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January 25, 2016

Moored Boats on the Loose

Profligate on her own hook in the rather deep water of Yelapa. The dark color of the water indicates how deep it is. You can’t sleep well on the hook in Yelapa. 

©2016Latitude 38 Media, LLC

"Three boats broke their moorings free from the bottom last night at the Yelapa anchorage on Banderas Bay," reports Brian Charette of the Jackson Hole-based Cat2Fold catamaran. "My catamaran was the first. I was awakened by someone yelling ‘Ahoy!’ In my daze, I thought the boat near me was drifting toward the beach. In reality, my boat and I were being blown out to sea with a 150-ft line and an inadequate mooring weight hung from my bows. I ultimately dropped the mooring in about 500 feet of water. The bottom is very steep and deep at Yelapa.

"Then I grabbed the only other mooring that I could see. It soon became dislodged from the sea floor, too. I dropped it, then found another one, this one very close to the beach. I hooked onto it, and stayed put for the rest of the night.

"When I awoke in the morning, Mike and Judy Sawyer’s San Francisco-based Island Packet 38 Honu was gone, having drifted out to sea with her mooring weight still attached. Apparently they decided to take off at 4 a.m.

"Another boat — I think it was Truant, whose crew, I think, originally woke me — dragged into the bay and were minutes from drifting onto the rocks before they discovered what happened.

"The thing is, it wasn’t very windy last night. Yelapa, get your shit together!"

Beware of rascals who will rent you a panga mooring and tell you it’s plenty strong for your boat. 

©2016Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Anchoring and mooring at Yelapa has always been risky because of, among other things, the steep-to bottom. In fact, on February 28, 1958, Yelapa was the scene of one of the greatest yacht losses on the West Coast. The owner and some professional crew of the all-varnished 82-ft M-Class boat Windward — sistership to the Sausalito-based Pursuit — were heading north after setting a new Acapulco Race record when they decided to anchor at Yelapa and get a fish dinner. The great yacht was anchored about 150 feet off the beach when a swell came up and the anchor chain snapped. Almost before the crew realized it, Windward was on the beach. The crew and locals battled for four days to get her off, but it was a lost cause. Just Google ‘Yelapa’ and ‘Windward’, and you can read Skip Allan’s entertaining account about the loss.

The other problem is the unregulated nature of Yelapa moorings. In the past, just about anybody has thrown down a brick with a line attached and a Clorox bottle as a buoy and offered to rent you a ‘mooring’ for $20 a night. "Or how about $10?" Oftentimes several people would try to charge you for the same mooring.

We’ve anchored and moored to what we were told was a "ferryboat" mooring overnight at Yelapa, but never felt very comfortable doing it. If you do it, or anchor there, at the very least we’d have one or more drag alarms set. Although it didn’t happen last night, strong breezes often blow offshore out the mountains. Yesterday’s big issue was the swell. We’ve never seen such consistently great large surf on the Punta Mita side of the bay. It’s the kind of swell that could have easily jerked an inadequate mooring weight, with inadequate scope, right off the bottom. Be careful out there!

Ever Bought a Boat Sight Unseen?

We bought Olson 30 #66 in Richmond sight unseen about five years ago.She’s been a fabulous boat for us, both for Zen sailing on San Francisco Bay and for 15 singlehanded circumnavigations of St. Barth in the Caribbean.  

latitude/Dona de Mallorca
©2016Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Generally speaking, buying or attempting to buy a boat sight unseen is not something to be recommended. Just ask Dan Hayes and Rose Alderson of Gabriola Island, British Columbia. In the January 20 ‘Lectronic, we reported that, having sailed their Catalina 34 Aussie Rules across the Pacific, the couple sold her in Australia, then agreed to buy a Catalina 400 “fixer-upper” in St. Martin in the Eastern Caribbean.

After they’d made the long flight from Australia to St. Martin, red flags immediately started flying when the woman who claimed to own the boat refused to even let them go aboard until their check had cleared. Strange, no? It got even more weird.

“The woman’s story kept changing,” reports Rose, “and she kept trying to get us to deposit the money in different, impossible ways to someone not listed in the sales agreement — which she’d never even signed. We finally said enough is enough. Maybe we’ll find another Catalina, maybe a boat in Croatia, or maybe we’ll build a house first.”

Beware, as there are still plenty of pirates in the Caribbean. If we were Dave and Rose, having flown all the way to the Caribbean, we’d look at other boats in St. Martin, a huge yachting center; in the British Virgin Islands, an even bigger yachting center where countless charter boats come out of service; and even down in Le Marin, Martinique, where they have lots of Euro-based boats on the block.

But it raises the fun question of whether you’ve ever bought a boat sight unseen, and how it turned out. We’ve done it twice, and still own both the boats. The first was the Leopard 45 cat that became ‘ti Profligate. But it wasn’t truly sight unseen, as Tim Schaff of the sistership Jet Stream and the folks at BVI Yacht Charters had given her their seal of approval. The second was Olson 30 #66 that just happened to be in Richmond. She was such a bargain — about $4,000 — we didn’t see how we could go wrong. And we didn’t. Now named La Gamelle, she’s living on a mooring in St. Barth now, and we’re drooling, as we’ll be sailing her again in about three weeks.

But enough about us, we’d like to hear about your experiences, if any, buying a sailboat sight unseen. Email Richard.

Key West Wrap-Up

The Melges 24 Shaka shakes off her rig on Friday at Key West Race Week, in breeze building past 20 knots and monstrous seas.

© 2016 Max Ranchi

The 2016 Quantum Key West Race Week ended just the way it started, with nuking breeze, driving rain and lightning all around. Stronger than forecast southerly breeze opposed the south-flowing ebb in Key West to create muscular wind-on-wave conditions that caused much anxiety for competitors and race organizers alike. "To race or not to race," that was the question on Friday, the final day. With one race to go for most divisions and two for the J/70s, Melges 24s and C&C 30s, Key West Race Week was primed to go down to the wire in several of the hotly-contested handicap and one-design divisions. On the race course, the wet and puffy breeze topped out at more than 30 knots, creating challenging conditions as small weather cells continued to move over the tropical venue.

One division that would not come down to the wire was the J/111 fleet. Atherton, California’s Peter Wagner and his Skeleton Key crew were absolutely killing it in their Key West debut, excelling in the windy conditions to claim seven bullets and a pair of seconds to dominate the nine-boat one-design division and claim the honors by a wide margin. "I really enjoyed my first Key West. We had great conditions and it was a really well-run event," said an elated Wagner. "The race committee did a fantastic job. We’re just really fortunate that we managed to sail consistently, and we had a lot of fun doing it. We got off the line well and Seadon Wijsen did a great job of managing things tactically on the course. We had really solid boat speed throughout." Tactician Wijsen added, "Everything just worked out really well. It was a lot of fun." The experience and the confidence that the Skeleton Key crew has gained should be priceless and only serve to further fuel the fire that already burns in San Francisco’s ultra-competitive J/111 Fleet 5.

The crew of Skeleton Key at the awards ceremony.

© Max Ranchi

Other Bay Area programs had their work cut out for them. Peter Krueger’s exceptionally well-sailed J/125 Double Trouble slipped to third place in IRC 2 after two consecutive fifth-place finishes allowed John Cooper’s custom Mills 43 to claim the second step on the podium, while Andrew and Linda Weiss’ Sydney 43 Christopher Dragon topped the five-boat fleet.

The Richmond-based J/125 Double Trouble made the trek to Key West.

© Martha Blanchfield

Julian Mann’s San Francisco-based C&C 30 Andiamo was never a factor and finished near the back of the fleet in a hyper-competitive 11-boat division. A bit higher in the rankings was Peter Cunningham’s Cayman Islands-based C&C 30 Powerplay, which included Bay Area-born and -bred America’s Cup and Olympic veteran Hartwell Jordan and the reigning S.F. Etchells champ, Blaine Pedlow. Powerplay finished seventh, while Edwin Feo’s Long Beach-based Loco managed to climb the rankings steadily and round out the podium in third place behind Dan Cheresh’s second-place Extreme 2 and Walt Thirion’s division-winning Themis.

The C&C 30 fleet in the teal waters of Key West.

© Sara Proctor

Santa Cruz’s Morgan Larson called tactics on Doug Devos’ TP52 Quantum Racing, which claimed IRC 1 honors by just half a point over Steve and Heidi Benjamin’s TP52 Spookie, helmed by 2015 Rolex Yachtsman of Year Steve Benjamin.

Quantum is the title sponsor of both the regatta and this eye-catching TP52 with the striped hull and sails.

© 2016 Sara Proctor

Key West Race Week may be in the books, but the Conch Republic Cup is just getting started. Stay tuned to ‘Lectronic Latitude for more updates as a large portion of the KWRW fleet races to Havana, Cuba, later this week. Double Trouble and Loco are among the entries.

Canadian cruisers George Juri and Grit Chiu had been battling strong winds and high seas for days when they chanced upon Thai barge worker Thar Hlaing, who’d been alone in the water for four days.