The Farallones Race tragedy is so heartbreaking! It's now midnight on the Sunday following, and I still can't seem to get my head around it. Like many, I'd hoped there would be a miracle and more survivors would be found. But it was not to be.
Having been around 'The Rockpile' dozens of times myself, I completely understand. It was just another day at the office for sailors who knew what they were doing. They were simply going for it.
I've already read much about the tragedy and listened to countless broadcast reports about it. But please tell all the armchair sailors who start making 'Why didn't they do this?' or 'Why didn't they do that?' comments to go oink themselves. Armchair sailors simply don't understand, and therefore shouldn't be part of the discussion. They should keep quiet and let those of us who do understand grieve. And we grieve no matter if we personally knew any of the victims or not.
Burbujas, Vanguard 15 #1004
David — We agree that this is a time for grieving, and that anyone — including sailors — who wasn't out at the Farallones when the accident occurred shouldn't try to second guess what was and was not done. At some point there is going to be a Coast Guard investigation, at which point we'll learn about the details of the incident from the survivors and from evidence. Maybe then it will be possible to draw some conclusions.
We've received several letters making various recommendations based on the tragedy. Out of respect, we're going to hold those letters for next month.
WHAT WE SAW FROM ABOARD GREEN BUFFALO
We did not see the immediate sequence of events that led to Low Speed Chase's ending up in the surf at the Farallones, but we on the Cal 40 Green Buffalo believe we were the first to spot them in distress and to notify the Coast Guard.
The weather on Saturday started out light but became windy as predicted, with breezes persisting in the 25- to 30-knot range, and swells in what I'd estimate were the 7-foot range. Naturally there were some gusts and waves that exceeded those norms. We endured the ride out to the Farallones, and watched a few boats turn back, presumably because of gear failure or just deciding not to continue.
Approaching and then rounding Southeast Farallon Island from the north at a distance of about a quarter mile, we observed heavy surf on the islands, crashing high and putting on a display of the sea's power. Jim Quanci, our skipper, then noted what he described as a "sweeping wave," originating at about our distance, and continuing toward the south end of the island. He also noticed a white spar, deep in one of the coves, and called our attention to it.
It took a few moments for us to figure out that we were looking at a sailboat mast and not some part of the island's infrastructure. The mast didn't appear to be moving, and the main appeared to still be up. Given the size of the surf, it looked as though it would be all but impossible to escape from that location.
We didn't dare approach the stranded vessel any more closely for fear of ending up in the same situation. Jim asked me to call the Coast Guard and report the situation. The VHF contact was poor, but our distress call got through, and was promptly answered. We were unable to answer the Coast Guard's questions about what boat was on the rocks, and who and how many people were aboard. I then switched to the race channel and asked other passing boats to report their observations to the Coast Guard. Whirlwind replied that the boat appeared to be on the rocks and, though they could not make it out, had a three-word name. Other communications continued after we had no further information to contribute.
The Coast Guard had a helicopter on site in about 40 minutes, and we saw two other assets, one the cutter Sockeye and the other a 44-ft motor lifeboat, on their way to the islands.
Our condolences to the families of those who were lost in this terrible tragedy.
Michael Moradzadeh, Crew
Green Buffalo, Cal 40
TO HONOR THOSE WHO LOST THEIR LIVES
I didn't know any of the sailors who died during the tragic accident at the Farallones, but I still feel a connection with them, and sadness for families and friends of those who died, as well as those who survived.
We are planning to sail around the Farallones with the Singlehanded Sailing Society fleet on May 12, not as part of the Singlehanded Farallones Race, but just for the heck of it. If we make it out there, we plan to honor those who lost their lives by dropping a rose in the water as a remembrance. If anyone wants to join us in doing the same, they are welcome.
'iliohale, Hanse 341
MONEY CHANGES EVERYTHING
I'm not a racer and I didn't know any of the victims in the horrible Low Speed Chase tragedy that took place at the Farallon Islands. But I'm truly despondent about the loss of those lives, perhaps more so because most were avid amateurs rather than professionals.
But there is a trend in other areas of racing that I see and don't like. Just recently we had the Clipper 'pay big bucks to crew' Around the World fleet arrive in Oakland. One of the boats had been smashed by a gigantic wave hundreds of miles from San Francisco, seriously injuring four of the crew and ripping the binnacle and wheel right off their mounts. Is it not well-known foolishness to challenge the North Pacific from China so early in the year? Was this route at this time of year selected only so the owners of the event could land big sponsors?
Then there is the Volvo Race, the six boats of which seem to need ships to get themselves to the start of each new leg. If I'm not mistaken, the destinations for each of that event's legs were selected primarily on how much money they could generate.
Closer to home, consider the gigantic wing sail catamarans that will be used for the 34th America's Cup on San Francisco Bay. Apparently they were selected to provide the 'fans' with 'NASCAR-like' dramatic tension, where crashes or deaths can happen at any moment. Reading between the lines, I get the impression that the crews — a brave lot to begin with — are scared poopless. And once again, the ultimate motivation seems to be money.
I love sailing, but not for either ultimate speed or edge-of-death thrills. I love sailing for the opportunity it gives me to commune with Nature in a gentle, harmonic and environmentally friendly way. As such, I'm frankly tired of all the publicity that the wild side of sailing gets. I'd like to see more articles such as the Wanderer's Zen sailing pieces that appeared in last year's Latitude. To me — and I suspect a lot of Latitude readers — that's what sailing is really about.
Once again, my sincere condolences to the grieving families and friends of those who lost their lives at the Farallones that terrible day.
Name Withheld By Request
THE EVOLUTION OF MY THOUGHTS ON PFDS
The tragic loss of some of the crew of Low Speed Chase prompts this letter. I never wore a PFD in the '70s and '80s. They weren't cool. They inhibited movement. And I was young and immune to misfortune.
In the '90s, with the advent of the inflatable ‘suspenders’ style PFDs, I could run around the foredeck relatively unencumbered and didn’t feel that my ‘fashion statement’ would cause excessive embarrassment back at the club. I wore my inflatable PFD 80% of the time, and always when I was singlehanding or outside the Gate.
During the Second Half Opener in '09, we ran aground on the Marin headlands with the Flying Tiger 10 Savage Beauty. I had never before considered the possibility of being ejected from a boat onto the wave-swept rocks where an inflatable PFD would immediately be shredded and lose buoyancy.
Since that event, I’ve changed my strategy for survival. I always wear an inherently buoyant ‘dinghy-style’ PFD. The advantages are that there are no movable parts to fail, it provides added padding against stanchions and rocks, and it floats. When conditions warrant — such as the Crewed Farallones Race — I wear an inflatable PFD with harness/rings on the outside of my foul weather gear as a secondary means of flotation.
To give some context, I do foredeck about 100 days a year on a variety of boats. During the Crewed Farallones I was aboard the turbo'd Hobie 33 Akyla. During the Pt. Bonita race I was aboard the Flying Tiger 10 Savage Beauty. I also owned the Peterson 3/4 Tonner Cirrus from '89 to '09.
My heart goes out to the family and friends of the Low Speed Chase crew. It could have been any of us.
Readers — Just so nobody gets the wrong idea, everybody on the Low Speed Chase crew was wearing a PFD.
"WE GOT GREAT CREW AT THE CREW LIST PARTY"
The 2012 Latitude Crew Party held at Golden Gate YC on March 7 yielded us a great bunch of race crew recruits. Seven of the sailors in this photo are contacts we made at the Crew Party. Four of the individuals just moved to the Bay Area — and are learning that we sail with PFDs and foulies around here. So thanks to Latitude for hosting the great event.
The photo was taken after a good day of spinnaker practice, which was followed by an awesome potluck lunch behind Angel Island, featuring many homemade treats. After a brisk sail back to Sausalito, we hosted a little dock party and beer tasting of some microbrew created by one of our crew. The Chipotle Amber Ale was voted the favorite.
Barry Stompe & Sylvia Stewart
Iolani, Hughes 48
Readers — This year's Crew List Party was one of the biggest ever. If you missed out, no worries, you can still find skippers or crew by clicking the Crew List button on our homepage at www.latitude38.com.
HOW I USED TO GET MY WEATHER INFO
Last month there was a letter asking for advice on the best way to get weather reports for sailing when there is no internet access. Although my 'old school' method was for Bay sailing rather than offshore sailing, and prior to the advent of internet, your readers might enjoy it nonetheless.
Back in the '80s and early '90s, when my Laser and I spent most of our time sailing at Crissy Field and Tomales Bay, I had a unique way of getting real time weather reports. In the case of Crissy Field, I would call the Sergeant's Office at the Golden Gate Bridge and ask how hard the wind was blowing. For Tomales Bay, I would call Tony's Seafood Restaurant and ask the waitress, or whoever answered the phone, to look out the window and tell me what the conditions were like.
It was a great way to get the weather — until someone in the Sergeant's Office eventually got tired of my calling. "Besides," they told me, "it always blows here."
THE CUP AND THE FLEET
According to the news media, the America's Cup officials are proposing to combine the America's Cup World Series competition on San Francisco Bay with Fleet Week on October 4-7. Though there are doubtless many more reasons that this would be a horrible, terrible, very bad idea, I can think of at least three:
1) Combining the two events will overload the infrastructure, making traffic, access to food vendors, and possibly accommodations a nightmare that will degrade the experience of everyone who attends.
2) San Francisco merchants will lose out on one weekend of mega business opportunities.
3) Conflicting overlaps of the real estate used by each event will cause many frustrations and delays.
I get the feeling that the America's Cup folks want to combine the events because they are worried that as a stand-alone event, the America's Cup won't draw the size of crowds the sponsors want to see. I think they underestimate the interest the sailing community and the public-at-large have in the America's Cup.
As much as I love Fleet Week, and look forward to the stimulus that the 34th America's Cup will bring to the local sailing community, if this proposal comes to pass, it almost makes me glad that I will be in Mexico during the resulting fiasco.
Clarsa, Venture 23
Bill — Fleet Week on the Bay has always struck us as being sufficiently chaotic in its own right, so at first whiff we have to agree that combining the America's Cup with it doesn't seem like the best idea. We also agree that it feels a bit as if the America's Cup is trying to hitch a ride on the more broadly popular Fleet Week.
DIFFERENT EVENTS, BUT SAME TIME AND PLACE
If the people running the America's Cup were in charge of scheduling the San Francisco Giants and San Francisco 49ers games, they would probably schedule the last game of the World Series and the season opener for the 49ers for the same day at the same time. And both at AT&T Park! I'm looking forward to both Fleet Week and the 34th America's Cup on San Francisco Bay, but combining them would be like chalk and cheese.
Griff — As we stated in our previous response, our inclination is to be skeptical about this idea. But who knows, maybe they've got some nifty plan to make it all cool. We'll withhold judgment until some proposed details are available.
DON ANDERSON'S PASSING
I'm sad to have to report the passing of Don Anderson, who was known to cruisers in Mexico and the Pacific for his many years of free weather forecasts on HF radio. Don's body was found on his Valiant 47 Summer Passage by fellow members of Oxnard's Pacific Corinthian YC who hadn't seen him in a week.
I was lucky to be a part of the original Amigo Net, which was created to assist boats taking the Clipper or Offshore Route home from Mexico in '01. Back then Don gave us the weather on the newly organized Amigo Net, which was run by a Canadian woman named Kathy aboard her boat Morning. It was then and there that Don discovered what seemed to be an innate need to provide weather forecasts for cruisers. Over time it became a much larger endeavour than he ever could have imagined, covering not only the sailing routes within Mexico, but also to the South Pacific and Hawaii as well as the Baja Bash back to the States.
Don broadcast from his office at the back of his house using a specially erected tower that utilized a galvanized fence as its ground. Don's neighbors fought to have his antenna removed — until the City of Oxnard honored him for helping children and young adults learn about HF radio.
For what might be called the 'Decade of Don', many cruisers in Mexico didn't start their morning or plan their sailing agenda until they had heard Don's weather report. I, for one, appreciated hearing his side information on how weather systems formed and what one would expect if certain variables were to occur. Yet Don could be a bit intimidating, as he would ask and answer his own questions, as if his listeners should have known the answers from all the times he'd given them before.
Don and his precise forecasts will be missed by all.
Ann Marie, Morgan Out Island 28
Santa Rosalia, Baja, Mexico
Readers — Don had a large audience, so we received many responses mourning his passing. He was so flamboyant with his forecasts that it's almost hard for us to believe reports that he was 90 years old. He sounded much younger on the radio.
DON'S FORECASTS WILL BE MISSED
Don Anderson's morning weather forecasts and lectures on the Amigo Net were always interesting and informative, and with his passing, will be missed.
But I'm not sure most listeners realized what serious bluewater cruisers he and his wife Joan were. Upon our return from Mexico in '04, we had the opportunity to have dinner with Don and Joan on three occasions, and I am reminded of a story he told that I think illustrates the real spirit of the man. Late one afternoon while on a doublehanded passage, I believe from Easter Island to Ecuador, an uncontrolled gybe broke the boom on their Valiant 47 Summer Passage. After getting the sail down and everything secured, Joan was quite concerned. But pointing out there was really nothing further they could do to improve their situation that night, Don said there was no reason to delay cocktail hour any further.
Without Don's guidance, I suppose the Mexico cruising fleet will simply have to make use of a method of weather forecasting Don always encouraged. "Within 10 miles of land, the only reliable wind forecast comes from looking out a porthole."
Dry Martini, Morgan 38
A MIX OF MELVILLE, TWAIN AND ISAIAH
To those of us who relied on the weather forecasts of Don Anderson, he was something like a mix of Herman Melville, Mark Twain and Isaiah the biblical prophet. His forecasts sometimes had the flavor of hair-raising sea yarns, flecked with homespun humor and sometimes stiffened with moral jeremiads. Woe to those heedless mariners who neglected his predicted hazards, as they were headed "straight to Davy Jones' locker," Don would thunder. He'd giggle delightedly with the prospect of these fools, and we'd shiver in our skivvies at the thought of 60 knots of "Terror in the Tehuantepec," or of running onto the rocks at night at the reef offshore Punta Abreojos, which, he'd remind us with a bit of a righteous cackle, means "Keep your eyes open" in Spanish!
We on Wendaway loved the way Don's beautiful mind was able to animate the complicated weather systems and physics into a visual narrative. Instead of throwing numbers at us — degrees, millibars, velocities and such — he'd interpret the mysteries of a living atmosphere interacting with the ocean and land, and we'd be rapt at our radios at the clarity of his vision.
Nearly every day he'd present his forecasts on the Amigo Net, the Southbound Net, the Baja California Net, and on weekends the Chubasco Net, too. He was always there, on time, and fully prepared to shepherd his wayward flock up and down the Pacific.
Don was thanked — profusely. I hope this knowledge will help his family and friends in their grief — and in the celebration of the life of Dr. Donald Anderson, friend of mariners everywhere.
Mark Schneider & Wendy Beattie
Wendaway, Norseman 447
"I'M VERY MUCH ALIVE"
I have discovered a website claiming Don Anderson's wife passed away a month ago.
I am very much alive, and I'm asking your help to correct this information and pass it along to the appropriate people involved.
Joan — Our sincerest condolences for your loss.
BLINDED BY THE LIGHTS
In the April 18 'Lectronic, the Wanderer asked if anybody else has been troubled by being unable to see cruise ship navigation lights because of all their other brighter lights. I sure have, in both the Northwest and Northeast Providence Channels of the Bahamas, where I have had as many as seven cruise ships around me at the same time! It was impossible to tell where some of them were headed.
I remember one of the ships firing up strobes and flashing lights for a disco, making it really hard to see the navigation lights. I fortunately presumed correctly that the disco would have to be at the aft end of the ship, where there was less wind and the strobes would be less likely to blind those on the bridge.
My vessel's radar had tracking ability — but not for seven ships! I had a high pucker factor for awhile. This was pre-AIS, which made establishing VHF communications with the ship you were most concerned about hard to confirm.
I always wondered how these ships and their lights met Colregs!
A CLOSE CALL
I was in the middle of a two-hour business call on my Carver 36 motoryacht at Pier 39 in San Francisco the other day at about 5 p.m. when I went out on the flybridge to enjoy the beautiful view. Even though I had buds in both ears, I thought I could hear someone yelling. I took off one earpiece and looked around, but I couldn't see anyone or make out what they were yelling. Since there were a lot of people on the walkways, I didn't worry about it and went back to my call.
I kept hearing the yelling, so I took both earpieces off. But it was windy, so I couldn't tell where it was coming from. Then I noticed a large cruise ship backing out of a berth next to Pier 39. I assumed that the faint shouts must have something to do with the ship's departure.
After 15 minutes, I caught a glimpse out of the side of my eye of some water splashing about five slips from mine on the other side of the dock. Even though I only saw the splash for a second because of the effects of the tides and a 40-ft wooden boat moving around, I immediately sensed that it had something to do with someone calling for help.
"I see you, I'm on my way to help you!" I shouted as I bolted down off the flybridge to the dock. When I got to the scene I was shocked to see a man who appeared to be in his 70s clinging to a fender for his life. What made it difficult for the man is that the heavy tidal flow had him sandwiched between a very heavy wooden boat and the dock.
"Please help!" he pleaded, "I fell in and can't get out."
The docks at Pier 39 are fairly high out of the water, so it wasn't easy to get the man — who appeared to weigh about 200 pounds — out of the water. He was exhausted, so he wasn't really able to help. But I managed to get him on the dock and then secure his boat.
After a bit of recuperation, he explained that he'd been singlehanding his boat on the Bay. But when it came time to dock, he miscalculated when he tried to jump to the dock with a line, and fell in the water. He said the combination of the cold water and getting smashed between the boat and dock had confused him, or else he would have swum to a boat with a swim platform, got out of the water, and then tied up his boat himself. Given the height of the docks at Pier 39, the only way to get out of the water would be by the swim platform of another boat.
The man was not wearing a PFD, nor did he have a whistle. Both would have helped. He was lucky, because I don't think he would have lasted much longer.
Following the rescue, I got back on my business call for another hour. I'd had my phone on mute, and since the others had been talking the entire time of the rescue, they didn't even realize that I'd been gone. Pretty good multi-tasking.
Spot, Carver 36
Pier 39, San Francisco
TEST YOUR BATTERIES BEFORE INSTALLING THEM
I recently learned a lesson about buying batteries that I thought should be shared with Latitude readers. I bought two 6-volt, 370-amp-hour batteries from West Marine last year and installed them. I was disappointed in their performance, as they seemed to drop from 14.2 volts to 12.5 volts within minutes of my taking them off the charger. But since they were so big, heavy and awkward to put in and take out, I put off taking them out of the boat and back to West Marine.
I finally got around to returning them a couple of weeks ago. West Marine offers a one-year warranty on batteries — one reason I highly recommend buying from them — and when you return one, they hook it up to a battery tester to measure its strength. One of mine was down to 10% life, and the other down to 50%. That immediately explained their lack of performance. West Marine had two more batteries on the shelf, and were happy to replace my bad ones.
This is when the lightbulb came on in my head, and why I am writing. I recommend testing the batteries — each of mine weighs 120 lbs — before hauling them back to the boat. When we tested the replacement batteries I'd just gotten off the shelf, we found they were both at about 50% — basically dead already. So they ordered two fresh ones. When they came in, we tested them and found they were at 100%. Finally.
The moral of the story is to have the store associates test the batteries for you before you take them away. You'll save yourself — and them — a lot of trouble!
Tom 'Mr. Pink' Watson
Darwind, Pearson Triton
Readers — Just last month we needed to buy two 4D batteries at Budget Marine in St. Martin for 'ti Profligate. While they only weighed about 75 lbs each, the staff tested them before we took them away. We second Mr. Pink's suggestion.
LOOKING FOR THE ALDEN YAWL FOAM
Before I was born, my father owned the yacht Foam. She had been built by John G. Alden in '37 for Horace Dodge. I'm not sure when my father bought her, but he owned her until '85. I'm writing on his behalf because he doesn't know what became of Foam, and would love to know. I'm writing Latitude because he mentioned that back when he sailed, Latitude 38 was the "premiere yachting magazine." So if anyone can help, I assume it would be you.
I personally have looked through yacht registrations and come up blank. But I would love to find out where she is because I feel my father would rest easier knowing that such an important part of his past is being well cared for. If possible, I would also like to get him some photographs from the current owners.
My father says that I'd be surprised at how tight knit the world of classic yachts is, so I have high hopes.
Peter Haglund Jr.
Peter — You haven't given us much to work with. According to John G. Alden records, they designed Foam, a 62-ft aft-cockpit, full-keel yawl for Donald Dodge, brother of automobile legend Horace Dodge. She was built by Goudy & Stevens in '37, displaced 66,000 lbs, had a beam of 14 feet, and drew just under eight feet.
It would be very helpful if you knew where your father sold her and what kind of condition she was in at the time. The sad story is that most yachts built that many years ago have — unless they'd been maintained in excellent condition — gone by the wayside. But keep your fingers crossed, and we'll see if any readers can help.
IT'S NOT BECAUSE HE'S A RELATIVE OR ANYTHING
I was thrilled that Latitude got to host the Gold Coast Australia entry in the Clipper Around the World Race, in part because skipper Richard Hewson is my nephew. Putting my family pride aside, I firmly believe that Richard's is a name in sailing to be watched. As he continues to succeed in the Clipper Race — and get good publicity in such great rags as Latitude as a result — one hopes he'll find greater sponsorship to become an even bigger presence in international sailing.
Latitude may have also heard about the crossing of the Atlantic by the sail-powered raft An-Tiki, which crossed last year from the Canary Islands to St. Martin in the Eastern Caribbean. Made of water and gas pipes sealed at both ends, the raft is the brainchild of 86-year-old Anthony Smith, famous in the United Kingdom for ballooning. Smith's goal is to call attention to the fact that over a billion people don't have access to clean water.
Anyway, Dave, my husband and Richard Hewson's uncle, was the sailing master for the trip across the Atlantic. I call him the tortoise, because they averaged only two knots, and Richard the hare, because his boat had a much greater average speed. In any event, the raft has continued on toward the Bahamas. If anyone wants to contribute to the fundraising, it's a good cause. You can find more at gasballoon.com/antiki.
As for myself, I run the charter boat Serendipity in the British Virgins. Many years ago Latitude was nice enough to help me track down an errant Northern California charter broker who failed to pay me for clients he'd put on my boat. So for that alone I am very much a fan.
Serendipity, Beneteau 50
British Virgin Islands
LEAD KEEL SALVAGE RIGHTS
In the March 26 issue of 'Lectronic, you wrote about the 218-ft R/P and Dykstra ketch Hetairos hitting the rock bottom just off the Groupers, which served as the leeward mark for the first race of the St. Barth Bucket. She reportedly lost a large part of the lead from the bottom of her keel, a fact that knocked her out of the last two races of the Bucket.
Given the price of lead — it seems to be about $1 a pound — some of us got to wondering about the possibility of salvaging that part of the keel and selling it. So a few of us, including the owner of a catamaran — which doesn't have any lead — mounted an expedition to the Groupers see if we could find the keel, and if so, determine how difficult it might be to salvage.
We did find the missing part of the keel, and offer proof in the accompanying photo. Tubular in shape, it's about three feet across and about 10 feet long. We tried to lift it by hand, but didn't have any luck. (Just kidding.) We're guessing it must weigh about 20,000 lbs, which if delivered to a scrap yard might fetch $20,000.
We've been unable to contact the owner of Hetairos as yet, so we're wondering whether lead from a keel on the bottom of the ocean is a case of 'finders keepers', or if the owner of the boat still owns the rights to it. Or perhaps has the ecological obligation to remove it.
R.H. — Salvage rights to part of a lead keel on the bottom of the ocean? We're going to have to leave that question to the admiralty lawyers in our readership.
But what we wouldn't give to be able to listen in on the conversation between the German owner of Hetairos and his insurance company! One of the interesting features of the Bucket is that all participants have to be equipped with GPS devices that record their courses, so presumably the owner is going to have to explain how prudent it was for him to come so close to the Groupers in what was a fun race — particularly after 81-year-old Caribbean legend Donald Street had just written how the surveys of the course waters were mostly based on soundings from more than 100 years ago and, if they existed at all, weren't very reliable.
There has also been speculation about where a boat as big as Hetairos can be taken for repairs. Ken Keefe of KKMI told us that he once did research for the potential owner of a large yacht, and discovered there were only eight places in the world where the yacht could be hauled. And there may be fewer for Hetairos because of her drop keel, which is apparently 36 feet tall. In other words, it would seem that you'd have to lift the 218-ft boat nearly 40 feet in the air to drop the keel out the bottom. Obviously Baltic Yachts in Finland, which built the spectacular green ketch, was able to put the keel in, so presumably they would have the capability to get it back out. But it's not clear what other yards, if any, would have that same capability.
For the record, Hetairos was launched by Baltic Yachts in July of last year, and is a curious combination of the old and new. A design collaboration of San Diego's Reichel/Pugh and Amsterdam's Dykstra & Partners, her plumb bow and sweeping transom are reminiscent of British pilot cutters of the late 1800s. Yet she was built of carbon, Corecell, and Nomex to make her light, strong and fast. She was previously known as 'Project Panamax' because her 205-ft tall mast is the tallest mast that — thanks to bridge limitations — can transit the Panama Canal. Including the captain's quarters, Hetairos — which means 'partner', 'mate' or 'comrade' in Greek — sleeps 10 guests and has a crew of 10.
A lot of people feel a sense of glee when an obviously very wealthy individual makes a mistake or experiences misfortune. We're not into that. We just hope the big ketch — which took honors in the Caribbean 600, during which she hit speeds of up to 23 knots — gets back in the game again as soon as possible.
Update: As we go to press, reliable sources tell us that Hetairos will be repaired at a yard in England, and that the insurance company will be picking up the entire tab. We can't help wondering what effect this gigantic claim will have on insurance premiums for us little guys.
I'M WONDERING IF I COULD AFFORD ONE
I recently landed a good-paying job in the tech industry in San Francisco. As I already have a minimalist condo in the City and a nice bicycle, I'm wondering what I'd have to pay to buy one of the boats that participated in this year's St. Barth Bucket. At least as important, what would I be looking at in terms of monthly expenses?
Tom 'Techie' Tillotson
Tom — There is a large range of prices in the Bucket boats, which varied in length from 90 to 214 feet. You might be able to pick up one of the older 100-footers for $5 to $10 million. If you want something mid-size, the 154-ft ketch Scheherazade, which was built by Hodgdon in Maine and did the Bucket a year ago, is being advertised for a seemingly reasonable $20 million. Keep in mind, however, that she's now nine years old. In the larger sizes, the Kiwi second captain whom we gave a dinghy ride one night told us the 200-ft schooner he was on took four years to build and came in just shy of $100 million. So as you can happily see, there's a Bucket boat for every budget. Assuming, of course, that you have the budget of someone in the top 1% of 1%-ers.
If you're interested in buying now, may we suggest the original Hetairos, a spectacular Bruce King 141-footer that was launched by Germany's Abeking & Rasmussen in '93? To our eye she's not only more beautiful than the new Hetairos, but was the last large yacht to have been built entirely of mahogany. Still owned by the original owner — whose newer boat is in need of some attention, as noted above — you might get a favorable response on a cash offer below her $13 million asking price.
As for expenses, you need to figure on 10 to 15% of the boat's value a year. Assuming, of course, you don't hit bottom too hard or often.
IT'S COUNTERINTUITIVE, BUT BACKWARD WORKED
In a recent 'Lectronic, the Wanderer reported that on sloppy nights it didn't work very well to string the Olson 30 La Gamelle about 100 feet behind his catamaran 'ti Profligate. The problem is that the rocking motion propelled the light Olson forward and into the back of the catamaran.
We used to have a similar problem with our Catalina 30 banging into large mooring balls she was lying to. Since wind and waves try to propel monohulls forward, and no mooring angle or mooring line length solved the problem, we decided to try mooring our boat stern-to to the mooring ball. The boat then tried to sail downwind away from the ball — problem solved!
A side benefit was that lying transom-forward meant the wind was blowing onto the boat from astern, making it much easier to get cooling breezes down the main companionway on hot, sultry evenings.
No Mas, Catalina 30
Dave — Great suggestion. We'll give it a try.
DID LA GAMELLE MAKE IT TO ST. BARTH?
In the last issue a lot of people speculated on how much fuel the Olson 30 La Gamelle's outboard would need to get by the lees of Martinique, Dominica and Guadeloupe while on the way to St. Barth. Did La Gamelle make it? If so, how much fuel was used?
Dennis — La Gamelle did make it to St. Barth. It was a terrific adventure that we recount in excruciating detail later in this issue. She burned only about two gallons of gas, meaning she arrived in St. Barth with eight gallons left over.
iPADS AND APPLE STOCK
My kids gave me an iPad for my last birthday, and it sure has been a game-changer in my life. I even told my 88-year-old dad about your quip that if your iPad had a vagina you might think about getting married again. Funny!
You mentioned that you read Business Daily. I've been reading it a lot over the years, and the best move I ever made was six years ago when I bought Apple (AAPL) after reading about it. And I've been adding more to it over the years. How about you?
P.S. I own Gladys Knuckles, Myron Spaulding's old sloop.
Weekender (ex-Gladys Knuckles), S&S
Jim — Business Daily? We read the Financial Times, as the Weekend edition is as much about international culture as it is about finance.
We owned a bit of Apple, but certainly not enough for a company that's gone up over 80% in the last year. So when it hit $600 and some analysts said it could easily go to $1,000, we naturally doubled our bet. It's tumbled about 10% since then. Not wanting to lose any more of our own money, we've decided to go into portfolio management as a part-time job. So if anybody is interested, all we take is the standard 2% off the top and 20% of all profits. (Whoever came up with that 'can't lose' formula is a bloody genius!)
While it's true that we've lost our Apple ass short term, we can take solace from the fact that we love our iPad for navigation. In fact, 'ti Profligate, the Leopard 45 catamaran we have in a yacht management program in the British Virgins, may become the first bareboat to be equipped with an iPad rather than a chartplotter.
iPADS AND NAV SOFTWARE
I just read your March issue letter response regarding the Navionics navigation program for iPads. Lately I've been toying with the idea of purchasing an iPad to back up my Garmin chartplotter, and also to use for reading.
Then I read an article in Practical Sailor about the latest and greatest in nav programs, and I searched cruiser forums for 'real world' experience with these programs. I've come away confused about the licensing fees for the Navionics program. It appears to me that their charts require an annual Navionics licensing fee because you're not purchasing them outright. In addition, you’re limited to how many devices you can download them to.
The explanations given in a cruiser forum obtained from a Navionics rep didn't clear things up either. I would be interested in your real-world experience with this company, along with an explanation of how the licensing really works.
P.S. Latitude has an excellent way of providing this kind of information in a way that even the most dense person — i.e. me — can understand.
Balance, Endeavour 43
Lani — We've been a bit confused, too. Up until early April, we were huge fans of Navionics navigation apps, as we had used them almost exclusively for our navigation on Profligate in Mexico and California, and on 'ti Profligate and La Gamelle in the Caribbean. The apps were so fast and easy and always worked great, even when there was no internet, so why wouldn't we love them? (Doña de Mallorca, however, continues to prefer the more complicated and sophisticated Nobeltec on her computer.)
But as of early April, we ratcheted down to being mere big fans of Navionics. What happened? When we got to the British Virgins to start the season on 'ti Profligate, we fired up the Navionics app on our iPad to make sure it was working fine. Well, it wasn't working. The charts were there, but the red arrow that indicates our boat position and heading wouldn't show up. We tried over and over, but it wouldn't appear.
A few minutes before that, the guy sharing the picnic table with us at BVI Yacht Charters decided he wanted to download the Navionics Caribbean app, based on the rave review we'd just given him. But much to our surprise, there was no Navionics Caribbean app available in the App Store as we had on our iPad, just a combined Caribbean & South American app — and at nearly double what we paid for just the Caribbean app. What the heck? He bought the new 'double' app anyway, and it worked great.
Left somewhat up a tree because 'ti doesn't have a chartplotter, we grudgingly forked over $49 more to Navionics for the Caribbean & South America combo app, the latter half of it something we really didn't want cluttering up our iPad. The new app has, however, worked flawlessly.
We nonetheless wrote Navionics to grouse about the following: 1) Our Caribbean app had suddenly stopped working without any warning, something that was potentially very dangerous; 2) Since the Caribbean app no longer worked, it appeared that we were leasing rather than buying the app information, but hadn't been told that; and 3) We now couldn't buy the Caribbean without having to include South America, which we didn't want, and at almost double the price.
The following is the Navionics' response: "The Marine Caribbean & Central America HD app has been discontinued due to the release of the new Navionics Mobile single apps (example, Caribbean & South America HD). Please be advised that the original apps are no longer being supported, and will no longer receive updates. The new Navionics Mobile single app is not an update to the previous regional apps, but an entirely new app product. This app will feature a much larger coverage area, updated chart data, as well as many new features that were not possible to include with the build of the original apps. If you would like to continue to get the most updated information and features, Navionics recommends upgrading to the new single app. The single app will require an additional purchase.
"Please be aware that Navionics does not suspend the use of the mobile apps, even if they are discontinued. These apps should still load and operate on your device. However, the original regional apps may not be compatible with the current iOS versions. Since these apps are no longer supported and no longer being updated, these app titles have not been optimized for use with the current iOS versions. We have not tested these apps, and cannot guarantee their functionality with the current iOS versions." This was signed by the Navionics Mobile Team.
Based on our other software experience, it's a fact of life that software — including apps — eventually becomes incompatible with newer operating systems. So we can accept that. But there are things we can't accept. First, the business about bundling two entirely different areas, then charging nearly double the price. We think that's baloney. Second, if the app we paid for no longer works, even with the original operating system, we think that's baloney, too.
But here's where it gets weird. After repeatedly trying to get our original Navionics Caribbean app to show the red arrow indicating our boat's position and direction, we gave up and grudgingly bought the new Caribbean & South America app. But a month later, while we were attempting to confirm that the old Caribbean app didn't work, it started working perfectly again. Can we get a refund on the Caribbean & South American app that we never wanted? Probably not. But at least it would seem to put to rest the theory that we're only leasing the app.
As for sharing the app between your iPad and your iPhone, you can do this with many apps, but not the Navionics apps. For one last bit of weirdness, the iPhone app for Caribbean & South America costs $14.99, while the iPad version costs $49.99.
Enough backstory; here are our real-world recommendations: First, buy an iPad no matter what. Even without a vagina, it will become an essential part of your life, and for far more reasons than just reading books and navigation. If you have wi-fi and an iPad, you have all the knowledge of the world at your fingertips. That's important to us. Second, buy the Navionics navigation program for the area you need. Even though Navionics might force you to buy a bundled package, each bundle contains thousands of dollars' worth of charts and a great navigation program, and is thus worth it.
That said, Navionics has stomped all over our inclinations of customer loyalty. We hope someone gives them some competition to keep them honest.
NATURAL BORN SAILOR
I've been sailing out of South Beach Harbor with my granddaughter Isabella since she was two. A precocious child, she has always wanted to drive the boat. Previously I've sat behind her with my hand on the tiller. But on a beautiful day last November, she took the helm of a Santana 22 by herself for the first time. I asked her to steer for the highest point on Angel Island, and she held the course straight and true! In a lifetime of sailing, I have never seen a comparable expression of pride and joy, and I will always be grateful to Dennis Neal Vaughn for capturing it with his camera. It just goes to show there is nothing better than sailing with family and friends.
Mark Wheeles, Head Instructor
Mark — It's a very nice photo. But please, please, please, don't tell us that you have dreams that she'll be the first 10-year-old to sail around the world singlehanded.
SINK FIRST, ASK QUESTIONS LATER?
I think it's possible — although barely — that some people may have been able to climb aboard the Japanese ship that was a victim of the tsunami but has been drifting west, and have survived as she made her way across the Pacific. So I hope the Coast Guard, which plans to sink her, will inspect the vessel before sending her to the bottom. The same would apply to all sizable pieces of tsunami debris expected to be showing up on our shores.
Mid-Life Cruises, San Juan 28
Paul — We suspect that the Coast Guard used good judgment before using the Ryou-Un Maru as target practice on April 5. The derelict ship — which was moored off Hokkaido waiting to be scrapped when the tsunami carried her away a little over a year ago — caught fire and sank in 6,000 feet of water about 180 miles southwest of Sitka, Alaska.
SOME SOCAL SUGGESTIONS
As this is my first time writing to Latitude, I want to offer my sincere thanks to you and your team for providing such thoughtful and entertaining stories about sailing. I really enjoy them, and often marvel at such lucid and well-styled prose — something that is truly rare these days.
Last year I met with Managing Editor Andy Turpin, and discussed my desire to participate in the '11 Baja Ha-Ha. Alas, family health issues put a damper on such plans. So I'm hoping for this year or, at the latest, next year.
That brings me to your proposed SoCal Ha-Ha. My family and I will absolutely participate in such an event, and look forward to details being finalized. You have put some good thought into an itinerary that spans a fair distance and has a variety of stops. But since you asked for comments, here are a few:
Beginning a SoCal Ha-Ha in Santa Barbara and routing each leg to be a reach/run is a terrific idea. However, after such a grand start to Santa Cruz Island, spending only one night at such a magnificent place just doesn't seem quite enough. The next 50-mile leg to Paradise Cove would be a bit of a letdown, at least based on my experience. The last several times I was at Paradise Cove, beach landings in a motorized dinghy were impossible, and everyone in a kayak or inflatable was dumped multiple times. Furthermore, it was rolly, there were lots of lights on shore, and it's not an anchorage where one would plan on going ashore.
So I suggest the following itinerary, one that spends more time at Santa Cruz Island and skips Paradise Cove entirely:
Sunday — Meet up in Santa Barbara as you suggest.
Monday — 30 miles to Santa Cruz Island. But head toward the west end of the island in order to visit Painted Cave that afternoon. I think it would be a shame to come so close to the largest sea cave in the world and not organize a visit. Anchor overnight near there at Diablo, Fry's, Pelican or Prisoner's, depending on weather.
Tuesday — 15 miles to Smugglers/Yellow Banks, and hike the east end of the island on Tuesday.
Wednesday — 60 miles to Catalina is a true downwind sail, and because there are no islands to interfere, it can be a fast sail, arriving at Emerald Bay to spend the night. True, the fleet would pass fairly close to Santa Barbara Island, a State Park and sea lion rookery, but as there is only room for a couple of boats to anchor safely, it wouldn't be an ideal stop for a flotilla. And moorings at Emerald Bay would allow shore cocktails and a gathering at Corsair YC facilities. Those who wanted could skip Emerald Bay and go directly to Two Harbors.
Thursday — Spend Thursday morning enjoying Emerald Bay, one of the most special places at Catalina. It has a great public beach, access to trails, and some of the best snorkeling around. Then leave about noon for 2.5-mile-distant Two Harbors. There would be afternoon hiking and so forth, plus dinner ashore or dinghy round-ups on boats.
Friday — This could be a Two Harbors Day, with a big BBQ, and everyone being able to enjoy the patio bar and the very active dancing there on Friday nights.
Saturday — 25 miles northwest to King Harbor, which starts as a beam reach and often turns into a broad reach. (For what it's worth, King Harbor to Two Harbors requires tacking into the wind for the first five miles until the Vicente Buoy is rounded.) Saturday night could be an awards dinner at the King Harbor YC. If boats anchor behind the Redondo Breakwater and Med-tie at the club docks, there should be room for everyone. And it should all be at no cost if you work with the yacht club and the Harbor Master's office.
Sunday — Breakfast at the King Harbor YC. After that, folks could enjoy the marina or kayaking, and then get ready to depart for their homeports. Water, fuel, and pump-outs are all available. We belong to the King Harbor YC and would be happy to help organize things there.
There are pros and cons to both itineraries, but one item in particular caught my attention. Mooring in Catalina can be a real trick now that they have an online reservation system where you can make reservations 90 days in advance for Sunday through Thursday. For Friday and Saturday, you can only request a reservation beginning at 12:01 a.m. on the Friday you want a mooring. Thus it would be pretty easy to guarantee a mooring Wednesday and Thursday. Plus, if you arrive midweek and pay for three days, and the last day is a "weekend," you have a very good chance of securing a mooring for that Friday. But note that we have been turned away on a Friday evening in September, and it is very deep and difficult to anchor any more than a few boats. Not being with the powerboat and camping crowds on Saturday evening is usually desired by the cruisers. Lastly, having KHYC as a last stop would allow people some 'mainland time' before returning to their home ports.
As there are many ways to do this, I would like to hear your thoughts. But whatever the itinerary, we're in!
Thalassa, Beneteau 49
King Harbor YC
Jim — Thanks for the very kind words and offers of assistance. Since we expect there will be a group of 30 to 50 boats, we don't think it would be appropriate to include Painted Cave as part of the itinerary. There would be too many people at one time.
Having done the Santa Barbara to King Harbor Race many times, we're very familiar with the sail from Santa Cruz / Anacapa to Pt. Dume and essentially Paradise Cove. Most boats sail above the rhumb line to get the strongest winds near Pt. Mugu, then gybe down the shore to Dume. It's a blast, and oftentimes features the best sailing of the race. As for going ashore at Paradise Cove, we didn't think anybody would even consider doing that. To our thinking, the essence of a Ha-Ha is getting away from civilization and enjoying life aboard for a precious few days.
The weekend we're thinking about is also the Beer Festival Weekend at Two Harbors. Given their busy calendar, there simply isn't any way to avoid such event conflicts. SoCal Ha-Ha participants who don't want to run the risk of being refused a mooring on the face of Catalina and/or not wanting to anchor out can always go to Cat Harbor. Yeah, it's a little longer to the back side, but there will certainly be a lot of open space, even though it's also the Summer Splash Weekend for multihulls. Indeed, Mike Lenehan and his group have no objection to perhaps combining festivities.
We've always had a great time at the King Harbor YC, and have stayed there many times with Profligate. But once again, our goal is to get away from civilization, so if we had to be at King Harbor, we'd rather do it on a less busy Thursday night than a busy weekend. Besides, we assume that the yacht club has plenty going on that weekend already. True, it can be hard to lay Two Harbors from King Harbor. But as the wind rarely comes up until the early afternoon, we could have everyone motor out to just west of Pt. Vicente and start from there at 1 p.m.
That's our current thinking. The last link in the chain is getting the blessing from the folks at the Harbor Patrol office in King Harbor. If that doesn't happen, we'll just have to adjust the itinerary, as everyone else seems enthusiastic. We will have a final announcement by the middle of May, so keep an eye out on 'Lectronic Latitude.
EIGHT BELLS FOR JACK WOIDA
My husband Jack Woida, a longtime broker at Passage Yachts, passed away on April 11. He was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. While in college, he enlisted in the Navy, which did him double duty: it trained him to fly and paid for his education. While in the Navy he was stationed in Alaska; Barbers Point, Hawaii; and Pensacola, Florida. After leaving the Navy, he joined United Airlines. He ended his career with United as a 727 captain, based in San Francisco.
Jack was an adventurer of sorts who loved sailing, skiing, biking and golf. He was gifted in most of the sports he played. However, his love of sailing took over his waking hours for many years, when he raced Mai Sai, his Santana 22. He won many races, and even the YRA Santana One Design Championship for a couple of years.
After his flying career ended, Jack first went to work for John Beery Yachts, but he found his home dock at Passage Yachts. From 1983 until April 11, 2012, Jack worked with Ben and Debbie at Passage Yachts, selling, sailing and at times just shooting the breeze. He enjoyed himself.
He was a kind and honest man. He will be missed by many, but most of all by his wife.
Thomasina — We didn't know Jack personally, but we've heard from many that he was a really terrific guy. We're sorry for your loss.
SEAMANSHIP BY VIRTUE OF ECONOMICS
I don’t believe that the problem with the Volvo Race boats is with the design or build of the boats. What we're seeing is an artifact of pressure to finish first, whether that pressure is self-inflicted or put upon the crews by sponsors. I also suspect that if the skippers/crews were not paid professionals, and actually owned the boats they’re jockeying around the planet, you’d see somewhat different/more conservative decision-making. In other words, it would be 'seamanship by virtue of economics' as opposed to the 'drive it like you stole it' mentality we’re witnessing.
We all know that any boat and/or ship can be broken if you drive it hard enough in bad enough conditions. So the Volvo has become a race of attrition, largely because these are very fast boats being pushed to their limits — and apparently beyond — by their crews. It’s merely a case of playing launch pad chicken, as the boat that wins is going to be the one that: 1) Blinks first and saves the boat, risking finishing last by sailing more conservatively; or 2) Blinks last and finishes first by keeping the throttle down, and risking finishing last if they break the boat. The downside is exactly the same; the method by which you get there is completely different.
As for being under-provisioned, if the bastards would sail faster, they’d be hungry for a shorter period of time.
Finn, USA 1109
Nick — We're confident your last remark is facetious. Speaking of the crews, Hong Kong's Frank Pong, a serial buyer of large boats, complained to Scuttlebutt on their behalf:
"Anyone who had done even a little bit of offshore sailing would appreciate the way the Volvo Open 70 crews' getting completely soaked and buffeted causes the crew to succumb to fatigue much more so than the rough seas and strong winds. Rather than passively building a pilothouse, it would be better to shape the boats to be less susceptible to getting so wet. And we're not talking about the occasional waves splashing the people sitting on the windward rail, but two to three cubic meters of water burying the whole length of the boat. It may appear to be good, exciting stuff on videos, but it is wrong. As a spectator, I feel it is irresponsible of people behind the scenes and ashore to allow this to happen. Boats meant to be raced hard in rough seas and cold weather should be made to protect the crew from this kind of constant torture."
For those curious about the "torture" Pong is referring to, visit youtu.be/UrKQgJykdO4.
MONEY WARS DON'T MAKE FOR GREAT RACING
The problems this year's Volvo Race boats are having call to mind the old sailing adage that "to finish first, you have to first finish." Similarly, you can't have a race around the world if none of the boats make it around.
In the early years, when what's now known as the Volvo was the Whitbread Round the World Race, they regularly had large fleets of nearly 20 or more boats. This time around there are only six, only five of which are at all competitive. To my mind, that just doesn't cut it. After all, it's barely enough to get one-design status from the Yacht Racing Association of San Francisco Bay!
If this great race is ever going to get more boats on the line, and is going to have a future, the boats need to be stronger and the costs of competing need to be reduced.
Luna Sea, Islander 36
Dan — Looking at yacht racing over a period of nearly 40 years, we have trouble thinking of a single instance in which turning events into money wars has increased the participation or popularity. For example, back in '73 there were 57 boats from 19 nations competing in the Admiral's Cup in England, then arguably the pinnacle of competitive racing. Sure, some of the 'national teams' might have been a little bogus, but the event had a real international flavor. With so few boats from so few countries now — sort of like the limited number of the teams in the Ladies Lingerie Football League — it seems to us that the potential built-in audience for the Volvo has been dramatically reduced.
Similarly, we always thought that even in the modern heyday, the America's Cup never did itself any favors by being a design competition. Had the event been competed for in one-design boats with real limits on sails and budgets, the boats might have been a hundredth of a knot slower, but there might well have been teams from twice as many nations competing, building a larger audience base. As we all know, it got so bad that there were only two boats a couple of years back, and it isn't that much better now.
As for making the Volvo boats stronger and more durable, one solution would be to require that all boats be required to get to the next starting line on their own bottoms.
A LESS TRAGIC ACCIDENT IN THE FARALLONES RACE
My crew for the Crewed Farallones Race — Jared Brockway, Rich Holden and Paul Martson — are saddened by the terrible loss of the sailors on Low Speed Chase. Our condolences to their families and friends.
We had a bit of trouble, too, but nowhere near as serious, and would like to share the experience with others. We were racing aboard my Corsair 37 Transit of Venus about eight miles outside the Gate when the carbon fiber mast failed catastrophically. According to the Lightship Buoy, which was a few miles in front of us, it was blowing 22 knots with 13-ft seas. We'd just put a reef in the main and were doing 10 to 11 knots to windward on starboard tack. It looked as though we might be able to lay Southeast Farallon on that tack, so were settling in for a nice sunny sail on the ocean. All of a sudden we heard the unmistakable crack of a carbon fiber mast failing.
The initial break was about four feet up the mast. After it landed on the port netting, it broke again about four feet farther up. I immediately checked to see that nobody was injured, and used my cockpit handheld VHF on 16 to call the Coast Guard to inform them about our situation. It seemed like only five minutes later that there were two Coast Guard 47-ft motor lifeboats roaring up to us. They know all about the Farallones Race, and were out there watching for problems.
With the rig hanging out to port on the starboard shroud and backstay, my crew and I assessed the situation. Cut the rig away? There were far too many high-tech lines to do it quickly. So Rich and Jared scrambled for lines to pull the rig up onto the port aka, while Paul and I got the engine running. Alas, we sucked our spinnaker into the prop, as it had fallen through the port netting when the mast landed on it. Paul cut it away and we got the Honda started.
As Jared was communicating with the Coast Guard, and Rich was finding more clever ways to secure the rig, we got underway back toward the Gate. Motoring slowly against an ebb, we continued to secure things. After 2.5 hours, we were back in what seemed like more-lovely-than-ever San Francisco Bay. It was fun to see all 10 of the 72-ft Clipper boats tack out under the Golden Gate bound for Panama. The mess they saw on our boat couldn't have been a good omen.
When we got to the dock in Oakland, Guy Stevens, my expert rigger, showed up to help us sort things out. I was happy enough to have made it safely back to port, but the entire crew must have had some additional adrenaline coursing through our veins, so Guy directed us in sorting out the mess. After several hours we were able to get the sails off, and the boom and mast onto the dock. I cannot thank all of them enough for their diligent, safe work.
Lessons learned? Unfortunately, we don't know why the mast failed, but we were sailing conservatively with a reef in and not in the process of a maneuver. It was good to have a handheld VHF near the cockpit because the masthead antenna for the main VHF went into the water. Having plenty of extra line around helped secure things. I keep a knife at the maststep, but that went into the drink during the dismasting. The cockpit knife and a good tool kit made up for its loss. Larger bolt cutters, even if we have only one stainless rigging line (forestay) to cut, would be nice.
The Coast Guard has seen it all, and seemed to always ask the right questions while standing by. They offered to tow us several times, but they left the decision to our crew. Then they were called away to Low Speed Chase.
Next up for Transit of Venus? The insurance settlement, a new rig and sails, some minor fiberglass repairs, and getting back sailing as soon as possible.
Transit of Venus, Corsair 37
TAKING RESPONSIBILITY AS A DELIVERY SKIPPER
Since I was doing a mainland-to-Hawaii yacht delivery at the time, I did not get to read your February issue in a timely fashion, including the business about the fateful delivery of the catamaran Cat Shot in '06 and the subsequent court ruling on responsibility. In my opinion — and I am a delivery skipper — the skipper of the Cat Shot was 100% responsible for the vessel he was commanding, as well as for the crew. The skipper should be responsible in every case.
Many a time I have told a boat owner or a delivery company that they will just have to wait until I have a proper weather window to move the boat. Most are just fine with that, and actually make financial accommodations for myself and my crew when storms keep us in port. Adam Jenkins was the owner of the Yachtlogic delivery company. He was a fine example of the delivery company owner backing us delivery skippers. When we delivery skippers told him, "No, it's not a good time to roll," he backed us up. This is the kind of company that should have succeeded.
In my opinion, it's the yacht delivery pencil pushers sitting in their warm cubicles, far from the wind and waves, who push delivery skippers and crews to move when it's not safe. I only had to deal with such a company once. They wanted me to keep a 90-ft trawler moving out of Newport, Oregon, north into gale force winds and 20-ft plus headers. With a week's worth of the same kind of weather in line, and with a final destination of Anacortes, Washington. I studied the weather for hours trying to find a way to do it. Then I looked at the boat, and even more importantly at the crew. My decision was to pay the crew, fly them home, and sit on the boat alone through the storm. When things calmed down, I finished the delivery with a local crew and the boat in fine shape. Yes, she was late getting to Anacortes, but she was in fine shape and everyone was alive. Needless to say, I've never gotten more work from that company.
My bottom line is simple. If I take the job as skipper, I take the responsibility.
Samantha, Santana 30
Rory — We can't see it any other way. The problem with more than one person being responsible is that then nobody is really responsible.