Friday, January 18, 2013

Santiago Bay- Decision

Written by Ken

At the end of December I posted a blog about trying to decide if we should go north or south from Manzanillo. After going back up to Tenecatita for a while we are now back in Santiago Bay, just around the corner from Manzanillo. It is much quieter here now that Christmas vacation is over.

During the time we spent in Tenacatita, we talked to several cruisers about their experiences going south. Chris from Legacy was very helpful. He and his wife, Heather, had a much more positive experience as they sailed to Ecuador than Robert on Harmony. Legacy managed to miss the bad weather on their way south and on their return north, so we were encouraged. No Tehuantapec winds, no Papagallos. They did have to wait for the weather windows. At one small island they waited 20 days before they had a window to continue. Christina asked if they managed to have enough food for 20 days. I commented that there must have been a small store on the island and noted they have a big freezer on their boat. Since we seem to need to provision every 4 or 5 days, I wondered how we would do if we had to hang out somewhere for 20 days.

Chris did confirm our notion that there really is not all that much we want to see along the way to Ecuador. They were not overly impressed with El Salvador, Nicaragua, or the anchorages in Costa Rica. Marion on Marionetto mentioned that with the good surfing in Costa Rica, you get the difficult surf landings when you come into shore with your dinghy. I had been hoping for more favorable reports of Costa Rica. The only place they really liked, and the place most cruisers seem to like, is the Panamanian islands. Unfortunately, the currents work out better if one heads for Ecuador from Golfito, Costa Rica and visits the Panamanian islands on the return trip north when the currents are more favorable.

When Legacy was considering crossing the bar to enter Bahia del Sol in El Salvador they discovered that five or six of the last thirty boats that had entered sustained damage crossing the bar. They skipped Bahia del Sol. A couple I knew from San Carlos broached as they were crossing this same bar. During the ordeal, their dingy motor got washed off the rail and they got a bunch of water below decks.
We had planned to get residency in Ecuador, have Kyle attend school, and spend a year or more there. If we did not obtain residency we would have to leave Ecuador in 180 days under their tourist visa. Another piece of information we got was from Tripp at the Puerto Amistad Marina in Ecuador’s Bahia de Caraquez (one of the main bays cruisers leave their boats and where we intended to leave Sea Biscuit). In an email, he told us that if you get residency you have to have pay exorbitant importation fees for your boat.

Before we received Tripp’s email and after considerable discussion and soul searching, we had decided we would make the 200+ mile passage to Zihuatanejo and were planning to continue sailing to Ecuador. Yes, after our "Manzanillo Decision Point" and spending a couple weeks thinking we definitely weren't going to sail south, we decided to try it after all. Both Christina and Kyle were excited about going someplace new. This would be the longest passage the three of us have done and would help to decide if we should continue south or turn around, head north, and enjoy the Costa Alegre and the Sea of Cortez. Many world cruisers return to this area saying that these are the best cruising grounds in the world.

We set out from Tenecatita fairly early and headed down the coast. We motored along until the wind came up and then sailed along at 4 to 5 knots. We were running 5 to 10 miles offshore. We came across four long lines along the way. These are long lines (miles long) set out by the Mexican fishermen with hooks every so often. If you get one wrapped around your prop it can be difficult to remove it as you have to dive down and cut the line off while trying to avoid getting snagged by one of the fish hooks.

We managed to drift over the first three but snagged the last one. We were sailing so we rolled in the jib and were starting to get the main down when a panga with three fishermen, clearly the owners of that long line, raced up. They pulled on the line and fortunately it came free. I really hate long lines. Our first encounter with long lines was on our trip from Barra de Navidad to Carrizal in December. We spotted five long lines and carefully motored all the way around each one – adding hours and miles to our trip. Since then, we’ve found that sliding over them while under sail or with the motor at idle usually allows them to slip under the keel and the rudder. So far this has worked all but once.  

Back to the trip to Zihuatenejo- even though we were running downwind the sea got really lumpy and uncomfortable as the wind built. There was a three or four foot swell but you could barely discern the swell as the waves were coming from all directions. As evening approached I wanted to reef the main for the night. As I turned the boat into the wind the boat was rolling as it came around. This pushed Kyle over the edge and when I looked over at him his cheeks were full as he was trying to figure out where to vomit. In another moment he sprayed it all over the starboard side of the cockpit. I got the sail reefed and we cleaned up the cockpit. The sea was still very uncomfortable.

A bit later I went below to fix dinner. I do not have as much trouble with sea sickness as Christina or Kyle though we were all taking Stugeron. I managed to keep dinner from flying all over the galley and we ate in the cockpit. I should say that Christina wasn’t plagued by sea sickness during this trip, but had already fixed breakfast and lunch and felt she had had enough time in the galley.  She cleaned up the dishes from dinner and seemed to be handling the rough conditions well.  

As darkness descended the seas were still uncomfortable. The boat was pitching about. Christina and Kyle were trying to sleep in the cockpit to minimize seasickness, although sleep was hard to come by. The cockpit is a bit crowded with two sleeping and me keeping watch. I thought about the hundreds of miles of remote coastline ahead of us if we went on to Ecuador. Even the trip to Zihuatanejo would be 200 miles of remote coast with no help if we got into trouble. We have a very sound boat so I was not too worried about Sea Biscuit’s seaworthiness, but in the dark of night on an uncomfortable sea with the lights of Manzanillo fading into the distance my mind was filled with uncertainty.

Around 10:00 PM I made the decision. I asked  Christina, “Do you really want to do this?” and told her “I don’t want to take Sea Biscuit to Ecuador. Let’s go back and enjoy Mexico.” It was an easy decision for her. She was ready. So we turned Sea Biscuit around and headed for Santiago Bay. We motor sailed into a 15 to 20 knot headwind right on the nose in lumpy seas. I thought it was interesting that heading straight into the wind it was no more uncomfortable than heading downwind. This is unusual, it should be much more comfortable running downwind. The seas were unpleasant. There is a saying that gentlemen never sail to weather. Sea Biscuit has pretty high freeboard and, fortunately, points into the wind really well. Even with the bow diving into the waves the spray shoots out to the sides and we get very little spray on deck and none in the cockpit. 

One of our unbreakable Corel plates - it broke while in the cupboard.
The next morning around 10:00 AM we headed into Santiago Bay. The further into the bay we got the calmer the seas were. We anchored in 20 feet of water off the beach and have been here since.
Container ship we saw heading into Manzanillo - notice the brown cloud from the coal fired power plant. 

Ken and Kyle bringing the sails down in Santiago Bay 
I have been looking into flights to Ecuador sometime before June. Given everything, flying seems like a much better option. For now, we still get to swim and walk on the beach every day while all of our land based friends are freezing back home in New Mexico.

Yesterday evening Christina and Kyle paddled the standup paddle board back from a trip to the beach. It was about 4:30 PM when they got back. Kyle and I jumped in the water and swam around the boat for a while before showering in the cockpit. No coats, no scraping windshields, no hauling firewood, no driving in the snow, no huge heating bills. Life is good.

No comments:

Post a Comment