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June 18, 2012

San Francisco Is for the Birds

How did this happen? Simple. Some America’s Cup boats sailed by and literally scared the shit out of a flock of birds. The poor birds now need counseling, paid for by taxpayers, to deal with their post-traumatic shock disorder.

© Bert G. Wahno

The City of San Francisco has agreed to spend $150,000 to study whether the America’s Cup boats will scare birds on San Francisco Bay. Honest to god, we’re not making this up. And no, it’s not April 1. The money will be thrown away on a study to be conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey. The study will be conducted using time-lapse cameras mounted on boats set up along the race route and in spectator boat areas.

The City agreed to spend the money in order to settle a lawsuit filed by a group that included Aaron Peskin, a former President of the Board of Supervisors. The City will also be paying $75,000 to the lawyers who filed the suit. 

"It’s not that we’re trying to head-shrink the birds," Mike Lynes of the Golden Gate Audubon Society told the San Francisco Chronicle when trying to explain the need for the study. "But when birds take off because they are frightened, they expend energy, and that can affect their health." It’s not clear if the Chronicle reporter burst out laughing upon hearing this claim, but we would have.

We presume this will only the beginning of the bird-protection lawsuits. After all, if the Audubos think slow moving and quiet sailboats frighten birds, what do they think screaming children, sneaky cats, barking dogs, roaring motorcycles, rumbling trucks, racing bicyclists, thundering airplanes and the City’s many scary-looking homeless people do?

Is this just another example of the government having way more money than they know what to do with, or are we just being cynical?

Russell Coutts handed them helm of an AC45 over to MC Hammer on Saturday.

© Guilain Grenier / Oracle Team USA

Bird trauma notwithstanding, the AC45s hit the Bay again this weekend for a little practice before next week’s World Series event starts in Newport, RI. Along for the ride on Saturday was Oakland-born rap icon MC Hammer, who traded his gold harem pants for some high-tech sailing gear. "I’ve seen Formula 1 cars and Top Fuel drag cars, and the AC45 is 100 times more exciting,” he said. “I’m hooked. I want to come back. I’m gonna tell everyone in the Bay to get behind this America’s Cup and get behind our American team.” Hopefully he can get the birds on board, too.

Illegal Charters on the Bay

Enterprising sailors looking to make a quick buck off the America’s Cup hype might want to take note that the Coast Guard is issuing a public advisory about illegal passenger vessels that are plying Bay waters. It may seem a relatively benign ‘bending’ of the law, but the Coast Guard takes the offense quite seriously — as they should — and are boarding boats they suspect are illegally carrying paying passengers. The fines can be quite hefty — up to $32,500 — and the Coasties say they’ve already slapped illegal operations with nearly $2,500 worth of fines since the beginning of May.

The San Francisco Maritime Historical Park offers (legal) rides on the historic scow schooner Alma. Call (415) 447-5000 to book space.

©2012 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

If you’re considering buying tickets on a paid cruise, the Coast Guard recommends asking to see the captain’s USCG license and making sure the boat has a USCG Certificate of Inspection prominently displayed. Call (415) 399-3547 to verify a license or the status of a boat, or to report an illegal charter operation. If you have your Coast Guard license, your boat needs to be inspected before you take more than six paying passengers or you’re at risk of losing your ticket, as well as being fined. If you’re not licensed and are thinking of subsidizing your slip fee by taking out paying customers, do everyone a favor and stop thinking. Not only are you at risk of being caught, but you might inadvertently be putting those customers at risk.

Clipper Race Tackles the North Atlantic

The stomachs of the crews on the ten 68-ft boats competing in Clipper Round the World ’11-’12 are just starting to settle after a brutal weekend in Race 13 from Nova Scotia to Derry-Londonderry in Northern Ireland. Thoughts are now turning from endurance to tactics. Visit Finland’s skipper, Olly Osborne said, “As the weather changes over the next couple of days it will not only provide respite from the choppy upwind sailing, but should see the fleet turning northward toward the rhumb line route. This will hopefully be a chance for us to take advantage of our northerly position."

Gold Coast Australia once again holds the lead, with 1,851 miles to go at the last check-in. This steamroller has won the majority of the races, including most recently New York to Nova Scotia. Visit Finland is just five miles back, urging them on.

The boats departed Halifax on Friday and sailed into conditions that Welcome to Yorkshire skipper, Rupert Dean described as “bouncy, wet and uncomfortable. Racing close-hauled at over 20 degrees of heel, on port tack in over 25 knots of true wind, has brought a dose of reality to all onboard after the warm flat conditions of the past three races. Every movement and action takes not only planning, but three times the effort that it did before."

You can follow the action at

Mexico, More Than Just Great Cruising

With all the focus on the elections in Greece and the possibility that the country would elect a leader who wanted to default on their loans and destroy the European Union, not so much attention has been paid on what’s going on today in Cabo San Lucas. What’s going on is the G20 Summit, which is the big pow-wow of the leaders of the world’s 20 largest economies. President Obama will be there, as well as the leaders of the other top economies in the world such as China, Japan, Germany and so forth. The two-day meeting is a real feather in Mexico’s cap, as it’s the first time that the Summit has ever been held in Latin America.

We suspect the average American has a distorted view of Mexico. Most see  it as a very poor country with some beautiful beach resorts and horrible narco violence. Parts of those things are certainly true, but there is much more to the story of the nation of 120 million people. For example, just 20 years ago Mexico was viewed as being as economically pathetic as Greece is today. But not only did Mexico get out of horrible debt and put its financial house in order, it’s thriving. Mexico wasn’t clobbered by the financial crises of ’08 and ’09, and its economy continues to grow. For the last two years everyone raved about Brazil’s economy. Well, Mexico’s did even better. For the last 20 years Mexico has managed to have a stable economy and keep inflation in check. That, in addition to having a wide-open economy, is why so many major international companies are investing in Mexico rather than China, and why Mexico is becoming more of a political power in the world.

Just for fun, can you name the biggest economies in the world? They are: 1. United States. 2. China. 3. Japan. 4. India. 5. Germany. Mexico is currently in 15th place. But get this, many economists are projecting that by 2020, which isn’t that far away, Mexico will have leapfrogged 10 countries to become the 5th largest economy in the world. And with that increasing economy would come increasing political power. We thought those of you cruising or about to cruise in Mexico would find that interesting.

By the way, the G20 hoped that Doña de Mallorca would be available to make the keynote address at the Summit in Cabo. Alas, there was a little bit of a weather window when she and her three crew on Profligate got to Cabo on Saturday night heading north, so they decided to keep right on truckin’. Maybe they should have stopped, as the Baja weather looks pretty crappy for the rest of the week.

You can keep track of Profligate’s Bash progress on our Facebook page.

We’re saddened to report that Max Young, who spent nine years circumnavigating aboard his Sacramento-based Perry 47 Reflections and who was on his way back to the Bay after spending the last couple years in the Caribbean, lost his boat Wednesday off the coast of Baja after a collision with a whale.
The crew of Groupama, skippered by Franck Cammas from France, celebrate taking first place in Leg 8, from Lisbon, Portugal, to Lorient, France, during the Volvo Ocean Race.