Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Cape of Currents

March 18, 2011

Whenever you have a point of land that extends out significantly from the shoreline, such as Cabo Corrientes (Cape of Currents) wind and currents are created that can be challenging to navigate, particularly closer to shore.  Heading north around Cabo Corrientes you are typically going against the wind, swells and currents so it is important to choose your weather window carefully.  One cruising guide recommends staying at least 3 miles offshore, another recommends 5 miles and some boaters suggest 5-10.  When we traveled south we had sailed from Los Frailes on the tip of the Baha straight to Chemala and were far enough offshore to miss the effects of the Cape.  This would be our first real experience with Cabo Corrientes.

Thursday morning, with our fuel tanks topped off we were anxious to leave Barra.  Out of the lagoon and into the bay we were able to put up our sails for a leisurely downwind sail.  As we passed the entrance to Tenacatita we saw whales.  This seemed to be a favorite hangout for we never failed to see whales in that area.  A few days earlier when we left Tenacatita to head back to Barra, we saw two mother whales with their babes.  We arrived at the entrance to Chemala around 3:00 p.m., the stopping off point for watching the weather to make the passage around Cabo Corrientes.  Earlier, we had checked the weather and it seemed like a good time to go for it, anticipating rounding the Cape in the early morning hours, a time when the seas are typically calmer.  We were making really good time and were actually concerned that we might get to the Cape too early.  About 6:00 p.m. the winds died and we turned on the engine.  Michael went down below about 7:00 p.m. and it was my watch.   It was a beautiful evening with a full moon dancing in and out among the clouds.  As we motored along the swells and wind increased and were right on our nose.  I watched as our time slowed and slowed (we were making over 6 knots when under sail) as we continued to pound into the waves and our speed was less than 2 knots for over an hour and I realized that if we continued at this pace we would be rounding the Cape late in the morning, which is not what we wanted.  Too, we didn’t know whether to expect the conditions to improve in the night or get worse.  We were tired and even though it was 20 miles back to Chemala, we decided to turn around and give ourselves some rest and try it again another day.  Normally, we would never enter an anchorage in the dark, but because we had been in there before we had a track on our chart plotter that would lead us in.

Earlier in the day, when we were sailing by Chemala we overheard conversation on the VHF radio that two boats, both single-handing, were planning to leave at 3:00 a.m. to round the Cape.  As we made our way into the anchorage we saw the two boats making their way out of the anchorage, just as we were getting ready to drop our anchor.  So, there we were, exhausted, anchor securely down and ready to get a good night’s sleep.

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