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November 13, 2013

Check Your Power Cords, Folks!

Electrical fires account for more than half of all boat fires.

© 2013 Rob Murray

It’s that time of year again, folks. The time to check your shorepower connections in an effort to prevent incidents like this one. Rob Murray of the Vancouver, BC-based Beneteau First 435 Avant send in these photos of Frank Gehry’s Marina del Rey-based Beneteau First 44.7 Foggy in the midst of an electrical fire a few days ago. 

"The fire department and fire boat responded quickly, but the fire was out by the time they arrived," Rob wrote. "The apparent cause was a faulty shorepower cord or connection. The boat was filled with smoke, but the fire was confined to the stern and a cockpit locker."

First, cut the shorepower off at the source.

© 2013 Rob Murray
Then grab a hose to douse the flames until you can get close enough with a proper fire extinguisher.

© 2013 Rob Murray

Rob detailed the steps taken to put out the fire: "1) Disconnect power; 2) Use a hose to put out exterior fire; 3) Use fire extinguisher on internal fire." The photo below shows the suspected culprit. So the next time you’re at your boat, take a minute to inspect your shorepower cord from end to end, looking for corrosion, melted plastic, evidence of overheating, and loose, bent or missing prongs. Also inspect the socket. If either look damaged, replace them both (and consider replacing them with the idiot-proof SmartPlug). Also make sure all connections are water tight.

Take the time to check your power connections carefully. This is not an area in which to skimp.

© 2013 Rob Murray

Finally, keep in mind that 30-amp shorepower connections are designed to handle up to 30 amps. Calculate all the stuff you have running on AC power — heaters, dorm fridges, hair dryers, whatever — and make sure you’re not overloading your system. Because who wants to go down to their boat for a midwinter race to find this?

This view would really ruin your daysail.

© 2013 Rob Murray

For details on the best way to extinguish a boat fire, read Charlie Wood’s excellent instructions from Friday’s ‘Lectronic Latitude.

Atlantic Spankings

On Tuesday night, British co-skippers Ned Collier Wakefield and Sam Goodchild’s Class 40 Concise 8 suffered damage to its port rudder so the duo decided to retire from the 20th running of the Transat Jacques Vabre.

Sam Goodchild (left) and co-skipper Ned Collier Wakefield meet the press aboard their Class 40, Concise 8.

Transat Jacques Vabre
©2013 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Heavy seas and winds in the mid-20s may have been a factor, but they’re uncertain what exactly caused the damage. Fortunately, they were only 45 miles northwest of Spain’s Cape Finisterre when the incident occurred between 9 and 10 p.m., and have safely sailed to Muros, Spain.

“The rudder came right off the boat and was only held on by the upline,” says Goodchild. “There was some damage to the fittings which hold it on. We then had to bring it back on the boat and put it down below. Fortunately, we were able to jibe and get to the coast of Spain.”

The two are tremendously frustrated as this is the second time in as many years that they’ve had to abandon the Jacques Vabre. “It’s not a very big surprise to have a problem because we had not tested the boat very much but we are massively disappointed,” says Goodchild.

The race began in Le Havre six days ago and will finish when the boats reach Itajai, Brazil. Along with the Class 40 boats, there are IMOCAs, MOD70s, and Multi 50s participating in this year’s event. You can follow them here, live online.

Meanwhile, cruisers across the Pond got their own taste of the Atlantic’s fury. While the committee for the highly organized Caribbean 1500 moved the rally’s start date a day early to avoid a couple of nasty fronts that were spooling up, the loosely organized Salty Dawg Rally decided to stick with their rough departure date of November 4. Both rallies take cruisers from Hampton Roads, Virginia to the Caribbean, but the latter was started as an alternative to the strict rules and regs of the former. 

The ‘rules’ of the Salty Dawg also note that skippers are responsible for choosing their departure date, so November 4 was a mere suggestion. According to organizers, most of the 116-boat fleet left between November 2 and 8, with everyone being fully aware that the weather was not going to be particularly pleasant. 

Almost immediately, boats started having problems in the rough conditions. In the end, two boats — the Morgan OI 416 Ahimsa 4 and the Catalina 38 Wings — were abandoned, with the crew rescued by the Coasties. "It’s believed Ahimsa has sunk," notes an update on the event’s site, "but Wings is adrift and awaiting salvage by her owners." Four boats had rudder problems — the aforementioned Wings, the Alden 54 yawl Zulu, the Morgan 461 Pixie Dust and the Catalina 42 Jammin — and two were dismasted — the Hans Christian 38 Ñyapa and the Catana 471 Like Dolphins. Incidentally, Jammin did the Baja Ha-Ha in 2007 with Dave and Helen Peoples. There were also several non-life threatening injuries, including a broken arm. 

"Of the 116 boats that started the rally last week, seven had serious gear failures and had to return to the US for repairs or, in two cases, were abandoned," says the update. "These emergencies are a cause of concern for all of the Salty Dawgs and will be addressed by the board of the SDR in the aftermath. More than 95% of the fleet managed the challenging conditions and put it behind them in a very seamanlike fashion."

The Wanderer, who is the Grand Poobah of the Ha-Ha, is traveling in Mexico and was thus unavailable for comment. In the past, however, he has noted that getting from the East Coast of the United States to the Caribbean is generally a much more dangerous and challenging trip than from San Diego to tropical Mexico.

This year’s Baja Ha-Ha was a delightful cruise. No wonder the Grand Poobah wouldn’t want to run an East Coast event.

©2013 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

"I personally would not be interested in running an event from the East Coast," he has said in the past. "That route has the danger of both hurricanes and winter storms, there is also the Gulf Stream, and it’s twice as long as the Ha-Ha with basically no places of refuge besides Bermuda. As has been proven many times in the past, it’s not a passage for novice sailors."

Some Good News Out of the Philippines

Parts of the Philippines were devasted by Haiyan, and it’s likely to have been the deadliest natural disaster to hit the island nation.

© 2013 Aaron Favila

After learning of the terrible destruction dished out to the Philippines by Super Typhoon Haiyan, one of the most powerful in history, we feared for the safety of longtime friend David Addleman of Monterey. He did several Ha-Ha’s with his Cal 36 Eupsychia, then moved up to the Santa Cruz 50 X, which he purchased several years ago in Johor Baru, Malaysia. He’s been kicking around Malaysia and the Philippines ever since.

David Addleman has been spending time in the Philippines aboard his SC50 X so we were naturally concerned for his safety.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC
"Are you alright?" we emailed David.
"Yes," he replied. "The cruisers here and in the Puerto Galera area — about 60 miles south of Manila — were spared any serious damage. We just did the All Souls Regatta here. I’ll send a story and pics soon. Congrats on another fine Ha-Ha. Next year I’m so there. Maybe."
“Okay, okay, I’m on it. But let me catch my breath first.” latitude/Andy
© Latitude 38 Media, LLC The From Here to Eternity Kissing Contest is a much-loved tradition at the annual Baja Ha-Ha beach party in Cabo San Lucas.
"I think a young Coastie can be forgiven for not knowing where Hospital Cove is because s/he may never have heard the name before," writes Tony Johnson, who sails his Catalina 22 Whisper out of San Francisco.
The banking group Mirabaud is once again sponsoring this year’s Yacht Racing Image Contest, and it looks like some local shutterbugs are up for the grand prize.