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Sailing Into the New Year

January 6, 2016 – San Francisco Bay Area

Master Mariners boats
(Click on the photo to enlarge it.)

Peter Jones and Jim Koss (at the helm) sailed the 1936 English 6-tonner Philippa, a new MMBA member, in the Master Mariners' New Year's Day Race. In the background is Luc Maheu's pinky schooner Tiger.

© 2018 /

What better way to welcome the new year than with a sail on beautiful, chilly, sunny San Francisco Bay? Despite temperatures that barely cracked the 50s, Bay Area sailors took advantage of dry weather and a moderate 10- to 15-knot easterly, bundled up in warm clothes, and took out their boats.

Among organized events was the Master Mariners Benevolent Association's New Year's Day Race, potluck and Tacky Trophy exchange. Race chair Ted Hoppe reports that eight boats made the startline east of Treasure Island. A light breeze built to a blustery finish at the Point San Pablo Yacht Club on Richmond's Santa Fe Channel. "We all had a very quick turn of speed with such conditions; everybody ended the race in less than 1:15. The party was well attended, with more than 75 people. Rather than celebrate a clear winner, we had the members decide who was first and last to cross the line. The winner received a fine bottle of French Chartogne-Taillet reserve champagne, and the rear guard was forced to accept a bottle of two-buck bubbly that has rolled around in the bilge for nearly four years. The race winner was determined not by actual line crossing but by popular vote after each vessel representative explains to the room full of MMBA members why they thought they won. It seems the List families were present and loud thereby securing the first prize for Hans and Sophie List's Sequestor, while Tom List's Begone secured the Blanc de Bilge. The Tacky Trophy celebration that we proudly do in our traditional manner continues to make us all realize how much we look forward to this event and our first sail of the new year."

Bridge opening on the Estuary

On the Oakland-Alameda Estuary, the Park Street Bridge opens for Joel Sailer's Columbia 35 Quadriga.

© 2018 John New

Another traditional, organized event involved a clockwise circumnavigation of Alameda, co-hosted by several of that island's yacht clubs. A full English breakfast at Island YC in the Alameda Marina kicked off a sort of waterborne progressive club-crawl. "We served more than 45 sailors and ran out of food!" said IYC's Dawn Chesney.

Aeolian YC's deck

The sailors enjoyed the hospitality of Aeolian YC on the south side of Alameda, soaking up some Vitamin D on the sunny deck.

© 2018 John New

Raft-up in Clipper Cove

A group of racing friends formed a cruisy raft-up in Clipper Cove on New Year's Day.

© 2018 /

An unofficial event observed its third year when a loosely-organized group of racers cruised into Clipper Cove for an eight-boat raft-up. Vessels ranged in size from the mid-30s to a couple of Cal 20s — and even a kayak. A bigger boat, the Cal 40 Green Buffalo, arrived promptly at 11:00, found the cove empty, and sailed on. The Laser 28 Stink Eye came next and dropped an anchor, followed by Greg Nelsen and Kathryn Kade on the 36-ft Beneteau Bonaparte and Scott Cyphers and Hana Bauguess on the Ericson 35 Ergo. Richard and Ali vonEhrenkrook on Can O'Whoopass arrived at 11:45. "The Stank let out rode, Lori Dennis's new Maritime 36 Argo wedged on in, and the Can took the north end of the scene," reports Richard. "Steve Buckingham got the award for bringing the most, with the smallest boat, a 12-ft kayak. He brought a roaster oven and made scary-good flank steak, avocado and salsa soft tacos on Greg's borrowed Beneteau. Sue and Richard on the C&C 33 Joie De Vivre rolled in shortly after. At about 1:30, Phil Krasner on the Express 27 Wetsu made a perfect entrance and landing, and Marcus Choy on the Cal 20 Green Dragon sailed in on jib alone. The food, especially on Lori's boat, was really good."

Food and drinks

The spread aboard Argo was amazing, earning praise for presentation as well as flavor. Richard called Lori Dennis the "queen of canapés." Fare included sliders with tri-tip slices on hot cross buns, paired with vodka, shrimp and V8.

© 2018 /

Upstaging all recreational vessels and everything else on the Bay New Year's Day was the 1,300-ft container ship CMA CGM Benjamin Franklin —  the biggest ship to ever visit the US — which 'sailed' in through the Gate and tied up at the Port of Oakland. The behemoth departed again on Monday.

Bow of Benjamin Franklin

When she was made fast to the dock in Oakland on Friday, this is how the Benjamin Franklin appeared to sailors.

© 2018 Jeffrey Berman

- latitude / chris

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We Won't Be Coming Back

January 6, 2016 – Corona del Mar, CA, and Mexico

Doublehanded 'soul sailors' Jonathan and Rebecca of Serenity. If the couple look a little rough, it's because the photo was taken with a cheeseball Android phone in dim light.

Photo Courtesy Talion
© 2018 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Doublehanders Jonathan and Rebecca Mote of the Corona del Mar-based Jeanneau 42DS Serendipity were among the handful of soul sailors who sailed the entire 750-mile length of November’s Baja Ha-Ha. Even when becalmed for a long period of time they didn’t give in — despite the fact that their dog actually picked up the ignition key to the engine and brought it to them. Hint, hint.

The couple had such a good time on the Ha-Ha that when we crossed paths at the Vallarta YC in December, they told us they were going to do it again this fall. But on a larger boat.

"We like the Jeanneau 52," they said. They also said they intend to sail the entire way again.

In addition to having a different boat, the couple plan to do one other thing differently. "Once the Ha-Ha is over, we're not just going to cruise for another month or two, we're not coming back at all!"

Given the Motes' dedication, the Poobah has awarded them sign-up position number three. Position one is already taken by Mark Coleman of the Ventura-based Cal 48 Waimui, while position two is taken by Patsy 'La Reina del Mar' Verhoeven and her La Paz-based Gulfstar 50 Talion. Official Ha-Ha registration will not open until May 1.

As we'll be reminding people all year, the Grand Poobah has moved the starting date of the 23rd annual Baja Ha-Ha back a week to October 31 from what would have normally been October 24. The two primary reasons are: 1) To try to increase the time between the end of hurricane season and the start of the Ha-Ha, and 2) To not conflict with a fishing tournament so there will be more slips available in Cabo for Ha-Ha boats.

- latitude / richard

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Ad: Corinthian YC Midwinters

January 6, 2016 – Tiburon, CA

© 2018 Corinthian Yacht Club /

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Caribbean Piracy Shocks Sailors

January 6, 2016 – Trinidad & Grenada

Throughout the Caribbean Basin, many businesses and tourism promoters lightheartedly capitalize on the region's legacy of piracy. But it was no laughing matter late last month when two incidents of actual modern-day piracy occurred only a week apart. In fact, sailors in the region are now considering taking extreme measures such as traveling in convoys and running dark at night.

Both incidents occurred during transits from Trinidad to Grenada in the vicinity of the Trinidad Hibiscus Gas Platform, roughly 30 miles north of Trinidad and 40 miles from the northeastern tip of Venezuela. The first was on December 20: An 80-ft sailboat was approached and eventually boarded by a group of Spanish-speaking men traveling in an open 18-ft fishing boat with a spare outboard and barrels of fuel as its only visible cargo. The pirates searched the boat and took primarily electronics and money. None of the sailors resisted, and none were harmed. No shots were fired. The robbers' boat returned to the south, whence it had come. 

Due to the desperate nature of Venezuela's economy these days, many assume that the modern-day pirates came from that sad country.

© 2018 Atlantic LNG

Victims of the second incident, December 28, were traveling north in a 32-ft sailboat. Similarly, their boat was boarded by Spanish-speaking gunmen and searched, but reports detail the taking of mostly utilitarian items such as toilet paper, food, clothing and cell phones. (It is unclear whether this boat had no modern electronics and cash.) Again, no shots were fired and no sailors were harmed. 

Although both attacks were similar in nature, descriptions of the open boats used varied: the first was said to have been a white hull with blue interior, powered by a 120hp Yamaha outboard; the second was said to have been a pale blue hull with a white interior, powered by a 130hp outboard. 

Naturally, the coast guards of Trinidad and Tobago (TTCG), Grenada and the US are deeply concerned by these incidents, as are other local authorities and maritime organizations such as the Caribbean Safety & Security Net and the Yacht Services Association of Trinidad & Tobago (YSATT). TTCG recommends that yachts traveling between Trinidad and Grenada travel at night, and possibly without running lights (as it is assumed that the pirates do not have radar); travel in convoys with vessels of similar speed; and alert local coast guards of your float plan, as well as departure and arrival times. Phone the Trinidad CG at 800-TTCG or 6341476, email here, or radio them (call sign 9YA) on HF 2186MHz. We cannot recall such extreme measures ever before being recommended in any area of the Caribbean Basin.

- latitude / andy

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EVERGREEN... re waves

January 6, 2016 –


How an MIT team created a warning system for rogue waves
New research improves the ability to forecast rogue waves, also known as killer waves, which can rise without warning to tower over ships and rigs, with potentially catastrophic results.
By Jason Thomson, Staff FEBRUARY 27, 2016
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ReutersView CaptionAbout video adsView Caption
A new way of predicting the onset of rogue waves, also known as killer waves, has been developed by researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Until now, efforts at predicting them were limited to costly, inefficient, and time-consuming computer models that aimed to map out every individual wave in a body of water.
This new method, published Feb. 11, 2016, in the Journal of Fluid Mechanics, is simpler, easier, and faster. It aims to give sailors and sea-platform workers a window of two to three minutes to prepare, including shutting down vital systems.
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“It’s precise in the sense that it’s telling us very accurately the location and the time that this rare event will happen,” said coauthor Themis Sapsis, the American Bureau of Shipping Career Development Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at MIT. “We have a range of possibilities, and we can say that this will be a dangerous wave, and you’d better do something. That’s really all you need.”
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One of the most unpredictable threats to face shipping or sea-based platforms is the sudden onslaught of these ocean monsters, which can swell from nowhere to tower up to eight times as high as surrounding waters.
The new tool, which takes the form of an algorithm, hunts through data collected about surrounding waves, sifting for signs of clusters that could coalesce and crest into one of these behemoths.
By considering the length and height of a wave group, the new tool can calculate the probability of it mutating into a rogue wave.
“Using data and equations, we’ve determined for any given sea state the wave groups that can evolve into rogue waves,” Dr. Sapsis said in an MIT news release. “Of those, we only observe the ones with the highest probability of turning into a rare event. That’s extremely efficient to do.”
He contrasts this to previous efforts, which have adopted a “leave-no-wave-behind” approach, whereby they have aimed to provide a high-resolution simulation of the entire surrounding ocean surface, thereby keeping a beady eye out for suspicious activity of a rogue-like nature.
But the computer power required to run the necessary equations, not only for every wave, but also for the interactions between them, is considerable, demanding clusters of computers working in tandem.
“It’s accurate, but it’s extremely slow — you cannot run these computations on your laptop,” Sapsis said. “There’s no way to predict rogue waves practically. That’s the gap we’re trying to address.”
The new capabilities developed by Sapsis and his team built on previous efforts, whereby they had noticed that while most waves plough through the ocean single-mindedly, heedless of those around it, some roam in packs, toiling through the water in unison.
Further research led them to understand that some of these groups focus, or exchange, energy, in a way that ushers in the formation of a rogue wave.
“These waves really talk to each other,” said Sapsis. “They interact and exchange energy. It’s not just bad luck. It’s the dynamics that create this phenomenon.”
By analyzing the length and height of wave groupings, the researchers were able to produce an algorithm capable of predicting which were most likely to create the monster waves.
In order to take advantage of this new technology, ships and ocean-going platforms will need high-resolution scanning technologies such as LIDAR and radar to allow constant monitoring of the surrounding waves.
“If we know the wave field, we can identify immediately what would be the critical length scale that one has to observe, and then identify spatial regions with high probability for a rare event,” Sapsis said. “If you are performing operations on an aircraft carrier or offshore platform, this is extremely important.”

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FILLER new game app

January 6, 2016 –


Have you ever wanted to take to the seas on a global adventure? A new game available on smartphones worldwide from today does just that -- and could help dementia patients in the process.

The game, called Sea Hero Quest, asks players to set sail in search of precious artifacts -- in the form of memories -- which can be collected at different locations around the world.

As you progress through the game, scientists can use the data you generate to gain insight into your spatial navigation abilities -- one of the first skills lost at the onset of dementia.

The aim is to get hundreds of thousands of people playing from around the world, to identify what the normal range of navigation skills are among people in general.

Once that is established, neuroscientists could then identify further guidelines to spot dementia early.

“From the beginning it was clear to us that we didn’t want to create another online cognitive experiment - instead we wanted to have a fun, casual mobile game which would collect valid scientific data,” Hornberger says. “This was also important so that we wouldn’t only get citizen scientists playing the game, but the general public.” The key to this experiment being a success, then, is to get the best possible representation of the population at large. For that, all the research team needs is two minutes of time from as many people as possible. Two minutes. Nothing really, in the grand scheme of things. But in the quest to understand dementia, it could mean a potential lifetime.



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