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February 27, 2009


The latest Vendée Globe race has been brutal enough without an obstacle course thrown in at the last minute. When this container was reported offshore of France — right in the path of finishing Vendée boats — a Marine Nationale ship was sent out to retrieve it.

The Cremation of Vaval

Vaval strung up and ready for cremation. But what’s with the fire? When we took Firebuilding 101 at U.C., we were taught to soak the bottom pallets in gas or diesel, and burn from the bottom up.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

In most places where Carnival is celebrated, all the wild times are supposed to end at midnight on Tuesday — Mardi Gras. It’s then that you’re supposed to give up something dear for Lent. "Religion," one wag suggested.

But as you might expect, they do things differently in the French West Indies. For on the evening of Ash Wednesday, there’s another big celebration, the Cremation of Vaval. Everyone dresses in black and white for this event and, on St. Barths, parades around the streets, following the drummers and old Vaval who is carried on a stretcher. The ultimate destination is Shell Beach, where Vaval is to be strung up and burned.

The lovely and sweet Kat, and a friend, danced in the surf, making it easy to accept the delay in the burning of Vaval.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

It’s something of an unofficial tradition on the island for the lighters of the fire, who are apparently firemen, to have a terrible time getting the darn bonfire going. They don’t have many fires on St. Barth, so they seem a little short on experience. But the crowd of 1,000 or so, which for reasons we can’t explain, was much larger this year than last, didn’t seem to mind. After all, the ‘ti punch was flowing, the drums were pounding, and lovely women such as Kat were dancing in the warm surf. And, as you can see from the photos, the pile of wood and Vaval eventually became the inferno that everyone was looking for. After a little more dancing, drinking and hollering, everyone gladly went home, eagerly looking forward to a little post Carnival rest.

After about half an hour of false starts, the fire finally took hold, helped to a large extent by Vaval’s flammable rubber boots.

©2009 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

DBW Dodges a Bullet – for Now

Boaters dodged a bullet last week when California passed the state budget . . . without Governor Schwarzenegger’s proposal to merge the Department of Boating and Waterways (aka Cal Boating) with the Department of Parks and Recreation. The real reason for the proposed merge appears to have been to raid DBW’s well-run wallet to make up for Parks’ ever-present deficit. Thanks to a ‘Call to Arms’ by Recreational Boaters of California that urged the boating community to make their voices heard, the proposal was slashed from the final version of the budget.

But RBOC isn’t congratulating themselves too much yet. They note that the proposal could be submitted on its own at any time, and they’re encouraging boaters to let your legislators know that you’re opposed to the elimination of DBW. To find out more, go to

Boating Tragedy Has Lessons for All

In a tragic docking mishap several days ago, this bright young Australian was fatally injured.

© van Os family

Cruisers Jim and Emma Mather of the Redondo Beach-based Down East 45 Blue Sky alerted us to a horrible boating accident that occurred several days ago in Thailand, where they are currently cruising with their kids, Phoebe and Drake. As sad as it is, the Mathers feel there are valuable lessons to be learned from this tragic incident.

Australian Ali van Os, 16, was with her parents aboard a friend’s boat at Phuket’s Yacht Haven Marina when a monstrous ‘superyacht’ approached. She instinctively jumped up to have a closer look, but when the yacht surged into a wharf where she was standing she was struck in the head, apparently by a 4-inch hawser.

The vibrant teenager was rushed to Phuket’s Bangkok Hospital, where she is said to have received excellent care, but her head trauma and substantial blood loss apparently caused extensive brain damage. On Monday, Ali’s parents, author Joanne van Os and attorney Lex Silvester, reluctantly made the decision to turn off their daughter’s life support system.

Family friend Terri Robson was quoted as saying Ali was an "amazing young woman. . . one of those people that’s just so engaging. People were entranced by her."

Phoebe, Drake, Emma and Jim Mather crossed to French Polynesia in the spring of ’06, and have slowly been working their way west.

© Mather family

The Mathers were deeply saddened by the tragedy, as they had spent Christmas with the van Os/Silvester family, and had gotten to know Ali well. "She was a very special girl, and a person that will not be forgotten," explains Jim.

He asked us to spread the word to other boating parents so they can recognize the hazards of docking, and keep their children an appropriate distance away. "Our two children are still very small so it has always been our rule that they occupy themselves below deck when we are docking or anchoring. If Emma and I are assisting another boat to or from a dock, the children stand back (way back)." Blue Sky will soon depart Thailand and head west across the Indian Ocean.

New Latitude Hits Stands March 2

The March issue of Latitude 38 will be worth the wait.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Here at Latitude 38‘s World Headquarters we’ve been besieged by queries wondering when the March issue of the magazine will be available. Typically it hits the streets on the first of every month, sometimes a couple days earlier if the first falls on a weekend — like this month. Due to the fact that February is such a short month, we’ve had to bump the March issue’s release date forward to Monday, March 2, to accommodate production and printing schedules. We hope you’ll find it’s worth the wait!

A little pirate and his mum got splattered with confetti as they walked in front of one of the colorful music troops.
Intrepid photographer Peter Lyons captured Sunday’s action, rain be damned. © Peter Lyons Constant, heavy rain on Sunday wasn’t enough to deter over 60% of the Corinthian YC Midwinters fleet from showing up for the final day of the series.