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August 26, 2015

I’m Not Nagging, But…

The boat in this photo is not Morpheus, but the narrow waterway is the Corinth Canal.

©2015Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Because it strikes so close to home, we had a big laugh when we read the following Facebook post by Deborah Gregory, who has been cruising the Med the last several summers with her husband Jim aboard their Pt. Richmond-based Schumacher 50 Morpheus. It was titled ‘Husbands’.

"This morning, as we were approaching the Corinth Canal in Greece, I lovingly went up to my husband and said, ‘I’m not nagging, and I’m not scared, but can you please make sure we have enough diesel in the tank we are currently drawing from to make it all the way through the canal?" For it would be just like Murphy to have us run out of fuel in the middle of the Corinth Canal.

"I got ‘The Look’. Ladies, you know the one.

"Three hours later, in the absolute middle of the 4-mile-long canal, the engine started to sputter. ‘Debbie, quick, get back here,’ shouted Jim. ‘Steer down the middle of the canal!’ Like there was anywhere else to steer with a 15-ft-wide boat in a 25-ft wide canal.

"Jim ran forward as the engine sputtered, grabbed a diesel jug, and started pouring diesel into the tank, as the engine continued to sputter. Finally it started to run smoothly again. Jim looked at me with a shit-eating grin. What can I say. He’s mine. I love him. I can’t beat him. But, Jim, come on!"

The reason this strikes so close to home is that one time Doña de Mallorca gave us the same little chat/warning when we were a few miles outside Paradise Marina in Mexico. And we, too, ran out of fuel. She swears that it’s happened at least two other times too, and that we’ve come close to running out of fuel a dozen other times. We like to point out that most of the time we haven’t run out of fuel. And infuriatingly, we usually finish the Bash with a couple of jerry jugs of fuel.

As for Debbie’s claim that the Corinth Canal is 25 feet wide, that is a little stretch, as the canal is actually 70 feet wide. But having taken our Ocean 71 Big O through the Corinth back in the mid-1990s, we can confirm that thanks in part to the near-vertical sides of the canal, it seems a lot narrower than it really is.

But it got us wondering, have any of you other skippers run out of fuel after being warned by your spouse or significant other?

For the record, the 4-mile-long Corinth Canal saves vessels that are trying to get from the Ionian Sea around the Peloponnese 430 miles. The shortcut was so worthwhile that in ancient times ships were dragged across the isthmus. The canal was finally completed in 1893 after 12 years of work. As it’s only 70 feet wide and less than 24 feet deep, it’s too small for most commercial vessels. As a result, it’s mostly used by tourists, but 11,000 vessels did pass through last year. The canal is at sea level, and there are no locks. It’s not cheap taking a boat through the Corinth Canal, but if you get the chance, and the boat has enough fuel, we recommend the experience.

The Corinth Canal separates the Ionian Sea, on the left, from the Saronic Gulf. The canal route is about 100 times shorter than having to go around the Peloponnese.

© 2015

Lessons Learned from Boat Blaze

We do our best to keep track of the 200-plus boats that do the annual Pacific Puddle Jump, but once they move beyond French Polynesia many tend to fall off the Latitude radar. That was the case with the New Zealand-flagged Bavaria 51 Sunny Deck, which was destroyed by an engine fire in mid-ocean June 23, somewhere between Rarotonga, Cook Islands, and Tonga. Details of the incident reached us only a few days ago. And while this may now be old news, there are some valuable lessons that we can learn from this life-threatening ordeal.

Late on that Tuesday night, Kiwi owner Murray Vereker-Bindon, 70 and crewman Michael Boyd, 68, were asleep in the aft cabin while Victor Campos, a 35-year-old professional skipper from Mexico, was alone on watch. At roughly 11 p.m., Campos smelled smoke and, upon lifting the engine room hatch, found the chamber ablaze. Toxic smoke billowed out, greeting Bindon and Boyd as they awoke to Campos’ screams of "Afuera! Afuera!" (Get out!)  

After getting blown past the ship’s bow, the stranded crewmen finally made it to Cap Capricorn’s boarding nets. 


Seconds later all three men jumped overboard to escape the caustic flames, wearing nothing but their undershorts and lifejackets. Luckily, one of them had the presence of mind to activate the ship’s EPIRB before exiting. Luckier still, they were able to swim to the back of the boat and release the liferaft, although they poked a small knife hole in it while cutting its tether.

When he bought Sunny Deck from a German owner, Bindon failed to update the EPIRB’s emergency contact info in the central database, so the alert initially went to a rescue center in Bremen, Germany. When the former owner received a confirmation call from rescue authorities there, he called Bindon’s home in Acapulco, and alerted his Mexican wife, Yolanda. She, in turn, called Bindon’s son Matthew in New Zealand, who had already noticed that the big sloop’s AIS signal was not functioning. Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand then took charge, and diverted the 748-ft container ship Cap Capricorn, which was about four hours away, en route from California to Auckland. The ship’s crew reportedly were guided to the scene of the emergency by the tall flames of the fiberglass inferno, and spotted the liferaft nearby in the reflected glow of the fire.

Bindon (left), Boyd and Campos aboard Sunny Deck in happier times.

Sunny Deck
©2015Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Conditions were rowdy at the time, with 45-knot winds and swells of roughly 12 feet, making it extremely difficult for the three men to pilot their raft to the side of the ship. But after about an hour of struggling, they made it, around 3 a.m. (June 24). The specific cause of the fire is unknown.

Race to AK 2016 Is a Go

Exciting isn’t it? Well, this part wasn’t but most of the first Race to Alaska was. This shot is of the Stage 2 start in Victoria, BC, with racers bound for Ketchikan, AK, on June 7.

© 2015 Nick Reid

Organizers have given a second Race to Alaska the green light. "After numerous debriefs with safety personnel, race staff, event sponsors and others, we have decided to move forward with a second Race to Alaska," said Jake Beattie, executive director of the Port Townsend-based Northwest Maritime Center, which put on the first Race to Alaska this June. "Besides, there may have been a full-blown revolt if we hadn’t run this again." The race will start on June 23 in Port Townsend, WA; details will be released on September 11 at the Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival.

The first-ever R2AK Blazer Party will also be held at the Wooden Boat Festival. This event will be free for the racers and $25 for everyone else. Attendees can come and rub elbows with R2AK teams, see the second-place steak knives, and be the first to hear the details of next year’s event. In mock formality, racers will wear a jacket chosen off a rack of thrift-store R2AK-emblazoned jackets — those who completed both stages of the race get one with two arms.

The Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival, a wooden boat-lover’s paradise, is a longstanding event run by NW Maritime Center. More than 300 boats are expected to be on display. The dates this year are September 11-13.

"What we really need for the SoCal Ta-Ta and the Baja Ha-Ha is our own island," the Grand PooBob/Grand Poobah was thinking to himself the other day.