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June 15, 2015

Old Ironsides, New Ironsides

Smoke on the water: In this painting by Michel Felice Corne (1752-1845), USS Constitution (left) and HMS Guerriere pound each other in the opening days of the War of 1812. Constitution’s victory was the first major defeat of a British warship by an American one.


Her thunder shook the mighty deep,
And once again she’s saved…

We think Oliver Wendell Holmes would be okay with our riffing on his iconic poem, ‘Old Ironsides’. After all, those 24 lines, written in 1830, are credited with the first rescue of, as he put it, "The Eagle of the sea from the harpies of the land." Now USS Constitution is being ‘saved’ once again with a regular haulout and refit at the Charlestown Navy Yard, just a short distance from her permanent Boston waterfront berth where half a million visitors a year walk "her decks once red with hero’s blood, where knelt the vanquished foe." 

Well, maybe not the exact decks. As all wooden boat aficionados know, the years take their toll and wooden vessels all need to have bits and pieces replaced from time to time. For the 207-ft (LOD) Constitution, so many bits and pieces have been replaced that only an estimated 10 to 15% of the original wooden DNA remains from when she first slid down the ways in Boston in 1797.

Constitution is still a commissioned Navy ship (the world’s oldest), and as such has a captain, and regular Navy crew who perform normal upkeep. But every couple of decades, she’s hauled out for more extensive work. For the latest $15 million job, the ship went into drydock at the Navy Yard on May 18 and will likely stay there until at least the fall of 2017.

Wood used in the restoration has been sourced just as it was in the old days: scouts go out into the woods and look for it. Okay, it’s a little more choreographed these days. The white oak that will be used in the refit was sourced from trees growing at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Indiana. About 60 of the big trees will be needed for the restoration. (Compare that to about 1,500 trees to build the ship the first time.) With an eye to the future, a number of white oaks on the Indiana base have been earmarked for use in Constitution’s next refit, due in 2035 or so. 

USS Constitution will remain accessible to the public — via both viewing areas and (occasionally limited) onboard tours — during her layup. So you can still capture that Kodak moment (do they still call them that?) with her bell or wheel. Not in the area but still interested? You can follow the restoration via a ‘restoration cam‘. For more general information, check out the ship’s regular website:

Which Way for Hurricane Carlos?

Depending on what source you refer to, current/former Hurricane Carlos, currently paralleling the coast of mainland Mexico about 100 miles off Lazaro Cardenas with 70 knots of wind, is: 1) Going to head further out to sea and pretty much be a non-issue; 2) Gather more steam and head toward Cabo Corrientes and threaten Banderas Bay; 3) Going to be less of an issue all the time right where she is. The latter seems to be Passage Weather’s take on things, which nobody else seems to agree with.

This NOAA graphic suggests that Barra de Navidad, Tenacatita Bay, Chemela, Ipala and Banderas Bay all have a chance — albeit less than a 50% chance — of being assaulted by 50-knot winds. 

©Latitude 38 Media, LLC

The one thing that’s sure is that Carlos, not much of a hurricane at its height, made a mess of boating interests in Acapulco Bay. Photos show a number of nice boats either badly damaged or sunk. As Carlos never came closer to Acapulco than 100 miles, it’s possible that adequate precautions hadn’t been taken for the boats.

This is NOAA’s five-day cone of danger for Carlos. If your boat is in the possible danger zone, do not be complacent.

©Latitude 38 Media, LLC

That said, hurricanes don’t have to come that close to shore to cause damage. The eye of the last Mexican hurricane, Blanca, didn’t come with 100 miles of Banderas Bay and Puerto Vallarta, yet the surf she generated caused considerable damage along the shores of the bay. But to the best of our knowledge, boats were not damaged.

While Carlos doesn’t to appear anywhere near as bad as it once looked like he would be, this is no time for complacency. If you have a boat in the area from Barra to San Blas, you need to make sure she’s ready for possible strong winds.

At least 10 boats were reportedly sunk by Carlos at Acapulco.

Facebook / photog unknown
©Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Carlos is the third hurricane of the still-young 2015 season. 

View from the Bridge

If you’ve ever thought that pilots aboard commercial vessels are too quick to toot their horns when pleasure craft cross their paths, the video below will help you understand their predicament.

Shot June 3 on San Diego Bay while a well-attended beer can race was going on, it clearly shows how there’s zero visibility for hundreds of feet directly in front of the bow of a big ship, even from its highly elevated bridge.

View from the bridge: "Pass the Rolaids, please." If you’re interested in commercial maritime stuff like this, be sure to check out, where we first viewed this clip.

As far as we know, no sailboats were plowed under as the 587-ft Dole Ecuador steamed toward its berth. But we wouldn’t be surprised if the pilot who shot the video arrived with a nervous stomach. "People ask me why I’m not crazy about sailboats," he reportedly said.

By the way, if you’re new to sailing we should clarify that all that stuff about starboard vessels having the right of way is irrelevant when it comes to enormous vessels that are constrained by their ability to maneuver through a harbor. To put it in more practical terms, the so-called ‘law of tonnage’ always prevails.

Sailing Celebrations Ahead

Summer officially begins with next weekend’s summer solstice and, on San Francisco Bay and around the world, sailors will use the occasion to participate in the 15th annual Summer Sailstice.

Who’s participating? Latitude 38 managing editor, Andy Turpin, drew the ‘short straw’ and will be suffering through celebrations at the Tahiti-Moorea Sailing Rendez-vous with Sausalito-based cruisers Barry and Sylvia Stompe on the Hughes 48 yawl Iolani and other Pacific Puddle Jump participants. That’s just one of more than 200 group events globally.

The Opti Heavy Weather Regatta will have little kids battling big breeze on the Cityfront.

© Erik Simonson

Locally, a host of Bay Area organizations have created a wide variety of events from the Opti Heavy Weather Regatta hosted by St. Francis Yacht Club to community sailing center open houses, a come-one, come-all sail-in celebration at  Encinal YC, schooner sails aboard Seaward and Freda B, and many other activities. Many of the Bay Area plans are coordinated by, which is asking everyone sailing the Bay to post a photo tagged with #sailsfbay for a chance to win prizes, including a sail for two aboard the America’s Cup yacht USA76.

EYC in Alameda will once again feature a ‘build and launch a boat in a day’ contest with four teams already committed. Once the teams have launched their craft, they’ll race on the Estuary!

latitude/John A.
©Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Delta Doo Dah sailors are invited to Tiki Lagun Resort on Turner Cut (south of Lost Isle on the San Joaquin River), where the guests will join the marina’s tenants for a potluck supper. For details, see

The American/Turkish Team Alvimedica will be finishing up a mere 40,000 miles of sailing for the last leg of the Volvo Ocean Race. Expect an amazing celebration!

© 2015 Amory Ross / Team Alvimedica

Farther afield, Team Alvimedica has signed up as they sail the final leg of the Volvo Ocean Race from The Hague to Gothenburg, Sweden. Also on the Summer Saisltice events map are the Superyacht Cup in Palma, Mallorca; Sunfish racing in Kentucky; dry lake bed land sailing in Nevada; and cruising on Lake Sakakawea in North Dakota.

Sailstice was created as a way to unite and demonstrate the eclectic world of sailing by showcasing who sails what, where and how. As the list above shows, sailing is an incredibly a diverse sport.

If you want your sailing to be represented, sign up at and post your plans. You’ll be entered to win a prize from an extensive list including a one-week BVI charter from Sunsail. Hoist your sails and we’ll see you out there.

Update: Team Elsie Piddock arrived in Ketchikan at 12:55 p.m. today to win the first R2AK, having sailed the 40 miles from Port Townsend, WA, to Victoria, BC, in 4 hours and 11 minutes, and the 710 miles from Victoria to Ketchikan, AK, in an amazing 5 days and 55 minutes.
What NOAA thinks Carlos will look like in the next few days.  NOAA
©Latitude 38 Media, LLC The National Hurricane Center reports that Tropical Storm Carlos, now well off the coast of Acapulco, is about to develop into a hurricane and head northwest.
As reported in the March 2013 issue of Latitude 38, a group of dedicated volunteers has been working tirelessly over the past few years restoring the historic ketch Golden Rule to better-than-new condition.