ith reports this month on Astrid being lost on the Tres Marias; on excitement at the start of Sailors Run's solo nonstop circumnavigation; from Reflections on getting a hard dodger built in Thailand after year of cruising; from Capritaur on being lost near Sardinia after control was taken from her owners; from SeaGlub on ease of getting paperwork done for getting into Mexico'; from Kharma Sea on Patricia hitting Barra; and Cruise Notes.
Astrid — Hunter 37 Wayne Merritt Lost My Boat on Isla Magdalena (Melbourne, Australia) The $64,000 question is how I lost my boat, which I was intending to sail to Australia, on one of the Tres Marias Islands north of Banderas Bay. I made two big mistakes that night in early October that led to the loss of my boat. The first was leaving my chartplotter zoomed in so close that I didn't have a 'big picture' idea of where I was. The second was setting Chartplotters are great — my waypoint for unless they give a false 500 miles away, sense of security. which meant even though I was off course, it wasn't enough at the range to show up as a cross track error. Once I got several miles beyond the dangers of Punta Mita and the Tres Marietas Islands, I relaxed, figuring I was now in open water. The weather wasn't horrendous, but thanks to the remnants of tropical storm Marty, the wind was nonetheless gusting to 35 knots on my port quarter. That created a significant ocean swell, brought rain, and cut visibility to near zero. I'd already spent a few hours on deck trying to get some things sorted out, for having been tied up in a berth for a few months, Astrid wasn't in her best shape
Nobody visits the Tres Marias Islands unless they are forced to — because it's a Mexican federal penal colony and off-limits to visitors.
to be at sea. So I was pretty tired that first evening at sea. With the rain and crappy visibility, there wasn't much point sitting in the cockpit, so I retired to the salon, and stuck my head out of the cabin every now and then to look for the lights of shipping. As far as I knew, I was about 20 miles SSW of the four islands of the Tres Marias archipelago, and heading northwest toward Cabo San Lucas. What I didn't know is that the weather had steadily been pushing me to the northeast. One of the reasons I didn't realize where I was is the difference between my intended course and my real course wasn't great enough to come up as a cross track error. Bear in mind that I hadn't connected my chartplotter to my autopilot. Doing so required a special cable, and ordering it was still on my 'to do' list. Sometime after midnight I started to doze off. By then I was confident that I was no longer in danger of bumping into anything. But at 3:30 am, the chartplotter alarm went off, indicating I was in shallow water. "What the hell?!" I thought to myself as I woke up. "I must be 80 miles offshore." But I wasn't. The top left corner of the plotter screen was green, meaning I was in shallow water. I zoomed the image out and realized that I was close to Isla Maria Magdalena. Swearing a lot, I ran for the cockpit. I couldn't see anything from the helm, but I changed course to move away from the coast. Figuring I was on the southeast corner of Magdalena, and was now heading up along the channel between two of the Tres Marias, I decided to pass through the channel, which is about four miles across. It would also gain me the shelter of the island. Unfortunately, I still hadn't realized how close I was to the rocks — partly because I had now zoomed the chartplotter so far out that they weren't shown at that level of detail. Nor did I realize that I was still being pushed towards the rocks by the seas. Before I figured out a bearing to the middle of the channel, I hit a rock. Then another. And another and another. By the time I got back to the wheel, Astrid was in the breakers and her keel was being
dragged across the bottom. It was all over. I had not been my greatest moment of seamanship. I ended up being stranded on the island for 30 hours, as I got no response to my Mayday calls or setting off my EPIRB. I was finally rescued by panga fishermen who spotted the flare I shot off. I was not badly hurt. Astrid could not be salvaged because of her condition, the situation she is in — the Marias Islands are a penal colony — and because I didn't have the funds to attempt a salvage. I eventually contacted various port captains to explain what happened, and while in Mexico City getting a new passport, contacted the appropriate officials about the wreck. I wanted to do the right thing rather than flee the country. The loss of my boat was all my fault. My biggest mistake was actually ignoring one of my biggest rules — never sail to meet a deadline. But I had, because I had set a schedule to get back to California and across to Hawaii. I
The December 2015 issue of the West's premier sailing and marine magazine.