Seasilk, the beautiful blue-hulled Hylas 46 owned by Craig Blasingame and Sue Steven of Coronado, was blown ashore at Mag Bay on the Pacific Coast of southern Baja on the morning of October 16 by the hurricane-force winds of Paul. This according to the boat’s website, which explains last week’s reports of an mystery boat having gone ashore in that area.
The couple, veterans of the ’10 Ha-Ha, had been enjoying "a fabulous cruise" down the west coast of Baja with crewmembers John and Montyne Connolly, and Brian Rogers, when they noticed via their weather monitoring that Paul was headed in their direction. Thinking they couldn’t make it to Cabo before the hurricane hit, and deciding not to try to run north of it, they hunkered down at the anchorage south of the Punta Cortes Naval Base on October 15. They report that cruising guides suggest it’s a good spot in which to ride out a storm such as the one that was to hit the following day.
The strong winds began at about 6 a.m. on the 16th, during which time Seasilk was riding to two anchors and using the engine to reduce the strain on the hooks. "It was like riding a bucking bronco," reported Blasingame of the extremely rough and noisy conditions. At some point one of the anchor lines fouled in the prop, so they were down to just one anchor, and that wasn’t going to cut it in hurricane-force winds. Blasingame had no choice but try to set a reefed main in a hurricane and tack away from what was apparently a lee shore. As one might expect, the desperation strategy didn’t work for long, and soon the boat was aground. Shortly thereafter she heeled over at a 45-degree angle.
A mayday was issued, and then at 11 a.m. Blasingame instructed the crew to abandon ship. It’s not easy getting off a boat in hurricane-force winds, which create powerful currents. Fortunately, the entire crew made it ashore, albeit with some minor injuries. But talk about good luck, they got ashore on the grounds of a Mexican Naval Base, with the 34-man and one-woman contingent battened down a short distance away.
"The Mexican Navy has generously offered to host us for as long as it takes to get our boat off the beach," Blasingame wrote at the time. "We have been given two private rooms with baths in the infirmary, we are provided three hot meals a day in the ward room, and they have provided tools, ropes and support to prepare the boat. In addition, the Admiral has been in contact with both US consulates in Baja, and with his superior officers in the Navy. They have helped handle some paperwork as well, since we are not yet officially checked in through Immigration, which makes us illegal aliens in Mexico. Despite the fact that the Navy base sustained some damage as well, they have been so warm and generous."
Craig stayed with the boat until 5:30 p.m. to make sure she wasn’t stripped by occupants of a nearby fishing village. At that time he was assured that the Navy would guard the boat. Blasingame had good news for the rest of the crew. Other than the rudder’s having been broken, the boat appeared to be in good shape.
The next few days were spent getting gear off the boat and getting ready for the insurance company’s October 31 high tide attempt to pull the boat off and tow her to Cabo San Lucas for repairs. We wish them the best of luck.
Despite the disaster, the owners were still struck by the beauty of Mag Bay and the quality of their crew. "It’s astonishingly beautiful here, and we have enjoyed watching the sun rise, the moon set, and the frigate birds hovering in the sky. We are truly blessed with the crew that we selected for this trip, as they all performed well as a team, and we are emotionally and spiritually supporting each other, ensuring there is plenty of laughter and prayer between the chores and uncertainty."
Hindsight is 20/20, of course, but we’re sure that more than a few readers will question the advisibility of cruising the Pacific Coast of southern Baja in mid-October. After all, it’s still the middle of the hurricane season in Mexico, and water temps have been particularly warm this year. We’re also a little puzzled by Seasilk‘s not taking evasive action at the first sign of Paul, which took a number of days on a 600-mile straight-line path to reach Mag Bay.
But what’s done is done, and we wish Craig and Sue the very best in getting Seasilk back in deep water and down to Cabo. If you folks read this and need anything from San Diego, Profligate isn’t leaving until Monday, so there’s a decent chance we can bring down anything you might need.
Okay, so the headline might be a bit fantastic but the story is very real. On October 3, Australian Glenn Ey, 44, set off singlehanded from Pittwater, just north of Sydney, on a cruise of the eastern coast of Oz aboard his Cavalier 36 Streaker. All was well — "It was beautiful, really," Ey said of the weather — until a southeasterly gale blew up toward the end of his second week. Not wanting to get caught inshore during a gale, Ey heaved to and set Streaker on an offshore course. Mid-day on October 14, Ey said "a huge wave came along, picked me up and just rolled me over." He recalled sitting on his settee one moment, smashing into the overhead the next, and then landing on the table. "It all happens very quickly and it’s most unpleasant."
With the companionway door torn off in the rollover, water flooded into the boat. "Everything was just floating around and I was up to my knees in water," Ey said. "I put my head up and the mast was down. It was in three pieces." That’s enough to tempt even the saltiest sailor to set off his EPIRB, but Ey spent the next 36 hours cleaning up the mess and bailing out the boat. He initially tried to bring the largest piece of the mast aboard to set up a jury rig but the conditions were so severe he was concerned it might hole the boat. In the end, he jettisoned the whole lot. "Your first priority is survival," he told an interviewer who asked why he didn’t immediately set off his beacon. "If your boat is holed, you’re going down and an EPIRB won’t save you then."
Believing he was about 100 miles offshore, Ey spent the next day or so trying to make his way to Sydney — under power when conditions had calmed and under a jury rig he set up with his spinnaker pole. Then he ran out of fuel and realized that a strong current had pulled him farther out to sea than he’d originally presumed. At 8:15 a.m. on October 16, Ey set off his EPIRB.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) requested two commercial flights to divert and search in the vicinity of the signal about 270 miles off Sydney. Ey had not registered his EPIRB so they had no information other than the location. An Air Canada Boeing 777 was first on the scene and it wasn’t long before sharp eyes onboard spotted the stricken Streaker. A later Air New Zealand flight confirmed the sighting, and a merchant vessel diverted to the boat’s location to stand by while awaiting the New South Wales water police for rescue.
Ey was not injured during his ordeal and, unfortunately, Streaker is still adrift in the Tasman Sea. He says he doesn’t plan to go to sea again anytime soon — "I’d be quite happy to sit under a tree for a while," he said — but when he does, manufacturer GME will give him a properly registered GPS-enabled EPIRB for the trip. If you haven’t registered your EPIRB, there’s no time like the present. We’ll even make it easy and provide a link!
If the big chain stores can do it, so can little Latitude 38 – market Christmas shopping before Halloween, that is. You can get a jump on your holiday gift list at our online chandlery, where you’ll find T-shirts, ladies’ tops, long-sleeve shirts, and hats, including a limited run in sunny yellow.
If you happen to spot a pumpkin bobbing on the Bay this Sunday, it might belong to Richmond YC’s Great Pumpkin. The popular regatta takes to San Francisco Bay, pumpkins and all, this weekend. Shoreside activities begin today, including a sailors’ yard sale, and don’t forget your costume for the Dead Man’s Party on Saturday night. See our post on October 8 and www.richmondyc.org for details. There’s still time to sign up!
Jack Griffin, the guy behind the Cup Experience Apps and www.cupexperience.com, will give a presentation, "The America’s Cup: Moving to the AC72s and Racing in 2013," at the Sausalito West Marine store tonight at 6:00 p.m.
Alamitos Bay YC invites you to enjoy fall sailing this weekend and at other regattas through the end of the year. Sunday’s Halloween Regatta will be a chance for you SoCal sailors to "get your ‘boo on’ — or just a scary wig — and race."
Southwestern YC in San Diego hosts the U.S. Disabled Sailing Championships for three days of racing, starting today. Single, double, and triplehanded championship fleets are competing on North San Diego Bay in 2.4mRs, Martin 16s and Capri 22s. A development division is racing in Martin 16, Access Liberty, Access 303 boats. Visit the event website here.
US Sailing’s Annual Meeting is right around the corner — literally. The San Francisco Marriott Marquis will host on October 31-November 3. Featured attractions include US Sailing’s Safety Report presentations, including the Full Crew Farallones Race; a panel discussion with US Sailing Team Sperry Top-Sider members Anna Tunnicliffe, Molly Vandemoer, Erik Storck, and 2012 Paralympic Silver Medalists Jen French and J.P. Creignou; awards dinners; and an America’s Cup discussion. Find the agenda and registration here.
As we head into November, meetings and celebrations might take the focus away from actual sailing in many parts of the country, but here in the Bay Area we’re just gearing up for our Midwinter Season. Check our Calendar for a full run-down on the many choices available for the months ahead.