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February 22, 2016

Antigua Is A-OK

Jolly Harbour on the leeward side of Antigua is ‘ti Profligate’s new off-season home. She’s the cat with the turquoise sail covers. 

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Having not spent much time in Antigua since doing six Sailing Weeks with our Ocean 71 Big O in the the event’s heyday of the 1980s and 1990s, the Wanderer had forgotten what a great place it is both for dropping out in quiet anchorages and for being in the middle of world-class sailing competitions. We returned to the Eastern Caribbean nation because it’s now the off-season home of our retired Leopard 45 charter cat ‘ti Profligate. She lives at the dock behind the Jolly Harbour home of friends Joe and Clare, who have taken great care of her.

Our new good friend Tony and his newly-holed 27-ft boat. The boat is a complete mess, but Tony loves her. We’re doing all we can to make sure the Jet Ski rental company does the right thing.

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Shortly after getting the cat up and running again, we anchored just outside Jolly Harbour, where everybody with a Jet Ski and dinghy violates the 5-knot speed limit by a factor of about five. So it was no surprise that we watched as a genial 69-year-old numbskull from London t-boned a beat-up but beloved 27-ft racing sloop owned by a local named Tony. It’s a wonder the clueless operator wasn’t killed, because he put a hole in the sloop the size of his noggin. The operator readily admitted responsibility, saying he didn’t realize you lost steering if you backed off the throttle. A half hour later his daughter was making the ridiculous claim that the accident was the result of a “transmission failure.” We sure hope Tony gets properly compensated.

We fled Jet Ski-riddled waters by moving to the nearby Hermitage anchorage. It was beautiful and had a fine sand beach. The water was 80°. 

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After anchoring at the beautiful Hermitage anchorage and later Curtain Bluff, we returned to the scene of many debaucheries aboard Big O — Falmouth Harbour. Lordy has the place ever changed, what with the addition of lots of dock space and lots of megayachts, many of them sailing megayachts. What hasn’t changed is that the infrastructure is still a mess — terrible roads and sidewalks, almost-nonexistent lighting, and often-mediocre food at high prices. Oh, to be back in Mexico when you get hungry! What also hasn’t changed is that the overwhelming majority of the locals are very friendly if you engage them. We’re loving Antigua and plan on spending more time here in upcoming years.

Falmouth Harbour and the historic English Harbour were hopping with sailors, as the eighth annual Caribbean 600 was ramping up to start today. Every year the number of entries has grown in this grueling 600-mile event around various islands, and this year the fleet is a record 69. It’s quickly become one of the two or three best middle-distance yacht races in the world.

Doña checked out Comanche prior to the start of the Caribbean 600. The size of the daggerboard is indicative of the size of the rest of the 100-footer. Half the daggerboard broke off during the Sydney to Hobart Race, leaving the other half of the board attached by lines, banging on the bottom and the topsides of the boat, as well as one of the rudders. Nasty business.  

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The impressive fleet features Lloyd Thornburg’s MOD70 Phaedo3, which has smashed more records in the last year than plates were broken in Greek restaurants on the Left Bank in Paris. The bad-boy monohull is Jim and Kristy Clark’s 100-ft Juan K monster Comanche. We got a tour of the boat yesterday, and she’s insane. She’ll be racing like crazy this year, and in 2017 is slated for the Cape Town to Rio, a Mexican race, and the Transpac!

Needing to get rested up for watching the start of the Caribbean 600, the Wanderer and Doña made a day trip up to Green Island. It’s not the worst anchorage we’ve ever been to. 

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When it comes to watching the start of a sailboat race, nothing compares to the view from the Block House up on Shirley Heights. Spectacular!

They’re off! The Block House up at Shirley Heights is a great place to watch the start of the Caribbean 600. The boats don’t look that big because most of them are really big. The boat on the top left is the 100-ft Comanche. 

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We warmed up for the start of the race yesterday by anchoring at Green Island, about eight miles northeast of English Harbour. What a gorgeous place! Free moorings, too. You’ll have to excuse us because we’re going for a swim in the clear 80° water. Doctor Feelgood’s orders.

Fiji Recovering from Mega-Cyclone

Residents of Fiji are still reeling from Saturday’s pummeling by ferocious Tropical Cyclone Winston, the most powerful storm ever to hit the multi-island South Pacific nation — and probably the most destructive. 

Winston struck a direct hit on the Fijian islands over the weekend — the most powereful cylone ever recorded in those islands.

© New Zealand Met Service

Packing winds as high as 205 mph (136 sustained) as it peaked over the nation’s eastern islands, Winston reportedly sent roofs flying, flattened whole villages, and even overwhelmed some weather instruments. In addition to structural damage, crops and livestock were wiped out by the high winds, lashing rain and storm surge in some areas. Thousands of islanders have found refuge in evacuation centers, as local agencies and international aid organizations assess damage and begin the long process of picking up the pieces and rebuilding. Yesterday, major airports opened and a curfew was lifted.

Early reports indicate that the worst damage was probably sustained in the Lau Group of islands, the western Yasawa Islands and northern Vanua Levu. As of this morning, 21 deaths have been confirmed. 

An untold number of homes were flattened, especially in the outer islands.

© Joe Yaya

Reports are also trickling in from cruising yachts based in Fiji for the cyclone season. In a post this morning Lewis Allen and Alyssa Alexopolous (who were off-island during the blow) report that their Redwood City-based Tartan 37 Eleutheria rode out the monster storm on a mooring and suffered only minor damage. The Faulkner family’s Colorado-based Tartan 411 Hotspur, lying nearby we assume, also came through without major damage. Bruce Harbour and Jennifer Martindale of the Montana-based St. Francis 44 Mk II Skabenga weathered the storm in a mangrove lagoon, as did many other cruising yachts. But as photos confirm, other international cruising boats were not so lucky.  

The picture tells the story: nearly total destruction in some areas. 

© New Zealand Defense Force

Ian Wells reports that at Vuda Point Marina, a popular cyclone-season refuge for cruisers, "There has been some damage to a few unlucky yachts, but most came out unscathed." There were no major injuries there. Wells observed, "Amazing efforts by the team [marina staff], many of whom have been working since 7 a.m. yesterday [Saturday] and are still going, sacrificing their own families and properties to look after the yachts. Incredible stories about what they were doing during the middle of the cyclone."

Many boats at Vuda Point Marina — both in the water and lying in purpose-built trenches ashore — came through unscathed.
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Winston was tracking toward Vanuatu on Sunday afternoon, but some computer models predict it will turn south and weaken between New Zealand and New Caledonia over the next few days.

Longtime cruiser Dietmar Petutschnig of the Las Vegas-based Lagoon 440 Carinthia returned last year from several wonderful years in Fiji. He encourages sailors to support the efforts of the sailor-assisted aid organization Sea Mercy in addition to other relief organizations. See the Fiji Government’s website for other donation suggestions and aid updates.

Not all boats were lucky enough to avoid damage from the wind and surge.
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Corinthian Midwinters/Robgatta

Although the weather was perfect for a raft-up on Saturday, it wasn’t so keen for a Bay tour yacht race. The shifty northerly softened as the ebb built, and the later-starting boats didn’t see more than 6 knots.

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"They put a quart into a pint pot," said Ian Matthew of Saturday’s Corinthian Midwinter race (we’ll leave it to your imagination to supply the English accent). "We spent the afternoon in Raccoon Strait." Matthew’s C&C 29 Siento el Viento was just one of dozens that couldn’t make it around the 10.5-mile course, which went from the start/finish line west of Angel Island to Southampton Shoal on the island’s east side  — against one hell of an ebb — to the Yellow Bluff buoy off the Sausalito headlands. Everyone was given the same course, and, for the later-starting, slower boats, it was a disaster. After spending the better part of the day trying to go the wrong way on the conveyor belt in Raccoon Strait, they got swept out to the North Tower of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Annie, Ciara, Tara, Alex and Hamilton sold regatta shirts and gave away Latitude 38’s YRA Sailing Calendars.

© 2016 Scott Wall

The series started on January 16-17 and concluded on February 20-21, with the February Saturday race doing double duty as the fourth annual Rob Moore Memorial Regatta, with special prizes awarded that evening in the Corinthian’s beautiful ballroom.

Wine for the ladies: Robgatta organizers Leslie Richter and Michael Moradzadeh gave bottles of wine or canvas bags to women skippers (there were more, but these are the ones who made it upstairs for the awards).

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The Rob Moore Memorial Regatta Perpetual Trophy is a subjective award. Steve Stroub’s C&C 30 Tiburon was chosen because they won the sportboat division by almost nine minutes! The trophy is the rather worse-for-wear tiller extension from the quarter-tonner Summertime Dream, which Rob owned three times.

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Sunday’s race was postponed waiting for the promised westerly to fill, which it did, right on schedule according to what the race committee called "several high-price forecasts." While many entries failed to show up for the final day of the two-weekend regatta, almost all who did finished Sunday’s 12-mile course, which was shortened for the Cal 20s.

While still a gorgeous day, Sunday’s breeze was more to the liking of those who came out to play.

© Erik Simonson

We’ll have more in the March issue of Latitude 38, out on Tuesday, March 1; in the meantime, check out

Unlike the original locks, the Third Lane will recycle much of the water it uses, and will have sliding gates that operate faster than those on the original Canal.
Subscribers to the YRA of S.F. Bay newsletter learned of changes to the organization’s biggest race of the year, the Great Vallejo Race, earlier this week.