Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Barra de Navidad

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Friday, February 17, 2012

The Adventure Continues

After nearly six wonderful weeks in La Cruz we finally managed to pry ourselves away and set our sails again.  We decided to sail down to Barra de Navidad -- about 130 miles south -- and then spend the next few weeks hopping up through the anchorages back to Banderas Bay where my parents will fly in for a visit in mid-March.  The last two weeks were spent in the La Cruz marina working on a few long-overdue boat projects.  The wood has been refinished, the stainless polished, the deck waxed, and the bottom scrubbed.  Jean Marie is, once again, looking good. 

We untied from the dock on Monday for a day sail to Punta Mita where we anchored with our friends on Velella Velella and Marionetto, and were soon joined by more friends on Kist and Chrysalis.  Our last night in Banderas Bay was spent on the beach as we all dined potluck-style under a palapa.  After all the activity in La Cruz it was nice to get a couple sleepy days at anchor and time to say goodbye to friends.

We pulled up the anchor at sunrise on Wednesday and motored out of the bay as another humpback passed uncomfortably close to our port beam.  As we approached the cape the wind began to fill and we rolled out the jib and cut the engine.  We made our way south over the next 24 hours in increasing wind, mixed seas, and cloudy skies. 

As night fell I could see lightening on the western horizon as it lit up our sails and I found myself working hard to keep the right sail plan up -- reefing down, shaking out, rolling in, rolling out, jibe to port, jibe to starboard.  I was tired as we finally made our turn toward Bahia de Navidad early Thursday morning.  Sailing along in diminishing wind I spotted a tuna as it hit the surface near the boat.  A few minutes later I reeled in another Skipjack. I left the sails up as the wind began to fade until it finally shut down completely around 10:30 am.  Reluctantly, we decided to start the engine and motor the last 10 miles into Barra.

I noticed a strange noise coming from the rear of the engine the day before when we were motoring out of Banderas Bay.  Like the sound of car keys jingling when you shake your key chain.  I quickly dismissed it, thinking it was something metal in a locker rattling from the vibration.  Later that night I began to grow a little more concerned when I found a pool of transmission fluid under the engine.  No bueno.  So, when we put the engine in gear Thursday morning and nothing happened I felt an anticipated sense of dread.

Now what?!  We quickly assessed our options.  We could wait for the wind to fill in and try to sail into the bay and drop the hook.  And, we could put the outboard on the dinghy and tie it along side to power the boat if the wind died.  This seemed like a good plan but it was already noon, we were 10 miles from the anchorage, and we had no wind.  The thought of trying to get in after dark was unsettling to say the least. 

We decided to try to hail someone in the bay and ask about a towing service so we put a call out on VHF to any vessel explaining our situation.  This set the wheels in motion as we quickly got the port captain on the radio who contacted the Mexican Navy in Manzanillo to tow us in.  We were soon joined by two other sailing vessels, Distant Drum and Gallivanter, as they motored out to stand by and assist if necessary. 

We managed to get the dinghy and outboard in the water in the rolling swell and practiced maneuvering the boat.  Around 2 pm, with no sight of the navy boat, Gallivanter offered to take us in tow so we decided give it a try.  If it looked like there was too much strain we would abort and wait for the navy.  But after securing a line to both vessels they motored forward at three knots and we both seemed to be moving well in the calm conditions.  We slowly made our way toward the bay surrounded by a school of dolphins as a humpback completely breached in full view about fifty yards off our stern. 

Then the navy showed up.  I expressed my sincere gratitude as they snapped photos from the deck before slowly motoring away. 

There are two anchorages in Bahia de Navidad.  Turn left and you'll find an open and often rolly anchorage off the town of Melaque.  Turn right and you can make your way into a protected lagoon near the town of Barra de Navidad.  This was obviously a better place for us to be but it required winding through a breakwater entrance and down a long and narrow channel to a crowded anchorage. 

Marcus, the captain on Gallivanter suggested we anchor in the lagoon and offered to take us in using waypoints he'd already set.  He'd been there for a little while so was very familiar with the area.  I knew it would be easier to work on the boat in a protected anchorage so I, somewhat reluctantly, agreed to turn right.

Marcus showed a great deal of skill and confidence as he guided us into the lagoon.  Barra has a large cruising community and they all came out in dinghies to assist us.  Needless to say, we made a grand entrance into the anchorage as Gallivanter guided us into an open space in gusty winds.  We dropped the hook with three dinghies pushing us into place.  As we settled back on the chain we finally exhaled.  That was a long day.

Now the fun begins.  We have less than 4-weeks to get our transmission fixed and work our way back to La Cruz.  That may be a tall order in manana-ville. 

It's all part of the adventure.  That simple sentence has become our mantra.
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