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When last we left Hoku Pa'a in April 2016, she was up on stands in the Marina Seca Guaymas storage yard. We had expected to return to her next winter for more sailing the Sea of Cortez. Alas, Mother Nature had other plans and on September 7 Hurricane Newton plowed over top of Guaymas. Rain softened the ground under the jackstands allowing the wind to topple our boat over. Three days later when phone and internet service was restored we received the unhappy news and I (Bjarne) started plans to travel down to assess the damage.
Exactly one week after the hurricane, the bus dropped me off in a town that looked a little ragged yet functioning fine. Pools of standing water in the desert looked out of place, while palm tree branches hanging from power lines attested to the strong winds. Of the approx 250 yachts in the boatyard, about seven to nine appeared to have some degree of damage. Hoku Pa'a had been righted by the staff before I arrived, but I could tell at a quick glance that not all was right. One spreader was dangling from a slack shroud, and there was a distinct bend in the upper section of our mast.
I spent a week living aboard, documenting the damage and correcting conditions that could cause further problems. High heat (40C) and residual humidity meant working mid-day was challenging, and I quickly emptied a 20 litre garrafón of drinking water in addition to quaffing lots of Cokes and juices. Daily I emailed a packet of photos and descriptions back to our insurance company, because they wanted to know the extent of the damage. One of their concerns was that the knock-down would have destroyed a lot of interior items. However, two things limited the inside damage to a few minor things like a dented kettle and a broken CD: first, we had mostly stowed the boat before we left as if we were heading out to sea; and second, Hoku Pa'a had been prevented from falling over fully by the boat to our starboard. It appeared that our mast hit their backstay thus limiting our angle; unfortunately their mast broke in the process, though knockdown domino along the whole row of boats did not ensue. Some boats fared much worse; I helped one fellow salvage some valuables from his vessel, which had been holed and driven up on a nearby beach.
Particularly vexatious about the accident was the number of broken things that we had recently fixed or installed new. Chief among these was our roller-furling - installed in San Francisco less than 2000 miles earlier - arrrrgh!
We initially hoped the insurer would send a surveyor down at the same time I was there, but it wasn't until a week after I returned home that a surveyor from San Diego was able to attend and corroborate the damage.
It took several weeks for the surveyor's report to wend its way up the food chain to the insurer, which was a division of Lloyds of London. We received a preliminary verbal report in advance of their decision, and it didn't sound good. A half-dozen of the needing fixing items were fairly major projects, at least from the labour standpoint. For example, the scratches to the hull were, in the words of the surveyor, requiring eventual repainting of the entire hull in order to get a good colour match. This job alone was estimated at $10000 - $15000. On the positive side, he didn't note any structural damage to the fiberglass or bulkheads, meaning that the hull was essentially sound.
The final word from our insurer was that Hoku Pa'a was being written off - a rather gut-wrenching notice to receive about one's beloved boat. Consequently we were presented with a choice. Either receive the full value of the insurance policy with the insurer then owning the wreck (their words); or receive the insured value minus the salvage value of the boat, in which case we would retain ownership of Hoku Pa'a. Emotionally, we definitely didn't want to give up our boat, but did it make sense financially? After spreadsheeting our estimates of the costs of all the repairs, we decided that we could make it work. If we performed the repairs ourselves then the total cost to get Hoku Pa'a back in shipshape should be less than the total payout we would receive. The big uncertainty was whether we could successfully round up the parts, time and skills needed. And what had we forgotten to account for?
Before we could embark on any repairs, we had to have a plan - one that included not just how to get parts to the boat, but also how to get ourselves down for an extended stay. Some of the jobs made sense to do in a particular sequence and would need our continuous attention for a week or more at a time. As well, we didn't yet have enough information about our biggest worry - the broken mast. A second visit to the boat was needed.
I flew down to Tucson in December, and bussed ~8 hours to Guaymas on the comfortable Tufesa bus line, arriving at dawn. The town looked much improved from two months earlier - indeed, there weren't any signs of the hurricane damage unless one had photos from before to compare with. During the week that I spent in Guaymas, I was able to make detailed measurements of our mast, plus flesh-out our TO-DO list and the spreadsheet we would use to track our expenses and progress. Our actual on-site restoration work would have to wait until our next visit, in spring 2017.