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June 13, 2008

First Eastern Pacific Tropical Storm of the Season

At first, there wasn’t too much debris getting caught on the yacht club’s offshore docks, or between the docks and boats.

©2008 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Tropical Storm Alma, with winds up to 55 knots, beat the official June 1 start of the Eastern Pacific hurricane season by making an appearance on May 29 and 30th. Besides being a little premature, Alma was unusual in two respects. First, she formed off the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, which is a little south for tropical storms and hurricanes. Secondly, she went almost due north and inland, as opposed to west or northwest and out to sea, and therefore snuffed herself out almost immediately.

The tropical storm took a lot of people by surprise, including ’07 Ha-Ha vets Pat and Trish Horton of the San Diego-based Beneteau Oceanis 510 Rhapsody. The couple had planned to set sail from Costa Rica YC at Puntarenas in the Gulf of Nicoya the day before the storm, but then fellow Ha-Ha’ers Noel DesMarteau and family on the Astoria, Oregon-based Morgan 452 Ketching Up fortuitously alerted them to predictions of seas to 17 feet.

But as the morning wore on, more debris got trapped, threatening to break the dock and Rhapsody free and down onto other moored boats.

©2008 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Postponing their departure, the Hortons spend the evening with friends, then turned in for the night. It blew about 30 knots through the night, and rained prodigiously. When they awoke in the morning, they heard little bangs on the hull. This wasn’t unusual, as the Costa Rica YC is located on an estuary, and from time to time, bits and pieces of vegetation flowed down the river and bumped into boat hulls. But when they looked out one of Rhapsody‘s ports in the morning, they couldn’t believe what they saw.

The yellow lettering indicates the location of the Costa Rica YC. The moorings are inside the estuary, which protects boats from big swells, but makes them vulnerable to whatever might flow down the river.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Thanks to the help of other mariners and workers at the Costa Rica YC, after about five hours of work, they were able to clear off most of the debris, eliminating the risk of their boat and the floating dock being washed downstream and into other cruising boats.

It is hurricane season in the Eastern Pacific, and soon will be in the Caribbean, so please be prepared, and hope the best for everyone.

Rumors of Bob’s Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

How’s this for the start of a Friday the 13th: One of the first emails we read this morning was a note that a "skull fracture had proved fatal" to longtime racer and Richmond YC member Bob George. You may recall from Lectronic Latitude earlier this week that Bob was aboard the Bilafer family’s Henderson 30 Family Hour on the Ditch Run when the boat hit something underwater about a mile from the finish line. The impact sent things flying, including Bob, who whacked his head on the instrument panel and received 14 staples and a cool battle scar to show for it.

Calls around the RYC phone tree revealed folks as surprised and shocked at the news as we were. But nobody had heard anything more. Finally a call to Bob’s cell phone was answered by his wife, Candy. When we somberly asked The Question, another voice came on the line. It was Bob, who swore to us he was still alive, and mending well. “Don’t eight bells me yet,” he laughed, adding, “But maybe I should send Candy down to collect my life insurance!?”

San Francisco Summer Wear

We all knew that the Southern California-like weather we’ve been having — 85-degree days with little to no wind — wouldn’t last. The brisk summer wind and fog are rolling in, so we’ve stocked our chandlery with some handsome blue-gray long-sleeve T-shirts to keep you warm and looking good. We’ve also received a shipment of coral and periwinkle baseball caps — of which we’ve been sold out — for when you finally sail out of the fog and find a sunny spot (there are still a few white caps available too).

16-Year-Old Solo Sailor Departs Tomorrow

The oldest of seven children, Zac strikes a pose with his parents, who have given his dream project their full support.

© 2008 The Sunderland Family

If you’re going to have engine problems, it’s a blessing to have them in your homeport, rather than out in the middle of the Pacific. No one knows this better than 16-year-old Zac Sunderland, who was set to begin a solo circumnavigation two weeks ago, when it was determined that the engine aboard his Islander 36 Intrepid, had "irreparable mechanical failure."

But today, all systems are go for Zac’s much-anticipated departure tomorrow from Marina del Rey. If he is able to stick to his carefully choreographed itinerary, he will return home a hero 11 months from now, having become the youngest solo circumnavigator. That distinction is currently held by Australian Jesse Martin (who, we should note, circled via the great capes, while Zac plans to transit the Panama Canal).

Springing from the family’s efforts to gain sponsorship, reports on Zac’s attempt have appeared in a wide variety of mainstream media, in some cases launching vigorous debates over the wisdom of such a campaign. But Zac, who grew up around the water and has logged thousands of sea miles, feels completely confident, and has his parents full support. Although the boat was only acquired six months ago, it has undergone a thorough refit and is now equipped with a wide range of up-to-date communications and nav gear.

In a few hours, young Zac will leave the TV crews, newspaper reporters and shore-based support team behind and begin to test his mettle in the solitary realm of singlehanded passagemaking — following in the wake of his inspiration, Robin Lee Graham, who left from Southern California in the ’60s aboard Dove. We wish Zac the best of luck on his ambitious feat, and expect to give updates on his progress here and in the pages of Latitude 38. (See the campaign’s website also.)

A 40-Year Circumnavigation?

Tortuga, seen sailing here on San Francisco Bay, is a sistership to Bag End, which has completed half a circumnavigation.

©2008 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

"We’re now in the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean and have finally crossed the longitude line that means we’ve done at least half a circumnavigation," report Don and Nancy Chism of the Antioch-based Westsail 32 Bag End. "This is no great feat for most people, but it’s taken us 18.5 years to get here."

As you might expect, we’re very interested in more details on their trip/lifestyle, and are therefore currently in the process of trying to get more information from the couple.

Slow is good, so please, let’s not hear any snide remarks about the speed of Westsail 32s.

In just the next chapter in the book on complete crap justice in California, on Wednesday Judge Richard Martin ruled there was enough evidence for 39-year-old Bismarck Dinius of Sacramento to stand trial on charges of vehicular manslaughter in the April 29, 2006, boating accident on Clear Lake that resulted in the death of Lynn Thornton.