Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Finding a Hurricane Whole

From Puerto de la Navidad Marina, Barra de Navidad, Mexico

Last night when I called in to get the latest weather report my mom told that the weather system that was 150 miles from me was likely to build into a tropical storm or hurricane and was predicted to track across my path. Most hurricanes in the Eastern Pacific veer WNW but this one was forecasted by three weather models to veer WNW and then NNE towards Cabo san Lucas or more likely Puerta Vallerta. If this came to pass, the system would pass right acriss my route.

There is another system forming down south in the area of the Gulf of Tehuantepec near Huatulco. This one is predicted to barrel up the coast as far as Manzanillo. So, with 2 possible hurricanes bearing down on me, I had to make a move to get out of their path. Since last night the system right behind me was predicted to hit land around Puerta Vallerta, my only option was to back track 120 miles to a port I had passed 100 miles out to seathe day before.

I set my course and began to make the trek back over my hard earned miles. The wind built through the night and by morning I had 30 knots with many big squalls - offshoots of the storm behind me.

About 30 miles out of Manzanillo I called my friend and avid sailor, Brett Thompson (also part of Praxis Universal). I knew he had done tons of sailing up and down this coast. He suggested the bay of Barra de Navidad about 18 miles north of Manzanillo. There were several reasons for this. First, Manzanillo is a busy industrial port. Second, he felt that Barra was a better hurricane whole. Lastly, it was about 5 miles closer so that I would reach the harbor while it was still daylight. It sounded like a good plan so I altered course slightly and slammed along the last 25 mile stretch - making 7 knots under double reefed main and reefed genoa.

As I neared the entrance I had about an hour of sunlight left yet the horizon was black with squalls. I sailed as fast as I could towards the entrance but about a mile off of the point I was slammed by a 40 knot squall. It swallowed up the land and I had zero visibility. The squall passed quickly and I got my visibility back. I made my way toward the little harbor entrance with 8' sharp swells on the beam, knocking Intrepid.

A second squall hit and again I lost sight of anything around me. Coming out of the squall I could see the buoy lights that marked the harbor entrance. I started up the engine and weaved my way thought the shallow entrance to the bay and pulled in to this amazing marina.

Now I've just got to chill here and wait for these storms to pass over.

I'm off to search for a shower and some good food.



Anonymous Sylvia said...

Praise God you are harbored safely after that harrowing trip through the storm! Now get some well deserved rest while the storm passes.
Sylvia in Cherry Valley

June 17, 2009 at 10:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Glad you are safe! I looked at your
current position before your blog
entry was posted and saw that you had
were back to land. I had a hunch that
the weather had something to do with it. So close, yet so far away.
Cheers for now and Godspeed after the
weather clears.

Glenn in Washington state

June 17, 2009 at 10:08 PM  
Blogger Sherna Taylor said...

We knew that the last leg home may be somewhat difficult. Praise and thanks to God that you made it into a safe haven inspite of the storms.
You have always made sound decisions through out this adventure. Keep vigilant and stay safe,

June 17, 2009 at 10:10 PM  
Blogger Sally said...

Zac, so glad you're into a good hurricane hole to wait out the weather. I've been checking the weather maps daily to see what you've been sailing through, around, beside, etc. I was getting quite nervous as I watched this low pressure develop. Sorry you had to backtrack, but it's probably the wiser choice. Enjoy some good Mexican food, put a couple extra dock lines on Intrepid and hope these systems head on out to sea quickly!

June 17, 2009 at 10:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank God you are safe, Zac. Enjoy the rest and good food so you will be ready to go again soon. We continue to pray for your safety as you get closer and closer to your port at home. You are definitely blessed by our loving God!

Grandma in Hemet, CA

June 17, 2009 at 10:14 PM  
Anonymous Grant Fjermedal said...

That made for an exciting read!

Took a lot of wisdom and skill to track back into that hurricane hole.

Now you can sit back and enjoy the show from the safety of a marina. Will be interesting to see what the system does. And to track its path relative to where you would have been.

Your dad knew what he was talking about when he said he wanted you off the coast and home before June and the start of the Hurricane Season.

- Grant Fjermedal, Seattle

June 17, 2009 at 10:18 PM  
Blogger John Gezelius said...

I looked at the map plot yesterday and saw that you looked to be in a port - I guessed weather as well.

June 17, 2009 at 11:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looks like a mini Monte Carlo.

Good to get hole, wholed up there :-))

June 18, 2009 at 12:31 AM  
Anonymous Bill Jamison said...

Looking at the harbor on Google Earth, it looks like you made a good choice. It must be a tough decision as to whether you should try to continue on or stay put. The longer you stay in that area the more likely you'll hit a tropical system as we get later into the season. The National Hurricane Center is saying greater than 50 percent chance for this to become a hurricane in the next 48 hours so you may have to stay put for a few days! Rest up and enjoy your unplanned visit to this beautiful looking part of Mexico.

(Tip for other Google Earth users - you can turn on "weather" and see the current clouds!)

June 18, 2009 at 12:45 AM  
Blogger Kevin said...

Hey Zac,
Just read about you in Men's Journal. Mighty impressed with your maturity, drive, determination and faith. Your posts tell the story well but I'm really looking forward to the book. I'll have to go back and read some of the older posts. Glad you ported safely. God speed sir. Hope to be there when you reach MDR.

Kevin Lenertz from da OC

June 18, 2009 at 1:24 AM  
Blogger Becky said...


You have made the best decision once again.

I was praying that 'if' there was a storm, that it would build up behind you and provide just enough wind to scoot you toward MDR, not 'when' there was a storm. I think there must have been some confusion. I'll have to be more clear on that next time!

It is a good chance for a warm shower and a 'real' Mexican meal. Yum!!

I hope you are not sleeping the Intrepid because it may be bobbing around quite a bit as the storm passes.


June 18, 2009 at 1:55 AM  
Blogger Anita said...

Gee Wizz Zac!
Well you are safe and hopefully none the worse for the wear!
Thank God for all the communications you have aboard and also for Brett's knowledge of the area...((((((Thanks Brett)))))

Well sit tight and wait for that weather worries mate, you'll be right!

Blessings and a big hug
Waterloo, NY
Captain SV "Wombat"

June 18, 2009 at 2:38 AM  
Blogger Jim said...

Sounds like your weather team and you really made a goog call to duck into a safe place. Glad you made it in before the main event crossed your path.

June 18, 2009 at 3:26 AM  
Anonymous Trevor Leslie, London UK said...

Well you didn't REALLY expect it to be plain sailing just 'cos it was the last leg, did you?

To be honest, as hairy & lairy as it sounds like the last 24 hours have probably been, it ALSO all sounds pretty damn cool, really - certainly makes for more interesting reading for us... and helps guard against the danger of complacency on your part!


As always, good job, sailor.



June 18, 2009 at 3:32 AM  
Anonymous Lisa from Mt. Juliet, TN said...

Glory to God for His protection and wisdom over your life! Wow, I pulled up this day's blog and my heart started beating rapidly, immediately! This is going to make such a cool book and movie!!! Hah! Blessings young man and Psalm 91!

Zacpackers are praying you home!!!

June 18, 2009 at 5:21 AM  
Blogger Alan said...

Will you stay on the boat during this? Could be quite a ride... without leaving the dock.

June 18, 2009 at 5:26 AM  
Anonymous Brenda F. said...

The Zacpacker pacs on...I knew it. I knew yesterday evening when things were light on the comment end...the weather. I fell out @ midnight. Always Mother Nature. She wanted to talk to Zac! She provided you with the sacred whole to shelter within, & a friend to find it. I'd keep em' both. Hopefully Hurricane ? won't hold you up too much. You could pack local for a few hours, sleep, & ICE CREAM! We'll check in later. We missed dinner last night. Can't do two dinners in a row. Thankful you're alright. I was half asleep when I was trying to read your blog this morn at 6am, dark. Slammed is a word that makes me very nervous. Let's not have anymore of that! Have a fun day. Out...from Atlanta, Mimi

June 18, 2009 at 5:36 AM  
Blogger Heather said...

I am so glad you are safe. I have recently just started following your blog. I saw an article in espn. You are an inspiration, I'm sharing your story with all that I know here in the east. Best of luck. Hope you get home soon.

June 18, 2009 at 6:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Phew! Yes, praise God! He's taking care of you, dude! Sounds like a Psalm 107:23-37 experience to me! Praying for you right til you're home again! :o)

June 18, 2009 at 6:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nasty! Stay in the "Cleft of the Rock" as He gives you safe harbor.

June 18, 2009 at 7:06 AM  
Anonymous Your Oklahoma Well-Wisher said...

Oh goodness, glad you made it there! Chill, eat, rest, and I know you & your support team will make the right decisions on when to get back out there and how to route towards home again... Take good care, Peace, Your Oklahoma Well-Wisher

June 18, 2009 at 7:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Zac: stay safe within the harbor. You will know when to depart. God is on your shoulder.

God Bless

Balmoral Sailor

June 18, 2009 at 7:19 AM  
Anonymous Kodiak Mike said...

Zac- Hola!
Time for some mexican pizza and a good rest while you wait out the storms.
Kodiak Mike

June 18, 2009 at 7:25 AM  
Blogger Douglas Pistone said...

What a day you'll remember for sometime. So close but yet so far away. Do not be bummed that you had to back track those 120 hard earned miles. I'm sure it was the right decision. All you can do now is enjoy Manzanillo and that hurricane hole Brett Thompson helped you find. THANKS BRETT, great knowledge, great call. Zac, your sailing abilities and getting into Manzanillo sounds like something out of an action adventure movie. Johnny Depp eat your heart out! This one was real not movie Bologna.

Take the time and have a few burritos, enchiladas, tacos, and some mole if you're a crazy spicy eater. I personally can't stand the mole. Please remember "Do Not Drink the Water". That shower sounds like a real good idea.

Please keep us informed if you can of everything that's going on. Yesterday when I check Google Earth I started to worry. Sounds like it was handled the same way you handled everything during this crazy around the world adventure. Correct decisions, at the correct time, loving family support, Dad putting in the two cents, and everyone else helping with weather watching, and all of us bloggers going crazy just watching from our computer monitors.

I hope the storm passes quickly and your back on track heading into MDR.

Weather that Storm,
Douglas Pistone
MDR, California

June 18, 2009 at 7:32 AM  
Blogger Douglas Pistone said...


Could you please give us the information about Zac's article in the Mens Journal?

What's on the cover?

What issue?

If it's still available for purchase?

Douglas Pistone
MDR, California

June 18, 2009 at 7:42 AM  
Blogger ponyscott said...

Way to go Zac! Have fun and rest and gather your strength and wait these darn storms out. No need for the risk....obviously.

Look forward to your next blog.


June 18, 2009 at 7:51 AM  
Anonymous CovingtonKat said...

Yo & Hola, Cap'n Zac!

After I read your blog entry today, I did as I usually do - started Googling the places you's what one website for the Puerto de la Navidad Marina says:
"Puerto de la Navidad is a year-round source of delight for lovers of deep-sea fishing or placid sailing. It is the ideal location to take shore leave or practice favorite water sports. So bear to port, and get knotted in this leisure island."

Placid sailing? Sounds like you had anything BUT that on your way there! The decision to backtrack was a good, safe, and smart one...kudos once again to you being able to Do Hard Things.

Another commenter said the marina looks like a mini Monte Carlo - I've been there - and they are right!

Enjoy your unplanned for stopover - make more new friends, get some rest and hopefully you'll be back out there, on your way towards MDR soon!

Buena suerta, Cap'n!

June 18, 2009 at 8:00 AM  
Blogger STEVE B said...


Too close for comfort if you ask me! I live 5 hours from the coast but have seen a number of Hurricanes and some of them were even storms. I wouldn't ride out a storm on that boat in the Marina for anything in the world. Let the boat live out the drama on its own. Hoping that neither of you have to meet any serious weather.


June 18, 2009 at 8:34 AM  
Blogger Mona said...

I was getting anxious yesterday as I watched the weather system developing in your close proximity. I was so thankful for the post I saw this morning letting us know that you are safe in port.
Rest up and hopefully you'll get a safe weather window soon.
Tucson, AZ

June 18, 2009 at 8:55 AM  
Anonymous Melanie said...

Ai Yi Yi, Zac! Ai Dios Mio (OMG)!!

Ai, Chihuahua and Holy Guacamole, Batman!

I'm so glad you made it to a safe and snug harbor for both you and Intrepid. I hope she's in a well protected area of the Marina. She's a good old girl and doesn't deserve to be battered around after carrying you safely to this point.

When you board again to travel north, be sure to give her (Intrepid) a good rub on the nose, thank her for being strong and true, and tell her, "we're almost home." Between you and Intrepid and the Lord above, you've got the "ultimate trifecta.!"

On a lighter note, eat lots of tacos. Have an icy, cold Pacifico for me. Try to avoid the carnitas tho (pork) LOL! Wash your hands, alot! Stay away from sick people. We don't want you to have to add to the shirt you wore on the ESPN cover; "...all I got was this lousy magazine cover AND the swine flu." LOL !

On the other hand, we all now that this type of weather coincidentally makes for GREAT surfing? Any plans? Perhaps you've already taken the board out this morning? Wear your tether!!!

I do remember you saying early on that you'd like to stop in Mexico for some surfing, and well; there you are!

So glad you're safe!

June 18, 2009 at 9:13 AM  
Anonymous Betty E. said...

Glad for your safety...still praying for you and Intrepid.
Betty E., Lomita, CA

June 18, 2009 at 9:17 AM  
Anonymous Marie said...

As they say, "It takes a village..."

Enjoy your time in port, Zac. When the time is right, head for home --- your family is waiting!

Blessings -

June 18, 2009 at 9:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good luck from Canada!!

June 18, 2009 at 9:31 AM  
Blogger Elaine said...

oh man!! You are gonna have some stories to tell for sure. Glad you are in a safe harbor. Enjoy the down time if you can.

June 18, 2009 at 9:54 AM  
Blogger Alan said...

This is indeed a nice marina! Here's the google earth coord:
19 11 42.42n, 104 40 56.32w
View is good to below 1000 feet. Be sure to look at some of the pictures people have posted on earth from there... no wonder Zac called it amazing! It looks exquisite.

June 18, 2009 at 10:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


The marina is wonderful! They have great guest showers(at least trhey did 3 years ago). Also oif you have the ime try to get over to Melaque and enjoy some great and inexpensive food on the beach! Also watch the pongas go full throttle up onto the beach for the night after a day of fishing. Awesome!


Thor (Jeffry)

June 18, 2009 at 11:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As one who lives here in the Melaque/Barra area year-round, we know it's definitely a safe haven against the storms. Grats to Zac on making it here safely...Good man.

One question about many of the posters here, tho...seems like there's a lot of god-talk. Not that there's anything wrong with that (gotta love that Seinfeld episode), just an observation. Out...MelaqueDave

June 18, 2009 at 11:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a ride you describe! Enjoy your time waiting out the storm and hope you make some more wonderful friends while in port.

Are you bunking on your boat? I certainly hope not! CindyinCincy

June 18, 2009 at 12:52 PM  
Blogger Chesapeake Sailor said...


If you've never prepped your boat for a hurricane be sure to talk to someone that has. I rode through about 8 in Key West between 05-07 (two record years) and survived all on a 250 mph rated mooring ball in the city marina. Remove all your canvass and use chaffe guards on your lines. Think about which way the wind will be blowing from and try to find a spot safest from up-wind boats or derelicts on flimsy anchor. You may be aware of all of this - but just food for thought. We'll pray for you too! Greg

June 18, 2009 at 2:35 PM  
Anonymous Melanie said...

@ Anonymous re: "Not that there's anything wrong with that..."

LOL I love those "Seinfeld-isms."

Let's just say that Zac enjoys a "faithful" following...of believers and non-believers. All are welcome!

Every once in a while a few of us will go "Springer," and toss some chairs about; that is until "Mom" Sunderland (aka Marianne) has to come in and gives us a warning to play nice or jump ship! LOL!

We love you Marianne! Not only has she been raising 7 kids, but also babysits all of us bloggers. Not an easy job!

June 18, 2009 at 2:39 PM  
Blogger Fulgum said...

Glad you made it in safe, Zac. I heard that Mexico's rainy season is during the Summer....and sometimes they are really bad with tropical storms. I guess you're going to have to work around them. Hope you can skirt past anymore quickly!



June 18, 2009 at 6:19 PM  
Anonymous J.Fox said...

The world is at your feet.. thank you for the inspiration and the motivation to get out there and go after our dreams!! Stay safe and God Bless your journey.
The Fox Family

June 18, 2009 at 6:20 PM  
Anonymous Marie said...

@Melanie... I so enjoy your posts! I look forward to "having tea" with you again soon!

Blessings -

June 18, 2009 at 7:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Glad to here you're tucked into a safe little hurricane hole.

A reminder Zac, since I'm certain you have been thinking of many things, but this Sunday is Father's Day and --- well, I reckon your Dad deserves an extra special thanks. He sure has been enthusiastic and supportive throughout your entire voyage, what a great Dad!

Be safe, and as you well know by now, if you think you need to reef you probably should have already done it.

Following winds!

June 18, 2009 at 8:03 PM  
Blogger BritDee said...

Good job, Zac! so glad you made it safely. You are just so brave, my hat's off to you!
Take care and enjoy the rest.

June 18, 2009 at 9:05 PM  
Anonymous S/V Aquarius said...

Glad you are in Barra... good hurricane hole. You are close to home, but this stretch is a bear. We have done the bash too but not during hurricane season! Glad you have a great weather router and all this experience after your year at sea.... stay calm, cool and collected and you will be home soon!
S/V Aquarius

June 18, 2009 at 9:18 PM  
Blogger John said...

Hey Zac....Congratulations so far! Plenty of good food in Barra. Go see Ariana at the coffee shop in the Alondra Hotel. Tell her John & Martina from Los Angeles sent you. Her and her husband Albert will take care of you. Also...anyfood from Seamasters is great! Ask for HUGO at Seamasters tell him we said HOLA too! There are many great people there if the storm is bad we have a home there too....have Arian call us...she has our number!!! Dino is the seamaster for the Hotel Marina..if you need something...he can reach us too...

June 18, 2009 at 11:06 PM  
Blogger Marilyn said...

Zac, everything has been said. Your are the MAN, and your parents are the BEST! I'm sure you understand that more than most 17 year olds who don't "do hard things."

@ Alan

I put in the coordinates for his current location (Barra de Navidad), which are almost exactly like yours, and Google Maps shows a completely different screen than I usually see when I put in the coordinates from his website blog. I am unable to save them to my maps, as I have been doing as he has traveled the world. I have his entire trip marked on Google Earth in blue icons. But when I put in the coordinates for where he is now, the screen doesn't let me save them to my maps for Zac. Any suggestions?

Marilyn in Woodland Hills

June 18, 2009 at 11:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I heard that the Itik production company you used to be working with is not letting you have Zacs footage is that true? How can they do that?

June 19, 2009 at 4:02 PM  
Blogger Dana said...

Holy cow! What a night you had! Glad you're safe.

June 19, 2009 at 7:30 PM  
Blogger Gene said...

Barra de Navidad is a great little harbor. Back in 1970 when I was sailing the western coast I used this harbor on several occasions to duck out of tropical storms and squalls. The people there were absolutely fantastic. Enjoy!

June 20, 2009 at 9:38 PM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home