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Ecuador Makes it Hard for Cruisers

Cocokai as seen earlier in her travels, not the way she entered the bar at Bahia de Caraquez, Ecuador.

©2007 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

"We’re finally on a mooring here in Bahia de Caraquez, but it wasn’t easy getting here," reports Greg King from aboard Jennifer Sander’s Long Beach-based 64-ft staysail schooner Cocokai. "We — including Jennifer’s daughter Coco, and Ducky — waited two weeks for the port pilot to return to Bahia de Caraquez to escort us in, as they will no longer allow boats to enter on their own. After the pilot was delayed even longer, we were given a set of waypoints and special permission to enter on our own. I thought no problemo, and told them I didn’t even need an escort.

"Due to unusually light winds, we were running about 15 minutes behind schedule, and had to motorsail the last 10 miles to catch the incoming tide. If you get stuck, you don’t want it to be on an outgoing tide for obvious reason. Anyway, the waypoints were for exiting Bahia, so I had to reverse them coming in. I had everything right in my head — except for which side of the lighthouse to pass on! You’re supposed to head straight to the beach, then make a hard left 50 yards or so off the beach. But when I got close to the beach and turned to pass inside of the lighthouse, there was no more than 10 feet between it and the rocks — so something was wrong.

"I yelled to Jen that there was no way we could fit between it and the rocks! I quickly stopped the boat — well, as quickly as a 30-ton boat can be stopped — at which point she quickly realized I hadn’t reversed my thinking about which side of the lighthouse to pass on. Unfortunately, in those few frantic seconds, with the current running about five knots, we had drifted many yards inside of the waypoints. The depthsounder was reading in the low 5s — add 2 feet for the transducer under the hull — so I quickly got us going 90 degrees to get back on course. At one point, when the boat rolled in the churned up waves, I saw the depth at 4.4 feet — and Cocokai draws 6.6 feet with the board up! Fortunately, I didn’t feel any bumps.

"I soon got back on track and Tripp Martin, our agent, was on the radio saying I just got past the toughest part. I was relieved. It turns out there was a cheering section on the beach taking photos to see if we would make it or not.

"Lesson learned — Don’t always send the girls to the bow to keep them out of your way. A guy must focus! Plus, two heads are better than one!

Google Earth is a wonderful tool for cruisers.

Google Earth
© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

"Check out the entrance to the bay at S 00’35.681 W 080’25.571. In the Google Earth photo, you can probably see all the shallows and bars that plague the entrance. When we came in at high tide, all we could see was water."

Waiting two weeks for a pilot? Oh boy, the officialdom bugs seem to have gotten a good grasp on things in Ecuador.

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