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May 23, 2014

Seaquel’s Final Chapter

When Seaquel’s owner, John Berg, explained to a state agency that he didn’t have the means to salvage her, they organized contractors to pull her off the reef and destroy her yesterday

© 2014 John Dour

After the Ventura-based Nordic 40 Seaquel was driven onto the Kona coast late Sunday night, there was initial hope — at least among some observers — that she might be salvageable. But after several days of grinding in the surf on a rocky ledge, that possibility became unlikely. Debate over the sloop’s future potential ended abruptly yesterday, however, when workers contracted by Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources dragged the hull up to high ground, chopped it up and hauled it away. 

Some valuable gear had been looted previously, but the engine, rig and winches were reportedly salvaged. Owner John Berg did get some personal gear off the boat prior to all that. 

He and his crew, Dani Peters, are now back on the mainland. This morning we had a chance to talk with Berg, who is totally blind. "I just want to make it crystal clear that it was my boat, I was the captain, and it was me who screwed up. Even though I had sighted crew with me, it was my fault we lost the boat."

Broken boat, broken dreams. After years of meticulous preparation, Berg’s dream boat was reduced to a splintered pile of waste in a matter of hours.

© John Dour

The explanation of what went wrong portrays a truly 21st-century dilemma. Berg and Peters left Hilo last week, had a "great sail around the south end of the island," and found a nice little anchorage where they swam with spinner dolphins. The next day, they were heading up the Kona coast well offshore, when the breeze died, forcing them to motorsail. Because they hadn’t refueled after making landfall from Mexico at Hilo, they had only about six or seven gallons of fuel, which concerned them. But they soon had bigger problems.

They’d been navigating for weeks without a problem using iNavX software on Berg’s iPad, which was interfaced with the vessel’s GPS. That night they were headed for a waypoint offshore of Honokohau Harbor, north of Kialua Kona town. All of a sudden the screen was taken over by a system request to log in to FaceTime, an Apple resource, then another request to log in to the iCloud. No matter what Berg and Peters did, they couldn’t clear the screen and log back in to iNavX. Berg also had that software on his iPhone, but he hadn’t entered the waypoint there. The built-in chartplotter had a system that displayed NOAA charts, but Berg says that proved inadequate. 

"I should have just said, ‘Hang a hard left’, until we sorted things out, but I didn’t. It was totally my screw-up." Before they could find a software solution, they heard the sound of surf crashing and they knew they were in trouble.  

What impressed us most about our conversation this morning was Berg’s relatively upbeat attitude. He is doing his best to stoically put the whole nightmare behind him. "But I really can’t imagine being away from the water." He lived aboard Seaquel for 12 years before heading south to Mexico last fall.

We’d like to think that Berg’s sailing days are not over yet. There are hundreds if not thousands of perfectly good boats sitting idle in marinas. Perhaps one of them has a big-hearted owner who’d be willing to give his neglected vessel to this extremely capable but unlucky sailor — thus giving both the boat and the mariner a new beginning. Write us if you have a good boat to offer.

The Delta Doo Dah Starts This Weekend!

Jeff and Annie Cook’s bristol 33-ft Sprague Annie sailing through Carquinez Strait on the way upriver.

©2014 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Although Delta Doo Dah DIY 2014 starts tomorrow, don’t worry because you’ve actually got all summer. Before you go, be sure to sign up – it’s free and you’ll get valuable discounts from participating marinas along the way.

Owl Harbor knows how to put on a party! This year, they’ll have a Blues Brothers theme.

© Devery Stockon / Owl Harbor Marina

If you’re doing the Doo during June, we’d love to see you at Owl Harbor on June 14 for their Who’s in Blues BBQ dinner and party (make a slip reservation at 916-777-6055) and our Summer Sailstice potluck at Tiki Lagun on June 21. See our Itinerary page for details.

Tiki Lagun’s docks have plenty of room for sailboats, and their lawn has plenty of space for picnickers.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

On this, the eve of the rally, we thought we’d share Doodette LaDonna’s prep checklist (with Doodette Christine’s comments in parentheses).

    • Sunscreen, the higher the SPF the better — and don’t forget 15+ SPF lip balm. (We look for zinc oxide among the ingredients.)
    • Bug spray, netting and swatters. (We look for natural insect repellents that don’t contain DEET.)
    • Lots of hot weather clothes — shorts, bathing suits, tank tops — but don’t forget a light jacket and a pair of pants for the odd cool evening. (And foulies for the bash back to the Bay.)
    • Wide-brim hats.
    • Good quality but reasonably priced sunglasses. Why? Because, with all the time you’ll spend in the water, you won’t be too bummed out when you sacrifice your shades to the river.
    • Windscoops — need we say more? (We have a tiny electric fan.)

This boat has it all: three anchors, a sailing dinghy, a Windscoop, shade, and a buddy rafted up.

©2014 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

     • Hal Schell’s Delta Map and Guide and/or Franko’s California Delta Adventure Guide — both are widely available ‘up Delta’. And Carol Jensen’s The California Delta for an historical view of the area (and Bill Corp’s Sacramento River Boating Guide).
    • A Delta tide book. Not only will it help you know when to travel, but it also gives you contact info for bridges.
    • A working depthsounder and a little patience — most keelboats touch ground at least once on any Delta trip, so don’t feel bad. (With just a paper chart and a depthsounder, we always know where we are in the Delta.)
    • Water toys — inner tubes, air mattresses, inflatable kayaks, windsurfers and/or sailing dinghies are musts. (Water weaponry can turn even most boring adults into fun-loving kids. Stick to hardware though, as water balloons are bad for wildlife.)

The kids swim and practice dives and jumps while the adults sail their dinghies.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

    • A hammock and comfy boat cushions.
    • Lots of reading material — if you can, try to pick up copies of the long-out-of-print Dawdling on the Delta by the late Hal Schell and/or Robert Walters’ Cruising California’s Delta.   
    • Digital camera. (We hope you’ll upload your best shots to our SmugMug gallery.)
    • Inflatable dinghy with a good-size outboard for side trips.

You’ll want the dinghy to go visiting with your friends.

© 2014 Alex Pearce / Shrimp Louie

    • Fishing license and gear — nothing tops off a great day better than dinner you caught yourself.
    • Boat shade — anything from a couple of umbrellas to a custom-made deck awning. (We use nursery cloth.)
   • Ice, ice, baby! Hot summer days just aren’t the same without ice-cold beverages.

Stay cool!

Latitude 38 Logowear for Father’s Day

Crissy Fields is giving her dad Latitude 38 shirts and hats for Father’s Day. What’s on your shopping list?

“My shopping’s done!” said Crissy.

©2011 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

To get the goods in time for Father’s Day (June 15), please place your order by  5:00 p.m. on Friday, June 6, at

Epic F–k Up at Expedition Yacht Launching

There have been a number of blundered yacht and ship launchings over the years, as evidenced from compilations on YouTube. Thanks to the botched launching of the 90-ft expedition yacht Boden in Anacortes on May 20, the compilations are now going to be one incident longer.

After construction over a period of 30 months by New World Marine, aka Northern Marine, the launch of Boden, said to be worth $10 million, started out fine. But then she lurched on her cradle. "We reinspected everything before we proceeded," Wes Fridell of New World Marine told Soundings Trade Only. But as you can see from the video, from 2:30 on things became increasingly perilous until she finally tumbled on her port side at about 2:59. The thing that surprises us is that 30 long seconds passed during which time nobody seemed to be particularly concerned. Was it operator error or mechanical failure? We’ll have to wait until the insurance company investigates.

Northern Marine has reportedly been building and launching excellent boats for many years, so this wasn’t a first-timer’s mistake. Our condolences to the owner(s), as this has to be heartbreaking. Surely the boat was meant to be launched in time for cruising in the Pacific Northwest this summer. Repairing the damage to the fiberglass structure won’t be difficult. What’s going to take much longer is going over the inside of the boat. For as Fridell noted, "Everything inside is toast."

Have you ever had a bad launching?

Search For Cheeki Rafiki Crew To Be Called Off Again Tonight

The U.S. Coast Guard search for the four Brit crew — Andrew Bridge 22, James Male 24, Steve Warren 52, and Paul Goslin 56, — of the Beneteau 40.7 Cheeki Rafiki, which apparently sank on a trip from Antigua to England, will be called off for a second time if nothing is found by tonight. The four were experienced offshore sailors, and the boat, sister ships of which have been very successful in events such as the rigorous Sydney to Hobart Race, was well equipped.

Cheeki Rafiki participated recently in the Antigua Race Week.

© 2014 Antigua Race Week

On May 15, while 600 miles east of Cape Cod, and in 50 knots of wind and 15-to 20-foot waves, the crew reported that they had water to the floorboards, but couldn’t determine where it was coming from. A short time later, a personal EPIRB was activated. After the signal from that EPIRB stopped, another personal EPIRB was set off. That signal stopped a short time later, too.

The U.S. Coast Guard and Canadian resources immediately began a search. The weather conditions were awful, with visibility no more than a mile.

On Saturday the 17th, the cargo ship Maersk Kure came alongside an overturned yacht in the search area and took photos. If there was anybody aboard, they couldn’t see them. Nor was there any way for them to get aboard in such conditions and check.

The Maersk Kure photographed a hull similar to Cheeki Rafiki’s, upturned and without a keel.

© 2014 Maersk Kure

The overturned vessel looked consistent with a Beneteau 40.7, and appeared to be missing her keel, suggesting it was Cheeki Rafiki, and the missing keel was the source of the water ingress. On the other hand, the rudder of the boat appeared to be black, and photos of Cheeki Rafiki from the Caribbean show her to have white bottom paint.

In any event, the Coast Guard called off the search on Sunday, saying they had searched 48 hours despite science suggesting the crew couldn’t have survived the 60-degree temperatures for more than 20 hours.

The families of the lost sailors started petitions to continue the search, noting that Tony Bullimore survived for five days in the upturned hull of his boat in the freezing Southern Ocean in 1997. After 200,000 signatures had been collected, the Coast Guard relented and resumed their search. In addition, many of the approximately 100 pleasure yachts crossing the Atlantic, as well as commercial vessels, joined in the search. There has been no sighting of the crew or the vessel. Some debris was found by a catamaran, but it was determined not to have come from the boat.

Speculation has been that the water ingress possibly came from loose keel bolts. As more water entered the boat, she would have become increasingly less stable. If the keel broke off suddenly in such weather, the boat would have flipped immediately, trapping anyone who might have been inside, and making it difficult for anyone to launch the liferaft. This is all speculation, and it’s likely the truth will never be known.

Our hearts go out to the crew and the families of the crew. They are/were good sailors, in what is considered to be a well-designed and-built boat that was well equipped.

By Monday morning the big southern swells had lain down substantially along the Kona coast.
One of the best parts of cruising is meeting new people — or, as is often the case, reconnecting with old friends.
Hugo Boss‘ dismasting and subsequent repairs in Newport, Rhode Island may have grabbed the headlines, but there’s a lot more going on in the nation’s smallest state right now.