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Banderas Bay Regatta

Three visits, one regatta, and an unnatural act

Raven's regatta logo (59K)We’ve been in the marina at Paradise Village, Nuevo Vallarta for six weeks now, which would be way too long in any other location. But have we had fun! There’s lots of social life, a gorgeous beach, three pools, a spa, seven restaurants, a mall with a decent supermarket, and good bus service into Puerto Vallarta. We are happy as clams at high tide, even though it’s a teensy bit like living in a tenement with boats all around us. Good thing they’re all friendly people. We’re on ‘Big Boat Row’ and practically the only boat without paid, professional crew aboard.

Next to us is the eighty-foot ‘Weston,’ owned by Nicholas Cage, who keeps threatening to fly down in his Lear, but never quite makes it. Apparently, he’s rushing to get a movie done before the big Hollywood strike. (Late News Break: ‘Nick’ arrived last night at midnight and by 1:30 a.m. woke us up by loudly spouting profanities at a woman via his cell phone. We were unimpressed.) His crew is nice, though, and they have a trap in the water under our bow where they keep their baitfish, feeding them cat food twice a day. The crew has had them for months, just waiting for Nick to come marlin fishing. We tease them that by now the baitfish have become pets with little collars and names like ‘Finny,’ and they’re going to have a tough time putting a hook into them when the time comes.

On the other side is ‘Dun Diggin’ (no accounting for taste, is there?), an 85-foot powerboat with a professional crew of three. Across the dock is ‘Tristan,’ a 120-foot motorsailer leaving tomorrow on a circumnavigation with a crew of four. Last week, the five-man crew of the eighty-foot New Zealand sailboat ‘Coconut’ left from the slip next door for the 2,800-mile crossing to the Marquesas in French Polynesia. At the same time, many of our friends on ‘normal-sized’ cruising boats are doing their last minute projects and provisioning to head out across the Pacific. There is a fairly organized ‘Pacific Puddle Jump’ group having weekly meetings and setting up a daily radio network for the crossing to the Marquesas. It will take most of them from three weeks to a month to hit the first landfall. The Captain is all ears and taking notes. The Crew is still reserving judgment. (Late news: We just heard that the first boat to arrive, a 42-foot singlehander, made it to Hiva Oa in only twenty days, a very good performance for her size.)

Visits and Guests

Michelle and the dolphins (61K)We came back to PV a couple of weeks early to meet Paul and Michelle, who had four days off for President’s Weekend. They seemed to like just hanging out on the beach and catching up on much-needed sleep and sunshine, while we were happy to spend some time together. We were able to fulfill one of Michelle’s wishes by arranging for her to swim with the dolphins. She was grinning from ear to ear.

Grocery store in El Tuito (69K)Mexican Train Dominoes with good friends (65K)Our next visitors were long time friends from the East Coast, who also seemed to like hanging out on our beach. We did a bit of exploring inland in a little hill town called El Tuito (including tasting mezcal-style tequila, the local moonshine). There was also plenty of shopping, lots of eating, and the squeezing of a few million limes for margaritas. Our sailing time included spotting five whales and catching one large crevalle fish. Just as the fish was escaping, taking our very large hook with him, we discovered that he was not very good eating anyway. We are learn-by-the-book fishermen, and we’re making very slow progress. The anchorage chosen for the night was about as appealing as the fish, and our friends turned Guacamole Green as we put the anchor down and started making dinner. I guess it was a tad rolly for them! We were close enough that we could come back to the relative calm of the marina, even though it was dark. It didn’t keep us from a big dinner and a rousing game of Mexican Train dominoes. (Don’t Jan tasting mezcal-tequjila in El Tuito (58K)laugh until you’ve played it! Highly addicting.)

One new event among the cruisers in the Bay is the Saturday night jam session here at Paradise Marina. It’s amazing how much musical talent there is among the cruisers, and their skills were especially in evidence on St. Patrick’s Day (check out the video).

Jam session on St.Patrick’s Day (1,342K)

Banderas Bay Regatta

Raven's race motto (22K)Raven's 'Rail Meat' is good looking but much too light (68K)All activity for the past month has been focused on the Banderas Bay Regatta, the largest sailing regatta in Mexico. Banderas Bay is a fifteen-mile-wide bay with consistent afternoon winds of ten to twenty knots. There are lots of boats in marinas around the Bay, but not many active sailors, so it’s like having a private ocean. It’s supposed to be a “cruiser regatta” with separate classes for liveaboard boats and race boats, but this proved not to be totally the case. We watched a few liveaboards offloading their worldly goods, or at least their anchors and all the chain, books, food, dinghies, and of course all the water and fuel. One boat in our division removed everything, including the wife, kids and all their clothes and toys. Since they won, I guess it paid off!

Raven crew before regatta (68K)Aboard Raven, that much effort would have been grounds for mutiny. We left the dinghy on the dock, which was allowed under the rules, but that was the extent of the offloading. All the extra weight didn’t help our speed (remember our extensive collections of books, tools, and spare parts?) but we were just out to have a good time with lots of friends. We did have a huge ‘battle flag’ made with our Raven logo. This was a big success, and a real bargain to have it custom made here in Mexico; it’ll see lots of use in future.

Raven's bowsprit artwork (60K)Mark's bowsprit antics (70K)Our neighbors aboard ‘Weston’ were amused (fascinated?) by our ten-foot extendable bowsprit and felt the need for some appropriate midnight artwork, as shown in the photos. We had a crew of eleven, some old friends, some new friends, but all just glad to be out sailing on sunny days. The Race Committee set a triangular Olympic course only eleven miles long, a little short for the big boats in the reliable local winds.

Day One proved to be the exception to the “reliable winds.” After a decent start in eight knots, the wind slowly died and made for a very long, hot day, except for the ultra-lightened boats. Out of sixty boats, only a dozen made it around the course before the cutoff time. We all were tired and fried by the end of the day.

Jockeying at the starting line (78K)Setting the spinnaker (64K)On Day Two we were all a bit weary, dreading another slow day. Luckily the wind gods smiled and we had a near perfect racing day. I also forgot to mention that several boats in our class flew in crews of heavy-duty racing sailors from California. Raven’s secret weapon was Mark Lindeman, Magnificent Mark from Gig Harbor, who came down just for the regatta. He and Jan shared the helm duties and Mark’s cheery good humor added a lot to the party atmosphere. There were the usual exciting crossings at the starting line, with lots of 15-to-25 ton boats hurtling at each other. It’s very uncomfortable to see a big boat with the right-of-way plowing straight at you, especially when you’re sailing your house! We had a fine race with two spinnaker legs and some good speed. We came in Intensity in the cockpit (62K)seventh out of eleven in our class, which was a respectable finish for us, especially considering that Dashew-designed boats don’t go to windward well, and windward legs made up half the course! The best part was rounding the windward mark, putting up the spinnaker, surging out on a reach — Raven’s best point of sail by far — and zooming right past half a dozen boats. Ahhh. The Rounding windward mark ahead of Destiny (62K)gentle breezes and the cloudless sky made us all want to stay out a bit longer enjoying such a glorious day.

Ken the human boom vang (73K)Tidal depths in the channel determined our exits and entrances from the marina. Low tide was just at the finish of the race, but our meager six-and-a-half draft let us squeak through with only seven feet of water in the channel. In these situations, I am not allowed to sit within viewing distance of the depth sounder! We made it, but several deeper-draft boats had to sit out in the Bay for a few hours while waiting for more water.

Racing to windward (63K)Day Three’s racing had the best, steadiest wind of all, with beautifully clear skies revealing the Passing Cygnus (54K)mountains that surround the Bay. Dolphins were swimming all around us during the day, adding to the festive atmosphere. We’re pretty happy with our results, considering we’re a heavy cruising boat: eighth in class on the last day, seventh in class for all three races, and 29th overall in the fleet of 60 boats. We definitely had the best custom T-shirts, the best lunches, the best music, the best battle flag, and the most fun crew!

Don’t miss the short videos attached to this page. And listen for those loud groaning noises Raven’s mainsheet makes, just like you heard during the America’s Cup races. That’s to cover the language used by the foredeck crew when they’re untangling the ‘spinnaker sheet macramé’!

Video - Preparing to round windward markPreparing to round windward mark (1,343K)

Rounding windward mark / setting spinnaker (1,343K)

Setting the spinnaker (1,343K)

Light air spinnaker run (1,344K)

I haven’t even mentioned the parties that followed the races each day. Some would say that they were the main reason for the regatta, and we certainly weren’t complaining. For three nights we had hors’oeuvres and all the margaritas we could handle. (Racing sailors are known for that sort of thing!) Every night’s party featured live entertainment, too. A group called Philo and the Bottom Feeders was a campy cruiser pickup band that played the first night. The star of the group played the washboard with a pair of fishing gloves tipped with thimbles. He was at least 70, dressed in baggy shorts and Nike high tops – a real character.

Philo and the Bottom Feeders (1,182K) 

The second night was a wonderful Peruvian-panpipe band (Jan calls their music style ‘Inca Rock’). The third night the Ballet Folklorico de Mexico performed; they were excellent and the highlight of the regatta.

The awards banquet was on the last night, with a huge buffet dinner on tables around the pool. The cruiser dress code ran the gamut from the same faded shirts and bathing suits worn for the race to long black dresses and jewelry. This is the best part of cruising. It just doesn’t matter! Everyone does what’s comfortable.

An Unnatural Act

An Unnatural Act (54K)After the excitement of the regatta, we decided to haul Raven out for a bottom job, involving much hand sanding and applying of epoxy antifouling paint by large teams of Mexican workers. We had the work done here rather than in the US because: 1) the quality of work is high; 2) they work very quickly; 3) it’s 60% cheaper than in the US; and 4) we can apply a highly effective antifouling paint that we can’t use in the US. Most sailors think the EPA has gone a bit overboard on this one, because metal-hulled boats, including large yachts, ships, and even the US Navy, can use this paint perfectly legally. Go figure! Since we’ve had to hire Mexican divers every two weeks to ‘mow the lawn’ (scrub the sea grass and barnacles off the bottom), new paint has become essential. The Opequimar boat yard here in PV is efficient, with no shortage of very good workers.

Hauling a 64-foot, 52,000-pound sailboat with a 65-foot mast out of the water is definitely an ‘unnatural act,’ as the accompanying photo proves. ‘Raven’ looks big while afloat, but out of the water she is absolutely immense! She’s surely the longest (but not the heaviest) boat Opequimar has handled, and they could barely move her around the yard with the Travelift. Jan, as you might expect, Juanito & Juanotte (58K)was a nervous wreck throughout, so we’re grateful the work took only three days. We’re quite happy with the results, but also pleased to get her back into the nice, comfortable ocean! Our amigo Juanito cleaned all the yard grime off Raven, so now we’re back to normal — check the photo of ‘Juanito’ (Little Juan) and ‘Juanotte’ (Big Juan) in their Raven shirts and well seasoned hats.

While Raven was ‘on the hard’ (hauled out), we stayed in a Westin hotel just across the street. I really like our home on the water, but have to admit that it was pretty wonderful having a huge, soft fluffy bed with clean sheets every day, tons of white fluffy towels that I only had to use once, and unlimited hot water. And then there were the breakfasts!!!

As we continue to say, life is treating us pretty well. (Bear market? What bear market?)

We plan to head north for Mazatlan, La Paz, and the Sea of Cortez this week and will be in that region, mostly at anchor, until we get back to Cabo San Lucas around mid-May. Then I will fly home and Jan and a crew of friends will sail ‘Raven’ back to San Diego for the summer. We can’t believe our first winter in Mexico is nearly over.



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