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June 19, 2015

After Nine Years, a Shitty Welcome Back

A file photo of Capt. Greg King and Coco Kai owner Jennifer Sanders.

Coco Kai
©Latitude 38 Media, LLC

It would have been nice if Capt. Greg King of Jennifer Sanders’ 64-ft staysail schooner Coco Kai could have had a pleasant last leg from Cabo San Lucas to Long Beach to wrap up a circumnavigation that started with the 2006 Baja Ha-Ha. But it wasn’t to be.

First, there was a problem down around the Cape with the engine oil cooler.

Then, a day after rounding Cabo for California for the 18th time in his career, King and crew had to heave to off Mag Bay to withstand the winds of fading Hurricane Blanca.

Later, on the way to Turtle Bay, there was a problem with the U-joint.

After leaving Ensenada on June 16, with an escort of hundreds of dolphins, what could possibly go wrong? King explains:

"I got up at 2 a.m., a bit groggy from the previous day’s festivities in Ensenada, so we could make it up to Parker’s Lighthouse in Long Beach for the homecoming celebration. After making coffee, I turned the key for the engine two or three times, but nothing happened. Three or four seconds later, while scratching my head, the engine started without my doing anything! But the engine was making a weird noise, so I investigated.

"I found that the starter was still going, even though the starter key was ‘off’. I scratched my sore head some more, then figured I could take a lead off the starter, and just touch it to start the engine. Once the engine was going, I would take it off and still be good to Long Beach. So I removed the lead, then hit the solenoid a with a hammer — sometimes they stick — put the battery switch back ‘on’, and touched the wire. Nothing. That was good. So I reattached the wire, and the motor started and ran fine."

When you’ve been on a boat as long as King has, and you’ve done an extensive rebuild on her as he did in Thailand, you can diagnose problems and make repairs like he does.

But wait, as they say in late night television ads, there’s more! King explains:

"The following morning at 2 a.m., 10 miles off of Dana Point, with only 10 miles to go, I got woken up and told something was wrong. At this point I’d only gotten one hour of sleep in the previous 24.

"It was an Orange County Sheriff’s Task Force, and they wanted to board us. I politely helped two heavily-armed guys aboard. After going through papers and asking questions, they kept us under guard for the next 45 minutes while headquarters figured out what they wanted to do with us. No going to the toilet, no using the phone, no letting us go below. It was like we were criminals.

"At 2:45 a.m., they told us that the Coast Guard would be coming to board us. At 3:30 a.m., while we’re still under guard, they decide we should head to Long Beach for the boarding.

"But no, at 3:45 a.m., while underway for Long Beach, the Coast Guard shows up and three more heavily-armed guys come aboard. They tell us we’re now heading for Newport Beach.

"At 5:15 a.m. we arrive at the Coast Guard dock in Newport. At this point my crew is crying and I’m pretty pissed off at what I believe has been our nasty treatment. But we’re still separated and we’re questioned again. We’re still not allowed to use the head or the phone.

"The Coast Guard guys are going to rip the boat apart for a second time.

"At 6:30 a.m. I’m finally able to call Jen, the boat’s owner. And I’m promised a report of the incident, with the names of all involved.

"At 7:30 a.m., they are done with their ‘safety inspection’ and take off. I get no report. I don’t even get help with the docklines.

"For five and a half hours we’d been under heavy guard and threats were made if we moved. It was a nightmare!"

It occurred to us that the authorities might have been pissed that Coco Kai had bypassed San Diego and was going to clear into the States at Long Beach. It’s legal, but sometimes the authorities get pissy about it.

"Greg did bypass San Diego and did check in at Long Beach," says Coco Kai’s owner, Jennifer Sanders. "Long Beach has a phone number you call during business hours two hours prior to your arrival, and officials will meet you at Rainbow Pier. That’s what happened, and although Greg and the crew had to wait several hours, there was no problem with checking in or Immigration. The only bummer was Greg’s encounter with the ‘task force’ off Newport Beach. That’s an entirely different story, and was a sad way to end a nine-year trip. Only in America."

Lane Shift Ahead

As of Monday, CalTrans had cleared the main channel of the old and new east spans of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge between piers G and H. This is the main channel span closest to the east side of Yerba Buena Island.

Since the demolition of the old cantilever bridge began, vessels have been detoured through a safety zone farther east between piers I and J. "Vessel Traffic Service San Francisco is advising waterway traffic to transit the main channel span G-H," writes David Sulouff, the bridge administrator. "The green center span lights previously in the I-J span have been discontinued. The green center span lights in the main channel span G-H have been activated."

The bulletin advises all watercraft to avoid navigating under the old bridge from pier H to the Oakland shoreline due to the dismantling of the bridge above. A safety zone will be established soon that will prohibit transit under the new demolition area.

Stan Jones created this graphic using Google Earth. "Pier labeling of the SFOBB was taken from my Maptech Chart of the Bay," he says. "SFOBB piers are labelled west to east beginning with Pier A at San Francisco and proceeding eastbound." The green line indicates the new ‘go’ zone, and the red arrow shows the new ‘no go’ zone.

© 2015 Stan Jones

Weekend Preview

The reigning Rose Cup champs, Newport Beach-based locals, are defending their title in SoCal. Left to right: Christophe Killian, Jack Martin and Harrison Vandervort.

© Chris Love Productions

Twelve young skippers are competing the U.S. Youth Match Racing Championship for the Rose Cup, hosted by Balboa Yacht Club in Corona del Mar starting today. The sailors, ages 16-20, will compete in Governor’s Cup 21 boats. The regatta will continue through Sunday.

In Santa Cruz, Lasers will be racing tonight. Sailing will be followed by a BBQ and trophies at SCYC. For info, see

Corinthian YC members will match skills with South Beach YC sailors in tomorrow’s X-Bay Regatta. The course criss-crosses the Bay, finishing this year at McCovey Cove. CYC won last year.

San Francisco YC will host the Hart Nunes Regatta for Mercurys and the Small Keelboat Series #2 for J/24s, Melges 20s and Melges 24s tomorrow. The Melges 24 class will continue racing on Sunday. The Mercs will race in Raccoon Strait and the rest will sail north of the Berkeley Circle.

The Clear Lake Regionals for 8-ft El Toros are this weekend. Racing even smaller boats, the San Francisco Model YC will host the One Design One Meter American Model Yacht Association Region 6 championship Regatta this weekend on Spreckels Lake in Golden Gate Park.

The Round Treasure Island Race, organized by the TI Vanguard 15 fleet, won’t be run on Summer Sailstice after all, but may be rescheduled for later in the summer, depending on interest.

If you’re in the San Diego area, you might like to check out the Progressive International San Diego Boat Show, going on through Sunday at the Sheraton Hotel and Marina on Harbor Island. Also this weekend in San Diego, Koehler Kraft on Shelter Island is hosting a Wooden Boat Festival. If you’re not actually sailing, a visit to either show — or both — would be a fine way to spend Father’s Day!

For many more events this first weekend of summer, see our Calendar.

Rainmaker, still floating after five months in the nasty North Atlantic. We wonder how high she would float if someone got a couple of bilge pumps in her.
Although Hurricane Carlos is causing havoc south of the border — and other storms may follow — by the time the hurricane season ends in the fall, hundreds of sailors will be heading south, as always, to enjoy Mexico’s sunny latitudes during the winter months.