September 7, 2016

Hurricane Newton Takes Its Toll

There was some hurricane Newton damage to the palapas at Medano Beach at Cabo, but nothing serious. 

Baja Cantina
©2016Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Two of the five crew aboard a Mexican shrimp boat in the Sea of Cortez reportedly died after the vessel they were on capsized during the height of hurricane Newton early on Tuesday morning. Three other crew are missing and likely to have perished. Otherwise Newton’s damage to marine interests was limited.

Newton was the seventh hurricane to hit the tip of Cabo since 1971. Fortunately, it was only a Category 1, and nothing like Category 4 Odile that did so much damage to Cabo and La Paz two Septembers ago.

The center of Newton hit Cabo on Monday night about 10:30 p.m., where a National Weather Service station recorded sustained winds of 67 knots, with one gust of 100 knots. Phone and Internet service were knocked out for the night, palms and palapas were blown over, there was flooding, and a few windows were broken. As hurricanes go, this was nothing for Cabo.

The center of Newton passed about 50 miles to the west of the major yachting center of La Paz, where many boats are stored for the summer.

"Looking out my second story window, I can see three sailboats and an old motoryacht aground on the Mogote," Neil Shroyer of Marina de La Paz told Latitude. He did not know the names or types. "We were fortunate in that the wind came out of the east and then out of the south," said Shroyer, "as it gives us a lot of protection." Wind out of the north and northeast would be the worst.

Will Imanse of the La Paz-based Sceptre 36 Shaman tells Latitude that none of the four boats that went aground were occupied, and their owners were in the States or Canada. “It seems that these were the same boats that went up during Odile,” says Imanse. “More than a few members of the cruising community are wondering why we should risk our lives rescuing these boats again if the owners can’t be bothered to take proper care of them or assign someone to do it while they are gone."

Both Shroyer and Imanse thought the winds in La Paz were mostly in the mid-30s and maxed out with a few 50-knot gusts in the middle of the night. “The soap dish falling over was the biggest effect a gust had on my boat,” jokes Imanse. "A couple of boats at Marina Palmira suffered slight damage as a result of their not being tied up well."

As one might expect, a few roller furling jibs and some canvas was torn. But as in Cabo, Newton was not a major weather event in La Paz.

(After Newton passed, Imanse reports he had dinner with the wife of a La Paz undertaker, and she told him that her husband had removed two bodies from a boat in one of the marinas. Imanse has not been able to find out any more about the report, nor has anybody mentioned any deaths, so hopefully it was a case of misunderstanding or misinformation.)

Marine interests at Puerto Escondido were not damaged by Newton. Now that the government-owned Fonatur Marina has been taken over by private interests, more development is expected at Puerto Escondido. 

Marina Puerto Escondido
©2016Latitude 38 Media, LLC

A spokeswoman for Marina Puerto Escondido, farther to the north, told Latitude that “Newton’s wind blew pretty hard, but there was no damage to the boats or the facility.” The wind likely hit Puerto Escondido harder than it did La Paz, as an official weather station at nearby Loreto recorded a gust of 77 knots.

Newton then crossed the Sea of Cortez to mainland Mexico, making landfall around Bahia Kino. Winds of up to 64 knots were recorded in the Guaymas/San Carlos area. We haven’t been able to make contact with anyone there, but there shouldn’t have been great damage.

Despite some drenchings, the Baja highways are open.

All in all, it could have been much worse. However, the two busiest hurricane months in Mexico are upon us, so it’s no time to relax. But the great cruising season is not that far away. 

UPDATE: Newton Crushes Boats at Fonatur Marina

It’s always hoped that tropical storms and hurricanes lose their punch the farther north they get, but that wasn’t the case with Newton. He hit the Fonatur Marina at San Carlos hard, sinking a number of boats and tearing up docks. 

©2016Latitude 38 Media, LLC

As you can tell from the item above, as we were about to post today’s reports we had assumed that Newton had lost a lot of steam and wasn’t going to do much damage on the mainland. It just goes to prove you can’t assume anything, because a report posted on Rob Murray’s Facebook page indicated there was indeed extensive damage at the Fonatur Marina in Guaymas. It is reported that at least seven boats have sunk at the dock, and based on the photos, there was extensive damage to other boats, the dock, and the facility.

It’s unclear to us who is the source of the information and who took the photos, but we believe the material comes from Rob Murray, who got it from Gary on Searover II, who has just talked to — and may have got it from — a gentleman named Eduardo, who was apparently on the scene and may run the facility.

The report is that all of the boats that were on the hard at the Fonatur facility are fine.

There was considerable damage to the docks at the Fonatur Marina. 

©2016Latitude 38 Media, LLC

It was also reported that "Boats in Gabriel’s Yard didn’t fare as well . . . some idiot left sails on and it looks as though that took out at least a few others."

Eduardo has said he will send photos of every boat to her owner in the coming days.

More news as we get it. If you are onsite, we would appreciate your input and photos. 

Wild Weekend of Rescues

Boating activities of all sorts increase on any holiday weekend, so we’d expect the tally of rescues to increase proportionally. But over the Labor Day Weekend, the range of potentially tragic incidents that occurred here in the Bay Area and elsewhere along the West Coast was a bit shocking — particularly on Saturday, September 3. 

Hours after all of her crew and passengers were transferred to safety, the Invicta broke up on the rocky Coronados.

© 2016 USCG / PO1stClRobertSimpson

On that day, just south of the Mexican border the American commercial sportsfishing boat Invicta began taking on water near the Coronado Islands, threatening the lives of the 21 passengers and five crew aboard. Luckily, the motor vessel Sweet Marie was nearby, and took aboard all of Invicta‘s crew, who were later transferred to a Coast Guard cutter. Invicta was left adrift and eventually broke up against one of the Coronados.

On the same day at least two other capsizes were reported in Southern California, and just after midnight Saturday night, the moored, replica paddlewheeler Spirit of Sacramento began taking on water from an unknown source and eventually capsized. Her two crew were unharmed during the turnover, but an estimated 600 gallons of diesel in her tanks became an immediate threat to the fragile environment of the Sacramento Delta.

Seen often sailing the Bay, the whale boat Viking took a dangerous dunking Saturday, leaving all 16 crew in the drink. Wisely, all were wearing life jackets. 

© 2016 USCG / ABC7News

Here in San Francisco Bay, every local news organization seemed to jump on the story of a Sea Scouts vessel capsizing in the chilly waters of the Central Bay Saturday, not far from Aquatic Park. The adult skipper and all 15 crew — who reportedly ranged in age from eight to 18 — were safely rescued by Coast Guard personnel.

Although the scouts’ bright-red vessel was widely reported to have been a catamaran, it was actually an unballasted, double-ended, Monomoy-class whale boat rigged with a modern, two-spreader mast, which has little if any internal flotation or self-bailing abilities. We’re absolutely certain that neither the kids involved nor their adult supervisor need us to tell them that sailing the Central Bay in such a boat with 16 souls aboard is a bit much. That said, looking back at some of our own sailing antics, we can testify that the lessons learned during such life-threatening situations are imprinted permanently — and vividly — into our memories, never to be repeated again.

Although these student sailors may have returned home in soggy clothing, they also had quite a tale to tell.

© Steven John Welch / Sea Scouts

Tips for Crewing Success

As noted in the ad below, tonight is the night when southbound skippers can mix and mingle with potential crew at Latitude 38‘s Mexico-Only Crew List Party. (From 6 to 9 p.m. at the Encinal YC in Alameda.)

Although all who attend wear name tags that identify if they are looking for a ride or for crew, we leave the process of actively networking up to you. Needless to say, striking up conversations with complete strangers comes more easily for some sailors than others, so here are a few tips for Crew Party success:

– Don’t be a wallflower. You need to be proactive to find a ride.
– Skippers meet lots of potential crew, so be sure to bring a single-sheet sailing resume with your photo and contact info on it.
– If you are definitely NOT looking for romance, make that clear from the get-go, along with any other expectations or concerns.
– Do not over-inflate your experience. Many skippers would rather take along an eager beginner with an upbeat personality than a grumpy know-it-all.
– Do not get sloppy drunk. You only get one chance to make a first impression.

– Try to access potential crew by the strength of their experience, the nature of their personalities, and their willingness to pitch in and learn, rather than by looks and age.
– Be 100% clear about what tasks potential crew will be expected to perform and what expenses they’ll be expected to share.
– Romances have definitely sprung up from Crew List contacts, but that’s not the principal goal of the event. There are probably better ways to find a date.
– If you select crew to join you, it is not out of line to ask them for a doctor’s statement that they are in good health, and for a list of medications they take.
– Once crew have been selected, it is also prudent to have them sign a simple release of liability.
– If unsure about crew-captain chemistry, go out for a daysail, or ask them for help getting the boat to San Diego.

Tonight’s party is free for registered 2016 Baja Ha-Ha skippers and first mates, and $7 for everyone else. (We can only take cash, and exact change will help get everyone in quickly.) That includes a munchies buffet, color-coded name tags and door-prize drawings. Parking is free.

Baja Ha-Ha sponsors will be there to answer questions, and Sal’s Inflatable Services will demo a liferaft inflation, always a fun highlight of the crew parties. The no-host bar will open at 6 p.m. 

PLEASE NOTE: From 4 to 6 in this afternoon, EYC will host a Mexico Cruising Seminar downstairs. This separate event is free and even includes a free beer for the first 100 attendees. Dick Markie of Paradise Village and Geronimo Cevallos of Marina El Cid will conduct this highly informative seminar and will welcome questions from the audience.