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Getting Spanked (not the fun kind)

(Date written DEC 22)
The little jaunt around Cabo Santa Elena is 15 miles. The problem is this area is in the vortex of a region famous for high velocity winds called gap winds. Having left San Juan later than we wanted because of the stupid kidney stone, we pushed up against the start of Papagayo season when these gap winds are at their worst. The forecast promised 20 knots in the "Papagayo Region". Well at Cabo Santa Elena you have to double the forecast and add some.

We started off sailing downwind in 20 knots, and ended up rounding the point turning upwind and being crushed by 40 to 50 knot headwinds. The seas were so steep they were like walls of water that flowed onto the decks and crashed over the dodger. We prepped the boat before hand for a rough passage around the point, but we had quite the battle reaching the anchorage which was protected from the waves, but we still had 30 knot gusts which heeled us over 30 degrees all night long.

Outside of the bight where we were anchored the wind blew so hard it created a fog of sea water--ripping the tops of the waves off and sending them vertical through the air. It was quite an experience and one of the slides on our main sail tore out from the beating we took.

Strangely the wind calmed down in the afternoon, so we plan to make our escape about noon tomorrow and hope for a calmer crossing of the Golfo de Papagayo, the heart of the gap winds.

On the plus side, we found out the why the engine was running strangely -- dirty fuel. So now we are changing filters and trying to get rid of the stuff. However the fix to the raw water pump isn't holding up so we're leaking water again (sigh).

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Spanked Again

Our clever idea of leaving around noon didn't work out. We still had some fierce winds howling out there, but the forecast only appeared to worsen over the next few days. So we sucked it up, tied stuff down and set out on the 20 mile crossing of the Gulf of Papagayo.

The scariest part of the crossing was we had to sail between a lot of rocks and islands in a solid 45 knots of wind with gusts in the low 50's. However we just flew the staysail and trimmed it so the boat was well balanced even for the heavy gusts. Once we steered clear of the islands and entered the gulf we were able to at least breathe and our plus rates dropped to a mere 150.

Out in the open gulf we started to enjoy the heavy winds because we could slam our way through the waves rather than get tossed around by them. As the wind got lighter we started wishing for more wind -- strange what you get used to.

Nonetheless we arrive in Playa Panama, a very calm spot, very tired and sore. This crossing probably had the strongest winds I've every sailed in anywhere. And the only wind I would say compared to this strength was the hurricane that almost hit Mazatlan last year. Pretty crazy stuff. The weirdest part is when we reached the other side of the gulf, we had no wind and had to motor into the anchorage. I'm sure the wind is still raging out at Cabo Santa Elena....


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