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Bob Smith's "Self-Inflicted" Broken Leg

December 29 - La Paz

Pantera's Bob Smith, far right, at the Ha-Ha Beach Party in Cabo in November, along with Paul Biery, far left, and Paul's crew, center.

Vancouver's Bob Smith is an excellent boatbuilder, having built his own hi-tech cruising cat, the 44-ft cat Pantera, but he's also an excellent sailor, having singlehanded from Puerto Vallarta to Vancouver twice without using an engine. But as his following report proves, even the best and most experienced sailors can have accidents.

"Here's the real story on the self-inflicted broken leg that I acquired on December 3 while anchoring Pantera off Marina de La Paz: The circumstances were these. A flood tide current of about 4 knots combined with a boat speed through the water of another 3-4 knots, resulted in a boat speed over the ground of 7-8 knots. The boat speed, caused by a 15-18 knot tail wind, was reduced to 4-5 knots over the ground by running my 9.9 hp high-thrust Yamaha outboard in reverse at about one-third throttle. With the knowledge that there would be little time between the anchor, a Fortress FX85, hitting the bottom and the forward speed being arrested, the anchor rode was cleated off prior to launching the anchor. As Pantera behaves much better anchored from the stern than the bow, this maneuver is performed from the stern and, until now, has been accomplished safely for over 10 years. After launching the anchor, with concern for the potential for collision with other boats downwind and downtide, I returned to the side deck to ensure that the 5/8" nylon rode was properly cleated. Unfortunately, I stood in a bight of the rode, which if I was aware of it at all, I assumed was on the the tail of the rode rather than on the loaded side that was about to snap tight. S-T-U-P-I-D !

To make matters worse, the loop of rope was on the inboard side of tiller, the mooring cleat on the outboard side of the tiller. Yes, you are correct - the rather abrupt load on the anchor rode attempted to pull my foot THROUGH the tiller in order to apply the load to the cleat. Ouch! Five knots to zero in a heartbeat. A leg does not a good sampson post make!

So there I was, bound to the tiller of a boat still trying to go 5 knots, screaming for help, with nobody visible on any of the many boats anchored off the marina. Without a knife, in excruciating pain, how was I going to get out of this?

Pantera was the first boat off the line at the start of October's Ha-Ha 13.
Photos Baja Ha-Ha Archives

I consider myself a spiritual person, although not religious. But what were the chances of the composite universal joint connecting the tiller to the tiller connecting bar (catamaran) breaking, just when I thought my foot would be pullled off the end of my leg? In any event, that is what ocurred, the connection broke, the tiller rotated upward allowing my leg to align itself with the load - I was horizontal on the deck - the rode somehow unwrapped itself from my leg, and I was free!

After lying where I was for a couple of minutes, probably suffering from shock, I attempted to return to the cockpit to shut down the engine. On attempting to stand, it was immediately obvious that my leg was broken, as my foot dangled off the end of my leg like a limp rubber boot only partially in place. I crawled back into the cockpit, called for help on the VHF.

"Awesome", a word entirely over used, best describes the response. After identifying who I was, where I was, and the nature of my distress - broken leg and bleeding - there was a flurry of replies. Too many to recall after the fact, but I remember, I think, a male nurse from a boat anchored nearby followed by a female doctor anchored astern of the nurse, marina residents arranging an ambulance, and many offers to provide assistance getting me ashore.

Within about 10-15 minutes, there were 6-8 people on board Pantera, and Carlos from Marina de La Paz and another gentleman arrived in a panga to transport me ashore. Prior to their arrival, I had been injected with 50 mg of morphine and a temporary splint of corrugated cardboard had been taped in place to hold my foot in something like its proper alignment. My tibia - the big bone - was sticking out through the inside of my calf.

Later, x-rays and surgery determined that the tibia was broken into 8-10 fragments. A nasty injury, but one that could have had a far, far worse, outcome except for three things, in chronological order: extremely good luck; extremely good care and attention from the first responders; and extremely good care from the staff at Central de Especialidades Medic de La Paz, and especially Dr. Gonzalez, the orthopedic surgeon. Also, Dr. Delgado and the entire staff, all of whom were extremely friendly, caring and helpful. I must not forget the kitchen staff that prepared excellent meals, Mexican of course. Without exception they were sympathetic to this gringo, injured and far from home.

I would also like to thank the staff at Marina de La Paz for ensuring Pantera was delivered to her slip in the marina and Niel in particular both for his assistance and taking the time to visit in the hospital. Thanks also to all those that took time to visit, brought treats and and/or offers of everything I might require, including DVDs and a DVD player. Even on this third trip to Mexico, I am constantly amazed at the support willingly provided by cruisers, be it within our community or in support of local charity. Tom and Gina were particularly helpful throughout and Rick, from Karma, went out of his way to drive me to the airport a few days after my release from Hospital.

I wish I could remember the names of all those that helped. Many I have been fortunate enough to thank personally, but many more escaped from La Paz before I could thank them in person. I can only hope they will reintroduce themselves down the road.

Speaking of which, I write this from Victoria, where I've had a great Christmas with family. I expect to be here until around the third week of January. Then it's off to La Paz, likely a little more physical therapy and on down the path. I look forward to seeing as many of you as possible, as soon as possible."


Photo of the Day - January Issue and YRA Calendar Delivered Today

December 29 - Mill Valley

Today both the January issue of Latitude 38 and the 2007 Northern California Sailing Calendar and YRA Schedule hit the docks.

Photo Latitude/Annie

Be sure to pick them up wherever Latitude's are found. And to all our readers, have a Happy, Happy New Year!


Setting Up For A Big, Big New Years

December 29 - St. Barth, French West Indies

As many of you know, the Wanderer and Doña de Mallorca travel to St. Barth in the French West Indies each New Years. Some think we're sloughing off, but we've convinced ourselves - and even more importantly, the IRS - that we're as legit as football writers going to the Super Bowl each year. After all, St. Barth is where all that's new and big, as well as much that is small and riff-raffish, shows up for the New Year. And then there's the famous around-the-island race, which is held on New Year's afternoon, in order, we presume, so the crews can really get wiped out before the festivities that night. Word on the dock is that Lionel Lemochois and his ORMA 60-trimaran Gitana II, which averaged an astonishing 19.1 knots for over eight days in the recent Route du Rhum, will show up in hopes of crushing the course record now held by Hasso (SAP software) Platner's 147-ft Visione.

All New Years on St. Barth are big, but some are huge. The year 2000, thanks to all the dot com money, was gigantic. The years since then have been a little off, particularly the last two. But flying in from St. Martin on a puddle jumper provided a view that suggested this year - perhaps with all the new Wall Street money - was going to be different. As our plane began its dive-bomb decent for the tiny runway, we could look down and see Tom Perkins 287-ft Maltese Falcon from Belvedere, the largest private sailing yacht in the world, and Larry Ellison's 450-ft Rising Sun, the world's second or third largest private motoryacht, anchored off Gustavia, the two of them combining to put in another great showing for Northern California.

Larry Ellison's Rising Sun dominates the anchorage, while Tom Perkin's Maltese Falcon, the dark-hulled three-masted boat, is just to the left of a sail-rigged cruise ship.

And even though it was only December 26, there were countless other 100-ft foot yachts, such as the 350-ft Le Gran Bleu, owned by Russian oil oligarch Roman Abramovich. In years past, many of these yachts wouldn't show up until the 29th or 30th, but a large number of them were already here. And ashore, mon dieu, we've never seen the streets, restaurants and shops so crowded. It's gonna be fun, but it's going to be even more fun after the 2nd or so, when most of the New Yorkers and Parisians have returned home.

As usual, there are many celebrities on the island, the most important of which to sailors is Jimmy Buffett, who not only has his small seaplane here, but in the last year bought a house.

Jimmy playing the guitar and singing.

Two days ago he turned 60, and played two hours for a small crowd at La Plage on Baie St. Jean. Had more people known, the place might have been overrun. He was there again last night, and sat in with Papagayo, a local band. They started off with a tribute to James Brown who, thanks to his relentless work ethic, has always been a hero of ours. Buffett later said a few words about turning 60, saying it was just fine with him, and he was very happy. He has a very content look about him these days. About an hour into the gig he called Catherine Zeta-Jones - wha!!! - to come up and help sing No Women, No Cry.

We never got a head-on shot of Zeta-Jones, but she looked great and sang great, too.

Leaving her husband Michael's side, she sure enough did come up and sing. Despite a crummy sound system, it was clear that the girl has a voice. She looked smashing, too. Of course, that's exactly what all the women said when the next performer, Jon Bon Jovi, stepped up to sing with Jimmy a few songs later.

Jon Bon Jovi was a real hit with the women. And a nice guy, too.
All Musician Photos by Stephanie Schutz

A few older Bay Area sailors may remember Warren Stryker, who used to sail the Bounty II Dulcinea on the Bay in the mid-'70s, then cruised her to St. Thomas, where he has lived ever since. An old Bounty II buddy of ours, he sailed over to St. Barth with his son and a friend aboard his Hunter 54 Botox Betty. He's looking good, doing good - and intending to kick ass in the around-the-island race. We'll let you know how he does.

The smaller boats anchored off Publics.
Aerial Photos Latitude/Richard

- latitude / rs

Christmas Eve Cruiser Breakfast

December 29 - Barra de Navidad

Marlene Verdery of the Sausalito-based Pearson 36 Jellybean reports that there was a second annual Cruiser Christmas Eve breakfast as the Grand Bay Golf Course Restaurant at Barra Navidad, and 30 happy folks, all of them in the accompanying photo, attended.

If you're in Mexico and having fun, and taking photos - such as this one of cruising kids playing in the surf at Cabo...

we'd love to see what you've got, in order to share them with others. Email your high-res photos to richard.


Rolex Sydney-Hobart Update

December 29 - Sydney, Australia

Heading towards a back to back line honors win,
Wild Oats XI sailing off the 'organ pipes'.
Photo Carlo Borlenghi/Rolex

Crossing the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race finish line in just under 57 hours, Wild Oats XI has won line honors for the second consecutive year. It is the first back-to-back win in the 630-mile race since 1964. Second across the line was the modified Volvo 70 Ichi Ban, followed by Skandia, which suffered a broken forward daggerboard on the race's second day.

Unfortunately, Skandia wasn't the only boat to suffer carnage. Nine boats withdrew in the first 24 hours, mostly due to rudder or steering problems. Two boats, the Volvo 70 ABN Amro One and 99-ft supermaxi Maximus, dismasted. It is believed that gear failure, rather than weather and sea conditions, was the culprit on both boats. ABN Amro One, who was leading at the time, reported winds of 30-35 knots when they dismasted. None of the ABN Amro crew were injured, and the boat has made its way back to Sydney. However on Maximus, three crew were airlifted off the boat and two were taken by police boat ashore to receive hospital care after the entire mast fell back towards the cockpit. Another race victim, the 1968 overall Sydney Hobart winner Koomooloo, was abandoned after the 41-ft boat reported that it fell off a backless wave and started taking on water. Its crew was picked up via liferaft by a competitor.

Boats that stayed closer inshore saw slightly calmer conditions on the first night, with wind speed topping out at 27 knots. "It was just very lumpy in the current. It was rough, but seriously, if you complain about that you should come by plane. I personally don't like it, but I can hardly say it was unexpected," said Geoff Ross, owner of the new Reichel/Pugh 55-ft Yendys, which was the fourth boat across the finish line and is sitting in first place in her division.

At presstime, 50 boats were still racing. Complete coverage, including live boat tracking, is at www.rolexsydneyhobart.com.

- latitude / ss

Velux 5 Oceans

December 29 - Fremantle, Australia

Sir Robin Knox-Johnson celebrates as he arrives in third place
aboard his yacht Saga Insurance.

Photos Courtesy onEdition

Sir Robin Knox-Johnston sailed across the finish line of the first leg in the Velux 5 Oceans in Fremantle on Thursday local time. He'd spent 67 days, 57 minutes sailing the 12,000 mile course. Sir Robin finished the leg in third place behind Bernard Stamm (SUI) and Kojiro Shiraishi (JPN). For more race coverage, go to: http://www.w-w-i.com/velux_5_oceans/

- latitude / ss

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