It was a Bucaneer’s Day Weekend unlike any other at Catalina last Friday, Saturday and Sunday. It started when NOAA underestimated the power of a front passing through Southern California on Friday. The channel winds started blowing at 20 knots at 7 a.m., and by the afternoon it was blowing a steady 30 with gusts into the low 40s. As desperate as pirates and wenches were to make it to Two Harbors a day early, many turned back to their mainland berths. Those who kept on going got pasted. Wayne of the J/44 Sabrosa reports that the bolts sheared on the 15-hp Suzuki he was towing, so that outboard is now on the bottom. Another of his crewmembers set off from Long Beach to Catalina in a 14-ft inflatable. A third of the way across the boat was inundated by a breaking wave. The inflatable operator wanted to turn back, but realized this wasn’t an option. He made it to the island, but had the fear of God put into him.
In the afternoon, the three-masted 120-ft schooner America Pride sprung a plank in the rough seas and began taking on water. With more than 40 young school children aboard, many government and private vessels responded. Fortunately, nobody was injured or even had to be taken off. There were several other rescues in the channel and at the island. As for the cattle boats that had left the mainland in the afternoon, they arrived at Two Harbors with scores of young Scouts puking over the rails.
We also had some excitement with Profligate, which was anchored on shallow Harbor Reef, and therefore had only the slightest protection from the ocean swell. It was just prior to the Bertarelli talk at the St. Francis (see next item) that Cee Cee Sayer, who was watching the cat for us, called to say it was rough – 25 to more than 30 knots, with 6-ft seas. In fact, she was having to motor forward all the time to take the load off the chain and bridle.
On pins and needles during the Bertarelli talk, we dashed out of the St. Francis the minute it was over, caught a flight to LAX, and hopped in a cab to the Catalina terminal. Ferry or chartered helicopter, it didn’t matter, we had to get to the island. Well, you can’t always get what you want. It was so rough – ferry captains said they hadn’t seen anything like it in 15 years – that all the ferries were cancelled, leaving hundreds of screaming Scouts running around the terminal like headless chickens. What’s worse, even helicopter service was shut down because of the weather. There was no way for us to get to the island, so Cee Cee was going to have to ride it out alone.
After a dozen hours of being exposed to the force of the ocean waves, providing much viewing entertainment for those at Two Harbors, Profligate‘s bridle finally failed, putting all the strain on the chain and the windlass. A few hours after dark, the last of the chain pulled out, setting the boat free. Thanks to some briliant driving in the dark by Cee Cee, who can’t even see over the bulkhead when at the helm, and some great assistance from the Harbor Patrol and Baywatch, Profligate was taken to a just-vacated mooring, and secured for the night. As Cee Cee slept like a rock, the last of the front blew through.
Bucaneer Day dawned with light Santa Ana conditions and dying seas. The weather was as fine as it had been bad the day before. It was the signal for boatloads and ferries full of pirates and wenches to make their assault on Two Harbors. We’ve been to about five Buc Days, and each one seems better and more crowded than the last. An estimated 4,000 people, most of them dressed to the hilt in costumes, and dancing and drinking like there was no tomorrow, carried on to the wee hours. Despite the crowds, the booze, and local favorite USC being humiliated by the Stanford football team, it was almost as mellow as a Jimmy Buffett concert. At midnight, we stood with Two Harbors Harbor Master Doug Ouden and his wife Maureen, marvelling that so many people, many of them having had a drink or two, could be packed so closely together, yet having so much fun. And we weren’t even aware of the line of couples enjoying ‘extreme lap dances’ – if not full-on sex – on the little bulkhead above the beach. Other than a few minor incidents and hangovers, it was a great success. Who makes Buc Day happen? All the great workers at Two Harbors who, despite being so terrific all summer long, raise the bar even higher on that one busiest day of the year.
The ironic thing is that we’re writing this on Sunday, with the season now all but over, and the weather is better than it has been all year. It’s hot, dry and the water and sky are having a battle to see which can be the most blue. So if you’re headed south for the Ha-Ha, watch for the fronts, but be prepared for Southern California being as good as it gets.
Ernesto Bertarelli, the man behind Alinghi‘s successful defense of the America’s Cup, called on both the New York YC and St. Francis YCs last week to defend his vision of the next America’s Cup. In short, his plan calls for new 90-ft boats designed to a box rule, one-boat campaigns, and for the defender to race with all the challengers. The youthful Bertarelli’s vision has come under attack from many of the America’s Cup syndicates, and has resulted in a lawsuit by Larry Ellision and the BMW Oracle Challenge of the Golden Gate YC. Bertarelli says the lawsuit may delay the next running of the Cup past ’09.
Having brought the auld mug along with him to the packed house at Friday’s St. Francis luncheon, Bertarelli said the idea of 90-footers is a result of many America’s Cup sailors using their off hours to sail on boats – even very large cruising yachts – that are faster than the current boats used in the world’s most prestigious yacht race. He finds this embarassing. The new designs should sail off the wind "like sportboats." The idea behind one-boat challenges is to keep the costs down. Even so, he estimates that it will take 50 to 100 million euros – about $70 to $140 million U.S. – to mount a serious challenge. Having the defender match race with the challengers prior to the Finals would break with precedent, but Bertarelli argued that it would be impossibly unfair for the defender to not have another boat to test with.
In our view, Bertarelli’s arguments were all strong. Unfortunately, those of us in the audience somehow neglected to ask the key question: how Bertarelli could possibly feel that Alinghi would not have too great an advantage by being able to create the box rule, with the challengers all having to wait for the parameters. It’s like a footrace in which the Defender gets a running headstart. It seems to us it would be much more fair if an America’s Cup design committee were convened, so all parties had a hand – or at least were up to date – on the development of the box rule.
Jennifer Deleon was sentenced on Friday to two consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole for her part in the murder of cruisers Tom and Jackie Hawks. Prosecutors claim that Deleon’s husband, Skylar Deleon, John Fitzgerald Kennedy and Alonso Machain, posing as potential buyers for the Hawks’ 55-ft trawler Well Deserved, accompanied the couple on a test sail. The allegations are that, once well out to sea, the three men overpowered the couple, forced them to sign legal documents, tied them to a large anchor and threw them overboard.
Last November, a jury found Jennifer Deleon guilty of two counts of first-degree murder and the special circumstances of murder for financial gain and multiple murder. Though the pregnant Deleon was not aboard Well Deserved that day, prosecutors successfully argued that she knew full well of her husband’s plan, and helped by bringing her baby along on an earlier visit to help gain the Hawks’ trust, cleaning the boat with bleach and lying to investigators. We wonder if she now regrets turning down the prosecutor’s pre-trial offer of immunity in exchange for testifying against her soon-to-be-ex-husband.
The trials for Skylar Deleon and John Kennedy have been postponed several times and are now scheduled to begin in January.
If you didn’t get out on the Bay this weekend, you missed quite a show. And we’re not just talking about the Blue Angels. It seems every boat in the greater San Francisco Bay Area was out on the water this weekend to greet the naval fleet and take in Fleet Week festivities.
If you did make it out – and did a little sailing – odds are good you had your photo taken. Check out Wednesday’s ‘Lectronic to see if we caught you in our sights.
Garth Wilcox and Wendy Hinman of the Port Ludlow, WA-based Wylie 31 Velella completed a cold 49-day passage from Yokohama to Vancouver Island in early September. It marked the end of their seven years of cruising that began with the ’00 Baja Ha-Ha, included two seasons in New Zealand, and cruising to the less visited parts of Asia. In something of a surprise, Wilcox said that Japan was by far his favorite country, while the Philippines was at the bottom of the list. The Japanese were just so friendly, while the Filipinos all seemed to be trying to scam them.
Garth and Wendy managed to cruise all these years on the $1,200/month rental income from their house. Toward the end they began to run a little short. "If we just had $300 more a month, we would have had all the money we needed," says Garth. What do you do after seven years of cruising? Garth, a naval architect, wants to spend the next three years building a light and fast 40-ft sloop with a free-standing mast, large main and small jib, and get back out there. As for Wendy, she never wanted to come back. Their next cruising destination? It’s likely to be Europe, as they’ve seen enough palm trees, beaches and Third World countries. In addition, Garth says he’d "like to use his mind more and have more mental stimulation during his next cruise."
By the way, if anybody needs any super-experienced crew and wouldn’t mind springing for a couple of plane tickets, Garth and Wendy, who are freezing back in the Pacific Northwest, might be tempted to crew on the Ha-Ha. More in the November 1 Latitude 38.