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October 24, 2008

The Weather is Beautiful

With the 15th annual Baja Ha-Ha from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas slated to start on Monday, the weather couldn’t be better. It’s been warm and dry most of the week, and tomorrow, Sunday, and Monday should see the high 70s, if not 80°.
As for weather on the first leg from San Diego to Turtle Bay, Commanders Weather is advising that not many people should be getting seasick. A weak offshore high means that Monday’s winds are going to be six to 12 knots, with very flat sea conditions. As the fleet moves farther down the coast, the winds could be in the 10- to 15-knot range. As usual, there will be stronger winds in the afternoon and lighter winds at night. Should you go offshore or onshore? That’s a tough call, as there will be more wind offshore at night, but a stronger afternoon seabreeze near the shore. No matter where you go, there should be plenty of opportunity for light air spinnaker practice.
Ha-Ha folks are everywhere in San Diego — at the marina, stores, banks, West Marine, Downwind Marine, the local eateries . . . everywhere. The mood is buoyant. Wish you all were here!

Bar Pilot Found Responsible for Oil Spill

The State Board of Pilot Commissioners found yesterday that John Cota, the Bay pilot aboard the Cosco Busan last November 7 when it hit the Bay Bridge, made seven serious mistakes that directly caused the 54,000-gallon oil spill that polluted Bay waters, fouled miles of shoreline and killed thousands of animals.

The commission concluded that chief among Cota’s errors were:

  • he should not have left in the fog
  • he couldn’t read the ship’s electronic charts
  • he had difficulty communicating with the Chinese crew
  • he didn’t resolve a problem with the ship’s radar
  • and he was moving too fast.

The finding means little at this point as Cota, 60, voluntarily retired on October 1, and the only action the commission was allowed would have been to revoke his pilot’s license. Federal criminal charges and several lawsuits are pending against Cota and the Hong Kong company that owned the ship.

FCC Approves AIS Class B Transponders

After years of hemming and hawing, the FCC has finally approved Class B AIS transponders for recreational vessels. Just so everyone is up to speed, AIS stands for Automatic Identification System, which is a way for ships and smaller vessels to electronically exchange data such as who and where they are, how fast they are going on what course, and much more. The idea is that this will prevent vessels from smacking into one another. Class A units are required for vessels over 300 tons that travel internationally, and Class B for smaller vessels that aren’t otherwise required to carry them.

Class B transmit-and-receive units have been available throughout the rest of the world for years but the FCC was hesitant to approve them here. Receive-only units were all that U.S. boaters were allowed to use in U.S. waters. But with the recent approval, boater should expect to see a variety of units — from bare-bones models to high-end freestanding units — on the shelves of retailers within weeks.

For more details on Class B transponders, be sure to pick up the next issue of Latitude 38, due to hit the streets on October 31.

Deleon Found Guilty

On Monday, the seven-woman, five-man jury in Skylar Deleon’s triple-murder trial took two hours to find Deleon guilty of the 2004 murders of cruisers Tom and Jackie Hawks, as well as another man in an unrelated 2003 incident. Two hours may seem like a quick verdict until you find out that Deleon’s attorney admitted his client’s guilt in his opening statement!

The verdicts of multiple murders for financial gain make Deleon, 26, more than eligible for the death penalty, and prosecutor Matt Murphy has made no secret that he intends to ask for it. Deleon’s attorney, Gary Pohlson, hopes to save his life by proving Deleon is no more guilty than others involved with the murders who will not face the death penalty.

Prosecutors contend that Deleon was the ringleader in the plan to murder the Hawkses, and therefore deserves to die. They say he and Jennifer gained the trust of the couple, who were trying to sell their trawler so they could move closer to their first grandchild. During a test sail on November 15, 2004, Deleon, Machain and another accomplice overpowered the Hawkses, forced them to sign financial documents, tied them to a 66-lb anchor, and threw them overboard.

The penalty phase of the trial began on Wednesday, and will likely go on much longer than the abbreviated trial that lasted just five days.

"With the new cruising season upon us, I’d like everyone to know that the Nayarit Riviera Marina has already assigned an area for dinghies to land in the marina, and that there will be no charge to use it," reports marina manager Christian Mancebo.
As of today, Commander’s Weather is calling for mild to moderate weather on the way from San Diego to Turtle Bay.
Lady Washington will sail under the Gate tomorrow, side by side with another Bay regular, Hawaiian Chieftain.