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February 16, 2011

Panama Puddle Jump Fiesta

After 13 years of cruising their 50-ft Flying Dutchman Reality eastward — all the way to the Red Sea — Vaughn and Sharon Hampton of San Francisco are ready to cruise the “correct way”: downwind across the Pacific.

©2011 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Tahiti, here they come! At Latitude 38‘s annual Panama Puddle Jump send-off party last Saturday we caught up with several dozen cruisers from at least 10 countries, all of whom will soon realize their dreams of sailing the idyllic waters of French Polynesia. 

Like nowhere else on earth, the Panama Canal is the ultimate point of convergence for boats heading west from all over the world — New England, Europe, the Caribbean, South Africa, you name it. And by the time they arrive at the friendly Balboa Yacht Club on the Pacific side of the locks, the excitement for this grand 3,000-mile crossing is practically palpable.

Seen here rafted together as they enter the San Miguel Locks, these two international cruising boats will soon be heading west across the Pacific.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Thanks to ex-San Diego sailors Frank Nitte and Shirley Duffield of the Freeport 36 Windsong, the Club generously hosted our fiesta, providing free snacks, while Latitude supplied the drinks. Via several digital media presentations, we gave these voyagers a solid overview of what they can expect in the islands, and urged them all to attend the annual Tahiti-Moorea Sailing Rendezvous June 24-26, which Latitude supports in conjunction with Tahiti Tourism and other partners.

"If it weren’t for Latitude 38," says former Vallejo sailor Michael Reynolds, "we wouldn’t be here." Like many Pacific Puddle Jumpers, he and his wife Medene have been vicariously ‘traveling the world’ through the experiences of thousands of cruising sailors that we’ve reported on in the magazine.

Michael and Medene of This Side Up admit that they have a little fear about their upcoming crossing. But as they explain, they’re comfortable with fear: “We’ve raised five children!”

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

With Puddle Jumpers setting sail from Puerto Vallarta, Cabo San Lucas, Panama, the Galapagos and Peru, this year’s fleet will be as disparate as ever, and their crossing experieces will likely be equally varied. Look for our Puddle Jumper profiles in the magazine soon, and our annual Puddle Jump Recap article in the summer.

The hailing port on Russ and Fay Irwin’s custom Paine 54 New Morning says Sausalito, but they may have to go around the world before it ever berths there. Since the sleek beauty’s launch in Maine in the spring of ’08, they’ve been to Newport, Bermuda, the Virgins, the Leeward Antilles, the Venezuelan islands, Bonaire and the San Blas.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Alleged Cruiser Murderer Arrested

Javier Martin is being held on suspicion of murdering American cruiser Don North and French sailor Jean-Pierre Bouahard in Panamanian waters.
© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Don Winner of the Panamanian news site is reporting that Spanish citizen Javier Martín, 42, is being held in Panama City on suspicion of murdering two singlehanded sailors: American Don North of the Morgan 385 Windancer and Frenchman Jean Pierre Bouhard of the 50-ft aluminum catamaran Levante. North and his schipperke Kuna have been missing since January 10, after he allegedly hired Martín to help take Windancer to Colombia. Bouhard’s body was discovered on February 4 in the waters off Portobello with a gunshot wound to the head.

Don North and his dog Kuna have been missing for more than a month. Windancer has been recovered.
© Latitude 38 Media, LLC
Authorities allege that Martin also murdered Jean-Pierre Bouahard, who ran a competing business aboard his 50-ft cat Levante.
© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Martín apparently ran a business transporting backpackers from Panama to Colombia — a service Bouhard also offered — before his 44-ft Beneteau Oceanis Twyla was wrecked in San Blas. Levante has been recovered and investigators reportedly discovered blood as well as Don North’s passport. Windancer has also been reported as recovered, but there’s no word on what evidence, if any, has been found. When Martín was taken into custody two days ago in Santa Fe, Darien, officials say he was in possession of three guns — a .38, a 12-gauge shotgun and a Glock 9 mm — ammo, $14,000 cash, and North’s credit card.

Oz Enters the Cup

Even a Kangaroo X-ing sign has more detail than the announcement of an Australian entry for AC34.

© Wally Beigh

With a month and a half to go before the close of the entry deadline for the 34th America’s Cup, an Australian challenger has emerged according to a press release from the ACEA. There weren’t any details on who is driving the challenge, nor on the challenging club, and a URL embedded in the release just leads to a domain name placeholder. There’s not much more we can tell you at this point. A statement attributed to "TEAM Australia" says that the effort has been underway for a year and that it "comprises a mix of experiences straddling technical backgrounds, business skills and passionate sailing enthusiasts."

All of these attributes would seem to be pretty helpful for an America’s Cup campaign, and not exactly noteworthy. The manner of the announcement is surprising — the team is missing a significant branding opportunity, and really, how hard is it to at least make a boilerplate website? If it had, in fact, been in the works for a year and TEAM Australia will be a viable challenger, it’s not walking the walk right now. It would be great to see Australia back in the America’s Cup, and an America’s Cup World Series event in Fremantle or Sydney Harbor would be pretty dynamite.

At this point, there’s a relative paucity of challengers for AC 34. The little teaser a few weeks back from ACEA about a potential Chinese entry may have been a solicitation more than anything; Hong Kong sailor Frank Pong, who chaired the China Team in ’07, is rumored to have said "no, thanks" already to overtures to enter. The two French challengers both say that the country can’t support two efforts, and Team New Zealand is not onboard yet. In order to have eight to 10 teams — Russell Coutts has sworn up and down that he expects there to be — there would likely have to be 11-13 teams that at least make it to the AC 45 stage to accomodate the inevitable attrition that seems to happen with these efforts. With six weeks left in the entry period, and Challenger of Record Vincenzo Onorato reporting that his Mascalzone Latino team has no sponsors, we’re starting to get a little concerned — hopefully it proves to be unfounded — that the Louis Vuitton Cup could end up being a two- or three-boat affair. Only time will tell.

Latitude 38 Sales Position Open

Latitude 38 is seeking an ambitious advertising sales rep to join our sales team immediately. This is only the second time in 25 years the job has become open.

This is a key position, tailor-made for a sailing enthusiast and sales professional well versed in relationship selling. Duties include actively selling and servicing current advertisers as well as prospecting and acquiring new advertisers for our monthly and specialty publications.

The successful candidate will have a proven track record in sales, knowledge of advertising principles, and the ability to evaluate clients’ current marketing plans. It is crucial that the candidate has the creative skills to come up with new marketing plans before meeting with clients, create original ad copy to show clients and/or submit to our graphics department, ability to sell online and sponsorship opportunities, ability to design/implement comprehensive marketing strategies for clients. The ability to work within deadlines is essential, and the candidate must be detail- and team-oriented while possessing excellent prioritization and time-management skills. Graphic/print/publishing/web experience preferred.

A passion for sailing is a must, and marine industry experience is a plus. Latitude 38 is beginning its 35th year of offering entertaining and informative reading to West Coast sailors as well as terrific value to a fantastic group of marine businesses. We want someone who will continue to serve and support our customers’ success.

Competitive commission structure and benefits include medical and a friendly work environment in Mill Valley. Please send a resume of your professional selling experience, along with a cover letter detailing your sailing background and interests to Kathy. (No phone calls or emails to the Latitude 38 office.)

Memories of beautiful weather — even with the light winds and heavy ebb pushing us back toward Vallejo — will help this weekend’s cruise-out participants, including Buffalo Spirit’s Ruben and Robbie Gabriel, tough out today’s dismal conditions.
"My boat partner snapped this shot while crossing the slot on our Islander 36 Shooter on the way to Sam’s for lunch," writes Norman Pearce.