Thursday, April 9, 2015

Up shits creek without a paddle

Here's a fun story about two families that set out for a nice trip to the beach via their kayaks and ended up stranded for over 24 hours off their boats.

WHERE: Tenecatita Bay near the estuary entrance

WHO: SV Terrapin and SV YOLO

First Kayak:  Matt, Courtney, Presley and Colter  from SV YOLO 

Second Kayak: Aimee and Emma from SV Terrapin

Third Kayak: Phil and Jessica from SV Terrapin

Both families had recently anchored in Tenacatita Bay near the estuary and wanted to get off their boats and explore. We all had noticed that the swell and breakers were larger than average while looking at where we wanted to beach our kayaks. Our idea was to paddle in between wave sets.

As we began our approach Jessica's anxiety was kicking in. Looking at the sets that were coming in and watching waves crash on the beach she wasn't feeling good about our idea. Honestly, none of us were too sure.

Emma and I along with YOLO, kayaked towards the beach attempting to identify the best opportunity to go for it. Once you make the commitment you can't go back, you have to keep moving towards the beach. Just as we commited, out of the corner of my eye I could see a huge swell coming our way. Sitting in the bottom of a trough of a huge wave, I yelled out to YOLO, "holy shit you guys!" And then it hit us.

How big was the wave that crushed myself, Emma and YOLO?

Phil was attempting to calm Jessica by proceeding with extra caution thus lagging behind YOLO and myself. While we were sitting in the trough of the wave, Phil and Jessica were being pulled by the backside of the same large wave. Phil knew all hell was about to break loose and immediately started back paddling. He paddled so hard that his aluminum paddle broke in half. He quickly grabbed Jessica's paddle out of her hands, and with his back to the beach, got them out of the waves grasp.

Phil knew before he could turn around to see, what had happened. He said he could hear the wave's thunderous crash mixed with our screams. He and Jessica turned around to see that the kayaks had washed up on the beach but with the onset of other waves they couldn't account for any of us. They saw a cove that looked safe enough to land and kayaked over to it.

My head popped up from underwater. I could see that the kayak was well in front of us and that Emma had lost grip of her paddle and it was floating away. Knowing that another wave was literally right behind me I fought like mad to grab the back of Emma's shirt. I wasn't going to get hit by another wave and lose sight of my child. 

We both popped up again. The undertow was unlike anything I had ever experienced. Being from San Diego, I've experienced many undertows, but nothing like this. 

"Mom, I can't reach the ground!"

With Emma clutched to my chest I kicked my legs and feet till the straps on my walking sandals were only hanging on by their ankle straps.

With the momentum of a few more light waves I was able to push Emma close enough to shore for her to reach the bottom and then screamed, "RUN".

We all made it to shore. Matt and Courtney were attending to their children who were shaken up. I was shaking with adrenaline and hugging the life out of Emma. Phil and Jessica were quick to run up and hug us all.

So now what? The 8 of us decided to sit at the only palapa restaurant on the beach, have some snacks and drinks while discussing how we were going to get back to our boats. Little did we know that the whole time we were sitting at the restaurant is was getting to be high tide. 

Two out of the three kayaks in front of the restaurant. So how are we getting back?

One idea was to try to launch the kayaks from the same place where Phil and Jessica were able to successfully land.  Matt and Phil carried the kayaks over rocks to the cove while Courtney and I assisted the kids over the rocks. 

Huge problem. With all 8 of us in the cove it became aparant that high tide was upon us and the waves were getting even bigger. Trapped in a cove with nowhere to go, and a rising tide we made the decision to ditch our kayaks in the cove and get the kids to safety back on the beach pronto!

This picture doesn't do the waves justice. 

With two out of three kayaks tucked into a cove, the 8 of us were back in front of the restaurant wondering what to do.

Even the water in the estuary was getting rough as Matt and Phil were coming back from attempting to secure the kayaks overnight in the cove.

Phil secured the third kayak with a cable lock to the sign of the restaurant.

Two families were now standing on the beach with two kayaks laying in a cove, another locked to a sign looking for a place to go. 

"What about that hotel"?

The mosquitos were coming out in full force and we needed to move fast. About a half mile down the beach appeared to be a hotel. 

For the next half mile we discussed that we should get one room at the hotel for all of us. We'd be fine for the night, we just needed a place to sleep. As we got closer we could see that the building was indeed a hotel.  The closer we got to the hotel the more the kids were warming up to the idea of sleeping in a hotel room. Oh what fun! 

The eight of us looking like drowned rats walked to the edge of the hotel grounds just in time for a wedding. Just what every bride wants, eight castaways where the adults are holding kayak paddles and the kids are shivering cold in their wet bathing suits!

Having been voted "Best Dressed" (only because I was wearing a coverup and had flipflops on) I was elected to walk into the hotel lobby and secure a room for the night.  Standing in the lobby looking like I had just crawled out from under a bridge I was greeted by an English speaking hotel clerk.

Within a minute not only had I made it to a hotel lobby but I was standing in the lobby of a fancy all-inclusive resort (the kind that come complete with wrist bands so that you can enjoy "all you can eat and drink") that only had 2 rooms left because it was Holy Week. Seriously??  Holy Week? We couldn't have washed up on a beach on some random Tuesday with a Roach Coach Motel charging a whooping 30 bucks? The only room available is a Junior Suite?

All inclusive resort sounds fantastic, till you have to pay for it! 

After the Terrapin Crew put on their wristbands it was time to sneak in YOLO.  Unfortunatley, not 3 minutes after YOLO was in the Suite, security was at the door asking about our stowaways. Matt and Phil went down to make peace and pay the difference to legitimize everyone. It was then Matt and Phil found out that this exact scenario played out just two weeks earlier. Big Waves, kayaks, people stranded, people sneaking other people into a room.....   Only two weeks earlier they kicked the people out after refunding their money. We think if not for the kids, they would have done the same to us.

Good thing we're staying at an all-inclusive resort....we're starving.

Hungry as can be, the eight of us head down to dinner. Dinner was being served outside by the pools, buffet style with large tables that sat hundreds of people. It's Holy Week, people are dressed up nice and every Mexican there had paid good money for their vacation. 

Enter in the 8 gringos. We stuck out like a giant turd in a punch bowl. The kids are cruising the buffet lines in what they washed up in, bathing suits. Courtney and I thankfully had bathing suit cover ups on. Matt and Phil both had swim trunks and t-shirts on. Poor Matt had blown out his flip flops somewhere in the days debacle and was without shoes. The dude was barefoot. Barefoot!

After dinner we snuggled the kids in bed and put on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for them in Spanish.

Irony: Kids watching the part of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory where all the grandparents are sharing a bed.

The grown-ups needed a slew of adult drinks and headed down to the Tequila Lounge just downstairs from our suite. If looks could kill, the four of us would have died 500 times over. A nice lounge, with a guitar singer, packed full of nicely dressed Mexicans enjoying Holy Week. Then there's the drowned rats in the corner with beach coverups.....oh and barefoot Matt.

After we woke up in the clothes we had washed ashore in, we all headed down to a great buffet breakfast. Figuring out that low tide wasn't going to happen till almost 2pm we told the kids we'd stay for the majority of the day and make it fun.

The view of our boats from the hotel suite.

While the adults worried about wether or not the kayaks had made it through the night and how we were going to get back, the kids had a blast!

All-inclusive resort with a swim up bar.....yes please.

Working on a smoothie overload

Here's an activity idea; "getting stranded gringos back to their boats"

By noon both families were back on the beach making their way around the rocks to the cove where we had left the kayaks. Thankfully they were still there!

As each family was figuring out the best way for us to logistically get back to our boats, Chris from SV Legacy had dingied over to offer support and guidance although staying back as not to get caught in the swell.

Emma, Jessica and I got on one kayak. Phil waded in the water and gave us a huge push. I paddled like mad and once the girls and I got past the swell, I burst into tears.

With all four of YOLO's crew on their kayak, Phil gave them a huge push and they were able to paddle past the swell and head for home.

The girls and I were on SV Terrapin watching Phil like a hawk. Jessica's nerves started up and she was holding back tears.

"Come on Daddy"  "Come on Daddy"  "Come on Daddy"

Phil pushed his kayak out into the water and waited for the opportune moment to hop on and paddle fast past the swell.  Paddling hard, he pushed through swell and made it out.

We all felt relief when Phil got off his kayak and was safely onboard. The four of us had never been so happy to be on our boat. Safely.  Lesson learned: if there's ever so much smidge of doubt, don't do it. Our experience could have been much worse. We're all fortunate that things turned out the way they did.


  1. Reading this, I went into heart failure all over again! The 1st time was when Philip called & told me about it. Please, please, please stay safe. I love you!
    Mom in SC

  2. Only cruising do you get great stories like this. Glad everyone is safe.

  3. Glad everyone is safe. But the way you tell a story Aimee, I had to lol hard. Be safe and from now let Jess make the decisions.

  4. Glad too hear all are safe....great adventure always has its hair raising moments unless how would you know how great the rest is .... :)


  5. Enjoyed reading about it on Yolo's blog too & seeing their pictures. Sometimes flip flops aren't the best idea. An adventure!

  6. Classic Nance adventure..........

  7. So glad you guys are all safe, but leave it to he Nance's to turn something so scary I to a fun adventure!!