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January 4, 2012

Don’t Build It Up, Tear It Down

It’s bad enough that this monument to evil is the centerpiece of the Central Bay, but now it will be glorified again in a new TV drama.

©2012 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

The beginning of a new year is always a time for reflection; a time when we take stock of our lives and the world around us. Reflection makes us thankful for the good things we enjoy, but can also remind us of the things that drive us crazy.

We were in just such a mood the other day when we caught an ad for a new action-packed TV series called Alcatraz. Really? Must we endure another drama glorifying the crumbling prison that has long been the shameful centerpiece of the entire San Francisco Bay Area? Have Hollywood script writers really exhausted all other plot lines?

More importantly, why must we continue to memorialize the lives and exploits of mass murderers, rapists, and armed robbers by not only letting this rust-streaked eyesore stand, but actively promoting it as a tourist attraction? Seriously, what other city in the world would want a defunct maximum security prison as one of its civic icons, worthy of being emblazoned on souvenir T-shirts and ball caps?

If it’s true that tourism to Alcatraz brings in boatloads of money to local authorities and ferry operators, is that reason enough to keep the wretched buildings standing on what is arguably one of the most valuable pieces of real estate in the Western United States? If crime aficionados really want to walk where our society’s most evil have walked, why not let them pay to tour the corridors of San Quentin — or perhaps even spend the night in a cell on death row?

Think about it: Vacationers from all over the world come to San Francisco, and when they look out at the Bay from the North Beach cityfront what do they see? Alcatraz, an ugly memorial to murder, mayhem and cruelty. When sailors and cruise ship passengers arrive through the Golden Gate from far-distant ports of call, what greets them? Alcatraz. Six Polynesian voyaging canoes recently traveled thousands of miles across the Pacific bringing a message of goodwill from their Pacific island nations. What caught their focus, center stage, as they entered the Bay? Alcatraz.

It wouldn’t take too much creative thinking to imagine any number of better uses for that chunk of rock, many of which could generate all sorts of income and provide greatly expanded public access. Why not build a beautiful park, perhaps with a massive statue, a la Ms. Liberty, that would welcome arriving travelers. Restaurants, shops and live-music venues, plus docks for both ferries and private boats could generate revenue. Or go high-profile and lease it out to a corporation like Disney, which could create a unique Central Bay attraction that would generate buckets of money for the City’s tax collectors. 

With the America’s Cup coming to the Bay next year, the entire western world will be reminded once again that this hideous monument still stands. Is it just me, or is time to start a campaign to tear it down. Give us your thoughts, and let’s rekindle this decades-old debate.

Kame Richards Talk on Friday

Kame perches atop Angel Island when he gives his Bay currents talk at the Bay Model (which is being refilled next month after a couple years of construction, by the way).

©2012 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

If you’ve never had the chance to catch one of Kame Richards sailing presentations, mark your calendars for Friday, as you won’t want to miss this one. Richards, the owner of Pineapple Sails as well as the very winning Express 37 Golden Moon, is known for his engaging and energetic style while educating sailors on everything from racing techniques to effectively using San Francisco Bay’s currents — no matter the state of the tide — to their benefit. In ‘Sails, Sail Handling & General Techniques for Cruising Sailors’, Richards will discuss everything cruisers need to know about their sails, whether they’re cruising the Bay or the South Pacific.

  • What do sails really do and does it matter if they are good?
  • Sail materials and building techniques
  • Advantages and disadvantages of different reefing techniques
  • Downwind tradewind sailing techniques — twin jibs vs. main and jib vs. main and spinnaker
  • Boom handling — boom brake vs. preventer vs. boom vang
  • Downwind light air sails and handling
  • Dowsing systems for asymmetric and symmetric spinnakers
  • Anything else the crowd wants to know

The free presentation will be held at Berkeley YC on Friday starting at 8 p.m., but we’d encourage you to drop in earlier for the club’s happy hour (6 p.m.) and affordable dinner (7 p.m., $10). Everyone is welcome! You can find more info at

Mexico Cruising Shorts

Kent and Jim Milski still count Mexico as one of their favorite cruising grounds.

©2012 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

We recently got a letter from Jim and Kent Milski, who claim to be from Colorado, even though Jim finished off their Schionning 49 cat Sea Level at the old Mare Island Naval Base in Vallejo. Vets of the Ha-Ha, Banderas Bay Regattas, and lots of cruising in Mexico, last year they crossed the Pacific and went as far south as Tasmania. Subsequently they sailed up the east coast of Australia, along the south coast of Indonesia, and are now in Singapore. We’ll have their Changes in the February 1 issue, but we thought many of you might be interested in the last line from their report:

"Our favorite cruising areas are still Mexico and British Columbia, and we look forward to cruising there again someday."

Cruising in British Columbia also has its attractions.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Few people realize how lucky with are to have both the Northwest and Mexico so close at hand.

In news from Mexico, Stephen and Bente Millard of the Santa Barbara-based Catalina 42 MoonShyne report that it got down to 46 degrees when they were in Mazatlan over Christmas. Shiver me fiberglass! Today they are in La Cruz, where the skies are blue, the high will be 82, and the low will be 60. Niiiiiiiiiiice!

Mark Schneider of the Portland-based Norseman 447 Wendaway reports that on December 31 he came across a mother humpback whale and her calf badly tangled in a drift net in the Isla Isabela area. After two hours, he and his crew were able to get them free. We’ve love to hear more details on that. A few days later, and in the same area, the crews of Del Viento and The Rose reportedly engaged in an attempt to free two other whales trapped in the nets. Apparently one of the whales didn’t make it. We hope to get more details for you on both incidents.

Sadly, whales getting entangled in nets isn’t an uncommon occurrence.

© Webb Logg

In other unhappy news, dinghies from two boats were reported stolen overnight at Matenchen Bay near San Blas. Unfortunately, no description of the dinghies and/or outboards was given. Please, please, please lock your dinghies at night. And please report all thefts to the local authorities — and to Latitude so we can alert others.

Despite the bit of unseasonably cool weather in Mazatlan, the whales in nets, and the dinghy thefts, the cruising season in Mexico has been fabulous so far. And thanks to the great exchange rate, Mexico is like 20% off. As for the Wanderer and Doña de Mallorca, our goal is to take 500 people out sailing this year. We’re over 100 in just six weeks, so we’re off to a good start. If you’re willing to donate $20 to your favorite charity, wherever and whatever it might be, we’d like to take you sailing, too.

NEWS FLASH! 84-Year-Old’s Horn Attempt Aborted

The mast of Tom Corogin’s Westsail 32 TLC reportedly snapped about 500 miles from Easter Island.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

We were saddened to learn that 84-year-old singlehander Tom Corogin’s sixth attempt at rounding Cape Horn was quashed yesterday, when the backstay of his Westsail 32 TLC failed, roughly 500 miles from Easter Island and 1,000 miles off the Chilean coast.

After Corogin activated his EPIRB, Chilean Navy aircraft conducted an exhaustive search, eventually spotting the sturdy double-ender riding well over 15-ft seas. At this writing the 666-ft Japanese merchant vessel White Kingdom is on it’s way to intercept TLC, and is expected to reach her tonight. A Chilean Navy frigate will intercept the freighter, eventually taking Corogin to a Valparaiso medical facility.

Corogin is a tough old bird but keep him in your thoughts anyway.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Jack Majszak of Sausalito’s Modern Sailing School was quoted in an AP story as saying, "Tom is the most unique person I’ve ever met." Not only is he a very experienced sailor, but he once wrote a spy novel, titled Agape.

Having met Corogin shortly before his October 9 departure from San Diego, we know he’s a tough old salt who’s dealt with mid-ocean emergencies before. Last year, on his most recent attempt to reach and round the Horn, he was three days out of the Galapagos when his knee gave out and he had to abort. We’ll bring you updates on this outgoing octogenarian as they become available. In the meantime, to learn more about him check out our interview that appeared in the November edition of Latitude 38 magazine.