KEMAH, Texas – Kevin Churchill, his brother and sister-in-law set sail on a trip from Kemah to Isla Mujeres, Mexico, on their 40-foot sailboat.
“It’s a lovely little island about a 20-minute ferry ride from Cancun,” Churchill said. “The conditions were very good and I anticipated it would take five days."
Churchill has been sailing his entire life, it was about a 700-nautical-mile trip and because the conditions were so favorable, he expected no trouble at all.
On day four of the trip, things changed when the boat's rudder suddenly broke off.
“When you lose a rudder, the boat becomes largely uncontrollable,” he explained.
At that point, Churchill and his family were about 400 miles from the coast of the United States, they were closer to Mexico, but decided to call the Coast Guard for help.
“If your life is at stake, the Coast Guard will come and rescue you,” he said. “Like, pick you out of the water.”
But Churchill's and his family’s lives weren’t at stake, they simply had a broken boat and needed help.
“The U.S. Coast Guard doesn’t generally provide tows,” he said. “They tell you to call a towing company, but the U.S. Coast (Guard) did arrange or call the Mexican navy.”
And the Mexican navy came, no questions asked.
“We were disabled at sea and the Mexican navy came and looked after us,” said Churchill. “I cannot emphasize how difficult it is to maneuver a 280-foot steel ship around a 40-foot yacht without breaking the yacht. This was an exceptionally well-handled vessel.”
It took more than a day to tow the sailboat the 170 nautical miles to Mexico, and when they arrived the Mexican government wouldn’t accept a single dollar.
“All of the people were nothing but wonderful to us,” he said. “I’d like to see us recognize them for the good neighbors that they are.”
Churchill didn’t want to get political, but said he hopes America can remain on good terms with our neighbors to the south and continue to be strong allies and friends.
“Mexico is a good neighbor for this country, always has been.”