A Formula For Cruising – negotiated

Feb 02, 2009| 0 Comment

The Captain may call himself a businessman, but he was first trained as an engineer. Engineers deal in facts, real time definitions and concrete formulas. Suggestions have no place in their scheme of things. The Captain is also what is commonly referred to as a Type A personality. The words “relax”, “slow down, “take it easy” have totally different meanings or no meanings at all to a person who is hell-bent to accomplish a goal, any goal. The First Mate is comfortably the opposite. Generalizations are okay with her. So is a certain amount of vagueness. Clocks and time schedules? She accepts their necessity, but not their absolute control, especially for a retired cruising couple. Thinking about these differences in outlook, she comes to the conclusion that on Avante the only way we are going to continue sailing on an even keel is if all aboard agree on what they are doing and how they are going to go about doing it. “It”, of course, is cruising. A formula is needed that the engineer captain can understand and will use. Not only should its function define “cruising”, it should serve as the basis for creating each and every Cruising Schedule.

In response to the blog entitled “First Mate Hung in Effigy a Second Time”, mutual friend Bliss Krekel emailed The First Mate the following:

Formulas for cruising:
1. Outnumber The Captain with female friends (power in numbers)

2. Become a lousy cook
3. Reward leisure time with kisses
4. Prescribe sedatives
The choice is yours but you may have to do all of the above!

The First Mate laughed out loud upon reading this. The Captain, seeing nothing to laugh at, thought only #3 had any merit. He also thought The First Mate’s idea of a formula was ridiculous and unnecessary. She, on the other hand, is undeterred, focused and utterly determined. Occasionally, she can be as bull-headed as he.

Friday, January 30th – We have 50nm to go to our anchorage tonight in Punta Mita, which is the northern point of Banderas Bay, and Banderas Bay is where (hooray) Puerto Vallarta, our final destination, is located. We will have 4 days in port to give Avante a good cleaning inside and out, to restock supplies, to do the laundry and to relax. From there, according to The Captain, our “cruising” will finally begin.

We leave Matanchen Bay in the early morning expecting to motor for a short time in the soft morning breezes before the wind picks up. To our disappointment, we end up listening to the motor droning away all day. The wind never freshens enough to sail.

We fish and catch nothing until late in the afternoon when a water bird of undetermined species dives on our lure and tangles itself in our line. The Captain reels the poor bird in and gamely wrestles bird and line while avoiding a sharp beak. Look at the point on that beak! The bird is finally set free having no idea how close it came to having its neck rung. The Captain escapes unscathed, but we are both so unnerved by this adventure that we put the line away – for a while at least.

Arriving at last at the headland to Punta Mita, a final review of the charts and our guidebooks raises concerns about the passage between the headland and the three Marieta Islands lying just off the point. There are 2 nasty rocks just off the point which we should have no problem steering clear of, but a third one is claimed to be a mile or so south of those 2 nasty rocks. However, no one has been able to pinpoint it with an accurate GPS location. All we have are 2 guidebooks that claim it may be there.

These pinnacle peaks striking up from the ocean’s depths are tricky. Some do rise enough to break surface or at least have wave action over them. Others lie just enough below the surface to remain hidden until an unlucky keel strikes them. One’s depth finder can unwind from over 100 feet to a hull-denting 6 feet in seconds. Mexican navigation charts are for the most part proving to be a bit of a joke, if not a blatant misnomer. Our charts do not show the location of the third rock, but do show a 0.3 fathom depth reading somewhere in the middle of the passage.


Our confidence in these charts is further diminished by the fact that both Punta Mita and the Marieta Islands show up on our electronic charts about 1.5 miles from their actual position! Approaching the point, we watch several fishing boats head past the point and, with impunity, round up into the bay. How we would like to follow them taking the short cut between the coast and the islands, but we draw more water than the fishing boats and decide that a much-desired early anchorage is just not worth the risk of finding that rock – even if it did get named after us in gratitude for accurately locating it.


Thus, we continue past the point longingly looking back at the beaches of Punta Mita just a few miles away. We have to continue on for a whole 9 miles, rounding all 3 islands, before we can circle back to Punta Mita. Instead of dropping anchor in the afternoon, it is dusk by the time we are set. Both of us are tired, not that the day was hard, it was just long. Motoring in a sailboat is dreary, and that 18-mile detour was something we had not expected. (That’s 18 miles at around 7 miles per hour or an added 2.5 hours to an already long 50nm day.)


Rested after a good night’s sleep, we are more inclined to enjoy the views from our anchorage. On shore, we can see the buildings and grounds of the Four Seasons Resort. We played golf here with friends several years ago little imagining that one day we’d be anchored below the resort on our own equally gorgeous sailboat!


Along the coastline, luxury vacation homes can be seen. We stayed at one of them. With the binoculars, we think we can pick it out, but we are not positive.


Saturday, January 31st – As we weigh anchor to head to Paradise Village Marina in Puerto Vallarta, both The Captain’s and The First Mate’s spirits up. Four days in one place! Time to catch up. Time to explore! And —- time to present “The Formula” upon which The First Mate has been cogitating.


THE FORMULA – as presented by The First Mate, not fully approved by The Captain, but at least open to consideration, reflection and negotiation.

Cruising days are categorized by their activity level. They are equated follows:

TRAVEL DAY =  > 6 hours on the water or > 40 miles
CRUISE DAY = < 6 hours on the water or <40 miles
SAVOR DAY = Explore time, play time, relax time. At anchor or in port. However, < 3 hours on the water or < 15 miles may be allowed by joint consent.
WORK DAY = boat repair, cleaning, laundry and restocking

NOTE: The following equations work one way (left to right) only. This may not be mathematically correct, but The First Mate knows there must be an exotic science out there that can prove that such non-reciprocal equations do exist.

One Travel Day = (or begets) 1 Savor Day
Three Cruise Days (in a row) = (or begets) 1 Savor Day

Savor Days do not need to be begotten. They can and must be planned into the schedule for their own intrinsic worth.

No part of a Savor Day may include activities of a Work Day without prior joint consent.

A Cruising Schedule will be agreed upon. The Formula will be followed. Exceptions and modifications to The Formula and a Cruising Schedule may be made either during the formation of a schedule or once under way. Such exceptions and modifications must be made with joint approval and acknowledgement.

The Formula is argued back and forth for the 4 days we are in Puerto Vallarta. The main source of contention is the Savor Day. The Captain prefers a schedule of Travel and Cruise Days with an occasional Savor Day thrown in while The First Mate firmly believes that cruising is more about Savor Days than Travel and Cruise Days. In her mind, Savor Days should equal the number of Travel and Cruising Days. Not so in The Captain’s mind.

The First Mate initially set 5 hours and 30 miles as the break point between Travel and Cruise Days. Listening to The Captain’s protest of this timing, she adjusts upward to 6 hours and 40 miles. The Captain continues to maintain that if they ever do take off west to The Marquesas, the 3-weeks of Travel Days for that passage will have us “savoring” for months. “We’ll never leave The Marquesas!” he moans. The First Mate allows that he has a point there so she adds to The Formula that exceptions and modifications to the Cruising Schedule may be made provided such are done by joint consent. Somewhat mollified, he waits for her to provide a cruising schedule for the trip south to Manzanillo and back. She finds that the 2 weeks she was originally told to work with are really not enough time. The Captain adds 4 more days to the schedule and a reasonable cruising schedule for the remainder of our first trip here in Mexico is worked out and agreed upon by joint consent.

The First Mate is a happy sailor. The Captain is also a happy sailor. He may bemoan The Formula preferring to ignore the difference between Travel and Cruise Days and disparaging of what he terms “Lazy Days”, but he is happy, at this moment, to have a schedule over which the First Mate is not complaining. “He will learn,” thinks The First Mate, “and it may even do him a world of good!”

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