One of the smaller buildings is the home to the Vallarta Yacht Club. Sitting right on the estuary, it has no slips of it's own but does have dining room, bar, large outdoor patio, swimming pool and a huge hot tub. They are the sponsors of the Pacific Puddle Jump and this afternoon they hosted the first seminar in a series. The speaker today was Eugenie Russell, a young woman who is employed by J World Sailing, which offers classes and charters up and down the west coast of the US and Mexico. Eugenie is a licensed captain and has extensive experience all over the world sailing. Her claim to fame is that she was the skipper of a boat that sank 2 years ago that had four students aboard. They were sailing aboard a J120, a 40-foot sloop-rigged boat that's primarily designed for racing. Eugenie and her 4 students were taking part in the Baja HaHa, a sailboat rally from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas when, about 200 miles south of San Diego, they hit a whale and their boat sank.
Even though Eugenie is not a professional speaker, her story of the events that took place were riveting. The US Coast Guard largely credits her with saving the lives of the 4 students (one was a 60-year old grandmother). She credits the successful rescue to the fact that they were well prepared for an emergency and remained calm throughout the accident and rescue. She is a small woman but the consummate professional, even so, there were times when I felt that the recollection of the events made her emotional, though she never openly displayed any such reaction.
Essentially, her advice is to be as well equipped as is practical but to test all equipment thoroughly before going off shore. She also said that unless something is physically attached to you (via carabiner), you'll most likely lose it. The two most essential pieces of equipment she said were the EPIRB and the liferaft, although in her story, the handheld VHF radio played a big part as well.
Her talk left many of the 60 or so people shaking their heads but I doubt anyone will change their plans because of what they heard. It was a freak accident and those can happen anytime, anywhere, to anyone, on the high seas or elsewhere. Frankly, I felt confident after her talk because it supports the efforts that I've made to prepare Rutea. We will make a few changes but we could easily leave tomorrow and know that we'd be well prepared for most serious situations.
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