Horizons Travelblogue

Sailing vessel Horizons, a Tayana 37 cutter, has been cruising the West Coast of Mexico and Central America for the past 9 years. This is the ongoing story.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Low Tides in the Yacht Club

Tony caught the 1230 hrs bus from downtown Puntarenas to Alajuela and the airport for his flight later that evening. On my return to the boat after seeing him off at the bus station, I was quite dismayed to see that Horizons was aground on her moorings. The bow was tilted down and the boat was leaning to starboard. The weight of the boat seemed to be on the aft part of the keel and, worryingly, on the rudder. The shallower water seemed to be at the aft. With a draft of 6 feet, I measured only about 4'9" of water at the stern of the boat.

We were going through several days of minus (unusually low) tides. Not all boats in the Yacht Club were affected, and I hadn’t expected that Horizons would be in a location where a low tide would result in a grounding. I requested to be moved to where the water was a bit deeper but it didn’t happen for a couple of days. So I was again aground the following day, although not quite as badly. I finally got moved on a subsequent high tide to a moored floating platform where I was tied alongside in the same way as to a dock. I’m still there. One bonus over the simple mooring is that the platform has a piped supply of potable water, which makes filling my water tank very easy.

I now thought that my problems with low tides were over. But I was wrong. Another boat was (and still is) tied up on the other side of my floating platform. During the next period of minus tides at the end of January, I discovered that my neighbouring boat had a deeper draft than Horizons – one foot deeper. Consequently, as the tide continued to ebb to the minus level, my neighbouring boat began to lean over in the direction of Horizons when its keel hit bottom. This leaning continued to increase in severity as the tide continued to ebb, and I became quite concerned as the mast of this boat leaned closer and closer towards Horizons’ mast.

At one point, the instruments at the top of this neighbouring boat were only inches from the instruments at the top of Horizons’ mast. And the tide continued to ebb. It now appeared that the masts would not come into contact. But as the neighbouring mast continued to lean further, it now became a threat to Horizons’ backstay (the wire cable which supports the mast from the rear). The only solution was to try to move Horizons forward on the platform, against the tidal current, to increase the distance between the backstay and the neighbour’s increasingly leaning mast. If the keel of Horizons had been resting on the bottom, this would not have been possible. Fortunately, the manoeuvre was accomplished and Horizons was secured in a position with much more clearance between the masts. There was still a safe distance remaining between mast and backstay when the tide turned.

On the following high tide, Yacht Club staff also moved and secured the neighbouring boat a little further back on the platform, giving even more clearance between the masts. The consequence of this was that the repositioning of this boat’s keel in relation to the bottom caused the boat to then lean over in the opposite direction on the subsequent low tide. This was good news for the masts, but it caused that boat’s dock lines to drag the platform askew of the rapidly ebbing tide. This resulted in Horizons being pressed up tightly against its side of the platform, squashing all the protective fenders as flat as pancakes. But the fenders of the other boat had been pulled up above the level of the platform due to the leaning angle, and the scraping and squeaking of that boat’s hull against the platform were not pleasant sounds to listen to.

Further down the estuary can be seen the effects of the low tide on some other boats.


At 3:11 PM, Anonymous Martin Graham said...

Hi Bob,

Martin here, if you can remember me!
Denise's son

I've just been given the address of your blog by Paul and have spent the last hour or so engrossed in your travels. Those minus tides looked a bit worrying and until a minute ago, I didn't even know a minus tide existed (you learn something new every day).
Anyway, glad to see you're doing well and I hope your voyage continues to be exciting.
I'll check in again soon to see what you have been up to.
Ciao for now


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