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Fighting to Save Our Catamaran

Well it’s certainly been an interesting final week of 2022. On Christmas morning the park rangers of Cayos Cochins came to the boat and told us that a big Northerly storm, oddly turned Westerly by the Belize, Guatemalan and Honduran elbow, was coming and we needed to take shelter across the bay against the next mountainous island Cayos Cochinos Menor where there was a lot of protection from westerlies.



We had been watching the same storm debating on staying or returning to Roatan. Ultimately, we decided to stay not wanting to abruptly cut our time short. So on Christmas morning, we dropped everything and moved to Menor. Our friends on Legacy joined us on the other side. What should have taken us 45 minutes to complete took us more than 3 hours. We couldn’t’ get the anchor to stick and it was too deep and murky to snorkel to 50’ to find out what was wrong. After multiple anchoring attempts, Eileen kitted up in her scuba gear and went down to assess the area and found our chain on top of two reefs smashing the coral in its path and the anchor laying on its side on top of the sand which was only a thin dusting on top of a rock bottom. Pretty frustrated at this point, we picked up and tried another attempt while the weather was deteriorating so we had to stick it soon. This time, Eileen put on her scuba gear and descended to assess. This time the anchor was the problem. Clearly it had hit bottom while our boat was not moving backwards causing the chain to wrap and not allow the point of the anchor to dig in. This is the deepest place we had ever anchored and we have to improve our technique for deep water anchoring. The good news was the sand was soft and deep under the anchor; however, she was sick to her stomach watching the anchor chain breaking more coral on the mound as Blown Away swayed back and forth in wind and current but this was where the ranger told us to anchor and we were out of other options.


 

After she came up, Brown dove to pull back on the chain and bury the anchor and we both felt good about it. It was a good thing because the weather was so bad because this would be our last dive and if we spent anymore time anchoring, we'd have to refuel for sure 🤣🤣🤣! The downside of our location was a then but treacherous reef was only about 100’ behind us so if we had any mishap, we would need to be ready to start the engines and move out. But, we were not expecting any North or East wind so we should be safe. We set our anchor alarm and left the helm instruments on, adding a bunch of alarms for depth and anchor radius. The more alerts the better in a danger zone! We finally settled in to enjoy the remainder of Christmas evening and were very thankful to have a little bit of data from the ranger station squeaking around the mountain peak.


Its’ quite an odd feeling looking out behind your boat knowing that disaster is only 100’ away. It’s unsettling. The currents started to swirl as did the wind behind the island and we were swimming in an odd pattern which eventually became redundant. Every now and again, we swung into 25’ of water and the alarms would start ringing, but we always bounced back. Many of huge trees, the size of telephone poles floated in on the surf along with tons of trash. Brown slept with one eye open all night and kept an eye on our location. Eileen was up part of the night dealing with the torrential downpour and resulting leaks around the boat.


 

The winds really kicked up on Monday morning. Our friends took their dinghy out to check around the corners of the island and were blown back by the winds and the waves. It was inhospitable outside of the small cove where we found shelter. Things continued to deteriorate all day but we were still swinging in an pattern and not getting any closer to the reef. Our confidence in our anchor and ground tackle was growing despite not appreciating our circumstances.  Our friends have a Nordhaven so they had to deploy their stabilizer system due to the rocking and rolling. In a cat we are far more stable. We spent the day staring at the screens, watching, waiting and ready to address any issue that might arise. We assigned shifts for sleeping and helm duty and tried to get some rest. Tuesday morning, the skies were black. It was pouring rain and we got a big surprise. Well, it wasn’t a huge surprise as we were watching the weather like hawks, but we were really hoping that the forecast was wrong. But it was correct and the winds shifted to the North. As typical, given our windage, our boat made the swing before our friends did. The waves were increasing in size. The rain was unrelenting. And we were getting nailed by the fetch building all the way from the Caribbean Sea. When Legacy finally swung into a similar orientation to ours, we were within 30’. In the best of conditions, that’s really close. In these conditions, it was downight dangerous. Christine and Joe are experienced sailors and despite the conditions were able to pick up anchor and pull out, making it look easy. But, where to go? That was their dilemma. They drove around for a a bit and ventually settled in the bay of the big island which we had left 2 days prior. There they had protection from the north wind but they were estill getting hit by the swell. Anyway, the important thing was that they safely dropped anchor. We monitored the helm the whole day on high alert as our boat was a bucking bronco. We were hit by squall after squall after squall, but thankfully our anchor held stonrg. We took a beating all day but thankfully by 9 pm at night the winds shifted back to the west and gave us a bit of a reprieve. WE worked our night shifts and woke up tired but so thankful. The sun finally returned mid-day on Wednesay and the water around us was calm. It was Joe and Christine’s turn to take a ride on the bucking bronco as they endured the West winds in their direction.



Thankfuly, both of our boats made it through the monster Christmas storm. It was so helpful to have company especially seasoned sailors and friends throughout the storm. The winds calmed completely by Wednesday night but we decided tow ait until Thursday morning to move back to the mooring ball at the big island. We didn’t want to chance trying to pick up anchor and having an issue late in the day. We loved our time at Cayos (well most of it!) Cochinos, especially the diving and snorkeling. It was so pristine that it was like exploring unspoiled reefs two hundred years ago. But it was time to get back to Roatan to prepare for our Panama crossing. Also, we had a great sailing day pop up and we so wanted to take advantage of it.


 

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Thanks for reading and please make some comments and share our blog. Until next week . . .


Lots of love,


Eileen and Brown

s/v Sailing Blown Away


"Proceed as if success is inevitable."

+1.347.461.1204 - US mobile/Whatsapp


Twitter - @svblownaway

Instagram - @sailingblownaway



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