(11 a.m. EST) -- Carnival Cruise Lines' strict no (non-medical) animals aboard policy doesn't apply to rescues. Three boaters and a cat were picked up on Saturday off the coast of Cuba after their trawler was battered by heavy wind and surf -- and Cruise Critic has gotten a firsthand account via a post on our message boards.
According to a statement from the line, at approximately 2 p.m. Carnival Valor engaged in the rescue of three U.S. citizens and a cat after receiving a distress call. All four were brought onboard. Those rescued -- Wesley DeMott, Paul Rodriquez, Ken Quillen and Smudge the Sea Cat -- had departed Key West on January 20 and were headed toward the Mexican Yucatan Peninsula. Carnival Valor was returning to the Port of Miami from a seven-day Caribbean cruise and arrived as scheduled on Sunday morning.
Boat owner Wesley DeMott's wife Sabine posted her husband's story today on the Cruise Critic message boards. Wesley DeMott said a threatening weather forecast had forced him to change the heading of WASAFIRI, his 38-foot trawler, and that an unmoored rope previously connected to his tender became wrapped around WASAFIRI's propeller. It eventually "fouled the rudder."
"I accepted that the boat might roll over at any time," wrote DeMott, who noted that they experienced unpredicted 50 mph winds, "especially when the twin 800-pound water tanks came loose and slammed around in the bilge and the refrigerator broke free of its mounts, joining a growing number of loose items shifting around in the cabins.
"After several unsuccessful attempts to raise anyone on the radio, I did get a radio response from the Carnival Cruise ship VALOR, which offered its assistance. With my vessel coming apart, no hope of making port, and no tow vessels responding, I reluctantly requested that they take us aboard as we abandoned ship.
"Masterful seamanship by Captain De Angelis had us aboard quickly, and I want to sincerely thank him and his wonderful crew for showing true human kindness for us as mariners and, well, just people. They also took good care of Smudge the Sea Cat, who I managed to get off board along with my American flag, which I'll proudly fly again one day soon on another vessel."
You can read DeMott's full account here.
--by Dan Askin, Associate Editor