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January 16, 2009

The Thief of 39

Even after the thief was caught redhanded with items stolen off parked boats at Pier 39, Harbormaster Sheila Chandor was unsure how to proceed. It didn’t make much sense to call the police, since the fenders in question were stolen by . . . a sea otter.

“We don’t know how he got them off, but he had a great time playing with them,” she said of ‘Ollie’, who had little fear of people and soon endeared himself to the Pier 39 crew. But duty was duty, and they tried diligently to retrieve the stolen fenders and return them to boat owners. “There was one particular fender that he really liked and wouldn’t give up. We actually had a tug of war over that one, with him holding onto it with one paw while the other paw hung onto a boat!” The burglaries finally ceased after the Pier 39 crew made Ollie a fender toy of his own.

Ollie was a tagged otter and a few calls revealed that he had been released some weeks earlier in Monterey Bay. Eventually, Monterey Bay Aquarium personnel came and collected the AWOL otter and re-released him somewhere down south.

The foregoing is one of many stories we’ve collected for a feature called ‘A Week in the Life of a Harbormaster’ which will appear in the February issue of Latitude 38, due to hit the streets on January 30. Check it out.

50-Year Storm Devastates Nadi

Today, flood waters are finally subsiding in Fiji’s tourism center, Nadi, after three days of torrential rain devastated the area during the peak of tourist season.

According to Paul McCulloch, owner of the Robinson Crusoe Island resort, a cyclone passed far to the south of the Fijian islands causing no harm initially, but when the system became stationary it held a band of low pressure over the islands for three days with gale-force winds. "We normally have severe flooding once every 10 years or so, but it’s usually only flash flooding. This time we literally had buckets of rain falling for days. It’s the worst storm we’ve had in 50 years. Six thousand people are homeless and there have been at least six deaths."

Already, however, business owners and private individuals are digging out and cleaning up. McCulloch, an Aussie native who has lived in Fiji for 20 years, notes that, "Fijians are a very resiliant people. They’ll have the place put back together soon." As with the devasting tsunami that walloped Phuket in 2004, the worst thing that could happen to Fiji now is for tourists to stop coming. The already-depressed local economy needs the input of tourist dollars now, more than ever.

Need Some Extra Cash?

"Valiant 40 SOLD! Latitude 38 was out less than a week, and my boat sold for CASH. Thank you!" That from a reader who placed a Classy Classified in a recent issue of our magazine. But Classies can be used to sell more than just boats — get creative and you’ll find several ways they can benefit you. For just $40, you can turn all that sailing junk in your garage into a wad of cash. Or you might find someone to share boat expenses in exchange for time on the water. Or maybe you’re sick of the grind and want to trade your condo for a cruising boat. Let your imagination run wild, but be sure to place your ad by this Sunday at 5 p.m. to make the February issue of Latitude.

New Details Emerge For Corinthian Mids

With less than 24 hours to go before the year’s first big bang — the Corinthian YC Midwinters — new details are emerging which some sources say have the potential to put this event even further over the top than it already is.

A pundit who wished to remain anonymous for reasons of propriety, took issue with statements the club made yesterday regarding Saturday night’s musical entertainment — the Left Coast All Stars, who go onstage at 5 p.m.

"Phrases like ‘hardest-groovin’, ‘Jazzfunk’, ‘SoulJammin’, ‘straight-up-booty-shakin’, ‘Afro-beat’, and ‘funk’n SoulJazz’, are not words typically associated with Yacht Club entertainment," he bellowed. "This indicates that Corinthian YC is blatantly flouting the convention of employing banal wedding DJs or bad reggae bands to drive away the racers after sailing. In light of recent claims that Rear Commodore Andre Klein will dance a hula should the wind fail to materialize, it’s evident that anyone expecting proper yacht club decorum will be outraged!"

Over 130 boats have entered so far. The Sailing Instructions and division splits are posted. Entries can still be done online, and if at least three boats from your club are sailing, make sure to enter your three-boat team in the Aotea Team Trophy competition. According to a source close to the the club "Corinthian YC intends to defend the trophy like an Illinois governor" — leaving open the possibility that the trophy is for sale to the highest bidder in a wire-tapped auction and will possibly be re-dedicated as the Aoeteavich trophy in a ceremony riddled with f-bombs.

$12 Billion in Losses & Still Living the High Life

Roman, not really looking like a guy in his 30s, owns over a billion dollars worth of motoryachts.

©2009 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

If you follow the news, you know that Russian oligarchs are among the richest people in the world, but that they have suffered almost unfathomable financial losses in the last year. Among them is Roman Abramovich, known in yachting circles for having the world’s largest private navy of pleasure yachts.

According to Forbes Magazine, in March of ’08, Abramovich was the 16th richest person in the world, with a fortune of $23.5 billion. But according to Wikipedia, Abramovich "has lost most of his fortune due to the worldwide financial crisis of of ’09."

Abramovich often spends New Year’s and parts of the winter on his yachts in St. Barth, so when we saw his 377-ft Pelorus on the hook near our tiny cat a few weeks ago, we were wondering if the poor guy was having trouble paying his bills.

Apparently not. While on the town last night, friends in the know said that when Roman wanted to send a lady friend back to Moscow from St. Martin last week, he didn’t use either of his two smaller but perfectly capable jets stationed at the airport, but rather his Boeing 767. The woman was the only passenger. Roman had bought the 767 from Hawaiian Airlines before they took delivery and had it refitted to his personal standards.

“Honey, why don’t you take the big jet back to Moscow?” Abramovich’s Boeing 767 in a file photo taken in Israel.

©2009 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

In other news that would suggest Abramovich won’t be selling apples on the street corners soon, he’s said to have just plunked down $40 million for a hilltop villa in St. Barth to overlook his fleet.

We’re not sure the following is accurate, but according to Wikipedia, in addition to Pelorus, Abramovich’s navy includes the brand new 525-ft Eclipse, which at $300 million is said to be both the largest and most expensive private yacht in the world; the 282-ft Ecstasea, the largest Feadship ever built; the 370-ft Le Grand Bleu, one of the megayachts formerly owned by the McCaw family, but which Abramovich has since "given" an associate; and the 163-ft Sussurro, which is used as a tagalong yacht.

Despite having a "40-man private army" to protect him, the young — mid-30s — and undistinguished looking Abramovich can be seen from time to time walking around St. Barth alone or sipping wine in bars. If he’s got money problems, he’s faking it really well.

In any event, the Russian economy is in shambles, the average Russian is hurting and afraid, and there have been incidents of civil unrest across the country. While it’s true that Abramovich may be a one-man stimulus package for the megayacht industry, it’s a little unseemly, don’t you think?

Abramovich had to best six other bidders to get the 377-ft Pelorus. Eclipse, his new yacht, is said to be 525 feet, the largest in the world. Ridiculous.

©2009 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Coming back to reality, last night we bumped into Donny Anderson of San Diego, whom we first met in the late ’70s when he was running Belvedere Bill Clute’s Peterson 41 High Noon at the Southern Ocean Racing Conference in Florida. Anyway, Donny has done pretty well for himself over the years. During the Il Moro years in the America’s Cup, he ran Italian Raoul Gardini’s boats, and up until a few years ago, he ran Jimmy Buffett’s motoryacht. Donny is currently the captain of a Delta 161 motoryacht, and has been doing the Capri, Portofino, San Remo, St. Tropez, Caribbean, Florida circuit.

Donny knows full well that the megayacht industry is hurting. Many of the yachts that normally come to the Caribbean for the winter have either stayed in Europe or Florida with skeleton crews. And many of the yachts that did come to the Caribbean have few, if any, charters. As such, he tells his "kids," meaning his 10 crew, not to be foolish and lose their jobs in this economy.

As for Donny, he’s the same casual and unpretentious guy that he’s always been. He still owns a home in Pt. Loma and has many friends in San Diego, but as a captain, it’s his lot in life to not be able to visit his home or old friends that often.

Being a captain or crewmember on an expensive yacht may seem like the life, but everyone in that field will tell you it has its drawbacks. The overwhelming one is that your home is wherever the owner happens to want the yacht to be at the time. So while it’s true that head stewardesses on not even the largest yachts can make $100,000 a year, have no expenses, pay virtually no taxes, and get three months off, it’s not exactly a complete life. Try, for example, to have a stable relationship — let alone raise a family — in those circumstances.

The proud craftsman takes a trophy run around the marina, while his partner’s daughter, Martine, toasts his splendid accomplishment.
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.
Sam Davies celebrates Christmas. Is she sailing’s next superstar? © 2009 Samantha Davies / Roxy Sailing / Vendée Globe Every now and then competitors rise above their chosen sports to become media stars.
Team Natural Blues skipper Dan Brandt gets a 9.8 for style on this dismount at the 2008 St.