26 February 2023
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Introducing Whiskers and the Shake-down Sail
06 July 2022 | Off the coast of Massachusetts
It's five in the morning and I awaken to the clanging of the halyards against the mast and the gentle groans of Whiskers as she lies at anchor. Jay is sleeping beside me in the open air of the cockpit. Last night, we spent our very first night on our 22' Marshall catboat, Whiskers.
The sun peaks over the treetops on Naushon Island, one of the Elizabeth Islands off the coast of Massachusetts. The birds are chirping their morning songs. Some fly in quiet solitude overhead in search of their breakfast. Others walk along the beach just on the edge of the surf. A flock of Canada Geese fly in formation, intent on their latest journey. The sky becomes a clear blue and the wind hasn't shown up yet. The sea shows signs of waking with subtle movements across the surface. It is here, in this moment of utter peace, all feels right with the world. It feels as it should be - no bickering, no war, no famine - just the beautiful sights and sounds of nature. This is one of my favorite things about cruising.
Yesterday afternoon, however, was a different story. I was frustrated and oh so, so tired, and frankly, a bit irritated that things weren't going as smoothly as we would have liked. But I digress. Let me back up and start at the beginning.
It all started during Covid, the year we couldn't travel. The season we didn't cruise. It had been almost two years since we had sailed Cadenza and Jay was missing her and the lifestyle she affords us. Enter our friends here on Martha's Vineyard, Jim and Kim O'Connor, and their 22' Marshall catboat, Glimmer.
Catboats are very popular in this area and there is a community of sailors who love to gather together and share their passion. Here on Martha's Vineyard, Jay has owned an 18' Herreshoff catboat for over 30 years and we have loved sailing Skipjack. But the Marshall 22' has its own charm and the O'Connors were happy to show us Glimmer's unique qualities.
"I can't believe how much bigger it is than Skipjack," I told Jay when we sailed with Jim and Kim. It's only four feet longer and one foot wider but has a wheel instead of a tiller. This leaves a lot more open space in the cockpit. It has a small galley with a two-burner alcohol stove and a plumbed sink. There is an ice box under the seat in the cockpit. It has a head with a privacy curtain. There are two bunks inside, one that turns into a double. It even has a dodger for some shade. We joined them for a race out of Vineyard Haven and we were sold. In the spring of 2021, we were on a hunt for a Marshall 22'.
Jay found one in Point Pleasant, New Jersey. Surely, she couldn't be as in good shape as the photos boasted. She was. The owner had taken immaculate care of her and, again, we were sold.
It was November 2021 and we were finally going back to Mexico and our beloved Cadenza. Our "new" 1984 Marshall - not yet named Whiskers - sat in New Jersey until the following spring when we had her trailered up to Marshall Marine in South Dartmouth. It seemed like the logical place to have her commissioned as this is where they make them. Meanwhile, we sold Skipjack sight unseen and for our asking price. Jay had many inquiries and several offers. We finally met the new owners, Rick and Brenda Reardon, and are so happy she has gone to a good home.
In May of 2022, we finally got the chance to spend some time on Whiskers while she sat on the hard in the boatyard. Although she was in great shape, there were still chores to attend to. Jay investigated the boat thoroughly and sat down with Geoff Marshall to discuss what needed to be done prior to putting her in the water.
Our compass was sent out to be fixed. Jay was struggling with the pump in the sink when Geoff stepped in and took it into the shop and fixed it. Jay bought and installed a new radio, painted non-skid on the engine cover in the cockpit, re-wired the electrical panel, registered her and put on the new numbers on her bow. And so much more. We spent about six weeks going back and forth on the ferry from MV to Padanaram (in south Dartmouth) getting to know her and prepping her for our first voyage, 38 nautical miles.
Wednesday, June 28th - Marshall Marine is about an hour's drive from Woods Hole where we usually take the ferry. Since we couldn't bring our car (obviously, because we were sailing her home) we chose to take the Fast Ferry from MV directly to New Bedford. New Bedford is only five miles from Padanaram where the boat was finally in the water at the dock. We arrived around noon and walked to our hotel with two small bags and a backpack. We had lunch and then took an Uber to have one last look before we took off the following morning.
This was the first time we saw the boat fully commissioned with rigging, mast and boom, the dodger in place, etc. Jay and I did some last-minute chores like fixing the anchor to the bow sprit and marking the 150 ft. anchor rode so we would know how much we put out when anchoring. He tested the engine, the radio and checked the fluids. Jay is extremely conscientious when taking out the boat. It is what keeps us safe. We took another Uber back to the hotel, walked across the street for dinner and toasted to the following journey the next day.
Thursday, June 29th - After breakfast, Jay and I packed up what little we brought and called an Uber. This time we asked the driver to stop at a small country market that we love and is located about a mile from the boatyard. This was to be the extent of our provisioning for the next two days.
We picked up ice, a pre-made salad, two pork chops (fresh from the butcher), eggs, a sourdough round, and some raspberries. And, of course, some wine.
"We can't sell wine until 9 am," the clerk said. I looked at my watch. It was 8:20. Hmmm...now what? We were on a time crunch because we had to time our exit with both the tide and the bridge opening at 10 am. "I'll go back with you, help with some chores, and at 8:40 I will walk back and pick up the wine," I told Jay. "You can finish getting the boat ready and I'll get back to the boat by 9:20 and we'll leave." Wine crisis avoided.
The Padanaram Harbor on the Apponagansett River has been voted the most beautiful in the US. It is a quaint setting with New England houses dotting the shore and dozens of sailboats wafting on their moorings.
We arrived at the bridge a few minutes before ten. Jay radioed the bridge tender and we waited in line as he opened the bridge. It is a swing-span bridge. It doesn't rise but moves left to right allowing for passage north and south on either side. A new experience for both Jay and me.
Next obstacle was going through a mooring field filled with boats while dodging two different children's sailing races. Once through, we were out in beautiful Buzzards Bay. We had never sailed this area and there were rocks and currents to be considered. Jay decided it would be better to put up the sail after we went through Quick's Hole. Three hours later, it was time to raise the sail.
Jay and I have both sailed many different kinds of boats, but neither of us had sailed Whiskers so this was a totally new experience and not without its challenges. Whiskers has one very large sail, gaff rigged. We were used to sailing a catboat with a tiller which gave us leverage while holding both the sail and the tiller. Whiskers has a wheel and it took me some time to get used to holding it steady while holding the sheet. Once we got going, she sailed smoothly across the water.
Lowering the sail had its own challenges. Again, because it is so massive. Plus, Geoff Marshall had rigged a snazzy way of battening it down with shock cords. Only we had never used them before so that was a new learning curve too. It was around 3:30 in the afternoon when we headed into Tarpaulin Cove on Naushon Island. Now for anchoring.
We had set up the anchor on the bow sprit and talked through how we were going to anchor. There were only a couple of boats in the cove leaving us plenty of room. No worries there. Jay was at the bow, positioning himself to lower the anchor. Ten minutes later, I'm still driving around and the anchor isn't off the boat. I couldn't see exactly what was happening - or not happening - so I put the boat in neutral and went forward to see if I could help.
We could see the problem. The anchor kept catching on the bow sprit but we couldn't quite reach it to fix it. The bow sprit was way too narrow for either of us to "walk the plank" safely. Meanwhile, Whiskers was drifting back way too close to the rocks and shore. I went back to the helm and continued to drive around while Jay fought with the anchor. To no avail.
We still hadn't anchored an hour later. It was 4:30. "Jay, we have to make a decision. If we have to go home, we should leave now." We were still about 19 nm from Katama Bay and I was exhausted and cranky. He was exhausted and cranky too but came up with a solution.
"I'm going to use the spare anchor. Hopefully it will hold," Jay told me. The spare is a 15 lb. Danforth. He attached 120 ft. of rode, no chain, and threw it in. Finally, we were holding. It was time for a beer and a recap of what went wrong and what went right.
Needless to say, Jay didn't sleep well that night for worrying if we were drifting. Me, I only woke up twice and we were exactly where we should be.
The sail home the next day was amazing. We were flying through the sea at 6.6 knots with only nine knots of wind. Woohoo! But wait. There was one more challenge when we got to Katama Bay; picking up the mooring line.
"I've got it," I yelled out to Jay. He came up to help me. The mooring had been in for a month and was filled with slimy mud. Yuck. I attached it to the cleat on the starboard side. However, I only had one side of the mooring line and we had to pull up the other end (think of it as a bridle) and attach it to the port side. We were able to grab it with the boat hook but we couldn't get it around the bow sprit. We were both so very tired and the wind and current kept pushing the boat around making it harder to hold on to the line. Finally, a nice man from another boat saw us struggling and came over to help. Whew. Time for a beer and a recap of what went right and what went wrong.
We have some learning and fixing to do but then, that's what having a boat is all about. We got home safe and enjoyed some great sailing. And best of all, we were able to get Whiskers back in time for the Edgartown catboat rendezvous, parade and race July 16.
Lookout boys! There's a new cat in town!
17 April 2022
Hacienda Labor de Rivera
Not to confuse you with the title, this is not a cliff hanger. It is a summary of the amazing season we have had this year sailing on the west coast of Mexico’s mainland.
We weren’t sure what to expect when we got back to Cadenza. It had been two long years. Fortunately, she was in good shape and after a couple of weeks putting her back together, we took her out for her first sail. Banderas Bay is perfect for day sailing. Practically every afternoon the winds pick up between 15 and 20 knots and the seas are flat. Humpback whales come each winter to have their babies and there was rarely a day we didn’t see at least one. We couldn’t have asked for a better beginning to our sailing season.
Our friend, Eunice, joined us early in January. Over the first few weeks we showed her around Puerto Vallarta, Nuevo Vallarta and La Cruz. She spent a week in La Cruz and continued to explore the area. She went surfing and met some interesting people. She returned to our boat in late January and we took off for parts south.
It was so much fun introducing her to our cruising lifestyle and she and I had some fun times playing in the surf, jumping off the boat, kayaking and paddling. We spent several days at anchorage in Punta de Mita, Ipala, Chamela Bay and Tenacatita. Our final destination this season is one of our favorite towns, Barra de Navidad.
Barra is more than a town we visit. It is community. Not just between the cruisers but with the local Mexican nationals. We have made many friends over the years and follow their lives, hear about their children, their health, and share lots of laughter.
Some of my favorite things to do: ride the water taxi to and from town; order from the French Baker who delivers by boat to our boat; water volleyball; watch as the town comes alive at night; enjoy dinner and music; and watch the sun rise over the lagoon from the sixth floor of the hotel.
While in Barra, we participated in Cruise-In Week. This is where the cruisers get together and help to raise funds for the local schools. It’s a fun week filled with sailing, music, parties, games and a race. There is usually a work day where we paint or clear brush or whatever the schools need but with Covid still hanging around, the organizers felt we should skip it this year. Jay and I really missed that opportunity as we felt less of a connection to the children than we did the first time we participated in the event. Still, we are proud to have been a part of the group who raised over $15,000 US dollars.
Two weeks after we arrived in Barra, Eunice left to explore more of Mexico. Next up was our friends, Gail and Steve’s, arrival. Gail had sailed with us to Barra a couple of years back and loved it so much, she wanted to share it with Steve. It was a great visit.
We stayed for a couple more weeks and then headed back north. The day before we left, I fell down the companionway steps and bruised my ribs. Ouch! Six weeks of slow-moving. It put a bit of a damper on our journey back. I couldn’t jump off the boat and swim or paddle board. Bummer. I was able to get in the dinghy and go ashore to swim. The beach at Perula (Chamela Bay) is absolutely beautiful.
Every season, we try to take a road trip. We chose the town of Tequila this year. Mostly due to its close proximity to Vallarta. It is about a four-hour drive. We invited Alison and Allan from sv/Fly Aweigh (and dear friends from California). When I learned that the Guachimontone ruins were only an hour’s drive away from Tequila, I added another day to the trip. Jay and I had been there before and it was so interesting, we wanted to share it with Alison and Allan. (For more info on the Guachimontones see my blog, https://www.sailblogs.com/member/svcadenza/390217).
I happened to stumble upon a great hotel just outside the ruins, deep amongst the sugar plantations. After driving down a long dirt road full of bumps and holes, we came across a walled entrance. No one knew what to expect. (Except for me, as I saw the photos on the internet.) “Uh, Terri…where are you taking us?” Jay asked. “You’ll see.” We pushed a button and the concierge buzzed us in. The gates opened to reveal a long stone driveway with trees on either side. To the right was a pond with two ducks and a turtle sunning itself on a rock and to the left were some of the many horses they keep, grazing in a field. The hotel was a hacienda built in the colonial style and stood stately at the end of the driveway. When we got out of the car, we instantly felt a sense of peace.
The property is located on several acres and was originally used to process sugar. Besides the pond and the ruins of a mill, there is a restaurant, a spa, stables to house the horses, and even has its own chapel. It was quite special and we have thoughts to visit it again.
In Tequila, we stayed in the center of town. If the hacienda is what you would call old Mexico, the hotel was modern Mexico. We arrived late Sunday afternoon. Sunday is the family holiday in Mexico and there were throngs of people wandering the streets holding terracotta cups full of tequila. Some people were tipsy. Many were obviously drunk. Jay likened it to a Tequila Disneyland. Needless to say, our first impression wasn’t so great. But then on Monday morning when the streets cleared up, the town showed off its charm with its beautiful architecture. We found one small distillery just outside of town. There we took a tequila tour, learning how they make it and how to properly drink it. The next day, on the way back to Nuevo Vallarta, we stopped at the hip community of Sayulita for lunch on the beach and to celebrate my birthday.
One of the highlights for us this season was when Talia and Alex came to visit with Robby and Lilly. We took them sailing and to Rhythms of the Night. Rhythms of the Night is a great tour given by Vallarta Adventures. It is an hour boat-ride to the south shore where we were taken to a tropical paradise. We were led up the mountainside along winding paths with torches lighting the way and characters dressed in costume. Some were dressed like iguanas and were perched in the trees. Others were dressed as Indian natives announcing our arrival with the constant beat of drums. The entire setting is a magical fantasy. We were shown to our table that was on the beach just a few feet from shore. We ate dinner with the sea breeze caressing our bodies and the soft sounds of waves breaking. Afterwards we were treated to Savia, an amazing Cirque de Soliel show performed in an amphitheater under the stars.
Cruising isn’t all play and margaritas and since we have been back in Nuevo Vallarta (They are actually changing the name to Nuevo Nayarit – with some backlash from the locals.) Jay has been working, working, working, taking care of Cadenza. She is an old boat and needs some TLC. We have had some water intrusion from two years of rain which he is patching. We also decided to purchase a stack pack for the main sail. The stack pack is a cradle that is used to capture the main sail when it comes down. It just got too dangerous for Jay to be up on the cabin top tying the sail down while the boat is swaying back and forth in the waves. He actually almost fell when we were at sea and then did fall when we were at the dock. I told him, if we are going to continue to do this, we must make it safe. After all, we are getting older too.
On our last sail of the season, our friend, Carol, pointed out a tear in our main sail that ran along the seam. Not really wanting to spend the money, but realizing the sail was thirty years old, (Yes, I know!) we decided it was time for a new one. We are also going to put some non-skid on the cabin top. There is lots of upkeep to do on a boat and I’m grateful Jay is on it. Cadenza is a beautiful boat who has taken good care of us. We need to take good care of her too.
In a few days we will leave Nuevo Vallarta and head home. After our long absence due to Covid, I have a new appreciation for all that we have. This is a beautiful place and we are so fortunate to have the opportunity to live this lifestyle.
17 February 2022 | Barra de Navidad
Photo by Alison Gabel
Jay and I have spent many Valentine's Day here in Mexico. One of my favorite memories is when we were in the Sea of Cortez. We were anchored at Isla Caleta Partida. We were joined by Casey & Diane on sv/Inkatu, and Ed & Barbara on sv/Barbara Ann. Brian and Diane on sv/INNcredible Sea Lodge were also in the cove with guests on board.
We had two evenings of full moon nights and took turns hosting dinner and cocktail hour. Friday evening, we were on sv/Barbara Ann. We toasted to Valentine's Day and watched the moon come up in a clear sky perfectly framed by two sides of the mountains over the sand spit. After dinner, Jay and I hopped into our dinghy and went back to our boat.
To finish the day with finesse, Jay pulled out his trumpet and serenaded me - and everyone else in the bay - with one of my favorite songs, "My Funny Valentine." His face was illuminated by the shine of the moon as the notes drifted across the water. He finished to a round of applause from the cruisers. So romantic.
Eight years later, we are in Barra de Navidad. This time, we shared Valentine’s evening with our good friends, Alison and Allan from Fly Aweigh II who just arrived a few days ago. I made reservations at Besame Mucho. It is a lovely restaurant on the cobblestone streets of Barra. Every table was decorated with pink tablecloths and hearts and Trish and Gordon set the mood with their lovely voices. The four-course meal was not only delicious but the chef took such care with the presentation of each serving. Small touches like carving the mashed potatoes and beets into hearts. Dessert was passion fruit mouse with a complimentary glass of sparkling rose. Perfect.
We finished the evening on Cadenza. There was a sultry breeze and an almost full moon. Shots of tequila were passed around. As has become tradition, Jay got out his trumpet and played “My Funny Valentine.” But by my look in the photo Alison took, I’m thinking “The Look of Love,” might have been more appropriate. 😊
Confessions of a Runaway Sailor
01 February 2022 | Barra de Navidad
My happy husband at the helm.
January 17, 2022
I have a book to finish writing. Instead, I sit in the cockpit with a cup of tea contemplating the Magnificent Frigatebirds that soar overhead. They are jet black and look prehistoric with their wide wing span and forked tails. Females have a white breast. They are so graceful, barely moving their wings and steer with their tails. But they are thieves! Magnificent Frigatebirds don’t have waterproof wings so they wait and watch other birds until they catch a fish and then the Magnificent Frigatebirds swoop in and take it from them. They are fascinating to watch and I lose track of time.
January 23, 2022
I have a book to finish writing. Instead, I count the turtles as they peak their tiny heads up out of the sea. Most are green turtles that are predominant in this area. We are sailing south and there is a sea turtle refuge nearby and it looks as if it is working. I counted twenty-five. Our destination this year is Barra de Navidad. But first we will visit several coves. Next is Chamela Bay, one of our favorites.
January 27, 2022
It is now day seven of our cruise. We have been anchored in Chamela Bay for four nights. The rhythm of my life is considerably slower and I can feel it in every fiber of my being. It is a great feeling; to just be. There are chores, of course. And everything on a boat tends to be complicated. We use every muscle in our bodies and I’m sore from what we call boat yoga. The sun is hot on my skin. But then I jump off the boat into the crystal-clear water and cool off. I climb up onto the paddleboard that is tied to the stern of Cadenza and drift, swaying with the gentle waves.
February 1, 2002
We are now in the marina at Barra de Navidad. I have a book to finish writing. Instead, I am writing this blog. From here, I may have to find my way to the pool. It is a hot and beautiful day. I could work on my book but... I think it will have to wait until spring.
No Ordinary Day
08 January 2022 | Banderas Bay
We were out for a day sail last Wednesday with our friends, Eunice, Brian, Tracy and Brian's dog, Zoey. Zoey is a small dog with short legs. She has been on our boat many times and moves around easily. But for some reason, this day I was worried about her falling off. If she sees something like a bird or a dolphin, she gets excited and runs after it, barking. I was afraid she was going to lose her footing and fall overboard.
I was below in the galley gathering lunch when I heard her start barking and everyone screaming. I ran to the companionway and saw Jay looking back with his arm pointing out toward the back of the boat. He kept it up and everyone was still running about excitedly. When Jay didn't put his arm down, I thought Zoey had gone overboard. My heart dropped. That is the first lesson you learn about people falling off the boat. One person points and never takes their eyes off them.
But it wasn't Zoey. Nor was it any of the crew. (Thank God.) Three humpback whales had breached right next to Cadenza's starboard aft quarter. We have seen whales many times. Most times they are off in the distance. Sometimes we get a close-up view only to watch as them swim away. But this visit was different. They came to us and they followed us. And they brought with them dolphins.
We were motor-sailing because the wind was light. Jay turned off the engine and we drifted along, slowly, through the bay. They circled us. They went under mid-ship and came out on the other side. Their visit lasted over five minutes. I know this because Tracy was trying to capture them on video.
Wonderous. Spiritual. Delightful. What a gift.