An extensive search is currently underway on and around the Marquesan island of Nuku Hiva for singlehander Billy W. Landers, 64, of the Port Angeles, WA-based Islander 36 Emily Pearl.
Landers left Nuku Hiva’s Taiohae anchorage Sunday morning, May 3, bound for tiny Ua Pou island, which lies roughly 25 miles to the south. Sea conditions were mild, with 12 to 15 knots of breeze blowing from ENE.
The following morning, local fishermen found a guitar, a laptop, and some wreckage floating near the island. Although cruisers were initially doubtful that these items could have been from Emily Pearl, a search was begun and the 36-footer was eventually located, holed and sunk in about 40 feet of water, roughly 50 feet off the southwest coast of the island and only 7 miles from Taiohae.
Since then, both cruisers and French military resources have been searching on land, above and below the surface, and by air for any signs of Landers or his virtually unsinkable Portland Pudgy dinghy, which he carried in lieu of a liferaft. At this writing, the solo sailor has not been located, but a number of clues have emerged. The fact that Landers’ PFD — which fellow cruisers say he wore religiously — was found floating near the beach, ashore of the wreck, leaves his friends hopeful that he may have gotten ashore safely and is, perhaps, trying to hike to safety through the rough, largely uninhabited terrain. Alternately, the fact that the engineless, 8-ft rowing/sailing dinghy has not been found has given cruisers and French authorities hope that Landers may be aboard it, trying to sail or row to safety. A more troubling observation is that one of the sloop’s lifelines is broken, which could possibly indicate that the singlehander may have fallen overboard.
Scuba divers, French Naval pilots, cruisers and local fishermen are continuing their search today, in coordination with both the French and U.S. Coast Guard. Landers, who spent many years based at Puerto Escondido, Mexico, prior to his departure in late March, is a retired U.S. Army officer with eight children, one of whom is currently serving in Iraq. According to fellow singlehander Erik Dix, Landers’ best friend within the fleet, "Bill is very competent to survive on the terrain; water and fruit are available, and the climate is warm."
Carol Stambuk has never blamed Bismarck Dinius for the 2006 death of her best friend, Lynn Thornton. "He’s such a sweetheart and we’ve all supported him since Day One," she told us yesterday. "We all know who caused Lynn’s death."
The person Carol’s referring to is Russell Perdock, the off-duty Sheriff’s Deputy who slammed his speedboat into the sailboat on which Thornton and Dinius were guests. The "we all" she refers to are Lynn Thornton’s immediate family, including her brothers and son, all of whom have written letters supporting Bismarck to Judge Richard Martin who is presiding over the manslaughter trial against Dinius — slated to start May 19 — as well as State Attorney General Jerry Brown. "We want to make sure this misjustice gets as much attention as possible," she said. To that end, Carol envisions a demonstration of some kind but is at a loss how to organize it. "I certainly don’t want to do anything to get in trouble in Lake County!" she said. If you have a suggestion, or would like to lend your support by attending the trial, email Carol through us.
On Friday, a Lake County Superior Court will decide whether or not to implement a gag order on the trial, as requested by the Lake County District Attorney’s Office. The irony is that D.A. Jon E. Hopkins was quite the blabbermouth in the early stages of this ridiculous case against Dinius and got caught in a number of discrepancies in an interview with Channel 7’s Dan Noyes. In any other part of the country, we’d be surprised if the gag order was approved, but it seems that all bets are off in Lake County.
To be honest, we’re a little blown away by how many skippers have signed up for the Baja Ha-Ha already. Thirty-nine in four days. Here are some possible reasons:
1) It’s a grand adventure — it really is — during which time you get to meet lots of other sailors.
2) Life is pretty sweet in Mexico. It’s always been more tranquil south of the border, and anyone who cruises Mexico will tell you how warm and friendly the people are. As for the narco wars and swine flu, both are legitimate concerns, but neither has had any impact where cruisers spend their time. It’s sort of like people in Oakland and San Francisco not being affected by the high rate of murder in certain areas of their cities.
3) The cost of living in Mexico is low. For years we’ve been telling folks that they can cruise comfortably in Mexico at or below the poverty level in the U.S., and on Social Security alone. Assuming you avoid marinas and tourist restaurants, it’s true. Our good friends Wayne Hendryx and Carol Baggerly of the Brisbane-based Hughes 45 catamaran Capricorn Cat, who will be doing their second Ha-Ha this fall, are currently in Guaymas, where they offer the following report on the price of food:
"By and large, the cost of living in Mexico is very modest. We’re here in Guaymas, which is a traditional working class town — albeit one that has produced three of Mexico’s presidents — and have a good idea of what food costs. One of our favorite ‘eats’ is a whole BBQ chicken, with beans, rice, onions and tortillas from Pollo Feliz. It costs 85 pesos — about $6.50 U.S. It’s so much food that Carol and I can get four meals out of it. You can’t eat much less expensively than that. We also like the taco vendor across the street from the marina. He gives us four big tacos, with endless sides and condiments, plus a drink, for about $3.85 U.S. Of course, sometimes we really get hungry for a big steak dinner. When that happens, we’ve been going to the Hotel Oeste Steak House where, for $35 U.S., we get two huge steaks, an endless salad bar and two glasses of wine. By the way, the steakhouse is either a 1.5-mile walk or a $2.50 cab ride from the marina — although the last time we got a ride from a Guaymas cop and his wife. Of course, if you really want to eat inexpensively, you buy your food at the mercados, where it’s really cheap. For example, we bought 50 large, sweet grapefruit for just $3.75. Take that, Whole Foods! And we just bought slightly less than five pounds of mangos for $3.75. Try to match that, Costco!"
Of course, nobody wants to dwell on the price differences in medical treatment between the U.S. and Mexico, but the following is instructive. About 10 years ago, Bill Vacarro of the Moody 44 Miela had a very bad bout with kidney stones. After getting treated in Chico, he ended up with a bill for $70,000. Last winter, he had another bad bout of ‘stones’. Since he was in Puerto Vallarta, he decided to seek treatment there. He tells us the doctor, hospital and treatment were all first class. But the cost for basically the same procedures as had been performed in California was just $7,000. For liberal arts majors, that’s 1/10th of what it had cost him 10 years ago in the United States.
So while we’re thrilled at the interest in this fall’s Ha-Ha, we’re not really that surprised. If you’re thinking about signing up for the Ha-Ha, or know you want to sign up, visit www.baja-haha.com. And remember, the earlier you sign up, the greater the chance you’ll get a berth the first day you arrive in Cabo.
The 122-ft topsail schooner Lynx will make a spectacle of herself on the Estuary tomorrow as she kicks off to a two-week stay at Jack London Square. The replica of a War of 1812-era privateer will fire her battery of "six-pounders" as she sails into port around 3 p.m. Afterward, the public is invited for a free dockside tour from 4-5 p.m. Tours are offered for most days of their stay for just $5 for adults (kids 12 & under can come aboard for free), and Adventure Sails will be available on the weekends for $65 ($35 for kids). If you want the ultimate Lynx experience, sign up to sail aboard for the Master Mariners race on May 23 — what a scream!
Lynx, which is also an entry in this summer’s TransPac Race, is run by the Lynx Educational Foundation, a non-profit that teaches the public about early American history and marine science in a hands-on environment. One of the cooler aspects of the experience is that crew wear period uniforms and can be heard to growl "Arrrr" every now and again. If you haven’t had a chance to explore Lynx, set aside some time for a salty family adventure. Surf on over to www.privateerlynx.org for a schedule and reservations, or call (866) 446-5969.