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.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Post Tsunami

March 16, 2011

After the tsunami, boats scattered, working their way north or south.  We watched a boat pull up their anchor in Tenacatita and saw that the anchor and chain were all twisted up in a ball, like a cat had batted it round and round.  The skipper had to deploy his dinghy to get it untangled.  Later, we learned that Ponderosa had the same problem with their anchor, which was attributed to the underwater action caused by the tsunami.

It was a few days before we were able to go back to Barra.  As mentioned previously, the tsunami caused a 10 inch water line to float and block boats from leaving or entering the anchorage in the lagoon.  We monitored the status every morning on the “net” and within a few days heard that the water line had been re-anchored and that the channel was open for navigation; we headed back to Barra lagoon to top off our fuel tanks.  I was reluctant to go back to the lagoon as there were 65 boats or so in the anchorage when we left and it wasn’t any fun trying to find a place to anchor.  My fears were unfounded as we found only 14 boats in the anchorage.  In town, it was eerily quiet,  not only had many of the boaters left, but it was nearing the end of the season and most of the Americans and Canadians who winter in Barra had gone back home.  The fun little town of Barra had lost its appeal - it was too much of a “ghost town” after all the hustle and bustle of the winter activities.

Our plan had been to work our way north, slowly, visiting some of the anchorages we had passed along the way.  We weren’t in any hurry because we have flights out of Puerto Vallarta the first week of May to go to Michael’s niece’s wedding in the states.  Normally, we would be happy to have an anchorage all to ourselves.  Maybe it was the tsunami, we don’t know, but our enthusiasm to explore was gone and we decided to head north to join boats from Seattle and other boaters we had met along the way, all who seemed to be gathering at the marina in La Cruz.  After 5 months of being at anchor it would be nice to be tied to a dock for a while – real showers, yoga classes, lots of good and inexpensive restaurants, gatherings with friends and more; to get there we would have to round Cabo Corrientes.  Many agree it is similar to rounding Cape Mendocino, Point Conception or Cabo San Lucas – not to be taken lightly.