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October 8, 2008

Hurricane Headed for Baja

Hurricane Norbert is 600 miles off Baja right now but is predicted to take a sharp right turn at Bahia Santa Maria.


Category 3 Hurricane Norbert, which will pack winds of 110 knots, has formed off the coast of Mexico. Although still 600 miles from land, current projections have him making a nearly 90° turn, then hitting land 72 hours from now at Bahia Santa Maria, which is about 175 miles north of Cabo San Lucas. A lot of things can happen to change his path, but everyone on both sides of Baja, as well as anywhere in the Sea of Cortez, needs to be on the alert. If Norbert‘s path continues, please take all the necessary precautions, including stripping everything off the outside of your boat.

Norbert’s predicted track has him passing over Baja on Saturday.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

If Norbert were to come ashore at Bahia Santa Maria, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, as there is very little to destroy there, and much of his force would be lost in the tall mountains of the Sierra Gigantica before he crossed over to the Sea of Cortez.

The Sierra Gigante mountain range will hopefully act as a shield for the more populated eastern side of Baja.

Google Earth
© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

If you’re slated to do the Baja Ha-Ha, don’t freak out, as the conditions for hurricanes tend to change very quickly at this time of year. In the 14 years we’ve done the Ha-Ha, there have been plenty of October hurricanes off Mexico, yet there have only been a couple in November — all of them way down by the border with Guatemala. In the last 50 years there has never been a November hurricane that came near the Ha-Ha course. Of course, we’re as scared of hurricanes as you are, so the Grand Poobah will be contacting Commander’s Weather daily during the Ha-Ha to not only see if a tropical storm is forming, but even if conditions are conducive to such a storm forming.

Collision between Falcon and Stand-By

According to those aboard Maltese Falcon, including a Bay pilot, the Nordic 40 Stand-By T-boned the Falcon after inexplicably luffing up.

© 2008 Peter Lyons

Last Saturday there was a collision between the Nordic 40 Stand-By and Maltese Falcon on San Francisco Bay. The smaller boat plowed into the 289-ft yacht’s starboard beam, damaging a bit of the hull and rail. The top of the mast also punched a hole in one of Falcon’s sails. As for the smaller boat, a big chunk was taken out of her bow.

Falcon’s cap rail and a little bit of her hull took the brunt of the damage from Stand-By’s bow.

©2008 Latitude 38 Media, LLC
Falcon’s crew was up till 1 a.m. repairing the hole Stand-By’s mast punched in one of the big yacht’s 15 sails. The repair had to be done with the sail in place.

©2008 Latitude 38 Media, LLC
Stand-By heading back to port with a bite out of her bow. Fortunately neither boat was damaged too badly and nobody was hurt.

© 2008 James Morgan

We haven’t been able to locate the skipper of Stand-By for comment, but Perkins posted his version of what happened on photographer Peter Lyons’ website to accompany the many photos Lyons captured of the incident. It reads as follows:

"A few minutes before this photo sequence was taken, the Falcon had turned to port, to give the right of way to the smaller yacht, which was to leeward on the starboard tack. The Stand-By was originally on a roughly reciprocal course to that of the Falcon. Prior to the photos shown here, Stand-By was bearing away, and the two yachts were on safe courses to pass roughly with a distance of 200 feet separation. After Stand-By had sailed past the Falcon’s bow, the smaller vessel suddenly rounded up, possibly to tack in order to follow the Falcon, when she lost control. With her main sheeted hard in, the smaller boat was unable to bear away to avoid a collision. A San Francisco Bay Pilot was on the Falcon’s bridge overseeing the Falcon’s course at all times. The pilot is also an experienced sailor and sailboat owner. Because of the Falcon’s tonnage, a licensed pilot is required whenever the yacht is underway, approaching, or inside the Bay. The Stand-By did not stop after the collision. The Falcon furled her sails and pursued the 40-footer under power, in order to determine her name and registration number. The pilot radioed the U.S. Coast Guard, which intercepted Stand-By and boarded her. The accident was caused by Stand-By’s sudden change of course, which was much too quick to permit the Falcon to respond. The Falcon sustained damage to hull, capping rail, superstructure and main lower topsail, but fortunately there were no injuries to persons aboard either vessel."

We spoke to others who were aboard Falcon, such as Tad Lacey, who has been sailing and racing the Bay for more than 50 years, and they were dumbfounded at what happened. Lacey and the others said the boats were passing with no problem until Stand-By suddenly luffed up.

We sailed aboard Falcon the next day, and can confirm that many small boat skippers seemed intent on getting as close as possible to Falcon — even if it meant crossing a short distance in front of her bow with a backwinded genoa or sailing on a reciprocal course. Please folks, give a little room. Besides, the view is even better from several hundred feet away.

This boat nearly hit Falcon the day she arrived on the Bay. Note the sailboat on the other side is nearly as close. Come on folks, what’s the point of getting this close, particularly at such an angle?

© 2008 Derek Stroening

The day we were aboard Falcon, four or five people were always on careful watch to avoid the many small boats. They included Perkins at the helm, Chris the skipper, Bay Pilot P.W. Fuller, who owns a Beneteau 41, one crewmember on the bow, and often another crewmember on the bridge. And despite being the bigger boat, Falcon often changed course to stay as clear as possible.

The Bay belongs to all boats, large and small. There is plenty of room for everyone, just use a little common sense and courtesy.

Hannah, Hoping to Crew on the Ha-Ha

Hannah, who’d like to find a berth on a Ha-Ha boat, at the helm while sailing off Spain.

Hannah Knipple
© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Still looking to crew on the Ha-Ha? Then you’re in the same boat — ahem — as Hannah Knipple, who graduated Pre-Med from Trinity College last year. Knipple had planned to live in Spain for the next few months, but those plans fell through at the last minute. Having worked as a deckhand aboard the Long Beach-based 156-ft schooner Tole Mour this spring, Knipple says she’s dying to get back on the water and into her next adventure.

Hannah, seen in the rigging, knows her way around boats.

Hannah Knipple
© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

"I think the most pertinent thing about me is my ability to work hard and my love of anything that keeps me active on the water and in the sun. I grew up in the Finger Lakes and was a swimmer and lifeguard while in school at both Exeter and Trinity. I spent many summers working as a lifeguard and swim instructor at various sports and outdoors camps. My final semester at Trinity I coxed for the women’s crew team, and this past summer I built a wooden kayak, rigged with a small sail."

If you need crew for the Ha-Ha, you can contact Hannah for a copy of her impressive resume.

As for the rest of you looking to crew, we think your best options to get a Ha-Ha slot are to:

  1. Take out an ad in ‘Lectronic Latitude (email Shawn);
  2. Contact every skipper who posted a ‘Looking for Crew‘ ad on the Ha-Ha website; and
  3. Show up at the Kick-Off Party in San Diego — sea bag in hand — on October 26, which is the day before the start.

Good luck to everyone.

Wassup with WAAS?

If you’ve experienced odd problems with your GPS lately, you’re not alone. A number of sailors have reported that after booting up their GPS recently, the screen simply goes blank.

According to several cruisers in-the-know, the problem has to do with a recently launched satellite whose software affects GPS units which employ the WAAS protocol.

While we have not yet had confirmation from manufacturers, word on the docks is that the quick fix is for affected users to simply disable WAAS from within their unit’s set-up menu. But that’s a band-aid approach, of course. The complete fix will occur when users download new software from their unit’s manufacturer. However, in some cases, we’re told, that software may not be quite ready for distribution. Obviously, those affected should check with their GPS suppliers for a more detailed explanation.

Falcon has spectacular curves, both aloft and in the superstructure. Unlike most large yachts, she has a high ratio of open deck space, making her look unusually graceful.
The disappearance of Southern California powerboaters Henry Sanchez and Penny Avila late Wednesday night still remains a mystery, despite several days of searching by Coast Guard rescue divers and other resources.