2016 Banderas Bay Regatta

After being in and around Chamela bay for nearly a month and a half doing my thing, a weather window availed itself for us to have a nice smooth sail North around Cabo Corrientes, back in to Banderas Bay with the goal of participating in this years 24th annual International Banderas Bay Regatta. I arrived a few days early, so I spent some time gorging on some great surf that was happening in Punta Mita. It was there that I met Jim Milski on the 49′ Schionning designed catamaran that he built himself, circumnavigated the globe with and was now for sale. I offered him to trade for C2F, but he’s still thinking about that offer…😉 I will say, it is very inspiring to be hanging out with a 70 year young, energetic surfer that also lives onboard his awesome catamaran. After a few days, the great swell disappeared, the wind picked up, and it was time to prepare for the regatta. 

I wanted to get a slip so I could unload some of the heavy stuff that goes along with day to day living on a boat, so I aimed for Paradise Village Marina, which is where all the parties for the races were to be held, and is closest to the starts for all three days. Once I finally got within radio range, while still sailing downhill at 10-15 knots, I learned that there was no room for us right then, but by the morning, they would have a space available. So we changed course and headed over to the La Cruz anchorage wear we spent a restless night in big winds and a new swell developing, worried about dragging anchors. Just before nightfall, I noticed two other boats that appeared to be anchored very close to each other, but with two dinghies tied to the stern of the upwind boat, I figured it was just a party. A little later, I saw the upwind boat reanchoring, directly in front of me…😬, confirming my initial suspicion that they were dragging when I first noticed them. Luckily, every time I poked my head up for a look around in the night, everybody appeared to be holding fast. 

The next morning as I was approaching the shallower water of the bay near the beach bar, entrance channel, I suddenly became aware of the giant swell that had been forecast to show up. I knew it was going to be an exciting entrance in. The breaking waves were huge! And of course, I had just been reading about a catamaran in Hawaii doing the wrong things in a similar sand bar situation and ending up on the rocks. Knowing this could be quite challenging, I moved the dinghy I had been towing up onto the forward net, and studied the patterns of the breaking waves before moving forward with caution. With dagger boards half up, and my best guess as to a break in the wave sets, I gunned my two trusty Yamahas and surfed a medium sized wave far up into the channel at 14 knots! If I wasn’t quite awake yet, I sure as shit was now!!!

As part of the tradition of the Regatta, Thursday’s race number one was preceded with a costume parade out of the harbor. The theme was “loving cruising in Mexico”. Single handing Cat2Fold, we weren’t about to get involved in a bunch of dressing up, but I do have a pretty groovy Lucha Libre mask that garnered me an honorable mention. 

Out on the course, the wind was building. I was psyched! All weather signs that I had referenced, led me to believe we weren’t going to see above 6-8 knots, and Cat2Fold isn’t particularly great in light winds.  In the end, it became apparent that we had some competition in our category. S/V Catatude, a well sailed 1994 Lagoon 42 sailed at an amazingly similar rate of speed. I think I beat them to every mark, but not by a lot. In the end, I crossed the finish line far enough ahead to still win on corrected time! Hurray! First line honors and bullet for Cat2Fold and I. 😄⛵️

On day two, the long race, somehow Catatude sped up. We came into every single mark at exactly the same time. Sailing completely different angles sometimes, while at other times,  it was only a matter of inches keeping our boats apart. Things were going well enough for me, until the wind built to a point where I had my own personal battle with my headsails. In hindsight, I should have just abandoned them, but instead I wasted a ton of time trying to save time, while Catatude sailed away perfectly towards the finish. Luckily, I was able to get my shit together and give them an honest to goodness chase, catching them at the leeward mark, turning inside of them and beating them to the finish line by 37 seconds. On corrected time, our 37 second lead turned into a 27 second victory for them. 🙁 Close, exciting racing to say the least! Catatude and Cat2Fold would start off Saturday’s final race tied for first place! Winner takes all!!! Not only was the racing incredibly close in our category, but there were many ties for first place in all the other categories. The performance cruisers had a 5 way tie for first, and in any of the categories, any given boat had the chance to win. 

So on Saturday, after so much incredibly close racing, I still can’t really say how or why Catatude was able to beat us to the weather mark so badly, and then in total panic mode, continued to build the lead to the point of reaching the first La Cruz mark 7 minutes and 21 seconds before me. Wow! I thought for sure our weekend was done. I watched helplessly as Catatude tacked back out into stronger winds aiming for the upper mark only 2 miles up the beach. I wanted to cry. But, we didn’t give up. It’s a long way back to the start/finish line, I thought. Knowing that if we just followed their move and tack out to sea, I would just continue to watch them sail away. So, we played our wild card and worked the fluky winds along the beach, which had a more direct line to the next mark. As we slowly sailed and drifted straight towards the mark, I could see Catatude, and many other boats, were dealing with very shifty winds with holes of no wind developing here and there. My spirits continued to lift. It was appearing to be the most amazing strategic sailing move I’ve ever been involved with making. Reaching the mark first, while visually being able to see Catatude still struggling to get moving again, I was unable to control myself and I let out a primal screem from deep within that could be heard for miles! We had perfect reaching conditions all the way back to the start and ended up crossing the finish line 34 minutes ahead of my competitors. 😄🏁⛵️

The after party was spectacular! Tons of amazing food! Drinks! And music by Luna Rumba!!! The winners of each category received trophies and bottles of champagne. Our bottle was gone before the band stopped playing. I was the only person to single hand the race and most folks thought that was kind of a big deal. Knowing just how easy Cat2Fold is to sail alone, I just chuckle and let them think I’m a bad ass, when really I’m just enthusiastic and incredibly lucky. 😉

I stayed in the bay for another couple of days afterwards, but have since returned to my favorite hang out, Bahia Chamela to hang out with my new Swedish friends. 

More soon!

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Sailing the Mexican Riviera    Part 2-A month and a half in Bahia Chamela

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…😃















































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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Magic is in the air

I arrived in San Carlos at about 2:30 on Christmas afternoon. The decision to cross the border on Christmas Day was somewhat arbitrary. I pulled into Tucson on Sunday the 21st needing my trailer brakes fixed and some other stainless bits welded. After a few phone calls, I had an appointment with Patrick @ Professional Trailer. Patrick dropped everything to take care of me quickly, and did it all at a fair price. I am VERY happy I took my business to him. The welding took a bit longer to find the right guy with the time and desire to come and get-er-done on Christmas Eve, but once JJ showed up, I knew I was in good hands.
Anxious to hit the road after three nights spent stealthily urban camping in a residential neighborhood where my old friends Trent, Abra, and their daughter Zephyr live, I had one last “funny sound” to investigate under my hood before I could leave. Turns out my exhaust had completely unhooked itself from the turbo because of a failed clamp bolt. Luckily, the fancy clamp was still dangling around my exhaust, now I just needed to find a new bolt and a special barrel style nut. With little hopes of finding an exact replacement, I wandered into Ace hardware to see what parts I could bastardize into a workable solution. That solution was found in the furniture hardware box, in the form of a barrel nut that would only require a small amount of customizing to make fit perfectly!
Using a ratchet strap and a hydraulic jack to pull and lift the exhaust into alignment, and then by forcefully shoving my arms down into a spot where two arms should never have to go, I was able to reclamp the two pipes back together creating a seamless tunnel for the hot exhaust gases to happily find there way out through the back of the truck.
Now darkness was getting close. I really wanted to get my train rolling again.
In years past, I had stayed at an RV campground up in the Saguaro cactus laden foothills of Tucson Mountain County Park, and, although not very far away, I decided it would be a great place to go spend the night. Unfortunately, after driving up to the park, we found the campground virtually full, with all the larger spots taken. Who’d-a thunk that a campground would be filled up to the brim with festive, Christmas Eve campers?
So, we used the poop dump facilities, and set our sights for a rest area on the highway about 20 miles north of the border.
Expecting a long stopover dealing with my boat and boat trailer at customs and immigration, I wanted to hit the road early. As I was driving, I noticed how nearly all businesses were closed for the Christmas holiday. That started to get me wondering if the immigration offices were even going to be operating. If they were open, would they be manned by mean, crusty people forced to work the holiday shift, costing me more time and money than otherwise needed? Was this crossing on Christmas going to be a good idea or not???
Well, in hindsight, it was brilliant! There was no talk whatsoever of my boat or trailer, I didn’t offer up any more details than was necessary. I paid my $22 for my 6 month visa and was on my way in no time. One last checkpoint to make it through…there is a “green light/red light” game they play when you come into Mexico via car or by plane. It is a random thing. If you get the green, you are free to go. If you get the red, they search through your stuff. If you do have things that you should have declared but didn’t…umm, I’m not sure what happens, but I imagine there’s some hefty fines to pay.
Luckily for me, the red light green light game was not even in operation.
All in all, a fairly stress free drive.
I made it through Hermosillo with my shiny clean license plates, without even so much as seeing a cop. Although the last 70 miles of shoulder-less roads, with death defying drops amped up my tension a bit, when I arrived in San Carlos, I felt like a kid coming home.
I didn’t know if I’d see anyone here that I knew or not. When I pulled into the boatyard, it was dead. Plenty of boats, but absolutely no people. I decided to go walk to the beach. On my way there, I thought I’d check and see if some old friends, Theo and Marrionette, were at their newly acquired home. I knew the neighborhood it was in, but I had never been there. As I got closer to the condo complex, I could clearly here the sound of ALOT of people gathered. Sure enough, it was the right place and it was like walking into christmas dinner with my family (except a family of about 40).
Food, drink, music, gifts, friends.
Welcome to Mexico.
Life is Magical!!!

Love, loss, and giving thanks… “Get Down on Your Knees And Pray”

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It’s 3am.
Im laying in bed, staring at the ceiling in the dark, unable to sleep. Yesterday, I skipped work and drove the 170 miles north with the hope of one thing; finding Cora…
Cora is my 15&1/2 y.o. Australian Shepard who, while visiting family for the Thanksgiving holidays, was lost outside on a day that saw the temperature drop from a relatively balmy 40 degrees to a bone chilling -25.
Having not been there, I don’t know all the details, nor do I need to know. I am not looking for answers. I am now just wanting to recover a body, dead or alive, to put my anxious, sad, and tired mind to rest. My hopes of somebody haven taken her in and not calling the number on her tags, or the local shelter, have all but faded as day 5 of her being missing is a mere sunrise away.
I also had high hopes that I would see her marching down the highway, desperately trying to make her way back home. During my 4 hour drive here, plying every inch of horizon, I saw and noted thousands upon thousands of dark colored, bushes, rocks, shadows, and mail boxes….no Cora. At one point, I stopped to examine a fresh, road killed carcass, which, upon closer inspection, was clearly the remains of a local Jack rabbit.

Cora came into my life back in 1999, as a spritely 6 month old. This was before I had a cell phone.
Before I had a CD player.
Before the www.
Before 911.
Before my kids…
Cora has been there with me through countless heartbreaks, probably feeling as much or more of a loss during every failed attempt, but never forming an opinion as to the “why’s” that I could hardly begin to answer myself. Times I felt lonely, frustrated, sad, tired, hurt, etc… Cora was always there with a deep, genuine look of concern, that would say, “Come Dad. Curl up with me and everything will be just fine. Lick. Lick…”
One funny thing about Cora’s fabled past, is how/when she discovered her voice. For the first two plus years of her life, I never heard her make a sound. She didn’t bark. She didn’t growl. She didn’t howl…nothing. Then one day, while on the way to one of my job sites, with Cora wedged into the cramped confines of the X-tra cab of my small Toyota pick-up (as a nervous sort of Dog, this was her preferred space for drives), it all began… With the “high lonesome sound” of Del McCroury’s, “Get Down On Your Knees and Pray” playing on the radio, I heard Cora burst into song! As I watched her howl away, confused look on her face… She didn’t know what was happening, but she couldn’t help herself! It was as if she had finally found her calling, because amongst the many things Cora has become well known and loved for, her singing was something special.
The birthday song? No problem. Cora would be on cue without any pre-notification necessary, howling away instantly.
She even was the main singer at my wedding, voicing her approval in the form of her own self composed, complex K9 opera.
Aside from her long history as a sweet singer, Cora was also an amazing athlete. Although I refrained from taking her on TOO many bike rides, Cora has skied more runs in the Tetons than most, thanks in part to her long, healthy life, but also because she was so calm and collected. She knew when it was time to quietly rest, and when it was time to move. She was on OUR schedule. She was a part of our gang. I’ve skied with many other dogs that were just a nuisance to be with. Incessant barking or constantly running off chasing other dogs. When confronted on the trail by said dogs, Cora would vibe them with a look that said it all…”stop being such a DUMB DOG, pull it together, and become a skier, LIKE ME!!!”
Cora was well into her teens when I bought Cat2Fold and started sailing. Being a nervous, old dog, I thought it’d be best not to introduce her to living on board while sailing on the ocean in a foreign country. So Cora stayed behind and helped raise the kids, while tending to the acres upon acres of the rolling fields of Snowdrift Farm. Mousing, was also one of Cora’s specialties and favorite past times. I remember one year, while picking up two-string bales of hay out of the fields, our neighbor Greg was egging Cora on, who was devouring every single, unsuspecting mouse that was uncovered with each bale lifted. We stopped counting when she had eaten well over twenty mice.
This past summer, although she had never experienced sailing before, Cora happily joined us on many forays out on our local mountain lakes aboard our Minicat 420. I kind of figured she wouldn’t want anything to do with this crazy floating contraption, but after her first go, she was hooked!!! (Just like her Dad). Throughout the summer, with many different iterations of families and friends, Cora, the kids, and I camped and sailed at different venues every single weekend this summer. We excitedly turned so many of our land-lubbing friends onto the sheer joy of sailing. The ultimate sharing of life’s joys came whilst my Mom (Grammy) was visiting the Tetons for a week. I would tease my Mom about coming out on the minicat, knowing full well that her nearly 70 years of being terrified of the water would probably keep her from trying something as exciting (scary) as sailing a small (flippable) catamaran.
With a couple of reassuring licks on the hand, and a sincere look in her eye that said to Grammy, “Look, if I can do this, you can do it too.”, an old dog that was recently taught a new trick, helped an old lady overcome her fears and become a sailor!
As winter sets in hard here in the Tetons, I’m finding myself making the final preparations to head down to Mexico for my fourth winter sailing season. They say that a boat is just a hole in the water that you keep there by throwing money into it. With Cora’s recent disappearance, I now have a similar sized hole in my heart that I’m going to slowly fill, not with money, but with memories…

“Cora, I’m so thankful for the time we got to spend together here on this beautiful planet. I’ve learned SO much from you, and you’ve brought so much happiness into my life (and many others). I wish you luck on your new journey. I’ve still got a lot to learn and do here, so I won’t be joining you for a bit. I’m sure you understand. For now, enjoy your new freedom. Run. Play. Catch mice. Eat snow. Chase cows. and…SING!!!
I’m sure I’ll be hearing you and feeling your presence everywhere I go, with everything I do, and when I hear all your favorite songs.”

MiniCat 420 Evoque

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Sitting on the edge of Palisades Lake, enjoying my morning cuppa Joe, Minicat 420 perched at the waters edge, I can’t help but feel blessed beyond words. As the wind starts to fill in from the WSW, I’m finding a child like anxiety creep up from within telling me to blow off this damn blog post, and go get on the water!
Although I’ve now sailed Cat2Fold nearly 10,000 miles over the past three winters, I’ve really never sailed much on any other craft. Sure, there were the 3 or 4 charters I did with my ex and her family, on other cruising boats, but never have I sailed on such a small, responsive craft, with no instruments, no autopilot, no wind angles, etc… Just the wind in your face, and a light, powerful boat whose accelerations, decelerations, heel angle, and the underlying knowledge that this puppy could flip within one, un-attentive nano-second, add a pucker factor to the learning curve of sailing on a small boat that I’ve never experienced before.
I bought my new Minicat 420 Evoque as both a replacement dinghy for Cat2Fold and as an easier to deploy, more appropriate sized vessel for tooling around on our local, high alpine lakes. My old dinghy was fat, slow, leaky, non-sailing, motor dependent and was sporting an intensive network of patches that became necessary when a family of mice decided to make a new home within the folds of the then brand new dinghy and decided that they really enjoyed chewing on the heavy duty, PVC covered fabric…
I committed to the idea of a new dinghy this year while sailing North, back to San Carlos, to put C2F to bed for another season of work. The idea was always on my mind, but finally, while in La Paz, I did it. On the morning VHF net, I heard some people looking for an outboard for their dinghy, and they were wanting the exact same size that I had been lugging around all over Mexico without barely ever using it. Even while taking guests out sailing, I never used the outboard, choosing instead to anchor close to the beach, then row the hydrodynamic equivalent of a refrigerator to shore and back without needing to lift the heavy outboard on and off the stern of Cat2Fold. I tried to sell my inflatable along with the outboard as a package deal but, only the outboard was required. A deal was made. I rowed the big, fat, motor-less pig back to C2F with nearly as much cash in my pocket as what I paid for the motor three years previous. I still didn’t know what I was going to replace the boat with, but I knew I wanted to be able to sail the damn thing! Researching sailing dinghies online, I looked at home built row/sail boat dinghy’s. I looked at Portabote, folding dinghy’s. I looked at nesting dinghy’s. And finally, I looked at inflatable sailing catamarans.
Of all the inflatable sailing catamarans available on the market today, it seems all of them (at least all the REAL sailing crafts and not inflatable toys like the SeaEagle) are manufactured and distributed throughout Europe. I imagine the demand for a good quality sailing boat that can come apart and fit under your bed is partly supplied by the lack of space available to park a full size, non folding boat and trailer in the densely populated coastal cities of Europe. After looking at HappyCat, SmartCat, Ducky, and Minicat, with only small details separating one from the other,  I had decided that the HappyCat looked to be the ticket. With virtually no inventory, new or used, to be found here in the USA, of ANY of the aforementioned brands, I kept patiently doing my homework.
Then, I noticed on the MiniCat’s webpage, that Demo units were available at discount prices. They were not even used Demo’s! They had only been set up for display at boat shows! After a bit of haggling, and then nearly a month of shipping time, my new MiniCat 420 Evoque showed up in the outskirts of Felt, Idaho.
I wasted no time in familiarizing myself with this beautiful craft by opening her up, and assembling her on my front lawn! A few days later, the kids and I, along with some other friends, spent the weekend sailing, camping, paddle boarding and playing on Palisades Lake. The boat was a hit! Even with basically no wind, she ghosts right along, patiently waiting for a shift in our typically swirly, gusty, mountain lake winds.
Speaking of the typical mountain lake winds, I’ve since had her out several other times. I’ve spent hours ghosting along in delicately light winds. I’ve had to finish some trips using my SUP paddle to drive the boat whilst developing the technique of steering with my foot on the tiller extension, and found myself cruising along quite smartly!
I’ve also now had some hull flying, getting soaked, sphincter clamping, sessions where one messed up tack would have the boat upside down faster than you can say Minicat! Luckily, so far I’ve stated upright…well, if you don’t count the time I sailed the cat up on the beach, and then had a gust come lay her on her side (on the beach).
I’m anxious to bring along my handheld GPS and get an idea of speeds and tacking angles. It happens to be packed in the “ditch kit” bag aboard Cat2Fold right now, and I haven’t dealt with unpacking it.
As a tender for Cat2Fold, the Minicat 420 should prove a capable beast of burden. With a load carrying capacity of 960 lbs (total crew, engine, gear, etc…) she should be more than capable of ferrying any load I need to get to and fro C2F. I don’t imagine I’ll set up the sailing rig very often, unless of course I’m hanging out in one anchorage for a long time, or if my kids are sailing with me, but with included motor mount, and/or my recent discovery of using the 6.5′ x 14′ platform as a fairly efficient “paddle barge”, getting from Cat2Fold to shore and back should prove to be a joy.
Although I really need to focus on work and making some money if I am to have any hope of making it back down south next winter, I know that on any given weekend throughout the summer, you will find the Charette’s sailing at one of our local lakes aboard the hot, practical, fun, and downright sexy MiniCat 420!!!

Boat Work

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Cat2Fold and I have been back in Idaho for a little over a month now. With my job happening in fits and spurts, I’m glad I decided to bring her home so I can attend to some necessary maintenance. First on the list was to get my disabled outboard motor running again. Pulling both motors off the boat and bringing them into my shop so I could trade parts from the good motor to the bad motor, seemed like the perfect way to diagnose the problem. After pulling the flywheels off, I pretty much could see the problem right away… the coils that create a charge were completely corroded. Switching the good coils over confirmed my theory.

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The crippled motor now had spark! After reassembling the motor, hooking up some fuel, and setting up a big barrel of water to run the motors in (outboards need water to run in), it started right up! But…it ran like shit! And there was no coolant squirting out of the telltale. So, I took the lower unit off that motor to find my impeller (the water pump fan thingy) in about 8 pieces! Luckily, I had an “old” one laying around that looked new! I install the impeller, reinstalled the lower unit, and after a bit of help getting it primed, there was now water being pumped through the motor correctly, but it still ran like crap!!! I was starting to worry that there was more wrong with this poor power plant than was worth fixing! I pulled the carb, cleaned everything as thoroughly as possible, and after reinstalling…Voila!!! A perfectly running Yamaha 9.9 outboard! I also removed the tiller control handles (which were just unnecessary bulk and weight), adjusted the shift linkage, because it was jumping out of reverse all winter, changed the lower unit seals, and the gear and engine oils. I also rebuilt the retractable motor mounts that had become awfully loose over time.

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These pics show how I removed the lower unit seals with screws and a hammer without having to completely disassemble the drive gears.

Next up was to lower the masts to the ground and de-rig them in preparation for a paint job.

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More importantly than painting the masts, I needed to strengthen up my rudder casings. Cat2Fold is equipped with transom hung, kick-up rudders. The case is attached to the transom of the boat, and then the rudder sits inside this case attached only at its pivot. The cases on Cat2Fold were both getting a bit loose and cracked in spots, and they also sat too low in the water where the actual case was below the water line. My thinking tells me this is not good. Probably in part because we are a bit on the heavy side while cruising for 6 months. Anyway, after looking closely at things, I have decided to flip the case, re-drill and seriously beef up the pivot hole/pin, and also incredibly strengthen up the case itself with a horizontal carbon fiber rib added for stiffness and to act as a strong mechanical steering stop. Flipping it will give the clearance needed to get the case above the water line, and overall the stronger, rebuilt cases should feel better and help ME feel better while 100’s of miles offshore.

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Before starting to work with carbon fiber directly on C2F for my very first time, I decided it would be prudent to practice on something else first. I’ve heard carbon can be tough to properly wet out because it doesn’t acquire a “wet” look like fiberglass does. Anyway with these thoughts leading the way, I decided to fix up a small travel guitar that I had broken repeatedly in the past. I took off the neck of the guitar and covered the entire body with carbon fiber. It was a lot of fun, and now the Tacoma Papoose, carbon edition has been (re)born.

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Cat2Fold is also getting a lot of touch ups. Hardware removed. Hardware added. Holes plugged, sanded, and painted. Broken lights replaced. Older, rusty bolts replaced. Most of the stuff I’ve been working on this past month has been the tedious-but-not-so-expensive stuff. I still need new sails. I’m hoping I can save up enough money to buy a sewing machine, cloth and the materials to build soft wingsails for her. I’ve dreamt about it for too long now. Some sort of wingsail is most definitely in our future. Oh yeah, I also need to save enough money to be able to go use her again…

I here tell if you put your ear to the spar of a land locked boat, not only the ocean can be heard, but the mesmerizing thump of mexican ooom-pa-pa beach music… So when you see me with a PBR con limon and my head stuffed way up inside my mast hole, foot tapping to the beat…you’ll no why.

It seems weird. But, I really LOVE working on C2F. I get nearly as much pleasure out of this kind of stuff as the actual sailing and adventuring in warm, tropical locations wearing nothing but a smile, ocean waves crashing nearby, surfing, freedom, wildness…well, OK…maybe not quite as much… 😉