Friday, November 15, 2013
Holy Crow, What A Way To Start The Season -- November 12 - 15, 2013
Caveat: This post contains no pictures, so if what you like are the pictures feel free to go on about your day and check our next post!
Predictions and Expectations: Like good (read: cautious) little sailors, before we decided to depart the comfort of Muelle 4-46 in Marina Mazatlan, we checked four web-weather-wind prediction sources. That's FOUR -- two paid services and two free services. The highest wind predicted was 20 knots (Predict Wind). The general consensus was that we would have to motor more often than we like. We can't even remember the highest swell prediction because it didn't register as anything to be concerned about. A "no sweat" trip -- perfect for sailors and a boat that have been tied to a dock for more than five months. A great way to put our toes in the water, so to speak.
But of course, they're called weather PREDICTIONS. And after this trip - we're considering hiring a psychic for the rest of this season.
Mazatlan to San Blas -- 131 nautical miles -- November 12 - 13
Merrily We Motor Along: We departed around 0900, motoring out of the marina estuary and past Mazatlan's marine traffic in (as anticipated) a northerly breeze that wouldn't support a sail. The swells were a bit uncomfortable, and we were sad to be motoring -- but we were looking forward to some sailing in the afternoon. Abracadabra's motor was purring happily.
Sailing: Mid-afternoon the breeze filled in just in time to prevent Molly from screaming "I can't stand this motor any longer!" and we were able to put up the spinnaker. For an hour we sailed happily along, watching our lovely blue and white spinnaker pull us toward our destination. Watching a spinnaker is sort of magical, and somehow connects one to the first human to figure out that if she just put up a piece of cloth the wind could do most of the work. It's truly wonderful. We congratulated ourselves on the perfect start to Sailing Season Three.
Alas, about an hour later, the breeze rose to over 15 knots -- the highest wind we like to subject our light spinnaker to. So, we furled it and continued on with our small jib - watching the winds climb to 20 knots, just in time to make dinner a gymnastic event. Clouds were forming over the land, and from time-to-time the clouds would glow with lightening. We put our hand-held GPS/radio in the oven in anticipation that the lightening might move off shore, and sailed on into the night.
Around 2000 the wind and swell dropped to 12-knots-ish. There was a rain shower around 0100. And we had lots of company. We dodged shrimp boats and several smaller fishing boats. At one point near dawn, on Molly's watch, Abracadabra was completely surrounded by the lights of shrimp boats and fishing pangas. What could have looked to the fanciful like a "ring of faerie fyre" felt more like the encircling of malevolent aliens . . . all waiting to bump into or be bumped into by Abracadabra. But the lights proved to be those of friendly aliens and with the dawn they had disappeared to deliver their catches to market in Mazatlan.
As dawn lightened, the night's north breeze that had been a delightful boost to our trip south became a blast from the east. We sped through the morning's oatmeal breakfast and around 0900 began to see sustained winds into the high 20's. By noon the winds had climbed into the mid-30's and the swells to over two meters (for those in the U.S., that's six feet . . .). A big day on San Francisco Bay.
Our original destination - San Blas - is a port inside an estuary with a bar entrance. This entrance can become dangerous in high swells, so we decided to go a couple of miles further and anchor in Ensenada de Matanchen (Matanchen Bay).
Carnival Ride: Entering Matanchen Bay required us to go directly into the then-30 knot winds, and we knew we would never make it before the early winter dark without motoring. The winds remained (too) strong and for about an hour we were seeing winds over 35 knots on our nose. One gust read 40. The swells were at a sustained two and a half meters (seven and a half feet) and some were three (nine feet). A really uncomfortable motoring experience and quite intimidating for those of us that hadn't sailed in several months.
And then -- because it's always when things seem bad that they get worse -- the bimini (back shade that - most importantly - supports the solar panels) began to come apart and wobble wildly. So there we were (as all good adventure stories say . . . ) bashing around in 35+ winds, lashing our bimini back together.
Heading For Cover: We bashed into Matanchen Bay around 16.30, prepared to have to anchor at 35 knots and spend the night on anchor watch. Fortunately we found that in the bay the winds were about 20. We anchored easily as the winds continued to drop . . . and after a shower and a make-shift dinner of cheese and crackers washed down with a rum-and-tonic, we fell asleep on our sea berth. El Capitan was up and down several times during the night, but each time he peeked out, the water was flat and Abracadabra was swinging gently in about four knots of breeze.
R&R -- November 14: Matanchen Bay is a very pretty place and there are lots of things to do there -- see our posts from December 24, 2011 or March 26, 2012 if you would like to see pictures of the Bay and read more about the vacation options there.
But, well, we were tired so we spent the next day doing non-touristy things. Bryce bolted the bimini back together and assembled a kit of screws and bolts for things on the deck that may come flying apart in the future. Molly cooked a few items for the next leg of our trip. We both enjoyed our new sun/rain shade (more on that and other nifty things we did in Mazatlan in another post) and read (read: napped). We grilled steak and vegetables for dinner and - since the wind hadn't come back up - treated ourselves to a nice split of Chilean red wine. Other than the jejenes (in Canadian that's "no-see-ums") that Matanchen is famous for, our stay was perfect.
Any Port When They Predict A . . . -- November 15: We woke this morning with plans to head south to one of our favorite bays - Chacala. But as we were taking down shades and stowing things away below, we heard a radio weather forecast by he local Capitania de Puerto predicting 20-knot afternoon winds and 2.1 meter (7 foot) swells due to a tropical depression that is forming to the south and reporting a 30% chance of that depression becoming a cyclone.
So, being (as we said in the beginning) cautious little sailors, we motored north a few miles and entered the San Blas estuary (now free of swell and quite safe). Abracadabra is now tied up to a marina dock, and we are rapidly running through our pre-paid allotment of Telcel internet connectivity checking all the weather sites we can find. But if you know of a good weather psychic, we'd appreciate you sending along his or her number!
And because it's what we do when we have time -- we think we'll go out for dinner.