Sunday, March 22, 2009

Good Anchorage, Bad Anchorage?

Not all anchorages are perfect, although many times it is actually due to specific weather conditions not necessarily the anchorages themselves. We have recently learned the hard way about Coromuel winds as they effect Isla del Espiritu Santo and Isla Partida. As much as we can figure, Coromuel are basically adiabatic winds which are thermally generated by differential heating. Boiled down this means winds blow at night directly toward the west side of the islands where the anchorages are found. These winds are well known around here and pipe up very quickly- commonly to 30 knots. Although we are not in peak season (thankfully, spring and summer) we still had a night of winds up to 20 knots, and given 10 miles between mainland and the islands, there was plenty of time for waves to build. Although we'd had a little rolliness the night before which urged our smart friends from Pisces to seek better shelter farther north on the island, we wanted to spend more time at Caleta El Candelero so we stayed another day and night. It was an amazingly warm and sunny day, calm and perfect for snorkeling. We could see 50-ft down and snorkeled around coves teeming with fish. We swam in a school of 30 angel fish and could look down past them to several layers of other bigger and bigger fish below. Now that we're all rested up again, it was definitely worth it, but that night, the Coromuels created uncomfortable (and in season potentially dangerous) conditions as our comfortable-by-day-anchorage turned into a lee shore. But most importantly, now we know... Although we didn't take footage of the rough conditions we experienced in the middle of the night at Caleta El Candelero, in its place, we've put up a video from another rolly anchorage we experienced a bit over a month ago on the outside of the Baja peninsula at Isla Cedros.

Our experience on Isla Cedros was more a basic lesson of fetch (distance over water which translates to space for waves to build) being what we aim to avoid in an anchorage, not necessarily just wind. When 5-10 knot winds were forecast off mainland we thought "no problem, we're not even close to "the beach" as they call it," with mainland 50 miles away we likely wouldn't even feel a breath of it. Well, we were right about that, the wind didn't reach us, but what we neglected to take into account was the fetch- and the waves did reach us... Definitely a hard but memorable lesson. We reached what we later dubbed "Rolly Anchorage" just before sunset and the winds, although not from the most favorable of or even the forecast direction, still weren't too bad, so we set the hook and settled in. Well, although we never felt them, the winds must have shifted to the forecast direction- because a couple hours later we started to feel the waves that the open fetch and forecast winds had created. Then the winds we had went away and with no wind to keep pointed into, Tao was turned broadside to the oncoming waves. We managed to stick the night out there, but everything that could move inside the boat did and it was, let's say, less than restful. The next morning the winds were still calm and we headed back to our previous anchorage where we set a bow and stern anchor so we could at least be bow into the waves as they settled down. As an aside, we did anchor at Rolly Anchorage again with more favorable conditions a week later and it was beautiful. The point is we are learning, slowly but surely, and we thought you all might get a laugh at the sometimes less-than-ideal conditions we are faced with.

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