Squall,typhoon or waterspout? I called it "hell"
01 March 2010 | La Cruz,MX
It started out like any other day. It was so calm outside actually, that me and the girls decided to soap up and go for a swim. The day was a little gray so we decided we would take it easy, do some schooling and maybe take the laundry up to the Lavanderia. We were anchored just outside the La Cruz harbor about 40 min (by car) north of Puerto Vallarta. We actually talked about leaving the following day and heading south.
The day had passed and the girls were tucked in for the night. Elias and I were watching Terminator 4, with some very loud special effects. We were not too alarmed when we saw lightning because there had been lightning for the past 4 nights.
I peeked out the window, "hey baby you should check outside here, it's getting pretty rolly."
He looked too and asked me to pause our show. He got up went across the salon and up the companionway. I heard quick footsteps up to the bow and the sound of our windless (he was letting out more anchor line) I got up from the couch and by the time I went into the cockpit, the boat began to heel over so far I felt like were at sea. Thunder and lightning was immediately on top of us and the wind went from about 5 knots to 75 knots in a matter of seconds. Elias came back into the cockpit, "Baby fire up the engine NOW!"
"Elias what's going on?"
"I think we might be in a hurricane!" he was out of the cockpit again...
At this time I could barely see out of our cockpit window because it was raining so hard, but I could see we were moving. Our anchor was dragging, despite our efforts to let out more rode. Other boats were also dragging. Since we have to warm up our glow plugs for 30-50 seconds before the engine will start I just stared helplessly out the window watching in horror as we blew past other bows and sterns. It was the longest 30 seconds of my life. I would later find out we were experiencing a severe freak squall and the winds reported were 100 MPH. I knew if I didn't warm the glow plugs our engine would not start and we would be done for. So, I counted to 30 slowly.
Elias was scrambling all over the place, doing everything he could to prevent damage to our boat and to try to secure the items we had stowed on deck.
"Sarah, whats happening!?" Kimberly was awake only moments after the blowing began.
"We are in a squall,honey" I could tell she was very alarmed.
"What should I do?!!!" She was starting to breathe heavy.
"Calm down. Go get your sister and get into your life vests and go into the cock pit,ok?"
As if she had woken up from a trance, she said "ok" and she was instantly calm.
We were all in the cockpit now and we were hurling towards the beach. Elias had the engine maxed out and was attempting to steer, but the winds were just too strong. The next thing we felt was a thud. We were aground. The boat heeled over hard and I had the girls in my arms just trying to stay on the high side of the boat. I could hear everything we owned crashing around inside. I was so sad. Elias looked at me and said, "We might lose her, baby..."
He then called in a mayday.
We thought if we did have to abandon ship, which we were not going to do unless we were up to our waists in water, at least people could come over to the beach to assist via land. About 10-15 minutes had passed. Boo was puking and Kimberly was trying not to. We were all soaked to the bone, just heeled over and wondering what would become of us, when all of a sudden, a wave came crashing up to the side of our boat.
We were free.
Elias had turned the engine off so we wouldn't suck sand into the impellor, so he immediately started it back up and he threw Stepping Stone into gear at full rpm's. We were making headway!!! Away from the beach! We were cheering and running below to check and see if we were taking on any water. We weren't. I could not believe it. Elias told me to drive away from the other boats, as far as humanly possibly, while he tried to rig up our spare anchor. It wasn't until that moment I realized we had lost ours and all the 200ft of chain that went with it. There were 2 huge shrimp boats on the very outside of the anchorage and Elias told me to head straight for them. I asked him if he had hit his head too hard during the grounding. He pointed out to me, that those big boats also had really big lights. He wanted to use them to pull out spare chain and rig up the other anchor. I guess that is why he is Captain. I must've driven 60 circles around those guys. It was so funny at one point because ALL the guys on the shrimp boats were out on deck with their arms crossed just watching us. They were obviously not experiencing the same difficulties we were.
Finally, Elias rigged up the anchor, we set it but the storm was still in effect. The wind had died down to 40 knots (still a lot) and we were rolling all over the place as we were trying to pick up some of the boat. We had talked to our friends from S/V Tynamara, they had also lost their anchor and now they would head into the marina. We asked them to give us a report when they got there. They came back saying we should definitely come in and settle on the dock for the remainder of the night.
The squall kicked up @ around 10:30 pm and was slowly dying down at 2 am. It was a very long night.
We did go into the marina, where things were relatively calm and we tried to put some things in order before going to bed around 3:30 am. Needless to say, we slept in and the following day took photos and assessed the situation.
We reported everything to our insurance company, including the loss of our dinghy, with engine, our surf boards, our wind generator...the list goes on and on.
We arranged to be hauled out in La Cruz and to get everything fixed. In the meantime, we stayed on a friends boat and went to work on copious amounts of paperwork for the insurance companies.
Boo and I were interviewed by Latitude 38 (you can find a full article online; 'Freak weather plagues sailors and sunbirds' ) and the whole family was photographed and interviewed by Cruising World. The 'storm tactics' issue will be in print this fall. I'll let you know. I never thought my 15 minutes of fame would be as, "the boat that ran aground-and then got off again." But, heh, could be worse.
The lessons learned and the way my family pulled together in this time of crisis, was a very priceless experience. Not to mention, while I was here in La Cruz I was offered a three-month job on a super yacht. So you see, some things are meant to be.....even though they are disguised as tropical typhoons