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La Gamelle Touches the Caribbean

March 14, 2012 – La Marine, Martinique

(Click on the photo to enlarge it.)

The heck with 'Where's Waldo', where's La Gamelle? This already being late in the season, most boats aboard the Dockwise ship had been picked up in Florida or St. Thomas for shipment to the Med. Sixteen more Med-bound boats were loaded aboard in La Marine. Photo Latitude / Richard
© 2018 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

The La Gamelle Syndicate's Olson 30 has made it, thanks to a combination of Dudley Yacht Transport and Dockwise Yacht Transport, from Alameda to Martinique via Florida. All that remains for her to reach her final goal of St. Barth in the French West Indies to live out her days as a daysailor is for the Wanderer and Doña de Mallorca to deliver her the 250 miles on a close-to-broad reach to St. Barth. As it stands now, the weather looks good — 12 to 18 knots — for a three or four-day voyage with stops at St. Pierre — the 'Paris of the Caribbean' until it was totally destroyed in massive walls of red hot lava — Isle de Saintes (Guadeloupe), and who knows, maybe Antigua and/or Nevis, too.

There are two words that describe Martinique: Green and expensive. The former is expected in the Caribbean, but not a 20-minute cab ride to La Marine that cost $120. And no, there aren't any buses. Everything else is expensive in Martinique, too. We'd say the same style of cruising in Martinique would cost five times as much as in Mexico. Not that you have to dine out a couple of times a week or eat anything but baguettes.

That it's a small world was proven once again by the fact that the first boat we saw in the massive boat haven of La Marine was Elmo's Fire, an Ocean 71 ketch that was based out of Sausalito for a long time. Somebody has been giving her the care such a great design richly deserves. Photo Latitude / Richard
© 2018 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

It's always great to see old friends. The first one we saw was about the first boat we saw in La Marine, which has about 8,000 boats. She was Elmo's Fire, a sistership to Latitude's old Ocean 71 Big O, which spent a lot of time in Sausalito under Northern California ownership. We're happy to report that she looks to be in excellent condition, and appears to have new masts. The other old friend is Siam, an exotic-looking — dashing facial hair and pony tail wrapped in a bandana — catamaran skipper we know from St. Barth. It was great to see him, and he's been a big help so far. For example, he went through the dead battery dumpster for us looking for just one battery that had an ounce of life left. Hey, you'd dumpster dive too if the least expensive battery was $140. Siam struck out, but it was great to see him.

Doña de Mallorca at the helm of La Gamelle waves adios to the long Dockwise ship which, thanks to just coming out of the yard, looked great. Thanks to a bad back, we were having a heck of a time mounting the Honda 5-hp on La Gamelle's outboard bracket, then getting it lowered. So this Ukrainian guy in an orange jumpsuit asked if he could help, and he ended up doing all the heavy lifting. He was not only a really nice guy, we later found out that he was the captain of the ship! Photo Latitude / Richard
© 2018 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

We'll have more about this adventure in the May issue. But you can follow the progress of La Gamelle through the Spot updates we send to our Facebook page.

Ed. note: The Wanderer and de Mallorca left Martinique yesterday morning. Their last position report put them at the northern end of the island.

- latitude / richard

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Tall Ships Move to Sausalito

March 14, 2012 – Sausalito

Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftain moved to Sausalito early. © 2018 Capt. Jack C. Goldthorpe

"As we were headed to South Beach Harbor on Saturday morning, we saw two antique-looking tall ships leaving the City and heading toward Sausalito," writes Jan Wigle of the Brickyard Cove-based Ericson 38 Wiggle Room. "Do you know anything about them?"

Yes, Jan, the tall ships you saw were the 112-ft brig Lady Washington, Washington's official ship, and the 103-ft tops'l ketch Hawaiian Chieftain, which was formerly based out of San Francsico Bay but is now based out of Grays Harbor, Washington. The pair are owned by the Grays Harbor Historical Seaport Authority and spend most of the year touring the West Coast on educational and sail training expeditions.

The tall ships were slated to moor at Pier 40 through March 19 before moving to Sausalito's Bay Model but a damaged ramp meant the dock would be closed to public access. "Without access, sailing guests and visitors cannot reach the ships," said a press release from the Historical Seaport. So the Army Corps of Engineers stepped up and invited the crews to move over to their Sausalito digs early. The ships will be open to the public until April 2, when they'll move on to Bodega Bay, Eureka and Crescent City. All previously purchased tickets for San Francisco sailings will be honored on the same dates and times. See their website for details on their Adventure Sails, Battle Sails and public tours.

- latitude / ladonna

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Be a Hero to Cruising Friends

March 14, 2012 – From Walla Walla to Bora Bora

If you're planning a trip to visit cruising or chartering friends in far-flung places, we know how you can earn their undying admiration (at least until you break the head): Take down a bundle or two of the most recent Latitude 38s! Just drop by our World Headquarters in Mill Valley to pick them up or give us a call at (415) 383-8200 — we'll be happy to ship some to you.

Latitude 38 magazines on the move

Photo Latitude / Annie
© 2018 Latitude 38 Media, LLC /

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Prime Resource for Cruiser News

March 14, 2012 – West Coast of the Americas

Since many long-term cruisers now have their own blogs — which tend to detail every tiny moment of every single day of their travels — sailors new to the cruising life may find themselves smothered under an avalanche of information, in contrast to a couple of decades ago when topical cruising info was relatively hard to find.

Arriving at Turtle Bay
First-time cruisers to Mexico and Central America naturally have boatloads of questions. But they can easily get answers through cruiser forums like the Yahoo groups. Photo Latitude / Andy
© 2018 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

But there's a better way to become informed than reading blogs until your eyes bug out. If you're looking for answers to specific cruising questions, we'd highly recommend you check out the West Coast cruising 'groups' accessed via The ones we access often, and occasionally participate in, are called "Southbound Group," "Cruisers_Network_Online," and "PacificPuddleJump" (an information-only forum, not affiliated with Latitude 38's rally site.) Like all Yahoo groups, these are non-commercial and strictly dedicated to information sharing.

As group moderator Chuck Houlihan of the San Diego-based Allied 39
Jacaranda explains, "The Southbound Group (covering Mexico to Peru)
is used by cruisers on the West Coast of the Americas to share relevant information on areas of interest between San Diego, California and South America, including the Galapagos. There are currently 1,100 members onboard.

"The purpose of the list is to disseminate information that other Southbounders may find useful. If you are 'ahead of the pack' or off the beaten track, sending information specific to where you went, where you anchored, what was ashore, corrections to the information provided in the cruising guides, changes in policy, prices, facility availability, marina closures, hazards to navigation, etc., is very appropriate. Factual information on inland trips, where you stayed, how much, what was good or bad, where the best surf or fishing spots are, etc., is also appropriate."

Decades ago, cruisers had little more to rely on than pilot charts. But in the Internet age, there's a wealth of topical info available - although some sources are much more useful than others. Photo Latitude / Andy
© 2018 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Both the PacificPuddleJump and Cruisers_Network_Online (which includes lots of Caribbean info) groups function similarly, and have vast collections of downloadable cruising info, plus databases of present and past members. But one of the most useful functions of all such forums is that members can pose an open question to the group via email — e.g. who's a recommended yacht agent in the Galapagos, or what are the requirements for bringing a dog into New Zealand — and they'll receive up-to-date answers within hours, which are viewable by the entire membership.

You have to apply for membership to each of these groups, as commercial marketers are prohibited. But the process is quick and easy. So even if you're only an armchair voyager, you may want to check out these highly informative resources. 

- latitude / andy

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Racing Wrap-Up

March 14, 2012 – California, Mexico and New Zealand

Today's racing report will take you on an odyssey from Northern California to the North Island of New Zealand. Enjoy the ride from north to south!

Three J/120s
Grace Dances, Mr. Magoo, and Desdemona in typically tight J/120 formation approaching the leeward buoy in Saturday's Big Daddy. © 2018 Skip Shapiro

Last weekend's Big Daddy, a Richmond YC regatta, enjoyed decidedly springlike conditions, with strong, steady wind and choppy seas. Saturday's three multi-lap buoy races on two race courses took their toll on boats and crews. At least one collision, torn sails, and broken ribs were among the casualties reported.

Pursuit Race finish
Almost a photo finish: California Condor, Lightspeed, and Tai Kuai cross the finish line of Sunday's Big Daddy pursuit race. © 2018 Erik Simonson /

Sunday's pursuit race mostly avoided the predicted rain in a fast romp around Angel Island and Alcatraz in either direction. The winning boats went counter-clockwise, plunging into the flood and breeze coming out of Raccoon Strait. Buzz Blackett's Antrim Class 40 California Condor carried the day, holding off Andy Costello's 32-ft catamaran Lightspeed by mere seconds. We'll have more in the April issue of Latitude 38; in the meantime, see for complete results.

On a Saturday that started out sunny with a light westerly breeze, St. Francis YC hosted 29ers, 5o5s, F18s, 420s, Wetas, Lasers and Laser Radials for the Spring Dinghy regatta. By the end of the third race of the day, the fog had come in and the breeze built into the mid-teens.

Mike Martin's 5o5 Black Boat
Mike Martin (on the trapeze) has been a World Champion as both skipper and crew on the 5o5. © 2018 Chris Ray /

Mike Martin was able to take a break from his America's Cup duties (he's the ACRM's Director of Umpiring and Rules Administration) to come out and have some fun on the weekend. Fellow 5o5 World Champion Howard Hamlin beat Martin by one point in the six-race regatta, which wrapped up on Sunday. For more of Chris Ray's photos, see For results, see

The first ocean race of the season sails out the Golden Gate this Saturday. OYRA's Full-Crew Lightship Race is a 25-mile race, starting off StFYC, rounding the Lightbucket, then returning back to finish off StFYC. The Lightship Race is part of the new Pac Cup Prep Series, which will give sailors heading to Hawaii in July a chance to get some practice on our local ocean waters. The deadline to enter the race is today at 5:00 p.m. You can register at

BAMA will hold a Race Track Download Clinic at Golden Gate YC on Thursday, March 15, at 6:30 p.m., to help racers in March 31's Doublehanded Farallones record, download and share their race tracks. For details, go to

The Port of Los Angeles Harbor Cup/Cal Maritime Invitational Intercollegiate Regatta in San Pedro was won — the hard way — by the defending team from Vallejo's Cal Maritime Academy from Vallejo. Being over-early in the first race on Sunday put them at the back of the pack. A day earlier they seemed to trash a good race when broken hardware sent their spinnaker flying wildly from the top of the mast. Despite both instances of bad luck, they clawed their way back to fourth-place finishes to secure their second consecutive title. For the first time in the event's five-year history, the top three teams were from California, as USC came in second and CSU Channel Islands finished third. Sailed in Catalina 37s, this event is the only big boat collegiate regatta on the West Coast. See

Fifty J/24s raced in Copa México on March 2-10. The top place went to Brazilian Mauricio Santacruz, with U.S. skippers Tim Healy, Chris Snow and Mike Inghan taking the next three places. Michael Whitfield's Berkeley-based TMC Racing crew came in 19th. For more (en Espanol) mira Copa México continues through Saturday with MEXORC. See

Groupama finish
Groupama 4 crossed the finish line in Auckland in the middle of the night. © 2018 Wayne Meretsky

Meanwhile, six thousand miles to the southeast, thousands of fans welcomed the waterlogged Groupama 4 Saturday, as the French boat slid into Auckland, New Zealand, the finishing point of the Volvo Ocean Race's Leg 4 (at 23:33:47 local time). Groupama's crew had to isolate a leak and frantically bail out roughly a ton of water after suffering damage to the bow within hours of the finish line, following repeated pounding in 30-knot headwinds and 25-ft waves. “The conditions we had to the north of the North Island were the worst we have seen in the entire race,” said skipper Franck Cammas as he stepped ashore. Ken Read, skipper of second place finisher Puma, exclaimed, "My God, I feel good to be in Auckland. Man, this is a challenging leg."

Groupama 4 crew
The crew of Groupama 4 celebrated their win at the awards ceremony. © 2018 Wayne Meretsky

Groupama's shore team raced against time and rainy weather to repair the hole in the bow. All the boats are now back in the water, in time for Thursday's practice day. The teams resume racing with Friday's Pro-Am, followed by Saturday's In-Port race and the start of Leg 5 to Itajai, Brazil, via Cape Horn, on Sunday. Spain's Telefonica still leads in the standings. For lots more, including some really excellent video, see

Finally, a quick reminder that anyone thinking of sailing in this summer's Pacific Cup or Singlehanded TransPac races — or anyone interested in learning more about long-distance communications — should drop into Oakland YC tonight at 7 p.m. for the Singlehanded TransPac's 'Communications' seminar, presented by Paul Elliott. It's free and open to the public.

- latitude / chris

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