Sailing Southern Mexico. Trust at sea. 16 16 North 098 54 West

Things are tense on Aretha this morning. They have been for the past 3 hours.

The light is just coming and the sea is a murky flat calm. There is barely a breath of wind. Two turtles just bobbled past us as we motor very slowly ahead at 4 knots and 1000 rpm.

We’re 15 miles off the Mexican coast and just past Punta Maldonado. Our charts show that we should be in water of 439 metres. On our charts over the past 3 hours we crossed an area where the water should have got only as shallow as 62 metres.

We have 2 sets of electronic charts on board as well as paper charts. The Raymarine ships data and the iSailor App data on my iPad. That and Charlies Charts, the Mexican guidebook and the Admiralty Pilot Book. We should have it covered.

You come to rely on your charts and the danger is you treat them as gospel. This is clearly not the case today. For the past 3 hours our depth gauge has been showed depths as low as 2 metres beneath the keel. Thats scary. Especially when its not meant to be. The depth then soars to 30 metres and then to 100 metres plus. Another 10 minutes later and you’re back to 6 metres. This pattern has been on and off for the past 3 hours. Inshore of us some 7 miles away are an area where shoals go down to 2.3 metres.

I’m reminded of when we sailed in the Lau Group of islands in Fiji and our charts were somewhere between 1/2 mile and 1/4 mile out. In the anchorage, our charts were telling us were on land!

It pays to be a little sceptical and when its pronounced with absolute certainty that you have plenty of water according to the charts in far flung less charted places, there always has to be a pinch of salt and some caution.

It could of course be that our instruments are faulty. We’ve had some issues with different instruments. We’ve shut down and restarted – no change.

It’s an interesting question. What do you trust most. Your charts. Your guidebooks. The instrument readings. Your gut instinct and the observations all around you.

Basic seamanship says keep a very good lookout and proceed carefully. Nothing is evident on the water to indicate rocks, breaking water or shallow areas from the colour changes. We press on carefully.

In other news.

Yesterday was a calm relaxed day – the morning saw marlin jumping near Aretha, plenty more turtles and dolphins jumping to the height of Aretha’s bimini. We saw a cruise ship, the Amsterdam pass us yesterday – the first we have seen since Panama.

All are well on board and life is settled if searingly hot. We are 57 miles from Acapulco and should arrive there this afternoon.

Team Aretha proceeding carefully, Out.

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