Ok the fish “net” story, Not a fish story

Chamela, Mexico 12\2\2014

Off we go!

We are anchored in Chamela, Mexico and the dinghy with Mark from s\v Cockpit (an Beneteau Oceanis 440) came by for a visit\help. He asked if we could swim strong or if one of us was a diver. That he and his buddy were not good swimmers. That his boat had a line wrapped on its prop. I looked at him and asked how I could do any better as he was in better shape\younger? He said because he was not a strong swimmer or a diver. 

Ok I said I can check it out. So I grabbed the weight belt, gloves and fins, mask, snorkel etc. This was going to be a free dive (without tanks or an air supply). As it turned out, I couldn’t tell if using an air supply would be a life saver or a hazard – it was not a line but a fish net! The equipment could get caught up in the net easily but on the other hand you could still breathe! They had the engine running which I had them shut down as I did not trust not being chopped up by accident. I put on my gear, weight belt which helps me stay down and not fight being beat up by the bottom of the boat so much. Even though we were at anchor there was some swell and the boat was rising and falling, and swaying back and forth. As the boat moved about, it made the net billow and rise and fall and generally move around under the boat.  Anyway I went in and surveyed the situation. Wow were they entangled!

They said they were having a bad day as they said when they first anchored, they were too close to the beach which they realized so moved.  Then, when they moved they had a dinghy mishap.

 This has always been a fear of mine. That is getting - caught up in a net and drowning. (Not far-fetched here in the land of really hard to see fish nets a mile long!) We have heard of stories about cruisers who have hit fish nets and have the fishermen in their pangas help them out. Also of cruisers where they had to cut themselves free as there was no one around. In bigger seas this would be most difficult and at night near impossible, guess you would need to wait till daylight but then would you be even more entangled?

Mark in the water showing the net, pulling on it.

So I went down under the boat and saw the mess, net going from bow to stern. The net was wrapped around the shaft and the line also with a few small red buoys. The net was wrapped around the prop and tangled the spade rudder. The net went down as far as you could see. The good thing is the visibility is great here at any rate. Mark offered up his knife but as I found out it was not a good tool. I did not use it but used the tool we got from Sailors’ Solutions (sailorssolution.com) " HOOKNIFE " and it worked great! Well worth the money in this case or any emergency! We had never had cause to use it and we have had it some years.  One of the features is the handle is long enough so you keep your body and hands out of the net. The knife end can also be put on a Shurhold pole for even longer reach but in this situation the way it is I think worked best. Also it has a hook-blade which worked great and was mostly what I used. So with the right tools, the Sailors Solutions HOOKNIFE and weight belt, flippers etc. it was do-able. 

It was not easy and as I found out my fears were justified. First I tried and slowly succeeded in cutting the line and netting away from the shaft. 

Mark talking to me, I am in the water. Mark's buddy is up on the boat.

There was still a bunch of line and net and a few buoys on the shaft but the net was free from the shaft. Next I worked on the the prop. This did create another hazardous situation. The more I cut free the net the remaining sections of net started trailing off the shaft and prop. These pieces are like banners, easy to get caught in as they are waving around like streaming flags. At one point I was coming up for air and my flipper got caught up in the net! I tried to free my flipper but then my ankle got tied up in the net. I was lucky to be by the stern of the boat where Mark was able to get into the water and free my foot. Later on, after some more dives my flipper got caught again. I was able to get the flipper off and it just stayed in the net but my toes got caught.  Took some doing just to free my toes! Darn nets work good. 

I am hanging onto the port aft of s\v Cockpit.

You can see some of the fish net.

After some time I got the boat clear from the net. It was a walk through a fear and as I was under the boat watching the net moving around try to lure me into it or reach out and grab me, I decided this was maybe more than I had bargained for. (Sounds like a scene straight out of the tv show, Mike Nelson in “Sea Hunt”!!) I did eventually get the s\v Cockpit free from the net but there was still a pile of a mess on the shaft. Also on the shaft was a line cutter. Guess it was taking the day off. 

Mark bringing the dinghy around, you can see part of the net in the water.

Diving boat.

Anchor caught up in net.

The return.

Mark in the dinghy and I am on the starboard side 
ready to go under (away from the dinghy prop).

I am going down again on starboard side and you 
can see the net still lurking in the water.

(Debbie is on our boat taking pictures...I would have shown off had I known at the time!)

So Mark got in the dinghy and tied up to the boat and pulled it sideways to keep it clear from the net. I dove down from the other side (starboard) and tried to cut some more line off the shaft. I did get some good cuts but on the second try there was so much prop turbulence from the dinghy I could not see. 

At this point I was real tired so I said to try putting the big boat  into reverse and gunning it to see if the shaft would spin free. It did (well enough to get us out of the net area as it turned out) and then they tried to raise the anchor.

Holly cow!  They had anchored right in the net! As the CQR anchor was coming up it was entangled in the net! 
Mark's buddy borrowed my Sailors Solutions HOOKNIFE  and cut the net free.

OK I am all done, I am standing in the cockpit.. But the story continues. 

Here I come, not fearless but done.

Panga with fisherman (and boy, fisherboy) leaving
 Mark's boat after picking up restitution .

Starting to retrieve net.

 It was good of Mark to make good on the net and as the panga guys were picking up what was left of the net we heard him say eye-yi-yi!

Next I got a ride back to our boat s\v Elegant’sea and Mark went into the beach to make restitution.  

The next day as Debbie I were about to hoist our anchor Mark came by looking for a diver again. He said there was still some line around the shaft making it vibrate. We were leaving so we referred him to a local to finish the shaft off. Mark then headed over, as it turned out, to the same panga who owned the net and get some help. As we left s\v Cockpit had the panga along side.

I got a souvenir!

Me and handy dandy HOOKNIFE !

Mark said the restitution came to $300.00 USD and I can believe it. We shredded that net. At any time I expected a panga to come out and start giving us grief. They were on the beach but just let things unfold.  

Mark and his buddy (never knew his name) had stopped at Paradise Village Marina in Banderas Bay Mexico while we were there along with a Erickson sail boat s\v Valhalla.  s\v Valhalla had run out of fuel while at sea coming down the coast from Mazatlan where Mark and his buddy came to their rescue and gave them diesel fuel so they could make it into port. OK I know a sailboat has sails but maybe it was getting towards dark and it was new port to them or whatever. I do not know all the circumstances, just that s\v Cockpit were well thanked for the help.  So it was nice to be of some service to a fellow cruiser and especially one we know has helped others.

As for walking through the net fear, well I think that that fear is still there but at least I got some valuable experience from it. And now you can bet your swim trunks I will be watching for nets on the open sea as another net story we do not need!

 We went to a birthday party in Barra-Bahia de Navidad with three other couples. Two of the three couples had to dive and clear nets\long lines from their boats at some point. One couple said they came up on 13 long lines on one passage. Some as long or longer than 5 miles. "Long lines" are against the law here in Mexico but the fishermen do not seem to know that. Generally the fisherman will cut the lines\net to let you pass if you happen to see the panga. Last long net we came across we were 6 knot miles out off shore.

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