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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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!!!