Monthly Archives: May 2019

Geological History and Unusual Sights Define the SOC.

We have been in the Sea of Cortez for two months and we continue to be thrilled with the visual overload here.

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TTR at anchor at Isla Coronados.

Our time in the Sea is limited this year because we need to go back to the States to have some warranty work done on Ticket to Ride.  As a result, we have covered a lot of area at a fast clip. We have seen many beautiful places and I will share some thoughts and sights through pictures in this post.

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I know there is a story written in these layers but I don’t know how to read it!

Frank and I  should have studied geology to fully appreciate all the beauty and history of this stunning area. Every part of the Sea is dramatically framed by rugged and arid land masses. When we traveled the U.S. by RV this summer, we felt our lack of geological knowledge but we were fortunate that many of the parks had signs explaining the history told in the layered deposits of the cliffs and canyons we visited.

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Very well defined layers at Punta Pulpito.

Here in Mexico, we sail or dinghy or hike past amazingly well defined layers of the earth’s history but we have no way to learn the story revealed by the lines.  The internet is unavailable and neither of us studied geology, so we can’t even pull on long forgotten knowledge.

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We hid from SW winds at colorful Bahia Cobre. 

However, even without an understanding of the rocky history, we are amazed at the beauty and diversity of the formations we see.

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The back side of Caleta Partida where we took the dinghy into small sea caves.

Any geology buffs want to chime in and explain the geological history for any of these pictures?

But the SOC isn’t just about geology.  While returning to La Paz, the wind was shifting and changing and as we were accepting the need to furl sails and start engines, we came across a pod of whales. The rocky bluffs near Espiritu Santo made a perfect backdrop for this whale spray.

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A whale’s blow is it exhaling air from its’ lungs. 

There were about 10 whales and each would surface three or four times before disappearing for a while. None of these whales breached and we never saw the tail. I’m not certain but I think they were Fin Whales.  (Can anyone confirm that?)

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Such a big mammal and such a small dorsal fin.

Fin Whales are the fastest of all whales and can swim up to 37 kilometers per hour! After rolling in our foresail, we just drifted for about an hour watching the whales surface all around us. It was a thrilling experience.

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The whales were pretty close to TTR!

Each day we see amazing things that make us pause and appreciate the Sea of Cortez again and again. Sometimes it is a beautiful sunrise….

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Sunrise at Caleta Partida.

Other times it’s the birds we see coasting on air drafts or diving like sharpened arrows into the blue waters. Or it is spying Blue Footed Boobies like these on nearby ledges.

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Blue footed boobies!

The depth of the blue color of the male Booby’s feet play an important role in courtship of the females as the males display their feet to woo a female. The intensity of the blue can vary from a pale turquoise to a deep aquamarine.

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The bird 2nd from left seems intent on the camera.

This quote from Wikipedia about the color of Booby feet is interesting: “The blue color of the blue-footed booby’s webbed feet comes from carotenoid pigments obtained from its diet of fresh fish. Carotenoids act as antioxidants and stimulants for the blue-footed booby’s immune function, suggesting that carotenoid-pigmentation is an indicator of an individual’s immunological state.”  Bottom line; the deeper the color the healthier the bird, and the more likely he is to get the girl.

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The cloud bank between the sailboat and land was interesting.

We have not seen an abundance of coral when we snorkel here in the SOC, which sort of surprises me since we see so many mammals like dolphin and sea lions. We see some fish when we snorkel and they offer the most color when we are underwater.  We have seen hues of green and brown and hardly any coral. The visibility under water has not been very good either.

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Stretching our legs on Isla Coronado. 

In my opinion, the dramatic landscape, the surfacing of dolphins or sea lions and the rays jumping out of the sea combined with the lack of color under the water means the views from on the boat or on land are more interesting than those below.

On the whole, the weather here has been much cooler than I expected. In fact, when we sail, I often put on a long sleeve shirt or a light jacket.  The water is still chilly and we are wearing wet suits if we get in the water.  I am sure there are places where the snorkeling or diving are excellent and hopefully we will find them next Fall when we return to the Sea of Cortez.

The local people we have met in towns and fishing villages here have been amazingly warm and deserve a post unto themselves.  I won’t expand on that now but in the future I hope to capture a sense of our experience and share it.

For now, we are enjoying the beauty of the Sea and watching the water and land to see what new surprises present themselves.

Thank you for taking time to read our blog.  We would love to hear from you if you have questions or comments.  You are welcome to visit our FB page where we hope to have enough connection to post pictures more often than we post here.

 

 

New Boats Are Not Like New Cars. Do we have issues?

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TTR before her departure from Xiamen.

So let’s state the obvious first: cars are mass produced and before the first one appears on a showroom floor hundreds of prototypes have been well and truly tested.  Then a bajillion cars are made and 99% of the time, any problem you take to your local dealer will have been addressed in another car before you arrive.

Boat builds are significantly fewer in number.  The number of units of a “mass” production boat model built is still in the 100s after a couple of years.

Ticket to Ride is one of only four HH55s produced to date, and each boat is customized to the specifications of the buyer. Due to this customization, some of the issues we face on TTR are probably different from issues the other three HH55 catamarans have experienced.

In addition to the uniqueness of each boat, our catamaran is a little city unto itself that must safely carry us from one port to the next and provide all of our electrical, refrigeration, water, power and navigational needs.

Given these facts, it is unrealistic to think that every system on TTR, or any other new boat, would be functioning perfectly at the time of delivery.

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La Paz under a full moon taken from where we are anchored.

Knowing we would have issues that needed to be addressed, we decided long before Ticket to Ride was delivered that we would spend a season living on board to figure out what is working and what needs fixing.  That is the purpose of our trip to the Sea of Cortez.

First let us reiterate that we are very pleased with our boat.  The quality and precision of the interior spaces; cabinetry, tech spaces, painted or veneered surfaces, etc are excellent and we are very impressed.

Ticket to Ride sails like a dream and is more capable than we are. I’m not saying we aren’t decent sailors, but this boat has excellent performance rigging, sails and equipment and she is set up to goooo.

But TTR does have some issues and in the spirit of sometimes removing our rose colored glasses, we will share a few of our current concerns and what is driving us to return to the U.S. for warranty work.  To date we have had very good service and response from Hudson Yacht Group with our questions and concerns. 

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The nav desk on TTR.

Perhaps the most complicated and potentially problematic system on Ticket to Ride is CZone; the electronic control and monitoring system that is the brain of everything with an electron flow on TTR. CZone essentially is the replacement for the AC and DC switching panels seen on most boats plus a whole lot more. With this computer brain and the touch of a screen, through CZone we can program our electrical system to fit our current situation. For example, TTR’s CZone system has 6 programmable modes such as “day cruise” or “anchored home” that allow one to turn off and on all the systems used in those situations with the touch of only a single button.  So when we press “day cruise,” VHFs, navigation screens, winches, etc all turn on when we touch that one button. CZONE is a beautiful thing and yes, there is the potential for problems.  After many, many hours reading manuals and technical support phone time with CZone Tech Support of New Zealand, the CZone, Frank and Mary Grace are living in harmony.

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The company responsible for our electronics package is Pochon out of France.  At the time of writing our purchasing contract, we tried to convince HH to use a U.S. company for this pivotal installation. We knew the chances of having everything right from the start were slim because the system interactions and programming are complicated.  We lost that battle and now we are facing a few disadvantages because our resource for fixing the electronics is a French speaking group in France. Between the inconvenience of differing time zones and language barriers, even issues discovered during the delivery phase are still not fixed.

Explaining the details of the electrical / electronic / navigational issues is complicated and more details than we think most of our readers would like to wade through. The summary is that we are having compatibility issues between CZone, B&G, Mastervolt and the Victron electronic components.  We would really like an expert to come on board to resolve the problems. We also need that expert to communicate clearly so we can become more efficient at modifying the system to meet our particular needs.

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Half of the solar panels on TTR.

The solar installation on TTR is excellent and our 1900 watts delivers so much power that we only run our generator once in a while to make sure it still works! The HH team did a first-rate job of adding the individual solar controllers Frank requested and as a result, our solar farm is producing about 80 percent of the energy we require! (The remainder is topped up by the engines when we motor.)

The wiring, neatness, detail and labeling of our boat electronics done at the HH Factory are amazing. Sailors who come on board and peek at our tech room are suitably impressed, as are we.  However, there are a few glitches in the wiring that need to be addressed.

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That is a pretty tech space!

There seems to be a multi-pronged issue with the wiring to our air conditioning units.  Anytime we try to run the port ACs (the side of the master berth), a relay fails, the inverter/generator reads overload and the ACs quit completely. Frank has spent a lot of time trying to trace the issue and with the consultation of Jessica, HH engineer extraordinaire, he has replaced the same relay switch twice.  Both of the new relays failed immediately. Our Northern Lights 9kw generator is powerful enough to run our ACs but the inverter isn’t recognizing the power coming from our generator and consistently shows “overload” and shuts down. 

Related to this problem is that the generator and inverter/charger aren’t talking well even for basic charging of the batteries.  If we try to charge the lithium batteries using the generator, the charger always shows “float” and never reads “bulk charge”  even when the batteries are low enough to accept bulk charge. Frank has spent a lot of time talking to Victron and MasterVolt (inverter/charger and batteries respectively) and neither is willing to work through the problem with us ie, there is some finger pointing going on. Somewhere there is a wiring issue or a setting issue or a communication error in these units.  This needs to be fixed as we won’t always be in sunny Mexico where solar power is an everyday full charge event.

We really like our B&G navigation/charting system but there are a few issues with it too.  Our AIS and VHF systems are not working consistently and when they do work, they only broadcast or receive information for a maximum of 2- 2.5 miles. Considering our air draft is 88 feet, we should easily transmit and receive for at least 8 miles.

(AIS is an automatic identification system used on vessels to identify traffic. Notices of ships nearby show on the electronic chart and information about that vessel’s size, speed and closest point of approach can be seen. This is a big help when sailing at night and very important because we want large container ships to know we are out on the ocean with them.)

Our B&G autopilot, aka Jude, is mostly excellent. Jude can hold to a wind setting or a heading very well.  She can follow a navigation route too. But sometimes Jude decides to change herself from navigating a route to just holding a heading… that would be like skipping a turn(s) when following directions. 

Speaking of autopilots, we intentionally outfitted TTR with a completely separate back up autopilot system. Our primary one is on the port side and is working. Our redundant system is supposed to be installed on the starboard side but we have absolutely no reading from it and do not think it has been completely installed.

Also, we have recalibrated our electronic compasses several times and there still seems to be some discrepancies between the true compass readings and the electronic readings.  We had our traditional compasses professionally swung before we left L.A. and we are confident that the error is in our electronic compasses.  This has a bit of a domino effect and can cause calculated electronic information to be wrong. Frank is confident this issue involves magnetic interference and relocation is the answer. The problem is finding a 6 meter NMEA 2000 cable in Mexico.

Small things still need to be addressed on TTR as well. Some of these include:

~ a light switch mix up where two unrelated lights turn on/off by the same switch.

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~ the enclosure around our helm station was made sooo tight that we cannot get it zipped all around, even when we had three people working together. 

~ the oven on the stove sometimes goes out without any apparent reason.

~ there is a leak from a vent box in the engine room that allows seawater into the area when we have following seas. (HH is fabricating and sending us a replacement to fix this problem.)

This is not an exhaustive list of things that need to be corrected on Ticket to Ride, but it does give you an idea of the types of issues we need to resolve when we get back to the U.S.

We must make a very special mention of Thomas and Riccardo of the HH Team.  These two men have done an amazing job of e-mailing with us, trying to troubleshoot our issues from the other side of the world.  They have been extremely prompt and thorough in their responses and we are truly grateful.  It is their responsiveness that keeps us positive that these issues will get resolved.

We are currently achored in La Paz, Mexico, preparing to move south to Cabo San Lucas where we will wait for a good weather window to sail back north toward Ensenada, Mexico and eventually California. 

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Frank is trying to get a few things resolved on our Spectra water maker before we leave here.  Yes, there are a few bugs relating to the water maker, but so much progress has been made with it that I am not even listing it as a problem anymore.  However, kudos to Spectra WaterMaker support and Riccardo of HH.  They have been extremely responsive to Frank’s e-mails and phone calls and so far  we have been able to make water all along even with the problems!! (Everyone knock on wood, please!)

Phew, so there you have another “report” from TTR.  I promise, the next post will be full of pretty sights from the Sea of Cortez.

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Sunset from our anchorage in Isla Coronados.

Thank you for reading our blog. Our posts are pretty sporadic right now because our connectivity is hit or miss here in Mexico. I try to post to the FB page to at least share some of the beauty of this area but I am limited by access. Thank you for stopping by.

Four Months In ~ How Does Ticket To Ride Sail?

This post is long on sailing information and short on photos, but those who want to know about the HH55 Catamaran might find it interesting.

Ticket To Ride was offloaded from the container ship on January 14th and life has been busy since then…in a good way. 

The first two months were all about commissioning our HH55 and having people visit the boat.  TTR is one of only 4 HH55s on the water, and the first one on the West Coast of the U.S., therefore several people came to see the boat and sail on her.  We were happy to meet new people and help Hudson Yacht Group and Morrelli & Melvin show off their 55’ design.

On March 16th we left LA with the Newport Beach Yacht Club Race to Cabo and we arrived in Cabo San Lucas on March 22nd.

After our last guests departed on March 30th, it was time to settle into life on board Ticket To Ride and figure out just how we feel about her.

Hands down the answer is that we are pretty much in love with our new home.  We enjoyed sailing our Fountaine Pajot Helia 44, Let It Be, but we wanted to find a catamaran that was faster, sailed upwind and had a tad more space.

We found exactly what we were looking for in the HH55.  The fit and finish of TTR is great and we are very comfortable. However, some boats are built to be very comfortable but they sail like dogs.  Happily, this boat can really sail!

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True wind angle: 134 degrees, true wind speed: 10.6k, SOG: 9.3k, boat speed: 9.6k

We have now had several experiences sailing Ticket To Ride at various wind angles and we love her performance.  TTR’s sharp reverse bows allow her to cut through the water cleanly and the dagger boards help maintain her course without much slippage at all. 

One afternoon we left Ensenada Grande to sail to Isla San Francisco (Sea of Cortez) which is about a 19 nm trip. The sea was choppy and the waves confused.  The wind was fluctuating around 15 knots.  Our destination required us to sail with a true wind angle of 50-53 degrees which translated into 30 degrees apparent wind.

We were flying the main and genoa and averaged well over 9 knots!  AND we sailed directly to our destination – without slipping.  We are definitely fans of the daggerboards.

Oh and not to show off, but we made lunch and sat in the salon to eat it while we sailed!!

Another day in the Sea of Cortez, we were sailing from San Evaristo to Los Gatos and we were tucked in fairly closely to the land, which turned out to be a good thing.  Here are the notes I made after that sail:

The early sail was quite mild with 8 knots of wind and we had the reacher and full main up. Not long into the trip, the wind kicked in and we furled the reacher, put one reef in the main and unfurled the jib. 

The wind continued to climb and soon we were seeing 25 knots of wind.

On Let It Be we used to be able to “reef” the jib by rolling in some canvas but that didn’t work at all on TTR.  When we rolled in a bit of the jib, it wobbled wildly and we quickly unfurled it again.  The winds were very strong so we spilled the main a bit to reduce pressure in the main sail.  We had to keep a close eye on the main and jib sheets and be prepared to release them as we didn’t want to fly a hull!

Our true wind angle varied between 100 and 65 because we altered our heading when we had lighter winds (20K) so we could make our course.  It was a very sporty day and we saw Ticket To Ride move along at 15+ knots for much of this trip! 

Frank was LOVING the sail! I was a little nervous at first but I enjoyed the speed once we were prepared to release the main or jib if we had too much power.

I am amazed at how quickly 20 knots of wind seemed mild after bursts of 30!

We reached Los Gatos quickly and had our choice of spots to anchor.

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The beautiful anchorage in Los Gatos.

Later in the day as boats we had passed while sailing set their anchors, several called us on the VHF and asked just how fast TTR was sailing. (Did I tell you we passed several boats as we sailed?)

Anyway, our AIS and VHF are only working intermittently (at the moment) and apparently the other boats were unable to contact us or see our speed through AIS.  They were very interested to hear how fast we were sailing because they “felt like they were standing still” in comparison to TTR

Yep, this boat can move!

FYI, in hindsight, although we had a reef in the main we should have hoisted the staysail and furled the jib.  But the winds were not in the forecasts and we had no idea they were coming along. 

Here in the Sea of Cortez, we have found that the winds vary often and suddenly. The boats that contacted us on VHF were in the center of the channel and saw winds up to 35 knots. They were also caught off guard by these unexpected winds.

The fastest we have sailed TTR is 24.7 knots when we had professionals on board and pretty perfect conditions in Long Beach, CA behind the breakwater.  We have not replicated this speed on our own and I’m not sure we will try to anytime soon.

In light air with true wind angles of 85-125 degrees, Ticket To Ride often sails very close to wind speed.  It is exciting to be able to put the sails up in 8 knots of wind and sail at 8 knots!

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True wind angle: 96 degrees, true wind speed: 8.3k, SOG: 8.3k, boat speed: 8.7k

TTR feels like a race horse that wants to take the bit and ruuuunnnnn! She gallops through the water and is capable of more than I am willing to do.  Probably Frank should go out with some guys and put her through her paces just because he wants to and I don’t. 

As I mentioned earlier, TTR easily moves through the water. I believe we have less motion on this boat than we did on our Helia and the cleaner motion makes the ride more enjoyable to me.

Ticket To Ride is very comfortable to sail deep downwind, but she isn’t as fast as she could be because we do not have a spinnaker.  We decided that handling such a large sail with just the two of us would be extremely taxing so instead we bought a Doyle Sails Cable-less Reacher which is cut deeper and is on a continuous line furler.  It is this sail that we use when sailing downwind and so far it has worked well. A spinnaker would sail faster, but the reacher is manageable for us.

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L-R: Boat speed: 10.6k, true wind angle: 149 degrees, true wind speed: 18.9k.

We made a long sail from San Juanico to Bahia Conception, about 58 nm, and the wind was deeper than forecast. As a result, we were sailing with a true wind angle of 155-165 in 8-11 knots of wind.  In these conditions, we averaged between 6 and 7 knots of boat speed.

At 150-160, our reacher stayed well filled and the ride of the boat was extremely comfortable.  Frank and I spent the day cleaning the decks, doing laundry, reorganizing a closet or two, etc.

The bottom line is that our HH55 Catamaran is an excellent sailing boat and sail handling is easy with just the two of us on board.  We have high speed winches that allow us to quickly raise sails and make the large sails easy to change or adjust. TTR moves so well in light air that we find ourselves sailing most of the time, even when other boats are motoring. In fact, often we sail much faster than we can motor. 

We sincerely appreciate the excellent design Morrelli and Melvin created and the few modifications they made at our request to make TTR an excellent sailing and cruising sailboat for our needs.  The design by M&M and the fabulous build quality by HH Catamarans has resulted in a boat home we can sail easily and live in comfortably.

Please understand that Frank and I still have a LOT to learn about our HH55. We have not made an overnight passage by ourselves on TTR and we have not faced adverse conditions.  Clearly these observations and comments are based on our current level of experience with our new catamaran.  We do not expect our opinion to change much, but we still consider ourselves inexperienced on this boat.

Thank you for reading our blog. Feel free to visit our FB page for more frequent posts. 

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