Sunday, December 19, 2010

Exciting and Safe Arrival in Huatulco

After three days and three nights motoring (and this time a little more sailing), we've arrived, and are now docked, at Marina Chahue in Huatulco.

With all things cruising, there is always something interesting that happens -- but its how you deal with it that really matters.  This time, after our delayed departure from Z-Town due to an engine alternator repair, we headed off down the coast.  Around 6 am the morning of Day Two (yesterday), cruising along using our starboard engine at about 8 knots, the engine just all of a sudden went into neutral.  Why you might ask?  It turns out that our throttle cable snapped!  I think this happened either when the alternator was repaired or when we completed our 1,000 hour service.  I am guessing that one of the mechanics must have leaned on the part of the cable that connects to the throttle on the engine which caused it to be fatigued and then, over time while underway, snap.

Now, its not just that we have to get it fixed (I tried while underway to no avail) as we have guests coming to visit this week and next, but equally, if not more importantly, we had to bring the boat into a narrow marina entrance and safely to a dock using one engine.  You might think:  "What's the big deal? You've got another engine."  Catamarans are very maneuverable with two engines that are separated from each other by about 20 feet.  This allows them to be easily controlled and catamarans are actually easier to handle then single engine mono-hulls.  The problem is that when only one engine is working and you are moving slowly (like in a marina), the boat actually just wants to go in a circle. (As a side note, when we are motoring, we generally run only one engine at a time, as at higher speeds, the boat moves straight ahead; using the two engines does not give us significantly more speed but only uses more fuel.)  So we had some special planning to deal with as we approached a marina we had never been into before and also did not know what dock we were going to because the marina office was closed today (Sunday).

Before we entered the channel entrance to the marina, we fully prepared the boat for docking.  We had dock lines on all corners and midship, and fenders on all sides of the boat.  We then put our dinghy into the water which we planned to use for assisted steerage.  Danielle and Harrison got in the dinghy with a VHF radio and took instruction from us over the radio as we practiced maneuvering the boat by pushing on the starboard bow with the dinghy's engine in full throttle to push us to the left.  Then we did the same on the port bow to push us to the right; all this in strong currents and choppy seas.  Danielle and I then dinghied into the marina to check out the lay of the land before coming in with Whatcha Gonna Do.   Barb remained aboard with Harrison and maneuvered the boat to keep her place in the building seas.  It was actually Barb's first time handling the boat at sea by herself.

After getting the lay of the land, Danielle and I returned to the boat and she and Harrison dinghied into the marina in front of us.  We were informed by a fellow boater that as one enters the marina, it is imperative to line up the range markers that are on land to make sure you are lined up properly in the middle of the narrow channel. We lined up, watched for any swell and began to make our way in.  Now, as sailors know, if you are moving, you generally have better steerage and as such, I decided to go slightly faster into the entrance in an effort to have better control.  Barb felt that we were coming in too fast but we needed the speed.  We made it smoothly into the marina and began to line up for docking.  Danielle came around to the side in the dinghy and pushed out our bow so we could line up the boat parallel to the dock and then gently  push her in .  With the benefit of the wind pushing us onto the dock and Danielle's dinghy prowess, we came smoothly to the dock where a couple of people grabbed our dock lines and tied us up.

All said, it could not have gone any better.  Our advance preparation and confidence gained, in large part due to sailing and instruction at OCSC in Berkeley, were critical to a safe and smooth docking.  Now we just need to get our throttle repaired (hopefully quickly) as we have guests arriving on Tuesday who, I know, will want to go sailing.

Michael (safely docked at Marina Chahue, Huatulco, Oaxaca, Mexico)


  1. All I can say is "OY VEI" followed by "WHEW, what a relief!"
    Great description of this episode; I held my breath the whole way into the marina...
    Good training and great manoeuvring!

  2. Nice to hear you are having some adventures. We are having a few of our own land based ones on Kauai. Are you headed to the SP this year? Can't wait to hear the plans and love the pix.

  3. Well written blog, safe sailing to you!