Miracles do happen and I was fortunate enough to participate in one Monday morning when good fortune, good planning, perfect weather, and lots of hard work came together as Cat's Meow suddenly floated free of the bottom and the water that had filled her interior disappeared as if by magic.
This is what the boat looked like Sunday afternoon as the tide was rising. You can see her decks are awash and she is floating low enough that the water level is above her side rails.
Just before sunset on Sunday we had managed to place more barrels under and around the hull and we got the starboard side rail above water. The carpenters placed waist high barriers over all openings into the main cabin and sealed off all the scuppers so the side decks were separated from the sea. At that time, Cat's Meow was afloat with her keel about 3" off the bottom and her rudder just touching bottom.
We had also just pumped out the two 1000 gallon diesel tanks that were in the middle of the boat.
We then placed a 4" and 2" self powered pump in the main cabin and started pumping. Six of us bailed with 5-gallon buckets. Amazingly; the water level started to drop inspiring us to bail even faster. Within 30 minutes the water level was below the door sills in the main cabin and there was not enough water for the hand bailers to continue to be effective. That was wonderful!
The starboard side rail was about 3" above water and the port side was just at the water level. The problem was that the 4" pump had to be moved because there was no water left for the suction line. In the five minutes it took to move the big pump; Cat's Meow was hit by two swells coming from the south (starboard) which came over the side rails and across the side deck, refilled the cabin, and caused the boat to list 20° to port thus allowing yet more water to re-enter the main cabin.
By that time it was dark and everyone was exhausted and gravely discouraged. Thirty people had been working 14 hours a day for four days with almost nothing to show for it. The boat was still listing, still full of water, and still on the bottom.
Martin dismissed his troops and told them to report for duty at 4:30AM, just prior to the next low tide. The desperate hope was that on the low tide, three feet down from the level at sunset, the boat would stay upright and the swells would stay down.
At 5 AM on Monday eight of us were aboard Cat's Meow bailing like mad and there were two 2" pumps and one 4" pump running for all they were worth. There were three divers in the water continuing to pump air into the forty five 55-gallon drums and four people were manning each pump trying to keep the suction lines clear, the discharge lines over the side, and the pumps sitting level. The pump suction tenders were in the bottom of the engine room and the bilge, up to their waists in sea water and diesel with no fresh air supply. Everyone ended up with a headache from the constant inhalation of diesel fumes.
When I started bailing, at 5AM, with a 5-gallon bucket the water on the stern deck was waist deep. It was dark out and I was bailing with little thought of making progress. Soon I realized that my shorts were no longer in the water. By the time there was light in the eastern sky, a while before 6 AM, I felt the breeze on my knees. It was at that point that I began to think "this operation may actually work."
After that it was almost like the boat was a big old dog who woke up and found itself lying in the water, She, just all of sudden, popped up out of the water, shook herself a few times and that was it! There was no water left to bail or suck. By sunrise at 6:40 AM there was not even any water in the bilge. And, more importantly, none was coming in. We didn't even need to leave a bilge pump running. The hull patches were so effective that there was barely a trickle around them.
I 'gotta tell you - that sunrise, seen from the bobbing deck of Cat's Meow was one of the most spectacular I have experienced. In less than three hours we went from deep discouragement to intense jubilation. It really was a miracle encouraged by a lot of hard work.
We had almost perfect weather for five straight days. The typical south easterly swells were almost totally absent, except for the few on Sunday afternoon. The three lowest tides of the month occurred just when we needed them. And 25 boats and crews, most who have never met Robin and Martin, gave everything they could offer non-stop for five days.
Here is a picture taken at 10 AM of MV Siempre Sabado (Always Saturday) towing Cat's Meow out of the San Cosme anchorage - heading for Puerto Escondido, 16 miles to the NW.
The tow proceeded uneventfully and they were able to make almost 5-knots with no problem. The patches all held and almost no water came on board.
Three cruisers drove their pickup trucks thru the mountains on a very rough 25 mile road that comes down to the beach from the 3,000 foot level We loaded all the drums and all the trash onto those trucks.
When I left at 2 PM there was no sign that the crisis or miracle had ever occurred at Punta San Cosme.
Here is a picture of the San Cosme anchorage taken from a rock outcrop about 1000' above the boats. I hiked up the valley you can see that runs from the beach along the bottom of the picture.
I ended up on this rock because I started to follow a trail made by someone on horseback. I figured it would just go up a valley and end in a canyon.
NOPE! - this is a trail made by rock climbing horses. Sections of the trail went over solid rock inclined at 45°. I had to use my hands and feet in several places to cross rock faces with 20 to 50 drops below them. I had to go straight up several rock sections that many people would not want to attempt.
I am sure the horses were following the trail because I found fresh horse turds all along it. And, I mean fresh as in soft and brown-green. I still don't know why someone would take a horse over the trail because the pass I went over just led to another pass even higher and further inland.
Anyway - the view was spectacular.
I will be here in Puerto Escondido for a while helping with Cat's Meow which is tied along the seldom used commercial dock.
On June 6 I leave La Paz on board MV Well Deserved to help her owner, Tom Hawks, take her back to San Diego. Well Deserved is a 55' Lien Hwa trawler. She weighs 50 tons when loaded and runs large paravane stabilizers. You can read all about her and see some great pictures in the December 2003 Latitudes & Attitudes magazine on pages 80 - 83.
The trip from La Paz to San Diego is about 900 miles. From Cabo Falso (10 miles SW of Cabo San Lucas) it is 750 miles straight into the prevailing NW 20 knot winds and six foot seas. It will be interesting to see how a big heavy trawler handles those conditions.
Tom plans to take two to three weeks for the trip. The NE Pacific High sends big rollers crashing down from the NW and there is a SE setting current of up to one knot for most of the way going north. The only way to make the trip comfortably, it is known as the "Baja Bash" for good reason, is to travel when the almost constant NW wind is less than 15 knots and the seas below four feet. That means you sit in one of the infrequent anchorages for days at a time waiting for the next weather window.
When my brother and I did the bash in May 2001 on his Tartan 42 we took 12 days to get from Cabo to San Diego. We had more than 25 knots on the nose for 11 of those 12 days. It is not unusual during late spring for the NW wind to blow 20 to 30 knots for a week at a time. We sat in sheltered anchorages most of the time, just waiting for some lessening of the winds. Eventually we learned to be underway by 3:30 AM and to have the anchor set again, with shelter to the NW, by 1 PM. Even so, after 30 years of sailing, I put Mirador up for sale when I got back to San Diego and swore I'd never go to sea again in a sailboat. There are many Western Mexican cruisers who swear they would never, under any circumstances, do the Bash a second time.
I sure hope it is more comfortable in a big heavy trawler!!
Once I get to San Diego toward the end of June I'll head up to Tacoma Washington for several weeks.