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October 20, 2010

Take Me Out to the Ballpark

Is that Tiger Woods on the field?

© 2010 Lynn Ringseis

It seems that a handful of folks around the Bay Area are getting pretty excited about some game that doesn’t involve sailing. We hear it’s played with a small white ball, so we’re assuming it’s golf. But isn’t golf played on a sprawling course? Well, whatever sport it is, they apparently play it right next to McCovey Cove, as evidenced by these photos sent in by Novato’s Lynn Ringseis.

Freda B and Sorcery rafted up among dozens of water-bound sports fans.

© 2010 Lynn Ringseis

"Great day at the ballpark yesterday," she writes. "That’s Sorcery and Freda B rafted up. You can even see a guy paddling around on a boogie board next to them. Hey, whatever floats! Go Giants!"

They may be a little damp, but these could be the best seats in the house.

© 2010 Lynn Ringseis

It’s ok, don’t get your knickerbockers in a twist. We’re well aware that the San Francisco Giants are in the National League Championship Series with the Philadelphia Phillies, that the Giants have a 2-1 lead, and that if they win, we’ll all likely be watching them play the Texas Rangers in the World Series. And to our way of thinking, the best seats in the house would be right down there in McCovey Cove.

Van Liew Leads Velux 5 Oceans

Three days out from La Rochelle, the lone American entry in the Velux 5 Oceans Race, Brad Van Liew, has already amassed a 50-mile lead over his nearest competitor. As the boats search for the northeasterly trades off the coast of Portugal, Van Liew’s Le Pingouin has taken a hitch out to sea, no doubt to close the east-west separation between him and his nearest competitior, Polish sailor Gutek Gutkowski aboard Operon. Amazingly, Van Liew has been able to manage 8.3 knots over the 6,540-mile course while battling a cold.

Brad Van Liew has Le Pinguoin headed toward Cape Town at a pace a few clicks faster than a waddle. Van Liew has 5,900 miles to go until Cape Town, according to the race tracker.

© 2010 onEdition

“I’ve had a couple of 20-minute naps but that’s about it," Van Liew reported. "I can race the boat, and I can do all the physical stuff but my head still feels pretty stuffed up and my throat is very sore.”

Van Liew’s Eco 60 is one of the fastest of the new re-purposed class of Open 60s that are required to be at least two generations old, and he’s put the speed to good use in building his lead. An essential part of the Eco 60 class is using less fossil fuel to round the globe, and since the start, Van Liew has had a headache of a reminder of the many different forms petroleum can take.

“Ironically, my super-duper, eco-friendly hydro-generator picked up a trash bag which got wrapped around it and broke the system holding it down," he said. "So I’ve been trying to find a new way to hold it down, and you’ll be pleased to know that I did manage to retrieve the trash bag."

Canadian Derek Hatfield, sailing Active House — which took American Rich Wilson around the world in the last Vendée Globe as Great American III — said he’s looking forward to the temperature getting warmer, and is frustrated with his speed as he sits in fourth, 144 miles behind Van Liew.

"I’m a bit disappointed with my position since the start," Hatfield reported. "I can’t seem to sleep too much, and the wind is so light that you have to concentrate all the time on the weather and keeping the boat going.”

Belgian Skipper Christophe Bullens has arrived back in La Rochelle aboard Five
Oceans of Smiles Too
— formerly Artech — having completed a 48-hour mini-qualification sail, to test the new boat sourced just a week before the start after his original one was dismasted.

“It’s a very good boat," Bullens said. "The sails are good and the boat is very fast. I have a few jobs to do and I have to learn her a bit but that will be okay.”

Bullens aims to set off on Friday morning for Cape Town.

‘Lectronic Classies Get the Job Done

The reason this space has been filled for most of the summer is that it works. A ‘Lectronic Latitude ad has the power to reach thousands of people — every day! Advertisers tell us that their web traffic increases dramatically when they place ads in ‘Lectronic. We currently have a handful of open ‘Lectronic Classy spots, so contact Shawn or John for rates and availability before they get snapped up!

Mild Hurricane Season Off Mexico

We’re not knowledgeable enough to know if cooler than normal water temperatures are the cause, but it sure has been a mild hurricane season for Mexico.

Consider this: In ’09, there were 8 hurricanes and 12 tropical storms off the coast of Mexico. Most of the hurricanes were powerful, too. Two of them were 5s — the most powerful — two were 4s, and two were 3s. And in the busy hurricane months of September and October,  there were 3 hurricanes and 4 tropical storms.

The year 2009 was a typical year for hurricanes off Mexico.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

This year, on the other hand, there have only been 3 hurricanes and 4 tropical storms. About one third as many as last year. Most shocking of all, in the busy September and October months, there was only one tropical storm. But Georgette was such a non-event that when we called Cabo and La Paz for reports, folks said they’d barely even noticed it.

So far, 2010 has been one of the most mellow hurricane seasons off Mexico in many years.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Indeed, it seems as though coastal California had a monopoly on crap weather this summer and early fall. And it’s not over. The accompanying photo of lightning hitting the West End of Catalina was taken yesterday morning by Geoff Byrne, crew aboard Bob Johnson’s Berkeley-based Tayana 37 Charisma, which is on her way for the start of the Baja Ha-Ha.

Yesterday’s lightning storm off Catalina wasn’t typical weather for this time of year.

© 2010 Geoff Byrne

And if we’re to believe the Sunday forecast by, the weather off the West Coast of the United States seems as though it’s going to get worse, not better.

The forecast from Passage Weather suggests that the first big storm of the year will be coming out of Alaska on Sunday.

© 2010 Passage Weather

Fortunately, it appears from the Passage Weather forecast for Monday, the Ha-Ha fleet will have nice downwind breezes to get out of town.

Monday’s weather off the coast of northern Baja looks good.

© 2010 Passage Weather

We hope we don’t need to remind anyone that forecasts more than three days out are not very reliable, and furthermore, forecasts are forecasts, never weather guarantees.

Crime — or Lack of it — in Cabo

Folks about to start the 17th Annual Baja Ha-Ha from San Diego next Monday morning might be interested in the opinion of Ha-Ha vet Mike Miller on personal safety down around Los Cabos, which is the name for the Cabo San Lucas-San Jose del Cabo corridor.

"After finishing my 2.5-year cruise of Mexico in ’02, I settled into one of the safest, nicest, and most tranquil little places in Mexico — San Jose del Cabo, the sister city to Cabo San Lucas, just 20 miles down the corridor. This is also home to the three-year-old Puerto Los Cabos Marina. Although still not fully developed, it’s open for business, welcomes Ha-Ha folks, and has many services nearby. Jim Elfers, author of The Baja Bash, is the harbormaster.

"For the record, there haven’t been any known acts of piracy in the region since the late 1800s when the Manilla galleons used to be jumped. So I’d like to assure the many cruisers and their families headed this way that they have a greater chance of being assaulted on the streets of the United States or Canada than down here in the Los Cabos area. Well, we did have a big crime issue here two years ago, but those kids finally got caught spraying graffiti on buildings. Nobody got shot, nobody got beheaded, and the kids even had to repaint the buildings as part of their punishment.

"I’ll be stopping by for the Ha-Ha Awards Party in Cabo, and I won’t be coming in an armored car, nor will I be bringing any bodyguards. And I certainly will not feel one iota of anxiety while attending the party or while freely walking the streets of Cabo San Lucas.

"If everybody keeps watching the over-sensationalized news media in the States and Canada, everybody will be too afraid to come on down here and see the real truth — and beauty. I’m telling folks in the Ha-Ha and other cruisers that the only crime they’re likely to experience is how much cheaper it is to live down here than wherever they came from. Here in San Jose del Cabo, folks can make their way to Shooter’s Bar in the downtown plaza and watch all their favorite NHL/NFL/NBA games. Beers are 10 pesos each — or about 85 cents. And the original tamale lady is working there on the plaza, selling her homemade tamales — the best you’ve tasted in a long time — for about $1. So for $1.85, you can have an ice cold beer and a homemade Mexican tamale while watching all the sports action. Now that’s a crime! Try to find a deal like that in the States.

Mike Miller, former cruiser and now a long time resident of San Jose del Cabo, with his catch of the day.

© Mike Miller

"As for the fishing, I’ll let the above photo indicate what it’s been like lately. It’s 85º today, and the water temp is about 80. What’s the November weather going to be like in the States?"

Latitude’s only slight disagreement with Miller is that Cabo, like any town that attracts countless hard-partying Americans on four-day weekend vacations, does have typical petty crime issues. After midnight, there will no doubt be a few people offering to sell pot, as well as a few pickpockets and hookers. So just stay in the well-travelled streets and well-lit areas. And while you can drink to excess and be wild and crazy in the clubs, don’t be drunk and stupid on the streets of Cabo. There is a large and very tourist-friendly police presence, and if somebody goes overboard playing the fool, the Policia pick-up truck with six police in the back swoops down, and the next thing that person knows, they are in the Cabo clink until the next morning. We’ve been in Cabo for the end of 16 Ha-Ha’s, and never once had a problem. Then again, we’re usually back on our boat by midnight.

John and Rose Olson of the Mazatlan-based M/V Serena Ray also want to share their opinion on safety in Mexico:

"We just had to add our ‘5 pesos’ regarding concerns crusier might have about safety in Mexico. We couldn’t agree more with Latitude’s recent ‘Lectronic feature dispelling some of the myths surrounding personal safety in Mexico. We suspect that a majority of the fear-mongering is spawned and/or fueled by those who have never even set foot in Mexico!

"We actually came to Mexico with the ‘08 Ha-Ha Class (s/v Eager Dreamer aka  Eagle Dancer, Eager Beaver, Early Leaver) and will soon be starting our third full cruising season here. We had actually planned to head south to Central America in ’09, but realized we simply enjoyed Mexico too much to leave so soon. There was so much more we wanted to see and experience.

"Count us among the gringos and ex-pats who really do feel safer in Mexico than in most large cities in the United States. We have now spent considerable time in the larger coastal cites — Mazatlan, Cabo, La Paz, PV, Manzanillo — as well as many small out-of-the-way villages. Without exception, the locals we have come to know have been friendly, welcoming, and very helpful. By the way, we have yet to meet — or even hear of — a cruiser who has left Mexico for reasons of fear or safety. In fact, most who have had to leave can’t wait to return."
For the record, both of the above letters were unsolicited.

“Look at those abs!” says Julie. © Julie Newton In the October issue of Latitude 38 we profiled the crews of several cruising boats passing through the Bay.
"October 12 was both exciting and costly for us here in Costa Rica," write Bruce Stevens and Clark Nicholson of the Dana Point-based Gulfstar 50 Two Amigos.
Upon arrival and approach to Port Resolution, Tanna Island, Vanuatu, two Northern California-based catamarans — Jim and Kent Milski’s Schionning 49 Sea Level and Steve May and Manjula Dean’s Corsair 41 Endless Summer — jumped into a search and rescue operation for 12 locals and a baby whose panga had capsized in rough conditions on return from 10-mile distant Aniwa Island.