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October 12, 2009

Fleet Week Draws the Crowds

Who’s that peeking around the bow of Royal Prince?

© Jeff Berman

Boats poured onto the Bay this weekend to take in Fleet Week festivities. Unfortunately, fog prevented the stars of the show — the Navy’s elite flying team, the Blue Angels — from performing on Saturday. According to an event spokesperson, cloud cover must be above 1,500 feet for the team to do their thing. As it was, they had trouble seeing the Gate on Saturday.

Thanks to the low cloud cover, the Blue Angels weren’t able to perform some of their more spectacular stunts – but they didn’t fail to please spectators.

©2009 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

But the clouds had risen enough by Sunday afternoon that the flyers were able to perform a ‘flatter’ show, eliminating the higher altitude acrobatics. An interagency effort kept the ‘crash zone’ clear while allowing boaters to stay close to the action.

Cloudy skies didn’t deter the hundreds of boaters who took to the Bay this weekend to watch the show.

©2009 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

If you missed the action on the water, you can still take tours of visiting ships through tomorrow. Check out Fleet Week’s website for details.

Tragedy in Australia

Well-known Australian skipper Andrew Short, 48, died when his PriceWaterhouseCoopers (formerly Shockwave 5) foundered on the rocks off Flinders Islet. Navigator Sally Gordon, 47, was also lost when the R/P 80’s boom swept the two overboard early Sunday morning as they attempted to round the islet during the 92-mile Flinders Islet race. One other sailor was knocked overboard by the boom, but was successfully rescued along with the remaining 15 crew, which included Short’s two teenaged sons.

Andrew Short and Sally Gordon perished when the R/P 80 formerly known as Shockwave 5 foundered off the eastern coast of Australia.

© 2009 Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi

The race is a prelude to the Rolex Sydney Hobart, which Short and Gordon had both sailed 15 times. The Sydney Morning Herald is reporting that Short wasn’t wearing a life jacket, although investigations are still pending. It’s been reported that there was a significant swell, but that it wasn’t particularly breezy. The paper also reported that hours before leaving on the race, Short had hand-delivered a letter from multiple Volvo Ocean Race Navigator Andrew Cape to youngest-circumnavigator hopeful Jessica Watson, warning of the dangers of the sea.

Batten Down the Hatches

A doozy of a storm is set to wallop Northern California tomorrow so you’d better grab Toto and run for the cellar — but not before you check your boat. Forecasters have been watching the front, which was born in Russia, move closer to the West Coast. Initially, it was predicted to hit in earnest today but it appears to have lost a little oomph on its journey across the Pacific.

While the West Coast prepares to be hit by heavy winds and up to four inches of rain tomorrow, Baja is facing a thrashing from Tropical Storm Patricia.


As it stands, southerly winds should start picking up tonight, peaking tomorrow afternoon and evening, with highs between 30-40 knots and gusts to 60. The Coast Guard is warning all mariners to stay in port until at least Wednesday to allow winds and seas to mellow. Today would be a great time to run down to your boat and make sure she’s ready for the blow. Add a couple spring lines, dog down the portlights and hatches, throw a few extra wraps on your roller furler, add some chafe gear. Trust us, you don’t want to get a call telling you that your boat broke loose and is now lying on a beach.

The owner of this sailboat was devastated to find out his boat’s mooring line had chafed through in the relatively mild wind event that swept through the Bay two weekends ago. The boat was a total loss and was crushed this weekend.

© John Navas

Meanwhile, farther south, Tropical Storm Patricia is bearing down on Cabo with winds spinning up to 75 knots. It’s expected to hit land late tomorrow.

Mexican Navy to Shepherd Sailors

Frequent news reports on the so-called Mexican drug war has dampened enthusiasm for travel south of the border at a time when the Mexican economy is already struggling. But the government is determined to re-establish confidence, especially among boaters.

Mexico’s new patrol vessels are virtually identical to those used by the American Coasties.

© 2009 Aaron Turpin

Earlier this summer, it was announced that the Mexican Navy has greatly enhanced its search and rescue (SAR) capabilities, with the funding of a new base at Ensenada. The group’s personnel have been trained by the U.S. Coast Guard, and their commanders all speak English. In addition to new SAR-equipped helicopters, their purpose-built vessels — which are almost identical to those used in near-shore waters by U.S. Guardsmen — are capable of speeds up to 50 knots. 

Noting that a record Baja Ha-Ha fleet of more than 190 boats will be heading south at the end of the month, Mexican authorities want all fleet members to know that the Ensenada-based unit’s primary purpose is to assist boaters in distress. The unit maintains a 24/7 radio watch on VHF 16 and can also be reached from the U.S. at 011-52-646-1-72-40-00.

Southbound travelers should also note that if you have trouble ashore in Baja, dialing 078 on your cell phone will get you connected to an English-speaking Mexican travel official whose mandate is to assist you. Elsewhere in Mexico, 911 functions as the default emergency number, and there too, dispatchers are required to know English.

Milna, Brac, just another beautiful stop in Croatia. © 2009 Andrew Vik If you’re read this month’s Changes, you’ve no doubt seen 36-year-old Andrew Vik’s second installment on his second summer cruise in the Med and Adriatic aboard his Islander 36 Geja.
After being told by the Red Cross in Samoa that they had too many volunteers, Nick Jaffe of the Contessa 26 Constellation — along with a number of other cruisers — set their humanitarian sights on the tiny Tongan island of Niuatoputapu.
All the boats you see here are out to see the Blue Angels, and they’re all just outside the Angels’ ‘ditch zone,’ set between Alcatraz and the Cityfront.