An Adventure in Puerto Lobos (2nd Update)
Let me begin this story by saying there was a debate among crew and extended crew (the Calvary) on whether I would share this adventure on the blog because of the slightly embarrassing situation we found our selves in.. Now does that get your interest up for reading this update?
The sail (actually motor sail) from Penasco to Puerto Lobos was uneventful. Light winds (7–10) starting from the northwest and slowly clocked to the southwest never strong enough to shut the engines down. Steve and I commented that it was nice way to start the cruise with a easy day since this was the first and as always a shake down day to get things in order. We left Penasco with Easter crowds streaming in to celebrate Semana Santa (Easter in Spanish) the biggest holiday for the Mexican culture. Not surprising, arriving in Puerto Lobos we could see huge crowds on the north shore beach which is an area of Puerto Lobos I’ve never visited. Getting closer, there was a Bonda Band in a truck on the beach blaring out polka- like Mexican music, quads racing on the beach, trucks with probably slightly inebriated drivers doing brodies in the sand and power boats buzzing the water near by. A quick glance at the cruising guide and no noted hazards so we decided to take a closer look.
Sails down and motors idling we move closer to the beach when BUMP we nudge a rock… Yikes we’re out of here!! Hard right turn and bump, bump and we stopped.. XXXXX!! hard revere nothing, rotate the boat nothing.. A quick look in the water and we see a strong ebbing tidal current created by the Puerto Lobos point driving us on the reef that has us motionless in the water. We’ve got to get off this so I’m in the water with a mask to see what can be done. Starboard keel and rudder are setting on and driven against a upward tapering rock reef. Push as hard as I can she’s not moving. The tide is receding fast and before we know it the starboard water line is 6” out of the water and we’re going nowhere!!
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the tides in the northern Sea of Cortez we are at a medium tide which is still about 15’. As I said, Now this is embarrassing… Between Steve and I we’ve got at least 60 years of ocean sailing experience and this happens. Looking closer we see a headland ridge projecting towards us, and experience says this is an area to be avoided due to possible outcropping rocks. Now the boat is starting to list due to only the starboard hull being on the reef.. This is not good.. Back in the water, the port keel is catching on a ledge as we settle but it will surely slip off as the water recedes. Time for some under water landscaping to build a platform for the port keel to settle on otherwise when it slides off the reef we will land on the hull which can’t take the load. With mask & fins we place rock after rock and with the help of a solid reef base a nice flat landing platform takes shape. Wow, we’re pretty exhausted from swimming while carrying rocks and not ten minutes after completing the work the keel slides down the ledge and lands on our platform. Looks like this is home until the next tide cycle. Still embarrassing but we can ride this out with the calm seas and escape with the 5AM high tide.
Reviewing the tide charts we found we’ve stuck ourselves 30 minutes after high tide. Tonight’s high tide will be 1 meter less than today’s, not enough to free us… That means we will have to wait for tomorrow 5PM high tide with thousands of revelers on the beach and a huge catamaran atop a reef like a big monument that completely dries at low tide for people to come visit. Did I mention this is embarrassing?
Code Red… It didn’t take us long to determine that tomorrow’s tide will be 1.8’ feet less that today’s high time and continues to decline each day. The next time the tide will be back at today’s level is at least 10 days if not more. Now this has gone from embarrassing to critical. We can’t have Gato Loco setting on a reef at the mercy of weather over the next 10 days.
At 1AM I got up and walked to set a stern and bow anchor firmly hooked on reefs in case the 5AM tide might be enough to free us with a little tug from the anchors.. Again up at 4:30 and water not touching our keels. 5:10 water resending. No luck. Time to get some needed rest.
Time to call in the Calvary… 6AM (Good Friday), I placed a call to boat co-owner Bill back in Cholla Bay and informed him of our situation. I explained my plan that I hatched during the night.. Innertubes!!! We need an insurance policy to ensure we get Gato Loco off the reef today. With the tide down 1.8 feet and we stuck Gato Loco about 30 minutes after high tide yesterday we have no margin and flotation is what we need to add insurance so we can free ourselves today. Cholla Bay/Puerto Penasco is 2 hours north by road so I asked him to find some large innertubes and bring them to Puerto Lobos.. Meanwhile it’s time to go ashore and see if I can find some tubes in the village and try to arrange a fishing panga to stand by at high tide to help free us…
Lobos is just awakening from a serious party night. People sleeping in cars, on cars, in tents and a few just passed out on blankets. After a few inquiries I meet Luis from Caborca now living in Tucson. He had a friend that lives here with a panga. I could try later after he returned from fishing. Now I need to find a tire shop… More walking and I can’t believe how this sleepy village has grown to a huge Easter party. Locals have concessions for stuff everywhere. I walk past a huge mud bog created an extreme high time and see a burned out jeep covered with mud. Luis tells me it caught fire during the mud bog party last night and they tried to put it out by throwing mud on it. More walking and enjoying the sights when I spotted the best concession, a mobile tire repair truck. Yep, they have innertubes. Three big truck tubs BUT they want $500 pesos each ($42 US). After inflating them and fixing a few leaks I have flotation. The price is a little steep but we need insurance… Good karma, Luis drives up and offers to give me a ride back to Gato Loco with tubes in hand and hopefully a panga arranged. Life is good in Mexico..
Arriving back at Gato Loco I find the expected beachcombers around the Lobos monument called Gato Loco. We even got a comment on whether we were opening a sports bar on the beach. Did I mention this was embarrassing… With all the onlookers, we set about the task to secure our Lobos tubes to the starboard hull while we wait for Bill to arrive from Penasco.
The Calvary arrives… Bill, Carol and Brian arrive around 1PM from Penasco with 3 more tubes and good sprits after driving the brand new coastal highway which cuts the drive to less than 1 1/2 hours. Yes, this was “ho shit” moment when they first saw the Lobos monument call Gato Loco but after assessing the situation they were confident the tube flotation plan should work. With our Lobos tubes secured between the starboard keel and rudder we decided to add a second tube (double flotation) at the ruder to protect it and two more in front of the keel. A total of 6 large truck tubes should offset the loss of 1.8’ of tide (fingers crossed). That plus sticking Gato Loco at least 30 minutes after high tide we were all optimistic we would be floating soon. Now it’s time to wait for water.
Lobos has a large fishing fleet that drive their boats up on the sand beach daily. They must have repairs to maintain their boats and we have Brian a fiberglass specialist and a few hours to kill before the tide comes in so why not make repair of the keel ding from our original bump. A few inquires in town and we found the local tienda sells repair kits for $12. Probably not enough time for things to set properly but worth a try.
As the tide began to rise some of the local American homeowners arrived to wish us luck. A couple who have a house in Cholla Bay as well as here in Lobos (Ted and sorry didn’t get his wife’s name) became our tide mentors. Ted runs fishing charters from Lobos and understands the tides well. He checked details and was also optimistic about us floating.. With water approaching a light sea swell developed. Would this be a problem or the extra nudge to free us?
4;15 after riding some light swells, Gato Loco felt like she wanted to be freed. Loosening the stern anchor and tightening the bow anchor she lunged forward and after a few more bumps on the reef she floated listing to port due to six innertubes. Just at that time our panga arrived and towed us to a safe anchorage where we could free Gato Loco from the embarrassment of 6 innertubes secured to her starboard under belly. The flotation worked. A closer inspection revealed we lost 4” off the bottom of the starboard rudder and only minor scuffs to the keel and the repair of the original bump was holding. All in all a happy ending to what could have been a huge disaster. Time for a beer.
Prologue: You try to be vigilant and safe on the water but sometimes circumstances overcome your inclinations. They probably did in this case and we have hopefully learned a valuable lessen. This experience will heighten our awareness of the risks but not dampen our desire. Thanks to the Calvary, Bill, Brian and Carol for coming to our aid and finishing another episode of adventure with us and thanks to the Lobos community both Mexican and Americans for your well wishes and especially help.
After a calm night at anchor in the south bay of Lobos, getting much needed sleep, we’re off for Puerto Refugio.
Until the next Update
Puerto Lobos lighthouse and sunset view from our south bay anchorage