Considering a sailing adventure to Mexico? Just look at how engrossed that guy is in the book! Grab a copy of the Unauthorized Guide to Sailing in Mexico, and you too can find yourself sitting on a Mexican dock with an oversized (but very attractive) hat.

Unauthorized Guide to Sailing in Mexico

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the bamboo whisker pole

I try not to run dead down wind, but instead take it a bit on the quarter, enough that the staysail fills and isn't blanketed by the main. If we must sail dead down wind we will, and especially in calmer sea states that's just fine. 

When waves start breaking and seas start heaping up, the ride is a lot more comfortable if you're broad reaching and in my personal experience the risk of broaching is much lower. Less end-of-the-world-ish, broad reaching tends to heel the boat a bit instead of just letting her roll around on her longitudinal axis. 

Regardless though, the 3,000 mile / 4 week Pacific crossing will be primarily a down wind affair, and if the trades don't beef up here very soon the wind will be in the 10-15 knot range. With conditions like those we have a drifter for a jib (thanks to my unpopular move of trashing the roller furling) and I really wanted to get a pole.

A whisker pole, basically, is a pole that lets you "push" the clew (bottom/back corner of the sail) out over the water and hold it there. In light airs when the sail might otherwise collapse and flog itself to death, the pole forces the sail to keep its shape, sort of. 

The problem with whisker poles is that we don't have one and the "right" ones cost a lot of money, but fundamentally it's a pole, right? I mean, it's a friggen pole. Yes it has to perform under load, yes it needs to be corrosion resistant, and yes it needs some fittings on the end. But other than that, it's a pole. 

Images danced in my head of two long 2x4's with some overlap, thru-bolting them together. Then someone mentioned a long piece of thick-walled PVC. 

But then I saw the geniuses over on SV Lilo that were using bamboo for a dinghy mast and I got excited. 

We got the scoop that some bamboo stalks were growing next to the wall near the primary school in La Cruz, so off Cora and I started on our hike.

Protip: if you do this, make sure you realize you'll need to cut the bottom and the top. The canopy at the top is way to intertwined to just haul down a stalk you chop at the bottom. Worse for me, there was a power line running through it all and I didn't want to be the guy who started a fire at the school or knocked out someone's power. 

Fast forward thirty minutes of hiking back with it and then sawing off all the little nodules along the stalk and I'm the proud owner of a new soon-to-have-fittings whisker pole. 

Yes, boat nazis, I know it isn't as good as aluminium (or carbon). But you know what? It's free. I got a nice little walk out of it. I got a chance to cut down a bamboo stalk and make a whisker pole out of it. 

And when we roll into French Polynesia with our balling-out-of-control bamboo pole you know everyone will be jealous. 

Reader Comments (8)

after seeing what store-bought whisker poles cost, i made one for my old catalina 25 with some 1 1/4" wooden closet rod. makes good boat hooks too.

February 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDon W


February 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMyron terry

And Cora gets to see her inventive poppa creating what is needed from the fruits of the world! Go Eric!

February 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCarla Webb

Before you cast off, one more question... Are you happy with the Contour video camera, or did you go back to GoPro? Thanks, and Bon Voyage

February 27, 2014 | Unregistered Commenteranon


All things considered I'm still a Contour guy. To be honest the only big thing I see that GoPro has going for it is showing up on the market first. People refer to any action-camera as a "GoPro" even if it's a different manufacturer. It's become like Kleenex, Band-Aid, and Thermos as a brand name so popular no one even knows what the generic word is.

One of the reasons I haven't bought a new GoPro and to try again is because it's a lot of money. By the time you add in all of the GoPro accessories you need that nearly anyone would want (dive case, tripod attachment, anti-fog) you'll have spent nearly as much as the camera itself. Hell even the base Contour, not in a case at all, has a fairly decent waterproof rating.

I've had two GoPros fail on me, two different models, and the most I ever exposed it to was 40' depths scuba diving.

Sorry for the long answer. I had just re-downloaded the GoPro software to no avail, now my latest camera is fully dead. There was a youtube video about how I could try splicing wires from a USB cord and "jump start" the camera's battery.

Now that I think about it, my GoPro's have basically bean total pieces of shit compared to my Contour.


February 27, 2014 | Registered CommenterEric

We had a bamboo whisker pole for our Lagoon catamaran and it was brilliant. Free, light, sturdy and super functional. We used it for years to sail wing on wing. Then the unimaginable happened. We snagged a shark long line off the tip of Baja, turned upwind to save the sail drive , the jib back winded in 25 knots and KaPow! The whisker pole exploded in a million pieces. Regrettable, but again perfect in its death. The jib wasn't damaged, the sail drive wasn't damaged, and the mess could be tossed overboard without polluting. So we made another.
Fair winds,
the former crew of SV Just a Minute

March 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLaura

Hi guys, I'm so sorry to hear about what happened. Don't let all these idiot land lubbers bring you down. They don't understand what it means to actually live your life and they never will, (sitting on their couches, watching football and drinking beer). We miss you out here and we hope you can find a way to get away from all that nonsense and back out to live your life the way only cruisers can really appreciate. We wish you the best of luck and we will always remember the times we spent together.

April 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLunasea

Glad your baby made it back to land to save her life, but as a Father myself, I gave up my lifestyle to raise my kids in a normal environment. If you believe your kids would rather be at sea, enjoying your dreams instead of their own, then you are being delusional. Stop being selfish and let your children be kids.

April 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBen

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