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J/44 Elusive Sinks from Unknown Causes

Wendy and Steve wave goodbye, shortly before jumping off from Zihua last spring.

©2009 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

If you’ve ever shunned the idea of buddy-boating, this sad news may cause you to reassess your attitude. Steve and Wendy Bott and their son Allen were safely transferred to the San Diego-based Scarlett O’Hara shortly before sunset Saturday after their Ventura-based J/44 Elusive began sinking beneath them, roughly 500 miles north of Auckland. These boats and roughly 10 others had been buddy-boating between New Zealand and Fiji.

A cruising friend says Wendy and Steve are meticulous in their approach to boat prep and offshore sailing.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Renee Prentice of Scarlett O’Hara reports via HF radio email: "From what we can put together, their rudder jammed, causing the autopilot not to work and they immediately started taking on water, but it was not coming in around the rudder shaft or packing gland." Scarlett arrived on the scene approximately 30 minute after the leak began, and skipper John Prentice came aboard to help Steve search for the leak, while the rest of the Bott family evacuated to Scarlett. "They suspected the leak was in the middle of the boat, as aft was much drier." After a half hour of fruitless searching, the rapidly rising water forced the two men to abandon the vessel, which has been characterized by a fellow cruiser as ‘impeccably maintained’."

Out on the open ocean, it’s nice to have ‘buddies’ like John and Renee.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

The incident occurred during a regular session of the Pacific Seafarer’s net, whose net controllers jumped into action coordinating communications with nearby vessels and emergency agencies. Elusive‘s EPIRB was activated, which brought U.S. SAR resources into play also.

At this writing, the Bott family is headed north to Fiji aboard Scarlett O’Hara digesting the impact of the sudden tragedy. Although Elusive was insured, the family lost virtually everything they owned, as the 44-ft sloop was their home.

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