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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.

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