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June 9, 2010

A Light Air Bash and a Black Bird

Compassionate Patrick and his little black bird with the broken wing. Who knew such a little bird could cause such big trouble?

©2010 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

With the onset of hurricane season in Mexico, this is the time of year when boats that went south for the winter have either done or are doing the Baja Bash. Based on the reports we’ve gotten, most of April and May were awful months for doing the Bash, with lots of boats having to battle rough weather and/or wait out bad weather in anchorages.

Fortunately for Doña de Mallorca and her merry crew of Ray Catlette, Patrick Ralph and Chuck Hooper on Latitude‘s 63-ft cat Profligate, they, and everybody else who left in early June, booked into a nice weather window. The result for Profligate was a 5.75-day passage from La Paz to San Diego. While the seas were a little sloppy the first couple of nights out of Cabo, it wasn’t too bad because they never saw more than seven knots of wind. Most Bashers would have killed for conditions like that.

Indeed, the only problem Profligate had was with a little black bird with a bad wing that landed on the boat. A compassionate Patrick Ralph — who claims to have done 20 sailing trips as a result of rides he’s found via the Latitude Crew List — insisted that he be allowed to intervene rather than let the bird die. "All right," said Doña, a captain with something of a reputation for being a hard-ass, "but if there’s a problem, you’re responsible."

Chuck, Doña, Patrick the birdman, and Ray pose with a parking meter in front of Driscoll’s Boatyard in San Diego.

©2010 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

The problem showed up when Profligate checked in with Customs in San Diego. After waiting more than two hours for an agent to show up, the formalities went well — although the agent advised them and everyone else to throw their fresh food overboard before pulling in, and not to bring their garbage to San Diego — until the crew was asked if there were any animals onboard.

"Just this wounded bird that landed on the boat," said Ralph.


The Customs man wasn’t happy about that, because it meant someone from Quarantine and a vet would have to be called. "There could be some expense involved," he said.

At that point Ralph’s compassion faded. "Let’s just let the bird go overboard, and nature will take it’s course."

"It’s too late for that," said the Customs official. "I’m coming back later with a vet, and when I do, this bird had still better be on the boat."

Capt. Doña wasn’t at all happy with this turn of events. "I knew something like this would happen. If there is a bill for this bird," she told Ralph, "you’re paying for it!"

A couple of hours later, the Customs guy and someone from Quarantine showed up at the boat. "My bird was handcuffed, put into a big cage, and taken away," says Ralph. He was kidding about the handcuffing. But papers were signed, and the bird was indeed surrendered to the custody of the USDA or some other government agency. God knows what they are going to do with it.

"It’s unclear if there is going to be a fine or some other charge," says Capt. Doña, "but I want to emphasize how nice these government officials were. This was a pain for them, but they were very, very nice about it."

Patrick and his paperwork from the government. Whether he’ll also get a fine is unclear. What’s certain, however, is that you don’t want to show up in San Diego with bags of garbage, fresh food, or animals if you can at all help it.

©2010 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

We all hope the bird recovers. If Ralph is incarcerated as a result of bringing the bird into the country, maybe it will visit him in Santa Rita or wherever he might be confined.

Got a Bash story? We’re all ears.

Hopkins is History

‘Yes We Can’ was a rallying cry in the ’08 presidential campaign, and one that was embraced by voters in yesterday’s Lake County primary elections. Incumbent District Attorney Jon E. Hopkins — the man who decided to prosecute sailor Bismarck Dinius instead of Deputy Sheriff Russell Perdock in the ’06 boating death of Lynn Thornton — was soundly ousted from a spot on November’s general election ballot by Don Anderson and Doug Rhoades. While the numbers seem surprisingly close — Anderson received 37.8% of the vote, Rhoades 32% and Hopkins 30.1% — the thing to keep in mind is that nearly 70% of the ballot-casters voted against Hopkins.

Similar numbers were seen in the race for Sheriff, but with different results. Deputy Francisco Rivero took the top slot with 38.5% of the vote, but the second spot was filled by incumbent Sheriff Rod Mitchell — who some think steered the ’06 investigation away from Perdock, his then-number two — with 34.5%. The remaining 27% went to Jack Baxter. Again, over 65% of the voters went against Mitchell, so it will be interesting to see who Baxter’s supporters follow in November. We don’t need to tell you what we hope for.

As for Bismarck Dinius, the man whose life was turned upside down by Hopkins’ ill-advised prosecution, he’s still just barely holding his head above water. Let go from his previous job more than a year ago due to the time he was forced to spend on his case, Bismarck is still unemployed. He long ago liquidated all of his assets to pay his legal bills but he still owes upward of $35,000. (You can donate to his defense fund through Paypal by sending money to [email protected] — if you’d prefer to send a check, contact LaDonna for instructions.)

The good news is that Bismarck just passed the licensing exam to become an insurance agent — now he just needs to find a job in or around the Sacramento area. And though he had to sell his own boat, he hasn’t stopped sailing. "We just won the Catalina 22 Region 10 Championships in the Go for the Gold Regatta on Scotts Flat Lake last weekend on Don Hare’s NoCatHare," he said. All of this, along with Perdock’s having been fired in April and Hopkins’ being out of a job himself, Bismarck is feeling upbeat today: "Two down, one to go!"

Update On Dorland’s Condition

We’ve been given the following update on the condition of Greg Dorland of the Lake Tahoe-based Catana 52 Escapade, who readers may remember from his participation in the last two Ha-Ha’s:

"Latitude got the news about my leg before it was even operated on! Here’s the story: Every person who gets on my catamaran hears my spiel about how heavily loaded things get. Well, we were about 10 miles from Annapolis, broad reaching with the main and genoa, when we changed course to a close reach to avoid some lightning. Steering from the leeward side, I saw a huge puff or micro burst headed right at us, so I jumped down to release the genoa sheet, which was really loaded up, and it spun out of my control. Unfortunately, when it spun out of control, the sheet wrapped around my leg, snapping it in two. It was a compound fracture and I was bleeding.

"My wife Debbie was able to get the sails down, call the Coast Guard, and give me some pain pills — which had zero effect. The Coast Guard arrived with a couple of very inexperiened  medical people who wanted to make a splint out of an orange life vest. No way! My leg really hurt. Annapolis Fire Boat #35 then showed up with some real paramedics, who gave me some morphine, strapped me down to a backboard, then transferred me to the fire boat. Thank you, thank you!

Greg wasn’t smiling when a genoa sheet snapped his leg.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

"But the situation was far from over. The Coasties hadn’t noticed that we had drifted into the shipping lane and were about to be run down by a tanker. The guys on the fireboat were scared, so they quickly got away from Escapade. That left Debbie and the two Coasties on the cat, about to get run down. In the end, the tanker missed them by a reported 25 yards. It was a close call. There was a Coast Guard boat standing by the whole time, so I don’t know why they weren’t more aware that a dangerous situation had developed.

"Once Debbie started our one good engine — all the Volvo dealer’s have been out of stock of a common but critical part — the Coast Guard left her to her own devices. She had to continue on to Annapolis, a strange port for her, with one motor, and then anchor with one motor. Fortunately, Kristen and Bob Beltarano, having heard our distress call, called Debbie on her cell phone, and gave her the number of a friend in Annapolis who could talk her into an anchorage. I have a leg full of metal and pain, but what about Debbie’s day!"

What about it, indeed!

By the way, Latitude received an email from an individual in the Annapolis area who read about Greg’s injury and has offered all kinds of help, from housing to cars and whatever. A tip of the Latitude hat to this gentleman, who is also named Greg.

Dorland is far from the first experienced sailor to get his leg wrapped in a line with bone crushing results. A few years ago, Bob Smith of the custom 44 cat Pantera from Victoria, got his ankle caught in an anchor line, which, with the help of the currents in La Paz, snapped some bones. So please be careful out there.

Once Greg’s leg was fractured by a whipping sheet, Debbie had no more time for reading her on her beloved Kindle.

©2010 Latitude 38 Media, LLC
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