April 8, 2011

Mike Harker’s Sudden Death

In late 2007 Harker rounded Cape Point, South Africa, thus returning to the Atlantic Ocean where he would complete his mostly solo circumnavigation.

© Mike Harker

We regret to report that Manhattan Beach-based solo circumnavigator Mike Harker passed away last Friday in St. Martin, French West Indies. In his mid-60s and about to sail to the Med, Harker suffered a massive stroke while aboard his Hunter 49 Wanderlust III.

Harker was a good friend of Latitude 38 and a frequent contributor. One of the pioneers of hang-gliding, he was nearly killed after a 500-ft plunge into the ocean off Grenada many years ago. Told he would never walk again, he spent a decade dedicated to physical rehab, after which he was able to walk, although not stand upright unless touching something.

In late ’99, while riding his bike through Marina del Rey, Mike picked up a copy of Latitude 38 at the Hunter dealer, and read about the Baja Ha-Ha. Although he knew nothing about sailing, a short time later he was accompanied by German sailing friends on his Hunter 34 Wanderlust in the ’00 Ha-Ha. After singlehanding a nasty Baja Bash, he sold the 34 and bought a new Hunter 466 in Florida. When his transAtlantic crew bailed on him because of delivery delays, Harker singlehanded Wanderlust II across the pond and around the western Med. Accompanied by crew, he later sailed back across the Altantic and across the Pacific to French Polynesia. A snapped rudder shaft merely delayed his passages to Hawaii and back to California.

With considerable support from Hunter, Harker bought a Hunter Mariner 49, christened her Wanderlust III, and did an 11-month singlehanded circumnavigation. Prior to and after that accomplishment, he appeared at boat shows around the world for Hunter. Many Latitude readers attended his seminars at Strictly Sail Pacific in Oakland.

Harker spent most of his post-circumnavigation time in the Caribbean. Three years ago we did the New Year’s Eve Around St. Barth Race with him aboard Wanderlust III. Despite the difficultly he had in moving around the deck, and having to constantly check his numb legs for bleeding, he insisted that we drive while he did all the deck work!

Last summer, Harker was the victim of a vicious pre-dawn attack on his boat in the anchorage at St. Martin’s Simpson Bay Lagoon. When two intruders demanded more cash than Harker had on hand, they beat him to a bloody pulp, repeatedly kicking him in the head. We’re not doctors, so we have no way to know if that terrible beating contributed to the stroke that killed him, but it couldn’t have helped.

We’ll always remember Mike for being the quiet type who liked to observe crowds from the sidelines. He was self-sufficient, thrifty in the best sense of the word, and was meticulous about taking care of his things, be they boats or motorcycles. Adieu, good friend.

SF Marina Renovation to Begin

After a decade of planning, the much-anticipated renovation to the San Francisco Marina West — just behind St. Francis YC — is slated to begin on April 25 with the removal of the current docks. Construction should be complete by November ’12.

The upgrading of San Francisco Marina has been a long time coming.

© SF Tourism

As welcome as the project is — the marina has been in rough shape for quite a while — some boat owners have expressed concern about how the renovation will affect them. The Recreation and Park Department has already given fair warning that slip fees will increase at least 37% and, due to the new dock configuration, tenants may not have the same neighbors when they return. All boats will be temporarily relocated during construction.

But a big question that has yet to be answered by officials is whether boat owners will retain the right to transfer their slip leases when they sell their boats. This current practice essentially allows owners to make a profit on their right to a piece of public property by jacking up the price of their boats.

We’d like to hear what you think about the current policy allowing lease transfers in City-owned marinas. Send your thoughts on the matter — both pro and con — to LaDonna.

Ad: Guess the Sailmaker Contest

Bob Bechler is a happy Island Planet Sails customer.

©2011 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Congrats David Eberhard!

Thanks to the hundreds of readers who entered the Guess the Sailmaker Contest, the objective of which was to name the sailmaker that Bob Bechler has relied upon during his 64,000 miles of cruising, including 4 Puddle Jumps and 3 Baja Ha-Ha’s.

The correct answer is Island Planet Sails.

Island Planet Sails has grown rapidly with referral and repeat business like Bob’s. Owner Dave Benjamin prefers to invest in his customer’s satisfaction rather than in national media campaigns, allowing him to deliver unbeatable value. This low key approach is working as a growing number of sailors, including some from Australia and Europe, are finding Island Planet to be their sailmaker of choice. Learn more by visiting the website.

© 2011 Island Planet Sails

Crewing in the Caribbean

“Hello, SanDisk, this is Melissa calling on behalf of Latitude 38. I want to know why you can’t use your SDHC memory cards in both Nikon and Lumix cameras. The cards fit in both cameras and are specified for both cameras. The boss took these nice photos of photos of the Tallmans (Craig, Sean, Emma and Renee), the Troegers(Steve, Kathy, Montana, Keira, Sara Lynn) and the Montagues (Steve and Emily) all from the King Harbor YC (Redondo Beach), who are here in St. Barth on a Sunsail 45 charter cat, and your crummy memory card scrambled them. What’s the problem? Can you hear me?! Speak up! What’s wrong with this connection, darn it!

©2011 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

We like it when people prove us right.

For example, yesterday we were talking to friends in the patio area of Le Select Bar in St. Barth when Steve Troeger of the King Harbor YC — fresh off crewing on Ed McDowell’s victorious SC 70 Grand Illusion in the Cabo Race — came up and asked if we weren’t the publisher of Latitude. We confessed that we were. We soon got to meet the family-and-friends group from the King Harbor YC (Redondo Beach), who had come to the island from St. Martin on a Sunsail 45 catamaran.

We got to talking, as sailors do, and mentioned that we were part of a syndicate trying to bring an Olson 30 to the island. Troeger mentioned that a few years back, Southern Californians Doug Baker of Magnitude 80 and David Janes of the R/P 77 Akela had Pete Heck ship an Olson 30 to the Caribbean and later up to Rhode Island for a variety of races. They did well, too, for having a 30-year-old boat, taking a first in St. Thomas and second in Block Island.

Then the guys on this Caribbean family charter —  meaning Troeger, Craig Tallman and Steve Montague — got to musing how much fun it would be to sail in one of the big boats in the Voiles de St. Barth. It was the lay day in the four-race series. We were going to tell them, as we’ve told everyone else, that it’s actually easy to get on a boat, but as they were on a multi-family vacation, we let it slide.

Without more crew on the rail, Steve Schmidt of the Saratoga and Caribbean-based SC 70 Hotel California, Too, was going to have to go with a smaller headsail, something he didn’t want to do.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Fast forward to this morning, when we met Steve, Craig and Steve at the regatta village. They were excited because they somehow managed to hook up to crew on a Farr 65. True, they’d have to take off immediately after the race, but with the trades blowing a mellow 15 to 18, what could be better? Well, what could have been better is if we’d gotten to them a little earlier to warn them that if one isn’t careful in St. Barth, a simple breakfast for three can cost $100. It doesn’t have to, but it can.

So yeah, it’s easy to get good rides if not great boats in the Caribbean. So many rides that you’ll come close to begging for a break from all the sailing and socializing. Details to come in the May issue of Latitude.

What red-blooded sailor wouldn’t want to sail in conditions such as this, with 17 knots of breeze, 85 degree air temperature, and 80 degree water temperature.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC
No one was more surprised than us when, 25 minutes after posting Monday’s ‘Lectronic Latitude, all 50 spots on the Delta Doo Dah 3D entry list were filled — that’s two boats a minute, folks!
Steve Schmidt drives Hotel California, Too, to a 7th out of 22 boats in class in the first of four Voiles de St.