Update #16 – Boxed In?

Greetings all!

Well… In my last update I did say that I was leaving Ixtapa for Huatulco today, but that was before the BIG SURPRISE this afternoon.

As planned, my three crew-guys showed up last night, and we had a delightful dinner.

Today, we began work with a work list that was amazing in its shortness. In fact, we were chatting this morning about whether or not we could “knock out the list” and be on the golf course this afternoon.

But then nothing on the list turned out to be quite as easy as planned.

– Changing the oil on the generator turned into changing the oil, AND changing the fan belt

– Figuring out why the 25kw generator was refusing to pass power to the boat somehow morphed from being a simple breaker reset to replacing parts in the electrical panel

– Cleaning the sea strainers became a quest for a new sea strainer to replace the one that was destroyed by “crud”. It is amazing how fast crud grows in warm water, and how destructive it can be!

– Replacing a hose under the master stateroom shower became a quest for a fitting to match two different sized hoses – Putting away provisions became a trip back to the store for all the items that we forgot

– Getting fuel went smoothly, but involved moving the boat twice, because gas for the tenders was at one dock, and diesel for the mains was at another dock.

All of this represented a fairly typical day getting ready for a long passage.

The real surprise came when we were standing on the docks around noon, and started talking to some gentleman on a tender who happened to be tying off next to us. They recognized Jeff (my “rent-a-captain”) and dropped by to chat with him. They had taken the tender out to watch a boat enter the marina, and said it was wild. The boat, a 90 footer, had just barely made it in. They had stopped to chat with the captain and said he was still shaking when they spoke with him. Apparently, there were breaking waves barring the entrance to the marina!

From where we were standing on the dock, it was a perfectly clear, calm, virtually windless day. Their comments caught us completely by surprise. I had just read the report from my weather router, and his prediction was for a smooth trip, with not much more than a 2-3 foot swell.

Jeff and I jumped in the tender to have a look for ourselves.

The entry to the marina had surfable waves coming in! The waves weren’t breaking, but were easily six or more feet tall, and were directly blocking the entrance to the marina. When I entered the marina, there was a high swell, perhaps three to four feet, and it meant a tricky entry to the marina, but it was nothing like this. To be fair, I’ve never had to cross any of the “bars” at the entrance to marinas on the Pacific, such as the Columbia River, so I can’t say how this compared, but it definitely shocked me. This was outside anything I had ever experienced. Jeff wanted to see if we could get the tender through it, so we watched the waves, picked our time, and headed out. We breezed through, and Jeff said confidently: “Ken, we can do this.” We returned to the boat, and Jeff took his crew out to look at the entrance. The consensus was: “We can do this.”

At about 5pm today, I went to the Harbormaster’s office to check out of the marina. Elsa, the Harbormaster said “Why was I checking out?” I said we were leaving, and she said “No. The marina is closed.” I explained we weren’t leaving until tomorrow, and she said “No. The entrance to the marina is closed until probably Tuesday.” That was four days from now! This took a bit to sink in. “Closed?” I asked. “Closed” she responded. “Why?” I asked. “The swell” she responded. I asked about the dredging, and she said “No dredging. Too much swell.” This was not sounding good. We were boxed in! I asked if this was typical and she said “No. It is very rare, but it happens.”

Back at the boat I told Jeff we had a problem, and he looked at me like I was crazy. There was no wind, clear skies, and the water was flat. Jeff and the crew jumped in the tender, and went to look at the entrance. When they returned, Jeff had become a believer. “Ken. We’re not going anywhere. It’s really ugly out there.” If Jeff thought the entrance looked impossible to get through, I was 100% convinced I didn’t even want to see it. Jeff stopped to talk to his captain-friend who he had spoken with earlier, and said that the other boat had a full load of passengers (the owner and friends), who had just flown in today, only to discover they weren’t going anywhere any time soon. We are not alone in our predicament.

I hope that my comments do not discourage anyone coming to this marina. It’s a wonderful marina, and a wonderful place to be trapped. When everyone was looking depressed this afternoon I proclaimed “Hey – don’t worry about it! There are people who PAY to be here!”. I’m a little disappointed to be stuck, but it’s not that big a deal in the great scheme of things. It will be safe to leave here sometime in the next week, and when it is, we will go. In the mean-time, there is the beach, the golf, the restaurants, the sun, and all the “local culture” one could want. Life isn’t bad here, and Sans Souci is as comfortable as most five-star hotels.

We’re going to get up early tomorrow, and go look at the entrance again. The forecasts aren’t always right. If we can make it past the waves at the entrance, we’ll be in fine shape. The waves are only a problem right at the entrance. Once we’re out in open water, we’ll head south and be on to our next adventure. The others are more optimistic than I am. My worry is that the high swell, and breaking waves, have brought in several feet of sand. We only had a foot of clearance coming in. Who knows what clearance we’d have now?

More when I know more!

-Ken Williams Sans Souci,

PS Thank you to everyone who sent sympathies regarding my dad. I was overwhelmed by the tremendous response. All of the messages were heart-warming, and I’d include them here, but it doesn’t feel appropriate. That said, there is one message I’d like to pass along. Even though it’s quite short and simple, I like what it says: “I’m going to call my dad and invite him to lunch.” If your parents are still around, I think that is a great idea!

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Credits     |     Video produced by: Rock Steady Media     |     Teletype photo: Arnold Reinhold     |     PDP-11 photo: Trammell Hudson