|As many of you are now aware, we made the most recent edition of our favorite sailing mag, Latitude 38 and it wasn't a good thing. http://www.latitude38.com/lectronic/lectronicday.lasso?date=2010-02-03&dayid=383
(cut and past link above to see the electronic article)
We were anchored just outside of Marina La Cruz for a few nights in the company of about 25 other boats. On the night of 2/2, just as we hopped into bed with about 15 kts of wind, a couple of big swells suddenly hit the boat and we heard our windlass jerk (winch for our anchor and chain) which we later learned was the breaking of the snubber. The snubber is a line attached to a cleat and tied to the anchor chain and takes tension off the chain and avoids sound of the anchor chain and most importantly puts “stretch” into the anchor chain. We jumped out of bed and ran out to the cockpit only to find lots of wind which we later learned to be 70+ knots with short choppy 8’ – 10’ swells, driving rain with about 10’ of visibility. Suddenly, we were under siege!
We started the engine and Mike began steering the boat into the swells with rain so forceful it was stinging his face. Within minutes some of the boats that were anchored near us began swirling around us as their anchors were dragging and/or breaking free from their boats. This created a very hazardous situation for us to not only steer into the wind and swells but to try to distance ourselves from all the anchored and wandering boats in the anchorage in these incredibly ugly conditions. One sailboat just missed us by 4 - 5' and later ran aground on the rocky beach, another approached and rammed his bowsprit (long pointed end) into our cockpit area. This was extremely frightening! Mike put his hand on the bowsprit at the helm as I ducked away into the companion way area. Luckily, it retreated out of our cockpit but not before ripping canvas overhead, tweaking a solar panel and hitting the stern rail, etc., etc. on our starboard side. The scene was surreal....crazy, scary, amazing, unbelievable and humbling. After the boat that hit us pulled out of our cockpit, it appeared he was coming back at us in spite of the fact we had all our lights on to make us as visible as possible. Luckily he missed us the second time. Just as we thought we had seen the worst, a commercial shrimp boat was headed our way. When he got within 150 feet he got control of his vessel and veered away. After about 20 minutes of drama and extremely high winds, we started to get some relief allowing us a bit of time to process what just occurred. By now, Mike was wet and chilled and put on his foulies (foul weather pants and jacket) and boots to warm up. Though the battle was still raging a couple hours later we were able to determine a few things; our anchor did not drag but our windlass dog came free and allowed all 320’ of our anchor chain to make way to the ocean floor with our 55 lb. delta anchor holding us in a 320’ radius, we were not injured (though my arms and legs resemble a battered wife), our hull was not taking on water, all emergency gear was ready to go, and the worst was over. After lots of chatter on the cruiser VHF channel, friends inside the marina on Fly Aweigh, another Catalina-Morgan 440, were calling to ask how we were and if we intended to enter the marina as that they would assist however necessary. After further assessing the situation, Mike felt confident in approaching the foredeck to weigh anchor. Roughly 3 hours after the fury of the sea started, we entered the harbor with about a dozen cruisers standing by to take our dock lines. What a night!
Only one person was seriously injured and she was on land and fractured her hip as a result of the marina fence blowing over. We and a few other sustained lots of damage while many others, including some tied up in the marina also sustained some. Dinghies were lost and loose in the anchorage, many were later found on the beach. We had our teak toe rail hit, stainless stern rail bent, life sling cracked, canvas bimini and connector pieces ripped and all the stainless along our starboard side was bent or sheared out of the bolts and at the point of impact the stainless pulled out of the fiberglass.
We are now coordinating repairs with our insurance company and as always, Bob Nahm of Catalina Yacht Anchorage back in California. Bob’s support is invaluable in our cruising life and he always steps up to provide help and expertise as we need it. Because our boat is only 4 years old and still in production it makes sense to us to get the bow to stern stainless replaced by the factory (rather than reinventing the wheel in Mexico) and get our canvas replaced by one of the best, Tom Maires in Ventura. So we are trying to get some temporary welding repairs here in the Puerto Vallarta area so we can get our boat moving north.
It appears that this development will most probably delay our trip to the South Pacific this year. We are moving though the range of emotions from the shock of what happened, the gratitude for our safety and the disappointment of not going west to the south pacific with friends. Such is the cruising life.
As a result of this incredible experience, I feel humble, but more confident than ever in our abilities and the capability of our boat. Yes, La Cruz means "the cross".
God is good.