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March 12, 2008

Forquer Will be Sorely Missed

The flood of emails and phone calls which reached us yesterday after we posted the news of Jim Forquer’s tragic death is a good indicator of how much this well-known sailor will be missed. Friends from the California and Mexico sailing communities, as well as former associates from within the high tech industry, were equally stunned by the news that this Newport Beach-based sailor had been found dead early Monday morning at the Isla Navidad Marina.

Having now talked with several first-hand sources, let us clarify the details. Jim’s  52-ft cat Legato was laying over at Isla Navidad temporarily, while awaiting the arrival of additional crew. Sunday evening Jim dined with good friends aboard the motoryacht Beseme, leaving at approximately 11:30 p.m. to walk home to Legato on C Dock — a trip of about 200 yards which he had made many times before.

About halfway along that distance, a 12-inch-high curb interrupts the walkway, defining the edge of a launch ramp below. It appeared obvious to friends on the scene that Jim simply did not see the curb — the walkway was unlit at the time — and toppled onto the concrete ramp, 8 to 10 feet below.

Jim’s dead body was found shortly before 8 a.m. on Monday morning by a security guard. According to friends, Jim had not been drinking heavily and there is no suspicion of foul play. All indications are that it was simply a tragic mishap. An autopsy is pending.

Having retired young after many successes in his field, Jim seemed to be thoroughly enjoying his new cruising lifestyle. He’d made many new friends in the sailing community, and was well respected as a competent sailor who often shared his knowledge and technical expertise. He will indeed be sorely missed by many.

Racing Shorts

Does four days of racing in the Caribbean sound like fun? If you’re reading this and haven’t just come back from the 28th running of the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta, then you’ll have to wait until next year to get in on that action. Held March 6-9, the Carribean’s largest regatta known for its onshore entertainment — dancehall-reggae singer Shaggy performed at one of the parties — also provided picture-perfect conditions for the 284 entrants in 21 classes divided among spinnaker, non-spinnaker, bareboat and multihull divisions. Next year’s event is already scheduled — visit

Bay Area teams and sailors were well represented in Miami last weekend for the Acura Miami Grand Prix, the event historically known as the S.O.R.C. Kentfield’s Paul Cayard spent the weekend calling the shots on Fred and Steve Howe’s Warpath, taking third in the 28-boat Farr 40 class which also produced the event’s ‘boat of the week’ — Jim Richardson’s Barking Mad, fresh off a class win in Key West. In the Melges 32 class, Fairfax’s John Kostecki pointed Michael Illbruck’s Pinta in all the right directions, topping the 20-boat fleet in the team’s second regatta in the competitive class. Visit the event web site for more.

On the Bay this weekend, the two biggies are the Island YC‘s Doublehanded Lightship Race with 40 entries including four multihulls scheduled for Saturday. If you’ve got an Express 37, 1D35, J/105 or J/120, you might consider St. Francis YC‘s Spring One-Design for a full weekend event. Oh, by the way, you’ll want to lock your lazarettes and bring your hatchboards, because the National Weather Service is calling for breeze — enjoy!

Fast Company

The ProSail 40 Tuki currently owns the Jazz Cup record. In 2005, she sailed the 26-mile course in 2 hours and 1 minute.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Records are made to be broken. And these days, sailing records are shattering faster than plates at a Greek wedding — everywhere but locally. In compiling our every-five-years look at sailing speed records near and far, we note that everything from round-the-world to transatlantic to fastest ‘any craft’ (a sailboarder in the French trench hit 49.09 knots just a week ago) have all tumbled in just the last few years, while only two local sailing record have fallen in — gasp — the last 10 years! A tip of the hat in that direction to Mark Jones’ TP 52 Flash, which set the new elapsed time record for the Spinnaker Cup (San Francisco to Monterey) in 2004, and Peter Stoneberg’s chartered ProSail 40 cat Tuki, which set a new Jazz Cup record in 2005.

Yes, we know it hasn’t been that windy for some local events in the last few years — and no, we haven’t received updates or confirmation for every local event yet. But from the look of things so far, the record setters of the mid-1990s still rule the Bay — boats like Serge Pond’s 32-ft catamaran Rocket 88 (fastest Silver Eagle [‘95], Delta Ditch Run [’98] and Three Bridge Fiasco [‘96]), Tom Blackaller’s old ProSail 40 Tom Cat — sailed by Zan Drejes and Jack Halterman — (Doublehanded Farallones multihull and overall record, set in ’92), Paul Simonsen’s SC 70 Mongoose (Doublehanded Farallones monohull record, also in ‘92), Steve Fossett’s 60-ft trimaran Lakota (‘97 Windjammers) . . . and — hold on to your wizard hats — Merlin still holds the monohull Windjammers record, which she set under Donn Campion in 1983. That’s 25 years, folks!

Here’s hoping 2008 is a windy year for all you local need-for-speed freaks. For a complete list of the current elapsed time marks up for grabs, check out the April issue of Latitude 38

Marina Riviera Nayarit Alienating Cruisers

With hundreds of empty slips, cruisers can’t understand why Marina Riviera Nayarit rates aren’t lower. But what really makes them angry is that each visit by dinghy costs $10.

©2008 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, the wonderfully funky and authentic Mexico town on Banderas Bay about 10 miles to the north of Puerto Vallarta, has been a cruiser favorite for as long as we’ve been going there — and we started in the late ’70s. You could anchor out for free, there was a little breakwater that offered protection for landing your dinghy on the garbage strewn beach, and the town was great.

La Cruz changed surprisingly little until about 18 months ago, at which point work commenced on the Marina Riviera Nayarit (aka La Cruz Marina). This was a much needed facility for mariners, because the other marinas in the bay — Paradise Village Marina, Nuevo Vallarta Marina, and Marina Vallarta — are perpetually packed in the high season. It’s also been seen as a much needed economic engine for the little town and, indeed, there has been tremendous investment in the area in just the last year. Many long term jobs are being created.

There are three partners in the marina, and it’s our understanding that the majority stake is owned by an American. From the outset, there was no question that the owners of the 400-berth marina were looking to attract high end boat owners. The majority of slips were large — 50 to 70 feet — with an unusually high number of them in the 100 to 400-ft range.

And the slips aren’t cheap. The ‘Opening Discount Rate’ is 72 cents a foot per day, 68 cents a foot per week, or 65 cents a foot per month. For a 44-footer, which is the average size of a Ha-Ha boat, that’s just under $1,000 a month. Ouch!!!

Who knows, from strictly a business sense, it may be hard to fault the marina management. It cost a heck of a lot of money to build the marina, and real estate prices in what’s now being called the Nayarit Riviera — basically from Paradise Marina to the tip of the bay and then all the way up past Sayulita to San Pancho and Chacala — have exploded in value. In this 30 or so miles of coastline, it’s now hard to find a waterfront condo for under a million, and there are hundreds of estates that exist or are being developed in the $5 to $10 million range.

When the marina opened in November, things were pretty cool. Many of the Ha-Ha boats took advantage of even greater introductory discounts and moved in. As for budget cruisers and/or those who didn’t want to pay for a slip, they could come in and tie up their dinghy for a fee of $3 a day. Dinghy fees of $1 to $3 a day are not uncommon. And this has been a banner year for boats anchored off La Cruz. The other day we counted 64 boats anchored right off the marina, up significantly from years past.

But in the last month, relations between the anchor-outs and marina have soured. It occured when the marina raised the dinghy docking fee to $10 — and that’s not per day, but each time a cruiser brought their dinghy in. Anchored out cruisers suddenly curtailed their visits — including to the marina’s new restaurant that overlooks the facility.

Currently, most of the boats in the Marina Riviera Nayarit came down with the Ha-Ha and got in with introductory specials. There are almost no large powerboats, which is ultimately going to be the marina’s big market.

©2008 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Aware of the grousing by cruisers, we had lunch with Marina Manager Christian Mancebo two days ago to discuss the situation. We consider Christian to be a friend, and he gave it to us straight — the new $10 per time fee is something that was voted in by the board of directors. As Manager, Christian’s job is not to question such policies, but to implement them.

To many cruisers, it’s a puzzling move. For while the marina now has more than 100 berths ready for boats, it’s almost empty — except for mostly Ha-Ha boats that have been there since it opened. Based on what we can see, nobody has left packed Paradise Marina or Vallarta Marina for the Nayarit Marina. Cruisers wonder why the management doesn’t do what Marina Costa Baja did a few years ago in La Paz. They let cruisers in for low or very low fees to fill it up, then gradually raised the prices. Costa Baja is now packed. For whatever reason, the folks at Nayarit Marina haven’t wanted to do that. Indeed, the $10 per visit fee makes most cruisers think the marina is trying to stick it to them.

Right now, cruisers do have an option, which is basically a variation of what they always did before the marina was put in. They land their dinghy just outside of the breakwater, then walk over to Anna Banana’s or up to Philo’s Music Studio, Bar and Restaurant. Both offer inexpensive food and drinks, and at Philo’s you can get a hot shower for a buck. The big worry is that the marina will prevent them from walking across their property.

The impression that the marina wants to stick it to cruisers has angered many of them into wanting to take action. Several have told us they intend to organize cruisers and the many local businesses who depend on their patronage to protest the actions of the marina. We’re not sure if they are just planning to take a petition to the local government or do something more radical, like a temporary blockade of the marina to gain publicity. They probably don’t even know yet.

The Marina Riviera Nayarit has a lot going for it, including a terrific view from the restaurant and Sky Bar. But if cruisers have to pay $10 to bring their dinghy in, the Sky Bar won’t get much of their business. Presumably, they don’t want it.

©2008 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

We see this as a very unfortunate situation for everyone, and hope it can be resolved. If, for some reason, La Cruz was no longer a viable anchorage for cruisers, they would always have the option of anchoring at Punta Mita. But it would be terrible for both cruisers to lose La Cruz and for La Cruz merchants to lose the cruiser business. Who knows, maybe one of the panga fishermen who has the rights to a berth in the marina can start a ferry service between the shore and the anchored out boats. That would be great.

In another Marina Riviera Nayarit issue, both cruisers and the marina need to do a better job with an entrance channel. We came in after dark about a week ago, and it was very difficult and dangerous to thread our way through the boats, many of which were hard to see through the background lights. In addition, we’re told that the port captain is having to come out almost daily and make boats re-anchor out of the way. But it would also be a huge help if the marina installed channel markers that went further out.