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Melissa & Dave - Adventures at Sea

Turtle Cay Marina

This morning Neko headed out, hoping to make it to the San Blas Islands.  After yesterday's failure to launch due to heavy seas, R&R and Apsaras eagerly awaited their report of how bad the seas were before bothering to pull up anchor.  Neko reported it was "better than yesterday" but still 8 to 10 foot seas, but on a bit longer period (making the waves less "sharp").  Hmmm. Still doesn't sound that great.  But maybe we could make it the 10 miles to Turtle Cay Marina.  But we don't want to head out till we know there is room for all of us at the marina.  Dave phones them but alas it was a wrong number.  At 8:30 a marine SSB radio net started up, and we asked whether anyone was familiar with the marina.  Indeed we were able to get the right phone number, and a quick call confirmed they had room for all three boats.  Dave radio's Neko to let them know we can all head to the marina, and shortly thereafter R&R and Apsaras headed out.  Indeed it was better than yesterday, but rivals some of the worst wave conditions we've been out in.  Melissa was proud of herself that there was no screeching as the boat rolled side to side - even when everything in the cabin went flying.

Neko was well ahead of us entering the marina - which turned out to be one of the diciest entrances we've done.  Worse than the bar crossing in El Salvador.  But maybe not quite as bad as Morrow Bay.  Neko called the marina manager and he gave them instructions on how to enter the marina.  After they arrived, they got our slip assignments and Mike called us on the radio to relay the instructions, which were basically, "it will look impossible but isn't".  You have big breaking surf on both sides of you.  There are two tiny green buoys which you need to keep to your port side, and one red you need to keep to starboard.  Upon seeing the conditions, Melissa wonders whether in waves this big if the marina entrance should have been closed as big surf is dangerous and can tumble a boat - even a big one like ours if you get sideways to a wave.

Photo courtesy Neko

Knowing we will be intimidated at best, Neko organizes a crew of helpers.  Pete went out in his dingy out to lead us in, Chad was on the breakwater radioing us to let us know we are properly lined up in the channel.  We watch an 8 foot wave break directly in front of us.  Gulp.  Melissa looks behind wondering if there are other waves ready to break under us.  Dave is way ahead of her, knowing this was likely to happen, he chose an approach to the channel that was perpendicular to the waves.  So when we got to the point where they might break, he punched the throttle and stayed lined up square to the waves overtaking us.  He timed it perfectly and Apsaras didn't have to surf any waves.  And moments later we were in the calm entrance to the marina.

Having been warned that we had little maneuvering room in the small marina, and would have little time to get ready for docking after entering the calm channel (bad idea to be up on deck rigging in the rough conditions before entering the channel), Melissa scrambled to get fenders down and dock lines rigged.  When we arrive at the dock, we find its a bizarre setup. The dock fingers are only half a boat length long.  You pull in, and tie a stern line to a free standing piling.  And good luck lassoing the piling it the first time.  Neko got some damage to their boat because the marina folks pulled them too far forward and their nose bumped the concrete dock before they got their stern tied off.  Realizing we would likely have the same trouble, Pete is in his dingy - having tied a rope to the piling where we need to tie up our stern line and was ready to toss us the line, and Mary was on the front of the dock with a big rubber bumper to prevent similar damage.  The rest of the gang was ready to receive lines as we tossed them across.

When we were secure it was R&R's turn to repeat the performance.  They too came through without trouble, intimidating though it was.  As Rose said, "it takes a village" and indeed this was a case where everyone from the folks on the morning radio net, to the three of us in "Neko Fleet" all worked together to get three boats safe and sound in the marina.  Melissa will get out the gel coat kit tomorrow and start working on the scratches to Neko's hull.  Here are the four captains putting on the "oh crap" faces they had when they got their first look at the entrance:

Photo courtesy Neko

After we were all tied up, we headed off to the beach restaurant as Dave had been promised "big hamburgers".  Oh, did we forget to mention that was the real reason we were willing to head out today?

Photo courtesy Neko

Someone asked "how much is the marina anyway?" Marinas in Central America can vary between $20 to $200 per day depending on where they are and what they figure they can charge.  Normally we would never pull into a marina not knowing what they charge.  But Melissa's answer was "today it doesn't matter".  (Turned out to be $30/day.)

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