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.
Well, coming to the San Patricio area to check out the crazy, week long celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, hasn’t quite come to fruition like we had hoped for. After a tremendous sail out of Bahia Tenacatita, we caught up to some friends who had left a few hours before us, but decided to not follow them into the Barra de Navidad Lagoon, instead choosing the more exposed anchorage just off San Patricio/Melaque. Maneuvering C2F under full sail within the tight confines of the anchorage’s numerous pangas, rocks, sailboats, fishing pen and nets, is a task made significantly more difficult by the particularly swirly winds encountered up at the head of the anchorage, in the lee of the surrounding mountains. Using the other sailboats as our wind gauge, it was clear that we were in completely different winds than they, as we flew upwind at 7 knots at what appeared to be the same point of sail as the anchored boats who were facing straight up into the wind. Knowing this, we planned our route carefully and anticipated the changing wind direction. After the last tack, 20-30 yards off the beach, we bore off downwind, dropped one sail, then dropped the hook, knowing the moment it decidedly grasped deeply into terra firma by the sudden deceleration and subsequent “one-eighty” felt aboard this nimble craft, as we settle into the regular, bows into the wind anchor position.
Immediately after getting situated, I paddled into Melaque to get some internet and learn more about the schedule of festivities. I discovered that the party started after 9pm more or less every night of the week prior to, and culminating on March 17, but feeling uncertain of where I had left my board, plus with what seemed like hours to spare, I decided to head back to C2F for a bit of pre-party preperation. On the way back I ran into a young couple aboard aboard a boat called Tipsea also heading back out to the anchorage.
Matt, Brittany, and I chatted while hanging outside their boat for quite a while. They in their inflatable dinghy being rowed, I on the paddleboard. They had watched the sporty anchor setting maneuver, and with Matt’s youthful exuberance wanting to check Cat2Fold out, in no time at all we were deep into heavy conversation about C2F, sailing, and life in general. They’re in their mid twenties and plan on sailing across the Pacific to the Marquesas with very little money and somewhat limited experience. A good candidate to come visit “F@ck Yeah-topia” for a bit!😜 After they left, I noticed some good live reggae music from somewhere on shore. I felt tired, but with a deep inhalation, I told myself that if it were before 10pm, I’d head in to shore to find the music. I pushed the button. It was midnight. 😴
The next day, a big storm was supposed to move into the area. So in anticipation, Cat2Fold and I, and Tipsea moved into the much more protected Barra de Navidad Lagoon, where everybody else in the fleet, and their mothers, were already snugly anchored awaiting the weather. I had always laughed when hearing about boats running aground inside the lagoon which seems to be a near daily occurrence here. With the less than two foot draft of Cat2Fold, surely, a grounding was unlikely, but, how quickly one can be reminded of the nearly five foot draft of the rudders when one kicks up in three feet of water…😳😳😳 Earlier in the morning, during the morning net, I was able to locate the much sought after set of guitar strings. I have been going through strings at an alarming rate on the boat, and there was a couple on a boat in the marina not needing their extra set, and willing to part with them for coconuts. As soon as I was anchored firmly in less than six feet of water, I paddleboarded into the marina to procure my strings.
When I returned to Cat2Fold, I decided that with the weather just moving in, but not really there yet, I would paddleboard around the lagoon for a bit then, head back to Melaque with the ambition of coffeeing up, and going out late night, because the following few nights were supposed to be RAINY!!! I swung by s/v Hemisphere Dancer to say hi and share my plans for the evening. Larry and I joked about how embarrassing it would be for me to ground the very shallow drafted vessel. As I motored my way back out of the tricky, damn-near-invisible channel, I yet again found a very skinny section of water with both rudders kicking up simultaneously…a quick glance around along with radio silence assured me that no one, especially Larry noticed the screw up. 😳
The sun was setting as we motored the short two miles over to Melaque. Their were only two other boats with no one aboard in the anchorage. In the time it took for me to make my coffee and get powered up to go out, the wind picked up and changed direction putting us inside of a very dangerous, three sided lee shore. It wasn’t crazy bad where we needed to leave immediately, but all of a sudden, I didn’t feel like going out to party, and leave Cat2Fold alone to fend for herself. So, jacked up on coffee at 9pm, I rocked my new set of strings all night long, astounded at the beautiful change in tone a string change can make. First thing in the morning, we motored back over to our spot within the lagoon, careful to not continue the testing of the kick-up rudders, in anticipation for the huge rain storm working its way towards us.
As I sit here writing this blog entry, I’m sitting inside the very moist tent area where I live most of the time. We’ve had nearly 36 hours of rain. Sometimes coming down in buckets. I’ve played enough guitar in that time period to have already broken my brand new g-string. Of all the strings to break, why oh why do I always lose my g-string first?!? Last night the winds got up into the mid thirties, and when combined with the thunder and lightning surrounding the fleet, everybody slept quite lightly keeping one eye open, on the lookout for dragging vessels coming down on them.
…it’s now 24 hours since I initially started writing this blog. Yesterday evening, the rain stopped. I capitalized on the moment and went paddling around through the anchorage. It felt good to get out of hiding. I visited a few boats in the anchorage, and with a collective sigh of relief, everyone I spoke to was overly ready for this storm to be done! I ended up going aboard s/v Vagrant, another freak boat in the anchorage (a junk rigged steel boat), for some cocktails and dinner. Shane and Tina are preparing for their third trip out deep into the Pacific Ocean, with no set date for return. We talked well into the night about sailing and cruising with kids, boats, and some of their earlier adventures. I paddled back over to Cat2Fold in the dark, incredibly happy to see stars and NO RAIN!!! Upon returning, I opened up the sides of the tent in anticipation for a nice, airy night of sleep. When I awoke, I started planning my day, which mostly revolved around hanging things up to dry, and opening doors, windows and hatches. As soon as I put the coffee on in the port hull, the rain started back up. Light at first, but now, as I sit in my tent watching the same f@cking rain channel on my imaginary TV, it is starting to become comical. Yesterday, knowing that the rain was supposed to go all day, it was easy to spiritually join in with the fleet and start drinking whenever the fancy struck. Today, the rain is SUPPOSED to stop, so I’m doing my best at holding off til later so I can hopefully get something done if/when this onslaught finally passes us by.
With three entirely separate living spaces aboard Cat2Fold, and the acres of awesome outdoor deck space, what makes Cat2Fold the perfect vessel to be aboard during the TYPICAL Mexican dry season, becomes a clear liability when the weather gods decide to throw inches and inches of rain at us. All I can do is wait for what appears to be a bit of a lull in the moisture then sprint as fast as I can to get into the necessary hull whether to cook, change clothes or just brush my teeth. Today is St. Patrick’s day itself. I really hope that this rain does go away so the festivities in San Patricio can go on with the full glory that only homemade fireworks, dangerously set off by drunk locals in a time honored tradition, can provide…where your safety glasses!
!VIVA MEXICO! (…but, f@ck the rain)
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…😃
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…
“Ouch!” I think to myself as my feet nearly burn from the heat of the deck. I’m also traipsing around out here with nothing on but a smile. 😄
However, it’s been a hard earned heat. You see, I didn’t just jump in a jumbo jet, waking up in exotic, tropical vacationland, pasty white, ready to get my party tan on. I left snowy cold Idaho three weeks ago. It was a last second escape as the grips of a ferocious winter storm was approaching, threatening to delay our departure with snow totals being forecast in feet and winds blowing in the 30’s.
After our narrow escape, but not before spending several days in Tucson, Arizona dealing with the inevitable truck and trailer gremlins, C2F and I crossed the Mexican border on Christmas Day, and continued south to San Carlos without delay. Even after spending a week preparing the boat (and myself), we were still seeing temps in the 30’s at night with highs of 68 during the day. Brrrrr.
As I pryed myself away from the friendly cruising community whom either stay or were stalling in San Carlos, I found myself wearing every stitch of cold weather clothing I had as we sailed out of Bahia San Carlos for the last time until we return in May or June. With the damp, dark, ocean breeze making the 37 degrees feel incredibly cold, I was wearing the same exact outfit I would have been wearing skiing in the Tetons on a cold smoke powder day.
The forecast called for NNW winds in the teens with gusts up to 22, mellowing as darkness fell. With a strong desire to get to the warmer weather and water, I left San Carlos at O-dark-thirty. I motored out of the narrow canyon defining Bahia San Carlos for about thirty minutes. Then with the wind filling in, I silenced my twin egg beaters, and marveled in the magic of traveling at the speed of silence. A downwind sled ride south for hundreds and hundreds of miles…
Every year, after a 6 month absence from sailing Cat2Fold, I’m reminded of a feeling I would have in the early part of nearly every ski season past…
Finding myself peering down a STEEP, cliff riddled backcountry chute, usually amidst much stronger skiers, I would inevitably be silently wondering if my body remembered what it would need to do to enjoyably and safely, set fear aside momentarily, and jump in with both feet facing the fall line. Never as smooth or polished as later season runs, sailing Cat2Fold, especially in puffier conditions with burly seas, brings about a similar feeling of anxiety. At some point, ready or not, I jump in.
So there I was, jumping in with both feet, sailing away from my truck and camper and the comfort of land and friends. Knowing that whatever I had forgotten, I’d have to do without, or if small enough, I could purchase it when it comes available. Throughout the day, the wind would build, then drop. I found myself reefing, unreefing, furling, unfurling, hoisting, and dropping all my sails repeatedly, just as readily as I was doing with my clothes, depending on temps, shading, and wind angle. With not much else going on, I was happy to have the practice, remembering my exact techniques for reefing this unique twin masted cat with daylight as my ally. At one point, during the sail exchange party, I too hastily hooked one of my spinny halyards up, and part way up the hoist, I watched it unhook itself from the head of the sail. I acted a fast as possible, grabbing the boat hook and extending it to full length, but it was to no avail. The halyard slipped all the way up to the top of the mast. With light conditions prevailing, I decided it would be fun to video myself climbing the mast while underway to retrieve said halyard.
I don’t have a fancy mast climbing apparatus, and with only myself onboard, there was no one to hook onto to the main halyard and simply winch them up. So with a climbing harness and two small loops of line, I prussic hitched my way 3/4 of the way up. Nice view, but it is an incredibly hard and painful way to go up, and down the mast. I couldn’t hook the ten foot long boat hook onto the halyard end, my cojones were turned to jelly, and I was already totally pumped, so I aborted mission. I’ll just have to get help from someone when the help is available.
With evening approaching, and the wind holding a steady 15, I was enjoying speeds approaching 10 knots with surfs accelerating us up to the wind speed. I decided to pass a potential anchorage that was 50 miles south of San Carlos, and sail through the evening. Unfortunately, the wind increased through the night, which also increased the size of the seas we were surfing down. Cruising downhill at 15 knots is all fine and dandy in broad daylight with a fresh mind and rested body, but add darkness, exhaustion, and having no one there to share the thrill/burden with and a different story can unfold. All it takes is one mistaken light seen on the water, one whale blow TOO close to the boat, one creeking or crackIng sound too many, and the thrill of 10-15 knots can go instantly from “FUCK YEAH!!!”, to “HOLY FUCK!!!”
I found myself using the triple reef position of both mains for the first time ever. Things felt better…for awhile. Slowly, but surely, Cat2Fold and I were getting WORKED! Not long after midnight, about 20 hours into this first outing, I decided enough was enough, and dropped all sail with the thought of getting some much needed sleep. Ufortunately, it was blowing 25+ knots, and we were still cruising between 6-9 knots, which is great for making progress, but too fast to just go to sleep. So I set a twenty minute timer, and did the best I could to squeeze in some sleep during that time before needing to get up for a look around.
At sunrise, I mustered the energy to lift some sail to increase our speed and control. Again, triple reefed mains. I was tired, but confident that the wind was going to have to lighten soon. Every forecast I had was for MUCH lighter conditions than I was experiencing. I was planning on sailing the remaining 60 miles to the entrance to the 13 mile long channel up and in to Topolobampo. There I would be able to really get some rest, for as long as necessary.
Even though I felt as though I was being tested, and barely passing, a few moments later I learned that the Great Weirdness (Source, Jah, God, etc…) hadn’t even started the real test.When the usual orchestra of creaking and cracking sounds that are inevitable on a folding catamaran such that Cat2Fold is, added a LOUD BANGING to the percussion section, my true “test” was starting to unveil itself…
I wasn’t sure where it was coming from or what it was. At first I thought I had maybe hooked onto some sort of fishing gear that would swing up and smack into the bottom of the hull. After an agonizingly long two or three minutes of searching, I found the source of the sound which was quickly overtaken in volume by my adrenalin spiked heartbeat…
There are two main structural beams on most open bridgedeck catamarans that create the acres of flat living (camping) area envied by all but the staunchest of monohullers. On Cat2Fold, said beams are highly engineered, scissoring carbon fiber works of art. They are connected to the hulls with a 4″ diameter, 1/2″ thick walled, 2′ long stainless steel pipe that allows the pivoting action in order to fold the boat for trailering. Due to a lack of any sort of maintenance manual accompanying this one of a kind prototype vessel, I didn’t even know to look into this area for signs of what happened…
Through the course of the last 30 hours of sailing, (and honestly, it may have started the year before), the huge pipe worked its way 4-5″ up above where it was supposed to be. The beam to hull connection, one of only four that keep the boat held together was starting to fail.
Staying amazingly calm while acting as quickly as I possibly could, i dropped all sail. I collected whatever lengths of heavy line I had on board with an assortment of turning blocks to try and lash the two hulls together as best as I could before any permanent damage could incur. The seas were still running 6-8 feet and the wind was still blowing 20+ knots. I squeezed my head and upper body between the front beam and the netting forward of that to get a look under the bridgedeck to see what/where I could tie anything to. Hanging upside down in those kind of conditions and not getting seasick was a small miracle in and of itself. I used everything I had, and eventually got the boat to the point where there was nothing more that I could do. I tried hammering the huge pipe back down into position, which became quite clearly, a futile attempt until I could get all the holes to line up perfectly, which was not going to happen out here in the open ocean. Did I mention I was well over 40 miles offshore with 60 miles to go to my closest port? Even motoring at full speed, that is nearly 10 adrenaline spiked, emotion filled hours of sitting there trying to stay positive.
For the first time ever in my over 10,000 miles of sailing, I prepared my dinghy as a life raft. With my ditch kit (PLB, handheld GPS, handheld VHF, batteries, flares), three gallons of water, some clothes, and computers passport, wallet, all strapped onto the dinghy, I crumpled onto the back bench, a broken man and had myself a cry. If I could just get the stricken vessel into port safely, I could either make repairs there, or at least, bus up to my truck and trailer, and come sadly retrieve the once proud multihull.
By late afternoon, I was tied to the dock at the only marina in Topolobampo. This is a powerboat place. I was the only boat with masts there, which weren’t any taller than some of the powerboats there. None of the guys on the dock spoke any english, but they all wanted to help however they could. I came up with the idea of finding a length of threaded rod and some huge washers to try and press the stainless pipe back down into position, however it was Sunday afternoon, and I was completely, and utterly drained. Sleep, and lots of it is what I needed most.
The next morning, the marina manager had a piece of threaded rod for me, and he drove me over to a hardware store for nuts and to look for something to use as the large washers. We ended up going to a local metal shop (small town Mexican styley), where I had them make me 4 pieces of 1/4″ thick x 5″ x 1.5″ pieces of steel. Finding anything stainless was going to be damn near useless, so I will end up with a rusty mess over the course of this winter, but if they can do the job of pressing, and keeping the stainless pipe in place, than it will be a success. I spent most of the afternoon pressing and hammering and getting jiggy with aligning the holes between the beam and the hull, but by evening my spirits were soaring with a fix I felt 1000% OK with. The next day I removed the lower foot of an outboard and replaced the water pump impeller (making damn sure to not drop anything in the 30′ deep water), adjusted my fussy shift linkage perfectly, repaired a torn sail, started fixing the rudder “repair” I had done this summer, retrieved my halyard from up the mast, re-routed a bilge pump hose, did some more provisioning, had a great phone call with my kids, and had myself ready for an early morning departure. There was still a LONG way to go before reaching the air and water temps that I initially set sail in search of.
I hadn’t done any blog updates since arriving in San Carlos, and I started this one yesterday morning after leaving Isla Isabel. I’m now in Punta de Mita. I’ve sailed nearly 600 miles in 5 days. The water is 77 degrees, and I need to finish this post so I can go out and enjoy the water.
Estamos Aqui. Enjoy!
Sitting on the edge of Palisades Lake, enjoying my morning cuppa Joe, Minicat 420 perched at the waters edge, I can’t help but feel blessed beyond words. As the wind starts to fill in from the WSW, I’m finding a child like anxiety creep up from within telling me to blow off this damn blog post, and go get on the water!
Although I’ve now sailed Cat2Fold nearly 10,000 miles over the past three winters, I’ve really never sailed much on any other craft. Sure, there were the 3 or 4 charters I did with my ex and her family, on other cruising boats, but never have I sailed on such a small, responsive craft, with no instruments, no autopilot, no wind angles, etc… Just the wind in your face, and a light, powerful boat whose accelerations, decelerations, heel angle, and the underlying knowledge that this puppy could flip within one, un-attentive nano-second, add a pucker factor to the learning curve of sailing on a small boat that I’ve never experienced before.
I bought my new Minicat 420 Evoque as both a replacement dinghy for Cat2Fold and as an easier to deploy, more appropriate sized vessel for tooling around on our local, high alpine lakes. My old dinghy was fat, slow, leaky, non-sailing, motor dependent and was sporting an intensive network of patches that became necessary when a family of mice decided to make a new home within the folds of the then brand new dinghy and decided that they really enjoyed chewing on the heavy duty, PVC covered fabric…
I committed to the idea of a new dinghy this year while sailing North, back to San Carlos, to put C2F to bed for another season of work. The idea was always on my mind, but finally, while in La Paz, I did it. On the morning VHF net, I heard some people looking for an outboard for their dinghy, and they were wanting the exact same size that I had been lugging around all over Mexico without barely ever using it. Even while taking guests out sailing, I never used the outboard, choosing instead to anchor close to the beach, then row the hydrodynamic equivalent of a refrigerator to shore and back without needing to lift the heavy outboard on and off the stern of Cat2Fold. I tried to sell my inflatable along with the outboard as a package deal but, only the outboard was required. A deal was made. I rowed the big, fat, motor-less pig back to C2F with nearly as much cash in my pocket as what I paid for the motor three years previous. I still didn’t know what I was going to replace the boat with, but I knew I wanted to be able to sail the damn thing! Researching sailing dinghies online, I looked at home built row/sail boat dinghy’s. I looked at Portabote, folding dinghy’s. I looked at nesting dinghy’s. And finally, I looked at inflatable sailing catamarans.
Of all the inflatable sailing catamarans available on the market today, it seems all of them (at least all the REAL sailing crafts and not inflatable toys like the SeaEagle) are manufactured and distributed throughout Europe. I imagine the demand for a good quality sailing boat that can come apart and fit under your bed is partly supplied by the lack of space available to park a full size, non folding boat and trailer in the densely populated coastal cities of Europe. After looking at HappyCat, SmartCat, Ducky, and Minicat, with only small details separating one from the other, I had decided that the HappyCat looked to be the ticket. With virtually no inventory, new or used, to be found here in the USA, of ANY of the aforementioned brands, I kept patiently doing my homework.
Then, I noticed on the MiniCat’s webpage, that Demo units were available at discount prices. They were not even used Demo’s! They had only been set up for display at boat shows! After a bit of haggling, and then nearly a month of shipping time, my new MiniCat 420 Evoque showed up in the outskirts of Felt, Idaho.
I wasted no time in familiarizing myself with this beautiful craft by opening her up, and assembling her on my front lawn! A few days later, the kids and I, along with some other friends, spent the weekend sailing, camping, paddle boarding and playing on Palisades Lake. The boat was a hit! Even with basically no wind, she ghosts right along, patiently waiting for a shift in our typically swirly, gusty, mountain lake winds.
Speaking of the typical mountain lake winds, I’ve since had her out several other times. I’ve spent hours ghosting along in delicately light winds. I’ve had to finish some trips using my SUP paddle to drive the boat whilst developing the technique of steering with my foot on the tiller extension, and found myself cruising along quite smartly!
I’ve also now had some hull flying, getting soaked, sphincter clamping, sessions where one messed up tack would have the boat upside down faster than you can say Minicat! Luckily, so far I’ve stated upright…well, if you don’t count the time I sailed the cat up on the beach, and then had a gust come lay her on her side (on the beach).
I’m anxious to bring along my handheld GPS and get an idea of speeds and tacking angles. It happens to be packed in the “ditch kit” bag aboard Cat2Fold right now, and I haven’t dealt with unpacking it.
As a tender for Cat2Fold, the Minicat 420 should prove a capable beast of burden. With a load carrying capacity of 960 lbs (total crew, engine, gear, etc…) she should be more than capable of ferrying any load I need to get to and fro C2F. I don’t imagine I’ll set up the sailing rig very often, unless of course I’m hanging out in one anchorage for a long time, or if my kids are sailing with me, but with included motor mount, and/or my recent discovery of using the 6.5′ x 14′ platform as a fairly efficient “paddle barge”, getting from Cat2Fold to shore and back should prove to be a joy.
Although I really need to focus on work and making some money if I am to have any hope of making it back down south next winter, I know that on any given weekend throughout the summer, you will find the Charette’s sailing at one of our local lakes aboard the hot, practical, fun, and downright sexy MiniCat 420!!!