Archive for December, 2009

Dec 16 2009

These People are Cool . . . .

Published by under The Adventure

Just found this REALLY great blog about cruising . . . .

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Dec 12 2009

Best Sailing of the Trip (and then the Doldrums) . . . .

6am came really early this morning. In fact, it was so early, our alarm clocks even missed it (and we all overslept). But, rise we did, and as a race crew, we are already intimately familiar with rigging the boat on the way to the startline. Fortunately, we discovered that the Grand Poobah responsible for the the start had, in fact, overslept, as well. Suddenly, we were like students who were late, but not really–the teacher was behind us . . . .

We had, in fact, rigged most of the boat the day and night before. All of the boat chores were completed. Things were secured. Other things were stowed. It was a pretty tight ship to begin with. In the darkness, however, I spotted the topping lift tha had snaked its way part of the way up the mast–and, that problem required sending someone aloft–and, Nathan was our guy.

After retrieving the topping lift, the wind was already following us and we wanted that spinnaker up as soon as possible. The Grand Poobah informed the fleet that we would have a rolling start, and we got that spinnaker up and the motor off immediately following.

What would transpire over the next few days had a dreamy, surreal quality to it. Nathan caught a second Yellowfin Tuna for the boat–not 45 minutes after sunrise. (We cleaned it immediately, but saved it for lunch/dinner. Sushi at 7am is a bit much.) The wind held steady at the low end of Marishanna’s performance range, and continued to build over the course of the next day and a half.

By the time our nighttime racing came around, the winds were blowing a steady 18knots. The waves were perfect. The angle of the wind was just right. We were holding at a steady pace of 10knots–it was phenomenal. We were smoking.

And, so was the entire fleet. We were all enjoying this perfect sailing weather: high speeds, comfortable rides, warm weather. All of us were ooohing and ahhhing each other on the radios . . . .

As we pulled within 20 miles of Cabo San Lucas, the wind came to a halt. Zero. Nothing. The water became a mirror. Our sails were limp. There wasn’t even a dark patch of water to chase.

In situations like this, the symptoms of someone affected with the racing affliction become most evident. The cruisers would say something along the lines of, “Hey, that wind was good while it lasted and got us really close. Time to turn on the engine. We’ll be there by breakfast.” It is a simple and practical statement. They are thankful for what they got.

Our response is akin to that child sitting at the table who won’t eat his brussel sprouts. “We are NOT turning on the motor. We’ll be disqualified from the sail-only division.” Period. Final. No arguments–from any of us.

And, so we sat. We watched as the cruisers motored past us. Fortunately, no one was close enough to wave, or say kindly things. But, we watched all the boats that he had worked so hard to overtake motor by and beat us to the showers and to breakfast.

And, we continued to sit. After about an hour, we got about 1 knot of boatspeed. And, then it was up to 2.5 knots, and then it was a little higher. All in all, it took us 6 hours to finish the remaining 20 miles to the finish line–our record-shattering attempts were in shambles, but our principles were intact.

We turned on the motor, gave the steering to Otto von Helm (our Auto Pilot), and the four of us sat on the foredeck, cracked beers, poured our offerings to King Neptune, and toasted a fantastic sail from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

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Dec 11 2009

Beach Party/Fundraiser and the Amazing Band (name unknown)

As beautiful as Bahia Santa Maria is, it is blighted with poverty. The unimproved shacks of the people who live here permanenty are barely habitable by any standards. It is what they have, so I am not passing judgment, but it also the reason why the Baja Ha-ha organizers started fundraising for them each year.

To make things even more difficult for the people of Bahia Santa Maria, one of the hurricanes that missed Cabo San Lucas this year, veered north and hit this little village directly. So–what little they had got washed away by torrential rain and 100+ mph winds.

As a group, the Baja Ha-ha fleet offers some serious buying power (relatively speaking). There were 198 boats, and approximately 1000 sailors. So, this year, for the fundraising party, the locals hosted a fresh shrimp dinner–for 1000 people. We paid $15 and got a plate of locally caught and prepared food and we bought as much beer as we wanted at the same time . . . .

The surprise about the fundraiser this year was that the music has historically been a set of speakers and a DJ. But, between Baja Ha-has, a band contacted the organizers and asked if they could play the gig. And, they were awesome. Rolling Stones, Beatles, Neil Young, America, The Who, Led Zepplin . . . these guys could play music. The guitarist ripped off some great solos, and the singer hit all the notes . . . . It was spectacular music.

So, with a belly full of food, a cold cerveza in-hand, and good music, we danced until it was dark . . . . It seemed a little self-serving to be charity work, but that thought may have just been my Catholic within . . . . 😉

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Dec 10 2009

Singles Party

Over the Single Sideband Radio, we had been hearing about a Singles Party. I thought it was a bit odd, but was waited to pass judgement until I learned the details. That morning, over the daily check-in, and after all of other business was concluded, we heard a bit more about the party.

The holder of the party made a direct pleading to boat owners. He said that this party is organized on your behalf. You have picked up your additional crew members to sail with you on the trip. Tonight, would be a great time to take those crew members, send them over to the three rafted-up sailboats with a bottle of booze, and in return, give yourselves a couple of hours of privacy. If you know what I mean?

Once the encrypted words floated on the airwaves, I understood.

Send your kids. Send your crew members. And, you get to have the boat to yourself . . . it’s been a few days, and your on vacation, right?

Nathan and I went over to the party–as we were the only ones who were single, but we quickly found out that we may have also been the only boat adhering to the “singles” part of the party. It was a party for everyone with a lot of alcohol, loud music, and a little dancing on three rafted-up boats (complete with sparkly Christmas-party lights) in an absolutely gorgeous setting . . . .

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Dec 10 2009

Bahia Santa Maria

Bahia Santa Maria is pristine–like a postcard, actually. It is less than a 100 miles from the larger Mexican port, Magdelena Bay, but rather than deal with all of the bustle and crowds, Bahia Santa Maria is quiet–idyllic almost.

After catching up on our sleep, we awoke to a beautiful, peaceful bay. I popped my head out of the hatch (before even having a cup coffee) and went up on deck. The water was like a mirror. A dorado (Mahi-mahi) was chasing a school of smaller fish, and he/she (couldn’t tell) came swimming by as if it were a dolphin: breaking the surface of the water, down into the water, out of the water again, and back down again. The dorado in its rhythms did this between our boat and another one for a couple hundred yards. It was beautiful.

Apparently the town was hit really hard by hurricane this summer. The recent rains associated with the storm are what caused the hills to turn green. The local fisherman, to my understanding, fish here during the week and stay in some improvised housing, and on the weekends, drive back to wherever their homes and families. Of course, there are some who live her permanently, but not many. The only sign of humans from the harbor, in fact, were these dozen or so improvised buildings and a slightly larger structure that I believe was the “town bar.”

We were excited about 2 full days of rest and relaxation (while the rest of the fleet catches up). There were a few chores (our dinghy needed a bit of repair), and, a couple of social events. But, for now, we were excited to take in the scenery and relax.

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Dec 01 2009

Racing Towards Bahia Santa Maria

Somewhere during our first leg of the trip, we had forgotten that this was a race. We had started joking that “we are cruisers now,” and as we would collectively make decisions, we would posit, “Are we thinking like racers or cruisers?”

The two groups are not mutually exclusive, nor are they in confrontation with one another. For example, there was a green-hulled boat only a few feet longer than ours who smoked by us, and it looked like a pretty comfy ride. Turns out that it was a custom-designed Farr 44 purpose-built to cruise comfortable AND go really, really fast while doing it. The point is that on the first leg of the trip, all of our little-racers-within were lulled into a sweet nap while we “enjoyed ourselves” in the cruising mode.

On the second leg–something snapped. Or popped. Or awoke. In all of us. Maybe it was the adrenaline from the start. Or, more likely, it was pulling into the Bahia de Tortugas with 60 boats from the fleet already waiting for us. I, for one, thought a we pulled into the last anchorage, “Wait a minute. We are down here on a RACE boat–with no insulation, exactly ZERO exquisite staterooms, with a two-burner stove and a one-holer toilet seat for which we fabricated a CURTAIN to give us the illusion of privacy, and weighing roughly less than the diesel, water and provisions you are carrying on-board . . . and, YOU beat us?”

Regardless of what the motivation was, each of our little-racers-within awoke from their nap, and they were hungry. No motor. Spinnaker through the night. No set the spinnaker to a conservative setting and forget it. This was war–or, better, this was a RACE! There isn’t really a trophy, per se, but we wanted an illusionary one. We wanted “bragging rights” which has its own HUGE currency in the superstitious, over-indulgent, beer-swilling, story-telling world of sailors. And, race we did.

The winds picked up and were blowing around 25 knots during the end of the first day, and Nathan hand-drove for hours–keeping the boat on the edge to drain every ounce of speed out of her . . . because Marishanna shines in these conditions: downwind, big seas, and 25 knots of breeze. If it wasn’t for the warmer water, she might have thought she was at home in San Francisco.

With the spinnaker up and sailing downwind, a racing sailboat can do magical things. If the driver knows what he/she is doing, they feel the wave approaching (there is also a rhythm to it), and they turn the transom of the boat to sit firmly on the wave, and for a few brief moments, the hull partially pulls out of the water and basically “surfs” down the waves. By definition, sailboats should only be able to go a certain speed calculated by the length of the hull. In these brief moments, however, a light, fast, raceboat with a large spinnaker sail up, properly-designed stern, a powerful wave, and a good driver, and you can reach speeds above your hull-speed (Marishanna’s hull-speed is in the mid-to-high 7 knots).

With Nathan driving and the conditions right, we peeled off consistent 10’s–for awhile, doing it with almost every wave. We hit some pretty regular 11’s and saw numbers as high as 15 knots. And, that is how you win races.

Sailing to Bahia Santa Maria was about 280 nautical miles. We ripped off the first 180 miles in about 20 hours, and as the wind died from 25 knots to 15 knots and down to 10knots, we continued to drain every ounce of speed we could get from the boat.

Somewhere in the early hours of the morning (around 4am), a bit more than 2 days after we started, we crossed the finish line. We weren’t the first to arrive, but at least we were respectable (in the top 20) and, had our pick of the anchorages.

And, yes, the green boat was already there . . . .

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