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October 22, 2014

Whale of an App

In 2007, four blue whales like these were killed by ship strikes in and around the Santa Barbara Channel. In 2010, two blue whales, one humpback and two fin whales were killed by strikes in the San Francisco area and elsewhere along the north-central California coast. Meanwhile, several cruising sailboats have collided with whales off the West Coast in recent years. A 2009 incident resulted in the sailboat sinking off Baja, but fortunately her five-person crew was rescued by Coast Guard assets.

© 2014 A. Lombardi / NOAA

Whale populations have recovered dramatically since the age of international whaling, but those who migrate near shipping lanes are still often struck and killed. Meanwhile, sailors — especially those who transit coastal areas — are often concerned about colliding with cetaceans, for their own sake as well as for the whales’.

The Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, a NOAA affiliate, is encouraging West Coast sailors as well as commercial vessel operators to download a free Whale Alert app for iPhones and iPads, and participate in data collection efforts.

The app, which was developed by a collaboration of agencies and nonprofits, allows users to report sightings and view warnings. 

©Latitude 38 Media, LLC

According to GFNMS literature, "The app uses GPS, Automatic Identification System, Internet and NOAA nautical charts to provide mariners with a single source of information about whale locations and conservation measures that are active in their immediate vicinity. New features include information about California Marine Protected Areas, PORTS® (Physical Oceanographic Real-Time System) tide and weather data and the ability for the public to report whale sightings to databases that NOAA and whale biologists use to map whale habitats and migration patterns."

We haven’t used the app yet, but we intend to do so as we sail south next week with the Baja Ha-Ha rally. Researchers tell us that 19,000 gray whales, in addition to other species, migrate along the coast between November and May.

Things Are Looking Great for the Ha-Ha

What a difference a month makes. The photo here shows Alex Thompson’s great, but older, Hugo Boss, with the damage caused by hurricane Odile. She was the second to last boat into the marina. Most boats did quite well, but there was damage to docks and other infrastructure. That’s all being repaired, the sun is out, the fish are biting, and the marina is currently hosting 126 boats for the Bisbee Marlin Tournament.

©2014Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Let’s list what’s looking great:

1) The weather looks good. Passage Weather is suggesting mild downwind conditions for next Monday’s start. In addition, the waters off Baja and mainland Mexico have cooled noticeably in the last couple of weeks, making the remote possibility of a late tropical storm even more remote. But it’s not as if the water is California-cold. The highs in Cabo have dropped from the 90s to the mid- to high 80s, and the lows are now in the low 70s. There are no clouds forecast for the next week. Sources tell us that things have blessedly cooled off in La Paz and Puerto Vallarta, which means the great winter weather is almost here.

2) You can still get your paperwork done!

  • Sherri Wilkerson drove to the Banjercito at Otay yesterday and in three hours had one of the ‘new’ TIPs. Otay is east of Tijuana and less than an hour from San Diego. (Why haven’t Mexican officials mentioned this is a possibility?)
  • You can still get your nautical visas and file your Crew List online. (Do not go to Ensenada hoping to get a TIP and a Crew List — unless all your crew goes with you. You can get the TIP without all the crew, but not a Crew List.
  • Some people have had good luck getting their fishing licenses online; others haven’t. The site is often down. The Pesca office in San Diego closes at 2 p.m. H&M Landing sells licenses at Shelter Island, but only until Thursday of each week.

3) Cabo is looking good. Marina Cabo San Lucas reports that the Bisbee Marlin Tournament is going on right now with 126 boats in the harbor specifically for that purpose. Cruise ships and international flights have been arriving for two weeks now, and the utilities are working fine. Even more important, Squid Roe has reopened.

4) People are still looking for crew. Julia Brown with the Lauren William 41 trimaran FastAlley is one of those. She’s got one crewmember now and is looking for at least one other. She’s ultimately going to Panama, so this boat is a possibility for anyone wanting to get far south. You can reach Julia here. Mind you, the Baja Ha-Ha and Latitude 38 do not recommend either boats or crew. Everybody is on their own.

The fun-loving crew of Guido Belgiorno-Nettis’ Australian-flagged Transfusion switched sports from sailing to halyard-skurfing in response to Friday’s conditions.
"We may be geese, headed south for the winter, or the Ha-Ha may just be the first leg of a very, very long vacation," say Tom & Kelly Miller of the Alameda-based Panda 40 Stochastic. 
While right now cruising in Mexico may seem to be all about paperwork, this photo is more indicative of what it’s really like.