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May 16, 2014

Sign Up For The SoCal Ta-Ta II Now

The course for the SoCal Ta-Ta – from Santa Barbara to Catalina – should require little or no upwind sailing.

© 2014

The SoCal Ta-Ta II — aka ‘Reggae ‘Pon da Ocean’ — to be held from September 7-13, is now open for entries. The event is a Baja Ha-Ha style cruiser rally from Santa Barbara to Two Harbors, Catalina, with stops at Santa Cruz Island (two nights), Paradise Cove, and Redondo Beach’s King Harbor. The longest leg is 30 miles, and if the weather is anything like normal, there will be little if any upwind sailing.

The event is open to boats over 27 feet in length — and possibly smaller — that were designed, built and have been maintained for open-ocean sailing. Because of space limitations at King Harbor, the fleet will be limited to 50 boats. (All things being equal, we’d personally prefer a smaller, more intimate fleet anyway.)

There will only be a few changes to the first Ta-Ta’s itinerary, which participants seemed to enjoy. First, participants will be able to reserve space at Santa Barbara Yacht Harbor on the nights of September 6 and 7. Second, the Ta-Ta Kick-Off Party will be held downstairs and on the beach at the Santa Barbara YC. Third, food at both the Santa Barbara and King Harbor events is included in the entry fee for both the captain and first mate. Fourth, we hope to capture as much of the event as possible with cameras and drones, and be able to show rough cuts during the event.

For more details and to enter, visit the website.

Jack van Ommen Has Replaced Fleetwood

A svelte Jack van Ommen with Fleetwood on the French canals months before the boat was lost to a storm in the Med.

Jack van Ommen
©2014 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

We’re delighted to report that Jack van Ommen of Gig Harbor, Washington, has found a replacement boat. You’ll remember that the 77-year-old lost his much loved Naja 30 Fleetwood, which he’d owned for 33 years, to a storm off Spain’s Balearic Islands on November 16 of last year. Van Ommen is one of Latitude‘s heroes for having sailed built-from-a-kit Fleetwood to 50 counties over a period of eight years. He started after going bankrupt, with nothing to his name but the boat and $1,800 a month in social security checks.

Van Ommen talks about his new boat:

"In mid-April I purchased Mariah, a near sistership, and have rechristened her Fleetwood. She was built from one of the three Naja 30 kits that I imported from Whisstocks of England in 1980. Original owner Todd Dhabolt did an exceptional job on putting the boat together, and he was the one who got me in contact with her most recent owner."

"Unlike my van Ommen’s original Fleetwood, the new one has a masthead rig and the mast is keel-stepped. She also has a sugar scoop rather than a transom hung rudder." Van Ommen’s first Naja 30 was the last one to be built with nails holding the plywood planking together. Because the nails would expand in heat and contract in the cold, he had to epoxy the recesses almost every year. His new Naja has the planking screwed together, a superior method.

This photo from 1992 shows the three Naja 30s in the Northwest. From the left, van Ommen’s original Fleetwood; Mariah, now the new Fleetwood; and the then not completed Soul Fisher.

Jack van Ommen
©2014 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

"I keep finding features on the new boat that are definitely better thought out," he says with enthusiasm. "And I know the boat has 50,000 less ocean miles worth of wear and tear, so I’m happy."

Van Ommen got the new boat for a favorable price. "I paid $7,000, which was my budget, and she came with a decent sail inventory, including a newish main, a SSB radio, and a 10-hp Italian diesel. I may eventually have to replace the diesel with something more powerful."

Van Ommen originally thought he’d buy a replacement boat on the East Coast so that it would be convenient for him to sail the Great Lakes and down the Mississippi. "But I couldn’t have found a similar quality replacement boat for the price on the East Coast, or a design that I knew so well," he said. "After nearly 50,000 miles, I am totally sold on the chined plywood construction. I looked into shipping the boat to Thunder Bay on Lake Ontario, from where I would begin sailing the Great Lakes and then down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico. But the cost is out of the question, so I plan to head toward the Panama Canal late this summer, then pick up from where I left off in the Eastern Caribbean in 2007. I need to do that or sail to Florida to have completed my circumnavigation."

"I’m dying to get sailing again," he told Latitude.

After completing his circumnavigation, van Ommen plans to sail to Cartagena, then land-travel down the Pacific Coast of South America. He’s not sure what he’ll do after that, perhaps sail the East Coast of the United States again.

When van Ommen lost his boat in November, he had nothing to his name but a few thousand dollars, his computer, and lots of very good friends. Many of these friends, inspired by the humble sailor’s accomplishments with such a humble boat, have asked if they might help him equip his new Fleetwood. Van Ommen is not asking for money, but he says if anyone — such as those of us at Latitude — wants to contribute, we can send checks to Jack van Ommen, Fleetwood, c/o Arabella’s Landing Marina, 3323 Harbor View Dr., Gig Harbor, WA 98332. This will help him buy things like a liferaft, dinghy, folding bike, foul weather gear, and such.

 If you’re interested in where van Ommen has cruised, click here for various maps and details. Jack says he created the page for the benefit of those who mistakenly believe that you need a lot of money to go cruising. "What you really need," he says, "is to keep the boat small, the equipment simple, and choose your routes carefully." This from a man who clearly knows what he’s talking about.

SIM Card Controversy

In an NPR interview last Sunday, offshore rescue survivor Eric Kaufman of Rebel Heart explained that when his sat phone stopped functioning correctly while roughly 900 miles offshore, he and his wife Charlotte lost the ability to consult with US Coast Guard personnel about their emergency situation. Thus, their options were narrowed substantially: 1) to continue on for three weeks before making landfall in the Marquesas, hoping that their one-year-old daughter’s medical condition would improve; or 2) to activate their EPIRB and initiate a rescue. As was widely reported, they chose the latter, and were safely rescued via a multi-agency response. But they had to scuttle their Hans Christian 38 in the process, sending it to the bottom of the Pacific with all their possessions. 

Eric explained that he found out later that the phone stopped working because the service provider had mailed out new SIM cards, and shut off the old ones shortly thereafter. This week we were alerted that the San Diego-based Alden 64 Nirvana, which is currently crossing to the Marquesas, also lost phone functionality, apparently for a similar reason. In that case, co-owner Julie Mitchell, acting as shoreside support for her husband Gary, was able to work out a solution with the sat phone provider,, and Gary’s phone is fully functional again as he continues west. 

We contacted the company’s manager, Phil Sexton, for a comment on the SIM card controversy. He was adamant that his staff would never discontinue service without first getting voice or email confirmation from a customer that they had received a new SIM card to use. "We would never do that," he says. "These phones are used for emergency purposes by 80% of our customers. Legally, I could not do that" — even if the account were in arrears. 

Needless to say, there are always at least two sides to every story. The bottom line, though, for users of sat phones, transponder devices, EPIRBs or other critical safety gear is this: Before heading offshore, always check with service providers about any planned upgrades or changes in service, and be sure to update your EPIRB and PLB (personal locater beacon) info in the official database. Especially when heading offshore, it’s wise to update the "comments" section there with your trip plan and crew info. 

Some passagemakers make as few sail changes as possible. But aboard Skabenga they think nothing of dousing the main and spinnaker in order to catch and release a marlin.
After buying my first keelboat many years ago, I picked up a little book that gave an overview of all the issues boaters should be concerned with.
The California State Parks Division of Boating and Waterways is hosting a lifejacket trade-in program statewide this coming Saturday, May 17 from noon to 2 p.m.