Grassy Point Sailing Community

Grassy Point Citizens In Action Association

Port Charlotte, FL

Wasafiri .................. Revised 02/02/2011

2011 Annual Meeting 2011 Annual Meeting

WASAFIRI leaves Edgewater Lake (12/16/2011)     ~     Wes and Sabine on WASAFIRI (01/17/2011)

2011 Annual Meeting 2011 Annual Meeting

WASAFIRI rescue (01/22/2011)     ~    WASAFIRI rescue (01/22/2011)


Wes DeMott, M/V Wasafiri

        It was beautiful when the sun came up, but winds quickly increased and within 90 minutes they were blowing at an unpredicted 50 miles per hour, creating large swells and beam seas. On this new heading we surfed along at 1 ½ times our maximum hull speed. Then a large wave accelerated us so fast that the towing eye of my 13’ tender yanked out of its fiberglass hull, leaving a basketball sized hole. The rope, tow-eye, and fiberglass flew at my vessel, and when the wave passed, we apparently settled down on top of it. It wrapped around our prop and stalled the engine just as a 6-8’ breaking wave slammed into us broadside. The engine restarted, but we could only give it a limited amount of power without stalling it again, and that wasn’t enough to maintain a heading. The vessel was shaking and vibrating badly. At one point I checked the engine room to see the new dripless shaft seal spurting water and the shaft vibrating the engine. I also noticed the decking to which the batteries were attached coming lose.

    Thinking that an unsinkable tender might be handy soon, but perhaps not so prudently, I grabbed a line and took it to the drifting tender and, after half an hour’s struggle, managed to run the line through the deck plate and the gaping hole. After I was almost thrown back aboard WASAFIRI I tried to dive under the boat to clear the rope, but because of the severity of the rapidly deteriorating conditions my crew would not allow it.

    The rope around our prop eventually fouled our rudder, too, and my vessel turned beam-to the waves and rolled dramatically, often as much as 45 or 50 degrees. I’m an experienced sailor and comfortable with boats leaning over like that, but a couple of times I thought the boat was going to roll. Then the twin water tanks came loose and I had 1600 pounds shifting around in the bilge. I climbed briefly into the engine room.

    After several unsuccessful attempts to raise a Cuban tow vessel on the radio, even in Spanish, I did get a radio response from the Carnival Cruise ship VALOR, which offered its assistance. With my vessel coming apart, no hope of making port, and no tow vessels responding, I reluctantly requested that they take us aboard as we abandoned ship.

    Masterful seamanship by Captain De Angelis had us aboard quickly, and I want to sincerely thank him and his wonderful crew for showing true human kindness for us as mariners and, well, just people. They also took good care of Smudge the Sea Cat, who I managed to get off board along with my American flag, which I’ll proudly fly again one day soon on another vessel.

    After I lost my boat and everything we own I flew from Miami to Naples, where I met Sabine and almost immediately gave an interview, fighting my emotions. Once I thought the interview was over, while looking to lighten up my own mood, I said something like, “I just wrote a book with a one-page bit about a guy trying to get on a cruise ship at sea, so it was weird to find myself on the o utside of one.”

    The anchor (not the reporter to whom I gave the interview) interpreted that as if I’d written a story about a rescue at sea, and then, in an unbelievable coincidence, I happened to get rescued at sea. It has, understandably, caused some mean-spirited suggestions that I certainly understand, given the public’s impression that TORTUGA GOLD is a sea rescue story, so just to clear it up, here's the bit from the book, exactly as I submitted it my literary agent last November. It's also on my website:

Best regards to my old neighborhood . . . Wes

Excerpt from "TORTUGA GOLD" by Wes DeMott

    “What happened seven years ago?”

    “I rode a cruise ship around the Caribbean.”

    “That doesn’t seem so life-changing.”

    “I got off for the afternoon in Belize and grabbed a cab for a tour. I was late getting back and the ship was almost to the horizon.”

    “They left you there?”

    “Yeah. It would have been funny except that I’d left my passport and credit cards on the ship, and only had a little cash left on me. So I found the harbor master and called the ship on his radio. They said they wouldn’t come back, so I told them I’d find a fast boat to take me out to them.”

    “Did you?”

    “At first the captain said he couldn’t risk trying to pick me up at sea, even if I could catch up to them.”

    “Liability, I suppose.”

    “But then I did the only smart thing of the day, which was to say that they couldn’t risk leaving me behind and at-risk like that. So they agreed to let me board at sea if I could get out to them.”

    “What was it like, getting onboard a fast moving cruise ship in the open ocean?”

    “I have no idea.”

    “But you just said ­”

    “Long after the sun went down the Belizean guys I’d hired had me almost to the ship. The spray stung our eyes as we slammed through the waves and the salty water chewed our fingers where we held on, but all the while the guys running the boat were laughing like children and having a great time. I was too.”

    “I’m sorry to pee on your campfire, Taz, but don’t you think they were laughing at you?”

    “Most likely. But they really were having a blast, and I thought to myself that it had been years since I’d laughed that hard or recklessly. Probably since I took over my first corporation.”

    “They had nothing to lose so it was easier for them.”

    “I think it was more along the lines of them knowing how to live each minute of every day in a way that made them happy. And if you’re right that their way was easier, I needed to ask myself why I made happiness so elusive?”

    “So what happened?”

    “We pulled up alongside the ship, which didn’t even slow down. Every single passenger seemed to be manning the rails, watching our boat close the distance as the water sluiced between the ship’s hull and ours. It must have looked dangerous to them but nothing short of terrific fun to my new friends.

    “The ship opened a door in her side and lowered a ladder. Passengers looked nervous and crew members were angry, but my guys were still yucking it up. I sat there looking from the guys on my boat to the passengers on the ship and ­” Taz snapped his fingers. “Just like that I chose another life.”

    He stopped and looked around. “Man, is this a beautiful day or what?”

    Pete looked around, too, as if something might have happened to change the day. “Wait, what do you mean, you chose another life?”

    “I was thirty-five and addicted to buying companies. I’d been like that since my early twenties, when I caught a lucky break right out of college. It was plenty adventurous, at least it felt that way, and provided me with lots of money. But it wasn’t really a life.”

Home Page < - - - - - Links eMail Local Weather Satellite Weather Tides Charlotte Weekly Charlotte Sun