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!

 

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La Paz to Isla Isabella to Matachen Bay

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In La Paz, we anchored in the Mogote next to the new Marina (which, by the way, had quite a few catamarans inside that piqued my interest…including the brand new Chris White A47 with the twin Mastfoil rig (AWESOME!), a Chris White 57, and a Switch 51, but to name a few). Once ashore we were able to find our friends on board s/v Heavy Metal. Georgie and Beo were thrilled to be able to hang out with Zion and Hunter and play with the incredible amount of electronic gadgetry they have aboard.
We also rendezvoused with Alexa, our now infamous “nanny”, whose help and support through the next few legs of our trip will prove to be indispensable.
After stocking up on food, water, gas, and social time on land, Cat2Fold, Heavy Metal, Destiny, and Ayla May set sail for Isla Isabel, 315 miles South of La Paz. This would be the kids longest sail to date and Alexa’s first sail of her life. Our passage ended up taking nearly 60 hours and everyone on board had a GREAT time!
On day one, leaving La Paz, the sailing was fantastic. The wind was blowing in the high teens and although the seas were a bit lumpy giving all the monohullers a bit of rolly-polly grief, we sailed for the first 36 hours straight, and loved it! Once our speed dropped below 1 knot for more than 20 minutes, we decided it was time to start motoring, one motor at a time, and we continued to motor for the next 24 or so hours continuously. It was SO calm, the ocean looked like a mirror, and there were turtles hanging out everywhere. It’s amazing to see so many turtles with dry shells and many of them being used by various birds as their own private islands.
We arrived at Isla Isabel about an hour after sunset. The anchorage was already quite full with Cat2Fold being the 10th boat to drop the hook. I motored into my spot very slowly, but with the help of s/v Heavy Metal’s 1 billion candlepower light, we felt comfortable squeezing our way in, especially in such calm conditions.
The next morning Georgie, Beo and I went snorkeling, and I can honestly say, there is no better way to go snorkeling than holding the hands of my 8 year old daughter, and 6 year old son. They absolutely LOVED IT! Later in the day, we went to the beach. Alexa, Georgie, and Hunter spent most of their time collecting shells and things, and Beo, Zion, and I spent most of our time playing soccer….just what the doctor ordered after a 315 mile passage on a sailboat!
After the beach party, all the neighboring boats went aboard s/v Destiny for an evening dinner party. Destiny is an 85-90 year old, 85 foot long wooden schooner. She has a long and rich history. At one point she was owned by Howard Hughes. With the kids playing games on the expansive deck and two little puppies to help entertain them, it was a very nice gathering for all with good food, good drinks and good and company.
The winds were blowing nicely, and in a great direction to give us a beam reach all the way to Mantachen Bay, 41 miles distant, during and after the party. However, we all decided to leave early in the morning. I was a bit afraid we’d loose the favorable winds we were experiencing that evening, and my sneaking suspicion proved correct. We all trickled out of the anchorage pretty early, with winds on our noses that were light and getting lighter. Again, after sailing more than half way there nicely, our speed dropped and dropped, and once below one knot, we decided it time to fire up a motor and get there.
With both motors running, we were able to catch the occasional wave and surf our way into the bay occasionally topping 10 knots.
Upon our arrival, Georgie and Beo couldn’t wait to get to Heavy Metal so they both jumped off Cat2Fold and swam over before we even set our anchor.

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Getting My Kids!!!

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I’m sitting on board SW Airlines, flight 1902, a Boeing 737 flying from Phoenix, AZ to SLC, UT. As is often said in the sailing community…there is nothing like going to weather at 500mph!!!
I arrived in Phoenix after a 7.5 hour drive from San Carlos, SON, Mexico. Cat2Fold is safely tied to a dock in Marina San Carlos. Once in SLC I get rewarded for all this time working on the boat, and all the time and money spent traveling to and fro, by getting my kids, Georgie and Beo for nearly a full month!!! I’d like to publicly thank their Mom, Georgie Stanley, for allowing me (and the kids) this wonderful opportunity to be together for such a long time.
Once reunited with the kiddos in SLC, we will board another plane back to Phoenix, jump in my truck and drive as far south as we feel. I don’t think we can drive all the way to San Carlos without too much driving in the darkness, plus it will be nice to split up the long drive after a series of flights. So, we may find a hotel in Tucson, or we may drive all the way to Nogales (the border) before stopping…not really sure yet.
I’m very excited to get back together with G & B. I left Teton Valley a little over 3 weeks ago. It’s amazing how much growth goes on in three weeks time, both physically and mentally. When the Charette family reaches San Carlos and Cat2Fold, we have 3.5 weeks to accomplish our ambitious plan of sailing all the way to Puerto Vallarta via the Baja peninsula. As the crow flys, PV is just over 500 miles away from San Carlos. Our planned route of sailing over to the Baja, down its east coast, then back across the Sea of Cortez to Banderas Bay is going to add some mileage, but it is a safer route with less nights spent out at sea, and is generally the route most cruisers who frequent this part of Mexico choose to travel. Whether northbound or southbound.
Unfortunately, having checked the weather forecast before leaving San Carlos, I know a strong norther will be blowing down the sea delaying our departure (unless the forecast changes) to Wednesday or possibly even Thursday of this week. With winds forecast to be in the 40 knot range, there is no way in hell I would go out there attempting a crossing. Especially having such precious cargo on board…;)
I want nothing but fond memories of this trip for B & G. Memories of life and death survival conditions…No Thank You!!!
We are supposed to meet up with our “Hot Nanny” in La Paz this next Sunday. Not sure if we’ll be there on time, but regardless, she seems to be a real trooper, and is ready to find some place to crash for as long as necessary before we meet up. I am looking forward to the help and support entertaining the kids as we spend many days on board sailing the boat to far off places. The kids have never sailed any real distance before, and certainly never overnight.
Could I do it alone? I’m sure I could.
But, in the end, I think this arrangement will be safer and far more enjoyable for everyone on board.
I’m hoping the weather will allow us to depart La Paz as soon as we are ready. Already, the San Carlos area has cooled significantly. La Paz will be no different. The warm waters of Banderas Bay, with whales breeding, awesome sailing, and other kid/family boats abound are calling…

The Flying Dragon

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On the vey last day of Georgie and Beo’s trip to PV, we were very lucky to get a tour of an historic sailing vessel called, “Flying Dragon”. Owned by a fellow named Regis, along with his girlfriend, Cybil and her son Emi, the Flying Dragon is an official Chinese Junk. Built in Hong Kong in 1924, she is a flat bottomed, junk rigged, teak planked virtual museum. She has a long and colorful history having been used at different times as a fishing boat, a brothel, a platform in a 1970’s “World Fair”, a private yacht with onboard hot tub (which commenced to rot the entire front upper decks), and more recently as a rebuilt private yacht (sans hot tub) that had an amazingly pimped out living space! However, being a nearly 90 year old vessel, she has probably always had her fair share of leaks, simply due to the nature of her construction. Ever since we met the Flying Dragon folks, this past December, there was talk of needing to deal with her continuous leaks. Equipped with junk rigged sails and no keel, sailing any direction but downwind was all but impossible, from what I could gather. Unfortunately, a couple of days after our tour of the maritime artifact, the Flying Dragon floundered due to a mechanical issue, and ended up beached, directly in front of the main pool at Paradise Village Resort.
Deidre and I were anchored out in the La Cruz anchorage. With our broken antenna limiting VHF reception to vessels who are relatively close, we started to hear one side of a conversation of a vessel in distress. We had no idea what was going on, and it was well into the evening before we were able to deduce that it was our friends aboard the Flying Dragon who were desperately trying to stay off the beach. First thing in the morning, we were somehow able to reach Cybil on the radio. It sounded like it was turning into a salvage mission, and they needed help getting things off the boat. Stuart and Karen from s/v Fantasia were already underway from their anchor spot and were coming over to get us, so we could all go offer whatever assistance we could. As we were approaching Paradise Village, we rescued a fishing panga, whose motor quit on them, and towed them into the marina. It was also becoming quite clear that Flying Dragon was no longer in the water at all, she was totally on the beach at low tide!!!
We let go of the panga in the river next to Marina Nuevo Vallarta, then Stuart commenced to show us a proper parking job of a large sailing vessel. We needed to be parked on the Paradise side of the river so we crossed over and in all of about 15 seconds, Stuart shoved, well, he quickly maneuvered, his 65′ long ketch into what I swear ended up being a 66′ long space with a vessel both fore and aft! The whole while I was questioning aloud, whether there really was enough room for us to fit. Yes, he has a bow thruster, but regardless, it seemed absolutely brilliant to me.
Approaching the “beached dragon” was a sad sight. Already, her floor was lifted up, and all the rock ballast was being removed. There were many local cruisers there already, with more and more showing up by the minute. Not only were all the mostly familiar faces of the local boating scene arriving to help, but the throngs of people who were staying at the Paradise hotel complex were also starting to come and gawk at the scene. Photos were being taken. People were getting in the way. Apparently, some guests even thought that the beaching, the evening before, was somehow part of the welcome ceremony!
We quickly got to work unloading the boat of anything valuable, and everything heavy. Nobody had any idea whether the boat would stay afloat or not, and we all figured it was better to remove it than leave it for the ocean to take. Many hours were spent removing everything from the boat, then hauling it up the sandy beach, and over to either a car or the boat dock. As the tide worked its way in, along with the help of a back-hoe digging around the disabled ship, hundreds of people pushed and pulled and were able to inch the bow of the boat back out towards the ocean.
There were lines being rigged to attempt to pull the boat out. One line went to a huge ferro-cement ketch anchored out that was trying to keep constant tension on the dragon. Another line went out to a large power boat, that would, when the boat was afloat, pull the dragon out. With so many things that could go wrong, 1,000’s of feet of huge lines with tons of pressure applied to them, and hundreds of people standing around, it’s a wonder that no one was hurt during the operation.
There were so many people helping in so many different ways, it was absolutely an amazing coming together of the boating community. As the sunset and the evening sky took over, 30 or so hours after the initial mayday, the Flying Dragon, was successfully pulled out through 5-6′ breaking waves. Taking on water badly, she was towed into Marina Nuevo Vallarta, where she was left to the owners accord. Pumps were, and needed to be kept going continuously.
It was an absolute miracle that the Flying Dragon was removed from the beach at Paradise Village. However, with no insurance and no money, the fate of the Flying Dragon is still a huge question mark. The last we had heard, she was still afloat and for sale. I imagine she is going cheap. Anyone interested in a piece of maritime history?

Georgie, Beo, and the Banderas Bay Regatta

Of all the cruisers regatta’s we have taken part in this past season, the Banderas Bay Regatta is by far the largest, most serious, most hyped, and most fun Regatta of them all. Hosted once again by our pals at the Vallarta Yacht Club, the BBR is a four day extravaganza of sailboat racing, dancing, and partying, and it is solely about the sailboat racing and partying. Most other Regatta’s are organized as a fundraising event for some much needed local charity and little emphasis is placed on the actual sailing and sailors. For me personally, the BBR was an incredible opportunity to share this cruising/racing lifestyle with my kids, Georgie and Beo.
The kids flew to PV with Deidre and my friends Tritney and Burgelly along with their 5 year old daughter, Avelly (names have been changed for privacy sake)It had been three whole months since being with the kids. We were so excited to see each other. Most of the crew arrived donning their sporty new “Cat2Fold” shirts, which, I might add, turned out pretty darned cool! We all wore the new shirts for all the races. With seven people sleeping aboard Cat2Fold for two weeks, we had a pretty full house, so we decided to spend most of the time at a marina. This allowed anyone to step off the boat whenever desired, rather than organizing a dinghy pick-up/drop-off party. It also allowed us to unload the boat of any easily removable inessential weight that us cruiser types tend to hold onto.
As for the actual racing… There were three days involved. Each day was a little different course than the day before. On day one and two, we found ourselves off “looking for Tacos in La Cruz” during our start.., at least, that started becoming the joke amongst the fleet. We continued to screw the pooch throughout the races with many errors, mostly involving the attempted use of our foresails. One of these aforementioned attempts included trying to hoist and set a free flying jib in nearly 20 knots of breeze immediately after crossing the start line (late). This attempt turned into an upper college level course on the definition of the word “flogging”. With the jib 3/4 of the way up, the halyard rolled off the turning block and the sail was stuck. The sheet had tied itself into a knot the size of a grapefruit. The flogging continued. Eventually, with the weight of two grown men hanging on the sail, risking falling off the boat, the halyard broke loose enough to get the sail down onto the deck. My adrenalin had spiked and crashed so hard in the first 5 minutes of the race, I wanted to just take a nap.
On day three, a different Cat2Fold came out to play. Same bat time. Same bat channel. Same bat wind. But, no more mothe…cking foresails. In nearly 20 knots of wind, Cat2Fold does not need a foresail. Not upwind. Not downwind. We may not be the fastest boat out there, but we’re fast enough. So, on day three, we actually nailed the start. So much so, that after the race I learned a new term for what we did to the fleet. We “port tacked” the entire fleet. For you non sailor/racer type…
The goal of a sailboat race start is to cross the start line at exactly the right time. Too early and you have to circle around and restart. Too late and you’re off the back. Regardless of which, the end result is spending a few hours watching the sterns of your opponents sail away in front of you. It’s been a challenging skill to learn how far away from an object you are and how long it takes to sail there. Starboard tack has right of way over port tack. Cat2Fold crossed the start line at exactly the right time on a port tack and was able to sail over the top of the entire fleet. This, apparently, is like a slam dunk on the opponents head, if I may borrow the lingo from an old passion of mine. We continued to point higher than everyone else, and sail a fast enough reach and downwind leg to cross the finish line second, behind only “La Ballona 2”, who won our class everyday of the Regatta. Finishing in second place (although we ended up in third place on corrected time by 7 seconds), after nailing the start and doing SO poorly in the previous two races felt really, REALLY GOOD!!!
Sailboat race starts can be a daunting place to be for less experienced racers such as myself. Mostly, I just try to stay out of the way. However, I am starting to understand a bit more, so I have been trying to get into a good position at the start. Sometimes boats sail within inches of each other. Sometimes (rarely) boats hit. Unfortunately, this year, in a different class than ours, two boats collided at the start. One unlucky person had both legs broken after slipping on the deck and ending up in a position with his legs in the wrong place at the wrong time. Being friends with nearly everyone involved, I’m going to reserve comment except to shout out to Randy Hough, the skipper of the race committee boat-

“Randy, you are one of the main reasons I have gotten as excited as I am about racing. Your willingness to reach out to us and help us feel welcomed into this “white collar” sport has been exemplary. Please stay above the bullshit, and be there for us at BBR 2014!!!

One other highlight of my 2013 BBR was to see the SIG45 s/v Vamanos!, a multimillion dollar 45′ catamaran, flying a hull at speeds in the twenties of knots! It didn’t hurt that Cam Lewis, one of the US’s top multihull skippers, was flown in to PV just for the race. Unfortunately, s/v Pantera, the only other catamaran in the fleet that could possibly give chase to the professional crew on Vamanos!, is still limping along on three cylinders, while Vamanos!, fourteen years her younger, was tuned to perfection, and it showed!
After all the racing hoopla was said and done, we spent a couple of days in La Cruz, mostly with Merle, Allison, Shandro, and Matero of s/v Kenta Anae, and Max, Liz, Victoria, and Jonathan of s/v Fluenta. We went and checked out a Mexican style carnival that was set up in the middle of the street. There were games where you could win prizes, two story, double-wide trampolines, candy and crap to buy, and their were old-school rides. Some of the janky old rides were even directly wired into the power poles, with exposed, hand twisted, high voltage “splices” hanging from the pole at face level! Yet another example of the many things we’ve seen here in Mexico that you don’t usually see in the US these days!
Leaving La Cruz, the seven of us sailed out to Punta de Mita, where we met up with yet another Teton Valley family; Cate, Winston and Indigo. With 3 five year olds and a seven year old rounding up that days’ gaggle of giggles, we spent a beautiful Semana Santa day on the beach. Being a Mexican holiday, the beach was filled the festive families on vacation and vendors selling all kinds of fun things. Usually there were at least three adults from our group out surfing at a time. At one point, while I was out on my paddleboard, Deidre came out towards the break on a surf board with Beo as a passenger. I quickly went and scooped him up onto my much larger board. In no time at all, Beo and I were surfing together!!! On our last run in, he even stood up with me, and we were the surf studs of the moment! The other dad’s followed suit and even Tritney, who was just learning, caught his best ride ever with Avelly on board and rode the wave all the way onto the beach!
A beautiful sail over to Yelapa, and a hike up to the waterfall was next on our agenda. We all noted how much less water was flowing in the falls compared to our visit last December. On the way back down the narrow lane, we stopped and had an amazing lunch in town… Town doesn’t quite feel like the word I’m looking for, because in this town, no one owns the land, there are no cars, and electricity only showed up a few years ago. Because of this, and the particularly steep topography in which to build upon, all the buildings appear to sprinkle up the steep mountain slope at random angles to each other with only an alley the width of a wheelbarrow or a small donkey cart separating them.
We then sailed back to Paradise Village Marina where we spent our last few days playing in the pools, boogie boarding, playing soccer on the beach, taking dinghy adventures up into crocodile infested waters, and hanging out with all our new friends. The kids got to meet and bond with so many boat families; Rigo, Deborah, Zion and Hunter aboard s/v Heavy Metal, Regis, Cybil and Emi aboard s/v Flying Dragon (more on Flying Dragon coming soon),Teddy, aboard s/v Lolo, the aforementioned s/v Kenta Anae and s/v Fluenta families, and the countless others we met along the way. Georgie even had the pleasure of a sleepover with Victoria aboard s/v Fluenta!
Sadly, the end of the two weeks came all too quickly, and the next I knew, we were in the taxi on our way to the airport. Deidre, who unfortunately got sick the night before, couldn’t come with us, so she said her goodbyes at the marina. The kids and I were sad to leave each other, yet I kept trying to remind them how psyched they’ll be to see their Mom and their school friends. Also, that I would be home in only one month instead of three like last time. Their flight home went without a hitch, and they arrived in Jackson Hole earlier than scheduled. I sure hope we’re lucky enough to race in another BBR aboard Cat2Fold with Georgie and Beo!

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.

Whales, Iguanas & Belly Flops