Thursday, May 31, 2012

Negotiating a Reef Pass ... At Night

The view from our anchorage early this morning

Sailing through a reef pass at night is one of those classic "don't do this" sailing moves. And it's one of the big sailing no-nos for a reason. Because sailing through a reef pass at night when you can't see anything is stupid. Really, really stupid. I have to admit that in our case I'm exaggerating slightly. It wasn't quite nighttime. Just close. Really, really close.

So how did we find ourselves committing a major sailing sin? Well, we left Isla at noon after filling up our tanks, which gave us eight hours to make the 25 mile trip. If we averaged four knots, we would get there at about six with a couple of hours to spare. The wind looked good. We'd make it there fine. If, of course, it hadn't taken us three and a half hours to go the first five miles.

You see, we had an amazing sail. The water was turquoise and clear. It was a gorgeous day with perfect weather. But we made a couple of slight miscalculations. First of all, the wind wasn't being super cooperative, meaning that we were going against it. Not a problem. We can just tack. Unfortunately, the other miscalculation was a real doozy. Between Cancun and Isla Mujeres is a current that runs north anywhere between two to five knots. We were going south.

Once it hit 3:00, we came to our senses and turned on the engine. We still hadn't made it around Punta Cancun and into the Caribbean Sea, but with a little engine assist we made it past the point by 3:30 or 4:00. Once again, the sailing was incredible. We had a better wind direction, found a countercurrent and sat back to watch the Cancun skyline go by.

Alas, though, you cannot change physics. Despite the fact that we motor sailed the entire way, averaging five knots with the occasional jump to six, we just weren't going to make it to the anchorage at Puerto Morelos before the sun set. We were right along side the town as the sun went below the horizon in a last burst of orange and gold and pink, and we just cruised through the reef as the last vestiges of light said their final goodbyes, which while pretty was also incredibly nerve racking when all we could hear off the port side was the crashing of waves as the ocean met the shallow reef.

Then, we had to figure out how to get to the anchorage. In the dark. And that's when I realized that the two cruising guides I was using and the iPad with Navionics were completely wrong about Puerto Morelos. First of all, the whole group was wrong about the depth. By 15 feet in the wrong direction! Once again, it didn't really matter much because we still had 7 feet of water under our keel but still. Then, there was the marker buoy situation. The guides and Navionics each differed on how many buoys there were and where they were located, and they were all wrong, leaving us totally lost in the buoy department. It's very disorienting out on the water at night in unfamiliar places, and though we were able to see all of the unlit buoys, sitting stationary on the glittering water, it was, once again, disconcerting.

You'll be relieved to know that we did eventually wind up anchoring with the fishing boats off of the municipal pier, after which we collapsed in the cockpit. We did notice what looked like mooring balls further out but decided after an extremely short discussion that perhaps it would just be better to stay here with the pangas. They are cuter anyway. Then, Vlad made me a grilled cheese sandwich, and despite going to sailing hell for all the transgressions we committed today I have to say we had a great time.


7 comments:

  1. Well the view is amazing lol We're gonna need u two to b a bit more careful!!!

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    1. I was pretty happy to wake up to it! And the entire trip was great except for the running out of daylight part.

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  2. haha..sounds familiar! I'm glad you made it alright..and now you make me want a grilled cheese!
    Dani

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    1. They are delicious, aren't they!

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    2. Yes so good. I had forgotten about them..but you, you reminded me. Thank you.

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  3. Glad you learned a valuable lesson without any damage!

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    1. Me too. Always leave early. Way early!

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