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August 19, 2009

Harker Trying to Reason with the Season

These are some of the 12 boats, including Mike Harker’s Hunter 49 Wanderlust 3, hiding in a mangrove cut off Simpson Bay Lagoon in St. Martin, French West Indies.

© 2009 Mike Harker

It looks as though Category 4 Hurricane Bill is turning northwest and therefore will miss St. Martin and the rest of the Leeward Islands. Nonetheless, most boating interests in St. Martin — including singlehanded circumnavigator Mike Harker aboard his Manhattan Beach-based Hunter 49 Wanderlust 3 — took precautions. And who could blame them as this is the same lagoon in which some 500 boats were lost at the hands of Hurricane Luis.

"I took the accompanying photo from the top of a mast from one of the other boats moored in ‘The Pond’," writes Harker. "There is a mixed group of 12 of us tied up here in the mangroves, and all — except one — are very nice and congenial. Among the group is a couple from Washington State, another couple from Brazil, and two local boats with masts on deck owned by very friendly Dutch couples. There is also my German buddy Steffen, a Kiwi, a French guy, and Pips from England. The only people here who don’t socialize are a young couple with a little boy and a dog on their powerboat. As for the rest of us, there is a BYO grill almost every night. I go and listen. Some of the stories are funny and interesting, but a lot of them are boring. I haven’t said a word yet, and nobody has asked me, so they all think I’m a novice. It’s better that way.

"These folks tell me that St. Martin gets hit by at least one hurricane a year. The two Dutch boats in our little pond have been through six hurricanes each, twice having come through Category 5 hurricanes with no damage.

Simpson Bay Lagoon, on the lower left of the island, was the scene of one of the greatest yacht massacres ever when Hurricane Luis came through in ’95.

Joe Simpson
©2009 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

"I’ve also met some great locals who I sometimes hang out with," Harker continues. "Sinbad, for example, who is the racing motorcycle specialist around here, and who tunes all the best drag bikes. They race every Sunday morning on the highway that crosses the Dutch/French border. The cops just watch. I sometimes also hang out with a sweet Dutch girl whose boyfriend just dumped her for a French girl. The summer here has been hot and very calm. Most of the boats and tourists are gone, but the ones who are here are more adventuresome than normal.

"If I don’t get out of the Caribbean to the Pacific this summer, I’ll hang out here until November when I’ll go to St. Barth for the 60th anniversary celebration of Le Select Bar. After doing other Caribbean Islands during the winter, I might head back to the Med in May. I have so many friends there, I could see staying for a few years."

Don’t Miss the Sarcoma Cup

It’s not to late too sign up for this weekend’s second annual Sarcoma Cup presented by Beat Sarcoma and hosted by Richmond YC. Sarcoma survivor and Pacific Cup veteran Nathalie Criou started the event last year as a way to raise money for research on treating the extremely rare group of cancers of the connective tissues. They’re resistant to most common treatments, are only detectable with a biopsy and usually require surgery for therapy. The more than 50 types of sarcomas represent only 1% of adult cancer cases, but 15-20% of children’s cases. Due to the relative rarity of the diseases, their study receives very little funding — less than 1% of all cancer research funds — which means that an event like this weekend’s, along with your participation, can have a huge impact. A full 100% of the money raised during the regatta will go toward funding sarcoma research.

Last year the event raised over $18,000 in its first edition. This year, Criou hopes to at least double that. If the growing list of entries is any indication, it might be attracting enough critical mass to get there. Hosted by Richmond YC, the regatta will feature one-design, cruising and PHRF divisions sailing in the club’s tried-and-true format of a day of buoy racing followed by a pursuit race on the second day. J/105s have the option of doing two days of buoy racing. The winner of the regatta will receive a free haul-out — as if you needed any more motivation to go sailboat racing for a really good cause. There’s a full-on raffle with prizes like a Garmin GPS, Sony car stereo, Logitech webcam and first-class subscription to Latitude 38. There’ll be a free wine bar to accompany the live rock n’ roll band and free massage after Saturday’s racing. After that, you can make some bids in a silent auction replete with goodies.

Latitude Delivered to Your Desktop

If you’re reading this, you’re obviously a fan of ‘Lectronic Latitude, but did you know it’s an extension of something much, much bigger? Latitude 38 is the premier West Coast sailing magazine, packing more stories and photos into each issue than many sailing magazines combined, and is completely free! If you’ve never checked it out, you can pick up a copy up and down the West Coast, including Hawaii and Mexico, at marine retailers, boatyards and marinas.

If you’re outside the area, or have a hard time finding the magazine, you can download it — and issues going as far back as May 2007 — directly from our site . . . for FREE! You’ll get all the same photos, stories and ads that are in the paper copy, delivered right to your desktop. Check out what’s going on by downloading the August issue today.

Dinius Jury Deliberating

The sailing community is holding its collective breath this morning as the jury in the felony BUI case against Bismarck Dinius begins its deliberations. According to the addictive in-court ‘tweets’ from Dan Noyes and Elizabeth Larson, Judge Michael Byrne gave the jury its final instructions at the Lake County courthouse around 10 a.m., going over California boating law and emphasizing the prosecution’s burden to prove Bismarck guilty of being the primary cause of Lynn Thornton’s death.

If convicted, Bismarck’s case will set a terrifying precedent in the boating community. For centuries, maritime law has laid the burden of command on the captain of a vessel, not the crew. Just because Bismarck was at the tiller of Beats Workin’ II that dark night in 2006 when Sheriff Deputy Russell Perdock rammed his powerful speedboat into it, doesn’t mean he was in command. By all accounts, the boat’s owner, Mark Weber, was the master of the vessel. As the master, it was his duty to make sure the running lights were on — and many witnesses testified that they were indeed on.

It seems inconceivable that a jury could find Bismarck guilty of causing Lynn Thornton’s death, but it’s certainly possible they could find him guilty of misdemeanor BUI, as his BAC was over the .08 maximum. Particularly interesting in the judge’s instructions, though, was that, even though Bismarck’s BAC was .12, the jury doesn’t necessarily have to find him impaired.

Check out our Facebook page for updates during jury deliberations, and look for a full report in the September issue of Latitude 38.

U.S. Territory Shifts Focus to Cruisers

American Samoa is working hard to steer cruisers to their islands.


In the realm of sailing it can take a long time to undo a bad reputation. So the task before American Samoa’s Governor Togiola is a big one: With the imminent shutdown of the island’s biggest employer, he’s attempting to clean up the harbor, as well as clean up this American territory’s image.

Because American Samoa lies along the ‘South Pacific milkrun’ from Tahiti to New Zealand, and is privilged to have U.S. postal service plus American goods and services, you’d think it would be a favorite stopover for cruisers. No so. For years, the territory has been ‘dissed by cruisers as dirty, noisy, ugly and potentially dangerous — some even referring to its harbor as the "armpit of the Pacific."

But with Samoa Packing slated to cease operations September 30, leaving 2,500 workers jobless, the government is taking dramatic steps to steer cruisers and megayachts to this often-bypassed port. Already a $2 million cruising dock with a security fence has been constructed, which will hopefully put an end to formerly frequent waterfront thefts. The project was funded, by the way, by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Fund. In addition, Governor Togiola recently issued a ten-year lease to a private company to further develop the yacht basin, with the goal of enticing foreign vessels to visit by offering a full range of services and amenities in a safe environment.

A large budget has also been allocated to develop tourism in the nearby Manu’a islands and refurbish the long-established RainMaker Hotel. While the territory’s attempts to reinvent itself would seem to be essential for the people of American Samoa, they will also be a boon to westbound cruisers.

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.
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.