Running on Empty
29 January 2018 | Zihuatanejo
January 27, 2018
After twenty days of hard work (Jay's hard work), the boat was ready for the two hundred-mile trip to Zihuantanejo. Our friend, Don Lehman, had flown in from California to join us for this leg. Provisioning was done. Mild winds were predicted for the next few days. We all agreed, we would leave Thursday, the 25th of January.
Thursday morning, Jay was already out of bed when I heard a strange sound. "Is that rain?" I yelled up to him. "Yup." Minutes later, all three of us sat slumped in the cockpit.
"Rain? Really?" Jay looked at me. "In five seasons, how many times has it rained? Twice?"
"And the weather report this morning says this system could sit over top of us for days." I added.
Now we were feeling like a black cloud was hanging over us and not just literally. It wasn't the rain, necessarily. After all, we had sailed happily under rainy conditions in the Pacific Northwest. It was just so many things went wrong/broke on our way down to Barra we were beginning to wonder if this was some kind of omen; maybe we shouldn't make the trip, after all.
Neither Don, nor I, wanted to pressure Jay. He was worried we would be disappointed. We talked it through and decided that if we didn't leave we could still have a great time in and around Barra. I could visually see Jay's body language change. (These decisions of when to go, or not go - especially when other people and schedules are involved - are incredibly difficult. Don flew in for this. His wife, Bobbi was to meet us in Zihuantanejo and I was committed to writing an article about Sailfest for Cruising Outpost. Everyone was dressed up and ready to go. And then someone has to make the hard decision and it ultimately falls on the captain. A lot of pressure.) Our hesitation only lasted about an hour, though. The sun came out, Jay asked us if we were comfortable leaving. "Our first leg is only 25 miles, Jay. We can always come back. Take it one day at a time." Don agreed. "Okay then, let's go." We untied the lines and off we went.
Our first stop was Bahia Santiago. It is a large, beautiful anchorage that lies next to the even larger shipping port of Manzanillo. We settled in for a relaxing night with incredibly calm seas.
Friday morning came early. Our plan was to leave at 4am so that we could arrive at Isla Grande in daylight. It would take us approximately 36 hours (190 nm) and we would anchor around 4pm Saturday afternoon. I had set the alarm for 3:15, but being anxious, woke up at 2am.
It was pitch black as we left the bay. Jay and I took turns navigating by radar, while Don, and whoever was not on the helm, peaked over the dodger, using every set of eyes on deck. We passed an anchored freighter on one side and a set of rocks on the other. We slowly moved out while dodging another freighter as it came into port. Boy, are they big! Our new friends, Tod and Donna on Single D, were right behind us. It was comforting to know there would be another boat within radio contact on our trip down.
The sun came out at 7:30 and we had an easy motor-sail for several hours. The ocean has many moods and the wind knows just how to stir her up. I can honestly say, after our Mr. Toad's Wild Ride on the way down to Barra, I was thankful for little wind and flat seas. Around 1:30, the wind arrived and we had a nice sail with 17 knots. I was on the helm and with the sails trimmed just right, Cadenza took off like the thoroughbred she is. Things calmed down by evening. As the sun set, we saw the moon was already right above us. It was three-quarters full and illuminated the sea for several more hours. Around 1am, the moon set and the sky lit up with thousands of stars. The seas were calm. Just beautiful.
It seems no leg of any one trip can go without at least one mishap. Two miles out from Isla Grande, we began to prepare for anchoring. We dropped our sails. Jay turned off the auto pilot to find out we had no hand-steering. Hmm. Slight, quiet panic. He quickly discerned that it probably was lack of hydraulic fluid. Good news/bad news. A possibly easy fix, but to get to where we fill it, we had to partially disconnect our electronics on the binnacle. Don and I assisted Jay. Fifteen minutes later we were back up and running.
Sleep-deprived and a little shook up, we decided to skip Isla Grande and headed straight for Zihuatanejo. On the way there, a humpback whale appeared just off our beam. Right then, she jumped clear out of the water, did a full circle and splashed into the sea! Woo-Hoo! Welcome to Zihuat.
It is 5:30 and we are anchored safely in Zihuantanejo after 37 hours. We are surrounded by mountains. Tall buildings are perched along the hills. The bay is full of boats, both power and sail. The wind has died down and the sun still burns against my skin. No matter which way I turn I can't escape it. It is 91 in the cabin with 70% humidity. Sweat pours down my face. My hair is coated with salt and no amount of brushing helps. I haven't showered in three days. Needless to say, I'm a bit grumpy. Jay asks me what is wrong. "Look, we're here. It's beautiful. It's just what you wanted." He is baffled by my mood.
"I know, I know. It's just so hot." I am grateful. Truly, I am. I think I just need a shower and some sleep.