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July 26, 2010

Close Encounter of the Cetacean Kind

Tim Sell reports having seen hundreds of orcas in Alaska and B.C., but none played with him like this one did off Pt. Arena.

© 2010 Tim Sell

Sausalito sailor Tim Sell has kept his Brent Swain 36 Lucky Star in Southeast Alaska for the last three years, spending the summers exploring that state’s spectacular waterways while wintering in Sausalito. Wanting to get started on a refit for future cruising plans, Tim decided this was the summer to bring Lucky Star home. Of course orcas are more than plentiful in northern waters, but Tim was approached by this juvenile just south of Point Arena on Saturday.

"It was really glassy out so I was motoring," reports Sell. "I’d been down below and had just popped my head up when something caught my eye. I looked over the side of the boat and the orca was four feet from my face! I was paralyzed. All I could do was grunt ‘Ooh, ooh, ooh.’ I sounded like a monkey!"

Orcas are actually members of the dolphin family. They can live up to 90 years, and typically travel in a matriarchal pod.

© 2010 Tim Sell

Sell says that the whale spent the next 10-15 minutes playing in the boat’s pressure wave. "She’d drop back, then come up to the stern, drop back again, come forward again," he said. "I finally collected myself enough to grab my camera. There were two more farther back, but she was the only one playing with the boat."

While it’s not unusual to spot orcas up and down the entire West Coast, interactions such as Sell had seem to be rare. Have you had a ‘close encounter’ with an orca — or other type of whale — that you’d like to share? Email a short report along with any photos you have.

Shadow Flips in Second-Half Opener

Peter Stoneberg is all smiles as his Formula 40 Shadow is back upright and ready to be towed after yesterday’s YRA Second-Half Opener.

©2010 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

While this has to have been the coldest July ever, the flipside is that it’s been breeze-on for most of the month, and this weekend’s YRA Second-Half Opener was no exception. And while the breeze meant plenty of giggles for most boats, it was a little too much for Peter Stoneberg’s Formula 40 Shadow. The super powered-up cat was racing with a full main and jib about a mile from the Berkeley Pier in yesterday’s 30-plus knots of breeze and an ebb chop when it capsized in the early afternoon.

Shadow burns down the race course on Saturday. Does it look sufficiently powered-up?

© Erik Simonson

Although Stoneberg was in the process of towing the boat over to KKMI as of this writing, we were able to glean that, after capsizing, the boat was anchored — it snapped a 5/8" or 3/4" anchor rode — and a successful righting operation was undertaken more than an 4-5 hours after it flipped (corrected from 1.5 hours) with the help of a St. Francis YC Protector Cressy, Steve Stroub’s Protector Tiburon, and Stoneberg’s Protector.

It took three Protectors and a some heavy anchors to right the big cat.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

We’re still in the process of gathering details about the incident, but understand that no one was hurt. The boat appears to need at least a new jib, and unfortunately a new rig, as you can see from the photos. Look for more on the Second-Half Opener and the Shadow rescue operation in an upcoming ‘Lectronic Latitude.

Determination Gets It Done

Some sailors merely dream about crewing in exotic destinations; others, like Kat Gartin and Brian Morrison are more proactive — a lot more proactive. When we bumped into them last month on the Tahitian island of Moorea, they told us how, after a year and a half of false starts and misadventures afloat, they finally found a great ride to this sun-kissed tropical Shangri-La.

After many false starts and frustrations, Kat and Brian finally made it to ‘paradise’.

©2010 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Anyone with a lesser reserve of fortitude would have given up long ago. As you’ll read in the Sightings section of the August Latitude 38, this tenacious duo endured false promises, fickle boat owners, electrical chaos, a boat sinking, an anchor rode parting in a gale, and more.

But, as you might imagine, now that they’ve finally made it to the dream-like lagoons of Polynesia, life is sweet. And the trials and tribulations they had to endure to get here are quickly becoming faded memories. Read all about them when the magazine comes out July 30 (download it for free on the 31st).

Another Political Tin Ear

It’s not quite as bad as if he’d won the Presidential election and discovered that his Vice President had been a bald-faced liar in repeatedly denying that he was a baby daddy, but longtime Massachusetts Senator John Kerry has foolishly sailed into some very hot water with his constituents.

As is being reported all over, Kerry recently took delivery of the 76-ft Isabel, a $7 million sailboat designed by Ted Fontaine. While Kerry came by his money the honest way — he married a widowed heiress who had married the heir to the Heinz ketchup fortune — a public servant with a multimillion sailing yacht with a sumptuous Edwardian interior is asking for trouble with his peeps.

But as if that wasn’t enough foolishness, Kerry had the boat built halfway around the world in New Zealand at Friendship Yachts. The folks in New England — who, by the way, have been alotted about 10 too many senators ever since about 1800 — are wondering if Kerry wasn’t aware that the New England boatbuilding industry, like the rest of the country, is suffering from terribly high unemployment. And if their craftsmanship wasn’t good enough for the Senator.

Some Bay State voters want Kerry’s ultra luxury yacht to be renamed Hypocrite.

© Chef Boyardee

The apparently tone deaf Kerry didn’t stop there. Seemingly unaware that the voters in Massachusetts had replaced legendary Senator Ted Kennedy with a Republican, in part because the deceased Senator had his estate go through probate in Florida thereby stiffing the Bay State of taxes, and in part because the supposed supporter of the environment had thwarted a wind farm because it would have been remotely visible from the family’s Hyannis Port compound, Kerry didn’t think there would be anything wrong with berthing his new yacht in neighboring Rhode Island.

The problem is that the ‘average man’ didn’t think it was a mere coincidence that by so doing, the multi-gazillionaire senator would save having to pay $450,000 in sales tax — to the treasury of the very state he represents! A state, by the way, that is facing a ‘$1,000 million’ deficit this year. By keeping the boat in Rhode Island — instead of near his estate at Nantucket or his townhouse in Boston, both of which are in Massachusetts — Kerry will also save paying another $70,000 a year to his state in excise tax.

While this all may be legal, the ‘do as I say, not as I do’ behavior has been the moral equivalent of the senator spilling a case of bright red ketchup all over himself. Lest anybody think this is an anti-Democratic Party screed, it’s not. We’re fully aware that Republicans have done as bad, if not worse. That doesn’t excuse any of them.

With the flurry of attention over teenage girl circumnavigators having at least temporarily subsided, we’re thrilled to note the successful completion of a very ‘manly’ round-about.
Most cruisers will tell you that they relish quiet moments in secluded anchorages and savor the solitude of being alone on a vast ocean.
Debunking all the Photoshop theories floating around about the whale-sailboat collision in the above story, CBS has acquired actual video of the incident.
The 2nd Annual Delta Doo Dah is fast approaching — the event runs July 31-August 6, with the Kickoff Party the evening of July 30 at Tradewinds Sailing in Marina Bay Yacht Harbor — and considering the overcast and chilly temps we’ve been seeing on the Bay over the last few days, a week of sun and fun in the Delta looks mighty appealing right about now.