Friday, June 6, 2008

San Andres and Dos Milfords

Dos Milfords to the Rescue

Continued from last time…. With one anchor on board and safely stowed the second anchor was coming tight as we noticed a squall approaching. The unsettling reality of squalls at sea is that the energy contained within them is always an unknown and with the severity of some of the squalls that had been reported I simply hoped for the best. Milford senior and I let out some anchor rode and held on. The wind blew the rain horizontal to the sea and stung any exposed skin like needles. Visibility was reduced to 20 feet and I could only pray the anchor held. Suddenly, as quickly as it had arrived it disappeared. Dos Milfords and I went back to work freeing the anchor while Susan manned the helm.

It turns out that our first anchor was so well set that even with the help of Miss Gabriela we could not free the anchor. Milford junior promptly jumped in the water and dove to the bottom and manually freed the anchor and chain from the coral. Once we were free we slowly made our way, with the help of Miss Gabriela, through 4 miles of coral into the open ocean. Deep water never looked so good and the squall that hit while pulling the anchor was followed by a lovely calm making our navigation out of the reef easy. We said goodbye to dos Milfords, gave them a propina, and thanked them for their time and assistance. We realized that their help made the challenge of getting out of Albuquerque possible. For me to free the anchor would have required scuba gear and a great deal more work.

No sooner had we cleared the reef than we were met with a steady 10-15 knot breeze. We tacked and with the wind on our starboard beam and 3-5 foot seas we set the Genoa and with a reefed main we easily made 6 knots/hour and arrived at the channel markers for San Andres harbor in about 4 hours. Even if we had been able to start the motor we would not have used it. This was the kind of day sailor's dream of. The sun was out, Amy landed a big barracuda that we threw back, then we put on some good music and worked on our tans and enjoyed the scenery.

Now we just needed the wind to ease again to use our dinghy to power us into the San Andres anchorage. We thought it would be wise to at least notify the Columbian Coast Guard on the radio that we were coming in with no engine. Soon we had a Columbian navy boat come by asking if we wanted to be towed in, but we declined. When a captain allows his boat to be towed he ultimately gives up control of his boat and is not the ultimate authority on where the vessel will anchor, etc…and we were still doing fine. Then they notified us that we could not enter the channel under sail and we needed to drop our sail…time to use our dinghy as we had used Miss Gabriela early in the day to power Mima. With Susan at the throttle of the dinghy and Mark at the helm of Mima and Amy and Marshall on deck to look out for hazards we powered just fine to the anchorage with only a small detour, barely missing a grizzly old fishing boat (Miss Roxy) when a gust of wind caught Mima broadside and we had to "full throttle" a tight circle to our desired anchoring site. Considering all that could have gone wrong on the day we couldn't have had things work out better…except for maybe when Susan suggested to just try and start the motor…"just for fun"…still nothing.

After tidying up the boat we eagerly headed to shore and began exploring. We dined at a great Italian restaurant and got some gelato for the kids. Then we headed back to Mima, glad to have arrived in San Andres and ready for a good night's sleep. In the days that followed our starter was fixed and we took advantage of our time to sample local food, ride bikes, explore and discover this great island and its people.

Dos Milfords optimized the friendliness of all the San Andreans we have had the pleasure of meeting. They seem to possess a happy and cheerful outlook on life that matches well their island home. Milford senior is a warm and sincere man in his mid40's. He has a quiet demeanor and is a joy to be around. Milford junior is lively and full of energy. He shows great maturity for a 19 year old. We are indebted to dos Milfords and are blessed to have them as friends. Little did we know that 3 days after helping us out of the reef we would be their guests, in their home, for a traditional Columbian dish of Sancocho. As we left their home Milford senior turned to me quietly and said, "I will miss you Mark, please come visit again." We will miss dos Milfords and San Andres and we would be pleased to come back here again.

Until next time fair winds and following seas,

Mark, Susan, Amy and Marshall Wheeler aboard S/V Mima

P.S. Milford senior would like to go to work in Alaskafishing, so if anyone has a connection to a fishing boat let me know and I will forward the information to Milford senior.

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