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Where There's Black Smoke, There's Fire

January 29, 2016 – Cole Bay, St. Martin, West Indies

(Click on the photo to enlarge it.)

The fire started on a powerboat and spread to another powerboat and a sailing catamaran. 

© 2018 Rose Alderson

A wicked boat fire broke out Wednesday about 4:30 p.m. on the powerboat Rhum Runner at the Island Water World Dock in Cole Bay, St. Martin, in the West Indies. Thick black smoke could be seen from the decks of the many megayachts and smaller boats in the immediate area.

The fire on the powerboat quickly spread to the adjacent powerboat Lo Emma and the Lagoon 42 catamaran Naughty Dreams. All three boats were complete losses.

“We were at Lagoonies this afternoon when a big fire broke out at the closest dock to leeward of us,” report 2014 Ha-Ha vets Dave Hayes and Rose Alderson, formerly of the Gabriola Island-based Catalina 34 Aussie Rules. “The three boats went up in quick succession. Some brave folks who got much closer than most would have dared, untied the next boat in line, and pulled her away. This essentially caused a fire break, allowing the firemen to keep the flames from spreading farther. Thankfully the fire started on the end of the dock and the wind was blowing away, or many more boats would have been destroyed.”

Fires on boats are extremely dangerous, particularly on fiberglass boats at sea. Do you know what to do on your boat if a fire breaks out? Most fires on diesel-powered sailboats are caused by electrical problems or propane leaks, so it’s important to shut down the electrical system and/or the propane system. As propane is extremely explosive, it can be dangerous shutting off the propane, depending on how close the leak is to the tank.

Have you ever had a fire on your boat? If so, what caused it, how did you put it out — if you did — and how bad was the damage? (Email here.)

- latitude / richard

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Classy Deadline the 15th

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Sailors Rescued Nine Times

January 29, 2016 – Hayle, UK

Yet again the poor Nora needed the help of others besides her two American crew. This time it was in Cornwall after the unattended 40-footer tipped over and caught fire from a candle left burning inside.

© 2018 Colin Miggs / Apex

Intrepid — but perhaps somewhat incompetent — American sailors Bob Weise and Steve Shapiro, both 71, left Norway last July aboard the 40-ft, 18-ton Nora hoping to sail to Maine. Things have not been going well. So far they’ve only made it to Hayle, Cornwall, England. What’s worse, they’ve had to be rescued nine times in seven months! 

So far they’ve been rescued in Norway, Denmark, Scotland, Ireland and England. It’s unclear if they’ve made it through a country without having to be rescued.

The most recent incident is particularly troubling. According to the local harbormaster, “'They either didn't understand or couldn't do it [secure the boat in advance of a severe drop in tide] properly because they didn't comply and the yacht fell over when the tide went out.” Not only was neither man aboard when the boat went on her side, they’d left a candle burning inside the boat! The candle started a fire, which apparently took three hours to put out.

Shapiro, according to the always fact-filled Daily Mail, is a “screenwriter and author originally from California,” while Weise is a former helicopter pilot for the US Army.

Shapiro downplayed the damage, saying the fire was limited to some clothes. “Soon as we get northerly winds, we’ll go out,” he said.

Be that as it may, the tipped-over and burning Nora precipitated a response from firefighters, two rescue boats and an ambulance. Brits are starting to grouse, as a typical rescue response in England costs about $22,000. And as the local harbormaster said, he was concerned about not only the men’s safety, but that of those who might have to rescue them yet again.

This is not the first time elderly American sailors have created above-average problems for rescue services in Britain and on the Continent. It’s been something like 10 years now since an elderly but game sailor from Northern California — whose name we can no longer remember — became infamous for having to be rescued so many times. 

This map from the Daily Mail — which in addition to plenty of gossip is covering many major stories in much greater detail than almost any other news sources these days — shows the progress Nora has made, and where her crew has needed assistance.

Photo Courtesy Daily Mail
© 2018 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

- latitude / richard

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Ad: North U. 2016 Seminars

January 29, 2016 – Near You

© 2018 North Sails /

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Monthly Racing Preview

January 29, 2016 – West Coast

The SSS received 367 entries for this year's Three Bridge Fiasco (registration is now closed). What will all those singlehanders and doublehanders encounter on the race course tomorrow?

Current map (noon)

The current map at noon on Saturday. "Slack tide late Saturday morning might make a northward break a possibility," says Mike Dvorak. "Developing flood on the Cityfront also makes TI a possible good choice."

© 2018 Sail Tactics /

"A forgiving tide... but two-faced winds in the Central Bay will make for a moderately-challenging Fiasco tomorrow," predicts Mike Dvorak of Sail Tactics. "The Sail Tactics tidal current forecast, which is updated daily with Delta river flows and weather conditions, shows an opportunistic period from about 10:30-11:30 a.m. to head northward past Alcatraz with little tidal current. This opens up the possibility to make a break for Red Rock. At that same time, a flood starts to develop along the Cityfront, making a Treasure Island-first rounding a possibility. The wind tells a different story however."

2 p.m. wind map

The 2:00 p.m. wind map. "The Sail Tactics Outlook forecast shows morning northerlies being replaced by an afternoon westerly, with large patches of calm mixed in between."

© 2018 Sail Tactics /

"Wind is all over the chart. The Sail Tactics 2-Day Outlook (1,000-m resolution) forecast calls for morning northerlies and an afternoon westerly, with the all-too-familiar and painful, calm transition period between the two," says Dvorak. "The large calm near Red Rock is present in the Outlook forecast starting around 1:30 p.m. The Sail Tactics ultra-high resolution (200-m) forecast, out tomorrow morning by 7 a.m., will show in much greater detail where the wind holes are in space and time. The Outlook shows Red Rock filling in from the northwest late in the afternoon, so persistence may pay off yet again."

Droopy spinnakers

Ah, the joys and sorrows of midwinter racing.

© 2018 Junette Kushner

Sailors planning their TBF strategy will be glad to hear that the Bay Bridge 'safety zone' east of Yerba Buena Island has been opened up a bit. The Sailing Instructions were updated accordingly yesterday; make sure you have the most recent version.

Turning our calendar page to February, we see the continuation of several midwinter series in Northern California. Berkeley YC's Saturday and Sunday series will wrap up on February 13 and 14 — all except for the Champion of Champions Race, a victory lap that pits the top finishers in each division against each other, on February 28. RegattaPRO's Winter One Design will conclude on February 13.

The second weekend of Corinthian Midwinters, on February 20-21, will incorporate the Rob Moore Memorial Regatta, a fundraiser for lung cancer research and tribute to the late, great Latitude 38 racing editor and CYC race organizer. Teams from CYC, SFYC, Richmond YC and South Beach YC are vying for the Aotea Team Trophy; the SFYC team of Yucca, Shenanigans and Q is in the lead. The entry fee for the February weekend only is $70, and the entry fee for Robgatta only is $40.

Island YC's Sadie Hawkins race on the Estuary for women skippers and full crews of either gender will kick off Latitude 38's unofficial women's circuit on Sunday, February 28.

In Southern California, the SCYA Midwinter Regatta will be hosted by numerous clubs simultaneously on February 13-14 and 27-28. Long Beach YC will host the second weekend of the California Dreamin' match race series on February 27-28. The San Diego to Puerto Vallarta Race will start on February 29, followed by MEXORC.

- latitude / chris

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