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What Would You Have Done?

August 22, 2016 – San Diego, CA

(Click on the photo to enlarge it.)

Friday night at the Police Dock, the loneliest place in San Diego. 

Photo Latitude / Richard
© 2018 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Just before midnight on Friday, the Wanderer and Doña de Mallorca tied up Profligate at the Police Dock in San Diego to check in with US Customs/Homeland Security, as is supposedly required by law. It’s been years since officials were on site, so the drill is you call their number at the airport, and when they get a chance, they come around to check your passports and to see if you have any food Agriculture doesn’t want brought into the country. You might have to wait 45 minutes; you might have to wait four hours.

This was Profligate’s 18th Baja Bash, but this time things were different when we got to the Police Dock. We dialed the number for Customs and Immigration, but nobody answered. Indeed, it was only after about 20 rings that we got a phone message. The message didn’t identify the recipient of the call other than by number, and just said leave a message. Great. No mention of needing to wait until who knew when, no mention of its being all right to continue on, nothing. We suppose that’s good enough for government work.

Left in the lurch by our beloved government at midnight, the Wanderer felt under no obligation to hang around. We left a message identifying our boat and the situation, and reported that based on their apparent lack of interest and/or guidance, and the fact that we had a starter problem with one engine, and thus reduced low-speed maneuverability, we were proceeding to the work dock at Driscoll Boat Works at Shelter Island.

As risk-averse a sailor who ever stepped aboard a boat, de Mallorca fretted all the way to Driscoll’s, thinking the Wanderer might be hit with a heavy fine or some other terrible thing. It seemed like a very weak argument to us. The ball had been in the government’s court, and they had whiffed badly. And given the legions of people who sneak over the border anyway, and what doesn't happen to them once they get across the border, one has to wonder if the government even really cares.

What would you have done?

To tell the truth, we weren’t in a particularly patient mood with government officials. The day before we’d left Southern Marin — aka ‘The South’ — at 5 a.m. and driven to L.A. where we dumped off our rental car six hours later. Our lovely daughter drove us to Union Station, where we caught the three-hour train to San Diego, arriving at 6 p.m. We walked across the street and caught the 45-minute trolley to Tijuana. Welcome to the difficult world of those struggling to get by, at or below the poverty level. We walked across the bridge into Tijuana, where every sidewalk is badly cracked and where generic Viagra is just over $1 a dose, and caught the comfortable $20 ABC bus to Ensenada. We got dumped off somewhere we didn’t recognize in Central Ensenada, had the most oil-drenched abogado tacos ever — five for just $2 — and took a taxi to Marina Coral, arriving at 11 p.m.

Despite its having been a long Thursday, we wanted to get an early start and make San Diego before quitting time at Driscoll's so we could get our bicycle out of storage. To that end, the great folks at the Marina Coral drove us to the official offices. It’s advertised that it’s a ‘one-window’ paperwork process in Ensenada, but that’s not true when you’re checking out of the country.

First you have to get some medical/health clearance from somebody at the top of a three-story building in another part of Ensenada. We could have had the black plague and yellow fever, and the boat could have been infested with Komodo dragons and nobody would have been the wiser, as nobody inspected us or our boat. It was all about just getting a piece of paper signed.

Next it was the ‘one-window’ Immigration/Customs/port captain’s office. As we’ve said many times before, every Port Captain interprets Mexican law differently. In the case of the Port Captain in Ensenada, it’s his belief that he must sign the zarpe of every boat leaving Ensenada for the States. (Not that any US official has ever given two hoots about seeing any zarpe from Mexico.)

As you might imagine, the Port Captain is a busy man, with meetings and this and that. So it regularly takes an hour or two before he can get around to signing your zarpe. For whatever reason, we didn’t get our signed copy until about 3 p.m.

Delayed as we were, we were motoring up toward the border we got to wondering if any skippers have done the unthinkable and gotten so frustrated with officialdom that they blew off stopping at the San Diego Police Dock entirely, and went on their merry way. Mind you, we’re not recommending this, as we believe in following the rules as much as possible. We’re just curious about the rest of you.

- latitude / richard

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Classy Deadline the 15th

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See the current magazine here.

Sailor Badly Burned After Explosion

August 22, 2016 – La Playa Cove, San Diego

An unidentified man suffered second-degree burns over 60% of his body Saturday night after surviving a propane explosion and fire on his Columbia 26 at La Playa Cove near the San Diego YC.

The man, described as a liveaboard in his 60s who moves from anchorage to anchorage, is now in an induced coma at a San Diego hospital. He is expected to survive.

The 26-ft fiberglass sailboat was already completely engulfed by fire when San Diego fire boats arrived on the scene.
Video courtesy Jeff Spangler of Cabrillo Yacht Sales

"I was about 40 feet away when the propane exploded," Daniel McCoy of the Alameda-based Jeanneau 409 Kini Popo told Latitude. "Possibly because most of his worldly belongings were on the boat, he didn’t jump off until the flames were about 15 feet high. Everybody was yelling at him to jump, and he finally did. He swam over to another boat, but the skin on his hands had been melted, so he couldn’t pull himself up.

"He was in terrible pain, but a couple of other guys and I pulled him onto a dinghy and rushed him to shore," McCoy continued. "Once we got him to shore it was about 20 minutes before the land-based fire department and ambulance arrived. We could hear their sirens going back and forth for a long time, so it was clear they didn’t know where we were. It was odd because the police boat had arrived on scene quite quickly."

There was an unconfirmed report that the victim had been trying to gravity transfer propane from one tank to another. Propane is extremely dangerous, of course, as it can collect in bilges and even cockpit soles. If there’s a spark, there will be a powerful explosion.

Just a week before, Henry Whimbley, 32, died when a fire raged on the tugboat Chief that was tied up at Barrio Logan, which is farther south in San Diego Bay. Authorities believe the cause of that fire was a cigarette he’d left burning on a table.

The sole inhabitant of this tug did not survive this fire, believed to have been started by a neglected cigarette.

© 2018 NBC 7 TV San Diego

- latitude / richard

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Ad: Sal's Inflatables

August 22, 2016 – Alameda, CA

© 2018 Sal's Inflatables /

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Fresh from Rio

August 22, 2016 – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil/San Francisco, CA

Gary Jobson, who served as commentator for NBC at the Olympics, is coming to St. Francis Yacht Club, and all Bay Area sailors are invited. "This Wednesday, fresh from Rio, Gary will come speak at our Wednesday Yachting Luncheon to talk about how our team performed and what’s next for US Sailing," advises StFYC's Meredith Laitos. To attend, sign up here.

Sunset with 49er FX fleet

The sun has set on the Rio Olympics, and sailing broadcaster Gary Jobson returns to the States with the inside story.

© 2018 Sailing Energy / World Sailing

We'll have more on the Rio Olympics in the September issue of Latitude 38, and we're planning a preview of the Paralympics for a 'Lectronic report in a week or two.

- latitude / chris

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Ad: Sale Boat of the Day

August 22, 2016 – Pt. Richmond and Sausalito, CA

© 2018 KKMI /

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