We had a consistent 20 knot headwind from the start, the evil we chose. Dois had cleaned up the autopilot connections and found a setting that Hal, our recalcitrant autopilot seemed to like and was much more amenable behaved for the first two days of the voyage. But Hal still refuses to play in large swell or steep wind waves, of which we found both.
It wasn't a pleasant ride, Ashika rising steeply on 10 to 12 foot waves, her bow clearing the crest and then plunging abruptly down into the trough before taking on the next wall of water. Our new coffee maker flew through the cabin on one of these roller coaster moments leaving coffee grounds and the remnants of the morning's coffee dripping down the companion way ladder filling the nooks and crannies of the teak and holly floor boards.
The conditions were very wet; Ashika taking water over the decks, Captain and crew sweating buckets. I changed three times, Dois just removed clothing. And it seemed the conditions were deteriorating as we maneuvered through a freighter mooring field outside of Salinas, so we headed for Punta Chipehua about 10 miles south. There was no moon and we risked an instrument landing again. The map showed a long sandy shoreline ending in a hook and a 25 ft shelf, so we pointed Ashika in that direction. When the depth finder said 37 feet we could hear crashing waves to our right. When the depth finder said 35 feet, we could hear crashing waves to our left, huh? We stopped the boat to listen, there must be an uncharted reef out there, but nothing bad was happening so we dropped out anchor right there. Dois was up and down all night checking to make sure no waves were sweeping us toward shore.
We could see the breaking reef clearly in the bright sunshine of morning, but the reed sheltered us rather than endangered us. Luck fairies are alive and well. It was eight am and we had 50 miles to go before the wind picked up. Hualtulco seemed so very far away.
Dois tried a scallop-like path where he would bear off to starboard to gain a little speed, quarter the wave and then bear left (port) near the top of the swell to take the punishing wallop on the starboard bow keeping a little speed that way. But the scallop pattern pushed us closer and closer to shore and the waves were crashing onto the beach with an explosive show of power and we heeded, straightening our course and taking our punishment.
When I was about 12 or 13, I would save all my allowance for rental horses out on the Ortegas. I was riding Luca, a gelding along a strawberry field that ran next to the freeway when a snake slithered out in front of us. Luca reared, I grabbed a hold of his mane and he went tearing off towards the highway. I could see a semi truck coming from the opposite direction and the path Luca was on would put us right in front of that semi. I couldn't let go. As we swerved up the path to cross the hwy in front of that truck, Luca stopped suddenly. It was over. All the pounding and fear was over, shaken yes, but we would live another day.
In a similar deja vu moment, we went from a galloping wild ride to a watery oasis where everything was calm and simple again. A tourist bus with a comical arrangement of blinking lights rolled across a bridge just a couple hundred feet away. Two little boys were scrambling up the rocks with a fish on the end of a stick and an elderly woman walked her dog along the docks.
Later, sitting at a small restaurant on the quay, drinking, laughing, eating shrimp and bbq ribs by candle light with a cool breeze coming from the sea, we are completely aware of the changing conditions of our life. The amazing things we see, the incredible people we meet, the beauty all around us is in sharp and sudden contrast to our challenges.