Another Visit to Banco Chinchoro

While anchored in San Pedro, the winds blew steadily at 15 knots, keeping us very comfortable and bug free. We’d heard tales of boats dragging anchor all over the town, but our only movement was the boat swinging gently; the Bruce was firmly set. We’d been using a slightly different technique on the trip north; we dropped the hook to the bottom, then let it settle into the sand and coral on her own for an hour or so before backing down hard. This little bit of patience seemed to help. No dragging all the way home. We left San Pedro after a three day stay motoring easily through the reef pass. Just a short sail to the north, 24 miles, we were once again entering Xcalak, Mexico. Remember our excitement leaving this place on our trip south? This time we were treated to a totally different experience; the water was flat as we entered the opening in the reef, and we could actually see the coral and rock slabs as we slid inside the pass, following the range as we did before. What a different world this was! The water, as you can see in the photo to the left, is crystal clear. In fact, it was perhaps the cleanest we saw on the entire trip. The palm trees swayed gently; there was no spray flying into the rigging; it was a world at peace.

At Anchor in Banco Chinchoro
At Anchor in Banco Chinchoro

There was nothing for us to see in Xcalak as we’d seen it all while weather bound back in May. I found a new lady at the Customs House, but she politely informed me that we could not check in at Xcalak. She would write a letter of introduction to our next port captain acknowledging our stopover, but she could not stamp our passports. So this would be a new experience; visiting several ports but not checked in to the country. Would we be arrested? We left the next morning before the sun was up as the water was flat calm (by tropical standards). The range lights were working, and our exit was uneventful. As a caution, I would not recommend that a first time visitor attempt to enter this pass other than in good light and flat seas. It is no place for a novice. 

I doubt I'll ever catch the Green Flash in a photo.
I doubt I’ll ever catch the Green Flash in a photo.

Retracing our southbound route, we sailed offshore to Chinchoro Atoll as it was just too far to try to make it all the way to Bahia de Ascension in one day. While there, we were boarded by Mexican Navy personnel who manned the station with the Chinchoro research group. I smiled a lot and did my best to answer all their questions in Spanish as they filled out their many forms. When they left, they seemed pleased by a gift of beer and Gatorade, and they welcomed us to come visit their station ashore. That night, the sky cleared of any clouds, and for the first time in my life I actually saw the green flash. Joy had witnessed it before, but she caught it also. Brilliant green fire flashed on the horizon, unmatched by any other sunset.

Puerto Aventura from offshore
Puerto Aventura from offshore

We knew our weather window was closing so the next day we hustled along to Bahia de Ascension, 70 miles to the northwest, staying there only one night and heading right back out early the following morning to reach Puerto Aventuras Marina before a predicted strong northerly front blew in. We reached PA just in time to beat the 30 knot winds that howled out of the north for the next two days, and we were very glad for our safe haven. We found some nice restaurants and stores and welcomed the chance to stretch our legs. Twice a day though, I would check the weather watching for a break in the winds to make it to our next port about 50 miles to the north. After a couple of days, I saw a slight easing of the winds near shore, and at daybreak, we headed north to Puerto Morelos. The weather was fine, blowing only about 15 knots until about noon; then the northerly breeze began to pick up. First 22 knots; then 25, and before we knew it, 30 knots against a north flowing Gulf Stream. This was NOT fun. Our progress slowed to 3 knots at times, and I struggled to stay just off the reefs, and just inside the current so we could avoid the worst of the waves. If we strayed out into 600 feet of water, a mile or so offshore, the waves built into mountains very quickly.

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