Sailing, cruising, racing…it’s all WORK! (…and I love it!!!)

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!

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The LONG road south.

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“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.

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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…

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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.

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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!

The Flying Dragon

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

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!

Heading North

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Wow! How the time flies. Deidre and I have already reached Mazatlan. We’re currently motoring up to the marina area of this sprawling Mexican city so we can fill our tanks with fuel and water and start the 230 mile crossing of the Sea of Cortez to La Paz.
A week ago, Deidre arrived back in Puerto Vallarta after spending a month up in the cold snowy north. After doing a major restocking of the boat, we hurried out of Paradise Village Marina excited to get out in the open and back on the hook. Not having enough time to make it out to our favorite Banderas Bay anchorage, Punta de Mita, we spent Monday night out in La Cruz anchorage. There we were able to hook up with our dear friends from s/v Convivia. We met Convivia in the Baja Haha, yet never really hung out until, my kids, Georgie and Beo, came down for two weeks in La Paz in November. Convivia has two kids on board, Ruby (7&1/2) and Miles (4), so as you can imagine, we hung out with them as much as possible. Now, we were saying our goodbyes as Convivia and crew were preparing for their journey across the Pacific and beyond. Goodbyes are always hard, but in this new world of cruising, it felt good that we at least got to bid them farewell. Some of the most amazing people ever met, enter and exit our lives as readily as the rising and falling tides.
Ok, with that goodbye dealt with, next stop…Punta de Mita! Deidre and I absolutely love Punta de Mita. It is a nice, breezy, large anchorage with the potential for great surfing directly off the bow of the boat. We had an amazing sail out there from La Cruz, catching and passing another “Haha” boat, s/v Deep Playa, who left La Cruz several hours before us. Later that evening we heard all about how slow, but comfortable Deep Playa is, however that didn’t stop the “ass-kicking” feeling that I get every time Cat2Fold overtakes another vessel.
Arriving in the Punta de Mita anchorage, and dropping anchor under sail, we were a bit disappointed to find Jack and Monica from s/v BellaVia were no longer around. However, that feeling waned quickly when we saw s/v Lightspeed, s/v Red Witch, s/v Kiora, and s/v Wings of the Dawn joining the fleet of other “Haha” boats hogging up the entire anchorage. Apparently, we had just missed a doozy of a party the night before we arrived, but we were quickly informed that tonight was to be a birthday party for kiwi Rob (66) from s/v Red Witch. We all gathered aboard s/v Kiora (a beautiful and sleek, 55’er. With about 20 people on board, we ate, drank, and played music into the wee hours of the night. It became apparent that I had had my fair share of booze when it came time to leave aboard our trusty paddle boards. Let’s just say that I got wet a few times, but finally made it back to the safety of Cat2Fold with everything intact. Luckily falling in 70 degree water doesn’t hurt at all.
The next morning, I think I woke up still drunk, because my hangover never really happened til later that afternoon. That is when 3 out of 4 of the crew from Lightspeed came over to Cat2Fold to go on a spirited day sail. With the winds blowing between 15 and 20 knots, we raised the anchor and scooted across the bay. The sailing was spectacular, and Dave, who owns Lightspeed (a Chris White, Atlantic 42) was very excited about the sailing characteristics of Cat2Fold. We sailed around “racing” any other vessel that happened to be out sailing that afternoon. And we “won” every battle! Unfortunately our friends Winston, Cate, and Indigo from Teton Valley, Idaho did not make it out for the sail. They had just arrived in Punta de Mita, where they just bought a condo. Hopefully next year we will find ourselves back there at the same as them and we can go sailing then.
Shortly after dropping the anchor, it was time for another birthday celebration. This time it was John from s/v Michaela’s 50th birthday. I took it a little easier on the booze this time, but we still stayed up well past “cruisers midnight” (which is anywhere between 7 and 10 pm) playing music once again. John has a collection of ukuleles on board Michaela, and he really does the instrument justice.
As sad as it was to make the decision to leave, the next day we pulled the hook and said goodbye to Banderas Bay for the final time of this trip. We had some good strong winds for the first part of the day, but as the day wore on, the winds lightened and we pulled into an anchorage in Bahia Jaltemba, which was 10 miles short of our planned anchorage. The next day we motor sailed with no winds up to Matachen Bay, just south of San Blas. Just as we were reaching the bay, we caught the perfect sized Sierra Mackerel. Immediately after dinner for two was procured, and filleted, to our surprise we hooked on to another fish. This time it was some sort of Sea Catfish. Since it was not in our fish identification book, and we already had dinner caught, we decided to release this interesting looking fish. Once in Matachen Bay, we were able to pull Cat2Fold into shallow enough water where we could stand on the sea floor and scrub her very dirty hull bottoms very well.
It seems as though every single day of sailing, our plans change as to where we are going and when. We initially had spoke of leaving Matachen the next morning and heading to Isla Isabel some 40 miles away, hanging here for the afternoon, then continuing through the night to Mazatlan, another 93 miles North. I can’t remember why we decided to change our plan again, but we found ourselves raising the anchor at 8pm with the goal of reaching Mazatlan before nightfall the next day. Although we had to motor sail more than I care to, we reached our destination as dusk was settling in. Now we needed to resupply on fuel and water and try to get across the 230 mile passage of the Sea of Cortez while our weather window was looking good.
…stay tuned for more about our crossing!

Punta de Mita

Sitting in the anchorage just outside of Punta de Mita drinking my coffee, I can’t help but feel like I’ve come home. I sailed here yesterday from the Paradise Village Marina. Not before officially checking out with the “Capitania de Puerto” and paying the hefty bill that comes with leaving a boat in a marina for nearly a month. At nearly $700 USD, you’d think that it must be SO nice to stay in these marinas. Well, for some it is an absolute necessity, for me…not so much. Parking Cat2Fold amongst the multitudes of various boats, some of which cost more to fill with fuel than my boat cost (and for me, Cat2Fold is THE most expensive single item I’ve ever purchased), it becomes quite apparent that needing to be “hooked up to the grid” is more than just a bad habit of land based folks. Granted, at Paradise Village Marina, there are several different pools, hot tubs, beautiful showers and easily accessed shops and a grocery store that come with the privilege of paying for a slip, but it still feels funny to me that I have no way to “plug-in”. All of my power needs are supplied with my solar panels. What little bit of motoring I do with my 9.9 hp outboards doesn’t amount to much electrical generation. Sure, my power needs are minimal. All my lights are LED’s (or non existent) and I rely on headlamps a lot. Most of my power drain comes from the refrigerator which lives in the starboard hull, and over in the port hull, my trusty crew member named Otto (my auto-pilot) uses up his fair share of power while under passage. Not to mention the fact that I prefer to sleep up on top, in the dodger (where the king sized bed is) and I don’t wear much clothing at night. It kind of feels like camping out in a city with neighbors just a few feet away.
This brings me back to Punta De Mita. As I arrived yesterday evening, the breeze had finally picked up and seemed like it was gonna continue to blow. This after hitting speeds of nearly 10 knots just outside the Nuevo Vallarta breakwater (where Paradise Village Marina is), then having the wind basically turn itself off frustrating even the most die hard sailors. After drifting for more than two hours, I decided to fire up one motor so I could get to my desired anchorage before dark. After motor/sailing for about an hour, the winds freshened and I was able to quietly sail once again. As I was wondering if there would be anyone I knew in the anchorage, I was hailed on the radio by John and Tiffany from s/v Michaela whom I hadn’t seen since La Paz back in December. Shortly after that John and Gilly from s/v Destiny also hailed me to say hi. Although John and Gilly sailed their boat in the Baja Haha, they own a condo here in Punta de Mita which overlooks the anchorage and that is where they were calling from. In fact, back in December, while anchored out here, John recognized Cat2Fold and hailed Deidre and I with an invite to come over for Christmas dinner. I honestly didn’t remember who they were but we took them up on the invite and had a wonderful evening! Having a very recognizable boat like Cat2Fold has proven to be quite advantageous. Everyone seems to love her and she is quite the conversation piece.
I love it when I can pull into an anchorage and have it be large enough and windy enough that I can sail Cat2Fold around all the other boats to see who’s who, decide where I want to be, sail to the spot, drop the sails and drop my anchor without ever running my motors. I sailed right by another boat that I recognized. Jack and Monica aboard s/v Bellavia, a cute older hippie couple from Vancouver Island. We met in Bahia Tenacatita, about 100 miles south of here. It was perfect timing. I was really starting to stress out over work (or lack thereof), the boat and how and where to end this trip. Here I was in an absolute paradise and I was stressed out! Well, along comes Jack rowing over in his homemade dinghy. I swear it was as if he were reading my mind, and said exactly what I was needing to hear. He concurred that San Carlos/Guaymas is THE place to leave the boat for the summer and threw out some perfectly worded threads of wisdom about being here now!!! When he rowed away, I was left awestruck and feeling like he had just delivered me a message from God!(and I use that term very loosely).
The sun is now high enough to start to dry off the heavily condensated boat, which is my cue to get on with my day. I have a bunch of visiting to do, surfing to be had (although the swell appears too small currently), boat maintenance to do, and just some general hanging out!
…Ahhh…..the cruising life!

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