June 30, 2017

Cruising Great Loses Second Boat

For 12 years and 60,000 ocean miles, Jack van Ommen demonstrated that it’s almost impossible to be too old or too poor to cruise.

©Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Jack van Ommen has lost his second Naja 30 cruising boat Fleetwood after a grounding on Mink Island, Virginia, at 4 a.m. on Wednesday.

Thanks to the Coast Guard, the stalwart adventurer, originally from Gig Harbor, Washington, is all right — although he’s still suffering back problems from a nasty onboard fall near Cabo Malo, Panama. He is now shipless and thus homeless, but is being cared for by one of his daughters who lives only a three-hour drive from the wreck site.

Van Ommen had lost his first Naja 30 on a rocky corner of tiny Tagomago near Ibiza in Spain’s Balearic Islands in November 2013 after a series of storms. He was able to replace her with a sistership that he found in the Pacific Northwest.

Despite having lost two boats, both of which were plywood kit boats built in 1979, van Ommen remains a sailing hero of the Wanderer’s and a member of the Latitude 38 Sailing Hall of Fame. And with good reason. Van Ommen, who turned 80 in February, didn’t start cruising until after he had gone bankrupt and turned 68.

Living exclusively on a Social Security budget of about $1,500 a month, van Ommen has managed to complete a 12-year circumnavigation that saw him singlehand 60,000 ocean miles and visit 60 countries. In the process, he also negotiated 570 locks, mostly during a circumnavigation of Western Europe via the Danube River and Black Sea.

Van Ommen has emphatically demonstrated that age and a lack of money are almost never true obstacles to ocean adventuring.

Jack attributes the loss of his current Fleetwood to a lack of prudence. A problem with an engine ignition switch resulted in his not being ready to leave the dock until 4:30 p.m. Having already paid his bill at the marina and looking at favorable tides, he decided to take off rather than wait until morning. As a result, he believes he may have slept through his alarm going off. A shift in the wind direction put the boat on the beach.

Unable to get the boat off, he eventually had to take to his liferaft. A Coast Guard swimmer was lowered to help get him up to the chopper. Thus ended, almost before it started, his attempt at a Great Loop of the Eastern United States.

The loss of van Ommen’s first Fleetwood resulted in one of the all time great shipwreck photos. Miraculously, he was able to step off his boat and onto shore, his computer in his hand.

© 2017 Jack van Ommen

One of van Ommen’s great attributes is his positive outlook on life. “I have no idea what my next destination will be. My reputation as a navigator may be somewhat dubious, but I am a good multi-language boathand and cook, and excel as a house, pet and chicken sitter. Keep that in mind.  Something good will come out of the loss and disappointment.” 

Singlehander’s Fate a Mystery

Most of the 204 boats registered with the Pacific Puddle Jump have now made landfall safely in the archipelagos of French Polynesia, but the fate of singlehander Richard Carr, 71, remains a mystery. Sailing west and independent of the rest of the Puddle Jump fleet, Carr alerted family members in late May via text messages through his InReach satellite communications device that his Union 36 Celebration was in peril.

At the time that the US Coast Guard was alerted to Carr’s situation, Celebration‘s last known position was near 06° S, 127° W, roughly 2,000 miles southwest of Puerto Vallarta and 1,800 miles southeast of Hilo, Hawaii.

Despite receiving no further specifics, a massive search of those remote waters was undertaken, which involved US and French military recon aircraft, plus helicopters from three commercial vessels. Over a 24-day period, nearly 60,000 square miles of ocean was searched without any sign of Celebration — "an area the size of Oklahoma," according to USCG 14th District in Honolulu.

The massive search was finally abandoned June 22. Our sincere condolences go out to Carr’s family and friends.

Many boats crossing to French Polynesia this season reported unusually light winds, which undoubtedly contributed to slower-than-usual passages — at least for some. As a result, friends and family of several boat crews became concerned. Among the boats in question were the Aussie-flagged Jeanneau 39 Dancia (PPJ-registered) and the Morgan 45 Sea Nymph, traveling from Hawaii to Tahiti (not a PPJ fleet member). Both have now made landfall.

Change in Authority over Port Captains

There has been a change in the supervision of port captains in Mexico. This according to Tere Grossman, the longtime head of the Mexican Marina Owners Association.

Historically, the Mexican navy — and port captains — have been good to cruisers.

©2017Latitude 38 Media, LLC

For the last 40 years the Secretaria de Comunicaciones y Transportes (SCT) was in charge of all the port captains. As of June 18, that authority was transferred to the navy (SEMAR).

We have no idea what effect this may have on port captains or cruisers. It may be very little. It may be a lot.

Historically, the Mexican navy has been very good to cruisers.

July Issue Hits the Docks

Just in time for summer reading on a supersized holiday weekend, the July issue of Latitude 38 hits the docks today, June 30. Within its pages you will read a preview of the 49th Transpac; recaps of the America’s Cup and the Master Mariners Regatta; and informative examinations of homeschooling aboard and repowering with electric engines. You’ll find Max Ebb taking a journey of a thousand miles.

Gracing the cover of the July issue is Roxanne Fairbairn’s shot of the MOD70 Maserati zooming around San Francisco Bay.

©Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Speaking of summer reading, Sightings leads off with book reviews and continues with the tale of an interrupted sailing adventure; an introduction to metal heads; an important Crew Party announcement; hitchhiking across the Pacific; the science of sailing; a confession from the new editor; and tastes of sailing on Dorade and Svea. Calendar, Letters, Loose Lips, Racing Sheet, World of Charter and Changes in Latitudes round out the editorial content. Last comes the Classy Classifieds and certainly not least come the display ads that pay for it all.

Get your holiday weekend Latitude fix from all the usual places, subscribe so that you don’t miss an issue, or read it online for free.

West Marine: The Voyage Continues

Yesterday, West Marine announced it had been acquired by Monomoy Capital Partners. As an alternate Silicon Valley, ‘started-in-a-garage’ story, West Marine began as ‘West Coast Ropes’, and was founded in 1968, by Randy Repass in a Sunnyvale garage after he left Fairchild Semiconductor. The first store was in Palo Alto, followed by locations in Oakland, Sausalito and Santa Cruz. West Marine continued growing from its Bay Area roots to become the nation’s largest marine retailer.

West Marine, then called West Coast Ropes, was in the very first issue of Latitude 38 in April 1977.    

latitude/Latitude 38
©2017Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Passionate sailors, Randy and wife Sally-Christine built the Wylie 66 Convergence and are on a multi-year circumnavigation, having recently crossed the Atlantic to Bermuda where they sailed north to cruise the coast of New England, likely passing Monomoy Point, which juts south off Cape Cod.

Founder of West Marine Randy Repass and his wife Sally-Christine left for the Marquesas from Santa Cruz over a decade ago on their Wylie 66 Convergence. 

©2017Latitude 38 Media, LLC
A potential reward for those who make the challenging passage from the West Coast to French Polynesia is the chance to participate in these outrigger canoe races — big fun in a jaw-dropping setting.  latitude/Andy
©2017Latitude 38 Media, LLC Ever since we coined the phrase Pacific Puddle Jump more than 20 years ago to describe the annual migration of sailors from the West Coast of the Americas to French Polynesia, we’ve hosted festive sendoff parties in Mexico, and, more recently, in Panama too.
One hundred years after American troops landed on French shores to come to the aid of the French during World War I, a new event has been created to honor this moment in history and the special relationship between our two countries.
July 2017 overflows with days off: five full weekends plus a holiday (and no doubt some folks will turn Independence Day into a four-day weekend).
Donald Mcllraith sent in this sweet shot of the crew of Blue Dream, a Melges 24, hiking out on during the Trans-Tahoe Race.