Posted by: vlbyers | November 12, 2010

Rocinante hits rocks near Puerto Escondido!!

That got your attention hu? Not exactly the line I had envisioned using for the blog about our first passage after returning to our cruising life. Although I want to make our blog interesting for our readers and must admit am looking for exciting things to write about, I have not yet stooped to sensationalism. I would have hoped for something like ‘Uneventful passage to La Paz’, or ‘Sunny and Warm in La Paz’ or even “Big jam session with ScottFree, in La Paz’. Going aground, hitting rocks was not even on the top 100 ‘catchy phrase’ list. Since you are reading this, someone must have written it, that means that someone did not drown somewhere near Puerto Escondido. Thankfully we still have our sense of humor
Tuesday, 11-9- Larry and I spend the day doing the many things needed to prepare for our next voyage, the bottom paint was completed, with some assistance from yours truly since I am such a perfectionist. Everything worked as expected and we pulled up to the dock in Puerto Escondido, happy to be back in the water, to finish the preparation and give Rocinante a much needed bath.
Feeling good about our progress and our plan to leave early in the morning we went to the local restaurant at the marina to have a celebratory dinner. It was delicious, Larry had a hamburger which he said may have been the best he has ever had, including homemade tartar sauce, of course I got the recipe. I had the scallops, very yummy and not skimpy on the quantity either. We hoped into bed about 10:30 to get a good rest for our 0600 wake up call.
Wednesday 11-10 The day of the incident. Our plan was to leave about 0700 and as per usual we pulled out of the dock at 0730, not bad really, we put the jib up during that time proud that we got it right the first time and even had a cup of coffee. The weather was calm, winds were light and the sun was rising as we passed the last of the boats anchored and headed out to the passage between some small islands and the anchorage.
Larry and I were in the middle of a discussion looking at the charts, GPS and waypoints (kinda like road signs) in the chart book we use. Charts are notoriously off, meaning we can plot our position and be ½ to 1 mile on land, so we use them for general information only. Using a very reliable chart book which has all the GPS points has been of great help to us and to many cruisers in the area, even the depths are marked through passages (although these can change over time with tides and sea movement). We realized that we were probably where we weren’t supposed to be so Larry quickly turned the wheel heading back from where we came and a little toward shore-presumably out of danger when we hit. There was sudden severe jolt which threw both of us off balance and the sound of crashing into a very hard object, panic set in immediately. I saw the rock just under the surface of the water and I remember yelling to stop the engine and put it in neutral as I saw Larry doing just that. My next thought my God we could sink, where is the life raft, we could use the dinghy. We might lose Rocinante, what should I grab, will we need to pump to empty the water? I reached for the radio to let someone know what had just happened, my internal terror meant that I didn’t let Larry know what I was doing and he yelled ‘don’t call a mayday’ all I said was ‘I’m not’. I went on to announce to anyone who could hear what had happened, our position and the fact that I was on the inside of the boat and wasn’t standing in water. I received a response from a boat still in Puerto Escondido who said they would stand by.
Larry and I realized that the water was still on the outside, the engine was still running and we were not in fact taking on any water at the moment. The depth sounder was showing more water under us as I went to the bow to look out for any other rocks while Still quite shaken, Larry confirmed our position and best track and steered us gingerly through the rest of the rock strewn area. Once out of danger and on a safe track I went below to clean up.
The force of the impact was not immediately apparent; though there was stuff all over the cabin I would have expected that. Things that had been in the aft bunk, on the bunk and on the floor were now on the floor inside the cabin or on the floor of the main cabin including our 2 dive tanks, gallon jugs of water and numerous fishing supplies and cloth items. Larrys computer hit the ground along with his case, charts were on the floor as was the plastic bucket that we use for storing anything we can’t find a suitable spot for. Larry’s tool chest had been tossed about 10 inches and things on the counters were on the floor. The real sign for how hard we hit came when I discovered the starter battery which is on the floor and housed in a wooden box, nailed to the floorboards, broke through and the oven was knocked off its bracket and fell to the floor.
Larry continued to check out the bilge, the stuffing box and assure that all was well while we continued on our way. I radioed our OKness off to several boats who had been in communication with us, letting them know we would be continuing on since we had found no damage. Although we weren’t able to visualize the damage, we were able to steer the boat and all the other signs meant to us that we would probably have damage to the keel, we would be able to sail safely to our destination.
Adrenaline is a powerful substance and was still at work several hours later when we had to pass between the Baja and another reef, I am sure we were both still on edge and I read the next waypoints carefully to Larry as he put them in the GPS, I also made him read them back and was still nervous as we made our way through the channel. I even saw the sun twinkles on the water and imagined it to be a long line.
It is now 8 hours since the ‘situation’ and I feel the aftereffects of our ordeal, a slight headache and a wish that I could take a nap. Our plan is to either go to San Evaristo on the Baja side if the time is late, or try to make it to Isla San Francisco where our friends on Scottfree should be anchored-Larry would be comforted to have his guitars and I would be comforted to hear him serenade me tonight under the stars, safely lying to our trusty anchor, in 15 ft of water.
11-11-2010 We made it to Isla San Francisco last night, set our anchor by Scott Free and after a simple dinner went to share our harrowing experience with our friends, thankfully they are great listeners and offered much needed support. As planned we woke early to have coffee, breakfast and dive the boat to survey the damage before taking off to La Paz, another 44 miles away.
The water was refreshing as we dove in with our fins and mask/snorkels. We found just as we suspected, a big chunk missing on the leading edge of Rocinante’s keel, not enough for us to be concerned about safety, but we will be taking her out in Puerto Vallarta or La Cruz to make the necessary repairs. Water will be able to seep in through this gouge but shouldn’t be able to make it to the bilge, we may need to let her sit on the dry dock several days prior to repair to assure the keel is dry.
Feeling comforted about the minimal damage, we pulled the anchor at San Francisco about 0915, we motored out of this pristine bay, I would have been content to snorkel and swim the day in the gorgeous water but we felt getting to La Paz to provision, make minor repairs and get our fishing licences for our trip to Puerto Vallarta was more pressing, we didn’t want to make ourselves rushed on our trip across the sea. The weather was forecast for light to moderate winds from the south and as we awoke we had 12-15, of course we are heading south. For all you sailors, how come the wind seems to come from where we want to go? Anyway the sail to La Paz was quite invigorating for the first 4 hours, winds up to 18 k and 2-3 ft seas, we even took a reef in the main to make the passage a little more comfortable.
Our arrival in La Paz was a happy one, thankfully we obtained a berth at Marina Palmira even with all the current Haha’ers heading this way. After checking in at the port with our required papers, we met up briefly with our friends on What Cha Gonna Do making plans to meet up for coffee, yoga and spend the day doing our chores. We also had a wonderful dinner on ScottFree with a jam session which the whole marina enjoyed.
11-12-1020 Friday brings the first night of truly restful sleep for me and I am awake and ready for the day. I am excited to meet with Barb for yoga which will really put me on the right track. La Paz is such a beautiful Mexican town, one that we have become enmeshed in easily before, this time we will have to say goodby soon. Our plan is to sail to Puerto Vallarta either Saturday or Sunday, arriving by Tuesday sometime.
Thankfully we are safe, have recovered from our incident and are returning to our normal cruising life, readying for the next passage which will be the longest for Larry and I since Andrew has left. Our next post will be when we arrive in the Puerto Vallarta area along with pictures of the keel.


  1. Wow! there is NOTHING like the feeling of hitting something hard and immovable while sailing through the water!!! Took me back to Hawaii, lol! Glad all is well and you got away with minimal damage! Safe sailing, I look forward to living through your words Vic!!! Love you guys! Vicki

  2. Oh My Gosh!!! I freaked out when I read your post on facebook! So glad you are both ok, hope repairing in PV doesn’t take too long so we can still go out for a sail 🙂 my adrenaline is pumping just reading your story. Have a safe trip to PV and we’ll be seeing you on Wednesday!
    Love you

  3. Yikes! Rocks! Thank the good Lord for sturdy boats!!! You guys picked a good one. I’m with Lauren, my heart is still beating faster than normal after readying your blog and remembering our minor incident outside Oak Harbor…you can now check that one off your list of “I survived…” Hugs,

    Jeanna and Steve

  4. OMG! So happy you are safe. I just read your blog and thinking of you guys. Sounds like you’ll have a great time in PV with the family and must admitt I’m a bit envious…it is cold, rainy and we asre due for snow! Working 35+ hours a week and dealing with stuff. Rock on or off, but be safe and sending prayers always!

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