Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Flying dinghies of Bahia Santa Maria

Bahia Santa Maria is a large and well-protected bay, but there is a big, easy swell passing over the bay from the Pacific. The swell is barely noticeable from below decks. On the beach the swell builds to very steep, crashing waves. At the north end of the bay is a mangrove swamp with a channel from the bay into the trees. There is a large beach on the west side of the channel with a trail that leads to a cantina.

Between the bay and the mangrove channel is a bar with breaking waves across the channel entrance. Timing and speed are everything for getting into the channel to a avoid a wave breaking into the dinghy. Getting out is an even greater challenge with the waves moving towards you. Crew member Derek Lee and I went over the bar to get to the cantina. Getting in was pretty easy. I got behind a wave and just followed it in and landed on the beach. The cantina was great with $2 cerveza and a Mexican cover band playing 80s music. The cantina overlooks the bar and provides a another source of entertainment: watching the dinghies cross back and forth.

We had a couple of beers and then set out in the dingy back to Solstice. We got out into the channel and waited for a good window to cross the bar. The waves seemed to come in groups of three. It looked good so I gunned the engine and started planing over the water. Suddenly a new wave formed and broke 20 feet ahead of us. I backed off the engine a bit and hopped over it. Then a bigger, steeper one formed. I had no chance to turn around so I aimed straight at it and picked up speed. If I slowed down, the wave would probably overpower the boat and broach us.

We hit the wave seconds before it broke. It was like being launched up a wall. Derek's weight in the bow kept us from going completely vertical. The entire boat jumped out of the water even clearing the prop out of the water. Then we came crashing down with no more breaking waves in front of us. To our port was a water taxi filled with cruisers all cheering our acrobatic feat. Derek was holding on with one hand and pumping a fist in the air yelling, "That was great!"

In the end, crew and vessel were OK. My shorts were wet, but I don't think any water came in the boat.


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