Bertie Journal: Sapphire

February 22, 2018

We weigh anchor at 1000 hours, to depart Puerto Angel, heading toward a more sheltered anchorage where we’ll be able to scrape the bottom. Heidi and I haul and flake the heavy ½” anchor chain. At least we don’t have to pull the anchor and chain up out of the ocean by hand- and back-strength alone. Peter’s scrounging in the Sausalito shipyards years ago helps us out today, since BERTIE’S foredeck is graced with a Nevins windlass from a WWII sub-chaser. This gives us some mechanical advantage. But we still have to crank the windlass by hand, and flake the chain onto the deck by hand, being careful not to crush fingers or toes, or to catch any lines underneath.


We greased the heavy-duty Nevins windlass before leaving our Acapulco mooring; gotta keep all of BERTIE’S parts running smoothly.

I climb out onto the bowsprit to remove the sail covers off the staysail, carefully stepping on the knots where the stirrups and footropes are joined. Meanwhile, Peter is steering and Heidi raises six of the seven panels of the junk mainsail, using the 2-ton winch, another gift from the shipyard. I’m not sure how we would raise the mainsail without it, but the winch is the one thing on the boat that scares the hell out of me. If it let loose and you were in the way, the rapidly spinning handle could take off an arm or a hand or your head. Plus, the boom and the mainsail would be crashing down at the same moment.


BERTIE’S WWII-era two-ton winch for the mainsail halyard. This winch (or similar) was the part that lowered the “front door” of landing craft personnel boats when they made beach landings in Normandy.

We are motor-sailing now, towards Huatulco. Peter and I each have a cold beer to celebrate our departure. Sadly, the beer will soon be gone, no mas until Galápagos…

While Peter is on deck, Heidi and I go below into the fo’c’sle and get busy re-doing the Ditch Bag. We unpack the old falling-apart one, take everything out, inventory it, and re-pack it all into a new dry bag. The Ditch Bag will go into the “life raft,” which is actually the usual dinghy that’s stored on deck. If, God forbid, something happened and we had to abandon ship while we’re on the crossing to the Galápagos, we’d be ready to hop into the dinghy with everything we’d need for survival. Heidi and I stock the Ditch Bag with water, high energy foods, a medical kit, a sewing kit, spare glasses, hats, sunblock, fishing kit, a radio, batteries… the list goes on and on. We check expiration dates, test the batteries, make sure everything works. I’m starting to regret that beer I had; for the first time on BERTIE, I’m feeling a bit seasick. But maybe it’s because we’ve been below deck all this time, in the stuffy fo’c’sle, while underway in the swell, reading fine print, with the engine running. Or maybe it’s the idea of the three of us floating around in a dinghy, somewhere between mainland South America and New Zealand. Scenes from adrift-at-sea movies (Life of Pi, All Is Lost, Kon-Tiki, Castaway, Unbroken) run through my head.

It’s a relief when we arrive in Bahia India and set our anchor, after motoring most of the way. Huatulco is just down the coast, but if we accomplish our hull-cleaning mission, we won’t need to go there at all. Bahia India is absolutely beautiful, totally undeveloped, with rocky outcrops and a long sandy beach. The intense sunshine mellows into late afternoon. But if anything the swell is worse here than it was in Puerto Angel. I am dreading the bottom-scraping task, as I think it’s possible we’ll get bashed to bits when BERTIE rolls on a big one.


Our only neighbor at Bahia India, S/V SAPPHIRE.

There’s another cruiser already here at anchor, SAPPHIRE from Bainbridge Island, Washington. After we get some of our chores done, we notice a swimmer approaching from that direction, and soon the Sapphires, Greg and Elina, are removing their swim fins and climbing aboard BERTIE. This is one of those moments when I have a reality check: how different my life is today than it would have been if I’d stayed home in Alaska. Swimming to the neighbors’! Greg and Elina drip-dry on deck in the Mexican sun, we have a drink and a very pleasant visit. Of course, they have friends in common with Peter and Heidi, since Port Townsend and Bainbridge Island are only a little over an hour’s drive (or a day-sail) apart. We are now more than 3,000 miles away from that neck of the woods, but somehow it isn’t surprising that we’ve ended up here together in the same little anchorage. The Sapphires and the Berties get along just fine, and in fact seem like old friends. Elina gives us each a hug and a kiss on the cheek before putting her fins back on, climbing over the rail, and jumping backwards into the water to swim home.

In the early evening, Heidi and I notice a disturbance in the water, which rapidly approaches BERTIE. The surface roils and splashes, a mass of something heading our way. “I think it’s a fish-boil,” says Heidi, but as the creatures approach we can see clearly through the water that they are not fish, but SNAKES. They are fortunately not the highly venomous yellow variety, but still. A seasnake-boil? I’ve never heard of such a thing. I am astounded — not for the first time — by the both the intricacies and the unknown wonders of this planet. How can it be such a small, close-knit world; at the same time so vast and uncharted? One ocean can hold not only our new/old friends the neighborly, swimming Sapphires — but also a seasnake-boil.


Sunrise at Bahia India.

(This is Part 8 of the BERTIE JOURNAL series. Click here for Part 9. Or click here to start at the beginning.)

This entry was posted in Boats, Fauna, Mexico, Travel, Uncategorized, Wildlife and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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