Earthrace ripping and roarin’ … finally

Posted By on March 31, 2007

Earthrace heading for San DiegoSo far so good for the captain and crew of Earthrace. They have escape not only the tragic events that transpired in Guatemala, but have done so with dignity. (Pete’s comments below) For now, Earthrace is making fast runs north, they have refueled and under a renewed spirit are anxious about continuing their voyage. I’ll include a bit about the energy Pete Bethune is resonating as described by crewmate and chief engineer Scott Fratcher. I’m rejuvenated just seeing what and impressive leader and captain this team has. I’m pulling for a restart, but if you’re headstrong in trying to make up lost time … days … go for it!

Scott Fratcher’s March 29th partial entry:

Pete burst from the aft hatch in an explosion of calling directions, giving orders, taking command, grabbing volunteers from the bystanders and making things happen. It was as if the flash of anger was the mental computer program shifting from “Stuck in Guatemala” to “Were on a round the world race and lets get going!”

He was on the dock directing the fuel filling. He was in the water scrubbing the bottom and calling for others to join him. He was on the phone giving interviews while checking the fuel tank levels. He was sending crew off for food while telling others where passports are located. He was everywhere all at once and it was great to see the old Pete back at the helm of his team.

Earthrace was prepped, fueled, bottom scrubbed, food stuffed aboard, and ready to depart long before the Mexican Port Captain had completed our paperwork.

“This is a cockup! Where is that exit Zarpe?” Pete called between breaths while scraping the bottom. When the paperwork was passed onboard Pete already had the engines running.

The lines were instantly dropped and he was out the harbor mouth in just seconds. The wake produced by our thousand-horse power Cummins diesels sloshed over the “No Wake Zone” marker. By the time I was able to track Earthrace on the net she was already heading north at full speed.

Yes, Pete is back and now it’s up to the Ground Crew to keep up with him, if we can.

Paul's DadIts a good feeling to see everyone rejuvenated and ready to take on new crew in San Diego. I know the new guys will be raring to go and I’m look forward to hearing details from Harold Kraus who’s son Paul has posted comments here. (keep us up to date Paul and I’ll be checking your blog too) Paul’s dad is the oldest crew (I believe?) an is a 76 year-old retired farmer and biodiesel guy from Kansas. In swapping email’s with Paul (on his way out to San Diego) when talking about the pride he has in his dad said, “He has set the bar pretty high.” Mr. Kraus’s ‘sea’ experience comes from a time before many of us were born; he serviced in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War. I wish him well on his leg from San Diego to Maui. In U.S. Navy tradition I’ll include “Non sibi sed patriae.”

The honorable Pete Bethune when finally released from criminal proceedings was free to go, but chose to visit with the families of those affected by the accident. It was an emotional visit which enable all involve to add a little closure to the tragedy. Here’ what Pete had to write on the emotional meet up:

We finally managed to meet with the families. All were there except for Gonzalez, the man still in hospital. I start to speak to the group and there’s already a sore ache in my throat. Thirty seconds later and I start to cry, and that just sets of a chain reaction amongst almost everyone there. Ryan across from me is struggling, and he’s got tears rolling down his left cheek. Most of the family members are struggling to contain themselves, as I explain how dreadfully sorry my crew and I are with what has happened, and that we know what a tragic loss it has been for them. In my mind I had ideas of remaining composed, but in the end I just lose it. We’re meeting in a busy fast food restaurant, and many of the patrons are staring at this blubbering group. Eventually we settle down, and the group start asking questions through our Translator. “When my husband cried out, why did you not rescue him”? This is the poor lady widowed by the accident. I explain that Gonzales was struggling under the skiff, and that because he was closer, I helped him first. By the time I’d swum over to where her husband was, he was gone. It’s a thought I’ve had many times since the accident. If I’d swum over to the third fisherman first, I’m sure I’d have rescued him. And my crew would have rescued Gonzalez because he was visible right behind us. But I didn’t. I just made my decision at the time and it’s something I’ll have to live with. “Would you mind if we put your husbands name on Earthrace as a small tribute to him”, I ask the widow. There’s a hush amongst the group, and they all look at her. She’s been crying like many of us and her eyes are red, but now fresh tears start rolling down her cheeks. “I would be honoured if you would do that for us”, she says. Her daughter shows us a photo of him on her cellphone. And they tell us of his nickname. “Pajarito”. Or little bird. Maybe we’ll put that on the boat as well I think to myself. Later in the day we pay a visit to Gonzalez, who is still recovering in hospital. His family from the meeting earlier in the day are there already, and they greet us as we walk in. He’s a tiny little man, but there’s a certain wiry strength about him. I remember lifting him on the stretcher and being amazed at how heavy he was. We go through a question and answer session with him. It turns out he actually went under the main hull of Earthrace as we rode over the skiff. He takes his shirt off to reveal a massive scar from his sternum, all the way down his belly. He’s seems quite proud of it really. His belly was cut open by Surgeons to repair his stomach, intestine, and fractured sternum. Then Ryan sees the scars on his back. “Hey check these wicked scars out Pete.” We never saw these cuts on the night. But there they are. Two big curved scars, one across each shoulder blade, and by the look of them, probably matching our propeller blades. We take a few photos, hug and wish each other well, and we’re off. “You know”, say Ryan, “I’m stoked to have finally met these people today.” I am too. It’s been an emotional rollercoaster of a day, but one that we’ll never forget. For some of us, this probably helps with a little bit of closure. The families were left in no doubt that we were sorrowful for what had happened, and that we did our best on the night to rescue the fishermen. These people are poor, but there’s also a great sense of community and family spirit amongst them. And I know they’ll be OK.


Desultory - des-uhl-tawr-ee, -tohr-ee

  1. lacking in consistency, constancy, or visible order, disconnected; fitful: desultory conversation.
  2. digressing from or unconnected with the main subject; random: a desultory remark.
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