2016 Banderas Bay Regatta

After being in and around Chamela bay for nearly a month and a half doing my thing, a weather window availed itself for us to have a nice smooth sail North around Cabo Corrientes, back in to Banderas Bay with the goal of participating in this years 24th annual International Banderas Bay Regatta. I arrived a few days early, so I spent some time gorging on some great surf that was happening in Punta Mita. It was there that I met Jim Milski on the 49′ Schionning designed catamaran that he built himself, circumnavigated the globe with and was now for sale. I offered him to trade for C2F, but he’s still thinking about that offer…😉 I will say, it is very inspiring to be hanging out with a 70 year young, energetic surfer that also lives onboard his awesome catamaran. After a few days, the great swell disappeared, the wind picked up, and it was time to prepare for the regatta. 

I wanted to get a slip so I could unload some of the heavy stuff that goes along with day to day living on a boat, so I aimed for Paradise Village Marina, which is where all the parties for the races were to be held, and is closest to the starts for all three days. Once I finally got within radio range, while still sailing downhill at 10-15 knots, I learned that there was no room for us right then, but by the morning, they would have a space available. So we changed course and headed over to the La Cruz anchorage wear we spent a restless night in big winds and a new swell developing, worried about dragging anchors. Just before nightfall, I noticed two other boats that appeared to be anchored very close to each other, but with two dinghies tied to the stern of the upwind boat, I figured it was just a party. A little later, I saw the upwind boat reanchoring, directly in front of me…😬, confirming my initial suspicion that they were dragging when I first noticed them. Luckily, every time I poked my head up for a look around in the night, everybody appeared to be holding fast. 

The next morning as I was approaching the shallower water of the bay near the beach bar, entrance channel, I suddenly became aware of the giant swell that had been forecast to show up. I knew it was going to be an exciting entrance in. The breaking waves were huge! And of course, I had just been reading about a catamaran in Hawaii doing the wrong things in a similar sand bar situation and ending up on the rocks. Knowing this could be quite challenging, I moved the dinghy I had been towing up onto the forward net, and studied the patterns of the breaking waves before moving forward with caution. With dagger boards half up, and my best guess as to a break in the wave sets, I gunned my two trusty Yamahas and surfed a medium sized wave far up into the channel at 14 knots! If I wasn’t quite awake yet, I sure as shit was now!!!

As part of the tradition of the Regatta, Thursday’s race number one was preceded with a costume parade out of the harbor. The theme was “loving cruising in Mexico”. Single handing Cat2Fold, we weren’t about to get involved in a bunch of dressing up, but I do have a pretty groovy Lucha Libre mask that garnered me an honorable mention. 

Out on the course, the wind was building. I was psyched! All weather signs that I had referenced, led me to believe we weren’t going to see above 6-8 knots, and Cat2Fold isn’t particularly great in light winds.  In the end, it became apparent that we had some competition in our category. S/V Catatude, a well sailed 1994 Lagoon 42 sailed at an amazingly similar rate of speed. I think I beat them to every mark, but not by a lot. In the end, I crossed the finish line far enough ahead to still win on corrected time! Hurray! First line honors and bullet for Cat2Fold and I. 😄⛵️

On day two, the long race, somehow Catatude sped up. We came into every single mark at exactly the same time. Sailing completely different angles sometimes, while at other times,  it was only a matter of inches keeping our boats apart. Things were going well enough for me, until the wind built to a point where I had my own personal battle with my headsails. In hindsight, I should have just abandoned them, but instead I wasted a ton of time trying to save time, while Catatude sailed away perfectly towards the finish. Luckily, I was able to get my shit together and give them an honest to goodness chase, catching them at the leeward mark, turning inside of them and beating them to the finish line by 37 seconds. On corrected time, our 37 second lead turned into a 27 second victory for them. 🙁 Close, exciting racing to say the least! Catatude and Cat2Fold would start off Saturday’s final race tied for first place! Winner takes all!!! Not only was the racing incredibly close in our category, but there were many ties for first place in all the other categories. The performance cruisers had a 5 way tie for first, and in any of the categories, any given boat had the chance to win. 

So on Saturday, after so much incredibly close racing, I still can’t really say how or why Catatude was able to beat us to the weather mark so badly, and then in total panic mode, continued to build the lead to the point of reaching the first La Cruz mark 7 minutes and 21 seconds before me. Wow! I thought for sure our weekend was done. I watched helplessly as Catatude tacked back out into stronger winds aiming for the upper mark only 2 miles up the beach. I wanted to cry. But, we didn’t give up. It’s a long way back to the start/finish line, I thought. Knowing that if we just followed their move and tack out to sea, I would just continue to watch them sail away. So, we played our wild card and worked the fluky winds along the beach, which had a more direct line to the next mark. As we slowly sailed and drifted straight towards the mark, I could see Catatude, and many other boats, were dealing with very shifty winds with holes of no wind developing here and there. My spirits continued to lift. It was appearing to be the most amazing strategic sailing move I’ve ever been involved with making. Reaching the mark first, while visually being able to see Catatude still struggling to get moving again, I was unable to control myself and I let out a primal screem from deep within that could be heard for miles! We had perfect reaching conditions all the way back to the start and ended up crossing the finish line 34 minutes ahead of my competitors. 😄🏁⛵️

The after party was spectacular! Tons of amazing food! Drinks! And music by Luna Rumba!!! The winners of each category received trophies and bottles of champagne. Our bottle was gone before the band stopped playing. I was the only person to single hand the race and most folks thought that was kind of a big deal. Knowing just how easy Cat2Fold is to sail alone, I just chuckle and let them think I’m a bad ass, when really I’m just enthusiastic and incredibly lucky. 😉

I stayed in the bay for another couple of days afterwards, but have since returned to my favorite hang out, Bahia Chamela to hang out with my new Swedish friends. 

More soon!

S.U.P. down the Grand Canyon

 

Earlier this year in September, when one of my best friends asked me to join a group of folks who were rafting down the Grand Canyon, I didn’t instantly jump at the chance. Stressed for money as I prepped Cat2Fold and my bank account for another winter spent sailing around Western Mexico, I needed to work as much as possible. As time passed, it became obvious to me that an opportunity like this doesn’t come around often, and when I thought about the chance to run the canyon on my paddle board, I decided that I really couldn’t afford NOT to go! Unfortunately, I would also need to buy a new, inflatable style paddle board, because my old fiberglass board was just about toast, and a trip down a river like this would surely end its’ life prematurely.

Without a lot of time to spare, I shopped online for a suitable board that was not too expensive, and could be shipped to me in time for the trip. It was hard to make the final decision, but I ended up with a Wakooda GT150. This board is 12’6″ long with a nice pointy and upturned tip. It also comes with a plethora of d-rings already installed around the upper edge of the board which come in handy for many things. I added a line around the perimeter of the board, through the d-rings that I could grab a hold of should I end up in the water.

“Should I end up in the water”…HA!!! With absolutely no river running experience, end up in the water I did! I fell, or jumped in the water at least 10, if not more than 20 times per day! Over the course of 20 days (I took one day off and rowed a raft), that’s between 200-400 dunks into the murky Colorado river! My first few days, my body was killing me! Super achy hip flexors, forearm and inner thigh chafing like you wouldn’t believe, and swallowing gallons of river water (mostly through my nose) had me questioning my desire to continue on aboard the S.U.P.

After the first week of adapting to this new sport, my body was feeling better and I was getting pretty efficient at pulling myself back aboard. Not only that, but I was starting to feel quite comfortable swimming through big rapids holding onto my paddle and the board. Yes, I swam through ALOT of rapids. Even the ones that I would make it through, I would often get thrown into the murky water when the huge boiling eddies and down currents would grab my board and try to suck me down! It’s hard to explain the power of these boils on the Grand Canyon until you experience them for yourself!

We were a group of 13 folks mostly from the Jackson Hole area with a few friends hailing from different parts of Colorado. There were 4 rafts (3 big 18′ rental rafts, and one 16′ Aire owned by the trip leader, Paul) and a couple of inflatable duckies, and my Wakooda S.U.P. The duckies would be inflated and deflated as the desire struck people to run with them or just be on a raft. My S.U.P was only deflated the one day that I rafted. A day with 4 large rapids that had my buddy Josh concerned for my safety. Having nothing to prove, and not wanting to make the group deal with an injury in this extreme environment, I gladly spent the day share rowing a raft with Dr. Brian.

Day after day, camp was set up and taken down. Rafts unpacked and re-packed. As you can imagine, it took us a few days to get our systems dialed, but after week or so, our team was a well oiled machine! Being in a National Park meant there were lots of rules for everything! Where to pee, brush your teeth, bath, wash the dishes, where to camp, etc… Leave no trace means hauling every last item that started the trip with us at Lee’s Ferry all the way down the 226 mile long canyon to Diamond Creek, including all the food that has been consumed and reintroduced into the world as shit. Yup, that’s right. You have to haul all your poop in rocket boxes with you the entire way. So, as 3 out of the 4 rafts were actively loosing weight throughout the 3 weeks, one raft was actively gaining weight and adding an aroma to the air that was not particularly desirable, with many cans of excrement cooking in the Arizona desert heat!

The rental rafts came from a company called Pro River Outfitters. Not only did they supply 3 of the 4 the rafts, they also supplied all of our food, recipes, menu, cookware, stove, tables, coolers, and water filter. And the food that we ate was nothing short of Amazing!! I highly recommend using these guys if you ever plan to do a non-guided trip down the canyon. In hindsight, since I drove nearly 300 beers back to Jackson in the back of my truck,  we should have brought more booze and less beer. In fact, we nearly had a mutiny on day one when the non beer drinking half of the group voiced their concern (rightly so, imho) with the nearly 1600 beers we had stuffed into every available space on every raft making space a a bit tight… not to mention how heavy the rafts were. We did, however run into some desperate young men offering to pay us $5 per beer (all of it cheap yellow beer) during the last week of the trip. We didn’t take any money, but they did help us with our “burden”.

In camp, especially during layovers, there was lots to do. Forget the daily chores we all had to do, we had beer to drink, horseshoes and Bocci balls to throw, guitars to play, stories to tell and more hikes through mind blowing side canyons and waterfalls to frolic in than you can possibly imagine! Being on the river in the Grand Canyon for three weeks was like being on another world! Speaking of another world, check out this guys’ title…

“Dr. Brian M. Hynek- Associate Professor and Director of the CU Center for Astrobiology Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics Department of Geological Sciences”

Ummm…Yeah. So we had along someone who could tell us the geologic story the rocks were showing us, and the story changed everyday we cut deeper and deeper into the canyon with different rock formations appearing from different eras. Not only was he a great geologic resource to have along, he was a heck of a good time (as were most of the group)!!!

So, with a trip down the Big Ditch under my belt, I can honestly say that if you ever get an opportunity to get on one of these trips…GO!!! Do not be too busy, too poor, too scared, too distracted, not interested, etc… This trip was not officially on my bucket list of things to do. I chuckle now, thinking that I was almost that guy who was too busy and too broke and too distracted to go. And, as someone who has skied, biked, and sailed in some of the most AMAZING places on this earth, I am absolutely thrilled to have had the opportunity to go down the Grand Canyon. I would do it again in a heartbeat! And I would do it again on my paddle board (including the section where I took the day off). So, if anyone out there reading this is planning a Grand Canyon trip and you have spaces to fill, I know a strong, long, handy, smile wearing, guitar playing, energetic, paddle boarding, fun loving, adventurous dude who would add positive vibrations to any group out there.

ROCK ON! AND F@CK YEAH!!!!

 

Rain in the Dry season…global weirding continued

Well, coming to the San Patricio area to check out the crazy, week long celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, hasn’t quite come to fruition like we had hoped for. After a tremendous sail out of Bahia Tenacatita, we caught up to some friends who had left a few hours before us, but decided to not follow them into the Barra de Navidad Lagoon, instead choosing the more exposed anchorage just off San Patricio/Melaque. Maneuvering C2F under full sail within the tight confines of the anchorage’s numerous pangas, rocks, sailboats, fishing pen and nets, is a task made significantly more difficult by the particularly swirly winds encountered up at the head of the anchorage, in the lee of the surrounding mountains. Using the other sailboats as our wind gauge, it was clear that we were in completely different winds than they, as we flew upwind at 7 knots at what appeared to be the same point of sail as the anchored boats who were facing straight up into the wind. Knowing this, we planned our route carefully and anticipated the changing wind direction. After the last tack, 20-30 yards off the beach, we bore off downwind, dropped one sail, then dropped the hook, knowing the moment it decidedly grasped deeply into terra firma by the sudden deceleration and subsequent “one-eighty” felt aboard this nimble craft, as we settle into the regular, bows into the wind anchor position. 

Immediately after getting situated, I paddled into Melaque to get some internet and learn more about the schedule of festivities. I discovered that the party started after 9pm more or less every night of the week prior to, and culminating on March 17, but feeling uncertain of where I had left my board, plus with what seemed like hours to spare, I decided to head back to C2F for a bit of pre-party preperation. On the way back I ran into a young couple aboard aboard a boat called Tipsea also heading back out to the anchorage. 

Matt, Brittany, and I chatted while hanging outside their boat for quite a while. They in their inflatable dinghy being rowed, I on the paddleboard. They had watched the sporty anchor setting maneuver, and with Matt’s  youthful exuberance wanting to check Cat2Fold out, in no time at all we were deep into heavy conversation about C2F, sailing, and life in general. They’re in their mid twenties and plan on sailing across the Pacific to the Marquesas with very little money and somewhat limited experience. A good candidate to come visit “F@ck Yeah-topia” for a bit!😜 After they left, I noticed some good live reggae music from somewhere on shore. I felt tired, but with a deep inhalation, I told myself that if it were before 10pm, I’d head in to shore to find the music. I pushed the button. It was midnight. 😴

The next day, a big storm was supposed to move into the area. So in anticipation, Cat2Fold and I, and Tipsea moved into the much more protected Barra de Navidad Lagoon, where everybody else in the fleet, and their mothers, were already snugly anchored awaiting the weather. I had always laughed when hearing about boats running aground inside the lagoon which seems to be a near daily occurrence here. With the less than two foot draft of Cat2Fold, surely, a grounding was unlikely, but, how quickly one can be reminded of the nearly five foot draft of the rudders when one kicks up in three feet of water…😳😳😳 Earlier in the morning, during the morning net, I was able to locate the much sought after set of guitar strings. I have been going through strings at an alarming rate on the boat, and there was a couple on a boat in the marina not needing their extra set, and willing to part with them for coconuts. As soon as I was anchored firmly in less than six feet of water, I paddleboarded into the marina to procure my strings. 

When I returned to Cat2Fold, I decided that with the weather just moving in, but not really there yet, I would paddleboard around the lagoon for a bit then, head back to Melaque with the ambition of coffeeing up, and going out late night, because the following few nights were supposed to be RAINY!!!  I swung by s/v Hemisphere Dancer to say hi and share my plans for the evening. Larry and I joked about how embarrassing it would be for me to ground the very shallow drafted vessel. As I motored my way back out of the tricky, damn-near-invisible channel, I yet again found a very skinny section of water with both rudders kicking up simultaneously…a quick glance around along with radio silence assured me that no one, especially Larry noticed the screw up. 😳

The sun was setting as we motored the short two miles over to Melaque. Their were only two other boats with no one aboard in the anchorage. In the time it took for me to make my coffee and get powered up to go out, the wind picked up and changed direction putting us inside of a very dangerous, three sided lee shore. It wasn’t crazy  bad where we needed to leave immediately, but all of a sudden, I didn’t feel like going out to party, and leave Cat2Fold alone to fend for herself. So, jacked up on coffee at 9pm, I rocked my new set of strings all night long, astounded at the beautiful change in tone a string change can make.  First thing in the morning, we motored back over to our spot within the lagoon, careful to not continue the testing of the kick-up rudders, in anticipation for the huge rain storm working its way towards us. 

As I sit here writing this blog entry, I’m sitting inside the very moist tent area where I live most of the time. We’ve had nearly 36 hours of rain. Sometimes coming down in buckets. I’ve played enough guitar in that time period to have already broken my brand new g-string. Of all the strings to break, why oh why do I always lose my g-string first?!? Last night the winds got up into the mid thirties, and when combined with the thunder and lightning surrounding the fleet, everybody slept quite lightly keeping one eye open, on the lookout for dragging vessels coming down on them. 

…it’s now 24 hours since I initially started writing this blog. Yesterday evening, the rain stopped. I capitalized on the moment and went paddling around through the anchorage. It felt good to get out of hiding. I visited a few boats in the anchorage, and with a collective sigh of relief, everyone I spoke to was overly ready for this storm to be done! I ended up going aboard s/v Vagrant, another freak boat in the anchorage (a junk rigged steel boat), for some cocktails and dinner. Shane and Tina are preparing for their third trip out deep into the Pacific Ocean, with no set date for return. We talked well into the night about sailing and cruising with kids, boats, and some of their earlier adventures. I paddled back over to Cat2Fold in the dark, incredibly happy to see stars and NO RAIN!!! Upon returning, I opened up the sides of the tent in anticipation for a nice, airy night of sleep. When I awoke, I started planning my day, which mostly revolved around hanging things up to dry, and opening doors, windows and hatches. As soon as I put the coffee on in the port hull, the rain started back up. Light at first, but now, as I sit in my tent watching the same f@cking rain channel on my imaginary TV, it is starting to become comical. Yesterday, knowing that the rain was supposed to go all day, it was easy to spiritually join in with the fleet and start drinking whenever the fancy struck. Today, the rain is SUPPOSED to stop, so I’m doing my best at holding off  til later so I can hopefully get something done if/when this onslaught finally passes us by. 

With three entirely separate living spaces aboard Cat2Fold, and the acres of awesome outdoor deck space, what makes Cat2Fold the perfect vessel to be aboard during the TYPICAL Mexican dry season, becomes a clear liability when the weather gods decide to throw inches and inches of rain at us. All I can do is wait for what appears to be a bit of a lull in the moisture then sprint as fast as I can to get into the necessary hull whether to cook, change clothes or just brush my teeth. Today is St. Patrick’s day itself. I really hope that this rain does go away so the festivities in San Patricio can go on with the full glory that only homemade fireworks, dangerously set off by drunk locals in a time honored tradition, can provide…where your safety glasses!

!VIVA MEXICO! (…but, f@ck the rain)

Sailing the Mexican Riviera    Part 2-A month and a half in Bahia Chamela

Bahia Chamela, located about 90 miles south of Bahia Banderas, is a bay used by many cruisers heading north or south, but rarely does any boat stay here for more than a couple of days. It is, more or less, the last well protected anchorage for northbound vessels before Banderas Bay, and the first one for southbound. Unfortunately (or fortunately), landing a dinghy on the swell exposed beach can be a daunting task, and more often than not, most cruisers don’t even bother trying. Besides, the Village of Perula is a very small town and does not have much to offer cruisers in the lines of re-stocking supplies, repairs, or entertainment. However, there is one shining star in this small, dusty town that offers amazing international cuisine, live music weekly and an ambiance not readily seen in these parts of Mexico. The Scuba Jazz Cafe!!!

Even though we have anchored many times over the past three seasons just outside of Perula, we only discovered this gem of a hang out towards the end of last season. Scuba Jazz Cafe is owned by a Frenchman named Gilles and his Mexican wife Sayra. It’s hard to even begin to explain just how good every morsel of food that comes out of the tiny kitchen run by Sayra and her family is. So, as soon as I awoke on the first morning of our stay in Perula, I paddled into town and devoured an “omelette con todo”. I swear these women can either whip some kharmic love energy directly into the fluffy eggs or they’re lacing the stuff with heroine, because as soon as I finish a dish…I want MORE!!!  (…then again, I have been labeled a “more-monger”, with absolutely everything I like😉

While sitting and enjoying my cafe latte (real espresso in a town where you can ONLY buy instant coffee), I got on the Internet and went though old emails looking for any contacts I had made the last year with the Norwegian reality TV show, “Paradise Hotel”, and all my friends that work as crew for the show. I got a response from Thailand, and one from Norway, but then, slowly but surely, I started getting responses from the nearby hotel they use as crew base for filming the show. The stage was set. Cat2Fold and I were once again going to be the entertainment hub for the crew of Norwegian workers. Before closing shop and heading back to the boat, a few more people came onto the patio for breakfast.  It wasn’t long before we were recognized from the previous year, and before I knew it, we had a group of friends to go sailing with lined up for the very next day. 😀

With the open mesh trampoline of the minicat 420, and the need to launch the boat from the beach through the sometimes crashing surf, friends are informed to be prepared to get wet. I bring multiple dry bags to put stuff that needs to stay dry in, and people usually just where their bathing suits. Sometimes folks even enjoy swimming out to the boat to save a dinghy trip or two. Occasionally we can miraculously make it out with only wet feet, but it’s better to just plan on getting wet from the start. Over the course of the next month and a half, I had successfully ferried nearly 100 friends to and from Cat2Fold to go sailing without drama…that is, until the last trip of Norwegians…

With a group of 10 scheduled to come out just two days before most of them were flying home, an unusually large western swell rolled into the area. Waves eight feet and higher were rolling in one after another with no apparent break in any of the sets. With most of us gathered on the beach, we got the dinghy loaded with all the “stuff” (beer, ice, wine, champagne, water, dry bags of clothes and cameras, etc…), and two dudes, and me. We floated the heavily laden cat in the water and while waiting there, trying to keep the boat pointed in the correct direction, a strong rip current washed one of the handlers under the boat putting the scare in him right away. We got re-situated and waited. With my best guess on timing to get out between waves, I yelled to push and jump on which we all did perfectly. I lowered the electric trolling motor quickly and gunned it (which often leaves you wondering for a moment whether the battery is really hooked up). In the split second it took to do that and looked up, a HUGE F@CKING WAVE was towering above us. There was no time to turn around. The motor was not gonna get us out and over it in time. I had enough time and composure to tell my two buddies that ,”We’re Fucked!!!”… and, we were. The next thing I knew, we were in a washing machine. I heard elevator music playing in my head while tumbling with no known way up, down, in or out. Quite a surreal backflip into a rinse cycle really. When I came to, I was holding the handle to the electric motor which was still spinning on full rev detached from the boat but tangled up in some dry bag straps lying underneath the overturned dinghy. Luckily, no one was hurt. As I struggled with righting the dinghy, stopping the runaway motor and reattaching it to the boat, everyone was out trying to collect our floating yard sale. Items lost: 3 bottles of champagne, 2 bottles of wine, a bag and a half of ice, and my sunglasses. Items dinged: my confidence. Luckily, a pangalero (mexican fisherman) saw our fantastic wipe out and backed his panga in to our spot and shipped everyone and all their stuff out to Cat2Fold in one trip. I, but not without hesitation, was able to motor the MiniCat out to Cat2Fold through the sets of waves still rolling in HUGE! Ultimately it became a trip that no one will ever forget, with everyone arriving to shore safely after another amazing day on the water.

We had no plan on staying in Bahia Chamela for as long as we did, but of course the best plan while cruising is to have no plan. With the numerous islands to anchor in and around, a surf break that has the perfect paddleboard wave, and my new friends in Perula and Xametla (near the surf break), it became incredibly hard to raise anchor and finally leave Bahia Chamela. Luckily we’ll be stopping in again in just a few short weeks…😃