To travel the approximately 245 miles from Turtle Bay to Bahia Santa Maria there are two options: harbor hoping down through the anchorages of Asuncion, Abreojos, and San Juanico with an overnighter from San Juanico into Bahia Santa Maria (about 4.5 days), or else a straight shot which takes you offshore 40 to 50 miles and can be completed in about 50 hrs. After careful study of the weather forecast we, along with three other boats (Konami – Westsail 32’, Yare-32’ Tahiti ketch, and Hoku Pa’a – Niagara 35’), decided to make the trip in one long jump.
With bright blue skies and about 10 knots of wind we exited the harbor on the Sunday morning after Thanksgiving and had some great sailing. It would have been better if there were not so many lobster pots with floats. We passed numerous floats, which was somewhat surprising given the depth of the water (over 300 ft) and given our earlier experience, I remained on the bow to keep a lookout for floats. The other boats were strung out in single file and we all monitored VHF channel 68 to warn those behind us of the presence and color of floats we passed. After several hours we made it through the mine field.
As any sailor knows, when there are at least two boats sailing together it becomes an unofficial “race”.
We all went through numerous sail changes to gain an extra bit of speed – we even flew what we call the “devil sail” (actually called a genaker, a large, colorful, light-air sail). We call it the devil sail because if you get just a little too much wind it becomes rather unmanageable, besides it takes some work to get it up and set.
Fortunately we had doused the devil sail by the time the wind picked up, and by late afternoon we had a good 15 knots of wind and we were all sailing along quite smartly. Given the similar length of all our boats, our speeds were similar, and we remained within visual range until dark. As night fell, Konami who was about 5 miles ahead, radioed to suggest that if we hadn’t already reefed we should as winds were picking up sharply. We immediately tucked a second reef in the main (had already put in the first) and soon after we were seeing wind in the low 20s. Still not bad, and still no more than the forecast called for. However, after several hours, seas began to build and we started to see gusts to 25 knots. We brought in the by-now reefed jib and set a reefed staysail. By midnight we were all pretty uncomfortable. Konami’s head backed up and they were reduced to using a bucket in the cockpit, in addition to dealing with several broken sailslides on the mainsail. Most of the crew of Yare (the captain and twin 5-yr old boys) succumbed to seasickness, and they hove-to (a method of back-winding the sails wherein the boat comes to almost a stop and drifts slowly downwind –actually quite comfortable) to get some relief.
Anjuli rolled on through the night like some demented freight train, careening down the big swells at over 8 knots (probably would have been a good time for the third reef in the mainsail, however the captain had removed the tie line in Turtle Bay – and it wasn’t getting put back in at 2:30 in the morning on a heaving deck). The wind was from the NE and on the aft quarter which is a good place for it to be, but the seas were steep due to the wind opposing the swell. Things which have never been dislodged became airborne and were strewn about the cabin. Potatoes and onions rolled about the cabin floor. The noise inside was hard to take – a cacophony of banging, rattling, and squeaking.
After a full 12 hours of this the wind began to drop, and the rest of the day and following night we saw no more than 15 knots. By dawn on the second day the wind had died completely, and we motored into Bahia Santa Maria by 11:00 am. We were rewarded with several nice tuna on the way in – one a skipjack which we prepared as suggested by brother Jon (marinating for an hour or two in a mixture of soy sauce, sesame oil, sliced onions and a dash of hot sauce, then eating).
Although not our worst passage ever, it definitely made the top five. Several Bloody Marys were had upon arrival – even Kitt the cruising cat was glad to be in.