Emma, smiling: "OK, this feels really good."
Exactly. She was gathering lines at the bow while we were leaving the Mazatlan marina harbor, wind blowing an easy ten knots, and the boat felt good. We are off to Isla Isabel, ninety four miles south of us.
After we left the marina and motored out a bit, we performed the at sea portion of the auto pilot commissioning. It was uneventful, other than the test terminating with the rudder hard to port. Couldn't they have done us a solid and moved the rudder back amidship when the test was completed? That's where we had the rudder at the start of the test, and frankly we were all taught aboard this boat to put things back the way you found them, or better. Hard to port, honestly!
An hour or two later, and so far Otto the AP is doing fine, but it does overshoot a bit during the turns. We will have to adjust that. As for the new bottom paint job, we are doing just a bit better than half wind speed on a beam reach, so that makes me happy. Everyone likes a smooth bottom.
We have about half an hour before sunset, both kids and the dogs are zonked out, Kristen is below reading and I am at the helm, chillaxing after passing a big ol' freighter.
If all goes well we should be on the hook before noon tomorrow, and hopefully get in a little hiking, or at least a swim. Friends of ours where there a few days ago and saw a bunch of whales, mostly humpbacks. So that should be nice.
I am now on the 10pm to midnight watch. It is astonishing how easy it is to forget the majesty of the Milky Way, and all of those stars. I didn't see any shooting stars, but I'm sure they were there if I had just been looking at the right place at the right time. Biscuit is keenly interested in the phosphorescent specks from our bow wave. The boat is moving easily, seven to eight knots on a broad reach. I suspect the barnacles we had on the hull were severely impacting our speed prior to Mazatlan. Probably.
When I come up for the four to six am watch, the boat speed is down in the three knot range, five to six knots of wind. By the time I am off watch we are doing two knots in three knots of breeze. Quite good, and quite slow. The boat is making a terrible racket as the waves rock us back and forth, and the booms and sails bang around. There isn't enough wind to fill them and prevent the rocking motion. It isn't uncomfortable, just loud and it makes me cringe with every swell to think about the stresses on the rig. Boom! Bang!
At seven thirty in the morning Kristen decides that with the wind below two knots, and boat speed around one knot, it is time to motor. As soon as the boat is in gear and throttle increased a bit, a belt starts to screech. She powers the engine off, I check belt tension, all good, and then reduce the alternator output to about 40% of full power in the hopes that will reduce pull on the belt and solve the problem. It helps, but after 1,000 rpm the screech returns. So I disable the alternator, and off we go. Queue the foreshadowing music.
We arrive at Isla Isabel around noon, two boats are in the anchorage. The charts show the bottom is rocky, which is not great. Rocks can snag the anchor and chain, and cause all sorts of problems. Oh well, the island is supposedly not to be missed, so in we go. As we are getting close to our chosen spot, we can see rocks just below the surface and slightly to starboard. We move to port, and drop the hook. Immediately I can see we didn't drop far enough away from the submerged rocks, and we have to up anchor and move.
Now when we lower the anchor, we just use a mechanical clutch and gravity. The electrical motor of the anchor windlass is not used. But when raising, then we use the windlass motor. Since that motor has to raise potentially hundreds of pounds of steel, anchor and chain, it is pretty beefy and requires a lot of electricity. But, we have no alternator, and thus only our battery bank, which isn't sufficient for the job after sailing all night powering lights, the auto pilot, electronics and the fridge.
So at the present situation the anchor is holding, but we have very little chain out and I'm not sure for how long it will hold. We are about a boat length away from the submerged rocks, and several boat lengths away from another boat. If we drift back much further our rudder will be the first casualty to the rocks, and we sort of need that. If the anchor does come free, maybe it will snag on something else, like a rock, and hamper our ability to manuver further. Ah, what a pickle!
Knowing it probably won't work well, I try using the windlass motor, and it does raise some chain in a tired sort of way, and then just gives up. It is like trying one more time to start your car, and you get nothing, just click-click. I can feel the chain rubbing on the rocks below as I begin to manually raise the hook with the windlass, and I cannot tell if that is just chain skidding around or if our anchor is dragging, dragging closer to those damn rocks. I look at the anchor, look at the rocks. Anchor, rocks, anchor, rocks. You would swear I was watching a tennis match. I have gotten my anchoring anxiety a little more under control in the last few months, it is still there, lurking like the monster in your closet that you know is unreal during the day. But it is now nighttime in my mind, and the hour is darkish.
Eventually I crank up all the chain by hand, all the time watching the rocks, talking with Kristen who is at the helm, using Adam as a relay, and we are off towards deeper, safer water. I catch my breath, then rig the generator so that when we try to anchor again, if we have to up anchor at least we will have power and can do so quickly. That was the stressful thing about raising the anchor by hand in a "situation". It was so slow!
We circle around, generator cranking amps and giving us options, and we approach a better spot to drop the hook. As I get ready I realize I had really tightened the clutch, and cannot lower the hook! The boat is rapidly coming up to the ideal spot, I cannot free the anchor to lower it down, and then the moment is past, and Kristen begins to turn the boat back to sea so we can have another go at it. But then just as her turn begins I free the clutch, give a quick shout to Adam asking Kristen if we are still good with dropping the hook, and then the anchor is out, nearly running free until I have fifty feet of chain out in forty feet of water. After this the chain is let out much slower, matching the drift of the boat so I don't get short scoped, getting chain snagged on a rock. After just about two hundred feet are out we stop, I take my time to rig snubbers and a spring line in case we have to point the boat into the swell later to reducing rolling, and then do the final backing with the engine at 1500 RPM to set the anchor. After the chain is all bar tight and we have no more backward movement, Kristen drops the engine into idle, lets it cool for five minutes or so, and then we are done, anchored safely off of Isla Isabel.
For the rest of the day we take it easy, recover from the night sail, and enjoy the view from the boat. Tomorrow we explore!
Sunsets are so very nice at sea.
January 19th, 2017