Monday, April 28, 2003 Puerto Aventuras, Mexico.
|N 20 deg. 28′ 54″|
|W 87 deg. 13′ 29″|
We stayed 2 nights at Cayo Norte. There was quite a lot of wind and the anchorage was really rolly. It was yet another anchorage where the holding was very bad. It didn’t worry us all that much though because with the wind direction if we dragged we would slip right through the wide reef opening and be out to sea. Unlike the earlier anchorages where dragging would have us on the beach in short order. We expected to enjoy some diving there but it was quite wavy. We did dingy out to the reef and dove for a bit but the waves made it uncomfortable and the diving wasn’t spectacular. Much nicer further south. We went to bed early and woke up before 5am to start the next leg of our trip. This would be 105 miles to Puerto Aventuras. That is a lot of miles to cover in one day but we figured with all the wind we have been having and the current we expected to find from the golf stream we could make it in the one day. There was a break in the reef and a bay behind it at the half way point that we could into if we didn’t make good time but I really hoped we wouldn’t need it as the reef entry didn’t look all that easy and our charts didn’t agree where the reefs were.
When we took off at 5am there was all but no wind and the sky was very overcast. I had downloaded a weather report the night before that called for:
W OF 80W SE WINDS 15 TO 20 KT. SEAS
4 TO 6 FT.
ISOLATED SHOWERS AND TSTMS. SMOKE OCCASIONALLY REDUCING
VISIBILITIES BELOW 3 NM W OF 84W.
I guess the smoke is from burning of sugar cane fields in Honduras but it seemed weird. We have been out for a couple of days and the mind starts thinking was there a big volcanic eruption somewhere or what? I guess if there was a comet impact or a nuclear bomb the weather report wouldn’t have used the word “SMOKE” but you wonder when you are out there. The sky has been looking very strange for the last couple of days. Odd sunsets.
We put up all of our sail and motored out of the reef. Once we were outside and on course the wind was right on our beam and we were able to sail at 4 knots. With the current we felt that that was enough and shut down the engine hoping for more wind and current. After a few hours we got some more wind. We had a terrific morning sail with about 10 knots of apparent wind, moving through the water at 7 or more knots. Add to that as much as 2 knots of current push and our speed was 8.5 to 9 knots over the bottom. Birgitta wasn’t feeling too chipper with the seas so I sent her below where she could spend the day on a nice soft couch. I figured that we were making such good time that I could make the sail single-handed without a break with no problem.
This lasted until about noon when the overcast sky started to get down right menacing. It got so dark that it was uncomfortable reading my book on deck. The wind hadn’t changed but I got a bit concerned about the sky so I reefed the main. About when I returned to the cockpit the wind started to come around to the bow and freshen so I rolled up the jib. Then the wind really started to build and moved right on the bow, so I called Birgitta and started the engine. I intended to put a second reef in the main so it would be flatter and not slap around while we motored into the wind for a bit but when I got up there I decided that discretion was the better part of valor and dropped the main completely. I’m glad I did. By the time I got everything tied down the wind was over 40 knots and still building. Soon the wind was over 50 knots (in fact the wind instruments tracked a maximum gust of 53.5 knots or about 60 miles per hour). The sea spray was literally blinding. I had to ask Birgitta to get up and get me my scuba mask as I couldn’t keep my eyes open. The wind was blowing the tops off the waves and the droplets were stinging to the skin and eyes. Birgitta further challenged her sea sickness to bring me a t-shirt and a harness and tether. The boat was flopping wildly in waves from both the old wind direction and the new. Coming at each other about 160 degrees apart they would make little steep towers when they crashed into each other throwing all 35,000 lbs of Temptress around. The engine was unable to move the boat into the wind so I tried to hold a course about 50 degrees off the wind with the bow pointing offshore. It took the engine and the rudder full over to hold the boat in this position and it was more like heaving to then motoring as we were only making about 1.5 knots through the water. But it made the boat much more manageable. The worst of the wind lasted for about 15-20 minutes then the wind dropped to about 35 knots and the rain started. It rained like in Panama. And the lightning was much more violent then any Panama storm we experienced. One strike hit between 50 and 100 feet from the boat. It was really scary. I always expected the storm to only last a few minutes and be over as squall at sea should. The forecast only called for “ISOLATED SHOWERS AND TSTMS.”, nothing like this. This thing looked like a major front or a tropical wave. I was so glad that I had gotten a forecast before starting out that day. I understand that the Carribean has already had it’s first named storm of the season which was amazingly early and we have been away from good communication for a bit. I might have thought I was in the beginning of a tropical storm or hurricane with all the strength of this storm.
All in all it lasted for more then an hour. After that the wind clocked around to it’s former direction but blew at more like 25 knots for several hours and the waves were quite high and really confused. We might have made for our half way point but I didn’t want to try the reef entrance there with the big seas. I decided the best thing to do was press on to Puerto Aventuras. The current was building all the time and with the wind we were making 9 to 10 knots over the bottom with our jib alone. It looked for a while like we would make Puerto Aventuras by 5:30 pm. This was encouraging as the marina entry looked hairy in our guide book and I would appreciate the light of day to negotiate it. As the afternoon went on the wind calmed down and then all but died. I had to motor for the last 2 hours or so and didn’t arrive until just after 6pm. The sun had just set and things were confusing in the twilight. I called the marina but got no response on any frequency. Thankfully the cruisers on the boat Rima, who were in the Marina, picked up my call and described the entry to me. I decided to give it a try and we made it in but it wasn’t easy. I could see that some of the waves were breaking in the entrance so I came in quite fast to have good steerage. Just as we were in the narrowest part between a sea wall and a reef a particularly big wave came and broke under us. The boat wanted to broach, which would have meant hitting the reef or wall and wrecking the boat. I gave her full throttle and did a lot of fancy steering and was able to keep her on a mostly straight course. Once we got in we found out that some boats have been trapped here for days waiting for the entrance to be calm enough to chance leaving.
We tied up to a wall inside and had showers. Birgitta make a nice nourishing dinner for us and then we turned in very early. This morning we checked in and decided that we really appreciate being behind a sea wall and tied to something we can trust. We haven’t had a good anchorage with descent holding and flat water since Cay Caulker.
We plan on staying here a few days and take a short bus trip to Tulum, a Mayan site in the area. Then we will head north again to Isla Mujeres, our last Mexican port before heading back to Florida.