Monday, March 25, 2013

Banderas Bay Regatta March 21-23 - We missed the mark but emerged intact.

I can't believe we have been in La Cruz for almost three weeks! We blame it on being slightly detained by the Banderas Bay Regatta, however the regatta hasn't been the only entertaining thing in the area. When Windjammer showed up Ashley and Cathie rented a car and very graciously chauffeured us all over the place for some sightseeing and shopping.

We ran errands at chandleries and Costco down in Nuevo Vallarta, discovering that the only way to turn LEFT is to get into the RIGHT hand lane. Don't ask. Occasionally another option is to utilize the "Retorno" which lets you turn around in a big circle while negotiating lots of local traffic. We were unable to find any store without using the "Retorno" at least three times per store, so we became VERY well acquainted with it.

The Retorno will drive anyone to drink.
We did a day trip to the charming beach town of Sayulita where Tom surfed, Cathie and Ashley swam in the waves, and I went on a mission to find a hand-crafted Hernandez ceramic mug for my friend Judy who had one of her set broken. I'm happy to say we all had a successful day. Now I just have to get the mug to Judy in one piece. (And she has to get it to her boat in the Caribbean. Good luck Judy!)
Tom LOVED Sayulita (an artsy/hippie/surfy town ala Capitola, CA)

The infamous mug.

The next day after the La Cruz Sunday Farmer's Market (which is excellent!) we drove up to the historic and lovely silver mining town of San Sebastian. It was an active mining town from the 1600s to the 1930s. It is high up in the sierras and we enjoyed a wonderful hike up to the mines.
Cathie tackles the mine.
Back in La Cruz, after visiting the local British pub and enjoying some Guinness in honor of St. Paddy's day, we turned in early to start getting ready for the Banderas Bay Regatta. More photos of our first couple of weeks can be found HERE.

Regatta prep started with Cinnabar coming into the La Cruz Marina so we could put our dinghy, surfboards, kayak, and other in-the-way junk on the dock. While at anchor a damn gigantic frigate bird landed on our windvane and broke it, so fixing that instrument was high on the list. Ashley and Cathie were signed up as crew and were a great help with the prep.
Repairing windvane broken by friggin' frigate birds.
It took 6 hands to align the windvane before the repair glue set
Local bird perch solutions include: a 30 peso ($3) rake bungied to the masthead, wrist rocket, and pellet gun.
After getting Cinnabar race-ready we went out for a practice day, noting that all the other boats in our division had at least 12-15 crew on board as opposed to our 4! Luckily we managed to pick up a terrific 5th crew member, Barry from J-World who was in PV working but was available to race. What luck for us!

Day 1- Room for improvement: We had an OK start but allowed the J-160 to barge us at the start. What else are you going to do with a brand new paint job?

Don't touch me!   Strange Bird Photography ©
We flew our only spinnaker, our small reacher (made even smaller after getting repaired [thank you Dominic] from its 2010 shrimping-shredding in the Pacific Cup). Let's just say that this day was a huge learning curve for us. We discussed the day over copious beers and decided the spinnaker sock was more trouble than it was worth (inexplicably jams halfway up). The sock was going to be ditched in favor of yarn banding and letterbox drops.

Day 2 - First to finish: We had a great start but later found out there was a bad accident adjacent to us at the starting line. The J-160 made contact with one of the other boats and the J's local pro/tactician slipped and had both of his legs crushed between the boats. (We hear he'll be OK but there is all sorts of brouhaha going on about this.) We sailed very well this day and were the first to finish but still corrected out into third place.

Multihull Vamonos, Cinnabar, and Olas Lindas just after the first mark rounding.
Strange Bird Photography ©
 One of the most exciting vessels on the racecourse was the new, state-of-the-art multihull Vamonos sailed by pros and owned by multimillionaire Thomas Siebold.

We're #1. Sort of.
Day 3 - Oh no you didn't!!: Another good start and our crew work had really come together.
Cinnabar haulin' the wrong mark.
(The kite repair is terrific Dom (Marchal Sailmakers)!)
Strange Bird Photography ©

We rounded the windward mark between TWO LOCAL boats but had a heck of a time finding the next rounding mark. Where in the hell was it? And why was it upwind?
Oh bloody hell! There it is!
Strange Bird Photography ©
After we rounded it, one of our competitors informed us we had rounded the wrong windward mark! Oh hell yes, we sure did that bonehead maneuver, but hey, we followed the local knowledge! We decided that rather than unwind and resail the entire course, we would just withdraw, enjoy our beers, and be the first ones at the awards party that night. This turned out to be our best decision of the day, the worst decision having been previously mentioned.

So we went back to the marina, gave Cinnabar a good scrubbing, gave ourselves a good scrubbing, and headed over to the final beach party to get a good table, some ice cold drinks, and be the first ones at the buffet tables. This was clearly our best tactic of the day. We decided that a great time was had by all and nobody, including Cinnabar, got injured or broken.
Partying down with Vagabundo (our dock neighbors and fellow racers) at the awards fiesta.
A few more Regatta pics can be seen HERE.

We've spent the past couple of days getting Cinnabar back into cruising mode and trying to decide what to do next - stay here another week so Tom can get some surfing in, or use the current weather window to head north up to La Paz.

Vagabundo - Cheoy Lee 50 from Oregon, ~20 yr cruising vets, head up to La Paz.

Choices, choices...might just have to open a cold beer to cogitate on this one.

Friday, March 22, 2013

The Great Crossroads of Región Vallarta

We have learned that the Puerto Vallarta area is a popular crossroads, not only for some who just want to visit the area, but for others who are on their way somewhere else...either going north into the Sea of Cortez or back to the U.S., going south to the Panama Canal or South America, or doing the Puddle Jump to the South Pacific.

We have even run into people we know here. We already mentioned we ran into our pals from Windjammer who are on their way south to Argentina hoping to eventually round Cape Horn. Then the first week here I ran into one of my ex-sail-loft customers and his wife who have been cruising Mexico since November on their boat Shindig.

Two weeks ago at a free seminar someone asked a question and I recognized his voice immediately. It was the gruff-voiced Canadian that I knew from the Singlehanded Transpac. Jim from Haulback and his new wife Jen are here waiting for a weather window to make the jump to the South Pacific.

Syl with Jim and Jen from Haulback
Last week I was surprised to see some people I know from the Santa Cruz Yacht Club walk out of the La Cruz Marina general store. They have been cruising Mexico for years and make a pilgrimage up to Bahia Los Angeles in the Sea of Cortez every year aboard their Cal 43 Cricket to meet other members and friends from the Santa Cruz YC. They are here having some boat work done before they head north.

A couple of days ago we were contacted by a guy I know from racing out of the SF Bay Area. Barry is down here working for J-World and the Banderas Bay Regatta and was looking for a ride on one of the racing boats. So yep, you guessed it, against the advice of Torben and Judy ("Don't race your home!"), but largely due to the great fun we had racing on their home Tivoli two years ago, we DID enter the regatta. More on that subject in a few days.

Cinnabarbarians Tom, Ashley, Barry, Sylvia and Cathie, still smiling after the first day of racing.

DINGHY UPDATE: Thanks to all of you for helping out with the dinghy name. Ideas so far (in alphabetical order) are:
Dinghy Dong
Galena Ballena
Oh, how to choose, how to choose! Best done over a few shots of tequila I imagine. Have I forgotten any names?? If I have please remind me again.

Well, must dash to get Cinnabar race-ready* for her second day of racing this afternoon. We'll try to get an update posted on Sunday after the regatta has concluded. No doubt we will be recovering from all the physical and social activity.

*Race-ready = stocking the fridge with LOTS of beer.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Red Boat in a Red Tide - La Cruz

Our internet on the boat hasn't been working very well, so here is a quickie post from Philo's Cruiser Bar in La Cruz. We are using their internet and enjoying a couple of cold beers.

It's hard to believe we have been anchored out in La Cruz for a week! We love the privacy of anchoring out and you can't beat the price (free!) but it can be a little inconvenient not to have immediate shore access. Plus, the last few nights have been quite rolly with waves slapping against the hull, so sleeping with ear plugs is a must.

After anchoring last week our first order of business was to get our dinghy assembled (for the first time ever) and to deploy the outboard. The dinghy took most of one day, and the next day the goal was to hoist the outboard out of its hidey hole and get it set up. Of course we waited for a breezy morning with winds about 18 knots and lots of lumpy wind chop to try this exercise. Plus, there was some sort of stupid part on the outboard that prevented Tom from getting the outboard on properly. So we aborted, whipped out our laptops that had the Yamaha Manual downloaded on them, and figured out it was a useless "carrying bar" that was causing all the trouble. Luckily by the time we figured this out the winds had died and the water was flat.

Tom's maiden voyage on our dinghy. "Cinnabon"??

Now we have our lifeline to shore and today I received my Dinghy 101 instruction, started the darn thing and drove us to the La Cruz dinghy dock. Apparently dinghies get names just like boats do. What should we name our dinghy? Any ideas?

A few days ago a thick Red Tide swept into Banderas Bay, pretty much buggering up our watermaking capabilities. I took a shower at Philo's Bar today, I was that desperate. 
Red boat on a Red Tide

Market day in La Cruz

Windjammer, our Aussie pals Ashley and Cathie whom we met in Ensenada, anchored next to us a couple of days ago. I challenged them to show up in time for breakfast and they arrived at 11:30 a.m! It's fun to see them again. Of course I had a full breakfast ready because I just knew they would rise to the occasion. Oh, and did I mention they had sailed directly from La Paz, 400 miles to the north, to meet the Breakfast Challenge?

Now we are trying to decide if we should sign up for the Banderas Bay Regatta next week, racing Cinnabar in her current loaded down, pigged out, cruiser condition. Stay tuned...

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Banderas Bay - Two Years Later

Exactly two years ago Tom and I flew to Puerto Vallarta to join our friends Torben and Judy aboard their beautiful boat Tivoli to participate in the Banderas Bay Regatta. We had the best time ever and joked that someday we would sail our own boat down to Banderas Bay. In fact I am enjoying my morning cup of Trader Joe's Irish Breakfast Tea reading Tivoli's old blog posts from the Banderas Bay Regatta HERE. 

We are finally here!! We are anchored in the peaceful bay of La Cruz just north of Puerto Vallarta.

We spent the last couple of days in Cabo trying to drink the town dry of their most excellent margaritas and microbrews...

The Margaritas are huge!

...doing last-minute boat chores such as splicing 150' of anchor chain onto the 3-strand nylon rode (thanks Spinnaker Shop for teaching me some useful boat skills!) and saying goodbye to our Cabo friends. It was especially sad to say adios to our neighbor Stoli (Miniature Schnauzer), whom we had adopted as our ersatz "Walter", our French Bulldog buddy who owns our friends Dina and Dom back in Alameda. Adios Stoli, terror of G-Dock!!

Stoli glares at a bird on the dock.

After enjoying our last couple of days in Cabo San Lucas, one extra day in fact since the Port Captain closed the port on our intended departure date due to high winds (yay!) and bad seas (boo!), we left Cabo on Sunday March 3, on calm seas and warm, light winds.

It was another pleasant passage, except this time nights were filled with much more ocean traffic; cruise ships (easy to see) and lots of fishing boats, some lit and some unlit, so we didn't get as much nighttime rest as when we sailed down the uncivilized Baja peninsula. It was an especially rough passage for Tom.

Tom taking one for the team
There seemed to be lots of sea life in the water, but unfortunately never on our fishing lines. Drat! Sunsets and sunrises generally brought pods of dolphins to play in our bow wake. In fact, at our last sunset we passed through a huge pod of spinner dolphins leaping out of the water, sometimes as high as 10 feet, in an amazing display of acrobatic prowess. Even the baby dolphins did their best to leap with the adults. How cool!

The warmer water brought more squid suicides on Cinnabar's deck. Final Tally: Cinnabar 5 - Squids 0.
Squids are oddly beautiful creatures

Our approach to Banderas Bay was a bit of a nail biter. The two navigational lights that showed the entrance to the bay, between the mainland and some islands about 5 miles offshore, were not functioning! So we slowed the boat down and waited until sunrise so we could identify our passage. Good thing as I had us headed between two towns on the mainland, which didn't quite line up with what our Raymarine was telling us. As all aviators say, you have to trust your instruments.

We dropped anchor off of La Cruz the morning of March 5, about 45 hours and 330 nm after leaving Cabo San Lucas (31% sailing, 69% motoring). There are about 50 other sailboats at the anchorage; seems to be popular place.
We are here.
And since the water is 74 degrees F., my official "acceptable" water temp, I went for a nice snorkel around the boat that first evening.

We spent the last couple of days putting Cinnabar into true cruising mode with sunshades, mosquito nets, etc. and doing some boat tasks such as trying to get the watermaker to function and assembling the dinghy for the first time (success!). Today we contend with the outboard and hopefully head over to the town of La Cruz to register with the port captain and see the Margaritas,

We have a few more pictures of our last couple of days in Cabo and our trip across to Banderas Bay HERE.