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!

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Heading South…

Sitting at anchor in a town called Cuastecomate (or Secret Anchorage), as we slowly work our way South to Zihuatenejo, “Mexican time” is starting to take over.
Minutes turn into hours.
Hours turn into days.
As the days lazily turn into weeks, I’m finding it hard to stay motivated to keep the blog up to date…
So here is my attempt at recapping the past month…

Having the kids aboard for two weeks in December was the highlight of our trip so far. Between taking part in all the local sailing events, seeing whales and dolphins by the pound, hanging out with kid friends of old (Indigo from Teton Valley) and new (Shandro and Matero from s/v Kenta Anae), sailing to every possible anchorage within Banderas Bay, and last but not least, enjoying the amazing pools and beaches in and around Paradise Village Marina, Georgie and Beo were treated to a life seldom experienced by most 5 and 7 year olds.
In fact visiting with full time live aboard families, and witnessing just how well behaved, organized, disciplined, inquisitive, and intriguing these kids can be, helps me to more readily digest my decision to live aboard C2F in Mexico for 1/2 the year even if my kids are only “allowed” to come aboard for 2-two week visits throughout the 6 months. I strongly feel that I have more to offer them on board the boat than I do by going through the motions of being an “every-other-weekend-Dad” living in the same remote mountain valley, offering the same mountain life that the Mom is already quite capable of offering. Unfortunately two weeks is nowhere near long enough to truly experience “life aboard”. I can only hope that in the years to come, the value of this alternative life will be recognized, and longer visits will not only be allowed, but appreciated.
After the kids flew home, Deidre and I spent another couple nights in La Cruz picking up our freshly re-repaired drifter sail, then participating in one other “around the cans” race. We were glad to have our big front sail back in action due to more light winds that plagued most of the racing events we had already partaken in. During this races’ upwind leg, we tried something we had never done before, we flew a headsail on each mast! With the jib pulling on the windward mast and the drifter pulling on the leeward, both mainsails up fully, sheeted in tight, we were able to pull the strings into all the right spots to get some magical apparent wind created. We were ghosting up the coast, catching up to the fleet (our starts still need ALOT of work), while everyone else appeared to be stopped! We still need to get pics of the 4 sails up at once. The race came to a sad conclusion when we discovered that the turn around mark was stolen!!! (later to be found that it had been returned to the yacht club by a concerned fisherman)
The next morning, we sailed out to Punta de Mita, and in typical cruisers style, we changed our minds once again and decided to head south. At 11:30am we sailed through all the boats in the anchorage that we knew, said “hi/bye”, and turned around and sailed out of Banderas Bay, around Cabo Corrientes through the night en route to Bahia Chamela. With a full moon shining bright, we enjoyed a perfectly aligned swell to our direction of travel that made our 100 mile passage a surf session nirvana for many hours on end. Early on in the evening, while comfortably surfing at speeds ranging from 8-11 knots, a large wave caught up to us at the same time as a little puff came and we raced off down the face of the wave. The acceleration sent me back on my heels. The surf lasted for nearly a minute and we reached a top speed of 13.5 knots! It was exhilarating and nerve wracking all wrapped up into one…like a pig in a blanket.
We found ourselves staying in Bahia Chamela for a little over a week. With overly friendly fellow cruisers and locals, crystal clear warm waters, a long beach to run and play on, and 3 solid days of rain (it NEVER rains in this part of Mexico during this season), our decision to stay for that long was much easier to make. Our next stop, Paraiso, was only a few miles down the coast. We spent the night by ourselves in the “unreccommended” northern lobe. The next day we enjoyed a nice paddleboard session, a walk on shore, and some not-so-good snorkeling that was due to bad visibility from the fairly large (and getting larger) swells. When the wind picked up, I no longer felt like we were in a safe anchorage. At 3:30 pm, we made the decision to up anchor and sail the 21 miles south to Bahia Tenacatita.
Motoring out of the anchorage was as intense as it gets. Navigating through rocks and reefs within spitting distance of the boat, we battled a 17-20 knot headwind directly into 10+ foot swell that was our only way out to sea. Once out far enough, I raised the mainsails with double reefs placed in each sail, we turned downwind and entered the world of calm, smooth sailing. It’s hard to describe with words how much more pleasant downwind sailing is compared to upwind sailing (or motoring). So, with two mainsails the size of largish windsurfer sails, we sailed between 8-10 knots, with no stress, all the way to Tenacatita.
In Tenacatita, we anchored in true multihull fashion by setting a stern anchor up on the beach. By this I mean I stepped off the back of C2F in 3′ of water and walked the stern anchor up onto the beach. Nothing like being able to walk to shore from the boat if you want to! Tenacatita has a somewhat organized community of cruisers including its own self appointed Mayor. Some folks obviously appreciate this, others can’t stand it. We participated in the swim to shore, then a game of bocci ball on the beach. It was OK fun, but we didn’t do it again.
After a couple of days in Tenacatita, we enjoyed another brisk downwind sail to Cuastecomate. “The Secret Anchorage”, is virtually invisible from boats traveling north or south along this jagged and rocky section of the Gold Coast. Only once deep into the bay does the hidden anchorage reveal itself. A cute little town, with a short walk to provisions and some great snorkeling make it easy for us to stay longer than planned. One more day here, then our journey south continues.