40 hour crossing

Only 20 miles from our little island anchorage, and we till can’t sea any land. Low lying clouds must be obscuring our view. With plenty of motoring through total calm, we are close to reaching the end of this 215 mile crossing of the Sea of Cortez, from Los Frailes, the eastern most tip of Baja to Isla Isabela. We tried to plan a passage across during a period of fresh winds, at the beginning of a moderate “Norther” and at our 3am departure from Frailes, it seemed as though we “nailed it”. We had great sailing for the first 18 or so hours, even if the seas were “a bit lumpy”. Then, by 9pm, the winds virtually disappeared.
Deciding to “sail no matter what”, is a stance we are wanting to adhere to more often. However, being on a tight-ish schedule, and having experienced the harsh nature of a norther blowing down the Sea of Cortez while only 2 or so miles away from land, the last place we want to be during a big blow is in the middle of a southern crossing. Things can get a bit daunting over 100 miles off shore.

At some point during the day yesterday, while I was trying to get some sleep in anticipation for the upcoming night watches, I was awoken by a good sized “CRACK”! It wasn’t terribly loud. Cat2Fold certainly has her own quiver of creaking and cracking, so I thought nothing more of it…until sometime later, I noticed the starboard rudder was floating up inside it’s case…
Somehow the new, 3/8″ stainless steel pivot bolt was gone!!! The rudder was only held to the boat by the 1/4″ hold down line. All the spare bolts we had on board that were 3/8″ diameter, were 1/2″ too short. In the end, I was able to wrestle a too short bolt into the hole so i could pivot the rudder into the up position. Upon further inspection, we’re fairly certain that the cracking sound I heard was the sound of the bolt breaking because of us hitting something heavy (turtle, whale, half floating debris) at 8-10 knots, and the self releasing cleat I have for just such occasions failing to operate. Luckily for us, Cat2Fold has performed flawlessly on one rudder over the past 150 miles since the break. Should be an easy enough fix once in San Blas, a mere 39 miles from Isla Isabela (which has no services at all).

In the mirrored surface of the calm sea, we saw hundreds of dolphins and turtles. The turtles were mostly lumbering about on the surface, at times appearing so lethargic that twice we saw a sizable bird using the sleeping “island” to have its own siesta.
Now, only 10 miles away, Isabela is in sight. Although we LOVE being out here on the water on a warm sunny day, with such calm seas, the endless drone of the motor has us longing for our own island siesta. Isabela is known as the “Galapagos of Mexico”, due to its large number of nesting birds and resident iguanas. Being a national park and a World Heritage Site, this protected marine environment is renowned for its world class snorkeling. With the water temp here, 8 miles out, in 170 feet of water being 82.5 degrees…maybe even Deidre can go snorkeling without a wetsuit…(;

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Dreaming of sailing

As Cat2Fold sits idly on its trailer, and I being nearly 1400 miles away trying to earn some $, I can’t help but dream of getting back on the water aboard s/v Cat2Fold in the wondrous Sea of Cortez. While perusing the Internet, looking for anything “Cat2Fold”, I happened upon this blog entry (seen below) from an interesting fellow named Zach aboard s/v Panache. You can check out his blog here.
Zachary is currently sailing across the Pacific on his 30′ boat.
I am building a log cabin for some friends, slaving in my garden, and building bike trails.
When do I take on the South Pacific?

If you sit long enough anywhere, moss will start to grow. Moss is not necessarily a bad thing, but this phenomenon was happening, green clumps of moss were growing, and the whole thing started to make me itch. I needed to get out of La Paz. It was time to buy more Top Ramen, eat one more round of tacos, and head for Isla Espirtu Santo.

The wind was not in our favor. In fact, a big southernly was supposed to finish its blow that evening, but the crew and I decided to push through the windy mess to beat out the mass of cruisers waiting to find the perfect weather window. We ended up not being alone using this strategy. Motoring out of La Paz, weaving through the maze of buoys, we found Cat 2 Fold and Convivia to keep us company. It wasn’t a race, but when you get boys behind anything that moves its always a race.

Out of the last gate of buoys the three boats turned to an aggressive port tack. To my surprise, Cat 2 Fold was making the best angle! Having two totally divided rigs makes miracles I guess, because while the two monohulls were slogging at roughly 30 degrees off the wind, Cat 2 Fold was comfortably making its way right up the coastline at about 18 degrees. Maybe the wind was different coming off the coast, but I would like to think of it as magic. Dark. Evil. Catamaran magic.

On Panache’s third tack Cat 2 Fold informed us that they had dropped the hook and opened there first beer. Brian wasn’t gloating, but I listened to this news while clenching my teeth. Now it was down to me and Convivia. The wind was starting to ramp up, and as we passed the San Lorenzo straight the sea state become something to make one sea sick. Mer had a disgusted look on her face that only meant one thing; I’m going to vomit. I told her “Smiling helps prevent the gag reflex,” and the sick look transformed into a constipated smile. I took advantage of the rough sea state and sat on the bow of the boat to enjoy a natural shower from all the waves breaking over our bow. Panache started to heel over excessively, so I cut my shower short and opted to put the first reef in the mainsail. An easy job if I did it 15 minutes sooner. The final tack was a violent one, the wind at this point was in the 20s and the jib we had up was one size too large. Manageable, but violent. Mer was coming from a larger heavier boat, so this weather on little 30 foot Panache was a rude awakening.

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10/28/11 through 11/4/11 Leg 3

While in Turtle Bay, because the crew and I needed to catch up on sleep, we missed the Baseball game and the ensuing party. That was OK because the next days beach party was more than enough! It was a HUGE potluck. There was beach volleyball set up, guys against the girls tug-o-war, music, beers, and one unlucky boat was silly enough to not heed Richard’s (the Grand Poobah) advice about anchoring too close to the beach. “Island Girl” (Lagoon 380) became stuck on the sand once the tide went out. Many hands tried to push and pull the boat out into open water, but the only thing that worked was to wait for the tide to come back up. Meanwhile, her bottom paint (and who knows what else) had to have been ruined by the constant jostling of the incoming waves.

Next morning, 10/29, with an 8am start time, Cat2Fold found her way out into the middle of the pack. As we were crossing the starting line “Profligate”, the 63′ Catamaran that runs the show (also a Kurt Hughes design -like Cat2Fold) took tons of pics of us as they motored around us in circles. One of the shots has made the Lectronic Latitudes webpage. The winds were decent enough that there was no “rolling start” initiated.
Trent, Charlie and I were all commenting how fun it was to be in the middle of the pack. So many boats in sight! …then darkness fell, and it became clear that it was WAY cooler to be surrounded by all these other boats during daylight hours. Having no RADAR on board (as a lot of boats do) all we could do was keep our eyes peeled! There were some close calls. Its amazing how quickly a tiny little light on the horizon can turn into a boat right on your ass just because they turned on their salon lights. That tiny little light on the horizon actually being a light on another vessel much closer than it appeared!
We came into Bahia Santa Maria early morning 10/31. I quickly got my paddleboards set up and started tooling around on them. Trent and Charlie went around interviewing a bunch of the different multihull owners. They used the dinghy for this. It was really nice having both a dinghy and paddleboards available aboard Cat2Fold. That way there is always an option to get off the boat.
I made my way to the estuary beach break. The waves were about 3 feet tall. For the first time in my “surfing career” I actually had a BLAST! Paddle boarding is the BOMB! I caught many rides in that lasted well over a minute (or so it seemed). I was even able to turn Dave from Lightspeed on to this new sport. Dave was/is struggling to learn how to surf. I could see the difficulty he was having, so I made him switch boards with me. While I sat on his board and watched, Dave was able to use the tremendous flotation and stability that a SUP (stand up paddleboard) has to offer and get a real taste of what surfing can feel like. I had SO much fun out there that I could hardly get myself to stop and go to the beach party.
The next morning the start time was set for 7 am. I was a bit bummed…
I feel like I could have stayed in Bahia Santa Maria for a month! It was just that beautiful!
For the third leg, the fine folks aboard Lightspeed loaned us a spinnaker to try out and see if we could get anything out of it. We tried all kinds of different arrangements. It really wasn’t the right size to use traditionally, especially with Cat2Fold’s freestanding, rotating masts. My favorite configuration was pulling it upside down in between the masts with both mainsails out wing-on-wing. It was quite a bit of downwind sail area and it looked wicked! The visibility forward was very good underneath it also.
I can’t remember exactly when, but we ended up catching another small yellowtail, then a 40ish” Dorado but threw it back. It was more than we wanted and our fridge was stuffed. However having some Dorado steaks just last night (11/8) I might have thought differently.
As we were getting close to the finish line near Cabo San Lucas, the winds went from light and variable (4-6 knots) to non existent (1/2 knot or less).
We had sailed the entire way up to then.
It was starting to get a bit ridiculous, but we prevailed and sailed the entire length!! We arrived at the finish line at 1:04 am, dropped the motors and motor-sailed to the anchorage in Cabo San Lucas dropping anchor at 3:30 am.
Leg 1=325 miles.
Leg 2= 215 miles.
Leg 3=160 miles.
There was also another 15-20 or so miles behind each finish line to the anchorage, putting the total distance traveled from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas at nearly 700 miles.
Because we sailed the entire course, we automatically tied for first place in the multihull division!!!
Thanks Trent and Charlie! Our Haha Hymen has been broken!

A lot to catch up on…10/28/11 and earlier

Ok. So here we sit in Bahia Tortuga (turtle bay) aboard Cat2Fold. I can hardly believe that this is my reality…

Here is a quick recap of all that has happened in the past 2 weeks or so…

After arriving in Marina Del Rey in Los Angeles, CA, at 9:30 pm , Saturday 10/15/11, I decided I was TOO tired to begin setting up Cat2Fold. So with a 3 am alarm set, I got a bit of sleep, then commenced the second monumental task of this trip (the first being the solo 18 hour drive from Idaho to L.A.), getting Cat2Fold from the trailer to the water with all the bits and pieces that come along with doing a 2.5 month sailing trip. My boat takes a LOT more time to set up than a typical power boater using the launch ramp. Marina Del Rey is one of the largest pleasure boat Marinas in the U.S. I didn’t want to get in anyones way, hence the 3 am start time. Once the masts were stepped, I drove as close as possible to the launch ramp and unloaded everything I needed from my truck to the far end of the poop laden dock. The sea bird/sea lion poop was so thick and slippery, I almost fell into the water several times while schlepping heavy loads out there. I wanted to be out at the end so I would have lots of time and not be in anyones way. Then I launched and opened up Cat2Fold. This was the first time I did everything 100% by myself. Very gratifying! By 7 am, after being tied up at the “15 minute tie up” docks for over 3 hours, I was ready to motor over to the guest docks and find a spot for Cat2Fold to live for a few days.

I spent the next day cleaning all the poop that I had tracked onto Cat2Fold and fiddling about dealing with unfinished projects. Instantly I started meeting other “Haha-er’s”. Dave and Kathy Kane aboard “Lightspeed”, a Chris White Atlantic 42, are quite an inspiration to anyone who dreams of sailing around the world aboard an amazing multihull. They also proved to be very helpful after I found myself in quite a bit of pain after drilling a hole nearly entirely through my hand.

Clearly, I was suffering from lack of sleep. The bench I had made at home for Cat2Fold was needing a bit of fine tuning to fit. I needed (or so I thought) to drill some holes through the stainless steel legs for the bench and I thoughtlessly tried to do that while holding the piece of pipe. I had barely started when the drill slipped and virtually went right through my hand. I instantly was pissed off at myself, but then the pain and shock of what just happened set in. I went down below to where the first aid kit was and had to sit down on the head while a rush of faintness came over my body. I sat there sweating profusely. I forced myself back up on deck, and after a bit of time passed, I was OK to walk over to Lightspeed and get some advice. They were very helpful, bringing some booze, ice, and hydrogen peroxide over to my boat. And then they stayed with me for a bit to make sure that I was keeping my entire hand submerged in the pot full of ice water they made for me. Boy, I’ll tell you, nothing brings the “wuss” out of a man more than soaking an entire, injured body part in ice water.

After getting thoroughly intoxicated, I had a pretty hard time waking up at 3am for the second time in 2 days. I had to drive my truck and trailer to Tucson, AZ where it was to be stored until Christmas when Trent (one of my crew mates) will drive it to San Carlos, Mexico. This is where my Baja sailing trip will end, the boat stored on its trailer there for the winter, and I will drive back home to the snowy north country. My hand hurt like hell that morning. Very swollen also. Through the 9 hour drive, it started to feel better. Trent and I flew back to L.A. that evening. The next day, my friend Michelle came by with some prescription anti-biotics, but after looking at my hand (which was feeling amazingly better), she recommended I save the drugs for some other emergency.

Anyhow, with a crew mate on board, it was time to stock up on supplies and head on out. We decided to sail to Catalina. The winds were very light so we ended up motoring all the way out to and around the Island to anchor in Catalina Harbor. We got there right at sunset. Realizing the need to be in San Diego the next day, and concerned with our small amount of fuel on board, we schlepped our empty tanks to shore and walked the mile or so to the only night time gas “station” on the island. $6.60 per gallon…ouch! All was well once back aboard with refilled fuel tanks until we realized one of the tanks we had just filled, had a crack in it and it was leaking gasoline!!! We were able to tip the tank up on its end to put the crack up in the air and use this entire tank before switching to a different tank. A third 3am wake up in less than a week had us up and on our way to San Diego. Unfortunately, with no wind, we had to motor the entire way there. We arrived at dusk only to find the municipal docks filled with other Hah-ha boats. Well, that’s what the sign on the door said anyhow. Finding a tight spot that we thought we could fit in, we decided to take it and pay in the morning. Our third crew mate found us there and we hung out together for the evening. Apparently, the spot was already taken and the guy was just out fishing late. He tried to get us to move around midnight. Luckily he talked to Trent while I was sleeping and Trent was not having any part of it. We were thoroughly scolded in the morning, paid for the night and moved out to the free anchorage about 5 miles away inside San Diego harbor.

The three of us spent the next couple of days stocking the boat, looking for watermaker parts, and meeting the rest of the Haha-er’s. With the rally starting on Monday, 10/24 at 11am, I still had to run around looking for the watermaker part first thing in the morning. Nobody had it. Of all the hundreds of marine stores in the area, nobody could help me. I was a bit shocked and bummed, now we need to carry a lot more water with us, and be VERY conservative with it.
We started off in the Haha parade a bit late and as we slowly motored out to the start line, I realized I could order the part direct from Katadyn and while on a cell phone trying to place the order, we lost reception mid order. We hated to do it, but I made the boys turn the boat around, and head back towards San Diego harbor. The order was placed, to be shipped to my girlfriend in Jackson Hole, who will be flying to Cabo in a few weeks to meet up with me, and we turned around to tag onto the slowest boats at the back of the Ha-ha parade. There were over 170 boats partaking in the event.

Because of light winds, everyone was allowed to motor throughout the day Monday and through Monday night. We wanted to sail, so we stopped motoring about an hour after the official start. The winds were very light, so most of the fleet left us in the dust. However, by Tuesday sfternoon, the winds freshened, and we started seeing some speeds in the low teens. While I was at the helm, we hit a top speed surfing down a wave of 14.8 knots! The winds kept building and the seas were also building to the point of when we approached the 10 mile wide finish line, we had reefed both mainsails after nearly digging the bows into the back of a wave. The waves were also large enough that when we were sailing beam on to them, occasionally one would crawl up the side of the leeward hull and crash up on the deck. Cat2Fold has very ample bridgedeck clearance. Never have I gotten more than a few drops of water up on deck before. Unfortunately, I learned the hard way that water can indeed get up on to our bridgedeck. I left my GoPro camera up on deck without its waterproof back on. Now I have a dead GoPro, and it is less than 2 months old!

After crossing the Leg 1 finish line at 9:37 pm, we still had around 25 miles to go to get to Turtle Bay. Our ETA was around 2 am. Winds were peaking at 28 knots. The seas were like a giant washing machine. We decided to be prudent and not attempt a night time landing into an unknown harbor. So we needed to slow the boat down! We dropped all sails and dragged a milk crate off the sterns. We lashed the tiller to try and point the boat up into the approaching seas. Cat2Fold was mostly taking them beam on. She handled it with ease however it was a very uncomfortable night at sea. The whole crew acknowledged the need to figure out a way to get Cat2Fold to hove-to. We will be working on this technique in the days to come.

So now we are sitting in Turtle Bay, catching up on sleep, meeting more and more Haha-er’s, and prepping the boat for leg two.

Oh Yeah… we caught one small tuna while dragging a simple hand line with a “mexican flag” lure… hopefully more to come!