We had a nice stay at San Evaristo. On Thursday it was blowing pretty damn hard through the anchorage. Everyone but us moved over to the north lobe where they could get out of the wind a little better. But we knew our anchor was holding like a big dog and there was absolutely no sea action to speak of so we stayed put. We’d put the dink in the water the evening before and then, on Thursday we decided to go in to shore to drop off garbage and get a few fresh provisions if the tienda had anything interesting.
With the wind blowing the direction and strength that it was, we had a very fast ride into shore. We landed near the (closed) restaurant and tried to talk to a local about dumping garbage. He gave us absolutely no slack by maybe talking a little slower*, but we sort of communicated. We knew from previous visits that the garbage was dumped in an open lot across the “street” behind the restaurant. However, we didn’t want to just presume so we decided to ask this guy about dumping garbage. He informed us that there was no place to dump it and went into a long explanation that neither Lulu or I could understand. He spotted our bag of crushed aluminum cans and offered to take them. Of course, he’ll sell them for the price of the aluminum so it’s unclear who was doing who a favor. However, since we were on a positive note at that point, I asked if we could dump garbage if we paid to do so. He said some more stuff that again, we couldn’t understand, but basically offered to take our garbage and dispose of it with his own. I gave him 50 pesos which is what I’d planned to pay to dump garbage in the first place and everyone went away happy.
We tried to get back in the dink to head over to the store but that just wasn’t happening. The wind kept shoving us back ashore long before we could have gotten inside and gotten the motor started. Guess we could have rowed out far enough to gain a little set-up time but even that would have been something of a problem. However, what we could do was walk in the shallow water, towing the dink, around to where we would’ve landed to go to the tienda. From there it’d be a downwind trip back to Siempre Sabado. And so we did and it worked out just as planned.
At the tienda we found fresh avocados and tomatoes for a batch of guacamole, some pasilla peppers to go in the coleslaw, some bananas for Lulu’s breakfast (I still have pineapple), and a few pears. We also got three 6-packs of beer. So much for living off the fat of the boat but you’ve got to get it while you can.
Long about midnight on Friday (maybe earlier), the wind dropped to nothing and we slept very peacefully the rest of the night. We were unsure about our plans to leave although we were pretty sure there were supposed to be some decent winds coming by Sunday. If the dink had already been onboard, we would have seriously considering leaving when the wind died at midnight but, it’d been too windy to put it back aboard earlier in the evening and I didn’t really want to do it in the dark. Could have, just didn’t want to. The 15-20 knot winds forecast for Sunday were predicted to be out of the N-NW, which would have effectively keep us in San Evaristo until they blew out if we didn’t get out before then. We’d been getting conflicting weather predictions, at least as far as wind direction goes. Everyone except Geary said that we’d get 5-10 knot winds out of the W-NW on Friday. Geary was alone in predicting SE winds. I wanted to wait until I heard his updated weather report before deciding what to do.
I got up on Friday about 6 AM. There was only one other boat still in the anchorage at that time. The other 4 had split. There was zero wind and the seas were very calm. Still, I wanted to hear the weather predictions before we made any move. Unfortunately, they don’t start rolling in until 7 AM and Geary’s report runs from 7:45 to 8:00. After listening to the nets, nothing had really changed. Everyone except Geary was calling for light NW-N winds Friday and Saturday and strong NW winds on Sunday and continuing into Monday, at least. Geary’s prediction was basically the same except that he called for light SW winds on Friday. Geary, by the way, is the only weather report I get that isn’t simply a computer model. He actually does some interpreting of the data.
The predicted weather kind of ruled out stops at Isla Santa Catalina or Monserrat as neither is recommended in the case of a good blow out of the north. Not crazy about any of the anchorages between San Evaristo and San Marte anyway but, definitely not if it’s going to blow. So, what to do, what to do?
We finally came up with two different plans. Plan A was to leave on Friday at about 2:00 PM and go overnight all the way to Puerto Ballandra on Isla Carmen, arriving sometime Saturday. Then hunker in for the blow. Plan B was to get up early and leave about 4:00 AM on Saturday morning and go as far as San Marte and then hunker in there. After careful analysis of the pros and cons of both plans we finally opted for Plan A. So, we started to get everything ready for a 2:00 PM departure. Of course, being who we are, we were underway promptly at 10:45 AM. A mere 3.25 hours early or, as we on Siempre Sabado like to say, “right on schedule!”.
We used to use 4 knots as our average speed when making passage calculations. We knew we’d generally do better than that but that gave us some leeway. Being sort of goal-oriented, I also knew that if our sailing speed dropped below 4 knots for very long, the iron jib would be fired up so the 4 knot figure was a pretty good one. However, ever since we left San Carlos in December, 2012, we almost never see 5 knots while motoring. It’s gotten so that I use 3 knots when calculating passages and hope we’ll average a little better than that. The only thing I can think that may have caused the change was that we installed a new prop in San Carlos. It was supposedly an exact duplicate of the prop that was already on Siempre Sabado and, to my totally untrained eye, it looked just like a newer version of our old prop. I bought the new one in Oregon at a reputable prop shop. Ordered it based on the Westsail specs. I suppose it’s possible that our old prop was replaced or re-pitched when the new, bigger, engine was installed back in 1990. Anyway, I’m going to put it back on in San Carlos. Or maybe I should take both props to the shop when we go back up to Oregon this summer and see if there’s a difference and, if there is, get the new one re-pitched to match the old one.
Anyhow, I plotted a course to Puerto Ballandra on Isla Carmen and used 3 knots to figure arrival time. The San Jose Channel was a little swelly as we headed out but when we finally broke free, the swells got bigger but much farther apart making for a reasonably comfortable trip. We had a little bit of wind but it was right on the nose. Our speed was a disappointing 3 knot average until the tide shifted. We got up to 4.7 knots riding the flood until 10:00 PM or so.
Around 10 or 10:30, several things happened more or less at once. We made a major course change from more or less North to NW as we rounded San Marcial Reef and set a course for the pass between Isla Danzante and Isla Carmen. Next, the tide started to ebb, putting the outgoing current against us. Also, the seas began to get very close together. Finally, the wind started to blow out of the west with some force behind it. If it had been daytime, I would have at least rolled out the staysail. But since it was a moonless night and the autopilot was functioning perfectly in spite of the rough seas, I opted to take the path of least resistance and leave well enough alone. I have no doubt that our abysmally slow speed and our ride would both have improved with some sail up, I chose, once again, to just motor on. I have less doubt all the time that I would probably have been much happier with a motor vessel than a sailboat. But, I yam what I yam.
We had a really rough ride for at least 4 hours. At one point I debated with myself about going to Bahia Salinas instead of Puerto Ballandra since it’s better protected from W and NW winds. I even plotted the course. However, I procrastinated making the turn since there was no big hurry to change course and because that would have put the seas right on our beam which would not only be even more uncomfortable, but would also probably result in me having to hand steer. Besides, on our present course, we were still getting the occasional face-full of sea spray. If we turned, we’d have a very wet ride indeed.
Around 2 or 2:30, as we neared Isla Danzante, the seas settled down and the wind speed dropped way off. As we got closer to the pass between the islands, it suddenly occurred to me that, maybe the reason the conditions had improved was because we were now in the lee of Danzante. Might be a more global reason but the “lee of the island” theory was still a good one. So, now what? If my “lee” theory was right, as soon as we got through the pass we were gonna get spanked again. Also, if there was still a west wind, Puerto Ballandra was going to be a crappy anchorage since it’s wide open to the west. Also, in thinking back to when we’ve ridden out northers in both Ballandra and Salinas, Ballandra was, by far, the rougher ride at anchor. So, I once again altered course for Bahia Salinas. The course change was totally undramatic now that conditions were tamed down so much. So, at around 3:30 AM, I finally turned in for a couple hours of sleep, leaving Lulu to take us the rest of the way in.
By 6:45 AM, we were anchored in 14′ of water on 90′ of chain in flat, still water with only a hint of a breeze out of the NW. There was a trawler anchored when we got here but they were gone by the time we finished breakfast, leaving the anchorage empty except for us. Of course, it’s still very early in the day. We plan to stay here until the predicted blow is over.
*An aside about our Spanish skills. I swear there’s some kind of conspiracy going on. Lulu and I watch “Destino’s” every night. Sometimes we watch the same episode a couple times until we’re pretty sure we’ve gotten it. We also attended all the cultural talks at Se Habla La Paz when we were in LP. We can generally understand pretty much everything that’s being said in both of these venues. We start to feel pretty good about things. But then, as soon as a native speaker says anything to us, no matter how few words are used, we suddenly can’t understand ANYTHING! It’s like they’re using a completely different language than the Spanish-language programs are using. SO FRUSTRATING!