July 26, 2013

Cat Rescues Six Near Cabo

Emilio Castañeda’s Hatteras 85 Alexis sank when her shaft seals blew.

Our Shangri-La
© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

"Mayday, mayday, mayday! This is the motor vessel Alexis. We are at 23°12.595N by 110°25.092W and we are sinking! Are there any boats that can hear us?"

"That’s the radio call we heard at 2 p.m. on the afternoon of July 12 while 17 miles southwest from Todos Santos," reports Geo Uhrich, the Canadian owner of the Catana 431 catamaran Our Shangri-La." The sinking boat was Emilio Castañeda’s Huntington Beach-based Hatteras 85, which had spent much of the winter at Marina de La Paz.

"We told the Alexis people not to worry because we were only six miles away and were headed to their position as quickly as possible," remembers Uhrich. "They thanked us and said there were six people aboard, including three children, and that the safety of the children was their primary concern. We told them that we estimated we could be there in less than an hour, but that we should stay in radio contact."

Joaquin Moya, the captain of Alexis, had explained that the boat’s problem was that "one of the shaft seals had exploded and water was gushing in as though from a fire hose."

A half-hour after the original contact, Joaquin reported that he, the three children, Clark (the cook) and Chris (a crewmember) were getting into the 40-hp powered RIB.

"About that time we heard a response, in Spanish, from the freighter Tula," says Uhrich. "They said they were also on their way to the scene. Two of our crew are of Mexican heritage, so I had them ask Tula if they could contact the Mexican Navy. They said they would.

The Alexis crew, including three kids, were grateful Our Shangri-La were just a few miles away.

Our Shangri-La
© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

"We arrived at the location of the incident to see the Hatteras listing badly to one side," says Uhrich, "with her crowded dinghy heading toward us. We threw them a line and immediately took the youngsters aboard. They were wide-eyed and seemed to be a bit shocked by the turn of events. They soon calmed down and started asking questions, such as how they were going to get home now that their boat was sinking."

The three adults returned to Alexis to retrieve the log book, personal effects, the EPIRB, a first-aid kit, some suitcases and other stuff.

"About a half-hour later Tula arrived at the scene. They were in constant contact with us by radio in Spanish as they stood off about a quarter of a mile. They advised that the Marina Mexicana Search & Rescue was on the way by fastboat from Cabo and was expected in about 90 minutes. When the SAR arrived, they took everyone from Alexis aboard. They took lots of video, and had me sign a document about the basic facts of the case and my identity."

The Rescue Squad (l-r):Our Shangri-La owners Geo Uhrich and Fernanda Fenton, and their crew Carla Kutter and Mike Kimbro.

Our Shangri-La
© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

The crew aboard Our Shangri-La consisted of owner/skipper Geo Uhrich, a talented fiddler who played a lot in the La Cruz area last winter, Fernanda Fenton, and crew Mike Kimbro and Carla Kutter. They had been en route to San Diego from Banderas Bay.

Lobsterman Saved by His Boots

No doubt John Aldridge’s family had just about given up hope that the Long Island lobsterman’s body would be found after he fell overboard 12 hours earlier, so when word that a Coast Guard helo crew had not only found Aldridge but that he was very much alive, they were ecstatic. 

Aldridge’s family celebrated when they heard the news of his rescue.

© PO2 Erik Swanson / USCG

Aldridge, 45, fell overboard while the rest of the boat’s crew was asleep. It’s unclear how long he was in the water before his crewmates sounded the alarm, it took an eight-hour search by East Coast assets over 660 square miles to find the man. When a CG rescue swimmer plucked him from the waters 43 miles south of Montauk, New York, he was clad only in a T-shirt and shorts. 

John Aldridge suffered from hypothermia after being in the water for 12 hours, but was otherwise unharmed during his ordeal.

© USCG NE

The fact that Aldridge was able to avoid hypothermia, drowning and circling sharks is a miracle, but add to that the fact that he wasn’t wearing a PFD and prepare to have your mind blown. It turns out Aldridge tucked his rubber boots under his arms to keep himself afloat!

"Unfortunately many of these cases don’t end with a happy ending," noted PO Erik Swanson. "With that many hours passed, it’s hard to say with the currents and the temperature of the water. Luckily everything came together for us." Aldridge was treated for dehydration, exposure and hypothermia, then released. 

Search Continues for Niña and Crew

Ricky and Robin Wright of Lousiana, the parents of Danielle Wright, 19, who has been missing for nearly two months after setting sail from Opua, New Zealand, for Newcastle, Australia, with six others aboard the 70-ft staysail schooner Niña, haven’t given up hope that their daughter and the others can be still be found alive. They and others have hired Equusearch, a Texas firm, to try to figure out where the schooner and/or her survivors might be now.
 
In addition, family and friends of the Niña crew are pressing for the U.S. government to have the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), a part of the Defense Department that supposedly has the capability of working out exactly where Niña‘s satphone calls were made from, to try to help find the survivors. The NGA was instrumental in locating Osama bin Laden. On the other hand, the NGA doesn’t have the best record on the water. It was the NGA that provided the erroneous digital maps that contributed to the nearly new 224-ft U.S. Navy vessel Guardian going up on Tubbataha Reef, a World Heritage Site in the Sulu Sea, on January 17 of this year. The NGA charts showed the reef to be seven miles from its actual position. The expensive ship had to be cut up into three pieces and destroyed.
 
Friends of the Niña base their continued hopes on the possibility that New Zealand SAR resources may have been searching the wrong area in what has been their biggest search ever. Two GPS positions from Niña‘s Iridium phone were 700 miles apart, even though the reports were sent within just seven minutes of each other. Clearly one or both of the positions was in error. Friends of the Niña crew believe the Kiwis may have focused their search on the wrong GPS coordinate, and have thus been looking close to 700 miles from where they should have focused their search.
 
Realistically, there is reason to doubt that the Niña crew may still be alive. Nothing has been heard from their VHF, SSB, Iridium or EPIRB in nearly two months. And no matter which of their last GPS positions was correct, they were in cold and often rough waters. 
 
But based on history, there is a chance they are still alive. In 2006, three fishermen from San Blas, Mexico, drifted 5,000 miles in nine months before their 29-ft disabled panga was spotted by a fishing boat near the Marshall Islands. One of the crew had died. In 1942, Poon Lim, a Chinese seaman, was on a merchant ship torpedoed by the Nazis off South Africa. He survived for 133 days in remarkably good shape, having lost not much weight at all. In 1973, Brits Maurice and Marilyn Bailey had their sailboat holed by a whale while on their way from Panama to New Zealand. They survived in their liferaft for 117 days before being rescued in poor health by a Korean fishing vessel. And sailor Steve Callahan drifted almost all the way across the Atlantic in his liferaft after a whale holed his boat.

Errata With Regard to the African Diaspora Maritime Lawsuit

In the July 24th edition of ‘Lectronic Latitude we reported that a lawsuit brought by African Disapora Martime against the Golden Gate YC was being heard in New York City. The North Carolina organization claims that the Golden Gate YC illegally refused their application to be allowed to compete against Oracle to be the Defender in the 34th America’s Cup.

In our report we said that the ADM had not been able to come up with the initial $25,000 deposit needed to compete. This was incorrect. The ADM in fact did present the Golden Gate YC with a draft for $25,000, but were still denied entry because the yacht club didn’t believe ADM had the wherewithal to field a competitive entry. We sincerely apologize for the error. Indeed, we had previously reported the facts correctly.

As we wrote on Wednesday, we’re all in favor of a legitimate African-American America’s Cup team. Indeed, we’re in favor of every kind of legitimate America’s Cup team. We’ll leave it up to the courts to decide whether ADM would have been a legitimate entry.

While the inaugural running of the Mini 650 Pacific Challenge — a race for Mini 6.50s from Marina del Rey to Hawaii — may have gotten off to an inauspicious start, one sailor persevered and finished the course. Belmont’s Sean McGinn aboard the custom 21-ft Zero Daisy Cutter crossed the finish line at Diamond Head yesterday morning after 17d, 1h, 20m, 58s, and became the second person to ever singlehand a Mini to Hawaii.
In Monday’s ‘Lectronic we mistakenly reported that Emirates Team New Zealand, having given the Luna Rossa Italian team a big spanking on Sunday, had gained a spot in the Louis Vuitton Challenger Finals.
Earlier in the month, we reported on the sad news that Hayden and Fern Brown’s pirate-style 70-ft schooner Aldebaran smashed into the Richmond jetty on July 4.
While the New Zealand America’s Cup team is basking in the glory of an unbroken string of Louis Vuitton Cup wins, one of their countrymen has been making a very different sort of headline.