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March 4, 2011

What’s That in My Blue Ocean!?

We were about to jump off the back of ‘ti Profligate when we saw this!

©2011 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

We were just about to jump off the transom of our Leopard 45 catamaran ‘ti Profligate, anchored off Gustavia, St. Barth, French West Indies, when we got a terrible shock. There floating on the blue, blue waters, right where we had intended to jump in, was a huge ‘Lincoln Log’! We’re not squeamish, but it was disgusting.

Our suspicions immediately turned to Doña de Mallorca who, minutes before, had disappeared into one of the four heads. But no, this was one big log, and anything that goes through a marine head comes out in little pieces that fish seem to like. "Wegman!" we cursed, knowing that the singlehanded circumnavigator uses a bucket, not a marine head, on his 32-ft ketch. But then we remembered he was still in the British Virgins.

When Mallorca came out of the head, we cautioned her not to jump in.

"Are you sure it’s not a sweet potato?" she asked. "Two of them went bad so I just chucked them over the side."

"We sure don’t think so," we responded. "It looked like the real thing to us." Five minutes later we were swimming in the blue, blue water, knowing that sweet potatoes do indeed look like Lincoln Logs from a distance of 10 to 15 feet.

This 50-ft cat is stacked with Optimists and sailboards, and is about to take on 11 youths, boys and girls, for the trip to Martinique.

©2011 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

One of the many things we love about tiny St. Barth is that there is so much activitity in the little harbor. The other night, for example, we came across a 50-ft catamaran that was being piled high with sail gear. In fact, it was six Optimist dinghies and a bunch of sailboards. It turned out that 11 members of the local sailing team and their boats would be leaving at 9 p.m. that night on the cat for 200-mile distant Martinique, where they would spend a week in various sailing competitions. Eleven kids on a 50-ft cat for a week of sailing. We can only imagine what that was going to be like.

Mayan and Jean, getting ready for the trip to Martinique and the sailing competition.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

A few minutes later, we checked out the other three boats on the dock. They were impressive. But if any of the owners were trying to impress the 9,000 residents of the island, they were having no luck. For one thing, the residents of the island have seen it all — and much better — countless times before. And second, while they are passionate about sailing, it’s about the sailing done by the locals on smaller boats.

Parsifal III was the big guy at the dock that evening. She’s a Perini Navi ketch, and looked to be about 180 feet.

©2011 Latitude 38 Media, LLC
In our view, the most beautiful boat at the dock that night was This Is Us, a name presumably inspired by the nice tune by Mark Knofler and Emmy Lou Harris. She — the schooner, not Emmy Lou — looked to be about 135 feet long and in the traditional style. Magnificent.

©2011 Latitude 38 Media, LLC
The J Class yacht Ranger has been a frequent visitor to St. Barth. No doubt she’ll be back for the 25th annual ‘Bucket’ at the end of the month.

©2011 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

St. Barth does have a haven of sorts for small boats, and that would be the little cove next to the Eden Rock Hotel in Baie St. John. Big boats aren’t allowed because their towering masts would make it impossible for the planes to land or take off from the airport.

Another Pirate Attack on a Yacht

As seven Danish sailors — Jan and Birgit Marie Johansen and their three teenage children Naja, Hjalte, and Rune, along with two unnamed crewmembers — were being transferred yesterday from their Dynamic 43 Ing to a larger ship loaded with others kidnapped by Somali pirates, a couple on the Dutch-flagged yacht Capricorn were saved from a similar fate by a private Dutch security firm. Though details are sparse, it appears the couple locked themselves in a safe room when six Somali pirates boarded their yacht. Six guards on the boat escorting Capricorn exchanged fire with the pirates before retaking the vessel. No casualites were reported.

This uptick in piracy against private yachts is disturbing on many levels, not the least of which is how suddenly it’s increased and the violence that’s accompanied it. Many boats already on their way across the Arabian Sea have limited communications and may not know about the latest attacks, as evidenced by the fact that some are still broadcasting their locations to family and friends back home via the internet or tracking beacons. No one knows exactly how Somali pirates find their prey, but it would seem prudent to ‘run dark’ anywhere near the region.

The La Gamelle Olson 30 Quest Continues

The La Gamelle Syndicate members would like to thank everyone for their help in our search for a very basic, ‘big bang for the buck’, Olson 30 for Zen cruising. We’ve gotten responses or been directed to leads in Sag Harbor, Sarasota, Dallas, Seattle, Redondo Beach, Santa Cruz, Alameda, Sausalito, Pt. Richmond, Benicia and we can’t remember where else. While we’re still following up on some of them, we haven’t yet found what we’re looking for. In several cases the boats were all primed for top-flight racing, while we’re looking for a simple cruising version. In several other cases, the boats were either halfway through a restoration or, if we may speak frankly, looked as though they hadn’t been cleaned in years. Neither was attractive to us.

But as we said, we’re still following some leads and mulling over some others. So if you can think of another Olson 30 for sale, we’d love to hear from you.

Size Matters . . .

Variety is the name of the game at the Richmond YC’s Sail a Small Boat Day.

© Erik Simonson

If you’ve learned to sail on a keelboat, or haven’t sailed a dinghy since you were in elementary school, don’t miss the Richmond YC’s Sail a Small Boat Day tomorrow. From 10:30 a.m to 3:30 p.m. at the club, you’ll have the opportunity to get out on a wide variety of small boats and "try before you buy" at no cost to you. There will be everything from high-performance skiffs like 49ers and International 14s, to family boats like Lightnings and Thistles. They’ll range in age from boats like the venerable El Toro to the brand new Weta trimaran, and we guarantee you that you’ll never find all these boats available to you all at one time, so take advantage!

March made like a lion last night, sending a roaring front through the Bay Area that had the halyards slapping.
Having recently opened up the Latitude 38 winter office in St. Barth, French West Indies, we were in line for a drink at Le Select the other evening with former San Francisco sailor Guillaume Touhadian when a young woman behind us struck up a conversation.