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February 15, 2008

Tin Can Gets Underway

David Vann says he’ll stop in San Diego before heading non-stop around the world.

© 2008 Peter Lyons

David Vann departed San Francisco Bay yesterday aboard his self-built 50-ft trimaran Tin Can. If you have been reading our reports in ‘Lectronic Latitude, you will know that the 39-year-old writer and sailor hopes to sail this boat — which he built of aluminum plating and tubing in about 4 months — around the world non-stop. Originally, the plan was to start and end in San Francisco. Now, according to his website, he will stop first in San Diego to sort out any last-minute glitches before proceeding.

Vann upped anchor about noon from a spot off Sausalito YC where Tin Can had been parked since her launch and shakedown sail on Tuesday. He sailed out under the Golden Gate in light air around 1 p.m. About 3 p.m., two or three miles off Point Bonita (and very close to the Potato Patch, if not in it), Vann was approached by a Coast Guard 47-footer which requested that he return to the Bay for a safety inspection. Vann expressed disappointment, informed them he had no engine and that, in the light breeze, that would take awhile. After some more conversation (including an offer by photographer Peter Lyons to tow Tin Can back into the Bay), the Coasties radioed for another team to come out in an inflatable and do the boarding.

After about half an hour, the team declared “zero violations,” and with a wish of “Have a good voyage, skipper,” Tin Can was released. Vann immediately unrolled his jib and proceeded southwest in light breeze and lumpy seas.

Tin Can passed a Coast Guard safety inspection and was sent on her way.

© 2008 Peter Lyons

As Vann departed, he indicated that the Coast Guard told him their inspection had been prompted by a number of calls from people reporting this "unsafe voyage," and some words to the effect of "Thank you, Latitude." We want to clarify to readers that we have tried to remain as fair and professional as possible in reporting on this story, and have given Vann every opportunity to speak directly with us. (He is prevented from doing so by an agreement with Esquire magazine, for which he is writing the story of this voyage.) We certainly have nothing against Vann and wish him only luck. That said, it’s hard to remain completely impartial, especially when Vann himself creates a sense of extreme danger in writing about his plans — such as emphasizing that his naval architect quit because he feared for Vann’s life. He certainly had to know folks would form strong opinions.

For the record, we did not have any communications with the Coast Guard about Vann. And, once again, we’re not saying he can’t or won’t complete his voyage. We’re just saying he would have to have incredibly good weather and luck to do it. We hope he does.

For more information on Vann and his plans, go to

We wish Vann and Tin Can luck.

© 2008 Peter Lyons

Whale of a Bad Idea Found Out

In Monday ‘Lectronic, we ran a sensational photo of a whale and a dolphin frolicking together, said to have been taken near Punta Mita by a cruiser. We asked our readers if anybody knew if this interspecies behavior is common. As a result, inquisitive reader C.M. White did some research on the internet, and found . . . that the photo wasn’t taken by the person who was said to have taken it, and had been taken in Hawaii rather than Mexico! One of the things that fooled us was that the background indeed looked more like Punta Mita than Hawaii. It turns out that the photo was taken by Lori Mazzuca, and won first place for Professionals in the Mammal category of the National Wildlife Awards photo competition.

So we did a little investigation, and it turns out that the woman who was said to have taken the photo knew nothing about it, nor did the owner of the boat it was said to have been taken from. It was all a poorly thought out joke by someone who didn’t realize how many people would be embarassed as a result. The moral of the story is not to make false claims on behalf of other people. This is especially true on the internet, because your chances of being found out are very high.

Our sincerest apologies to those who were set up, and to photographer Lori Mazzuca. If you visit, there’s an interesting explanation of the circumstances in which she took the photo. You’ll no longer find the photo on ‘Lectronic, because we took it down.

Big Cat Claws North

The 110-ft maxi cat Gitana 13 continues its assault on the sailing record from New York to San Francisco. Now in their 30th day at sea, skipper Lionel Lemonchois and his nine-man crew were at 18° S this morning, looking at another 350- to 400-mile day, and happy to finally be back in shorts as they ease into the tropics. Hopes to ‘heat up’ the progress along with the climate have been frustratingly brief. Although finally clear of a series of contrary weather systems off Chile that had the boat making as much westing as northward progress, G-13 has encountered weak tradewinds (12 knots SE at last report) that are forecast to weaken even more in the next few days. And there is still the Pacific Doldrums to deal with after that.

The record for the Route de l’Or is 57 days and change, which Gitana 13 should be able to beat handily (she left New York on January 16). Unfortunately, it won’t be quite as handily as they would like. But that’s sailing. In the meantime, we’ll keep you updated on the boat’s progress. If it looks like they will finish during the day, we hope a number of you will head out to give this big boat a big San Francisco flotilla greeting. They will have earned it. For more:

Dennis Conner’s Coach to Speak

Jack Sutphen, Dennis Conner’s ‘coach’, will be signing his book Messing About in Boats for 80 Years with Jack Sutphen at the Spaulding Wooden Boat Center in Sausalito tomorrow from 2-5 p.m. The 90-year-old Sutphen is a legend among yacht racing — especially America’s Cup — fans, having played key roles in nine A-Cup campaigns between 1958 and 2003, including seven of Conner’s bids. 

Testing the Waters

Jim Williams and Deborah Stern of the Encinal YC love to sail, as evidenced by their owning the Cal 39 Spindrift and the Islander 28 Dog Days, both of which are kept at Marina Village in Alameda. With both nearing retirement, they’ve been thinking about cruising as a lifestyle, but didn’t want to make the full commitment until they’d tested the waters, so to speak. As such, they arranged to charter a Cyclades 43.3 for six weeks in the British Virgins, and a Sunsail 39.3 in St. Martin for another three weeks. When they bumped into us at Carnival in St. Barth last Tuesday, they were just starting their three-week charter out of St. Martin.

Although they are hamming it up in front of Steve ‘the casino guy’ Wynn’s ‘interim’ motoryacht, Jim and Deborah are going to stick with sail.

©2008 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Saying that they’ve had a reasonable time to discover if they liked the lifestyle, we asked them if they knew what they were going to do.

"Buy a cruising boat!" Jim said without hesitation. "Maybe something like a Passport 40." Deborah was clearly in agreement with that concept, but noted that she was interested in keeping his Cal 39. "I love that boat," she said.

The couple was quick to note the difference between chartering in the British Virgins, which are almost completely protected from the open ocean, and the St. Martin-St. Barth area where, except for the lees of the island, you’re exposed to the full force of the trades.

"In the British Virgins, we took it easy and it was very relaxing," said Deborah. "I worked on a novel, while Jim read books. The sailing wasn’t difficult between our favorite destinations, such as Cane Garden Bay, Jost van Dyke, Peter Island and Anegada."

"But as soon as we picked up our boat at St. Martin and headed out of Oyster Pond into the trades on our way to St. Barth," Williams said, picking up the story, "we were into the real stuff, with 25-knot winds on the nose and 10-ft seas. Chartering in the British Virgins is what it would be like if it had been set up and the weather controlled by Disney, while down here it’s the real thing."

As the couple are getting ready to head off to Statia, St. Kitts and Nevis, they’re about to get more of the real thing.

We were pleased to hear that the two were very happy with both charter companies, particularly B.V.I. Yacht Charters in the British Virgins — which manages our cat ‘ti Profligate — and Sunsail in St. Martin. Because they chartered for multiple weeks, Jim and Deborah report they were able to get nice discounts.

David Vann’s self-built trimaran Tin Can had her maiden voyage yesterday. latitude/JR
©2008 Latitude 38 Media, LLC Adventurer David Vann was out test-sailing his 50-ft trimaran Tin Can yesterday, having been delayed several days from his planned Saturday outing.