No doubt you’ll be spending tomorrow with family doing all the traditional Thanksgiving things — pigging out on turkey and pumpkin pie, watching football, sleeping . . . and dreaming about getting out on the water. Thursday’s schedule may not allow time for a quick daysail, but Friday offers a great opportunity to head out for a peaceful sail while the rest of the fam is fighting the crowds for the best Black Friday deals.
The forecast doesn’t look stellar — partly cloudy, temps in the 60s, and 5-10 knots of breeze — but we can all agree that it’s far better than getting dragged into the holiday shopping frenzy. In fact, do your friends a solid and invite them along for the fun — just make sure they bring the beverages and some turkey sandwiches.
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As we’ve often written, we West Coast sailors generally have a much easier time getting to the tropics than do our sailing friends on the East Coast. Lynn Potter and Larry Klein of the Carmichael-based Catalina 470 Beaudacious, vets of the ’06 Ha-Ha who have just finished the Caribbean 1500, will vouch for that. Here’s Lynn’s report:
"We made it! But I can assure you that it was not all smooth sailing.
"First of all, we were saddened to learn of the loss of a sister sailor, Jan Anderson of the formerly Sausalito-based Island Packet Triple Stars, who was sailing in the NARC (North American Rally to the Caribbean) from Newport to St. Martin. She was also an alumni of the ’06 Ha-Ha.
"The Caribbean 1500 was delayed for four days due to Tropical Storm Sean, and even so, we had some very challenging conditions. While listening to radio weather reports along the way, we learned that some of the entrants in the Salty Dog Rally — a group that sort of shadows the 1500 — who decided to leave on time despite the forecasts for bad weather, did experience some very difficult conditions. A few, who had gone against the advice of respected weather guru Herb Hilgenberg, reported 60 knots of wind with nowhere to hide. We believe it was during this time period that Jan Anderson was swept overboard by a 30-ft wave.
"Even though we missed the worst of the weather, the 1500 was the longest and most difficult passage we’ve done to date. It was further proof to us that East Coast sailing is certainly more rigorous than West Coast sailing.
"To recap, we had 22 to 30 knots of wind, with gusts to 35 knots and sloppy seas, for the last four days of the 11 days of our passage. The bearings in our alternator went out, so we had no engine for 7 of the 11 days. Mind you, even the winner of our division motored for 2.5 days. Our mainsail halyard broke, sending the main crashing on deck. Our autopilot gave us fits, periodically kicking out for no reason with no warning. In addition, all the alarms on our electronics started going off for no reason.
"Interestingly, those who had done the 1500 before said it wasn’t as bad as previous years. And our two crew, Jim Mueller and Rob Orr, who were terrific, are now saying they enjoyed the trip! As for me, Lynn, maybe it was like childbirth and I’ll forget the bad parts soon. But the captain is going to have to do a lot of sweet talking to get me to sail rather than fly across the Atlantic.
"As for being down here in the Caribbean, the weather is beautiful and the islands are simply gorgeous. We made wonderful friends in the 1500, and loved the camraderie. Now, the repairs, laundry and cleaning begin."
Because the speed of the boats and the length of the course in an event like the 1500, participants can have very different experiences. Here’s the report from the Caribbean catamaran legend, and our dear friend, DRandy West of St. Barth, who sailed John Winter’s Morrelli & Choy 80 Fat Cat to line and class honors in the 1500:
"Nothing like driving a house at 25 knots, jumping off waves and trying not to jibe. But after the first 24 hours in the Caribbean 1500, when we were 280 miles down the pike, we did just that. It was controlled, quiet, and far to the east of the rest of the whole damn fleet when we went over to the other jibe — and it left us in last place! Four days later, after a slow 210-mile day, we busted into the lead, sailing in the low 20s and pulling off a 340-mile day. Our only competition for line honors, the Tripp 78 Blackbird, ex-Bella Pita, was 70 miles ahead most of the way. But in the end, we beat them by 10 hours. Fat Cat is one fast house! This year’s rally wasn’t easy, but it was a lot of fun. Tactical weather routing was the key. Our computer took a slam, so I called a good friend of mine and the Wanderer, Capt. Tom Reardon of the legendary Herreshoff 72 Ticonderoga to ask what he thought. ‘East will not be least,’ said Tom, so away we went to the east. Between calling Tom and HQ, my keeper of a girlfriend, for position reports from the fleet, our spirits were kept high and we raced hard to the bitter end. Happy and humbled, we are now in Nanny Cay, Tortola waiting for the other 60 boats to arrive. I love my life!"
People often ask us if a certain type of boat is "good" or not. It’s hard to answer, because not only are different boats good for different uses, but they are often good or bad depending on who is trying to use them for a particular purpose. So our answer usually starts with the semi cop-out, "It all depends . . . ."
But in the case of Profligate, Latitude‘s 63-ft catamaran, she’s been a great boat for us because she has fulfilled our sailing needs almost perfectly. Specifically, she’s a very basic boat — we eschew luxury — she’s very easy to sail, yet she can carry a lot of people and at a good pace.
We were reminded of this during the terrific sail we had yesterday on the tropical waters of Banderas Bay. We rounded up a total of 21 sailors and non-sailors from everywhere from the north shore of Banderas Bay to the Bay Area, and had an absolutely wonderful time. In the calm of the morning, we motored from Marina Riviera Nayarit in La Cruz to Punta Mita, where we picked up a bunch more guests. Then we set the screecher for a high speed, high-pointing — albeit low VMG — sail back to the Nayarit Riviera Marina.
The weather was perfect. It was about 85 degrees, and the ocean so warm that most of the crew went swimming off the boat while waiting for the new arrivals to come out from the beach in a panga. The wind started out at about 10 knots, but filled in to the mid-teens by the middle of the afternoon. As is always the case on Banderas Bay, it was flat water sailing. Think of an uncrowded and undeveloped San Francisco Bay, surrounded by jungle rather than cars and people, and with the air and water temps 30 to 40 degrees warmer. The kind of sailing weather where you are constantly hosing yourself off to nearly orgasmic relief.
One of our greatest pleasures is to watch non- or novice sailors sail the big cat with a big screecher up. It always blows them away, if you’ll excuse the pun. The only downside is that the steering is understandably a little erratic, and that can cause some minor problems. For example, one driver got a little deep because we weren’t supervising closely enough. That allowed the gennaker sheet to get hung up on one of the partially opened hatches on top of the house. When the gennaker refilled, the sheet got caught in the hatch, and despite its being attached to the house by about 24 5/8-inch long screws, ripped it right off the deck. The frame looks at though it’s been in a high-speed, head-on collision.
Then, despite the best halyard leathering efforts of Fin Bevin, one of our crew in the Ha-Ha, we chaffed right through the gennaker halyard. It wasn’t Fin’s fault, because thanks to the fact that the screecher tack is nearly 24 feet from one side of the bow to the other, the halyard-leathering would have to be about 10 feet long to be effective. Anyway, sawing through halyards just comes with the territory when you spend most of your time beam and close reaching with nylon sails. Thanks to the efforts of sailmaker Jeff Thorpe and others, we managed to not only get the gennaker out of the drink quickly and without tearing the thing, but we reset it on the other halyard in a matter of minutes. Didn’t even bother to repack it before hoisting, either.
Good drivers can really make a boat go, so we hit our top speeds when Rich and Sheri Crowe of the Newport Beach-based Farr 44 Tabu were driving. Sheri hit 14.1, but said it was all because Rich had set up a speed burst for her. We say baloney, as Sheri kept hitting the mid-13s anyway.
By the way, the Crowe’s really get around. After sailing the entire length of the Ha-Ha on Tabu, they’ve already been all the way down to Barra de Navidad — no other cruisers were there yet — and back up to Banderas Bay. They report that the Grand Marina at Barra, as well as the big hotel and golf course, were purchased by a new owner on November 1. Hopefully he will review the berth rates, which are so high most cruisers are going to elect to stay in the nearby lagoon. The Crowes report that most of the beachfront restaurants are closed due to post-Jova hurricane damage, but the rest of Barra is in great shape.
Anyway, as soon as we neared La Cruz, the wind shut down completely, making dropped the screecher and main as simple as pie. Everyone had a great time, but nobody had a better time than us. We’re hoping to go sailing at least once a week, and hope to take as many of you readers out as possible. That would include you, Catalina, who missed yesterday’s sail, and who might not know it yet, but has been elected this year’s Commodore of the Punta Mita Yacht & Surf Club.
Speaking of beautiful Banderas Bay, the Banderas Bay Blast, three days of ‘nothing serious’ Ha-Ha-style racing, sponsored by the Punta Mita Yacht & Surf Club and the Vallarta YC, the will be held December 4-6. It’s better than free, as participants get a night of free berthing at the Marina Riviera Nayarit and a night of free berthing at Paradise Marina. Here’s the schedule:
- December 4 — Leg One, starting from either Paradise Marina or Punta Mita to La Cruz. This will be followed by the usual festivities at the Marina Riviera Nayarit Sky Bar, which will include the famous Water Balloon Drop and, new this year, a variation of Swimming Pool Volleyball. According to Pedro, one of the three owners of the marina, instead of everyone being in one big pool, each member of each team will sit in their own baby pool. Later, everyone heads to town for dinner. You can stuff yourself at Eduardo’s or other taco places for $4. Then it’s on to Philo’s for music, dancing and romancing.
- December 5 — Leg Two, the upwind leg from La Cruz to Punta Mita. This will be followed by the annual grand re-opening of the Punta Mita Yacht & Surf Club. Membership requirements are strict: 1) You have to sail there. 2) Lifetime membership is $1. And 3) You have to endure the carbon fiber paddle whack on the butt from the new Commodoress Catalina.
- December 6 — Leg Three, which is also the Pirates for Pupils Spinnaker Run, is from Punta Mita to Paradise Marina. After this leg, we’re going to have a Latitude Pool Stuffing Contest in the giant hot-tub beneath the Vallarta YC. This is part of a pool stuffing competition between the marinas in the Banderas Bay, the details of which are to come, and which Paradise Marina Harbormaster Dick Markie doesn’t even know about yet.
- But wait, there’s more! The day after the Banderas Bay Blast is the Vallarta YC’s Chili Cook-Off, their big charity fundraiser of the year, held on the grounds of Paradise Resort and Marina in Nuevo Vallarta. Five or six hundred people attend, and it’s literally and figuratively a gas. Do not miss it.
In other words, the good cruising times in Mexico have started, and there’s a whole season in front of us. If you’re not down here on your own boat, you owe it to yourself to sneak away from the chilly States and join friends on their own boats down here in the tropics. As for those of you cruising in other parts of Mexico, please send reports of what’s going on in your area.