Adios El Salvador
22 February 2017
Once again, happily, the crossing over the sand bar was a non-event.
We left with two other boats, Pelican Express and Just Passing Wind. They are sister ships and they are bigger than us so they left us behind after a while. It was fun cruising with other boats though and I hope we do more of that in the future.
It felt so good to be back out on the pretty blue ocean. We threw all the sails up and not long after we took off, we had the engine shut down and were cruising along with a sweet beam reach which took us all through the day and night on 11-15 knots of wind, 130 miles in one day is a record for Uhuru ☺ We did have a nice current running with us which helped us out. Great day of sailing but something funny happened at night, well funny and scary.
This night, it was dark because there was no moon, so when our radar alerted us that our one mile of radar safety happiness had been invaded, I became a little distressed.
As I wrote before, we have two radar guard zones at night, which are basically rings around our boat. We set one up at 5 miles and the other at 1 mile. It had been discussed previously that if another boat comes too close to us, that one should wake the other up, so that's what I did. You might ask, why didn't you see the red blob when it entered the 5-mile zone and take evasive action? Well because radar can't always see the little panga boats very well, but it knows it's there. So when you're alarm goes off and you can't see the offending blob, you think, ok I'll keep my eye on it but it might have just been sea clutter (a breaking wave, an animal...) Anyway, when the radar alert went off for zone 2 (1 mile) the offending red blob was positioned directly in our path.
I had been deviating off our course, to port/left, because our chart plotter & my backup phone app was showing an "Obstruction", very close to our course, in a little circle and I had no idea what it was. The paper chart said it was a really deep area. We were already in 400 to 750 feet of water. How could that be an obstruction I asked myself?
We were still under sail and the wind was almost completely behind us so I couldn't turn much more to port without jibing the boat, but I sure as hell wasn't turning toward the "Obstruction". How to avoid the approaching blob? It would be close. We kept looking at the radar, me on deck steering manually and Brian watching the screen below. Brian came on deck to get a visual but it was just blackness. The blob had no lights. At one point, I asked Brian if he would stay on deck so that I could check the paper chart (sometimes I just want to see our position on paper). He responded thus "No. I don't want to stay on deck because I'm naked and I'm not wearing a life jacket". A completely reasonable response, I mean, after all, who wants to run into something when you're completely naked? We are always tethered when traveling at night so of course one of us alone on deck without harness or lifejacket at night is a definite breach of basic safety practices.
We eventually worked our way past it. We never saw what the blob was. No doubt, it was a fishing boat with no lights, wouldn't be the first time and I'm sure it won't be the last. It was just as likely a tree or some other debris in the water of some kind. So much easier, if you are motoring, just stop the boat and get a grip. It's a little more complicated to stop the boat, if you are sailing.
I still kinda chuckle though whenever I think about Brian's response.
Also, if anyone cares to research the "Obstruction", here are the coordinates. Feel free to share. N12.24.601 W88.16.992