Archive for April, 2007

Lighthouse Reef, Belize

Thursday, April 12th, 2007

Searunner 31 under sail

A rare picture of TimeMachine under sail taken by Velella as we were overtaking them out of Isla Providencia. We are making about 7 knots into 15-20 knots of wind. Notice the triple reefed main.

We stopped at Isla Barbareta, Honduras to work on the rudder some more. The old tie in system from the kickup rudder just wasn’t working so we drilled some holes and bolted it on. It seems much sturdier now, but it will probably rip the transom off if we go aground since the rudder sticks down below the keel. We had this in mind today as we wove our way through the many coral heads in Lighthouse Reef. We anchored SW of The Blue Hole and did some snorkeling. Snorkeling at The Blue Hole is like Boogie Boarding at Ollie’s Point. Luckily the real divers didn’t show up to chase us off. Actually, we didn’t spend too much time in the hole itself. Cheyenne didn’t care for deep blue abyss. I guess I shouldn’t have mentioned the hammerheads until after we saw them… We didn’t see them, but there were some large barracuda stalking us. Back on the boat, we’re anchored in 20 feet of calm clear water but can’t see land in any direction. Just waves crashing on the reef a couple miles to the east.


Monday, April 9th, 2007

canals. Guanaja, Honduras

[Looks just like Venice, right?]

The island is sparsely populated in that the majority of the people here live on one small cay, every square inch of which is covered, spilling boardwalks and stilt-houses far out beyond the confines of any actual land. There is a sizable fishing community here and lots of working boats, not working. Probably because it is no longer shrimp/lobster/everythingyummy season. Poor us.

Anchored local boat. Guanaja, Honduras

[Tranquil Caribbean scene. What you can’t see: no-see-ums. Right.]

The main island has a few local residents but for the most part is populated by expats, of which there is a significant population. There are a few hints here and there of resorty development that evidently was abandoned when hurricane Mitch came through because, hey shit dude, hurricanes? Just about everyone we have met speaks both English and Spanish (I speak Spanish because it’s good practice and I can’t understand the local English anyway) and is very friendly. Ronnie, a retiree from Florida who is building a house here on the beach near the anchorage, nearly slays us with his hospitality every time we see him, inviting us to beach our dinghy on his property, fill our water jugs from his hose, use his cell phone if we need to call our family in the states, come over around dinnertime to be fed in case we run out of food on our boat. Just nice.

Jungle. Guanaja, Honduras

[Pretty jungle trees.]

We spent the first couple of days catching up on more sleep than we actually missed during the passage between Vivorillos and Guanaja and doing mild hiking/bushwhacking (this time I was prepared with closed-toed shoes). We were told where a waterfall trail was and damned if the trail was actually a cleared path leading to a real waterfall containing water that actually dropped from a spot up high to a spot lower down. We have been suckered into too many “waterfall hikes” in the past few years to take such things for granted.

After Providencia I was pretty gung-ho on the bushwhacking, particularly since on Guanaja there are no ant bushes. There are, however, these, which we spotted swimming towards us in a shallow pool of water:

Red Tailed Boa. Guanaja, Honduras

[Poisonous viper Harmless red tailed boa. How nice. Will be doing less bushwhacking in the future.]

Seeing as how we’re Texas Bound and all that, I dug out War and Peace because I was really feeling like I hadn’t read any books lately with enough ‘Alexei’s in them. (Turns out W&P has not a single major character with the name Alexei! How about that?) Suddenly I made a lot of progress in the book, finished it in fact, except for the Second Epilogue because I needed a rest from all that historical philosophizing, when a UTI came barreling down on me with all the subtlety of a USCG cutter. I have been laying around the cabin the last few days feeling sorry for myself and hiding from the no-see-ums and sun because the antibiotics I put myself on have the glorious side effect, among others even more glorious, of making one extra sun sensitive. I just can’t decide if, Antibiotics: miracle of the modern age; or, Antibiotics: evil havoc-wreaking hellspawn. Hard call. Last time I took them was in 2001 and it took me about two days to decide that I’d really rather just have the illness of which they were supposed to cure me.

One other thing, now that I’ve geared up to fully auto Rant Mode. I have been reading a great volume of books over the last few days and I can’t believe how many reviewers feel the need to draw comparisons to Catcher in the Rye (particularly when none exist). The last few books we’ve read are: Vernon God Little, Number 9 Dream, Winter in the Blood, Elvis, Jesus and Coca-Cola and every single one of them says something like, “Holden Caulfield all over again,” or , “this generation’s Catcher in the Rye” (this, fer god’s sake, on the back cover of a noir about a 30-something Jewish country-western singer/amateur detective named Kinky). Makes you wonder if they even read the book they are reviewing (not that I don’t often wonder this even when they aren’t conjuring up the holy CintheR). Maybe they’ve never read Catcher in the Rye. First person narrative? Holden Caulfield all the way! Takes place in New York City? SO CintheR, absolutely. Maybe it’s just been too long since I read it myself; I certainly don’t remember blowing flowers and gold ribbons out my mouth about it. Just a pretty good book. Whatever.

We check out of Honduras today and move on tomorrow for Mexico. It should take us two days and one night and hopefully we’ll get there late Wednesday afternoon, which should be right about the time that my fresh crop of no-see-um bites bloom into fully operational battlestations of itchy evil. Will keep all posted.


Wednesday, April 4th, 2007

Old boat. Isla Providencia, Colombia

Isla Providencia, Colombia

Rudder McBrokersons

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2007

We barely had time to delight in the first downwind sail we’ve had since Huatulco when the seas grew irritatingly large and the rudder broke.


I had been trying to take a morning nap after a night of no sleep (I never get more than two hours or so when underway) but was having trouble due to the uncomfortable way the boat was weaving back and forth down the waves. Just as I got up, something happened and Joshua lost control completely of the steering. The boat rounded up into the wind and just stood there, teetertottering over the oncoming waves. We pulled the centerboard down in hopes of having some control (we sometimes run with it up when running due downwind/downsea) and Joshua went back to inspect the problem area.

“The rudder is totally trashed,” came the report. “Like how trashed? TRASHED trashed? Or still sort of functional trashed?” I put my harness on and went back to see for myself.

searunner 31 broken kick-up rudder

[TRASHED trashed, but still sort of functional trashed.]

Sea and wind conditions were 6-8 feet and 25 knots, occasionally gusting to 30. I was pissed about the rudder and snuffled irritatedly in the cockpit while Joshua the fearless non-worrier made fried rice for breakfast. We were actually really lucky to be only 14 miles out from Guanaja. Unfortunately, it was all downwind sailing, which places more stress on the rudder than upwind sailing.

This boat does not have a typical skeg rudder but rather an extra-long kick-up rudder housed in a stainless box. The box is attached to the stern and the rudder is bolted at a pivot point above and held down in place with a rope. Because this type of rudder sticks down below the keel, it is particularly vulnerable so we made a fuse out of some fishing test so in case we ever hit something; then it would break and the rudder would float harmlessly to the surface to trail behind us. Hopefully we wouldn’t need to, say, steer if this ever happened. The rudder box has always been suspect in that it cracked shortly after we left San Francisco (we had it welded in Ensenada) and again around Huatulco (we had it welded again there). We are not sure what happened this time; possibly we hit a submerged log and the fuse broke or we hit nothing and the fuse broke anyway, then the following seas pushed the floating rudder across and ripped the rudder box wide open. Now the rudder is attached only at the pin (where it is in danger of twisting sideways and causing further damage) and the lower part just sloshes alarmingly free.

We went with the mainsail up only and I steered by suggestion. “Left.” “More left.” “Goddammit!” Each gust was causing the boat to head up and it was very difficult to get back to where we wanted to be without putting any pressure on the rudder. Joshua put up the storm jib and pulled it in tightly; now when the gust caused us to head up, the wind would push against the jib and have us back on course (mostly) shortly thereafter. We wobbled our way to Guanaja making around 5 to 6 knots and happily rounded the reefs to the anchorage after only a few nerve-fraying hours.

Again, we are lucky in that Guanaja has a large fleet of working fishing boats. A welder was recommended to us almost immediately and tomorrow we will take our broken rudder box to him and see what we can do. We will not be able to just weld the box back together at this point but we think we can cut the bottom part off and fabricate a new piece to bolt directly to the lower part of the rudder itself.

So now we’re Destination: Texas, where Joshua’s family lives and we can haul out and fix stuff. Among other things (an irritating leak in the centerboard trunk will require attention soon) we will see about building a new, more solid rudder and ditch this kick-up bullshit altogether.

Cheyenne Weil, Joshua Coxwell