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May 21, 2010

Farewell to an Amazing Sailor

Felix Knauth, 80, set sail from Monterey aboard his newly acquired Santana 22 in the early morning hours of May 12. The following day, his unmanned Rose was found adrift off Pt. Conception. The Coast Guard reports scouring 8,100 square miles for any sign of Knauth before suspending the search on May 14.

Normally stories such as these — thankfully few and far between — leave us with little information about the victims themselves. Their families are devastated, and the last thing we want to do is compound their grief by bothering them for details. But Felix Knauth’s life was far from ‘normal’, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that his family was eager to tell his inspiring story.

"My dad survived polio as a child, so he was always shaking his fists at the fates," Knauth’s son Rick told us today. A meticulous planner and avid adventurer, the elder Knauth spent his life climbing mountains, crossing oceans, and helping others. "He was tremendously intelligent," said Rick, "but he always worked in the non-profit and NGO arena. He chose altruism over money."

Look for Knauth’s full story — from his days of climbing one of the Golden Gate Bridge’s towers to his doublehanded Atlantic crossing to his work with the Peace Corps and Oxfam America — in the June issue of Latitude 38, scheduled for delivery on May 28. In the meantime, join us in bidding farewell to this fascinating sailor.

Airwego & Stray Dog Lost, Crews Rescued

"Looks like we’ll be coming home sooner than we thought," wrote Mike and Cindy Miller in an email to friends last week. The Tacoma, WA-based couple had to abandon their McIntosh 47 Airwego on May 13 after she was driven up on a Samoan reef. As they explain, "We were entering a narrow pass through the reef on Savai’i, when we hit bottom and were picked up by huge sea swells and driven farther onto the reef. Needless to say, our boat is a total loss." They were rescued by several Samoans and the crew of Charisma, with whom they were buddyboating. 

Mike and Cindy in happier times — celebrating their imminent South Pacific departure at the Vallarta YC in ’08.

©2010 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

After doing the ’07 Baja Ha-Ha rally, the Millers cruised Mexico for a season, then ‘jumped the puddle’ to French Polynesia in March of ’08. They had intended to sail back home to Washington later this year via Hawaii. 

Meanwhile, roughly 2,000 miles to the east, the crew of the British-flagged Westsail 32 Stray Dog began taking on water from yet-disclosed causes during the pre-dawn hours of May 12. Aboard were British skipper Robert William Marshall, 42, and his Taiwanese fiancée Yung-Ching Cheng, 29, who activated their EPIRB at 4:30 a.m. Through the efforts of the US Coast Guard’s Joint Rescue Coordination Center (JRCC), the Belgian tanker Mineral Noble was diverted to the scene and rescued the crew before Stray Dog went down. They were carried aboard to Ecuador.

Mineral Noble got involved due to its voluntary participation in the USCG’s AMVER system (Automated Mutual-Assistance Vessel Rescue System). "In a situation like this, it really shows why the AMVER system can play an important part in our search and rescue operations,” said Lt. Miles Jenkins, a search and rescue controller with the JRCC. “The boat was in immediate danger, and we would not have been able to get there fast enough.”

KaBoom Moves to Candlestick Park

For the first time in 16 years, the KaBoom will not be held at Piers 30/32.

© KFOG KaBoom

Tomorrow night the Bay will fill with hundreds of boats jockeying for the best viewing spot for the KaBoom, an annual fireworks display hosted by radio station KFOG 104.5 FM. For 16 years they’ve done their jockeying near Piers 30/32, but a recent assessment of the piers’ substructure has deemed them unsuitable for supporting the heavy equipment used by the event. The event’s move to Candlestick Park has confused some boaters, as noted by reader Larry Rouse of the San Francisco-based Westsail 32 Misty. "One guy almost argued with me about it," he writes. "’I always anchor at Alcatraz, and that’s where I’ll be for the fireworks,’ he told me. I suggested he get a telephoto lens.

"Knowing others had also failed to notice the change in venue, I contacted the Coast Guard for their input on hazards, words of wisdom and situational awareness of the event from the water side," Rouse continues. "Chart 18651 gives a wealth of information, and the four pyro barges will be squarely in shallow water, with a 1,200-ft exclusion zone. In going over this with Lt. Simone Mausz, the west side of the shipping channel is going to be chock full of just about every federal, state and local law enforcement agency you can think of, and they will have ZERO tolerance for encroaching on the exclusion zone. My experience with the KaBoom and prevailing winds puts that area in the ash fallout zone anyway. East of the shipping channel is Anchorage 14, which is an Explosives and Forbidden Anchorage Zone. Because there are no explosives-laden vessels due the night of KaBoom, Lt. Mausz told me boaters have been given permission by the USCG to utilize the entire anchorage area, with the obvious exception of the pipeline area."

The pyro barges will be 1,200 feet off the shore, with a 1,200-ft no-go zone around them. The centerpoint is at 37* 42’21.20″N, 122* 23’3.46″W.


A quick call to Lt. Mausz confirmed Rouse’s assertion that Anchorage 14 will be open for the public to use tomorrow night, "but just about anywhere east of the shipping channel would be fine," she said. She also allowed that boaters can stage west of the channel, but that they must be very careful not to go near the pyro barges.

And Rouse reminds us of one other important note: "Law enforcement agencies are very tolerant of everyone having good, safe fun. But please don’t forget that Boating Under the Influence (BUI), carries the same potential misery as DUI." Amen, brother.

Singlehanded Farallones & Entry Deadlines

Our Wednesday posting regarding this weekend’s Singlehanded Farallones Race got some feedback, specifically with regard to the the quote from Coast Guard LCDR DesaRae Janszen that "singlehanded races to the Farallones are one of the most dangerous races on the West Coast."

SSS Race Chair Emeritus Max Crittenden wrote to point out that the SSS’s safety record is unblemished. We forwarded Max’s email to LCDR Janszen, who acknowledged that point, and also made a very good case for her point. Here’s her summation:

"The Coast Guard’s heart and soul is protecting life at sea," she wrote. "As far as my records show, we have never had a fatality in your race, but that does NOT mean it is not inherently dangerous. I salute you and your racers for being the quality of sailors that can handle a very challenging race without losing anyone. So please don’t take offense to me calling your race dangerous — it is, but thank goodness you do it well."

We here at Latitude 38 have a very convivial workplace, but that doesn’t mean we always agree on everything. When dicussing whether it was an inconvenience to have sign up for a race 10 days ahead of time, this Racing Editor and Editor LaDonna Bubak found they have different opinions. Editor Bubak made a good point that a lot of people wait to enter races until they have a better idea of what the weather will be. Your Racing Editor countered that racers could always drop out later and get a refund if organizing authorities were willing to make that concession. Editor Bubak posed the question, "What sense does it make to amend a float plan after it’s been submitted? Why not just wait until closer to the race date and submit the final list?" It’s a tough point to argue, and we’d really like to know what you think. Does having to enter 10 days before an ocean race make a big difference to you?

"I took this cute photo of friends Mike and Sue Proudfoot just after giving them the April and May editions of Latitude 38," writes Jay Gardner of the Bay charter boat Adventure Cat.
"After surviving two tsunamis, three cyclones, pneumonia, dengue fever, ear infections, a dog bite, a frustrating government job, altercations with a loser neighbor, and nearly constant noise and foul aromas from a nearby tuna cannery over the past eight months, we are ready for a new neighborhood."