Columbia Still Missing

December 4 - Vancouver, BC/Mazatlan, Mexico

Last Tuesday, we reported that the 48-ft steel sloop Columbia was overdue in Mazatlan. The yacht left Vancouver on October 22, planning to sail the clipper route directly to Mazatlan, as part of a Discovery Sailing Academy sailing adventure. The Canadian and U.S. Coast Guards have since launched a joint effort to locate Columbia, but she has not been found. The cruising community has also begun a round of Ham and VHF net 'health and welfare' checks in an attempt to locate the vessel.

While it is certainly possible that the crew is becalmed in the middle of the ocean, their loved ones are, understandably, extremely anxious. Someone has hacked into the Columbia's Web site and posted a missing notice, featuring a photo of 23-year old passenger Eva Petkovic. See

Photo above: crew member Eva Petkovic

Photo at right: Columbia

It is believed that four or five people are onboard including Canadian Petkovic, Australian Darren Lewis and Poland-born French citizen Boguslaw 'Bob' Norwid-Niepokoj (who is the captain and owner).

The Canadian press are speculating about Norwid's integrity. At the same time, yachting tradesmen who have been interviewed are characterizing the yacht as sound and well-equipped, and Norwid as capable and straight-forward. See Vancouver's Province newspaper at The Vancouver Sun carried a more sensational story, leading with suspicions about Norwid. See

MOB Victim Wore Harness

December 4 - Atlantic Ocean

The Atlantic Rally for Cruisers has released some details of the tragic death of Phillip Hitchcock on Saturday (see Monday's 'Lectronic Latitude):

Phillip was doublehanding Toutazimut, a Formosa 51, with his brother, David Hitchcock. At this time, it is unclear how Phillip fell overboard. Although he was harnessed on, it proved extremely difficult to recover him onboard the yacht in the heavy sea conditions. After getting the yacht under control and heaving to, David discovered that his brother was dead. The cause of death is as yet unknown.

This is what an Atlantic swell looks like.
Photo Tarok VI Courtesy

In the hours following the incident, in continuing difficult weather conditions, it proved impossible to recover the body without putting David at further risk. The body was not recovered, and Toutazimut has continued on towards St.Lucia.

ARC yacht Mekia has subsequently rendezvoused with Toutazimut, with the aim of transferring crew to assist David once the sea conditions permit. Following days of strong northeast winds, a large swell is still running, with wave heights of 12-14 feet, although these are forecast to lessen over the next 24-36 hours.

Aurora in ARC

December 4 - Atlantic Ocean

Earlier this year, Mark and David Bernhard of the East Bay took delivery of a new Catana 581 catamaran which they are now sailing across the Atlantic as part of the 217-boat ARC fleet. There are two other Catana 581s in the event. Crew include Alicia, Irmgard and Jesse Bernard, Chris Maher, and Pat Nolan.

Nolan reports that it seemed as though half of Las Palmas turned out for the November 24 start. Despite forecasts of up to 60-knot winds, the start had to be postponed because of no breeze. Later on that day, it was blowing 30 - on the nose! It's supposed to be downwind to the Eastern Caribbean. Cats aren't the most comfortable boats sailing upwind, and before long four of the seven crew were feeling poorly. On the 25th, it blew 25 knots most of the time, and those who were feeling bad got to feeling worse. Those not sick enjoyed the ride. On the 26th, the wind started to calm down, and at night it was too light. On the 27th, they finally hit the trades. They set the 3/4 oz. chute from an SC 70 - and a half hour later it split on the starboard tape. Now they only had one other chute, a 2.2 oz. With a forecast of up to 30 knots that night, they dropped the chute. Nonetheless, they averaged 8.5 knots and hit a top speed of 16.4. On the 28th, school had begun on the boat for the girls, and the trades were blowing at 20 knots. On the 29th, they crossed the 2,000 miles-to-go mark. "It's exciting and depressing at the same time, as we have a long way to go." With the trades blowing at 20 to 25 knots, they risked putting the chute up, and the average speed jumped from 8.5 to 10.5. And Nolan hit a best of 18.6 knots. But with Aurora having flown just white sails for a couple of days, the two other Catana 581s are considerably further ahead.

Sail repair at sea aboard Tarok VI, a Swan 46 out of Denmark
Photo Tarok VI Courtesy

We did the ARC back in '95 and blew out our two chutes. Capt. Jim Drake did a ton of sewing. Still, we spent a lot of time heading either for Miami or Cape Horn, unable to go deep.

Brothers Are Doing It for Themselves

December 2 - Isla Gamez, Panama

Remember that Aretha Franklin and Annie Lennox song about 'sisters doing it for themselves'? The following item could be the male version.

Photo Courtesy Steve Cherry

Steve Cherry reports: "There are six boats in the anchorage here at Isla Gamez, Isla Parida, Panama, five of them being sailed by singlehanders. The fifth is Greg White and Meg Jackson's 48-ft trawler Wet Bar out of Tempe, Arizona. The couple have lots of fish and ice, which made it perfect for hosting a little get together. The singlehanders are: Don Thomas of the Balboa Island-based Peterson 44 Tamure; Steve Cherry of the San Diego-based Formosa 41 Witch of Endor; Schelmi Gier of the Flensburg, Germany-based Alden 34 Irena; David Mills of the Brisbane-based Peterson 424 Takeitz; and Bob Willman of the San Diego-based Islander 37 Viva."

Thanks for the photo and report. We'd love to hear from and get a photo from all the rest of you folks out cruising. Your friends love to hear what you're up to.

What's with the Boat on the Beach?

December 4 - Zihuatanejo, Mexico

"I'm writing to find out if you have any information about Freedom, a Long Beach based ketch that's half sunk lying on the beach in Zihuatanejo, Mexico," write Michael and Patty Cole.

Photo Michael and Patty Cole

"My wife and I were there on November 23, and saw her on her side with full sails and gear still on board. She hasn't been stripped, so it appears that the authorities are waiting for the owners to come back and deal with it. Having bought our own boat in Long Beach, it feels kind of close to home. It's eerie seeing her on the beach in such a state with nobody to take care of her. We normally read Latitude from cover to cover, but haven't seen anything about it."

We've had photos of the boat, a Mariner 35, in the last two issues of Latitude, and have a long explanation of how she got there in the Letters section of the December issue. It's not a happy story. Things started to go wrong when the owner and female crew apparently lost a dinghy while on their way to the South Pacific - and decided to turn back to Mexico thinking it would be easier to find a replacement dink in Mexico. Things really went downhill from there. The mystery to us is why the Z-town port captain didn't stabilize the boat - he could have just pulled it high on the beach, as they do with the boats at Z-town - and waited for the owner. If the owner didn't eventually show, the boat could have been sold for many thousands of dollars. Now she's a wreck, and the port captain is demanding - somewhat understandably - that all boats checking into Z-town have liability insurance.


December 4 - The Pacific Ocean and Cyberspace

Who is out making passages in the Pacific and what kind of weather are they having? Check out YOTREPS - 'yacht reports' - at

Weather Updates

December 4 - Pacific Ocean

San Francisco Bay Weather

To see what the winds are like on the Bay and just outside the Gate right now, check out

The National Weather Service site for San Francisco Bay is at

California Coast Weather

Looking for current as well as recent wind and sea readings from 17 buoys and stations between Pt. Arena and the Mexican border? Here's the place - which has further links to weather buoys and stations all over the U.S.:

Pacific Winds and Pressure

The University of Hawaii Dept. of Meteorology page posts a daily map of the NE Pacific Ocean barometric pressure and winds.

Pacific Sea State

Check out the Pacific Ocean sea states at:
For views of sea states anywhere in the world, see

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