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August 13, 2008

Cruiser Olympics

The Women’s Synchronized Noodling Team – Kathy Baxter of Batu, Terry Morris of Niki Wiki and Michelle Willis of Coastal Passage II – took home the gold…Cuervo Gold, that is.

Niki Wiki
©2008 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Olympic fever has struck the residents of Paradise Village Marina in Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico! Even the judges cheered the Women’s Synchronized Noodling team as the gals splashed and smiled through their routine in the lap pool. Naturally, the judges chose to go topless for this event.

Men’s Synchronized Swimming, Bilge Pump Repair Gymnastics and the Couples 50-Meter Loaded Dock Cart Dash were all cancelled due to lack of interest. Instead, the men opted to compete in the Men’s Individual Carne (Meat) Grilling event and the ever popular Cerveza Consumption Team Relay held on the new patio at the Vallarta Yacht Club venue. Not surprisingly, all of the competitors took home the gold in these two events!

Jonesy Morris of Niki Wiki and Terry Willis of Coastal Passage II go mano a mano in the Carne Grilling event.

Niki Wiki
© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

True, we may not be cruising due to the threat of summer hurricanes here in Pacific Mexico, but we cruisers manage to have a lot of fun anyway.

German Pirate Victims Released

The German couple — known in the press as Jürgen K. and Sabine M. — who were kidnapped from their yacht by Somalian pirates on June 23 were released on Saturday after 41 days of captivity. The German newspaper Der Spiegel has reported that the couple were set free after a $1 million ransom was paid, half of what the pirates had initially demanded. In an account of their ordeal, the couple told of being beaten and rarely fed while guarded by as many as 50 people. Though medical supplies were brought in for 63-year-old Jürgen, who suffers from diabetes, the couple appeared to be in weak condition and were treated at a hospital in Nairobi before returning home.

As this drama was coming to a close, the Yemen government was reported to be searching for another yacht suspected of being targeted by Somali pirates. The story had not been confirmed or denied at presstime.

Can’t Miss Racing

A trio of 22-year-olds, Seve Jarvin, Tom Clout and Sam Newton are the reigning world champions in the 18-ft skiffs. They’re also leading the St. Francis YC’s International 18 Skiff Regatta.

© Erik Simonson

When we advanced the St. Francis YC’s International 18 Skiff Regatta on Monday, we neglected to point out that the Ronstan Bridge-To-Bridge Race immediately follows Friday’s racing. Starting at 5:30 p.m. at the Golden Gate Bridge, the 18s will be joined by windsurfers and kiters for the slide to the Bay Bridge. Kiters took the first two spots last year, with Chip Wasson finishing the five-mile course in 16 minutes and 30 seconds. We’re going to follow the action from the Latitude 38 photo boat but will need a head start — our personal best between the bridges is well off that pace!

In Qingdao, The US Sailing team has refocused, winning a total of six races yesterday. Three of those came from the 49er duo of Tim Wadlow and Chris Rast, who vaulted into fifth place on the strength of their day. Laser Sailor Andrew Campbell of San Diego also won a race, to move up to eighth. Laser Radial sailor Anna Tunnicliffe leads that 28-boat fleet with a consistent scoreline of 4,5,6. In the Finn class, Zach Railey has leader Ben Ainslie in his sights, only six points away. The Yngling team of Sally Barkow, Carrie Howe and Debbie Capozzi moved up to third with a win yesterday, trailing the nearly-deadlocked Dutch and British teams. For more, check out US Sailing’s dedicated Olympics website.

Details Sketchy in Cruiser Death

While more information is coming in about Daniel Dryden, the 66-year-old Anchorage cruiser who was killed by four robbers on Guatemala’s Lake Izabal, the details of how he died are becoming less clear. The tragic incident happened last Saturday night at 10 p.m.

The Anchorage News is reporting that Daniel and his wife Nancy were experienced sailors, having owned a boat in the ’60s and ’70s that they sailed to England and in the Pacific. They later settled in Alaska, where Daniel was a truck driver on the Alaska pipeline, later became a contractor, and most recently worked on a salmon habitat restoration program near Sutton. Nancy was a physical therapist for the state.

Friends of the Drydens told the News that the couple had planned to build a home in Mexico, but found a sailboat while visiting friends in Guatemala, and bought her. It’s not clear what kind of boat she is, but she’s named Sunday’s Child. According to emails from the Drydens, they were having a great time in Guatemala, but were getting ready to leave. After cruising in the Caribbean, they were thinking about living on the East Coast.

According to a report on Fox News last night, Daniel and Nancy had moved their boat out of a marina to a nearby spot on the hook on Lake Izabal in order to get used to life aboard. They were anchored just off Monkey Marina, not in a seldom-trafficked or isolated spot. And they were close enough to shore that Nancy believes the thieves swam out to their boat, and fled by swimming, too.

Guatemala’s Lake Izabal is a popular spot for cruisers to ride out hurricane season.

© 2008 Google Earth

From that point on the story become a little confusing and sometimes contradictory — no doubt because of typical reporters’ lack of familiarity with boats. Initial reports seemed to suggest that the thieves had come aboard looking specifically for U.S. dollars. Later reports suggested that they had simply come to steal the outboard off the dinghy, and the violence broke out when Daniel confronted them.

There are conflicting reports on how Dryden was killed. Some reports say he was "hacked to death" with the machetes. This seems unlikely, as when Nancy was finally able to call for help, she just reported that he wasn’t moving. There was another report that he’d been strangled. Nancy eventually suffered a punctured lung, but had successful surgery and is expected to recover.

As we reported on Monday — in a ‘Lectronic report we mistakenly sent to cyber heaven this morning — Lake Izabal is about 24 miles up the often narrow Rio Dulce and deep in the jungle. As such, it’s a popular place in the Western Caribbean for cruising boats to sit out the hurricane season. It is also home to a number of small marinas and boatyards.

Guatemala is a beautiful but poor country of 14 million that unfortunately has had a long history of violence and lawlessness. The violence started with a 36-year civil war that ended in ’96, but has become even worse primarily because of drug trafficking. For example, in the first 10 months of 2006, 4,325 people were murdered, a higher rate of death than during the civil war. The murders are often extremely cruel, and to a greater extent than in most countries, the victims are women.

From time to time cruisers have been victims of robberies on Lake Izabal and the Rio Dulce, but it’s generally considered to have been relatively safe.

The murder is not only terrible news for the Dryden family and cruisers, but also the Lake Izabal area and Guatemala, as it’s certain to adversely affect the much needed tourism in the area.

In the August 1 ‘Lectronic, we incorrectedly reported that Raymarine offers Type B transmit and receive Automatic Identification Systems (AIS) for recreational boats in the United States.
A plugged pipe in downtown Sausalito caused several thousand gallons of sewage to overflow down streets and into Richardson Bay over the weekend.