April 25, 2008

The Multi-Taskable Steel Drum

Bruce’s tenor pan, picking up the wireless signal for his computer off Anguilla.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

"In the fall of ’06, my husband Bruce Smith and I were in San Diego waiting for the green light to go south into Mexico, down to the Canal, and across the Caribbean to the West Indies," writes Janet Hein of the Gig Harbor, Washington-based ketch Woodwind. "As we moved from anchorage to anchorage in San Diego Bay, we discovered the thrill of picking up wireless signals on our boat. But our knowledge of the subject couldn’t fill a shot glass, so we combed through back issues of Latitude looking for anything on the subject — and even started bothering the neighbors.

"Among the neighbors was B’hajans, a 40-ft trimaran owned by a very helpful Frenchman named Bruno. I know Latitude is a stickler for complete names and boat types, but Bruno is like Oprah and Cher in that only one name is needed. As for his trimaran, there had been a lot of inbreeding going on, so she wasn’t really one kind or another. Anyway, Bruno was busy for days buying new computer bits to hook up to his wireless receiving thing, an invention that consisted of a large metal cooking wok and a USB cable. The parabola collected the wireless signal, sent it through the cord to the computer, and Bruno swore that it worked.

"We finally made it across the Caribbean to St. Barth where my husband put on an art show at the Bank of Baghdad — and met the Wanderer, who was frantic because it was the last day of the Latitude deadline and the internet had gone out on the entire island. We continued on to Anguilla, where we could only sometimes get wireless signals on our boat. In an act of desperation, Bruce tied up his tenor pan — what steel drummers beat on — and aimed it toward the router onshore. He then put his laptop in front of it, and darned if it didn’t seem to help! Well, sort of. We’re still in the testing phase, so stay tuned. But if this works, West Marine will be selling steel pans at rock bottom prices, and we’ll become bazillionaires!"

Heading Up-Delta

We’re planning our annual Delta article for the June issue of Latitude and would like your input. What’s new and can’t be missed? What’s old and should be part of every Delta trip? What’s hidden or off the beaten track? What’s just plain wild?

We’re also looking for historic stories and photos from ‘the good old days’. Share your suggestions and photos with LaDonna.

North Sails Open House

North Sails is having their 2nd annual Open House tomorrow from 2-10 p.m. at the San Rafael loft. Get expert advice on preparing your sails for this summer’s Pacific Cup or Singlehanded TransPac while goovin’ to the tunes of ‘The King’ performing Hawaiian-themed Elvis songs. Call (415) 453-2142 for info and directions.

Bay Area artist Jim DeWitt will be at the party with his distinctive art. This painting of Profligate hangs in our World Headquarters.

© 2008 Jim DeWitt

The deadlines for both races are right around the corner, by the way — May 1 for the Pacific Cup (www.pacificcup.org) and May 5 for the Singlehanded TransPac (www.sfbaysss.org). Both predict big, if not record, fleets this year!

Rick Carpenter’s Status in Zihua is Just Fine

Heike and Rick Carpenter will be back this fall to take care of cruisers.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Not long ago we reported that Rick Carpenter, the owner of Rick’s Bar in Zihuatanejo — which has long been cruiser central there as well as a huge supporter of the Zihua SailFest — was having trouble with immigration folks in Mexico. We’re pleased to report that the situation, which started because of competitive issues with some nearby restaurants, has been resolved.

While Carpenter has returned to the States, it’s just his normal off-season routine. He’ll be back at his bar in November, rolling out the red carpet for cruisers.

In other Zihua news, it’s true that the big cruise ship pier that had been planned for the middle of the bay has been cancelled because of local outrage. However, the  government money has already been allocated for the project, and governments don’t like to do things like not spend money. As such, officials are apparently looking for another site.

Thar They Blow

We got stopped a few years ago off the Embarcadero by both Coast Guard and the SF Police boats. And when we say ‘stopped’, this was with bullhorns blaring and lights flashing. They asked what we were doing. We gestured to a big sloop sailing toward the Bay Bridge and said, “Taking pictures of them. Is there a problem?”

“We had a report that you were harassing a whale out here,” said one of the uniforms.

This was late afternoon on a weekday. A quick scan of the surrounding water revealed the Bay was pretty much a blank slate. The only things on it were us, the two lawmen boats and the ever diminishing speck of our photo subject.

“What whale?” we said.

"Some people ashore reported that there was a whale out here that you were buzzing around it very close and harassing it.”

We tried to explain that we hadn’t seen any whale, and that the buzzing was because we were out trying to, you know, get pictures of that sailboat. See, we’re from a sailing magazine . . . .

Of course, there have been times when we have seen whales in the Bay. One surfaced and blew right next to the photoboat once and scared us half to death. We even spotted Humphrey all those years ago when he first came into the Bay.

Long story short: whales — particularly gray whales, who are currently on their annual migration home to Alaska from Mexico — sometimes come into the Bay for a little while. This happened again just yesterday. If you’re lucky enough to be out on the water and spot a whale, by all means sail over for a closer look. But be advised of the official ‘rules’ of such encounters (as noted by NOAA’s Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary): Don’t get any closer than 300 feet, don’t cut across a whale’s path, and don’t get between a cow and her calf. And for gosh sakes, don’t buzz around and harass one!

She looks bad here, but Gitana Vela suffered relatively minor damage in her double dismasting.
It appears to be high season for Somalia’s pirate industry. On Sunday, just days after the 30-member crew of a French megayacht were released and several pirates arrested by French forces, pirates seized control of the 250-ft Spanish fishing trawler Playa de Bakio in the Gulf of Aden.
John Cota, the pilot aboard the Cosco Busan when the ship “touched” the Bay Bridge last November, was indicted on felony charges this week.