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New Chapter in the Mainsail Saga

n mid-November when our friend, Cameron, and Mike were sailing from Guaymas back to our slip in San Carlos, Mike got a little aggressive trimming the mainsail as we sailed close hauled into the wind and tore the mainsail from leech (back edge) almost to luff (front edge). The sound of tearing sailcloth is not something you ever want to hear, especially so when you are less than 2 weeks from finally heading out on your sailing adventure. The immediate crisis was solved by putting in the first reef and we had a great sail back to the marina.

On the drive back to Tucson, we ordered a new mainsail knowing that it would be logistically difficult to arrange to have it delivered to a marina in La Paz. Not that we had a lot of choice, since we had a date in less than a month with Dave and Kelli in La Paz for the flotilla.

Onto the next mainsail event, when we were sailing with Kelli and Dave we trimmed exuberantly (again, Mike is a slow learner) and did another leech to luff tear between the first and second reef points. On we sailed on the second reef. One bright spot was we learned that Calla Lily sails well and fast and she adjusted to the smaller sail and we lost less than 1 knot in boat speed. The next morning we got out the sail tape and taped the sail up.

We hoisted it and it held! Until, sensing a pattern here, we put another turn on the winch at it tore again. At this point we resigned ourselves to a slower pace and sailed on 2 reefs for the rest of the flotilla.

Meanwhile, over in Sri Lanka, the sailmakers were making our sail. They made our genoa (front sail) back in late Spring for us. And we anchored in La Paz and waited and did projects. On 23 December we got word the sail was done and on its way to San Diego. Why San Diego? That’s where the shipper who specializes in shipping boat stuff to La Paz and Cabo San Lucas is. We had arranged for them to ship it for us after hearing great reviews from the cruiser community in La Paz. The sail arrived in San Diego on the 29th, just 6 days after it left Sri Lanka. A couple emails and a few days later it arrived at the marina office on 7 January. Ready to go at last!

Not quite… The sail requires 2 more things, a sail track to hold it to the side of the mast and battens to stiffen the sail. These were coming from US firms and were not nearly as big and heavy as the sail. Should be a cinch. Not quite… The sailmakers had dawdled and not ordered either of these bits until long after the sail was done. The sail track shipped UPS on 7 January and the battens with Fedex on 11 January.

UPS, bless their hearts, made it clear to us that we needed to pay import taxes and let us pay them online. So it was just hurry up and wait with them. The sail track arrived on Friday, the 21st.

Fedex, on the other hand, got the battens to us a lot faster than UPS did with the sail track. They arrived Thursday. They were very difficult to deal with. First they tried to deliver at night, when no one was available at the marina. The next day, Mike walked a mile to the Fedex place to see if he could just pick it up. That was a hard no. The delivery would be made sometime that day (Wednesday), no problem. Except for the problem. We figured out that we did have to pay import tax. And you can’t pay online nor over the phone. Nor can you pay by walking up to the Fedex place the next day. Payment has to be made to the driver. In cash. Time for a 5-hour sit in the marina parking lot. Finally, an hour after the promised delivery time, job done. We had our battens.

Installation and fitting went as well as most boat things go. That means there was a significant amount of faffing to get the sail track installed, the custom made (?) battens cut to the correct size and the sail attached to the sliders and hoisted up the mast, attached to the boom, and the reefing lines run. We upgraded from 2 to 3 reef points which is a good thing.

A lot of good learning here. The number one lesson is how little control we have over things we took for granted back in our land life and it doesn’t matter how much we whinge and complain. This is really hard for the former operations guy, but he’s trying and learning. Although we didn’t plan to spend the first 6 weeks of our cruising life sitting at anchor in La Paz, it’s a very good place to get stuck for 6 weeks. We love La Paz.

Now we are finally ready to head out and see what it’s like to live the cruising lifestyle. First stop will be an overnight trip to on of the northwest anchorages Isla Espiritu Santo on Tuesday. We both have board meetings this week and we need to have access to cellular service for them. Hence the out and back. On Thursday we will head out to sail around the islands north of La Paz to get used to our new sail. Next stop after that will be Mazatlan on the mainland.


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