August 19, 2011

18-ft Skiffs Getting Ready

Blast-off! The 18-ft Skiffs get going on Sunday on the Cityfront.

© Sharon Green

The St. Francis YC’s 18-ft International Regatta is the only event of its kind in the United States. For some of the world’s most experienced skiff sailors, the Bay is the only place of its kind on the planet.

"There is definitely no other venue that compares to the usual San Francisco conditions," was the assessment from the defending champion Aussie Michael Coxon. Coxon, who won his third JJ Giltinan Trophy — the class’s unofficial world championship — back in March, will be back with his crew of Trent Barnabas and Aaron Links. Coxon will be part of a large international contingent that includes fellow Aussies John Winning, Nick Press, Jonathon Whitty, and Grant Rollerson. Also in the mix will be the Kiwi contingent of Alex Vallings, Graham Catley and David McDiamid.

The Skiff Sailing Foundation’s Chad Freitas marking the centerline on an 18-ft skiff rig prior to adding spreader brackets.

latitude/Rob
© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Of course the local teams will also be in the fray, and they’ve already been hard at work getting their boats ready for the event. The usual suspects like Pat Whitmarsh, Mike Radziejowski, Chad Freitas, Skip and Jody McCormack, Katie Love, JV Gilmour and Dan Roberts will all be out there trying to keep their fragile beasts in order, and all have been working on their boats to make sure they’re as prepared as possible.

A carbon fiber spreader bracket sets up after being bonded to a mast tube.

latitude/Rob
© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Unlike the 18-ft skiff scene pretty much everywhere else, the local sailors are largely self-funded rather than sponsored which in large part means doing more with less — fewer spares, hand-me-down rigs and parts generously brought over by the foreign teams. Many sail under the auspices of the Bay’s Skiff Sailing Foundation which has helped make the sailing that much more affordable. The event begins on Sunday and runs through Tuesday before taking a lay day on Wednesday. Then on Thursday it joins up with the Ronstan Bridge to Bridge Race before wrapping up on Friday. So go down to Crissy Field to support the locals and watch some of the most spectacular sailing around.

Dan Malpas and Campbell Rivers glue a new section of mast track to a mast.

latitude/Rob
© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

A North Bay Getaway

For most North Americans summer is the prime time to escape from the rat race on a fun-filled vacation. But these days, not many of us can rationalize jetting off to some exotic destination. No worries. If you have access to a sailboat, there are a bunch of worthwhile getaway options right in our own backyard. 

One example — as illustrated by a recent Club Nautique cruise-out — is making a trip up the Petaluma River into the sunny latitudes of Sonoma County. "About a dozen boats rendezvoused around Red Rock at 11 a.m. on Friday morning and headed into San Pablo Bay," reports organizer Marianne Armand. "The layer of cloud cover burned off around noon and we were treated to a nice downwind sail in shorts and t-shirts."

When the breeze went light, the fleet motored up the final miles to downtown — after all, no one wanted to miss the 5 p.m. cocktail party.

© 2011 Rod Witel

After lacing their way up the winding river, past farm fields and vineyards, the fleet passed beneath the D Street lift bridge and Med-moored in the town’s historic turning basin, in the heart of the Victorian-era business district.

Marianne reports that after a cocktail party aboard the fleet’s mother ship, the 40-ft cat Cats Aye, the Club Nautique 40 catamaran, "We spent the evening laughing and roaming from boat to boat meeting new friends and catching up with old mates. We danced on the bows of our boats as the cool tunes from a Jazz band across the basin floated us into twilight."

The river snakes through farm fields and vineyards far from freeway traffic.

© Rod Witel

"We purposely built in a day with nothing scheduled. It was so great. There are so many fun things to do right in downtown Petaluma. People went on walking tours, enjoyed mani-pedis and puttered around in dinghies. It was one of those magically delightful weekends where friendship and camaraderie filled the air with easy relaxation. I can’t recommend Petaluma enough. It’s a fabulous getaway destination that’s right here in our back yard. Trust me, you’ll love it!" Read more about the cruise in the September edition of Latitude 38 magazine.

Bouyancy test? No, it’s the fleet’s cocktail party, aboard the mother ship Cats Aye.

© 2011 Rod Witel
There are few other places in the Bay Area where you can berth your boat safely, then walk to dozens of shops, restaurants and nightspots.

© Rod Witel

Sockdolager Says Hello in Sausalito

Late summer may curse us with seemingly endless fog and chill but it blesses us with the arrival of many southbound cruisers with whom we have the pleasure of visiting. Just this morning we had the chance to hear about Jim Heumann and Karen Sullivan’s trip down the coast from Port Townsend aboard their Pacific Seacraft Dana 24 Sockdolager.

Sockdolager may be small, but she’s big on comfort and seaworthiness.

latitude/LaDonna
©2011 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

When Jim and Karen met at a Pacific Seacraft rendezvous in ’05 — he was from Port Townsend, she was from Seward, Alaska — each singlehanded their own Dana. Love blossomed, and the following year Karen sailed her boat, Minstrel, to Port Townsend, finally selling her last year in preparation for their open-ended cruise.

The couple left Neah Bay on July 15 hoping to make a nonstop trip to San Francisco Bay, but a gale off the (where else?) Oregon coast slowed down their progress for a few days. When they were just about abeam of Eureka, another gale was forecast so they took a sharp left turn and headed for the barn. They had to wait out a few more systems, but finally got a short weather window and high-tailed it for Drakes Bay, where they hung out for a couple of days before making their way under the Bridge nearly two weeks ago.

Jim Heumann and Karen Sullivan have been enjoying a warm welcome — if not the warm weather — on the Bay.

latitude/LaDonna
©2011 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

"We started a new tradition," says Karen, an accomplished musician and singer. "I broke into ‘I Left My Heart in San Francisco’ as we sailed under the Bridge, so now we plan to sing whenever we enter a new port. Friends suggested on our blog ‘Here Comes Santa Cruz’ and ‘Do You Know the Way to Marina del Rey’," she laughed.

Jim and Karen plan to explore the Bay a bit — "I’ve never been to wine country before," says Karen — before heading south toward Mexico. They plan to spend the season cruising there and preparing for a Puddle Jump to the Marquesas next season. After that, who knows? But it’s a safe bet which song they’ll be belting out when they finally reach the fabled isles of Bali Ha’i . . . .

American Yacht Wrecked at Palmerston

Although details are not yet clear, we’ve learned that the 42-ft American yacht Ri Ri was lost recently on a reef at Palmerston Island in the Cooks.

Dave and Sherry McCampbell of the Marathon, FL-based CSY 44 Soggy Paws report in their blog: "We are sad to report that one boat we are acquainted with, Ri Ri, was lost on the reef at Palmerston Atoll yesterday. We haven’t been able to get all the details, but Ri Ri was on a mooring there and apparently broke free. (No word yet on whether it was mooring equipment that failed, or boat-based equipment, and how they got so stuck so fast that they couldn’t get off).

"A huge effort was made to pull her off the reef, but they eventually gave up that effort and started just trying to salvage stuff inside. So Frank and his girlfriend are fine, but are sitting on a pile of used boat gear in Palmerston, wondering what to do next. Very sad. As always, a number of cruisers are headed for Palmerston to help out as much as possible – and one has already promised them passage on to Tonga when they are ready."

George David’s Juan K 100 Rambler may have been lost, but thankfully none of the crew were.
If you’re a regular visitor to this site, or are a regular reader of Latitude 38 magazine, you already know that our phenomenally successful Baja Ha-Ha rally from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas has grown into the second largest cruising rally in the world.
Every Bay sailor knows that commercial ships have right-of-way and that you never want to tempt fate by crossing their bows, right?