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, 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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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!

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!!!

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… 😉

The Long Road Home

As the winter sailing season in Mexico draws closer and closer to an end, Cat2Fold finds herself sailing north, towards San Carlos, SON., and as usual, Brian finds himself wondering whether Cat2Fold should follow the truck home to Idaho or spend her third summer season in a row stored at Ed and Dorothy’s Storage Yard. I couldn’t really make a final decision until I tried towing the boat a few miles with the camper on the truck, which I had never done before.

Alexa and I cleaned the boat and we made final preparations to go (possibly). We drove the truck/camper/boat trailer combo (which has a 2 foot trailer hitch extension under the over hanging camper) on a test run towards Guaymas. Besides the fact that I was around 70′ long, things seemed to feel fine! My mind was made up! Cat2Fold is coming along for a road trip! After one last second errand in San Carlos, we pointed the long, expensive package of carbon, foam, epoxy, and air North, and hit the road!

In years past, my decision to leave C2F in storage was aided by my insurance carrier. Cat2Fold was covered everywhere we sailed, from Southern California to Zihuatenejo, but under no circumstance would C2F be covered for over the road travel within Mexico. Leaving her here in storage for $50 a month, while I went home to work seemed like a no brainer…until I got the more than doubled bill for the following years coverage. Why? Because my boat was no longer within the safety of good ole Idaho. It was in SCARY Mexico!!! No worries, I dropped all insurance for Cat2Fold, except for the Mexican Liability insurance which everyone needs to play this game (sailing) down there. Now I could sail anywhere I wanted without asking permission and paying extra first! I’m not really an insurance kind of guy anyway. I don’t believe life comes with any guarantees! Believe in the magic of goodwill and trust in yourself!

With all that in mind, I very smartly had the, “hasn’t been towed more than one mile in three years” trailer tuned up while it was still empty. I think I paid Humberto too much, but oh well, we got new bearings, and seals in all 6 wheels, and had the rotors turned and the brakes bled. Virtually good as new!

We made our way North just fine, even passing through Hermosillo without being pulled over. Got searched pretty good at the Mexican Military checkpoint about 20 miles south of the border. All good. I’m always a bit paranoid at the U.S. crossing. You never know how bad they may want to search, and we had ALOT of hard to access areas in which they’d want to look. Turns out they just wanted my potatoes, limes, and package of bacon that were in the camper. I asked them about the tons of food they must get every day (thousands of cars cross the border at Nogales every day) and whether it was donated to to a charity or something…”Nope. Liability.”…Great. Welcome back home to the US of Liabilit-A!!!

After making it through the actual border crossing, there is yet another checkpoint about 20 miles North. With a dog actively paraded up and down through the stopped cars, I can only imagine they are looking for drugs. Maybe illegal immigrants also? Oh, and one other thing to note… the interstate down here south of Tucson has the speed limits marked in KPH, but the mileage between places in miles… UH…OK…

Not far past Tucson, I pulled over to get some fuel. When I got out, I noticed that the right, rear tire of my truck, the one which I plugged myself last fall while in San Carlos, was low. Way low! 25psi when it should’ve had 65psi!!!

Luckily, there was a tire place right nearby! It’s not very easy driving around looking for things in an unfamiliar place while towing C2F… The tire was removed, and patched from the inside. An hour later, and we were on the road again. Sweet! I’m glad I noticed that and nipped it in the bud!

A short while later, I dropped Alexa off at the Phoenix airport and continued on my way alone. I kept driving well into the night, and ended up camping in a perfect, big pull off with trees, up near the North Rim of the grand canyon.

The next day, I drove through the entire state of Utah with nothing very exciting to report. However, later in the evening, just past the Idaho state line, things started to get a little more interesting…

I pulled over to take a leak about 30 miles north of the statetline. I hadn’t even pulled off of the off ramp. Unfortunately, during said nature break, I noticed one of my trailer wheels had fallen off!!! All five lug bolts had entirely sheared off!!! SHIT!! What should I do???

I pulled into the nearby truck stop (the only thing at this exit) which had a mechanic station also. 5:30. Closed. With no cell phone (I haven’t owned one in years now), I stood there mulling over my options when a big rig pulled up next to me.

“Didya loose your wheel?” Says the toothless driver as he leans out his window pointing at the gaping hole on the trailer where a wheel used to reside.

Yup.

“Well, I seen it pass me on the highway! Me and this other tanker truck tried to get a hold of you, but…how we gonna do that, right?” He laughs.

WHOA! You saw it happen?

“Yup I watched it cross over into the other lane, but lucky no one was coming.”…

Turns out, it happened about 50 miles south of where we were right then. With the fact that I hadn’t even noticed the missing wheel for the past 50 miles of 75mph driving, coupled with my strong desire to make it the remaining 150 miles, I decided to push on.  (whoa…it’s starting to sound like a middle school math problem…)

So here I am, CAREFULLY driving along with my 5 wheeled trailer with my beloved boat atop (5 wheels still seems like plenty, no?). I’ve got 60 miles to go and dusk is approaching, and all of a sudden, I hear what sounds like air being released rapidly. I pull over as quickly as possible, which is clearly not quick enough. Any worry of another trailer wheel failing, rapidly faded as I can feel the weight of the truck/camper/boat sitting on top of the now bare rim of the truck as it rolls the last few feet before coming to a stop.

Yup. Tire is ruined!!! $400.

So, I empty the back of the Mega Cab truck (which is stuffed to the gills with tools, bags, coolers, parts, etc…) on the side of the road just to get to the proper lug wrench (ooooh…note to self…keep that wrench handy and check trailer lug nuts occasionally on long trips…). I use the stock, Dodge screw jack to try and lift a VERY HEAVY rear axle. To my surprise it actually seemed to be lifting the truck, until…well, until it stopped lifting the truck! Doesn’t matter, I got it high enough to remove the badly mangled tire/wheel.

I drop the spare and roll it over to install when I realize that I’m not jacked up quite high enough to get the spare on…hmmm… Luckily, I pulled far enough off the road that my passenger side (the flat side) was just barely on the gravel part of the shoulder, and I was able to dig down deep enough to get the spare on the truck.

OK! Spare installed. Truck re packed…Now what? The screw jack won’t screw back down! No worries, I’ll just drive forward off of it. Perfect! Done!

Whoa! As I walk back to retrieve the broken jack, I notice the newly installed spare tire is pretty low. 40 lbs low… I need to go find air!!! I drive into the town of Rigby and find an air machine at this gas station. Problem is, I can’t even begin to pull up close enough to use it. So, I pull into a large parking lot next door (a closed Tire Factory), re-empty the Mega cab so I can get to the air hose that connects to my trucks’ on board air compressor. Yup. My truck has an air compressor installed to pressurize the airsprings that are used to help haul heavy loads. It’s a SMALL compressor though. It took me at least 1/2 an hour of pumping to get the tire to a safe level of pressure.

Re-load the truck. Hit the road.

Darkness fell. I made it the rest of the way home…well, almost. The county road I live off of is not maintained all winter. Some snow had recently fallen adding to the muckiness of the old snow melting into muddy road. With two miles to go to my house, I realized I needed to turn around and leave the boat at the winter parking area for a while still. There was still a formidable pile of snow a mere 50 yards from my house, but since having started my day many hours earlier in Arizona, and being pretty determined to get all the way home, I packed out a trail in the deep, sugary snow by driving back and forth, back and forth, back and forth until I woke up the next morning in my very own bed… 🙂

The End.

Sorry for the large amount of words…