March 12, 2012

Ouch! That Had to Hurt

Doh! A boater trying to avoid paddleboarders at the entrance to Ballena Bay wound up high and dry last Saturday.

© 2012 Nathaniel Penn

It’s easy to assume from this photo that the powerboat pictured simply cut a corner last Saturday and ran up on this concrete pipe on the north side of the entrance to Ballena Bay. But the skipper of this boat — who prefers to remain anonymous, though he admits that friends will undoubtedly recognize his boat — says that it’s not as simple as all that.

Around 10 a.m. on March 3, the skipper rounded the sea wall at the entrance to Ballena Bay only to be greeted by a flock of 15 paddleboarders smack in the middle of the channel. "It was a class from a paddleboard rental place that’s not even located in Ballena Bay," he says.

In an effort to avoid the SUPers in the narrow waterway, he veered out of the channel, between a white marker and the beach. "I thought that marker was a ‘no wake’ buoy," he recalls. "You have to be pretty close to it to see that it actually says ‘Submerged Pipeline’." Of course by the time he realized his mistake, it was too late.

“I sympathize with the owner,” says Chris Penn, whose son Nathaniel snapped these photos. “In fact, I’ve rescued boats that were more mildly grounded on that pipe in the past with my powerboat.”

© 2012 Nathaniel Penn

Thankfully no one was injured when the boat struck the just-awash pipe but the same can’t be said for the boat. Not only were both props, shafts, rudders and struts damaged, but once the ebbing tide allowed the boat to settle on the pipe, a hole developed. As the tide filled in, the boat was towed off the pipe and heavy duty water pumps were set up to keep her afloat until she could be hauled out on Monday. "It was a brutal weekend," says the skipper.

The skipper says the pipe should be better marked. "Why aren’t there more buoys around it?" he wonders. Ballena Isle Marina harbormaster Jerry Hook says he had the white buoy installed a few months ago as a courtesy to his tenants. "The pipe isn’t on our property," he explains. "As a matter of fact, I’ve tried to find out who ‘owns’ it and apparently it’s no one — it seems to have been part of a 100-year-old project."

The NOAA chart shows an “obstruction” of some kind, but the skipper of the powerboat says the pipe should be better marked on the chart, as well as by buoys.

© 2012 NOAA

Even as potentially embarrassing as the situation is, the skipper feels that others really need to be made aware of the pipe so they don’t suffer the same fate. We’ve all had our fair share of accidents on the water, and the best we can do is learn from them, whether they’re ours or not. So when you’re entering and exiting Ballena Bay — any harbor, actually — be sure to pay close attention to your chart and all markers. Remember, it’s easier to stay out of trouble than to get out of trouble.

Cruisers at the Crossroads

Every year between February and May roughly 400 cruising boats from all over the world head west from Panama to French Polynesia. Some are in the early stages of a circumnavigation and some are in the latter stages, while others are setting off on a Pacific circuit where they’ll eventually circle back to homeports in the Pacific Northwest or along the California coast.

The Panama Canal is a funnel through which nearly every long-term cruiser passes. At our March 10 party, we met westbound sailors from more than a half-dozen countries

©2012 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

These Pacific Puddle Jumpers, as we like to call them, are a fascinating group, each of whom seems to have an endless supply of cruising tales to tell. That’s one of the reasons we host an annual PPJ Send-off Party at the friendly Balboa YC, located just past the Pacific end of the Panama Canal.

“It’s now or never,” says Don Klein, 72, referring to his upcoming passage to the Marquesas. Luckily for him, his wife Judi is equally excited about making the 3,000-mile crossing aboard their Honolulu-based Dufour 39 Passion.

©2012 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

One of the challenges of hosting a shindig for boats heading west from Panama is picking a date, as there’s no single day on the calendar when the entire fleet will be assembled. We picked last Saturday, March 10, which turned out to be a winner, as roughly 70 sailors attended from at least a half-dozen countries. You’ll meet them via mini-profiles in upcoming editions of Latitude 38. And this summer we’ll report on the fleet’s crossing experiences after learning the details at our annual Tahiti-Moorea Sailing Rendezvous, June 22-24. For a complete registration list of this year’s Puddle Jump ralliers, see the website.

Every day at this time of year international cruisers pass through the Canal headed west. Here, a crewman aboard the German steel sloop Moin tosses off rented lines and tire fenders at the Balboa YC fuel dock, on the western end of The Ditch.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Solo TransPac Comm Seminar

You don’t have to be racing to Hawaii this summer to attend Wednesday’s free ‘Communications’ seminar presented by Paul Elliott as part of the Singlehanded TransPac seminar series. Elliott has sailed in the last three Pacific Cups aboard his Sausalito-based Pacific Seacraft 44 Valis and will be once again acting as comm boat for this year’s running of the race, as he has for the last two years.

Paul Elliott will be covering ‘Communications’ in this month’s Singlehanded TransPac prep seminar.

© 2012 Erik Simonson

We’ve had a sneak peek at Elliott’s presentation and can say it has to be one of the most comprehensive presentations on the topic we’ve ever seen. "Obviously we won’t be able to go over everything," he admits, "but I wanted people to walk away with something that will be useful to them afterward." Naturally, the focus will be on communications for the race, but the information in Elliott’s handout would be valuable to anyone interested in long-range communications.

Wednesday’s talk is free to everyone — including the general public — and though this is not an official Pacific Cup event, racers in that event are encouraged to attend. Doors to Oakland YC open at 6:30 p.m. — as does the no-host bar — and the presentation starts at 7. There will be a limited number of handouts available so get there early.

The Parade of Luxury Yachts

We’re at Latitude‘s cruising editor’s spring office aboard ‘ti Profligate at St. Barth in the Eastern Caribbean, where the busy youth sailing program starts at 7:30 a.m. every morning, where you can tell the cruise ships from the private motor yachts by the fact the cruise ships are the small ones, and where there’s a constant parade of magnificent sailing yachts, including two from Silicon Valley’s Jim Clark, the 295-ft three-masted schooner Athena and the 138-ft J Class Hanuman.

Athena is a frequent visitor to St. Barth.

©2012 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

All the great new yachts come to St. Barth, so it was no surprise when the new 145-ft Hemisphere, the largest sailing catamaran in the world, dropped her hook. Thanks to her length and 54-ft beam, her footprint, even in the world of mega motoryachts, is astonishing. Yet her designers, Marc Ven Peteghem and Lauriot Prevost of VPLP in France, did a fabulous job. She’s a nice-looking yacht — big yachts sometimes aren’t — and given her towering, spreaderless carbon mast, it’s clear she capable of considerable speed.

Hemisphere, the world’s largest catamaran, recently made her first visit to the island.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Hemisphere was started at Derecktors in the Northeast, but after one problem or another, she was put on a barge and shipped to Pendennis in England for completion. We weren’t invited aboard, of course, so we can only judge from the photos, but she looks gorgeous. Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but we’re hoping that Hemisphere, along with Richard Branson’s 105-ft sailing cat Necker Belle, also a frequent visitor to St. Barth, might encourage megayacht owners to start opting for more energy-efficient sailing cats.

We wish more St. Barth visitors were as as energy efficient as Sir Richard Branson’s Necker Belle.

Necker Belle
© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

If you have a spare quarter mil, you and 11 friends can enjoy a luxury week charter aboard Hemisphere. If the Caribbean isn’t your thing, she’ll be cruising the South Pacific this summer. Given her huge dark blue hulls, she won’t be hard to spot.

"There’s a whale out there," exclaimed an attendee at Wednesday’s Spring Crew List Party.
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.
"I think the Hunter 54 might be the most maligned boat design ever," our old friend Warren Stryker of St.