Follow by Email

Thursday, February 16, 2012

1/2/2012 The Hunt for the Missing Flopper Stopper

Happy New Year from La Cruz de Haunacaxtle.

We are back in one of our favorite places in Mexico, the small town of La Cruz “the place with the cross at the Huanacaxtle tree.” It sits in the well protected NW corner of Banderas Bay, NW of the city of Puerta Vallarta. La Cruz has all the charm and feeling of small town Mexico, has a busy and popular town square just off the marina entrance, is close to everything, has great restaurants, easy bus routes and is extremely cruiser friendly. There is a good (free) anchorage along with the very popular Riviera Nayarit Marina de La Cruz. The marina hosts cruising seminars, a kids club, movie night in the amphitheater, potlucks, bonfires, happy hours, offers propane pick up days, cooking classes, morning yoga, Wi-Fi, a fuel dock, showers and bathrooms and even concierge services. The town stole our hearts last year and we couldn’t wait to come back again for the Holidays.

The anchorage can be a little rolly and uncomfortable at times so our second day out we deployed our trusty Flopper Stopper. A Flopper Stopper helps keep the boat from rolling. Basically it is a heavy metal rectangular frame about 24”x 36” with a piece of plastic in the middle that has been cut with a big X that hangs off the side of your boat. You pole out your boom or a spinnaker pole far off to one side with a line that trails the Stopper down six to ten feet below the surface. When the boat rolls in the waves the pole tips the Flopper Stopper deeper into the water and then the split plastic baffle creates drag on the counter roll that keeps the whole roll on a smaller arc. It stores flat and out of the way but it along with the fact that we weigh in at 32,000 pounds can make the difference between a comfortable anchorage and ka-chinging around like a pinball.

Three days ago as we motored back through the anchorage we could see that though our pole no longer had a line attached to our Stopper. On closer inspection we could see that the yellow nylon line we had suspended from the pole end was frayed and flapping empty in the wind! After the fact it was impossible to tell if our line had simply split from chafe or if it had been cut by someone coming too close to the boat. The second option would seem impossible except for the fact that the locals routinely fly through anchorages alarmingly close to anchored boats. If the line had chafed it should be simple to retrieve –all we need do was look for the floating tail of yellow line that should be floating a 25foot stream up from our Flopper on the sea floor. If the line has been snagged it could be just about anywhere by now. We ran a slow circuit around our boat in the dinghy hoping to glimpse the telltale yellow line a few feet below the surface but gave up in the waning light and bumpy seas.

Early the next morning we grabbed our snorkel gear while the tide was at its daily low and the current was at slack. The plan was to swim a grid in a circle around Island Bound to try and find the wayward line. Chris from Espiritu came over to offer topside support but the cold, murky water gave us no help at all. Eventually we decided to don our dive gear then use a line to swim increasingly larger circles along the bottom. We would dive with the line and then literally draw a 100 foot line off the point where the anchor chain touched the bottom. This would create a 200 foot circle ringing out from the point where our anchor sat. We hoped this technique would help us search all the possible ground the boat had been covering when the Flopper dropped and save us a load of time and trouble. By the time we assembled and safety checked all our dive gear the tide had begun to run and the current was strong. The visibility at the bottom proved to be much clearer than we had expected but the current was running so strong that it was impossible to make any headway on our grid so Bill called no joy. Off came all the dive gear and everything had to be rinsed and set out to dry to wait for the mornings calm and slack.

News Years Day broke with blue skies and calm water. It took us far less time to suit up and slide in and the slack made things much easier and down we went. After even just the one dive under our belts our buoyancy control had improved and we descended the 30feet down quickly and nearly effortlessly.
Sheesh, once again we were thwarted. The visibility now was so poor we had to be touching bottom with fingertips before we could see clear to anything along the sea floor. Once again we ascended, with such poor visibility we would have literally had to crawl along the bottom inch by inch to cover our 200 foot circle. Frustrated at the lack of any progress we were about to call it quits when Bill said he was going to try to snorkel and dive to look for the line. Off came the dive gear and down we dove with snorkel gear. Bill, Chris and I off at all points of the compass. No plan or discussion just one last attempt at a needle in a 200ft haystack.

By this time my ears were tender and my nose was clogged with salt water but I began to dive. Once, down, kick, kick, nothing and surface. I looked around to place the guys as they surfaced and dove. Twice more I dove thinking “this is not going to work it is just a waste of time and trouble all for a $30 piece of metal and plastic,” down, kick, kick, nothing and surface. OK, “I am going to make one more dive and then swim back to the dink and climb out.” Down, kick, kick……Yahoo…there it is - the yellow line only about ten feet below the surface and trailing off into the depth just 20 feet SE of the boat! I swam to the surface grinning like an idiot and whooping out a hurrah. A moment or two later I had caught Bill and Chris’s attention as tried to stay treading over the line. Within just a few minutes Bill had successfully dove to grab the frayed end and he and Chris drug it back to the boat and tied it off to the side of the dinghy!

It all seemed like a lot of work for a $30 piece of equipment but it would have been difficult if not impossible to replace it in Mexico before we leave for the South Pacific and even if we could buy one the size and especially the weight would have made it impossible to ship or even to hand carry it in our luggage when we made our upcoming trip back to Seattle in January. My success made it almost possible to forget how soundly I was trounced last night playing Farkle.


No comments:

Post a Comment