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Monday, March 14, 2016

Febuary 14, 2016-Loss of the Sailing Vessel “Rage”

magic carpet images-greg
JLDigitalMedia: Vallarta Cup Jan 24 2015 &emdash; Rage

We came face to face with Connie. She was distraught.

“Fred, Fred, Can you help us? It’s Barry, he’s aground!”

“Where is he?” I wasn’t overly concerned, after all lots of boats touch bottom once in a while.

“Just outside the marina, next to the channel”.

“Ok I’ll see what I can do.” Connie ran off.

I walked, in no particular hurry, down to dock 11 where I could see the entrance channel. What I saw then struck me in the heart like an ice cold knife blade. There was Rage, in plain sight, completely on her side in the surf to the east of the channel. This was not a grounding, it was a wreck.

Now I moved. I whirled around. Nikk was there. I said, “We have to get out there, Barry needs help.”
“We can take the electric dingy,” he said.

Better than nothing. We ran to his dock and took off in the little Avon with the electric fishing motor on the back. It was painfully slow. In 5 minutes, 5 very long minutes, we got to the scene. Rage was in the surf. Two Mexican boys were on the bow trying to get lines attached and two fishing pangas were standing by to try to tow it off. There were three of four other dinghies hovering around, outside of the surf line. I could not see Barry on board his boat.

“I’ve got to get in there but not in this Avon,” I said. No way could it negotiate the surf with its pitiful little electric motor. “There’s Eddie, take me to Eddie.”

“Eddie, Eddie,” I yelled, “how is that motor? Is it strong?”

“Yeah, it’s good.” He asked, “Why?”

“Eddie, I have to get to that boat, will you take me?”

Eddie looked skeptical, but he said, “Well, I have to get rid of this anchor.”

There was a 75lb plow and about 500 feet of heavy line in his dingy. We transferred it to Nikk’s boat, and I gave Nikk my phone and wallet, and Eddie and I and headed into the surf.

“Do you think we can make it Fred?” Eddie was looking at the white water.

“Yes, we can do it.” The force of my will was irresistible; there was no way Eddie could stop me from going there. It was as if my intensity moved his hand on the tiller. All I could think of was Barry on that boat, in trouble.

“Wait until a wave goes past then gun it in there, just don’t get caught sideways to one. If a wave comes, turn into it.” We roared off toward Rage.

We got along side Rage between waves and I jumped onto the foredeck. I turned to Eddie said, “Now get out of here and if a wave catches you, jump onto the bow tube.”

Just then a good sized breaker came rolling in and as his boat stood on its end I saw Eddie leap to the front tube and he got his boat over it then floored the engine. Before the next wave came he was well out past the breakers waves and going like hell.

But I’d already turned away.

Rage was grounded on its side and moving in the waves, there were rocks, big rocks everywhere. Things didn’t look good, but I didn’t see Barry. The boat was unmanned except me and the Mexicans who were soon to scamper off. (Once the cavalry had arrived they were happy to depart, anyhow, it was clear that no pangas were towing this boat anywhere.) Then Barry came wading out through the surf and climbed aboard. He couldn’t row his Redcrest through the surf. Tomiko, from the yacht Landfall, was right behind him. Barry unlocked the door and he dropped into the leaning boat’s interior. Tomiko followed him. There was sea-water inside and it rushed in and out with each wave.

“She’s a goner,” Barry said.

I asked, “Is it holed?“ Of course it was.

Tomiko looked up at me and said, “I’m standing on a couple of big rocks, there is no side here.”

She handed me her handheld radio and I climbed to the top of the overturned boat and keyed the mic.

“This is Fred on Rage. All you boats in the vicinity who can get here we need a lot of help.” By now more people were wading out. Mike Ferguson came in through the surf with his kayak.

I said, “Watch out for that rock,” and he swerved just in time to avoid getting dashed on a big boulder which was next to Rage. Then he climbed aboard.

Mike Danielson, of PV Sailing showed up on the beach and came up on the radio, asking for any boats that could help to come to the beach.

“Mike, this is Fred. I’m on Rage, I’ll coordinate from here on the radio.”

Then I turned back to Barry, “Barry, you have to start thinking about what you need to get out of this boat before it breaks up.”
Barry just muttered, “Shit, shit, shit.”

“Mike, we need people out here to carry stuff off, maybe buckets to put things in.”

Mike relayed that. Now there were several people making their way out through the surf. It was about waist deep, but the waves were two feet higher than that.

“Barry, we have to get stuff off the boat.”

“I heard you the last time!” He shouted, but it was like he was paralyzed. All he was doing was turning this way and that, looking at the destruction.

Barry’s big red kayak was on the foredeck and Ferguson launched it. Somebody threw some bedding into the kayak. I realized that was a good idea.

“Form a line, like a bucket brigade, and pass that kayak to shore then send it back out.”

“Mike, we need more kayaks, see if you can get some kayaks here.”

“Right, Fred.”

Soon there were four kayaks being passed back and forth and piles of stuff from Rage were accumulating on the beach. Nobody though was even thinking that there was any way we could save the boat. It was two hundred feet from shore and two hundred feet inside the surf line the other way. You couldn’t get to it with a barge or a land based crane. Dragging it across the rock would pulverize it even further.

But we worked hard, probably 50 people were helping and a few trucks and ATV’s were on the shore, having come down through the resort properties. Mike D was sending loads of stuff offsite. I stayed on Rage working the radio. I kept looking down inside to see how people were doing. They were in the gloom, standing in the surging sea water, pulling things out of drawers and cabinets, which they passed out the hatches into the waiting kayaks. Ferguson was unscrewing electronics. Barry was working now, harder than anybody.

One of the dinghies offshore rigged a long line and a big kedge anchor to hold the boat. Barry’s anchor was already there but obviously it was fouled in its own chain and wasn’t going to hold anything. That was how the boat got here in the first place. Somehow, on what was a pretty normal day with winds under 15 knots, Rage’s anchor just let go and she just took off down wind. It’s happened to me; they go fast when they go like that. Nobody got to it before it was in the surf. We didn’t know what happened. The anchor was good, the chain new, there was plenty of scope for 20 feet of water, and Barry was on the boat most days checking it and he re-set the anchor often. On the day it was lost his friend Ferguson had been there 30 minutes before it started to drag. It was fine.

Then it was gone. The chain must have wrapped around the flukes.

This anchorage is bad, the holding isn’t particularly good and the wind shifts direction about 180 degrees twice a day. Every month somebody’s boat drags here, but someone always grabs them before they get shore. Not today.

By 7:00PM the light was starting to fade, I radioed Mike, “Mike, we’ve got to start getting people off this boat, it will be dark soon.” A few kept working but mostly people started to turn away and wade back to shore.

I had been there since 4:30, I was the first guy on the boat, and now I was the last to leave at 7:30, after everyone else got off. I had to drag Mike Ferguson out of the interior where he was still removing electronic equipment.

In my bare feet I could not walk across the boulders and rocks. Somebody grabbed each of my arms and helped me ashore. Barry was already gone, I didn’t know where, but Barry was shattered, I was to find, and he could not face this scene. He left that night and was not to come back to the beach where Rage lay wrecked. I guess I understand that, after all, he built the boat by hand and it was his home. It would take Barry a lot of time to come to grips with this loss.

Over the next few days we had several work parties and removed all of Rage’s equipment, everything, including the engine, and finally, after the surf had washed the hulk all the way up to the sand, we got a crane close to it, and after we removed the keel and mast, the hull was lifted up the beach and dropped gently onto the sand in front of a house. It was still precious.

Finally one day we went back to carry the mast away, 12 men hoisted it onto our shoulders and carried it the mile down the beach to the road. That was when the tragedy of this loss finally struck me.

I walked through the hole in the side of Rage. It was like a cut-out for some kind of morbid display, her bones open for inspection. I looked in the forward cabin; it was littered with sand and debris. I’ve seen wrecks before, you look at them and they seem so ruined and discarded. It is usually hard to imagine them in better times. But this was different. I knew this boat. Rage was, just a few days before, a beautiful, living, creature, all varnish and shining wood. It danced lightly at its mooring, ready to go sailing, wanting to go sailing. Now it was just bones in the sand.

I cried.

magic carpet images-greg
JLDigitalMedia: Vallarta Cup Jan 24 2015 &emdash; I cried

Click here for more photos.

Fred Roswold, SV Wings, La Cruz Huanacaxtle

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