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October 10, 2008

A Wildflower II For Skip Allan?

As most Latitude readers know, Skip Allan of Capitola, one of the best racers and cruisers that has ever come out of Northern California, scuttled his Wylie 28 Wildflower in rough weather on September 1 on his way back to California after winning the Singlehanded TransPac. The whole story appeared in the October Latitude.

There are many people, ourselves included, who don’t think the world is quite right with Allan not having his Wildflower. After all, he’d been racing and sailing her since before Latitude started publishing, and that was nearly 32 years ago.

Fortunately, one of the people who also feels that way is Tim Redfern of Spokane, Washington, who owns a Hawkfarm, which is close to being a sistership to Wildflower. He sent us the following letter:

"Tim here from the Sail Loft up at Lake Pend Oreille in northern Idaho. I have my Hawkfarm 28 advertised in your current issue, which, lo and behold, also had the story of Skip Allan’s adventure and the loss of his boat. I have no idea if a replacement Wylie is something he might want right now, but if it is, I would make a heck of a deal — like maybe transport costs only. I would be proud to know that my boat had gone to a very fine home in the hands of a brave, wise and caring — and still alive — sailor such as Skip Allan. My Hawkfarm has a diesel, folding prop, 13 sails, and all sorts of other goodies. I can be reached by email."

A tip of the Latitude hat to you, Tim, for such a generous offer. As for the transportation costs, we know lots of folks — ourselves included — who would be happy to chip in for them. So it’s up to you Skip. If you’re moving in some other direction, that’s cool. But if you’re not, please don’t give us any of that ‘I couldn’t accept such an offer’ crap. As Tim said, he’d be proud for you to have the boat, and we — and everybody else who knows you — know exactly what he means.  

Now Two Hurricanes Off Coast of Mexico

While Norbert’s winds will surely decrease once he hits land, heavy rains will likely cause flash floods.


While it’s true that Hurricane Norbert should be making landfall near Bahia Santa Maria, Baja, tomorrow at about noon, and then continue across the Baja Peninsula to near Loreto, the good news is that it’s been downgraded from a Category 1 to a Category 3 hurricane. Having slowed down somewhat, however, there is a chance it might intensify back to a Category 2 before making landfall. But also on the good side, it will also have to cross over the towering Sierra Gigantica mountains before reaching evenly lightly populated areas of Baja, which should knock 10 to 20 knots off its windspeed. However, Norbert‘s dangers will not just be limited to the wind and seas, as it’s supposed to dump six to 10 inches of rain on the Baja Peninsula, causing extensive flash flooding.

As is the case with all hurricanes, Norbert’s path is subject to change, so everyone from La Paz to north of Concepción Bay, and over near Los Mochis on the mainland, needs to make careful preparations. Our thoughts are with all of you in the hurricane’s path.

Hurricane Norbert and Tropical Storm Odile are clearly seen in this satellite image.


While not yet a hurricane, Tropical Storm Odile is blowing at about 50 knots off the coast of Acapulco on the Mexican mainland. The good news is that it looks as though it will continue to stay offshore, and will only reach hurricane force for a brief time. It’s nonetheless early, and this storm will require monitoring for the next several days.

Where Not to Be for Fleet Week

It’s time once again for Fleet Week, and while that means there’ll be some stunning aerobatics from the Blue Angels and a parade of Navy ships, it also means that the Coast Guard has set aside some space for this to take place.

The restricted area for tomorrow’s parade of ships.

© Coast Guard Sector San Francisco

Tomorrow from 11:59 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., vessel traffic will be restricted in a band from the Gate, extending out to Alcatraz and down to just south of the Bay Bridge. This is in addition to the 500-yard security zone that’ll be enforced around each Navy vessel at all times. There’s also an additional restricted area between the Cityfront and Alcatraz, reserved — but hopefully not needed — as a ditch zone for the Blue Angels from 12:30 to 5 p.m. today through Sunday.

The “ditch” area set aside for the Blue Angels from 12:30 to 5 p.m. through Sunday.

© Coast Guard Sector San Francisco

So be alert, remember to have your registration and a sufficient number of PFD’s aboard, don’t overload your boat, save the beers for when you’ve returned to the dock, and enjoy the show. There’ll likely be plenty of boardings by the Coast Guard security patrols this weekend, so make sure to leave anything you don’t want confiscated — or that might result in the confiscation of your boat — at home. More info on the restricted zones and Fleet Week safety can be found here

Engineless Replica Junk Arrives from China

Seen here on calmer seas, the Princess Tai Ping will be berthed at the Hyde St. Marina during her two-week stay.

Princess Tai Ping
© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

For generations, San Francisco Bay has attracted all sorts of vessels. But the arrival yesterday of the 54-ft Chinese junk Princess Tai Ping was unique to the Bay’s maritime history.

Launched earlier this year at Jinjiang, this flat-bottomed, engineless junk is an historically accurate replica of the 15th century trading vessels which plied the maritime ‘Silk Road’. She was built with strict adherance to ancient Chinese shipbuilding techniques, using only "natural materials."

It took Captain Nelson Liu and his crew 65 days to sail across the North Pacific from Hong Kong to the West Coast, making landfall last week at Eureka where city officials greeted them with apple pie and ice cream — a much-appreciated American treat.

Ironically, they saw the roughest conditions of the entire voyage between Eureka and San Francisco — up to 40 knots, with 20- to 30-ft waves. Remarkably, the junk reached a top speed of 14 knots during this southbound run!

Partially funded by the National Geographic Society, one goal of this voyage was to test the theory that Chinese vessels may have traveled to North America before Columbus. This fascinating ship will be in port for the next two weeks, but a schedule of Bay sails and public tours has yet to be established. Stay tuned for updates.

Singlehander Rescued Mid-Pacific

It’s hard not to admire Ronnie Simpson’s determination and spunk, even though it could have easily gotten him killed. The former Marine, 23, who was medically discharged after being wounded in Iraq — "I was in a Hummer, behind a .50 cal, when I got hit" he explained on his website — was disenchanted with "real life" so he quit school and sold his house and six motorcycles to fund a trip around the world on a 40-ft Rhodes Bounty. "I have begun to fulfill my commitment of not working, going to school, or providing any other ‘contributions’ to society, of any nature."

He and his 25-year-old brother, R.J., hatched a plan to make documentaries on the places they sailed, hoping the films would fund their adventure. "My goal is to bring valuable experiences to the people following my life and earn enough money on those experiences to continue to follow my passion," he wrote. Since R.J. was already in Hawaii, Ronnie decided to sail from San Diego to Hilo singlehanded. He’d never sailed before he bought the boat this February.

Having spent the summer "reading books" on sailing, working on La Cenicienta, living the wild and rowdy life of a young guy (lots of references to hangovers and hot chicks on his blog) and getting advice from old salts on the docks in Ocean Beach, Ronnie cast off his docklines on October 1. Yesterday, eight days into his planned circumnavigation, he set off his EPIRB and was rescued by a China-bound freighter in 35- to 40-knot winds and 20- to 30-ft seas.

In reading the log entries on his website, it’s easy to see Ronnie had idealized the trip by his constant mentions of the "light and gentle tradewinds." To his credit, he took the advice of experienced sailors, almost to the letter, but he admitted he was unprepared for the reality of a Pacific crossing. Below are a few excerpts from his blog:

October  2: "These next few days until I reach the trade winds could be very, very exhausting. I’m already becoming very tired."

October 3: "Progress is still slow and the miles are fairly hard fought, but I should be on track to make it to the trades in a few more days; something which I am very excited about."

October 4: "I can’t wait to hit the trades. It’s gonna be so sweet."

October 5: "My bilge pump stopped working . . . somehow my main water tank has become contaminated with salt water but I still have drinking water . . . and the v-berth is soaked in gasoline."

October 7: "Things are deteriorating very very quickly aboard La Cenicienta. I no longer have self steering. These are supposed to be the gentle N.E. trades. They’re not."

October 8: "I had no clue what I was getting myself into, setting off alone from California to Hawaii. I thought it was going to be an easy, pleasant run in a steady 15 knots of breeze."

October 9: "The boat is getting SLAMMED by waves. I am quickly finding God, that’s for sure."

Later in the day: "The f*&^* rudder post sheared off. There is nothing that I can do. I almost rolled over. Get me rescue asap."

La Cenicienta was dismasted in the rescue but there’s no word on if she’s still afloat. Ronnie is now safely aboard Vecchio Bridge, bound for China, from where he’ll immediately fly to Hawaii. Armchair sailors might judge the young man harshly for daring to even attempt such an endeavor with so little experience, but it’s hard to dissuade young men from doing daring things until it’s too late. We’re glad Ronnie is safe and have no doubt he’ll be on to his next adventure very soon.

The End of the Megayacht Boom?

When it comes to boat sales, the one area of the market that has continued to boom in recent years has been megayachts, particularly mega motoryachts. Indeed, in some cases speculators have bought 150+ footers and then sold them at double the price before even taking delivery. The only weakness in the megayacht market seems to have been the capacity to build them, as the demand has raged unchecked.

But things may have changed. Some of the biggest buyers have been Russian oligarch billionaires such as Roman Abramovich. If we’re not mistaken, he currently owns three or four mega motoryachts, and is having the 555-ft Eclipse built in Germany. But according to news reports, the 25 richest Russians have, between May and October 6, lost a collective $230 billion in the Russian stock market. Talk about near incomprehensible losses! And mind you, the Russian market — when it’s been allowed to open — has gone much further south since then.

And as everyone who has paid attention knows, the rest of the world markets have made a good impression of collapsing, too. Given the net losses of the megayacht owners of the world, we can only assume that this market, as well as the very high end charter market, will be much more ‘challenging’, as they say, in the future. While everyone will certainly miss the massive numbers of jobs and business opportunities generated by such megayachts, we doubt that too many tears will be shed for the owners.

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