Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Pineapple Express

After the first little sprinkle, there was another then another.  As the sun was setting a light rain began to fall.  We hoped that the rain would be heavy enough to rinse off the layer of salt that covered everything on the boat.  There were little streams of muddy water running down the white decks as the rain washed away some of the dust we picked up in Turtle Bay.  The salty windows on the dodger were getting clear again.  The crew on a neighboring boat scrubbed the decks.  Another boat hung out the laundry for rinsing in the rain.

We were tired after getting little sleep before rising at 0330 that morning.  We ate dinner and went to bed.  Trisha was nervous after our Los Muertos experience.  She was up and down checking on the anchor and the weather conditions.  At 0100, we were awoken by heavy, heavy rain.  We peered out from the cover of the dodger and saw rain falling harder than we had ever seen.  The wind was still light so we tried to ignore all the noise and get back to sleep.

At 0400, it hit the fan.  The wind had clocked around to the unprotected side of the anchorage and piped up to twenty to twenty-five knots.  Four to five foot waves were rolling in and the boat was rocking up and down like a hobby horse.  The wind and waves were pushing us toward shallow water.  The boat anchored behind us was unusually close.  It must have come in during the night.  I turned on the instruments, went to the helm, and began studying changes in GPS position and the depth.  The boat behind seemed to be getting closer and the depth of water under the boat was decreasing.  We were dragging anchor and it was time to “get the hell out of Dodge”.

As the engine warmed up we planned our escape.  Thankfully, the sky had cleared and a nearly full moon provided light for our task.  Trisha took the helm and began to motor us away from the boat behind.  As the boat moved forward, the anchor chain went slack and we were at the mercy of the wind and waves.  The wind caught the front of the boat and blew it around ninety degrees to port.  Next a big wave came in and pushed the boat sharply over.  We were barely keeping control.  Trisha turned the boat back out to open water.  I made my way forward on the rocking deck to pull up anchor.  The snubber was cleared quickly, but I was only able to retrieve a small amount of chain before the windlass stalled under a heavy load.  I looked over the side to see the chain angling back behind the boat.  Trisha was doing a great job getting us out of the anchorage but the boat’s engine was pushing us forward while the windlass was trying to pull us backward to get up the anchor.  I went back to the helm and asked her to throttle back long enough for me to get the chain up.  The wind caught us again.  Back on the bow, I bounced and waited with the windlass switch in my hand.  Each time a wave rolled through, the bow would drop, the chain would slacken, and I would take up as much chain as I could.  It was a tedious process.  Finally, the anchor popped out of the sandy bottom and I quickly got it up and in the bow roller.  Time to go!

I raced for the helm not taking the time to tidy things up.  The dinghy was not tied down, but we were free to go.  We motored slowly out of the anchorage and into the wind and big waves.  It was so nice to put land and the other boats at a safer distance behind us.  With howling wind and building seas, we clawed our way out to sea waiting for daylight.  Trisha wouldn’t let me go forward to secure the dinghy.  We hoped it would hang on.  The boat came off the top of one big wave with a huge splash that covered the entire boat with sea water.  Damn, we just got everything rinsed off.

The hours passed and the sky began to brighten in the east.  At about 0600, we turned the boat with the waves and headed for La Paz.  Waves were breaking on the shoal as we navigated the tight and complicated channel.  Miraculously, the dinghy was still on board.  In my hasty work on the foredeck, the dinghy’s painter got caught in the bathroom hatch and under the door to the anchor locker.  It wasn’t going anywhere.

At 0800, we listened to the cruisers net on the VHF radio.  The weather segment of the broadcast focused on the previous night’s rain and the Pineapple Express system that had blown through.

Needless to say, we did not pause during all of this to take pictures!

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