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Photos of the Day

June 18 - SF Bay Area

Today's Photos of the Day are of the always entertaining Warwick 'Commodore' Tompkins of Mill Valley, and of the bottom of his highly-customized Wylie 38 Flashgirl. We have no idea what that strange object is that he's holding in his hand, but a furtive-looking guy covered in bottom paint sneaking around the boatyard whispered something about it being a "new age cross for worshiping the ocean." That might explain the same shape in what looks like brass on the bottom of Flashgirl.

Do you have any idea what it might be?

Photos Latitude/Richard 

" . . . there were several more shots fired . . ."

June 18 - Barranquilla, Colombia

In Wednesday's 'Lectronic, we reported that two West Coast cruisers were attacked on their boat in Colombia. Today we have an edited firsthand report from the victims, Bob Hudnall and Dana Cannon of the Long Beach-based Force 50 Doña Lee. The couple did the Ha-Ha last fall.

Dana Cannon and Bob Hudnall of Doña Lee
Photo Courtesy
Doña Lee

"We were anchored in the Rio Magdalena River at Barranquilla, Colombia - about 80 miles northeast of Cartagena in the Caribbean - to work on a fuel problem we were having. We'd just finished dinner, it was about 6:30 p.m., and we were down below in the cabin. Having completed our repairs, we planned on getting underway again as soon as I'd put things away from dinner. For some reason Bob had locked the hatch to the companionway doors - and it's truly what saved us. I heard a noise on deck, and at first believed it to be Bob. But at about the same time he said, 'What was that?' I started screaming - I'm not sure why, as no one was there to hear me or care, except Bob, of course, who had come to the same conclusion as I: somebody had boarded our boat. Eventually we would learn it was five men, while a sixth stayed in the panga.

"Then someone was kicking at the companionway hatch. I ran to the forward cabin, while Bob grabbed the bear repellent, machete, and flare gun he keeps by our bed for protection. Just as the assailant was able to kick in one side of the door, Bob started spraying mace at the guy. But the pirate shot the can out of Bob's hand. He fired several more shots to keep Bob at bay while he tried to break through the other side of the companionway door. Bob unloaded another can of mace at him, and then started firing flares in his direction. When Bob was out of mace and flares, he started hacking at the guy with his machete. Every time a hand or foot would come through the companionway hatch trying to get into the cabin, Bob would swing at it with his machete. The entrance to the inside of our boat now reflects that it had been a battle scene. The whole time this was going on, the guy was shooting his gun at Bob. When he ran out of bullets, he took everything he could find on deck and threw it at Bob through the companionway door.

"As this was going on, I was in the V-berth trying to find a weapon of my own. Since it was dark, the only thing I could find was the fire extinguisher. Bob later yelled that there was another flare gun in the cupboard. I found it, loaded it, and - avoiding the gunfire - got it to Bob. By now the fumes from the nearly full can of mace that exploded inside our boat were overpowering, and Bob was drenched in it. I was trying to open a porthole for air when I saw the panga the assailants come in speeding away from our boat. I waited a second to see if they had left anyone behind. Not hearing anyone, I yelled to Bob that they had left.

"He went up on deck and issued a Mayday on channel 16. We have a VHF radio in the cabin, but it's a handheld, and the batteries were dead. Within a half hour of issuing a Mayday, the Colombian Coast Guard was there. They escorted us back to the navy base, and we side-tied to a frigate. Bob was taken to the hospital for a cut on his finger and for an allergic reaction to the mace.

"The thieves got away with our outboard, liferaft, and our ditch bag - with credit cards, passports and handheld electronics in it - and two jerry jugs of diesel fuel. The Colombian Special Police - similar to our FBI - were able to find an informant who knew where our belongings were and who had them. They raided the guy's house and found our outboard, passports, and credit cards. Our electronics and liferaft had apparently already been sold. The police claim they know who has these items, but aren't hopeful that they will have them back to us before we leave Colombia. We'll see. At least we got the outboard and our passports back, both of which are more important to us than the handheld electronics.

"We are now in Cartagena making repairs to the boat caused by bullets and machete slashes. We've also got to varnish, as mace eats right into it. We've been talking to a delivery captain about taking the boat to Puerto Rico for us, and meeting her there. We're worn out and can't do this trip again.

"We've had many responses to our story. Most people say, 'Thank God you're okay.' But there are various opinions on how we should have responded. Most believe that if we had let the pirates inside the boat, they would have taken what they wanted and left. We disagree, as they started shooting at us before they said anything. In fact, they never said anything. We believe they wanted to kill us and take our boat. A Colombian man Bob met said he believes they would have kidnapped one of us, sold us to the guerrillas, who would have ransomed us back to our family. That's not unusual here in Colombia. All I know is that we both came out of it scared and nervous about being anywhere in Colombia - except the Club de Pesca in Cartagena. But we didn't sleep the first night we were back here, because we had to anchor out.

"Physically we were unharmed, and that's the most important thing to us. We always wondered what we would do in the case of a pirate attack. We'd always hoped thieves would just take things and leave if we didn't fight back, but we wondered if fighting back was the only thing that would save our lives. In this case, it was very clear to us that they intended to be violent from the start, and our passivity wouldn't have made a difference.

"Our advice is to stay as far offshore of Colombia as possible. We were 10 hours behind a Puerto Rico-based sportfishing boat that makes the trip all the time, and he told us to hug the coast as much as possible. Bad advice! We have heard of three other boats that have been pirated in that area. One of them was 10 miles offshore. One of the boats was lost.

"On a positive note, the Colombian government bent over backwards to accommodate our every need and get our belongings back. They saw to it that Bob got free medical treatment, and they got me to a place where I could go online and cancel our credit cards. We didn't keep all our cash or credit cards in the ditch bag. We'd heard about the Japanese couple who were attacked by pirates 100 miles off the Pacific Coast of Colombia while on their way to the Galapagos, and the pirates got everything. So just in case something like that happened to us, I kept another stash hidden inside the boat. As such, we're not without money or credit cards until the new ones reach us.

"We are bound for St. Thomas as soon as our boat reaches Puerto Rico. We'll feel much safer in the Virgins under Coast Guard protection."

For a few years, it seemed like the coast of Colombia had become safe. To our thinking, cruisers should consider it off-limits again - except for Cartagena. And as the robbing of John Haste on Little Wing proved, you even have to be careful there.

As for Bob and Dana thinking they can feel safe in the U.S. Virgins, we think that's true - as long as they're back on their boat at night. Places like Charlotte Amalie can be dicey after dark. The British Virgins are much safer.

Oh No, Not Another Mast!

June 18 - San Francisco Bay

If you weren't by the water, perhaps you didn't know how hard it was honking on Wednesday afternoon and night. At Schoonmaker Marina in Sausalito, it blew a sustained 35 knots with lots of gusts over 50 knots.

It was in these windy conditions that Adventure Cat 2, the familiar 65-ft sailing cat based out of Pier 39, lost her mast for the second time in two years. Our good friend Jay Gardner, one of the co-owners, reports it happened about a half mile west of Raccoon Strait. It had been blowing about 32 knots, the cat was sailing upwind at nine knots with a reef in the main, and there were 40 passengers aboard. There was about a five-knot stronger gust, and according to the two people looking up at the time, the mast buckled about halfway up. Nobody was hurt.

Adventure Cat 2 a couple of weeks ago, mast intact
Photo Latitude/Richard

Gardner is very disturbed because this is the second mast lost on the boat in two years, and they had the specs carefully gone over on the new mast, as well as the installation. "We did everything possible to make sure it was safe, as our primary concern is the safety of our passengers." They are having a diver raise the mast to try to find out what failed.

Since we often sail with a lot of folks on Profligate, we've always shared Gardner's number one concern that nobody get hurt. And the primary source of somebody getting hurt would probably be the mast coming down. As a result, after two years, we made the decision that Profligate's original mast was not strong enough for our boat. So we dipped into our pockets and bought a much stronger one. God knows we would have preferred to spend the money on a wild party or something, but the fear of someone getting hurt was greater.

Anyway, we've been much happier with our new mast, which stays in column, and have sailed it upwind in a horrible chop with full sail in gusts up to 40 knots. That's not something we plan on doing often or for very long, but the mast has been up to the task. Having been impressed with our mast, and having gone over the specs with Forespar, when Adventure Cat 2 was new, it was decided to go with a mast virtually identical to Profligate's.

So what has gone wrong? We're not sure, but one factor we suspect is Adventure Cat 2 having a 34.6-ft beam versus Profligate's only being 30 feet. The extra 4.5 feet of beam means a tremendous increase in stability. Whereas the much lighter 55-ft Adventure Cat 1 will heel slightly in a big gust and accelerate, and Profligate will do the same to a lesser extent, Gardner tells us that the much more stable Adventure Cat 2 doesn't heel or accelerate even in big gusts. That means the rig just loads up. And with a payload of 40 people, it would really load up - perhaps to the extent the rig could no longer take it. Once again, this is just speculation on our part.

We hope the cause of the dismastings is found quickly and Adventure Cat 2 can get back to work. In our mind, the Adventure Cats and their owners are a real credit to the Bay.

Bermuda Race This Weekend

June 18 - Newport, RI

The 630-mile Newport to Bermuda Race - the most important offshore event on the East Coast - is this weekend, and shapes up as a battle between Hasso Plattner's Morning Glory, Roy Disney's Pyewacket - both are MaxZ86s - and the DeVos brothers' Windquest, which used to be Bob McNeil's 86-ft water-ballasted Zephyrus V.

Morning Glory

A new record is expected for two reasons. One, the MaxZ86s are incredibly fast. During a recent tune-up, Pyewacket was reported doing nearly nine knots in just 3.5 knots of true wind. Secondly, the weather report looks very favorable. In fact, Novato's Dee Smith, who runs the program on Morning Glory, says the boats could easily do more than 500 miles in 24 hours. As such, they are hoping to lower the old Pyewacket's 53-hour record by as much as 15 hours. That would be something!

Photos Latitude/Richard

Fourth Summer Sailstice This Weekend

June 18 - Northern Hemisphere

This weekend is the fourth annual Summer Sailstice weekend, so it's now 'last call' for you and the crew to sign up. To be eligible to win the week-long BVI Moorings charter, the Hunter Xcite sailing dinghy, and one of 100 other prizes for sailors, you must sail this weekend and sign up by midnight (PDT) Monday, June 21 at www.summersailstice.com.

Encinal YC rafted up at Angel Island last year. This year they're cruising to San Pablo YC.
Photo Latitude/John Arndt

Summer Sailstice, a global holiday celebrating sailing on the solstice, is for everyone - boatowners, captain, family, friends and crew. You can help make this the biggest Summer Sailstice ever by getting everyone who's sailing with you the weekend of June 19-20 to get on the site and sign in. Another benefit is everyone signed up helps contribute another $1 from a pool of funds donated by supporters to Seacology, a non-profit dedicated to preserving island ecosystems. See www.seacology.com.


June 18 - Newport, RI

The word on the docks is that Kiwi Russell Coutts, the most successful America's Cup skipper ever, is about to part ways with Alinghi, current holders of the Cup. This with Alinghi beginning their quest for a second straight America's Cup, by unleashing their new team against BMW Oracle in Newport, RI, over the weekend in the UBS Cup. This is another version of the up close, crowd-pleasing Moët Cup held on the Bay last year.

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