The LONG road south.

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“Ouch!” I think to myself as my feet nearly burn from the heat of the deck. I’m also traipsing around out here with nothing on but a smile. 😄
However, it’s been a hard earned heat. You see, I didn’t just jump in a jumbo jet, waking up in exotic, tropical vacationland, pasty white, ready to get my party tan on. I left snowy cold Idaho three weeks ago. It was a last second escape as the grips of a ferocious winter storm was approaching, threatening to delay our departure with snow totals being forecast in feet and winds blowing in the 30’s.

After our narrow escape, but not before spending several days in Tucson, Arizona dealing with the inevitable truck and trailer gremlins, C2F and I crossed the Mexican border on Christmas Day, and continued south to San Carlos without delay. Even after spending a week preparing the boat (and myself), we were still seeing temps in the 30’s at night with highs of 68 during the day. Brrrrr.

As I pryed myself away from the friendly cruising community whom either stay or were stalling in San Carlos, I found myself wearing every stitch of cold weather clothing I had as we sailed out of Bahia San Carlos for the last time until we return in May or June. With the damp, dark, ocean breeze making the 37 degrees feel incredibly cold, I was wearing the same exact outfit I would have been wearing skiing in the Tetons on a cold smoke powder day.

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The forecast called for NNW winds in the teens with gusts up to 22, mellowing as darkness fell. With a strong desire to get to the warmer weather and water, I left San Carlos at O-dark-thirty. I motored out of the narrow canyon defining Bahia San Carlos for about thirty minutes. Then with the wind filling in, I silenced my twin egg beaters, and marveled in the magic of traveling at the speed of silence. A downwind sled ride south for hundreds and hundreds of miles…

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Every year, after a 6 month absence from sailing Cat2Fold, I’m reminded of a feeling I would have in the early part of nearly every ski season past…
Finding myself peering down a STEEP, cliff riddled backcountry chute, usually amidst much stronger skiers, I would inevitably be silently wondering if my body remembered what it would need to do to enjoyably and safely, set fear aside momentarily, and jump in with both feet facing the fall line. Never as smooth or polished as later season runs, sailing Cat2Fold, especially in puffier conditions with burly seas, brings about a similar feeling of anxiety. At some point, ready or not, I jump in.

So there I was, jumping in with both feet, sailing away from my truck and camper and the comfort of land and friends. Knowing that whatever I had forgotten, I’d have to do without, or if small enough, I could purchase it when it comes available. Throughout the day, the wind would build, then drop. I found myself reefing, unreefing, furling, unfurling, hoisting, and dropping all my sails repeatedly, just as readily as I was doing with my clothes, depending on temps, shading, and wind angle. With not much else going on, I was happy to have the practice, remembering my exact techniques for reefing this unique twin masted cat with daylight as my ally. At one point, during the sail exchange party, I too hastily hooked one of my spinny halyards up, and part way up the hoist, I watched it unhook itself from the head of the sail. I acted a fast as possible, grabbing the boat hook and extending it to full length, but it was to no avail. The halyard slipped all the way up to the top of the mast. With light conditions prevailing, I decided it would be fun to video myself climbing the mast while underway to retrieve said halyard.

I don’t have a fancy mast climbing apparatus, and with only myself onboard, there was no one to hook onto to the main halyard and simply winch them up. So with a climbing harness and two small loops of line, I prussic hitched my way 3/4 of the way up. Nice view, but it is an incredibly hard and painful way to go up, and down the mast. I couldn’t hook the ten foot long boat hook onto the halyard end, my cojones were turned to jelly, and I was already totally pumped, so I aborted mission. I’ll just have to get help from someone when the help is available.

With evening approaching, and the wind holding a steady 15, I was enjoying speeds approaching 10 knots with surfs accelerating us up to the wind speed. I decided to pass a potential anchorage that was 50 miles south of San Carlos, and sail through the evening. Unfortunately, the wind increased through the night, which also increased the size of the seas we were surfing down. Cruising downhill at 15 knots is all fine and dandy in broad daylight with a fresh mind and rested body, but add darkness, exhaustion, and having no one there to share the thrill/burden with and a different story can unfold. All it takes is one mistaken light seen on the water, one whale blow TOO close to the boat, one creeking or crackIng sound too many, and the thrill of 10-15 knots can go instantly from “FUCK YEAH!!!”, to “HOLY FUCK!!!”
I found myself using the triple reef position of both mains for the first time ever. Things felt better…for awhile. Slowly, but surely, Cat2Fold and I were getting WORKED! Not long after midnight, about 20 hours into this first outing, I decided enough was enough, and dropped all sail with the thought of getting some much needed sleep. Ufortunately, it was blowing 25+ knots, and we were still cruising between 6-9 knots, which is great for making progress, but too fast to just go to sleep. So I set a twenty minute timer, and did the best I could to squeeze in some sleep during that time before needing to get up for a look around.
At sunrise, I mustered the energy to lift some sail to increase our speed and control. Again, triple reefed mains. I was tired, but confident that the wind was going to have to lighten soon. Every forecast I had was for MUCH lighter conditions than I was experiencing. I was planning on sailing the remaining 60 miles to the entrance to the 13 mile long channel up and in to Topolobampo. There I would be able to really get some rest, for as long as necessary.

Even though I felt as though I was being tested, and barely passing, a few moments later I learned that the Great Weirdness (Source, Jah, God, etc…) hadn’t even started the real test.When the usual orchestra of creaking and cracking sounds that are inevitable on a folding catamaran such that Cat2Fold is, added a LOUD BANGING to the percussion section, my true “test” was starting to unveil itself…

I wasn’t sure where it was coming from or what it was. At first I thought I had maybe hooked onto some sort of fishing gear that would swing up and smack into the bottom of the hull. After an agonizingly long two or three minutes of searching, I found the source of the sound which was quickly overtaken in volume by my adrenalin spiked heartbeat…

There are two main structural beams on most open bridgedeck catamarans that create the acres of flat living (camping) area envied by all but the staunchest of monohullers. On Cat2Fold, said beams are highly engineered, scissoring carbon fiber works of art. They are connected to the hulls with a 4″ diameter, 1/2″ thick walled, 2′ long stainless steel pipe that allows the pivoting action in order to fold the boat for trailering. Due to a lack of any sort of maintenance manual accompanying this one of a kind prototype vessel, I didn’t even know to look into this area for signs of what happened…
Through the course of the last 30 hours of sailing, (and honestly, it may have started the year before), the huge pipe worked its way 4-5″ up above where it was supposed to be. The beam to hull connection, one of only four that keep the boat held together was starting to fail.

Staying amazingly calm while acting as quickly as I possibly could, i dropped all sail. I collected whatever lengths of heavy line I had on board with an assortment of turning blocks to try and lash the two hulls together as best as I could before any permanent damage could incur. The seas were still running 6-8 feet and the wind was still blowing 20+ knots. I squeezed my head and upper body between the front beam and the netting forward of that to get a look under the bridgedeck to see what/where I could tie anything to. Hanging upside down in those kind of conditions and not getting seasick was a small miracle in and of itself. I used everything I had, and eventually got the boat to the point where there was nothing more that I could do. I tried hammering the huge pipe back down into position, which became quite clearly, a futile attempt until I could get all the holes to line up perfectly, which was not going to happen out here in the open ocean. Did I mention I was well over 40 miles offshore with 60 miles to go to my closest port? Even motoring at full speed, that is nearly 10 adrenaline spiked, emotion filled hours of sitting there trying to stay positive.
For the first time ever in my over 10,000 miles of sailing, I prepared my dinghy as a life raft. With my ditch kit (PLB, handheld GPS, handheld VHF, batteries, flares), three gallons of water, some clothes, and computers passport, wallet, all strapped onto the dinghy, I crumpled onto the back bench, a broken man and had myself a cry. If I could just get the stricken vessel into port safely, I could either make repairs there, or at least, bus up to my truck and trailer, and come sadly retrieve the once proud multihull.

By late afternoon, I was tied to the dock at the only marina in Topolobampo. This is a powerboat place. I was the only boat with masts there, which weren’t any taller than some of the powerboats there. None of the guys on the dock spoke any english, but they all wanted to help however they could. I came up with the idea of finding a length of threaded rod and some huge washers to try and press the stainless pipe back down into position, however it was Sunday afternoon, and I was completely, and utterly drained. Sleep, and lots of it is what I needed most.

The next morning, the marina manager had a piece of threaded rod for me, and he drove me over to a hardware store for nuts and to look for something to use as the large washers. We ended up going to a local metal shop (small town Mexican styley), where I had them make me 4 pieces of 1/4″ thick x 5″ x 1.5″ pieces of steel. Finding anything stainless was going to be damn near useless, so I will end up with a rusty mess over the course of this winter, but if they can do the job of pressing, and keeping the stainless pipe in place, than it will be a success. I spent most of the afternoon pressing and hammering and getting jiggy with aligning the holes between the beam and the hull, but by evening my spirits were soaring with a fix I felt 1000% OK with. The next day I removed the lower foot of an outboard and replaced the water pump impeller (making damn sure to not drop anything in the 30′ deep water), adjusted my fussy shift linkage perfectly, repaired a torn sail, started fixing the rudder “repair” I had done this summer, retrieved my halyard from up the mast, re-routed a bilge pump hose, did some more provisioning, had a great phone call with my kids, and had myself ready for an early morning departure. There was still a LONG way to go before reaching the air and water temps that I initially set sail in search of.

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I hadn’t done any blog updates since arriving in San Carlos, and I started this one yesterday morning after leaving Isla Isabel. I’m now in Punta de Mita. I’ve sailed nearly 600 miles in 5 days. The water is 77 degrees, and I need to finish this post so I can go out and enjoy the water.
Estamos Aqui. Enjoy!

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Punta de Mita

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

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