Charette Family Adventure 2013

In December of 2013, My kids Beo and Georgie were able to join me for the migration south aboard s/v Cat2Fold. We sailed over 750 miles from San Carlos, SON, over to the Baja, down to La Paz, back over to the mainland and south to Banderas Bay (Puerto Vallarta).
We had AMAZING conditions for a fast run south, and the 30 days seemed to disappear faster than our vanishing wake at 15 knots!!!

A week of adventure (Escondido+Bahia Salinas+Sailing to San Carlos)!

From Balandra to Frailes

40 hour crossing

Only 20 miles from our little island anchorage, and we till can’t sea any land. Low lying clouds must be obscuring our view. With plenty of motoring through total calm, we are close to reaching the end of this 215 mile crossing of the Sea of Cortez, from Los Frailes, the eastern most tip of Baja to Isla Isabela. We tried to plan a passage across during a period of fresh winds, at the beginning of a moderate “Norther” and at our 3am departure from Frailes, it seemed as though we “nailed it”. We had great sailing for the first 18 or so hours, even if the seas were “a bit lumpy”. Then, by 9pm, the winds virtually disappeared.
Deciding to “sail no matter what”, is a stance we are wanting to adhere to more often. However, being on a tight-ish schedule, and having experienced the harsh nature of a norther blowing down the Sea of Cortez while only 2 or so miles away from land, the last place we want to be during a big blow is in the middle of a southern crossing. Things can get a bit daunting over 100 miles off shore.

At some point during the day yesterday, while I was trying to get some sleep in anticipation for the upcoming night watches, I was awoken by a good sized “CRACK”! It wasn’t terribly loud. Cat2Fold certainly has her own quiver of creaking and cracking, so I thought nothing more of it…until sometime later, I noticed the starboard rudder was floating up inside it’s case…
Somehow the new, 3/8″ stainless steel pivot bolt was gone!!! The rudder was only held to the boat by the 1/4″ hold down line. All the spare bolts we had on board that were 3/8″ diameter, were 1/2″ too short. In the end, I was able to wrestle a too short bolt into the hole so i could pivot the rudder into the up position. Upon further inspection, we’re fairly certain that the cracking sound I heard was the sound of the bolt breaking because of us hitting something heavy (turtle, whale, half floating debris) at 8-10 knots, and the self releasing cleat I have for just such occasions failing to operate. Luckily for us, Cat2Fold has performed flawlessly on one rudder over the past 150 miles since the break. Should be an easy enough fix once in San Blas, a mere 39 miles from Isla Isabela (which has no services at all).

In the mirrored surface of the calm sea, we saw hundreds of dolphins and turtles. The turtles were mostly lumbering about on the surface, at times appearing so lethargic that twice we saw a sizable bird using the sleeping “island” to have its own siesta.
Now, only 10 miles away, Isabela is in sight. Although we LOVE being out here on the water on a warm sunny day, with such calm seas, the endless drone of the motor has us longing for our own island siesta. Isabela is known as the “Galapagos of Mexico”, due to its large number of nesting birds and resident iguanas. Being a national park and a World Heritage Site, this protected marine environment is renowned for its world class snorkeling. With the water temp here, 8 miles out, in 170 feet of water being 82.5 degrees…maybe even Deidre can go snorkeling without a wetsuit…(;

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.