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Bar and Humans Broachings in San Blas

The estuary at San Blas — once the base of operations for the Spanish in the Pacific Ocean — as seen from above. A southwest swell pours straight in between the northwest and southeast sides of the estuary.

San Blas Tourism
©2010 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

The spring cruiser migration from mainland Mexico toward the Sea of Cortez is already well underway, with San Blas — a popular stop on the way between Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan — being the scene of some excitement and entertainment.

Thanks to one of the bigger southwest swells in a long time, boats crossing the bar to get into the estuary at San Blas on March 23 had the big excitement. Sharon Drechsler reports that she and her husband Dick on the Long Beach-based Catalina 470 Last Resort were overtaken by breaking waves while following several other boats across the bar. Last Resort broached so badly that water poured in through one of the hatches into the main salon, and stuff — including a canister of flour — got scattered all over the inside of the boat. Their boat, as well as all the others, eventually made it into deeper water, but like all the flour on their cabin sole, they’d been shaken up a bit. Read Sharon’s report in her column, but you can watch her video of the event below.

We have very little experience with big boats in breaking surf — thank goodness for that — but are wondering if someone with more expertise would like to weigh in on whether it would have been better if the couple — assuming they had time — had turned Last Resort 180° and hit the whitewater head-on. We’re not raising this question as a criticism of Dick and Sharon, who not only have many miles under their 470’s keel between Alaska and Mexico, but are also very good friends, but just for general educational purposes.

The one thing we do know is that when there is a big swell running, you want to be very careful about crossing any bar. If your boat is caught in a lot of whitewater, she’s almost certainly going to broach, and she’s then almost certain to try to pitch you out of the cockpit and into the water. As is the case when taking dinghies in through surf, it pays to be patient to get a sense of things. And ‘when in doubt, stay out’.

Sixty miles south of San Blas, the same southwest swell that was slapping around Last Resort and others was providing good surfing waves for Jim Milski of Sea Level and other cruisers who paddled in from their boats.

latitude/Doña de Mallorca
©2010 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

And what would a report from San Blas be  without an update on the never-ending contretemps between cruisers and the always controversial Norm Goldie? Jodie Fields reports on the latest:

"Bill and Linda of Tanque de Tiburon, John and Fran of Gosling, and we headed into town one evening to give Norm a copy of a satellite photo of the entrance channel to San Blas. Since Norm is the self-proclaimed gatekeeper of San Blas, we figured he would appreciate the extra information. Our giving him the photo went fairly well — given the fact that we’re on his black list for having helped other cruisers enter the estuary.

"Norm didn’t say ‘thanks’ or ‘this is a good thing to have’ or anything. Nor did he say anything negative. But reading between the lines of what he did say, it seemed clear to us that he’d never give out the waypoints to cruisers because he doesn’t have confidence in their ability to understand or use GPS. He basically folded the photo and put it on the bench next to him. At that point we cruisers headed to Chef Tony’s for dinner, thinking the knowledge we’d provided him would not be shared with other cruisers. The impression we got is that Norm believes he’s the only one who is knowledgeable and smart, and no one else could be."

And so it goes. For the record, cruisers are free to use or not use Norm’s help, just as they are free to either contribute or not contribute to his charities. They are also perfectly free to offer information to other cruisers about San Blas and entering the channel. If Norm gets his knickers in a twist about this — as he reportedly has done in the past — that’s his problem. Despite what Norm has often implied, he has no official standing with the Mexican government.

As has been the case for decades, there are cruisers who really like Norm, and there are cruisers who dislike him intensely for what they see as his proclivity to sticking his nose in the affairs of others. But hey, the sky and water are blue in Mexico, the air is warm, the food is delicious and inexpensive, so this shouldn’t interfere with anyone’s good times.


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