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Sailors Go to Aid of Paddle Boat

May 16, 2012 – San Francisco Bay

(Click on the photo to enlarge it.)

San Francisco's Robert Gurman invited toursits Ed and Rachel Federman and Alex Perez to join him on a paddle boat tour under the Golden Gate Bridge. The trip quickly, and not too surprisingly, turned sour. © 2018 Eric Bishop

Readers may have heard the story from Friday that detailed the adventure three New York tourists and a local had when they took their paddle boat under the Golden Bridge and had to be rescued after they got caught in the three-knot ebb that was running. Local news outlets reported that the quartet — plus what a Cockapoo dog — got "caught in a rip tide" and were no longer in control of the paddle boat when they called 911 for help. San Francisco Fire Department's Lt. Paul McDonagh told waiting news cameras at Crissy Field that, "The dog was smarter than the other four. None of them had on life preservers or flotation devices, except for the dog."

What you may not have heard was that a local cruising boat was first on the scene to assist the paddleboaters. Bill Alexander and crewmembers Brian Forster and Eric Bishop chose that morning to head south aboard Alexander's Tiburon-based Catalina/Morgan 440 Bonnie Lass, bound for Catalina, when they heard the Coast Guard issuing a pan pan about the paddle boat. "It was a little after 10 a.m. and we were about 30 minutes out of Sausalito," recalls Forster. "We heard the call on the VHF, turned the corner and said, 'Oh, there they are.'"

Only the dog was wearing a life preserver. © 2018 Eric Bishop

Forster says the little boat was about a 1/2 mile west of the South Tower. With the wind blowing about 15 knots and two- to three-ft seas running, Bonnie Lass made tracks to go to the paddleboaters' aid. "We were the first boat there and tried to take them under tow, but they were sideways to us and almost tipped over." After the third failed attempt to get the boat secured under tow, the SFFD boat and a PWC arrived, so the Bonnie Lass crew was excused from the scene.

"We left thinking we had banked a little karma for the trip south," says Forster. "But apparently not."

The Bonnie Lass crew ran into a little engine trouble about 24 hours after leaving the Gate. "The wind was on the nose so we were motoring," Forster recalls. "We were off Big Sur when we heard a big bang and grinding noise." They quickly turned off the engine and sailed to Morro Bay, using their dinghy to push Bonnie Lass into a slip. A diver diagnosed the problem: a broken feathering prop. A new prop is on its way to Alexander, but changing weather and crew time restraints may delay his departure.

Forster says that Alexander and his wife Lorell, both vets of the '10 Baja Ha-Ha, have sold everything and are retiring aboard Bonnie Lass. They plan to cruise Mexico, Panama, the BVI and so on. We hope to share more of their adventures in future Changes in Latitudes, but in the meantime, hats off to the crew for going to the aid of fellow mariners — no matter how foolish they were.

- latitude / ladonna

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Classy Deadline the 15th

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The SoCal Ha-Ha Is On!

May 16, 2012 – Santa Barbara to Catalina

Consider this to be the official announcement of the first-ever SoCal Ha-Ha. The itinerary will be as follows:

Sept 9 — Potluck on the Santa Barbara waterfront

Sept 10 — Santa Barbara to Santa Cruz Island, 25 miles

Sept 11 — Lay day, Santa Cruz Island, hike and socialize

Sept 12 — Santa Cruz Island to Paradise Cove, 38 miles

Sept 13 — Paradise Cove to King Harbor, Redondo Beach, 22 miles

Sept 14 — King Harbor to Two Harbors, Catalina, 23 miles

Sept 15 — Lay day, Two Harbors, Catalina

Sept 16 — Adios from Two Harbors to your homeport

The event will be open to no more than 50 boats over 27 feet in length that were designed, built and have been maintained for open ocean sailing. Because there will be multiple crossings of possibly foggy shipping lanes, radar reflectors will be required, as well as either AIS receiver or radar, and an operating auxiliary engine. Sailing will be encouraged, but motoring will be allowed, as this is a rally not a race. All boats must be equipped with the normal offshore safety gear. Each boat must have a minimum of two crew, each with offshore overnight experience.

On approach to Catalina
Load up the cooler, strap on the surfboards, and shanghai a few fun-loving friends - it's time to gear up for the first-ever SoCal Ha-Ha. Photo Latitude / Andy
© 2018 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Since this will be a first running of the event, it will not be for wimps or whiners, but rather fun-loving and flexible folks. For example, berthing in Santa Barbara will be on a first-come, first-served basis through the harbor office. If no berths are available, you will have to anchor out. If that's not acceptable to you, this event isn't for you. As most of you know, there are no shore boats or shore facilities at Santa Cruz Island or at Paradise Cove. There will be no guaranteed reservations at Catalina, either, although if you're willing to go to the back side, there's never a problem finding room there. But if all this is too much uncertainty for you, this is not the event for you.

We plan on having a number of informal social gatherings during the event, including an afternoon potluck on the shore in Santa Barbara, a reception aboard Profligate for half the skippers and first mates at Santa Cruz Island one night, and for the other half of the skippers and first mates the next night at Paradise Cove. We've received the green light to moor up to 50 boats behind the breakwater at Redondo. This will require everyone cooperating to create several big raft-ups, and the anchoring boats will be required to anchor bow and stern. The folks at Redondo have also identified a place where we can land dinghies, but there is a proposal afoot in the King Harbor YC to offer a much warmer welcome. We'll know more about that possibility after their board meets this week. We're still working on social events for the two nights at Two Harbors, where it will just happen to be their BeerFest Weekend. But we plan to have potlucks each night, along with slide shows from the SoCal Ha-Ha as well as from 18 years of Baja Ha-Ha's.

The cost of the event will be a flat $200, but there will be swag and hopefully discounts from sponsors. We will be accepting entries starting on June 1 around noon, when that day's 'Lectronic Latitude is posted.

Ha-Ha or Ta-Ta?

"I love the idea of a Southern California Ha-Ha — SoCal Ha-Ha — but I don't like the name," one reader wrote. "Because when, in the future, people brag by saying, 'Oh yeah, I did the Ha-Ha,' I won't know if they meant the Baja Ha-Ha or SoCal Ha-Ha. I'm also thinking the name ought to have more of an identification with Southern California. As I was trying to think of the universal symbol for Southern California, two well-endowed women walked into the the Starbucks where I was sitting. It suddenly hit me — boobs are certainly one of the symbols of Southern California! So I struggled to come up with a euphemism for boobs that was at least vaguely related to 'Ha-Ha' and wasn't crude or vulgar. I mulled over the problem while the gals ordered coffee, but got nowhere. But as they left, one of them sort of smiled at me, so I said, 'Ta-ta,' meaning goodbye. Wait, that's it! Ta-Ta, which means all kinds of things, most notably 'goodbye', 'boobs' in a light and fun way, and 'yes', all of which work for me. So what do you think, the SoCal Ta-Ta?"

Who cares what we think, what do you potential participants think? Send your thoughts to Richard.

- latitude / richard

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May 16, 2012 – Santa Catalina Island

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Weekend Racing Wrap-Up

May 16, 2012 – San Francisco Bay Area and Seattle, WA

Carmelita at the San Mateo Bridge
Waaait a minute - that's not the Farallones. Chris Lewis on the Catalina 42 Carmelita approaches the San Mateo Bridge, as Stanly Martin on the Moore 24 Sunshine and Dan Benjamin on the Wyliecat 30 Whirlwind begin their return leg. © 2018 /

As noted in Monday's 'Lectronic, Saturday's conditions in the Gulf of the Farallones were mild and flat, but the Singlehanded Farallones Race wasn't allowed out there (due to an ongoing Coast Guard review of local offshore racing), so the Singlehanded Sailing Society postponed that annual contest and created the Stand Down Marathon for singlehanders instead. The 44-nm course took 32 boats from the start at Golden Gate Yacht Club to Point Bonita Buoy, down to the San Mateo Bridge, and back to finish at GGYC. Although the leg west of the Golden Gate Bridge was quite nice, ironically the conditions inside the Bay were much, much windier, with gusts up to 30 knots. "I had one bad jibe. . . " said one of the racers. "Oh, no, wait, I mean I had one good jibe." Greg Nelsen's Azzura 310 Outsider finished first, but Scott Owens on the Schumacher quarter-tonner Summertime Dream corrected out to first place overall. See

Good news for Spinnaker Cup hopefuls: their race from San Francisco Bay to Monterey will be permitted by the Coast Guard, and will start as scheduled on Friday, May 25. Register by 6:00 p.m. on May 23. See

J/22s at the mark.
St. Francis YC's J/22s team-raced this weekend on the Cityfront. © 2018 Chris Ray /

St. Francis YC hosted a Team Race Invitational on the Cityfront over the weekend for Seattle, Newport Harbor and San Diego YCs. Photographer Chris Ray described Saturday as, "a day that started out foggy and turned to bright sunshine with winds ranging from 12 to 15 knots." Three visiting teams competed in J/22s against two teams from StFYC, each team consisting of three boats each. "This is a real exercise in tactics as well as a test of sailing skills," said Ray. "Competitors set traps at the windward and leeward marks, and winning the heat isn't always about coming in first. Your teammates also have to finish well." StFYC's Red Team won the finals against SDYC, with a team consisting of skipper Shawn Bennett with crew Kurt Wessells, Tom Purdy and Ben Pedrick; skipper Scott Sellers and crew Will Madison, Matt Gregory, and Geoff McDonald; and skipper Nicole Breault with crew Rolf Kaiser, Chris Trezzo, and Avery Patton. See

On Saturday, the El Toro fleet was treated to "one of the nicest sailings of the tricky Foster City Lagoon in years," according to their newsletter, Bull Session. Fifteen Seniors and two Juniors raced the long, challenging course with just the right amount of wind. John Pacholski finished first with a commanding lead over his nearest competitors. Next up for the little boats is the Fremont Relays on Lake Elizabeth this Sunday, the only El Toro regatta where two skippers take turns sailing one boat. See

Space Needle and Vanguard 15s.
The Space Needle, its saucer painted Galaxy Gold to commemorate its 50th anniversary, watched over a pack of high schoolers on Lake Union this weekend. Photo Courtesy Mallory Cup
© 2018 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

The Mallory Cup ISSA High School Doublehanded Championship was sailed in fine weather on Seattle's Lake Union over the weekend, with 20 teams from across the nation competing. A division sailed Vanguard 15s and B division sailed FJs in 20 races. San Diego's Point Loma High School scored a decisive victory, totaling 185 points compared to 237 from second-place Cathedral Catholic, also of San Diego. Sailing for Point Loma were Olin Paine, Johannes Mcelvain and Trevor Hecht in A division, and Jake Reynolds and Maddy Brownsea in B division. Steve Hunt is their coach. Other West Coast schools in the top ten included Branson (Ross, Marin County) in fourth, Newport Harbor in fifth, and Coronado in ninth. See

Do you know how to use currents to your advantage while racing? Which way do you go in a flood? Or an ebb? Find out tomorrow, Thursday, May 17, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., at Sausalito YC, when Seadon Wijsen of North Sails will present Bay Tidal Currents, a free seminar which is open to the public. A no-host bar and galley will be available. Reservations are not required. Questions? Email Dave Borton or call (415) 302-7084.

- latitude / chris

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Narco Cartel Violence Comes to La Paz

May 16, 2012 – La Paz, Baja California Sur

"Tiki and I had a close call with narco violence La Paz on Mother's Day," reports Michael Kehir of the Moss Landing-based Yorktown 35 Merilon, "as we were 10 minutes away from being in the wrong place at the wrong time. It happened last Thursday, which was Mother's Day in Mexico. We'd gone to Bismarcito's on the malécon to get some fish tacos, but the place was packed with Mexican families, so we left. When we returned 90 minutes later, it was still packed, so we spent some time talking with a gringo carpenter who had installed some cabinets on our boat. When there still weren't any tables available at Bismarcito's, we decided to eat at the restaurant next door. Ten minutes later, 10 shots were fired.

"While we didn't see what happened, the next day the carpenter told us that one of three guys who had been standing next to us at Bismarcito's condiment counter fired a shot in the air to get everybody to duck. One guy in the crowd got up and started to run, but was tackled by two or three men who weren't armed. The guy with the gun then fired nine shots into the victim's head, executing him in front of his mother, wife and daughter. This all happened where we had been standing 10 minutes before. Everybody fled the scene without paying — except for our carpenter friend. He got a look at the perpetrators and wrote down the license plate of the getaway car. He gave a statement to the police. I'm not sure how smart that was."

According to the next day's papers, the victim was a nephew of a powerful figure in the Leyva-Beltran narco gang.

La Paz's mal├ęcon is normally muy tranquilo but was the scene of violence on Mother's Day. © 2018 Webb Logg

This incident follows the April 27 murder of well-known Canadian drug smuggler Tom Gisby, who was executed in a precise — one bullet to the head, one to the heart — attack at the Starbucks coffee shop just 100 or so yards from Paradise Marina in Nuevo Vallarta. Gisby had been the target of several attempts on his life in Canada and Mexico, following the assassination of some drug rivals at places such as luxury hotels in Vancouver. According to Canadian authorities, Gisby was the sixth Canadian drug figure to be gunned down in Mexico in the last couple of years.

The current narco situation in Mexico is that two major forces, the Zetas and the Sinaloa cartel, are ruthlessly battling it out for dominance. Smaller organizations are aligning themselves with one group or the other. While no tourists were targeted or hit in the incidents at Nuevo Vallarta and La Paz, it's nonetheless disturbing that the violence occurred in tourist areas that had previously been immune to such violence. We're told that life has rather quickly returned to normal in both places. But if there are additional similar incidents in these tourist areas, it will not be good for Mexico. Personally speaking, we're still cool with the situation in Mexico, particularly in the cruiser areas. After all, it's no worse than many places in the U.S. Regardless, we're keeping a close eye on the situation, and will keep you apprised of any further incidents.

Mexico elects a new President in July, who will take office later in the year. Many hope that his/her approach to the narco gangs — even if it's semi-cooperation — will reduce the violence. While it seems as if there is no reason to expect a drop in narco violence in Mexico, based on what's happened in Los Angeles and much of the rest of the United States, you never know. In '93, the homicide rate in the City of Angels was a staggering 30.5 per 100,000. Now — with economic and other conditions certainly no better — the murder rate has plummeted to just 5.5 per 100,000 or about one-sixth of what it used to be. Indeed, across the United States the murder rate has dropped by nearly half since the early '90s. Nobody seems to know why, but let's hope the same thing happens in Mexico.

To keep things in perspective, here are some interesting facts from the Baja Insider:

In 2010, more than two-thirds of the cities in the United States had higher murder rates than Tijuana, which had the highest murder rate in Baja. Indeed, New Orleans, Baltimore, Detroit and Washington, D.C., all had murder rates that were at least double that of Tijuana.

In 2010, the murder rate in Mexico was 13.2 per 100,000. If you deduct direct combatants in the drug wars, it was 5.8 per 100,000, or about the same as the United States. Compare that with Honduras, which has a murder rate of 72.3 murders per 100,000, and El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala, all of which had more than 60 murders per 100,000. In other words, the murder rate in Mexico, even when you include victims of the drug war, is but a small fraction of that in Central American countries. How many of you were aware of that?

- latitude / richard

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