The Dingbat’s Revenge

Apr 02, 2009| 0 Comment

Our very short 4 weeks at home in Telluride is filled with winter activities. Granddaughter Berlin, here for her Spring break, joins us as we ski the mountain, hike the ranch and toast marshmallows in the evenings.


Wednesday, March 25th – We arrive back in Puerto Vallarta for another sailing trip. Prominently displayed along the walk at Paradise Marina is a sign which surprises The First Mate, but upon further thought, she realizes that some people do need to be told common sense things they may have missed along the way. She decides that if someone had not been feeding those not-so-friendly critters, the sign would not be there.


We work hard and quickly to get Avante ready to set off again. This time we want to head northwest up into the Sea of Cortez. Avante is cleaned up, and The Captain installs some new parts that we brought from the States. The First Mate finds that provisioning in Puerto Vallarta is much easier the second time. Within a week, we are out of the marina and heading across Banderas Bay to Punta Mita.

Wednesday, April 1st – Leaving Punta Mita, we simply round the nearby headlands to head north, having now heard from reliable sources that that third rock we agonizingly sailed 18 miles around on our way into Banderas Bay last January is more myth than fact. It was reported out there somewhere ages ago. No one has been able to find it since, even using more sophisticated sounding equipment; yet no one wants to take credit for saying it physically is not there. Thus, the warnings persist. First timers to the area are on guard until they have the opportunity to talk to locals in the know. Then like we now do, they sail safely around the point keeping over 1 mile off shore.

We head up the coast to Chacala. Site of a once producing coconut-growing operation, the pretty beach is ringed with tall palm trees. Several colorful palapa restaurants sit invitingly on the shore. The First Mate feels strongly that we should support these small establishments operating in the middle of nowhere. Though she would prefer a brisk morning beach walk followed by breakfast in a local restaurant, we go in for dinner since we need to make an early morning departure the next day. 

At dusk, we launch The Dingbat and head ashore. The Dingbat is configured, as usual, with the wheels sticking straight up. This is to keep the wheels out of the water and eliminate the extra drag when underway. According to The Captain, this makes The Dingbat look like an “elephant turned turtle”, a comment that The Dingbat will never forgive.


There is a local panga dock not far from the main beach, but we are not sure if we we would be welcome there, so The Captain opts for a surf landing. Shortly before reaching the breaking waves, The Captain puts the engine in neutral and lowers the wheels. This takes a bit of effort as the bulky, buoyant tires do not easily push down into the water. Secured in their slots, the engine is restarted. Now — study the waves, find the lull, charge the beach, hit the sand, jump into the surf keeping a grip on the boat and yank it ashore before The Dingbat has a chance to knock you over. The trick is to not get so wet that you look like a drowned rat when you walk into a restaurant for dinner. This time we make a great landing. All that is wet is our Keen sandals, which is as it should be. The Dingbat is hauled up the beach and left to stew while we enjoy a pleasant meal.

The First Mate observes at dinner that The Captain seems somewhat distracted as he keeps watching the sea. “That one would have gotten us. It wasn’t part of the pattern,” he says mostly to himself. “What would have gotten us? What pattern?” queries The First Mate. “The waves,” he replies. “I am watching the wave pattern. There’s 3 short ones followed by a real slammer. Then there’s a lull. It’s the lull we have to catch getting out of here, but that wave earlier was a big one that did not fit the pattern. It’s those rogues that could get us.” The Captain is surely becoming too obsessed with this!

With heavy cloud cover blocking the moon, we walk back to The Dingbat in total blackness with only a small flashlight to show us the way. We turn the boat around and stand there in the dark counting waves. Here’s the lull, grab the boat, dash into the surf, haul ourselves aboard (not easy), start the engine and motor the heck out to sea before the big one gets you. We do all that. The engine starts. It roars to life. Feeling triumphant, The Captain turns the throttle to motor on out and through the waves. The engine stalls. Dead, silent. “Damn!” The Captain is beside himself with frustration. The First Mate, knowing when to remain silent, does not say a word. Then, out of the dark as if from nowhere, the big one hits, slamming right over the bow of the boat smack into The First Mate’s unsuspecting face. The Dingbat is now sideways to the waves, and The Captain calls for The First Mate to take the flashlight which she grasps for in the darkness, temporarily blinded by stinging salt-watered eyes. He jumps out of the boat in an attempt to point it into the waves, so it won’t get swamped and dragged ashore. Over the sounds of the pounding surf, The Captain yells at The First Mate to start the engine. Sure thing, Captain! She scrambles back, adding another bruise or two to already blossomed black and blues, grabs the cord with two hands and yanks for all she’s worth. Of course, nothing happens, but what is that graceful arch of light that just flew over our heads? In amazement and disbelief, we watch our flashlight sail out to sea. The only thing accomplished when The First Mate pulled the start cord was a launching of the flashlight she held in one of her hands. Losing the flashlight is almost as bad as getting swamped, for without the flashlight, we will not be able to see the combination lock to open up Avante so we can get below deck. We’ll be stuck in the cockpit until dawn! The Captain shoves The Dingbat forward and swims off to retrieve the flashlight leaving The First Mate marooned in the wildly tossing boat.

Back aboard, The Captain pulls the cord several times but can’t restart the engine. He yells to unstrap the oars. He will row us out of here. We are being slammed by waves, rocking back and forth, miserably wet. The only mercifully good thing is that, in the total darkness against an equally black sea, no one can see this circus act. In the dark, we both go for the same oar, pulling and twisting, we work against each other trying to free the same oar. It’s a “Laurel and Hardy” act. Timing is everything. We have to get out of this surf before we are upended and swamped. Finally, he takes one oar, and she takes the other. Both oars are put in the oarlocks, and The Captain rows for all he’s worth to get us out of the surf. Once free of the waves, he turns back to the engine. Unable to do us any more damage, The Dingbat allows the engine to start on the first pull, and we splutter back to Avante.

The First Mate, once safely and securely aboard Avante, finds the caper rather funny. The Captain does not. It matters not that other boat people also have trouble with dinghy launchings here in Mexico. Not us. First he has to figure out what is wrong with the engine? It has been causing him start-up problems in Mexico. (The Dingbat knows but is not telling.) Next he will work out how to better manage and anticipate this surf and wave action. He knows that we can do better!

Silently floating on the gentle waves lapping against its hull, The Dingbat hears The Captain’s angry exclamations, savoring each and every frustrated word. “Revenge truly is sweet,” it tells itself.

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