By all accounts, it started off perfectly. We got out of the marina just fine, stopped by the fuel dock, made our way out of the lagoon and into the bay (and without hitting bottom, which happens quite frequently here), had a pleasant three-hour trip to Bahia de Santiago, and successfully anchored on our first try. High fives and woo-hoos all around. After all, the boat hadn’t moved in eight months (and, arguably, neither had we), so to have such a smooth and successful start to the journey was cause for celebration.
The next morning, it was time to take Otter to shore, so we attached the accommodation ladder to the side, brought the dinghy around, and discovered that there was a considerable gap between it and the bottom step of the ladder—the operative word being “considerable”. We knew that the new dinghy sat lower than the old dinghy, but this was a difference of at least two feet. And given that the old dinghy would sometime scrape up against the bottom step, we had to wonder if we were somehow sitting below the water line in the new dinghy or if the boat had gotten taller but since neither seemed plausible, we were stymied as to the difference. Editor’s Note: Two feet may not seem like a lot, but when you’re a dog or an old lady trying to get from the deck of a bobbing boat down four feet into a bouncing dinghy, that two feet is the difference between going to shore and going for a swim, if you know what I mean. Needless to say, Otter did not like that gap and did not want to get in the dinghy and it took all manner of pushing, pulling, and cajoling until he finally fell in face-first. Off to shore we went. We came, we saw, he pooped. Upon our return, getting him from the dinghy to the boat took even greater effort with me above trying to lift him by his harness up and onto the stairs while the Captain had the unenviable task of pushing him up from behind (luckily, he had pooped twice.) Otter was not happy. We were not happy. We suddenly felt like we were back at dog/dinghy square one and started revisiting all the options that had failed us so spectacularly in the past (for reference, please see the blog post for Day 12 of the First Voyage.) We then plotted out a fast-track to the nearest port with a marina knowing that, even though we would be several days at sea, he would do his business on deck eventually, but at least we could get him onto terra firma sooner. Yet despite this setback, the mood aboard Raven was still positive and we were determined to move forward.
The following day, we thought we’d try the accommodation ladder once again only with bacon. The Captain brought the dinghy around and positioned it under the steps while I called Otter. And called. And called. And finally went down below to find him frantically pacing the pilothouse—torn between holding it in and going ashore but REALLY not wanting to face-plant into the dinghy again. After dragging him around and positioning him at the top of the steps, the Captain whipped out the bacon and through the power of pork products, we were able to get him aboard with a bit more dignity and grace. Off to shore we went. And here’s where things started going sour (I was going to say “going south” but that would suggest that we are capable of moving in a southerly direction…and clearly, we are not.) As we got closer to shore, we both jumped out to haul the dinghy up toward the beach. That’s when we got hit from behind by a surge, which pushed the dinghy sideways and into my back, knocking me to my knees. I was immediately on my feet—partly from adrenaline, partly because there was 200-lbs of rubber careening toward my head, and partly because the Captain was barking at me to grab hold and haul. Editor’s Note: In his defense, he hadn’t realized I had gone under. He said later that, had he known, he would have let go and immediately come to my aid, because he said (and I quote), “You’re more important than a $3000 dinghy.” Which is probably the most romantic thing anyone has ever said to me.
But we finally made it to shore—a little roughed up, but okay. We spent about an hour walking around, stretching our legs, and letting Otter do his thing. When we had a run-in with a stray, we decided that whatever luck we still possessed was possibly waning, so maybe it was time to go.
At this point, I’d like to throw out some descriptors bandied about by the cruising guides and fellow cruisers regarding this particular beach landing… “gentle surf,” “generally quite benign,” “easy-peasy,” and my personal favorite, “you’ll have no problems.” Notice a pattern here? One of the reasons we stopped in Santiago was so that we could practice our dinghy landings—and according to the charts, this should have been the optimal time to come ashore. But what we hadn’t taken into account was a full moon and king tides, which seemed to negate the whole concept of “generally quite benign” in favor of an especially large swell aka larger waves than usual. We timed the surf for about 40 minutes and there seemed to be a ten-minute window between the larger waves. So we readied the dinghy—waiting for our window—but Otter wouldn’t stay in the boat. We decided that he should stay on shore while we drug the dinghy out, then I’d go back and get him, he and I would wade/swim out to the boat, and we’d throw him in. Seemed like a viable plan and/or our only option. Our window opened and we started pulling the dinghy out into the water; we got past the first set of small waves, then the second, then the Captain instructed me to go back and get Otter. I was barely 20 feet away when a big wave came bearing down, threw the dinghy up and around and right on top of the Captain, and came to rest upside down. I let out a scream, some of the locals came running, and just as I’m about to have a coronary, the Captain popped up out of the water. With considerable effort and a lot of help, we got the dinghy upright and back on the beach but by this time the outboard had ample time to scrape the bottom and fill up with sand. And now we were really stuck. Luckily, a local fisherman in his panga came by and offered his assistance. I waded out into chest-high water with Otter swimming next to me to talk with him and in my best non-existent Spanish and superior charades skills, managed to formulate a plan wherein we would attach a line from his panga to our dinghy and hopefully he could tow us off the beach, up and over the waves, and out to our boat without the dinghy taking us all down. In the meantime, the Captain was back on the beach preparing the dinghy and talking with a guy who kept pointing out into the bay with his walking stick and making “you’ll be sorry” faces and we’re thinking, “Save it old gringo, I think we’re already sorry.” Long rescue story short, we got the line attached and after a couple of false starts over the waves where I thought for sure the panga was going to go bow over stern, the fisherman safely deposited us back at Raven and we gave him a healthy gratuity by way of a thank you. Later, I asked the Captain what the old gringo was carrying on about. “Apparently, there’s a 21-foot crocodile that hangs out in that part of the water.” Oh. Swell. Well, I guess if someone decides to make a movie about this little adventure, that will be the “added tension” in the scene that no one needed…or wanted.
Pictorial representation of wave that took us down. Mt Fuji shown for size.
Fast-forward a few hours. The drinking has started. The eternal questions of “how”, “why” and “WTF” has taken over the conversation. The depression has set in. The Captain starts listing off all the things that went wrong in the past few days and it has somehow grown from two items (accommodation ladder and dinghy disaster) to about 24, and the latter he’s blaming on “poor seamanship” on his part. And I’m hard pressed to accept this because a) he’s got more experience than most, b) we technically did everything right given our situation, and c) Mother Nature is just going to reach out and bitch slap you back into submission because that’s how she rolls. Besides, this can’t be an isolated incident, I’m sure lots of people get nearly killed by their dinghy.
But we keep coming back to that Latitude quote, “The difference between adventure and ordeal is attitude.” The Deck Boss asked me if the dinghy mishap was an adventure or an ordeal. “Well,” I said. “When the dinghy slammed me to my knees, that’s was an ordeal. And when Otter nearly got bit by a street dog, that was an ordeal. And when the Captain was nearly crushed by an outboard, that was most definitely an ordeal. In fact, I’m hard-pressed to find anything adventurous in this whole outing. Maybe once some time has passed, it won’t seem so bad. But for now, we’re just going to wallow a bit.”
And as the evening wore on, we wallowed a lot until the pity ultimately turned into punch drunk:
C: Well at least I’m giving you good fodder for your blog. I’m blog fodder.
FM: Technically, it’s a group effort.
C: Whatever, but I am the captain of this shitshow, so it really falls on me. Maybe we should just go back to Barra, take care of some things, and see if this is something we really want to do.
FM: Okay, Blogfodder. We’ll go to Barra and find an outboard mechanic, make him an offer he can’t refuse.
C: You’re not funny.
FM: And may your next accommodation ladder be a masculine one.
C: Still not funny.
Editor’s Note: It was a little funny.
The next day, we weighed anchor and headed back to Barra, arriving just in time for a late lunch at Pipi’s. We had a crew meeting, talked about our options, and made a list of all the things we needed to address on the boat. After a few rounds, including a couple “en la casa” courtesy of Senor Pipi, we decided that maybe we were better suited to not moving but that there are other places in the world where we might like to not move, so we’ll just have to endure the moving part of the journey to get these places. And maybe somewhere along the way, we’ll decide that moving isn’t so terrible after all. So here we will stay for a month. We’ll lick our wounds, concentrate on our to-do list, and prepare to make another go of it after the first of the year. Besides, where better to spend Christmas than in Barra de Navidad?
I wish I could say I put this through a fancy filter and stuff but, no, it's just a bad photo. But you get the idea.
Merry Christmas, Ravennaires!