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June 6, 2008

Something to See While Becalmed Off Montara

It was long thought that the Cape Mayo lighthouse on Cape Cod had been destroyed in the ’20s.

Lighthouse Digest
©2008 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

If every picture tells a story, every lighthouse tells a thousand stories. One of the more intriguing ones that came to light only recently is that of the Point Montara lighthouse. Unlike the other lighthouses of Northern California, this one wasn’t built in place — it was an existing structure that was moved all the way cross-country from Cape Cod!

Credit research done by Colleen MacNeney for the discovery, word of which was first published earlier this week. The 30-ft tall tower was built of cast iron in 1881, and put in place on Mayo’s Beach, overlooking Cape Cod’s Wellfleet Harbor. It was thought to have been razed in the mid 1920s. But recently, MacNeney found a photograph of the tower on Yerba Buena dated 1928 with the inscription "formerly used at Mayo Beach, 2nd District.” An extensive search of the National Archives finally revealed documents confirming the move, and eventual placement of the tower at Montara in 1928.

But it had really been shipped out West and put into service at Point Montara.

© 2008 Cheri M. Larsh / Northern California Hostels

“It was transferred from excess stock at one Coast Guard District to another,” said MacNeney. The Mayo Beach/Montara light tower has one other distinction: It was the first lighthouse to have a female lighthouse keeper — Sarah Atwood, who lit the wicks at Mayo Beach every night until 1891.

The light tower is still in use today, with an automated electric beacon having long ago replaced the kerosene-fired light. In addition to being a tourist attraction, the grounds also feature a 50-bed American Youth Hostel.

NOAA Charts on Google Earth

Take a Google Earth image, lay a NOAA chart over it, and you get the latest weapon in the arsenal of computer-aided navigation. French company Magic Instinct Software has created a "mash-up" of more than 1,000 NOAA raster charts for the entire coastline of the U.S. (including Hawaii and Alaska) and Google Earth satellite images available to view at

Users can pan left and right, zoom in and out, and even control the opacity of the overlay so the satellite image is still visible. We have no clue how it all works — and we really don’t care — but this made everyone in the office say "Way cool!"

Anyone Going To Stockton?

“Hey, buddy, goin’ my way?” Latitude’s Race Editor Rob Grant is looking to hitch a ride for tomorrow’s Delta Ditch Run. Sextant, optional.

©2008 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

In the last week, I happened to mention to a few people that I’d be driving up to Stockton to get the lowdown on the Delta Ditch Run. Inevitably, I would get asked "Have you done the race?" When folks found out I hadn’t, the response was always, "Oh, you gotta do it. It’s sooo much fun . . . ." After hearing this over and over, I’ve decided at the last minute to troll for a ride!

So, this racing editor is offering his services for tomorrow’s slide in return for a chance to break out the camera every now and again and maybe jot down a few notes along the way. My sailing resume includes a few spectator-only rides on some rockin’ multihulls, keelboat sailing on everything from J/24s to sleds, and dinghy sailing including enjoying getting pasted by the competitive Vanguard 15 fleet 53 at Treasure Island. Send me a note here if you have a spot to fill. Thanks!

Top Cruising Cat Speeds

Pete and Susan Wolcott’s M&M 52 Kiapa, thanks to a fine design and light build, has no trouble hitting into the 20s.

Schooner Creek Boatworks
©2008 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

At the end of Wednesday’s ‘Lectronic report on John Haste’s San Diego-based Perry 52 cruising cat Little Wing hitting 29.5 knots under main and genoa in the Caribbean, we asked for other owners of cruising cats to report their top speeds.

Brit Richard Woods, who is currently sailing out of British Columbia, says he got his 32-ft cat Eclipse up to 21 knots shortly after she was launched, and later hit 16 knots while crossing the Atlantic. You may remember that many ocean miles later, Eclipse was abandoned during a Tehuantepecker.

Scott and Cindy Stolnitz of the Marina del Rey-based Switch 51 Beach House report they hit 23.5 knots off Cabo Creus, which is at the border of France and Spain and known as ‘The Cape Horn of the Med’. As was the case with Eclipse, this was just after Beach House was launched. By the way, the Stolnitzes are currently in La Paz, where they not surprisingly report that it’s "hot."

We haven’t heard from Paul Biery of the Emeryville-based Catana 43 New Focus yet, but on several previous occasions he told us that his cat hit something like 24 knots off the central coast of California. This happened during the delivery sail, when former owner Dean Daniels insisted it was alright to carry the chute when it was "blowing 40 and the sea was white." The chute didn’t survive the trip down the coast, but Biery has subsequently cruised the cat more than 25,000 miles. As for Daniels, he’s aiming for Pacific Cup honors in July with the Hobie 33 Sleeping Dragon.

While at Catalina a few weeks ago, we bumped into Pete and Susan Wolcott of the Kauai-based M&M 52 cat Kiapa that was built by Schooner Creek in Portland and launched about a year ago. We only got a few moments to speak with Pete, but he told us that the boat came in so light that she flew down the Central Coast of California, often sailing at over 20 knots. As for Susan, she says she almost feels guilty at how comfortable their boat is. We’ll have more details on their top speeds — and cat — before they do the Ha-Ha this fall.

What about Profligate, Latitude‘s 63-ft cat? When she was new and therefore still relatively light, we got her up to 23.5 knots reaching on the Bay while flying a full main and her tiny jib. But she hit her top speed of 25.3 knots under a double-reefed main and small jib on the way from Antigua to Panama, a passage that included many 20+ knot bursts and sometimes had us looking for the brake pedal.

Just so nobody gets the wrong idea, we agree with Woods that top speeds can be very deceptive relative to average speeds, and that a good rule of thumb is that you’ll average half of your top speed. It’s also worth noting that, while high speeds are often possible, they’re not necessarily always desirable. As far as we’re concerned, hitting the 20s during the day for a few hours isn’t bad, nor is hitting 15 during the night. Beyond that, you might find it more relaxing and comfortable to sail a little slower, thank you.

Tim Sell’s Lucky Star anchored in an idyllic cove in Glacier Bay. © 2008 Tim Sell Last spring, longtime Sausalito diver Tim Sell sailed his Brent Swain 36 Lucky Star to Juneau, Alaska, spending the summer exploring the area and the winter trying to stay warm.
Little Wing sailing off St. Barth on New Year’s Day ’04. Has any Bob Perry designed boat sailed as fast as this 52-footer with a complete cruising interior?