The Last 5% | Brio in Topolobampo

“You might not want to let me take the bow line — cuz when my feet hit the dock, I may just start running”

That was Jon, warning me off as we approached Topolobampo early yesterday morning. We’d had the most ideal sail you can imagine — a beautiful downwind breeze, flat seas, lots of drifter flying… right up until midnight of our 3rd night out.

"On Watch" as we fly the drifter and the "new" backup main (since we ripped the old one, again, on the way to Mazatlan)


Now, believe me when I say that I checked those weather forecasts 50 times before we left Mazatlan. I knew we had 225 miles of hard north-ing to make it into Topolobampo, and I knew that if we got hit by a Norther we’d have no hope of motoring against it. Forecasts showed perfect weather right up until 0600 UTC time… “Perfect! Gives us a 60 hour window to make it in — we can make that” I thought… not realising that I have mistakenly been adding 6 hours to UTC time when I actually should be subtracting 6 hours. Details, right? So that 0600 Norther (that I thought would arrive at noon), actually reared it’s ugly head at 11:45 pm.

How do I know it was 11:45 exactly? Because it was 15 minutes until Jon’s watch 🙂 We reefed the main, furled the genoa, and tried to make a little headway into our sudden 20+ on the nose. What you forget about, especially in the Sea, is just how quickly those darn seas pick up. I would estimate that within 20 minutes we had hard square waves, stopping us dead in our tracks, on the nose of course, along with the shrieking winds… and with only 15 miles to go to the entrance of the channel.

Back in the day, when I was running a painting business, we used to joke about “the last 5%” as though it was the devil incarnate himself. You know the story, the job that goes perfectly until the last afternoon… when you suddenly get the phone call that your painter has spilled a gallon of paint in the customer’s rose garden, a ladder smashed a window on the front of their house, and “oh, yes, the customer doesn’t think the colour looks quite right”. And *boom*, the last 5% suddenly becomes the next week’s worth of nightmares.


Such was the case with our last 15 miles… it took us 9 hours to make that distance, 9 hours that included ripping our backup mainsail (what is it with me and mainsails???), navigating around a “nav light” that actually turned out to be a freighter at anchor, and constantly checking of our google earth image (the only chart we have for this area) to make sure we weren’t drifting on to the offshore sand bar that Charlie’s Charts describes as “a challenging hazard to navigate”. These are the hours that you spend huddled in the corner of the cockpit, holding on for dear life as the boat rolls gunwale-to-gunwale, wondering if it’ll be the genoa that shreds or the engine that overheats or the rudder that finally gives up… thinking thoughts like “how long does it take to grab the epirb and untie the dinghy?” and “maybe seeing the world from a VW van makes more sense than this”.

But enough. Long story short, after 64 hours and 225 miles, we made it into Topolobampo.

Landfall in Topolobampo -- ripped main lashed to the boom, tiny bit of genoa surfing us over the bar and through the channel at 7+ knots


So we’re now tied up to the dock in Topolobampo, a real place with a crazy name, and we may just never leave again. Jon’s got the Kerosene heater roaring (it’s cold here!), the wind is howling but it’s outside, and the showers have unlimited hot water. What more could we ask for?


Brio tied up in Marina Palmira, Topolobampo


Topolobampo ~ Fun to spell, even *funner* to say 🙂

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