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!

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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…😃















































Sailing south along the Mexican Riviera     Part 1- Punta de Mita to Bahia Chamela





January 26. After a restless night of strong easterlies churning up the outlying anchorages of Banderas Bay, we decided to take advantage of the untypical breeze and continue on our journey south. Anchored in Punta Mita for the last few days, enjoying some splendid paddle surfing with friends, it can be very hard to make the final decision on when to leave. The surf was great, the company was even better, but at some point the “just one more-itis” has to stop, and destinations further down the horizon have a stronger draw than catching the next set of waves. Besides, I had already over served myself over the past few days with too large a helping of orgasmic liquid hills to slide down, and now my body (shoulder) was paying the price. Two days before, I had consulted with Rob on s/v Shindig, and all weather indicators were saying that a Monday (Jan. 26) departure should be a good day to head south. Shindig then headed to La Cruz for one last dock party, which we avoided, if only because we would have to yet again pry ourselves away from the money spending good time that is La Cruz de Huanacaxtle. 



Out in Punta de Mita, we are out of VHF range from La Cruz where a very informative morning radio net happens six days a week. Unable to catch the weather, and unable to communicate with my fellow boat friends who talked about heading out Monday morning, I made the decision to weigh anchor and start the nearly 100 mile sail south to Chamela Bay hoping we would run into our friends enroute. Instantly, we caught the easterly winds that blew hard all night and raced out to the Tres Marietas islands, where unfortunately, the wind just died. I took the opportunity to cook myself a good breakfast, and learned through some very spotty radio reception, that our friends decided to wait until Tuesday to leave La Cruz. We thought about turning around. We had no new weather info onboard to consult, but thought that maybe our friends received a more recent forecast which swayed their decision to stay. We continued on our way, but not without second guessing the decision at least 100 times. The wind stayed light enough for the next three hours, that when coupled with the overcast conditions causing us  to be low on battery power, we decided to motor sail for a while, and hope for the best. A bit over two hours later, the wind filled in, the engine was shut down, the upside down spinnaker was hoist between the masts, and we gradually sped up, with the sides of my shit eating grin proportionally getting higher with each knot in speed we gained. 



Punta Ipala is a potential anchorage to use on this otherwise long and exposed section of coast if one wants to break up the long trip to Bahia Chamela. It is a small, and often rolly anchorage that we had entertained stopping at if sailing much slower than anticipated. Luckily, as we approached the Ipala area, the wind had filled in so nicely, we decided to drop the spinnaker and continue on what was starting to become a FAST downhill sled ride. From about 3pm, just outside of Ipala, until 9 pm, when we dropped the hook in Chamela, the sail south was out of this world! We were catching surf after surf after surf! In between surfs, my speed never dropped much below 8 knots, and while skidding down the freshly formed slopes, we would sustain speeds over 13 knots for what seemed an eternity!  We covered nearly 60 miles in the last 6 hours…which is a DAMNFAST average for this 36′ cat! We horizon jobbed another boat faster than we’ve ever witnessed before. A “horizon job” is when you see a boat on the distant horizon, catch it and watch it disappear from sight on the horizon behind you. In the world of sailing, sometimes a “horizon job” can take days and days. This one lasted 2&1/2 hours.     …at this point my cheeks were really starting to burn…😁

At sunset a couple of reefs were tucked into the sails without ever changing our course, heading straight downwind and downswell. We barely slowed our pace at all. I’m continuously astounded by C2F’s ability to easily sail deep and/or dead downwind and catch surf after surf, often times sailing DDW faster than the wind itself. This is generally impossible with most sailboats, and really, the conditions have to be just perfect for this to happen on C2F. Having the hook down by 9pm afforded a perfect night’s sleep. 

Coming up…the Nowegians in Bahia Chamela…

Alexa

Alexa. Thanks for your help, love, understanding, compassion and patience.

You are a BEAUTIFUL SPIRIT, and the world is a better place with you!!!

We miss you!

 

“Racing” with S/V Seaward

Cat2Fold and I are on the water sailing every single day down here in Mexico. And, every time we go out, we are constantly looking for other sails to “race”. Never, ever have we had such a spirited competitor as when we sailed with S/V Seaward. An 82′ long and lean, powerful schooner! With about 15 people up on deck, they put out more effort to pass us than anyone else has ever done! Pulling more and more sails up from below decks to try and catch us as we sailed for well over an hour in a direction that neither of us were heading. Thanks for the fun Seaward!!!

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Pics from Bahia Tenacatita and Bahia Chamela