The story from Betsey's journal:
We got into Mazatlan a few days ago after a rip
roaring, rail down sail across El Golfo (the Sea of Cortez) .
We sailed into the old Mazatlan Harbor in the middle of the night,
salt-soaked, tired, worn, and crusty.
a few days, we decided to tie up to the sea wall at Club Nautico so we
could hose off our salt-encrusted boat.
We were a little nervous about this,
as Club Nautico requires a Med-style tie. To med-tie,
you drop and set an anchor, then back up to the sea wall and tie crossed
lines from the stern to the dock. It’s
not my favorite, mostly because its hard to get a good anchor set.
heard on the SSB about a tropical storm off Cabo San Lucas, about 180
miles west of us, the way we just came. We knew we might catch the edge of
that storm, but all the local folks reassured us, ‘no problemo, no
problemo’. We watched the weather and our tie-up anxiously
throughout the day. We talked about moving off to anchor back in the
harbor and eventually were persuaded by the local knowledge to stay put.
Our decision to stay tied to the sea wall was
influenced by our suspicion that our anchor was fouled on the mooring
buoys off our bow, and we thought we would probably need a diver to free
So we went to bed.
I woke up about 3 am to
the pounding of the inflatable, tied up just outside the porthole by my
George and I got up, quickly
got dressed, and went out to take a look around.
watched for about 30 minutes.
Wind was dead on the bow (from the East), blowing 15-20 mph. The sea wall was about 15 feet behind us on a lee shore (the
wind was blowing us into the wall). The
dinghy dock next to our stern was flying up in the air and crashing down
as the wind waves hit the sea wall.
we were marginally ok.
Until the wind increased
dramatically, and shifted to our starboard beam (right side of the boat in
the middle). The poorly set anchor came
loose, then most likely fouled again on the mooring buoys in front of
us. Soul Catcher lay broadside and about 10 feet away
from the sea wall. The dinghy dock was crashing up and down on the swim step on
our stern and mincing it into slivers.
We were definitely NOT OK.
Luc was awake by now, and shortly after, Metz, J
and Jock came to help us. Mads
was off Nangijala, J off Gitane, and Jock was a musician who was sleeping
in his van at Club Nautico.
scene was like a made-for-TV-movie, wind howling, rain coming down
sideways, waves crashing against the sea wall, people shouting to be heard
above the wind, boat and dinghy dock careening wildly off the sea wall. You
can see the damage to the dinghy dock as the swim step crashed up and down
during the storm.
This is what I remember:
running around in boxer shorts, rain jacket, and goose bumps, trying to
help save our boat, desperately worried about his own, med-tied at the
other end of the sea wall.
wild haired and wild-eyed, trying to help, his face saying that he thinks
our boat is inevitably lost.
thinking, watching, looking around, trying to come up with a plan.
wide-eyed, running back and forth from the anchor in the bow to his
parents in the stern.
George, trying to keep
the swimstep from contact with the dinghy dock; he also thinks our boat is
in the howling and the foul-smelling spray, we decided to take our 300
feet of extra anchor rode and try to tie it to the concrete dock to
the south of us (through a locked gate and across a gap in the dock over
the water). Mads –about 22
years old, and Jock, about 65 years old, go off in the wind and the rain
with one end of the line.
the anchor is just barely holding us off the sea wall, now about 4 feet
away from our port beam (left side of our boat). We can use our windlass handle to
tighten the anchor line gently
to keep us off the wall, but the waves are crashing into the wall and
rebounding off Soul Catcher at the same time as the wind is pushing her
into the wall.
comes aft to say that the anchor windlass handle is gone, we assume flung
off in a gust of wind. Now we
are sure we are doomed. The
line to the commercial dock is our only hope.
now about 5 am, we’ve been working to save our boat for only 2 hours,
but it seems like 2 years.
We are all soaked to the skin, hoarse from shouting to be heard
above the wind and waves, and we watch helplessly as Soul Catcher inches
ever closer to the sea wall.
the last possible moment, we hear Jock, Mads and a dock attendant shouting
from the commercial dock.
We can see through the spray that they have secured the end of our
line to a bollard and are trying to pull us toward the commercial dock and
away from the sea wall. Luc goes over to add some muscle. We are marginally safe, tied to
the commercial dock with one line, and with our fouled anchor somehow
holding us off the wall.
You can barely see the
line, very taut, holding us off the sea wall
other end of that line
Our friends tie us off when our stern is clear of the
still-flailing dinghy dock, but now Luc is on shore and George and I are
on board. So Luc, Jock and
Mads go off to help J and Jenny on Gitane try to keep their boat off the
sea wall. I watch my 15
year old son grow up, as he runs off into the wind and rain with the other
cruisers. He was a different
person the next time I saw him a few hours later.
After it was clear that Soul Catcher was safe for the moment,
George took the dinghy over to try and help Gitane kedge another anchor to
keep them off the wall.
Now its 10 am.
J and Jenny's boat, is still not out of danger. Her transmission is
still in pieces, so she has no working engine. J and Jenny decide
they will feel safer on their own hook in the harbor (as far away from the
sea wall as possible) George and Lucas and the other cruisers get
into inflatables to help move Gitane off the sea wall and back at
anchor in the harbor. Now we are waiting for the diver to come and help us
unfoul our anchor so we can get back to the main harbor and away from this
hateful sea wall.
is tired of waiting for the diver, who is understandably busy in the
aftermath of the storm. Luc
went off with Jock to find a replacement for our windlass handle. We called all our cruising friends
on the VHS to a gathering to help us get off the commercial dock and back
in the harbor on our own anchor. Our
friends helped us put out another 300 feet of line to the commercial dock
amidships. Now we have two
lines holding us to the commercial dock, and we can try to get our anchor
fussed and worried at the anchor chain, trying to get it unfouled from the
mooring buoys. Finally he dropped a huge chunk of
anchor chain to try and dislodge it, and up she came. So its still blowing some, we have
2 lines to the commercial dock, one stern line to the sea wall, and many
friends standing by.
We had to pass over a mess of mooring buoys (the
ones that fouled our anchor) so our friends hauled us closer and closer to
the huge commercial dock, I put the engine in gear, and off we went.
We’re now safe at
anchor in the old Mazatlan harbor. Of course we set the anchor a few
times and are considering a third try.
George has finally gone to sleep in the cockpit, Luc is doing r
& r in his berth. I’m sure its time for a nap. But I feel compelled to stand
a watch for a while.