13 November 2011 | La Cruz De Huanacaxle
We all woke up early on Veterans Day. It was a big day 11~11~11 and Gene and our friend Kevin from S/V Albatross were loading up in Kevin’s car to drive it back to Texas. Gene was along for the ride and helping out with some of the driving. Kevin needed to return their car so they could continue south to Panama and then on to their home in Texas.
Once the “boys” were on their way, Kevin’s wife Lisa (also my closest friend here in Mexico) and I prepped Andiamo for a short trip back to the La Cruz anchorage from Paradise Village Marina in Nuevo Vallarta. We had been in Paradise Village for a few days rebuilding the head on Andiamo and a few other small repairs.
Lisa and I finish getting ready to motor out of the marina and then a possible sail. The engine starts up nicely and as it warms up I brief Lisa on our jobs while leaving the slip saving any other item for once out on the water, after all we are just out for a short trip in our back yard, very simple, very routine.
We got out of slip “E-something” without a hitch - motoring slowly since the tide is low and we want to be careful to stay in the channel and in deep water. Then once out to the entrance and breakwater I goose the engine for some added speed to maneuver over the incoming surge. And that’s when our engine dies…
Now I am going to take a moment to brag on Lisa. Lisa was one step ahead of me the whole time. However since I saved showing everything to here until later she was not in a position to do much but keep us off the rocks and in deep water, all of which she did a great job of.
So as the engine dies I call Lisa to the helm, and she keeps us heading straight while I try to prime and restart the engine, but engine continues to die at every attempt. After 4 tries, Lisa says she has lost steerage and needs a sail. So I attempt to get any canvas out I can and after what felt like both an hour and 2 seconds, I get the main up and we are turned around and headed back to marina. We had to turn around as the wind was in our face and short-tacking a 40,000 lb sailboat out a narrow channel entrance was out of the question. As I think of going below to make a call to the marina, Lisa has her son Teagan call the marina and tell them “we are sailing in, no engine and taking first available slip on dock B”
Lisa stays at the helm since I know how to manage the rest and she turns Andiamo into the first available slip and we drop the main as quick as possible. The topping lift and mainsheet weren’t secure so the boom swings out and now we need to keep it from hitting the pilings on the dock. Now we are blind and going way to fast, (I estimate it somewhere between 2 and 42 knots). Lisa gets Andiamo in perfect position for me to get off and attempt to secure the stern line on a cleat, but Andiamo is going too fast for me to stop it and the line burns right through my hands. With now blistered hands, I give up on the stern line and run to the bow just to watch her hit hard and ride up on the dock. The bow hit perfectly between two bolts and broke through 2 pieces of wood and then just hung there on the bobstay chain plate. Thank God for the sacrificial wood on the dock and a strong Taiwanese built hull!
After the boat finally came to a rest, I burst into tears as I see what happened on my watch with Andiamo. Just then, the harbor master walks down the dock along with a few helpers and helps Lisa and the kids secure Andiamo to the pier. My hands are not burned nearly as bad as they feel like they were but there is no way for me to grab hold of any thing. The harbor Master says to leave Andiamo for the night and I walk away to call Gene.
Let it be known Gene took the news very well. He even was very helpful with some quick fixes for the engine. It turns out this particular engine we have runs better if the fuel tanks are turned ON! (yes I’m being sarcastic here). Remember when I mentioned earlier we did a “few other simple repairs”, one of those was replace the racor fuel filter and that requires turning the tanks off and then back on when finished. Very simple to overlook that last one.
We then had a few people “check out” Andiamo to make sure we weren’t putting a sinking boat in the water. Following the damage assessment, I open the fuel valves just like Gene suggested and the engine fired right up and ran like a champ. We then ran Andiamo in reverse and had to use some winches to crank her off the dock but we managed and we didn’t even chip the new bottom paint☺
We then secured Andiamo to the dock and ate a lovely dinner at the Vallarta Yacht club with the crew from Albatross and Ohana, who were also a huge help in getting Andiamo back off the dock and doctored up my hands too.
We stayed in Paradise until Sunday morning. I had gotten over my bruised ego and burnt hands and was ready to go back to La Cruz and set the anchor for a few weeks.
So here is what I learned
1. Come up with a fool proof plan for fuel. Ie a ribbon that you can’t miss that indicated you need to turn it back on or place engine ignition key around tank knob while fuel is off so you can’t start engine without checking if they are open.
2. Wear gloves when handling the lines of a heavy, fast moving boat!
3. If you have to sail in, attempt to burn off as much speed as possible before docking, don’t let the adrenaline rule you and rush it.
4. Consider putting an anchor out. I considered it but gave the idea up since the water was shallow, with potential surf breaks and rocks all around.
In the end there were no major injuries a lot of soreness and hurt egos but not too bad. Of course the armchair quarterbacks whose boats haven’t left the dock in years all had great suggestions on what we SHOULD have done and some of the suggestions were valid. But in the end, we handled the emergency as best we could and saved our home from being dashed against the rocks of the jetty or a potentially worse fate. All said and done, we have a slightly bent bobstay and a $200 bill from Paradise village Marina for the dock damage. I still second guess everything from that day but all in all it turned out not being as bad as it could have been. Lisa was so amazing and if I had anyone else with me I don’t know how it would have turned out.
With wounds licked and hands healed, we are now safely anchored in the La Cruz anchorage enjoying life on the hook once again.