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March 14, 2011

The Quest for La Sirena

Next time you’re in San Blas, stop in to Billy Bob’s and pay your respects to the last remnants of a grand old San Francisco ‘lady’.

© Suzanne Statler

After many years of hearing about his customers’ adventures south of the border, Sausalito marine diesel mechanic Tom List is finally getting a taste of the cruising life. For the last few months, he and his wife, Suzanne Statler, have been cruising the Mexican coast aboard their newly acquired steel sloop Begone.

As they headed toward Banderas Bay recently, Tom was excited about the prospect of running across his old friend from the Master Mariners, Glenn Burch. "He’d heard that Glenn was in La Cruz," explains Suzanne. "Tom had raced Polaris against Glenn’s schooner La Sirena in San Francisco Bay for many years."

"What a surprise when Tom walked into Philo’s and there was Glenn at the bar," Suzanne recalls. And Tom happened to be wearing a Master Mariners’ T-shirt at the time with a photo of La Sirena on it.

After years of hearing about other sailors’ adventures, Suzanne and Tom are now having a few of their own.

©2011 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

The way we understand it, Glenn had taken La Sirena south and cruised successfully for a while, but while he was in the hospital for medical issues the boat took on water. The water was pumped out and the boat was stabilized, but unbeknowst to Glenn, worms apparently entered the hull and remained inside doing their evil deeds to the hull. 

By the time the problem was discovered, repairs were beyond what Glenn could manage, so he sold her. Tom and Suzanne were determined to track her down, nevertheless. Suzanne explains, "Our first night in the San Blas Marina, we met a man with his dog who revealed the end of La Sirena’s story. He said the new owner, Lee, had tried with great commitment to revive the old boat — but alas, she was too far gone. And while most of her went to the wooden boat museum in the sky, Lee donated her transom, rudder and other pieces to a local ‘museum’ bar named Billy Bob’s."

"We walked in the front door and there — prominently displayed — was the stern of La Sirena, transformed into a nice table." When Billy Bob himself arrived, Tom and Suzanne gave him an in-depth history of the historic schooner and appropriately, "the tequilla started to flow and a great time was shared by all!" By all accounts, Billy Bob’s is a worthwhile stopover when visiting San Blas, if for no other reason that to pay homage to the La Sirena memorabilia — and to say hi to Fluffy, the 78-year-old crocodile in the back courtyard!

Awww. . . isn’t Fluffy cute!

© 2011 Suzanne Statler

Tsunami — Stay or Leave

Given the chaos of ‘tsunami Friday’, it’s a little unclear to us what kind of instructions port and other officials gave to boatowners. In many cases it was reported that ports were closed, but that might have happened once the effects of the tsunamis began to be felt.

We do know the the three port captains in Banderas Bay — at La Cruz, Nuevo Vallarta, and Puerto Vallarta — announced that the ports were closed. As far as we’re concerned, this was akin to vets advising owners of domestic pets to put their animals in cars with the windows rolled up during a heat wave. Being in port is the last place you want to be during a tsunami.

According to John Thompson, crew aboard Bruce and Pascale Powell’s Tiburon-based Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 45 Calou, some docks in La Cruz Marina on Banderas Bay seem to have been the only casualties there.

© 2011 John Thompson

As Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Kurt Fredrickson in Honolulu reported, the Coast Guard worked with local port authorities and harbormasters to get the word to all mariners to get their boats to sea. "People listened to what we told them," said Frederickson.

Well, not all of them. Suzie Grubler of Maui reports that "there was no loss of life but there was major carnage in the Maui harbors." It’s also been reported that 200 boats were damaged in Honolulu’s Keehi Lagoon.

Max Rosenberg took this shot of a whirlpool forming in Santa Barbara Harbor during Friday’s tsunami.

© 2011 Max Rosenberg / Santa Barbara Aviation

And here on the mainland, 18 boats were sunk in Santa Cruz and 11 in Crescent City, with hundreds more damaged. It’s unclear to us what advice, if any, port captains and harbormasters gave boatowners in those two ports.

Crescent City was hit hard by the tsunami.

© 2011 The Oregonian

Down in Banderas Bay, a trickle of boatowners willing to defy the ‘stay in port’ orders of the port captains — and a supposed fine of $4,000 to $5,000 U.S. — became a flood of outgoing boats. We’re told that well over 100 boats sought the safety of the deep waters of Banderas Bay. So many boats left the marinas that the port captains responded by saying the ‘stay in port’ orders only applied to commercial vessels.

If a tsunami were approaching and a misguided authority of some sort instructed you to keep your boat in port, what would you do? Keep your boat in port and risk having it be damaged or destroyed, or defy authority and head out to sea? Email your responses to Richard.

As we waited for the tsunami at Schoonmaker beach this morning, we heard several reports from locals that the body of a Sausalito boater was found yesterday afternoon floating near Clipper Yacht Harbor 1.
The St. Francis YC announced today that Robbie Dean will be taking over as the club’s Director of Racing Operations in place of John Craig who has moved on to the PRO role for America’s Cup 34.