Wednesday, November 20, 2013

To Moor or Not, that is the Question

A not so funny thing happened a while ago.  It changed the way we think about being on a mooring, and we now have a tendency to rely exclusively on our own gear.  

While we were in El Salvador, we ended up staying at Bahia Jaltepeque.  This is a fast flowing estuary, with currents up to 6 knots when the tide was either incoming, or outgoing.  It being an unfamiliar place, and being given advice that a mooring ball would prevent us from swinging into other boats, we decided to go with a local guy that had put in 30+ cement blocks for those cruisers wishing to feel more secure, either on a day to day basis, or when leaving the boat for an extended period of time.  We were happy, until we weren’t.  

While local lore said that a micro-burst (not really sure what a micro-burst is, as hurricane would have been a better word) hadn’t occurred in this bay for almost a hundred years, we were “fortunate” to be there when one hit.  With the vhf radio on, and blow by blow (hahaha) announcements coming from various boats in the fleet, we heard of speeds clocking ever upwards.  We weren’t so lucky to be able to sit in the cockpit calmly assessing the situation, as we were in the middle of a full teak deck restoration project.  The cockpit was full of our storage boxes, and various other detritus that had to be removed from the deck for it to be worked on.  This included 2 loose propane tanks.  With winds screaming upwards of 70 knots (for those of you out there that are not familiar, this is a Category 1, verging into Category 2, hurricane), we had a few unplanned projects we needed to see to, immediately.   Rightly so, Ron thought it prudent to disengage the bottles prior to them doing some real damage, like exploding, while I was down below securing the multiple wine and liquor bottles that we had just purchased the day before, but had yet to stow.  Again, as we were in full-blown (hahaha, again) work mode, I was also in the middle of repainting a cupboard down below.  Not willing to discard the container of turpentine that contained the white enamel soaked paintbrush (I thought perhaps I might need another coat), I had left it on the counter, along with the remnants of our recently consumed dinner.  It, along with upwards of 10 glass (of course) bottles, went flying across the salon sole.  Both Ron and I had our hands full.  

I won’t bore you with the details, with two exceptions.  With me slipping and sliding on the pitching floor, I discovered that the red slop causing me to lose my grip, was not only red wine, but my red blood.  Seems one of those bottles decided to cause a bit of damage.  This combined with the white turpentine made for an unholy mess down below.  Ron was dealing with his own issues up top.  At one point, he looked up to see one of our neighbors screaming past, and wondered where in the hellish madness that we were in, was he going.  30 seconds later, and he realized that our neighbor was not on the move, BUT WE WERE.  Rapid fire thinking had our anchor chain screaming out of the chain locker, bringing us to a stop several minutes later. 

We found out later that the winds topped out at 74 knots.  Exciting stuff.  I believe that this freak event was also chronicled in Latitude 38.  We were famous. 

A few months later we needed to make a move, and requested that the guy come and grab the, obviously broke, bridal that was still attached to our cleats.  An hour of diving came back with the message that we were actually still attached to the mooring, albeit in a different place than where we had started from.  Which brings us to Ecuador…..

Here in Bahia de Caraquez, there is a mooring field attended to by Puerto Amistad, and is again in a swift flowing river.  Upon arrival, with memories of El Sal uppermost in our minds, we wondered about the security of the balls, and whether our 50,000 pounds of fiberglass and wood, would again take us for a ride in the event of a blow.  We opted out, and decided instead to trust our ground tackle that had saved our asses in hurricane force winds.  

What did we learn?
- Trust the gear you have on your boat.  If you have crap gear, than get good stuff you can trust.
- Take everything that anyone tells you, about anything, with a grain of sand.
- When done with a project, put stuff away.
- Box wine is the way to go on a boat.

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