Time to catch up

Sitting in Ensenada de Matanchen, a large, calm bay just south of San Blas, waiting for the winds to build for our 22 mile sail to the cute little town of Chacala, I thought it would be a good time to try and fill in some blanks…

After our initial northern crossing from San Carlos to San Juanico, we hit the proverbial liquid road after recovering from my short bout of food poisoning. Since I had stocked up my fishing tackle box this year with the hopes of relying more on nature’s bounty rather than the Mexican Tiendes, I was really hoping that the fish we caught and ate had nothing to do with my sudden, violent illness. As a kid growing up in Maine, anything seafood related would make me queasy and/or sick. I really wanted those days to be behind me, and now I wasn’t so sure they were. Luckily, we had caught two of the small black skip jacks during our crossing. One went on the grill, one in the fridge. It took a few days to gather the courage to try eating the second, but when we did, everything was fine. Hurray!
Sailing from San Juanico to the Coronado islands wasn’t happening. The winds were non-existent. So, we fired up the iron genny and motored over to our anchorage. A beautiful spot! Unfortunately, we chose an anchorage that was a bit exposed to the north, and as luck would have it, the winds picked up that evening to an uncomfortable level. Not to the point that we needed to up anchor and move, but just enough to keep my sleep level at a minimum.
Trying to capitalize on these same winds, we got sailing early the next day. The winds once again became very light, however our new drifter front sail kept us moving through the light stuff and by the afternoon, the winds had filled in again. We sailed all the way to Honeymoon Cove. With so many amazingly beautiful anchorages we get to stop and stay in throughout our Mexican journey, it’s hard to say which one is our favorite, but I think Deidre and I can both agree that Honeymoon cove is one of the tops. After dropping the hook and swinging around and setting a stern anchor also (I actually walked the stern anchor up onto the beach and piled large rocks all over it), we went for a run on every inch of what limited trails there were on Isla Danzante. With the Sierra Giganta to our west creating a rugged backdrop that rivals even that of the Tetons, our sunset that evening was spectacular (again…:).
The next morning we awoke early and hit the marina within Puerto Escondido, 2.5 miles away. We figured if we arrived early enough, we could pull right up to the fuel dock, empty our trash, use the Internet, and buy gas and a bit of food staples and then leave before any fees were assessed. Things in Escondido are slow. We were docked for at least two hours while Deidre poached some Internet and a shower. There was no gas available (which we didn’t really need) and the store never opened, so, after the trash disposal, the shower and the internetting session, we left just as quietly as we came in.
From Escondido, an anchorage called Los Gatos was in our sites. We sailed the entire 40 miles. Unfortunately, upon our arrival, there was another boat anchored in a way that didn’t allow us to sneak Cat2Fold up into the tiny protected beach area the way I wanted to. With a Norther building, we knew the Los Gatos anchorage would be rolly, and it was. With Cat2Folds wide beam, rolly anchorages are not a problem for us if we can get the boat anchored in a way to face the oncoming swells. Sadly, we weren’t able to do this, so we spent the night bouncing around a bit more than ideal. Nothing compared to the monohull anchored next to us. Just watching its anchor light sway back and forth is enough to make me sea sick.
We spent the next morning crawling all over the red, Moab like slick rock formations that Los Gatos is famous for. By mid morning, we were ready to keep heading south. San Evaristo, 30 miles away, was to be the next nights’ anchorage. By mid afternoon, with our batteries running very low, and the winds dropping, we decided to motor for a while. Upon our arrival in the anchorage, it became apparent that the starboard engine was not putting out a charge. Couple that with the fact that we were sailing south (sails shading the solar panels almost all day) with cloud covered skies for the past week, and Cat2Folds’ batteries were in desperate need of a thorough charging. I did my best to diagnose the problem with the outboard myself, and after trading out parts from the working port motor to the starboard motor with no resolve, I decided it was above my head and I would need to recruit some outside assistance.
The next day, we lolly gagged the 9 miles to Isla San Fransisco, where we spent some time paddle boarding and running on the beach. Getting close to La Paz, with a growing list of repairs and upgrades needed, it was hard for me to keep moving slowly south. We wanted to stop and spend many nights in Isla Espiritu Santo, but, alas, we didn’t have the time. With one last night spent out at the beautiful anchorage of Bahia de Balandra before reaching the noise, dirtiness, and conveniences of the city of La Paz, we hoped for a calm relaxing night. As it has in the past, Balandra’s tranquil waters turned into a swelly, windy mess. In and around La Paz, there are winds that pipe up from the west in the evenings that are locally known as “Coromuels”. The Coromuels piped up that night. Not to the point of having to leave the anchorage, but just enough to make for a sleepless and bumpy evening.
Arriving in La Paz early enough to listen to and take part in the mornings “cruisers net” on VHF channel 22, we quickly got some leads to get started on our growing list of things to do. Cat2Fold needed outboard charging help, a computer style muffin fan to help our “Airhead” (composting toilet) do its job, a new stern light, and I wanted to have two of the four cushions that make up our salon/bed redone to allow for a better setup. We also wanted to hit the organic farmers market, a regular super market, visit with a dermatologist (I had a couple of moles to remove), and go out to eat at some of the favorites- “The Shack” and Tacos on the Malecone.
Less than 30 hours later, nearly everything was taken care of. I couldn’t believe how fast we were able to get it done.
Moles removed.
Cushions cut, reupholstered, and delivered back to the boat by Rodriguez Bros. Upholstery (highly recommended).
Groceries (including fresh local organic produce), booze, mixers and ice on board.
Fully gassed up.
Water tanks topped off with known potable water.
Muffin fan purchased and installed.
Laundry done.
No appropriate stern light to be found, so after contacting Lopolight about a warranty replacement and learning that our warranty was two years out of date, they offered to ship one to my kids in Idaho for half price. I was astounded to learn that half price of one small piece of sailboat hardware, albeit, a high tech, low energy LED light, ended up costing $275. Hopefully this one lasts forever!
We also never got a hold of “Sea Otter Jim” who was apparently “the” man for outboard repairs. He was out on a chartering job and wouldn’t be back until Monday. We decided it was worth the couple of day wait to try and diagnose the charging problem. Monday turned into Tuesday. And by Tuesday afternoon, the problem was diagnosed, and the part was ordered and shipped to my kids who are coming down to PV on the 8 of December.
One detail I need to include about our stay in La Paz won me the Darwin Award for the day. I was on Cat2Fold running a bit late to go and meet Deidre at the laundry. I jumped into the dinghy with the intention of racing over to Marina de La Paz. As soon as I was 50′ away from Cat2Fold, I noticed the solar panels were facing the wrong direction and decided to quickly turn around to go and adjust them. As I pulled up to the inside of the starboard hull, I slipped the motor into neutral (so I thought), stepped up on the hull for all of about one second to turn the panel, and as I went to step back down, the dinghy had idled its way forward between the hulls and was leaving me behind to go on its own ghost ride! Split second decision…I jumped in the water swimming after the dinghy. It was only about one hour since I had been stitched up from mole removal surgery. Probably a bit too early for swimming. I was able to touch the stern of the dinghy a couple of times, but with nothing to grab onto, and having a spinning prop staring me down, there was nothing I could do to stop it. In hindsight, I should have completely boarded Cat2Fold and ran across the length of the boat, and simply jumped in to the dinghy as I reached the front net. Luckily for me, the dinghy turned to the right, and drove itself toward the beach where some folks who were watching, walked out into the water and corralled it. I swam to shore and embarrassedly thanked the dinghy rescuers, jumped in and sped off to the laundry.
We left La Paz late Tuesday afternoon, and sailed the 10 miles to Balandra. Not wanting to experience any more Coromuels, we tucked Cat2Fold deep into the bay in a protected cove in about 5 feet of water. They never came that night.
The next morning found us sailing out of Balandra at first light. With 50 miles to sail to Bahia de Los Muertos, then another 40 or so miles to Frailes the next day, we really needed to keep a move on. At one point on our sail to Frailes, I sat down in the salon looking aft. I just happened to see a beautiful Dorado jumping out of the water. Again and again. Unfortunately, we had been dragging a cedar plug fishing lure on a hand line and the Dorado took it with him. I think the lure (now being dragged behind the Dorado a couple of feet back) was scaring the shit out of him. We were very disappointed that we injured him and he was left with a fishing lure still attached. Not to mention that had we landed him, we would have had enough “mahi mahi” for more than a week. We now try and pay more attention to our lure when it is in the water.
This post is entirely LONG enough. Until next time…

Dreaming of sailing

As Cat2Fold sits idly on its trailer, and I being nearly 1400 miles away trying to earn some $, I can’t help but dream of getting back on the water aboard s/v Cat2Fold in the wondrous Sea of Cortez. While perusing the Internet, looking for anything “Cat2Fold”, I happened upon this blog entry (seen below) from an interesting fellow named Zach aboard s/v Panache. You can check out his blog here.
Zachary is currently sailing across the Pacific on his 30′ boat.
I am building a log cabin for some friends, slaving in my garden, and building bike trails.
When do I take on the South Pacific?

If you sit long enough anywhere, moss will start to grow. Moss is not necessarily a bad thing, but this phenomenon was happening, green clumps of moss were growing, and the whole thing started to make me itch. I needed to get out of La Paz. It was time to buy more Top Ramen, eat one more round of tacos, and head for Isla Espirtu Santo.

The wind was not in our favor. In fact, a big southernly was supposed to finish its blow that evening, but the crew and I decided to push through the windy mess to beat out the mass of cruisers waiting to find the perfect weather window. We ended up not being alone using this strategy. Motoring out of La Paz, weaving through the maze of buoys, we found Cat 2 Fold and Convivia to keep us company. It wasn’t a race, but when you get boys behind anything that moves its always a race.

Out of the last gate of buoys the three boats turned to an aggressive port tack. To my surprise, Cat 2 Fold was making the best angle! Having two totally divided rigs makes miracles I guess, because while the two monohulls were slogging at roughly 30 degrees off the wind, Cat 2 Fold was comfortably making its way right up the coastline at about 18 degrees. Maybe the wind was different coming off the coast, but I would like to think of it as magic. Dark. Evil. Catamaran magic.

On Panache’s third tack Cat 2 Fold informed us that they had dropped the hook and opened there first beer. Brian wasn’t gloating, but I listened to this news while clenching my teeth. Now it was down to me and Convivia. The wind was starting to ramp up, and as we passed the San Lorenzo straight the sea state become something to make one sea sick. Mer had a disgusted look on her face that only meant one thing; I’m going to vomit. I told her “Smiling helps prevent the gag reflex,” and the sick look transformed into a constipated smile. I took advantage of the rough sea state and sat on the bow of the boat to enjoy a natural shower from all the waves breaking over our bow. Panache started to heel over excessively, so I cut my shower short and opted to put the first reef in the mainsail. An easy job if I did it 15 minutes sooner. The final tack was a violent one, the wind at this point was in the 20s and the jib we had up was one size too large. Manageable, but violent. Mer was coming from a larger heavier boat, so this weather on little 30 foot Panache was a rude awakening.


La Paz and Isla Espiritu Santo and Isla Partida

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Once in La Paz, another stock up of food, booze, fuel and water was in order. The evening we arrived, we decided a night out at the best taco stand in all of Mexico was in order. To “Rancho Viejo” we went, and disappointed, we were not! If there was any whammy to the evening, it was the fact that I was SO hungry, having not eaten anything since that mornings’ breakfast. By the time we left, I was SO full, my insides were about to explode.
The next morning, we awoke bright and early to go get our grocery shopping taken care of, fill up the remaining fuel cans, and get out of La Paz and continue our journey north. Hoping to sail out of the Mogote, I raised one mainsail, and hoisted the new-to-me spinnaker that Dave from Lightspeed had procured for me while he was in La Paz earlier in the year. It took all of about 15 seconds to realize that the heading Cat2Fold was facing while at anchor was due to tidal current rather than any apparent wind. With the spinnaker billowing backwards, wrapping itself around the mast it was on, we started drifting backward towards other boats anchored nearby. I quickly got a motor fired up, and lowered the troubled sail. For the rest of the day, there was nary a breathe of wind to be found. Bahia de La Paz was as smooth as glass all day and we ended up motoring the entire way to the northern most anchorage of Isla Partida.
Isla Partida and Isla Espirtu Santo, which are virtually connected, are the most amazing places I have ever been in my entire life. John Steinbeck spent many years here, writing about the beautiful diversity of life found nowhere else on earth, and it would be an understatement to say that I can see why he did. The crystal clear waters, teeming with life, contrasted with the red, green, and grey volcanic arroyos that give these islands more secluded anchorages than almost all the rest of Baja Sur, cannot be found anywhere else on earth. Although Deidre and I spent a lot of time here back in November and December of 2011, with and without my kids Beo and Georgie, we had absolutely no hesitation about anchoring here yet again, to indulge in the secluded splendor these islands have to offer. After witnessing a sunset that trumped any other sunset seen by this humbled human, Deidre and I settled in for a night of less than perfect sleep caused by a weather disturbance that was moving in towards Baja from far out in the mighty Pacific.

Mazatlan to La Paz

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Waking up in Stone Island Harbor (Isla Piedra) just south of Old town Mazatlan, Deidre and I once again assessed the weather, our schedule, fuel and water and decided to fuel up and head across the Sea as soon as possible. The options for fuel were to either dinghy to shore and taxi in to town with all of our gas cans or motor sail 10 miles north to the marina district and fill the boat up there. With the fact that gaining 10 more miles of north would do nothing but help our sailing angle during the 230 mile crossing and feeling like taxiing with a bunch of gas cans sounded like a pain in the ass, the decision was easy to make.
When we finally reached the entry into the marina district, after missing it on our first approach and adding a couple of extra miles of motoring, while we were entering the extremely narrow channel, we found our passage blocked by a large rusty dredger at work. With no room to pass, I was lucky to have a catamaran with two auxiliary motors enabling a quick, smooth 360 degree turn on a dime to escape the potentially dangerous situation. As we were exiting, we noticed the workers were able to move the dredger to the side of the channel giving us just enough room to enter so we could get the needed fuel and water. Trying to move as efficiently as possible so we could begin our long passage, we quickly filled our water and fuel tanks and cast off from the fuel dock only to find our passage back out to the open ocean once again blocked by the behemoth dredging machine. After treading water in the tight river channel for a few minutes, we decided to help ourselves to an open slip in Marina El Cid, to mitigate the potential dangers that surrounded Cat2Fold. Being stuck in the marina for nearly 3 hours, we decided to make some lunch and work on a few boat projects that were slowly rearing their ugly heads.
At 3 pm, as we were told, the dredger moved over allowing us about 30 feet of room to extract our 24′ wide boat. Unnerving to say the least, with a pile of rocks to port and a hulking lump of rusting steel to starboard, Cat2Fold was able to squeak through without a scratch. As soon as we reached the safety of the open water, sails were raised, and we rocketed westward toward La Paz.
Reaching speeds of 10+ knots, smashing into seas of 4-5 feet, it quickly became apparent that we were going to have to slow the boat down. That moment of realization came exactly when our front trampoline dug into a wave and bounced MANY gallons of water over the central dodger directly onto Deidre, who just so happened to be standing with her foul weather gear down around her ankles, having just answered the call of nature. With our free-flying jib lowered, and our speed reduced to 7 knots, the crossing was much more relaxing. When the winds lightened even more through the night, we also made the decision to sail a faster angle with a few less miles to cover and aimed for Ensenada de Los Muertos (bay of the dead) instead of directly to La Paz. With the occasional aid of our trusty 9.9 hp Yamaha’s, we arrived in Muertos at 1:30 am. 206 nautical miles in 34.5 hours. Not too bad.

Loving life in Mazatlan!

After a 45 hour sail – coming from La Paz we arrived in beautiful Mazatlan!  Imagining that we would be arrviving in a big city….we were pleasantly surprised to end up being one of only two boats in a tucked away anchorage near Isla de los Chivos. Our crossing from La Paz could not have been any better with perfect weather and great sailing.  This being my first overnight sail ever, I was psyched that it was such an amazing experience!   And…I am super excited that we have reached mainland Mexico where it is nice and HOT.

Since it was nice and hot this morning, I thought I would start my day out by jumping in the water.  Right when I got out, I looked down and saw a Portuguese Man of War!  Needless to say, I was the only one who went swimming today.  We are now heading out to Isla Isabel, another long sail (93 NM).  Apparently, this is the land of the blue footed boobies.

We are leaving Mazatlan right now and trying to catch up with Convivia http://forgeover.com who left us a few hours ago.  Maybe, if we catch them by tonight, they can hand us over some of their delicious margaritas to make the sail even better 🙂



Cabo San Lucas to La Paz

Cabo San Lucas is exactly the chaotic, Las Vegas meets Mexican Beach town that I’ve read about. Between the jet-skis being rented by the hundreds right off the beach, the water skiers, and the water taxis, the anchorage was particularly loud, wavy, crazy, and annoying. The competing hotels and restaurants would start blasting music and contests and lunch specials from early in the morning through LATE into the evening. The town itself was littered with “showgirl” nightclubs and more live bands playing 80’s “hair band” covers than the 80’s actually had.
The snorkeling was pretty nice around the cape… if you were OK with hundreds of other snorkelers sharing your experience and water taxi’s zipping them to and fro. There was even a boat called the “Sea-Eye” that had a large underwater glass dome for the customers viewing pleasure. It even had fish food dispensers to ensure some great views.
The awards ceremony for the 2011 Baja-Haha was held outside the Marina office. This was to be the last big hurrah. There was free beer and awards for each boat division and many other categories such as the oldest crew, the youngest, the worst boat bite…etc. I tied for the worst boat bite with the story of my drilled hand. But, better than that, Cat2Fold tied for first place in the multihull division!!!
Trent and Charlie had return tickets for Monday 11/7. So with a plan to single hand my way up the east coast of Baja towards La Paz, I tried to hurry them up and off the boat as early as possible. I also discovered we were out of cooking propane so I tried to find a place to have that filled, but there was nothing immediately available, so I ended up switching my port tank with my starboard tank. This left me without the grill or hot water, but that was fine because we have not had a working water maker since the beginning, and showers with our limited water supply was a no-no.
So, with a later start than ideal, I pulled out of the Cabo San Lucas harbor and started heading northeast toward an anchorage called Los Frailes, 45 miles away. The winds were light when I started, so I motor sailed with one engine at half throttle for the first hour. then the winds started to pick up. I was heading directly up into the wind, and the waves were 6-10 feet, short duration and steep. There was a strong Norther blowing in the upper Sea of Cortez and I was seeing the repercussions of that. It really wasn’t too bad, and, after motoring the last hour in, I reached my anchorage just after sunset. Typically, I always try and time my arrival into any anchorage before dark. Sometimes, however, it just ends up out of your hands. Especially if you are trying to sail the whole way. I anchored safely in 13′ of water, had a quick bite and went to bed.
The next morning, as anticepated, the seas had grown, and the winds were blowing 25-30 knots. I was in a safe anchorage with about 20 other Haha boats, and we all just hung out there for a few days waiting for the weather to turn. The snorkeling was fantastic. There is also a large white granite outcropping coming out of the water creating some neat looking bouldering/climbing. I snorkeled right up yo a point below this outcrop, jumped out of the water, removed my fins (which are large enough to wear my water shoes under) and started tooling around on some fine rock. After playing long enough, I even discovered an old bolted route there. So, clearly, I was not the only one to discover the climbing potential here at Los Frailes.
Randomly, for what appeared to be a pretty darned remote and isolated bay, I was able to find a good wifi signal.
Friday was the day that all this wether was supposed to be gone. But, from my own assessment, it appeared that Friday was gonna have virtually no wind, and I didn’t want to have to motor the next 50 miles. Thursday wasn’t looking too bad, so I left at first light in the morning. The seas were 10-12 feet, short duration and steep. Winds were still blowing 20-25 knots. I had started out under full sail, but quickly decided that a couple of reefs in each sail would be more prudent. After sailing that way for a while, the winds appeared to lighten, so I shook out both reefs. While doing that, the starboard sail flogged one too many times and I ripped a nearly 2 foot hole in the sail, just behind the luff. BUMMER! I was upset with myself. Anyway, I was still able to use that sail with a single reef in and I made it to my next anchorage, Bahia de los Muertes, again just after sunset.
This time I was exhausted. The seas had beat me up pretty good. I had made tentative plans through Deidre’s help, to have Ben Squires, my next crew mate, to meet me here at Los Muertes. Again, I was able to find some wifi and contacted Ben, he was on his way. So I set up the dinghy and went to shore to pick him up at a restaurant called 1535. We had some beer and food, which tasted better than anything I have had in many days, then headed out to the boat.
We decided to spend the next day here, paddle boarding, playing and hoping to find a sewing machine to repair my torn sail. Then some “Diamonds” appeared here at Los Muertes. First off, “Double Diamond”, a Lagoon 440, had a nice sewing machine on board with some repair cloth. They had never used it before, so I did my best to convince them that this would be a great learning experience for everyone. Later that afternoon, I went over to “Double Diamond” with my sail. It took us about 3 hours or so to figure out the machine (which had some bent parts) and sew on a nice, large patch. I was so excited! The same repair in La Paz probably would have taken days and cost hundreds of dollars! Thank You Jeff and Melody from Double Diamond.
No sooner had I returned to Cat2Fold, when our anchorage neighbors, Larry and Nelda aboard “Diamond Girl” hailed us to comment how good I looked out there sailing yesterday. Somehow the conversation turned to fishing and the next thing I knew, we were invited to come grab a to go package of fresh Dorado (Mahi-Mahi). They even sent some warm rice over with it! I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I LOVE my Haha family!!!
John and Trinity from “Michaella” came over for a quick visit. With many years of experience on the water, John had some info to share with us. He had waited to sail from Los Frailes to Los Muertes til Friday. Turns out they had the perfect sail. No motoring necessary, flat seas, good winds. He basically pointed out that I should have waited also. He also pointed out that I need to be paying more and more attention to the tides. I was planning on heading North again first thing in the morning. We discussed how first thing in the morning the tide would be heading out and we would be battling a current of approximately 4-5 knots. Much better to wait until 1 pm to head out. This would mean some more night sailing, which I’m OK with, but with much less of a battle. Live and learn. There is a lot of collective knowledge available here within the cruising community. We left at 1pm. We dropped anchor 12 hours later in Playa de Ballander, about 10 miles from downtown La Paz.
The next morning we quickly headed into La Paz to restock our dwindling food and beer supply. That took us the rest of the day. While returning to the boat with the dinghy loaded with groceries, we experienced something that only happens 6 times or so a year here… it rained! It really rained!
I’m gonna post this while I have a wifi connection… more later!