2 Years ago this Month - December

Some pictures from December, 2010 from the wonderful islands in the Sea of Cortez.


2 Years ago this Month - November

In this continuing series of where we were two years ago, here's a few pictures from November 2010 during the Baja Haha and as we made our way up into the Sea of Cortez.

Panga at Bahia Santa Maria

Crazy in Cabo

Huge, out of place Hotel in Cabo

The Friars at Bahia Los Frailes

Jane'O at anchor in Ballandra Bay

A visitor in La Paz


2 Years ago this Month - October

Here's a few pictures from October 2010 of Catalina and the start of the Baja Haha.

Two Harbors mooring field

Two Harbors mooring field

Cat Harbor

Jane'O at the start of the Baja Haha (photo credit unknown)

Valparaiso at the Haha start (photo credit unknown)

Some great sailing shots off San Diego


2 Years ago this Month - September

We thought it would be fun to post some pictures of where we were two years ago each month for the next six months - during our trip from California to Mexico and back.

Well, I know it's a bit into October, but I'm going to kick this off with a few pictures from September 2010 that we never posted before. Enjoy!

Chris and Jacob on a nice walk along the ocean.

Jane'O in Monterey

The crazy birds in Port San Luis

This boat looks forlorn now, but it's the Gentry Eagle - which holds the record for crossing the Atlantic Ocean  in 62 hours. She now sits in Ventura, converted to a luxury yacht and awaiting a new owner.


New house battery bank installation

This weekend we installed a new house battery bank for Jane'O. The old batteries, which are probably around 10 years old have been on their last legs for quite some time. Although they were still working, they weren't delivering anywhere near their original 430Ah, but at their age they don't owe anyone any favors and have far outlasted any reasonable expectations.

We're big believers in flooded 6V golf cart batteries connected series-parallel to create a 12V bank for house batteries. Nothing can beat them for cost per Ah, and as long as they are cared for and never discharged below around 50%, they last a very long time. The big problem for flooded lead-acid batteries is they require maintenance - namely, topping off regularly with distilled water. On Jane'O, while our batteries aren't horribly inaccessible, getting in to where the batteries are to see the water level and top them off to the right level is difficult enough that we admit to not taking very good care of them.

Another reason to stick with old-school flooded batteries - although Gel and AGM batteries require no maintenance, you can't mix different types of batteries on a single charging system - which means we would not only have to change out the engine and generator starting batteries, but also have to recalibrate our battery monitor, AC charging system, and both engine alternator regulators to the different type of batteries. And these batteries can be 2 to 3 times the cost of golf cart batteries.

While doing some research on which batteries to use, we came across battery watering systems that make topping off the water of every battery as simple as connecting a single tube and waiting a minute or two - and the entire bank is topped off to the right level every time. While not a cheap system, it was a no brainer for us, that should ensure our new bank lasts at least as long as the old one.

So, this was the right choice for us - replace the existing 4 golf cart batteries with 4 new ones, and install a watering system to keep the water levels properly maintained. We also replaced all the battery cross-connect cables, as the old ones were, well... old... and some of the crimps had started to loosen. 

We went with US Battery 2200XC batteries, which are 232Ah at 6V each, giving a total bank capacity of 464Ah at 12V - slightly higher than the old batteries, but not by much. They were purchased from a local golf cart shop, making it easy and relatively cheap. These are off the shelf batteries using standard battery posts - which means they are available anywhere. The only thing I had to do to the battery monitor was give it the new total bank capacity, and set the Peukert Exponent for these batteries. No changes to the charger or engine alternator regulators was needed.

As far as the battery cable cross-connects go, instead of connecting a single cable for each series pair, as is commonly done (and was the previous configuration), we instead cross-connected them as suggested by Nigel Calder.

This is the common way that a series-parallel connection is done, but it can cause one of the series pairs to work harder than the other, especially if something goes wrong with one of the series jumpers (this actually happened to us in Mexico). Forgive my butchering, as well as copying Mr. Calder's drawings without his consent.

The usual cross-connect method
Compare with the below. This is the way Nigel Calder suggests making the cross connects, which helps balance all batteries in the bank. Also note that positive and negative cables should always come off opposite corners, again to keep individual batteries balanced.

A better cross-connect method

These drawings are copied from Nigel Calder's excellent book "Boatowner's Mechanical And Electrical Manual". 

Here's a few pictures of the installation, including the battery watering system and making the new cross-connects.

Crimping a lug with an excellent, but overpriced Ancor crimping tool using a vice

Completed cross-connects, 1/0 cable with adhesive heat-shrink

New battery, note the SpeedCap, which is about to be removed for the watering caps

The white SpeedCap has been replaced with three black watering caps

The bank nearly ready to be installed, staged in the cockpit with the same spacing as it will have in the engine roon

Watering tank, filled with distilled water

Flow indicator. When this doohickey stops spinning, the batteries are ready to go

Installed bank. Note the blue connector in the upper left for the watering tank. There is some non-ideal wiring here because of too many things wired directly to the bank, a project we need to fix someday (some self-inflicted, some inherited from previous owners)

Tired old batteries and cables. Note that one of the cross-connects was simply taped with blue tape, instead of done with adhesive heat-shrink


Neat Chart Plotter App for Android - MX Mariner

Recently I stumbled across MX Mariner, a nifty chart plotter app for Android phones and tablets. This is well worth checking out, and it's only $7 in the Android app store.

While pretty new and still under active development, MX Mariner is better than nearly every other marine charting app in the Android store - and certainly nothing can beat it at this price. Many charting apps are impractical for real use as they require a live and fast data connection, they require saving charts one-by-one in advance, or they don't support chart quilting at all. With MX Mariner, you download a region when you have a good wifi connection - these are big files, 150-250MB, but once you have the file for a region, MX Mariner will automatically quilt charts for that reason as you navigate - and no data connection is required! Note that switching to Google Earth view does require an active data connection, but since the primary point of this is for marine charts, that's reasonable.

Some features, like GPX import/export are still under development, expect to see new features soon! Like OpenCPN, MX Mariner embraces iterative development, and you can even contribute if you so desire. If you notice some similarities between OpenCPN and MX Mariner, that's no accident - as the primary developer of MX Mariner is also a contributor of OpenCPN.

Currently, MX Mariner has somewhat limited world coverage, take a look at the website for more details.

So, if you are looking for an Android based chart plotter app, give this one a try! It works great on our Samsung Galaxy-S phone, and HTC Flyer 7" tablet. Looking forward to see what features come next!


Firedust - Book 1 of The Adventures of Josh Bronsky

With Christmas just a couple of weeks away, this is a good time to plug Scott's sister's book "Firedust" - Book 1 of The Adventures Of Josh Bronsky by Katherine Emmons.

If you have 8-12 year old children on your Christmas shopping list, you should really check it out! It's a great adventure story, with more books coming in the Josh Bronsky series...


Josh Bronsky is whisked off to the world of Lumira in a dune buggy stolen right out of the school parking lot.

His accomplice is the stubborn Isabel, better known as the Sock Princess. This whole fiasco is her fault.

A strange man warns Josh about an upcoming battle, and tells him about the firedust, ...

You can preview the first chapter of the book, and get more information, at www.firedust.org. You can purchase the book directly from Amazon, or to get the ebook on Nook and Kindle.


Let the pounding begin!

We had a great time at the homecoming party for Blue Sky before continuing our voyage up the coast.  Great people. On the wall of the Port Royal Yacht Club we saw a picture of a familiar boat - Jane'O! The previous owner was a member of this yacht club, which was neat to run across. Dale (our crew) took a picture, which we'll post later.

Again, we got lots of "Jane'O is back!" comments and such, being in a high density of people who knew her and the previous owner Dave. After the party, Jim and Peter, who have more miles on Jane'O than we do, came by for a visit and to relive a few memories and tell some great stories of their trips aboard. We had a couple of items that came with the boat, but which we have since learned belonged to them, and it was neat to get these things back to them.

Past and Present Jane'O Crew
At 3AM we awoke to push off and continue on our trip. Timing passages around Point Conception and Big Sur is an important factor for both comfort and safety. As Point Conception is almost 24 hours from Redondo Beach at our average 5kt speed, this was when we needed to leave to make it around in the wee hours of the morning when seas and wind conditions are typically best.

Once a bit past Santa Barbara, seas started to get choppy resulting in pounding conditions Jane'O. Bridgedeck pounding is something that doesn't happen to monohulls, and is when chop is forced up between the two hulls and has no place to go but slam into the bottom of the bridge deck. The force of the water makes a very loud BANG and has enough power to cause things on the table to bounce a couple of inches. This is one of the few conditions where we have to actually worry about stowing things so they don't bounce around and onto the floor. Sleeping in these conditions is a challenge as well, especially for anyone in the forward berths. We gave Dale the best bed on the boat, in the aft cabin while Jacob and I practiced our levitation in the forwards berths.

Conditions were rough with winds in the high 20s all the way around Point Conception and Point Arguello - and all the way to the mouth of San Luis Bay. It was only once we got inside the protection of the jetty and the surrounding hills that we found smooth water.

Port San Luis is a great anchorage - at least with prevailing northerly and northwesterly weather, don't ever come in here during a southerly storm! We anchored right between the two piers, in roughly the same place we anchored on our southbound trip in the fall.

We knew there was some nasty weather off the coast for a couple of days, so planned on staying in Port San Luis until it passed. Outside the bay we could see big rollers and whitecaps (you could see the horizon was quite a bit higher than water in the bay), while at anchor it was flat and calm. This is a great place to hang out for a couple of days, with lots to do.

We launched the dingy and rowed over to the municipal pier and walked around town for awhile. Dale and Scott did some wine tasting, and then we all walked along the inlet and beach before going to the little store for a few provisions.

The next day we were still waiting for weather, so Dale and Jacob had fun rowing the kayak and dingy to the beach and up the river, and again later to another beach adjacent to the mooring field. Scott stayed on the boat and did some reading.

Starfish on the anchor chain
The weather forecast showed things would start to improve overnight, so we decided to leave Port San Luis at 8pm, which would get us into San Francisco Bay before dark two days later. The first night was another really rough nite of pounding and winds in the high 20s, but there wasn't a whole lot of current so we still made good progress. The next day we broke into the forecasted calm conditions, and had nice weather for the rest of the trip - we got some great sleep the next night!

Conditions were so good, and we were making such good speed that we arrived at the San Francisco bar around 4am. This is not a good time to cross the bar and enter the bay - at night and in the fog, but at least waves were small and we were at slack tide, making the ride comfortable and safe. What wasn't comfortable and safe was all the shipping traffic! We were really surprised how much big shipping traffic there is between 4-6am through the gate! We had 5 big ships inbound and 2 outbound, plus a number of fishing boats and one tug. Without radar and a chartplotter we'd have had to loiter offshore for daylight.

By 7:30am Jane'O was docked at her new slip, finishing up our trip that started at the beginning of September 2010, when we left San Francisco Bay for Mexico! What a great trip!!

Randy and Dale, thank you guys for crewing for us - you are both great, easy to get along with, lots of fun, and trustworthy. Thank you so much!!

Jane'O, thank you for a great adventure and keeping us safe. Now you get to rest and play around on the Bay until our next trip.

Dave, thanks for watching over us.

More pictures soon!

Avila Beach and Municipal Pier
Cal Poly Pier (the old Unocal Pier)


Having a good trip up the Southern California Coast

So far, it's been an easy trip up the coast, but all we've done is the easy part. Jane'O survived her 6 months on mooring well, and other than being covered in a thick layer of black grime, was how we left her. Everything is black from this grime, so doing pretty much anything like hoisting the main or trimming the jib results in black hands. Rogelio, the harbormaster at Baja Naval is one of the nicest guys you could ever meet, and while Ensenada has some negatives, Rogelio and Baja Naval is a huge positive.

We left Ensenada on schedule with friend Randy, Jacob, and myself aboard for an uneventful overnight motor to San Diego. At the US border we were hailed by a USCG cutter doing picket patrol requesting information about the boat, documentation, where we were headed, where we left from, and our next port of call. Satisfied with our information, they cleared us on our way.

In the entrance channel into San Diego, we came across Warship 18 doing maneuvers across the degaussing field.  In the channel are underwater magnetic degaussers, which are used to reduce the magnetic signature of warships. Warship 18 had tugs on either side of it, spinning it in it's own axis - this is a big ship, and basically took up the entire channel when sideways. By the time we got up to them, they were pointed back out the channel, but I hailed them on VHF to make sure we were clear. I got a muffled response (c'mon Navy guys, speak clearly), and ultimately decided we were clear anyway, as we continued up the channel. We like coming into San Diego and seeing all the cool military boats, helicopters, and planes - lots to see here.

We headed to the Police Dock for our US Customs inspection, required of any vessel returning to the US from foreign ports. The folks that do this spend most of the time at the airport, and only come down to check in boats on request. Sometimes this can take some time if there are international flights coming in, but I guess we had a good window as we only waited 40 minutes or so for the customs officers to arrive. The inspection was easy and went well, and the officers were a couple of really nice guys. They asked a few questions, checked our passports, documentation, and took our zarpe (clearance to leave Mexico), and spent just a couple of minutes looking over the boat. I gave them a check for $27 and at that point we were clear to be in the US!

From there, we moved a couple of hundred feet to a side tie at the transient marina adjacent to the Police dock. Only $11 a night, what a deal! But the rates go up significantly August 1st.

The three of us had a great brunch at The Red Sails Inn, then Randy and I hiked up to the grocery store for a few provisions - about a 6 mile round-trip walk. Meanwhile, additional crew Dale flew in to join us for the rest of the trip up to San Francisco. We met Dale and his wife Dena on the Baja Haha, and spent numerous wonderful evenings with them during our trip down the coast of California and up to the Sea of Cortez.

The next morning we headed for Redondo Beach and got several hours of nice sailing in before getting headed and deciding that while the sailing was nice, we wanted to arrive sometime in the morning. At around 12:30am during Jacob's watch, a bit southwest of Long Beach, I woke up when the mainsail wasn't sounding right (this is one of those things where you have to be a sailor to really understand, but we get attuned to the sounds and motion of the boat, and if anything isn't right it will wake us up). As the wind had shifted and died, we just needed to adjust the main a bit to keep it from banging, and at about that point we see bright lights just off our port bow, coming toward us. They circle our stern and hail us on the VHF - the USCG on night patrol in one of their big, fast RIB boats. They paced along side us and asked for the same information as the cutter at the US border. Once again satisfied with our information they wished us a good voyage and zipped away, a short time later extinguishing all their running lights. Looks like they loiter with no lights, patrolling for suspicious vessels. The RIBs have basically no radar signature, so I imagine they work well for this role.

We made it into Redondo Beach at around 7:45am, making a brief stop at the fuel dock before tying up at the guest dock at King Harbor Yacht Club. We stayed here for a few nights on our trip South, they are a great, accommodating club for cruisers.

As Jane'O was in Redondo Beach for over 15 years, many people know her, so we got lots of "Jane'O is back!" comments from various people at the fuel dock and the yacht club.

At this point, we had to say goodbye to Randy, unfortunately, who had to head on home. Thanks Randy for crewing with us, looking for the next time we can have you aboard!!

Dale, Jacob, and I went up to the supermarket for a provisioning run, then up to the yacht club for a short time. Dale cooked up an incredible veggie+chicken stirfry for dinner, and then we went in search of the crew of Blue Sky. Finally, Dale taught Jacob and I how to play Blind Luck before we turned in for the night. How is that for a busy few days!

Blue Sky just completed a 5 year circumnavigation on their 44' ketch, and have a very strong Jane'O connection as they were good friends with the previous owner and likely have more miles on our boat than we do! Jim and Emma, thanks for letting us crash your dinner, it was great chatting with you! Today, Blue Sky is having a big homecoming party which we will attend before continuing our trip around Point Conception and on up the California coast!

Hazy morning in Redondo Beach


Article and pictures published in June Latitude 38

I sent our May 7th blog entitled "Why you should do the Baja Haha" to Latitude 38 - and it was published in the June magazine along with a couple of pictures - including one of our favorites, taken by Dan from Loose Pointer, of Jane'O anchored in Cardoncito, our favorite little cove at Isla Partida in the Sea of Cortez.

You can read the entire June magazine for free at http://www.latitude38.com/ebooks.html

Dan, if you are reading this, we gave you full credit for the photo, although Latitude 38 didn't publish that bit.

The magazine asked for a picture of us as well, and we were a bit surprised that we only had 2 pictures of all three of us from our entire 6 month trip! Well, we know what we look like, but each of the 100's of sunsets and sunrises are unique!
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