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April 17, 2009

Guzzwell Talk Draws a Crowd

John Guzzwell (left) and Clifford Cain both circumnavigated aboard Trekka.

©2009 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

It’s a pretty amazing evening when many of your heroes gather to celebrate one of their heroes. That’s part of the magic that took place last night as veteran sailor and boatbuilder John Guzzwell spoke to a capacity crowd at Oakland YC on the 50th anniversary of his circumnavigation aboard the self-built 20-footer Trekka. At the time, she was the smallest boat ever to have gone around.

Stan Honey, a navigator and circumnavigator of some note himself, introduced Guzzwell, who had flown down from his home in Poulsbo, Washington, for the event. Although things have changed quite a lot in sailing since the late ‘50s, Honey observed that in the realm of cruising, some aspects of bluewater voyaging aren’t much different today than they were back then — such has having to deal with whatever weather Mother Nature throws at you. Honey also observed that then, as now, the friendships you make add immeasurably to the overall experience. In preparation for the evening, Honey had re-read the same edition of Guzzwell’s Trekka Round the World that had mesmerized him at age 14.

The full house at Oakland YC included a Who’s Who of ocean sailing luminaries, who’d come to see their hero.

©2009 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Guzzwell, looking more than fit at age 79, captivated the crowd of nearly 200. He spoke a bit about Trekka (currently kept in sailing condition at SALTS, the Sail and Life Training Society in British Columbia), but devoted most of his hour-long talk to his friendship with Miles and Beryl Smeeton, with whom he worked, lived and traveled for a time on their 46-ft ketch Tzu Hang. Amazingly, he showed film (well, DVDs made from the original film) of those days, starting in New Zealand and ending moments before a huge wave pitchpoled the boat some 1,000 miles west of Cape Horn. Dismasted, de-ruddered, full of water and heavily damaged — the coachroof and all hatches had been ripped off — the three sailors bailed Tzu Hang out, fashioned covers from sails and canvas pipe berths, and used spinnaker poles and some surviving sails to cobble together a jury rig. It took them 37 more days to nurse the boat 700 miles to safe haven in Chile.

In addition to Honey, the audience included Commodore and Nancy Tompkins, Tom Wylie, Skip Allan, Robin and Serge Teste (Serge now holds the record for the smallest boat circumnavigation, a 12-footer in the early ‘80s), Norton Smith, Jim and Diana Jessie, Peter and Shama Hogg, two-time circumnavigator Don Sandstrom and Clifford Cain. Lest you think Trekka was small for a singlehander, Cliff and his late wife, Marian, completed another circumnavigation together aboard her in the mid-’60s. This in a boat barely bigger — inside or out — than a Cal 20!

Guzzwell completed the evening by greeting many admirers and signing copies of the latest reprint of Trekka Around The World.

Dinius Trial Date Closing In

Regular ‘Lectronic and Latitude 38 readers know that we’ve steadfastly supported Bismarck Dinius in his fight against vehicular manslaughter charges stemming from the 2006 death of Lynn Thornton. On April 29 of that year, Dinius had sailed in the Konocti Cup on Clear Lake aboard a Catalina 22. After the race, Dinius ran into Mark Weber, who asked if he’d like to go out for a quick sail on his O’Day 27 Beats Workin’ II. What better way to end a day of sailing than to go sailing?

As we all know, that short sail turned tragic when Lake County Chief Deputy Russell Perdock apparently decided that a nighttime speed run in his 385-hp, 24-ft powerboat was a prudent and seamanlike thing to do. Dinius happened to have his hand on the tiller as the O’Day drifted along in the evening zephyrs, barely making way, when Perdock ran up on the starboard aft quarter at an estimated — Perdock’s estimation, in fact — 40 mph. Lynn Thornton, Weber’s fiancée, was fatally injured and died a short time later.

To add insult to the concussion, two broken ribs, broken hand and various other injuries Dinius sustained in the crash, the Lake County District Attorney filed manslaughter charges against him instead of the person many believe is the only responsible party: Russell Perdock. Now we can’t say with certainty that the Lake County DA is using Dinius as a scapegoat to protect one of their own, but something sure smells.

There are too many twists and turns in this story to fit them all into one ‘Lectronic posting — such as why it took an hour for a deputy to transport Perdock and his blood sample to a substation that is a two-minute drive from the hospital, or why Perdock denies that the deputy did the transporting, or why that deputy was ordered not to give Perdock a Breathalyzer test at the scene — but Dinius’ lawyer, Victor Haltom, has detailed them all in a letter to Attorney General Jerry Brown, asking his office to once again review the case in light of new evidence and testimony. Included are letters from Lynn Thornton’s closest relatives, including her son, asking that all charges against Dinius be dropped and new charges be filed against Perdock.

Unfortunately, the deadline for dismissal is quickly approaching, as the trial is set to start on May 19. We’re hoping our readers are still sufficiently outraged to once again contact California Attorney General Jerry Brown’s office to ask them to re-review the case and dismiss all charges relating to Thornton’s death. Send an email through his website at, where you’ll find a form. Snail mail, which is often more persuasive, should be sent to Public Inquiry Unit, Office of the Attorney General, Box 944255, Sacramento, CA 94244-2550. Letters can also be sent to District 1 Assemblywoman Patty Berg at State Capitol, P.O. Box 942849, Sacramento, CA 94249-0001 or online at

As for Dinius, he’s hanging in there. In a phone conversation Wednesday evening, he sounded upbeat and hopeful, but still anxious. "I have a fantastic life and I’m trying not to worry about things that are out of my control," he said. "But my bank account is wiped out and the meter’s still running. And with the trial coming up, I’m worried about losing my job because of all the time I’ll have to take off." Bismarck Dinius is an independent guy who likes to take care of himself and his family so he’s uncomfortable asking for help. That being the case, we’ll do it for him. If you feel an injustice is being done, consider contributing to his defense fund by sending checks made out to Bismarck Dinius, with “Bismarck Dinius Defense Fund” in the memo section, to Sierra Central Credit Union, Attn: Brian Foxworthy, Branch Manager, 306 N. Sunrise Ave., Roseville, CA 95661.

Some Like It Cold

All the snow on Misty suggests that it’s still a little early in the season to go sailing in Alaska.

© 2009 Paul May

"Greetings from 61ºN," writes Paul May of the Vancouver 32 pilothouse Accomplice. "Back in November you ran an article on the much-travelled Bob van Blaricom who sailed his Tiburon-based Aries 32 Misty to Prince William Sound. The last photo in the article showed her on the hard here in Valdez. I thought Bob and some others might have some interest in seeing how the boat was doing in late March, so I attached the photo. Misty seems to be faring well.

"As for myself, I sailed out of the Bay in October of ’90 for Hawaii. After six months in the islands, I sailed north to Kodiak, Alaska. My plan was to spend one winter in Valdez, then continue on to the South Pacific. Well, it’s been almost 19 years, and I’m still here cruising Prince William Sound and the Gulf Coast of Alaska. I have no plans to leave, and will return to Kodiak and the Katmai Peninsula this season.

"By the way, we’ve had a relatively light snow season this winter — we’re still several feet below our normal 305 inches per year. But as the snow is coming down as I type – we still might make the norm."

Just for kicks, we decided to check on some high temperatures for various places along the west coast of North America:

  • Valdez — 43º and showers.
  • Vancouver — 52º and showers.
  • Seattle — 54º and showers.
  • San Francisco — 67º and sunny.
  • Santa Barbara — 70º and sunny.
  • Catalina — 73º and sunny.
  • Newport Beach — 74º and sunny.
  • San Diego — 70º and sunny.
  • Ensenada — 77º and sunny.
  • Cabo — 85º and partly cloudy.
  • Loreto — 77º and windy.
  • Puerto Vallarta — 83º and partly cloudy.
  • Zihua — 88º and partly cloudy.
  • Acapulco — 91º and cloudy.
  • Puntarenas, Costa Rica — 96º and partly cloudy.
  • Panama City, Panama — 90º and partly cloudy.
  • St. Barth, French West Indies — 84º and scattered showers.
How about that wind yesterday? Officially, it hit 45 knots at Angel Island and SFO recorded gusts to 60.
John crosses the finish line of the ’98 Singlehanded TransPac at age 68, aboard Endangered Species.