Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Yacht Rolls, Crew Tossed In Water, Life Or Death?

Bavaria 38 Takes A Whipping

Lives Are In Peril

Many non-sailors can't envision what happens when a boat rolls over.  Some equate it to what most everyone has seen, a car wreck.  Upside down cars don't favor well, for the vehicle or for the occupants.  There is always the exception.  I assisted with a rollover on Colorado's treacherous I-70 descent into Denver.  After a pickup flipped in front of me and came to rest on it's top, I was able to coach the terrified driver out of the shattered passenger side window.  She barely had a scratch on her.  The State Patrol  arrested her for D.U.I.

Getting back to boats that do the same thing.  It is not the same thing, really.   Nearly any boat that stays upside down for long enough will sink. While a power boat is more like a vehicle in that it tends to stay in whatever position it is in, right side up or wrong side up, until a massive force changes it's position in the water, a sailboat rarely stays upside down for long.  The nature of the beast simply does not allow for a boat with a keel as heavy as most sailboats have, to stay inverted.

In the above video, the boat suffers a knockdown but does not appear to have become inverted.  A power boat that is tossed onto it's side is probably destined for 180% roll to inverted.  Sailboats tend to right themselves.  They actually have an index to measure how stable a boat is.

Safety Harness, photo Piplers of Poole

I found the video Velero Vocado En Zumaia "Sailboat Flips In Zumaia" difficult to watch for very personal reasons.  I was advised in advance the boat and the crew all survived and it was still hard to watch.  On the one hand, it was reassuring to see the Bavara 38 right itself.  On the other hand, it was difficult to watch what appears to be a combination of a crew incapable of rescuing their mates tossed into the churn, along with a crew that was woefully unprepared and therefore failed to assist their friends who were tossed into the water.
Many changes have occurred since the Fastnet Race of 1979 and the Syd-Hobart Race 1998 that cost the lives of crews and in which several boats sank.  Crew have lost their lives using prudent safety equipment of the time.  In those days, a tether was used to keep the sailor with the boat.  Unfortunately, the tethers lacked a quick release device.  With significant weight on the tether, they were unable to get either end of the strap to release.  A crew who knows they are in for a heavy swell or heavy weather should always be tethered to the boat with a tether that has a quick release device at the sailor's end.  When I go into heavy weather, which is not often, and when there is a single person on deck regardless of conditions, my rule is, you tether onto the jacklines.

1979 Fastnet Race Official Report

Tethering by itself is not enough.  If the tether allows the sailor to be tossed into the water so that his hands are under the water, many experts, because they have been there, say it is impossible for the sailor to get his hands and body free of the water and pull himself to safety unless the boat comes to a stop.  The better practice is to rig the jacklines tightly at the center of the boat, with a jackline that will leave the sailor suspended at least partially out of the water.

Dual Release Nuatic Expo

Crew should always be prepared for a man-over board emergency.  In the video above, it does not appear they were prepared, or if they were prepared, that they took any action.  Part of it is, they couldn't do much or the Bavaria 38 might have been rolled again.  Part of it may be crew training and the availability of ready to throw man-over-board flotation devices.  Most people think of man-over-board as a single person in the water.  As the above video shows, it is sometimes several crew who find themselves swimming.  More than one flotation device may be needed.  Preferably, the flotation device has a line attached to it to at least keep the swimmers with the boat, which is easily spotted, rather than afloat somewhere in the water, where bobbing heads may not be visible to rescue craft.  A well prepared crew is already wearing a harness with an inflatable flotation device.  They are thinking ahead, knowing rescue may never come, and staying with the boat is their only chance for survival.

SSB, Glenn Tuttle and Harry Schell Say Don't Leave Home Without It!

Glenn Tuttle

The following article was written by SSCA Commodore Harry Schell.  Harry and his wife Melinda cruise aboard their Tayana 42, "Sea Schell".   This

Icom M-802 Marine SSB, $2,087

article was published in a past edition of the SSCA Bulletin.  

Harry & Melinda are currently active on the "Coconut Telegraph Net" on SSB frequency 8.170 MHz at 0700 EST.  When I spoke to Harry this morning on the SSB, after the Coconut Telegraph Net, they were anchored in Cartagena, Colombia, perhaps our favorite city in South America. That's right, SSB communications from Florida to Colombia. Contact was loud and clear.

I echo everything that Harry has to say about HF/SSB radios aboard offshore cruising boats.  The latest case in point is when during the early morning hours of 2/21/14, the S/V Moya Maria grounded on a reef approximately 10 miles off the North coast of Cuba.

  Contact was made with other vessels on one of Chris Parker's weather channels at approximately 0630 hours, and thereafter, the Moya Maria was in constant radio contact with both vessels and land stations for the next 48 hours.  That's right, 48 hours of non-stop communications with net controllers of the Waterway Radio & Cruising Club Net (7.168), Cruiseheimers Net (8.152) and the Maritime Mobile Service Net (14.300).  The net controllers contacted the U.S. Coast Guard, the Canadian Coast Guard ( The S/V Moya Maria is a Canadian vessel), and the Cuban Navy.  Also, contact was made with the Canadian Embassy who helped coordinate a salvage boat which eventually towed the S/V Moya Maria off the reef. Fortunately, there was little damage to the Moya Maria as she is a steel boat.

If the S/V Moya Maria only had a satellite phone, and not a HF/SSB radio, staying in constant contact with land based assistance throughout the ordeal would have been impossible.  Yes, we had an Iridium satellite phone aboard during our 8 years in the Southern Caribbean, and we loved it. But we used the HF/SSB radio every day for cruising nets and communicating with other cruisers.  

If you have an emergency aboard, I believe it's best for many hundreds of  people to hear about it, rather than just one person on the other end of the phone line.  Perhaps a nearby vessel is your closest assistance who may hear a radio call, but not a satellite call.  

Well, I have rambled on enough.  I believe that a vast majority of off shore cruisers will agree that a HF/SSB radio is an essential piece of cruising gear.

Glenn Tuttle - Moderator
Cruisers Network Online
M/Y Tothill
Punta Gorda, FL

Harry Schell

Harry and Melinda Schell

SSB: Still An Essential Tool for Cruisers by Harry Schell

Whenever we get together with cruisers and prospective cruisers I hear people drooling over the latest technology for communication.  People are using their smart phones, iPads, Wifi boosters, sat phones with compression software and everything under the sun.  More and more often I hear people referring to SSB, ham radios and Pactor modems as “old” or “outdated” technology.  The reality is that, for cruisers, the SSB serves a different and important function that no new technology has attempted to replace.

Many have gotten away from the National Weather Service’s offshore forecasts and weather faxes.  It’s no longer necessary to use a dedicated weather fax or use a Pactor modem to download forecast charts or even to download the newer GRIB files that so many people love.  Many people are getting their weather directly on their cell phones, sat phones, iPads and chart plotters. 

Unfortunately, there are problems with all of these at one time or another for the offshore cruiser.  Access to these services is limited when cruising offshore.  Certainly, there are ways to connect to the Internet and emails anywhere in the world at any time but these services also require expensive equipment and expensive service charges that dig into the cruiser’s budget. They also don’t include professional advice from a weather expert who is a cruiser and knows just what the cruiser is facing.

The marine SSB/ham radio allows cruisers to connect directly with weather experts who can answer questions accurately and reliably.  Herb, Southbound II, has been the guru of North Atlantic passage makers’ weather for decades offering his wise advice for free (although he does accept donations) and only available on the SSB.  Herb gets current weather condition reports directly from passage makers so he has weather data that no other forecaster has.  That, in addition to all the other available data and knowledge about you and your boat allows him to make forecasts uniquely suited to you and your boat. 

Chris Parker also does weather and answers questions to sponsoring vessels uniquely suited to you and available only on SSB.  You can get weather by email but asking questions with messages back and forth can be very cumbersome.  

You can also benefit from just listening to questions asked by other cruisers.  I want very much to hear Chris’s answer to another cruiser’s question that I hadn’t thought to ask.  You can’t get that without an SSB/ham radio.  The opportunity to talk directly with Chris every day costs me less than $150 per year!  Chris and other weather routers like Bob Cook also offer very cost-effective personal advice on a contractual basis.

All of these service providers also track their customers and communicate emergency, priority and medical information for cruisers.  When you’re 100 miles offshore and your husband has a heart attack or you get a critical head injury try using your iPad to get that information to the doctor who happens to be sailing just 50 miles from your current location.

That gets us to the next unique difference about SSB/ham radios.  Cruisers’ nets make a cruising community.  Everyone hears what you say over the net.  The net is a way to pass on critical, fun and social information to everyone in the community.  It’s your local news about your local community.  Sure, the person with whom you’re communicating may be thousands of miles away but he or she is part of your community.  

We hear from friends far away and learn that we’re going to be in the same neighborhood in the near future.  We find out that someone we’ve heard about on the net is going to be in our anchorage the next day.  Cruising is the most social environment around and the nets are crucial to being a full member of that community.

When I worked at West Marine I had customers who said they didn’t need a VHF radio because they had a cell phone and didn’t go far offshore.  I pointed out that they had no phone number for the boat right next to them and no way to communicate without the VHF.  The SSB/ham radio is the same thing but for longer distances.  It’s also more important because you’re farther away from home and all of the other support systems on which you may depend.

All of the new technologies have their place but they don’t replace the SSB.  A friend of mine was recently on a long offshore passage with some other friends.  They all had expensive sat phones because their wives wanted to hear from them every day. They all went up on deck regardless of the weather doing the “can you hear me now” thing trying to get the best reception while my friend was sitting in comfort down below sending and receiving emails every day.  I’m not a luddite and I wouldn’t give up my new technology but I won’t do without my SSB.

Commodore Harry Schell
Sea Schell, 1981 Tayana 42, 6’ draft, Marathon, FL heading up the US east coast.

Reprinted with written permission from Cruisers Network Online.  

Friday, February 21, 2014

S/V Moya Maria Hits Reef Near Cuba

On 21 FEB 14 at approximately 0300 hrs., the S/V Moya Maria hit the reef off the coast of Cuba at position 22 58.9 N / 79 48.4 W.  


Sometime before 0700 hrs., the S/V Moya Maria made SSB radio contact with the S/V C Language in the Bahamas, presumably on 8.152 MHz, the SSB Frequency the Cruiseheimers Net meets on every morning at 0830 hrs.  With assistance from another cruiser aboard the S/V Serengeti in Marathon, Florida, and Waterway Radio & Cruising Club net controllers Dick Giddings (St Jude) (W3RDT) and Paul Van Meurs (KM4MA) who reported the grounding to the USCG as well as the Canadian Embassy and Cuban authorities.

The S/V Moya Maria is owned by Olga & Roman of Mississauga, Ontario, Canada.  Their amateur call sign is VE3EPU.  Later in the day when propagation on the SSB bands degraded, the ongoing situation was handled on the Maritime Mobile Service Network on amateur frequency 14.300 by Paul Van Meurs who is a net controller for the MMSN.  

At the time of this posting, the S/V Moya Maria is still aground on the reef, and waiting on assistance.  This is a prime example of how a HF radio should be an essential piece of safety gear aboard every vessel that goes offshore.  Those who claim a satellite phone could take the place of a SSB radio, I am willing to bet anything all those people involved in this incident would disagree.  

If anyone can add to this information, or correct and misinformation, please post to the net.

I am continuing to monitor the situation on 14.300, the Maritime Mobile Service Net who is staying in contact with the stricken vessel until help arrives.

As of this time, the S/V Moya Maria is asking for any vessel in the area who can provide assistance getting the vessel off the reef to contact the Maritime Mobile Service Network on 14.300 USB or VHF Ch 16 if near Cuba.

The US Coast Guard are not permitted to assist in Cuban Waters.

Glenn Tuttle - Moderator
Cruisers Network Online
M/Y Tothill

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Yes And! Creating the Future, Schooner Nina

Yes And web site

When I got involved in the Nina search I thought maybe I could help.  I do mostly media things and some political things.  How could I know, the shoe would nicely fit on the other foot?

The Nina is a 1928 American treasure with seven people aboard.  They are C.U. Professor Evi Nemeth, Kyle Jackson, Danielle Wright, Matthew Wootton, and the boat's owners, David Dyche, Rosemary Dyche and David Dyche IV.  This wonderful piece of American naval history along with her 7 crew went missing on June 4th, 2013.  Nothing has been seen of the Nina or crew since then.

Rob, a friend of Kyle Jackson's, posted in Kyle's sisters, Megan Jackson's blog page:

YES AND is a mantra for embracing the now and creating the future; for moving deeper into life; for being an active participant; for flowing with what the universe has to show you and reaching out to join it.

YES can be enthusiasm: YES! I want this! I love this! This is perfect.

YES can be acceptance: yes. This is happening. This is now. This is part of everything. This is.

AND can be the next step.  The moving forward.

AND can be adding on, expanding. More. Deeper.

It’s how we move through the world, step by step, first with a YES, and then following it up with AND. Again and again, until we get to where we are, and find ourselves saying again, YES AND.

How could I know, YES!  The universe has a lot to show me, if I am willing, and a lot for me to learn. 

Getting involved in the search for 7 precious lives brought me into contact with many more precious lives.  It has been a phenomenal learning and growing experience for me.  Honestly, when people who are desperately worried about their loved ones allow perfect strangers to participate at this level, you feel very honored they have placed so much confidence in you, and the fear of somehow letting them down is always there.  Some of the people I have never met in person, but it makes little difference.  I still feel like I have new brothers and sisters in my family.  For those I have met in person, I can say, everything in Texas really is bigger, even the hearts of the ones who were only there for a short time.

If you have the chance to volunteer for a search, expect the road to be a little bumpy at times.  You will likely be dealing with many family members at a very difficult time for them, who are dealing with all of the volunteers who wish the best but sometimes don't know what is the best, who are dealing with the officials who mean the best, but sometimes don't know what is the best, along with yourself, who wants the best but does not always know what is the best.  Participating in a search is, in part, a search for our personal, best.  For those who are looking for the YES in the universe, I promise you, your collective efforts will provide some of the most moving memories you will have.  Of course, the sweetest time will come with the AND.


I can see as plain as day when the Nina floats into the gaze of a dazing fisherman, surprised to see 7 lives prancing on deck, the fisherman wiping his eyes with his hands just to be sure the AND is real.  A Salvadorean's journey across the Pacific Ocean, Jose Salvador Alvarenga, has proven 14 months at sea with no provisions is possible.  Nothing has been seen or heard from the missing crew to suggest they are not out there now.  Why shouldn't I believe?  

Yes! And...

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Crewless Boat Found, Captain On Ropes Over Corcovado

They say sometimes you should be careful what you wish for.  Andrew Connell was wishing his 41 foot yacht could somehow be recovered.  He writes about how elated he was when a Dutch rescue plane shot pictures of the boat sailing on it's merry way to Venezuela with no crew on board where it would be found abandoned.  Little did Andrew know, perhaps he was celebrating too soon when he got the call advising him the boat had been recovered.

Sure, they found the boat.  But what about everything on board?  Not much is left.  This is from a web page set up to help Andrew recover his boat.

"It's hard to believe what I saw today. They let me go on board today. Only me.They had warned me of the fisherman that stole everything but I had no idea? The boat was covered with black, boot marks, from bow to stern. Fisherman are barefoot, was my thought??? The only things on the boat were the winches and the sails. Everything is totally destroyed or gone. I mean everything. From the anchors to the wire. Every pump, every breaker, compressor, tool, fan, spare parts,fishing gear, refrigeration torn out. Every single light bulb, fixture and fitting. They stole every hose and hose clamp, knife fork spoon and can of food. The boat was completely bare bones except for the floor boards.Even in the smallest of places anything mechanical or of use to these people was gone. Even the halyards. Every bit of running rigging,shackle and blocks. Gone The hole fucking boat is destroyed like it had been in a hurricane.

 I was trying to imagine how it happened. I think there must been fights, over who got what. They must have had days to dismantle my boat. It's unbelievably sad, what they did to this wonderful boat. It's very unlikely that I will be sailing it out of here. The hull is a bit battered, but sound and there is a main sail and a jib."

It is enough to break the heart of any sailor.  One the one hand, what a great thing to get your boat back after it "breaks free".  On the other hand, if the boat is not serviceable, what good is it going to do?  Worse, having to fire sale the boat rather than fix it considering it's present remote location could add to a significant loss for Andrew Connell.

Andrew is taking donations to help him with some of the basic systems.  You can make that donation here.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

"Biggest Search In Mexican History" Failed To Locate El Salvadoran Castaway

Castaway Contemplated Suicide 
After Losing Ship Mate

Stern of Boat - Telegraph Photo

Maybe it wasn't the biggest search in the history of Mexico.  It lasted two weeks, longer than the search New Zealand said it did for the Schooner Nina, lost in the Tasman Sea on June 4th, 2013.  Authorities say the Nina search was the biggest search done in the history of their area of responsibility.  

Despite best efforts by the Mexican civil defense force, the launch carrying Jose Salvador Alvarenga and youth  Ezequiel Cordoba could not be found, says Jose Manuel Aragon, spokesman for the Chiapas state civil defense office.  They didn't find the Nina, either.

The authorities have lots of questions of the unfortunate sailor who found himself lost at sea as early as November of 2012.  

"It was probably something that was planned beforehand, something we had no knowledge of," Manuel-Aragon said. "Our only duty was to carry out search and rescue operations." (and not investigate other activities).

Cooler Used For Cover -Telegraph Photo

According to Manuel-Aragon, the two shark fishermen set out from their tiny village in Chiapas State on the West coast of Mexico despite warnings of high winds and rain.

"You can imagine a lot of things, but that is something he should explain," said Vilermino "Willie" Rodriguez.  Rodriguez is the person who bought the shark meat caught by the castaway at $1.90 a pound.

"There are things that don't match up. I knew him, but I have a lot of doubts," Rodriguez noted.

Even the U.S. Ambassador  to the Marshall Islands, Tom Armbruster, weighed in after speaking to castaway Jose Salvador Alvarenga.

"It's hard for me to imagine someone surviving 13 months at sea." 

The AP writers who have been following the story noted, "Central America is a major transshipment route for U.S.-bound drugs, but there is no evidence traffickers would use such a small boat to try to make such a long journey."

GEE Bing, the acting Secretary of Foreign Affairs for the Marshall Islands where Alvarenga came to shore, publically expressed doubt about Alvarenga's story.  At last, he arranged to move the castaway from the hospital to a hotel.  Nearly immediately, hotel staff began to protect Alvarenga from the hordes of media and well wishers who were preventing the castaway from getting any rest.  While authorities in multiple countries have doubts about Alvarenga's story, at least they are treating one of the longest known survivors at sea with some respect.

That respect was absent for John Glennie and his three crew mates who survived 119 days adrift in the capsized catamaran, the Rose Noelle South of the Marshall Islands.  After the four sailors rescued themselves by drifting to a New Zealand island, the authorities investigated Glennie and his mates, claiming there might be a drug connection.  Some speculated, the four sailors had completed a drug run and were laying low until they could concoct a good story.  They were in too good a shape to have been out in the ocean for such a long time, some said.  Like Alvarenga, they held a Eulogy for Captain Glennie. 

Shrimp Of The Sea Telegraph Photo

They had searched high and low for the Rose Noelle and no one had spotted it.  Surely something was wrong.  They even dove the wreck site where the Rose Noelle broke up as she came to land.  Soon it would be time to eat crow.  

The deciding factor came when divers located deeply personal things that a sailor who scuttles his own boat to cover his tracks would never leave behind.  The authorities were forced to the conclusion the story of the Rose Noelle was true.

George Lanwi, Commissioner of the Marshall Islands police force, said to a telegraph reporter, "I don't know whether he is telling us the truth until we get the facts from his fingerprints and everything,  We are trying to verify what he said as far as where he is from, and who he was involved with back in El Salvador. We are trying to prove all that he has been telling people. Why didn't they report him missing to authorities in Mexico?"
Despite using alias names, and not being clear about the day or even month Alvarenga set sail, relatives are coming forward to identify the wayward mariner.  It is clear Alvarenga is from Garita Palmera, El Salvador, a country rocked by death squads in a bitter civil war.  He was known as Cirilo in El Salvador, a nicer name than he was given by his Mexican employers, La Chancha, the dirty one.  

About 15 years ago, Alvarenga traveled to Mexico and worked as a shark fisherman.  His daughter, Fatima, has no memory of him, since Alvarenga left El Salvador when she was only 1 year old.  Fatima was excited to hear her father is alive.

“I didn’t know the hour, nor the day, nor the date,” Alvarenga said to a Telegraph reporter. “I only knew the sun and the night… I never saw land. Pure ocean, pure ocean. It was very placid – only two days with big waves.”

After his shipmate died, Alvarenga contemplated taking his own life.

“For four days I wanted to kill myself. But I couldn’t feel the desire – I didn’t want to feel the pain. I couldn’t do it.”

Alvarenga said he was never bored and rarely frightened.  

“I had my mind on God,” he said. “If I was going to die, I would be with God. So I wasn’t scared... I imagine this is an incredible story for people.”

Alvarenga used a large cooler for shelter.  He had just killed a bird when he looked up and saw trees.

"Oh God!" he said.

After swimming to shore Alvarenga was unable to walk.  He was wearing only his underwear which was tattered.  Two girls who spotted him were so shocked they began screaming.

Alvarenga told his mother by telephone he was not sure where he was.  After drinking turtle blood and his own urine for hydration and battling the elements for 14 months, facing the might of the Pacific Ocean and watching his shipmate perish, should more be expected?

Meanwhile, the families of the crew of the Nina take heart in the story.  They have maintained for a long time the Nina may still be afloat.  Skeptics including some rescue officials claim even if the Nina is afloat there would be no survivors.  That is what they said about Jose Salvador Alvarenga, too.

Information for this article was obtained from the Telegraph, the Grand Island Independent and AP news reports.

Yacht "Sails" 550 NM in 17 Days Without It's Crew

A cautious cruising community put out the alert:  "Venezuela, Morrocoy National Park: Yacht found adrift with no crew on board".  

Because of recent attacks on cruising sailors, this story had the stamp of piracy all over it.  What happened to skipper and crew?  Who was the unfortunate owner?  

This is a story that has a happy ending.  As it turns out, no piracy was involved at all.  Instead, Andrew W. Connell writes in his blog:

"If your wondering what happened? Here it is My sailboat broke loose on the evening of the twelfth, from Gustavia, Saint Barthélemy.


Corcovado, a 40ft Standfast 

I was delivering a sailboat, at the time from the Bahamas to St.Barts a thousand mile upwind slog.  When we got news of my boat missing from St.Barts, we were off Puerto Rico, and my phone came to life. Keep in mind the days are still clicking by.

When our delivery ended in St.Martin, 24 hours later,it had been three days afloat, or drifting fast to the south and west.

The wheel being locked center line, also I believe, is the reason it moved south so quickly. If the wheel were locked with a little angle to it, it would have done circles, meaning drift in the current/ wind much slower. I think the boat was sailing 35 miles a day. JUST IN WHICH DIRECTION?

My phone rang on that Saturday I believe? It was the coast guard from France who had info for me, from a Dutch Curacao dash 8 aircraft. The coast guard had pictures of my boat, and knew about the alert of an abandon sailing vessel.

They gave me a position, or coordinates, for an attempt of a rescue,,
130 or so miles South West of Guadeloupe, near the Venezuelan islands of Los Aves. 

Over 200 miles from us at the time.

I instantly found a sailboat, and a good friend with a sat phone,who would go on a mission, knowing the dash 8 aircraft out of Curacao, which was still sitting on the tarmac in St.Maarten, was heading back to Curacao. Perfect, the chances of retrieving my boat are looking, okay!

Corcovado Photographed from French Dash-8
From Andrew Connell's blog

The next morning the dash 8 did not find my boat. damn!

We left with the feeling that the aircraft would fly again in a few days.
Okay, We provisioned this 38 foot German sailboat for 7 days, with two people on board. 

We took off towards Los Aves, directly south 100 miles or so first.
The next day we called the pilots and heard the grim news of no sightings and that the aircraft, which is payed for by the Dutch Government, will be on the ground in Curacao till Wednesday.


We had 5 or 6 days to go before we had a possible, aircraft sighting.
The second or third night out in rough weather at around 2 in the morning, Hans went forward of the mast, to take the inner fore stay off to enable a better tack, with the head sail.

We rolled hard to weather, and he was gone.

Instantly I turned into the wind and pinned the headsail on the opposite side of the boat and hoved (sic) too.

The next thing was a halyard over the side and Han De Bruyn Kops was dragging in twenty knots of wind and bigs (sic) seas behind my stern, doing 4 or so knots.

It was not easy to get him on the boat!

Our goal was to create a sort of goal line between Curacao and Puerto Rico, where the boat would eventually drift. 

Hans and I sailed back and forth from North to South for days, looking 300 miles away from St.Barths, (sic) down wind and to leeward of the Lesser Antilles.
My anchor light was on when I left, so I thought it would be easy at night, to find her.

After countless hours of, strong sun rays and tedious hours at the helm with no auto pilot, twenty plus knots of wind and north swells, we were exhausted and thoroughly disappointed.

None the less Hans was eager to carry on looking for my lost 40 footer.
Eventually it was time to think about our safe and long upwind passage, from 245 mile's north of Curacao back to St.Maarten.

We made it back with very little to eat or drink. It took three or four days of upwind slow sailing.

The trip was exciting, dangerous fun and horrible at the same time.
If the coast guard had flow another day, we would have been close to my boat.

I believe were were close to my boat. I took into consideration current charts which Hans had on board, and the waves and wind, at 35 miles a day.
We plotted a sort of projected corse, considering the 120 miles the boat moved in 4 days.

It is a huge body of water.

The two of us made it back to Simpson Bay St.Maarten, last night.

Im in St.Barts now, wiped out sad and still in dis belief.

Huge effort, no luck. 

I believe it is still out there and someone will find her.

Thanks for everyones support, peace out"

As it turned out, the boat drifted over 550 nautical miles to the coast of Venezuela's Morrocoy National Park.  The authorities found a business card with the owner's name inside the boat.  A very elated skipper was soon to be reunited with his boat.

You could spend a lifetime studying the ocean currents to figure out where things drift to over time.  Many RCC organizations use sophisticated SAROPS software to estimate the time and drift of people and boats in the water.  Yet as Andrew points out, something as simple as a jammed rudder can throw a monkey wrench in all of those figures.  They might call drift modeling a science, but really, finding anything adrift in the ocean is an art.  You have to have a lot of talent combined with a healthy dose of luck to be successful. 

At least, we don't have another incidence of piracy on our hands.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Skeptical Authorities Hammer Castaway Jose Salvador Alvarenga

A grateful Salvador Alvarenga explains how a shark fisherman ends up on national news.  Photo from Telegraph video.

Video Courtesy The Telegraph

Castaway and long term ocean survivor, Jose Salvador Alvarenga, tells a great survival story or spins a great yarn.  Authorites remain skeptical about Alvarenga's claims of  floating 13 months in a small boat across the Pacific.  They don't see how a person could survive for that long of a time adrift.  The MSN writer who relates Alvarenga's tale says, "If true, his ordeal would rank among the greatest tales ever of survival at sea."

Alvarenga scooped up small fish and
 turtles to survive months at sea.

Gee Bing, the acting secretary of foreign affairs for the Marshall Islands, remains unbelieving.

"It does sound like an incredible story, and I'm not sure if I believe his story," Bing said. "When we saw him, he was not really thin compared to other survivors in the past."

Bing, no doubt, has never seen a starvation victim.  They are often bloated due to protein deficiency.  As the body dines on itself, limbs swell along with other features.  That causes incredible joint pain.  The liver often becomes fatty which contributes to the appearance of bloating.  In reality, the condition eventually leads to death.

Alvarenga and a youth who Alvarenga calls Ezekiel, went to sea from the Mexican town of Tonala in Southern Chiapas, Mexico.  The shark fisherman had been living in Mexico for over 15 years, according to reports.  Soon after setting out, a storm blew them off course.  

San Francisco De Tonala, Mexico

Unfortunately, according to Alvarenga, his youthful companion died after the two had been at sea for about a month.  Some people react to being trapped in hopeless conditions better than others.  On December 21st, 2012, or whenever they set out, life would change forever for both of the men.  Alvarenga, a native of El Salvador, was making $1.90 a pound hunting sharks and selling the meat to a Mexican named "Willie" when the adventure began.

Villermino Rodriguez Solis, whose son is called Willie, and who buys shark meat, said the heavy-set Salvador native and a youth set out on November 18th, 2012.  If true, that puts Alvarenga at sea for over 14 months with a trip across of the Pacific of over 6,500 miles.  Solis said fishermen searched for the pair for four days.  

Solis is based in Costa Azul, a fishing town near Tonala.  Solis said no one really knows who Alvarenga is.  They called him "La Chancha", translated as "the dirty person" in Mexican slang.  He showed up about 15 years ago looking for work.  It was clear he knew what he was doing when hunting shark.

Jaime Esaqui, an immigrant from Mexico, says the story makes perfect sense.  Esaqui says migrants, who are often amongst the poorest people in Mexico, often lack even a rudimentary education.  They are not adept at calendars, dates and details about where their relatives live.  Hence, Alvarenga's inability to pinpoint where his relatives live in the U.S. may sound deceptive to a person whose life is in perfect order.

"They deal with people on a first name basis and often don't know details about last names or even be accurate about dates.  It has nothing to do with their intellect.  Rather, it speaks to the limited opportunities they have enjoyed during their lives."

Having survived at sea for an incredible amount of time, Alvarenga will likely be deported somewhere.  Mexico was mentioned as one possible destination, El Salvador was mentioned as a second likely candidate.

Alvarenga appears to be in good health, but complains of joint pain and walks with a limp.

Meanwhile, relatives of the 7 crew members aboard the Nina, a 1928 schooner that went missing in the Tasman Sea South of the Marshall Islands in June of 2013, say authorities are skeptical about the survivability of the crew on the Nina.  Some family members point to Alvarenga, who floated unseen for 6,500 miles, and who survived for over 12 months on a small boat, as evidence not only that the Nina is afloat, but there are likely survivors.  Authorities suspended the search for the Nina on July 5th, 2013 and have been unwilling to lend much support to the families who have launched their own search.

Reports from the Associated Press were relied upon in writing this article.