Tucson men's boat found adrift in gulf
5 fishermen sailed from Rocky Point
Oct. 30, 2003 12:00 AM
PUERTO PE?ASCO, Sonora - No life jackets were aboard a capsized boat found
adrift in the Gulf of California several days after five Tucson men left in
it from Rocky Point on a fishing trip, said a Mexican navy captain involved
in the search.
Scuba divers briefly searched under the 24-foot catamaran before towing it
to a small fishing village, where officials plan to examine the craft.
The fact the life jackets are missing "gives us hope they had them on," said
John Eckhoff, a friend of the boaters.
The five men are Jehovah's Witnesses, and fellow worshippers from San Diego
to San Felipe, Baja California Norte, are helping out however they can.
After finding the boat Tuesday evening, authorities lost sight of it early
Wednesday morning but found it again at 12:25 p.m.
The boat's owner, Carl Hopper, has 12 years of boating experience and
dreamed of someday owning a fishing charter service, his wife, Leah, said.
Hopper has had the boat for a year.
Leah said everything seemed normal when her husband left Tucson at 3:30 a.m.
"He was anxious to get here," she said. "He was up all night getting things
together on the boat. He loves doing this."
Hopper and his crew planned to go across the gulf to San Felipe and return
the same day. Each way is about four hours.
"They didn't make it (to San Felipe)," said Capt. Rafael Munoz Medina of the
A plane rented by friends and family found the boat.
Munoz said it was 80 miles southwest of Rocky Point, 55 miles from San
Felipe and 20 miles from the coast.
Munoz said some factors are in the crew's favor, such as the time of year:
after the deadly summer sun and before winter's cooler waters.
The water temperature is about 84 degrees, he said.
One of three search planes took family members to San Felipe so they could
get on two boats, each carrying a four-wheel-drive truck.
The trucks were to be used in a search of two islands near where the boat
was last seen.
Three Mexican navy vessels and one helicopter also are involved in the
search, Munoz said.
Hope is high during the day, Leah said, but at night it's hard for her and
Carl's 17-year-old daughter, Carrissa, to cope.
"I'm torn apart," Carrissa said. "One minute I feel really good and I think
about it and the next minute I cry.
"This may sound weird, but I wish I was out there with them."
Carrissa was supposed to be on the boat but had to change her plans, she
Leah says she's happy with what the Mexican officials are doing.
"They're doing what they can, although we wish that they had more
resources," she said. "We were hoping that the United States could assist
us. They're not here yet."
The U.S. Coast Guard's 11th District is ready to offer air support, said Lt.
Jennifer Cook of the district command center in Alameda, Calif.
Searchers likely will categorize their efforts as a rescue operation for at
least another two days, Cook said.
"The water down there is fairly warm, and there's no indication that would
be a recovery operation," Cook said.
Investigators have not determined what caused the catamaran to capsize.
Carrissa said the boat's capacity is six people and was equipped with flares
and five or six life vests.
"We're all just staying really positive," Leah said. "I know everyone out
Donations can be made to the Fisherman Relief Fund at any Bank of America in
Tucson to help with the cost of the search.