Elsie: Uh hero?

The latest Vancouver Province article put another new spin on this story… this time it is Elsie who is the hero who saved the dot com millionaire, lol!

Here is a pdf of the Vancouver Province article if you are interested: http://www.streamload.com/jberwick/Vancouver%20Province%20Article.pdf

On another side note, the newspaper article down here today has had people on the streets coming up to us and asking us if we are the Canadian adventurers in the newspaper, lol.

Mucho Famoso

LOL, unbelievably, the media is still covering this story… the Province had a follow up today where they stated that Elsie saved the Millionaire with her quick thinking… and La Prensa, El Salvadors national newspaper had a full color expose on us in their Extreme Adventurer section…


This story is getting better and better…

Wow… the funnest part of this whole thing has been reading all these media stories, lol. The hype, misinformation and overall style has been hilarious to read.

Here are just a few of them:

Vancouver Province – Millionaire saves self, friend after boat sinks in storm by clinging to surfboard – http://www.canada.com/vancouver/theprovince/news/story.html?id=26bdf36e-2e8a-400b-af17-a18ea677f557

Edmonton Journal – Surfboard saves dot-com magnate in Salvador shipwreck
– http://www.canada.com/edmonton/edmontonjournal/news/story.html?id=f624ab2d-7880-4450-9437-8ddce5f4d315

Berwink and Ewoo cling to surfboard…

LOL, there have been a number of press stories on my little incident, which I find surprising in itself (slow news day??)… but I have been reading them and they are all so wrong… the funniest is one in the El Salvador newspaper (you can see it here in Spanish: http://elsalvador.com/noticias/2005/06/22/elpais/pais4.asp ). They actually quote Elsie and I numerous times, saying things like ¨We were so scared¨… but we never even talked to them… they just made it up. They also call me Jeff Berwink, and Elsie Ewoo, lol. Berwink will be my new nickname for this year.

Here is one from the CBC, through AP: http://www.cbc.ca/cp/world/050621/w062186.html

The CBC one is totally wrong too… they stated that we were receiving medical treatment and were in stable condition? lol. They also say the Salvadoran Navy saved us… we talked to the Navy a bit on Elsie´s cell phone that night but they told us they couldn´t come out to get us because they didn´t have any boats.


Well, thats the end of that adventure… boat sank

I won´t bother filling everyone in on Guatemala, as the next thing that happened is quite a bit more interesting.

Elsie and I were a bit late getting into El Salvador on Monday and as the sun went down, we made our way through the breakers, which were huge, sending the boat, left, right, backwards, surfing down the waves.

We actually made it through those not too bad when out of nowhere a major storm hit… within minutes the boat was just being tossed everywhere…

We took on a lot of water and I tried to continue to maneuvre the boat to safety, as well as closer to shore in case things got really bad.

There are tons of shoals outside of Bahia Jiliquisco, where Barrillas Marina is, so we kept hitting bottom as the boat was completely being tossed around by the waves… we took on lots of water, but Elsie helped bail some out so we were still in decent condition.

But we kept getting pounded by waves, and were almost constantly hitting the sandy bottom… finally after about an hour of that a hole must have opened in the boat because the whole boat very quickly started to fill with water.

We called Mayday via the VHF but heard no response so we assumed no one heard us. My cell phone couldnt dial out for some reason, but Elsies, which is on Fido, said “Emergency Only”, she said we should dial 911 and I just laughed figuring there is no way that would work.

It worked! But it took me 10 minutes, while standing in waist deep water on my boat to even get across to him in Spanglish that we were on a boat and needed help… eventually after 20 minutes he got us through to the Navy, but they told us they didn´t have any boats and it would be 3 hours before they could come.

This was bad because we were now pretty much almost completely submerged. To add to the difficulties, waves were continuing to pound us and right when we needed the dinghy most, it broke loose and was gone.

It was very dark, incredibly wavy (think washing machine) and as far as we knew no one even would be coming for three hours.

We had our life jackets on and just tried to hang on… we were getting pounded constantly by waves… somehow Elsie and I were very fortunate that all of the things that were being broken off my boat (like a propane tank that went whizzing by my head) didn´t hit us. I tried my best to shield Elsie´s body with my body.

Interestingly, the GPS stayed operational until the boat was completely submerged and I knew that we were getting closer and closer to shore, getting pushed in by the waves… at one point it looked like we were less than 200 feet from shore… it was then that things got really rough and the boat was almost completely under.

I managed to wrestle my surfboard loose from under the water, put Elsie on it, and after getting smoked into the boat a few times (again miracuously, no major injuries… my hand got cut up a few times but nothing to worry about at all)… finally we got away from the boat, with Elsie clinging to the surfboard, and me trying to hold it steady so it wouldn´t tip in the waves.

After about 20 minutes of kicking in the direction of where I thought shore was, the storm ended and it became very calm… we kept kicking and paddling for about another 30 minutes and were beginning to worry that the shore wasn´t as close as we thought.

It was then that Elsie noticed a boat coming towards us… if we didn´t wave and yell they probably would have ran over us, which would have been a totally fitting end to that day… but they saw us, stopped and hauled us in their panga.

It was a bunch of cruisers from the marina… apparently everyone heard our distress signals but we couldn´t hear their replies for some reason… they had to wait about 30-60 minutes for the storm to end before coming out… they said even up inland, with protection, that storm was really bad…

So, anyway…. boats gone. Elsie and I are totally fine… We are probably going to go into town and get some clothes and stuff today… I managed to keep our passports and credit cards in my pocket so we are fine.

Elsie will head back to Vancouver in a couple days… she was incredible out there… she stayed calm… and all of her working out really helped numerous times as we had to hang on to the boat amidst huge current and waves… all in all she is good… she doesn´t even seem to upset…. but obviously I owe her a huge apology. Through it all, my only concern was to get her to shore, and thanks to a lot of luck, and her calmness and strength, we made it.

As for me, I currently have nothing at all… someone lent me some denim jean shorts and a t-shirt. And since I don´t have a home either I think I will likely spend the next couple days deciding where and what I want to do… I might even take a plane down to Panama for a few days since I am so close and check it out. I won´t be getting a boat again… 1 year was enough… so I think I will likely just try to pick a city/country I want to live in for a while and hop on a plane and go there and get an apartment for now.

My phone was toast, so the only way to contact me currently is via email… but don´t worry I am totally fine. Actually, I feel great… there is something very freeing about not having anything, and I am actually just excited to move on to the next adventure.

I don´t know if I will bother keeping up this blog much past updating what country I end up in but I might, so check back and see if ya want.

The Trek

Elsie and I shoved off from Huatulco on June 14 at 5pm with the intention to go to Barilla’s Marina in El Salvador. However, we soon found out that there was a 1-2 knot current against us the whole way, and for 2 of the 3 days the wind was directly on our nose, making for very slow going. Instead of taking a little over 3 days, as I thought, it now looked a lot closer to 5.

So, after 3 days of sailing, we decided we had enough for the time being, and decided to pull into Puerto Quetzal in Guatemala.

But before I fill you in on Guatemala, here is the interesting sailing story of the week, entitled “Reef? Why Reef?�

Soon after leaving Huatulco, we had to cross the Gulf of Tehuanepec. This gulf is known very well as one of the most dangerous places in the world for sailors. It is because it is a very low area of Central America where winds from the Gulf of Mexico (on the other side, in the Atlantic) can sometimes funnel through this low area and blow out through the Gulf of Tehuanepec. 65% of the days per year has gale force winds here, and they come out of nowhere with little or no warning (unless you are watching the weather in the Gulf of Mexico, which we did).

Before I continue with this story, here is a little bit of sailing information for those of you not very familiar with sailing. In a sailboat, one of the most dangerous situations that can happen is when wind comes up quickly and overpowers your boat. If you have your sails up and are sailing in regular wind, and that wind all of a sudden rises to gale force, your boat can be seriously at risk, perhaps breaking the mast right off… and in other cases, flipping the boat over. To protect against this, sailor’s do something called “reefing�. Essentially, reefing enables you to reduce the size of your sail dramatically, in fairly quick fashion, even when your sail is full of wind.

Now, getting back to the story, you would think that if someone was going to cross one of the more dangerous gulf’s in the world, known for gale force winds at a moments notice, that person would want to know how to reef his sail.

Well, I had it on my things to do first thing in the morning as we entered the Gulf of Tehuanepec (agenda: “figure out how to reef sail�). I got up on Wednesday morning as we entered the gulf and felt a bit groggy so I thought I would wait an hour or two until I was more awake before tackling this item. As a side note: I had been dodging thunderstorms all night (the reason I was quite groggy)… You can see the thunderstorms very easily on the radar and I had avoided numerous by dodging and weaving around them.

However, at around 11am on Wednesday morning I swerved when I should have, uh, not swerved, and was dead in the middle of a localized thunderstorm. It got very dark, and the wind started to really pick up. It was at this point I thought to myself, I wish I had learned how to reef my sail when I first got up. Soon it was a torrential downpour. Elsie sat inside sleeping while I was completely and thoroughly soaked. The winds hit gusts of about 35 knots, averaging 25 knots, which isn’t too bad, but never having been in a thunderstorm like this I didn’t know if it would or could get a lot worse. The seas really began to rise up and I decided just to go with the storm as I rode the waves. There was a few times where the wind really caught my sails and I knew if it gusted up over 45 I could be in a position where it could be a problem as it really overpowered the boat quite quickly.

I managed to get the jib more than half way in, which helped, but now it was time to learn, on the fly, in the Gulf of Tehuanepec how to reef my sail. Those who know me, know this is generally how I always “learn�.

I can’t say I did it right… in fact, by how ugly and messed up it was, I know I didn’t do it completely right… but I did manage to reduce my mainsail size by approximately half, with a combination of pulling the sail down, and reefing. This definitely made the going a lot more controlled, and even with half a mainsail, and half a jib, I was doing 9 knots riding some fairly large waves…

So, anyway, that is my sailing story for this week. I am writing this as I enter into Puerto Quetzal, which I know nothing about, so will update on what it is like, and my plans from here soon.

Getting ready to roll

We are now just a few days from getting back on the water! It looks like currently a number of lows are in and around the Gulf of Mexico (which is on the other side of Mexico)… but it is safest to cross the Gulf of Tehuantepec when there is a low in the Gulf. This time of year is generally a good time to make this transit. Winter can be very dangerous if you are not very careful as wind streams through the Gulf of Tehuantepec at speeds that can even push a tanker 500 miles offshore! If it can push a tanker 500 miles offshore, it can probably push my 35’ catamaran 500 feet down! (well, actually, catamaran’s can’t sink, they will float even if filled with water… but you get the gist!).

But in the meantime my loco buddy Mark decided just yesterday while we are talking online to come down to Huatulco for a few days. He arrived Wednesday morning but barely made it into the country as someone stole his passport, and a bunch of cash, from his luggage en route from LA to Mexico City (note: this is all pretty par for the course in Mark’s up and down life!)… when he got there he had to try to persuade the Mexican authorities to let him into the country with just his BC Driver’s License! As those of you who know Mark know, however, he always manages to talk his way through these things and they ended up giving him a 1 week visa… which he actually looked at as possibly being a positive thing because if he could he thinks he would stay down here for a long period of time!

And, after 2 months of solitude, I am expecting another little boatguest on Friday too… Elsie will be making her way down as part of her worldwide trip (after sailing with me to Costa Rica she will be going to China, Hong Kong and Japan to teach English for a month).

Mark will only be staying until Tuesday and then, weather permitting, Elsie and I will sail first to El Salvador (nearly 3 days straight of sailing!!) and then to Costa Rica, which I am pretty pumped about. Elsie has a long and well documented history of seasickness so we will be using meds, hypnosis and possibly alcohol to try to help her through these 3 days… if she makes it through, she’ll have her sea legs and she’ll be fine… if she doesn’t, it will be a very unhappy 3 days for her as Trevor and my Dad both know all too well (hey, just remember how slim and trim you were after not eating for a week though!).

El Salvador looks pretty cool… the marina we are going to has a pool (it is a Yacht Club) and palapas around the pool… each palapa has an internet connection to plug your laptop into… so as those of you who know me know, I will be very happy there.

But I have my eyes set on Los Suenos in Costa Rica where the marina is at the Marriott Hotel, complete with numerous beautiful swimming pools, gym, golf course, wireless internet and a casino! I have gotten the poker bug from Mark in the last 6 months or so, so I am even more looking forward to Costa Rica… oh, and on top of all that, there is good surfing right nearby, so theoretically, my day would start with a 1-2 hour surf… then shower, breakfast, then work all day on my a/c’ed boat and by the pool on my laptop… then lunch, then hit the gym, then some reading and more work on the laptop before possibly a drink at one of the many bars, or maybe a few hours at the casino making money off of tourists, or retiring for the evening, to repeat the next day!

I sense anger again as everyone reading this hates me. But don’t hate the player, hate the game. J

But, before all of the amazing times ahead, we have to get there… while I will be watching the weather like a hawk (especially with Elsie on board… if it is just me I don’t really care) I am sure there will be the usual adventure in getting there… and that is why you are supposedly here reading anyway… for the interesting sailing stories. So check in on Tuesday and if all is well, we’ll be shoving off and headed for Central America… Hasta la Vista Mexico, its been a fun 6 months!