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August 17, 2009

Dinius Trial is Winding Down

On Thursday, Victor Haltom, the attorney for Bismarck Dinius, rested his defense against the outrageous felony BUI charges for which his client is now on trial in Lake County. Dinius is, of course, the man with his hand on the tiller of the sailboat that was hit at high speed by a Lake County Sheriff’s Deputy, Russell Perdock. Lynn Thornton died in the accident. Instead of going after Perdock, who admitted to driving his speedboat in excess of 50 mph on that dark night more than three years ago, Lake County Prosecutor Jon E. Hopkins chose to prosecute Dinius.

The ‘tweets’ sent from the courtroom throughout the trial by both KGO Channel 7’s Dan Noyes and Lake County News’ Elizabeth Larson have been positively addictive. Through them we’ve ‘watched’ as Perdock testified last week that, just before hitting the sailboat, he saw the green glow of his running lights reflected against the hull.

Um, huh?

Anyone who’s followed this case will know that Perdock’s boat slammed into the starboard stern quarter of the sailboat, sailed over the top — bringing the mast down along the way — and landed near the port bow. Essentially, he was approaching at such an angle that he should have seen a red reflection from his port nav light, not green.

This seemed like such a glaring inconsistency that we contacted Bismarck about it. "Yeah, we caught that," he told us last week. He’s not sure how it will play into Haltom’s final arguments, if at all, but he seemed optimistic about how the final days of the trial has played out.

Indeed, Bismarck’s own testimony on Thursday really brought home the fact that he was crew — a passenger on a boat whose owner was giving the orders — and therefore not responsible for turning on any lights. The point is moot if jurors believe the several witnesses who claim to have seen the sailboat’s lights.

The jury is expected to receive the case tomorrow after closing arguments. We hope to have a full report in the September issue of Latitude 38. In the meantime, if you feel you can contribute to help defray the staggering costs of his defense, you can now do so through Paypal. Bismarck’s Paypal ID is [email protected].

A Tropical Storm Trifecta in the Atlantic

If we’re somewhat skeptical about the ability of scientists to predict the weather 20 and 30 years out, it’s because they have such a hard time predicting major weather events a week or two in the future.

Just a couple of weeks ago, the alleged hurricane experts at Colorado State University had to downgrade their Atlantic/Caribbean tropical storm forecast because the season had started so slowly. And now, only a short time later, there are three simultaneous tropical storms in the Atlantic/Caribbean.

Tropical Storm Claudette has already made landfall in the Gulf Coast of the United States, but with thankfully relatively mild winds. Then there is Tropical Storm Ana. Mike Harker of the Manhattan Beach-based Hunter 49 Wanderlust 3 writes just passed by his boat, which is tied up in the mangroves of Simpson Bay Lagoon in St. Martin. "She passed to the south of us, and we successfully sat out 35- to 40-knot winds." Then there’s Bill, a Category 1 hurricane that has come halfway across the Atlantic from the breeding grounds near the Cape Verdes off the coast of Africa. Once again it looks as though we’ll be lucky, as Bill is headed north of Bermuda.

And in the Eastern Pacific (Mexico-Hawaii) hurricane region, Guillermo, a Category 1 hurricane with winds to 110 knots, is halfway between Mexico and Hawaii headed in the general direction of the Islands. The fourth hurricane of the Eastern Pacific season, Guillermo is expected to rapidly diminish in strength and not be a threat to land.

August and September are the big months for hurricanes in Mexico, so we hope everyone has gotten their boats prepared. Good luck to you all.

Rudderless Cruiser Approaches Pago Pago

Wayne and Susan of Daydream have been busy assessing the options to get Avatar towed into the harbor. If all else fails, they’ll tow her themselves.

© 2009 Julie Turpin

Those sailors lucky enough to experience the cruising lifestyle, quickly realize that they have become members of a vast international community of like-minded travelers who assist each other whenever the need arises. 

The current illustration of this boat-to-boat goodwill concerns the 37-ft Swiss sailboat Avatar. Not long after heading west from Bora Bora about a month ago, owners Beat and Lola experienced one of every sailor’s worst nightmares. Their rudder sheared off, leaving them no way to steer other than by trimming sail, with hundreds of miles to go before reaching a safe haven — in this case American Samoa, which lay directly downwind.

Being licensed captains, it was only natural for Rebecca and Patrick Childress to go to the aid of the rudderless 37-footer.

© 2009 Herb McCormick

Fellow cruisers Patrick and Rebecca Childress of the Rhode Island-based Valiant 40 Brick House executed a mid-ocean rendezvous with the disabled boat, transfering materials to make a jury-rigged rudder, but the crew’s many attempts at improvization proved unsuccessful.

So, for the past two weeks, Avatar has been inching along at roughly 1.5 knots toward Pago Pago, the capital of American Samoa. As of Saturday she was expected to arrive within a few days. There are U.S. Coast Guard personnel stationed at American Samoa, but they apparently do not have rescue boats available to facilitate a tow into the harbor. However, cruisers Wayne Wilson and Susan Leader of the B.C.-based Seletra 50 Daydream and the Malone family aboard the Seattle-based Tartan 37 Whisper have been scrambling to find alternatives. Thanks to their efforts, U.S. Fish and Wildlife staffers are now standing by to bring the wounded vessel to safely.

Since leaving Seattle, the Malone family has had many adventures. This week they may help bring European cruisers, whom they’ve never met, to safety.

©2009 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Reports indicate that the Swiss owners of Avatar have remained cool and calm throughout their painfully slow transit. And they’ve undoubtedly had plenty of time to contemplate the fabrication of a new rudder, as well as a workable backup system — something no boat should ever set sail without.

In the northern Cook islands, taxes normally aren’t a big concern. But the ‘shark tax’ occasionally imposed on fish can be annoying.
Whether daysailing or racing, this weekend is going to be fantastic. latitude/LaDonna
© Latitude 38 Media, LLC It’s shaping up to be an awesome weekend to get out on the water.
Entries for the ‘Sweet Sixteen’ edition of the Baja Ha-Ha keep rolling in, having just reached 144.