The Catís Meow Sinking and Rescue~ May-June, 2004

Part 1: The Worst of It

 

The day beforeÖ.

 

 

The sinking and rescue of our boat, our home, The Catís Meow, will always be a significant event in both of our lives. Here, I (Robin) will attempt to describe what that event was like from our perspective. It is impossible to name and to thank individually each of the people and organizations that were part of this amazing event; please know that each of you is very much loved and appreciated by both of us, Martin and Robin Hardy.

 

The evening of May 19th, 2004, Martin and I had spent a very nice evening aboard The Catís Meow with friends from Que Tal?, RDreamz, and Cat House while anchored in San Cosme cove, a few miles north of Agua Verde, on the Baja peninsula. At approximately 9:30 p.m., the wind shifted, coming from the SSW, which caused TCM to swing over some rocks we had not seen or noticed before on our sounder. We bumped one with our keel.We decided to move, to re-anchor, in deeper water. As we began to move after raising our anchor, Cat House was also moving around in the small cove, trying to find another spot. The night was pitch black; there was no moon and no ambient light from anywhere. The winds had picked up; it was blowing about 25 knots. I was trying to get our million-watt light to work, Martin was getting the radar warmed up, and we were moving within the anchorage. We thought we were going out toward the open Sea. Both of us became disoriented in the darkness, and before we even knew what was happening, we were driving up onto very large rocks. Somehow, and we still do not understand how this could happen, we had driven in an arc, instead of out to open water we had turned back into the rocks.

We have a full steel keel on The Catís Meow, and at this point we were not worried about taking on any water. We were sitting straight up. Que Tal? heard our call and rushed over in their dinghy immediately, and Cat House came right behind them. Martin put TCM in reverse with lots of throttle, the two dinghies tried valiantly to push us from the starboard side, but we were not budging. RDreamz was called and they brought their big steel boat around the rock to pull us off. No amount of work, tork, push or pull would budge TCM. The winds had kicked up to around 30 knots, which made it even more difficult for RDreamz to pull us, they were being moved around by the wind in the shallow waters. RDreamz also suffered some bumps on their bottom while attempting to pull us off. None of this would have been all that bad, if the tide had not been going out on a severe low tide at the same time. While the tide lowered, our big boat heeled over more and more to her port side. Once it started going, it was a lot of weight leaning to the one side, which kept the momentum going. This was when it got hairy. Water began coming in over our port rail, and into the port side doorway. Things begin sliding to the port side inside the entire boat. We could not walk or manage to do anything inside the boat. We live with two cats, as well, and up to this point they were doing OK, but now they were nervous and could tell things were not going well at all. We knew we had to abandon our boat, our home, at approximately 2:30 a.m. It was very scary and very difficult to manage getting our cats and ourselves out of the boat, into the dinghy of Que Tal?, at that angle in chest-high water, but we did manage to do it without any injuries or lost cats. Que Tal? Dave and Carolyn deposited all of us in the care of Royce and Pam on RDreamz, who graciously made room for us at less than a momentís notice. Royce had been calling on the VHF radio for some time, trying to reach anyone in the area that could hear and hopefully assist. Finally, Greg Rodgers on Mikelali, who was anchored at Carmen Island, did hear the call. He was able to reach Elvin of Sea Lover in the Puerto Escondido area. Elvin, wife Connie, and Ted from Siempre Sabado piled into Elvinís panga and drove the 17 or so miles out to us in the black dead of night, leaving their palapa home about 3:30 a.m. They had picked up a very large pump from Terry on Manta, as well. The Mexican Navy ship, the Matamoros, also heard Royce and came back asking for our position, circumstances, etc. and said they were changing course to come assist. The rest of what was left of that night we all spent in a kind of shock, trying to understand what had just happened, and to get some rest. Elvin and crew arrived about 5:30 a.m., and just knowing someone else was there to help and who cared was comforting. At this point in time, we believed that since there was just some water in one side of the boat, we would pull her off the rocks when the tide came back up and hopefully all would be OK.

 

Early on Day 1

 

I guess Mikelali or someone else made an announcement on the Amigo net a few hours later Ė I am not really sure how the word got out. But starting at approximately 9 a.m., cruisers started to show up in our little cove. The Navy arrived somewhere between 7:30 and 8:30 as I recall, and they put two super-pangas in the water. They went to the crash site along with Sea Lover, Elvinís panga, which carried Martin, Royce, and Ted.†††††††††††

May 20, TCM on her side

 

One of the most amazing things during this entire episode of our lives was the appearance, unannounced, of an entire fleet of cruising boats in that cove. It was simply amazing to both Martin and myself that these people would change their plans, even turning around, to help us. What a sight, to look out and see boats coming from literally every direction, anchoring, and offering to help save TCM. Some of these people we had never even met before, some were friends we have known for some of our 3.5 years cruising in Mexico.By 5 p.m., there were 18 cruising boats, 4 pangas and the large Mexican Navy ship. This fleet continued to grow, and by the end of the second day I believe there were close to 30 boats there, helping in the rescue!

People worked hard all day, for four days. The first day, boats offered flotation devices of all types: fenders, dry bags, anything that might help hold up the port side of The Catís Meow. Pumps worked furiously to remove water from the sealed areas on the boat. Heavy items were removed from the boat. The Navy had divers in the water, hooking lines to her, and they even attempted to pull her more upright using a giant block and tackle around the base of a huge rock formation.

 

Three power boats, OnLine, Bydand, and Reel Time made valiant efforts to pull in unison, but TCM did not budge.††††

 

Finally, the big Navy ship, Matamoros, had to try to save our boat. The Comandante, David Saldana Amen, made it clear that if they tried to pull our boat off those rocks, more damage could ensue. We understood, we agreed that we needed this big ship to get our boat off the rocks. Otherwise, TCM was doomed.

 

The rescue of The Catís Meow continues with Part 2: Teamwork. Please read onÖ.