On the vey last day of Georgie and Beo’s trip to PV, we were very lucky to get a tour of an historic sailing vessel called, “Flying Dragon”. Owned by a fellow named Regis, along with his girlfriend, Cybil and her son Emi, the Flying Dragon is an official Chinese Junk. Built in Hong Kong in 1924, she is a flat bottomed, junk rigged, teak planked virtual museum. She has a long and colorful history having been used at different times as a fishing boat, a brothel, a platform in a 1970′s “World Fair”, a private yacht with onboard hot tub (which commenced to rot the entire front upper decks), and more recently as a rebuilt private yacht (sans hot tub) that had an amazingly pimped out living space! However, being a nearly 90 year old vessel, she has probably always had her fair share of leaks, simply due to the nature of her construction. Ever since we met the Flying Dragon folks, this past December, there was talk of needing to deal with her continuous leaks. Equipped with junk rigged sails and no keel, sailing any direction but downwind was all but impossible, from what I could gather. Unfortunately, a couple of days after our tour of the maritime artifact, the Flying Dragon floundered due to a mechanical issue, and ended up beached, directly in front of the main pool at Paradise Village Resort.
Deidre and I were anchored out in the La Cruz anchorage. With our broken antenna limiting VHF reception to vessels who are relatively close, we started to hear one side of a conversation of a vessel in distress. We had no idea what was going on, and it was well into the evening before we were able to deduce that it was our friends aboard the Flying Dragon who were desperately trying to stay off the beach. First thing in the morning, we were somehow able to reach Cybil on the radio. It sounded like it was turning into a salvage mission, and they needed help getting things off the boat. Stuart and Karen from s/v Fantasia were already underway from their anchor spot and were coming over to get us, so we could all go offer whatever assistance we could. As we were approaching Paradise Village, we rescued a fishing panga, whose motor quit on them, and towed them into the marina. It was also becoming quite clear that Flying Dragon was no longer in the water at all, she was totally on the beach at low tide!!!
We let go of the panga in the river next to Marina Nuevo Vallarta, then Stuart commenced to show us a proper parking job of a large sailing vessel. We needed to be parked on the Paradise side of the river so we crossed over and in all of about 15 seconds, Stuart shoved, well, he quickly maneuvered, his 65′ long ketch into what I swear ended up being a 66′ long space with a vessel both fore and aft! The whole while I was questioning aloud, whether there really was enough room for us to fit. Yes, he has a bow thruster, but regardless, it seemed absolutely brilliant to me.
Approaching the “beached dragon” was a sad sight. Already, her floor was lifted up, and all the rock ballast was being removed. There were many local cruisers there already, with more and more showing up by the minute. Not only were all the mostly familiar faces of the local boating scene arriving to help, but the throngs of people who were staying at the Paradise hotel complex were also starting to come and gawk at the scene. Photos were being taken. People were getting in the way. Apparently, some guests even thought that the beaching, the evening before, was somehow part of the welcome ceremony!
We quickly got to work unloading the boat of anything valuable, and everything heavy. Nobody had any idea whether the boat would stay afloat or not, and we all figured it was better to remove it than leave it for the ocean to take. Many hours were spent removing everything from the boat, then hauling it up the sandy beach, and over to either a car or the boat dock. As the tide worked its way in, along with the help of a back-hoe digging around the disabled ship, hundreds of people pushed and pulled and were able to inch the bow of the boat back out towards the ocean.
There were lines being rigged to attempt to pull the boat out. One line went to a huge ferro-cement ketch anchored out that was trying to keep constant tension on the dragon. Another line went out to a large power boat, that would, when the boat was afloat, pull the dragon out. With so many things that could go wrong, 1,000′s of feet of huge lines with tons of pressure applied to them, and hundreds of people standing around, it’s a wonder that no one was hurt during the operation.
There were so many people helping in so many different ways, it was absolutely an amazing coming together of the boating community. As the sunset and the evening sky took over, 30 or so hours after the initial mayday, the Flying Dragon, was successfully pulled out through 5-6′ breaking waves. Taking on water badly, she was towed into Marina Nuevo Vallarta, where she was left to the owners accord. Pumps were, and needed to be kept going continuously.
It was an absolute miracle that the Flying Dragon was removed from the beach at Paradise Village. However, with no insurance and no money, the fate of the Flying Dragon is still a huge question mark. The last we had heard, she was still afloat and for sale. I imagine she is going cheap. Anyone interested in a piece of maritime history?
The time to leave Banderas Bay was quickly upon us. After a last minute sail repair in La Cruz, we headed out to Punta de Mita for one last glorious day of surfing. The swell was “on” that weekend, and this was our last chance at catching any more waves for the season, so we allowed ourselves the pleasure before hurrying on our way. The weather was light and the forecast looked good to start working the land and sea breezes North towards Mazatlan, then cross over with some SWesterlies that would eventually turn into a building Norther. Bob, on s/v Pantera (still sailing with no motor), left early in the morning. We surfed in the morning and only left the ‘Mita shortly after noon. We had an 8-12 hour sail to get to Matachen bay (San Blas) and hoped to get there before midnight.
Having been to Mantachen Bay three times before, and knowing how large the bay was, we felt fine with coming in to the anchorage in the dark. The larger than expected swell spooked me into anchoring much further out than I normally would have, but I upped anchor in the morning to move closer so Deidre could get to the beach for a run. By noon, we were on our way North for the overnight passage to Mazatlan. We never did see Bob in the bay.
The first 6-7 hours of our sail was straight up into the wind. Progress was slow. For every mile we got closer to Mazatlan, we had sailed two or more miles to get there. As dusk was closing in on us, we decided it was time to start motor sailing if we were to get to Mazatlan at all within the next week. We motor sailed through the night with only a few small fishing boat/net lights dotting the horizon causing only a small amount of “its-the-middle-of-the-night-and-I’m-a-fucking-tired-and-holy-fucking-shit-what-are-those-lights-and-where-are-they-coming-from!!!!!” syndrome.
The next day, the winds freshened enough to where we could kill the motors and sail the 43 remaining miles into “new” Mazatlan. As we were about 10 miles out, our friends on s/v Heavy Metal, hailed us on the radio from about 10 miles out to sea off our starboard hull. Cat2Fold is recognizable from even 10 miles away! We motored up the tight channel to the gas dock at Marina Fonatur at nearly 5 pm on a Sunday evening and were amazed to find the fuel dock open! Unfortunately, they only had Diesel. They were out of gasoline. Fortunately, they let us walk the half mile to the Pemex station to fill our gas containers. We talked about potentially poaching a spot there for the night and Deidre tried to snake a quick shower. It became clear that the dude working needed us to leave right then and there, so he can go home also. She came back to the boat and we headed out the river towards Isla Pajaros, where we eventually spent a beautiful night swinging gently on the hook.
As we exited the the scary river mouth, we saw and chatted with our fiends aboard Heavy Metal. They were were getting ready to take their 60 foot, aluminum hulled, sick-ass sailing machine through the breaking river bar entrance into the channel. Another boat upriver helped make sure the channel stayed clear, and Heavy Metal “turned the volume up to eleven”, and went blasting into the channel through the blind turn at top speed surfing the waves all the way in. Did I mention 60,000 pounds? 7′ draft? No bow thrusters? Yeah… I wouldn’t want that job. Rigo and Deb nailed it!
Of all the cruisers regatta’s we have taken part in this past season, the Banderas Bay Regatta is by far the largest, most serious, most hyped, and most fun Regatta of them all. Hosted once again by our pals at the Vallarta Yacht Club, the BBR is a four day extravaganza of sailboat racing, dancing, and partying, and it is solely about the sailboat racing and partying. Most other Regatta’s are organized as a fundraising event for some much needed local charity and little emphasis is placed on the actual sailing and sailors. For me personally, the BBR was an incredible opportunity to share this cruising/racing lifestyle with my kids, Georgie and Beo.
The kids flew to PV with Deidre and my friends Tritney and Burgelly along with their 5 year old daughter, Avelly (names have been changed for privacy sake)It had been three whole months since being with the kids. We were so excited to see each other. Most of the crew arrived donning their sporty new “Cat2Fold” shirts, which, I might add, turned out pretty darned cool! We all wore the new shirts for all the races. With seven people sleeping aboard Cat2Fold for two weeks, we had a pretty full house, so we decided to spend most of the time at a marina. This allowed anyone to step off the boat whenever desired, rather than organizing a dinghy pick-up/drop-off party. It also allowed us to unload the boat of any easily removable inessential weight that us cruiser types tend to hold onto.
As for the actual racing… There were three days involved. Each day was a little different course than the day before. On day one and two, we found ourselves off “looking for Tacos in La Cruz” during our start.., at least, that started becoming the joke amongst the fleet. We continued to screw the pooch throughout the races with many errors, mostly involving the attempted use of our foresails. One of these aforementioned attempts included trying to hoist and set a free flying jib in nearly 20 knots of breeze immediately after crossing the start line (late). This attempt turned into an upper college level course on the definition of the word “flogging”. With the jib 3/4 of the way up, the halyard rolled off the turning block and the sail was stuck. The sheet had tied itself into a knot the size of a grapefruit. The flogging continued. Eventually, with the weight of two grown men hanging on the sail, risking falling off the boat, the halyard broke loose enough to get the sail down onto the deck. My adrenalin had spiked and crashed so hard in the first 5 minutes of the race, I wanted to just take a nap.
On day three, a different Cat2Fold came out to play. Same bat time. Same bat channel. Same bat wind. But, no more mothe…cking foresails. In nearly 20 knots of wind, Cat2Fold does not need a foresail. Not upwind. Not downwind. We may not be the fastest boat out there, but we’re fast enough. So, on day three, we actually nailed the start. So much so, that after the race I learned a new term for what we did to the fleet. We “port tacked” the entire fleet. For you non sailor/racer type…
The goal of a sailboat race start is to cross the start line at exactly the right time. Too early and you have to circle around and restart. Too late and you’re off the back. Regardless of which, the end result is spending a few hours watching the sterns of your opponents sail away in front of you. It’s been a challenging skill to learn how far away from an object you are and how long it takes to sail there. Starboard tack has right of way over port tack. Cat2Fold crossed the start line at exactly the right time on a port tack and was able to sail over the top of the entire fleet. This, apparently, is like a slam dunk on the opponents head, if I may borrow the lingo from an old passion of mine. We continued to point higher than everyone else, and sail a fast enough reach and downwind leg to cross the finish line second, behind only “La Ballona 2″, who won our class everyday of the Regatta. Finishing in second place (although we ended up in third place on corrected time by 7 seconds), after nailing the start and doing SO poorly in the previous two races felt really, REALLY GOOD!!!
Sailboat race starts can be a daunting place to be for less experienced racers such as myself. Mostly, I just try to stay out of the way. However, I am starting to understand a bit more, so I have been trying to get into a good position at the start. Sometimes boats sail within inches of each other. Sometimes (rarely) boats hit. Unfortunately, this year, in a different class than ours, two boats collided at the start. One unlucky person had both legs broken after slipping on the deck and ending up in a position with his legs in the wrong place at the wrong time. Being friends with nearly everyone involved, I’m going to reserve comment except to shout out to Randy Hough, the skipper of the race committee boat-
“Randy, you are one of the main reasons I have gotten as excited as I am about racing. Your willingness to reach out to us and help us feel welcomed into this “white collar” sport has been exemplary. Please stay above the bullshit, and be there for us at BBR 2014!!!
One other highlight of my 2013 BBR was to see the SIG45 s/v Vamanos!, a multimillion dollar 45′ catamaran, flying a hull at speeds in the twenties of knots! It didn’t hurt that Cam Lewis, one of the US’s top multihull skippers, was flown in to PV just for the race. Unfortunately, s/v Pantera, the only other catamaran in the fleet that could possibly give chase to the professional crew on Vamanos!, is still limping along on three cylinders, while Vamanos!, fourteen years her younger, was tuned to perfection, and it showed!
After all the racing hoopla was said and done, we spent a couple of days in La Cruz, mostly with Merle, Allison, Shandro, and Matero of s/v Kenta Anae, and Max, Liz, Victoria, and Jonathan of s/v Fluenta. We went and checked out a Mexican style carnival that was set up in the middle of the street. There were games where you could win prizes, two story, double-wide trampolines, candy and crap to buy, and their were old-school rides. Some of the janky old rides were even directly wired into the power poles, with exposed, hand twisted, high voltage “splices” hanging from the pole at face level! Yet another example of the many things we’ve seen here in Mexico that you don’t usually see in the US these days!
Leaving La Cruz, the seven of us sailed out to Punta de Mita, where we met up with yet another Teton Valley family; Cate, Winston and Indigo. With 3 five year olds and a seven year old rounding up that days’ gaggle of giggles, we spent a beautiful Semana Santa day on the beach. Being a Mexican holiday, the beach was filled the festive families on vacation and vendors selling all kinds of fun things. Usually there were at least three adults from our group out surfing at a time. At one point, while I was out on my paddleboard, Deidre came out towards the break on a surf board with Beo as a passenger. I quickly went and scooped him up onto my much larger board. In no time at all, Beo and I were surfing together!!! On our last run in, he even stood up with me, and we were the surf studs of the moment! The other dad’s followed suit and even Tritney, who was just learning, caught his best ride ever with Avelly on board and rode the wave all the way onto the beach!
A beautiful sail over to Yelapa, and a hike up to the waterfall was next on our agenda. We all noted how much less water was flowing in the falls compared to our visit last December. On the way back down the narrow lane, we stopped and had an amazing lunch in town… Town doesn’t quite feel like the word I’m looking for, because in this town, no one owns the land, there are no cars, and electricity only showed up a few years ago. Because of this, and the particularly steep topography in which to build upon, all the buildings appear to sprinkle up the steep mountain slope at random angles to each other with only an alley the width of a wheelbarrow or a small donkey cart separating them.
We then sailed back to Paradise Village Marina where we spent our last few days playing in the pools, boogie boarding, playing soccer on the beach, taking dinghy adventures up into crocodile infested waters, and hanging out with all our new friends. The kids got to meet and bond with so many boat families; Rigo, Deborah, Zion and Hunter aboard s/v Heavy Metal, Regis, Cybil and Emi aboard s/v Flying Dragon (more on Flying Dragon coming soon),Teddy, aboard s/v Lolo, the aforementioned s/v Kenta Anae and s/v Fluenta families, and the countless others we met along the way. Georgie even had the pleasure of a sleepover with Victoria aboard s/v Fluenta!
Sadly, the end of the two weeks came all too quickly, and the next I knew, we were in the taxi on our way to the airport. Deidre, who unfortunately got sick the night before, couldn’t come with us, so she said her goodbyes at the marina. The kids and I were sad to leave each other, yet I kept trying to remind them how psyched they’ll be to see their Mom and their school friends. Also, that I would be home in only one month instead of three like last time. Their flight home went without a hitch, and they arrived in Jackson Hole earlier than scheduled. I sure hope we’re lucky enough to race in another BBR aboard Cat2Fold with Georgie and Beo!