Posts Tagged ‘Pirating’

Sailing Vessel Halcyon

11/19/2012

This is one story that has been hard to tell.

We left Mexico last June, 2012. We had a mooring made by an individual name Fernando who was “known” for making moorings. He put it in the water and secured it with chain without allowing Michael to inspect it. Michael had mentioned to him many times that he needed to inspect it before splashing it. But Fernando “blew him off”. That should have been our first warning.

We also hired someone to keep watch over the boat while we were gone. Jimmy was a local who agreed to watch over the boat and maintain it if anything went wrong.

Our Mexican Visas were about to expire last May and we had to leave the country. We weren’t allowed to renew the visas since we were at the expiration date and would have to leave Mexico until January 2013. Although Michael was able to pay extra money and obtain a yearly visa.  We had planned to be as far south as El Salvador by the time our visas expired, but that didn’t happen. The motor mounts had needed replacing and the boat was going to have to be hauled before we continued south. We didn’t have the money for the repairs at that time and had to go back to the states. We were aware there were risks but had no choice. Since we had hired Jimmy to watch the boat and an alarm installed, we hoped that would be enough to keep it safe.

On Aug. 13th, 2012, we received a phone call from Jimmy, our boat had broke loose of its mooring one night during a storm from the east. It drifted over a reef and pounded on top of the rocks for some time, putting a large hole the size of a human hand in the side and cracking the keel length wise and the boat sank.

About 8 locals and ponga taxi drivers worked to move the boat, patch the leaks, and made runs to shore for supplies for 3 days. Our helper Jimmy, was on the phone with us daily asking for more money to patch the leaks. After sending off funds by way of Western Union several times, it was evident that Michael was going to have to get down there to assess the damage. We were working hard to get the money together for airfare and more repairs.

We were at the Miami airport the next morning by 5 a.m., for Michael to take the first flight to Mexico City then on to Zihuatanejo. We had understood that we might not see each other for a month or more due to the amount of work that he would have to do to get the boat in order. We hoped that he would have enough money to pay the locals and start repairs.

When Michael arrived he was inundated with people. He began paying people for the work they had done while more and more people on boats approached him demanding $2,000 to $3,000, not pesos. He was told it would cost over $6,000 just to tow the boat to a marina to a nearby town. The leader of the group, requesting the largest amount of money, told Michael to meet the Port Captain the next day at 10 a.m. When Michael asked if he needed to check with the Port Captain to confirm the time, the guy told him the Port Captain worked for him. Michael told me “They think we are just rich Americans, they are demanding money that we don’t have”.

The boat was back on the mooring when Michael got there. He inspected the chain and found saw marks all over the chain. The boat was moored close to shore a few hundred yards from the beach in 40′ of water. The boat was too close to land to “break loose” of the mooring due to wind or waves. The entire situation was suspicious.

After Michael’s call to update me, I was concerned that the Mexican Government would arrest Michael and detain him indefinitely. I called a lawyer friend who was also a cruiser. He consulted with several other individuals that were knowledgeable of International Maritime Law. He highly recommended that Michael leave the country immediately and handle affairs long distance. Claims would be made against the boat. He said “Take a bus out-of-town if you have to, just GET OUT”. The urgency in his voice made me more aware of the potential danger that Michael was in.

Michael’s first phone call to me was at 5p.m. on Friday. At 5:45 p.m., I instructed him to take the next flight out-of-town which was at 6:35pm. He had about an hour to get to the airport.  He was to take a water taxi a mile and half back to shore, hire a street taxi to the airport 20 minutes away and hope there was room on the next flight out to Mexico City.

We worried that he would be detained at the airport. He was able to purchase the last seat on the plane 10 minutes before take off. I made reservations for him out of Mexico City one hour after his arrival, only for him to be detained in customs. The next flight to the United States left at 4 a.m. Saturday morning.

Michael said he sat in the airport in Mexico City, out-of-the-way, hoping not to be noticed. Which I found to be funny, a Gringo in Mexico stands out like a sore thumb. The next 24 hours were hell while trying to arrange last-minute flights back to the U.S.   At 7:30AM Saturday he called to say he had arrived in the United States safely. The following 12 hours were spent calling and texting him to keep him awake for his connecting flights, in order to get him on his next flight home.

I met Michael at the airport at 7:30 pm Saturday night. A little over 24 hours from the time he called me from the boat. It felt  a month had passed by.  As he walked around the corner with all of the other passengers at the arrival gate I noticed that he had my violin across his shoulder. When I grabbed him and hugged him he said “The last thing I grabbed was your violin and my moms ashes”. (His moms ashes were going to be scattered at sea with the rest of the family once the boat was back on the east coast.) Michael looked defeated and exhausted, it was all I could do to fight back the tears.

When we got home, Mike our Son was eagerly waiting to see his Dad walk in the door. The guys hugged each other tight then Michael stepped back, looked at us and said ” I’m sorry, I couldn’t save the boat”. The days following revealed the Zihuatanejo Port Captain paid the locals by dividing up the equipment located on the Sailing Vessel Halcyon. Halcyon had been set up to be self-sufficient. The only thing we needed to cruise was fuel and food (and now we know “deep pockets”) to go where ever we wanted to go. All of our savings, heart and soul had gone into this boat.

What matters most is that we are together and safe. We are thankful that we weren’t on the boat when someone decided that they wanted it. Living without one of our family members would have been the hardest thing to live with. Our hearts are broken due to the loss of our home and sanctuary.


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