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?
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!
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!
1500 miles of driving.
1500 miles of sailing.
The southern most terminus of our cruising season.
3 months since leaving Idaho.
3 months to get back.
The journey IS the destination…
Deidre and I are heading back north. We spent a wonderful 3 weeks in and around the Zihuatenejo area. With pleasant sea breezes occurring every afternoon, we found ourselves pulling the hook nearly every single day solely for the pleasure of sailing. Maybe it’s because it’s still new to us, or maybe it’s because of our awesome Cat2Fold, but no matter where we are, or what’s on our schedule, we always find time to go sailing. Most other boats seem to hurry to their respective destinations, drop the hook, and become an immobile, floating apartment. Not Cat2Fold, we are never more than 15 minutes away from raising anchor and and sailing off to different horizons. Besides Bahia de Zihuatenejo, we anchored and spent time in Isla Grande, about 10 miles north, and Barre de Potosi, in Bahia Petatlan (near the Zihuat airport), about 10 miles south. We tried to use the chartplotter like an etch-a-sketch and did a pretty good job drawing a line all over the screen.
Zihuatenejo is a beautiful little fishing/tourist town. With clean and lively beaches lining the inner reaches of the bay, restaurants galore, amazing snorkeling at nearby Isla Grande, and good surfing at Playa Linda and Playa Las Gatas, we quickly became enchanted with Z-town. Deidre spent every opportunity she had available running and doing yoga on Playa La Ropa. Clearly our favorite beach in the bay. Besides an occasional, crocodile plying the local surf, Zihuatenejo seems as close to paradise as it gets. Did I mention the 80 degree water? Sometimes we’d anchor close to all the activity, other times we’d anchor out in one of the remote, tiny coves near the entrance to the bay.
Part of the reason to go to Zihuat was an event called Sailfest. Sailfest is a week long schedule of activities that’s main purpose is to raise money to build schools and help educate the local poor kids. Check out the website Por Los Ninos. Activities including a sailing Regatta and sailboat parade, where people pay money to be on board your boat, a chili cook off, an art auction, and a music concert, take place throughout the week, with all proceeds raised for the education of the kids. Cat2Fold carried two guests for the race (Bob and Judy), and six guests (Bob & Jane, Tim & Donna, Dawn, and Brent) came aboard for the sailboat parade. Even with a smaller number of boats participating than in past years, a record 667,000 pesos was raised!!!
For the actual regatta, Cat2Fold finished in second place behind the very formidable catamaran, Pantera. In the world of Catamarans, if one were to compare them with cars, most production cats would be like a large, comfortable Winnebago. With accommodations for 8-12 people on 40+ foot boats. Cat2Fold could be compared to a nicely performing VW pop up camper-van. Pantera is more like a Porsche. With comfortable accommodations for 1 or 2, ultra lightweight, aerodynamic construction, and 44 feet of water line, Pantera can sail upwind better than any other boat around.
She flies a hull in over 20 knots of wind and has been pushed to a top speed of 27 knots. She really is in a class of her own. Now Deidre and I are finding ourselves having the pleasure of buddy boating with Pantera and her owner Bob Smith as we make our way back north towards Banderas Bay. Lucky for us Pantera’s back up motor is dead, so Bob has to sail the entire way. We can motor through the calms’, which allows us to stay close to Pantera throughout the day. Sometimes a little ahead, sometimes a lot behind.
As we work our way north towards another fun sailing Regatta in Bahia Tenacatita, we are harshly reminded that not everything here in paradise is at it seems. Only three days after spending two nights in Caleta de Campos (we spent 5 days here a month previous) our friends Bill and Judy aboard a Lagoon 470 catamaran, Moontide, were boarded and robbed at gunpoint in the middle of the night. The thieves took cash, a computer and a cell phone. Luckily, no one was hurt. There were 4 other boats in the anchorage when it happened. Whether it’s our good Karma, or the fact that Cat2Fold is not quite as big and shiny as some of these other boats, I’m confident that we can continue to cruise here in the future with little worry.
There are some things in life that just can’t be experienced sitting in the safety of an armchair, within the protected confines of a lovely living room in middle America…
With C2F anchored in 10 feet of water, about 100 yards off the beautiful Playa La Ropa, within Bahia Zihuatenejo, Deidre and I decided to paddle board to our usual spot on the beach, and go for a hike. With nice, little waves rolling onto the beach, I was excited about catching one and riding it in to the end. As we were approaching the beginning of the break (about 25 yards from shore), I started to notice the fairly large crowd, which appeared to include some cops/search and rescue types gathered on the beach directly in front of us. With a building set of waves coming that I wanted/needed to pay attention to, I somehow was able to notice that the crowd was trying to tell us not to come in. “What? Why?” We’re my first two thoughts. “Here comes a big wave”, says Deidre, at exactly the same time that I realize what is going on…
Letting the wave slip under my feet, I try and calmly paddle the board away from the shore and even more calmly explain to Deidre that the crowd is telling us there is a crocodile in the water and we need to paddle away from there. After a quick “shriek”, we gathered ourselves and paddled up the beach to a safer landing area. Once on the beach we heard all the various stories as to how dangerous and/or totally tame that particular Croc was. Well, tame or not, there is no need to try and surf over one.
We went for our hike over to Playa Principal (the main beach directly in front of Zihuatenejo). Beautiful town and area! When we returned to Playa La Ropa, the crowd had settled down some, but the search and rescue folks were still on the scene, tracking the croc. We watched for a while, then the time came to head back to the boat. With cocktails in hand, and the beach cloaked in darkness, we were lucky enough to be able to watch the large reptile become apprehended.
As you can maybe imagine, the men put in charge of trapping the croc weren’t armed with guns, tranquilizer’s, or cages. All they had was a 10′-12′ long piece of bamboo with a line on the end (to try and loop around the croc’s mouth), a flashlight, some mad skills, and some “grande cojones”. Watching from the safety of Cat2Fold, we heard a large splash, some yelling and a saw a bright flashlight light up the beach. 3-4 men were able to get the loop around the croc’s mouth and drag it up out of the water and onto the beach. With all the squirming and wrestling going on, the croc appeared to become free from the snare around its mouth. That’s when “super-bad-ass-croc-hunter-man” among men stepped onto the stage. With all the other croc-hunters wearing black uniforms and boots, this guy with shorts, tee shirt and no shoes calmly removed his tee shirt, placed it directly on the crocs head, waited about one second, then jumped on the crocs back. There didn’t appear to be much of a fight at that point. Maybe because the croc could feel the coconut sized cojones this guy obviously had, or maybe he was just done fighting. Our super hero just laid down on the croc, reached over his head and held the mouth closed while the other guys tied it securely.
There was a lot of camera flashes and posing going on for the next few minutes. Then the team dragged the huge beast up the beach and disappeared into the darkness. We’re still not sure if that croc was put into a refuge, or onto a dinner plate, but we both feel lucky to have witnessed such an event that you never really get to see up in the mountains of Idaho.
As the sun rises over the sleepy fishing village of Caleta de Campos, the sound of the huge crashing surf is a constant reminder of just how far south we have sailed. Our current anchorage lies just 75 miles NW of Zihuatenejo, a popular destination among surfers, sailors, and fellow northerners looking to escape the deep freeze of their respective homelands. Along with larger, more consistent surf comes longer sailing passages between safe anchorages, and much more challenging dinghy landings, or in our case, paddleboard landings.
Most folks speak about sailing the nearly 200 mile passage from Manzanillo to Zihuat in a single, long, overnight push. Some choose this because the handful of available stops are poorly protected anchorages with a lot of swell finding its way in, leaving one to restlessly debate throughout the night whether or not stopping was a good idea. Others bypass this section of the Michoacan coast for fear of banditos or somehow getting entangled in the ever present war on drugs. The state of Michoacan is infamous for growing large amounts of Marijuana. With Cat2Fold’s ability to handle swell better than most boats due to her wide beam, and my ever present ability to sniff out the good and the bad “mota” folk, we decided to try and day sail our way down the coast.
Our first anchorage, Cabeza Negra, 50 miles SE of Manzanillo was one of the former anchorages. Arriving just before sunset, we made the mistake of not taking the time to set up a stern anchor. The swell, which clearly had been building throughout our day sail, wrapped its way into our anchorage, hitting Cat2Fold directly abeam, turning our flat stable sleeping platform into a thrusting, gyrating, hop and pop sort of sleepless event. A middle of the night, half hearted attempt at setting a stern anchor did nothing to solve the dilemma (albeit for a measly 15 minutes), and in fact almost turned a bad situation worse by wrapping itself around our main ground tackle. Luckily, this was not noticed at all until morning, during the retrieval of our dual anchor setup.
Wasting no time hanging out in the not so peaceful anchorage, our next stop was a small village called Maruata, some 30 miles down the coast. We ventured ashore to stretch our legs and have a look around. We were also in search of an Internet connection so Deidre could continue working from the boat. I felt like the beach and the whole village was dead. With no internet connection to be found, and more empty palapa’s then people, we headed back to C2F. I couldn’t help but wonder why this cute little town seemed so empty. Oh well, with better protection afforded in this anchorage by the surrounding rocky islets jutting out from its’ northwestern side, and a swell subsiding by the hour, Deidre and I finally caught up on some much needed rest.
In the morning, our journey south continued. We had nearly 40 miles to sail to the next semi-protected anchorage, Caleta de Campos. Here we found an anchorage with pretty good protection from the ever present swell, and also, a thriving little beach community. Our first night here, we were (gladly) kept awake late into the night by a raucous, Mexican “Ooompah-pah” band. Having never seen this type of party music live, I was enthralled with the sound. In hindsight, we should have rallied, got up out of bed and gone to see the music. The next day, I learned that the music party should continue the next couple of nights, so Deidre and I made a plan to have dinner on the beach that evening, with hopes of catching the performance. Unfortunately, the info was incorrect, the music was done here at Caleta de Campos.
Nevertheless, 4 days have passed as we have become enchanted with this amazing spot. We are only one long day sail away from Zihuatenejo, and with “SailFest” being more than two weeks away, we are finding ourselves in no hurry to be anywhere…might as well be here…