Update 5 AM PT, July 12, 2011
Executive Summary: “The Erik went down off isla wilard about 1-2 miles off cactus point . One theory is the boat was trying to get into Gonzaga Bar to hide from the wind . If the boat was heading south southeast with a wind coming from the east and tried to turn and enter Gonzaga Bay the boat would have been broad side to the wind and swell . A very bad move with the deck loaded pangas.”
By Ed Zieralski
July 11, 2011
“”The allure and adventure of fishing on a Mexican sport boat in bountiful waters teeming with game fish in the Sea of Cortez has drawn American anglers for more many years, but there have always been risks.
The sinking in a freak summer storm of the Mexican-owned sportfishing boat Erik drove that message home over the Fourth of July weekend. It also gave pause to a couple of Americans who have fished aboard the Erik.
“Yes, it definitely could have been us,” said Ted Heckman, 64, a Scripps Ranch resident who led charters on the Erik for five years in the late 2000s and fished on it as recently as three years ago. “I can’t imagine what went through their minds to wake up at 2:30 in the morning like that and have to get into the water. Some of them were in the water 10 to 12 hours fighting for their lives. It really could have been a lot worse. It was bad enough, but from what I saw a lot of the passengers were older and not in that good a shape.”
Heckman described the Erik as a “rust bucket,” a boat that sometimes felt unsafe.
“Sometimes the hot water went out, or the air conditioning would quit, or the toilets would back up,” he said. “It was infested with cockroaches. Once, a mechanic, who looked to be in his 70s, had to be boated in from San Felipe to fix the boat’s engine. That took two days.”
Baja Sportfishing Inc., which charters the Erik out of San Felipe, could not be reached for comment.
Despite the problems, Heckman said a fishing trip on the Erik was the best angling value in the industry. Long-range trips out of
George Ruble of Fallbrook led a group of 26
“I’ve fished from
Ruble said he never saw a life vest on the boat but did see a life raft in the upper deck this year for the first time. He said some of the anglers brought their own personal flotation devices, but he never did. He also doesn’t remember any talk of safety or what measures would be taken in case of a sinking or even a man overboard.
“I can’t even swim, so I guess I pushed my luck not taking a life preserver,” Ruble said.
Heckman said he remembered the boat being “wobbly” but couldn’t understand how it could have capsized off the
The Erik, a 115-foot converted shrimp boat, sank early Sunday morning with 43 people aboard. There has been one confirmed fatality with seven
“I find it interesting that all the Mexican crewmen got off and the passengers are the only ones missing or dead,” Heckman said. “I know they tended to pile a lot of stuff on the upper deck, and it looked top-heavy to begin with. But they’d add dozens of coolers and then stack the eight pangas up there. That’s a lot of weight.”
Heckman said his past experiences on the
“You learn to watch the distant haze and stay ready,” he said.
Heckman said he never remembered any safety talk at the beginning of his trips.
“I never heard any mention of life jackets and certainly never saw any,” Heckman said. “We got to the point where some of us brought our own life jackets.”
...Heckman said a typical day on the Erik began with a hearty breakfast followed by a morning of fishing from a panga. They’d break for lunch at around 11:30 a.m. and return to the mother ship. They’d eat, take a nap and then go back out around 3:30 p.m. and fish until dark. At night the captain would move the boat to another of the
Heckman said two years ago he and his group left the Erik and switched to the Tony Reyes Sportfishing operation out of the Longfin Tackle Shop in
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San Felipe, BC Mexico:
UPDATE: 4 PM, 4th of July 2011
Very sad news to report:
Eight U.S. tourists feared drowned in boat capsize
9 AM Update:
The US Coast Guard Chopper that departed San Diego at 5:30 AM, still hasn't reached the sinking site yet. That's because it had to refuel in Arizona. The MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter should be reaching the search site, any moment now.
The 'Erik' has reportedly been plagued by many problems.
Now the one death first reported has been re-confirmed, again. From an earlier report of 11 missing, now there are 8 missing. Seven tourists and one crew member. The rescued are being housed at a local San Felipe hotel.
A more exact sinking location has also been reported as, Punta Bufeo, near Puertecitos, 87 miles south of San Felipe. In a further definition, off of Willard Island at the south end of Gonzaga Bay.
The area is locally known as the 'wind-tunnel', because of the high winds off the local mountains, during westerlies.
The winds associated with this weekends events however, were probably from the east-south east, during the aguacerro season.
This weekend had some wild weather in the northern Sea of Cortez, high tides, high winds and big waves. Search operations were still being delayed by high winds.
6 AM Update:
The one death is now being pulled off the story by Mexican law enforcement in Mexicali. 11 missing are now being reported from authorities here in San Felipe. "Mexican officials are now saying there are no confirmed deaths."
The fishermen on the 'Erick' are now being reported from the San Francisco bay area.
Original Report: A US Coast Guard representative has confirmed to BAJA NEWS, a survivor of the capsized and sunk Mexican fishing vessel, swam ashore at Gonzaga Bay in Baja California, Mexico which alerted the US Coast Guard at 2:30 AM, Sunday, July 3.
The reports were belated because surivors had to swim ashore and hike awhile, before getting word to the proper authorities. Mexican Navy helicopters reportedly are examining the area of the sinking.
The boat that sank was apparently close enough to shore, that survivors swam to shore. Others were rescued by good samaritan vessels that were alerted and in the area.
Gonzaga Bay is some 120 miles south of the port of San Felipe, on the Sea of Cortez side of the thousand mile long peninsula. A helicopter from San Diego California is due to lift off for assisting the Mexican Navy in the search for survivors, at 5:30 this morning. In one hour from now.
27 Americans are reportedly listed as being on the vessel when it departed on its fishing excursion, yesterday. 37 are reported accounted for out of the 44 total people on the fishing boat. 6 are reported still missing, one dead is confirmed, by Mexican sources.
MORE LOADING NOW>>>
2 AM Monday morning Report: