April 28, 2014

Golden Gate Bullship Race

This reporter enjoyed her maiden Bullship in a boat generously loaned by John Amen, but unfortunately took too long (almost an hour) to clear the Marin shore and so was told to turn back by the race committee.

latitude/Chris
© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Saturday marked the 61st running of the Gran Concurso Barco-Toro, aka Bullship, the oldest race for El Toros. You may think of El Toros as trainers for kids, but the Bullship is strictly for grown-ups, as its route takes competitors from Sausalito’s Trident Restaurant through San Francisco Bay’s notorious Slot and across the mouth of the Golden Gate to the San Francisco Marina. Indeed, almost all of the 21 Bullship sailors this weekend were middle-aged – or older.

The camera’s long lens made this ship appear much closer than it actually was to John Amen. Big wakes are a challenge in an El Toro though.

© 2014 Richmond Yacht Club

Saturday morning’s forecast was frightening – at least for maiden voyagers – with a prediction of 15-25 knots from the northwest: the right direction but the wrong wind strength for the 8-ft boats. But sometimes you just need to look up from your computer and check out the window instead. This was one of those times. What wind there was at the 9:00 start came out of the south – unfortunately, on the nose for the Bullship race. Also on the nose was the max flood current. So getting out of Sausalito was a tricky chore. Short-tacking up the shore for current relief was of utmost importance. Despite the flood, the eager racers had a general recall of their start.

Fred Paxton leads Art Lange and John Pacholski along Sausalito’s South Beach.

latitude/Ross
©2014 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Once out in the Slot, the fleet hopped into water going in the right direction. Sometime after 10 a.m. enough of a westerly filled in to whip up white caps. Fred Paxton found the favorable current first and rode it to victory, his first in the Bullship. ‘Gran Almiranta de la Regata‘ John Amen finished second. Chris Nash (#5) won the Clydesdale trophy for the first finisher weighing 200 pounds or more. John Liebenberg (#6) won the Viejo Trophy, and James Savattone (#8) the Woody Trophy. David Bacci (#9) was the first maiden voyager to finish, and Vickie Gilmour (#12) won the Sirena Award for the first (and only) female finisher. The 18th finisher, Christophe Caron, got the Tail-Ender award. See complete results at www.eltoroyra.org. Defending champion Gordie Nash missed the race, opting instead for the Great Vallejo Race on his big boat. 

Buzz Blackett (in the red jacket) finished fourth, after Chris Straub (not shown here) in third.

latitude/Ross
©2014 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Loving the Boat Yard & Freedom from Excessive Regulations

Peter Vargas, center in blue hat, stands below Moonshadow with his Sea Tek team. The Deerfoot looks darn nice for a boat that did a 16-year circumnavigation under her previous owner.

John Rogers
©2014 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

"Deb and I are proud of ourselves for finally following the Wanderer’s advice," write John and Debbie Rogers of the San Diego-based Deerfoot 2-62 Moonshadow. "We’re still smarting from ignoring the Wanderer’s advice and leaving St. Barth too soon last winter. But since the Wanderer had Profligate hauled at the La Cruz Shipyard on Banderas Bay for a lot of work, and used the services of Peter Vargas and his Sea Tek team, we decided to do the same. We’ve never really enjoyed time in boatyards — who does? — but we were surprised to find that our two-month experience of refitting Moonshadow here was really great. We could live ashore inexpensively right on the beach while having the much-needed work done. We ended up becoming great friends with the whole Sea Tek crew, whom we found to be sincerely interested in giving us the best possible outcome. They did a great job.

"And the town of La Cruz has been wonderful. We especially like the way the beaches are free of the many regulations we’re used to seeing at the beaches of our hometown of San Diego. On the beach in front of our temporary home in La Cruz, we frequently saw dogs running free, horses, cars, ATVs, dinghies, fishing pangas, parties with coolers full of beer, barbecues, bonfires, fireworks — and mostly people taking a break and having a good time relaxing. We haven’t seen drunks, fights, arrests, cops, lawsuits or other forms of party-pooping interference. Here in La Cruz they’ve somehow figured out how to share a public beach without a lot of government ordinances. Although while in Chacala today, we saw the accompanying anti-pooping sign, which made us realize that even in Mexico you have to draw the line somewhere.

"We’re heading up into the Sea of Cortez next week, and will be doing the Bash in late June. Any chance we’ll see Profligate somewhere along the way?"

The Wanderer and Doña de Mallorca are glad you had a great experience with Peter and his crew at the La Cruz Shipyard. We also had a great experience, but we need to make it clear that we are Switzerland when it comes to boatyards, as there are many others in California and Mexico that do excellent work. One of the big factors in our hauling Profligate in La Cruz is that there are so few places — three — between Panama and the Napa Valley that can accommodate Profligate’s 30-ft beam. But like you, we loved how much pride the Sea Tek team took in their work.

We’re big on the smallest and least intrusive government possible, but we understand the need for some regulations. For example, we are not in favor of pit bulls and other potentially lethal dogs on populated beaches, as they are often used by subhumans to intimidate others who are simply trying to relax. Similarly, we are not in favor of cars or ATVs on popular beaches, as humans simply can’t be trusted to abstain from recklessly showing off in front of people who don’t want to see or hear them.

As for jet skis, proportionately the most deadly of all watercraft, we don’t think they are regulated nearly enough, even though they are banned entirely in places such as Sayulita. There was a tragic jet-ski accident last Christmas between La Cruz and Bucerias, when a jet-ski instructor, showing off, hit a honeymooning young couple from Mexico City who were paddling along in an orange kayak minding their own business. The young woman was killed and the young man suffered serious injuries. About that same time, a woman from a cruise ship on a jet ski off Puerto Vallarta collided with her daughter on another jet ski, killing her. Happy holidays.

That said, we’ve spent a lot of time on the beaches of Banderas Bay, and despite the fact that there doesn’t seem to be any regulation against drinking on the beach, we haven’t seen one fight or need for police. It’s overwhelmingly been regular Mexicans having a great time on the beach, not bothering anyone. We love watching the families and kids play in the water.

Seeing this makes us wonder if the sign makers in Mexico might have a couple of thousand extra signs like these that can be posted in downtown San Francisco and on the BART elevators.

John Rogers
©2014 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Not to rub it in, but you really should have listened to us about St. Barth, as it’s a fabulous sailing hotbed between early February and the first week in April. We’ve already had the Bucket and the Voiles. Today the first of the double-handed boats arrive from France, and early next week is the start of the West Indies Regatta for work boats. During this time span there have been other great regattas just a few miles away: The Heineken Regatta in 15-mile-distant St. Martin, and the Antigua Classic and Antigua Sailing Week in 80-miles-distant Antigua. All this, not to mention the great anchorages, the clear warm waters, or the women who walk like cats.

With the season here nearly over, we’ll be returning to La Cruz to have Vargas and crew put on Profligate‘s hard-top. We hope to be bashing by late June, as we’re eager to get north for the Santa Barbara to King Harbor Race in late July, the So Cal Ta-Ta in early September, the Little Ensenada Race in early October, and Baja Ha-Ha XXI in late October. So much sailing to do, so little time. But yeah, there’s a good chance we’ll see you on the Bash Bash.

While perusing the UK Guardian last month we came across a fascinating item about a German fisherman who pulled a brown beer bottle out of the Baltic Sea near Kiel, only to discover that it had a message in it scrawled on a very old post card.
Weather forecasts are one of the most talked-about topics in any cruiser gathering, often because they’re so often wrong or misunderstood, and so much depends on accurate forecasting when you’re in a small boat in a large ocean.  For decades, Steve and Linda Dashew have been the leading authorities on active heavy weather tactics, with their books Mariner’s Weather Handbook and Surviving the Storm taking up valuable — and well-earned — space on nearly every sailor’s bookshelf.