July 27, 2011

Mothball Fleet Revealed

A rare view of the Mothball Fleet stationed in Suisun Bay.

© Scott Haefner

For sailors who’ve ventured beyond the Benicia Bridge, the Mothball Fleet in Suisun Bay is part landmark, part history and part mystery. Ostensibly part of the National Defense Reserve Fleet, the Ghost Fleet doesn’t appear, at least when you’re sailing by, to be ready to do much of anything but become a happy habitat to nesting birds. Though they look like rusting hulks from the outside, how had their interiors fared after decades of disuse?

The photographers say that most of the boats were too deteriorated to put back into service.

© Scott Haefner

Adventure photographers Scott Haefner, Jon Haeber and Stephen Freskos decided to find out. Over the course of 18 months, the trio visited the fleet five times — occasionally for a few days — and photographed what they discovered. Haefner’s website details their experiences of sneaking aboard and avoiding security patrols while documenting the fleet with some spectacular — and revealing — photos. Unfortunately, their presentation ‘Mothball Fleet Revealed’ was held back in May, but the photos are available for viewing (and purchase) on Haefner’s site.

Stephen Freskos at the helm of a tiny rubber raft as the trespassers flee the scene of their final foray.

© 2011 Scott Haefner

Now the next time you sail by, the Ghost Fleet will be just a little less mysterious — and we can’t decide if that’s such a good thing after all.

Whidbey Island, Double Damned

The Santa Cruz 27s used Whidbey Island Race as their nationals. Their 12 boats were the largest one design class out of a 100-boat fleet.

© 2011 Clear Ahead Marine Prodcutions

The 29th Annual Whidbey Island Race Week attracted 109 keelboats from the West Coast over July 17-22 for what’s the last week-long "race week" in the U.S. Twelve races were conducted in 8- to 22-knot breezes over the course of the regatta, which is held off its namesake island north of Seattle. Six nights of parties with different live bands playing and Mount Gay Rum pouring made certain the evenings were as filled with excitement as the days.

Over 70% of the fleet was made up of PHRF boats, with the Melges 24s, J/105s, J/80s, and SC 27s having one design starts. The Santa Cruz 27 Nationals were held concurrently with Alex Simanis on Little Blue Dune Buggy taking the title. Gord and Michelle Galbraith’s Lekker was tops among the Melges 24s. Jerry Diercks’ Delirium took home the J/105 honors, and the J/80 honors went to Chris White’s Crazy Ivan.

The sailors got the full range of conditions.

© Hans Spiller

PHRF 0 went to John Hoag’s 1D35 Shrek and PHRF 1 went to Kirk Leslie’s FT-10 Prowler. PHRF 2 was all about Charlie Macaulay’s One Ton Absolutely. PHRF 7 went to Paul Faget’s Sierra 26 Dos, and PHRF 8 went to Pat Denny’s J/29 Here & Now. 2008 Pacific Cup overall winner Joby Easton and his Cascade 36 Raindrop took PHRF 9, while PHRF 10 went to Chad Holcomb’s Olson 25 Yeah Dogg, and PHRF 11 to Mitch Rinella’s San Juan 24 Skamokawa.

Attendance was up roughly 10% over last year, and organizer Gary Stuntz has been working hard to bring the event back to its historical billing as one of the world’s best-known regattas. To that end, he’s working on getting a large-scale title sponsor that he hopes will give him the ability to promote the regatta even harder on the West Coast. Next year’s event will be held July 15-20. Visit www.whidbeyislandraceweek.com for more details.

The poster for this year’s Double Damned Race reminds of just how epic this race is.

© 2011 Hood River YC

While we’re on a Pacific Northwest kick, make sure you check out the 41-mile smash fest that is the Hood River YC’s Double Damned race — one of the coolest events we’ve ever done. It’s coming up on August 6, and registration is still open. The event will be bringing out some of the best of the Moore 24 fleet, such as Artemis Racing’s Morgan Larson. It follows the Columbia Gorge One Design Regatta in Cascade Locks this weekend, which doubles as the Moore 24 Nationals this year. And in case you haven’t seen it, here’s a video of the ’09 Double Damned produced by Stuntz:

Are You Missing the Christmas in July Sales?

Crissy Fields is one organized shopper, and you can be too! Christmas is closer than we all want to admit, and Crissy’s bag is full of goodies for that special sailor in her life.

Think about Latitude 38 logowear for that special sailor on your list.

©2011 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Check out our inventory and place your order at

Polynesian Fleet Due to Arrive Early

As reported earlier, a fleet of six double-hulled voyaging canoes are currently heading to San Francisco Bay from the Hawaiian Islands. Despite the fact that they are navigating by the stars, as their ancestors did, they’re way ahead of schedule — now expected to pass beneath the Golden Gate as early as July 30.

We had the pleasure of watching one of the fleet sailing in Tonga last summer.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

As you’ll learn if you visit them during their public receptions on August 6 and 7 at Treasure Island, part of their mission is to heighten awareness about the many environmental impacts on our oceans. You’ll also learn how ancient navigators used such canoes — called vaka moanas — to colonize the islands of Polynesia thousands of years ago. See the website for background info.

The double-hull design is reminiscent of the ancient craft that brought settlers to Hawaii, New Zealand and French Polynesia.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

And the Winner is . . .

On Monday we challenged readers to explain the photo below: 1) Why do these sailors have so many dinghies piled on their decks? 2) Where are they? 3) What is their profession? The first correct answer came in just a few minutes after we posted the story.

Some thought these were dinghy theives, others thought they were shuttling dinghies for a junior program.

© Lynn Ringseis

As Cliff Wilson explained, the little boats are seen aboard their mother ship, and are used to go fishing for fish, conch or lobster. "Each cayuga (not ‘dinghy’) is operated by one fisherman who ties it to his waist while fishing. They get dropped off in the morning, then picked up in the afternoon." But wait a minute, we know Cliff. He runs a sweet charter cat in Belize. So he’s disqualified on that technicality. (But we’ll be happy to give him some Latitude swag anyway.)

With that ruling by our judges, the contest honors go to DJ Mac who was the next to answer correctly — he could live in Belize, too, as far as we know, but what the heck. What’s your mailing address and your shirt size, DJ? A whole slew of other contestants sent in correct answers, and we’d guess many of them have chartered in those waters with The Moorings or TMM. If you’d like to read what that experience is like, check out Lynn Ringseis’ article on Belize chartering in the World of Chartering section of our August issue, which will be hot off the presses on Friday — and as always, available as a free download from our website later that day.

During her recent charter trip to Belize, Latitude’s part-time ‘cub reporter’ Lynn Ringseis counted more than 10 Belizean fishermen working from this small sloop. Somehow they managed to sleep aboard too.

© Lynn Ringseis

As you might imagine, our challenge inspired some ‘creative’ responses also: Guy Johnson is sure it’s a shot of a local "Yacht Club’s junior program ferrying the dinghies to a neighboring village for a weekend Jr. Fleet Regatta. Probably Cuna indians in the San Blas Islands of Panama." Dave Johnson guesses: "The boat is a water taxi, and the dinghies are stacked on deck when the number of passengers is low. When they have a lot of passengers, the dinghies are towed" (with passengers inside, we assume). Chris McKay thinks they are pearl divers in Japan. Richard Shoemaker is convinced they are part of Dinkwise, Inc., a spinoff company of Dockwise Yacht Transport, doing "trans-bay dinghy deliveries" in Marin County’s Richardson Bay. David Hume figures they are San Francisco Bay sailors "complying with the new Coast Guard ruling that requires at least one emergency life raft for each and every passenger on the boat." (Really?) Mike Smith thinks it’s a "designated dinghy delivery from a local tropical pub" for sailors who become too incapacitated to get home on their own. And last but not least, Jim Griffin thinks "they are dinghy theives in Bequia, West Indies, on their way to the ‘chop shop’ where they will file off the HIN and add a stolen outboard. They will then sell them back to the previous owners and split the profits with the St. Vincent Police." Owww! And we thought we were cynical!

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Researchers at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center and Portland State University are trying to determine how often recreational boats in California move, where they go and how often their bottoms are cleaned.