CRUISING ~ THE CAT’S MEOW STYLE  ~ September  2003



Cruising ~ The Cat’s Meow Style ~ September 2003


September was a VERY busy, and an unusual, month – to say the least. This update will be a long one, and hopefully an interesting read.

September is one of the hottest months of the year here in the Sea of Cortez (Gulf of California). This September has also been unusually humid. The flies and mosquitos born after hurricane Ignacio have been incessant. What cruisers do in those conditions is: get out to the nearby islands, get in the water, and have fun! The closest anchorage to the harbor of Pto. Escondido is a mere 5 or 6 miles away, called Marquer. When The Cat’s Meow arrived there in early September, about 4 other boats were already anchored. It was so hot and humid that most of the time we stayed inside and did as little as possible. One thing no one tells prospective cruisers about here in Mexico is the proliferation of “aguamalas” (ah-gwah-mah-las). This refers to a host of little things in the water that sting. Most are microscopic, others are called “string of pearls” and can be quite long, and some are different types of jellyfish. Aguamalas are supposed to die-off when the water gets above 82 degrees. This summer those darn stinging things have been plaguing us all summer long, which makes just jumping off the boat into the water not so enjoyable. Rats. We did take long walks on the beaches at Marquer, found many wonderful shells, and had some grand sunsets and sunrises. One afternoon most of the boats participated in a group dive. Some folks snorkeled, and some went SCUBA diving. The current was very strong; Robin and friend Lynn (of Wild Flower) had to hang onto the big underwater boulders in order to crawl forward, but the float back in the current was fun!                                                                                                                  


                                         Loreto sunset                                                                                                                      Group dive




September 8th is the day Loreto celebrates their patron saint, Nuestro Senora de Loreto. Since Loreto is only about 8 miles from Marquer, about 9 of the other cruisers in the anchorage hopped aboard TCM and we went to Loreto, where we anchored off of the breakwater, to see the festivities. Most people of the village of Loreto turned-out for this event. The statue of Senora de Loreto and the Christ Child was brought to the main beach of Loreto in a parade of pangas, which are like very long and large open rowboats, equipped with large motors. The pangas were all dressed up in flowers and ribbons, and many carried children. As the pangas neared the beach, all the villagers greeted them singing a song of praise for their patron saint. Then the statue was carried through the streets of Loreto, with the villagers following and singing. At the Mission of Loreto – which was the first one built in the long line of missions from the Baja up through San Francisco – the procession ended and a mass followed. We cruisers returned to the beach area, where booths for food and drink and a carnival were all awaiting the crowd to have fun until the wee hours of the next morning. We all enjoyed seeing some of the traditional Mexican celebration in our adopted home. 



Senora de Loreto                                                                                                Procession to the mission



September 9th was our third wedding anniversary, which we enjoyed celebrating aboard the sailing vessel Ballena, with her owners Dario and Erin. Katya and Mike, of Kindred Spirit, joined us for a delicious leg of lamb dinner! Some of you may remember Dario, from Sausalito, CA, for his well-renowned pizza restaurants. He and Erin brought their combined cooking talents to the cruising community – lucky for us!

There we were a few days later, at our favorite anchorage, San Juanico, enjoying the perfect water: clear, warm (finally no aguamalas), and calm; a nice breeze, good snorkeling and fishing and lobster hunting. Then, we had to beat feet back to the harbor, due to the incoming hurricane, Marty. At least during the ride back to port, we hooked up with a large sailfish! We estimated his weight to be around 150 pounds. He leapt and flew through the air several times, and dove and careened, for about half an hour. We were able to bring him alongside the boat; Martin grabbed his bill (carefully), and was able to release the big guy. He looked directly at us while he swam away as we waved and said “thank you”.


 Martin’s sailfish


Since we had just gone through the drill preparing for Ignacio a month before, getting the boat ready for hurricane Marty was easier and faster, and we did a better job, thank goodness. Early on the morning of September 22nd, Marty started to make his arrival known. We hunkered down, praying and hoping that our ground tackle would hold, that our location in the harbor would be a good one, that we wouldn’t suffer the loss of items off the boat or damage to the boat. We had placed a kellet on the anchor chain, which is a big, heavy ball that weights the chain down and keeps pulls from yanking on the anchor, which could possibly loosen or lift it. We felt pretty confident, however, we still crossed our fingers.

Thankfully, Marty had gained speed and he blew into this area during the daytime, instead of in the dark of night as had been earlier predicted. Some of the other boats here in the harbor experienced winds and gusts up to between 70 and 90 knots/hour. The Cat’s Meow recorded one gust of 62 knots, many in the 50 knots range, but we evidently had chosen a very good spot to ride out the storm in the harbor.  A number of boats dragged their anchors or their moorings, or just snapped off the moorings. Some captains had to motor into the wind, while it shifted all around, in order to keep from ending up on the rocks or on someone else’s boat. During the “halftime”, when the eye of the hurricane passed over us, we took stock and found nothing awry on TCM. Other boaters were scrambling to fix broken snubbers on their anchor rode, cleaning up messes from their boats being layed-over, re-anchoring, etc. People jumped in their dinghies and helped other boaters. A large piece of the dinghy dock with the stairs on it had broken loose and had to be secured to the mangroves and rocks, so it would not act as a torpedo coming any further through the harbor. The “second half” of the hurricane was shorter in length of time, but more ferocious than the first. TCM experienced some of the strongest gusts during that time. We watched the Sea, through what is called the north window of the harbor, churning and boiling and crashing fiercely against the rocks. It was quite spectacular. All was white and gray during most of the storm. Much of the time, we could not see boats we knew were only 500 feet away – but we could see them on our radar.



View of Marty from TCM                                                                     View from Kindred Spirit – photo by Katya Garrow


About 5 p.m., Marty departed. The harbor grew quiet, the winds lulled, the clouds lightened. By 6 p.m., there was almost a little sun trying to peek through the cloud cover. Everyone slowly began to check for damage, look around, and to come back to life. We were all so happy it was over!!

In the aftermath we found out that Marty had hit La Paz, which is about 120 miles south of us, much harder. Two marinas were completely destroyed, along with about 80 to 90 boats that were attached to them, plus a few that were at anchor. The photos and the text from the websites, , and  are sobering. Here in Puerto Escondido, we had four boats sink, two walked right out of the harbor and out into the Sea, six were on the beach or in the mangroves, one other stuck hard in the mud, one was deposited on the top of the seawall. All of those boats were unmanned during the storm. Of the two boats that left the harbor, the trimaran Mahayana was found re-anchored just off the shore of the nearest island, with the bottom of one of her almas torn off and she was listing very badly. The other, a sailboat named Winsome had been beached high and dry about 5 miles south of the harbor.

The Cat’s Meow spent many days and evenings during the next week acting as a tugboat, pulling and towing six of the boats to safety. Because we are the largest and most powerful cruising boat in this part of the fleet, our assistance was needed, and we were glad to help.  (Although tradition has separated sailors from power boaters, The Cat’s Meow is now quite highly appreciated by many cruisers in Mexico, both sail and power!) The Cat’s Meow did not act alone in the saving of these boats, however. This was definitely a team effort, and another example of cruisers taking care of each other. While TCM provided the muscle and staging area for these rescues, other boaters used their dinghies as bow and stern thrusters (to help TCM position for the pulls), ferried lines and radios and a host of other equipment to and from the other boats; Larry (Champagne) and Richaard (Mahayana) and Dave (Que Tal) worked the tow lines, Katya (Kindred Spirit) manned the depth sounder and the meter readings while Martin worked TCM from up on the top deck, Tim (Casual Waters) helped with the radios, Dario was the spotlight man, food was provided by about three of the other boats over and over (and was very important to us all!). During any one of the rescues, people from at least 8 other boats were involved and all very important to the success of saving the boats. It isn’t possible to mention everyone here who helped but they are EACH appreciated. The toughest of the rescues was Winsome, the beached sailboat. We began at 6p.m. and re-anchored TCM back in the harbor at about 3a.m. At one point, Johnny Johnson (of Topaz, and a winner of the Baja 1000 car races many times over) and Caroline (QueTal) were half in the water while sitting on the boom, outstretched from the boat! If anyone is interested, there may be an article about this rescue in a Latitude 38 magazine within the next few months, written by Caroline of Que Tal.  Here are a few of our photos from the aftermath of Marty and TCM helping to save other boats:



       Katherine T over Vagabond Lover                                                   Wild Flower night rescue                                                                              Debutante rescue





       Erikazona prepared                                                                       TCM tugging on Erikazona                                                       Martin during Winsome rescue





                                                                                                 TCM pulling on Winsome                



In the middle of all the clean-up and rescues, we hosted (another) party for the entire harbor aboard The Cat’s Meow: the Kick Him in the Ass Good-bye party! Surely, this party was an important release of stress and a way to have a good time after two big storms within one month! There were so many people onboard that Robin actually wondered if TCM could sink! There were at least 60 revellers aboard! We had a “tattered flag’ contest, and the winners received new Mexican courtesy flags, courtesy of Ed and Lori of Allie.


Tattered flag contest winners


After getting many boats floating again and re-secured, one day about 20 of the cruisers showed-up at the palapa home of Connie and Elvin. We put the fences back together, fixed broken stair rails and solar panel supports, cleaned the palapa inside and out after it had been ravaged by Marty’s temper. Connie and Elvin are two of the most important people in this harbor area, continually assisting and serving everyone else, and since they had not taken the time to put their own “house in order”, we all had a good time doing it for them!


Who is this washing windows?

Photo by Connie McWilliams


Well, that just about brings us to the end of September. Whew! Now, as I write this, we are all carefully watching Nora, a hurricane that just does not want to die….

Unfortunately, I am yet unable to say that our friend Dawn is safe at home. More attention has been put on her case, Fox News (TV) in San Diego aired an informative piece on the case about 2 weeks ago, and she now has new and hopefully better lawyers. There was a hearing about 10 days ago in Tijuana, and we are awaiting the decision hour by hour. In Mexico, the accused does not attend the hearings and is not allowed to speak in his/her behalf, and decisions can come any length of time after the hearing. We all pray for Dawn, please join us.

OK ~ let’s hope the next update is not so exciting…. But please check in again for Cruising ~The Cat’s Meow style!




                                                                                        Martin, Robin, and Toes on TCM

                                                                                        Photo by Stephanie Hamilton