January 4th, 2016 (-5 on UTC)
Dear Friends and Family,
I last left you hanging with the description of the elements needed for a \”weather window\” to get from the Rio Dulce of Guatemala around \”Punta Gracias Adios\” (Thank God Point).
We did indeed escape the Rio Dulce, the last hurdle being the very shallow river bar that gets down to 4 1/2 feet for about 250 yards.
No worries there and we headed for our first waypoint, Puntas Tres Cabos (The Three Points) which was only about 9 miles to the Northeast. The seas were calm, but the winds were predicted to be about 7-10 knots which meant that we might see 12-18 knots.
The issue with this is first, it\’s straight upwind and second, being at the bottom of the funnel, we get the local phenomenon known as the \”Utila Bounce\”. Utila is the most Westerly of the three Bay of Islands (Utila, Roatan – the most famous and Guanaja) and an overnight trip for us at 7 knots. True to form, the bounce was in and it was a very rough evening. Not our idea of a great first night at sea, but the piper had to be paid to get out to the expected Westerly that would last long enough to get us around \”PGA\” (Punta Gracias Adios).
The winds were 12-18 knots most of the night and didn\’t go calm till about 7 a.m. It was lunch losing for most, Nikki was a trouper and I suffered in silence. All the \”first day at sea stuff\” went awry as always, open hatches, yada, yada. Will we ever learn? The morning however was flat calm and we kept evaluating the weather files as we could download new ones every six hours. Our Westerly front was looking very strong at first and very fast, but then it started to weaken and slow down.
As such, we decided to get a good nights sleep at the Island of Gunaja (the most Easterly of the Bay of Islands and wait for the front to catch up to us. This as it turned out was a good idea and we were in email contact with friends Dennis and Lisette who had made the trip at the end of last season. They are now waiting for this front to go away, so they can get across the Gulf of Tehuanepec in Mexico. The anchorage was a bit tricky to enter and I was violating my \”3:30 p.m. rule\” in the most egregious way. That\’s my personal rule for when I want to be at an anchorage. We arrived at 5:30 p.m., entered the reef system, dodged the fishing nets and were hooked up with less than 15 minutes of light left. This is not a good idea. The luck part was in full force here. Without Dennis\’ waypoints, I would have had to skip the good nights sleep.
The weather showed the front catching us near dawn and the squally rain started around midnight as predicted.
We did some boat chores and were off around 0900 (that\’s boat speak for 9 a.m.) and just beat the blinding rain squall to get through the reefs. The seas were a bit confused as they didn\’t understand why since they always come from the East, this \”West thing\” showed up. After a 3 hour motor, the winds blessedly filled in from the West at 7, then 12 then up to 22 knots!
We managed to miss all the rain around us, set full main and genoa and were sailing WEST – a strange occurrence in these waters.
I\’ll post part 2 now and bring you right up to the present in the stirring tale of \”We\’re Off, Part 3\” so stand by!
Scott and Nikki