Sunday, March 3, 2013

Woe is we as we ship the sea into our little landing craft

In my ongoing effort to find areas of strife in our lives I've selected a few incidents that will prove to our hard working friends in the frigid wet northwest that all is not a bowl of avocados down here on what they call the Gold Coast of Mexico.
Full moon means really high tides and the palapa restaurants on the beach get a little too much seaside exposure.

Speaking of avocados, we have at least one a day, sometimes two.  They are always available in the tiendas and markets.  Our favorite way is to mush up the whole thing then add some pico de gallo to give it a little kick.  We then break out the tortilla chips (totopos) and scoop up the lovely green mixture.

But I'm supposed to be concentrating on the bad stuff, just to make you feel better... Let's see.

Because the refrigerator is fubar it runs way too many hours of the day.  This depletes the house bank of batteries necessitating the running of the little portable Honda generator.  This generator takes a little bit of gasoline and eventually we run low.  The dinghy engine also takes gasoline but I never seem to have to fill it up.  What's up with that? We were anchored in the beautiful bay of Santiago, just north of Manzanillo and I was in need of some gasoline.

At El Rays, we are wiling away the hours. A vendor is selling someone a nice hammock.
At the north end of the beach is a little estuary and a beach community called La Baquita. We anchored Traveler there in 30 feet of clear water along with about 20 other sailboats.  Onshore, at this sheltered beach landing spot is a group of about 8 palapa restaurants with plastic chairs and tables, on the sand, and great deals on ceviche (raw fish marinated in lime juice and garlic).  We beach land the dinghy right there at El Ray's palapa and sit and drink in the shade eating ceviche and fish tacos as the local children build sand castles around our little dinghy boat.

What's a beach landing like?  At El Rays it is a simple affair.  We put the dinghy wheels down into the water, one on either side of the outboard engine shaft.  The wheels are just deep enough so that the wheels will hit the bottom just before the prop hits the bottom.  Before the landing we stay just outside the surf break.  The sea will break when the height of the wave equals the depth of the water.  So with a three foot swell we can safely sit there in five feet of water waiting for our opportunity to land.  With Connie on the starboard side, Ezrah on the port side, and Scott in the back we watch for a set of larger than usual breakers and when the last one sweeps by us we shoot into the beach.  If we do this right we actually ride the swell into the beach.  When the depth gets to about two feet the dinghy wheels hit the sand and Connie and Ezrah jump out and grab the sides of the dinghy while I kill the engine, jump out and we all haul the boat up on the beach. ( well, mostly Ezrah does the hauling) We drag it into the soft sand where we don't have to worry about the tide coming in and sweeping it away.

That's how it all works... in theory.

At La Boquita the waves are not as big as in the rest of the Santiago Bay beach area.  But we were in need of gasoline and there is no Pemex station at La Boquita.  So one morning Ezrah and Scott took off in the dinghy in search of a Pemex gas station.  We ran offshore about 100 yards off the beach till we finally spotted a Pemex station just across the beach road.  This spot was about 3 miles from our boat.  We timed the incoming surf and did a pretty decent beach landing then we hauled the dinghy up on the sand.  After walking to the Pemex and filling up on gasoline we visited the little tienda and got a small bottle of rum for Connie.

Back at the beach we loaded the dingy and rolled it down to the water line.  We got the boat into about a foot of water and pointed her bow seaward.  The surf was crashing pretty heavily as the beach was fairly steep.  Timing our entrance we shoved the boat forward and prepared to board her when a big breaking wave struck the front of the dinghy.  The little boat lifted up and over, slewing sideways and taking water over the bow.  Ezrah hung on to the bow as I was knocked on to my ass with the boat coming down on me.  Sideways in the surf now we tried to drag her back to the beach but she was so full of water that we couldn't lift her out.  So I pulled the drain plug and we both fought to hold her bow up as the water slowly ran out the drain.  Eventually we got her empty again, pointed her towards the sea and tried again.

This time we were successful.  And once back at the boat we enjoyed changing out of our salty wet clothes and drying our passports and wallet contents in the warm sun.  Connie made us little rum drinks as a consolation and I topped off the little Honda generator with gasoline and started making electricity.

Day two, we decided to go to a nearby town to buy some produce.  This time Connie was at the helm as we approached the beach in an area we hoped had moderate surf.  She timed the approach and in we went.  When the dinghy wheels touched sand, one of the wheels collapsed slewing the boat around to the port side just as a big breaker washed over us all.  The boat filled with salt water and all our gear was now floating around inside the dinghy.  

We drained the salt water back out and then decided to abandon our shopping plans and return to the mother ship to dry everything out before setting off again. With the surf getting higher and higher we pretty much had to swim the dinghy out beyond the surf line before hauling ourselves aboard.  Strike two, surf vs dinghy.

After that, we made the decision always to land in the light surf at El Rays and just walk the mile or so down the beach to access the highway into town.  In fact we found a nice little beach access walkway in between a couple of seaside homes.  We land near El Rays, walk down the beach a little then stop at this walkway where there is a cold water shower which feels really nice after walking down the hot beach. We rinse the sand off our feet and shoes and take a pleasant walk through a palm tree shaded up-scale neighborhood (Club Santiago) to the main road and the #1 bus that takes us wherever we want to go for 7 pesos, about 50 cents.

Our theory on surf landings now?  The surf will win. Find the spot with the most gentle waves and do your best.  Carry nothing that you don't mind getting wet.
The lagoon at high tide

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