March 9, 2012

Watch Out for Whales

"There’s a whale out there," exclaimed an attendee at Wednesday’s Spring Crew List Party. That was the first we’d heard of the mother grey and her calf that have been delighting the public with their presence for the last few days. Mary Jane Schramm of the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary noted that the pair could continue their migration north to Alaska at any time, but mariners should be on the lookout for them and give them a wide berth. Not only could you be fined if you get closer to the whales than 300 feet, but getting between a mother and her calf could result in the death of the baby if they are separated. So if you see some spouting, take a few snaps with your telephoto lens, ooh and aah a little, then leave them in peace.

Dolphins Rescued in Brazil

No experience is quite like hanging over the side of your boat as a pod of dolphin squirm and play and splash in your bow wake — the sheer joy they so clearly take in showing off can’t help but be contagious. For centuries mariners and landspeople alike have held the creatures in high esteem for their intelligence and outgoing personalities, so it’s particularly difficult to hear stories of dolphins beaching themselves for no apparent reason.

But one such beaching in Brazil had a happy ending on Monday. A short but riveting video showing the entire event — from the dolphins swimming in toward shore, beaching themselves and then being helped back to deep water — went viral over the last week. While not exactly sailing related, it certainly did our sailing hearts good to know this pod will live to splash in someone else’s bow wake.

Latitude’s Free Online Crew List

More than 300 people mixed and mingled at Golden Gate YC on Wednesday evening during Latitude 38‘s annual Spring Crew List Party. More skippers than ever turned out looking for new crewmembers, and they found them in spades. "I’ve been racing on San Francisco Bay for more than 20 years and I’ve never been to one of these," said Crazy Eights skipper Aaron Lee. "I figured it was about time!"

This was the best Spring Crew List Party in years. Lots of skippers, tons of crew, and oodles of fun.

latitude/LaDonna
© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

If you missed the party but are still looking for an extra hand or two, sign up on our free online Crew List as a ‘Skipper Looking for Crew’. You can also check out the listings for ‘Crew Looking for Boats’ for potential leads. There are several categories to choose from — Racing, Cruising, Mexico-Only, Daysailing, Co-Chartering, and Boat Swapping — so there’s something for everyone. And next year, do whatever it takes to make it to the party because it was just that much fun!

My Boat Gets No Respect!

"I think the Hunter 54 might be the most maligned boat design ever," our old friend Warren Stryker of St. Thomas told us the other day. We became friends with Warren in the ’70s when we both owned Rhodes-designed full keel Bounty IIs in Sausalito. Thirty years ago Warren set sail for the U.S. Virgins aboard Fifties Girl, which was built of fiberglass in Sausalito in the late ’50s, and has lived on St. Thomas ever since.

After a couple of decades of racing and taking mobs of friends out on Wednesday nights — and having Fifties Girl spend a month on the bottom courtesy of Hurricane Marilyn — Warren decided he wanted a more performance-oriented boat. It came down to the Hunter 54 or a Santa Cruz 50. The Santa Cruz had a much better reputation, but even a well-used one cost nearly three times as much as the Hunter, which was for sail for $54,000. Never one to go with the crowd, Stryker decided that the Hunter looked like a bigger bang for the buck.

Warren’s Hunter 54 Botox Barbie delivers a lot of bang for the buck.

latitude/Richard
©2012 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

He hasn’t regretted the decision since. "I love Botox Barbie because she’s fast, nimble and fun to sail. Everything I want in a boat. Part of the reason is that she displaces the same as my Bounty did, but she’s has 27 feet more waterline, and waterline is speed. It’s not uncommon for us to hit 10 or 12 knots when a group of us go out on Wednesday nights. The only boat that gives us competition is one of the Gold Coast 55 charter cats. And I personally don’t care for sailing on catamarans."

A few years ago, Warren, his son John-Phillip, and a young friend beat their brains out to get to St. Barth for New Years. We joined him for the famous New Year’s Eve Around the Island Race, which features a lot of hot boats. Despite the handicap of having us drive part of the way, Stryker’s Botox Barbie took line honors in the rabbit start event.

Stryker has made one significant improvement, which is putting the headsail on a boom and getting a headsail with batten-imposed built-in camber. "Who needs to grind when tacking? Who needs a spinnaker?" he asks.

"Botox Barbie has held up well, too. I haven’t had any structural issues, and even the 31-year-old fridge-freezer is running fine. The boat has a few nice touches, too. Not only does she have very large transom steps for climbing on and off, an important feature in the tropics, but the dinghy slides into a ‘garage’ beneath the cockpit. So I think the Hunter 54 is not just the most maligned boat ever, but was actually far ahead of her time."

Warren can stow his dinghy under the cockpit. What’s not to like?

latitude/Richard
©2012 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

What about your boat? Do you think she doesn’t get the respect and admiration she deserves? If so, let us know why in a few short paragraphs. Including a photo wouldn’t hurt.

The following are photos of boats you also might find interesting.

This is Warren’s inflatable dinghy. He pays $350/month to keep it at Crowne Bay Marina. Ouch!

latitude/Richard
©2012 Latitude 38 Media, LLC
Eric Clapton’s old Blue Guitar. She’s not quite up to rock star standards anymore.

latitude/Richard
©2012 Latitude 38 Media, LLC
Check out this older but goodie sailing machine. Warren tells us that she was originally built as a minesweeper, and thus has a mahogany hull that’s extremely thick. She may not be fast, but she’s got a lot of style.

latitude/Richard
© Latitude 38 Media, LLC
There’s nothing wrong with a drink on the rocks, but it’s all wrong when it comes to boats on the rocks. When Hurricane Earl came through the Virgins a few years ago, he’d already moved west to Puerto Rico when he sent a last 100-knot gust and tremendous tidal surge to Charlotte Amalie. It resulted in a number of large boats, including a large racing trimaran, going on the rocks and being destroyed. Botox Betty bounced off the bottom, dropping her mast.

latitude/Richard
©2012 Latitude 38 Media, LLC
On the ferry to the British Virgins, we came across a blue-hulled sistership to Stryker’s Fifties Girl. The design still looks great. The boat in the foreground is overloaded with either Haitian refugees or folks off a cruise ship. Either way, it looks like about the same amount of fun, doesn’t it?

latitude/Richard
©2012 Latitude 38 Media, LLC
Before you block vacation time or book flight reservations in order to watch the San Francisco edition of the America’s Cup World Series this summer, be aware that the tour dates are in a state of flux.
When we reported Monday on the results of the 32nd annual Heineken Regatta, we announced that Rick Wesslund of Tiburon had won his class with the J/120 El Ocaso.