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November 28, 2011

Giving Thanks for the Bay

Holiday, Silent Sun and Shrimp Louie rafted up over the weekend in Clipper Cove.

©2011 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

As has become our ‘family tradition’, this writer and her husband avoided holiday traffic and Black Friday crowds by organizing a mini-cruiseout over the weekend, inviting any number of sailing friends to join us when their schedules allowed. By 11 a.m. Thursday morning, we were the only boat anchored in Clipper Cove, having taken advantage of an unusually high tide to ensure we wouldn’t run aground at the shoaly entrance. We were just drying off after the drizzly motor over and settling in with a hot cup tea when another boat — no one we knew — dropped anchor as close to us as was safely possible . . . in a harbor that could easily hold hundreds of boats! Why some boaters feel the need to snuggle up as close as possible to other boats will always remain one of life’s deepest mysteries. Regardless, we had what Arlo Guthrie would have called a ‘Thanksgiving meal that couldn’t be beat’ and enjoyed the rest of the day.

Of course our friends had their own family traditions on the Big Day, so most of them showed up on Friday. We all spent the day hopping from boat to boat, sharing tea, stories and even an outstanding cioppino. The last boat arrived late in the evening, stopped at the entrance until the tide buoyed them off, and we all made plans for some shoreside exploring the next day.

The Treasure Island Marina dinghy dock is located just inside the main gate — do not use the potty dock for dinghy tie-up.

©2011 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Did you know there are four wineries on Treasure Island, plus a vodka distillery? Neither did we, until we spoke with Roger Ladwig, harbormaster at Treasure Island Marina. He reminded us that folks who plan to anchor in Clipper Cove for longer than 24 hours need to call (415) 274-0382 or go to to notify the Treasure Island Development Authority. He also suggested that anyone who wants to dinghy ashore at the marina, rather than at the beach, should contact him about parking at the dinghy dock. If you have big plans ashore, it might be just as easy to get overnight moorage at the marina for $1/ft.

The Winery looms large next door to the marina. If you get hungry, you can hit the Treasure Island Bar & Grill in the marina’s parking lot.

©2011 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Our first stop was at The Winery, just behind the marina. We were greeted by Fiona Tropiano who confirmed there were three other wineries on the island, all of which would happily offer wine tastings if scheduled in advance. Though it’s planned for the future, there is currently no transportation between the wineries, so Fiona suggested that those on foot start at the far end of the island and make The Winery the last — and most conveniently located — stop. If your yacht club would like to organize a wine tasting tour during your next Clipper Cove cruise-out, be sure to email Fiona, who can put you in touch with the other wineries.

Marco Cochrane’s 40-ft ‘Bliss Dance’ sculpture from Burning Man now watches over the flea market on the Great Lawn.

©2011 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Fiona then told us about the Treasure Island Flea, a flea market/crafts fair/antique show that runs year-round on the last weekend of each month (except next month). It was just $3 to get in and was a fun way to spend the morning. We would have explored the island a while longer but a northerly piped up so we headed back to check on the boats. After the wind settled down, the Borg family headed ashore to bury some pirate treasure. Great lengths were taken to ensure the secrecy of its final resting spot — including the threat of beheading if we even hinted at its location — so it will hopefully be there when they dig it up on their next visit.

Briana, Laurie, Spence and Austin Borg threaten a fate worse than death to any who attempt to locate their buried treasure…arrr!

©2011 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Sunday was the day to head home for most folks, but for Brian Cline and his girlfriend Margy, it was the day to leave home. The Berkeley-based couple stopped into Clipper to say adios, as they were heading to Mexico aboard their Pacific Seacraft Dana 24 Maris. Look for updates from them in upcoming issues of Latitude 38.

Brian and Margy wave goodbye as they leave the Bay aboard their Dana 24 Maris.

©2011 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

As we sailed back to Sausalito yesterday, we were impressed by the number of boats taking advantage of all the Bay has to offer in the winter. It may not be as warm as Mexico or as exotic as the South Pacific, but San Francisco Bay has a charm all her own and we’re thankful to call her home.

Do You Have a Water-Exit Plan?

We’re sad to report that a liveaboard boater in the Oakland-Alameda Estuary drowned Friday night, apparently having fallen into the 55-degree water and becoming tangled in docklines or other rigging. Drinking is thought to have played a role in the tragic death.

Unfortunately, such sad events are common in Bay waters, especially during the winter months, when docks are slippery — and occasionally icy — and fewer potential rescuers are around to take notice.

With that in mind, we advise all boaters to assess their boat and adjacent docks for winter-related dangers. Most importantly, be aware of the water-exiting options near your boat. If no swim or safety ladders are deployed nearby, the best means of self-rescue is often via a transom-mounted swim platform on a nearby powerboat.

Emergency exit ladders like this FloatStep unit can literally be a lifesaver, but not many marinas have them.

© 2011 Atlantic Aluminum Marine

Having pulled out one of our marina neighbors on a cold, dark night two winters ago, this writer can attest to the urgency of finding a route out quickly. The powerboater we rescued said he hadn’t been in the water long, but already his legs were too numb to kick (or stand), and he was too short of breath to yell loudly.

We’d also suggest that if the docks near your boat tend to get slick and slimy, request that they be pressure-washed by your marina’s staff.

We don’t know how big a role drinking played in the death of the Oakland mariner, but we know heavy drinking (and possible drug use) has played a major role in the deaths of other boaters in various parts of the Bay during recent winters. Ironically, while the holiday season is probably the most joyful time of year for most people, it can be the saddest or most depressing time for others. So we urge you to keep an eye out for neighbors in need, and be extra careful when walking on docks and decks this winter.

Volvo, Banque Populaire Update

Over the holiday weekend, two of the three boats remaining in Leg One of the Volvo Ocean Race made port in Cape Town, South Africa. Iker Martínez’ Telefónica cruised in on Saturday to take the leg win after 21d, 5h, 14m. Sixteen hours later, Chris Nicholson’s Camper followed suit. Franck Cammas’ Groupama 4 is still at sea, and facing both a stretch of light air and then a 35-knot beat to the finish.

Ken Read’s Puma has made landfall in Tristan da Cunha, where her crew awaits the freighter that will load the boat and transport her to Cape Town. In the meantime, the sailors have been playing golf on one of the world’s most exotic golf courses, enjoying local hospitality, and seeing a 275-resident town that few people ever get to visit.

Meanwhile, the 131-ft maxi trimaran Banque Populaire V has already crossed the equator, having only left Ushant on Tuesday morning. Loïck Peyron and his 13-man crew set a new reference time of 5d, 14h, 55m for that section of the Jules Verne trophy course. Although there is a long way to go, getting off to a start this good indicates that the Cammas’ ’round-the-world record is definitely in jeopardy.

Bits and Pieces from Mexico

14 to 1!

The peso dropped to 14.2 to against the dollar last Friday. Cruisers were even getting a whopping 14 to 1 at ATM machines. In July, the peso was 11.5 to the dollar. In other words, the cost of cruising Mexico is 20% less than it was just five months ago.

Earlier this month Marina Cabo San Lucas was giving 12.30 pesos to the dollar and charging $3.30 USD per gallon for diesel. But prices are likely to be even cheaper at the current exchange rate.

©2011 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Tres Marias Prisoners Captured at Sea

Six prisoners who attempted to swim/drift to freedom from Mexico’s Islas Marias Federal Prison, about 50 miles west of San Blas, were captured 60 miles south of the islands on Thanksgiving Day after they were spotted by a passing boat. The men had used plastic gas and water tanks, as well as wood planks, to stay afloat. It’s unclear how long they had been drifting — probably two days — before they were spotted. As they were drifting parallel to rather than toward shore, they owe their lives to having been spotted.

Many cruisers in Mexico are familiar with the Tres Marias islands, as they are on the rhumbline from Cabo to Puerto Vallarta. As a few cruisers have learned, if you pass within the 18-mile restricted zone, prison officials will force your boat into port and give you and your boat a thorough search. Prisoners on the Tres Marias are not locked up, but rather live in small huts and are permitted to tend to small gardens. Some prisoners elect to remain on the tropical islands after their sentences have been completed.

Theft Attempt at San Blas

Guy and Carol Dean, ’09 Ha-Ha vets aboard the San Francisco-based Seawind 33 Stray Cat, report that their catamaran was boarded while at anchor in the estuary in San Blas across from the Singlar Marina last week. The couple were ashore at the time. The thief or thieves were apparently warned of the Dean’s return by an associate who whistled a warning signal from ashore. VHF radios, PFDs and tethers were found on the saloon floor, but only the dinghy ditch bag was taken. Unfortunately, copies of Guy and Carol’s passports were in the bag.

The Deans say that the Port Captain wouldn’t see the couple or take a report, but an assistant directed them to the Public Administrator’s office on the other side of town. A very nice lawyer there expressed concern, and later showed up at Stray Cat, then in the marina, with two police officers and an interpreter. They took photos and a statement, and later presented the couple with copies in Spanish and English.

"All in all, we love Mexico, the Mexican people, and cruising," the couple write. "We’re still a little wired by the theft, but we generally smile and go with the flow. The slower and more peaceful lifestyle is what we came down here for."

The Deans had anchored out because staying in the Singlar Marina — as they eventually did — cost them about $25 USD a night for a 33-ft boat. They thought it was a bit expensive considering there was no hot water or toilet paper in the  restrooms and because they felt unsure of the facility’s security. Another San Blas option would have been to anchor at nearby Matenchen Bay. Robin Kirkcaldie and Stephanie Mortensen of the Santa Barbara-based Bounty II Red Witch II tell us that’s what they did for a week around the same time period, and found it to be a fabulous way to enjoy the historic city.

Although launched in 1959, Red Witch II was lookin’ good during Leg Three of this month’s Baja Ha-Ha Rally.

©2011 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

New Owners at Barra de Navidad

Speaking of marinas in Mexico, Rich and Sheri Crowe of the Newport Beach-based Farr 44 Tabu sailed all the way to Barra de Navidad right after the Ha-Ha and spent a night or two at Grand Marina. They were told that the marina, hotel and golf course had been purchased in early November, and that the operations were being reviewed. Hopefully, the new owner will review the marina rates, as the Grand Marina is another half-filled marina in Mexico that is far beyond the budget of most cruisers, which is why there are normally 30 to 50 cruising boats anchored in the nearby lagoon at the height of the season. Some marinas in Mexico — Cabo San Lucas is one — have dropped their prices significantly in an attempt to fill more slips with sailboats. We hope that trend continues, and think it would be in the best interest of many marinas.

As for Barra, the Crowes say that the waterfront restaurants were mostly closed, but otherwise Barra looks pretty much as it always has.

Uncommon Service With a Smile

Until you’ve been to Mexico, you have no idea what personal service can be like. The other day we pulled into the Pemex station in La Cruz to get a little gas for our motorcycle. The attendant checked the oil — normal procedure at a Pemex station — and found there was too much in the crankcase. When we started to extract it bit by bit by dipping a straw in and putting a thumb over the top end, the attendant would have none of it. He pulled out a small section of quarter inch hose that was attached to an open-ended plastic tube the size of an orange juice can. He then started sucking the very hot and stinky oil out of the crankcase! Naturally, he didn’t suck it all the way into his mouth, but it got within half a inch. Mind you, we didn’t ask him to do it, he just did it. And with a smile, too.

The Banderas Bay Blast

During last year’s Blast, Di’s Dream was seen holding the closest of reaches with a chute up.

©2011 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

The Banderas Bay Blast, a free and nothing serious Ha-Ha-style three-race fundraiser for local charities will be held Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of this week. (Yes, ignore the previous dates we published.) Thirty boats and a rollicking good time are expected at each of the stops — Paradise Marina, Marina Riviera Nayarit, and Punta Mita. Both Paradise Marina and Marina Riviera Nayarit are contributing free berthing while the fleet is in. The week wraps up with the Vallarta YC’s bigger than ever Chili Cookoff for Charity.

Whether you’re in Mexico or Montana, have a terrific Thanksgiving! © 2011 Lynn Ringseis No doubt you’ll be spending tomorrow with family doing all the traditional Thanksgiving things — pigging out on turkey and pumpkin pie, watching football, sleeping .
As we’ve often written, we West Coast sailors generally have a much easier time getting to the tropics than do our sailing friends on the East Coast.