Tuesday, March 24, 2015

XXIII Banderas Bay Regatta

Not long after we arrived in La Cruz the J/109, Joyride appeared on our gangway and the owners, Jim & Jenn invited us to sail with them in the upcoming Banderas Bay regatta. Joyride came down from San Francisco Bay in the Baja Haha last November and has been cruising along the mainland coast with their two schnauzers, Harvey and Phoebe, for the last few months. The boat is fully outfitted for cruising, including a dodger, bimini, solar panels and a full load of cruising gear, supplies and provisions aboard. To further complicate matters for us, we were given a rating of 73 for this PHRF event and were limited to using the class jib instead of a genoa. Needless to say, the combination of extra weight and small sails made Joyride a sticky boat in the light conditions and chop of Banderas Bay, so we harbored no delusions about where we might place in the regatta. Instead we focused more on enjoying three days of casual racing.

 Our competition consisted of:
Olas Lindas (Varianta 44) PHRF 56
Gypsy (Columbia 52) PHRF 107
Bright Star (Jeanneau Sunfast 40) PHRF 80
Wings (Serendipity 43) PHRF 78
Alarife (Ron Holland 40) PHRF 99

Sistership to Olas Lindas. The Varianta is a Judel/Vrolijk design built by Hanse Yachts.

On the first day of the regatta there is always a parade of the competing boats as we head out to the starting line. This year the theme was Pirates, so our crew, including Harvey and Phoebe, were dressed in pirate scarves and brandished bottles of rum as we made our way past the reviewing stand.


The forecast was for 12-18 knots of wind so we felt okay about the small jib. Jenn was our designated driver and Doug worked the sharp end of the boat while Jim, Lisa and Josette ran the cockpit. Harvey and Phoebe took up stations in the quarterberth as we lined up for the start. Being the smallest boat in our class I positioned us at the committee boat end of the line when the flag dropped. Unfortunately the wind stayed light and we got rolled by the bigger boats. The course was a triangle-sausage and we were the third boat around the weather mark. On the reach out to the wing mark we passed the Jeanneau, with the Varianta well in the lead. We got passed by Wings just before reaching the leeward mark. Then the deck got shuffled. The wind went light and shifty. Wings went right, along with Gypsy and Bright Star. We tacked to starboard and headed out to the left side of the course and managed to find a bit more breeze. We could see Wings in the distance going slow as we ghosted along. Before long we were near the port tack layline and had a quarter mile lead on them as we worked our way out to the last weather mark. But as luck would have it, Wings found a breeze and came barreling at us, making up nearly all the distance we had gained on them. We rounded the weather mark and set the kite a hundred yards ahead of them. As soon as the kite was up and drawing the wind shifted to NE, turning the run into a beat. We quickly doused the chute and unrolled our jib and managed to cross the finish line in second place, about three minutes ahead of Wings and ten minutes behind Olas Lindas. Though we corrected out to 5th, we felt good about our performance.

On day two, we started again in light air a little down the line from the committee boat, seeking a clear air lane. Again, we got rolled by the big boats off the starting line but managed to round the weather mark in third. The next leg of the race took us on a close reach to the sea buoy off Puerto Vallarta. It was all about waterline length and, being the small boat in our class, we got passed by all of our competition and corrected out to 6th.

On the last day of the event we sailed three times around a windward-leeward course. Though the committee boat end of the line was favored, we opted for a clear air start closer to the pin end of the line and crossed it going fast in about 12 knots of wind. We played the left side of the course on the first beat and rounded in second place behind Olas Lindas. With a steady breeze all day, we worked the shifts and were the second boat to finish, about eight minutes behind Olas and 24 seconds ahead of Wings.

Overall, it was really fun sailing the J/109 in spite of our unfavorable rating. The weather was perfect and we were entertained by breaching humpback whales throughout the regatta. Vallarta YC was, as always, a splendid host and brought in Luna Rumba, a Latin/fusion band for the party after the trophy presentation.

With the regatta behind us, we had time for a quick trip to California where we took care of some business and reconnected with friends. We're back in La Cruz now and preparing to head north to Mazatlan and the Sea of Cortez.

While in California I had time to go for a long bike ride and got a nice picture of Newport's Back Bay in the late afternoon.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Acapulco to La Cruz

Taking our departure from Acapulco, we set a course that would take us about three miles off the point at Papanoa, From there it was a straight line to Isla Grande, which lies just outside of Bahia Zihuatanejo. We stayed fairly close inshore throughout this passage and enjoyed the beautiful coastline in the area. Arriving around noon the following day, we anchored in about 20 feet of water and spent a couple of days relaxing and exploring the island. On February 1st we motored the short distance to Bahia Zihuatanejo just in time to participate in the festivities at Sailfest. It was a lot of fun and proceeds from the event go to a good cause.  You can learn more about it at www.zihuasailfest.com.

The following Sunday, Finisterra departed from Zihuatanejo and set a course for a point about 10 miles offshore as we passed the port of Lazaro Cardenas. As usual, there was lots of ship traffic there, but once again, we managed to get past the port without knocking any ships out of the ocean. During that time the weather was balmy, with scant wind and flat seas. A few miles further on, the wind jumped to about 20 knots out of the northwest, bringing big lumpy seas with it. We banged along with spray flying all night. It's hard to sleep when you have to hang on even in your berth. By the next morning conditions improved and we were able head directly for Roca Vela at the southern entrance to Bahia Manzanillo.   Arriving at La Hadas around 1800, we were greeted by our good friends, Ed and Connie aboard Sirena, who were anchored nearby. They invited us over for a delicious pasta dinner as soon as we had the hook down. Nothing beats a hearty meal and good company at the end of a passage.

There is room for three or four boats in tiny Ensenada Carrizal.

We stayed at Las Hadas a few days, then headed out around Punta Santiago and across the bay of the same name to a little cove called Ensenada Carrizal. For three days we had the cove to ourselves,  There are beds of coral here which attract a variety of colorful tropical fish. With no other humans in sight, we spent a good deal of time exploring this underwater wonderland. One day we took the dinghy out among the wild looking rock formations that make up the southwest part of the cove. With a good sized swell running, we had fun surfing the dinghy between the towering rocks, and managed to do it without capsizing. This cove is reputed to be a drop-off point for drug traffickers, and we heard that some cruisers had been warned by gun wielding Mexicans to leave the place. As long as we were there we found nothing but a peaceful cove that looks almost untouched by human activity.

On February 12th we said goodbye to Ensenada Carrizal and headed northwest to Barra de Navidad, about 18 miles further up the coast. With no wind and a flat sea, we used the three hour trip to charge batteries and run the watermaker. By 1300 Finisterra was at the channel entrance. In the past, we had to be very careful navigating this channel due to shoals all around the area. There is now a dredger keeping the entrance channel clear and is widening the channel between the marina and the town of Barra. We took a berth on gangway B and settled in for a few days of relaxing by the pool at the Grand Bay resort. The marina here used to be very expensive and was always fairly empty. In the last couple of years the slip rates were brought more in line with other marinas in Mexico and consequently there are lots of boats taking advantage of the place. We have lots of friends here and enjoyed a week or more of socializing...a contrast from the solitude of Carrizal.

The marina at Barra is visible in the center of the photo. A small portion of the Laguna is navigable and there are always a few boats anchored in the southwest corner of it. The afternoon winds can be strong here and it's not uncommon for boats to drag anchors.
Whenever Finisterra is in a marina we connect to the 110 volt shore power to keep the batteries full. Unfortunately, our charger/inverter stopped working the day we arrived. There are no real boat repair facilities in this town so we relied on our solar panels to do that work until we could get back to La Cruz where there are lots of resources for this kind of work. So after a week or so in beautiful Barra, Finisterra departed for Cabo Corrientes and La Cruz.

It's about a hundred nautical miles from Barra to Corrientes and for the first 85 miles we motored over a glassy sea, dodging long-lines and trolling for dorado. As we approached the cape, the wind built to about 20 knots on the nose and stayed that way until we rounded it and bore off for La Cruz, another 28 miles ahead. As soon as we cleared the cape the wind dropped to almost nothing and we resumed motoring, arriving at the harbor entrance just before dawn. By 0700 we were snug in our berth on gangway 10.