Horrific Attack on Cruiser Bob Medd in the Sea of Cortez

August 18 - Sea of Cortez

In Friday's 'Lectronic, we published a plea from Stephen Russow about the whereabouts and well-being of Bob Willmann of Golden, Colorado, who did last year's Ha-Ha aboard the Islander 37 Viva. We got an email back from Willmann, who says he's just fine, having left his boat in Bahia de Los Angeles and taken the bus to San Diego on Thursday. The same cannot, however, be said about his friend singlehander Bob Medd of the Victoria-based Aloha 34 TLC, who had his throat slashed and was left for dead while sailing in the Sea of Cortez.

Bob Medd, third from left, had his throat slashed while sailing in the Sea of Cortez.
Photo Deb Castellana

According to Willmann, he and Medd - who is a vet of the Canadian Navy, who served on the British Royal Yacht Brittania, and who drove his own barge in the North Pacific for 12 years - met in Banderas Bay last December and had been buddy-boating more often than not since then. They'd gone as far south as Barra de Navidad, and then sailed into the Sea of Cortez. Their plan was to sail further south this year.

On Sunday, August 12, the two left Santa Rosalia for Isla San Francisquito, expecting to complete the voyage by dawn on Monday. Medd needed to charge his boat's batteries, so he took a rhumbline course, motoring at four knots. Willmann went further offshore for better wind and a better sailing angle. The two kept in touch via VHF until about 6 pm, at which point they were out of radio range.

Wellmann and Viva arrived at San Francisquito at 7 am on Monday, and waited 24 hours without hearing any word from TLC. He assumed that Medd had been a victim of his boat's mysterious electrical glitches, and had returned to Santa Rosalia for repair. "Bob Medd is a very experienced, competent, resourceful sailor," says Wellmann, "and TLC is a well-found yacht, so I wasn't at all worried." With the only alternative being another rolly day and night at anchor, Viva left for Bahia de Los Angeles on Tuesday. The above are facts provided to us by Bob Wellmann. What follows is believed to be what happened, but, we emphasize, has not been confirmed.

Around 6 pm on Sunday, two fishermen came alongside TLC - something not uncommon in the Sea of Cortez. Medd gave them some water. Then one of the guys came aboard and hit Medd in the face with a rock he'd brought along, and Medd lost consciousness. When he awoke, he found that his throat had been slit from ear to ear - with his own bread knife - cutting lots of tendons, and he had been left to die. As he drifted in and out of consciousness, TLC smashed into some rocks. Eventually, Medd was able to get to the beach and fire off a flare. Some fishermen saw the flare and made their way over to him. When they saw him, they got the Mexican Navy involved, and Bob was taken to the hospital in Santa Rosalia on Tuesday evening. The hospital had to twice use paddles to restart his heart. On August 14, the doctor declared it was Medd's 'new birthday'. We emphasize, the above facts are unconfirmed.

Medd is currently in a hospital in San Diego, where he is being kept until doctors can control the infections he got while lying on the beach for two days. He'll eventually be taken to Calgary, where he will undergo extensive surgery to reconnect tendons and reconstruct damage to his face. The doctors are guardedly positive about his recovery. TLC was found "sunk and beyond repair."

Stories about attacks on cruisers often get blown all out of proportion, so Wellmann cautions nobody should jump to any conclusions until he can get an "accurate and unbiased report" from Medd himself. He'll do that as soon as Medd is comfortable talking about it. Wellmann adds, "Both Bob and I have nothing but respect for all the locals we've met in Mexico during the last nine months, and in fact have had conversations about cruisers who are quick to focus on any negatives."

Attacks on cruisers while they are on their boats in Mexico are rare, but not unheard of. A couple of years ago, Blair Grinols' Capricorn Cat was boarded and they were robbed in the middle of the night off Bufadero. Nobody was injured. And about 20 years ago, a couple from Redding were attacked on their boat in Turtle Bay. The husband was cut countless times as a robber tried to encourage him to come up with more money. The woman jumped overboard and got help. The victim was taken to the hospital and thought to be in good condition, but suddenly died as a result of all the tiny cuts, which hadn't previously been noticed.

We'll have more on this story. Until then, please don't start going crazy with rumors.

The photo at the top was taken by Deb Castellana of Drumbeat, who explains the circumstances. "We had a cruisers' potluck aboard Drumbeat at Caleta Partida this summer, and everyone who showed up was named Bob. I unofficially became 'Bobette' for the evening. We were going to send the photo to Latitude as "4Bobs" but couldn't think of good copy to go with it. From left to right, Bob Mullen of Apophyge, Bob Jones of Drumbeat, 'Back-Up Bob' Medd of TLC, and Bob Wellmann of Viva."

Update on Medd

August 20 - San Diego

According to an interview with Bob Medd by Andrew Bridges of the Associated Press, there's a strange twist to the story. Medd says two fishermen boarded his boat while he went below to get them water. The next thing he knew, they were holding his wallet and a serrated bread knife, and asking for more money. A blow to his forehead with a heavy object knocked him out, and the next morning he found his boat banging against a rocky shore and blood everywhere. He thought the blood was from his face or nose, as his throat didn't hurt. Confused and weak, he went ashore with some basic supplies. Passing in and out of consciousness, he didn't realize how badly he'd been injured. But when he walked, his head felt funny, as though it was loose on his shoulders. When he finally felt where they had slit his throat, he assumed he wasn't going to make it. He was found by some octopus fishermen on an isolated stretch of beach, then used his flare gun to signal the Mexican navy, which took him to a hospital in Santa Rosalia.

Here's where the story sounds curious to us. Medd's son-in-law Chris Dusseault drove down to Santa Rosalia to pick up the injured Medd. The two of them then drove all the way to San Clemente - about 14 hours through the unpopulated Baja desert - before pulling into an emergency room because the wound was oozing. We're not casting any doubt whatsoever on Medd's story, we're just surprised - as were the doctors - that he hadn't sought more sophisticated medical care upon getting back to the States. Medd said without the further medical aid, he probably wouldn't have made it through the night.

Medd, who is 53, said everything he had was in his boat, which he had outfitted for a 10-year cruise. Despite having lost his boat and all his money, he said he'd like nothing better than to continue his cruising dream.

America's Cup Jubilee off to Stormy Start

August 20 - Cowes, UK

The America's Cup 150th anniversary Jubilee got off to a wild start on Sunday, as winds gusted up to 30 knots for the J Class boats, the America's Cup Class, the 12- Meters, and the 200 plus other entries in what may be the greatest collection of yachts ever. Given the conditions, the racing was called off for the America's Cup class and 12-Meter boats, as they weren't built for such conditions. That didn't stop the three J Class boats, which are about 135 feet long, as well as the 23-meter Cambria, which is being allowed to race with them. Endeavour completed the 35-mile course well ahead of Shamrock V and Velsheda, while Cambria dropped out. The biggest boats in the IRC Modern Class - the biggest in the regatta - also sailed the J Class course. Mari Cha III , the Briand 154 that for a long time held the Transatlantic record, took line honors, but was beaten on corrected time by Extra-Beat, Craig McCaw's 188-ft Frers daysailer.

The three J Class boats (from left to right), Endeavour,
and Shamrock V at the starting line

In Monday's second race, Cambria and the wooden J Class Shamrock took the start off Cowes on port tack, while Endeavour and Velsheda started in the middle on starboard. Endeavour's superior stability and speed however, had her rolling over Shamrock, and she quickly took the lead in the 40-mile race, which hasn't finished yet. All the other yachts are still racing. Belvedere's Tom Perkins 136-ft Herreshoff gaff schooner is one of the headliner boats in the event, but went aground a mile east of Yarmouth in the tricky Solent. Despite having gone up on a falling tide during one of the highest tides of the year, her crew got her off.

A foul weather day aboard Velsheda

What kind of people own these yachts? Endeavour is owned by Dennis Kozlowski, head of Tyco International. The son of a cop, Kozlowski started at the bottom of Tyco and worked his way to the top. When we raced on Endeavour two years ago, we mistook him for the cook. He laughed instead of bristled, so he's all right in our book.

Endeavour with her kite up
All Photos James Boyd/Courtesy www.madforsailing.com

Tomorrow's race will be a re-enactment of the original America's Cup in 1851 when the yacht America defeated the British fleet in an east about race around the Isle of Wight. Unlike the first day of racing, it was blowing a warm southwesterly at eight knots.

For more details and updates, see www.americascupjubilee.com/main.asp?dir=news. For more of James Boyd's great photos of the J Class action, see www.madforsailing.com.


August 20 - The Pacific Ocean and Cyberspace

Who is out making passages in the Pacific and what kind of weather are they having? Check out YOTREPS - 'yacht reports' - at http://www.bitwrangler.com/yotreps/

Weather Updates

August 20 - Pacific Ocean

San Francisco Bay Weather

To see what the winds are like on the Bay and just outside the Gate right now, check out http://sfports.wr.usgs.gov/wind/.

California Coast Weather

Looking for current as well as recent wind and sea readings from 17 buoys and stations between Pt. Arena and the Mexican border? Here's the place - which has further links to weather buoys and stations all over the U.S.: www.ndbc.noaa.gov/stuff/southwest/swstmap.shtml.

Pacific Winds and Pressure

The University of Hawaii Dept. of Meteorology page posts a daily map of the NE Pacific Ocean barometric pressure and winds.

Pacific Sea State

Check out the Pacific Ocean sea states at: http://www.mpc.ncep.noaa.gov/RSSA/PacRegSSA.html.
For another view, see http://www.oceanweather.com/data/global.html.

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