Southwesterlies, Timbabiche, Bahia Agua Verde, and Puerto Escondido

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Leaving Isla Partida, we raised our sails and excitedly realized that the weather disturbance that was moving in was creating southerly winds. We were expecting northerly winds for our entire trip up to Guaymas/San Carlos, which is the norm for this time of year. With the days’ initial goal of 17 miles to Isla San Fransisco covered in just over 2 hours, and while comfortably hitting a top speed of 13.1 knots, we decided to change our plans and “make hay while the sun was shining”. The sailing was absolutely phenomenal and the seas were totally flat. With the incredibly picturesque, Sierra de la Giganta mountains as our western backdrop, we saw and heard the loud “slap” of whales breaching eerily close to the boat. After changing our minds 5 times throughout the day, we ended up sailing over 50 miles and spent that night at Bahia San Carlos/Timbabiche.
Besides a group of sea kayakers that were camped out on the beach nearby, we were the only boat in the anchorage. The wind blew from the southwest pretty hard all night. In the morning, while I was preparing to eat my freshly cooked breakfast, a local approached us in a fishing panga, eyeing my outboard motors, asking for gasoline, and warning us of “banditos”. He only spoke Spanish, but we were able to figure out that his outboard had been stolen, he was borrowing his friends outboard, and he was begging us for some gasoline. He didn’t want money, just gas. I don’t usually do handouts, so I tried to see if he had anything to trade…Pescado? Mota? He had nothing. I wanted to eat my breakfast and get moving so we said our goodbyes and untied him from the boat. He went away sad…but, oh well. You can’t please everyone.
After breakfast, we raised our double reefed mainsails and sped out of the anchorage at 8 knots. Less than an hour later, the winds died and then shifted to the more typical west/northwest. We were still able to sail the entire way to Bahia Agua Verde, and arrived mid afternoon under spinnaker and one mainsail. Immediately after dropping anchor, we paddle boarded into the beach to have a walk around “town”. We saw a couple of spotted eagle rays that had to be close to 3 feet wide, and a huge moray eel all from the relative viewing safety of the stand up paddle boards.
Agua Verde is home to maybe 100 people. There are a couple of small goat dairy farms, and a small school. However, there are no power lines, no cell towers, no wifi, no restaurants, and no stores. Very basic living for a handful of hardy families. After some amazing handmade Margaritas on the boat, and some rounds of guitar playing, we spent a very calm and peaceful night sleeping very soundly.
With absolutely no cell coverage anywhere nearby, and Deidre needing to be in touch with her boss, we raised anchor very early and snuck out of the tranquil, sleepy anchorage. As we sailed out of the bay, the day was appearing like it was going to be a very light wind day. But, less than 1/2 an hour into our sail, we were being over powered by some land effect winds, whipping down from the very nearby Sierra de la Giganta mountains. With winds blowing between 20 and 30 knots, I placed double reefs in both my mainsails as quickly and efficiently as possible. While still feeling a little puckered from the sailing conditions, I decided to hail the Agua Verde anchorage and let anyone listening know of the conditions going on just around the corner. About 10 minutes later, I was able to catch bits and pieces of the morning VHF net coming out of Puerto Escondido, less than 15 miles away. The current weather condition was announced. “Winds from the west at 1.5 knots”. Wow! Very localized conditions we were in! Within the next half hour, the winds did virtually die, and all was calm and peaceful again.
We arrived at Puerto Escondido and received our first updated weather report since leaving La Paz. With the news of some strong Northers coming down the sea for the next few days, we decided to hang tight within the nearly 360 degree protected anchorage and catch up on work and Internet time.
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Puerto Escondido and Steinbeck Canyon

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Pulling into the protected bay of Puerto Escondido, I was surprised to learn that a “per foot” charge was assessed to every vessel whether using one of their many mooring balls or swinging on your own anchor. Having gotten to the point of really trusting and loving my 22 lb. Rocna anchor, I decided it would be best if we just used it, like we normally do, rather than hooking on to a mooring whose condition was unknown and appearing to be marginal at best. I really didn’t like having to pay to anchor, but we sucked it up and paid the $13-14 USD (for a 36′ boat) per night. Well at least we paid for 2 out of 3 nights. 😉
The public Internet wifi system didn’t work. “Maybe tomorrow”. The gasoline pumps didn’t work. “Maybe tomorrow”. Seems like everyone who worked there knew at least those two English words, “maybe tomorrow”. So, with Deidre needing to get online to get some work done, we waited outside the one restaurant there at the marina that was supposed to open at noon so we could buy a drink or something and get their passcode. They opened the doors at nearly one pm. (such is life in Mexico!). With an Internet connection finally established, I was tooling around on Facebook, after posting about some Blog entries that I had just updated, and I found a personal message from an old friend I hadn’t heard from in quite a while. Mac Dukart had spent some time sailing around the Sea of Cortez in years past and had anchored in some of the same anchorages we were now visiting. He highly recommended a hike not very far from the marina that led up a canyon, deep into the Sierra de la Giganta range. Tabor canyon is the name of it, but it is also known as “Steinbeck” canyon, after the one and only, John Steinbeck. I had the pleasure of messaging back and forth for a bit that evening with my old red headed friend. I took his suggestion as more than a simple recommendation, I interpreted it as a message from “gawd”.
Two days later, we walked the 2-3 miles up the road to the beginning of the canyon trailhead. Tabor canyon is not the place to find yourself during any sort of rainstorm. It doesn’t seem like that ever happens here in this super dry, desert environment, but I guess it does on occasion, and they even call summer the “wet season” here. The hike goes up, over, around, through, and under boulders of all shapes, colors, sizes, and geologic origin. Luckily Mac had already informed us of a spot that is reached during the hike, where a HUGE chockstone appears to be blocking the trail, with no way around it. This is where the “through” part comes in. Peering into the shadows underneath the three-story house sized boulder, cairns start to emerge deep inside the smallish cave, once your eyes adjust to the darkness. Once in, the light at the end of the tunnel becomes the obvious goal out. In places, backpacks must come off and be handed up because the tunnel is just too small to navigate with such encumbrances attached to the body. Once out of the first tunnel, there is another one immediately after. All in all, that section of trail added a sense of adventure that will live long in my memory.
As we got ever higher up into the mountains, water started to appear. First in the form of an algae filled trickle down some rocks, then small pools started to show up. After hiking up the canyon for approximately 2 hours, and having reached a pool of fresh, clean water that was waist deep, we decided it was time to turn around and head back to Cat2Fold, but not before a cool, refreshing dip!
As Deidre was slowly undressing, I quickly got naked and belly flopped in before she even knew what was going on. WeeHoo! With all the route finding and down-climbing necessary, the way back down took as long and was as much effort as our way up.
Now, sitting about 20 miles north of Puerto Escondido in Puerto Ballandra while continuing our northward journey up into the Sea of Cortez, we are getting closer and closer to our final destination of San Carlos. Some parts of me are sad to see this trip coming to an end, but I am very anxious to be with my kids, Georgie and Beo. The 5 months of time I’ve spent aboard Cat2Fold on the water this past fall/winter has given me a whole new set of skills and confidence that I look forward to sharing with them and others. I feel incredibly lucky to have taken this opportunity and making it happen. Although the further north we get, the colder the water is becoming, the warm desert sun is urging me to jump in, yet again! Continue reading

Close Encounter of the friendly kind…

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We didn’t have much wind yesterday for our 24 mile sail from Puerto Ballandra to Caleta San Juanico. It started off with barely anything, then we started getting a bit of a NE breeze. At times we were sailing in excess of 6 knots with no seas at all. Very pleasant conditions. Then the wind decided to ease off, leaving us drifting along at just over 1 knot. I was able to use the spinnaker and we started seeing 2.5-3 knots again. I figured we’d start motoring when necessary to make sure we arrived at our destination before dark. We always try to sail rather than motor whenever possible. Not only is it a much more quiet an pleasant experience, it is absolutely free!
So here we are, drifting along at the pace of a turtle, music on, Deidre and I are chit chatting away, when suddenly I hear the hum of a motor behind us. I turn around and to my surprise, there is a 45′ (or so) vessel motor/sailing only a couple of boat lengths behind us, and heading right for us! I jumped up in shock, readying to alter course so as to avoid a collision, when I recognized this unique, junk-rigged, steel ketch as s/v BellaVia and our friends Jack and Monica, whom I hadn’t seen since the beginning of the month down in Punta de Mita. What a pleasant surprise! Putting their motor into neutral, we drifted along together and exchanged brief stories about where we had been, and where we were going. With Caleta San Juanico as the common destination for the night, we made a date to hang out, and have a few drinks. They slipped their boat into gear and we watched them as they slowly pulled away from us. We kept sailing (drifting) and hoping for the wind to pick up. It never did, so by 3 pm, we dropped the spinnaker and started motoring to our destination so we could arrive by 5 pm.
Cat2Fold is equipped with 2 – 9.9hp Yamaha outboard motors, and we can carry about 35 gallons of fuel. With both motors at full tilt we can cruise at just over 8 knots, but with only one going, we can still make over 6 knots while burning half the fuel. So, unless we are in an extreme hurry, or we need the maneuverability of running both, we almost always use one motor at a time, switching back and forth on different days to try and keep the hours just about even. On top of that, we try our damndest to sail to all of our destinations without even turning on a motor.
On the 20,000 lb , things are a bit different. She is equipped with a large diesel motor and 200 gallons of fuel on board. With two junk rigged sails made of plastic tarps, she doesn’t necessarily sail very well, however with their motor running at just above idle speed, Jack and Monica can cruise very efficiently at 5 knots. In fact, while motoring nearly everywhere, they haven’t had to refill their fuel since they started this cruise in Guaymas last fall! For us, trying to sail everywhere we go, we have probably gone through the same amount of gasoline as they have diesel. Interesting comparison there!
After dinner, Jack and Monica came over to Cat2Fold, where we had drinks and caught up with each other for a few hours. They are Canadians from north Vancouver Island. Jack is originally from South Africa, but moved to Canada when he was 16. I think I mentioned this somewhere here before, but Jack is probably the biggest fan of Cat2Fold that I have met. Having built his own boat, and having designed several others, he could really appreciate the amount of time, effort and engineering involved with creating this comfortable, trailerable catamaran.
Waking up to a glorious sunrise, BellaVia was already gone. Just as swiftly and quickly as they caught up to us yesterday, they silently slipped away, chasing the sunrise across the Sea of Cortez on their way to put the boat away and head back home to earn more “freedom chips”, as many of us still have to do. I’m not sure exactly when or where…maybe in Guaymas, maybe Jackson Hole, maybe up in Canada, hell, maybe only in some version of an afterlife, but I’m sure we’ll be seeing this young spirited couple once again. Cheers!

La Paz and Isla Espiritu Santo and Isla Partida

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Once in La Paz, another stock up of food, booze, fuel and water was in order. The evening we arrived, we decided a night out at the best taco stand in all of Mexico was in order. To “Rancho Viejo” we went, and disappointed, we were not! If there was any whammy to the evening, it was the fact that I was SO hungry, having not eaten anything since that mornings’ breakfast. By the time we left, I was SO full, my insides were about to explode.
The next morning, we awoke bright and early to go get our grocery shopping taken care of, fill up the remaining fuel cans, and get out of La Paz and continue our journey north. Hoping to sail out of the Mogote, I raised one mainsail, and hoisted the new-to-me spinnaker that Dave from Lightspeed had procured for me while he was in La Paz earlier in the year. It took all of about 15 seconds to realize that the heading Cat2Fold was facing while at anchor was due to tidal current rather than any apparent wind. With the spinnaker billowing backwards, wrapping itself around the mast it was on, we started drifting backward towards other boats anchored nearby. I quickly got a motor fired up, and lowered the troubled sail. For the rest of the day, there was nary a breathe of wind to be found. Bahia de La Paz was as smooth as glass all day and we ended up motoring the entire way to the northern most anchorage of Isla Partida.
Isla Partida and Isla Espirtu Santo, which are virtually connected, are the most amazing places I have ever been in my entire life. John Steinbeck spent many years here, writing about the beautiful diversity of life found nowhere else on earth, and it would be an understatement to say that I can see why he did. The crystal clear waters, teeming with life, contrasted with the red, green, and grey volcanic arroyos that give these islands more secluded anchorages than almost all the rest of Baja Sur, cannot be found anywhere else on earth. Although Deidre and I spent a lot of time here back in November and December of 2011, with and without my kids Beo and Georgie, we had absolutely no hesitation about anchoring here yet again, to indulge in the secluded splendor these islands have to offer. After witnessing a sunset that trumped any other sunset seen by this humbled human, Deidre and I settled in for a night of less than perfect sleep caused by a weather disturbance that was moving in towards Baja from far out in the mighty Pacific.

Mazatlan to La Paz

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Waking up in Stone Island Harbor (Isla Piedra) just south of Old town Mazatlan, Deidre and I once again assessed the weather, our schedule, fuel and water and decided to fuel up and head across the Sea as soon as possible. The options for fuel were to either dinghy to shore and taxi in to town with all of our gas cans or motor sail 10 miles north to the marina district and fill the boat up there. With the fact that gaining 10 more miles of north would do nothing but help our sailing angle during the 230 mile crossing and feeling like taxiing with a bunch of gas cans sounded like a pain in the ass, the decision was easy to make.
When we finally reached the entry into the marina district, after missing it on our first approach and adding a couple of extra miles of motoring, while we were entering the extremely narrow channel, we found our passage blocked by a large rusty dredger at work. With no room to pass, I was lucky to have a catamaran with two auxiliary motors enabling a quick, smooth 360 degree turn on a dime to escape the potentially dangerous situation. As we were exiting, we noticed the workers were able to move the dredger to the side of the channel giving us just enough room to enter so we could get the needed fuel and water. Trying to move as efficiently as possible so we could begin our long passage, we quickly filled our water and fuel tanks and cast off from the fuel dock only to find our passage back out to the open ocean once again blocked by the behemoth dredging machine. After treading water in the tight river channel for a few minutes, we decided to help ourselves to an open slip in Marina El Cid, to mitigate the potential dangers that surrounded Cat2Fold. Being stuck in the marina for nearly 3 hours, we decided to make some lunch and work on a few boat projects that were slowly rearing their ugly heads.
At 3 pm, as we were told, the dredger moved over allowing us about 30 feet of room to extract our 24′ wide boat. Unnerving to say the least, with a pile of rocks to port and a hulking lump of rusting steel to starboard, Cat2Fold was able to squeak through without a scratch. As soon as we reached the safety of the open water, sails were raised, and we rocketed westward toward La Paz.
Reaching speeds of 10+ knots, smashing into seas of 4-5 feet, it quickly became apparent that we were going to have to slow the boat down. That moment of realization came exactly when our front trampoline dug into a wave and bounced MANY gallons of water over the central dodger directly onto Deidre, who just so happened to be standing with her foul weather gear down around her ankles, having just answered the call of nature. With our free-flying jib lowered, and our speed reduced to 7 knots, the crossing was much more relaxing. When the winds lightened even more through the night, we also made the decision to sail a faster angle with a few less miles to cover and aimed for Ensenada de Los Muertos (bay of the dead) instead of directly to La Paz. With the occasional aid of our trusty 9.9 hp Yamaha’s, we arrived in Muertos at 1:30 am. 206 nautical miles in 34.5 hours. Not too bad.

Heading North

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Wow! How the time flies. Deidre and I have already reached Mazatlan. We’re currently motoring up to the marina area of this sprawling Mexican city so we can fill our tanks with fuel and water and start the 230 mile crossing of the Sea of Cortez to La Paz.
A week ago, Deidre arrived back in Puerto Vallarta after spending a month up in the cold snowy north. After doing a major restocking of the boat, we hurried out of Paradise Village Marina excited to get out in the open and back on the hook. Not having enough time to make it out to our favorite Banderas Bay anchorage, Punta de Mita, we spent Monday night out in La Cruz anchorage. There we were able to hook up with our dear friends from s/v Convivia. We met Convivia in the Baja Haha, yet never really hung out until, my kids, Georgie and Beo, came down for two weeks in La Paz in November. Convivia has two kids on board, Ruby (7&1/2) and Miles (4), so as you can imagine, we hung out with them as much as possible. Now, we were saying our goodbyes as Convivia and crew were preparing for their journey across the Pacific and beyond. Goodbyes are always hard, but in this new world of cruising, it felt good that we at least got to bid them farewell. Some of the most amazing people ever met, enter and exit our lives as readily as the rising and falling tides.
Ok, with that goodbye dealt with, next stop…Punta de Mita! Deidre and I absolutely love Punta de Mita. It is a nice, breezy, large anchorage with the potential for great surfing directly off the bow of the boat. We had an amazing sail out there from La Cruz, catching and passing another “Haha” boat, s/v Deep Playa, who left La Cruz several hours before us. Later that evening we heard all about how slow, but comfortable Deep Playa is, however that didn’t stop the “ass-kicking” feeling that I get every time Cat2Fold overtakes another vessel.
Arriving in the Punta de Mita anchorage, and dropping anchor under sail, we were a bit disappointed to find Jack and Monica from s/v BellaVia were no longer around. However, that feeling waned quickly when we saw s/v Lightspeed, s/v Red Witch, s/v Kiora, and s/v Wings of the Dawn joining the fleet of other “Haha” boats hogging up the entire anchorage. Apparently, we had just missed a doozy of a party the night before we arrived, but we were quickly informed that tonight was to be a birthday party for kiwi Rob (66) from s/v Red Witch. We all gathered aboard s/v Kiora (a beautiful and sleek, 55’er. With about 20 people on board, we ate, drank, and played music into the wee hours of the night. It became apparent that I had had my fair share of booze when it came time to leave aboard our trusty paddle boards. Let’s just say that I got wet a few times, but finally made it back to the safety of Cat2Fold with everything intact. Luckily falling in 70 degree water doesn’t hurt at all.
The next morning, I think I woke up still drunk, because my hangover never really happened til later that afternoon. That is when 3 out of 4 of the crew from Lightspeed came over to Cat2Fold to go on a spirited day sail. With the winds blowing between 15 and 20 knots, we raised the anchor and scooted across the bay. The sailing was spectacular, and Dave, who owns Lightspeed (a Chris White, Atlantic 42) was very excited about the sailing characteristics of Cat2Fold. We sailed around “racing” any other vessel that happened to be out sailing that afternoon. And we “won” every battle! Unfortunately our friends Winston, Cate, and Indigo from Teton Valley, Idaho did not make it out for the sail. They had just arrived in Punta de Mita, where they just bought a condo. Hopefully next year we will find ourselves back there at the same as them and we can go sailing then.
Shortly after dropping the anchor, it was time for another birthday celebration. This time it was John from s/v Michaela’s 50th birthday. I took it a little easier on the booze this time, but we still stayed up well past “cruisers midnight” (which is anywhere between 7 and 10 pm) playing music once again. John has a collection of ukuleles on board Michaela, and he really does the instrument justice.
As sad as it was to make the decision to leave, the next day we pulled the hook and said goodbye to Banderas Bay for the final time of this trip. We had some good strong winds for the first part of the day, but as the day wore on, the winds lightened and we pulled into an anchorage in Bahia Jaltemba, which was 10 miles short of our planned anchorage. The next day we motor sailed with no winds up to Matachen Bay, just south of San Blas. Just as we were reaching the bay, we caught the perfect sized Sierra Mackerel. Immediately after dinner for two was procured, and filleted, to our surprise we hooked on to another fish. This time it was some sort of Sea Catfish. Since it was not in our fish identification book, and we already had dinner caught, we decided to release this interesting looking fish. Once in Matachen Bay, we were able to pull Cat2Fold into shallow enough water where we could stand on the sea floor and scrub her very dirty hull bottoms very well.
It seems as though every single day of sailing, our plans change as to where we are going and when. We initially had spoke of leaving Matachen the next morning and heading to Isla Isabel some 40 miles away, hanging here for the afternoon, then continuing through the night to Mazatlan, another 93 miles North. I can’t remember why we decided to change our plan again, but we found ourselves raising the anchor at 8pm with the goal of reaching Mazatlan before nightfall the next day. Although we had to motor sail more than I care to, we reached our destination as dusk was settling in. Now we needed to resupply on fuel and water and try to get across the 230 mile passage of the Sea of Cortez while our weather window was looking good.
…stay tuned for more about our crossing!

Punta de Mita

Sitting in the anchorage just outside of Punta de Mita drinking my coffee, I can’t help but feel like I’ve come home. I sailed here yesterday from the Paradise Village Marina. Not before officially checking out with the “Capitania de Puerto” and paying the hefty bill that comes with leaving a boat in a marina for nearly a month. At nearly $700 USD, you’d think that it must be SO nice to stay in these marinas. Well, for some it is an absolute necessity, for me…not so much. Parking Cat2Fold amongst the multitudes of various boats, some of which cost more to fill with fuel than my boat cost (and for me, Cat2Fold is THE most expensive single item I’ve ever purchased), it becomes quite apparent that needing to be “hooked up to the grid” is more than just a bad habit of land based folks. Granted, at Paradise Village Marina, there are several different pools, hot tubs, beautiful showers and easily accessed shops and a grocery store that come with the privilege of paying for a slip, but it still feels funny to me that I have no way to “plug-in”. All of my power needs are supplied with my solar panels. What little bit of motoring I do with my 9.9 hp outboards doesn’t amount to much electrical generation. Sure, my power needs are minimal. All my lights are LED’s (or non existent) and I rely on headlamps a lot. Most of my power drain comes from the refrigerator which lives in the starboard hull, and over in the port hull, my trusty crew member named Otto (my auto-pilot) uses up his fair share of power while under passage. Not to mention the fact that I prefer to sleep up on top, in the dodger (where the king sized bed is) and I don’t wear much clothing at night. It kind of feels like camping out in a city with neighbors just a few feet away.
This brings me back to Punta De Mita. As I arrived yesterday evening, the breeze had finally picked up and seemed like it was gonna continue to blow. This after hitting speeds of nearly 10 knots just outside the Nuevo Vallarta breakwater (where Paradise Village Marina is), then having the wind basically turn itself off frustrating even the most die hard sailors. After drifting for more than two hours, I decided to fire up one motor so I could get to my desired anchorage before dark. After motor/sailing for about an hour, the winds freshened and I was able to quietly sail once again. As I was wondering if there would be anyone I knew in the anchorage, I was hailed on the radio by John and Tiffany from s/v Michaela whom I hadn’t seen since La Paz back in December. Shortly after that John and Gilly from s/v Destiny also hailed me to say hi. Although John and Gilly sailed their boat in the Baja Haha, they own a condo here in Punta de Mita which overlooks the anchorage and that is where they were calling from. In fact, back in December, while anchored out here, John recognized Cat2Fold and hailed Deidre and I with an invite to come over for Christmas dinner. I honestly didn’t remember who they were but we took them up on the invite and had a wonderful evening! Having a very recognizable boat like Cat2Fold has proven to be quite advantageous. Everyone seems to love her and she is quite the conversation piece.
I love it when I can pull into an anchorage and have it be large enough and windy enough that I can sail Cat2Fold around all the other boats to see who’s who, decide where I want to be, sail to the spot, drop the sails and drop my anchor without ever running my motors. I sailed right by another boat that I recognized. Jack and Monica aboard s/v Bellavia, a cute older hippie couple from Vancouver Island. We met in Bahia Tenacatita, about 100 miles south of here. It was perfect timing. I was really starting to stress out over work (or lack thereof), the boat and how and where to end this trip. Here I was in an absolute paradise and I was stressed out! Well, along comes Jack rowing over in his homemade dinghy. I swear it was as if he were reading my mind, and said exactly what I was needing to hear. He concurred that San Carlos/Guaymas is THE place to leave the boat for the summer and threw out some perfectly worded threads of wisdom about being here now!!! When he rowed away, I was left awestruck and feeling like he had just delivered me a message from God!(and I use that term very loosely).
The sun is now high enough to start to dry off the heavily condensated boat, which is my cue to get on with my day. I have a bunch of visiting to do, surfing to be had (although the swell appears too small currently), boat maintenance to do, and just some general hanging out!
…Ahhh…..the cruising life!