Thread: What would you have done?
08-21-2008, 01:34 PM #1
What would you have done?
San Diego Boater Involved in Standoff With Mexican Navy
By: Jack Innis | Thursday, August 07, 2008 12:34:00 PMLast updated: Thursday, August 07, 2008 12:34:00 PMU.S. Coast Guard sends helicopter, cutter to support San Diego sportfisher tangled in tuna pen.
SAN DIEGO — The owner of a San Diego-based sportfishing boat found himself in the middle of what he calls a “Mexican standoff” with federal authorities July 19 in international waters 30 miles off Ensenada, Mexico.
Photo by: Señor Hefe photoA Tense Encounter — When a Mexican navy patrol vessel crew approached San Diego skipper Wayde Nichols, with guns drawn, and told him they were going to board his sportfishing boat in international waters, he responded, “No, you’re not.” Photo by: Señor Hefe photoToo Close for Comfort — Skipper Wayde Nichols, a Coast Guard veteran, said he knew his rights as a boater in international waters — and when he felt the Mexican navy patrol vessel crew’s actions were becoming aggressive, he radioed for U.S. Coast Guard assistance. After a Coast Guard cutter and helicopter arrived on the scene, the long standoff finally ended. Photo by: Señor Hefe photos Photo by: Señor Hefe photoCaught in a Pen — A San Diego sportfisher skipper’s problems in international waters began when his 48-foot vessel became entangled in an unlighted tuna net pen towed by a Mexican aquaculture operator. Once a Mexican navy patrol vessel arrived on the scene, the situation escalated. The incident began at approximately 3:30 a.m. when the 48-foot Viking Señor Hefe collided with a floating tuna pen under tow approximately 30 miles off Ensenada. Floating pens are used in aqua farming to help grow young tuna, among other species, for market.
Señor Hefe’s forward momentum took it over a 3-foot-high bar and other materials that comprise the pen’s circumference. Tuna nets and lines quickly ensnared the sportfisher’s propellers, shafts and rudders. The engines shut down, and it quickly became clear that the boat’s underpinnings were damaged. Although not in danger of sinking, Señor Hefe was stuck inside the 150-foot-diameter net.
Fearing that his boat might be dragged under by the net as it was being towed by the 100-foot-plus seiner, Señor Hefe owner Wayde Nichols tried to make contact with the seiner crew by VHF radio. When that failed, the 44-year-old Vista resident used his boat’s spotlight to signal the seiner crew. Within 10 minutes of the collision, the seiner had stopped.
At daybreak, the tuna pen operations boat, Cap Luis Pinel, came alongside. Divers checked out the tuna nets and cleared Señor Hefe’s propellers. Nichols went aboard and gave the operations manager his insurance papers.
At about 11 a.m., the operations manager decided to transfer the tuna to another pen and tow the pen and Señor Hefe to Ensenada ,where a crane would extricate the boat.
That’s when things got “dicey,” Nichols said.
“What prevented me from leaving immediately was that we were surrounded by a pen with a 3-foot high bar over it,” Nichols said. “The (operations manager) said we had two choices: tow the boat and ring to Ensenada or try to use the seiners to push down on the edges of the net to give Señor Hefe a chance. I was pushing them to letting me get over the side again, but as some point in time they decided it was too risky for them.”
Mexican Navy Patrol Boat Arrives
The tuna pen operators brought another pen alongside and began the process of transferring live fish. Divers completed the transfer at about 3:40 p.m. Within minutes, a Mexican naval patrol boat arrived on the scene.
“I knew the minute the (patrol boat) showed up that it would start getting dicey,” Nichols said. “The pen operators told us in the morning that they had informed the Mexican authorities about what was going on, and that at some point in time they’d show up on scene. When they did show up, they came with guns slinging.
“They were standing on deck with guns drawn and bulletproof vests on, basically telling me they were going to board the boat,” Nichols recalled. “I said, ‘No, you’re not.’”
Nichols, who had spent four years in the U.S. Coast Guard, knew that as a U.S. flagged vessel in international waters, he had a right to deny a request to board by a foreign military vessel. Mexico’s territorial waters extend 12 miles from the coastline. The country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), in which Nichols’ boat sat, extends more than 100 miles seaward in international waters. The EEZ does not relate to territorial waters in this context.
Aggressive Actions Cited
But Nichols was bothered by what he termed aggressive moves by those aboard the Mexican Naval patrol boat -- enough so that he radioed for U.S. Coast Guard assistance in the incident.
“When the (Mexican naval patrol boat) showed up, they were circling the pen trying figure out how to get at us, saying they’re going to board my boat,” Nichols said. “Luckily, there’s a 20-foot gap (between the pen’s perimeter and Señor Hefe floating in the center) that prevented them from getting on board. They had guns drawn, and I was telling the Coast Guard that they’re basically trying to figure out a way to get on my boat.
“I told the Coast Guard that I’d just created $100,000 to $150,000 in damage and that I feared for my life. I’d heard all the stories about Americans getting jailed, murdered or having to pay bribes,” Nichols said. “Once they board me, that’s control -- and I’m (seeing myself) in handcuffs on a one-way trip to Ensenada. I wasn’t going into Ensenada: I knew I had to keep a buffer zone between us and them.”
U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Sea Otter Dispatched
At approximately 4:20 p.m., the Coast Guard informed Nichols that they had dispatched the cutter <I>Sea Otter
08-21-2008, 01:53 PM #2
What they didn't say is that the tuna pen operators allowed the captain and crew of the Hefe to fish IN the pen for a couple hours while they were stuck. It was a wide-open bite and the decks were flowing with blood. The photos are incredible, as is the whole story.
08-24-2008, 10:36 PM #3
That's a good story...
I don't blame that boat owner, I would have called the Coast Guard too. He was very smart to not let them take him into custody, some of those Mexican officials are really corrupt and once you get in jail they can screw your family for many thousands in fines, it happens all the time.
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