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January 5, 2009

New Years in the Caribbean

Ira Epstein, who still has a house in Bolinas, drives his classic Robert Clark 65 Lone Fox on the windward leg of the New Year’s Eve Race/Parade. Ira has based out of St. Barth for three seasons now, and doesn’t appear to be in any hurry to leave.

©2009 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

The difficult economic times were certainly evident in St. Barths, the most très chic of the Caribbean Islands, over the New Year holidays. Yes, Nicolas Sarkozy, President of France, and his wife Carla Bruni, famous for her nude photos on the internet, stopped by the tiny island. And sure, Larry Ellison was there with his 452-ft Rising Sun, Roman Abramovich was in attendance with his 377-ft Pelorus, and Paul Allen was his usual stiff self while he played a credible guitar with other rockers aboard his 416-ft Octopus. But the overall number of megayachts was down, and some of the regulars just never showed up. That’s why it seemed odd that we bumped into an unprecedented number of sailors from the West Coast. All of them are living proof that, if you have a boat, you can have a ball at some of the most desirable places in the world — and on a budget.

Mark Sciarretta of San Diego picked up a younger woman . . . but he’s been disappointed in how she responds to his touch. “There’s more feel with monohulls than my Lagoon 380,” he explains.

©2009 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

One of the first West Coast people we bumped into was Mike Harker of the Manhattan Beach-based Hunter 49 Wanderlust 3. Some readers may remember that Harker learned to sail during the ’00 Baja Ha-Ha aboard his Hunter 34. Since then, he’s sailed 50,000 ocean miles, most of them singlehanded, including an 11-month west-around circumnavigation. After spending the winter in the Caribbean, Mike’s going to take off on an east-around circumnavigation. That means next summer in Croatia, where he has many friends, and next New Year in Thailand.

Mike Harker never touched alcohol until last week. The two young German nurses he had as crew told him a glass of wine three to five nights a week would be good for him. No wonder he’s smiling.

©2009 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

How much does it cost to cruise some of the best places in the world? "Over the last year, I’ve averaged about $900 a month," says Harker. "That includes everything, except my boat loan." Mike could easily afford to own a paid-off lesser boat, but he enjoys sailing in luxury.

"Hey, I remember you from the ’00 Ha-Ha," said Mark Scarietta of the San Diego-based Beneteau First 41S5 Consigliare, as he bumped into Harker at the Le Select Bar. Scarietta was in St. Barth because he’d been here about four years ago with John Haste aboard the San Diego-based Perry 52 cat Little Wing — and loved it. In fact, this time he sailed over in the Lagoon 380 Younger Girl, which he bought a few months ago on the East Coast. Scarietta is one of the few people who has moved to a cat from a monohull and doesn’t like it. In fact, he’s already thinking about moving to a Jeanneau 54 DS. All he has to do is sell the two sailboats he already owns.

The midnight fireworks show at Gustavia was good enough, but like the economy, wasn’t up to previous years.

©2009 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

A Northern California couple who recently sold their Lagoon 380 Moonshine are John and Lynn Ringseis of Novato, who did this year’s Ha-Ha aboard Profligate. A longtime charter captain/cook combo, they were in St. Barth running a charter boat for a friend. In fact, they’ll be down for most of a month. Even though they only recently sold their boat, they’re already sniffing around again. "We just love the Caribbean," says Lynn, "there’s no way we could spend the entire year in Novato."

We’d tell you about the other California sailors in St. Barth for the holidays, but we’re out of room.

The big event, of course, was the New Year’s Eve Around the Island Parade, which usually features winds in the mid-20s, big seas, and even bigger boats. Alas, this wasn’t to be a year with three boats in the 170-ft range, and an average boat size of 135 feet. Indeed, the great 152-ft schooner Windrose was the only 100+ footer in the fleet. In any event, after days of stormy and squally conditions, the weather turned gorgeous — albeit light — for the 23 participants. Correcting out first in the fleet was the Swan 82 Capo Giro, which had Reggie Cole of Marina del Rey aboard. Rumor is there was also a Hollywood guy. We’re not gossips, so we won’t mention his name. He was, however, the star of American Gigolo, Pretty Woman, Officer and a Gentleman, Chicago and so forth.

Stiffed by the billionaires, we spent our New Year’s Eve sipping rosé with the likes of Lynn and John, vets of this year’s Ha-Ha. We wouldn’t have had it any other way.

©2009 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

That night was New Year’s Eve, of course, with all the fireworks and other hoopla. Inexplicably, the invitations for us to join Larry, Roman and Paul aboard their yachts to welcome in the new year all went missing. As such, we sat outside at Baz Bar until about 3 in the morning, sipping rosé under the stars, sharing tales with new and old sailing friends, and luxuriating in the soothing temperatures of a Caribbean night.

Our New Year couldn’t have started better. We hope it was the same for you. If not, you have something to shoot for in the upcoming year.

Did You Get What You Wanted?

Did you get what you wanted for the holidays? If you forced a gracious smile when you opened the package of socks that you secretly hoped was a hot Latitude 38 t-shirt, now’s the time to treat yourself. Just hop on over to our online Chandlery and pick your favorite color. We also offer shirts for the wenches and swabs in your life — who knows, maybe they were hoping for one too!

Pier 1 1/2 is Hopping

Not such a secret – Pier 1 1/2 has been ‘discovered’ by Bay Area boaters.

©2009 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

In the December 5 edition of ‘Lectronic, as well as the January issue of Latitude 38, we reported on the Bay’s best kept secret: Pier 1½, a free public dock next-door to the Ferry Building. Well, it’s not such a secret anymore, as Race Editor Rob Grant found out this weekend when he tried to tie up the Latitude photoboat. "It was packed," Grant reported. "And when I asked some folks how they found out about the dock, they said they read it in Latitude!"

Pier 1 1/2 is tucked in next to the California Hornblower and is a perfect drop-off or pick-up spot for crew and guests – if there’s room.

©2009 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Grant points out that the surge from ferries and commercial traffic is clearly the common-sense reasoning behind the dock’s ‘no rafting’ rule, and suggests doubling up on docklines and adding spring lines, no matter how long you plan to stay. The 180-ft dock, open from 10 a.m.-10 p.m., has a three-hour limit and can accommodate boats up to 40 feet.

The Case of the Missing Buoy

The USCG Cutter Aspen recovered the Sea Buoy, which is ‘in the shop’ for repairs.

© 2009 USCG

For a typical sailor, the fact that an offshore navigational buoy mysteriously disappeared last Tuesday probably wouldn’t be earthshaking news. But imagine how you’d feel if your were a bar pilot charged with bringing an enormous freighter safely into port, and the buoy in question was the crucial Sea Buoy. It normally lies 12 miles offshore, pinpointing the proper approach to the Golden Gate.

Of course, pilots have a variety of navigational aids to guide them in, so the greater concern was that the 32-ft high, 26-ton monster might be adrift out there somewhere, posing a serious threat to mariners. Imagine the damage it could do to your boat if you smacked into it doing hull speed on a foggy night.

Thankfully, the mystery was soon solved. The Sea Buoy had simply sprung a leak and sunk to the bottom, where it was recovered, still attached to its mooring, by the 225-ft Coast Guard Cutter Aspen. A replacement buoy is now in position while the original is being repaired. The Coast Guard is investigating the possibility that an outgoing ship may have struck the Sea Buoy while exiting the Bay.

In the December 19 edition of ‘Lectronic, we encouraged everyone to take to the waters in celebration of the shortest day of the year — they only get longer from here!
Readers — On December 11, Jeff Hartjoy set off from Callao, Peru, on a singlehanded nonstop trip around Cape Horn, bound for Buenos Aires, Argentina, aboard his Baba 40 Sailors Run.
Oh yeah! Having some fun now. What’s that they say about how the worst day on the water is better than the best day at work?