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April 2, 2010

Notes from the Frozen North

It’s so warm in Banderas Bay that surfers don’t wear wetsuits and the members of the Young Mothers Club of Punta Mita wear bikinis instead of survival suits.

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Of the 20+ boats that were in La Paz for yesterday’s start of the Sea of Cortez Sailing Week, about eight travelled nearly 400 miles north from Banderas Bay for the event. While it’s plenty warm in La Paz in the afternoons — in the mid to high ’80s — the late afternoons and evenings are a different story.

Folks on anchored boats at Punta Mita, such as Jim and Kent Milski’s Schionning 49 Sea Level, can roll out of their bunks without fear of getting frostbite.

©2010 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

For example, the blood-thinned folks from the mainland were shocked to wake up to find icicles on their noses, bergie bits floating in the bay, and dog sleds being used as taxis. It actually got down to 65° last night. As if that wasn’t bad enough, lots of thin, billowly, cloud-like shapes were seen drifting around overhead. "It almost looks like, no wait, it really is . . . fog," said one before fainting. Once revived, he had to be stopped from immediately setting sail for Zihua.

Some 370 miles north of Punta Mita, just off Muertos, the sunrise looks the same as it does on Banderas Bay. But looks can be deceiving, as it was chilly.

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These reactions are understandable, coming from folks who hadn’t worn more than shorts and a t-shirt all through the winter, and who are used to surfing without a wetsuit after sundown. But these are tough sailors, so if enough bear skins and polar fleece can be found, they will probably survive.

The nice thing about the Sea of Cortez, is that, while it’s cold at night in March and early April, the days warm up quickly. In fact, by 11 a.m., it was so warm that Bob Smith of the Vancouver-based custom 44-ft cat Pantera could put on swimsuit while showing off the new porosity of his 14-year-old mainsail.

©2010 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

All right, we’re kidding just a little. There are no bergie bits in the bay, and cruisers don’t wear snow shoes instead of flip-flops. But lordy, the nights seem frigid. This will all change dramatically over the course of the next two months. By then, locals and cruisers will be willing to give their left arm for a chill or taste of fog.

Don’t let the invitingly blue water of Bahia de La Paz fool you, it’s cool runnings in March and early April.

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After running around provisioning in La Paz yesterday afternoon, we have to say that the booming city is looking cleaner, more prosperous and more upscale than ever. We’re not going to tell you that it’s as clean as Singapore, as properous as Wall Street or as upscale as Beverly Hills, but the trend line is up, and more importantly, everyone is a lot friendlier than any of those other places.

The only negative we have to report is that prices have gone up at Rancho Viejo, one of our all-time favorite places to eat in Mexico. If you wanted a mixed grill papa — mashed potato back in its skin with a variety of meats, corn and mushrooms — it cost a staggering $7. Sure, it was as supremely delicious and big as ever, and the most expensive item on the menu, but $7!? Others got the chile relleno plate for about $4, which was more like it. Fortunately, there are plenty of excellent dining options in La Paz. We like Super Burros, a block or two from Marina de La Paz, where papas and beer came to just $6. It was ‘rico’, too!

Abby Sunderland Rounds Cape Horn

After a frustrating day or so of calm weather that halted her planned Tuesday rounding of the Horn, Newport Beach’s Abby Sunderland finally passed the notorious cape on Wednesday, if a little farther offshore than she’d hoped. "Even though I didn’t get to see it [Cape Horn], it’s very exciting to finally be here," Sunderland wrote on her blog. "I’ve covered a lot of miles and have been through a lot, so finally getting here to Cape Horn is very exciting!"

Her accomplishment makes Sunderland the youngest person to have done so solo and without assistance (she’s five months younger than Jessica Watson, who is also seeking the title of youngest non-stop, solo circumnavigator). Due to the sea state, which is apparently now quite rolly, Abby’s father Laurence couldn’t make it out to rendezvous with his daughter, which must have been a bitter disappointment for both.

Farther down the track, Watson congratulated Sunderland on her feat. "It was great to hear that Abby Sunderland rounded Cape Horn yesterday," she wrote in her blog yesterday. "I’m really thrilled for her. It brings back lots of memories of when I was down there. Go Abby!"

Next Two Clippers Reach the Bay

A relieved Qingdao crew makes it to SF Marina.

Clipper Ventures
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Eighteen hours after Qingdao finished Leg 7 of the Clipper Round the World Race, Jamaica Lightning Bolt carried its 32 hours of redress with it across the finish line off North Farallon late last night. But that’s not the only adjustment to the finish picture, at least as far as the overall race is concerned. Spirit of Australia has been granted redress of their average points for all races to date — ten points — for the assistance that they gave to Hull & Humber during the recent medevac of Hull & Humber skipper Piers Dudin who suffered what used to be called a compound fracture of his leg earlier in Race 7. The redress also takes into account the impediment of giving up their skipper to Hull & Humber.

The decision means that Spirit of Australia will have a total of 70 points. Jamaica Lightning Bolt‘s second in Race 7 moves them to second overall in the standings with 59 points, and Race 7 on-the-water winner Cape Breton Island is in third with 53. Uniquely Singapore will likely finish tomorrow afternoon and Spirit of Australia, Hull & Humber and California‘s arrival time could be as early as Sunday evening local time. Edinburgh Inspiring Capital is around 40 miles behind. The crew aboard California have been able to set up a jury rig and their dream of sailing, rather than motoring, through the Gate looks likely to come to fruition.

If you can’t run down and meet the boats as they come in, there are a variety of formal activities planned while the fleet is here on the Bay. The boats will be open to the public for tours from 10 a.m.-noon and 2 p.m.-4 p.m. on April 5. The crew recruitment team will also be on hand at the San Francisco YC on April 7 at 7 p.m., and the South Beach YC at 6 p.m. the following night, before heading over to OCSC in Berkeley at 7 p.m. April 12.

April eBook Now Available

The April issue of Latitude 38 hit the streets yesterday, and some distribution points — such as Bridgeway Bagel in Sausalito — were already running low late in the afternoon! If you can’t find the current issue at your favorite ‘pick-up’ spot — or you don’t live close to one of our hundreds of distributors — don’t despair. The eBook version of the April issue is now online and ready for downloading. While you’re there, catch up on any back issues you might have missed — just the thing to while away the hours over the long Easter weekend.

Be sure to hide an extra large supply of Easter eggs this weekend to give you some free time to make it through the April issue of Latitude 38, which hits Bay Area stands tomorrow.