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January 27, 2016

Scientists Discover Long-Lost Whalers

If you’re always looking for ‘silver linings’, you’ll be interested in recent discoveries made by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scientists thanks to diminishing sea ice in the Arctic. 

Although artfully drawn, this artist’s rendering of the abandonment scene can’t begin to convey the grim prospect of surviving outside in such conditions, even for a brief period.

© 2016 Harper’s Weekly

Early this month the agency announced discovery of the remains of two sail-powered whaling ships which, along with 31 others, became trapped by pack ice in September 1871 — 144 years ago — in Arctic latitudes off Alaska’s northwest coast. All 33 ships had to be abandoned, leaving 1,200 crewmen stranded in the icy wasteland ashore. Within a few weeks the entire fleet had broken up and sunk to the bottom. Incredibly, though, all of the shipwrecked crewmen were eventually rescued by seven additional whaling ships that had been operating nearby — but in order to do so, those vessels had to jettison their valuable cargo of whale oil and other supplies.

Another artist — who obviously was not there — conceived the scene this way. 

© Huntington Library

According to the NOAA report, "With less ice in the Arctic as a result of climate change, archaeologists now have more access to potential shipwreck sites than ever before. . . Using state-of-the-art sonar and sensing technology, the NOAA team was able to plot the ‘magnetic signature’ of the two wrecks, including the outline of their flattened hulls. The wreck site also revealed anchors, fasteners, ballast and brick-lined pots used to render whale blubber into oil."

But as fascinating as it was to close this chapter of maritime history, researchers are naturally wary of longterm effects of diminishing sea ice and melting permafrost — a climatic wild card if ever there was one.

We’ll See You in Seattle

As every Pacific Northwest sailor undoubtedly knows, the massive Seattle Boat Show begins this week and runs through February 6 at CenturyLink Field (plus in-the-water boat viewing at South Lake Union). If you’ve never attended, let us confirm that this is one of the most impressive shows in the country, largely because the Northwest has an enormous boating community, and many boats of various types are manufactured there.

The owners of the SC50 Bay Wolf took a sabbatical from their SF Bay charter operations to do the Ha-Ha rally last year.

©2016Latitude 38 Media, LLC

We’re happy to say that Latitude 38 has many dedicated readers up north, many of whom eventually participate in our Baja Ha-Ha rally to Mexico and/or Pacific Puddle Jump rally to French Polynesia.

With that fact in mind, we’ll be giving four seminars on those events this weekend, so if you come to the show, please come by and check out our programs:

• Baja Ha-Ha How-To — 12 noon, both Saturday, 1/30, and Sunday, 1/31

• Tahiti and the Pacific Puddle Jump — 1 p.m., both Saturday, 1/30, and Sunday, 1/31

The loosely structured Pacific Puddle Jump rally draws participants from all over the world, such as the Dutch boat Suluk, which made the crossing last year.

©Latitude 38 Media, LLC

We hope to see you there!

Three Bridge Fiasco Preview

Was there ever a crazier, more challenging race to start than the Three Bridge Fiasco? The start line buoy, a yellow ball marked with an X, can be seen mid-frame. Three hundred boats are starting in either direction, at various odd times.

©2016Latitude 38 Media, LLC

As of this morning, 342 boats were signed up for Saturday’s Three Bridge Fiasco, the most popular — and nuttiest — race in the region. If you’ve been procrastinating, you still have a few more hours to enter; registration will remain open until midnight, but after that you’re out of luck.

We encourage you to attend tonight’s skippers’ meeting at Oakland Yacht Club in Alameda. The bar will open at 7 p.m. with the meeting beginning at 7:30. Kame Richards of Pineapple Sails, one of the Bay’s most consistently successful racers, will give a talk on strategy.

For this race only, the SSS uses the old 10-minute sequence — but just once, at the very beginning of the starts. The old yellow, blue and red shapes have been replaced by newer flags. (The blue one is rather hard to see on a blue-sky day.) For this race and some others, the SSS uses the Golden Gate YC race deck in the San Francisco Marina. The orange rectangle marks one end of the start line.

©2016Latitude 38 Media, LLC

In case you can’t make the meeting, here a few tidbits that are likely to be mentioned:

The Three Bridge Fiasco is the first race of the SSS season, which includes three more regattas on the Bay and four on the ocean. Only boats submitting 2015 or 2016 PHRF certificates will be scored in the overall standings for the season, but TBF is popular with one-design fleets, some of which use it as part of their own championship season. As such, boats without PHRF certificates competing as part of a one-design class of five or more boats may be scored in this particular race if approved by their class association.

For the past two years, the SSS hasn’t required radio check-ins for the Three Bridge, but they will this year. If your sail number ends in an odd numeral, check in on the regular race frequency, VHF 69; even numbers check in on 72, which will be used for check-in only. Be sure to check in at least 10 minutes before your assigned start time.

Alternate propulsion (motoring or paddling) cannot be used within five minutes (not four minutes) of your assigned start time.

The race committee will not hail over-earlies; rather 20 minutes will be added to their time. The start-finish line is restricted. Cross it only when you’re starting or finishing. Go around it if you’re traversing the Cityfront from Treasure Island to Blackaller or vice versa. Take careful note of the other restricted areas, which are detailed in the SSS Standing Sailing Instructions and Additional Sailing Instructions, both of which you’ll want to read carefully and bring along on the race.

Crews finishing after 5 p.m. should hail the race committee on VHF 69 when they’re approaching the finish line. Those finishing after dark are asked to illuminate their sail numbers. No matter what time you finish, make a note of your time and the boats finishing immediately in front of and behind you — just in case.

Every entry must check out. If you don’t finish, hail the RC on VHF 69 to drop out, or a leave a message on the SSS voice mail at (866) 724-5777. If the race committee volunteers don’t hear from you, they’ll hunt you down — worse yet, they’ll call your mom.

Welcome to the North Bay parking lot. In this photo, the ProSail 40 catamaran Shadow has apparently rounded Red Rock, while the monohulls are still yearning toward it.

©2016Latitude 38 Media, LLC

The concept of the race is simple; the execution is anything but. Since it’s a pursuit race, handicaps are figured out ahead of time and boats start at their prescribed time. They can cross the start line in either direction and visit the three bridges in any order and in any direction, then finish in either direction. The three rounding marks are: Blackaller Buoy (Golden Gate Bridge), Yerba Buena/Treasure Island (Bay Bridge), and Red Rock (Richmond-San Rafael Bridge). Simple, right? So, which way are you going to go?

To help with the decision — or at least prolong the discussion — we’ll share a forecast from Sail Tactics in Friday’s ‘Lectronic.

Oh, and did we mention that this race is for doublehanders and singlehanders only?

All the relevant documents, online registration, and the current entry list can be found on Jibeset.

Profligate on her own hook in the rather deep water of Yelapa. The dark color of the water indicates how deep it is.
The Melges 24 Shaka shakes off her rig on Friday at Key West Race Week, in breeze building past 20 knots and monstrous seas.