After spending an extended summer in the States, putting thousands of miles on the Civic and seeing oodles of loved ones (see previous posts), we returned to our floating home, and decided right then that four-and-a-half months away, living out of suitcases (and the Civic), was simply too long. Don’t misunderstand, it was a total blast and amazing memories were made, but we don’t anticipate leaving Free Luff for that long again. Part of it was the constant worry about whether or not she was ok, if any storms were going to wreak havoc, or if we’d return to a smelly, mildewy, insect-infested vessel. This worry didn’t outwardly affect our daily activities or the fun we were having – it was just a little niggling in the depths of our consciousness, but always there. To our great relief, she was extremely well looked after in Marina Mazatlán throughout the season, and our guy, Hector, even sent proof of life every now and then to let us know that she was still afloat and all was as it should be. Whew!
Upon re-entry to Mexico from our summer hiatus, there was plenty of work to be done to get FL ready for the sailing season. This is ritual for seasonal sailors who leave their boats in the storm belt; every summer, every sail, every sheet, halyard, and line, and every little scrap of canvas that can catch any wind and start a domino effect is taken down and stowed. Dinghies are secured, food is eaten, donated to locals or other sailors, or tossed, the interior spaces get wiped down with a vinegar solution in an attempt to prevent mildew from taking hold, and much, much more, and then it just might be time to walk away, with a lump in your throat. Then, every fall, this of course, means that everything has to be done in reverse. It’s a lot of work, A LOT, which is another reason we probably won’t be leaving FL for the summer again anytime soon.
Anyway, we made it back to Mazatlán, and we had about a week to put da boat back together before Deb was to arrive for a sailing stint from Maz down to La Cruz, where we were connecting with Flea and friends, who were staying in a swanky seaside resort, ringing in MJ’s next decade. We picked up Deb, put her to work, showed her a bit of Maz, introduced her to some of our sailing brethren, and three days later, we set off for one of our Mexico favs, Isla Isabela. We absolutely love Isabel and were so glad that Deb found it to be equally as magical; so much so that it was like pulling teeth to get any of us to leave three days later. But we had other places to show Deb and, of course, we had a schedule to meet.
This was, in fact, the earliest in the season, by far, that we had been this far south. And it made quite a difference in weather, water temps, fishing, sailing hazards, and the number of boats in any given anchorage. What a difference a couple of months make.
The short passage to Chacala seemed to take forever. I’m not complaining. Rand caught a beautiful dorado – in the rain. We enjoyed the rain. The challenging part, which resulted in approaching the anchorage in the dark, was all of the long lines we got caught up in and/or were dodging almost the whole way. While we got pretty proficient at using the boat hook release the lines, Rand did have to jump in the water on three separate occasions to disentangle FL. A scary prospect when the lines are baited and the hooks are quite ginormous. But we made it. Rand prepared a lovely dorado feast underway, and we dropped the hook perfectly in the dark.
As per usual, Chacala did not disappoint. We enjoyed long swims, beach walks, SUPS, walks about town, fresh tortillas, and even kids trick or treating on Halloween. Deb got some laundry done, we sweated out a slightly severe t-storm (but loved the rain – again) the bulk of which luckily passed us by, and then we were off to Bahía de Banderas to meet the masses!
Our new-to-us drifter powered us down the coast to just offshore from the hotel where we’d find Flea, MJ, and the rest of the gang. We loitered around while they gathered beer, sunscreen, and hats, then we sent the SUP in as a transport platform for coolers. We got everyone aboard, with only one minor incident – KD got rolled by a wave, lost his sunglasses, but saved the beer. We then proceeded out into the big bay for what would turn into a rather boisterous sail; we even ended up reefing the main! But fun was had by all, and by late afternoon, everyone was ready to go ashore. They all swam from FL back to the beach, we sailed 5 or 6 miles down the shore and anchored in La Cruz, then got on a bus to meet everyone back at the hotel for an evening of storytelling and tequila shots. It was so much fun to share our home with these peeps and help celebrate MJ’s birthday.
Once Deb and Flea’s crew flew home, we were left to enjoy La Cruz with the fleet, which was already going strong in early November. Aside from the usual shenanigans – you know, the happy hours ashore and on each other’s boats, the Sunday market, trips to Bucerías to get cash and shop at La Comer, laundry, and eating at several yummy establishments scattered around town – we actually participated in a boat race. Seriously.
Here’s the story…Our water maker broke down (yes, again). So we ordered parts from Bill, our Spectra connection in La Paz, and our friends on Liahona were going to deliver the parts in a couple of weeks. Well, Liahona was waylaid by work stuff (what?!), so they passed the parts to Follow You, a boat we were familiar with, but had never met the crew. And this is the beauty of the sailing community – we take care of each other. If one boat can’t make the delivery, another boat will volunteer to take the baton. It’s awesome. Follow You wasn’t planning on crossing from La Paz to La Cruz for another couple of weeks, so we had to figure out a plan. As luck would have it, the Banderas Bay Blast, a three-day sailing rally, was about to get underway, and on the last day, boats would race from Punta de Mita to Nuevo Vallarta and could stay the night at Paradise Village Marina – for free! Well, Paradise Village just happens to have reverse-osmosis water on the docks…see where we’re going with this? We signed up, asked for the free slip at the end of the race, and off we went.
Day 1 was a triangle course off of La Cruz; we started by class. Heavy cruisers first; production, non-racing boats; cats; then the fast racers last. We argued that we were a heavy cruising cat, but that didn’t fly, so we started with the cats. Not a great showing; came in third to last out of about 16 boats. Day 2 was La Cruz to Punta de Mita. We started based on times from Day 1. Slowest started first, so we started third. It was an upwind beat to Mita, and local knowledge saw the local racers stay inshore. We, not being local racers, went further out into the bay to find the breeze. We ended up reefing and getting pasted. We came in third to last; we’d gone to far out into the bay – simply sailed too many extra miles, even though our speed was good. Day 3 was a downwind run from Mita to Nuevo, where we would get our free, good water! Again, we started third, but just as we were starting the race, we were informed that arrangements had not been made for slips at Paradise Village, but that the race committee would continue working on it as we headed in that direction. Well, I have to say, we kicked ass on Day 3. We employed good tactics for seeking out wind, we gybed the asym chute several times, performed a few sail changes, and waited out lulls – unlike most of the competition. Because there were significant holes in the breeze, several boats threw in the towel and fired up engines. Despite this, we came in second and would have regardless because most of the fleet were so far behind out of the gate. Catatude squeaked out the win, coming from behind to clip us by about 2 minutes. Jerks.
So, the racing was fun, but what we really cared about was the promise of water at the finish line. Slips for three boats were secured but because of our beam, we were SOL. We ended up anchoring in the marina basin with no access to water. Can you believe it? We did fill up a few buckets at Catatude’s dock before we left the following morning, but it was only enough to clean all the salt off of da boat from Day 2. In the end, we still had a bit water in the tanks by the time Follow You arrived with our parts. We fixed the water maker (another story) and were flush once again. But, sheesh!
We spent Christmas Eve at PV Sailing with a bunch of cruisers, tried to take CD for our traditional Christmas sail, but the rudder hinge broke. We fixed it with a spare, but that broke, too. Materials problem. Luckily, Tom and Annie from Tappan Zee brought fruit cake and Ken and Sheri from Cake brought Christmas cookies. Everything was right with the world.