All the Ways We Anchor

S/V Galapagos here checking in once more from, you guessed it, Puerto Escondido. Yes, we’re back for a lovely visit and a little civilization after spending the last two weeks exploring the islands close by. ‘Anchor’ is an interesting word. There are so many ways that we anchor ourselves in our lives. We consider Puerto Escondido to be one of our ‘anchors’ here in Mexico. It has everything we need and we can let ourselves rest and relax here.

To be ‘anchored’ somewhere is to feel a connection and be safe both physically and emotionally. We were both excited as heck to have some family visit for awhile this month. As much as we truly enjoy this life we’ve created, we miss our family dreadfully. Family is definitely an anchor for us. My sister and nephew came to visit us for a week of fun and family time and it was fantastic. Before they got here I wanted to be sure we knew excactly which anchorages were going to be best. They were only here for a week and I didn’t want any loser anchorages. We left Puerto Escondido to explore a bit.

Nice show of dolphins at Los Coronados

After spending a night in Honeymoon Cove our journey took us up the outside of Isla Carmen because a north wind was coming and we needed protection. Probably we should have turned around and gone back into Puerto Escondido while we had the chance, but why take the easy way out? We went in search of safe anchoring.

We knew the wind would be over 25 knots from the north/northwest and that meant the waves would be killer from the north. What we didn’t count on, because we just aren’t experienced in these waters yet, is that we would have to deal with large swell from the south on the outside of Isla Carmen; uncomfortable conditions that I get tired of pretty quickly. Very little wind, not enough to move the boat, and big, fast swells make for an irritated Melissa.

Both anchorages, Punta Colorado and Bahia Salinas, on that side of Isla Carmen provide protection from north swell. But only Punta Colorado provides protection from north wind as well. It was our first choice. However, it’s a smaller anchorage and the shoreline is rocky. The bottom is sand with rocks that can interfere with holding. With a south swell, we would be on a lee shore until the wind clocked to the north. For the non-boaters out there, that’s a bad situation as a rule. It means that the swell and/or wind is pushing the boat toward land.

Another day we returned to Punta Colorado during a smaller blow and it was perfect. I was fortunate to spot this big fellow high on the ridge and capture him with my long lens. I saw three of them and feel so lucky.

While we have excellent anchoring gear, we did not feel safe there with the swells as big as they were. As they say here, ‘No bueno!’. We faced the choice of carrying on to Bahia Salinas, a few miles up the island, or turning and going back to Honeymoon Cove. Somehow the idea of going back to Puerto Escondido didn’t even come up, which it should have. Seems like everyone else ended up there but it was a blind spot for us. We didn’t even discuss it.

Our guidebooks said that Bahia Salinas offered good protection from swell but the wind could come across the land because that’s where the salt flats are. We figured we’d handle the wind and chose to carry on up the island. We probably would have been better off sticking it out at Punta Colorado, but hindsight is always 20/20 and no harm done.

Bahia Salinas is a huge, sandy bay where there is plenty of room to let out a lot of chain. You can swing wildly, drag impressively, and still not hit anything if you’re the only boat there. We were. We anchored in swells way too big for our liking but far enough from land to feel safe. Honestly, the swells were easily 1.5 meters at 6 seconds. Big and fast. Fortunately, there was enough south wind to keep us pointed into them so the motion below was not too bad. Had we been beam to the seas, it would have been untenable. We settled in and waited for the wind to shift.

Walking to the salt flats at Bahia Salinas. See why the wind comes through there? Yeah.

Right on time, the boat turned 180 degrees and the fun began. Yes, the wind DOES come screaming across the salt flats there. But more to the point, we’ve never seen that little fetch, maybe 1/2 mile, create such big waves. What gives with that? We figured we’d get some whitecaps in the bay, but we were startled at the sheer size of the swell and wind waves that developed between the shore and our boat. I honestly cannot imagine what it must have been like on the other side of the island.

We did puzzles, read books, and ate bad food. Occasionally we’d poke our heads out, confirm that it still sucked out there, and then go below. We checked our anchoring gear. We realized we’d left our Mexican flag up and it was getting a real beating. Oh well. That was not going to come down until after the storm. The storm blew our man overboard pole out of its holder. We got to that before any damage was done. We discovered a halyard that was clanking against the mizzen mast. We lived with the clanking every time the boat turned a certain way for the duration of the storm. Galapagos dodged and weaved her figure 8 anchoring dance like a boxer facing a viscious opponent.

Looking towards shore as the winds start to increase. Already too sporty out there.

We were stuck there in those conditions for 2 1/2 days. The motion below was not great but could have been worse considering that being outside, even in our protected cockpit, was not an option. One thing we both love about our boat is the many choices we have for sleeping areas. When the boat motion is nasty in one part of the boat, we move to another part. I’m never going back to small boats after this, I tell you. It makes a big difference when you can get a little sleep during a storm.

Part of the ‘ghost town’ at Bahia Salinas. Sorry, no ghosts present.

We saw winds over 40 knots, higher than the predicted 28. The first night another boat came in after the wind started. They anchored an experienced-cruiser distance away. Checking with them after the storm they reported winds of 50 on their anenometer. I don’t know, that seems high to me but what do I know about wind speed? What I do know is there was this sense of solidarity that every other cruiser in the Sea of Cortez was hunkered down somewhere riding this storm out. Somehow, that was comforting to me.

Our big Mantus anchor saw us through once more. We have a lot of faith in that anchor now, but we have learned that it will drag when the conditions are right. Those conditions appear to be a sandy bottom and a change in wind direction. I guess that’s reasonable when you set the anchor in one direction and then the boat turns. The anchor must reset itself. This anchor generally does. I say generally because once at an anchorage down on Isla Espiritu Santo we had to pull it up and reset it when the boat began gently drifting for some unknown reason. It had been firmly set. We always, 100% of the time, back down on the anchor and make sure it’s set firmly. And yet, this one time it dragged in really pretty benign conditions. But that’s another story.

The storm eventually died down, as storms do. We reset the anchor closer to shore and went to explore the salt flats and the ‘ghost town’. There are no ghosts there, by the way. The only invisible beings that presented themselves were the NoSeeums. They will eat you alive. I guess it’s part of the adjustment to warmer weather that we now need to just go ahead and DEET up before we go to shore anywhere. I had easily 50 bites on my arms and they took more than a week to go away. I discovered that rubbing a raw lime on the bumps helped with the itching considerably. The relief lasts for several hours, then you just do it again. Limes: the new Coconut Oil. There’s your cruising hint for the day.

A lovely nudibranch from Bahia Ballandra.

Nudibranch, Bahia Ballandra. The colors of the animal are true, but the background is grayer than it should be. A beautiful thing.

Here are a couple of updates: the holding tank is leaking again. Fortunately it’s not as bad as it was before, so the tape is helping quite a bit. We have a containment system for any overflow, so we won’t have to do massive cleanup if it fails completely. We can get almost a week of cautious use before the leak happens. We’ll have to put in a new tank at haulout. Put that on the list.

Remember that ‘short term’ fix we did on the leaking hatches about two years ago? It’s still holding. But we rebedded one anyhow as the tape was starting to look ratty. Good stuff, that aluminum tape. I love good tape. That’s two for three done.

The water is warm enough for swimming now! It’s lovely to be able to swim without a wetsuit.

We’re going home! That’s an exclamation point of excitement. We have a kid getting married (yes, that’s two for two in two years) in August and want to be home to help with wedding preparations. We have to renew our visa in July, so we’ve decided to just go home July 2. Actually I am quite excited to go home for awhile.  I look forward to getting the garden spiffed up and doing a few home-owner projects, not to mention seeing people. We’ve lived there so long that I cannot help but feel anchored to that place and all the folks we know. We will have to decide what to do with our house now, a decision that is harder than it sounds like it should be. To rent it or to sell it outright. We struggle with this probably more than many people would.

We’ll be leaving Galapagos on a mooring ball here in Puerto Escondido. It was a hard decision as it would be cheaper to put her on the hard across the sea in San Carlos or Guaymas. Lots of people do that. Many people also stay in La Paz, but we ruled that out early. We like the idea of leaving her in the water, but not the idea of leaving her on a dock. We like this place. It’s like a fortress with the mountains surrounding it on all sides. The moorings are new and we have hired someone to come check the boat every month, turn on the engine, and make sure the mooring is sound. He will also provide us with a stronger shackle and pendant. Anytime you leave your boat there is a risk, but we feel pretty confident that she will be safe here. For once, we’re just doing the easiest thing for us. We can fly out of Loreto and be home in less than 9 hours.

I’ll leave you with a couple of fun photos from a recent visit to Bahia Ballandra on Isla Carmen. A nice place, that.

S/V Galapagos, Out!

Mike and our nephew Reid fishing at Bahia Ballandra.

That fishing trip resulted in this delicious albacore tuna. Fish tacos!



3 thoughts on “All the Ways We Anchor

  1. Oh, it all sounds so familiar:
    big northerlies, and/or waves in anchorage, hanging and dodging on the hook (praying for anchor and chain), then jejenes (noseeums)… Michelle got 158 bites one day..

    Why we’re here.

    By the way now bottlenose dolphins have shown up off BC coast. Climate change…?

    Enjoy trip home. Everything is green.

  2. We hung out at Bahia Ballandra, and unfortunately never made it around to the east side of Isla Carmen. What a great trip you are having.

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