October 2, 2015

Another Coke-Smuggling Sub Caught

Remember our recent story (September Sightings, p.74) about the Coast Guard capturing a self-propelled semi-submersible on July 17, somewhere off the coast of Mexico, that was filled with bales of cocaine? Well, this week they released a report on nabbing another one on August 31, off the same coast.

Making an ocean passage? Keep a watch out for craft like these, then get the heck away.

© United States Coast Guard

Information released by the USCG does not state how far offshore this 50-ft camouflaged sub was traveling, but we would assume it was farther offshore than most sailors go during coastal transits — the sub caught in July was 200 miles offshore. Nevertheless, smuggling subs, off both the Pacific and Atlantic coasts, appear to be a preferred tool of coke barons these days, adding to the potential hazards — such as migrating whales, wayward shipping containers and floating debris — that offshore sailors have to look out for.

The late-August apprehension began with a long-range P-3 aircraft spotting the sub; then the San Francisco Bay-based CG cutter Bertholf was called into play. The cutter launched two Over-the-Horizon Long-Range Interceptor boats, whose crews apprehended four suspected smugglers from the sub. Inside were approximately 15,000 lbs of coke. Unfortunately, as in the previous incident, the curious craft had to be scuttled — these subs are too unstable for towing with their unusual ‘ballast’ removed. Otherwise, we’re certain that forensics experts would love to take a stab at determining how and where they’re constructed.

Another popular smuggling method that frequently makes news on the West Coast is the use of large, open fishing-style boats called pangas, which simply take their chances roaring up the coast, packed to the gunwales with bales of pot.

If you happen to see a semi-sub or cargo-carrying panga offshore we would strongly suggest you get the heck away from it as quickly as you can, no matter how strong the temptation is to sail closer to get a better look. Also, no matter how far offshore you are, remember that it is both illegal and unwise to maneuver without someone on watch every minute of every day.

Slamming the Door on the Med Season

Escapade spent some time in a yard near Toulon earlier this summer so that Catana could get the right fit on the new daggerboards.

©2015Latitude 38 Media, LLC

"The season is pretty short here in the Med, and, like the Wanderer told us, once the wind patterns change, the season can end very quickly," write Greg Dorland and Debbie Macrorie of the Lake Tahoe-based Catana 52 cat Escapade.

"One look at the accompanying weather map shows how bad it’s gotten. Not only is there a big low over Corsica, the wind is out of the south at the Balearics to the west and the Adriatic in the east. And what you probably can’t see from the graphic is that there are very strong winds sweeping across the Aegean from the northeast that make a 270° turn at the southern tip of the Peloponnesus before heading northwest toward Sicily. You can just imagine how confused the seas must be in some parts of the Med."

The map to which Dorland is referring, of this morning’s low pressure system over Corsica.

© 2015 Windyty

"Debbie and I spent the night aboard Escapade in Genoa, Italy, where we had a wild night of lightning. Since our carbon fiber mast has already been hit by lightning twice, we didn’t want a third strike."

The pleasure boat marina at Genoa, Italy. The massive breakwater suggests how powerful the winter storms can be in the Med. 

©2015Latitude 38 Media, LLC

"It turns out that the mast needs to be pulled anyway to do a small repair to the ball and socket that it sits on. I think the Delrin bearing has degraded after all the ocean miles. Our friend is the owner of Licospars in Lago di Garda, and we’re glad that he’s agreed to come down to Genoa to oversee the work.

"We’d almost gone down to Ragusa in southern Sicily. It would have been nice, but we decided it was more important to get the work done on the mast, which is what brought us back up north to Genoa. Debbie and I will spend the winter in the Dolomite Mountains, probably in Cortina."

For those keeping score, Corsica is at about the same latitude as Oregon. 

October Latitude Hits the Docks

We hope you’ll take time out from your sailing plans to enjoy the latest issue of Latitude 38. Most distributors should have theirs in time for weekend reading.

Get your October issue while it’s hot!

©Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Within the pages of the October issue you’ll find stories about Dorade’s Return to Blue Water, a recap of the third SoCal Ta-Ta, global races, citizen scientists, women at the helm, the Moore 24 Nationals, and an Ironman (sailing) Biathlon. Speaking of hot, we reported on the Rolex Big Boat Series and the Delta Doo Dah. Read about Max Ebb’s sneaky secrets, and check in on all the regular departments you know and love: Calendar, Letters, Sightings, Racing Sheet, World of Charter and Changes in Latitudes. Need a boat, gear or marine services? Shop to your heart’s content in our Classy Classifieds and display ads.

Clear Lake Update

While the Valley Fire continued to rage in devastated Lake County, we checked in with our contacts at Konocti Bay Sailing Club to see how they were holding up, and to learn if the fire had altered their busy sailing schedule.

The fire grew rapidly on September 12. The plume of smoke can be seen on the ridge in the distance, from aboard Brad King’s boat in a KBSC buoy race. "In the next 24 hours it burned 20 miles downwind, 10,000 acres, and most of the 1200+ homes," said King.

© Bradley King

"The South County disaster is everything you have seen on the news," responded Bradley King, vice commodore of KBSC. "I’ve been through the ’71 San Fernando quake, the ’82 Santa Cruz floods, and far too close to other major disasters; this was as bad as all that. Fire Service personnel are not just stunned at the unprecedented speed this fire spread but are concerned this may be the new normal. After three major fires in this small rural county, we are most thankful the loss of life has not been worse."

A graphic depicting the range of the Valley Fire. Konocti Bay is in the the southwest portion of Clear Lake. The fire, which started on September 12, is now 97% contained.

© 2015 CalFire / Google Maps

"The kids in Middletown are particularly hard hit, and yet, with the schools surviving, I think they are recognizing how special a community can be, both among their peers and their county," said King. "The support we are seeing, both locally and from our friends in the Bay Area, is spectacular.

"The Lake County Wine Alliance has been fundraising for Lake County for years. Their effort toward the fire will be just as efficient and effective. See
www.facebook.com/lakecountyrising. The same can be said for North Coast Opportunities, a regional player in focused support for our community. See

"All of that from a simple question about sailing — I guess you can see that I’m not confused about priorities. Yes, we are still sailing. We as a club have only one family that lost their house. The lake still has a month of warm weather sailing, and we try to — what was the line from The Right Stuff? — ‘maintain an even strain’. Thanks for keeping us in mind."

A photo of a photo of Big O doing one of the Dickenson Bay races in the mid-1990s.
The grounding of a bright yellow Catalina 27 at Ocean Beach, was a minor news story Monday, but it serves as a painful reminder to all who plan to sail south this fall or winter to head several miles out past the Golden Gate before hanging a left. 
Ron Kell’s Express 27 Abigail Morgan in light surf outside the Gate, on the return leg from Point Bonita Buoy.