Mel Ellison sent this shot with a note, "I managed to snap a photo of a humpback whale coming under the Golden Gate Bridge yesterday and thought your readers might be interested. The backdrop is Fort Point and the mega yacht Air as she was transiting out of the Bay. The buildings in the Avenues look close because of the compression of the high-powered lens I was using. We saw the the whale for just a few moments before it disappeared."
"Perfect" was one of the descriptions of the Great Vallejo Race we heard on Saturday evening from sailors who were boat-hopping, visiting friends in the big raft-up at Vallejo Yacht Club. Fears of near-gale-force winds and nighttime rain were unfounded, and both the race itself and the post-race gathering were pleasant as could be.
Sunday’s race, from VYC to a new finish line south of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge and east of the Tiburon Peninsula’s Paradise Cay, had moments of high wind, particularly in the North Bay, where stiff breeze and big chop are staples of mid- to late-afternoon summer days. Most of the race was in light air, however, so the ability to change gears for the last couple of miles was critical.
Check results on Jibeset, then see much more coverage of the sun-and-fun weekend in the June issue of Latitude 38.
Malcolm Leth of the Jeanneau 39 Dancia from Brisbane, Australia, is getting ready to join the Pacific Puddle Jump currently underway from the West Coast. He wrote in to ask, "Do you have longitude degrees that most sailors prefer to transit across the equator to the south in the PPJ? I will leave in the next few days from La Paz."
We have one report from Puddle Jumpers Glenn Howell and Bona Hebert aboard their Atlantic 55 Rocketeer, who’ve already arrived in the Marquesas: "We made it in 17 days from PV with white sails. We went west toward Hawaii to about 128°W and turned left to the Marquesas.
"The gendarmes required a bond even though we have long-stay visas. We were told that this practice started a few weeks before we arrived, perhaps at the beginning of April. We had to go to the bank and post a $3,700 bond for two people."
Cruisers leave the West Coast of the Americas from many different departure points and on many different dates but all converge, at some point, in the Marquesas. If you’re also already there where did you ‘turn left’, and were you required to post a bond?
The New York Times recently reported that as ice continues to subside in the Arctic, cargo companies are considering using the Northwest Passage, "potentially a faster, more direct route between Asia and ports in Europe and eastern North America," according to the Times — as a regular shipping route in the next few decades.
But let’s not forget that sailors both pioneered the Northwest Passage and have been cruising it for decades. In fact, we’re pretty sure more sailors have done the Passage (some even in fiberglass boats) than mega-container ships or icebreakers.
The Northwest Passage was first navigated successfully by Norwegian Roald Amundsen, after several famed and failed expeditions. With a crew of six, Amundsen’s 70-ft gaff-rigged sloop Gjøa made it through the Passage in 1906 — a three-year voyage. The Gjøa did have a small engine, as the Northwest Passage is just as famous for its summer calms as it is for its ice.
In 1977, Willy de Roos became the first person to skipper a yacht — the 45-ft steel ketch Williwaw — through the Passage. Matt Rutherford navigated the Northwest Passage in a 27-ft Albin Vega, then went around Cape Horn and back to Annapolis in his Solo Around the Americas Challenge in 2011.
In the fall, local San Francisco sailor Randall Reeves — featured in Latitude 38’s May issue’s Sightings — plans to attempt the Figure 8 Voyage from the Bay Area to Cape Horn, around Antarctica, up the East Coast to Greenland, through the Northwest Passage, and back to the Bay.
In 2014, Reeves crewed with a couple who had attempted and failed to navigate the Passage the year before in their 45-ft Bruce Roberts-designed steel sailboat. The Roberts became one of seven boats that made the complete passage in 2014. "Thirty boats gave it a shot," Reeves said. "That’s a lot. But only seven made it."
The behavior of the ice in the Northwest Passage varies from year to year. It is (almost) universally agreed that ice in the Arctic is melting rapidly. "Scientists say global warming is largely responsible for the changes. Parts of the Arctic are warming twice as fast as elsewhere," according to the Times. But the melt doesn’t equate to a more navigable route.
Reeves said that while there’s less ice in the Arctic, it doesn’t mean there’s less ice in the Passage itself. "It’s not necessarily easier every year," Reeves said. "It’s not linear." The erratic nature of the ice is one of many reasons that the Northwest Passage is not yet ready for full-time shipping.
"Just because shippers could make greater use of Arctic routes does not mean they will," the Times said. "Ice conditions will still vary greatly from year to year, which would discourage shipping companies for which precise timing of shipments is crucial."
And making the Northwest Passage is not easy or a barrel of laughs. "It’s not a fun passage," Reeves added. "It’s a lot of work, and it’s really cold and stressful; you can get 2,000 miles in and have to over-winter, because you can’t get out."