The tacks that we were taking took us Northeast during the morning and then Southeast in the afternoon trying to catch the on shore breeze. As we approached the Wessels (an archipelago that extends to the northeast just west of the Gulf of Carpeteria) we were too far south to reach "Hole-in-the-Wall," a cut in the islands that most boats go through. Not wanting to spend another day working north and then east to make "Hole-in-the-Wall" we opted to try a passage on the north side of Elcho Island and then south of Warnawi Island.
This sounded like a good plan except for a few things. One, we did not have a good chart of the passage, and two, the tide was running the wrong way. This is where I relearned 3 very important rules of cruising, always have a good upto date chart, never-ever enter a reef lined channel on a falling tide, and never, never let the desire to meet a schedule pressure you into making bad decisions. The consequences of this can be seen at right.
Once we were firmly parked on the reef, being a person that always looks for the bright side of things, I thought this a perfect opportunity to go walk-about as obviously we were not going any where for awhile. I also had the chance to inspect the bottom of the boat for the first time since leaving Singapore. And lastly, just before I left the US, on the IPY discussion group there was a thread about practicing going aground. I thought how lucky I was to be able to practice my grounding recovery techniques.
Getting on the reef was easy enough, we crossed onto it just as the tide was exactly the same height as the draft on the boat. Just a couple of gentle bumps and we were on. What really impressed me though was that from landing on the hard until we were completely dry was only ½ an hour. Tides fall quickly in this part of the world.
Moving off the reef was a textbook exercise. Main anchor upstream in the middle of the channel, the kedge anchor downstream. The tricky part was that high tide was at midnight and it was overcast, so no moon. The channel had no lights and no markers. To give us some references, we took a clear water bottle, wrapped tin foil around it to make it reflective and anchored it to the reef next to were we had run aground. From there it sighted down the channel to get a bearing to head for as well as placing a way point in the GPS along that bearing.
As the tide came up, we floated off the reef easily enough, we just had to get clear quickly as the current was moving at 5 knots. Using the anchors, we pulled ourselves out to the middle of the channel and waited for slack water.
Using a spot light to keep track of the floating bottle, at slack water, we pulled up the anchors and headed out on our bearing, chewing fingers down to knuckles the whole time.
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