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Know Your Snakes?

January 23, 2013 – Tenacatita Bay, Mexico


(Click on the photo to enlarge it.)

Talk about an unwelcome shipmate! This one was not only uninvited, but he bit the captain. Can you ID the species? © 2017 Keith Albrecht

A little while back, Keith Albrecht of the Alamitos Bay-based Columbia 36 Ojo Rojo climbed down the companionway into the dark main salon to grab a cruising guide. He was immediately bit in the foot. It hurt!

The assailant was quickly identified as a snake, which briefly slipped under the stove before being captured.

Keith recovered, but he's been unable to find out what kind of snake bit him. We know it's not the greatest photo, but can any readers help? Email Richard.

- latitude / richard

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New items in Our Chandlery

Classy Deadline the 15th


Racing Round-Up

January 23, 2013 – San Francisco Bay, Santa Barbara and Key West, FL

CYC Midwinters start
Corinthian YC borrowed Sausalito YC's race committee boat Mercury to start and finish Saturday's race west of Angel Island. © 2017 S. Dodds

Last weekend's Corinthian Midwinter races were blessed by warm sunshine but plagued by wind holes and strong current. Sounds like a typical January regatta on San Francisco Bay! Both days featured a mostly northerly breeze. On Saturday the race committee tried out a windward/leeward course, only we couldn't tell you which mark was which, as all legs were reachy and shifty. The lack of an offset mark and the hodgepodge of boat types made for interesting traffic situations, but the competitors were mostly well-behaved.

CYC Midwinters race
The smiling faces we saw on Saturday, including on this kite and Ella Van Gool on the bow of the Olson 911s Heart of Gold, seemed to be saying, "Don't worry, be happy." © 2017 S. Dodds

The RC opted for more typical Bay tour courses on Sunday. The spinnaker boats got a downwind start and enjoyed a pleasant sail in clear air west of the islands. But, alas, the non-spinnaker boats had to sail behind Angel Island and through Raccoon Strait. They found huge wind holes and adverse current in both places. A band of wind hovered by the finish line, oh-so-tantalizingly close. In the end, only the fastest, earliest-starting non-spinnaker boats reached it by the 4:30 deadline. The four-race series wraps up on February 16-17. To check results and standings, see www.cyc.org.

Santana 22 Zingaro
More smiling faces: Suzanne Lee, Fred Paxton and Jennifer McKenna aboard the Santana 22 Zingaro remained cheerful despite not finishing either Jack Frost race on Saturday. © 2017 Fred Fago

East of Alcatraz, Encinal YC's Jack Frost race committee was able to start two windward/leeward races. Both races endured dying breeze and strong current, however, and not all racers were able to finish. See www.encinal.org.

Checking on Quantum Key West after two days of racing and five races, we find that the wind ramped up yesterday into the mid-teens. The Italians Andrea Pozzi on Bombarda and Vincenzo Onorato on Mascalzone Latino are leading the 11-boat Melges 32 division, with Santa Barbara's Deneen Demourkas in ninth place on Groovederci. The other Groovederci, a Farr 40 sailed by John Demourkas, is in third place, with Jim Richardson's Barking Mad leading. Brothers Cole and James Alsopp, just out of college, have taken control of the huge J/70 fleet, still in its infancy. SoCal's Dave Ullman is helming Joseph Colling's USA 69, which trails by seven points. Already aching and tired, the sailors will continue racing through Friday. See www.premiere-racing.com.

Redwood Cup
Redwood City's Sequoia YC holds two series in the South Bay during the winter. This photo is from the mid-month Redwood Cup pursuit race. © 2017 Fabian Pease

Not too many clubs would dare run a race on the same day as the 356-boat Three Bridge Fiasco, but here are a couple: Encinal YC's Small Boat Winter and Sequoia YC's Winter #3. TBF entries include a record-busting 34 multihulls. F-27s, Corsair 24s, Express 27s, Express 37s, Islander 36s, J/105s, J/24s, J/22s, SF30s, Olson 25s, Santana 22s, Wylie Wabbits, and, of course, Moore 24s have acquired sufficient mass for one design divisions.

Current or aspiring 8- to 12-year-old Opti sailors are invited to the Santa Barbara Youth Sailing Foundation's Hot Chocolate Clinigatta on February 2-3 at Santa Barbara YC, where the club's racers give back to the community by coaching young sailors of all skill levels. Their goal is to get as many kids out on the water as possible. For more information visit www.sbysf.com.


Alessandro di Benedetto was uninjured during two 100-ft mast climbs, but broke a rib when he was thrown across the cockpit. Over the last few days, he's lost the use of three sails. © 2017 Alessandro di Benedetto / Team Plastique

Over in the Atlantic, all remaining 12 skippers in the Vendée Globe have finally rounded Cape Horn and are heading for the barn. The last to do so was Alessandro di Benedetto (Team Plastique), who shortly thereafter had to climb his mast twice after a halyard failed and a spinnaker ripped, and then suffered a broken rib when he was knocked across the cockpit in the middle of the night. He's recovering but moving slowly. Jean-Pierre Dick (Virbac Paprec 3) reported even worse news on Monday: His keel had fallen off! Currently in third place, Dick filled his ballast tanks and says he's weighing his options but he has yet to officially retire from the race. That of course leaves third open for Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss), behind François Gabart (MACIF) and Armel Le Cléac'h (Banque Populaire), both of whom are expected to cross the finish line in Les Sables d'Olonne on Saturday (if their keels don't fall off first!).

- latitude / chris

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The Unsuspecting Surfer

January 23, 2013 – Ocean Beach, San Francisco

The day before the internationally renowned Mavericks surf contest was slated to start, surfers at Ocean Beach, just south of the entrance to San Francisco Bay, enjoyed some killer waves. Filmmaker and kitesurfer Pete Koff caught some impressive surfing action last Saturday, including a high-performance cigarette boat that zipped into the surf zone. It's unclear whether the driver knew what he was getting into, but it's obvious that he got in way over his head. Check out the video below, but be aware there's some colorful surfer language going on in the background. 

Not only is this a great opportunity to share a really cool video, but it's also an excellent reminder of what can happen when you're not paying close attention to your surroundings. Take the Potato Patch, for example. Ocean waves, changing tides and wind can all cause tall, breaking waves to stack up very quickly over that shoal area. One minute it's relatively placid, and the next powerful, steep-faced waves appear. So while your first instinct might be to laugh at the foolish cigarette boat driver in the video, think back to the last time your attention strayed and you got caught in a potentially dangerous situation. And the next time you're boating offshore, for heaven's sake, pay attention to where you're going!

- latitude / ladonna

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Roger Swanson's Final Journey

January 23, 2013 – Minnesota

It may seem ironic that a mild-mannered Minnesotan would be considered one of the greatest ocean voyagers of our time, but Roger Swanson — who passed away late last month at the age of 81 — was precisely that. He logged nearly 220,000 sea miles during three decades of world exploration aboard his English-built Bowman 57 Cloud Nine, including three circumnavigations. After two previous tries, he became the first American skipper to transit the Northwest Passage in one season in 2007 (east to west). 

roger swanson
Roger Swanson didn't begin his globetrotting adventures until he turned 50. Since then, he logged enough sea miles to round the globe at the equator eight times. © 2017 David Thoreson

We had the pleasure of spending an afternoon with Roger and his wife Gaynelle (who began sailing with him in the mid-90s) when they passed through the Bay Area in 2001. Humble to a fault, and ever the gentleman, Roger charmed us with tales of adventures in all oceans and extreme latitudes. Born in 1931, he grew up in Minnesota, and it wasn’t until he “spent three years in Uncle Sam’s Yacht Club” at the end of the Korean War that he began developing a love of the sea. After the war, he went home and bought a pig farm despite his training as an engineer, but also started sailing scows as a hobby on Minnesota lakes.

A few years later, he and a Navy buddy did a sailing trip in the Bahamas in a rented boat, which he says "started it all." In the ‘70s, when the bareboating industry was just taking shape in the Caribbean, Swanson bought a CSY 44 and kept it in that pioneering company’s fleet. For a decade he made frequent forays to the islands to placate his sailing urges, but on his 50th birthday in 1981, he had a revelation. “At the dinner table my daughter suddenly said, ‘So Dad, when are you going to sail around the world?’ I wasn’t feeling too good about turning 50,” he recalls, “and I decided that if I was ever going to do anything like that, I’d better get started.” Within a matter of months he'd rearranged his priorities, sold the charter boat and purchased Cloud Nine. The next year he, his two sons and two friends took off from Miami on a westward circumnavigation (through both canals), with a side trip to Japan.

Unlike many world cruisers, though, Swanson didn’t ‘sell the farm’ to make the trip. On the contrary, he arranged for employees to keep that business going, as well as several other businesses he owned, while he traveled. That strategy supported his adventures to the end.

Swanson's exploits earned him the Cruising Club of America’s Blue Water Medal, the Royal Cruising Club’s Tilman Medal, and he was inducted into Cruising World’s Hall of Fame. He will surely be missed by those whose lives he touched.

- latitude / andy

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