Exhausted after a real thrashing
05 February 2015 | Santiago, Mexico
It's been quite a two days.
Two days ago, first thing in the morning, we left Zihuatanejo for a 200 mile trek North back to Manzanillo. There really aren't any good anchorages between the two ciites, so just as with our pleasant trek South, we planned one long leg. On the way to Zihua, the wind was light and we had between a half and three quarters of knot of current with us. It took us 32 hours to get to Zihua, not bad at all.
We knew it was going to be a longer trip heading North simply because of the current. Plus, the winds are generally from the North so we expected to experience light headwinds, on this trip. The weather forecast was very mild so we headed off.
The first 24 hours were as expected. Slower boat speed because of current, but nothing tough, expect the typical sleep depravation that comes along with overnight passages, especially short ones where the body doesn't have time to establish a new rhythm.
When were about 80 miles from Manzanillo, I could see a wind line approaching and was looking forward to a bit of sailing, or motor sailing. The wind quickly built to 15 knots and then to 20-25 knots. This was not forecast at all! Unfortunately, it was coming exactly from where we needed to go. We started sailing, but the tacking angles on cats, mine included, are extremely wide, making gains very difficult when sailing directly to weather. Instead of 90 degree tacking angles, ours are more like 120 degrees. Add in the strong current against us and we barely made any headway at all.
Add to this that the seas were really starting to stack up in this building wind with an unlimited fetch in these unprotected waters. In no time at all there were 4' to 6' seas, very closely spaced - a recipe for an uncomfortable experience in any boat!
We gave up straight sailing, tried motor sailing at tighter angles, and then gave that up as well, choosing to motor nearly directly into the seas. All my sailing friends know that this means that you will make forward progress, but at the expense of lots of crashing through the waves.
On Speakeasy, because we don't have a lead keel and the inertia that comes with that, we crash over the waves more than through them. The motion was extreme. The bow would pitch up at 45' as we crested a wave and then rotate quickly down into the following trough faster than could be believed. Both bows would often pivot completely underwater sending a wall of water along the deck and along both decks. It was dry in the cockpit behind the cabin and dodger, but we really hand to hang on. The pivoting was so fast that when I went to the bow to do some work, harnessed to the boat of course, I was airborne when the bow was on the way down. Since I have worked bow on many storms while was racing, I am quite used to being underwater when working up there, but the speed which which a catamaran pitches up and down in these conditions was amazing.
Inside the boat, it was extremely noisy as the waves slammed into the bridge deck underside. Surprisingly, it wasn't every wave, but when they hit, they hit so hard that you could feel the floor jumping upwards. At times I was worried about damage, but also thought that this going to happen again, so it will be a good test! It's a credit to cat designers that the interior doesn't come apart with such a pounding.
We kept this up for 9 very long hours as we inched our way closer to Manzanillo at 4 knots. I could have gone a bit faster, but kept the speed down to minimize the impact on the boat. We stood watch, slowing counting down the time and looking forward to milestones such as 50 miles to go, 30 miles to go, time to turn towards the harbour, etc. Keep in mind that, when the wind started we had already been underway for about 35 hours with not much sleep. This final trial as we approached our destination meant no rest and an awful pounding for both boat and bodies. If we were offshore, we would have probably just reached off or hove-to to get some rest, but with our destination so close and busy shipping lanes all around us, we just soldiered on in the building seas.
It was with great relief that we finally dropped the anchor in glassy Santiago Bay just after 2am last night. We left all the clean up of the sails and salt until this morning and just hit the sack. Sleep came easy as we both slipped into a deep uninterrupted sleep until mid morning.
Now, we've desalted the boat, put the sails away, re-arranged the items that flew around in the pantry, repaired a bit of damage, and fixed the chart plotter which decided to stop working just as we approached the busy port. We still feel like zombies and are looking forward to another good sleep.
Even though this was a relatively short trip, it is a good example of how much the lack of sleep combined with being in an insane carnival ride for hours on end can take out of you. The boat on the other hand, did a good job. Yes, the cat sucked at sailing upwind in these conditions as expected. But, when push comes to shove and the motor is put to use, it did a good job in some very tough conditions. Other than one handrail where the screws ripped out of the wood during one huge wave, it doesn't look like there is any other damage.
Ahh.... rest, internet, food, and beer. That's all that's on the agenda for the rest of the day