May 30, 2012

Master Mariners Regatta

Moving like an express train that’s behind schedule, the 82-ft M-class sloop Pursuit roared across the Central Bay toward the Blackaller jibe mark. A true labor of love, she’d spent decades idling in her slip before owner Ron MacAnnan put this 1929 classic back in racing form.

latitude/Andy
©2012 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

It would be hard to imagine more ideal conditions for the annual Master Mariners’ Regatta, sailed last Saturday. With mostly clear skies and 20-25 knots of steady breeze over much of the course, even the heaviest boats on the roster of entries could move along the course at hull speed with all their rags flying. 

Vixen, which graced this year’s T-shirts and coffee cups, was built in 1904.

latitude/Andy
©2012 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

As photographers, shooting the Master Mariners is one of our favorite annual assignments, as the fleet comprises a veritable floating museum of vintage sailboat designs. From small wooden classics like Birds and Bears to large, elegant schooners, the beauty of this year’s fleet was astounding. One look at the meticulously maintained brightwork and polished bronze hints at the countless hours of work that goes into each and every entry in preparation for this race, which for many entries is the most important outing of the year.

Race Chair Bill Belmont couldn’t resist sailing his Farallon Clipper Credit (left). In the foreground Sunda, a 1939 Ben Seaborn design built in 1941, approaches the Blackaller buoy off Crissy Field.

latitude/Andy
©2012 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

The race contained the usual amount of drama, with torn sails, broken gear and even a man overboard (who was quickly rescued, thank God), and a roaring party at the Encinal YC afterward. We’ll have a complete report in the July edition of Latitude 38, but for now we’ll let the pictures do the talking.

The entire procession of boats escorting the USS Iowa out the Gate slowed to let Hans List’s Seaquester slide by.

latitude/Andy
©2012 Latitude 38 Media, LLC
The schooners Freda B and Gas Light share a similar paint job, and sailplan, but radically different hull shapes, as Gas Light is a replica scow schooner.

latitude/Andy
©2012 Latitude 38 Media, LLC
Grace Quan has no frills, but this replica junk is true to her ancestry. Similar junks were once prolific on the Bay.

latitude/Andy
©2012 Latitude 38 Media, LLC
Skip and Patty Henderson’s Aïda was looking as sweet as the day she was launched in 1961.

latitude/Andy
©2012 Latitude 38 Media, LLC
Like so many entries in this year’s race, the meticulously maintained Bolero appeared to be is good condition as she was when launched.

latitude/Andy
©2012 Latitude 38 Media, LLC
Hank Easom, taking a break from the helm of Pursuit, sights the finish line.

© 2012

For results and more, see www.mastermariners.org.

Bud, Fortunately, Was a Dud

Bud, the first Eastern Pacific (Mexican) hurricane of the season, had boat owners and/or their watchers stripping boats in Nuevo Vallarta and La Cruz on Friday and Saturday, as it was making a beeline for Banderas Bay. Fortunately, the one-time Category 3 storm, with winds that had peaked at over 100 knots, fizzled dramatically some 40 miles short of Cabo Corrientes, which is at the south end of Banderas Bay. Not only did the Vallarta area not see any wind from the storm, there were only light sprinkles, nothing like the up-to-12 inches of rain that had been predicted.

This weekend promises ideal Baja Bash conditions.

© Passage Weather

It’s nonetheless a reminder that hurricane season has arrived in Mexico and people need to be prepared. As for those who want to take their boats north, Passage Weather suggests that conditions off the Baja coast will be mellow toward the end of the week and early next week, close to ideal for a painless Bash.

Feeling the Love for the Coast Guard

Daniel jury-rigged a mast from his boat’s spinnaker pole after he dismasted off the East Coast.

© Daniel Collins

"I recently was dismasted while sailing solo offshore on the East Coast and I would like to share my story with you and your readers," writes Daniel Collins of the Roswell, GA-based Allied Princes Aletheia. "As a solo sailor, a dismasting can be an extremely dangerous event, and in my case, with the proximity of the Gulf Stream and several bad fronts approaching, the situation was not a positive one. I’d been able to rig a jury mast using a spinnaker pole, but with only my own strength against a heavy offshore vessel, retrieving the original mast and rigging proved impossible without serious additional risk to my safety and the integrity of my hull. Under jury rig I was able to close about 100 miles — about 160 miles off Charleston — but at that point the strong currents peeling off the Gulf Stream and strong contrary winds threatening to shift to the north prevented my small rig from making any further progress. I’d called TowBoat US using my sat phone and was told their offshore boat was out of service and would be for some time, but they immediately referred me to the Coast Guard, though I was not at the time specifically requesting rescue. To my grateful surprise, the Coast Guard not only sent the cutter Yellowfin out to get me but offered a tow for my vessel back to Charleston, and did not even suggest that I should be removed from my boat. The crew were utterly professional, courteous, and checked in with me constantly to ensure that the towing process was going well. Thirty hours after picking up the tow — including several hours through the 70-knot northerly winds of a storm system which I understand helped to form Tropical Storm Alberto — I was safely in harbor.

After 30 hours, Yellowfin safely deposited Daniel and his boat in Charleston.

© Daniel Collins

"I know that there has been some negative Coast Guard coverage in the wake of the Bay closures and handling of certain events," Daniel continues, "so I appreciate the opportunity to balance that perspective with my story.  The Coast Guard not only came out to my aid, but towed Aletheia rather than evacuate me. Sector Charleston, Lt. Jed Carlough, and the entire crew of the Yellowfin deserve serious credit for being willing to consider towing me, and for the expertise and courtesy showed during the entire process. Since my boat is also my home, I am especially grateful."

Though Hurricane Bud, the first of the Eastern Pacific (Mexico) region, has weakened as it nears shore, it’s still blowing at 100 knots and should make landfall tonight between Manzanillo and Banderas Bay (Puerto Vallarta).