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Moored Boats on the Loose

Profligate on her own hook in the rather deep water of Yelapa. The dark color of the water indicates how deep it is. You can’t sleep well on the hook in Yelapa. 

©2016Latitude 38 Media, LLC

"Three boats broke their moorings free from the bottom last night at the Yelapa anchorage on Banderas Bay," reports Brian Charette of the Jackson Hole-based Cat2Fold catamaran. "My catamaran was the first. I was awakened by someone yelling ‘Ahoy!’ In my daze, I thought the boat near me was drifting toward the beach. In reality, my boat and I were being blown out to sea with a 150-ft line and an inadequate mooring weight hung from my bows. I ultimately dropped the mooring in about 500 feet of water. The bottom is very steep and deep at Yelapa.

"Then I grabbed the only other mooring that I could see. It soon became dislodged from the sea floor, too. I dropped it, then found another one, this one very close to the beach. I hooked onto it, and stayed put for the rest of the night.

"When I awoke in the morning, Mike and Judy Sawyer’s San Francisco-based Island Packet 38 Honu was gone, having drifted out to sea with her mooring weight still attached. Apparently they decided to take off at 4 a.m.

"Another boat — I think it was Truant, whose crew, I think, originally woke me — dragged into the bay and were minutes from drifting onto the rocks before they discovered what happened.

"The thing is, it wasn’t very windy last night. Yelapa, get your shit together!"

Beware of rascals who will rent you a panga mooring and tell you it’s plenty strong for your boat. 

©2016Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Anchoring and mooring at Yelapa has always been risky because of, among other things, the steep-to bottom. In fact, on February 28, 1958, Yelapa was the scene of one of the greatest yacht losses on the West Coast. The owner and some professional crew of the all-varnished 82-ft M-Class boat Windward — sistership to the Sausalito-based Pursuit — were heading north after setting a new Acapulco Race record when they decided to anchor at Yelapa and get a fish dinner. The great yacht was anchored about 150 feet off the beach when a swell came up and the anchor chain snapped. Almost before the crew realized it, Windward was on the beach. The crew and locals battled for four days to get her off, but it was a lost cause. Just Google ‘Yelapa’ and ‘Windward’, and you can read Skip Allan’s entertaining account about the loss.

The other problem is the unregulated nature of Yelapa moorings. In the past, just about anybody has thrown down a brick with a line attached and a Clorox bottle as a buoy and offered to rent you a ‘mooring’ for $20 a night. "Or how about $10?" Oftentimes several people would try to charge you for the same mooring.

We’ve anchored and moored to what we were told was a "ferryboat" mooring overnight at Yelapa, but never felt very comfortable doing it. If you do it, or anchor there, at the very least we’d have one or more drag alarms set. Although it didn’t happen last night, strong breezes often blow offshore out the mountains. Yesterday’s big issue was the swell. We’ve never seen such consistently great large surf on the Punta Mita side of the bay. It’s the kind of swell that could have easily jerked an inadequate mooring weight, with inadequate scope, right off the bottom. Be careful out there!

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The Melges 24 Shaka shakes off her rig on Friday at Key West Race Week, in breeze building past 20 knots and monstrous seas.