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November 10, 2010

Cruising Cat Explodes at Anchor

Baja’s soft morning light was punctuated by a devastating fire aboard the Privilege cat Ker-Tidou.

© 2010 Craig Powell

After the 155-boat Baja Ha-Ha fleet’s recent visit to the tiny Baja fishing village called Bahia de Tortugas, the vast anchorage there returned to its normally sleepy state. But its tranquility was dramatically interrupted last weekend when the Belgium-flagged Privilege 495 catamaran Ker-Tidou exploded shortly after sunrise.

Exact details of the incident have yet to be confirmed, but according to cruiser Ron Powell, who was fueling up his Seattle-based Tartan 41 Dulcinea at the time of the incident, he heard a tremendous explosion, then turned around to see that the cat was already about 40% engulfed in flames above deck.

Powell, who was traveling with his brother Craig and two additional crew he found via Latitude‘s Crew List, went to the scene to help, as did several fishing pangas.

Within 40 minutes, that cat had burned to the waterline and sunk.

© 2010 Craig Powell

The lone French sailor aboard, Thierry Bonnefille, managed to escape the inferno without major injuries, traveling in his dinghy to a nearby vessel. Apparently all he had time to take with him was a backpack. Powell reports that within 10 minutes the mast toppled over, and about 40 minutes after the explosion the entire hull had sunk.

Enrique Castro of El Gordo’s fuel dock and others accompanied the French sailor to the local clinic, where he was checked out and released. As of this morning, Bonnefille was still in Turtle Bay awaiting the arrival of insurance investigators. Enrique’s understanding is that the boat had been experiencing electrical issues, which may have interacted with cooking gas to cause the explosion.

After many miles of happy cruising, the Bonnefille family visited Sausalito in September, while headed south.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Ironically, we interviewed Bonnefille and his family in September for the Passing Thru article that appeared in the October edition of Latitude 38. At the time, the family planned to sell the boat on the West Coast, then return to their home in Portugal. According to Monte Cottrell of San Diego’s Cruisers West Yacht Sales, a deal was almost completed with a buyer in Ensenada. When it eventually fell through, Thierry decided to singlehand the boat to Panama, while his wife, Dulce, son Mathieu, 14, and daughter Eva, 11, returned to Europe. Ker-Tidou is believed to have departed San Diego on October 30.

SF Picks the America’s Cup

While this may not end up being the main staging area, the prospects of the Cup coming to San Francisco have never looked better.

© Skidmore Owings Merill LLP

Yesterday, Mayor Gavin Newsom introduced legislation supported by a majority of the Board of Supervisors to bring the 34th America’s Cup to San Francisco Bay. The legislation is a binding-agreement version of a handshake deal between the City and BMW Oracle Racing that will still have to be voted on, but given the support already shown by the Supes so far — six of them are co-sponsoring the item — this is a very encouraging step. The agreement has morphed somewhat from the original term sheet that so many Bay Area sailors turned out to City Hall to support. There are escape clauses which may end up seeing the venue moved from Piers 30/32 and 50 farther up the waterfront to an area between Piers 19-29, as the Giants — emboldened by a once-in-56 years World Series win — are rumored to object to using the space so close to AT&T Park.

The timing of the vote — which has not been announced — will be critical as BMW Oracle Racing have said that they want to announce the venue by the end of the year, and we’re pretty deep into 2010. But one thing is for sure: the City and the team have put a lot of effort into this, and the prospects for the Cup coming to the Bay have never looked better.

Vacation From Hell

If it wasn’t so darn funny, we might feel sorry for the 4,466 people stranded aboard the engineless 952-ft cruise ship Carnival Splendor. The two-year-old ship left Long Beach Sunday on a seven-day cruise to the Mexican Riviera, but an engine room fire on Monday set the behemoth adrift with no electricty. No refrigeration, no AC, no hot water, nada. The Navy quickly scrambled helos to drop 70,000 lbs of ’emergency rations’ — from canned crab and croissants to Spam and Pop Tarts — to the ship, and tow boats intercepted it and are bringing it in to San Diego. It’s expected to arrive some time tomorrow. A reporter for a Denver TV station who happens to be aboard reported that passengers, none of whom were injured, are faring well, playing cards, singing songs, and generally making the best of what must be the most dissapointing vacation of their lives.

Luckily there was no tattoo parlor at Bahia Santa Maria, or Jack and Leanne might have opted for permanent tats rather than these temporary ones.
The dramatic tale of how Rhian Salmon and Andy Whittaker survived the  February 27 tsunami at Robinson Crusoe Islands aboard their 37-ft sloop Zephyrus is featured in the current edition of Latitude 38.