Eco-friendly coffee boat believed sunk
By Rhiannon Meyers
The Daily News
Published January 12, 2008
GALVESTON — Somewhere in the murky bottom of the Gulf of Mexico lies nearly 4,000 pounds of coffee that Joe and Terry Butcher had spent the past two years saving to buy.
After Joe, Terry and Doug Butcher were rescued from their sinking sailboat Red Cloud on New Year’s Day, they vowed to return to salvage the boat and the coffee onboard so they could sell it for a profit. But, last week, they tracked the boat’s beacon hundreds of miles offshore and found nothing but open water. They assume the Red Cloud has sunk, Terry Butcher said.
“Our life savings and investment was in the boat,” she said. “It was our home and business.”
Joe and Terry Butcher, owners of El Lago Coffee Co., along with Joe’s brother, Douglas Butcher, had planned to ship the coffee from San Pedro on Ambergris Caye in Belize to Galveston Bay to promote eco-friendly coffee trading.
The trio hit trouble New Year’s Day when waves swelled to 25 feet and the winds kicked up to 30 to 35 knots, said Petty Officer Mario Romero of the U.S. Coast Guard. Their engine had died earlier, and the 42-foot boat tossed, turned and filled with water.
“It was unbelievable,” Terry Butcher said. “It was like it wasn’t happening, but it was.”
The Coast Guard rescued them three hours after they called for help and delivered them to Ellington Field.
“When we called for help, that was it — that was our last straw,” Terry Butcher said. “That was all we could do. There was no way we were going to make it another night on the boat.”
The boat, built nearly 40 years ago and refurbished for the trip, was not insured, Terry Butcher said. The Butchers lost the almost 4,000 pounds of coffee they had planned to sell at $20 a pound — which would total about $80,000.
They salvaged only 8 pounds of coffee, the boat’s papers and a camera.
Terry Butcher said the three gave the Coast Guard one pound of coffee as a thank-you gift. They plan to sell the remaining 7 pounds of coffee on eBay.
Terry Butcher said although they’re still shaken up by the ordeal and disappointed about losing the boat, they have not given up on their dream to ship coffee in an eco-friendly manner.
“Joe’s already looking at boats,” she said.