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These stories first were published Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2001

 

Ex-Canadian 
minesweeper
will become
dive boat
deluxe



Photo courtesy of AES Offshore, Inc.
The soon-to-be Cowichan Adventurer in its past life.
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

When David Sewell spotted a used Canadian Navy minesweeper up for sale, he quickly realized that he served on the same vessel for 11 months as navigation officer.

Between the decommissioned boat and a long love affair with Costa Rica and its waters, Sewell is converting the wood-hulled craft into an adventure-dive vessel to be based here. The HMCS Cowichan is becoming the Cowichan Adventurer and will be getting an extensive refitting in Victoria, B.C., Canada.

When the refit is completed, what once accommodated 41 men and three officers will have a smaller crew and passengers who pay top-dollar  to enjoy diving or just touring.

Sewell envisions a boat that "will make a fast, economical and dependable charter vessel to be marketed to adventure and eco-tourists seeking the ultimate in unique vacations, from diving at world famous Cocos Island off the coast of Costa Rica, to transiting the Panama Canal and its jungles to exploring the Galapagos Islands. . . .," according to the Web site of his firm, AES Offshore, Inc: 

www.offshoreprofit.net

He reported Monday that the engineering and design plans for the conversion are complete and have been submitted to Transport Canada for approval. Once approved, the refit will take 6-8 months to complete, he said.

Lest you think that Sewell is just another North American with big plans, he has been responsible for, over the past eight years, the private placement of $40 million in equity and debt capital for third-party start-up and early-stage companies, according to his firm.

He also was involved in developing cable television systems and helped construct and manage1,000 rural cable television systems.
 

Now he is involved in an tourism real estate project near Lake Arenal, where he and his wife Sandi just rented a home. 

So he is treating the boat proposal as a financial undertaking, a money-making project.  About the middle of next month his firm will be offering a $2 million limited partnership to provide the working capital for turning the boat into a luxury tourist craft. He said the partnership units will be $25,000 apiece and be secured by the boat.

Eventually, he said, the company plans to turn the partnership into a publicly traded, listed corporation once the cash starts flowing in.
He said he plans to begin refitting the 152-foot boat after Jan. 1 so there is plenty of time to shake down the vessel and crew in August and September and to seek Ministry of Public Transport licensing here at that time.

His marketing plans include being visible at ExpoTur next year. That is the country's major tourism exposition. Plus he plans a video extolling the virtues of Costa Rica, the Cowichan Adventurer and other projects being developed by his company.

As part of the refit, several luxury cabins will be constructed on the deck of the boat to provide a level of luxury unknown in the Canadian  (or any other) Navy.  Other living units will be installed below deck where the navy crew used to live. The crew will be reduced to 14 persons, and some 20 passengers will have 10 double staterooms with private baths, said Sewell. They expect to charge passengers $300 a day.

His company said that part of the idea is to retain much of the boat's "military flavor" above deck to appeal to adventure-oriented tourists.

MDA Marine Design Associates Ltd. did a study on the planned conversion that is budgeted at $1 million. 

Sewell served 12 years in the Canadian Navy, from 1968 to 1980 and served on the Cowichan for 11 months in 1977. 


 
Association will help market CD by street children choir
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Association of Residents voted Monday to help market a compact disk featuring The Street Children Choir of the Don Bosco Center in San José. The center, run by the Salesian religious order, rescues youngsters from the street and provides about 80 of them with a primary education and musical training 

The group appeared at the Sept. 7 Costa Rican Independence Day celebration of the association, more correctly called the Association of Residents of Costa Rica. 

George Vaughan, chairman of the association's Charity Committee, made the proposal at the group's annual meeting that it purchase $250 worth of CDs to be marked up and sold by members. Any profits will be either returned to the center or used to purchase more disks.

The CD underwritten by Bristol-Myers Squibb and made in Escazú would sell for about 4,000 colons (about $12). The CD features Christmas songs.

The group also voted to spend up to $1,000 to pay transportation for computers and computer-related items being donated to Costa Rica by the San Francisco Fire Department. Ryan Piercy, executive director, said that the generosity of many North American companies seems to have dried up after the Sept. 11 terrorist attack.

The association has an arrangement for free shipping to Costa Rica from the East Coast of the United States. But the computers are on the West Coast. ABC Mundanzas has offered to manage the shipment through Costa Rican customers without 

charge, Piercy said, but the problem of shipping the items across the United States has not been resolved. The computers will be given or sold very cheaply to Costa Rican schools.

The group's annual meeting only attracted 16 persons, including Piercy, who said that might be an indication that members are happy with the progress of the group. There are more than 1,000 members he said. In addition, some members were reported to be flu victims, including president Robert Miller, who was re-elected to a one-year term.

Other officers for the coming year also were elected as part of the business at the morning session in the Parque del Lago Hotel in Sabana Este. All were unopposed.

Dee Vaughan was elected vice president for a year term. Lynn Smith, a former board member, is the new treasurer for a two-year term, and Chris Howard is secretary, also for two years.

Lawyer José Carter got a two-year term as fiscal or legal adviser. Doug Rea was named a "vocal" or director for two years. Helen Marek and Thomas Yatsko were given one-year terms in the same position.
Holiday was a success

Costa Ricans celebrated Día de las Culturas, or day of the Cultures, Monday with public offices and banks closed. 

Traffic was bearable on major roads, and public parks had the kind of crowd usually reserved for Sunday afternoon.

Gunship joins the assault in skies over Afghanistan
By A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. forces have launched fresh attacks near the Afghan cities of Kabul and Kandahar. 

The Kandahar attack late Monday involved an AC-130 gunship a  slow-flying aircraft capable of withering gunfire. Sources in the city had reported unusual air activity late Monday. The gunship's target is unclear.

The air raid in the Kabul area came early Tuesday, with at least three explosions reported north of the city. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld  has indicated U.S. forces may increase their attacks against Taliban forces entrenched north of the capital.

Such attacks could potentially clear the way for the opposition Northern  Alliance to move south and try to capture Kabul. The opposition has  issued conflicting claims on when it might try to enter Kabul.

Monday, the Afghan capital was hit by some of the heaviest daytime raids of the U.S.-led campaign, which is now in its tenth day. Plumes of smoke  were seen coming from the area around the Kabul airport.

Defense Secretary Rumsfeld has rejected Taliban allegations that the U.S. air campaign has killed hundreds of civilians. He called the Taliban  "accomplished liars," adding that some casualties attributed to the United States may have been caused by the Taliban or the al-Qaida network of  Osama bin Laden. 

Rumsfeld acknowledged there have been some civilian casualties, but  he provided no figures. 

Speaking at the Pentagon, Rumsfeld also said U.S. 

planes have begun dropping leaflets to assure Afghans the air strikes are aimed at ridding their  country of terrorists.

Meanwhile, the opposition alliance says it has moved within five kilometers of the key Taliban-held town of Mazar-i-Sharif. The group says its troops are poised to attack the town's airport. Capturing Mazar-i-Sharif from the Taliban could clear the way for the opposition to get supplies from Uzbekistan.

Rumsfeld said U.S. forces are trying to be as helpful as possible to the anti-Taliban opposition inside  Afghanistan. But he suggested there have been few air strikes against Taliban positions blocking the advance of Northern Alliance opposition forces north of Kabul because of a lack of precise targeting information.

Still, he voiced hope for improved targeting information soon and says any Taliban troops who feel the safest place for them is along the front lines to the north are mistaken. "I suspect that in the period ahead that's not going to be a very safe place to be," he said.

Rumsfeld told reporters at the Pentagon Monday the U.S. military is making good progress in creating conditions for sustained anti-terrorist operations inside Afghanistan. 

He says U.S. aircraft and missiles continue to hit al-Qaida and Taliban targets, including military training facilities, missile storage sites, troop  staging areas and the like.

He said U.S. aircraft are also continuing airdrops of relief supplies. In  addition, planes are dropping information leaflets and broadcasting radio  messages to discuss the U.S. military operation. 

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