The Official Magazine of the Bluewater Cruising Association

“Surviving” Hurricane Willa in Mazatlán

Brian Short

Carpe Ventus
Beneteau Oceanis 45
October 31st, 2018

On Sunday, October 21, 2018, Hurricane Willa commenced. The rain and high winds one expects with such a storm did not materialize, but the news reports, emails, discussions and planning all ensued as per the stormy weather predicted. The morning radio net was focused on the NOAA predictions, government warnings and the location of the nearest evacuation center. A Category 5 hurricane rightly stokes the fears in any sailor’s heart, but the forecast models showed little fierceness for the north of Mazatlán. Nonetheless, canvases came down, sails were tied down or removed, and extra dock lines were woven until the marina looked a bit like a giant spider had visited.

The local dock crews were tremendous in their efforts to prepare for the storm and it is heartening to know that, even in absentia, people do look after your boat. News reports of catastrophic devastation in Mazatlán did little to cool the anxieties back home.

By Monday afternoon, NOAA showed the track of Willa had veered deliciously south and forecast models showed winds of 5 – 15 knots at the marina in Mazatlán. That said, it could easily veer north again, so further preparations were undertaken. The restaurants and stores alongside the marina boarded or taped up their windows and many closed early.

On Carpe Ventus, bags were packed and ready to go, escape routes were investigated and essential food items were topped up. A few known boats, whose owners were still up north, were checked on and nothing was left to do but relax in the cockpit with a beer and a book.

Patiently waiting out Category 5 hurricane Willa.

Tuesday was hurricane day. If there was to be a conflagration, this was going to be it. Many sailors left the marina for safer accommodations inland, marina staff went home to care for their own, restaurants closed and nary a mariachi band was heard. As the rains began, all seemed quite calm. I dug out my rain gear and strolled the marina. It felt a little like I was the last person on earth, as the usually bustling community had disappeared. Oddly, the 3 cm of rain that fell did cause some minor flooding; they just do not have storm drain infrastructure here. As the hurricane made landfall further south, the winds were about 5 knots and the maximum wind over the 3-day period was about 15 knots. To the west, the sunset was glorious and a golden glow illuminated the flotilla, while to the east, giant dark clouds obliterated the sky.

Wednesday was spent reversing all the preparations and reviving the lost community. What better way than to have a BURP.

A post-hurricane BURP (Bluewater Unofficial Rendezvous Place).

The Canadian collective of 8 were invited for a pot luck dinner on Thursday night: Dennis Giraud and Gerri McKiernan of Ultegra; Jackie and Mike Champion of Angelique; and Justin, Lisa and Carson of Bloom. Unfortunately, the last 3 later called in sick. As usual, a lovely evening ensued with plenty of food, beverages and conversation. A new recipe was born: ‘Chicken Willa’! It starts off hot and spicy, with second bites being sweeter and juicier, and the whole affair being golden.

Delicious ‘Chicken Willa’.

Hurricanes are definitely a threat to sailors and warnings should be heeded. However, keep an eye on the weather forecasts not the  newscasts!


  1. Carol Arnold says:

    Glad all turned well for you and fellow cruisers.
    Unfortunately for us, our sturdy sailboat, INTREPID II, was impacted by Tropical Storm Sergio, as she sat on the hard in San Carlos Marina Seca, part of the domino cascade. Captain Kelly hurried down to San Carlos; our boat is now in the works yard, and an assessment of damages is underway. This was not the plan for our upcoming cruising season.

    1. Oh no Carol! So sad to hear that. Hope all goes well from now on with insurance, etc. You may want to connect with fellow BCA cruisers Bjarne and Barb, as their boat suffered a similar fate a couple of years ago down in Mexico as well.

      1. Carol Arnold says:

        Thanks for your concern. Yes we are often in contact with Barb & Bjarne and have done so. Kelly is still attempting to get the rigging checked among other things. I leave in a few weeks to catch up with high hopes we still might get Intrepid II in the water and cruising. Good luck to all who are dealing with boating challenges.

        1. Good luck! And hope you get Intrepid in the water soon!

  2. Ricky says:

    Happy it turned out well or didn’t turn. You get it. All is well that ends well. I look forward to trying this dish downthere this winter. We veared on the side of caution or I should say sensibility, without crew and a lucky find at the auto helm base revealed a crack j didn’t have time to fix. And so it was decided. We go south without our vessel this year and next year we will be ready. See you soon.

  3. Brian Eckert says:

    Thanks, the northern BW crews were in good hands with Brian and the marina crew on top of things.

  4. Glenora Doherty says:

    Hi Brian,
    Your article brought back memories for me. Our boat Wanderlust V suffered a knock-down in the boat yard at La Paz when Hurricane Marty came through in 2003. We spent “6 months hard time” rebuilding her with new masts and other rigging shipped from California and extensive fibreglass repairs. We had built our boat from a bare hull, so certainly knew what needed to be done, and many BCA members who were in La Paz volunteered their time to help too. But it was scary. We left her in the yard for a bottom paint and had flown off to Peru to visit our son there and that’s when the hurricane struck.

    We too had many burps and celebrations – when the new mast was raised, when she was re-launched, etc.

    Wishing you continued good cruising!

    Glenora Doherty

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