Planning Your Solar Install

Choosing Solar Panels, Solar panes, solar charge contrller, MPPT

Sailing around the world on renewable energy. The concept is as old as sailing itself. Ever since the first sailors raised canvas, sailing around the world on renewable energy was a natural evolution.

It’s wasn’t until the first steamships appeared in the 1800’s that we actually moved away from renewable energy. So no, it isn’t a novel concept. But I’m not talking about the days of kerosine lamps and canvas sails. Fast forward a couple hundred years.

In our everyday lives we enjoy certain “luxuries” that help us feel like we are living a modern life in the 21 century. Running water, lights, phones, computers, tablets, fans, rice cookers, blenders, microwaves, these are all things that we have grown accustomed to in our everyday lives. Are we really willing to live without them just because we decided to go cruising? Camping is one thing, but let’s face it, most of us want creature comforts.

Sailing around the world on renewable energy is a little different in modern day. Cinderella is not bare bones, we have the luxuries aboard that most people have in their home (minus the microwave and flat screen tv), she is our home after all. And we power all of it with solar.

But where did we begin when sizing our solar system? This can be tricky. You might be tempted to break out the calculators and try to add up all of the energy draw aboard, use estimators to narrow down just how many hours of sunshine you expect to see, size you battery bank to make sure you don’t deplete it by more that 60% each day and so on.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t do that… I’m saying there is an easier way.

Tips on Selecting Solar Panels

Realize that there is no harm in having too much power.
When sizing Cinderella’s system I started backwards. How much space do we have aboard for solar panels?

Most modern sailboats (unless you have a very specialized raceboat) have lots of real estate behind the boom of the mainsail. That space is typically covered with a bimini of some sort to protect the people onboard from the sun. This is an excellent place to install solar panels!

On Cinderella, we measured the space from the end of the boom to her stern. We then measured the width of the boat in the same area. Once we had an idea of the available real estate, we went online to research what our options were.

It turns out there are three major options: rigid monocrystalline panels, rigid polycrystalline panels, and flexible panels.

Rigid monocrystalline panels are the oldest. They have been around for decades, and are getting better and better every year. Rigid monocrystalline panels produce the most power to area of any panel.

Rigid polycrystalline panels are newer than monocrystalline panels. They don’t produce quite as much power per area as monocrystalline panels, but they are far superior when it comes to shading. If the area you have available for panels has lot of shading, polycrystalline panels may be the way to go.

That leaves flexible panels. Flexible panels are the newcomers. They are light and flexible. They don’t produce anywhere near the power of rigid panels, but they can be mounted almost anywhere. Most marine brands also have the charge controllers built in, so you can wire them directly to your batteries. The biggest perk is that you can walk on them, so in theory you can open up quite a bit of real estate. Unfortunately thus far, I have not met very many cruisers that are happy with their flexible panels. They don’t seem to last as long as their rigid counterparts.

Knowing that we are not only running our home, but also charging our electric motor battery bank, I opted to go with the rigid monocrystalline option. The more power the better. Since we don’t have a wind generator, or a radar dome, there is nothing to shade our panels except for our thin backstay.

After measuring the available space (about 80″ x 90″) I started researching brands online. There are lots of threads on this subject. you will find brand diehards, you will find people talking about dollars to watts, you will find enough information to make your head spin.

I again offer a simpler solution: study at the spec sheets. All solar panels are made up of solar cells. These cells are wired together to make different voltages, but are roughly 6″ x 6″ regardless of their efficiency.

That translates to a standard width to all solar panels (with the exception of very small panels). Whether they are 190w or 360w, all of the panels are roughly 40″ wide.

Knowing that, we took that 80″ x 90″ area and decided to fill it with as much solar panel as we could. This came to roughly two 265w to 360w panels depending on brand and efficiency.

So, now that you have an idea of what you want based on your area to cover, where do you find them?

You may be tempted to go online and try to find the cheapest price, but you will quickly realize that shipping a 40″ x 80″ panel costs just as much as the panel! This may be ideal for covering a home roof, but not when you only need one or two.

Go to your local electrician’s supply! They exist in nearly every major city. In Seattle, it was Platt Electric.

I walked in to Platt with my tape measure and told the staff what I was doing. They led me into their warehouse and showed me the options. Since they basically buy full pallets of panels for resale, they were excited to cut me a deal on the leftover panels on each pallet. After looking through a few pallets, I found two 345w Solarworld panels that measured 40″ x 80″. the panels were $250 each, so I got 690w of solar for $500!

Not bad considering that has covered our “power bill” for over a year now and allowed us to be fully off the grid, fully sustainable with all of our “luxuries” plugged in.

Selecting your Battery Bank and Charge Controllers

Once you have your panels selected it’s time to have a look at your battery bank, and what controller you will put between the panels and your batteries.

Charge controllers come in two basic types PWM or “pulse width modulation” and MPPT “Multiple Power Point Tracking”.

Both of these use electronic circuitry to prevent the panels from destroying your batteries. The circuitry is how they differ.

Pulse Width Modulation is an older technology that works by breaking up the DC current heading to the batteries with a series of switches. These switches open and close so fast that the battery doesn’t even notice it. Using a set charge curve for the battery type, these charge controllers very the width of the energy pulse from the panels to meet the battery’s ideal charge voltage. This leads to an efficient charger that doesn’t boil your batteries.

Multiple Power Point Tracking is a newcomer. It is more efficient that PWM and it was designed for passive energy like solar. MPPT chargers work by a neat little trick discovered by Nicola Tesla, the transformer. The chargers invert DC power to AC power using electronic circuitry. All of that AC energy can then be transformed from very high voltage to the exact voltage the battery needs. The AC power is then converted back to DC power and fed to the batteries.

What does this mean? It means that you can feed very high voltage to an MPPT Charge controller and the controller can take the extra voltage and turn it into useable amperage that won’t boil batteries. Since higher voltages have less energy losses, we can send more useable power to the batteries! And use smaller diameter wires to do it.

Obviously, we went with the MPPT charge controller option.

Next step: Sizing the charge controller

Charge controllers are essentially sized by the amount of heat they can dissipate. In the world of electricity, amperage is heat, so we can say that charge controllers are sized by the amps they can handle.

Since our panels can produce 690 watts, we can divide 690 watts by 12 volts and get almost 58 amps. Thats quite a bit! But that is also the theoretical best case scenario. I assumed that we would normally produce about half of our maximum, so I found a charge controller that could handle 30 amps.

I chose the Midnight Solar Kidd. The Kidd was reasonably priced at about $300 and was designed for the marine environment. They also have the option of paralleling, so if I decided I wanted to utilize the most from my panels, I could get a second Kidd and wire them together to handle the extra amps.

I purchased a second Kidd for our 48v electric motor battery bank. That way if anything happened to one, we have a backup onboard to get us to the next port.

The last piece of the puzzle: the battery bank!

 

 

The battery bank is where you store and draw power from when the sun isn’t shining. There have been huge improvements in battery technology over the past few years, and it seems like the prices of the new technology is always dropping. Since I purchased our house bank for Cinderella over a year ago, we have noticed that the prices have dropped by about 30% on LiFePO4 technology!

We again sized our battery bank based on the space aboard Cinderella. She had two tired old 110ah agm batteries when I bought her, so we replaced them with two new batteries.

At the time Lithium was out of my price range, and the Samsung phones were blowing up left and right. Not quite making a good case for LiFePO4 technology.

Fortunately, there was a new carbon foam battery technology in the market. A company called Ocean Planet Energy launched the Firefly Oasis Battery. They coated standard lead acid plates with some type of carbon foam that prevented sulfation, a lead acid battery’s arch nemesis. This resulted in a battery with lithium like characteristics, at much lower prices.

We purchased two of these carbon foam batteries from Fisheries Supply in Seattle, and have been happy with them every since. Unlike standard lead acid batteries, we could discharge them completely without damaging their lifespan. We essentially got four 110ah batteries in half the footprint.

There you go! I hope this helps you design your solar system from Mercury to Pluto.

Obviously, its best to have a plan before you purchase all of your pieces. If you are curious how we wired our system click here.

DIY Marine Onboard Network

B&G, PLEX, KODI, ODROID, tindie, OPENCPN

NERD ALERT! NERD ALERT! NERD ALERT!

We have been cruising for a full year now! After a year of cruising, you really get a chance to dial in your systems and realize which projects on that endless list are most important and which ones can wait until the next major port.

One that keeps rearing up its head is deep in that dark world of…IT.

From ship navigation systems, to where you store all of those priceless photos it a boils down to a mess of wires all a bunch of 0s and 1s. Can/should it all be linked?

Most cruisers spend lots of time far away from WiFi and even farther from our precious Netflix. Yet we all crave a bit of digital entertainment from time to time, and let’s be honest, where would we be without music on those long passages.

What we plan to do aboard Cinderella is create an onboard wifi network with a dedicated media server. The server will house all of our music, videos, TV shows, movies, and photos. Along with a dedicated media server, we will update our navigation computer and tie it to our ship instruments. The end result will be something like this.

I know, I know, it looks like a lot. But we, along with pretty much all of the boats we have met cruising already have most of the gear!

Let’s start from the top. What I called the Marine Sensor Network. The Marine Sensor Network alone can cost thousands of dollars to replace. Cinderella came with an old KVH system installed in the late 90s. The Airmar sensors still work, but all of our marine displays have since fried. One wave off the Washington coast a one year ago decided we didn’t need them.

Although it may look complicated, it’s actually quite simple. All of our instruments were designed for the NMEA 0183 standard. This standard was created in the marine industry so that different instrumentation could talk with each other. NMEA 0183 is an old standard that requires a separate channel for each input. Basically, if you wanted to interface four instruments to you computer, you would need four separate connections. It can be done, but if we use something called a multiplexer we can funnel all of the instruments through one channel to the PC.

In our situation, using a multiplexer is nice because we can also feed this NMEA information to our autopilot giving us the option to steer by the wind angle, rather than just compass direction. The NMEA multiplexer we purchased was from Quark-electric and was $144.

We purchased it while we were in Mexico, and have yet to install it. Hopefully, this project will re-ignite my drive to have ship instruments again.

Where are we so far?

We used a device called a NMEA Multiplexer to compile inputs from all of our sensors and eventually feed it to our navigation computer or what some people like to call a chartplotter. A chartplotter is basically an expensive, basic “marinized” computer that plots your boats location on a chart. Think Tom-Tom for the water. The difference between Tom-Tom and a chart plotter is usually at least crisp cool boat unit ($1000).

On Cinderella we have come to realize that marine instruments, no matter how waterproof they seem to be, aren’t. Water will eventually find it’s way inside, killing the expensive chartplotter and leaving you in a pickle. We opted instead to utilize a program called OpenCPN to handle our chartplotting needs.

OpenCPN is FREE software designed by boaters that allows you to turn any computer into a chartplotter. The perk here is that ANY computer you have onboard can now be used as a backup navigation computer after you install the application. Every computer we have onboard has it installed, though we only rely one when we are on passage. Being that it is computer based, you still have that pesky water problem to deal with.

We get around the water issue by leaving the navigation computer in the cabin at all times. As part of this ship system upgrade, we will relieve our trusty Microsoft Surface from chartplotter duty and build a custom, cheap, and watertight navigation computer.

There are, in our opinion, three basic requirements of all navigation computers. One, the computer must know where YOU are. Two, it must know where the boats around you are. Three, it must not draw too much power.

Nowadays, these basic requirements are pretty easy to satisfy. To tell the computer where we are, we have been using a cheap USB GPS dongle. We carry two in case one gets hit by water. Here is a link the the one we use on Amazon, its about $30.

To tell us where other boats are, we use an AIS receiver that receives signal from our mast mounted VHF antenna. In order to use both the VHF and AIS with a single antenna, we needed to install a splitter. Anyone who remembers the days of clunky color TVs might remember what a splitter looks like. Here is the one we have installed onboard Cinderella, it was about $70.

We really liked the Microsoft Surface for use as our navigation computer. It has a large touch screen monitor, it has a nice fold down keyboard and a neat bluetooth mouse. Unfortunately, that wave that killed our marine instruments also got to our Surface, and ever since it takes a little TLC to start it up and keep it going. It had a hard year, and it’s time we come up with something new to replace it. We are currently looking at simple 12V computers like the RasberryPi or Odroid. They are both small, low power, and can be sealed into a watertight box and stowed in a small cabinet.

Along with the computer, we will need to find a low draw 12V monitor and a simple bluetooth keyboard and mouse, but I believe the new navigation PC could be had for $200-$300.

So now we have our boat instruments connected to our navigation computer, but one major piece remains. The media! What about the music/TV shows/movies? The last piece of the upgrade is the NAS or Network Attached Storage server. What we will call the Cinderella Cloud.

The Cinderella cloud will be essentially made up of three pieces, a hard drive (where the media will live), a NAS server (means to organize the media), and a router (means to share the media with all of our devices).

We have had a small router onboard since before we left Seattle. I read a cruising blog a long time ago and decided to purchase a WiFi extender so that I could pick up WiFi at the marina from far away. Along with the WiFi extender, I purchased a 12V router to allow all of my devices to utilize that WiFi.

We plan to buy a 12V NAS server from Odroid, and pair it with a large capacity, low draw hard drive.

These hardware components don’t mean very much alone, but with the help of neat media software (Plex or Kodi), we should be able to connect to the Cindy Cloud and scroll through all of our movies, TV shows, or music at any time from any device and stream away. It will be like our own little onboard Netflix!

If everything goes to plan, we should have an entire onboard network integrating marine instruments, a navigation computer, and a media server, all for less than the cost of a standard chartplotter!

Sailing in Southern Mexico

Sailing Southern Mexico, Electric Sailboat, Puerto Angel, Zihuatanejo, Zipolite, Mazunte, San Augustinillo

Southern Mexico

We were told that boats don’t sail down here. That large fuel tanks were a cruisers best friend and that we should expect to motor the whole way. Well… that’s just not our style!

If you look at GRIBs, the southern Mexican coastline is void of breeze. It’s a wind deadzone that waits for hurricane season before it blows at all.

I’m here to tell you, its all wrong. You CAN sail here, and with a bit of patience, it can even be fun!

After leaving Zihuatenajo, we experienced one of the best passages we have had on the entire trip. No, we were not making record miles per day, but 100-120 isn’t bad for our pequeno barko. And we really wanted to see Oaxaca after everything we have heard about it.

It did not disappoint.

Almost all of the winds that we have experienced down here are diurnal. During the day you can expect the sea breeze to blow up to 15kts, though mostly in the 8-10 range, and at night the land breeze kicks in, but it’s a little calmer. The best part, flat seas. The cherry on top, sea turtles everywhere!

On the stretch from Ztown to Huatulco, those breezes are on the beam! The beam! Cindy sat at a nice easy 6kts for most of the day just cruising along. At night, the wind died for a couple hours between 9 and 11pm before the land breeze started to blow and we would jibe the kite.

The flat seas meant that cooking was easy and the experience aboard was really pleasant. We had an opportunity to tackle some of those projects that are on that never-ending list, and even work out! And they told me you couldn’t sail here!

We made two stops in Mexico after Zihuatanejo, Puerto Angel and Huatulco.

Puerto Angel was one of our favorite places in all of Mexico. We find that we get along well with the local fisherman everywhere we go, and this tiny, beautiful spot was well off the beaten cruiser path. If you stopped to take a look

We stopped along the way to try some local Mexcal

A short camineta (cheap public transit truck) away was a breathtaking coastline of a series of beaches. Zipolite, Mazunte, San Augustinillo.

…. We took advantage of the inexpensive transit and explored to our hearts content. Through a friend we met, we even got a tour of the local University! (more on that in another blog)

Huatulco was a sleepy tourist town, very dependent on cruise ships for income. There are several bays that you can anchor in, but it was HOT and we were antsy to see Costa Rica and Central America.

The biggest challenge we have experienced down south is the heat. Being PNWerners, we aren’t use to it.

Without shade and cold beverages it can be downright dangerous. Ava is struggling with it a bit more than I am, but I attribute that to all that time I spent in hay lofts stacking bales of hay in the miserable summer heat back in Indiana. At least here the dolphins keep us company and I am not inhaling all that hay dust and pollen that caused even the strongest of immune systems to have allergic reactions.

It took us a while to adopt our schedule and learn how to live down here, but after a few weeks of deliriously sweating we are starting to figure it out. We started to adopt rules to make life better.

#1 Hydrate Hydrate Hydrate. I am so glad we stocked up on gatorade and tea mixes before we left and installed our watermaker. Water is going through us like crazy. The sweet additives have the effect of making you crave drinking more, and otherwise I just couldn’t drink enough water. We always try to keep two bottles of something in the fridge.

#2 No cooking! No matter what, no cooking during the day. It is not wise to stoke the hell-fire, and any extra heat in the cabin could be what causes heat stroke to set in. We have become mediterranean in our cooking habits, we wait until the sun goes down and have late dinners. If we can, we make enough to have leftovers the following day for lunch and that gets us through the day. Thank you Poseidon for the fresh fish that allowed for fresh poke lunches.

#3 Shower and shower often. For us this means we break out trusty ol bucky (our rubbermaid bucket) and pour a few gallons over ourselves. We headed South for warmer waters, and it feels amazing to get a nice ocean-water shower. I wish Cindy had a swim step…

#4 Sleep when it’s cool. We have adjusted our watch schedules to allow each of us to get some sleep in the cooler hours. If not you will simply go mad. Waking up in a puddle of your own sweat and dehydrated is not the making for a pleasant watch.

As I write this, we are 4 days into a 760nm passage to Costa Rica from Huatulco, MX. It’s 7am and we are sailing hard on the wind at 5.5-6kts exactly on our rhumb line. Yesterday we freed ourselves of Mexico and the Gulf of Tehuantepec. By tonight, we should be sailing in El Salvadorian waters.

Our passage through the Gulf of Tehuantepec, or the “devils mouth” as some refer to it was one of the slowest we have experienced. Down here the winds are calm and it seems like the only bit of wind anyone wants to talk about. “How are you going to cross the Gulf?” “You mean you can’t just motor across?!” “Have you seen the lates Tpeck forecast?”

The Venturi Effect caused by the Isthmus of Tehuantepec is said to produce hurricane force winds, BUT if you stay near shore (which you can) that wind doesn’t have enough fetch to create the seas that make hurricanes so dangerous. You just get lots of wind, the GRIBs say 50kt gusts. These gusts are enough to blow tractor trailers over on the highway. Put it this way, you want to avoid it.

Although the racer/adventurer in me would have been excited about blasting across the Tpec testing myself and Cinderella, the conservative engineer in me realized this boat has to last us all the way around the world, and pushing her hard is how things (and people) break. We waited for a lull and crossed when the winds were light.

And boy were they light!! The lightest and most fickle we have yet experienced. Not only were they light, but the lagoons and estuaries that line the bay produce strange currents and counter currents that really put the brakes on.

On our third day out of Huatulco, we were sailing along close-hauled in about 10-12kts of breeze. Cindy was fully loaded up and somehow we were only going 4.5-5kts. In those conditions, we should expect to see 6.5-7kts, so I knew something was up. Sure enough a few hrs the fickle wind died and we were drifting right back down our rhumb line at 2kts, heading back into the Tpec’s danger zone. Damn!

We decided to motor straight to shore. One thing that is nice about this gulf is that it’s basically one giant beach. The beach has a gradual slope to shore, and about ½ mile offshore you find yourself in 30-50ft of water, and you can simply anchor anywhere. Being that we don’t trust the charts, and we like having sea room, were were sailing only a couple miles offshore. Close enough that we could tuck in if a Tpecker kicked up, but far enough away to give us some sea room.

Our plan was to throw the hook down until the breeze picked back up. That way we could avoid losing any ground. As we neared shore a very interesting thing happened, the current began to ease. We were both exhausted. The relentless heat was only quenched when we had a breeze, and there was none. The thought of anchoring and getting some sleep was the only thing that kept me going.

As we neared shore, we could hear that ominous sound of crashing waves grow louder and louder. According to the charts we should be in 30ft of water, but the sounder said 80 and wasn’t budging.

Something doesn’t seem right. The moonless sky was pitch black and all we could see was the blanket of stars above our running lights. Louder and louder that ominous breaking-wave sound grew.

We were about ½ mile from shore now and the depth was finally starting to drop, the current had oddly subsided and sure enough, we started to feel a light breeze. Just as the sounder started to read 50, we had 6kts or so of land breeze.

Once again we adjusted our plan, out came the sails and on we went, keeping just ½ mile from shore. That sleep would have to wait. 6 kts on the beam meant 3-4 kts of boat speed, and the less time spent in the Gulf of Tehuantepec the better.

As I sat in the cockpit looking up at scorpio bold as ever, I realized that we are sailing in that place everyone says you can’t. They say you can’t probably for the same reasons we struggled in the heat for weeks. It’s not what we are used to.

If Mexico has shown us anything, its that we need to be open to change. Don’t let ourselves get locked into the idea that all sailing should be trade winds sailing. Or that our typical way of doing things is the only way. Open your mind, be open to change, and you never know what you might find.

Actually Sailing the Sea of Cortez

Most blogs you read about sailing in Mexico describe the amazing things there are to see and why it’s worth spending a few seasons there.

This is about the sailing experience.

In the Sea of Cortez, the wind either doesn’t blow at all, or it blows like crazy from exactly where you want to go.  In the lulls you drift aimlessly in circles, listening to sails flog. When the Norte blows, you have 30+ kts on your nose and it’s a bashingly numbing ride. For about 4 hours a day, you have perfect sailing conditions. Just time it with the tides…

What I’m saying is, it’s a motor boater’s paradise.

The first major city heading north, La Paz, even closes their harbor when they see 15kts of breeze from the North. 15 kts!! No boats are allowed in or out. I don’t think the weekly regatta has been allowed out to sail once with a decent breeze. Quite a different vibe compared to the race boats in Santa Cruz that come screaming back into harbor under big powerful kites in all but treacherous conditions.

The Sea is amazingly beautiful, Jacques Cousteau fittingly described it as ‘The aquarium of the world,” and It’s absolutely worth every minute you spend there exploring. We swam with sea lions and floated over schools of vibrant tropical fish. We ate delicious fresh ceviche, fish tacos and sashimi all from a few hooks hanging over the stern. We love it here in Mexico.

Ask almost anyone who participated in the 2018 Baja Haha how many hours their motors were running when they were up in the Sea. That should give you an idea of what it’s like to sail here.

The sailing itself, sucks.

We attempted sailing North in both a Norte and without a Norte. Both are trying.

A Norte is a strong northerly wind that seems to occur once every week or so and last a few days during winter months. Sometimes they occur back to back and they last for nearly a week. If a Norte is blowing, expect square 6-8’ waves to build, as the fetch from the Northern Sea is nearly 400 miles. That mass of water moving south also tends to push a sizable current.

In the Norte, you are taking hundreds of gallons of water over the bow and watching your tacking angles  get worse and worse. But hey, there is wind! The trouble is trying to sleep when you are getting air  in your berth as the boat pounds away.

When the Norte doesn’t blow, all predictions are off. Sometimes the wind is blowing from the south, sometimes the west, sometimes the east, but never over 10 kts (on rare occasion you might see 15). Expect lots of lulls and lots of drifting.

While we were here, we did not find any wind prediction software to be accurate, nor the charts for that matter. We tried PredictWind, Sailflow, Windy, and NOAA’s GRIBs, but none of them were accurate when a Norte wasn’t blowing.

All of the tall volcanic islands and hills in the area seem to confuse the fickle winds and make prediction difficult.

Our trick was to wait until well after the Norte shut off and  use a honed skill of… looking out the window.

When the light wind starts to blow in the early afternoon, we would weigh anchor and ride the puffs North. Ideally we landed in any of the hundreds of majestical, calm anchorages before the wind shut off for the night.

If we timed it right, there wasn’t any swell, and we would be hunkered down in an amazing anchorage while the Norte kicked up for a few days. After things chill out, you can weigh anchor and keep going… slowly.

If you have a typical “cruising boat” that is heavy and doesn’t point high, expect to fill those diesel tanks often!

Fortunately for us, Cinderella is a great light wind performer, and though wet, she can pound her way to weather if need be.

Either way, actually sailing in the Sea of Cortez, as with anywhere patience is key, and schedules will make life painful.

Expect to develop monk-like patience here if you attempt to experience the Sea under sail as daily passages tend to be roughly one third to one quarter the mileage you experienced coming down the West coast. For instance, 20 miles may take you all day. But don’t worry, there are plenty of perfect beaches to help you find heart’s center.

Don’t let the sailing discourage you, it is trying, but the experience here more than makes up for it. We wish we had more time to stick around and spend a few seasons really exploring.

Cinderella in Latitude 38!

Around the world on renewable energy. So you have a generator right? No.

A few months ago, Ava and I set off from Seattle in pursuit of a dream. A dream that lingers in the back of the mind of almost every sailor. The dream to sail around the world. We untied from our dock at Fremont Boat Co. on September 3, 2017 at 2am to catch the morning ebb. As I write this, we are approaching Cabo San Lucas. We’ve logged nearly 2,600 nautical miles and we’ve sailed just about all of it.

It started with an “enlightened moment” that struck me while working remote from Stoneway Cafe in Fremont Seattle. Too many days spent droning away like this hunched over the old laptop. I made up my mind. I’m going to quit the 9-5, untie the lines, and aim for the BLT (big left turn) out of the Straights of Juan De Fuca. I figured I would work another two years, save up some money, and find a way to head out. 

Around that time, I met and fell in love with an amazing gal, Ava. On one of our first dates, I asked her what her 5 year plan was. I told her mine, it was to leave in two years to sail around the world for two years. 

Her thoughts?

Cute, this guy is a dreamer.

Cut to two years later, she was selling her car, Honda Spree scooter and her vinyl collection, found a new home for Jennifer the cat to move on board Cinderella. We spent 2017 rigorously preparing while both working full time jobs and picking up odd jobs to save money. We had a monster of a to-do list to get our boat ready for the voyage (of which some we are still checking off along the way).

Our boat Cinderella is a vintage Ericson 35-2 from 1971. A friend was interested in buying a boat so I went with him to Ballard to check it out. 

My first thought on this boat was “what a project” but was somehow was drawn to it. So naturally I put in a $6,000 offer which was rejected. Weeks later I was still thinking about that boat. It had some curious modifications for racing that were clearly not stock Ericson. Her “Spartan” interior looked almost gutted, with little else than bare fiberglass hull, a massive diesel engine in the center cabin and a couple of settees. A modest galley with the sink draining right to the cabin sole. I really tried to forget this project boat. Then about a month later, the sellers called me back and my offer was accepted. 

Am I crazy? 

I soon found out Cinderella had a racy past. She went to Hawaii twice in the Pac Cup and had numerous first place trophies from racing on Lake Washington. She was completely overhauled by one of the previous owners. I later learned, he watched the interior pan break free and sway back and forth independently of the hull while underway to San Fran from Mexico. Rarely do we get to know the people who hold the secrets to our boat’s past lives, I got lucky.

I spent nearly two years educating myself and refitting Cinderella for blue water cruising. Whenever Ava had to track me down, I was usually at my favorite place, Fisheries Supply. Or maybe buried somewhere deep in power tools and fiberglass.

It was a crash course on boatbuilding while working full time as a traveling engineer. You see Cinderella was a spartan racer, not a cruising boat. So I essentially built a tiny house with custom cabinetry, plumbing and a functioning head, a water system, berths and a solar power system. The big question marks were the rig and rudder. We pulled and inspected the rig and rudder last winter, the budget way, doing all the work ourselves through the night at Canal Boat Yard. We also added roller furling, re-habbed and installed an old Aries wind vane. 

Ava might think I’m a glutton for punishment but our budget means I re-build or custom build every damn thing. Though, I do draw the line on Diesel. My obvious solution to weasel my way out of engine maintenance and save money was to figure out a simple auxiliary drive that was fueled by renewable energy.

After engine failure #2, I promptly removed the “expensive anchor” and began researching an electric drive. I shuddered when I saw how the few kits on the market were incredibly expensive, as or more costly than diesel.

I discovered Sailing Uma on YouTube, an inventive DIY electric boat. They had helped me see that a conversion to electric drive was possible and feasible for Cinderella. I was inspired and dove into researching and piecing components together (I swear I was working this whole time).

Our electric motor drive is the motor half of a Briggs & Stratton 10hp generator… with some odd golf cart add-ons. Due to our budget battery bank, our range is limited but it has been one of the most trouble-free systems aboard. While it does get frustrating watching sails flog in windless conditions, I will take that any day over dealing with the breakdowns and maintenance required of it’s petroleum driven counterparts. Luckily Cinderella is a fantastic light wind boat.

Anyone who tells you battery tech isn’t there yet, or it’s not practical has not properly educated themselves. After overhauling the energy vampires, we have enough renewable energy to power our floating home comfortably. We are able charge all of our devices, pressurize our water, run our LED lights, rice cooker, and power tools. Not once starting a generator. We save our motoring for getting into harbor and for any “we need to move” moments while underway.

Unfortunately, our golf cart controller’s regen only works from about 5 – 5.7 kts underway. Since we are either sailing faster (with wind) or slower (hardly any wind) we don’t use it very much. One day if we can find funds, it might be nice to play with that and use the excess power to run a freezer for the fish we catch or hot water if we ever decide to go back to cold climates (not sure why just yet). It’s a system that I’d love to refine when I have the opportunity.

So far cruising is everything I imagined and more. After a bumpy ride down the Washington and Oregon coast, we were escorted into California by a pod of dolphins. We have seen so many whales we lost count. Believe me, watching the sunset from your “back deck”, cold beer in hand never gets old. 

As we write this, we are sailing south along Mexico’s Baja California en route to Cabo San Lucas. We have just spent a festive Thanksgiving in Bahia Santa Maria complete with a potluck and beach bonfire with some fellow gringos. In Bahia Tortuga, we were invited to go surfing with the locals at their favorite spot. How do you say, HECK YEAH in Espanol?

It’s not all glamour out here as you can imagine. We pitchpoled our sailing dingy in rough surf in the Channel Islands after a harrowing passage around Point Conception. We’ve also had a horrendous experience with corrupt harbor patrol in Marina Del Rey and discovered first hand the harassment of local boaters (that’s a whole other story). We’ve also been caught numerous times bobbing for hours in dead wind.

Needless to say, sailing an electric boat certainly requires a special brand of patience, foresight and tenacity at times. 

We’ve learned that the wind will always blow and hey, we are at home. The experiences and places we’ve discovered so far seem to erase those frustrating times. The payoffs are incredibly worth it and we wouldn’t trade anything for it.

Looking forward, we are studying weather patterns south to Costa Rica where we would like to spend some time with family and friends. This is where we want to make the big puddle jump with the Panama boats to the Marquesas and onward through the South Pacific to New Zealand… and onward around the world. Want to see where? Check out our proposed travel routes here and stay tuned for more blog posts. They are coming, we promise 🙂

We wrote this for Latitude 38 who published our article in the January 2018 issue. You can read it online here!

Sailing the Baja California Sur

We have been making our way down the beautiful desert like Baja coast about a week behind when the HaHa left. Classic Cinderella, un poco tarde. All for the best though, the sailing was amazing and we had a chance to really explore each anchorage and meet some other boats.

We were finally headed south to Mexico! All that was left was to pick up a backup anchor (thanks again Marina Hell Rey) and fill our water tanks. We said our goodbyes to Dan and Bev and off we sailed… er drifted.

We got a bit of a late start and missed the sea breeze that would take us out to the steady northwesterly blowing down from the North Pacific. 

After a night of luffing sails the wind finally filled in and we were off. The passage was a bit rolly, but filled with fish! we caught four Skipjack Tuna hoping for some yellowtail. Skipjack are a beautiful fish that taste a bit fishy, but make great fish tacos!

In our last port of call Bahia Tortuga, we had been fortunate to meet a delivery captain named Jeff who was basically a local, who organized a fish fry and introduced us to some of the locals our age who were so welcoming and spirited. They invited us surfing first thing in the morning, the local spot they frequent. How do you say, HECK YEAH en Espanol? Adriana is a super rad chica and shreds the gnar on the regular at their surf spot. She spent a lot of time teaching Pajo how to surf and we ripped a couple waves in. Then once everyone had their fill, we got back into the truck and drove along the beach bumping feel good vibes and looking out to the surf, we saw dolphins (the real locales) getting their fill of surf. It was only noon and already it was of those days where you have to pinch yourself that this life is real.

We thoroughly enjoyed kickin it with Adriana and the local guys, connecting with them in Spanglish and playing Sublime songs at the Cantina. We shared some cervezas with Anotnio who was in from Mexico City to open up the cantina for the HaHa crowd. Our time in Bahia Tortuga was something we will never forget.

The festive spirit was high after leaving Bahia Tortuga with Colmena and Sea Casa. We felt grateful to have all made it to this beautiful place called Mexico and to all be together exploring. There was a good little hike over the ridge to Punta Hughes and a favorite little beach nearby. I paddled over and relished some private yoga time. The water was cool and refreshing in the dry heat.

We spent some time exploring the standing wave right outside the little estuary. We found lots of dead things on the beach including a hammerhead shark spinal cartilage and other mummified remains. Pajo and I gathered wood for the beach fire.

Our second night in Bahia Santa Maria was Thanksgiving and Dan and Bev showed up! We had a thanksgiving potluck hosted on Malo complete with sweet potatoes and Trader Joe’s pumpkin pasta Bev made. Yum! We cracked open our reserve of Bourbon and lit off another cruiser’s stash of American bought fireworks (likely contraband, but don’t worry – biodegradable).

These anchorages just keep getting better. Next stop, Cabo San Lucas where Pajo’s parents will visit us. Then we plan to round the corner up to La Paz for some imminent boat projects.

Happy Thanksgiving from Baja!

What smells like burnt rubber and screams America?

Welcome to San Diego, California. We had no idea what to expect after drifting into Mission Bay after a 36 hr sail from Catalina (about 90 miles). 

The passage itself was just south of exhausting. Riding vespers in ocean swell isn’t easy. Just keeping the boat heeled the right way is a challenge. Listening to flowing sails is maddening. But when you can get it set just right, the sun comes up, its warm, dolphins are playing around you, and you are having a spa day. Buckets of crystal blue saltwater are the perfect cool for the warm sun. 

Pinch me, is this what sailing’s really like?? I’ll have another beer! And Maybe a joint!

After a few accidental heave-tos and some zi-zags drawn on the chart, there is finally enough breeze to sail into Mission Bay at 5am.

Mission Bay is fantastic. Boats are there from all over, its surrounded by soft sand, and so calm. There is a great little dingy tie up right by the start of a walking path to tourist area. But thats not what we see…

We have to be at West Marine in 6 hrs to check in to the Baja Haha. We have just been on passage for 36 hrs. We are ready to sleep. Deeply. 

A few hrs will have to do, we have to figure out transportation. Where this event is even at? Text John and Kristi. Did we miss anything? 

Coffee. 

Where were we again? 

Oh ya, call an uber, we can be there in 15. 

Arriving at West Marine we feel like slightly caffeinated zombies. At a halloween party in the afternoon, fitting. Focus on the long winded old guy, standing on the pickup truck with a microphone. 

I think I found what I want to be when I grow up.

Everyone rattles off their boat name and number of crew. Cinderella, 2 rad crew aboard! Are our friends here? Will the Baja even leave tomorrow? We just got off passage and saw even more dead air Predicted. That stuff we drifted in for 90 miles to get here. 

Surely all these SAILboats don’t mean to motor for two days just to get to Bahia Tortuga. 

On wait, not everyone quit their jobs 2 months ago. There are timelines to keep! Oh well, the electric boat is gonna wait. The wind will blow, and that’s when we go. Besides, we can use some r&r. 

We didn’t even know.

The pre-Mexico to-do list has a lot to be checked off. Not to mention the items that aren’t on the list yet. I had to hoist nearly 200’ of chain off the ocean floor when we left Catalina, I don’t intend to continue that experience. At the top of my list is installing our windlass. Oh ya, and we need Mexico fishing licenses. And propane. We should also provision. 

 When do we have to leave? Great news! Its not gonna blow for a few days!

Those poor HaHa boats. 

Let’s slow down. After all, Matt and Jannie are here. And you are right babe, if we keep this up, we are going to collapse of stress.

San Diego, we have made it.

We spent an amazingly sunny day sailing around Point Loma with our friend Josh, a very recharged couple days later. 

That’s when it hit us. 

AMERICA

F&%k YEAH

Rounding Point Loma, an F15 roars over us. That amazing sound of high performance jet engines whizzing overhead sends shivers of stars and bars down our backs. What an amazing piece of machinery. 

Just a few seconds behind, two olive drab hellicopters racing overhead. No less than 6 Navy boats coming ripping past us to port. All full of Navy Seals (so we imagine).

The display of money here is unparalleled to anything we have ever seen. All of the mega yachts combined in Marina Del Rey did not equal the cost of the giant aircraft carrier docked across the bay. Let alone the fighter jets or helicopters flying over. 

This isn’t completely new to me, when I had a slip in Port of Everett, the USS Nimitz was in for a little while. The war games thing, however, is completely new. It seems daily that boats full of Navy Seals are ripping out of the bay performing some sort of training exercise. Usually supported by a few choppers. 

It’s a show of force unparalleled. 

AMERICA

I see this and think, wow, that can buy a lot of tacos where we are going. 

We had the perfect sail from Mission Bay to San Diego Bay. The wind was light, but there. Cindy was trotting along at a few knots and the cold drinks went down easy as Josh gave us the tour of the San Diego shoreline. Mission Beach, No Surf Beach, Sunset Cliffs, Point Loma. If felt like we were sailing in the Sound again. Dodging crab traps as we sailed along.

One major difference, we were in t-shirts, and Seattle just got their first bit of snow for the year. I imagine my friends back home are jonesing for the first big pow dump. Our fingers are crossed for you guys, in the meantime, we are gonna work on this jacked and tan thing.

Our new anchorage (free for a month) is tucked on the east side of Harbor Island next to the Coast Guard station, and across from the airport. It’s a great anchorage until about 7pm, when they must let the not as well maintained planes land. I say this because we get occasional scents of burnt rubber. Those big planes must leave a lot of it on the tarmac, and we can sure smell it! It’s not that bad though, and after our experience in MDR, its welcomed.

It’s great having friends in faraway places, Josh showed us live music (something I have been missing since leaving Seattle) and a couple spots that just so happened to be having karaoke night. (Enough to think Josh was trying to tell us something).

We happy houred at a great Chinese Tapas (dim som) spot and wandered down the street to a really cool dive pub with, of course, free karaoke. The place was interesting. It had a huge American Flag hanging above our heads stretched across the ceiling and five or six amazing voices killing the songs that the selected. Where are we? We played whiskey roulette and sang long horribly to a few songs. 

The next day we spent an evening with our friend Shannon. She offered us the things cruisers equate to gold, showers and laundry. We took advantage of her kitchen and made some carne aside tacos and hung out on out on her sweet side patio. We shared our gifts from Island Canna Co. and wound down he night. 

Shannon gave us a ride back to Tink and we rowed back to Cindy. 

The following day we met John of craigslist. John was figuring out his next steps after moving back to San Diego and deciding to use his next ten years to have as much fun as possible. 

“I died once already. You know what happens when you die? Nothing, its like you go to sleep, but don’t wake up.”

“Heart attack, hereditary, the doc says the generations before me had too many brats and beers in Germany.”

John’s girlfriend saved his life and he was gonna make damn sure to live the rest of those years he has left. 

Because of John, Cinderella is now sporting a surfboard and SUP. New toys! and new friends, I’m starting to think this slowing it down thing is where it’s at. 

Ava and I still get into our tiffs, 35’ after all, is close quarters, but the air seems fresher, the sunsets brighter, and the water warmer now that we have left the anchor in one spot for a few days.

Sand Diego, you have been great.

We look forward to the next couple days, Ava’s brother and sister are en route from across the country. Maria decided to up and move to San Diego #westcoastbestcoast. We are shocked it took this long. 

We can’t leave now! 

The Baja will still be there in a couple days, we can wait on the tacos, I think they call that delayed gratification. 

Marina HELL Rey, PSA to Mariners

Welcome to sunny Marina Del Rey! HOORAY! We rejoiced. Well, Pajo and I figured out really quickly that we are now in a part of the California coast that discriminates against real mariners. If you don’t have a shiny million dollar yacht you’d better beware of the meddling authorities.  Think, Portlandia meets David Hasslehoff meets Miami Vice..

Unfortunately, we’ve had a hellish experience in Marina Del Rey.  We have been victims of a malicious act by Los Angeles County. An act which has left us with over $1400 worth of property damage and held us into a week long purgatory stuck in the harbor. This setback is equivalent to six months worth of cruising. It feels like we have been forced to pay every government entity in Los Angeles County after we landed.

Mariners are the lifeblood of the city we hail from (missing Seattle) and we foolishly expected at least a decent visit here in Los Angeles. What a very different experience here than other ports we’ve visited throughout the Puget Sound and down the west coast. I would strongly advise other cruisers to stop anywhere but here, but that’s exactly what LA County would want. Our only wish now is to share our experience because it is the reality of many of the  local boaters.

Here’s what went down.

For those of you who do not know, we are a Seattle couple sailing around the world on renewable energy. We left September 3, 2017 and began traveling down the coast to join the Baja HAHA rally to Mexico. We planned to stop in Marina del Rey to spend Ava’s birthday amongst a few of our family and friends that live nearby. We were also ready for warm showers and clean laundry after a week-long adventure in the beautiful and remote Channel Islands.

We had anchored Cinderella while cruising all over the Northwest, much of the time sans engine. Most recently, we cruised several of the beautiful Channel Islands. One of our anchorages was in Cuyler Harbor on San Miguel Island where we experienced several hours of 20 knot winds at anchor. We also anchored in Little Scorpion at Santa Cruz Island, a super rugged little anchorage surrounded by craggy volcanic rock formations in a tight space. Needless to say, after a week of putting our anchorage skills and equipment to the test,  we were feeling confident about our ground tackle and judgement on safely anchoring in well-known and designated areas.

The nice benefit of being back in cell range was that we could check our boat position at anytime via our Garmin InReach. The device sends a signal published to the internet realtime via satellite connection. It keeps our family and friends in the loop and they can watch our progress even if we cannot communicate directly with them. Once ashore, we can monitor our boat’s position at any point in time which we do regularly. Some would even say religiously, or obsessively like a new mother tunes into a baby monitor.

On October 18th at 12:34pm, while we were ashore at Ava’s Aunt’s house, two individuals from Baywatch Del Rey severed both of our anchor lines and stole Cinderella. Pajo watched as the Garmin InReach showed Cinderella en route back into Marina Del Rey Harbor at 4 knots. We quickly realized Cinderella was being towed into the harbor.

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We were watching our Garmin GPS tracker in real time, so we immediately called the Harbor Patrol to inquire. The person on the phone had no knowledge of our boat being towed until they looked out the window as it was arriving, meanwhile, we were already en route.

Our heads were spinning as we searched for our boat  amongst the many LA County offices. There’s US Coast Guard, LA County Beaches and Harbors, LA County Sheriff’s, LA County Fire Department and so on. All the possibilities were running through our heads. Pajo spotted Cindy’s mast, we had found the right person to speak to, maybe. We had a tense interaction with the officer there, both parties a little surprised and annoyed.

The officer did not have the answers we were seeking. He suggested maybe we were slipping anchor and Baywatch towed us to safety. But that’s not his division and that we would need to speak to Baywatch, even though they both fall under the County umbrella and share the same dock.

We said we were in a bit of shock because we had been watching our GPS tracker and knew the position of the boat the entire time.

The tone of the officer changed and he told us he will contact the Baywatch (the unit that towed us) and that we can come back at 4pm to discuss with them. Meanwhile, only Pajo is allowed to go to the boat to retrieve the registration documents and he notices the sad state of our boat Cinderella. He saw that both of our anchor lines were severed and that our boat had no fenders on the dock, a pile of lonely fenders sitting on the dock nearby.

Pajo took photos of the damage and came back to the officer requesting to file a complaint about the damage caused to our property. The officer quickly brushed us off saying that it wasn’t the Sheriff’s department that towed us, it was the Lifeguards, and so the lifeguards are the entity that we need to speak to about the incident.

We requested to file a police report or complaint about what had happened and he said that we could not do so through the Sheriff’s department and that we needed to come back at 4pm. We were very angry at this point and so a regroup was necessary. We decided to record conversations with everyone going forward as we suspected we were going to be royally messed with and wanted to protect ourselves. In Ava’s words, “they messed with the wrong boat..”

We returned at 4pm as scheduled and were told by the Sheriff’s office we were granted permission to leave without a tow fee. We returned to the vessel and tried calling Baywatch/Lifeguards to get a report of why we were towed. No response via telephone so we hailed them on our VHF radio while a few other officers showed up at the dock. We hit record on a phone in Pajo’s shirt pocket.

We wait 15 minutes for the lifeguards to meet us at the dock along with a few other officers from the Sheriff’s department. The lifeguards story unfolds. They said they saw our vessel slipping anchor in the anchorage zone outside of Dockweiler beach and that they intended to tow the boat back to safety in order to keep it from washing up on the beach. In order to tow the boat, they said they attempted to pull the anchors up but were unsuccessful “because the anchors were stuck.” Which was curious to us because we were watching the vessel’s location the whole time and saw that it had not moved.

They said because the anchors were stuck, they were forced to cut our anchor lines for the safety of our vessel. To which Ava replied “wow, the anchors must have really been stuck in there then.”

We mentioned that we have a GPS tracker on the boat that we can check in real time and therefor have reason to doubt that our boat was slipping anchor and that we intend to file a complaint with the County and recoup damages. We requested to see an official report about the incident and the latitude and longitude points of our boat when they arrived. They lifeguards said it was not part of their reporting process to take lat/long points and took our information saying they would send us a report. They insisted that our boat was “nearing the surfline” and that we were lucky that they “saved” our vessel. The lifeguards left and we were left with the officers at the dock.

Oddly, now we were free to go without paying a tow fee.  Step 1, get our house back, complete.

What now? Where can we got without an anchor? I guess these guys didn’t think of that. We explained to them that because of our loss of anchor equipment, we have no means of anchoring and no available moorage provided by the county and going anywhere would be tough now that we essentially have been left with an unsafe vessel.

The officers granted us a grace period of one night at the 4 hour dock until we could procure an anchor and sail out of MDR. We were told that they were doing us a big favor and not to “milk it.” (these are verbatim words that we recorded throughout our interactions with them!!).

We were beginning to discover that as long as we stayed in Marina del Rey, we would need to pay some entity of LA County at every turn.

It goes something like this… visiting boats are expected to anchor out near the breakwater or pay at the public guest docks at Burton W. Chace Park, which is managed by the Los Angeles County. But if there’s a small craft advisory issued (which there often is in Santa Ana windy season) the harbor is required to provide Harbor of Safe Refuge to all vessels. The only place to find Harbor of Safe Refuge is a first-come first-serve spot at the two 4 hour docks of Burton Chace Park, which also has a 7 day / month stay limit to guest docks. All the other slips in Marina del Rey are managed by the apartment/condo complexes attached to each one, which are leased from the County, all full and not taking any other boats.

So we were allowed to tie up at the 4 hour dock near the boat launch. After talking to many of the other local exiled boaters about our story, we heard countless similar stories of the local authorities damaging property like cutting anchor lines, including bolt cutters for chain and often times at weird hours, putting their lives at risk. While at our exile dock, we heard stories and even witnessed the local boaters being bullied numerous times. We were beginning to notice a dangerous pattern and that we were not the only ones experiencing malicious treatment and discrimination.

Shocked and angered, we got to work trying to move around our bank accounts in order to invest in a new anchoring system so that we no longer had to shuffle our boat around. We were also checking the weather praying for a small craft advisory so that we would be granted moorage somewhere.

We desperately wanted to avoid incurring extra costs with mooring at the park (pay LA County) or get towed (pay LA County) so we proceeded with rushing around getting the things we needed to get done. We also went forward with  filing our formal complaint. However we still hadn’t received a formal report from Baywatch about why they cut our anchors off our boat and towed our vessel.

We put several calls in to the Baywatch division, each person we spoke to not having any knowledge of the incident, it was always someone else who was working that day. After 24 hours of calls, we finally got an email response back from Baywatch with a few phone numbers and an attachment of the formal complaint form. Time for the mouse hunt!

Over the next two business days, we spent numerous phone calls inquiring with several different offices of LA County to procure the incident report including Los Angeles Fire Department and Boating and Waterways to obtain this thing called Nfirs. Basically any time there is a call into dispatch for an incident, it is logged through this system. Thanks to the Freedom of Information Act, we are entitled to this report, you just have to go on a wild goose chase to get it.

We were also waiting for our Mantus anchor that we had to order through West Marine which was slated to be delivered in 2 days. Or so we thought. Pajo was installing a new anchoring system and mounting a windlass to hoist the 200 feet of chain we had on hand so that we were ready for a new anchor.

These few days were very stressful for us. As long as there was a Small Craft Advisory issued, we could be on the 4 hour dock. If the SCA flag went down, we were on a timer. We had to stop what we were doing and figure out where the heck were going to go. Once we even sailed around the harbor for an hour to kill the time that we did not have.

Running out of options and time, we were desperate to stay put and finish projects and run errands we needed to accomplish to get out of town. We also were fortunate to catch Ava’s Aunt’s first big art show at the Beverly Hills Art Show.

Ava had an idea. What if we simply just call the Harbor Master, explain our situation and ask that they grant us ‘safe harbor’ until our anchor comes in at West Marine. Worth a shot.

So we called the Harbor Master, had another long conversation with someone there who was bewildered by our story but could not help us, that’s a different department.  She transferred us to another office where we again relayed the story to an Officer Sterlow who told us we were allowed to tie up to the 4 hour dock and to leave a note that he said it was ok to park there due to our circumstances.

Later that evening while we were celebrating Ava’s birthday at a friend’s condo overlooking the marina, we got a call saying that we had an hour to move our boat or it would be towed and that “Officer Sterlow is new and doesn’t know the rules.”

We called back and spoke to a Deputy at the Sheriff’s Dept. who had a lot of interesting things to say. He confirmed our hunch that we were indeed, not welcome in Marina del Rey. We expressed our frustration, that we believe our anchor lines were cut for no real reason other than to get rid of our boat.

We told him We are taking action to recoup damages based on our evidence via GPS tracker data. We explained that we are trying our best to leave but they have made it incredibly hard and confusing for us. We were still waiting on our anchor delivery and in the meantime we have no other safe option for moorage.

In one breath he assured us that we were welcome and that there are a lot of “problem boats” so they have to be tough with the laws and in the next breath asked why we wouldn’t just sail on out of here. Maybe he was confused. Any mariner knows, you don’t sail anywhere without some sort of ground tackle in case of emergencies. Again we were stuck in the Exile Dock purgatory.

The very next business day Monday October 23rd, Ava borrowed a friend’s car to drive the 23 miles (1 hour) to the LA County Fire Department, a fortress with gates and strict public access,luckily I am a white lady driving a beamer or I’d never been allowed in the gates. Meanwhile Pajo stayed on the boat fearful of getting towed or bullied by the authorities. Our options to see the official report from Baywatch were either 1.) mail in a request or 2.) go pick it up in person and pay the $15.00 fee, paid to our favorite folks, LA County. Fortunately for us, we have the right to this information because of the Freedom of Information Act and keep in mind it is our only job to get this document and get out of this place. I can’t imagine any other human having time, patience and resources that we had in order to simply stand up to the County. I couldn’t help but feel like I wanted justice for us, but also for the locals who go through this dance every single day.

Step 2, obtain the official report and compare to our Garmin Inreach GPS data. According to the report from Baywatch, on Oct. 18 at 12:34pm they “responded to an emergency radio transmission… concerning an approx. 36’ Sailboat ‘Cinderella’ dragging anchor and nearing the surfline off Dockweiler Tower 42..” In fact our GPS tracker position has us not moving until well after the report of the incident and clearly under tow moving at 4 knots back into Marina del Rey Harbor. According to our charts and GPS, we were anchored approx. 382 yards from the beach and well within the safe zone behind the surfline. Therefore we have reason to believe that our anchor lines were cut in maliciously, our vessel did not need saving. We are determined to recoup damages caused to our vessel by LA County and any costs incurred while seeking safe harbor.

In summary, the County Lifeguards towed our boat, the County Sheriff may request a dockage fee when the boat is towed to their dock, the County requires us to pick up or mail in a rewuest of the official report and to pay a fee, then once you are out of luck, the only moorage available is at the Burton Chace Park which is run by the County and requires a fee of $1.15/foot and limited to a seven-day max stay within a 30-day period. Seems interesting.

Which brings us to today, as we write this our frustration and anger is fueled by 105 degree heat as we sit paranoid and stuck as County prisoners on our boat. With help of a total stranger’s kindness, we found a slip to moor the boat for a few days until we get the anchor in (which by the way, has been delayed now twice from the West Marine warehouse). And even though we are safely docked, we are still fearful of being towed or bullied as it seems common place for boats they don’t like to see around.

We filed a formal written complaint with LA County so we’ll see how that goes. Until then, we are appalled by the treatment of the local boaters who live here and have been eye witness to several occurrences of discrimination. These local boaters have showed us nothing but kindness and generosity and even humour during our time at exile dock. They are like a little family and I do hope this account of our experience exposes the injustices that are going on here as well as awareness for the public, accountability and a full investigation into the LA County Baywatch and Sheriff’s blatant abuse of power.

Until then, we want to tell our story in hopes that this treatment and discrimination towards local and traveling boaters will ultimately be prevented in the future.

We were lucky to also meet some real mariners that are still left in this city but who are being pushed out due to the city’s waterfront development and more wealth coming in. Thanks to the kindness of total strangers, we were able to find a few nights of peace of mind until we could get our new anchor and leave.

Ironically enough, walking around the city we noticed the commodification of an age old maritime symbol – the ANCHOR plastered on every cutesy tee shirt and artisanal sandwich menu. Puke. We cannot wait to get out of Marina Hell Rey and get down to Mexico, lessons learned!

“Honestly, I would rather flog sails in the middle of the TSS lane than sit here another day in Marina Del Rey,” said Pajo.

Items we lost that are now sitting in the bottom of the ocean:

Three-Strand Rope/Chain Anchor Rode, Chain: 1/4” did. x 20’L, Rope: 1/2” dia x 300’L

$369.99

Three-Strand Rope/Chain Anchor Rode, Chain: 5/16” did. x 20’L, Rope: 5/8” dia x 300’L

$519.99

Primary anchor

Mantus Anchor – 35lb. Galvanized Steel Anchor

$309.99

Secondary anchor

Danforth Traditional Anchors 22 lb

$103.64

Total cost of damaged / loss of property:

$1,303.61 (before tax)

+ $94.51 (CA Sales tax)

= $1,398.12 total cost to replace our equipment

Here is a quick crash course reference for those thinking of stopping in Marina del Rey Harbor:

The US Coast Guard retired an anchorage in Marina del Rey in 2015 which means there is no longer a public anchorage within the harbor.

Burton Chace Park has several mooring options, pumpout and really beautiful greenscapes and barbeque stalls. It’s bustling with family gatherings and celebrations. The staff there is very helpful and we had a great experience with them. There is even free WiFi in the park and it is close to grocery stores and West Marine. We also had a very positive experience with the employees there.

According to the Burton W. Chace Park website, the rules are as follows: “These docks are available for use by vessels transiting the coast, those seeking refuge from inclement weather, or those laying in for minor repairs, replenishing supplies, or visiting. A portion of these docks – posted as ‘Park Dock, 4-hour maximum’ – may also be used by locally based vessels under a casual visitor status. Overnight and 4-hour guest docks are available for visitors on a first-come, first-served basis… with a seven-day maximum stay within a 30-day period… commences upon arrival.”

Boats who are anchored outside are allowed to tie up at two of the park’s designated 4 hour docks, once every 24 hours or while there is a small craft advisory issued.  The pumpout here was not working while we were there and you need a code to get into the gate and to use the facilities.

Do not expect to see a lot of sailors. In fact, expect jaw dropping multi-million dollar yachts and flashy power boat parties, and model photo shoots. On the back deck of every catamaran, gaudy orange plastic home depot buckets to keep the harbor seals away, we got the sense these boats rarely move.

Basically, if you must stop here, make it brief and do not anchor outside, these guys are the worst.

Winter Sailing Between Projects: Bainbridge + Rainbows Edition

Amidst all of the projects currently underway, Ava and I decided to take a little weekend sail. It sounded so good. The weather was beginning to warm, and I was one small…ish project away from a fun, stress free weekend of cruising.

We have a few weeks remaining before Swiftsure, and Cinderella has been undergoing a complete interior refit. Ava will be moving aboard in early June, and I need to get all of the interior rebuild completed while we still have an apartment to use as sanctuary.

Moving aboard a small boat is one thing, moving aboard an active project, god save our relationship.

But you aren’t reading this to hear about boat work!

It was Saturday, Ava was finishing up working at the Cafe and I was going to meet her in Ballard so we could head out the locks and off to magical places.

I was finishing the install of our new Dyno battery bank that morning and, the process moving and rewiring our motor controller. (more on our super awesome Dyno site tour coming soon!)

We agree on one thing though, it’s making our boat ready for comfy living but also spontaneous sailing, which is an art form we are slowly getting good at these days, we get lots of practice every Tuesday in the summertime for Duck Dodge.

We thought we’d go beyond Lake Union for a change and meet up with the old grey hairs for a raft up over at Manzanita Bay. What we discovered though is that we had the wrong location, no grey hairs to be found there. Turns out the rendezvous was elsewhere but we still had a solid adventure, classic moody Seattle skies made for some spontaneous rainbows and pretty dope sunsets.

 

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Pajo was intent on testing out the new rigging and kept his eyes glued to the mast and sail trim. His way of collecting data on the fine tuning of Cindy’s mast. We had great wind the whole way! We learned about our hangry and sleepy meters that night and Ava got to sharpen her sailing skills a bit. Hooray for wintery sailing in the Puget Sound… seems to be our favorite.
xoxo
Ava + Pajo

Reinstalling the Mast

Mast reinstalled into boat

After the week of work was completed on Cinderella’s mast, we (me especially) were ready to put it back in, and get on with life… Or should I say more boat projects…

Ava and I finished the last task remaining late Friday night in the cold rain. We worked partially under the headlights of Sabbie (Ava’s great little Saab), and used the car as refuge to warm up. Unfortunately, 10 minutes of headlights with no engine charging her batteries was a little rough on ol’ Saabie, and we were thankful of her manual transmission when I was pumping my legs pushing her up to speed.

Ava learn how to push start a car that night, and I was hoping it wasn’t an omen of what was to come.

THE MAST WAS READY TO GO IN!!

Unfortunately, we were unable to schedule the crane to put the mast back in that week, so we would have to schedule an afternoon lift the following week (around my work schedule). That eventually was pushed back to an early lift the following Friday due to a mixup at Canal Boatyard. Even with the mixup, I would recommend them without question, they are in close proximity to our slip, and the guys really know what they are doing.

It was Saturday, and the mast work was done. All that was left to do was to have the yard put the mast back in.

How exactly does one reinstall a mast again? More importantly, why was in not until now that the question popped into my head?

After a brief moment of doubt, I realized that the process is done all the time, all around the world, surely I could figure it out.

I started with google “How to reinstall a sailboat mast.”

It seemed simple enough, have the crane operator lower the mast back into place while I guide the mast back onto its step. Once on the step, attach the forestay (rod going to the front of the boat) followed by the backstay (rod going to the back of the boat) and then the shrouds (rods going to the sides of the boat).

How hard could it be? It turns out, not very hard at all!

Mast prepared to go back into Cinderella

The mast was back in and we had it stabilized in no time. All that remained was to motor back to our slip where we could put the final tension on the rig whenever the weather looks better.

That is where things will get interesting.

The goal of the day was to get the mast back into Cinderella and get her home. We want to avoid any fees associated with keeping the mast in the yard.

Goal accomplished

The rig is back in Cinderella, but we still can’t sail her. This isn’t good because I am itching to go out and sail worse than ever.

Swiftsure is only a couple months away and there is still much to do. We have a hole in the deck around the mast that needs to be filled and two turnbuckles that we need to replace before we can tension the rig and finally put the sails back up.

Mast reinstalled into boat
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Follow along next time as we apply spartite, replace turnbuckles, and tension Cinderella’s rig.