday there was no mention of no Opua. Then this morning I get a notification that I have to go to Paihia to catch that bus. So my walk becomes a hitchhike. And I have a Sign and I ain’t askeered a’ nothin!

One ride. Nice fellow who did not talk much. Tobacco took his voicebox away. So I told him a couple stories and we shared a laugh. I was not too sure where the bus stop was but he knew. And I had time for Lunch! Or maybe it was second breakfast… Hobbit zone you know.

Enter the Auckland

Arrived downtown Auckland on the bus. Found my way to the Base Hostel. The young folks that joined Spill The Wine on the way across the Pacific stay at these places. So I thought I’d try it. Base is 10 stories. Maybe 20 rooms per floor. 4 beds per room. Showers/loo down the hall. And they sold them all at 25 bucks per bed.

A high tide of young people had filled the downtown scene. And certainly this hostel. I’m glad chemotherapy made my grey hair go away in 2014. I try to pass as someone way younger than I am. Keep the lights low.

I check in and find my room. Two young women already in residence. I get the bottom bunk. Say hello and go for a walk. It’s interesting how this works. If you have no privacy you ignore each other and pretend you do. Ok then.

A classmate of mine from Ohio State days is here in town for a meeting. Time to go find her. Maybe she found me… Anyway the whole bunch of eye docs is having dinner here in the hotel. I crash the party. What else would a pirate do? It was fun. I had traveled with this group a few times in the past. Great to catch up with Christine and her husband Tim.

They crashed. Had to happen, jet lag did them in.

As I walk about I note security is reasonably visible.

These officers are chatting with a shopkeeper. I note the police here are armed with tasers but that is all.

About 10% of the population is licensed to own guns. But people carrying them about is not customary. So if there are no guns on the street, the cops don’t need them either.

Bruno Mars is playing at the big downtown arena. That might be worth seeing. I walk over. Hmm sold out. And no scalpers. Not even one. So I move on down the road. Find a pub with a good band for awhile and then head back to the hostel.

There is a disco in the hostel basement. Low ceiling. No jumping! The music was unfortunate but the room was having fun so it was a decent space to be in.

Three lads adopted me. Nice of them. After awhile one of them buys the first round of rum/redbull heart attack in a jar drinks. I’m in Rome now!

After awhile we went to another similar spot. Same scene really. It was in a basement too. But the rum/energy drinks were a different color. I guess that’s progress.

Thanks to the meds I’m not out of gas but eventually I decided it was time to find my way to my room anyway. Hope I did not snore.

Remember I was pressed for time to catch the bus to Auckland? Well in my haste I forgot a few things. A toothbrush would have been nice. A towel maybe? And a hairbrush? Some soap? I found the handwashing sink and put a bunch of hand soap on my head. The redbull made me do it!

After my shower I start to look like a scary HitchHiker. And the scary hitcher checked out and wandered down to the waterfront.

Where else, it’s me remember? 🙂 Lots of Volvo ocean racing sleds.

Here’s five of the seven racers. Wow! They shrinkwrap them because… It’s just what you do. Part of their PR program on let’s use less plastic maybe. These boats get hammered in the southern ocean. Auckland rain gonna be a problem?

And don’t bonk that keel on a reef. Certainly run up a bill.

Some of them are getting some damage control. Must have hit a few fish pretty hard!

All these racing boats are identical. One of the exhibits was one boat cut away to reveal the interior. These boats are not generous on space. And they sail with a crew of 7 to 11 adult members. That gets crowded. The exhibit was populated exclusively with children. Lots of them.

This looks like a rack of weasels in the cockpit. Now what the photo is hiding from you is that every one of them is in constant motion, having a blast. :). Made me dizzy just watching.

The way to the bus stop it uphill, but it is time to get moving.

By Way of Mexico

We discovered that flying from Cartegena to NZ would cost $500 less if we went to Mexico for a few days. Kinda last minute, but we have always enjoyed Mexico, so why not? We departed and connected to our plane to Mexico City in Bogota Columbia. I have to comment on this airport. I was not expecting too much but Bogota’s airport is huge. And New. And full of shops from all over the world. Top shelf airport for real. Makes LA look unfortunate. We arrive Mexico City and connect to Zihuatanejo on the Pacific coast.

Once we found our hotel it was nap time. The next few days we relaxed more than anything else. Easy place for that. Nice anchorage in case I ever get back here by boat.

This guy thinks it’s a good day to fish. Yes it’s a blurry photo, but I like the bird and his shadow

Our friend Jerry Brennan tags me and tells me to look up his brother in Ixtapa. We do and have lunch and a nice day on the beach with Jim. Thanks Jim!

There are beach vendors of course. One guy has some pretty unusual jewelery for sale. Tells us they are selling very well. Certainly tells a tale. Zoom for details.

I doubt anyone will be surprised to hear that in our wide travels we have found that the president of the United States is universally reviled. Almost. We have met three people that think he’s ok. The people we are meeting are dismayed by the loss of the United States. We were once a superpower with friends all around the globe. Serving as a powerful check on Russia’s expanding power. Now the US is a heavily armed state that is quite isolated internationally. And the current administration for some reason has no appetite for confronting Russia in any way. Tragic. And dangerous.

We left Zihuatanejo for Puerto Vallarta on an evening flight. So we had all day still. We visited an archeological museum in Zihuatanejo. Pretty cool. People have been living in this zone for thousands of years and the history is interesting. Really helpful museum manager Omar chats with us about the area’s history for a bit and recommends another museum out by the airport. Well it is on our way!

We get there and it is far from crowded. It is kinda in the middle of nowhere.

But they have a pyramid that was discovered a few years back. Prior to “discovery” these things look like hills.

If you look over Nancy’s right shoulder you will see a hill. Actually an unexcavated pyramid.

Here is another view. If you look close you can almost see a small white flower on that tree that otherwise looks dead. I’ll have to ask Gandalf if that means the Aztecs are coming back…

The pyramids were built about a thousand years ago. They were lost in the 1300s when a tsunami roared in here and killed everyone and destroyed everything in the valley.

Here are some unrestored steps. They have been excavated but kept under this corrugated steel for protection. And the low cover keeps people off them too! Even more protection!

And there is a ball court here:

Where they used to play their ancient ball game. Note the goal is missing. It’s in the museum.

Nancy and I are standing by one of the old goal posts. They have been brought indoors so no one runs off with them. Sometimes the loser’s hearts were sacrificed to the gods. The winners got superbowl rings or something. The museum itself was also quite good. We had a guide who was born in the area who was quite informative.

Boom, time to get to the airport. No sweat until… Our flight to Mexico City is delayed. Our 40 minute layover in Mexico City becomes 20. Not going to make our connection.

Alright then. Let’s spend the night in Mexico City. Aero Mexico rebooks us for Puerto Vallarta the next morning.

We get a cab to our hotel. It’s 1.3 miles away and takes 25 minutes to get there. Traffic is tough here tonight. Local pizza etc places are all closed. So we order room service.

Alexander delivers. He tells me he worked and paid taxes for 18 years in San Francisco. Was managing a restaurant when one night ICE raided the place and deported them all. His wife and children still live there. They are on welfare now that his income is lost to them. He’s not making nearly the money in Mexico. Why the US is so afraid of brown people who have such strong work ethic I will never understand. Deporting this guy was an expensive process that we continue to pay for as we support his now broken family.

The next morning we get a shuttle to the airport and off for Puerto Vallarta. We rent a car and drive to La Cruz.

It’s fun to be back in La Cruz. Familiar restaurants, people. Saturday night was Nancy’s birthday. Dan and Nancy from s/v Karvey joined us for a great dinner at Langosta Diaz. They have been sailing in the Sea of Cortez for some years.

The next day we were scouting about in the beach communities north of La Cruz. All good fun until I missed a traffic light. I went thru it red. C’mon! I’m not from around here!

If you miss a traffic light in Mexico, you get a ticket. And they keep your license until you pay..

The ticketing officer spoke not so much English. And my Spanish is weak. He tried to tell me where the police station was, where you have to pay your fine. I was clueless. But I got the drift that it was nearby. So today I return to the scene of the crime. And start looking for the station. As I made a left turn I note there is a cop behind me. Dios! Turns out it is the ticketing cop again. He calls me by name now “Chris tow fer”! He has another go at the directions with similar results to yesterday. Thanks for trying. I move on and find another cop. Still no directions I can understand.

Click! Why not ask a taxi! So I did. This is working and I get what I need. Then the taxi driver shows me a ticket he just got. It’s going around… I try to tip him for his help but he declines. Just happy to help a fellow perpetrator!

Tickets are payable at Policia Municipal office. And if your ticket was on Sunday. Well you’ll just have to come back Monday. They open at 9. What ever. It’s just an hour’s drive each way. And I’ve a plane to catch about 1pm. It gets worse. Station is in another time zone. 9 at the police station is 10 in Puerto Vallarta. Tightens up the plane connection considerably. Anyway I’m on site and ready to pay. Just open the door!

And they did. And 15 minutes early. Nice woman was helping me with the ticket. The fine is $400 pesos. About 20 US dollars. Then it turns out the filing cabinet is locked so I can’t have a receipt, holding up the show. She calls and texts to try to figure out when the keys will arrive. Finally figures out that her coworker with the keys is due soon, but they opened early so “soon” is open to interpretation. She asks me if I have time to wait? Well there is this airplane problem… And as for a receipt, do I care? Not really, so long as I get my driver’s license back.

And I did. And got a photo in lieu of receipt. Even better. I would have lost a receipt anyway. Now to burn down the road to the airport.

I didn’t run any more lights. But there was some speeding maybe. But it’s hard to speed on a busy 2 lane road. I tried! Made the plane ok and I’m off for New Zealand via LA.

While waiting in the airport I hear from our friend Kat. She has been looking after Spill The Wine in my absence and is departing the boat for Germany and Spain today. Time to take more coursework to get her Yacht Master documentation. This is UK equivalent of US Coast Guard Captain’s license. Good for her!

It’s time. I go to NZ today. Nancy goes to Seattle in two more days to help her mom, she fell recently. When the boat is back in the water she will be ready to come back down to NZ.