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…

Sleepless in San Juanico

It’s 3:30 am here in San Juanico, Baja California. It’s been a full day of recovering from a bout of food poisoning immediately after a 13 hour, 100 mile crossing of the Sea of Cortez. Between the sound of the fish feeding frenzy happening all around Cat2Fold, and the fact that my back is tighter than a tourniquet, I’m finding sleep a commodity hard to come by.

…after launching and opening up Cat2Fold at the Marina San Carlos boat ramp, Deidre and I spent the next day really moving in, cleaning and organizing the boat out in the nearby anchorage. We had several visitors drawn in by the uniqueness of our vessel, which is not uncommon in the world of one-of-a-kind multihulls. After all the visitors were gone, and enough of our stuff was put away, we decided to go for a short day sail. A more or less shakedown cruise in preparation for our up and coming crossing of the Sea.
After dropping anchor in Bahia Algadones, we discussed our options after initially looking at the shortest available crossing of 68 miles, and decided that to head further south to San Juanico (100 miles) would be more beneficial for us and our need to be in Banderas Bay by the first bit of December. Knowing from past experiences that there are often hours and hours of slow, windless miles out at sea, we used a conservative 5 knot average to plan our arrival time at our destination. We also decided early on that motoring was an option we were going to use far less than we had the previous winter. So, by leaving San Carlos just before noon, we figured on an 8 am arrival. This would give us plenty of time to enter the harbor within the relative safety of daylight, and allow 10 extra hours before sundown if we were to be sailing slower than 5 knots.
The winds, as expected were light as we left our anchorage. This gave us the opportunity to try out the new drifter sail on the new masthead halyard. We left it up until the winds moved into the 10 knot range. At that point, we furled the big sail, and using the same furling equipment, we hoisted the working jib. With both mainsails and the jib pulling us along at 8-12 knots in 10-15 knots of wind, we couldn’t have been happier. Add to that excitement the catching of two small skipjack fish…life doesn’t get any better.
Maybe it was the new slippery bottom paint, or maybe it was the new jib attachment point further out on the bow, or maybe the new placement of the electronic wind indicator (also out on the port bow) allowing me to try and work the apparent wind more accurately, but somehow, someway, Cat2Fold seemed to be sailing faster and smoother than ever before. The speed was thrilling! We sailed for hours at 11+ knots, and hit a top speed of 13.3 knots! While this may not seem all that fast to some of you, on a cruising cat loaded for a 6 month cruise, with winds in the 10-17 knot range most of the night, we were absolutely flying!
We couldn’t slow down. I didn’t want to. Everything felt so right. We had already discussed the option of making landfall in the dark. Usually not the best practice, however having been to San Juanico just 6 months previous and with our old GPS track still visible on the chartplotter, we decided all would be fine if we enter slowly and cautiously under motor. About 15 miles out, while blasting along at 12 knots, a small light to starboard appeared out of nowhere. Was it a fishing Panga? Or maybe it was marking a fishing net? Remembering getting tangled in a fishing net last year, the last thing we wanted was to have the same thing happen at these speeds with this much power in the sails. So we nervously bore off to port and I furled in the jib. Not without some difficulty though. It seems as though we still need some practice using the furler.
After getting far enough away from the mystery light, we resumed our course. As we got closer and closer to Baja, waves started forming that we found ourselves surfing down. While still feeling pretty nervous about the potential for running into a fishing net, we decided it was time to reef the sails. Rather than shorten each sail symmetrically, we decided to lower the windward mainsail entirely, and leave the leeward sail fully up. Even in this configuration, with the wind blowing no more than 15 knots, we were still rapidly approaching our destination at 7-9 knots.
When we got to within 2.5 miles of the entrance into San Juanico, we dropped the last sail and SLOWLY motored our way in. We dropped the anchor at 1am further out than we would have done in the daylight. We could move the boat in closer in he morning when we could safely see our way around the anchorage.
Unfortunately, around 3-4 am, I was awoken by the call of nature to empty the contents of my stomach. Not sure if it was something I ate or drank, or if I just picked up a bug somewhere, but I spent the entire next day puking and laying down, resting. Which brings us full circle. My back can only take so much laying down before it becomes as stiff as a cable.
I’m feeling much better now, all except for my stiff back, as I sit here typing and watching the sunrise over this beautiful anchorage. One of the many beautiful anchorages that we will be visiting during our extended cruise through the Sea of Cortez aboard the amazing Cat2Fold!!!

While Brian was sick, I managed to get out on the paddle board.  It is one of my favorite anchorages in Baja, for it’s beauty, clear water and marine life.