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March 26, 2010

Bar and Humans Broachings in San Blas

The estuary at San Blas — once the base of operations for the Spanish in the Pacific Ocean — as seen from above. A southwest swell pours straight in between the northwest and southeast sides of the estuary.

San Blas Tourism
©2010 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

The spring cruiser migration from mainland Mexico toward the Sea of Cortez is already well underway, with San Blas — a popular stop on the way between Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan — being the scene of some excitement and entertainment.

Thanks to one of the bigger southwest swells in a long time, boats crossing the bar to get into the estuary at San Blas on March 23 had the big excitement. Sharon Drechsler reports that she and her husband Dick on the Long Beach-based Catalina 470 Last Resort were overtaken by breaking waves while following several other boats across the bar. Last Resort broached so badly that water poured in through one of the hatches into the main salon, and stuff — including a canister of flour — got scattered all over the inside of the boat. Their boat, as well as all the others, eventually made it into deeper water, but like all the flour on their cabin sole, they’d been shaken up a bit. Read Sharon’s report in her column, but you can watch her video of the event below.

We have very little experience with big boats in breaking surf — thank goodness for that — but are wondering if someone with more expertise would like to weigh in on whether it would have been better if the couple — assuming they had time — had turned Last Resort 180° and hit the whitewater head-on. We’re not raising this question as a criticism of Dick and Sharon, who not only have many miles under their 470’s keel between Alaska and Mexico, but are also very good friends, but just for general educational purposes.

The one thing we do know is that when there is a big swell running, you want to be very careful about crossing any bar. If your boat is caught in a lot of whitewater, she’s almost certainly going to broach, and she’s then almost certain to try to pitch you out of the cockpit and into the water. As is the case when taking dinghies in through surf, it pays to be patient to get a sense of things. And ‘when in doubt, stay out’.

Sixty miles south of San Blas, the same southwest swell that was slapping around Last Resort and others was providing good surfing waves for Jim Milski of Sea Level and other cruisers who paddled in from their boats.

latitude/Doña de Mallorca
©2010 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

And what would a report from San Blas be  without an update on the never-ending contretemps between cruisers and the always controversial Norm Goldie? Jodie Fields reports on the latest:

"Bill and Linda of Tanque de Tiburon, John and Fran of Gosling, and we headed into town one evening to give Norm a copy of a satellite photo of the entrance channel to San Blas. Since Norm is the self-proclaimed gatekeeper of San Blas, we figured he would appreciate the extra information. Our giving him the photo went fairly well — given the fact that we’re on his black list for having helped other cruisers enter the estuary.

"Norm didn’t say ‘thanks’ or ‘this is a good thing to have’ or anything. Nor did he say anything negative. But reading between the lines of what he did say, it seemed clear to us that he’d never give out the waypoints to cruisers because he doesn’t have confidence in their ability to understand or use GPS. He basically folded the photo and put it on the bench next to him. At that point we cruisers headed to Chef Tony’s for dinner, thinking the knowledge we’d provided him would not be shared with other cruisers. The impression we got is that Norm believes he’s the only one who is knowledgeable and smart, and no one else could be."

And so it goes. For the record, cruisers are free to use or not use Norm’s help, just as they are free to either contribute or not contribute to his charities. They are also perfectly free to offer information to other cruisers about San Blas and entering the channel. If Norm gets his knickers in a twist about this — as he reportedly has done in the past — that’s his problem. Despite what Norm has often implied, he has no official standing with the Mexican government.

As has been the case for decades, there are cruisers who really like Norm, and there are cruisers who dislike him intensely for what they see as his proclivity to sticking his nose in the affairs of others. But hey, the sky and water are blue in Mexico, the air is warm, the food is delicious and inexpensive, so this shouldn’t interfere with anyone’s good times.

DH Farallones? Plan on Having an EPIRB . . .

You’d better have your EPIRB certificate ready for the DH Farallones skippers’ meeting or you won’t get to play.

© 2010 Peter Lyons

All skippers planning to do the Bay Area Multihull Association‘s Doublehanded Farallones are required to have a registered 406 MHz EPIRB aboard for the race on April 3. We don’t care if you beg, borrow, rent or buy one of the devices (but please don’t steal one), just make sure that you have it registered and have your certficate in hand at the skippers’ meeting (optional attendance) next Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at the Oakland YC. You can find full details, as well as updated SIs at the link above. And, if you’re reading this and know someone who might not otherwise get this information online, please take the time to give them a phone call to let them know!

NOAA Weather Clinic Tomorrow

"Part of what I do here at the Sausalito YC is arrange for guest speakers," says Dan Leininger. "These clinics are open to the public so I thought your readers might be interested. They’re reasonably priced enough at $25 but we’re currently giving each attendee a $15 credit toward lunch at the club for the day of the clinic." Such a deal!

If this looks like the pre-game plan for the Superbowl to you, do your best to attend tomorrow’s NOAA weather clinic at SYC.

©2010 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

It may be a little short notice, but NOAA Lead Forecaster, Mark Strobin, will be presenting a NOAA Weather Clinic tomorrow at SYC from 10 a.m.-noon. He’ll discuss how the marine forecast process works, as well as some of the web-based tools that are available for free. RSVP by email or by calling (415) 332-7400 ext. 114.

Search of S/V Columbia Continues

So far, the extensive search for the long-overdue 45-ft steel cutter Columbia has turned up no solid clues as to its fate, but the outpouring of willing assistance has been truly impressive.

Relatives of crew members became worried several weeks ago when the boat did not turn up at its planned port stop at Coquimbo, Chile — expecially since the British-flag vessel was apparently at sea when the Chilean earthquake and tsunami occurred. Columbia has not been heard from since leaving Salinas, Ecuador January 16, bound for Chile.

‘Health and Welfare’ notices have gone out to cruisers all along the Central and South American coasts via radio nets and large email networks such as the Southbound, Pacific Puddle Jump and Cruisers’ Network Online groups which are hosted at Through the Patagonia radio net, vessels from South Georgia Island to Antartica and all the way west to Easter Island have been informed repeatedly of the search.

Although there have been no actual sightings of this conspicuous vessel, which is known to bear the words Discovery Sailing Academy in large type on its starboard topsides, by process of elimination, the focus of the search is narrowing. Boats have reported in from Coquimbo, Robinson Crusoe Island, Easter Island and elsewhere that Columbia is not, and has not, been in those places. And the detailed mandatory daily reporting protocol demanded by the Chilean Armada makes some searchers convinced that the vessel never arrived in any Chilean port.

With each passing day, the search seems a bit more futile, but neither the cruising network, nor relatives of the crew are about to give up. "Keep the faith," say Brandy and Mark Fox of the Seattle-based Panda 38 Restless. "We met a guy while we were in Puerto Montt, Chile, that set out on a 40-day passage from Canada to the Galapagos and ended up in Tahiti six months later. Seems he got out of motoring range and got becalmed. Let us know if there is anything else we can do from here. Feel free to write and I’ll keep you updated on anything we learn."

If you have any direct info on this vessel’s location, please let us know ASAP.

California’s rig goes the way of Cal’s ’10 NCAA Tournament trip. Clipper Ventures
© Latitude 38 Media, LLC In what has to be one of the most saddening developments to date for supporters of the first Golden State entry in the ’09-’10 Clipper ‘Round the World Race, our namesake boat California was dismasted Sunday evening some 1,800 miles from the Bay.
And yes, we mean Auckland, not Oakland. Having moved to the southern hemisphere, Jamie, Mera and Aeron have a new perspective on life.