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Photo of the Day: Mari-Cha IV

July 2 - San Francisco

Today's Photo of the Day is of the deck of the modern 140-ft schooner Mari-Cha IV which, if there is any wind today, will start on what could very well be a new elapsed-time record in the West Marine Pacific Cup from San Francisco to Hawaii. The only things that could stop her are a breakdown, which is unlikely, because she's new and has been gone over with a fine tooth comb, or the Pacific High being poorly established and coming down to the southeast. Alas, the High is looking a little fluky.

Photo Debbie Castellana of KKMI

How fast can Mari-Cha sail? According to Southern Californian Mike Howard, the big guy in the right foreground with his back turned and who was aboard her when she broke the transatlantic record last fall, the delivery crew had her up to just under 38 knots on the way from Antigua to Panama. Again, this was a delivery and therefore she was carrying shortened sail. So as unthinkable as it might seem, this mighty monohull is almost certainly capable of 40 knots. To put that in perspective, the fastest the maxi-cat PlayStation/Cheyenne ever went was about 45 knots.

At 3:35 p.m. this afternoon, the last of the Pacific Cup fleet, the big guys, will start in front of the St. Francis YC. A great place to watch the four starters - Icon, a Perry 65; Braveheart, a TransPac 52; Magnitude 80, an Andrews 80; and Mari-Cha IV, a 140-ft schooner - will be from the Bay side of the Golden Gate Bridge.

As for the rest of the Pacific Cup fleet, the wind has been light, so it's almost certain these bigger boats will rocket by to claim most of the corrected time honors.

Big Changes at Puerto Escondido

July 2 - Puerto Escondido, Baja California

Pat Miller Rains, co-author of the Mexico Boating Guide and honcho at www.MexicoBoating.com, reports, "Here are a couple of photos of changes at Puerto Escondido, which after La Paz is the second biggest cruiser hangout in the Sea of Cortez. The first is of the new fuel tank for the new fuel dock. The second is of the cement blocks for some of the 116 new mooring buoys about to be put in."

Photos Pat Miller

According to Stuart Kiehl, cruising friends in Puerto Escondido aren't very happy about the changes. "A meeting was held at Fonatur's request to inform the boaters about the mooring balls and other changes. They reportedly said boats will be charged the same price to anchor as they will be charged to use a mooring ball. (To the best of our knowledge, there hasn't been a significant charge for anchoring in Puerto Escondido in the past.) The fees are going to start being assessed in a couple of months. Even more drastic, permanent liveaboards will be discouraged, and boats won't be allowed to be unattended for more than 20 days. Both of these would be huge adjustments to the status quo. Lastly, all boats will have to have Mexican liability insurance. No doubt some of these changes are intended to prevent the kind of problems that occurred during Hurricane Marty last year, when only unattended boats were driven ashore.

Singlehanded TransPac Update

July 2 - Pacific Ocean

It's decision time for many of the 21 skippers racing the Singlehanded TransPac - which started in the Bay last Saturday and for most boats will end sometime next week in Hanalei Bay, Kauai. The fleet's 'baptism by gale', which eliminated three boats in the early going - all are now safely back in port - is over and the big question now is when to turn for Hawaii. As always, the answer revolves around the Pacific High. The farther you get from the center of it - which this year means the further south you sail - the more wind you'll have. That's good. But the further south you go, the more miles you have to sail to Kauai. That's bad.

The temptation to turn early is strong, since you're finally headed in the right direction - for Hawaii. But, as Mark Deppe on the J/120 Alchera pointed out yesterday morning, "It may be time to pay the piper. The northern route I took came at a cost which I'm paying right now, since there's very little wind and the boat is crawling along at only 4 knots. Those boats which may have more wind to the south may be in a better position now."

To prove the point, as of the latest position reports posted last night on the race Web site (www.sfbaysss.org), Alchera and Chuck Beazell's Hunter 54 Joe, were leading the pack in a dead heat, each with 1,257 miles to go to the finish. But Joe, about 60 miles farther south, was making 7.5 knots SOG (speed over ground) while Alchera, albeit a somewhat smaller boat, was a half knot slower.

The two most southerly boats at this point are Al Hughes' Dog Bark, the event's big boat at 60 feet, and Ryan Finn on the J/90 Surfinn, which is down around 25 degrees N - about the same latitude as Turtle Bay, Baja California.

The current scenario, of course, assumes that the Pacific High behaves itself - which is rarely the case. That's why the skippers who elect to ignore the High and just sail close to rhumbline - like eight-time participant Ken 'The General' Roper on the 31-ft Harrier - have historically done as well or better than the strategizers. Time will tell who picks the best route this year.

For the boats that can fly them, twin jibs poled out on either side of the boat seems to be the preferred sail combo to flying a chute so far. They're much easier to tend and much easier for self-steering systems to handle than a spinnaker, allowing these solo skippers to catch up on much-needed rest.

Singlehanded TransPac Quote of the Day: "Twin jibs flying, comfortable temperature, sea calm. Days like this are why we sail out here." Barbara Euser, Islander (Bristol 34)

Sound Decision Lost on Rocky Shore of the Big Island

July 2 - Hilo, HI

Thomas Wilkinson of Bellingham, WA, lost his 32-ft cutter Sound Decision on the rocks off the coast of Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii on the night of June 28, report Chris Loos and Peter Sur in an article in the Hawaii Tribune Herald. Wilkinson was on his way to Radio Bay from the South Pacific when the accident occurred. After days of confused winds and seas, Wilkinson reports that he was 30 miles from shore when he went below to make some tea. Unfortunately, fatigue got the best of him, and he fell asleep. The next thing he knew, his boat - "my home, my address, everything I own" - was being brutally smashed on the rocky shore. He was rescued by the Fire Department, only able to escape with his most valuable possessions - the photos of his two children, his laptop, his camera, and his passport. He was unable to retrieve his money from a cupboard, as another wave smashed the boat down on the rocks, nearly buckling the sole.

Having lost virtually everything, Wilkinson has been treated well by people and agencies in Hawaii, who gave him a little money and a place to stay. If anyone knows how to reach him, we'd like to provide an address so others might send donations to help him move on. Although the loss of his boat/home understandably reduced him to tears, he said, "I'll play with the cards I've been dealt."

Wilkinson started his cruise from Washington on September 12, 2003, and cruised to Mexico and the South Pacific.

Now for the Answer

July 2 - Richmond

At long last, we have the answer to what Commodore Tompkins put on the bottom of his Wylie 39 Flashgirl:

"It's a lightning dissipator, designed to carry the force and energy of a lightning strike from the mast to the sea. It's a copper plate, 21/1,000ths of an inch thick, held in place by two 3/8-inch bolts countersunk into the bottom of Flashgirl's hull. It's then attached to the bottom of the mast by two clips. What you see is the result of a combination of ideas, but I received most of the coaching from Malcom Morgan."

Commodore - it's a nickname he's had for over 65 years, not a real title - plans to take off this fall with his wife Nancy and cruise as far south as Acapulco before heading west to the Marquesas.

Photo Latitude/Richard

The Long Weekend

July 2 - USA

Have a great Fourth of July weekend, which should be most enjoyable on your boat, away from traffic. The next 'Lectronic will be on Tuesday, July 5. The July issue of Latitude 38 hit the docks yesterday.

Photo Latitude/Annie

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