What Happened After Turtle Bay

Leaving Turtle Bay

We left Turtle Bay in really high spirits, looking forward to a couple of days at sea, and some good times coming up in Mag Bay (Bahia Santa Maria). Since we had done the Baja HaHa in 2016 on our friend’s Trish and John’s boat, we knew to expect a nice anchorage, great beach parties, lots of dinghy fun…including a really good mangrove exploration. What we didn’t expect is what happened next.

A Little Background

If you’ve read our “About Us” here on the website, you already know that Don and I did not sell everything and sail away to adventure. We aren’t quite ready to say goodbye to our ranch and our ‘critters’ as we collectively call them.

Ghost Riders Ranch of Southern Arizona

The ‘critters’ included 10 dogs: Guido and Xena, our ‘big white dogs’ who are 1/2 Great Pyrenees ad 1/2 Anatolian Shepherd; 8 Miniature American Shepherds ranging in age from our oldest, Secret at age 15 to Cinder, our youngest at age 5; 2 Tennessee Walking Horses, Wave and Surf, who have been with us since they were 1 and 2 years old and who were now 20 and 19 years old; Milton (the) Burro, our wild BLM adoptee who has been with us for about 9 years now; and 2 sheep: Binky, age 15 and Brownie, age 6.

Milton is our still untamed BLM burro. Cutest burro ever!

These guys are like family and they mean the world to us. Our answer to the call of the sea is to alternatively spend one month at home on the ranch, and then one month sailing Bonzai. At the end of our month on Bonzai, we leave her in a safe slip and travel home. During our month on Bonzai, we have a reliable caretaker, Tami, who has been with us for over a year and loves the critters as much as we do. Tami communicates with us daily while we’re gone via phone, text, and satellite messaging when we’re off grid, as we were during the Baja HaHa.

Messages From Home

It started with a message from Tami. 2 months prior, our oldest dog, Secret, had experienced a stroke, which she had fully recovered from. Tami awoke one morning to find that Secret had had another stroke during the night. As she ran through feeding all the other animals so that she could get Secret to the vet, she discovered 9 year old Guido paralyzed in his rear legs. Now Guido, being a big white dog, weighs about 120 pounds, which is a good 20 pounds more than Tami. The long story short…by the time Tami and we were able to assemble a crew of friends to get Guido in the vehicle to go to the vet, it was too late for both of them.  By the time we reached Mag Bay, we had lost them both.

Guido chilling out at the ranch
Secret at age 14, still struttin’ her stuff in retirement at the ranch
Young Secret winning her first Best in Show in 2004

I can say, unequivocally, that having 2 friends need you so badly, but you simply cannot be there is devastatingly difficult. We were wracked with guilt, although there was no way to foresee this coming. Still, you feel how you feel, despite what logic tells you.

Bahia Santa Maria

Heartsick and paralyzed with grief, we didn’t play at Mag Bay. The best we could manage was a sad and quiet dinghy ride through the mangroves. Hearing the laughter from the beach parties and the happy chatter all around us just seemed to magnify to us how horrible we were feeling.  We would rally ourselves up, only to crash back down in a few hours. The days in Mag Bay passed like molasses and were finally over. We were ready for some more days at sea where we could spend some time staring over the waves and water and let the sea work her magic on our hearts.

Mag Bay to Cabo San Lucas

That Burning Smell…

Now this should be the best leg of the HaHa…everyone is in the routine of sailing and looking forward to completing a fun journey down the Pacific Baja coast.  Ummm…not so much for us.

The winds were very light and variable. Our spinnaker had a small rip in it and was out of commission and the very little wind we had was not enough to fill even the Code O (configured across the bows for downwind). The Poobah finally declared the Leg 3/Mag Bay to Cabo to be a wash in terms of racing to the finish. So we, along with almost the entire HaHa fleet were motoring.  Out of nowhere we caught the unmistakable smell of ‘something electrical burning’ and quickly shut down the engines and turned off all power as we raced to find the source.  Luckily there was no active fire, just a burnt out port side alternator.

Don, who can fix anything, sighed and pulled the alternator while I settled at the helm to continue motorsailing on one engine.

Alternator Repair while underway at sea

After successfully disassembling the alternator and cleaning all the bits and parts, Don put it back together again and reinstalled it. Believe it or not, IT WORKED! It wasn’t in good shape, needing a complete rebuild to be trustworthy, but for now, we were good.

Cabo San Lucas

We arrived in Cabo San Lucas and anchored in the jam packed anchorage. For whatever reason, it was much tighter in there than it had been in 2016. We did manage to squeeze in after finally finding a spot with friendly anchor neighbors. Still not feeling that “party” feeling, we skipped the legendary party at Squid Roe and instead walked the streets just past the tourist district. We didn’t film anything or even take pictures, we just let Mexico do her magic. Eating off of street carts and shopping the handmade items, talking to various locals as we walked….this is the part of Mexico that we love to see.

Checking Into Mexico

Of course, we did visit The Office on the beach for their excellent breakfast after spending our first morning checking into the country and getting everything cleared.  When it comes to checking in during the Baja HaHa, there is an agent on the docks at the marina that will take all of your documents and about $80 and do everything for you.  We did it ourselves.  Checking in at Cabo involves a trip to Immigration, Customs, the Port Captain and to the bank.


At Immigration, they open a separate area just for Baja HaHa participants. I suspect they choose their most English proficient and patient staff for us!

If you have brought crew with you, they will need to come with you to Immigration.  Here, you show your vessel registration and insurance, copies of the passports of all persons on the boat (and in our case, the receipts for our visas we had applied for online). Each crew member must complete and sign an immigration form. Our crew members became sick from the heat while waiting at Immigration and insisted on leaving for somewhere air conditioned. On a wing and a prayer, I completed their forms and signed for them, which worked fine and wasn’t questioned, even as the officials watched me doing them! The final document needed at Immigration is your Zarpe. A zarpe is the form you receive when you check out of a country. In this case, it should have come from the United States. However, the US does not require US citizens to check out, and has no process for that to even happen, so no one ever has their US zarpe.  Mexican Immigration will, in lieu of a zarpe, have you write out a statement that the US does not require a zarpe and therefore you do not have one.  Easy and done.


Next stop is Customs, which was about a mile or so walk from Immigration. At Customs, you show your vessel documents, tourist visas, and clearance forms. If you did not get your Temporary Import Permit before entering Mexico, you will get it now.

Port Captain

Another walk brings you to the Port Captain. This one was a little hard to find, but we finally located it behind the giant metal gates.  Give every form and document you have accumulated from Immigration and Customs to the Port Captain and they will calculate your fee for the Cruising Permit.  They will give you an invoice to be paid at the bank. We found a bank a short 4 blocks away….of course we walked about 2 miles before we found it, though!  Once the fee is paid at the bank, you return to the Port Captain with the receipt and receive your Cruising Permit.

By now, you’ll be hot and tired, which we were, and headed back to The Office for some cold drinks!

Saying Goodbye and Hello

This was the end of our journey together with our crew, Phyllis and Alisa.  The girls had plans to travel by land from Cabo San Lucas back to San Diego.  So we had a goodbye lunch and saw them off. Minutes later our very good friend Craig arrived from the airport to join us for our next trip from Cabo to La Paz.

Yet Another Back Story…

At this point, we need to share another part of our back story. Our (adult) daughter had been diagnosed with Non Hodgkins Lymphoma the month before the Baja HaHa. I was able to help her and our grandsons out during her first round of chemo treatment, but would not be there for her second round of treatment. Everyone reacts to chemo differently, and even though the first round wasn’t a picnic, it wasn’t brutal either. Our daughter insisted that things were well in hand and that she wanted us, well, me really, to go with the HaHa. Don was committed — remember that part where we had to get Bonzai out of the country?

Cabo to La Paz

As we left Cabo San Lucas and headed for San Jose del Cabo, our daughter began her 2nd round of chemo. This time it was brutal. The satellite messages coming in were not good as she was reacting very badly to the drugs. I’d love to tell you about the sail from Cabo to San Jose del Cabo, but to be honest with you, I don’t even remember it.

After an attempted 2nd treatment of chemo the day we arrived in Freilles, she ended up hospitalized.  Further chemo was cancelled as her team of doctors struggled to determine how to continue as chemo had become too dangerous. Perhaps you can guess what this news does to a mother’s heart. It was finally decided that they would get a new PET scan (a specialized scan that allows doctors to ‘see’ cancer in the body).

Just outside of La Paz our good friends Scott and Laurie on Muskoka  contacted us and joined us for a couple of days soaking in Isla Espiritu Santo, before leading us through the long, long channel in La Paz to Marina Cortez.

Once docked, we headed up to the restaurant on the docks for some catching up. Now that we had cell service, my phone started dinging away. With my heart in my throat I noticed the texts were coming from our daughter. I opened the messages to read….

No More Cancer!!!!

Shortly afterwards, we gratefully put Bonzai! to bed in Marina Cortez and headed home to spend the holidays with our family. We thought the worst was behind us, but no. Our bad times just weren’t over yet.

While we were home, our horse, Wave, colicked and died as well.

Rest in Peace my old friend

Sometimes, you just ‘can’t’ anymore.

In Conclusion

Hopefully you guys understand why our video journey takes a giant leap from Turtle Bay to La Paz.  We just didn’t have it in us to film or take pictures or even explore the beautiful places we were passing through. But sometimes cruising is just that way.

Cruising separates you from the people you are closest to. Most of the time you get by with phone calls, messaging, video chats and visits home. But then there are those times when you really need to be there, but you just can’t get there. Part-time cruising bridges that gap somewhat, and allows you have a foot in both worlds, but sometimes your foot is in the wrong world at the wrong time.

Months of reflection on this whole crazy sequence of events has taught us a lot about ourselves and has further cemented our love and commitment to our critters. We will always do the very best we can for them. And we now know that we also have to accept the limitations that we create with our ‘other life’ on Bonzai.

For us, our choice is to continue our journey and see where life takes us next.

Up Next: Return to La Paz






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S1E8: Sailing from San Diego, CA to Turtle Bay, Mexico


We couldn’t have ordered better sailing as we left San Diego harbor and watched Point Loma recede into the horizon. Spirits were high all around, as you can imagine.  Being Halloween, our crew surprised us by popping out of the salon into the cockpit in modified pirate costumes consisting of a fuzzy red ‘viking’ hat with white horns, stick on black moustaches, hairy red beards, and plastic swords. They preceded to ‘take over the ship’….until they realized they couldn’t read a chart plotter and still didn’t know how to work the sails. Thus ended the mutiny.

In the middle of all this fun, we were sailing along happily at 6.5 – 7 kn (same as wind speed) using our main and jib with an apparent wind angle of  80-90*.  At 2:00 in the afternoon we gave up following our PredictWind weather models…they just weren’t accurate at all.  By 8pm that evening, the winds had fallen off to 7-8 kn and we put up the big Code 0 and alternately sailed and motor-sailed through the night at 3-5 kn.

We all managed to complete our overnight shifts; Don and Phyllis shared a 3 hour shift from 9 pm to midnight, Janet and Alisa shared a 3 hour shift from midnight to 3 am, then Don and Phyllis were back on until 6 am when me and Alisa gratefully fell into our beds for some sleep. Throughout the night we saw 8-10 kn winds and using only our main and jib sailed through the night.  By 8:30 am on our 2nd day we were down to 1-5 kn of variable winds, so we fired up the motors and plugged away on course. But all was not bad… Don and Phyllis woke me up abruptly to man a fishing line since we had TWO fish on! With bleary eyed and uncaffeinated, I hauled myself on deck to reel in…. a little baby Dorado. Of course we released him. Luckily, the other line had a nice blue fin tuna on that made a delicious lunch and dinner!  Our catch also quelled the ongoing threats of mutiny if sushi was not provided!

Day 3 saw much of the same, without the fish, and at midnight-thirty we gratefully arrived in Turtle Bay along with about 8 other boats. We anchored near the cliffs and all four us fell into our beds for some sound sleep.

Turtle Bay

Getting Fuel

Waking in the morning, we looked out on beautiful Turtle Bay. After some coffee, and a quick clean up and change of clothes, we launched the dinghy and headed into town. We’d been listening to the radio traffic amongst the fleet that morning and head a familiar theme from those attempting to get fuel from Enrique, Jr. at the pier. Since we’d done the Baja HaHa in 2016, the story was hauntingly familiar about the ‘magician,’ Enrique, who is apparently still able to fill a 40 gallon fuel tank with 60 gallons of fuel. We also remembered what Enrique had done to our friend Ricky the year before…

Ricky’s Story

In 2016 when we had been to Turtle Bay on the HaHa, rather than chance the fuel at the pier, which was suffering from reports of bad fuel and and over-reporting the fuel delivered, we had asked a panga driver, Ricky, to take our fuel cans into town to the Pemex, fill them, and deliver them back. We gave Ricky money for the fuel and sent him off for what should have been an hour or two. The hours drug slowly by as we waited….and waited….and waited. Finally, around 9 pm, Ricky returned with filled fuel cans and explained what had happened.  Enrique, Jr., the fuel dealer on the pier, had caught wind of Ricky’s errand and called the local police, charging him with selling fuel without a permit. Ricky was then detained for over 12 hours being questioned. Now Ricky was a police officer himself (before marrying and moving to Turtle Bay), so there really was no question of Ricky’s innocence; rather just a ploy to keep him from providing a competitive alternative to Enrique’s little game he had going.

How We Got Fuel in Turtle Bay

Unwilling to patronize Enrique, we loaded our fuel cans in the dinghy and headed into town with the intent to walk up to the Pemex, fill them, and hitch a ride back.  We didn’t get very far when a dark, rusty red pickup truck pulled alongside to offer help….you guessed it…..IT WAS RICKY!  We caught up with Ricky’s family news and their year, talked about us getting Bonzai, and then loaded up in the back of Ricky’s borrowed truck for ride to the Pemex. On the way back, Ricky ran us to the Tortilleria (tortilla store) and tienda (general store), then drove us straight up to our dinghy on the beach.  Calling over a couple of the local boys, they loaded all our stuff into the dinghy and we were set to go!

Some Turtle Bay History

Turtle Bay is a small town of about 2500 people. Fishing is the main employment, with only about 37% earning an income. But nevertheless, Turtle Bay has pioneered the advancement of sustainable fishing methods in Baja. Years ago, the fishermen of the area formed a co-op to study, promote and advance sustainable fishing methods and today are leaders in exporting ‘certified green’ live lobster and abalone to Asian markets.

The Baja HaHa arrival into Turtle Bay is economically very important to the town. Ricky, for example, told us that the money he makes while the HaHa is in town buys everything for his family’s Christmas. So, schools and most non-tourist related business is closed so that the residents can earn money helping us gringos.  While in Turtle Bay, expect the pangas to come around several times throughout the day offering to take your trash into town, offering rides to shore, offering…well, anything you might need. In town, the restaurants are staffed and stocked and waiting for your business, residents with vehicles will offer you a ride if you’re walking, and everyone is helpful and friendly.

Baja HaHa Fun!

A big part of the Turtle Bay experience on the HaHa is the annual baseball game pitting HaHa participants against the local kids.  The Poohbah provides all of the equipment and we play on a beautiful baseball diamond complete with bleachers and a snack bar serving cold drinks and beers.  Everyone gets a chance at bat and no one’s turn at bat is up until they hit the ball. The game is tons of fun and somehow the local kids always win 🙂 . At the end of the game, all of the equipment is donated to the local school for the kids.

The HaHa also puts on a big beach party including volleyball and the annual Tug of Rope contest: Men vs. Women.  Spoiler alert: the women always win.

Our beach party ended when Alisa was hit in the back with the tug of war rope, bruising her back pretty badly. I had also twisted my ankle getting out of the dinghy…leaving Bonzai with 1/2 our crew on ‘injured reserve’ for a couple of days.

But, of course, none of that stopped us from having fun on Bonzai! Alisa managed to keep cooking delicious food and we thoroughly enjoyed our rest and play time in Turtle Bay.

Up Next….

Turtle Bay to….. well, Bonzai experienced some disasters. Stay tuned.

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S1E7: BajaHaHa 2017 – Final Prep, Meet the Crew, and We’re OFF!

Final Prep: Get the Temporary Import Permit!

What is a TIP?

So, let’s start by explaining what a Temporary Import Permit, or TIP, is.  Mexico requires all boats and vehicles entering Mexico to obtain a Temporary Import Permit. This permit is good for ten years which is a deal considering it only costs $52 USD. Now, the way it’s supposed to work is that you obtain a TIP before entering Mexico, and you cancel it when you leave. But that’s not what anyone does. So many Americans want to come in and out of Mexico without having to get a new permit every time, so they just don’t cancel their TIP when they leave. Then when they return, they still have a valid TIP.  And that’s all well and good, until you sell your boat and haven’t cancelled the TIP.

Because Mexico has another rule regarding TIPS: only the owner who obtained the TIP, can cancel the TIP.  So, if you buy a boat that has an existing TIP, and the previous owner did not cancel it, you CANNOT get a TIP for yourself. And a TIP in someone else’s name is not valid. AND….if you take your boat into Mexico without a valid TIP, the government can seize and keep your boat. Besides that, all marinas require a valid TIP on a foreign flagged vessel before they will give you a slip. So the bottom line is, you HAVE to get a TIP.

How to Cancel a TIP:

We had learned the hard way in our previous boat purchase the importance of ensuring there was no valid TIP prior to purchasing a boat, so, despite assurances from the previous owner of Bonzai that he had never had a TIP on Bonzai, we put a clause in the sales contract that he would be responsible for cancelling any TIP that existed. As you remember, we closed rather chaotically, and in the chaos, that detail slipped through the cracks. When we tried to get our TIP, Bonzai showed up in the database as having an existing TIP. Feeling rather proud of ourselves for having anticipated this, we contacted our broker and said, “take care of this.”  Monty (our broker) and Terry (Bonzai’s previous owner), worked very diligently to cancel the TIP, but the TIP was not in Terry’s name, but was obtained by the owner that he had bought Bonzai from. That owner did not answer any contact attempts (phone, email).  So, his next step was to write a letter to Mexico City requesting the cancellation.  Six weeks later, he still had no acknowledgement that his letter had even been received (actually, at the time of this writing, it has been 7 months, and it apparently was never received or acted upon).

Fortunately, once a year, officials from Mexico City travel to various Consulates around the U.S. for the purpose of cancelling these old TIPs.


We Head to Los Angeles….

So, we took the train from Riverside, CA to Los Angeles early in the morning, arriving at Union Station shortly after 8 am. If you ever have the opportunity to explore Union Station, you really should! It is the largest train station in the western US and is such a grand old station. She is beautifully kept and wisks you back in time to an era when train travel was glamorous. With soaring ceilings, and enormous arched doorways, the artwork surrounds you in the architecture, windows, floors and even the furniture.

Stained glass in Union Station

Leaving Union Station, it was a short walk across the famous MacArthur Park…

MacArthur Park in Los Angeles is a beautiful, serene oasis in the city.

A few blocks later, we found ourselves at the Mexican Consulate (look for the big Mexican flag, duh). Being gringos, we were immediately directed over to the area at the Banjercito where the Mexico City officials were standing by.  Banjercito is the government controlled bank in Mexico and unlike in the US where you make your DMV payment to the DMV, or your tax payment to the IRS, in Mexico, all payments to a government service must be made at the Banjercito. Which is why only certain consulates are capable of hosting the officials from Mexico City.

All in all, the entire process took about 30 minutes. The only slight hang up we had is that the TIP application required our engine serial numbers…and our engines do not have serial numbers.  Some quick creative thinking had us appearing to make a phone call and jotting down some random numbers which we put on the application. (When we returned to Bonzai we put these random numbers on our engines with a P-touch label). I really don’t know of another way to resolve this problem!

Clowning Around at Phillipe’s

Alright, now this could only ever happen to me! As long as we were in LA, we toured some of the most famous eateries, one being Phillipe’s for their famous french dipped sandwiches (they invented them!).  We were in such a good mood after getting our TIP, and I got a little silly. We were in the back room eating when I noticed the table in the corner was trying to get a group photo. I snuck behind the photographer and started sticking my tongue out and making ridiculous gestures to get them all laughing. They asked us to join them, and then revealed who they were….the reunion of the Barnum and Bailey & Ringling Bros. circus clowns!  OMG!

Clowning around Phillipe’s!

We had so much fun hanging out with them and listening to their stories of their days in the circus. Exceptional people, every one of them!

Time to Pick Up the Crew!

If you haven’t watched the video yet, you just have to. One must experience our friends and neighbors, Phyllis and Alisa. We picked them up back home in Arizona and drove back to Cali together, where we finished the last minute provisioning. We also spent 2 or 3 days teaching them a little about sailing, since this was their first time ever on a sailboat! On Bonzai, we take having a good time seriously, but we also take safety seriously, and if anything were to happen, we feel it is extremely important that everyone on the boat would be able to take the helm, use the radio, close a through hull, assume a duty in a man-overboard situation and etc. So, we took several days to accustom them to the boat and its functions. Of course, with these two, all this serious safety precautions is well tempered with hilarity!

And finally….FINALLY…

We’re off!  I don’t think anything can prepare you for the start of a huge rally like this. For the parade, all 146 boats gather tightly together at the entrance to Shelter Island and are sent off with great fanfare! The fireboats are there shooting streams of water into the air, every boat is blasting horns, laughing, waving to each other and getting caught up in the feeling of being a part of something semi epic.

146 parading from Shelter Island to Point Loma together!

It is completely nerve wracking having so many boats crammed so tightly together as we make our way to Point Loma and the start line. This year, a navy ship apparently did not get the memo of the parade time, as it chose this time to enter the harbor and we all threaded our way out to the Point. And with a final blast of the horn….the Baja HaHa 2017 is OFF!

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S1E6: Shake Down Cruise from San Diego to Newport

Janet catches tuna

Before we take off for our Shake down cruise….

Time to head off for our shake down cruise on our 2000 Leopard 38 catamaran. But first….

Hatch Replacement

There were a couple little projects to take care of before taking off for our shakedown. The first was a hatch replacement. This starboard hull hatch had been cracked before we bought Bonzai, but wasn’t on the super high priority list even though it leaked. I had basically just covered the crack with some silicone as a stop gap measure. Then the handle broke off, which meant the hatch couldn’t be locked closed, so this project went up to the top of the priority list!

After watching how-to videos on replacing the glass, I realized we’d need something resembling a workshop and some power tools to just replace the glass. A brand new hatch on the other hand, while more expensive at $200, could be replaced with only a metal putty knife, a screwdriver and some adhesive silicone (4200 to be specific). Removing the old silicone wasn’t fun, but it was do-able and the whole thing took maybe an hour to complete.

Sugar Scoop Flooding

Basically, what’s going on here is that one of the previous owners had the sugar scoops extended 2 feet. The purpose of the extensions is to decrease the catamaran ‘hobby horse’ effect, as well as to make boarding from a dock or the water easier. Hobby horsing is the front to back rocking motion that you see on catamarans (as opposed to the side to side heeling on a monohull). The extensions work well for that purpose, however, the workmanship on our extensions turned out to be very poor.  The underside of the extensions is fiberglass, and was very well done…it’s impossible to even tell the extension isn’t original. However, the tops are 1″ marine grade plywood covered with a thin layer of textured coating. This coating, turns out, is not waterproof.

The bottom step on the sugar scoop is almost always awash when we’re underway if we have any speed at all, so water seeps through the coating and the wood to eventually fill the entire hollow chamber of the extension. To further complicate the problem, there is no access to that hollow chamber.

So, our first step was to use a hole saw to cut a 4″ access hole. From there, we can use a manual bilge pump to keep the extension chamber pumped out after sailing. We installed a little deck hatch, again using 4200, to close the hole.

Sugar scoop deck hatch
Sugar scoop deck hatch

We still need to fiberglass the top of the extension before this project can be marked off the ‘to do’ list, and we plan to have that done later while we are in Mexico.

NOW We’re Off To Newport Beach!

Leg 1: San Diego to Oceanside

We set off from San Diego Harbor at about 10:00 am with only 2-4 knots of wind on the nose. So, we motored until about 12:30 when we picked up 7 kn of wind at a -40* apparent wind angle. Nice! We set the main and jib for a close reach and sailed along at about 6 knots.  We had originally planned to overnight in Dana Point, but after so much motoring, we changed our destination to Oceanside, arriving at 6:30 pm.  For some reason, most people bypass Oceanside, and this was our first stop there. We called on the VHF as we arrived and were directed to the Dolphin Dock. Oceanside is a small marina that is very easy to navigate and the Dolphin Dock is a very long, very empty dock with shore power, but no water. Oceanside also has a fuel dock, though we didn’t need fuel. The best part was the $30 overnight docking fee. Can’t beat that!

Leg 2: Oceanside to Newport Beach

Well, as far as sailing goes, this wasn’t spectacular, but then again, we were sailing north, so it could have been worse. We left Oceanside at 9:15 am motoring along against 3 knots of wind…all day. But the fishing gods were in our favor as we caught three skipjack tuna in a row! We only kept two, and had one for dinner. Some people like skipjack, others hate it. Skipjack tuna has a very strong tuna flavor and we liked it.

Janet catches tuna
We caught THREE tuna!

We arrived in Newport Beach around 3:30 pm where our good friends Trish and John Billings were waiting for us at the anchorage near the American Legion Yacht Club. We rafted up with them and poured some early sundowners and began catching up!

John Billings
Capt. John Billings of S/V Mariah
Trish Billings
Admiral Trish Billings of S/V Mariah

Trish and John have been cruising for some 10 years and are a wealth of knowledge and experience. We had crewed for them in 2016 for the Baja HaHa on their 40′ Morgan, so it was great catching up!

Newport Beach is a fun beach town in typical Southern California style. It’s a HUGE harbor with numerous anchorages and moorings fields. Beautiful homes line the shore and you can spend days just looking at the incredible yachts in the private slips. Newport has many, many restaurants within walking distance of the multiple dinghy docks. If you prefer something further away, Uber is quick and easy. Don and I have spent a lot of time in Newport Beach over the years, so the four of us preferred to ‘eat in’ on Bonzai.  Trish got to experience cooking on a cat, which she seemed to like…a lot…though they are very much in love with Mariah and not likely to come to the dark side from their monohull!

The next morning we did a little Newport Harbor tour on Bonzai and met some future friends that were also preparing for the Baja HaHa. We closed out our time in Newport Beach with a ceremony where S/V Mariah retired her poor, worn out, and patched up 2016 Baja HaHa flag and we hoisted our fresh, new 2017 Baja HaHa flag.

Return to San Diego

We optimistically read the PredictWind forecast calling for 5-10 knot winds for our return; but, alas, we only got 6 knots at best. So we motorsailed back to Mission Bay for the next 10-1/2 hours. Our first anchorage choice swung us over to the shallows and 3-1/2 ft of water, which is right under our keel, so we re-anchored near the mooring balls and turned in for the night.

Next up: We pick up our crew (oh, just you wait ’til you meet THEM!), finalize our preparations and cross the Baja HaHa start line enroute to Mexico at last!



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S1E5: 2000 Leopard 38 Boat Tour!

We finally have all the survey work completed, the new rigging, all of our instruments are working (including the new wind instrument) so we head up the Southern California Coast for a little shake down cruise. Our route is from San Diego Bay to Mission Bay, a short little hop. While we are anchored at Mission Bay for the day, we take you on a little boat tour!

In retrospect, I should have probably cleaned the boat a little better and stowed the lines from sailing….but, well, that’s just life I guess!

Leopard Boat Tour

The Bow

We start at the bow and point out the dolphin chairs, which are great. I’ll add in here that we also have the two forward deck lockers which house two 100 gallon water storage tanks. The water tanks are filled directly from the top of the tank. There’s plenty of room left over for other storage as well. This area shares the space for our anchor chain locker and electric windlass, also.


Engine Access

Talking a little more in-depth about engine access. Our engines are two Westerbeke 40’s, one on each side. The starboard engine is only accessed from down below. The top wood panel removes quickly and easily for routine maintenance. For more extensive access, all of the wood panels can be removed by taking out the screws and pulling out the wood panels, which gives easy access all around the engine. The port engine has additional access from the top by rolling back the mattress of the bed in the aft cabin and opening a hinged hatch. This makes the port engine very easily accessed!

Port engine from top access

Originally, ours had foam sound insulation attached to the wood panels, but after seeing what deteriorating sound insulation looks like…little flecks and chunks of decaying foam everywhere, and falling into whatever you open…we opted to just get rid of it.  The space aft of the engine compartments are so large, we use them to store dock lines and fenders, though we do need to do some better organization of those spaces. We’re working on it!

Where to put the dinghy motor?

Regarding the dinghy’s outboard mounting situation…..what a pain that thing is!  We’ve heard both sides of “just leave it on the dinghy…it’s fine!” and “No, never leave it on the dinghy!”  We’re currently testing out leaving it on the dinghy on the davits, but that has an immediate downside of making the winching up on the dingy davits exceptionally difficult! Our dinghy winching pulley system isn’t perfect already, but the added weight is just awful. So, we’re also sketching out different ways of taking the motor off and storing it. Yay! Another pending boat project!

View from the helm

Adding to the ‘view from the helm’ segment:  when Don and I were shopping for boats, and actually on every friends’ boat that we see, this is an important aspect that I am evaluating. I’m not a tall woman. I’m 5’3″, and on most boats I can’t see the front of the boat while standing or sitting at the helm without some kind of booster step or cushion to sit on. Remember when you were little and had to sit on a telephone book to eat at the grownup table (did I just date myself there?) That’s what it feels like. So, being able for a short girl to stand or sit at the helm and actually SEE was important to us!

Also from the helm, we were so proud to replace the old Raymarine electronics with our B&G system. The only thing we did not replace was the Raymarine chain drive autopilot. These are expensive, Bonzai’s is working fine, and although old, it is a simple system that is not prone to failure. The downside is that the autopilot uses the Raymarine Seatalk system, and our B&G Zeus II uses NMEA 2000. If there is way to make these two things ‘talk’ to each other I’d love to hear it! But for now, they don’t. So heading changes cannot be controlled by or done through the chartplotter, but are done from the autopilot control display that you see at the helm.

the galley

In the galley, I pointed out our icemaker. We love that thing! Here was our reasoning….we wanted a ‘drink’ fridge. Drinks are the thing you go in and out of the fridge for the most, and if you keep them separate, your fridge/freezer will operate more efficiently and effectively.  We had looked at an Engel 12 volt portable, which are great but cost over $800.  We already had the Rtic cooler
which we’ve used and really liked for over a year, and it fits under the cockpit table, but access to ice isn’t really feasible.  Fortunately, we found this little countertop icemaker to keep us supplied with ice! We keep a container of ice in the freezer for iced drinks, and keep the Rtic filled with ice, and only run it a few hours a day, if at all. The amazon reviews for all of these little countertop icemakers run about the same…they work great for about a year or two and then die. But at $80 dollars, it seems more economical than the Engel.

Finally, there’s the FoodSaver. Honestly, I don’t know how we’d live without it on the boat! The thing about a FoodSaver vs. a Ziplock type bag is the airtight. Food stored in the airtight Foodsaver bags last forever! They don’t freezer burn and they stay fresh. We chose a compact size for Bonzai! which means you have to manually lock and unlock the lid when sealing, rather than the larger ones that you close the lid and they lock and unlock themselves. It’s really not even an extra step. This one also has the accessory port that will cold seal a mason jar for airsealing liquids, soups, and fragile food like lettuce. Very, very, very handy!


Moving into the salon! Yes, we hate the blue vinyl upholstery, too! Yes, it will be replaced….eventually! Meanwhile, over at the control panel….we replaced the original radio with our B&G V50 which has built in AIS, and interacts with our chartplotter. We also have a handheld “slave” to it that we carry out to the helm. Additionally, we have a completely separate, but weaker West Marine handheld that we carry as a backup. Behind the TV, we replaced the original masonite panel with a heavier material called SeaBoard and mounted our upgraded solar controls to it as well as the holder for the B&G handheld radio. This panel can be removed by taking out 4 screws. The panel below it with the electrical breakers hinges open giving very good access to the wiring for all of the helm instruments. There is also an access door below for even more access to the wiring.

on to the owner’s suite!

Of course, this hull has been tremendously upgraded in the new Leopard’s, but ours is fine. We love having the completely separate ‘shower room’. The sink and shower fixtures were pretty badly corroded; so far I’ve just scrubbed them up with vinegar, which removed the corrosion, but not the pitting, of course. We’ll be looking to replace those down the line to modernize that space a little. The only other thing we don’t care for is the push-to-pump shower basin pump out. You basically have to stand there pushing a button until it’s pumped out. We’ll be looking to replace it with an on/off switch. Oh wait…what’s that? ANOTHER  pending boat project!

I’m happy to say that we are completely happy with our cabin! Bonzai! came with beautiful comforter sets, we just added sheets. For sheets, we chose to go with full size flat sheets which we secure with these awesome little Bed Bands. Saves us from having to make custom fitted sheets and they work really well.

Storage issues

I think the only other thing worth mentioning is the storage issue in the aft cabin. Besides Don being a clothes horse, this is where we also stash the empty fuel cans when we don’t need them, as well as being our sail locker. We’re still working out storage solutions so that this can be a cabin again, and one project that we’ve sketched out is to cut hatches into our forward hulls that drop down into the hull’s crash boxes. This is just empty space, and if we limit it to one headsail per hull we won’t be compromising the weight distribution. With watertight hatches, we don’t compromise the function of the crash boxes. The crash boxes also have access from each of the forward cabins.

forward crash boxes…future sail locker?

But we’re also kicking around the idea of turning this cabin into a “shop”, and installing a small washing machine. Not sure what’s going to happen there in the future!

As always, thanks for following along here on the blog as well as over at YouTube!  See you soon!



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Time for Bonzai’s second haulout!

Once again we found ourselves on the travel lift of Shelter Island Boatyard in San Diego. This is probably a very good place to mention that if you have your survey haul out done at Shelter Island, and you return for your survey repairs, the return haul out is FREE!  That saved us a little chunk of change right from the start. Which is good, because we were going to need it.

We had arranged subcontractors for all of the various repairs we had scheduled, and honestly, Ken Closs of Closs Marine, and Richard, the boatyard manager, organized them all expertly so that we could focus on the repairs we were doing ourselves.

Shelter Island pressure washed the hull while we were still on the travel lift, moved us to our ‘spot’ in the yard, and within minutes the Shelter Island guys were there to start sanding the bottom paint.

Most of our subcontractors were located in the Shelter Island Boatyard, which made communication with them throughout the process much easier.

We were scheduled to be in the boatyard for about 7 days, so everyone was pretty much working to that pace. Don immediately got started going through both engines, including giving me a crash course in diesel engine mechanics. So much to learn! Don and I had made a pact when we bought our first boat that both of us would know how to do everything on the boat. We feel it’s safer that way, because if one of us is incapacitated, the other can still take care of anything that needs taking care of. So, I am learning diesel mechanics! Don’s overhaul consisted of inspecting every bolted on piece of our Westerbeke 40 engines, removing most of them, removing all the rust and corrosion, replacing worn hoses and clamps, changing fluids…oh yeah. Fluids. When he drained the port engine transmission fluid he found it fouled with water. You may recall that there was water staining on the inside hull of that engine compartment that our survey recommended be checked out. We discovered the source…the swim step shower had been replaced fairly recently, but the connection for the cold water had cracked and was leaking. Yes, that leaky connection had flooded the engine compartment at some point to a level that fouled the transmission fluid and even put the battery under water. So, the transmission fluid was drained and changed twice to ensure all the water was out, and the battery was replaced as well. We also replaced the cracked connector on the shower to stop the flooding. Ultimately, Don spent about 60 hours going through the engines. In the process, he unknowingly fixed the starboard engine fuel leak that we had known about, but that no one had been able to find. We’re still not sure where it was, but when Don put everything back together, it was gone! Yay!

Chingon Metal Fabricators arrived and were shown what we wanted done to extend our existing solar support system, and Don then emailed exact specifications to them so they could begin fabricating that.

I got started on several projects:  removing the crumbling sound insulation from the engine compartments (a nasty job). We had purchased new sound insulation, which I installed as per instructions with spray glue, but it kept falling off and refused to adhere. We eventually gave up and just left it off.  I also started servicing the winches. Apparently, I’m a little OCD about winch servicing. In my opinion, the gears should look brand new when you’re done, so that’s a project that takes about 3-4 hours per winch. We have six of them, but I only got a couple of them done while in the boatyard. I’ve saved one to do a how-to video on later. So watch for that upcoming episode! A small project for me was to redo the tiny bit of wood on Bonzai. We have two added-on steps to the mast that are wood, as well as the outboard engine mounting plate on the stern. All 3 were completely gray with the grain separating.

This was a pretty quick and easy project using StarBrite products, (Star Brite Premium Teak Care Kit – 3 Easy-to-use 32 Oz Products to Restore, Beautify & Protect Marine Teak) which brought these things back to life! Now I just have to maintain them with a little teak oil every month. I’m really glad though that this is all of the wood that needs maintaining!

We also pulled out the old Raymarine electronics. They were still functional, but they were old an outdated, and we had already purchased a full suite of B&G electronics for our previous boat that we had brought over to Bonzai with us. The only thing we kept was the Raymarine Autopilot, which, unfortunately does not talk to our B&G. Don was headed to the trash bin with the old stuff when I shrieked, “Noooooooo!”  These were perfectly good electronics and I felt like someone on a budget might need them to either replace outdated, unobtainable parts, or to use as they are until they can upgrade later.  This turned out to be spot on, as Don sold the entire lot within days on Ebay.

Once the old electronics were out, we had several holes in our helm that weren’t necessary. Ultimately, we decided to place a Starboard panel (high density plastic) over the big hole and mount our B&G Zeus 2 to it. It updated the look of the helm as well as functionally covering the hole in the fiberglass. The rest of the various holes at the helm, those inside the salon at the breaker panels, as well as our fiberglass hull repairs were done by Miguel Hernandez Yacht Refinishing, and he did an immaculate job!

Now let’s talk about those cutlass bearings. This turned into quite the little project…

Closs Marine started by attempting to remove our Gori props.

2 bladed Gori props fold when the engines are turned off and put into reverse. They can decrease drag by about 35%, increasing your sailing speed by about 1 knot!

Turns out, the shafts had not been machined to fit the Gori’s when they were originally installed, leaving gaps between the shaft and the nuts which had corroded over the years, effectively welding the nuts to the shafts. At one point, Ken Closs, of Closs Marine (our engine guy) had suggested we would have to cut the Gori’s off. Don offered some alternative things to try, including using a heat gun, which helped.  Eventually, we ended up saving the Gori’s but sacrificing the nuts. New nuts had to be ordered from Italy, which would take 2 weeks to arrive. So, the original fixed blade props would be put on and yet another haul out was scheduled for our future. Meanwhile, the shafts were removed,  remachined for the Gori’s, and reinstalled as well as replacing the cutlass bearings.

Just to make things even more interesting, on our 3rd day in the boatyard we were informed that we needed to be ready to go back into the water on day 4 due to a scheduling conflict. Richard (Shelter Island Boatyard) and Ken (Closs Marine) coordinated all of the subcontractors to speed things up, and in the end all was accomplished on the accelerated scheduled with the exception of Chingon Metal Fabricators.  Shelter Island Boatyard allowed us to stay on their dock in the water an extra day while we waited on Chingon, who finally arrived to install the solar support system, only to discover it did not fit…at all. The measurements that had been emailed were pulled out and they went back to try again. At last the solar support system arrived and was installed. But then we a little problem with the bill. Chingon insisted on billing us an additional $2000 for a ‘change order’. After multiple phone calls and a little more ‘firmness’, Chingon finally agreed to accept our payment only for the correct work that was done. Their argument was that they had not received ANY measurements for the job. Which is a strange argument, because one wonders how or why they would fabricate a structure without any measurements. In the end, although the work we finally received was good, we find it difficult to recommend them, unfortunately.

Once the solar support system was installed, we were out of the boatyard and headed over to our mooring ball at the ‘Downtown’ mooring field in San Diego to await our standing rigging replacement and Gori prop nuts!  And clean up the boat. What a mess poor Bonzai was in!





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Survey Results!

We got our survey results and….there were no surprises! Yay!

Brad Destache of Destache Yacht Service had completed our survey, going over every system on the boat, including a mechanical survey of the engines and an engine fluid analysis.  At the same time, though we didn’t show it in the video, Chris Catterton of CC Rigging in San Diego had completed a full rigging survey as well.

The boat survey was a 37 page document, but we’ll just cut to the chase…WHAT DOES THIS BOAT NEED?

  • Repair impact compression point on the port hull to eliminate potential for water intrusion.
  • Determine the significance of the crevice corrosion on the starboard rudder gudgeon and port stern tube; repair IF necessary.
  • Repair starboard keel bottom grounding damage. (This was a fairly minor scuff)
  • Replace holding tank cabinet lower hinge on port side.
  • Confirm the water staining on the port engine space hull surfaces is the new swim step shower and service to eliminate water ingress.
  • Consider replacing the GPS antenna.
  • Determine the significance and service or repair voltage gauges which are pegged while running.
  • Renew the wire terminal end of the starboard engine oil pressure gauge and test for operation.
  • Install terminal covers per ABYC standards on the positive battery terminals.
  • Replace the wire nuts used for electrical connections at the port engine space blower with appropriate butt connectors.
  • Reconnect starboard engine space blower.
  • Secure batteries so that they do not shift more than one inch in any direction.
  • Replace cracked port engine exhaust hose and ensure 2 clamps are installed at each connection.
  • Remove unused service hoses in the port space and permanently cap any supply sources.
  • Connect Shurflo pump in the port/aft hull.
  • Service swim step shower to eliminate leak.
  • Permanently cap the drain fitting valve on the starboard fuel tank to ensure integrity.
  • Service or replace port shower drain pump screen to eliminate leak.
  • Replace port and starboard propeller shaft cutlass bearings to restore tolerances.
  • Replace hatch lock/handle on forward fiberglass hatch.
  • Replace lens on the port side deck hatch (crazing and cracked).
  • Descale and determine if rusted port engine mounts and propeller shaft coupler is serviceable. Replace if necessary.
  • Renew kinked port engine oil cooler hose with a factory or otherwise formed hose.
  • Service starboard mast mounted winch.
  • Re-run mainsail halyard to eliminate chafing against the rope clutch above.
  • Determine origin of fuel sitting in the starboard engine space bilge; service and clean.
  • Replace the enclosure cap on the AC power connection for the battery charger to eliminate shock hazards.
  • Replace cracked stanchion bases.
  • Ensure flares are current per Federal regulations.
  • Replace solar panel power supply wires with appropriate boat multi-strand wire.
  • Reconnect the solar regulator wires to eliminate short circuit hazards and to allow the panel to charge the batteries.
  • Remove disconnected negative wire the house battery bank to eliminate short circuit hazards.
  • Reinstall the Y valve and hose connection, or permanently cap the through hull valves on the starboard and port toilet direct discharge.
  • Install appropriate circuit protection device on the DC power supply to the inverter.
  • Cover the 12 volt positive and negative buss bars aft of the battery switches to eliminate short circuit hazards.


  • Replace the standing rigging
  • Service the winches on the mast
  • Service the primary winches as per manufacturer specifications
  • Reconfigure the reefing clew lines

As you can see, we had 2 ‘big ticket’ items:  replacing the cutlass bearings and replacing the standing rigging; as well as a few moderately expensive items such as replacing the stanchion bases and a couple hatches.  After gathering estimates to complete all of the recommended and required repairs, we went back to the Seller and asked that he contribute 1/2 of the repairs that were due to ‘deferred maintenance and repair’, which he readily agreed to.  And just like that, we had a deal!

All that was left was to close. As I alluded to in the Financing blog post, our closing day became a stressful, headache infused day due to our Essex Credit agent’s decision at 10:00 am to put off closing for a week, although over half a dozen busy people had cleared their schedules for it.  He was convinced to get on it though, and at the end of the day we were….NOT CLOSED.

What?  Essex Credit missed the deadline for the wire transfer. Catamaran Company agreed that a overnighted cashier’s check would be acceptable.  But…Catamaran Company’s bank put a 10 day hold on the check. For real. It probably wouldn’t have been a big deal, except that in anticipation of closing, we had scheduled Bonzai! to be hauled out and had arranged for all of the subcontractors to begin work in 2 days.  We had kind of had to beg and plead to get on everyone’s schedules because they were all backlogged on their schedules. We also had another deadline….the Baja HaHa Cruiser’s Rally 2017 was due to depart in 2 months, and we had signed up for it (more about why we did that later).  SO, if we delayed the work for 2 weeks, we were seriously running the risk of not having it all completed in time for our October 30th departure.  ARRRRRGHHHHH! What to do?  Well, we did the only sensible thing we could do….we called the Seller.  And bless his understanding and compassionate heart…he agreed to allow Bonzai! to go into the boatyard for repairs prior to closing.

This decision was not made lightly, because the ‘what ifs’ were pretty significant. What if the boat is damaged on the way to the boatyard? We had insurance and the previous owner had insurance, but who would be loss payee vs. who is actually out the money?  What if there is an accident in the boatyard? What if someone is injured on the boat before the closing date?  That would be a very messy nightmare situation. But we and the previous owner agreed to take the chance.



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Financing a Used Sailboat

Oh boy, did we learn a lot here!

Don and I have financed houses, cars, motorcycles, rural land purchases (those are difficult, just fyi)…. but we never encountered anything like boat financing before. EVER!  So, this blog post isn’t just a rant, but hopefully a heads up to anyone contemplating a boat loan, as well as sharing the alternative that we ultimately chose.

Let’s start out by clarifying that the rules may be different for a new boat purchase, this is our experience with a used boat purchase over $120,000, but less than $200,000.  Also to clarify, this was our experience when we were trying to buy a 1999 Seawind 1000.

We were advised to go through a loan broker for our loan and given a referral by our boat broker.  Here’s what we learned:

  1. Marine lenders do not like boats over 15 years old.  If you are looking at a boat more than 15 years old, be prepared; there will only be one or two that will even entertain the idea of financing you. Those willing to consider it, will require a higher down payment and interest rate.
  2. Marine lenders want to finance boats that are listed with BUC. BUC is the boat equivalent of Kelly Blue Book or NADA guides for used cars. In order to be listed with BUC, the boat must be a known “brand”. For example, and what we discovered, is Leopards, Lagoons, etc. (production boats) are listed in BUC.  Now Seawind is also a production boat, but there are not many sales of Seawinds in the United States to compare to the one you may be looking at (comps). If there are few comps,  that brand will not be listed in BUC.  Seawind does not have enough comps to be listed in BUC (in 2017).

    So we were bound for difficulties right from the start! Then we started getting into what the mainstream marine lender requires from the buyer….

  3. Proof of income.

    This is in the form of your last 2 months’ paystubs as well as your full tax returns for two years. If you itemize your tax return, every single page is required.  Pretty standard.  However, when most of us do an itemized tax return we maximize our deductions. The bank is going to subtract every expense you’ve listed on your tax return from your paystub.  For example, if you make $50,000 a year, and deduct $10,000 in itemized expenses, the bank will only give you credit for $40,000 annual income.

  4. Credit Score

    Don’t even consider marine lender financing with a credit score less than 780. They won’t talk to you.

  5. Debt to Income Ratio

    This is how much you owe compared to how much you make. The banks were wanting to see a debt to income ratio of less than 40%.  This includes your mortgage as well as the estimated payment on the boat you are financing.  For example:

    Income:  $1000 per month
    Debt: $500 per month
    Credit card: $100 per month
    House payment:  $200 per month
    New boat:  $200 per month

    This debt to income ratio would be 50%. You will not qualify.  But don’t go thinking you’ll just dip into savings and pay off the credit card to improve your debt to income ratio because they also require….

  6. 3-6 months of reserves

    This means, you have enough money in savings to pay all of your bills, including the new boat payment for at least 3-6 months. Using the example above, you would need $3000 in savings. This does not include the down payment on the boat.

  7. 20-30% down payment

    Our one offer on the 1999 Seawind (because it was more than 15 years old) required 30% down.  So, if you are buying a $10,000 boat, you will need $3000 down.

So let’s evaluate….  if I have $3000 in savings for my reserves, and I have another $3000 in savings for my down payment on a $10,000 boat, I really only need $4000 to just buy the boat.  If I go through with this loan I will be financing $6000.  With the income numbers above, you stand a good chance of just qualifying for a personal loan for the $4000 and not go through this marine lending hassle at all!

I’m using hypothetical numbers here, but the best interest rate we were offered was over 8%. Our bank offered personal loan rates at 4.5%.

The other grand frustration was how ridiculously long it took to get approvals (and rejections).  We spent about 6 weeks just trying to get financing.


Because then, we discovered Essex Credit. Essex does not work with loan brokers (i.e., pay commissions), so if you have a loan broker, chances are they either don’t know about Essex or won’t steer you to Essex.  We were told (by someone, not our loan broker) that Essex would not finance boats over 15 years old; this turned out to be false.  When we called Essex to ask their loan requirements, they only required 20% down, a decent credit score and enough income to cover the boat loan.  They also offered us a 4.8% interest rate.  We completed our loan qualification with Essex in 4 days.

The only difficulty we had with Essex was on closing day.  We had scheduled an offshore delivery to avoid paying California Sales and Use Tax, which meant hiring a licensed captain to take the boat 3 miles offshore, driven 8 hours to San Diego, were paying for a hotel room, had our doc agents all lined up to process paperwork when our Essex agent called at 10:00 am (during the middle of our offshore delivery) to say he was really swamped and couldn’t close until the following week.

Needless to say, that did not go over well. I  pulled out my ER nurse ‘get it done or else’ persona, convinced him it would not be in Essex’s best interest to have to reimburse us all of those expenses because he was tired, and that he needed to put on his big boy pants and get to work! Apparently, I can have a forceful personality.  So we managed to get closed on schedule, but the Essex document delay really created a great deal of unnecessary stress on closing day.

Hopefully, this helps someone prepare for the marine lending process. It is the LEAST fun part of the entire boat buying process!  I’ve actually left out some of our frustrations…like the lender that would offer us a loan but the boat could never leave the US…  <sigh>   Leave a comment if you have any specific questions!

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S1E1: Buying a Catamaran…on a budget!

Don and I had spent the better part of 2017 sailing the northern Sea of Cortez on our Corsair F31 UC trimaran. If you’re not familiar with these sailboats, they are a rocketship on the water! Seriously, it is a very cool trimaran with folding amas that allow it to fit on a trailer and is easily towed and launched from a boat ramp. At 31 ft, it is large enough to have a small galley, cabin and salon, and being the “ultimate cruiser” version, also has a full head with pull out handle style shower and is nicely laid out. And they go fasssssst! This is the boat that Janet learned to sail on. Our Corsair typically would sail faster than wind speed. So, if the wind was blowing at 5 knots, we would easily sail at 7 knots of boat speed on most points of sail. Which brings up pointing…she could point at about 21* off the wind. Give her a beam reach and you could easily fly at 12+ knots of speed. Once when were caught out in the middle of the Sea of Cortez with 25 knots of wind, we were pointing at about 15* just to keep our speed under 15 kn. Whew!

The downside to our beloved Corsair was that we wanted to bring friends along and she simply was not big enough. 3 adults for a week together was pretty tight camping! During our time on the Sea of Cortez it became abundantly clear to us that the style of sailing we were enjoying the most was the cruising style more than day trips, and we began to think we might need a bigger boat. By chance, we met our now-good-friends, Scott and Laurie on their Lagoon 400s2 (visit Sailing Off the Starboard Hull). We were anchored together off Santispac in Bahia Concepcion. Scott and Laurie took us out for a day sail on Muskoka, and well, there were some serious looks passing between Don and I during that day, followed by some serious conversations. And the decision was made…we were buying a catamaran!


In 2016 we had befriended John and Trish Billings on S/V Mariah in Newport Beach, CA, USA.  Mariah is a 40 ft ketch rigged Morgan.  They had invited us to crew for them on the upcoming Baja HaHa Cruisers Rally from San Diego, CA to Cabo San Lucas, BCS, Mexico, which we immediately accepted!  Now, Mariah is a tank of a bluewater cruiser, which was nice, as the first few days of the 2016 HaHa saw 30 kn winds and 16′ seas. And what we learned is that despite growing up on monohulls, Don was now seriously seasick on them!  So, that ruled out monohulls for us. Janet did NOT want to be single handing a boat if Don got sick in heavy weather.


This is where things got crazy. There are SO many to choose from! So many. And we had a budget that we thought was around $225,000. I’ll do a separate post to talk about financing nightmares, but that number came down significantly as we learned about boat financing!

Our first choice was a Seawind. We liked that it had outboard motors, which meant easy to work on, easily accessible, and easy to replace. We also liked the integration of the salon into the cockpit, the dual helms, and the galley down, which gives you a big galley with lots of storage.  There aren’t a ton of them available in the US and when you start looking for them under $200,00, the number goes down even further. We settled on one in Florida and booked our flights. The Seawind in FL obviously needed some sprucing up, but seemed sound so we proceeded to survey, which is where we discovered she had major issues in every system: hull repairs, both engines to replace, new standing rigging, new AC’s, new fridge/freezers, replacing electrical, and completely refinishing all of the wood. Short story, the owner wouldn’t budge on the price and were looking at $30-50,000 in out-of-pocket repair expenses, not counting the money to fly back and forth to Florida for the project. We declined and withdrew our offer.

Back to the drawing board, this time armed with more knowledge on the financing process. Seawinds were not “liked” by the US marine lenders because there are so few comps. Lenders, we were told, like Lagoons and Leopards. Which were out of our budget. So we dropped our budget and went looking for something we could afford with a personal loan.  Well, Janet did. Don was insistently looking at boats we’d have to finance. Eventually we settled on looking at an older PDQ in San Diego, telling ourselves it would be out ‘next’ boat, not our long term boat. Don had also found a 2000 Leopard 38 with the same broker, but it was out of budget. It was beautiful, and everything we could dream of, but Janet was adamant that we were not going to blow the budget.

So, off we went to San Diego.  We may have spent 5 minutes looking at the PDQ. We have nothing against PDQ’s, but she was old, tired, worn, and just didn’t feel right for us at all. We wanted to be logical about a boat purchase, but we just couldn’t feel the love there!  “Just for grins” the broker, Monty Cottrell (The Catamaran Company), offered to let us look at the Leopard, named Bonzai!

She was a beauty! Of course she was, she was out of our budget by about $50,000! Monty, being the great salesman that he is, left us to sit on her and talk things over because it was clearly love at first sight. So we sat, figured out where we could eek out some more boat money, how we could rearrange finances, what we could live without on land and what our maximum offer could be. It was low, but it was the best we could do. We headed back to Monty’s office and to our utter astonishment, the seller countered it only slightly and we had an accepted offer right then and there!

We arranged for the survey, rigging survey, haul out, and sea trial and returned to California a few weeks later.