Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Saturday/Sunday - Heading south with an oops, followed by OS!

We departed Cozumel about 8 am and kept to the coast, passing the cruise ships and local excursion boats.

Clicking on a picture will give you a larger version.

The current didn't seem as strong this morning and we were able to get a decent sail with the wind.
Just before we took a heading toward Tulum, the reel started screaming and after a few minutes of fighting, a very nice Dolphin/Dorado was aboard.  Catie and Cocoa went absolutely nuts having a fish bigger than them on the boat.

The decision to keep or release the fish was a tough one as this would be a really tasty fish.  Unfortunately, we didn't have ice for the cooler, it was early in the morning and we had a long day of sailing to go.  The fish seemed to enjoy his freedom when Beth released it back to the sea.  Catie and Cocoa looked around the boat for the fish for at least the next half hour.  We continued trolling but didn't catch anything else.  Shortly after releasing the fish, we took a heading toward Tulum to cross the current and get near shore to stay out of the current and be closer to our proposed anchorage.

The day sailing was good and we were making decent time, we passed Tulum and continued heading south. As we were cruising we noticed the foresail Mahalo Nui was flapping.  Apparently the port sheet had broken and J was quickly furling the sail.  He examined the sheet and it was a clean break as if it had been cut.  Because the seas were rough, trying to retie the sheet wasn't going to happen.  We were still not progressing quick enough and the realization that we would be approaching Bahia Ascension in the dark set in.  Everything we had read and heard advised against attempting the passage at night.  We had the path on paper charts as well as the electronic charts but as you can see from the SPOT track, at 9:34 we made a sudden port turn as we struck something with the boat.  Both rudders popped and steering got strange.  In the pitch black darkness of the sea, we were unable to ascertain the actual damage.  We headed east to deeper water and communicated our predicament to J and Jerr.  We were all exhausted and tired of fighting the current but neither of us were willing to try the passage to protected anchorages.  Beth was pretty freaked out by the incident and wanted to continue south to Bahia Santo.  We attempted to head further south, slowly so we would get to Bahia Santo at sunrise.  A few hours later, J decided to anchor while Beth decided to continue south, planning on rendezvousing with Mahalo Nui at Bahia Santo in the morning.

J and Jerr anchored just outside the reef and tried to get some sleep on a very rough anchorage.  Beth and I attempted to head south to Bahia Santo but between the current, winds, and steering, we couldn't manage to actually make any progress south.  It wasn't until about 5 am when we realized we were not making any progress and headed west back to Bahia Ascension.  At 8am we radioed Mahalo Nui and were quite glad to find them anchored right where they were supposed to be.  We made our way to them at anchor and we  anchored nearby and attempted to get some sleep.

Back awake around 11am because of the rough seas at anchorage, I checked the boat for damage.  The port rudder was flopping with the waves and the starboard rudder seemed operational but stuck in the up position which seriously limited our steering.  The issue was also with the linkage as only turning the wheel full starboard or port would actually move the rudder.  Repairs couldn't be attempted because of the rough seas and when we discussed it with J and Jerr, the decision was made to head to the nearest marina to make repairs which was north to Puerto Aventuras and at 1 pm, we hauled anchor and began motorsailing.  The current was helpful and being pushed by the wind we saw speeds of 7~8 knots.  The problem was keeping a true course and we wound up making a very long multiple S tracks back to Puerto Aventuras.  While we were making good time, we would arrive at the marina about an hour past sunset. 

We had the coordinates to the approach and the course to take and we stuck to it.  The visibility was clear and the channel markers were lit as were the approach alignment lights. The seas were about 4 feet. We were leading and passed the first red maker on the north channel on the starboard side of the channel.  We were hit broadside with at least a 2 meter wave.  The wave broke over the side of the boat and the upper deck was awash instantly.  This pushed the boat hard to port putting us dangerously close to the rocks but because of our shallow draft the wave also pushed us back into the channel and I powered through. Everything on the boat was tossed from one side to the other.  We have been in some rough seas and have never seen this boat tossed like this before. Catie was on deck when the wave hit and was washed off the deck and into the lifeline netting.  I was never so happy to see a wet dog on the boat.  We powered toward the dock.

Mahalo Nui was just a minute or two behind us and J had observed the wave hit us and corrected his course to the starboard side of the channel when he was hit with an even larger wave than the one that hit us broadside just before the port green marker. The wave pushed them at least 40 feet and onto the seawall.  Mahalo Nui slid down the rocks and J attempted to power forward to get back to the channel and another wave hit pushing them onto the rocks.  Then a third wave pushed them around the side of the seawall where the green maker was, then another wave pushed them past the green marker and put the bow firmly in the rocks. This was the culmination of the OS! moment.  During all this, Jerr was on the radio to me requesting immediate help but there was nothing I could do.  I attempted to radio for help calling everyone I could but got no reply.  All of this transpired about 100 yards behind us as we were attempting to tie up to the dock at 9pm.  People that had witnessed the incident from the condos had joined us on the dock whilst I was scrambling to find shoes and a flashlight because my first instinct was to rush out barefoot but the sharp rocks and darkness made me rethink that.  The people that came out told Beth and I that they had seen the accident and had already called the harbormaster and navy while asking if there were people on the boat, how many, children, etc.  5 of us made it out to the point to find Mahalo Nui with the bow firmly caught inbetween the rocks on the south side of the jetty.  J and Jerr were ok, very shaken but ok.  The boat wasn't going anywhere and was bouncing up and down with the waves.  They were quickly gathering essential things like passports and Sally before getting off the boat.

J, Jerr, and Sally were safely off the boat. It was actually an easy step onto the rocks in between waves.  As the bow bounced with the waves, the rocks dug further and further into the fiberglass.  J made several leaps back and forth collecting essential belongings, turn off systems, and securing the boat as best as he could.  J attempted to minimize the damage by placing a fender between the rocks and the bow as well as anchoring so the boat wouldn't drift further out. On J's last trip aboard he noticed water entering the boat with each wave and the bilge pump doing the best it could to keep pumping water out.  The residents of Puerto Aventuras came out and offered assistance and even offered to put J and Jerr up for the night.  The outpouring of concern was a testament to sailors everywhere.  While many offers of assistance were made, J and Jerr had a home on Second Chance.  We were already exhausted and felt we had Mahalo Nui secured, we hosed off everything that had gotten soaked including ourselves, commiserated about the situation and made sleeping arrangements.  We finally settled down just after midnight and slept as best we could.

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