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Sunday, March 13, 2011

Waiting out a tsunami

Our passage from La Cruz northward turned out to be very different from what we had planned. After taking time to hit the fish market for fresh shrimp and the carniceria for chicken and carne asada we had a bit of a late start so we decided to stop in Punta de Mita. PdM is only 10nm from La Cruz but it made for a great first day and we got there in time to be able to jump in and spend some time cleaning the bottom of the boat. All those days of sitting still in the marina allowed a whole army of slimy things to begin growing on our hull as well as the dreaded barnacle. We could have had a local worker scrub it all off at the marina but decided we needed to figure it out for ourselves so, we donned our snorkel gear and over we went. It took a bit of finessing to not float away on the waves and a few gear adjustments to be able to dive efficiently down the hull but eventually we got the hang of it though it sure wore us out.

The next morning we headed towards Chacala. It felt great to be back underway. It was the warmest day we have ever sailed through and the Humpback whales were breeching off in the distance most of the trip. The only downfall to the day was the wind was on our nose so sadly no sailing. Once we arrived at Chacala that same wind and swell was rolling right into their anchorage. Since that meant a rolly night we opted to keep going for a few more hours and so headed towards Esenada de Matanche'n near San Blas were we had a lovely peaceful night.

When we motored out of the big quiet bay the next morning the plan was to go to Isla Isabel about 44nm NW. Again it was sunny and beautiful but we were headed to weather so we banged and crashed as the wind and waves built throughout the day. As we neared Isla Isabel I was hot, tired and hungry and all I wanted to do was make a quick meal and get some sleep. Unfortunately the rocky anchorage had such a surge that we decided to sail right on by and head towards Mazatlan. There really aren't any decent anchorages between Isabel and Mazatlan so instead of a simple dinner and a cool bed I was suddenly looking at cooking amid the banging and night watches! Plus I was disappointed to be missing the island. I wanted to see the volcano crater, the iguanas and the blue footed boobies. Oh well, maybe next year.

We continued on through the night with approximately 90nm to go. Eventually the wind and waves subsided enough to get a few hours sleep. Bill was on watch as we neared Mazatlan. When I woke up and came stumbling out bleary eyed he said "you have no idea what’s going on do you?" I looked around and saw that it was several hours past when Bill should have woken me for my watch. I looked out and saw that we were drifting off the islands that lay off the entrance to Marina Mazatlan. Still not following what was happening at all he told me there was a tsunami warning and the Harbor Master had closed the harbor to all traffic. So we had breakfast and waited. Then we listened to the VHF reports and waited. We read and we looked for whales and we sailed too and fro. We flushed our water maker and made some water. I cleaned the boat and we waited some more. For twelve hours we bobbed around waiting for the harbor to reopen or the tsunami to hit. There was virtually no information coming from the Harbor Master and there was lots of talk, speculation, questions and noise on the VHF. And still we waited.


The entrance to the three main marinas in Mazatlan is through a dredged channel that is long and narrow. A dangerous place to be in a deadly surge. The Harbor Master was not allowing anyone to leave but they were asking everyone who was outside to come in. We opted to stay out in deeper water. For all intents and purposes there was no tsunami here. We did feel a sort of weird wave set -bigger and off rhythm-but no giant wall of water and no standing wave. Still we waited. Eventually after picking up information about the timing in California we figured whatever was coming was done and it was safe to go in. Turns out we were the first boat to enter the harbor all day. But we were safe and sound as was everyone else in Mazatlan. We do know of course that the devastation in Japan was wide spread and many places in California sustained damage. One of the places on the coast that had the most damage was Brookings where we had sought refuge when we came down the coast last summer. I am just grateful that it turned out to be nothing and the worst we had to deal with was boredom and worry. And in the end regardless of what the Port Captain was imposing we are glad to have had the option to stay in deep water until the coast was clear. Tomorrow morning we head across the very bottom of the Sea of Cortez from Maz to La Paz. Will write soon. Kat

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