July 8, 2015

First American Female to Solo Nonstop?

One of the challenges that many singlehanders face during long, lonely passages is how to keep themselves amused. Donna Lange has got that issue covered. An accomplished singer-songwriter, she never goes offshore without her trusty guitar. 

© donna lange

No sooner had Sir Francis Chichester regained his ‘land legs’ after completing his historic one-stop solo circumnavigation aboard Gipsy Moth in 1967, than he sorely regretted not making the trip nonstop. We suspect that Donna Lange had similar thoughts back in 2007 when she completed a solo rounding aboard her Southern Cross 28 Inspired Insanity, having made two stops.

In any case, on July 26 she will set sail from Bristol, RI, aboard the same boat and begin her quest to become the first American woman to solo the planet — via the Great Capes — with neither stops nor assistance. And get this: She plans to use only celestial navigation for navigation and only SSB radio for communications. 

"This itinerary is much more of a tradewind route than my previous sail," says the feisty singlehander, "allowing me to cross the North Atlantic in the summer season with the trades, stay in the trades in the eastern North Atlantic and approach Cape Hope a bit early. I will be in the Southern Ocean in the summer season, though there are storm seasons north in the Indian Ocean. I will pass Cape Horn at the end of summer and be able to catch the trades in the South Atlantic, as I plan to sail more easterly from the Cape. I will return in May, the classic time of year to pass north from the Caribbean to New England."

Nothin’ to it, right? Learn more about Donna’s plans at her website, and if you feel inspired to support her dream, check out her Indiegogo site. Make no mistake, the gal is no lightweight. During her last lap around the planet she toughed it out in her 28-footer through several Southern Ocean storms during which at least one other crew had to be rescued. You go girl!

Whales Inside the Bay

As smart as they are, migrating whales occasionally get disoriented and enter the Bay.

© Joanne Martin & Erika Janke

For school-aged kids lucky enough to be invited aboard the German Frers-designed 46-ft sloop Golden Bear, a San Francisco Bay daysail is always a very special experience. But one of last week’s trips was particularly memorable due the sighting of a humpback whale inshore of the Golden Gate Bridge.

"I’ve been sailing on S.F. Bay for almost 50 years and this is the first time I’ve witnessed a humpback whale in the Bay," says Captain Ken Janke. "What was really special was sharing this rare event with ten very excited kids from one of our local community groups." (The nonprofit Blue Water Foundation has been running often-free kids’ sailing programs for decades.)

That memorable daysail turned out to be a biology lesson for the kids: You can tell this is a humpback by its distinctive dorsal fin. 

© 2015 Joanne Martin & Erika Janke

While sailors usually consider whale sightings to be a special treat, local scientists charged with protecting them become gravely concerned whenever they hear reports of near-shore sightings. This summer, in fact, the staff of the Greater Farallones and Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuaries — which extend many miles beyond the Golden Gate — is trying to alert mariners that in recent weeks many whales have been sighted traveling closer to shore than is normal. 

"There are large numbers of humpbacks right now in the Golden Gate Straits," wrote Mary Jane Schramm last month with a sense of urgency. "They’re in harm’s way; some are just off the Cliff House."

As a result, ships traveling through the Sanctuaries have been asked to slow to 10 knots during the migration season. And NOAA asks all mariners to report to them any collisions with whales, or any observed injured or dead whales, by calling 877-SOS-WHALE (877-767-9425), or advising the Coast Guard on VHF Channel 16. 

Boaters can also report whale sightings to whales@noaa.gov, or through the free, downloadable Whale Alert smartphone app found here.

Just before Mila Zinkova flipped on her video camera, this whale breached within sight of San Francisco’s Ocean Beach. As if putting on a show, it then did at least 50 tail slaps.  


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This shot, which was uploaded from Dorade this morning, proves that at least part of her Atlantic crossing thus far has been wet and wild.
Sam’s Anchor Cafe in Tiburon is always a popular pit stop for boaters on summer weekends.
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