“Sad, very sad, that the Newport to Ensenada race had fatalities on the race course. I do not have enough information and details for this week’s column, however next week I will let you know what happened. To me and other experienced ocean going boaters, it looks like a collision with a ship, but I will find out.”
This was the opening paragraph for my column last week, yet I am still trying to find out what happened to the crew and vessel of the Aegean. However, I will explain my professional scenarios – or, if you will, hypotheses – of what may have happened.
I know the trip from Newport Beach to Ensenada very well, because I was known as the yacht delivery Captain who was delivering the most boats to and from the Hotel Coral. I was traveling two to three times a week, and I have passed the Coronado Islands every other day and dodged the shipping traffic from commercial to military.
I have cruised mostly inside the islands but many times seaward of the islands, due to weather conditions, and believe me, coming uphill with Santa Ana winds that knocks a 60-foot boat at least 20 degrees over does scare the owner aboard. Additionally, I have run in seas bigger than 10 feet with 4-foot wind waves on top while punching past the Coronado Islands.
So what happened to the Aegean? Why does the GPS tracking line go to the island? I am learning that it is a personal locator beacon not an EPIRB, so that changes a lot time lines. Who was wearing the PLB or was it in a sailbag?
First, why is the Navy and Coast Guard not immediately diving on the island and running sonar in the area to find the boat, especially to find the keel, engine, and missing person? If a single-engine airplane had crashed in the area, then the FAA, Coast Guard, and ICE would be activating every asset to find the plane and any missing person(s). Three crew members’ bodies were recovered the day of the incident, April 28, but skipper Theo Mavromatis’ body was not found until last Sunday, by a fisherman.
Also, first reports were that this is being classified as a boating fatality from San Diego, which it is not as this happened in Mexican waters. You might be wondering why this matters. Well, it changes our statistics for safe boating and invites new knee-jerk reactions that will follow from our legislators.
Secondly, this was a seasoned and experienced crew who did not (according to my sources) party hard the night prior at BCYC. Therefore, they could stand the night watch and not fall asleep on the deck. Yet, why did they set their waypoint to an allision with the islands? This was not their first race to Ensenada, so you know when you are getting close to the islands by your GPS chart plotter, and the islands loom on the horizon. I know, because I have been there done that hundreds of times while skippering boats in areas that worried me, and I called everyone on bridge to help be a spotter.
So, what happened?
Hit the island? Feasible, but not probable as there was an experienced crew, everyone would not have died on impact at such a slow speed, and there was no distress signal from anyone.
Hit and run over by a commercial or military ship? Feasible and probable.
Hit the island then bounced off to drift? Feasible, but not probable, as someone would have been able to send a distress signal.
Hit by drug smugglers coming north? Feasible and probable.
Hit by a submarine? Feasible, but not probable, as subs surfacing during a highly congested area during the race would have escort boats nearby.
Abducted by aliens, as someone suggested? Neither feasible nor probable – where do people come up with this stuff?
Tip of the week is that I love Nascar racing, which is safer than sailboat racing. I am watching a race while writing my column, and I think Nascar is in my blood because my Dad’s side of the family is from Ferrum, Va., known as the moonshine capital of the world, and Nascar’s roots are in the moonshine drivers who modified their cars.
I think that I should write a book about the real moonshiners, white lightening, and how to take a sip out of the mason jar.
And don’t forget: Tune in to the No. 1 boating radio talk show in the nation, Capt. Mike Whitehead’s Boathouse Radio Show, broadcasting coast-to-coast on the CRN Digital Talk Radio syndicated network every Saturday at noon, Pacific Time and replayed on Sunday at 10 am Pacific. Join Chandler Bell and me as we talk about “all things boating.” You can find the station listings, cable TV channels, live streaming on the Internet, and now available are apps to listen to the show for your iPhone, Blackberry, iTouch, Android, Palm, and Windows Mobile at www.BoathouseTV.com or www.BoathouseRadio.com.
Until next week, Safe Voyages!