Saturday, November 28, 2015

Forces invade Moonshadow

During the Baja Ha-Ha morning radio nets, we would hear about others catching fish and got a little jealous because even this beautiful pink and white job couldn't catch anything despite a day of trolling.

So when we sailed from Cabo down the almost 300 miles to La Cruz, we decided to experiment.  We'd already towed the pink lure one day with the little plastic protector tube on the tip of the hook so this time we took it off to see what might happen.

It didn't take long to learn we had discovered one of those secrets real fishermen never give away.

Rather than rush on to the marina at La Cruz, we stopped for some quiet time anchored off of the little vacation town of Punta de Mida.

We couldn't believe how warm the water was so got the pool thermometer out to see what it said:

We stayed two days swimming, reading, napping.  Just what we needed.

In La Cruz, we got Moonshadow cleaned up and rented a car for the invasion.  This time it was our two sons, Ryan and Scott.  They came for a week and boy did we pack in a lot of fun and laughs. 

From the airport, we went straight to dinner at Frascotti's Restaurant in the Marina building's second story palapa.  Then after an overnight rest aboard Moonshadow, we took a trip out to Punta Mida for lunch at Si Senor's where the margaritas and food are excellent.

The next day, we drove down to old Puerto Vallarta for lunch at the Blue Shrimp.  We didn't know it but the restaurant had arranged some entertainment.  

Fully dressed, we couldn't figure out if this gentleman wanted to swim, pee, or just feel the warm Pacific Ocean on his ankles.

Not sure if he found what he was looking for, but when he turned his back on the final wave of the set, we all saw this coming...

Anyone who knows our boys will understand why the whole restaurant had to pause their conversation while mayhem broke out at our table.

Feeling the need for adventure themselves, Deb and the boys began daring each other to take a ride in the parachute towed by a big ski boat.

People say this is safe.  What could go wrong?  OK, don't answer that. 

They went and brought back pictures from aloft...

... where you look way down upon the 10th story swimming pool by the beach.

Thank God they all made it safely back to the ground.

Back on terra firma, we walked around doing some sight seeing of old Puerto Vallarta, stopping at the "Survivor's Tree" for cancer survivors.

There is a really exquisite cathedral here.

But it got hot and the boys wanted to know more about this place.

Of course we had to show them some of our favorite eating places back in La Cruz, like Tacos on the Street where three tacos and a beer are less than five bucks.

Deb and John were ready for bed but the boys decided to visit Gecko Rojo.  Here, Ryan filled in while the band's drummer visited el baño.  We did not know Ryan could play drums, and from reports we've gotten, we're still not sure he can.

Later we drove to a beautiful 9 hole golf course which has some really interesting holes.

...and the rough can be pretty wild too!

We were all smiles throughout the day.

But it was a hot day so we stopped to cool off at Sayulita's surf beach.

The next day was up at the crack of dawn to go sportfishing on a 35 footer we chartered.

That was starting to look like a really dumb idea for the first three hours, then there was instant pandemonium as everybody started yelling at the water.  First Ryan started grinding while John helped reel in the other lines.

Then Scott found out how much fight we'd booked for him.

Finally we boarded this Sailfish.

Back aboard Moonshadow we chugged back up the coast to Punta Mida for cocktails, steak and seafood on the barbie and a great sunset.

We spent the next morning relaxing, paddle boarding and surfing...

...then motored in no wind across Banderas Bay to Yelapa.  Along the way, two things happened. One was catching this beautiful Dorado. That pink lure really works now!

Yelapa is a small cove where you pick up a mooring, ride a panga to the beach, have lunch, and then ride up to the waterfall.

The ride takes you across a river...

 ...and through a small town with very narrow streets.

Well worth it!

The other thing that happened when we caught the Dorado was poking a hole in the brand new dinghy with the gaff.  

We read up and watched all the YouTube videos on inflatable tube repairs we could find...

...then rolled up our sleeves and tackled the patch repair.

Good as new.

We celebrated Deb's birthday with pancake breakfast, shopping at the Sunday market, and dinner with the boys and several of our La Cruz friends at
Roberto's Xolocatl, high up on the hill overlooking La Cruz harbor.

Then capped the day with dancing at Ballena Blanca with the Traveling Band.

The week went by so, so fast. After the boys flew home our faces ached for a day from smiling and laughing.

This was the first time the four of us spent together (just the four of us) since these guys lived at home.  

It was truly special.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Here We Go Again!

Somehow the moments between sitting on a mooring at our beloved Howland's Landing in Catalina and our last view of San Diego from the deck of Moonshadow were separated by four weeks. We were so busy with last minute preparations, it seemed like a day or two.  

Photo by Fin Beven

Looking back through the Baja Ha-Ha fleet at our beloved home town San Diego, we realized the start of this rally also meant the end of living aboard our floating home at good ole San Diego Yacht Club; listening to music coming from Humphreys concerts just across the bay; paddle boarding with friends for a swim at Kellogg's Beach; seeing friends around the Yacht Club; and being just a phone call away from dinner with family.  It was a bit like our first farewell three and a half years ago when we left San Diego in a pick-up towing a U-Haul trailer full of "important stuff" bound for Florida for a sea trial with Moonshadow and her owners.  But different.

Photo by Fin Beven

But when you want the view through the overhead hatch to be of the spinnaker pulling you south into the tropics, you have to expect a few farewells.

The Baja Ha-Ha is a cruiser's rally which leaves San Diego each fall with over a hundred boats ranging from (this year) 19 feet to 70 feet.  Some of those who sign up have thousands of miles logged all over the world and others are setting out on their first adventure.  For some it's a few weeks off with a quick return to California. For others, the Ha-Ha is the beginning of a season of cruising to the Sea of Cortez and mainland Mexico.  For still others, it is the first step into an unpredictable future of adventure sailing to distant shores.  All benefit from the fun of meeting the sailors in the fleet, morning roll calls on the radio and stops along the way to rest, have fun and fix broken stuff (the whole reason people become sailing cruisers is to fix broken stuff).  This year was the 22nd time our friend Richard Spindler aka The Grand Poobah, has organized and lead this mob south to Cabo, the third for Moonshadow, and the second for us.  

Though Deb and John usually make passages alone, the Ha-Ha is one of those times we like to have friends along, so this year our crew included Ric and Monika Sanders, long time friends from Los Angeles Yacht Club.  While Ric has thousands of racing and yacht delivery miles in his logbook, Monika was looking forward to her first overnight passage.  We figured with a name like Sanders, they could help with some interior varnish, but that didn't exactly work out.

But what did work out with our crew was the ability to carry our spinnaker all day and into the night.  With just two of us, flying the 'chute at night is out of the question.

Like last year, we stopped in Turtle bay where the modern, lighted, astroturf baseball field stands out in stark contrast to the rest of this dusty Baja town.  Each year when the Ha-Ha fleet arrives, it's like this:  thirty fielders and a lineup of batters waiting their turn to knock it into the outfield and run the bases.  The town kids participate and, from the look on their faces, it's tons of fun.  The fleet of sailors from the US and Canada bring all sorts of baseball stuff and leave it behind when they leave.

The other Ha-Ha event in Turtle Bay is a beach party on a nearby piece of deserted sand at the northeast corner of this immense bay.  

Here, the fleet can unwind after three days of sailing by playing volley ball, boogie boarding in the surf or climbing the nearby foothills for a view of all the fun below.

Photo by Fin Beven
One of the fun activities below was a women vs. men tug of war utilizing someone's 300 foot anchor rode.  The Grand Poobah, rigs the event each year so the women outnumber the men 2 or 3 to one.  Guess who won!

Another fun activity is posing with friends and Moonshadow for a group shot.

Again, like last year, the second stop was Bahia Santa Maria, a place so remote if you find any other yachts here, that would be really something.  How about 110 boats?!! It was fun to be the first here, select the best anchorage location and watch the fleet filter in throughout the day.

By night time there was a new constellation of anchor lights from all the new arrivals.

The Ha-Ha is well organized with events at every stop, like this huge dinghy raft up behind Profligate, the Grand Poobah's 63 foot catamaran...
(Moonshadow top right with her crew arriving by dinghy - extreme right)
Photo by Richard Spindler - shamelessly stolen from his FaceBook page.

...but sometimes the best things can't be planned.  Like an impromptu paddle board outing...

Or an equally impromptu cocktail party in Moonshadow's endless cockpit!

But the one thing that set this Ha-Ha apart from last year was the sailing.  Unlike last year's light wind event where we motored two of the three legs, we sailed with the spinnaker up all three legs and had some spectacular days, like the last day when we dueled with Sea Level, a 49 foot catamaran owned by friends Jim and Kent Milski.  They've already circumnavigated aboard Sea Level and now their only purpose in life is to beat Moonshadow in an all out speed run for Cabo.

Photo by Fin Beven
They tried several times to pass us to leeward...

But the sheer beauty of Moonshadow scooting along hitting 11 and 12 knots was too much.  We think they just lost all concentration.

 But we were wrong.  They were sneaky and they had a plan.  When we weren't looking, they sneaked up to windward, which is pretty sneaky for a rally.

Then it was the Moonshadow crew that was awestruck as they rocketed past until...

...their view of Moonshadow was of our bow.  Well done Jim, you bastard!

Nobody who has ever sailed doesn't love passing another boat, nor do we particularly love getting passed, but none of that compares to winning the green shirt you get in the Baja Ha-Ha by... well, we don't know exactly... but only one boat in each division gets one, and we now have a matching set, one for 2014 and one for 2015.  

Now a familiar sight for Moonshadow, Land's End at Cabo San Lucas marks the end of the Ha-Ha Rally, but the beginning of a whole new chapter for Moonshadow and crew.

We'll now spend the winter on Mexico's mainland Pacific Coast taking a bit more time to visit some of the places we've seen before.  Along the way, we'll be studying the dozens of charts we bought in San Diego that cover the South Pacific....

 ... and doing some reading about the places that lie ahead for Moonshadow.