Hurricane Irma….We’re All Clear!

Many people have reached out to us over the last week, inquiring whether we’re safe, and out of Irma’s path…we are well clear of her!

I have mentioned in several previous posts that we’d planned to head for the Eastern Caribbean, and make our way to Grenada for hurricane season. We arrived in Puerto Rico in late April, made our way south from St. Thomas in June and arrived in Grenada in early July. Sea Life is currently tied to a mooring ball in Prickly Bay, on the island’s south coast (just below the airplane at photo below).

Thankfully, we were well south of Irma’s path, and only had to deal with several days of large swell in the bay.

It seems there has been confusion as to whether or not we were in Puerto Rico, due to my latest post. Others just seemed to be asking in general, not knowing exactly where we are.

If you’ve met my husband, you’d know that there is no….way, in this lifetime or any other, that he’d have us in the upper Eastern Caribbean during this time of year. Not only would he be unable to sleep at night, I don’t think he’d be able to breath.

Scott has the utmost respect for weather. He cut his teeth on the waves, tides, currents, storms and surge, living on Shallow Creek, just off the Chesapeake Bay. Many weather classes were followed by a graduate degree in Western Caribbean cruising, earned over the last two years (holy cow…two years!).  The take-away??…Mother Nature rules, and we don’t mess with that.

We’re not sure why cruisers choose to be in these places at this risky time of year. I guess they get complacent, after years with no major storm hit. As we prepared to leave St. Thomas and head farther south, Scott met a couple who stay at anchor off of the island year round, claiming it has several good hurricane holes. Scott’s take? A hurricane hole is a hurricane hole….until is isn’t; Irma, case in point. Here’s a link that lists the extent of destruction to the islands affected by this massive storm.

There were days of warnings for this huge, catastrophic storm, with little to no doubt of it’s path and impact on the upper islands. Several boats arrived here in Grenada over the last week from places north,  and we were shocked not to see many, many more.

Aside from Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada is at the bottom of the Eastern Caribbean chain, and relatively safe from a major storm hit…relatively.

Our insurance covers us here, but I can tell you that if something even close to Irma’s strength heads our way, Scott will run us south, to escape the possibility of endangering Sea Life and her crew.

We are definitely missing Panama, where we spent last hurricane season. Being much farther south, and out of hurricane paths, we hardly checked weather. This year, although we are pretty well south, there is still a very real concern for storms, and we’ve had to keep on our toes.

Ok…all that said, here’s how to ALWAYS know where our CURRENT location is. I’ve mentioned this many times before, usually as we’re heading off on a passage, but it holds true all the time, whether we’re underway or at anchor:

First, go to the Where Are We Now Page of the blog. Click on “Where Are We Now,” at the bottom of the text, and you are taken to the site for our Delorme In Reach Satellite Tracker (now a part of Garmin).

I apologize for the spider web of lines and dots. Scott is a little Delorme-happy, taking the tracker along on hikes, bus rides and tours, as well as various water excursions. You can zoom out, giving yourself a broader view of Grenada. Once you’re far enough out to locate the words “Lanse aux Epines”, at the bottom of the island, begin to zoom in. The blue dot above the pi, in Epines is where Sea Life is moored. Continue to zoom in, and you’ll see our location in Prickly Bay.

Clicking on each dot opens a small window. Click on “more” in that window, and you’ll get info. like date, speed, elevation, etc.  Continue to zoom way out, and you’ll see our path over the last two years (again..two years!).

I hope this helps you keep track of our every move, so to speak. We are thankful for all of your messages and emails, and are grateful to have so many out there concerned for our safety; Sea Life is secure!

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

Hey Don, Thanks For Going Easy On Us!

With Tropical Storm Don predicted to make a direct hit on Grenada, we prepared for 60 knot winds (always prepare for the worst). Scott secured loose things on the flybridge, stripped the canvas off of our bimini (canvas that shades the flybridge driving station), took the window covers off, removed our flags and stowed our extra solar panels (more on those later).

He tied an additional line to the mooring ball; readied our anchors in case we needed to drop them; put our large fenders in the cockpit, making them available in case another boat broke from it’s mooring and drug toward us; brought in our flopper-stoppers (large plates that hang from the paravanes, and reduce rolling at anchor…greatly reduce); and raised the paravanes, to reduced risk of another boat hitting them, making us more maneuverable through the anchorage should we need to move in a hurry.

While we were preparing the boat, the island of Grenada was preparing as well. One of the local radio stations broadcasted storm preparation information, and we heard the local Red Cross and Coast Guard making contact with each other over the vhf radio.

Businesses were required to close at 3pm, and we were very surprised to hear that public water and sewer were to be turned off at 7pm! Here’s a posting from the National Water and Sewerage Authority, with some interesting information:

ADVISORY – NAWASA TO SWITCH OFF ALL WATER SYSTEMS ON TUESDAY JULY 18TH, 2017

The National Water and Sewerage Authority (NAWASA) wishes to advise the general public that following a meeting of its Disaster Preparedness Committee, the following decisions were made:

– ALL WATER SYSTEMS will be switched off later this evening. A timeline will be provided once an update on Tropical Storm DON is received from NaDMA.

– Once our systems are switched off, consumers island wide will have their service interrupted WITHOUT A DEFINED RESTORATION TIME.

– An analysis of ALL water systems will be conducted by our engineering team on Wednesday July 19th and restoration will commence thereafter.

The Authority implores on the general public the need to:

• Collect and store water in clean, non-corrosive and mostly tightly covered containers both in and out of your refrigerator. To increase shelf life of water, group bottles in dark plastic trash bags to keep light out.

• Store enough water for each member of your family and pet. week.Have at least a minimum of three days supply, of thirty-five gallons per person, per day for domestic use. OUR MAIN ADVISORY – Water collection and storage to last minimum of three days and a maximum of 1 week.

• Store water in bath tubs, drums, pails and buckets for flushing of toilet, washing and general cleaning.

• Shut off water tanks and individual property connections. Your water can be shut off at either the outlet valve or the water meter. Everyone in your home should know where these are located.

NAWASA apologises for the inconveniences likely to be caused by this decision, but advises that this precautionary measure is necessary to safe guard our infrastructure and is in the best interest of the consumers we serve.

 

When our preparations were complete, we spent the rest of the day checking various online sites for updates on Don, and just waited, along with everyone else in the bay. Scott had a pre-Don cocktail, and Howard kept watch for fish.

Watching for fish can be tiring. Sometimes  you have to lay down on the job.

We were getting reports that Don was speeding up, but the eye was collapsing, and that wind speed predictions had dropped a bit; all good news.

As the day wore on, the winds died completely, and by early evening the bay was lake-like.  We watched the barometer drop on our weather station, and considered this the calm before the storm. The bay was noticeably less crowded, as many chose to hunker down in marinas or other island locations.

By sunset, Don was predicted to only cause us an hour’s worth of havoc, and at a much lower intensity. We began to get a decent swell coming into the bay, and readied for our 60 minutes of storm drama.

Instead, Don fell apart as it passed twenty miles south of us. We watched the radar updates online, and by 10 or 11pm, the storm, now reduced to a tropical wave, had officially passed us by without incident.There had been no wind to speak of, and we only received a quarter inch of rain.

The incoming swell lingered on though, and we continued to roll around for hours. Rolling back and forth (actually, Sea Life tends to lumber back and forth, as opposed to rolling) wasn’t as irritating as the noise from one of our paravane cables rubbing along a mast wire; the metal scraping sound was maddening. Realizing that Don was now a non-event, Scott lowered our paravanes and put the floppers back in the water….ahhhh.

So, Don fizzled out, thank goodness, and we dodged a tropical bullet. I’d like to believe that this was our one and only scare for the season, but we’ve learned all too well on this journey that Mother Nature is fickle.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

 

 

Tropical Storm Don, Our Grenada Welcome Wagon

I have much to catch up on, but for now, a current update…..we arrived in Grenada a week ago, and Tropical Storm Don is our welcome wagon. Here’s a photo of Don’s predicted path. We are the bottom-most island/dot, in the yellowish-brown, with a 50-60% change of winds over 39 knots.

[Image of probabilities of 34-kt winds]

The storm is essentially passing right over us, with it’s specific path having very different results.

A tropical system spins counter-clockwise, with the top/north half having the most intensity.  Think of a pinwheel, sucking wind off in it as it spins. As the storm moves, that wind in the north half is given a extra boost, doubling it’s strength.

At the bottom of the pinwheel, the winds oppose the movement of the storm, and are much less, so south of a storm is where you want to be (scratch that…not anywhere near a storm is where you really want to be!).

If Don passes just north of Grenada, we expect sustained winds in the 25-30 knot range,  clocking around in every direction. However, if the storm tracks a bit south, we’ll get more direct winds, sustained closer to 45 knots….possibly as high as 60 knots.

None of this is life threatening, and we are preparing for maximum winds, just to be safe. Unfortunately, there are not completely protected anchorages or marinas here in Grenada, so we’re just gonna have to ride it out with fingers crossed.

We are currently in Prickly Bay, on Grenada’s south side. Many cruisers come to Grenada for hurricane season, so the bays are crowded with boats.

Map of Prickly Bay, Grenada

 

Image result for aerial view of prickly Bay

Our plan was to anchor, but we arrived to find that the marina here had filled most of the bay with mooring balls. Prickly Bay is safer than most, as far as local crime, so we chose to stay and take a ball. For those who may not know, a mooring ball is anchored to the bottom with a metal shackle. From there, a line travels up to the surface with a float/ball that you attach a line to.

On the positive side, balls are usually well spaced, and there’s no worry about boats with little anchoring experience breaking loose and dragging. The downside is that you’re never sure what condition the balls are in; whether the lines are still strong and the shackles are good. Several boats here have broken from their mooring here, drifting through the anchorage, one as recently as four days ago.

Our quandary is whether to stay here on the ball, and risk it breaking, or having other moorings break, and those boats drifting our way. Or, head for another bay that is just as full, and risk anchors dragging (instead of moorings breaking) and boats drifting. We considered going to a marina, but they aren’t much more protected from heavy wind, and Scott’s concerned about being tied down and not able to swing with the winds, or cut and run if needed.

Here is Don’s timeline…..Murphy’s Cruising Law: Bad shit almost always happens at night! (we are between the blue line, and the S to the right…roughly 10pm-midnight)

cone graphic

So, we’re hunkering down here in Prickly Bay, and hopeful that Don gives us a gentle welcome to Grenada.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

Panama’s Insane Rain!

They say that Panama has two seasons, the dry season from December to mid March, and the wet, or “green”, season from mid March to mid December. As you might deduce from their names, the dry season means little or no rainfall, while the green season can mean rain almost every day.

However, in Bocas del Toro, it rains consistently nearly every month, except for September and October. Fortunately, the wet stuff usually comes overnight or in the early am, giving way to the brutal, hot sun. November is a different animal altogether; a rainy season unto itself.

At last check, when we left Red Frog after Thanksgiving, the monthly rain total was over seventeen inches for the month! The rain during November was often biblical. Heavy, driving rain would pour straight down for hours, and the sound was unnerving. Roads flooded almost instantly, and any grass-like surface turned to muck.

Visibility disappears in an instant, and the water turns to mud. For example, now you see it:

Now you don’t:

This nasty brown line floated our way during a recent deluge:

Scott installed a new weather station in November, after our old one gave up the goat. The new one has many more bells and whistles, and greatly appeals to Scott’s inner weather geek. For example, note how it describes a November deluge, using the most weather specific terms (bottom right corner):

To be fair, it definitely was raining cats and dogs, so kudos weather station!

This crazy rain has extended into December, and in the first ten days of the month, we’d already received close to twelve inches! Recently, just in the morning hours alone we had 3.18 inches, and at one point, the rain rate listed on the weather station was 6.86 inches an hour….biblical I tell ya!

It’s definitely the wettest area we’ve ever been to, including any travel by land, car, air or boat before this cruising adventure. As you can imagine, the humidity matches the wetness, turning our decks and lines green, and making daily tasks a challenge. Thank goodness we spent the time plugged in, and able to keep the interior humidity in check with air conditioning.

On the bright side, everything here is beautifully lush and green. Trees and foliage grow thick and tall, and brightly colored plants and flowers spring up from the ground.

We were surprised not to see more fresh, local produce grown in the area, but suspect that too much of a good thing may hinder good veggie growth.

All in all, we’ve become accustomed to traveling with an umbrella at the ready (it’s far too warm and humid for rain jackets, as they become your own personal sauna, despite the best ventilation), and push on, despite the wetness. It beats a 45 degree rain that the northeast can get this time of year, so we try to embrace Panama’s “liquid sunshine”!

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

 

 

 

The rain here in Panama is insane. When we arrived, uring the “rainy” season, but November in particular really gave us a dousing. Heavy rain lasts for hours at a time, flooding streets, and turning grassy areas into muck.

Hurricane Otto Comes Calling

The tropical low that we’ve been watching for the last ten days has finally strengthened into a tropical storm, and  is expected to become Hurricane Otto in the next day or so. For reference, Bocas del Toro is located to the right of “San Jose,” in the little bay (cut-out) on the north coast of Panama.

Current Storm Status

Later this week, high pressure is expected to steer the storm west, making landfall north of us, most likely along the Nicaragua/Costa Rica border.

It’s rare to have a named storm this late into November, even in the warm, Caribbean waters this far south. Some tidbits from the Weather Channel:

Prior to January 2016’s strange Hurricane Alex, only 18 storms of at least tropical storm strength had formed on or after November 21 dating to 1950.

Only nine tropical cyclones became hurricanes in the Atlantic Basin after November 21 from 1950 through 2015. The last to do so was Epsilon, in December 2005. 

Only one of those nine hurricanes occurred in the southwest Caribbean Sea, Hurricane Martha in 1969.

The good news is, that as of now we are not in the storm’s direct path, and will instead be getting the “fringe” effects of strong winds and rain. Having owned waterfront property for many years on the Chesapeake Bay, we unfortunately have first-hand knowledge of tropical storm and hurricane winds. The best scenario is to be where we are now, in or off the bottom left quadrant of a storm, where the winds are weakest.

With the increased wind directions more firm, we’ve decided to leave the anchorage near town, as it is very exposed to the west, one of the predicted wind directions. While we are confident that our anchor, the Hulk, will keep us firmly set, the chance of other boats dragging into us is one we don’t wish to take.

Last month, from our slip in Bocas Marina, Scott saw boats drag through the anchorage and into the mangroves during a routine thunderstorm. Our many near miss experiences in the anchorage at Isla Mujeres were enough, thank you.

While should not see big wind and water here in Bocas, the waves off shore are becoming huge, at 12 feet or more. Once the storm passes and makes landfall, it will take days for the seas out there to calm, so we are in another holding pattern.

Our plan is to leave here, and make our way to the San Blas Islands, an archipelago made up of approximately 365 islands and cays, of which only 49 are inhabited. They lie off the north coast  of Panama, east of the Panama Canal (much more on this later).

We’d hoped to be halfway there by now, stopping to anchor at several locations along the way, and arriving in the San Blas before swells from the Caribbean’s Christmas winds increase.

Last week, forecasters weren’t sure if this thing would develop, and if so, where it would go, so we waited; not wanting to be stuck in an unprotected anchorage for days, with strong winds coming at us. This week, and for the near future, we cannot move because of large swells offshore. Yay for us.

We are tucked in behind the mangroves, just off of Red Frog marina. For now, the winds come and go, and so does the rain, but we expect things to pick up over the next few days. On the bright side, it’s peaceful here. There is less chop when the winds blow, and our friends are in view just off the bow.

Howard is enjoying the quieter location, with far few pangas buzzing by, and spends time out on the cockpit. He usually waits for Scott to set up a chair to sit in, and then happily takes it for himself.

The fresh air inspires energetic play sessions with his favorite bags, which is exhausting.

So once again, we’re playing the weather window game, to which there are no rules or time limits. While we wait, there is plenty of rum on board, and movies on the hard drive.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back At Anchor

Leaving Red Frog Marina, we headed back to anchor off of Bocas Town for a few days. I wanted to make a final trip to town, some  fresh produce before we continued on, and was also interested in renting a golf cart to see more of Isla Colon. After that, the plan was to anchor at several places in the area, and then head east along the coast of Panama.

Once again, Mother Nature had other plans. A tropical low was trying to form, just north of Panama, and the timing would conflict with anchoring in areas along the coast, as they don’t allow for good protection in certain wind directions.

The wind forecast was all over the place, predicting very strong stuff one day, and backing down on it the next. There was also a threat of squalls every day, but we are confident in the hulk, and decided to take it day by day, relocating if needed.

We decided to focus on the positives…the weather was breezy, more cloudy and cooler. All good things for being at anchor, and unplugged from air conditioning! We were also just a stone’s throw from a free dinghy dock, so shopping and other things in town were easy and convenient. Anchored off of town gave us unobstructed views of Costa Rica’s mountains on the horizon, and we were timed perfectly to enjoy the supermoon!

We decided to use our extra time, and have a golf cart day. There are all-terrain vehicles for rent in town, but I wasn’t interested in driving one myself, and Scott couldn’t guarantee not scaring me to death if we rode together. Helmets are required to ride the ATVs, and I’d be sitting right on top of the motor. Both of those thing spelled hot for me, so a golf cart it was.

The man behind the counter told us that we were restricted as to where on the island we could go, as the carts aren’t built to handle the condition of the roads in some areas. So of course, at the first opportunity, Scott turned to the right when he should have stayed left.

Once on the forbidden path, we passed many signs for Plastic Bottle Village, and it finally came into view.  A community of buildings and houses is in development, with used plastic bottles as core material before they are covered in concrete. The castle-like, quirky entrance was definitely eye catching.

As the roads became more hilly, muddy and bumpy, we passed under a huge canopy of bamboo, thickly anchored in the ground. It was like driving in a fairy tale, and Scott wished he’d had access to bamboo this thick when building a tiki bar each year, for our  summer parties on land.

Not wanting to challenge the poor cart any further, Scott admitted defeat, and we turned around. It was lunch time, and we stopped at Scully’s for a cold drink and some food. Owned by American expats, Scully’s sits on the waterfront, with several inviting seating options.

Sadly, our little cart was not the best built model. It had been stalling on us all morning, when we slowed or came to idle, and the steering was similar to that of an amusement park bumper car. I spent most of the drive holding my breath as we’d make an unexpected, hard swerve toward the edge of the road, with Scott yelling, “I can’t help it, this thing is garbage!”

When we got into the cart to leave Scully’s, it wouldn’t start. Scott tried and tried, and waited and tried, and waited and tried some more, then made a call. A mechanic brought us a replacement cart, and we left him to deal with the dead one.

While this cart definitely ran better, the steering was worse! Scott was too worried that he’d run over some poor person walking alongside the road, so we called it a day, and headed back to the rental shop. Since we’d only had the cart for just under half a day, they refunded us some money, which was fair.

Bocas had proved to be spear fish-challenged for Scott. There just weren’t many areas to find fish and lobster. However, Scott is nothing if not diligent, and finally came up lucky, bringing home four lobsters, and a black crab.

Howard was fascinated with Scott’s catch, and watched intently as Scott prepared them. Contrary to what you may think, he wasn’t interested in engaging with, or eating the crustaceans. With more than enough lobster,  and because boiling water would heat up the boat, we decided to release the crab.

We picked up many little geckos on our decks while at Red Frog, and one has recently made it’s way inside.  Scott noticed it in the galley, near the sink, coiled up like a snake. Since then, we’ve spotted the little guy in other areas of the boat as well.

Howard has failed to notice our latest stowaway, and that thing better hope I don’t wake during the night to find it crawling across me.

Heavy rain was often visible on the horizon, and the skies became dark each day, but we managed to dodge severe weather.

We enjoyed a few more trips into town (Scott actually requested that we revisit sushi!), and I was able to get in another barbecue night at Boca Marina’s cantina. The supermoon caused higher than normal tides, and when we arrived, it was either slosh through the water, or walk across the soggy, muddy grass.

Sadly, their delicious pizza that I came for wasn’t offered on our last visit, so I settled for a less yummy burger.

Weather threat aside, we are enjoyed being back at anchor, and hoped to be on the move again soon. Here are more photos.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

 

 

 

Growing Roots In Providencia

We’d hoped to be on our way to Bocas del Toro, in Panama, by now. However, as usual, the weather had different plans for us, which was insanely frustrating. The latest window was slim, so Scott let me make the decision whether to stay or go.

Good news, the winds were supposed to die off briefly on Tuesday, before picking back up again on Wednesday. Bad news, this wouldn’t give the seas nearly enough time to lay down. Since I wasn’t up for traveling in 6-7 foot swells, with possible breaking waves on top, I chose to pass.

Good news, it turned out to be the right decision, as the winds never died. We heard from boats arriving in the harbor that they’d had a miserable go. Bad news, our next window wouldn’t be for at least another week. As I said, it was becoming insanely frustrating, even Howard was contemplating jumping ship.

Good news, we were on island for Carnival time! We’d never been to a proper carnival celebration (the parade in Isla Mujeres was disappointing), and planned to go to town one night for the festivities.  Bad news, people that travel to attend Carnival on Providencia aren’t the best lot, and it was a zoo in town, so it seemed safer to stay on the boat, especially at night.

Good news, lots of reggae music was being played from the town dock. Bad news, as you might imagine, it was at a ridiculous volume, and went on until after 3 am. This made sleep challenging, even with my ear plugs in.

Good news, many new boats arrived in a flotilla. They are Colombians, all flying large country flags, as well as smaller ones, making the anchorage bustling and colorful.

Bad news, boats in the flotilla weren’t the greatest at anchoring, and many boats drug anchor, resulting in at least one collision. Two boats that were rafted together (on the left) drifted into a third boat (on the right). Those onboard the two rafted boats were oblivious to what was going on, until after impact.

As they broke free, the two boats snagged the third’s anchor line, and almost drifted back to collide again.

It was a stressful go for those of us who’d been safely anchored here for weeks.  We held our breath, and prepared to fend off anyone coming our way. Luckily, by dusk, everyone seemed to be set, and all held through the night.

We’re here for at least another week. Good news, it’s beautiful here, and there are things that we enjoy seeing and doing. Bad news, most of them are out of walking distance. With local transportation being iffy at best, we’re stuck with paying to rent a buggy, which adds up.

Good news, the snorkeling is great, and there are many places to explore for fishing. Bad news, with stronger winds, visibility for snorkeling isn’t the greatest, and it’s too much of a hard time on the windward side of the island for fishing.

Good news, liquor here is cheap! A bottle of Smirnoff vodka is $8.00 in the grocery stores. Bad news, people here for carnival  are buying up the stock.

Good news, we’re not on a set schedule per say. Bad news, our insurance wants us farther south by July 1st, for coverage against any named storm damage. Yeah, yeah, hurricanes don’t come this far south….I give you Hurricane Sandy, that hit New York at the end of October….never say never.

The forecast is riddled with tropical lows these days. They don’t directly affect us, as a hurricane or tropical storm, but instead make the winds difficult to travel in. And, the chance of squalls gets greater this time of year, so Scott wants to get farther south sooner than later.

Good news, we’d hoped to travel to San Andres from here, another Colombian island 10-12 hours south, and after that, the Albuquerque Cays, where Scott planned on some fishing and snorkeling. Bad news, with all the weather delays, we may be doing a three to four day run straight to Bocas del Toro…bummer. You know how I love a multi-day passage!

It seems that we’re growing roots here in Providencia…we may have to pay taxes! Here are some random photos from the past few days.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

 

 

An Long And Stressful Night

After the squall passed through, the winds went calm for a few hours. They picked up significantly at sunset, as predicted, and Scott decided to spend the night on anchor watch in the pilot house. We were confident in the Hulk, but wanted to keep an eye out for others who may come our way overnight.

I checked on Scott a little after midnight, and all was well. Just before 4am, the movement of the boat in stronger winds woke me up, and I went to check on Scott. He’d dozed off, so I woke him to ask how things were going. He said that our anchor was fine, and things seemed to be good. I saw something out of the corner of my eye, on our starboard side. It was the white hull of a catamaran, just off of our paravanes…not good! Scott looked to the port side, and there was a catamaran there as well! What are the chances that two boats began to drag at the same time, and came down either side of us?!? Thankfully, both had missed hitting us.

The catamaran off of our port side immediately started their engines, and began to move off….whew. The one off of our starboard, however, was not as quick to respond. Their anchor had caught, and they seemed content to try and stay there until it was light, which did not make Scott happy. We went out onto the cockpit, and saw them putting fenders out alongside their boat. I guess they were preparing for possible impact. Scott shouted for them to start their motors, and re anchor. We got a response in frenzied French…great.

Our paravanes were still out, and the French couple kept gesturing at them, and then talking to each other. We hoped that the threat of contact with the paravanes would urge them to start up and move away. Suddenly, their anchor let loose, and they were adrift again, heading quickly for our neighbor behind us.

We hailed Barry, on Sea Swift, to let him know about the possible threat. The catamaran didn’t have an anchor light on, so it was nearly impossible to see them coming (an even bigger pet peeve for Scott). Scott hesitated for a second, in case we’d wake him, but Barry instantly responded to our vhf call, and I realized that no one in the anchorage was sleeping at this point. Finally, the catamaran started their motors and moved to re-anchor. Both boats ended up ahead of us, but stayed put for the rest of the night.

I was now continually scanning our area of the anchorage through binoculars, for any boats that had come loose. Not long after the catamarans cleared out, I spotted a sailboat coming through the anchorage beam-to (sideways) at a fast clip. It’s scary to see a boat coming through at a fast pace, with those aboard scrambling like mad to raise anchor and regain control before hitting someone or running aground. The boat was headed for another one of our neighbors, and Scott hailed Lucky Seven to warn them. Again, we received an immediate response; everyone was definitely awake and on high alert. The people aboard the moving boat regained control, and headed off to another part of the anchorage.

By now, it was nearly dawn, and we were thankful that the coming daylight would make it easier for us to see anyone drifting our way. Just as the skies were becoming light, our “friend” from the squall appeared, dragging beam-to through the anchorage. They’d been anchored up ahead of us, and held all night in the strong winds, but had now let loose and were heading for our friends on Skylark.

They missed hitting Skylark, thankfully, but snagged their anchor. Reacting in a flash, Ed tied a buoy to his anchor line,  so that he could locate it later, and then cut it loose. The dragging boat, which now had Ed’s anchor and the cut line tangled with it, moved past Skylark without further incident. Having to go back for an anchor later is much better than colliding with a boat, or being drug along with it; incredibly fast thinking on Ed’s part!

Unfortunately, our next neighbor was not so lucky. The boat was still moving along, beam-to (again, sideways) and was headed right for Calcutta. Igor is alone on the boat, and had gone down to try and sleep, after having been up all night. He was awakened by a jolt from the impact of the dragging boat. The couple on board had been asleep as well. They were now awake, but doing nothing to help the situation. Calcutta is much smaller, and the two boats were now tangled together. Igor went below, and appeared again with a sizeable board, that he used to try and dislodge himself from the lumbering boat that was now caught on his bow pulpit.

Ed, on s/v Skylark, got into his dinghy and went to help. He ended up pulling the man from the dragging boat out of the water, who had jumped in for God knows what reason, and could not get back on his boat. Still caught, Calcutta was now dragged along with the larger boat into a third boat on a nearby mooring. The two slid along the third boat, and with the help of Ed, and Kevin, from Lucky Seven, Calcutta finally managed to free itself. The dragging boat had finally started their motors, and again raised their anchor to relocate.

The winds were still whipping, and now poor Igor had a mess to deal with. He’d cut his second anchor line, in an attempt to get free of the dragging boat, but his primary anchor ended up tangled around the line of the moored boat. By now, our neighbor Rick, from Angel Eyes, had come to help as well. He got on board with Igor, and Kevin stayed in his dinghy, and they finally managed to get the anchor free, up, and back down again in a new spot.

It upset Scott that he was not able to go and help Igor. We’d loaded the Aluminum Princess onto the flybridge for the coming weather, in case we had to move quickly or pull the anchor. The motor for our inflatable dinghy is not nearly powerful enough to maneuver in the strong winds. However, since our pilot house sits higher above the water, and we look through glass rather than canvass, we hoped that it helped to be able to warn others.

As all of this was going on, another boat was dealing with a medical emergency. There was confusion on the radio as to how serious it was, but eventually it was understood that the man was having a heart attack. The dinghies nearby were helping Igor on Calcutta, and were unaware of the situation. Another cruiser, at a marina in the lagoon, lowered his dingy and sped toward the anchorage. In the meantime, Elizabeth on Skylark alerted one of the dinghies with Calcutta, and Kevin sped over to assist. After a trip to the local clinic, and then a transport by ferry and ambulance to the hospital in Cancun, it was determined that Harold had experienced angina. He was back aboard his boat and doing well later that afternoon.

It was by far our most stressful evening yet. We finally have confidence in our anchor, and Scott’s placement of it and of our chain, but in a crowded anchorage, we are always worried of others dragging. It is maddening to strain through binoculars into the blackness, constantly scanning for each anchor light, making sure that everyone is still in place.

By the next evening, the winds had subsided a bit, and everyone’s anchor had stayed put for the day, so Scott abandoned the pilot house for our bed. We brought the iPad with us. Scott uses it to plot our anchor and it’s swing. It has become his “wooby” at night. We checked it several times throughout the night, and I did a few quick scans in the pilot house, but all was quiet. We, and the rest of the fleet, enjoyed a good night’s sleep. I think we’ve all earned some flat-calm!

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

An Eventful Squall

It seems as if we are constantly contending with wind and weather fronts. The most recent predicted winds to shift from southeast to north, with a chance of squalls (thunderstorms, why does everything nautical have to have it’s own language?), and blow at in the low 30 knot range for a day or so. This was far from the worst we’ve seen, but it definitely proved to be dramatic.

We saw the skies change, felt the winds picks up, and prepared for the squall that was most likely coming our way. It didn’t take long for the thunder and lightening to kick in, and then the winds hit with a bang. An abrupt, 180 degree shift sent 40 knot winds whipping through the anchorage.

There have been several new arrivals here over the last week, as people start to make their way toward various spring and summer destinations. Some are waiting for weather to head for Cuba and Florida. Others, like us, plan to make their way south, toward Honduras, Guatemala and Panama. These boats haven’t been through a big blow here, and are unaware that the bottom here in on the softer side. Strong, sudden shifts in the wind can jar an anchor loose without warning.

So back to the squall. As soon as the winds shifted, some of our new neighbors started to drag anchor. Unfortunately, one of them headed right for our bow. Scott immediately turned our motor on and put us in reverse, moving back as far as he could without having to re-anchor. The boat continued to come at us. It had no name on the transom, so we were unable to hail them on the vhf. This is a huge pet peeve for Scott, as it makes situations like this more difficult and dangerous. He went out on the bow and shouted at them to start their motor, and avoid a collision. The couple on board just stared at him blankly. Scott’s reaction…@!#%!!

The squall passed, and the boat finally started their motor, but only to stop just ahead of us. Their anchor wasn’t set, and they drifted back toward us again, again just missing our bow. Scott assumed they may have been thinking the squall was all that was expected, and that things would settle. He went back out onto the bow, and shouted to them that the front was still coming, and that strong winds would blow for another 24-30 hours. The man looked at Scott and said, “Well that ain’t good!”

After almost drifting into us again, and with some “persuasion” by Scott, they finally started to raise anchor, still drifting just off of our bow. After what seemed like hours, they slowly started to moved away, but veered in the direction of where our chain laid below. The boat’s anchor was still down in the water as they moved along. Scott was terrified that it would snag our chain as they passed over it, drag it with them and dislodge the Hulk. Thankfully, they missed our chain, and moved off toward the other side of the anchorage. Crisis averted.

In the meantime, our friends on Skylark dealt with their dragging anchor immediately, starting the motor and keeping the boat into the wind as they found better holding. Ed then put a second anchor out for additional strength. It’s a shame that the boat we dealt with wasn’t as quick to act.

Here’s a video of our encounter with them. We cut the 20 minute footage down to about three, so you can get the idea. You can see them come toward us, by the grace of God pass of of our bow, completely turn around and come back at us before finally moving away.

 

Once again, I’m singing praises for the Hulk! It held fast through the squall without a blip. This is getting to be old hat for the beast!

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

More Wind, And Two Close Calls

The winds picked up again last weekend, and we are now on day eight of strong winds, this time from southerly directions. Fortunately, the Hulk continues to keep us put, but there is always worry about another boat  dragging anchor, and hitting you along the way.  We had two close calls this week, with the same boat!

Unfortunately, most of the boats here do not light their anchor lights at night. This is both frustrating and scary for us. It makes it virtually impossible to see the boats at night. During strong winds, you may not see someone who has come loose and is dragging toward you. Or, if you’re the one dragging,  you cannot see that you may be about to hit another boat. It’s just as frustrating for us to come back through the anchorage on the dingy at night. By the time you see a boat, you’ve usually come to close for comfort.

A 38′ steel sailboat from Germany arrived on Sunday, after a passage from Honduras. It anchored ahead of us, just before sunset. The winds were consistently in the low 30 knot range, so Scott spent the night in the pilot house, checking our position (which I think insults the Hulk, but you can never be too safe) and scanning the anchorage through binoculars (which throws a bit more light onto the area).

Just after midnight, the newly anchored boat let loose and started to drift back quickly. She missed us by 15 feet, which was way too close! Scott lost sight of it, as the south winds pushed her toward the north end of the island.

However, she was back the next morning, again anchored ahead of us. With the winds still at their strongest, Scott spent another sleepless night in the pilothouse. Again, the boat broke loose, and at about 3am she missed us by 12 feet! After Scott restarted his heart, he watched the boat drag back and get stuck aground on the snorkel area behind us.

The next morning, five dingys descended on the boat, and made several attempts to free her from the shallow water. There appeared to be way too many chiefs, and few Indians in the group, so Scott stayed put. They managed to free her for a minute, but the anchor wasn’t up in time, and it got stuck hard on something below. We saw someone go into the water to try and free it, but he had no luck. The anchor was cut loose, with a float to mark where it was, for more retrieval efforts later.

Finally,  the poor boat was pushed and pulled free, and the fleet of dingys dispersed back to their boats. As she made her way past us, Scott cringed at the thought of her anchoring anywhere near us again. Thankfully, she made her way back to the lagoon, which is a bit better protected from wind.

We found out later that on night number two, the two girls who arrived on the boat weren’t even aboard. They had spent the night aboard another boat, which made Scott livid. Had they stayed in the anchorage near us, I’m sure that he would have confronted them about being so careless. I was grateful that they’d headed for the lagoon.

Thankfully, the strongest winds have passed, and Scott is back to getting a full night’s sleep.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”