In Part 1 of the story we were leaving Vivarillos en route to Cayo Becerro. The reefs in this area are magical and we were hoping to spend some time here since we were able to fill up our water tanks from all of the rain we had.
Friday May 28th
Big conch were crawling everywhere. The poor little bastards can't run from you. All they can do is pull into their armored shell with a jolt and peek up at you with those frightened little eyes. Then, when you have pounded a hole in the top of their house, cut their body away from its elegant pink spiral, and yanked their quivering body into a pulsating slimy heap on the deck, you start to wonder what kind of animal you are yourself. Chopping their tiny frightened eye and snout stalks off with your fillet knife, you notice that they continue to look up at you as if to say “WHY?!” Then, what's left of them slides toward the stern in their own pile of entrails. Tipping off of the back edge of the transom, the eyes continue to stare back at you as they slide down the hot metal and finally, splash into the sea. Staring up at the bottom of the hull as they drift towards the busy lanes of Stingray City, they blink in puzzlement one more time trying to contemplate how all of this could have happened. Finally, darkness arrives, as a busy jack cruises by and ends their contemplation. Poor bastards.
Had Jack and Nicole over for dinner. After plenty of shipwreck stories, we all piled into Jack's dinghy to see if we could spot any turtles climbing up onto the beach at a nearby sand hump to lay eggs. Wouldn't you know it. The clouds shrouded the moon and it started to rain. None of us left a light on at either of the boats and there was nothing for landmarks other than depth to judge by. After everyones theories about where we were, Jack summed it up: “We're in the soup!” Then he confidently declared, “We're lost!” We were bumbling around with only a headlamp to shine down in the water. Just when things started to get somber, the sandy bottom came up to about two feet deep and everyone yelled to “Stop the boat!” as we glided right over the top of three big nurse sharks that were resting on the bottom. Somehow, us dangerous drunks made it back to our boats unscathed.
Scott climbed up Kittyhawk's mast to get some pics.
Saturday May 29th
Went snorkeling on a shallow reef with Jack and Kim. It was spectacular. A giant cubera snapper came up to me, face to face to investigate. Incredible wildlife once again. Purple sea fans and silvery rolling sheets of shimmering bait fish fill every space with dancing motion. Came upon a cute little baby turtle who was only about a foot long. He just hung there frightened as Kim and I swam right up to him. He tipped his head from side to side, puzzled by this new development. He hung by his front flippers on a small table of coral with his butt resting in the sand as if he were resting on the bar and needed a drink to help him understand just what he was looking at.
Our Backyard Paradise
Calm Before The Storm
May 31st, Manic Monday
Woke up at midnight. Waves from the southwest were growing to unbearable conditions. We were still loaded with water and provisions, but the conditions were forcing us to flee. There was no longer a lee anchorage to shelter in. With a 3 foot swell now coming into the anchorage, we were nervous about how we were going to get the dinghy and motor on board for our passage at sea.
As the boat hobby-horsed and yanked at its heavy chain and snubber, we decided it was time to hustle. We managed to lift the outboard off the dink and bring it to the rear rail storage mount with the topping lift after securing the boom with the spare jib halyard which we led over the top of the starboard shrouds. We already had the dinghy hanging in horizontal security style out of the water along the port beam rail from our spare rear halyard so I just reached out and tied a harness around the motor head with some 3/8 inch line. I ran the topping lift through the harness. Then, I ran the mast end of the topping lift through a snap shackle clipped to the base of the mast, through the bottom end of a fiddle block on our jib track that is normally used as a boom preventer line, and after adding some additional length to the end of the line with a sheet bend, we ran the extension back to the cockpit's big jib winch. From there, Kim had no problem lifting and controlling the outboard as I unclamped it from the transom of the dinghy, even in a 3 foot swell at 2 in the morning. As I walked the motor back along the side of the boat, Kim tailed the topping lift from the cockpit winch. When I got as far as I could go along the side of the bimini bonnet, Kim hitched the control line and reached out to intercept the motor and secure it on the stern rail. Hey! Cool! Some heavy duty team work and ingenuity got our minds working in a more positive fashion. We needed it. We were tired, the boat was jerking around like mad and we had a big passage still ahead of us in stormy conditions. If we waited much longer, however, the waves were going to be breaking on top of us with our ass making its way to the beach. We still had to navigate out through the maze of reef that we had come in through. Ugh! So tired already!
At 5am, we saw a light at Kittyhawk so we gave them a call to let them know we were ditching. No big surprise, they were leaving also. We had the anchor up at 5:30am. I was up on the bow watching for coral heads, but the slanted light was only clouding the visibility of the water at this early hour. We didn't really have a choice -- we had to go. Thankfully, there was a fairly wide swath of safe waters to cut through and we now had three paths on the GPS from moving in and out to some different anchorages while we were here.
As we got further out, the wave size quickly grew outside of the protection of the reefs. My toes were wrapped around the salty bow pulpit tubing. With both arms I had a white knuckle grip around the furled jib. The waves were probably about 6 feet and really steep on the nose. The bow pitched heavily in the air. With each passing wave, the bow was carrying me 10 feet up and then plunging me down to the surface until the bow was nearly buried. Water poured in through the hawse holes with each dive flooding the deck. I had Wagner's “Flight of the Valkyries” playing in my head as we charged toward our destiny. It was exciting to say the least. Not your typical Monday.
The first bits of debris -- sorry, forgot about taking pictures when things got hectic.
I am so F%#ing tired but this #%&* boat just won't let me rest. #%& sailing! #%& Christopher Cross and that bullshit song about “sailing takes me away.” Every time it gets rough, that song is stuck in my head. The wind has finally turned to our backside, and despite all of our efforts, we are now headed straight for the floating tree that stopped Tropical Dance in their tracks (a 40,000 pound boat) yesterday. If only we had the bloody spinnaker pole functioning. I rouse Kim on her break and let her know that I am going to jibe. How hard could it be? Bring the main in, secure the preventer, crank the Hydrovane steering gear to the other side and switch jib sheets. I start the process off and everything seems A-OK. Unfortunately, before I can get the sails balanced, the boat starts racing back eastward straight for Kittyhawk a few miles behind us. I just can't get the sails to balance downwind with this following sea. The boat starts to surf upwind and the battened main takes over. I can't ease it out any more because those f#%ing $700 battens are chaffing on the rig. (Thinking about full battens? Don't do it) I am raging mad and so tired. Kittyhawk is bummed that we aren't going to cross paths anymore for a mid ocean photo op, but we are still concerned about getting out into the deep water to avoid the trees that were reported floating en mass out here. Some old know-it-all proclaimed on the morning SSB net that outside of the shelf there is a decent current heading west, whereas on top of the shelf, there is a counter current. Our theory was that at the interference of the two currents was where we would find all of the debris from the flooding caused by Hurricane Agatha.
All theories; the know-it-all old man's and our own which was based on it, prove to be pure bullshit. Instead, the wind reversal that has been going on for the last twenty four hours has apparently put us right on top of the debris field even though we made ten miles out into the deep to avoid it. We have now bonked a half dozen good sized logs. We watched in fright as one giant passed under us. I just saw it as it was slipping under the bow. It was maybe 5 feet long and 20 inches in diameter. Which side was it riding? I struggled to unclamp the steering wheel and then turned back to release the windvane, but which side was it riding under? We were frozen. We both cringed and waited while a few seconds stretched into eternity. There was no sound. Then, a huge thud from the rudder. BOOM!!! Incredibly, a big cloud of dirt spread out behind us as the log floated up in two pieces. Was it balsa? The rudder and vane still functioned lock to lock so we tried not to think of what the damage might be. Huge flotillas of debris where everywhere. Kim tuned in to the Northwest Caribbean Net and checked in at 5:45pm. Everyone was talking about trees out in the water from the flooding. Jack called from 4 miles ahead – they have a much bigger boat and had passed us with two poled out jibs. He said we were approaching a huge flotilla. Shortly after his call, we passed a GIANT tree with a tumbling root ball the size of a minivan. Yikes! It was now getting dark. Passed palm trees and a couple of trunks the size of telephone poles that rolled and tumbled in the waves. There was an endless chatter of kindling toinking against the hull. As the last daylight faded, I was still staring out at the waves and was now having terrible hallucinations. Slender black serpents writhed along the surface towards our bow from all fronts.
Slept 2 more hours – 7pm to 9pm. That makes 4 hours in the last 20. It has been a tiring trip. When the big orange moon comes up on the horizon behind us around 9:30pm, I imagine that we are about to be over-run by a freighter!
11pm 66 Miles to Go
I was busy drawing moon diagrams with the camera for a long stretch when I suddenly noticed we were hauling ass at 8 knots and going off course to the north. This was great. The wind was becoming more favorable as it was coming from the south again. Woke Kim at 11:30pm. “Wanna reef?” I asked, but was still uncertain that I wanted to myself -- so was she. We debated it further in the cockpit. Maybe we should get 8 knots while we can. Then, boom, splat! A big soaker swamped us. It didn't take long to realize that our greediness was unfounded. Even with two reefs in the main we were hauling ass.
Before I could get back to the cockpit, scurrying along sideways like a deranged crab on the deck, Kim yells “Look Out!” A huge wave is barreling toward our port beam only slightly aft of me. I ran back to the rigging and grabbed onto the shrouds. The first wave was steep and as I braced myself, it broke up underneath us. Once again, I am feeling majestic up there. Dun da dun dahhh da, Dun da dun dahhh da (Flight of the Valkyries). Standing up on the deck with the trough of the wave now falling away beneath us I am star struck on a high wire. My eyes are rolling around in their loose sockets fifteen feet above the scene. Salt spray is blowing my hair into dramatic poise. Dun da dun dahhh da, Dun da dun dahhhhh.... . .
Then, the second wave comes like an eight foot high wall of water. It is beginning to roar as foam roils off of its gaping maw. Our bow wave is sending off a roaring wall of its own and as the two meet face to face, my majestic posture is instantly transformed into loathsome sopping wet grief as salty brine soaks me to the bone. Ahhh. Sailing... .. . Take me away!
1:30AM 25 Miles off of Cabo Camaron (Cape Shrimp)
An intoxicating smell has just come over us. It's the smell of pine forests. It smells great! Along with the cool breeze, it feels like we have just crossed over the Mackinac Bridge on a summer weekend. After a month of salt life, it is intoxicating. Racing on now, practically straight down the waves, the boat feels like it is hurtling along at light speed. We'll be there in no time.
We both were running on about 6 restless hours of sleep out of the 36 underway. Sounds like FUN doesn't it?!?!