April 11, 2014

Rescued Sailors Return to Homeport

Carrying their only remaining possessions, the Kaufman family disembarks the USS Vandegrift at Coronado Island. Close behind them are the four Air National Guard pararescuemen who came to their aid 900 miles offshore.

© 2014 US Navy

Four days after being transferred to the Naval warship USS Vandegrift, Eric and Charlotte Kaufman and their daughters Cora, 3, and Lyra, 1, disembarked at San Diego’s Coronado Island Naval Station Wednesday, ending a tragic chapter that cost them their home — the Hans Christian 36 Rebel Heart — and ended their cruising lifestyle, at least temporarily. 

Although the sequence of issues that contributed to the family’s calling for help has yet to be clarified, it’s been widely reported that in addition to little Lyra’s serious illness, the couple grappled with both steering and charging problems, and at some point Rebel Heart began taking on water. 

News of the massive multi-agency rescue effort went viral, primarily due to Lyra’s infancy, and it energized talking heads of the mainstream media into a frenzy of factless speculation and high-minded accusations of reckless parenting. Non-sailing bloggers seemed, generally, to follow suit, questioning both the safety and appropriateness of the Kaufmans’ plan to cross the Pacific to New Zealand this season with their young daughters. Some showed outrage at what they perceived to be the costs of the operation to taxpayers.

By contrast, the many comments we’ve seen from bona fide sailors almost universally defend the Kaufmans’ intentions as being admirable and reasonably safe. However, even some of their staunch defenders question the parents’ decision to go now, while Lyra is so young. One look at Charlotte’s cleverly written blog and you’ll see that she, too, spent time questioning that decision. Not because it was inappropriate for the kids. But because it was so damned hard doublehanding across 3,000 miles of open ocean, while simultaneously attending to the needs of her precious daughters. In one posting she laments having to wash her "third poopy diaper liner, by hand" in the galley sink with no pressurized water.

As for the cost of the operation, a number of military spokespersons have said that the Vandegrift was already operating in Pacific waters, and the other agencies’ crews would have been conducting practice operations anyway. But this real-life emergency gave the various teams valuable real-life experience. Lt. Col. Thomas Keegan was quoted as saying, "You can’t make exercises like this up."

For now, the Kaufmans are asking the press to respect their privacy while they regroup. But we expect they will soon clarify all the details of their ordeal. After arrival at San Diego, Eric said, "There have been many inaccuracies reported through various media related to our daughter’s health, the vessel’s condition and our overall maritime situation." In the meantime, he composed a tweet that expressed his gratitude: "The men and women of the Vandegrift are heroes, and words cannot express my appreciation to the 129, the best of the best." (129th Air National Guard Rescue Wing) In addition, the couple urges their supporters to consider donating to the nonprofit That Others May Live Foundation, which benefits the families of rescue personnel who are killed or wounded in the line of duty. Meanwhile, many of the Kaufman’s defenders have shown support for the family by organizing a donation site that has received more than $16,000 after only six days.

While tracking the Kaufman rescue, news of another one-year-old sailor and her family came to our attention. As reported in Yachting World, Americans James Burwick, Somira Sao and their three children, Tormetina, 5, Raivo, 3, and baby Pearl, 1, were sailing west from New Zealand through the Southern Ocean when their Open 40 Anasazi Girl was dismasted on approach to Cape Horn in early March. The family was too far offshore for an air rescue, so a Chilean Navy vessel was sent out to effect what was described as a very difficult rescue. Amazingly, the Navy was able to tow the boat to Puerto Williams.

Singlehander Andrew Halcrow also dismasted and had to be rescued, March 8, in the same storm. What makes these incidents truly bizarre, though, is that Burwick had been indirectly involved in the salvage of the Halcrow’s boat after he had to be rescued in 2006 — that time due to appendicitis. It’s a fascinating small-world story that you can read here.

As more details are revealed on the Kaufmans’ saga, we’ll bring you updates both here and in Latitude 38 magazine.

Escape from Mexico by Sailboat

Making a ‘run for it’ on a sailboat is rarely the best of ideas, but it has worked for John Hards, a former long-time resident of the Bay Area who has spent the last 11 years loving retirement aboard in Mexico. Up until a couple of months ago, that is.

Hards, who for years has extolled the pleasures of living aboard in Mexico, is one of those who got trapped in the insanity of the unthinking and seemingly uncaring Mexican bureaucracy. When his Beneteau Idylle 1150 Pelican was ‘audited’ by AGACE at Nuevo Vallarta, they noted that his 10-year Temporary Import Permit seemed to be out of date. Thus, they said, his boat was in Mexico illegally. They wanted a $7,500 U.S. fine, in addition to keeping his boat. Nice for a 75-year-old guy living on social security who has been one of Mexico’s most vocal supporters.

The situation is that Hands’ 10-year TIP actually doesn’t expire until 2019. What happened is that some incompetent Mexican bureaucrat in Salina Cruz wrote in the expiration date of Hards’ tourist visa for the expiration date of his 10-year TIP. Everyone makes mistakes, so you’d think SAT, the Mexican IRS, would see the obvious error and say, "Of course a 10-year permit is good for ten years, we’re sorry about the mistake and will get it corrected for you." But no, they said "Too bad, your 10-year permit isn’t good for ten years, it ran out when your tourist visa did. We want a bunch of money and your boat." Thus Mexico put another bullet in its already badly wounded foot.

By the way, Mexican Marina Association President Tere Grossman checked with Mexican authorities, who confirmed that Pelican’s Temporary Import Permit was/is good through 2019!

In any event, Hards decided that he had no choice but to make a 1,000-mile run for the border on his sailboat. We can imagine the anxiety of a 75-year-old being on the lam from Mexican authorities on the open ocean. We’re delighted to announce ‘Pelican John’ and his cat made it safely to San Diego on Tuesday night. He asked that the following message be passed along:

"A big thanks to MMZ, DDU, LSO and others. CWZ will be back on the 14300 airway in a month or so. The MMSN was indispensable for weather, and also for moral support when dodging the three official Mexican boats encountered coming north from Mag Bay. Thanks to Moondance and Windrose I, I had exactly $27.50 for U.S. Customs as they ran the checks on me at the Police Dock in San Diego. I have promptly picked up support in San Diego with transportation, food, email, parts, and marinas for this leg of the trip. We will at least fix the oil leak, replace the bilge pump, and restore the number one navigation computer."

A little more on John. He was born in Berkeley and had a long career working for the likes of IBM, Control Data and Amdahl on the West Coast. He retired to Mexico for the first time in 1981, then came back to California for six years of work, during which time he bought Pelican as it came out of The Moorings charter program in Loreto. He later brought the boat up to the Delta to outfit her to cruising, then returned to Mexico in 2003. He spent five years — and four hurricanes — in the Sea of Cortez, two years in the Huatulco area, and most recently three years in the Puerto Vallarta area.

By the way, Hards says that we’ve been wrong when we’ve said that there was a ‘typo’ on his TIP. "The tourist visa expiration date is the norm for the TIP expiration date on the new sticker-type TIPs as issued in most places!"

Excuse us for a minute while we bang our heads against the wall. Mexico, for your own sake will you please get your %@^! together!

There, we feel a little better. The takeaway is that if you have a boat in Mexico, or are taking your boat to Mexico, please double-check all your documents to make sure every single date and serial number is correct. If it’s not, get a new copy of whatever document has the problem, because you will be held responsible for the mistakes and ignorance of Mexican officials. And make sure that everything is absolutely correct on the new document(s).

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Ex-Lakota Tri for Sale in Caribbean

The legendary 1990 ORMA 60 trimaran that set countless records as both Florence Arthaud’s Pierre 1er and Steve Fossett’s Lakota is now for sale in Grenada for $375,000. She was the first really fast multihull that we ever sailed on. We remember going out on the Bay with her one day in the mid-1990s with Kame Richards, Peter Hogg and several others, and hitting 19 knots in just eight knots of true wind. It was an eye-opener.

Lakota was sold in 2008 and renamed Sjovillan, which is pictured here.

Bernard Gallay Yacht Brokerage
©2014 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

In addition to flipping the then Pierre 1er, Arthaud sailed the big tri to victory in the highly competitive Route du Rhum in 1990. It made her the first woman to win a major offshore sailing event. Fossett bought the tri in 1993, and despite limited multihull experience, took fifth in the 1994 Rhum. Fossett would later race her to excellent finishes in two TransPacs, and went on to establish 12 ocean racing records. Her San Diego to Puerto Vallarta record was only broken last month by Thomas Siebel’s MOD70 Orion.

The trimaran has had eight owners since 2000. Her current owner bought her in 2011 supposedly for "cruising and fast ocean passages." That’s like buying a quarter horse to go on trail rides. She’s said to be in "ready to sail" condition, which could mean anything. But if you’re ready to step up to thrilling/scary boat speeds, this may be the time to call your broker.

Seen here during a Hawaii daysail, Russian immigrant Rimas Meleshyus is determined to sail solo around the world in a 40-year-old trailer-sailer.
Having spent about 25 days crossing the North Pacific from Qingdao, China in Race 10 of the Clipper Round the World Race, the 12-boat fleet will begin crossing the finish line at the Golden Gate Bridge sometime after 6 p.m.
With its status as the largest all-sail boat show on the West Coast, the annual Strictly Sail Pacific boat show (April 10-13 at Oakland’s Jack London Square) is a must-see for most Northern California sailors.
The Second SoCal Ta-Ta — aka Reggae ‘Pon da Ocean — a Ha-Ha style cruiser rally from Santa Barbara to Catalina, is on.