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April 6, 2009

A Solo Sailor’s Mexican Nightmare

Shaken yet still smiling, Sarah vows to continue her cruising life.

© 2009 Sarah Andrews

As reported Friday, Australian sailor Sarah Andrews, 26, became shipwrecked along the Baja coast last week after her Ericson 39 Gabrielle struck a near-shore reef. In the aftermath, Mexican residents Shari and Juan Bondy have given Sarah shelter while she recovers. The Bondys supplied us with the following details of the tragic event.

Having bought her sloop in California six months earlier, Sarah was slowly working her way down the Baja coast, singlehanded, with the idea of polishing up her seamanship skills this year before heading west to her native Australia next spring. At the time of the mishap, however, she had temporarily taken on a crewman named Peter, as she hoped to keep pace with several other southbound boats on a passage from Bahia Asuncion to Bahia Santa Maria. She figured that having another crew on board would allow her to sail continuously without having to heave-to for naps, which is her usual custom.

Losing Gabrielle was a hard way to learn that sailing offshore is often safer than sailing near shore.

© 2009 Sarah Andrews

As with most maritime calamities, the loss of Gabrielle resulted from a series of challenges: first, the crew encountered big seas offshore and 25-knot winds, then the impeller went out on Gabrielle‘s engine. When Peter tried to repair it, he became seasick. After many hours of hand-steering, Sarah decided she needed a nap, so hove-to. At around midnight, however, she and Peter were awoken by the horrible sound of fiberglass crunching into a hard object, and Gabrielle began taking on water. When her mayday calls went unanswered, Sarah decided her best choice was to turn toward the lights ashore and ground Gabrielle on the beach.

Unfortunately, the sloop ground to a halt on a shallow fringing reef. After finally making contact with a local via VHF, Sarah and Peter clung to the decks of the submerged boat for over an hour waiting to be rescued, as big seas slowly broke the hull apart. Eventually, they were able to swim to a panga, as locals ashore illuminated the scene with the headlights of their vehicles.

Warmed by borrowed clothing, Peter and Sarah looked amazingly cheerful after surviving their life-threatening ordeal.

© 2009 Shari Bondy

The next day, Juan Bondy and others helped Sarah and Peter strip what they could from the wreck. Shari reports: "Sarah and Peter didn’t panic and did the best they could under the circumstances. She is a remarkable woman, and is determined to keep going. We would like to help her fullfill her dream, so if anyone has any suggestions for her as to where to sell her gear or buy a cheap cruising boat, please email her here." Apparently Sarah would also be interested in crewing opportunities. We’re hopeful that this sad story eventually has a happy ending, and we promise to run Sarah’s photo again someday when she sails into Sydney Harbour.

Oops! We Did It Again

Though we at Latitude 38 do our very best to be perfect, we are, after all, as human as anyone. In April’s Calendar, we listed a Sailing Skills & Seamanship course offered by the USCG Auxiliary for April 8 through May 27. That’s where our crack journalistic accuracy ended. The class, taught by Flotilla 17 instructors, will be held at South Beach Harbor, not Yerba Buena Island, from 7-9 p.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays. The USCGA offers low-cost courses that really pack a punch. This course, for example, will teach you basic navigation, weather, communications, knots and much more for just $75, plus you’ll get discounts on safety and nav gear. That value is tough to beat. The first class meets this Wednesday, so if you’d like to join, contact Dave Talton ASAP.

Missing Sailor Found

San Francisco sailor Sean Haggerty, 39, was reported missing last week after he failed to arrive in San Diego on time. The unemployed Haggerty reportedly left the Bay a few weeks ago aboard his Ranger 26 Sea Hag to gunkhole his way down the coast to San Diego, where he had lined up a job. According to Coast Guard reports, Haggerty called a friend from his cellphone last Wednesday, reporting that his outboard and GPS had crapped out. He hadn’t been heard from since. Haggerty’s family reported him missing over the weekend and the Coast Guard conducted a massive search down the coast. Just as searchers were getting ready to return home last night, the crew of a C-130 aircraft spotted Sea Hag about 46 miles southwest of San Diego. The USCG cutter Haddock took the disabled boat — and an uninjured Haggerty — under tow, arriving at Shelter Island around 8 a.m. this morning.

Weekend Racing Wrap Up – Best of the ‘Fest

The Bay was busy this weekend, and not only with the nearly 50 J/boats participating in St. Francis YC’s J/Fest.

© 2009 Erik Simonson

The ‘main event’ in local racing this past weekend was the 2009 J/Fest Regatta, hosted by the St. Francis YC and held off a breezy and sunny Cityfront. Forty-four boats in four divisions took part. The three one-design classes consisted of J/105s (23 boats), J/120s (7) and J/24s (8), with a hodgepodge of J/90s, J/109s, a J/92 and several other boats in the six-boat handicap fleet.

The most consistent performance of the weekend was Michael Whitfield and his crew on TMC Racing. They didn’t win any races, but three seconds in a row put them at the top of the J/24 fleet with a three-point lead — the largest of the weekend — over the second place boat. Perhaps the most notable win went to John Horsch in the J/105 fleet, who sailed Business Socks to a two-point win over 22 other boats with a 4,6,3 weekend. Arbitrage, Cuchulainn and Donkey Jack all scored wins in the series, but all three tanked one of their other races.

Trig Liljestrand’s crew aboard Ragtime proved to be tough competition in the handicap fleet, losing by just one point.

© 2009 Peter Lyons

The two closest contests were shared by the J/120s and handicap boats. Barry Lewis’ Chance pulled out a one-point victory in the always-exciting J/120 fleet, while Soren and Liga Hoy’s J/109 Crazy Diamond scored their single-point win over Ragtime in the handicap fleet. Complete results can be found at

Both the OYRA’s Duxship Race on Saturday and the South Bay YRA’s first Summer Series race on Sunday were cancelled due to lack of wind.

Following in the footsteps of the successful ‘Take Your Daughter to Work Day’, Ed Killeen of the SF Examiner has dubbed the first Sunday in April as ‘Take Your Daughter to Sea Day’.
On Thursday, April 2, the New York Appeals Court ruled that the paper yacht club CNEV is out, and BMW Oracle — or more accurately, our own Golden Gate Yacht Club — is the Challenger of Record for the next America’s Cup.
If you sail out of South Bay, be sure to get your boat all gussied up for Saturday’s South Bay Opening Day.