Sailing Mango

What Do The Tourists Think?

Yesterday, after we were settled in Bahia de Chamela, a few pangas zoomed by us loaded up with what looked like tourists going out for a dive. Chamela has a bunch of little rocky islands, and reportedly has excellent snorkeling and diving. The pangas come fairly close to the boat, maybe fifty feet, all of us gawking at each other, no smiles. Then someone waves, we recover our manners, and there are smiles all around. The panga guys are really the only ones that seem to have an honest hello. It's the way they wave and nod, with a bit of smile that says, "'sup".

When I was dreaming of traveling on a sailboat and would see people out on theirs, I would stare too, and wonder about their idyllic lives. Sure part of me knew it was work, more than I knew, but come on, it does look pretty dreamy. But here we are now, in paradise, and some days are surely harder than others. For example, as I sit in the cockpit trying to write, on a weekday, while bobbing around in water so clear I could see our anchors hit the bottom, along with the puff of sand, I am pinned to the cockpit seat and can barely move! It’s a tough life!

Ignoring the uninhabaited island six hundred feet away and the pristine sandy beaches in the background, you will note in the photo below the little white bouy off of our stern.

That my friends, took work. Work as in hard for a white male, but probably normal to easy for the rest of the world.

Something we look for when anchoring is an anchorage that completely blocks the swell, which in turn causes us to roll around, a very uncomfortable feeling. So we dropped the hook next to a little island that we thought had the least amount of swell. Within minutes of turning off the engine, we started to feel icky. The boat was rolling, side to sickening side. It was hot in the mid morning sun, and hotter below with the heat of the engine. There was a faint smell of hot motor oil.

Normally I would spring a line from our anchor chain to an aft winch, and combined with a snubber line at the bow, would form a bridal so that the side of the boat faced into the wind, and the bow or stern would point into the swell. The boat would then rock bow to stern, and not roll side to side. This is much more comfortable. Alas, there was no wind, which is required for the bridal to work. The next step was to deploy a stern anchor.

With a deep sigh of resignation, I got the rowing dinghy over the side of the boat, and prepared our stern anchor. While I have never done this particular manuver, with all of the skill of an armchair sailor, I deployed that anchor in an hour and a half flat, twice. The first time I did nearly everything right, like so:
  • Get the row boat in the water, involving a spinnaker halyard, a tense discussion with my dear daughter that did not go my way, and a lot of internal cursing.
  • Untie the stern anchor. Surely someone over tied that sucker, because it was a royal pain in the neck to untie.
  • Flake out one hundred feet or so of rope on the aft deck.
  • Lower the anchor and rope into a dinghy that didn't really want to be close to the mothership.
  • Row out behind Mango, and drop the anchor.
  • Get my hands on an ill placed snubber from Mango while still in the very tippy dinghy.
  • Tie off the snubber onto the anchor line, and then secure the snubber on the aft of Mango.

Easy, right? Yeah. I have read several articles on this technique of pointing the mothership into the waves. Maybe after fifty times it becomes second nature, as these articles suggest. Maybe.

If I hadn't been so tired and hot, I would have been proud of Mango, bravely meeting the incoming swell head on due to the awesomely deployed stern anchor. Just as I was going to take a dunk into the clear blue-green water, a panga zoomed past us, just off our stern, maybe forty feet away.

Oh shit.

As he approached, he looked at me and waved. I waved back, grimly. His gaze then shifted to our boat, then the line streaming off our stern, then directly ahead of his panga, doing at least twenty miles an hour, then back to the line, and then to me, now also a bit grim as he realized he was zipping over a line, possibly fouling his prop. This took all of a second.

Sigh. Fortunately the panga was fine.

Back onto the aft deck, I assembled a twenty foot bit of line and a floating fender. Into the dinghy, I rowed out to the stern anchor. I took that bit of line and ran it down the anchor line with a smooth carabiner as I rowed out so I could life off the stern anchor from the bottom. Once the anchor was up into the dinghy, I secured the float to the anchor trip line hole and rowed hard to straighten the line and Mango.

It is, perhaps, a little foolish to try to fight the wind and straighten out a thirty thousand pound boat with a rowing dinghy. However with some patience, some work and a bit of insanity, Mango came around, and I lowered the anchor back into the water without snagging my feet or other body parts with the bouy line, which is nice.

It isn't perfect. The wind, hitting our beam, is putting a tremendous strain on the two anchor rodes. Our anchor alarm has gone off twice in twenty four hours. Perhaps I setup the alarm incorrectly, but it has never gone off before, except when I zoom off in the dinghy with my phone and therefore anchor alarm in my pocket (Alarm! Alarm! You're dragging idiot!). Soon I'll go over the side with a mask and fins to check on the primary anchor. I don't want to be on those sandy beaches too soon.


The paddle board is a requirement for any anchorage we are in. We use it as a snorkeling tender, exploration for one vehicle, a place to take a bath, and a good place to board Mango.

Stern anchor line with a soft shackle.

Night time fish watching.

Just your typical sunset.

Emma has rekindled her passion for drawing on this trip.

Biscuit on watch.

Getting buzzed by the pangas. They switched to buzzing our bow after setting the stern anchor float.

What a handsome boy!

Leaving Bahia Chamela.

View of the cockpit. We prefer to ignore the blind spot dead ahead of us.