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October 16, 2013

Fishy Goings-On at Catalina

It looks like someone had maybe just a little too much fun at Buccaneer Days earlier this month and didn’t want the party to end. The well-costumed reveler was found passed out on a Catalina Island beach this weekend, so comatose from the previous weekend’s merrymaking that more than a dozen friends had to help cart him off to the hospital. At last word, he was home resting comfortably after having his stomach pumped. Interestingly, hospital workers report (on condition of anonymity) that all that came up was a pile of smelly fish and squid, which could explain the patient’s pasty coloring.

Or it could be an 18-ft long oarfish discovered by a scientist at Catalina Island Marine Institute. Either way, cool story.

Simpson’s Autopsy Report Released

Five months after his untimely death on May 9, Andrew ‘Bart’ Simpson’s autopsy report was finally released yesterday. It held few surprises, citing "blunt trauma with drowning" as the cause of death for the 36-year-old America’s Cup sailor. 

Simpson died when Artemis Racing’s 72-ft training cat capsized and broke in two, throwing team members into the water. Though it’s unknown if Simpson was conscious at the time, extensive head and neck trauma, along with substantial injuries to his torso might indicate he wasn’t. He was trapped under the capsized boat for 10 minutes before being rushed to shore. Three attempts to revive him failed. His death prompted AC officials to add 37 safety recommendations to the event.

New Hope in Nina Disappearance

Close scrutiny of recent satellite imagery has sparked new hope that the long-missing American schooner Niña may yet be found, and that her seven crew may still be alive. 

According to family and experts, this ship-shaped image is the same size as Niña but Kiwi authorities won’t go searching until they have higher resolution images that the American government won’t release.

© 2013 Texas EquuSearch

As reported earlier, the 70-ft vessel set sail from from Opua, New Zealand, May 29 bound for Newcastle, Australia. New Zealand search and rescue resources mounted their largest search ever, but had no luck in locating the schooner or any evidence to confirm she had sunk.

After the search was abandoned, families of the crew enlisted the help of the non-govermental American search organization Texas EquuSearch. Their staff procured satellite imagery of areas beyond the original search — apparently prompted by inconsistency between the reported location of two satphone mayday calls. Although not razor sharp, imagery from September 15 clearly shows a hull shape similar to Niña‘s, located 184 miles west of Norfolk Island (roughly a third of the distance to Australia’s east coast).

The anxious families have implored New Zealand’s Rescue Coordination Centre to resume the search, but they reportedly require sharper, more detailed imagery before they can do so. Ricky Wright, the father of 19-year-old crewmember Danielle Wright, told the New Zealand Herald, "We have been asking the US State Department for help in getting better images, specifically for better resolution of the September 15 image, but we get no help."

Well-known Auckland-based meteorologist Bob McDavitt was the last person to have direct contact with the Niña in early June. After the satellite imagery was produced he was quoted as saying, "You don’t want to take away people’s hopes. . . (But) there’s about a vessel a day or every other day going past that part of the world." Surviving at sea for four and a half months is not unheard of, but hope diminishes with every passing day.

In addition to doing a lot of Pacific Cup and other races to Hawaii with big boats, either fully crewed or doublehanded, Philippe Kahn of Santa Cruz has always enjoyed sailing small monohulls off his home waters of Santa Cruz and Hawaii.
Today is just two weeks from the start of the 20th Annual Baja Ha-Ha cruisers’ rally from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas, with stops at Turtle Bay and Bahia Santa Maria.