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…
Whether I’m walking the dusty streets of small town Mexico, using my paddle board to ferry large loads of laundry or supplies to and from Cat2Fold, or setting my anchor in what is now my traditional downwind, under sail, “park brake skid” style, people tend to notice me. Sure, the fact that I’m 6’7″ with long blond dreads in a country where 6′ is TALL, and where well kept black (or silver) hair dominates the scene, clearly helps distinguish me from the rest. It also doesn’t hurt to be sailing a very unique, one-of-a-kind catamaran that catches the eye of even the most nautically ignorant. However, the more people that I meet and have the opportunity to take sailing, or even just talk sailing, or life in general, the more I realize what it is that people see in me besides the physical and nautical anomalies.
Over the past season and a half, I have been blessed with the opportunity to take well over a hundred friends sailing aboard Cat2Fold. As each day begins, we never know what kind of winds we will encounter, whether whales and dolphins will be out visiting us, or whether it will be sunny or not. I’ve had some trips start by spending the first hour under sail just trying to get out of the anchorage with virtually NO wind. Luckily for me, everyone I’ve had on board has always enjoyed playing the game the way I like to, that is…we SAIL, no matter what (well…99% of the time). Depending on the group, sometimes my guitar comes out, sometimes we rock the boat to some dope beats on the stereo, sometimes we just enjoy the subtle sound of Cat2Folds’ slippery hulls, sliding through the water. Inevitably, in every group, there’s always at least one person who, with star struck eyes, talks to me about the “Hows” and “Wows” of this awesome lifestyle.
I think that to a lot of people, whether reading of my adventures afloat from their computer screen, meeting me on the beach or street, or having just personally experienced a magical day on the water, I represent the pure embodiment of freedom that is rarely seen in this modern world. I do what I want, when I want, and I do it with a smile. Sure, I’m just like everyone else with my own lists of doubts and fears, but since I’ve taken on this life of following my passions, even when those doubts rise to the surface, I just keep putting one foot in front of the other and my path, that was once hidden from view, becomes illuminated, guiding me through this life as if holding the hand of God (Jah, Alah, Magic, The Great Weirdness, etc…) itself…
With wild, unkempt hair, twinkling eyes glowing amidst my tropical sun cooked skin, a smile that I wear more often than I wear clothes while sailing aboard the coolest cat in Mexico, I’ve heard people say that I’m “winning at life”. Viewed from the outside, anyone else’s life can appear to be perfect, or at least better than what they currently have, especially when the viewer is not following their own bliss. And, even though I struggled with my own head my first two seasons down here wondering what I had to offer the world, and what I should be doing, I’m finally realizing that what I have to offer is quite simple…
I offer people a look into a real, unplanned life of magic, and pure, wild freedom with an underlying tone that ANYONE CAN DO IT!!!
A “F@ck Yeah” attitude that is contagious!
Whatever you dream of doing…DO IT!!!
Not sure if you’re ready?…DO IT!!! Were you ready to be born?
Don’t have the finances together?…DO IT!!! The details will work out.
Not enough experience?…DO IT!!! Gain the experience first hand.
Don’t have all the gear?…just F@cking DO IT!!!
Change the words “I wish” into “I will”, and start NOW!
When I first bought Cat2Fold while already living my land based, off-the-grid mountain cabin dream life in SE Idaho, I had very little sailing experience and absolutely NO boat ownership experience. Through tedious online research, and a little bit of sail chartering with my ex wife, I knew that if I were to advance my sailing experience past the dream level, I absolutely had to have a multi-hull, and with my general preference of all things unique, my first plunge towards this life of magic unknowns was to purchase the world’s only 36′ folding, trailerable sailing catamaran with an even rarer, free-standing, double masted, biplane rig. No manual. No online explanations of sail trim. No traditional sail anything. So, with just a decent mechanical aptitude, and an adventure loving attitude, I was able to instantly jump aboard, pull some strings and make her go…
A couple of week long trips in the high alpine lakes of NW Wyoming, had me believing it was time take on the ocean and sail down to Mexico. F@ck Yeah!
But, wait…from everything I had read online, I can’t possibly go overnight ocean sailing without the latest GPS, AIS, RADAR, EPIRB, SSB Radio, paper charts, proper experience, diesel motors, life raft, water maker, blah, blah, blah, and a note from your Mom!!! Luckily, I have a Kiwi friend who helped me fully embrace the “you don’t need it” attitude, which I mixed with my “F@ck Yeah” attitude, and off we went.
Leaving Los Angelos, CA, on the way to Mexico, in 2011, the small GPS that came with C2F was full of chart details. Depth contours, shipping lanes, lights, detailed coastlines, etc… everything was there. 400-500 miles south, half way down the Baja, all details just disappeared. It was as if we were sailing off the edge of the known world! Well, as nice as it is to have a very detailed GPS map is to help navigate, it is NOT absolutely necessary. Using ones senses and good judgement helped countless mariners, for thousands of years, navigate the entire globe! There’s no reason why it can’t still work. Just the same as navigating ones way through life without a “proper plan”…you’ll always end up somewhere, so you may as well go where you please, how you please (but, be nice). After approximately 1200 miles of sailing south with the very basic GPS, and a Mexican road atlas, I finally bought an iPad and now use the Navionics App for incredibly detailed mapping of the Mexican coast, but not before gaining the confidence of doing without…
Whether building beautiful strawbale houses, playing guitar, skiing/snowboarding, mountain biking, hiking, climbing, sailing, paddleboarding, etc. I’ve always followed my passion du jour. However, it wasn’t until recently that I’ve realized the need to share these experiences with others.
In the past, I was never any good at “tooting my own horn”, I just lived my life the way I wanted to in a quiet, off beat way. But now, I’ve come to realize the importance of sharing…a smile, a song, a chapter of a life most only dream of. If I only touch one person, through the sharing of my own moments of “F@ck Yeahdom” while following my passions, and it helps them reach a life that had only been an unobtainable dream of theirs before, well then…
Before sailing off to the warm winter wonderland of Mexico and discovering this sailing/cruising lifestyle for myself, I honestly didn’t even know this life existed. It’s hard to dream of something you don’t know exists. I had spent 40 years in HARD winter country. The sort of life lived in a place where one spends nearly the entire (short) summer season preparing for next winter’s onslaught of cold, snow, and long hours of dark. I now find myself similarly spending my entire summer preparing for the next winters’ season, however, it is a season spent sailing warm, tropical waters, meeting fellow travelers from around the world (whether sea or land based), and taking on the challenges, and the rewards of the sea and life aboard my very own boat, living the dream…And, if I can do it, than so can anyone!!!
I seem to be continually amazed at the dogged determination necessary to keep things ship shape aboard Cat2Fold without getting stuck in a location for weeks and weeks. When I arrived in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle on Monday 1/12, I desperately wanted to have new gudgeons made up to replace the ones I “enhanced” this past summer. My rudders were clunking badly because of the hack job done by the backwoods mechanic I used in SE Idaho… (oh wait, that was me). I found a machine shop within walking distance of the anchorage, and after communicating as clearly as I could, what I wanted done, the pieces were ordered and I was told they’d be ready at the same time, next day. I could hardly believe they would be done in 24 hours.Well, my hunch was confirmed as mañana turned into mañana mañana, etc…
In the meantime, I had come up with a fun idea to switch my masts which I had mistakenly raised and installed in the wrong hulls up in San Carlos. Clearly, they worked fine in the hulls they were in, having sailed over 600 miles with it configured as such, but my lines were not falling where/how they should, and I really wanted to have everything perfect aboard Cat2Fold. I talked with Rigo aboard s/v Heavy Metal and told him my idea. Heavy Metal is a 60′ aluminum monohull with a very tall mast. There was a slip available just to the side of him. If I could get Cat2Fold into that slip, I could use his mast as a crane to lift my masts out, lay them on the dock, and re-install them correctly. I could also install my rudders in the relative calm waters of the marina rather than in the swelly anchorage. Plus, there was a dock party planned for Friday night.
So… early Friday morning, driving Cat2Fold like a skid steer, I motored the rudderless vessel into the slip next to Heavy Metal. The clock was ticking. I had ALOT to do before Saturday’s race which was slated to start at noon. First stop was into the Marina office to pay for the slip and make sure that where I parked would be fine. Next, I had to walk over to the Capitania de Puerto’s office and check in with them. This is something I’m technically supposed to do even while staying in the anchorage, but I generally avoid all the checkin/check out BS, and just keep moving often (like nearly everyday).
After checking in, I headed straight up to the machine shop. The gudgeons were ready to go, but the rudder boxes, and some plastic bushings are not ready. I sat in the loud dusty shop for over an hour, then decided I didn’t have time to wait. I took the gudgeons with me, and made plans with Jorge to drive the rudder boxes down to my slip. I got the gudgeons successfully mounted to the boat, and simultaneously learned that Goop brand marine sealant does indeed seal and cure below the water line. COOL! The whole time I was doing this work, there was no sign of any life aboard Heavy Metal. Our plan was tentative, and I didn’t want to be TOO much of a bother, so I waited for them to arrive before dropping my sails and booms to the deck to free up the masts and allow them to be lifted out of place. While waiting, Jorge showed up with the rudder boxes I needed to continue the rudder re-install. Not 5 minutes later, I could hear Rigo yelling over to me, asking if I was ready to do the masts.
By now, it is mid afternoon, with a dock party planned for early evening, and it is HOT!!! The clock was ticking. As I stripped my rigs of sails and booms, Rigo hoisted his huge spinnaker pole which allowed us to span over the finger dock separating the two boats, allowing a nice vertical lift hoist. We had to move Heavy Metal a bit closer to Cat2fold, and the first mast came out with a bit of hesitation and adjustments made on the fly. After laying it down on the dock, I backed the boat out of the slip, did a 180, and backed back into the slip (remember, I still have no rudders)… The second mast came out much easier. We laid it down on the dock, and grabbed the first mast. It was reinstalled without a hitch. Now people were starting to gather and ogle at not only the freak boat, but the freak show of mast removal and re-install using another boat as a crane. I motored out again and flipped another 180, and came back in. The crew was getting distracted by the party that was clearly starting and I heard talk of leaving the last mast to be re-installed the next morning. I wasn’t having any part of that business. Too many manana’s already fizzled by. So, we got the last mast up and in. SUCCESS!!! My only regret was to not have found someone to film the whole circus show.
The party was a huge success! I’m guessing there were nearly 70 people there. Food, drink, and friends, new and old. What more could a salty single hander ask for! I ducked out for a good FaceTime call with my kids, then continued to party well into the wee hours of the morning. I had planned another FaceTime call with Beo for early in the morning, but low and behold, the internet was down… again. Oh well, sorry B-boy!
I still had a lot of work to do before I could even think of leaving the dock. It took me several hours to install all the components of the rudders, complete the re-rigging of my sails and booms, check out with the marina, and get under way. With the race slated to start at 12:45, I was hurriedly underway by noon, with 5.5 miles to motor sail to get to the start line. Cutting it a bit close! But, thanks to the race commodore, the race was delayed a bit due to “fluky winds” and I was able to get into the race cue at the 5 minute warning. With no clock on board set up with a second hand, I had to guess when the exact start was happening, but even while incredibly hung over, single handing, and everything working against me, I nailed the start (well, it was one of my better starts anyway). I cracked open the big drifter sail and rocketed out towards the windward mark. I timed my tack perfectly, and with only one tack, I was the first boat to reach the mark. YAY! I didn’t stay at the pointy end of the fleet for long, with the 50’+ race boats closing down on me with HUGE spinnakers flying, but after I made some adjustments to my sail wardrobe, I caught and passed a few boats that had passed me on the downwind leg while reaching back to the first mark. Even with my old worn out sails, after adding a extra line along the foot of my sails (recommendation from Chris White) to help get more sail shape in the bottom 1/3 of my sails, Cat2Fold felt like she had lots of horsepower, and we were sailing fast. I played a little guitar, smoked, drank beer, and giggled as boats with crews of 10-15 people struggled to pass me.
As much work as sailing/cruising/racing can be, I absolutely LOVE this life, and feel like I was born and raised to to be the perfect candidate to be out here doing what I’m doing aboard the most AWESOMEST boat in Mexico!
“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!