2 weeks in the workyard

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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!!!!