We’re not in Idaho anymore…

There are some things in life that just can’t be experienced sitting in the safety of an armchair, within the protected confines of a lovely living room in middle America…
With C2F anchored in 10 feet of water, about 100 yards off the beautiful Playa La Ropa, within Bahia Zihuatenejo, Deidre and I decided to paddle board to our usual spot on the beach, and go for a hike. With nice, little waves rolling onto the beach, I was excited about catching one and riding it in to the end. As we were approaching the beginning of the break (about 25 yards from shore), I started to notice the fairly large crowd, which appeared to include some cops/search and rescue types gathered on the beach directly in front of us. With a building set of waves coming that I wanted/needed to pay attention to, I somehow was able to notice that the crowd was trying to tell us not to come in. “What? Why?” We’re my first two thoughts. “Here comes a big wave”, says Deidre, at exactly the same time that I realize what is going on…
Letting the wave slip under my feet, I try and calmly paddle the board away from the shore and even more calmly explain to Deidre that the crowd is telling us there is a crocodile in the water and we need to paddle away from there. After a quick “shriek”, we gathered ourselves and paddled up the beach to a safer landing area. Once on the beach we heard all the various stories as to how dangerous and/or totally tame that particular Croc was. Well, tame or not, there is no need to try and surf over one.
We went for our hike over to Playa Principal (the main beach directly in front of Zihuatenejo). Beautiful town and area! When we returned to Playa La Ropa, the crowd had settled down some, but the search and rescue folks were still on the scene, tracking the croc. We watched for a while, then the time came to head back to the boat. With cocktails in hand, and the beach cloaked in darkness, we were lucky enough to be able to watch the large reptile become apprehended.
As you can maybe imagine, the men put in charge of trapping the croc weren’t armed with guns, tranquilizer’s, or cages. All they had was a 10′-12′ long piece of bamboo with a line on the end (to try and loop around the croc’s mouth), a flashlight, some mad skills, and some “grande cojones”. Watching from the safety of Cat2Fold, we heard a large splash, some yelling and a saw a bright flashlight light up the beach. 3-4 men were able to get the loop around the croc’s mouth and drag it up out of the water and onto the beach. With all the squirming and wrestling going on, the croc appeared to become free from the snare around its mouth. That’s when “super-bad-ass-croc-hunter-man” among men stepped onto the stage. With all the other croc-hunters wearing black uniforms and boots, this guy with shorts, tee shirt and no shoes calmly removed his tee shirt, placed it directly on the crocs head, waited about one second, then jumped on the crocs back. There didn’t appear to be much of a fight at that point. Maybe because the croc could feel the coconut sized cojones this guy obviously had, or maybe he was just done fighting. Our super hero just laid down on the croc, reached over his head and held the mouth closed while the other guys tied it securely.
There was a lot of camera flashes and posing going on for the next few minutes. Then the team dragged the huge beast up the beach and disappeared into the darkness. We’re still not sure if that croc was put into a refuge, or onto a dinner plate, but we both feel lucky to have witnessed such an event that you never really get to see up in the mountains of Idaho.

Manzanillo to Zihuatenejo

As the sun rises over the sleepy fishing village of Caleta de Campos, the sound of the huge crashing surf is a constant reminder of just how far south we have sailed. Our current anchorage lies just 75 miles NW of Zihuatenejo, a popular destination among surfers, sailors, and fellow northerners looking to escape the deep freeze of their respective homelands. Along with larger, more consistent surf comes longer sailing passages between safe anchorages, and much more challenging dinghy landings, or in our case, paddleboard landings.
Most folks speak about sailing the nearly 200 mile passage from Manzanillo to Zihuat in a single, long, overnight push. Some choose this because the handful of available stops are poorly protected anchorages with a lot of swell finding its way in, leaving one to restlessly debate throughout the night whether or not stopping was a good idea. Others bypass this section of the Michoacan coast for fear of banditos or somehow getting entangled in the ever present war on drugs. The state of Michoacan is infamous for growing large amounts of Marijuana. With Cat2Fold’s ability to handle swell better than most boats due to her wide beam, and my ever present ability to sniff out the good and the bad “mota” folk, we decided to try and day sail our way down the coast.
Our first anchorage, Cabeza Negra, 50 miles SE of Manzanillo was one of the former anchorages. Arriving just before sunset, we made the mistake of not taking the time to set up a stern anchor. The swell, which clearly had been building throughout our day sail, wrapped its way into our anchorage, hitting Cat2Fold directly abeam, turning our flat stable sleeping platform into a thrusting, gyrating, hop and pop sort of sleepless event. A middle of the night, half hearted attempt at setting a stern anchor did nothing to solve the dilemma (albeit for a measly 15 minutes), and in fact almost turned a bad situation worse by wrapping itself around our main ground tackle. Luckily, this was not noticed at all until morning, during the retrieval of our dual anchor setup.
Wasting no time hanging out in the not so peaceful anchorage, our next stop was a small village called Maruata, some 30 miles down the coast. We ventured ashore to stretch our legs and have a look around. We were also in search of an Internet connection so Deidre could continue working from the boat. I felt like the beach and the whole village was dead. With no internet connection to be found, and more empty palapa’s then people, we headed back to C2F. I couldn’t help but wonder why this cute little town seemed so empty. Oh well, with better protection afforded in this anchorage by the surrounding rocky islets jutting out from its’ northwestern side, and a swell subsiding by the hour, Deidre and I finally caught up on some much needed rest.
In the morning, our journey south continued. We had nearly 40 miles to sail to the next semi-protected anchorage, Caleta de Campos. Here we found an anchorage with pretty good protection from the ever present swell, and also, a thriving little beach community. Our first night here, we were (gladly) kept awake late into the night by a raucous, Mexican “Ooompah-pah” band. Having never seen this type of party music live, I was enthralled with the sound. In hindsight, we should have rallied, got up out of bed and gone to see the music. The next day, I learned that the music party should continue the next couple of nights, so Deidre and I made a plan to have dinner on the beach that evening, with hopes of catching the performance. Unfortunately, the info was incorrect, the music was done here at Caleta de Campos.
Nevertheless, 4 days have passed as we have become enchanted with this amazing spot. We are only one long day sail away from Zihuatenejo, and with “SailFest” being more than two weeks away, we are finding ourselves in no hurry to be anywhere…might as well be here…

Photos from some of Cat2Fold’s adventures in Mexico ~ 2 weeks worth…

Heading South…

Sitting at anchor in a town called Cuastecomate (or Secret Anchorage), as we slowly work our way South to Zihuatenejo, “Mexican time” is starting to take over.
Minutes turn into hours.
Hours turn into days.
As the days lazily turn into weeks, I’m finding it hard to stay motivated to keep the blog up to date…
So here is my attempt at recapping the past month…

Having the kids aboard for two weeks in December was the highlight of our trip so far. Between taking part in all the local sailing events, seeing whales and dolphins by the pound, hanging out with kid friends of old (Indigo from Teton Valley) and new (Shandro and Matero from s/v Kenta Anae), sailing to every possible anchorage within Banderas Bay, and last but not least, enjoying the amazing pools and beaches in and around Paradise Village Marina, Georgie and Beo were treated to a life seldom experienced by most 5 and 7 year olds.
In fact visiting with full time live aboard families, and witnessing just how well behaved, organized, disciplined, inquisitive, and intriguing these kids can be, helps me to more readily digest my decision to live aboard C2F in Mexico for 1/2 the year even if my kids are only “allowed” to come aboard for 2-two week visits throughout the 6 months. I strongly feel that I have more to offer them on board the boat than I do by going through the motions of being an “every-other-weekend-Dad” living in the same remote mountain valley, offering the same mountain life that the Mom is already quite capable of offering. Unfortunately two weeks is nowhere near long enough to truly experience “life aboard”. I can only hope that in the years to come, the value of this alternative life will be recognized, and longer visits will not only be allowed, but appreciated.
After the kids flew home, Deidre and I spent another couple nights in La Cruz picking up our freshly re-repaired drifter sail, then participating in one other “around the cans” race. We were glad to have our big front sail back in action due to more light winds that plagued most of the racing events we had already partaken in. During this races’ upwind leg, we tried something we had never done before, we flew a headsail on each mast! With the jib pulling on the windward mast and the drifter pulling on the leeward, both mainsails up fully, sheeted in tight, we were able to pull the strings into all the right spots to get some magical apparent wind created. We were ghosting up the coast, catching up to the fleet (our starts still need ALOT of work), while everyone else appeared to be stopped! We still need to get pics of the 4 sails up at once. The race came to a sad conclusion when we discovered that the turn around mark was stolen!!! (later to be found that it had been returned to the yacht club by a concerned fisherman)
The next morning, we sailed out to Punta de Mita, and in typical cruisers style, we changed our minds once again and decided to head south. At 11:30am we sailed through all the boats in the anchorage that we knew, said “hi/bye”, and turned around and sailed out of Banderas Bay, around Cabo Corrientes through the night en route to Bahia Chamela. With a full moon shining bright, we enjoyed a perfectly aligned swell to our direction of travel that made our 100 mile passage a surf session nirvana for many hours on end. Early on in the evening, while comfortably surfing at speeds ranging from 8-11 knots, a large wave caught up to us at the same time as a little puff came and we raced off down the face of the wave. The acceleration sent me back on my heels. The surf lasted for nearly a minute and we reached a top speed of 13.5 knots! It was exhilarating and nerve wracking all wrapped up into one…like a pig in a blanket.
We found ourselves staying in Bahia Chamela for a little over a week. With overly friendly fellow cruisers and locals, crystal clear warm waters, a long beach to run and play on, and 3 solid days of rain (it NEVER rains in this part of Mexico during this season), our decision to stay for that long was much easier to make. Our next stop, Paraiso, was only a few miles down the coast. We spent the night by ourselves in the “unreccommended” northern lobe. The next day we enjoyed a nice paddleboard session, a walk on shore, and some not-so-good snorkeling that was due to bad visibility from the fairly large (and getting larger) swells. When the wind picked up, I no longer felt like we were in a safe anchorage. At 3:30 pm, we made the decision to up anchor and sail the 21 miles south to Bahia Tenacatita.
Motoring out of the anchorage was as intense as it gets. Navigating through rocks and reefs within spitting distance of the boat, we battled a 17-20 knot headwind directly into 10+ foot swell that was our only way out to sea. Once out far enough, I raised the mainsails with double reefs placed in each sail, we turned downwind and entered the world of calm, smooth sailing. It’s hard to describe with words how much more pleasant downwind sailing is compared to upwind sailing (or motoring). So, with two mainsails the size of largish windsurfer sails, we sailed between 8-10 knots, with no stress, all the way to Tenacatita.
In Tenacatita, we anchored in true multihull fashion by setting a stern anchor up on the beach. By this I mean I stepped off the back of C2F in 3′ of water and walked the stern anchor up onto the beach. Nothing like being able to walk to shore from the boat if you want to! Tenacatita has a somewhat organized community of cruisers including its own self appointed Mayor. Some folks obviously appreciate this, others can’t stand it. We participated in the swim to shore, then a game of bocci ball on the beach. It was OK fun, but we didn’t do it again.
After a couple of days in Tenacatita, we enjoyed another brisk downwind sail to Cuastecomate. “The Secret Anchorage”, is virtually invisible from boats traveling north or south along this jagged and rocky section of the Gold Coast. Only once deep into the bay does the hidden anchorage reveal itself. A cute little town, with a short walk to provisions and some great snorkeling make it easy for us to stay longer than planned. One more day here, then our journey south continues.

A week spent in Chamela