January 4th, 2016 (-5 on UTC)
Dear Friends and Family,
A whole lots happened since we wrote you just the other day. First, we went to visit friends Peter and Laurie of Switch 51, \”Zia\” and were hoping to have a relaxing New Years Day! Not to be. We leisurely started doing the last minute projects when we discovered our entire Navigation Electronics system was on the fritz! I was able to call the local guru and he agreed to meet us on the morning of the 2nd.
The underlying issue for us was \”the weather window\”. This whole \”weather window\” thing is part science, part magic and part luck. The luck\’s is usually the least important, but not always. It wouldn\’t have made any difference to us what exact day we\’d leave except for the unusual location where we were. So, in short, the electronics issues we believe were resolved by Chris Wooley on the morning of the second and we dashed the 4 hour trip up the Rio Dulce to Livingston – our port of exit. P.S. a little gremlin has showed up in the electronics since, but nothing we can\’t live around – for now!
Now the long of it:
After we cleared Customs, etc. it was nearly 3:30 pm and the weather looked good to go for the roughly 24 hour trip to the island of Gunaja in the Bay of Islands.. The key was getting to the Bay of Islands of Honduras in time for the Westerly push we needed to get around \”Punta Gracias Adios\” (Thank God Point). This name has significance – read on.
Think of the Rio Dulce of Guatemala(Caribbean side, being at the bottom of a big funnel that you have to climb out of. The sides of the funnel are Belize and Mexico to one side (the North) and Honduras and Nicaragua to the other side (The East). Now going North, there are several opportunities for light to no wind conditions, but going East is an entirely different event. The Easterly Trade Winds blow across the northern coast of Honduras giving only intermittent opportunity to escape. Add to this the famous Gulf Stream current going against you and you\’ve \”got issues\”.
Columbus,(yeah that Columbus), was trapped in the Rio Dulce area and tried to get East to go around a final point of land to Panama as we are. First, he had no idea where the land ended and allowed him to turn south. Fortunately, thanks to him and others who followed in his wake – we do. It turned out it was over 350 miles straight up wind and took him over 3 months to make the journey. He didn\’t know about modern weather and needless to say…he was MAKING the charts as he went along.
The trick is to wait for an \”Arctic Cold Front\” which comes across the North American plains, into the Gulf of Mexico and down the coast of the Western Caribbean. This same phenomenon causes the infamous \”Tehuanepeckers\” of the Gulf of Tehuanepec on the West Coast of Mexico. One is just finishing up as we write. Many of our fellow boaters know about these and Cindy and I had to time our initial trip down the West Coast of Mexico to miss them. Fortunately, we did.
When the front gets down to Guatemala, it creates a counter clockwise wind which blows from West to East AGAINST the prevailing trade winds. This allows the escape and why we had to pick the right day to be off!
As I post remotely via satellite, I must break this long blog into parts or it won\’t post. But I bet I\’ve got you attention for the next one?…:-)
Scott and Nikki