We left El Salvador on Wednesday, with almost no wind… the forecast when we left was great, very light winds, flat seas, a perfect time to cross the notorious Gulf of Papagayo (off the coast of Nicaragua).
Wednesday, Thursday and Friday morning looked pretty much like this…
We were loving life! The forecast was still good Friday morning…
“Light winds through Sunday”
– Mr. Weatherman
So we kept going. And then it hit the fan. Steady 20-25, gusts to 30. Seas of 6-8′, breaking continuously around us.
The thought train as I woke up and went on watch:
Oh the sun is up, we can see. OHMYGOD. It was better in the dark. What happened out here? Wow the water is clear, I can see through that wave. That giant towering breaking wave that’s looming this way…
“ARGGGGGGHHHH — I’M ALL WET!!!”.
It’s salty. Yuck! I hate salt water. Ironic. Holy smokes these waves are enormous. Jon looks worried. He’s got that side-temple-vein thing going on. I’m going to take a picture, even though pictures never do waves justice:
How are we doing 6+ knots with only a little piece of headsail? I wonder how that little piece of genoa is holding up? What if it explodes? What if the whole rig falls down*? What if the deck separates from the hull and…
“JON! JON! WHALES! THERE’S A POD OF WHALES WAY TOO CLOSE!!!”
That’s it, isn’t it? That’s how it’ll happen, we’ll hit a whale off the friggin Nicaraguan coast and then what? I wonder where the EPIRB is. I wonder how bad this would be in a liferaft. Oh good, Jon’s checking the EPIRB. We really are on the same wavelength. How long is it until our next month anniversary? 9 days? I wonder where we’ll be in 9 days? I wonder what it costs to ship your boat from Nicaragua to Maine. I wonder if anybody knows how bad this is**. I hate the weatherman. I wish the windvane was set up. I’m so glad I ate that peanut butter and jelly sandwich Jon made me at 3:00 AM — I didn’t really want it, but it might be the only thing I eat today. Storms might be a good diet.
“ARGH THAT WAS A BIG ONE! I’M SOAKING WET AGAIN!”
Whatever, this is fine. Just think about the guys in the book, in the Panama Canal book — they were out there chopping the Culebra Cut, dying of disease and heat. They had it way worse than this. This is an adventure. We chose to be out here. This is okay. Holy crap this is overwhelming. No, no, can’t think like that — it’s an adventure. Brave face.
“IT’S LIKE WE’RE SAILING A LASER JON! A GIANT 33′ LASER IN A FRIGGIN PAPAGAYO!”.
Really though, this sucks. Fear: Fun factor is bad. Like 100:1. Maybe we just need a bigger boat. A 50 footer. What would this be like in a 50 footer? How’d Darrell and Darleen ever do this in their 24′ boat? I think I’m getting a sunburn. Is salt sunscreen? I’m definitely getting wrinkles. My toenails really need painting. WHOA that was a big wave. How was this not forecast AT ALL? What if our steering goes? What if this kills the autopilot? I’m glad we bought the extended warranty. Maybe I’ll hand steer for a while. Is it getting better? OH GEEZ NOOOOO we were just in the valley between two huge waves. The inclinometer is interesting. Apparently at 45 degrees the whole winch is underwater.
“WE JUST BURIED THE WINCH!”
I wish we bought an inclinometer that didn’t bottom out at 45 degrees, I feel like we might be pushing further than that sometimes. How could I explain what a heel of 45 degrees feels like to a non-sailor? I hate this. I hate the weatherman. I like that part in Captain Ron when they’re in a storm and he says he knows they’re almost at the port cuz they had just enough diesel to make it to the port and “we. are. out. of. fuel!”. Then the Cubans go nuts. We should watch that movie again, when this passage is over. If this passage is ever going to be over. What if we’re just out here in this forever? How far out would we get pushed? This is scary. Brave face. I wonder what an RV costs. I could really go for a land-based adventure right now. Or maybe just a little less adventure all around. Maybe a nice 9-5 job. I wish we’d installed the second bilge pump. I wish these waves would die down. I hate the weatherman. I’m scared. Brave face.
I wrote this a few hours after the worst of it had died down. We finished with the winds and waves and then got hit with 2 knots of counter-current. Fought the current for 5 hours, making 1.5-2 knots, and then the lightning started. At this point I think we were both pretty much ready to give up on life. We were doing 2 hour watches, neither of us really sleeping on our off-watch, but slowly making progress out of the worst of it. By 3 am we’d found an anchorage that was close, that we could creep in to. We hove-to, and ohhhh… the motion was so much better. Suddenly everything was quiet, and still, and we could sleep on our off-watches again. At 6:00 am (sunrise) we motored into the quiet little Bahia Samara, in Costa Rica. 383 miles, 4 days, 4 nights. Breathing a huge sigh of relief, we discovered the really truly scary part:
*That rigging failure I’d been fearing? It was real:
That crack you see is not supposed to be there. It’s part of our backstay, the piece of wire that holds the mast in place, and it’s cracked 3/4 of the way around, up to 1/4″ deep in some places. Bad, bad, bad news. How this didn’t just break and drop our mast I have no idea. We are so lucky.
We are also still trying to figure out how best to fix this — in the middle of nowhere Costa Rica. The plan we’ve pieced together so far is to jury rig a backup and sail carefully down to Panama City, where we hope we can buy some rigging parts and replace the entire tensioner.
In the meantime, I’m drowning my sorrows in brownies 🙂
**And it turned out, somebody was watching. My family had been carefully watching the online forecasts, and they knew what was happening. They didn’t know where we were, but they were praying we’d arrive somewhere safely, and I am so thankful that they were!