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Photos of the Day

September 12 - Two Harbors

Today's Photo of the Day is of the Albin 28 Fin Chaser on fire last Friday morning while on the mooring closest to the dinghy dock at Isthmus Cove, Two Harbors, Catalina. Owner Phil Lupton of Huntington Beach had been down below cooking breakfast on a camp stove fueled by a disposable butane canister when suddenly the cabin was engulfed in flames.

Fin Chaser engulfed in flames on Friday morning at Two Harbors
next to the dinghy dock

On fire, Lupton threw himself into the water. Then, seemingly in shock, he climbed back aboard the boat and sat in the cockpit looking dazed as ever greater flames and smoke poured out from below. "Jump, jump, jump!" people screamed. He was finally taken off the boat by the Harbor Patrol.

Jacqueline, his wife, had been sitting outside in the cockpit at the time of the explosion. Some of the hair on her head was burned, but she hopped onto a patrol boat early on.

Despite the quick response of the local firefighters - the Baywatch fireboat was docked less than 100 feet away - it took about 20 minutes to completely extinguish the flames. In addition to being highly toxic, fiberglass boat fires are notoriously difficult to extinguish. Over and over again, the fire crew seemed to have the fire out when big flames suddenly erupted again in another part of the boat. They poured so much water into the powerboat that they had to start pumping it out to keep her afloat. If anybody on the scene had thought putting out a fiberglass boat fire is like peeing on a match, they quickly learned otherwise. Boat fires are extremely dangerous.

The L.A. County Lifeguard/Fireboat was on the scene quickly with high-powered hoses, but boat fires are notoriously difficult to put out.

We spoke to Phil and Jacqueline even before the flames had been completely extinguished, and all things considered, they seemed to be in good shape. But burns are hard to judge until time passes, and we were told that Phil was still in the hospital two days later with burns to his face and arms.

Nobody knows for sure what caused the explosion/fire. Perhaps it was a hole in the fuel line or some failure of the stove.

One of the lifeguards holds up Jacqueline's purse, which had been left on the boat.
Photos Latitude/Richard

Two Harbors Firefighters Respond to Second Fire on Friday

September 12 - Two Harbors

Shortly after putting their gear away, the Two Harbor firefighters had to respond to a fire ashore. A raven had straddled two hot wires on a pole up the side of the hill, frying himself and starting a small fire. It was put out quickly.

Two Harbors Firefighters Respond to Second Boat Fire

September 12 - Two Harbors

Incredible as it might seem, less than six hours after having to fight the Fin Chaser boat fire at Isthmus Cove, the Two Harbors firefighters had to respond to a second major boat fire in Isthmus Cove, not 250 feet from the first one.

The firefighters fought their second big boat blaze of the day, hosing down this Bayliner 40.

The fire was first noticed by Cindy Rivera of the Freedom 33 Nuage. She and boyfriend Ron Bohannon of the Redondo Beach-based cat ketch were dinghying back to Nuage, when Cindy thought she smelled hair burning. She sort of dismissed the possibility of it being a boat fire because there had been one only hours before. But once on Nuage, she noticed smoke pouring out from two parts of the back of Ted and Marilyn Geringer's Bayliner 40, located two rows directly in front. As it turns out, only Marilyn and three cats were aboard.

Ron Bohannon and Cindy Rivera of the Freedom 33 Nuage. She smelled and saw the fire first. He rushed over and saved Marilyn's life by dragging her off the boat.

As Harbor Patrolman John 'Nhoj' Eccles pounded on the boat to see if anyone was aboard, Ron rushed over in his dinghy, and without hesitation, climbed aboard the burning boat. He had no idea the boat had gas engines and tanks, which, of course, can explode. Despite heavy smoke and flames now also coming out of the companionway, Ron described Marilyn as being "combative." Not only did she not want to leave her cats, but she apparently had been drinking, and perhaps wasn't aware of the severity of the situation.

As it was, Cindy watched with tears in her eyes as flames licked at her boyfriend's back as he grabbed Marilyn around the waist and pulled her to the edge of the boat. Helped by John grabbing Marilyn's feet, they pulled her onto the shoreboat, not caring that it involved ripping a handrail off the boat. It was a matter of life and death. They immediately cleared the area, as the weary Two Harbors firefighters rushed in to battle their third fire in three hours. Although the boat was totaled, they did a good job, as nobody was hurt and no other boats in the crowded mooring area were damaged.

Tragically, all three cats were lost in the fire. One of them survived about a day, having been given oxygen and great care by those ashore. But she'd been too badly burned to survive.

"Two big boat fires is hard to believe," said Doug Ouden, Two Harbors Harbormaster, who has been on the island for 28 years. "We haven't had a big boat fire in 10 years, and today we had two of them."

As we post this, nobody knows what caused the fire.

Scott Panser, one of the local volunteer firefighters, takes a well-deserved break after fighting his third fire of the day. He wants to make sure everyone realizes that he's just one member of a team of firefighters.
Photos Latitude/Doña & Richard

Etchells Worlds

September 12 - San Francisco Bay

Tito Gonzales and crew sail #68 around a windward mark.

Australian Rob Brown led wire-to-wire in the seventh and final race of the Richmond YC-hosted 2005 Etchells Worlds on Saturday, topping runner-up Shark Kahn and Hong Kong talent Mark Thornburrow. But the day belonged to Tito Gonzales, a 46-year-old Chilean pig farmer, who ironically OCS'ed the last race - yet won the Worlds anyway with a 5,8,11,3,4,1,(73) record.

Gonzales - sailing with boat partner Bill Mauk, Jeff Linton, and 17-year-old son Diego Gonzales - was fourth on the water in that race, ostensibly winning the Worlds with that fine finish. At the dock, the crew got the bad news that they were one of seven boats OCS'ed in the final race. Then, amazingly, there was good news, at least for Gonzales - regatta leader (and perennial runner-up) Jud Smith was also OCS'ed, which handed Gonzales the title. "Yesterday, we were happy to be in contention," he said. "To win is amazing!"

The winning crew (l-r): Tito Gonzales, Bill Mauk, Jeff Linton and Diego Gonzales

Even more unlikely is that Gonzales is a newcomer in this class, one of the toughest in the World. Gonzales, a four-time Lightning world champion, teamed up with fellow Lightning vets Mauk and Linton (also a Lightning world champ), in January, debuting at Miami's Jaguar Cup. They were enough under the weight limit to take along young Diego as their bowman, bringing their crew up to four instead of the usual three. They sailed three regattas previous to the Worlds, and then arrived two weeks before the regatta to train with Dennis Conner. Obviously, they learned something.

The final start

"When we first saw them on the starting line, with the kid calling the line from the bow, it looked all wrong. We had no idea who they were and thought, 'Whoa, what a bunch of farmers - let's stay away from that boat," laughed Dave Gruver, who sailed with Craig Healy. "As it turned out, Tito is a farmer, and we should have stayed as close as possible to his boat!"

Shark Kahn, all of 16 years old, finished second overall, and would have won the regatta if his second place finish in the penultimate race hadn't turned into an OCS. Other top local finishers included Russ Silvestri (11), Peter Vessella (13), Philippe Kahn (18), Craig Healy (21).

1) Tito Gonzales, USA, 32 points; 2) Shark Kahn, USA, 35; 3) Iain Murray, AUS, 39 ; 4) Hank Lammens, CAN, 44; 5) Jud Smith, USA, 48; 6) Brian Thomas, USA, 51; 7) Stuart Childerley, GBR, 55; 8) Vince Brun, USA, 60; 9) Mark Thornburrow, HGK, 67; 10) William Palmer, USA, 72. (72 boats; 7 races; 1 throwout) Full results can be seen at www.sfetchells.org.

Andrew Whittome's trailer in the Richmond YC parking lot. "I'm living the American dream," joked the Aussie.
Photos Latitude/Rob

Ha-Ha Entries Near 130 at Deadline

September 12 - Tiburon

Last weekend was the deadline - now extended one week by Baja Ha-Ha Honcho Lauren Spindler out of empathy for people who aren't that punctual - for Ha-Ha XII that starts on October 31 from San Diego.

"We had 120 paid entries on Friday," reports Ms. Spindler, "then got nine more bulky, entry-looking envelopes that we didn't have time to open on Saturday, so we expect the final tally to be something over 130. This is nothing like last year's unexpectedly high 165 paid entries, but is similar to Ha-Ha numbers over the last five years. It looks like a great fleet."

'Lectronic will publish the full entry list a week from today.

We've also learned that Herb McCormick, editor of Cruising World, will be joining us aboard Profligate, with an eye toward possibly writing a story and running some photos in that magazine. So get your boat shipshape and work on your smiles.

We bumped into Frank Grote of the Alamitos Bay-based Pacific Seacraft Orion at Two Harbors - and he was still wearing his Ha-Ha shirt from 1996! Not only that, the next day he came to shore with the red Ha-Ha tote bag he got as swag.
Photo Latitude/Richard

Imported from Poland and Bulgaria

September 12 - Two Harbors

One of the things that makes Two Harbors such a terrific place is the 285 employees. Fifteen of those who work in the snack bar and restaurant, believe it or not, are from Poland and Bulgaria. Thanks to special visas, they are able to come over for five months and work for four. They are excellent workers with big smiles on their faces. One is back for his third summer, and several are back for their second. At home they study subjects like banking, chemistry, and cartography. (We'll have more on the great Two Harbor employees in future issues.)

From Eastern Europe, with love

"Would you like the cheeseburger or tuna melt?"

The girls work five days a week, but say they have an active social life. Who would have guessed?
Photos Latitude/Richard

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