The Long Road Home

As the winter sailing season in Mexico draws closer and closer to an end, Cat2Fold finds herself sailing north, towards San Carlos, SON., and as usual, Brian finds himself wondering whether Cat2Fold should follow the truck home to Idaho or spend her third summer season in a row stored at Ed and Dorothy’s Storage Yard. I couldn’t really make a final decision until I tried towing the boat a few miles with the camper on the truck, which I had never done before.

Alexa and I cleaned the boat and we made final preparations to go (possibly). We drove the truck/camper/boat trailer combo (which has a 2 foot trailer hitch extension under the over hanging camper) on a test run towards Guaymas. Besides the fact that I was around 70′ long, things seemed to feel fine! My mind was made up! Cat2Fold is coming along for a road trip! After one last second errand in San Carlos, we pointed the long, expensive package of carbon, foam, epoxy, and air North, and hit the road!

In years past, my decision to leave C2F in storage was aided by my insurance carrier. Cat2Fold was covered everywhere we sailed, from Southern California to Zihuatenejo, but under no circumstance would C2F be covered for over the road travel within Mexico. Leaving her here in storage for $50 a month, while I went home to work seemed like a no brainer…until I got the more than doubled bill for the following years coverage. Why? Because my boat was no longer within the safety of good ole Idaho. It was in SCARY Mexico!!! No worries, I dropped all insurance for Cat2Fold, except for the Mexican Liability insurance which everyone needs to play this game (sailing) down there. Now I could sail anywhere I wanted without asking permission and paying extra first! I’m not really an insurance kind of guy anyway. I don’t believe life comes with any guarantees! Believe in the magic of goodwill and trust in yourself!

With all that in mind, I very smartly had the, “hasn’t been towed more than one mile in three years” trailer tuned up while it was still empty. I think I paid Humberto too much, but oh well, we got new bearings, and seals in all 6 wheels, and had the rotors turned and the brakes bled. Virtually good as new!

We made our way North just fine, even passing through Hermosillo without being pulled over. Got searched pretty good at the Mexican Military checkpoint about 20 miles south of the border. All good. I’m always a bit paranoid at the U.S. crossing. You never know how bad they may want to search, and we had ALOT of hard to access areas in which they’d want to look. Turns out they just wanted my potatoes, limes, and package of bacon that were in the camper. I asked them about the tons of food they must get every day (thousands of cars cross the border at Nogales every day) and whether it was donated to to a charity or something…”Nope. Liability.”…Great. Welcome back home to the US of Liabilit-A!!!

After making it through the actual border crossing, there is yet another checkpoint about 20 miles North. With a dog actively paraded up and down through the stopped cars, I can only imagine they are looking for drugs. Maybe illegal immigrants also? Oh, and one other thing to note… the interstate down here south of Tucson has the speed limits marked in KPH, but the mileage between places in miles… UH…OK…

Not far past Tucson, I pulled over to get some fuel. When I got out, I noticed that the right, rear tire of my truck, the one which I plugged myself last fall while in San Carlos, was low. Way low! 25psi when it should’ve had 65psi!!!

Luckily, there was a tire place right nearby! It’s not very easy driving around looking for things in an unfamiliar place while towing C2F… The tire was removed, and patched from the inside. An hour later, and we were on the road again. Sweet! I’m glad I noticed that and nipped it in the bud!

A short while later, I dropped Alexa off at the Phoenix airport and continued on my way alone. I kept driving well into the night, and ended up camping in a perfect, big pull off with trees, up near the North Rim of the grand canyon.

The next day, I drove through the entire state of Utah with nothing very exciting to report. However, later in the evening, just past the Idaho state line, things started to get a little more interesting…

I pulled over to take a leak about 30 miles north of the statetline. I hadn’t even pulled off of the off ramp. Unfortunately, during said nature break, I noticed one of my trailer wheels had fallen off!!! All five lug bolts had entirely sheared off!!! SHIT!! What should I do???

I pulled into the nearby truck stop (the only thing at this exit) which had a mechanic station also. 5:30. Closed. With no cell phone (I haven’t owned one in years now), I stood there mulling over my options when a big rig pulled up next to me.

“Didya loose your wheel?” Says the toothless driver as he leans out his window pointing at the gaping hole on the trailer where a wheel used to reside.

Yup.

“Well, I seen it pass me on the highway! Me and this other tanker truck tried to get a hold of you, but…how we gonna do that, right?” He laughs.

WHOA! You saw it happen?

“Yup I watched it cross over into the other lane, but lucky no one was coming.”…

Turns out, it happened about 50 miles south of where we were right then. With the fact that I hadn’t even noticed the missing wheel for the past 50 miles of 75mph driving, coupled with my strong desire to make it the remaining 150 miles, I decided to push on.  (whoa…it’s starting to sound like a middle school math problem…)

So here I am, CAREFULLY driving along with my 5 wheeled trailer with my beloved boat atop (5 wheels still seems like plenty, no?). I’ve got 60 miles to go and dusk is approaching, and all of a sudden, I hear what sounds like air being released rapidly. I pull over as quickly as possible, which is clearly not quick enough. Any worry of another trailer wheel failing, rapidly faded as I can feel the weight of the truck/camper/boat sitting on top of the now bare rim of the truck as it rolls the last few feet before coming to a stop.

Yup. Tire is ruined!!! $400.

So, I empty the back of the Mega Cab truck (which is stuffed to the gills with tools, bags, coolers, parts, etc…) on the side of the road just to get to the proper lug wrench (ooooh…note to self…keep that wrench handy and check trailer lug nuts occasionally on long trips…). I use the stock, Dodge screw jack to try and lift a VERY HEAVY rear axle. To my surprise it actually seemed to be lifting the truck, until…well, until it stopped lifting the truck! Doesn’t matter, I got it high enough to remove the badly mangled tire/wheel.

I drop the spare and roll it over to install when I realize that I’m not jacked up quite high enough to get the spare on…hmmm… Luckily, I pulled far enough off the road that my passenger side (the flat side) was just barely on the gravel part of the shoulder, and I was able to dig down deep enough to get the spare on the truck.

OK! Spare installed. Truck re packed…Now what? The screw jack won’t screw back down! No worries, I’ll just drive forward off of it. Perfect! Done!

Whoa! As I walk back to retrieve the broken jack, I notice the newly installed spare tire is pretty low. 40 lbs low… I need to go find air!!! I drive into the town of Rigby and find an air machine at this gas station. Problem is, I can’t even begin to pull up close enough to use it. So, I pull into a large parking lot next door (a closed Tire Factory), re-empty the Mega cab so I can get to the air hose that connects to my trucks’ on board air compressor. Yup. My truck has an air compressor installed to pressurize the airsprings that are used to help haul heavy loads. It’s a SMALL compressor though. It took me at least 1/2 an hour of pumping to get the tire to a safe level of pressure.

Re-load the truck. Hit the road.

Darkness fell. I made it the rest of the way home…well, almost. The county road I live off of is not maintained all winter. Some snow had recently fallen adding to the muckiness of the old snow melting into muddy road. With two miles to go to my house, I realized I needed to turn around and leave the boat at the winter parking area for a while still. There was still a formidable pile of snow a mere 50 yards from my house, but since having started my day many hours earlier in Arizona, and being pretty determined to get all the way home, I packed out a trail in the deep, sugary snow by driving back and forth, back and forth, back and forth until I woke up the next morning in my very own bed… 🙂

The End.

Sorry for the large amount of words…

 

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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!

 

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…

A week of adventure (Escondido+Bahia Salinas+Sailing to San Carlos)!

Banderas Bay to Mazatlan

The time to leave Banderas Bay was quickly upon us. After a last minute sail repair in La Cruz, we headed out to Punta de Mita for one last glorious day of surfing. The swell was “on” that weekend, and this was our last chance at catching any more waves for the season, so we allowed ourselves the pleasure before hurrying on our way. The weather was light and the forecast looked good to start working the land and sea breezes North towards Mazatlan, then cross over with some SWesterlies that would eventually turn into a building Norther. Bob, on s/v Pantera (still sailing with no motor), left early in the morning. We surfed in the morning and only left the ‘Mita shortly after noon. We had an 8-12 hour sail to get to Matachen bay (San Blas) and hoped to get there before midnight.
Having been to Mantachen Bay three times before, and knowing how large the bay was, we felt fine with coming in to the anchorage in the dark. The larger than expected swell spooked me into anchoring much further out than I normally would have, but I upped anchor in the morning to move closer so Deidre could get to the beach for a run. By noon, we were on our way North for the overnight passage to Mazatlan. We never did see Bob in the bay.
The first 6-7 hours of our sail was straight up into the wind. Progress was slow. For every mile we got closer to Mazatlan, we had sailed two or more miles to get there. As dusk was closing in on us, we decided it was time to start motor sailing if we were to get to Mazatlan at all within the next week. We motor sailed through the night with only a few small fishing boat/net lights dotting the horizon causing only a small amount of “its-the-middle-of-the-night-and-I’m-a-fucking-tired-and-holy-fucking-shit-what-are-those-lights-and-where-are-they-coming-from!!!!!” syndrome.
The next day, the winds freshened enough to where we could kill the motors and sail the 43 remaining miles into “new” Mazatlan. As we were about 10 miles out, our friends on s/v Heavy Metal, hailed us on the radio from about 10 miles out to sea off our starboard hull. Cat2Fold is recognizable from even 10 miles away! We motored up the tight channel to the gas dock at Marina Fonatur at nearly 5 pm on a Sunday evening and were amazed to find the fuel dock open! Unfortunately, they only had Diesel. They were out of gasoline. Fortunately, they let us walk the half mile to the Pemex station to fill our gas containers. We talked about potentially poaching a spot there for the night and Deidre tried to snake a quick shower. It became clear that the dude working needed us to leave right then and there, so he can go home also. She came back to the boat and we headed out the river towards Isla Pajaros, where we eventually spent a beautiful night swinging gently on the hook.
As we exited the the scary river mouth, we saw and chatted with our fiends aboard Heavy Metal. They were were getting ready to take their 60 foot, aluminum hulled, sick-ass sailing machine through the breaking river bar entrance into the channel. Another boat upriver helped make sure the channel stayed clear, and Heavy Metal “turned the volume up to eleven”, and went blasting into the channel through the blind turn at top speed surfing the waves all the way in. Did I mention 60,000 pounds? 7’ draft? No bow thrusters? Yeah… I wouldn’t want that job. Rigo and Deb nailed it!

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!