Travels from Jan. 15
Since arriving in Mexico, we have heard stories about dolphins scratching their backs on boats' anchor chains, shaking the boat and sometimes dislodging the anchor set. We saw several dolphins and also a small manta when we were in Tenacatita in November. The manta was just a passing site below our dink as we scouted out the rocks lining the anchorage. But the only concerns we had were that one of the pelicans would do a dump on the boat or, worse yet, have a "laser-guided" dump through an open hatch.
On the 15th, as we were relaxing out at the outer Tenacatita anchorage, a call on the Ch. 22 came, "Neener Neener, this is Black Swan. Dolphins have your anchor chain!" There was no answer. Another boat replied that Neener was in the river lagoon. About 10 minutes later, Black Swan asked if the dinghy crew near Neener had a radio. That was all we heard; all for anyone not in the inner anchorage. However, a Devil (manta) Ray, a 42' Catalina sailboat and some cruisers who acted fast were developing an amazing and wonderful story.
The first telling of the story was on an "attention-to-the-fleet" call on Ch. 22 later that afternoon. Black Swan broadcast the following:
He had looked out in the anchorage, filled with 20 boats and noticed Neener was leaving. That was strange, boats usually announce their departure plans. Then he noticed "dolphin" dorsal fins ahead of Neener and no crew topside. That was when he made the call I had heard. About the same time, another boat's crew was returning from the lagoon and saw Neener picking up speed and no crew topside. They gunned the outboard up to half throttle and their teenage son, Joshua leapt onto the swim platform on the back of Neener, at 5 kts.! The young guy got behind the wheel and began steering away from a collision with another Catalina 42. Neener was heading right for the middle of that boat. First he swung the bow past the others stern, then swung the helm hard to get Neener's stern by too. He made it with only inches to spare . . . at 5 kts.! That apparently was the closest call. Yet he kept steering clear as he was towed around and around the anchored boats.
During these minutes, Black Swan recognized what he thought was two animals was really just one. As he related, "I saw one wing tip on one side of Neener and the other wing tip on the opposite side of Neener." They estimate that it was 16', wing to wing! It had come to the surface in its frantic effort to get away.
One of the other cruisers was a professional salvage diver. He came over and pulled himself down the anchor chain to where the ray was entangled. It looked like one of his "horns" had stuck through the shackle between the anchor rope and the anchor chain. [OK, go get your fish books and find a picture of a manta ray. The manta has two fingers at the front of its head. He uses these by sticking them into the sand and mud to scare out food.] Anchor chain is heavy. When the wind and current are not a factor, anchor chain will drop to the bottom. This poor guy was scrounging for some grub in just the wrong place, at least at the wrong time. With him trying to get away, towing a 15-ton sailboat, the chain wasn't going to fall off.
The diver couldn't get the ray to settle down enough for him to untangle the rope and chain. At the rope end was the heavy boat, at the other end was an anchor. The diver had to get the tension off one of the ends. When the manta finally settled down (tired out, probably), the diver used a rope from Neener to take the tension off the anchor-end and untangled the ray. No evidence of injury to the ray could be seen, as it swam away. The rope, which had touched the ray, was worn and chaffed as if it had been rubbed on concrete.
Neener's owners were just leaving the lagoon. They looked up to see THEIR boat being driven away by someone. At least that's what it looked like. They had a shot of adrenaline and gunned their outboard to catch the "thieves". Of course then they recognized the people on board and asked what was going on. . .
We heard them on the radio several times and on the Net the next morning, trying to thank people. They could never say much. The emotions of what might have happened were overwhelming.
Considering the typical social reaction back in the U.S. of A. - "If it doesn't effect me I won't get involved" - this was a sharp contrast. A few minutes of hesitation would have probably resulted in the sinking of at least one boat. Cruisers act first and worry about the rest later.
A motivated teenager is writing up the story for Cruising World or Latitude, possibly titled:
Joshua vs The Devil Ray
or the ray's version of the story:
Neener Neener, You Can't Catch Me
Crew of Nanjo