Mar 29, 2013

Alone at Anchor

A journey is best measured in friends,
Rather than miles.
Tim Cahill 


Usually when I say ‘alone at anchor’ it means that we are the only boat in an anchorage.  This time, far from it!  As I write, there are nearly 70 boats bobbing around me in Banderas Bay near La Cruz.  I am ‘alone at anchor’ because Mike is up in Arizona picking up what we hope is our fixed radar after three long months of haggling and waiting…

Alone on the boat means being much more aware of one’s surroundings and careful of one’s actions.  One fall or cut and there may be no one to help.  With the boat’s constant movements it’s easier said than done.  It could be hours or days before anybody figures out that something is wrong.  Being alone on the boat dealing with the elements like red tide (when making water), whales, winds, waves, etc makes you much more appreciative of having a partner to share the experience and workload with. It also means many more hours to keep up with all the systems – make water, fridge/freezer, electrical needs, trips for laundry, supplies, or food, cleaning, etc.
But wait – I also have my dutiful guard dog Nikki to save me… so I’m not completely alone at anchor.
In the early calm morning hours with no wind and or pangas, Nikki and I kayak to the beach or marina for our daily walk.  Manta rays barely surface all around us.  They waive their small ‘fins’ an inch or so above the glass-like water otherwise not creating a ripple to announce their existence.  They disappear underneath the kayak as we glide by; quickly reappearing once we are gone.  A few turtles also poke their heads up and disappear at our presence.  About a mile or so towards the mouth of the bay, whales are playing around.  We can hear the loud splashes they create when landing back in the water.  It feels like the place is ours alone to enjoy.
Finally on land after 15-20 minutes of paddling, the cool air keeps Nikki prancing away rather than dragging along.  She does so much better when it’s cool – a lot like we do I guess.  I actually have to keep up with her rather than wait for her – a welcome change of pace.
Near the busy town’s main plaza one street is blocked with drivers looking out their windows and pedestrians pointing towards the sky.  A massive (to me) iguana – probably 6-7 feet long is nonchalantly walking from branch to branch about 25 feet off the ground in the huge trees the town is named after, shading the park and its vicinity.  It is seemingly just awakening thanks to the warmth of the early sun.  Iguanas are so common here you wouldn’t think it an event of importance but it still is.  As Nikki and I finally walk under it on our way back to the marina, I pray it wouldn’t decide to let go of a small package…
A few blocks past that excitement, we hear a machete chopping away up some 30 foot palm trees.  A barefoot man climbed there with a machete and a rope to cut and release clumps of mature coconuts.  He ties the rope at the base of the clump of 6-10 coconuts first, then hacks away at the stem until it releases.  He then gently lowers the tied bundle of coconuts to the ground where his very young son, probably between 3 and 4, unties the coconuts so his dad can cut the next bunch.  Once done with one tree, he moves to the next to gather more of them.  It’s amazing to see him climb these trunks barefoot and bare hand.  It certainly takes some strength and skills.


As we neared the marina we see the latest catch of fish neatly arranged on crushed ice for today’s fish market.  Of the three main markets clustered near the port captain’s office one seems to definitely be the favorite with a very long line of people awaiting their turn for their pick of the day.

By the time we make it back to Déjàlà, the winds have picked up in the 10-12 miles/hour, just in time before the, yet, higher winds of the afternoon.  The pangas are busy zooming by.  There are too many waves to see manta rays or turtles but we timed it just right and arrived ‘home’ dry and safe.


However another sailboat less than 200 feet away is not having such a good time.  They had a chain followed by a rope tied to their anchor.  Somehow, something sharp on the bottom of the bay chafed right through the rope in just one night.  The wind and waves brought them to the rocks lining one section of the beach.  Thankfully 8 dinghies and a couple of pangas showed up to help them out of this difficult situation.  One of the people helping had been working for many years with the Coast Guard so she knew what to do and took care of the situation.  Unfortunately one of the tow lines wrapped around the propeller and they had to disable the motor and depend solely on the dinghies and pangas.  Many adrenaline filled minutes (which probably felt like hours) later the boat was in the marina, waiting to be lifted in the boatyard to check for damages.  The boat is not taking on water – that is a good thing!  The owners are now saying they will go for ALL chain, no more rope…  Seeing this reminded me that even though I am alone at anchor – I certainly am not alone, the boater community is very helpful and resourceful.


Have a safe day…

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