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June 24, 2011

Taj, Ha-Ha Entry #51

Peter Brown spent 10 years building Taj and he did a beautiful job.

© Peter Brown

As of this morning, the total number of paid entries for this fall’s Baja Ha-Ha, the 18th or ‘Barely Legal’ edition, had reached 91. As the Grand Poobah, we take a lot of pleasure in going over the list to look for familiar boats or sailors.

Take Taj, entry #51, for example, a Grainger 480 cat owned by Peter Brown of the Pacific Northwest. Although we’re not sure if we met him at the time, he was a young lawyer living in Berkeley in the early ’80s. After winning a big case, he decided to do the ’82 Singlehanded TransPac aboard his Olson 30 Gold Rush. Halfway across, he decided that he preferred being at sea to being in a courtroom. So a while later, he flew to France, picked up a new Pretorian 35 he christened Emerald City, and took off around the world.

By about ’94, he found himself in South Africa and enamored with catamarans. So he moved up from his 35-ft monohull to a Norseman 40 catamaran he named Nepenthe. He took on Lucifer, one of the most beautiful felines we’ve ever seen, as crew, and set off for the Caribbean.

We met Brown in St. Barth — where else? — in ’95, where we not only did a story on him, but also went sailing on his cat with him and his cat. It was one of the first times we’d ever sailed on a catamaran.

Alas, a few months later Nepenthe would be one of more than 650 sailboats to be destroyed by Hurricane Luis in St. Martin’s Simpson Bay. She’d been flipped and holed. Getting away with little more than the clothes on his back and his papers, Brown made it back to the United States. Eventually, he enrolled in the Northwest Wooden Boatbuilding School in Port Townsend where, before long, he decided that he should build a Grainger 480 cat that he would call Taj.


Building any boat is no walk in the park, but building a cat is a huge undertaking, and 10 years passed before Taj was launched. That was long after Brown had gone back to practicing law, and long after he even tried to sell the half-completed boat. But Taj has been in the water for four years now, and Brown is obviously ready to head south. It’s going to be a lot of fun to see him again.

If it’s your time to head south, you can sign up for the Ha-Ha at We’re looking forward to meeting you, too.

Here are the latest entries:

75) Jennifer, Beneteau Oceanis 500, Lars Hässler, Stockholm, Sweden
76) Knuckle Dragger, Hunter 38, Robert Craig, Portland, OR
77) Arctic Tern 111, Nordic 40, John Garteiz, Whittier, AK
78) Realtime, Norseman 447, Bob & Karyn Packard, Long Beach
79) Azure-Té, Ron Holland 43, Jack Gill, Sausalito
80) Buena Vida, Catalina 42, Jeff & Julie Leonard, Ventura
81) Sojourn, Pearson Alberg 35, Bridget & Bruce Eastman, Brisbane
82) Outraygeous, Hunter Legend 45, Ray & Dori McEneaney, Vallejo
83) Murar’s Dream, Beneteau 46, Andrew Rosen, Marina del Rey
84) Tranquilo, Catalina 400, Lloyd & Colleen Clauss, San Pedro
85) Sundance, Beneteau M38, Rick Donker & David Rempel, San Francisco
86) Tara, Caliber 28, John Neeley & Shannon Walker, Berkeley
87) Nirvana, Irwin 45, Bob & Sherry Davis, Shell Beach
88) Sailpotion, CSK 40, Herschel & Susan Pence, Vallejo
89) Orion, Hunter 466, Connor W. Lamm & Yvonne Sininger, Marina del Rey
90) Caledonia II, Jeanneau 452, Ed Fudge & Peter Ruben, Calgary, AB
91) Tan Tori, Island Packet 445, Roger & Tori Robinett, Seattle, WA

Politics as Usual

In last month’s Sightings, we expanded on a May 11 ‘Lectronic Latitude report on Washington’s ban on copper bottom paint and that California was close to passing a similar law in SB 623. The Recreational Boaters of California and Boat U.S. have been vociferous in their opposition to the bill and, in an effort to whip up taxpayer ire, have gone so far as to imply that the average boater would get stuck with a biennial bottom job bill of $5K. But the reality of the bill was much more mundane: copper paints would be banned starting in 2019, giving boaters eight years to find a non-copper paint substitute. This shouldn’t have been too troublesome since so many inexpensive and effective alternatives are already on the market — and more are released every year by paint companies who seem to understand which way the wind is blowing.

Though we’re never overly enthusiastic about government interference in people’s lives, we cautiously supported the bill as it was written.

But California politics are never easy or simple. SB 623 passed the State Senate on June 2 and moved on to the Committee on Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials. On Tuesday, an amended verison of the bill was released, and it bears almost no resemblance to the previous version. As amended, the bill would allow the use of "low-leach rate copper antifouling paints" and would require the Department of Pesticide Regulation to "determine the maximum allowable leach rate" for such paints by January 1, 2014. A year after that, all other copper paints would be banned.

"Low-leach rate" isn’t defined in the bill, but our assumption on reading it was that non-ablative/"hard" paints would be the likely choice. Don’t count on it, says a source well-informed on the legislation. He says a paint’s actual copper content, not at the rate at which it leaches, will likely be what the DPR looks at.

But the changes to the bill don’t stop there. The biggest change — the one that made us think, "That has to be a typo!" — is the provision that if the State Water Resources Control Board determines that low-leach copper paints are still contributing to poor water quality (just how they’d separate it out from, say, copper brake pads is anyone’s guess), ALL antifouling paints would be banned. Yes, you read that correctly. All.

"117146 (b): On or after January 1, 2019, if the State Water Resources Control Board does not demonstrate that the trend line of the measured water quality data points toward attainment of the dissolved copper water quality objectives in California marinas and harbors, then the use or application of antifouling paint on recreational vessels shall be prohibited one year after the determination."

We’re assured by our source that the word "copper" wasn’t accidentally left out — all bottom paints would be banned, and boaters would be required to remove the paint on their boats. Not only would that be ridiculously expensive for boaters, but it would also be completely unenforceable. And let’s not even discuss where all that ground off copper paint would go, because we all know an obscene amount would end up right back in our waters, doing far more harm than if it’d just stayed on the bottom of our boats.

Talk about throwing the baby out with the bathwater!

So why on earth did the bill get changed so drastically? Our source suspects the RBOC had a heavy hand in sabotaging this latest draft, wording it in such a way that essentially makes it a lame duck law because of its unenforcablity (the state can’t afford to keep DMV open five days a week, much less check every boat for copper bottom paint). Either that, or the environmental lobby pushing the bill through is competely out of touch with reality. Interestingly, the RBOC seems much more in favor of SB 623 as currently written (though they wrongly state that only copper paint could be banned in ’19), which might lead someone to agree with our source’s first suggestion.

Regardless, we’re sad to say what had been a promising piece of legislation is now one of the more ridiculous boating-related bills we’ve seen in a while. No matter which side of the fence you stand on, it’s a lose-lose, and a complete waste of the legislature’s valuable time.

And don’t be surprised when it passes.

The proof, in case you needed any, that this editor got the short experience of sailing on an AC 45.
About to board our Alaskan Airlines flight yesterday morning from San Francisco to Puerto Vallarta, where we would pick up Profligate for a Baja Bash, we got the news the flight was postponed indefinitely.