Feb 18, 2009| 0 Comment

Tuesday, February 17th – Bahia de Chamela is the first really good anchorage one reaches after leaving Puerto Vallarta, rounding Cabo Corrientes and heading south along the Mexican Coast. When traveling north it is the last secure anchorage before heading back up around Cabo Corrientes to Puerto Vallarta. There is a small anchorage at Ipala that we stopped at on our way south to eat a fresh fish we had just caught. Although Ipala is a marginal anchorage, often with rolling seas, cruisers do use it in order to be in position for an early morning departure to get around Cabo Corrientes before the winds hit. Fortunately, winds are only forecast to be 10 – 15 knots today, so we are planning to stop in Ipala.

We are up early intending to motor out of the bay and head north for the 52nm trip to Ipala. At 0815, The Captain is delighted to see The First Mate dressed, on deck, at the helm with the engine running and ready to go. He goes forward and starts to pull up the anchor. The chain comes up a little and then stops dead. Motor is fine, but the chain will not budge. We are …..

STUCK! We are most securely stuck at anchor. Being hooked around some obstacle down below was not part of his plans. We realize that it is not the anchor that is stuck but that the anchor chain is caught on something, as we have far more anchor chain still out than the depth of the bottom. For well over an hour, we twist and turn Avante in a circle pulling at various angles hoping to free the chain, but nothing is budging other than The Captain’s rising frustration. Donning mask and flippers, he dives into the water. We are anchored in over 40 feet of water, and there is no way that The Captain can free dive to that depth. Still, he is hoping to be able to get deep enough to see something. Then we might know which way to maneuver Avante. No luck. After days of high winds, the water is murky, and his ears protest long before he can get deep enough to see any details on the sea bottom.

What to do? Of course, one could always cut the chain and leave the anchor down there. We do have another anchor we could use. However, this is no ordinary anchor stuck down there. It is a stainless steel 60-pound anchor with a retail value of 3 to 4 Boat Units. For the uninitiated, a Boat Unit equates to $1,000 and is a common expression used when one is trying to absorb or rationalize the cost of anything on a boat. Thus, that simple piece of forged metal stuck down there originally cost between $3,000 to $4,000. It is not something one casually gives up on.

Greg James radios over from Sirius to ask what our problem is. They had expected us long gone by now, and seeing us motoring in circles with The Captain at the bow working the anchor controls, they suspected a problem and were asking if they can help. Greg volunteers that he has a dive tank onboard but, unfortunately, has used up all the air. By chance on our walks through the little beach town, we had seen a tiny dive shop. There has to be an air compressor somewhere to fill tanks. The two men decide to head ashore and walk to the shop. Yes, they can fill the tank later when one of their divers returns from a reef dive.The Captain explains our problem, and the dive shop radios its boat to see when they will be back. The diver responds that they are already heading in and will meet us at our boat. With amazingly quick response, the dive boat reaches Avante just as the two men return.

The diver is puzzled. He does not know why we would be caught here. He guesses that we are somehow caught on a rock and that he can easily free us. He puts on his gear and goes down. He is down there for a long time. We can see his bubbles moving around in a way that doesn’t fully make sense. When he comes up, we listen in amazement as he explains that the anchor chain is buried under a wrecked panga. We are not hooked on a rock or boulder. We are stuck under a wrecked boat, and that boat is large and heavy, as it is filled with sand.

How this happened is anybody’s guess! The strong, shifting winds which have been barreling into the bay and causing all the boats to dance around their anchors were probably to blame. The chain dragged across the bottom when the wind shifted and caught on one end of the wrecked boat. Then the strong winds just kept pulling the chain further underneath the wreck until it was really buried.

The diver goes down again with a rope to attach to the anchor hoping to be able to pull the chain free from the other direction with his boat. No luck. The anchor and chain remain stuck. The diver talks about maybe having to cut our chain and forget about our anchor. We explain that we really do want to get our anchor back.

Out of air and needing reinforcements, he goes back to the dive shop. In an hour, he returns with another diver and a crowbar. They dive on the anchor, and this time the two of them are able to free the anchor using a tool The Captain gave them to unhook the swivel that connects the anchor to the chain. They use the rope to haul the anchor up onto their boat. Our chain is still stuck under the wrecked panga, but at least, thankfully, we have the anchor. Chain is easier and much friendlier from a dollar perspective to replace.

Our divers are good and are determined to try to free that chain. Down they go again to try to manhandle the chain around in a direction that would enable us on Avante to pull it free. Ready, they show us the direction to pull. It takes a bit of maneuvering to get Avante lined up and moving in the right direction. We slowly back up and pull, but it does not budge. The chain is really stuck. We might have to break out the hacksaw and cut off a lot of our chain. But, The Captain has one more idea. We let out more chain to put a bunch of slack in the chain. We then motor above the wreck and back up quickly till the chain pulls taut. We are using all of Avante’s 18 tons of momentum to try to drag our chain out from under the wreck. It works. We free a fair amount of chain. After several more attempts, that sunken boat finally releases the last of our chain and up it comes. We are free. We have chain, and we have anchor. We use up almost all of our Mexican money to reward the divers. We feel lucky. Not many anchorages have divers nearby. What a start to a Travel Day!

A stainless steel 60-pound Anchor. Beautiful, isn’t it? But $4,000? The First Mate finds the cost of anything on a boat to be so ridiculously, incomprehensibly high that she no longer bothers to ask .



It is now 1300, well after our planned departure time. The First Mate suggests that the common sense thing to do is spend the night and start all over again in the morning. The Captain will hear none of that. The weather forecast for today is favorable. He is ready to go. Most importantly, we have just spent the morning freeing our anchor from an obstacle that even the local diver did not know was down there, and there is no way he is dropping his anchor in this bay again today!

Off we go on an un-jointly planned departure. To her dismay, the destination has also changed. We can no longer reach Ipala before dark. The Captain decrees that we will now continue overnight. Doing so will have us at Cabo Corrientes in the early morning hours when winds should be down as we head around it, and then it will be just a short trip across Banderas Bay to La Cruz de Huanacaxtle. The Captain is pleased with his decision. The First Mate is not, not one iota!

It proves a miserable trip. Winds are only 12 knots when we start, but they build up in the afternoon. Winds are from the west, and we are tacking our way along the coast. Seas are a mess. Waves break over the boat, soaking everything. We put in the first reef.

We decide to reduce sail before we lose the last glimmer of light. The jib will not wind in. The First Mate is beginning to wonder what else is going to go wrong today. The Captain goes forward to the bow to investigate the problem and returns totally soaked from the waves coming over the bow. He is thankful that we are in the warm waters of Mexico rather than the cold waters of the Pacific Northwest. The jib furler is not working. The jib is “stuck” out there, and in the heavy seas, he decides to wait until calmer conditions to fix it. We could take down the jib rather than furl it, but we don’t want to do that in this wind and with these seas. We turn on the engine and let the sails luff a bit to reduce the angle of the boat and get a calmer ride while we prepare and eat dinner. Tuna fish sandwiches for dinner. Nothing else can be handled in the galley.

Suddenly, the mainsail begins flapping. The reef line has chafed through at the clew of the mainsail. Since we can’t furl our jib, we decide that it alone is enough sail in these winds. We lower the main sail and continue on under just the jib. We are making slow and uncomfortable progress up the coast against the wind and seas in the dark night. Winds continue at 18 – 24 knots until well after midnight. It is a long night!

Cabo Corrientes is rounded in the early daylight hours. Winds have dropped in the last several hours and are now down to 10 – 15 knots. In daylight and the calmer conditions, the jib furler is repaired, and we raise the main sail letting out the reef. Crossing Banderas Bay toward La Cruz, winds continue to drop. So do the seas. By late morning, there is no wind, and we take down the sails and just motor across Banderas Bay. Winds pick up about 5 nm from La Cruz, but neither of us was interested in raising sails again.

What a miserable passage that was, but The First Mate takes heart in the fact that we do have 2 Savor Days scheduled in La Cruz before heading into Paradise Village Marina to prepare Avante to be left in the marina. She cannot complain. Our cruising along the Gold Coast of Mexico was wonderful, and with 11 Savor Days worked into the schedule, we truly were able to enjoy it. The Formula for Cruising in working, and all is well aboard the good ship Avante.

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