Friday, January 19, 2018

Day 603 to 606 of the Third Voyage: In which we’d call it a success if Mother Nature wasn’t such a bitch.

Upon reflection, the journey from Barra to La Cruz was remarkable in that nothing really went wrong from an equipment standpoint. Editor’s Note: I should clarify that…nothing really went wrong from an equipment currently working standpoint. The transmission didn’t give us any problems, the generator and electrical systems did their thing, and the dinghy/outboard performed as it should. With the exception of one engine flutter, we had no mechanical problems whatsoever—which I think may be a first. Yeah! One in a row!

As each hour went by without any major problems, we would look at each other and—without saying a word so as not to jinx it—knock on wood. In fact, we knocked on so much wood that it’s probably time to varnish again. Of course, we didn’t temp fate too much. When we got to Tenacatita without any problems (either in the journey or in the anchoring), we opted not to spoil a good thing by launching the dinghy and attempting a beach landing on a shore that is known for not being very friendly. Otter had had a two-hour walk/poop-a-thon right before we left, so we knew he would be a trooper till the next day and/or go on deck if he was full to bursting.

He’s not allowed to use the head until he learns to aim. And operate the pump. And light a match.

Speaking of dinghies, the Captain was decompressing on deck with a Cuba Libre and a fat cigar when he spotted an unmanned dinghy floating past. He got on the VHF and put out an APB to the other boats in the anchorage and was preparing to launch our dinghy when a neighbor came zooming by to intercept the wayward dink. It was soon reunited with its owner who later stopped by to say thanks and assert that “this has never happened before!” Really?  Because this kind of stuff happens to us all the time. We were just surprised that wasn’t our dinghy floating off into the sunset. Never mind it’s still in the davits—with our luck, it’d not only break lose, but it’d take the davits with it and float off with the tangled wreck of aluminum trailing behind it—the epitome of a floating disaster. Editor’s Note: That’d make a good name! If we ever got another boat, I’d totally christen it “Floating Disaster”. It’s much more poetic than S/V Shitshow.
The next morning, we headed out to Bahia Chamela. It was another calm crossing, another straightforward anchoring. We launched the dinghy without any complications, the accommodation ladder got Otter effortlessly from the boat to the dinghy, and we had a fairly painless beach landing utilizing our new dinghy wheels. And this time we got to spend 20 minutes ashore! Editor’s Note: Otter got to spend 25 minutes ashore because he opted to jump out of the dinghy about 50 yards out and swim the rest of the way. Such is the power of the full bladder. Why such a short amount of time? Because it doesn’t matter how flat the waves are coming in, they’ll be shoulder high by the time we want to leave (whether that be five minutes or five hours from the time we arrive.) With that in mind, we wanted to give ourselves at least three hours to figure out how to negotiate the surf without a repeat of Santiago and we were wasting daylight. That’s when we decided to cut out all the middle stuff (i.e. the capsizing, the crashing, and the figuring out what to do next) and asked a local pangero for assistance. He timed the waves perfectly and helped us push the dinghy past the surf line—it took all of three minutes (and was probably the easiest five bucks he made all day.) 
The next morning we got an early start for the seven-hour motor to Ipala. Everything was fine. Everything was peachy. And then we made our turn toward Ipala and that’s when the gale hit. It’s going to sound like I’m making this up, but I’m not (if I was, it’d be more spectacular and there’d be UFOs) …the waves literally went from two to four feet and the wind went from 12 mph to 30 with gusts up to 42 in LESS THAN 10 MINUTES. We had no warning—there was nothing in the weather forecast—but this was instant reality. There was no going into Ipala now. It’s not really protected enough for winds this big and we could already make out white caps in the harbor. If there was no room for us, or if we couldn’t set an anchor, we didn’t know if we’d be able to get back out without getting pushed into the rocks, so we veered off to head toward Cabo Corrientes. As the Captain is bucking the waves, the Deck Boss and I are down below trying to lash down those larger items that we were waiting to stow while at anchor in Ipala—tasks made more difficult by the bow constantly rising up then crashing straight down, causing everything to shake and move about. When we finished, and I got the Deck Boss safely stowed in the pilothouse (ruing the fact that I had neglected to install seat belts), I made my way back up to the cockpit. By now we were taking copious amounts of water over the bow and there wasn’t much left to do but ride it out. Editor’s Note: this passage was not unlike our one through the Strait of Georgia (See Day 20 of the 1st Voyage) where we had to endure rough seas, howling winds, and facefuls of water for hours on end. The only difference was that this time we weren’t freezing. So, I guess that’s something. Luckily, this little episode only lasted two hours, after which the seas and the winds calmed down a tad and, aside from some always-nauseating side-to-side action coming around the point into Banderas Bay, the nasty stuff was behind us. And by the time we got deeper into the bay, it had smoothed out completely.
Now the sucky thing about having to bypass Ipala was that it would put us in the bay after dark and when the sun set, it did get dark. Really, really dark. As in…no moon. Which made it all the more disconcerting when we heard a loud THUNK and felt the boat shudder. We immediately ran around and throughout the boat trying to ascertain what had fallen, broken and/or died but found nothing. So we decided we had either been broadsided by a sea turtle or snagged a crab pot, in which case our very expensive line cutter had earned it’s keep and kept our propeller from being fouled.
Around 10:30 pm, we reached the anchorage outside of La Cruz. At least, we thought it was the anchorage. We couldn’t be sure because we couldn’t see anything. We couldn’t make out any shapes, and if there were any anchor lights we couldn’t distinguish them from the lights on shore. So the Captain brought us down to around 1-2 mph and we glided carefully through the water; he’s looking at charts, trying to ascertain our location in accordance with the depths and the markers while I’m up at the bow, desperately looking for other boats. Editor’s Note: This is probably a good time to mention that I have terrible vision. I’ve always been extremely nearsighted, only now I’m at that age where I need reading glasses for up close. To combat this, I wear two different strength contact lenses:  one to see far away, one to see close up, and somehow my brain makes it all work--except when it’s pitch black and I’m trying to make out shapes and my brain decides to just give up and make everything blurry. So I had to close one eye and look through the stronger lense and now I realize that Popeye wasn’t a victim of sun exposure, just bad optometry. But I digress. We’re gliding through the water, and I think I see a boat but I’m not certain, and the Captain says to alert him when I definitely, positively, 100% see a boat, and I’m hoping to God that I definitely, positively, 100% see a boat before we definitely, positively, 100% hit one. And then the Captain says, “Screw it. We’re going for it. Hit the anchor.” And we do. And we hold. And as our eyes finally become adjusted to the dark, we start to see boats silhouetted all around us. It wasn’t until the sun came up the next morning that we were able to appreciate the fact that we had managed to anchor among 44 other boats. We also both agreed that anchoring in the dark was probably the most stressful thing we had done thus far. Storms are stressful, gales are stressful, and equipment malfunctions are stressful, but none of those involve taking out 44 of your neighbors so we’re quite pleased with ourselves, although it’s not something we care to repeat anytime soon.
The next morning, we moved into a slip in Marina Nayarit where we will await our haul-out. Can’t wait to see how this turns out…
Pictured: The anchorage at night.
Not Pictured: Well...that's pretty apparent.

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