Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Some may say this is a bit extreme to get out of dish duty for a week....I dunno. Seems worth it to me.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Weather Bomb

Weather bomb...water spout...microburst...tornado...unstable cell...
These are just some of the descriptors that were being tossed around to describe a crazy weather "event" here in Banderas Bay (Puerto Vallarta) this week. We arrived in the La Cruz Anchorage to a very unusual rain storm, and hunkered down on the boat for the day, awaiting the blue skies that were sure to return.
But the weather gods had different ideas. At 10 that evening, the wind picked up suddenly, lighting bolts could be seen all around us, the boat was rocking violently from side to side, and the noise of the wind in the rigging was so loud that we could barely hear each other talk. All of this happened within only a few minutes.
As we were putting on our lifejackets and harnesses, to get up on deck to see what was going on, we felt the boat lurch, and heard the discomforting sound of another boat grinding alongside of us. Then on the radio - we heard a Mayday call of a boat on the rocks. Our hearts are now racing as we struggle to find harnesses, headlamps and rain gear.
John is up on deck first, and yells down to me in the cabin, "Brace yourself, we going to be hit", as he turns on the engine, and tries to steer the boat into the waves. All around us, other boats have dragged their anchors and are flying through the anchorage, which is now a bowling alley. The radio is abuzz with reports of wind speed indicators showing 70+ knots (130km/hr), and reports of boats dragging and collisions.
As John went up to the bow to let out more anchor rode, I worked the helm to attempt to keep the swells on our bow. It was an incredible experience to watch the bow (and John) fly up high into the air, riding the crest of the 8-10 foot waves, and then crash into the deep trough below. Of course, aside from keeping ourselves upright, we also had to watch for other boats, and 'dodge' the loose boats that came rocketing through the anchorage, as best as we were able. This was made all the more difficult, as I had become completely disoriented. As all the power on shore had been knocked out, I couldn't tell how close we were to the shore, or if we were in the same place as earlier in the day. The lightning lit up the boats around us, but many were very different that when we set our anchor - had they moved?? Or had we??
Within 30 or so minutes, the worst of it was over, and we stayed at the helm with the engine running as we caught our breath, and watched for another possible surge of wind. After some time, boats started to pick up their anchors and move into the nearby marina for shelter. We tried to raise our anchor and follow the fleet to safety, but regardless of how much we pulled and pushed, the anchor would not budge. We resigned ourselves to a sleepness night in the Bay.
In the morning, we successfully freed and raised our now polished anchor, and made our way into the marina, where fellow cruisers caught our docklines as we eased into a safe and secure slip. All morning the docks were akin to a crisis zone, and the remaining boats in the anchorage made their way into the marina, and cruisers walked dazed on the docks, looking at each other's damage, and sharing their version of the horror of the evening before. By afternoon, the docks were silent - crews were catching a nap in an effort to recover from lost sleep and general exhaustion.
It was a valuable learning experience for us. We learned how well we work together as a team, and we were both calm and rational throughout the ordeal. Once again, Renova's captain was up to the task of taking charge of the boat, and her crew, and guiding us to safety, with minimal stress. In hindsight, we were very lucky to have just arrived at the anchorage, and had not yet settled in. We still had the boat battened down for sea travel, so we didn't have any gear loose on the deck, and our dinghy was still tied down on the cabin top. The only thing lost from the deck was my new hatch cover, which will be easy to replace.
We were lucky - many other boats have more damage than us. And many lost dinghies, surfboards, gas cans, anchors, etc. We have some damage to one side of our bowsprint (one of the anchor rollers has been ripped off), but the local carpenter has already been down to make drawings, and we expect a replacement piece within days.
At first, we were pretty shaken. Once again, we toyed with the idea of staying for the season in the relative (perceived?) safety of the Sea of Cortez, while we worked up our courage to continue. But now that we've had a few days to process the events and put everything in perspective, we've decided to continue with our original plan - Galapagos then Marquesas.
Another 'event' is being forecast for later this week, so we'll stay put for now, fix the boat, and enjoy the good life - hot showers, fish tacos, and wi-fi. We were too busy to take photos, but others have also written up their impressions of the storm: