“Mama Said There’d Be Days Like This...”
15 February 2019
So, to keep things real about the cruising life, I thought I'd share my personal experience of Wednesday's long haul and overnight voyage north to Puerto Vallarta.
We left Barra de Navidad, heading north on Tuesday to go just 20 miles north to Tenacatita, a beautiful calm bay and cruisers' haven.
Our plans were to head another 30 miles north on Wednesday to Bahia Chamela, where we hoped to meet up with our New Zealand friends, Colin and Marion on SV Avant Garde. We first met Colin and Marion in Canada almost two years ago, when we sailed Pinocchio in the PNW and Canada; Then we visited them at their home port in Russell, New Zealand last year. When they returned to Avant Garde in SF Bay, we reunited yet again. Present time, Pinocchio and Avant Garde are both off mainland Mexico. Pinocchio heading north and Avant Garde heading south. We all looked forward to sharing stories over cold beers in Bahia Chamela.
Sometimes the best-laid plans are not to be. On Wednesday morning, 0800 hrs, David checked the weather forecast for ten days out, for our trip further north to Puerto Vallarta. Wednesday/early Thursday looked the the "ONLY" time to round Cabo Corrientes, a fearfully respected point of land, rightfully named for it's rough water and confused currents. Add a strong northerly winds to the equation, and you've got yourself a challenge. David started to sing "It's Now or Never" as we got underway!
We had to make a difficult decision: Do we make a quick stop at Bahia Chamela to say hi and have a cold one with our dear Kiwi friends, losing the window to round Corrientes which would mean waiting 7-10 days for another window, or do we continue on north for the overnight haul. The nice morning southerly made the call for us, continue on. "It's Now or Never"... So Pinocchio and Avant Garde were two ships literally "passing in the day" off the coastline of Bahia Chamela. We enjoyed a conversation over VHF radio as we passed each other, starboard to starboard. We know we will see each other again, date and place unknown. Kindred spirits, we sailors are!
I was suffering from a bad cold and was dreading being offshore for an overnight voyage, already feeling a bit compromised. Early in the day we had the combination of southerly winds and northerly swells, which made for choppy sea and a pounding ride north. I started to feel seasickness coming on. Great! Look at the horizon, take deep breaths, don't think about it. The visit of playful dolphins and two large, green beautiful sea turtles distracted me for a bit. What I really wanted to do was sleep off this chest/head cold as I had no sleep the night before, coughing my brains out. Neither did David for that matter, because my restless night and coughing kept him awake too.
It became apparent that I was going to be useless on this overnight, upwind haul. Poor David. He pretty much sailed singled-handed and took care of me. The hot hot sun added to my discomfort. As we had sails up, there was no awning protection in the cockpit from the sun and heat. I finally went below and lied down on the sole of the cabin. When you are seasick the lower the better to feel less motion; however, you still feel the motion pushing into steep seas. It was a bucket in the end that I hugged while kneeling on the cabin's floor. I'll spare you the gory details.
By now, we were motoring, as the winds were now from the north, right on Pinocchio's nose! The seas had flattened down some, so at least we weren't bashing our way up. David said the night sky was pretty, with stars and partial moon. I wouldn't know because I spent the whole night face down in a bean bag pillow with a fleece blanket over me while lying on the cockpit seat. My head hurt, my eyes hurt, I couldn't breathe; David was on watch the whole night.
We rounded Cabo Corrientes a little after midnight. Inside Banderas Bay, 0200 hrs., David needed a break from a watch of the whole day/evening before. Feeling exhausted, but not seasick anymore, I took the helm watch for a couple of hours, giving him a much needed break. In the distance off to starboard, I saw some navigation lights. A red light up high and a white light. I The vessel appeared to be either adrift or at rest, as I could see the red light bobbing from side to side. I wasn't sure if it was a panga or a sailboat. As I got closer, I realized it was a sailboat, with offshore navigation lights on. I still assured myself that I was clear and that I would overtake it starboard to port. I even deviated course by 20 degrees to port for extra assurance. The sailboat was not on AIS, so I couldn't see its course. I wasn't sure if anyone was at the helm. All of a sudden I was looking at its starboard side and heading directly for it! I hated to wake up David, but I yelled out loudly for his help. He was still trying to orient himself. I had to act fast. Within seconds I changed course about 90 degrees, nearly missing a collision. "Tiller towards trouble"! Thank you Grace! Grace was a 420 (dinghy) sailing friend of mine out of Pt. Richmond Yacht Club, who died suddenly and much too young. She shared that helpful sailing phrase with me one day when she and I were sailing a 420. "Tiller towards trouble" she said avoids near miss collisions when racing dinghies. Grateful for knowing such a beautiful person and great sailor. Back to the near miss, I'm still not sure what exactly happened. Was it adrift? Or was it motoring without anyone at watch? Did I read the lights wrong? I'm still asking myself, what could I have done differently to avoid such a close call. Anybody out there got any ideas?
By 0630 Thursday, 125 nm later, we made it just outside Paradise Village Marina in Puerto Vallarta. We waited until 0800 hours to go in the channel and check in at the marina. I have to tell you, stepping on terra firma felt great for both of us. Although, I was still not feeling well. David realized how sick I was when I didn't head for the showers immediately, something I always do when we reach a marina with showers.
We both realized it was Valentine's Day. David is my sweet Valentine. He took tender care of me when I was seasick and totally useless as crew. I love him and owe him big time! Hmmm...cookies!
Although my experience wasn't a life or death situation, cruising is not always smooth sailing and comfortable. I am a bit concerned about the real "Bash" back up Baja in June. David is too. We will see. For now, we are enjoying Puerto Vallarta, look forward to heading north to the Sea of Cortez where we will spend a few months.