Skip to content
January 28, 2008

Harker Heads for Sizzler in San Juan

Having set his unusual Parasailor2 spinnaker off St. Barth, Harker and his Hunter Mariner 49 make tracks for the Sizzler at San Juan, Puerto Rico.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Early this morning we took off in our dink to photograph Mike Harker of the Manhattan Beach-based Hunter Mariner 49 Wanderlust 3, as he set his Parasailor2 spinnaker to leave St. Barth for San Juan and, ultimately, 1,100-mile distant Miami. When he reaches Miami, he’ll have completed an 11-month circumnavigation with the boat, which still had the paint drying when he took off. Harker completed his personal circumnavigation last week in Antigua, as he’d already done the Antigua to Miami leg with Wanderlust II, his Hunter 466.

Energized by fresh fruits and veggies – and even an extremely rare glass of wine – Mike yucks it up with Lili Wolfson, a true rocket scientist, who is two years into a 12-year circumnavigation with her husband Steve aboard their exquisite Texas-based Hans Christian 48 Liward.

©2008 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Harker will be stopping in San Juan on his way to Miami, because from his previous sailing adventures he knows there’s a Sizzler right near the dock, and they’ve got an all-you-can-eat salad bar. The thing he missed most while sailing was fresh salads and veggies. In fact, we took him to La Gamelle restaurant the other night so he could savor a Rasta Salad, which included lots of delicious fresh mangos, avocados, tomatoes, lettuce and the like. He loved it. In fact, he loved it considerably more than the fresh fish platter at Le Select the day before. He’d mistaken some ultra-hot sauce for ketchup, and darn near died when a sauce splattered piece of fish got caught in his throat. He was in such bad shape we were two seconds from calling for a doctor when he started breathing again. Harker swears it was the worst injury he’s suffered on the circumnavigation.

We’ve got a great new interview with Mike for the March issue of Latitude that we think you’ll enjoy. Just for kicks, here are a couple of highlights:

38: How much did the circumnavigation cost you?

Mike: Besides the boat and gear, almost nothing. I’m a cheapo.

38: What were your three favorite stops?

Mike: The Galapagos Islands, the Whitsundays in Australia and St. Barth.

He loved the Galapagos for the wildlife, the Whitsundays for the great people, and St. Barth for, among other things, the beautiful women on the beach.

Harker celebrated his circumnavigation with a sail aboard a 54-ft catamaran to Ile Fourchue, where he had probably his fifth glass of wine in 60 years. He’s vowed to returned to the Caribbean for six months next winter.

©2008 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Having completed a rapid circumnavigation, you can imagine that Harker is ready to take a break from sailing. Er, not quite. He’ll spend this summer giving presentations every other week at Hunter dealers or yacht clubs from Florida to Maine. Next winter he’ll be back sailing around the Caribbean for six months. He’ll follow that up with an Atlantic crossing to the Med, where he’s looking particularly forward to Croatia, the Black Sea, and Turkey. Then he’ll head down the Red Sea and across the Indian Ocean to Thailand. After a few months there, he’ll work his way up to Japan, cross to California, and get ready for the ’11 Ha-Ha.

If you don’t think he’ll do it, you don’t know Mike — who, by the way, thanks to injuries received in a terrible hang-gliding accident many years ago, is legally classified as a parapalegic.

Three Bridge Fiasco Lives Up to Name

The start of the Fiasco is a sight to see.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

In between torrential weekend downpours, 222 boats managed to make it to the starting line of one of the most popular races on San Francisco Bay. An early morning 10-12 knot southerly breeze and clearing skies bode well for the racers who had to round the Bay’s three big bridges in any order they pleased.

Every which way – while the majority of boats took the Bay Bridge first, a good number headed to the Golden Gate.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

The start of the race lived up to its name, with hundreds of boats milling about every which way. From what we saw, there were no major collisions but there were a few close calls. While a good portion of the boats headed for the Gate first, the majority shot straight for the Bay Bridge.

While the weather gods may have had mercy on racers, the wind gods were fickle.

©2008 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

The breeze held out until noon, leaving boats bobbing all over the Bay with hardly a whisper. Some boats even lost ground with the weak flood. In the end, 55 boats dropped out due to the lack of wind.

Kudos to the following boats for sticking it out and winning their classes:

  • Punk Dolphin, Wylie 39 – Singlehanded PHRF <100
  • PainKiller, J/80 – SH PHRF 100-160
  • Travieso, Ericson 30+ – SH PHRF >160
  • Meritime, C&C 30 – SH PHRF Non-Spinnaker
  • Mirage, Express 27 – SH Sportboat
  • Adrenaline, D-Class Cat – Doublehanded Multihull
  • Golden Moon, Express 37 – DH PHRF <100
  • Arcadia, Santana 27 (modified) – DH PHRF 100-160
  • Chelonia, Yankee 30 – DH PHRF >160
  • Escapade, Sabre 402 – DH Non-Spinnaker
  • Motorcycle Irene, Express 27 – DH Express 27
  • Donkey Jack, J/105 – DH J/105
  • Lowly Worm, Moore 24 – DH Moore 24
  • Lazy Lightning, Tartan 10 – DH SF Bay 30
  • The Word, Mumm 30 – DH Sportboat
  • Mr. McGregor, Wylie Wabbit – DH Wylie Wabbit
  • Uno, Wyliecat 30 – DH Wyliecat 30

For full results, head on over to the Singlehanded Sailing Society’s site at We’ll have a comprehensive report in the March issue of Latitude 38.

Falcon’s Bay Visit Depends on Her Sub

For those who heard Belvedere’s Tom Perkins say on KQED’s Forum that he might bring his 289-ft Dyna-Rig Maltese Falcon to the Bay in May, we’ve got a clarification.

"I don’t know yet whether Falcon will make the trip to the Bay," Perkins wrote Latitude, "as it all depends on the completion date for the submarine that Hawkes Ocean Technology of Richmond is building for us. We’d like to pick the sub up during the May window, as it’s the only time that would fit in our schedule."

Tom Perkins wants to pick up his submarine in Richmond before heading off for Fiji.

© 2008 Hawke Ocean Technologies

That’s because Falcon is headed to the Pacific for the rest of the year. "I’m leaving this weekend to sail Falcon from the Eastern Caribbean to Panama and through the Canal. We’re going to spend ’08 in the Pacific, and I’ll be doing most of the long passages. Hopefully we’ll have the sub aboard for dives in Fiji."

Perkins reports that Falcon has already done three of her eight weeks of charters for the year, and will be coming back to the Med and the Caribbean in ’09.

Gitana 13 – Southern Cross to Port

Sailor’s delight – It’s not all work aboard Gitana 13 as she heads for San Francisco.

Gitana 13
©2008 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Not quite two weeks out of New York, the 110-ft maxi-cat Gitana 13 is humming along under a waning moon and what can only be described as a ‘mixed bag’ of weather off Brazil. The 10-man crew under skipper Lionel Lemonchois is in shorts and T-shirts for a while longer as they line up to round the one mark in their 14,000-mile sprint to San Francsico later this week: Cape Horn. According to a recent report, they were on a heading of 240° as they rode the western edge of a high-pressure system. “The Southern Cross is where it should be, to port” wrote crewman Nicholas Reynaud in the online log.

Since they left New York in January 16, the Gitana crew have never stopped moving — although it wasn’t always fast or in the right direction. Exiting the doldrums to the south, they were detoured by a stormy depression that cost them 500 miles — their only ‘pit stop’ so far. On Saturday morning, they jibed for the first time. On Saturday night, light winds had the big cat down to 4 knots and the crew a bit sleep-deprived after multiple sail changes. Despite the delays, they are still ahead of the record pace for the Route de l’Or (route of gold) set by Yves Parlier in 1989. His New York-San Francisco record, set aboard the Open 60  Aquitaine Innovations, was 57 days, 3 hours, 21 minutes.

At last report this morning, Gitana 13 was finally getting back to cruising speed in steady southeasterly wind. “The wind is back and Gitana 13 is cruising along at 25-30 knots. It’s great to get back up to these speeds and be able to again tap into the boat’s potential,” reports skipper Lemonchois. The plan for the next few days is to keep up the pace by skirting around the west side of the Saint Helena high—which is very broad in the southern summer—by sailing along the coast of Uruguay and Argentina.

For more, including video updates from on board, log onto

New Cruising Restrictions in Tonga and Fiji

"All is not well in the tropical paradises of Fiji and Tonga," report John Kelly and Linda Keigher and of San Francisco-based Sirena 38 Hawkeye. "Both countries have now instituted severe restrictions on the time that a foreign vessel can remain in the country.

"According to a 1988 regulation, yachts visiting Tonga were limited to a 12-month stay. However, this rule had never been enforced — in fact, there are actually boats here that have been here for 17 years! In December, several boats that had been here for more than 12 months received letters from the Nieafu, Vava’u Customs Office stating they must either leave the country within a week or be prepared to pay import tax and duty. The tax and duty would come to nearly 40% of the value of the boat. This caused great consternation, mostly because the cyclone season officially started last November 1. As a result of many complaints, the Chief of Customs from the capital, Nuku’alofa, visited Neiafu and invited the yachties to a meeting. The meeting was well attended, and the gentleman assured us that nobody was going to be kicked out of the country during cyclone season, which ends in April. Phew!

Tonga has long been popular with cruisers.

© Webb Logg

"During a subsequent meeting on January 18, 2008, the gentleman from Nuku’alofa stated that a new regulation was in the process of being issued. This regulation restricts visiting yachts to four months, with a possible extension to 12 months. Meanwhile, if the current yacht owners affected would agree to sign a letter, stating name of boat, owner and date of arrival in Tonga, he would sign on behalf of the government, allowing the yachts to remain in Tonga ‘for the natural life of the vessel’! The only proviso was that the owners would provide the government a security interest in the yacht, which would be exercised only in the event of the sale of the yacht while in Tongan waters. In that case, tax and duty would be assessed.

"This is a good outcome for the boats already here, but not so good for newcomers who would like to keep their boats here through cyclone season. Furthermore, visiting yachts are now required to hire an agent to check in and out. It was suggested, to no effect, that the Tongan Government would do well to follow the example of Mexico, which allows a yacht to remain in the country for up to ten years for a small fee upon entry.

New restrictions on visiting yachts may end up backfiring on the Fijian and Tongan governments.

© Webb Logg

"Things are even more restrictive in Fiji, where the ‘Interim’ military government — the democratically elected government was removed from office during a military coup in December of 2006, the fourth such coup in 20 years — announced that visiting yachts may not stay more than three months in the country. An extension of three months may be granted upon written application to the government. These restrictions are being appealed. We are not optimistic of the outcome, since the Minister of Finance publicly announced recently that the new restrictions were partly the result of illegal behavior by visiting yachts, including drug-dealing, prostitution, and smuggling that has cost the country millions of dollars in lost revenue’! This gratuitous slur on the yachting community did not sit well with the yachts affected, and Linda and I are seriously reconsidering our plans to visit Fiji in the near future.

"Both of these countries are economically depressed, particularly Fiji, where the EU, New Zealand and Australian governments have all imposed economic sanctions following the military coup. These sanctions have greatly reduced the number of tourists visiting the islands. Since both countries are desperate for tourist dollars, it is a mystery why they would choose to restrict visiting yachts in this manner. We cruisers are also tourists and bring much needed revenue to these and other countries that we visit."

Latitude‘s two cent’s worth on these developments? Don’t take it personally and go with the flow. First of all, the restrictions aren’t really severe. If you can stay in Tonga for up to a year, and Fiji for six months, those are actually much longer than most cruisers stay in each place. And once the government starts hearing from the businesses that are losing out, it’s likely they’ll come to their senses and realize that such ‘unfree’ policies hurt them, not cruisers.

The charge of the light brigade – nearly 40 boats crossed the starting line at this year’s World ARC Rally.