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Richard Woods and Jetti Matzke Rescued from Cat in Tehuantepecker

January 20 - Gulf of Tehuantepec

Richard Woods, a catamaran designer from Plymouth, England, and Jetti Matzke, his girlfriend from Oakland, were both rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard from Eclipse, a 32-ft cat of his own design, after getting caught in a Tehuantepecker off the Pacific Coast of southern Mexico. The couple had left Nicaragua on Friday the 13th - oops! - and continued north hoping to beat a Tehuantepecker - oops! - across the notoriously dangerous Gulf of Tehuantepec.

Jetti and Richard aboard Profligate in Santa Barbara prior to the '04 King Harbor Race
Photo Latitude/Richard

They didn't make it, and got into increasingly bad conditions. Woods estimates the winds to have reached at least hurricane force, and the seas to be 30 feet. The two tried a number of storm tactics, the last one setting a specially made parachute storm anchor. When the parachute broke, they realized they needed outside help. Using their satphone, they called the Coast Guard in Wood's native England, who got in touch with the Mexican Navy, which promised to send help.

But at 11 p.m. on the second night of the storm, it was the voice of an American female they heard over the radio. She said she was a helicopter pilot from the USS Ford, and just 10 miles away. The female pilot battled winds in excess of 50 knots and 30-ft seas, at night, mind you - on her first rescue mission! - to reach the scene. A flare was set off as the chopper hovered over the pitching little cat, and one ballsy SAR guy jumped into the water to help the couple get into the basket. It was his first real rescue, too! Jetti was the first to jump in and be pulled up to the helicopter, followed by Richard.

At last report, Woods was desperate to recover his cat, which he's sailed 70,000 miles, and is still upright. Apparently, she's only 50 miles from a Mexican fishing port. We wish Woods, a contributor to Latitude, the best of luck. We'll have more on this in the February issue of Latitude 38.

Overboard Craig McCabe Miraculously Rescued after 5.5 Hours in Cold Water

January 20 - Newport Beach

Craig McCabe, a long-time Knarr sailor who was and perhaps still is a member of the St. Francis YC, is well known to many Northern California sailors. After leaving his position with Hornblower Yachts on San Francisco Bay, the 59-year-old attorney moved south to Newport Beach, and began living aboard his classic Stephens 65 motoryacht Heather. Actually, he spent much of his summers on a mooring at Two Harbors, Catalina, where we saw quite a bit of him last year. He was still doing a little bit of legal work, but clearly was having trouble figuring out what to do with the rest of his life. After his stint in the water, he has some definite ideas.

On January 12, McCabe left Marina del Rey aboard Heather bound for Newport Beach. A lifelong mariner, he's used to operating her alone. Somewhere near the Long Beach breakwater, McCabe went to see if a lobster trap had caught in a stabilizer. It was early morning and there was a very thick fog. Somehow he went overboard into the 50 degree water, getting a big lump on his head in the process. Heather, of course, motored away. The autopilot had failed the previous day, so McCabe figured she would circle around and head back toward him.

Instead, in the first of many miracles, Heather inexplicably made a 90-degree turn, then headed straight for Avalon. So while McCabe struggled to stay afloat in the cold water, his boat made another of her leisurely crossings to Catalina Island, ultimately beaching herself near Avalon.

Photos Curt Cameron

When the harbor patrol found nobody aboard, they began searching the nearby waters. They also know McCabe and Heather, so they quickly called his brother Lance in San Clemente. Lance rushed up to Newport Beach, borrowed a friend's boat, and, deciding there was a greater chance that McCabe fell overboard by Long Beach, rushed up in that direction.

In one of the most improbable nautical strokes of luck ever, Lance and friends spotted Craig, who after 5.5 hours was still alive. But just barely. McCabe's body core temperature was down to 90 degrees and he was relatively incoherent. He was rushed to the hospital to be treated for hypothermia, but has fully recovered. In fact, today he's taking a CNN film crew out for a reenactment, now that the holes in Heather's bottom have been repaired.

The experience has literally given our friend religion. Craig subsequently announced that he's giving up vanity and material things - such as his boat - and will once again become an advocate for abused children. We'll have more in the February issue of Latitude 38.

Yet Another Northern Californian Rescued from a Distressed Cat

January 18 - El Cerrito

"I'm a Bay Area sailor who was recently rescued at sea in the Gulf of Mexico after the PDQ 38 cat I was on suffered catastrophic structural failure," writes Bob Mandel of El Cerrito. "Here's my story if you want to read it."

We're so overwhelmed with disaster stories and the Latitude 38 deadline that we haven't had time to read it, but we'll have a summary for you on Monday.

Public Hearing Date for Marina Village Is February 13

January 20 - Alameda

The owners of Marina Village in Alameda want to convert the 700 or so slips from rental to condo. There will be a hearing before the City of Alameda Planning Board to consider the parcel change on February 13. We previously had published the wrong date - July, for God's sake! - and then the real date was changed anyway. The meeting is now slated for February 13.

Jim Williams, a Marina Village tenant, reports tenants have set up a discussion forum at Yahoo Groups to talk about the matter. To join in, go to the Yahoo! Groups site by clicking on this link:

The Latest from the Volvo Destruction Derby

January 20 - Southern Ocean

Brasil 1 has been dismasted in the Southern Ocean - about the only kind of mishap that hadn't befallen the Volvo fleet to date.

In recognition of the incredible amount of damage to the seven boats in the around-the-world race, Volvo Race organizers have made a change in the rules for the inshore race at Melbourne. All entries will be allowed to be towed around the course by tug boats, and be permitted to operate as many gas-powered bilge pumps as possible. In addition, several salvage companies have been hired to follow the fleet and collect the canting keels as they drop to the bottom.

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