Thursday 1st March – again!
What a palaver! We rang Mendez our friendly Coastguard and asked for a despacho to leave this afternoon. “Mal tiempo, mal tiempo”, he kept repeating. So we said we would meet him at the hotel to discuss it (or words to that effect!)
We arrived at the hotel at 1300, and he said no despacho because of bad weather (Jorge the hotel owner translated for us.) But we’ve checked the forecast and tonight is the best time to go otherwise we will be stuck here for days, we replied. There then followed over an hour during which Mendez was on the phone to various people trying to establish if he could give us a despacho or not.
Eventually, he got his answer, and it was ‘No’. El Jefe says that no small craft are allowed to leave harbour because of bad weather. But we are an ocean sailing yacht, we replied. No can do, he said, as his job would be on the line if anything happened to us.
So we resorted to going over his head and speaking to Danilo, his boss at the commercial port, who had given us permission to bother him if we needed anything. Well, we needed a despacho...
What a lovely chap. He explained that poor old Mendez’s hands were tied. The Coastguard chief decides when it’s too horrid for small boats to go out and it’s a general edict, no exceptions. However, he said, he will make a couple of calls and see what might be done, though he held little hope. He’ll get back to us.
So then it was a waiting game. By now well into the afternoon, we decided to have some lunch and invited Mendez to join us. An hour later we were still waiting, when Danilo phoned to say he was still working on it. He had put our case and was waiting for the outcome. He now had hopes they would agree.
By 1630 we were starting to get just a bit fed up. If we were to leave, we should have spent the afternoon preparing the boat and having a sleep to be ready for an overnight passage. The latest we could leave would be 1830 and it had taken Mendez an hour to write out the Despacho last time! So time was beginning to run short. By now we had started to use the iTouch and Google Translate to communicate with him and this worked well one way, but he was unable to type into the keypad, so laboriously wrote out what he wanted to say in his notebook. At least we were communicating, and by now he seemed to have realised that if he slowed down his speech and spoke clearly we could understand some of what he said.
While waiting for Danilo to get back to us, we checked the weather forecast again, and now we understood what the problem was. It had changed for the worse, and actually now looked very unpleasant. If they had been able to show us the local forecast they were basing their decisions upon, we would not have spent the entire afternoon trying to get permission to leave. Even with access to the internet we have yet to find out how to get a local marine weather forecast.
So, we called Danilo and thanked him for his trouble, but we would not be leaving anyway. He basically said ‘I told you so’, but hey, he had! He also said they were monitoring the weather and would let us know when the small craft restriction is lifted.
So now we are back on the boat with winds of 25-30 knots whistling in the rigging at a time of day when they would usually have died down. We suspect it will be another blowy night...