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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Georgie, Beo, and the Banderas Bay Regatta

Of all the cruisers regatta’s we have taken part in this past season, the Banderas Bay Regatta is by far the largest, most serious, most hyped, and most fun Regatta of them all. Hosted once again by our pals at the Vallarta Yacht Club, the BBR is a four day extravaganza of sailboat racing, dancing, and partying, and it is solely about the sailboat racing and partying. Most other Regatta’s are organized as a fundraising event for some much needed local charity and little emphasis is placed on the actual sailing and sailors. For me personally, the BBR was an incredible opportunity to share this cruising/racing lifestyle with my kids, Georgie and Beo.
The kids flew to PV with Deidre and my friends Tritney and Burgelly along with their 5 year old daughter, Avelly (names have been changed for privacy sake)It had been three whole months since being with the kids. We were so excited to see each other. Most of the crew arrived donning their sporty new “Cat2Fold” shirts, which, I might add, turned out pretty darned cool! We all wore the new shirts for all the races. With seven people sleeping aboard Cat2Fold for two weeks, we had a pretty full house, so we decided to spend most of the time at a marina. This allowed anyone to step off the boat whenever desired, rather than organizing a dinghy pick-up/drop-off party. It also allowed us to unload the boat of any easily removable inessential weight that us cruiser types tend to hold onto.
As for the actual racing… There were three days involved. Each day was a little different course than the day before. On day one and two, we found ourselves off “looking for Tacos in La Cruz” during our start.., at least, that started becoming the joke amongst the fleet. We continued to screw the pooch throughout the races with many errors, mostly involving the attempted use of our foresails. One of these aforementioned attempts included trying to hoist and set a free flying jib in nearly 20 knots of breeze immediately after crossing the start line (late). This attempt turned into an upper college level course on the definition of the word “flogging”. With the jib 3/4 of the way up, the halyard rolled off the turning block and the sail was stuck. The sheet had tied itself into a knot the size of a grapefruit. The flogging continued. Eventually, with the weight of two grown men hanging on the sail, risking falling off the boat, the halyard broke loose enough to get the sail down onto the deck. My adrenalin had spiked and crashed so hard in the first 5 minutes of the race, I wanted to just take a nap.
On day three, a different Cat2Fold came out to play. Same bat time. Same bat channel. Same bat wind. But, no more mothe…cking foresails. In nearly 20 knots of wind, Cat2Fold does not need a foresail. Not upwind. Not downwind. We may not be the fastest boat out there, but we’re fast enough. So, on day three, we actually nailed the start. So much so, that after the race I learned a new term for what we did to the fleet. We “port tacked” the entire fleet. For you non sailor/racer type…
The goal of a sailboat race start is to cross the start line at exactly the right time. Too early and you have to circle around and restart. Too late and you’re off the back. Regardless of which, the end result is spending a few hours watching the sterns of your opponents sail away in front of you. It’s been a challenging skill to learn how far away from an object you are and how long it takes to sail there. Starboard tack has right of way over port tack. Cat2Fold crossed the start line at exactly the right time on a port tack and was able to sail over the top of the entire fleet. This, apparently, is like a slam dunk on the opponents head, if I may borrow the lingo from an old passion of mine. We continued to point higher than everyone else, and sail a fast enough reach and downwind leg to cross the finish line second, behind only “La Ballona 2”, who won our class everyday of the Regatta. Finishing in second place (although we ended up in third place on corrected time by 7 seconds), after nailing the start and doing SO poorly in the previous two races felt really, REALLY GOOD!!!
Sailboat race starts can be a daunting place to be for less experienced racers such as myself. Mostly, I just try to stay out of the way. However, I am starting to understand a bit more, so I have been trying to get into a good position at the start. Sometimes boats sail within inches of each other. Sometimes (rarely) boats hit. Unfortunately, this year, in a different class than ours, two boats collided at the start. One unlucky person had both legs broken after slipping on the deck and ending up in a position with his legs in the wrong place at the wrong time. Being friends with nearly everyone involved, I’m going to reserve comment except to shout out to Randy Hough, the skipper of the race committee boat-

“Randy, you are one of the main reasons I have gotten as excited as I am about racing. Your willingness to reach out to us and help us feel welcomed into this “white collar” sport has been exemplary. Please stay above the bullshit, and be there for us at BBR 2014!!!

One other highlight of my 2013 BBR was to see the SIG45 s/v Vamanos!, a multimillion dollar 45′ catamaran, flying a hull at speeds in the twenties of knots! It didn’t hurt that Cam Lewis, one of the US’s top multihull skippers, was flown in to PV just for the race. Unfortunately, s/v Pantera, the only other catamaran in the fleet that could possibly give chase to the professional crew on Vamanos!, is still limping along on three cylinders, while Vamanos!, fourteen years her younger, was tuned to perfection, and it showed!
After all the racing hoopla was said and done, we spent a couple of days in La Cruz, mostly with Merle, Allison, Shandro, and Matero of s/v Kenta Anae, and Max, Liz, Victoria, and Jonathan of s/v Fluenta. We went and checked out a Mexican style carnival that was set up in the middle of the street. There were games where you could win prizes, two story, double-wide trampolines, candy and crap to buy, and their were old-school rides. Some of the janky old rides were even directly wired into the power poles, with exposed, hand twisted, high voltage “splices” hanging from the pole at face level! Yet another example of the many things we’ve seen here in Mexico that you don’t usually see in the US these days!
Leaving La Cruz, the seven of us sailed out to Punta de Mita, where we met up with yet another Teton Valley family; Cate, Winston and Indigo. With 3 five year olds and a seven year old rounding up that days’ gaggle of giggles, we spent a beautiful Semana Santa day on the beach. Being a Mexican holiday, the beach was filled the festive families on vacation and vendors selling all kinds of fun things. Usually there were at least three adults from our group out surfing at a time. At one point, while I was out on my paddleboard, Deidre came out towards the break on a surf board with Beo as a passenger. I quickly went and scooped him up onto my much larger board. In no time at all, Beo and I were surfing together!!! On our last run in, he even stood up with me, and we were the surf studs of the moment! The other dad’s followed suit and even Tritney, who was just learning, caught his best ride ever with Avelly on board and rode the wave all the way onto the beach!
A beautiful sail over to Yelapa, and a hike up to the waterfall was next on our agenda. We all noted how much less water was flowing in the falls compared to our visit last December. On the way back down the narrow lane, we stopped and had an amazing lunch in town… Town doesn’t quite feel like the word I’m looking for, because in this town, no one owns the land, there are no cars, and electricity only showed up a few years ago. Because of this, and the particularly steep topography in which to build upon, all the buildings appear to sprinkle up the steep mountain slope at random angles to each other with only an alley the width of a wheelbarrow or a small donkey cart separating them.
We then sailed back to Paradise Village Marina where we spent our last few days playing in the pools, boogie boarding, playing soccer on the beach, taking dinghy adventures up into crocodile infested waters, and hanging out with all our new friends. The kids got to meet and bond with so many boat families; Rigo, Deborah, Zion and Hunter aboard s/v Heavy Metal, Regis, Cybil and Emi aboard s/v Flying Dragon (more on Flying Dragon coming soon),Teddy, aboard s/v Lolo, the aforementioned s/v Kenta Anae and s/v Fluenta families, and the countless others we met along the way. Georgie even had the pleasure of a sleepover with Victoria aboard s/v Fluenta!
Sadly, the end of the two weeks came all too quickly, and the next I knew, we were in the taxi on our way to the airport. Deidre, who unfortunately got sick the night before, couldn’t come with us, so she said her goodbyes at the marina. The kids and I were sad to leave each other, yet I kept trying to remind them how psyched they’ll be to see their Mom and their school friends. Also, that I would be home in only one month instead of three like last time. Their flight home went without a hitch, and they arrived in Jackson Hole earlier than scheduled. I sure hope we’re lucky enough to race in another BBR aboard Cat2Fold with Georgie and Beo!