February 25, 2008

Over the Top . . . and Down Into the Water

Given this perspective, you can’t see it clearly, but there are 17 water toys – from speedboats to Jet Skis, to inflatable toys – trailing behind this yacht.

latitude/Richard
©2008 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

You know that old bumper sticker philosophy, ‘He who dies with the most toys, wins’? It certainly seemed to be embodied by the owner of this 200-or-so-foot motoryacht anchored off Gustavia, St. Barth over the weekend. The boat, called Fortunado or Fortunate Son or one of those, had 17 water toys trailing behind it, most of them sitting idle the entire afternoon. But the biggest and most visible toy was the massive, three-story tall inflatable waterslide off the beam. It wasn’t too windy, so they left it up for a couple of days. It seemed a little over the top to us.

We’re not nominating ourselves for holier-than-thou man or anything, but we can honestly say that one of the highlights of our soon-to-end two months aboard ‘ti Profligate here in the French West Indies has been the simplicity of life. Since moving aboard, we haven’t ridden more than five miles in a car, and haven’t used more than 10 gallons of fuel in our dinghy and catamaran combined. (That’s a good thing in a land where gas and diesel are both over $7 a gallon.) In addition, we’ve bought absolutely nothing but food, beverages, internet space for our ‘office’, and anchoring rights. Yet we’ve wanted for nothing — except less time in the ‘office’ and more time engaged in physical activities.

Our kind of free fun: going sailing with our friend Alex, who believes he should have lived in the 17th century, and about 12 other folks on catasailing.com’s rocket-fast Neptune’s Car.

latitude/Richard
© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

We’ve derived our pleasure from meeting other sailors — a number of them from the West Coast — diving off of the transom in the mornings, sailing, boogie-boarding, watching the sunsets and sunrises, observing the turtles and fish, and reading books from the ‘leave one, take one’ library at the port captain’s office. On a stack of bibles, we’ve not once envied those on the mega motoryachts and 120- to 170-ft mega sailing yachts we’re surrounded by. It may not work for everyone, but so far the simple — and waterslide-less— life has seemed pretty sweet to both Doña de Mallorca and us.

We’ve always thought weather plays an important role in happiness. Since it was warm enough so the guests didn’t have to bundle up during the beat back to St. Barth at the end of the day on Neptune’s Car, everybody seemed to be in a good mood.

latitude/Richard
©2008 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Gitana 13 to Arrive on Thursday

To Bay Area residents, 40 days and 40 nights might invoke the biblical weather we’ve been having the last few months. But to the 10 sailors aboard the 110-ft catamaran Gitana 13, it is a measure of pride and progress. Today marks the 40th day since the big cat left New York on a quest to set a new sailing record to San Francisco. Currently off Mexico, the most current estimates have her sailing under the Golden Gate on Thursday, probably in the afternoon. If that comes to pass, skipper Lionel Lemonchois and his crew will break the old 57-day record by almost two full weeks.

The Gitana boys are expecting to sail under the Gate Thursday afternoon.

© Gitana S.A./Yvan Zedda

They will have earned it. After reaching Cape Horn, the halfway point of the 14,000-mile Route De L’Or, in only 17 days, it took the next 17 (including a five-day wait at the Horn) just to get back to the Equator on the Pacific side. They had to deal with one contrary weather system after another — and then the doldrums. They finally broke out of the northern boundary (12º N) of that largely windless band of latitudes on Friday and, writes crewman Nichlas Reynaud, sailed from almost no wind to 18-22 knots of northeasterly “within the space of one watch.”  This morning was more call for celebration as they crossed the symbolic barrier of only 1,000 miles to go.

Rather than the 500-600 mile off-the-wind days they experienced ripping south down the Atlantic, the final sprint to San Francisco will be upwind. Days runs of 350 miles — a 15-knot average — are still spectacular by most sailing standards, but must seem painfully slow to the Gitana guys who have seen twice that.

It should only take Gitana 13, currently just off Turtle Bay, about four days to do the Baja Bash.

Gitana 13
© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

At this writing, the boat is climbing north on a ridge of high pressure, footing easily along at about 60° to the wind in 15 knots of northeasterly breeze. They are trying to hold onto their northwesterly heading until probably Wednesday, when they will do their final tack and find the northwesterlies for their approach into the Bay.

We don’t know how this event is going to be treated by the local media but, to sailors, this is a big deal, and we hope you will be able to make it out on a boat to escort them in. (But don’t get in their way — per protocol, their official time will be taken not at the Golden Gate, but as they sail past Alcatraz.) Please check ‘Lectronic Latitude regularly. As they get closer, we will be posting special updates on their anticipated arrival times. Until then, log on to www.gitana-team.com/en/ for the latest news.

Central Pacific Winlink Station Needs Help

Untold numbers of cruisers use the Winlink system for everything from emails to weatherfaxes. The system relies on a smattering of individual ham stations strategically located to help relay signals. The Central Pacific station, located in the Hawaii YC’s ‘TransPac Shack’ in the Ala Wai, is vital to communications between the South Pacific and the West Coast.

Ron DuBois would like to continue supporting the station, as he’s done for the last nine years, but is finding it more difficult these days. "It costs $800 a year out of my pocket just to keep the lights on," Ron told us. "Now the station needs some tweaking and upgrades — like a new antenna — so it’s getting financially difficult. I may have to shut it down."

The station is an extremely valuable resource for cruisers headed to the South Pacific, and Ron — also known as ‘The Voice of the Pacific’ — hates the thought of shutting it down. "I love doing it," he said. "My ultimate dream is to get some help — physical or financial — to build it up to where it should be."

If you want to help keep the Central Pacific station alive and well, email Ron or send whatever you can to Ron DuBois, c/o Hawaii YC, 1739 C Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu, HI 96815.

PV Fleet Making Tracks

The San Diego Yacht Club’s race to Puerto Vallarta got underway Saturday for Divisions 1, 2, and 3 in a 10- to 12-kt southwesterly. The boats started off Shelter Island, serenaded by a Mariachi band, before settling in for some upwind sailing that lasted into Sunday morning. Division 4 and the lone performance cruising division entrant, Beowulf, started on Thursday and were expected to be passed by the big boats last night.

© SDYC Vallarta Race

"It was a pretty tactical, tough night," Holua navigator Mark Rudiger reported of the race’s first night at sea, adding that it had been light at times and shifty. Rudiger’s report from 2:30 Sunday afternoon indicated they were 200 miles south of San Diego with the breeze filling in from the northwest, and the pack they were in were all flying spinnakers. "Right now we’re all looking to pick our jibe to go into Cedros (Island)."

Jim Gregory’s Pt. Richmond-homeported Schumacher 50 Morpheus appeared to be in fifth place overall on corrected time as of yesterday’s standings. The big boats are now even with Bahia Magdalena and making tracks towards Cabo San Lucas and the tactical choices it will present. Updated standings hadn’t yet been posted as of this writing, but you can follow the race’s only NorCal entry and all the others on the tracking web-site at http://trackinfo.fistracking.com/pv2008 which is also accessible from the race’s homepage at www.sdyc.org/pv/.

Youth Sailing: Speak Now, Or. . .

Just writing the word ‘comprehensive’ makes us a bit nervous. You see, every time we attempt to do a comprehensive overview in Latitude 38 on one subject or another, we invariably leave someone out.

Last month we put out an invitation to all youth sailing programs to let us know about their offerings, as we’ll be doing a big spread on the subject in our April issue, timed to coincide with the Strictly Sail Pacific boat show.

From special sailing programs for disadvantaged youth – such as the Pegasus Project, seen here – to yacht club programs aimed at teaching racing skills, there are boatloads of opportunities for local youth sailing.

Pegasus Project
© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

So if you haven’t done so already, speak now or . . . don’t complain to us after the article hit the streets. The good news, by the way, is that there are a tremendous number of youth sailing opportunities right here in San Francisco Bay — some with little or no cost to young sailors.

We’d like to thank all those who’ve emailed us already. Others, please email a short write-up on your program plus a few medium-to-high resolution photos to us ASAP.

Tom Perkins swims with the fishes. © 2008 Tom Perkins "We have finished four of the most incredible days of diving ever," reports Tom Perkins of the Belvedere-based 289-ft Dyna-Rig Maltese Falcon from Cocos Island, Costa Rica.
When Reid Stowe and Soanya Ahmad left Hoboken, New Jersey, on April 21, 2007, their plan was to sail Stowe’s 70-ft schooner Anne out of sight of land for 1,000 days non-stop.
Swingin’ cat – Cheyenne in the slings at Nelsons. © 2008 Mark Featherstone The late Steve Fosset’s 125-ft catamaran Cheyenne is on the hard at Nelson’s to assess damage reportedly caused by an exploded liferaft canister.