If you want proof that there can be such as thing as too much love, look to the Marieta Islands at the outer edge of Banderas Bay, Mexico. Thanks to unrelenting publicity and a couple of really cool photographs, the number of visitors to Hidden Beach, aka Playa de Amor, shot up from just 27,500 visitors in 2012 to 127,000 last year. The unusual ‘beach in a crater’ was created when the islands were used as a bombing range by the — we’re not making this up — Mexican air force. When famed oceanographer Jacques Cousteau came by and saw what was going on, he had a fit, and the Mexican government put a stop to it. The beach also has a certain attraction because you have to swim through a relatively narrow tunnel to get in.
The National Protected Areas Commission (CONANP) has announced that they will close the beach starting on May 9 in order to protect the coral reefs, clean up the garbage, and monitor the condition of sea life. They figure the beach could support 625 people a day, but as many as 2,500 were visiting it during Easter Week. It’s unclear if this is a permanent closure or just temporary.
The islands have had a tremendous economic impact on the Punta Mita area and Puerto Vallarta. The panga guys at Mita used to fish until they realized that tourists were a much more lucrative catch. For the last couple of years they’ve been living the good life. Officials say that as many as 250 boats a day were bringing tourists to the beach over Easter Week. Many of these were from Puerto Vallarta and carried as many as 400 passengers. There are going to be a lot of unhappy fishermen-turned-boat-guides, as well as unhappy owners of big charter-boat businesses.
Latitude’s 63-ft catamaran Profligate, which only operates from mid-November through the end of January, is licensed and insured to carry up to 30 passengers at a time. The new ban won’t directly affect us because our permit specifically excluded our boat from visiting the islands. The exclusion didn’t bother us, because boats often had to wait up to two hours to let their passengers off, and many visitors didn’t enjoy the experience because of the Disneyland-like crowds.
According to the PICYA, an organization representing 105 Northern California yacht and boating clubs, this Sunday will mark the 99th time that they’ve sponsored an Opening Day Boat Parade on San Francisco Bay.
Although many diehard sailors enjoy Bay sailing even in the dead of winter, the primary goal of Opening Day is to get boaters of all stripes revved up about using their boats during the prime spring and summer sailing (and powerboating) season.
This year’s parade theme is Heroes on the Bay, says the PICYA’s Opening Day Chair Linda Blue, the idea being to salute "heroes of all kinds," including teachers, innovators, historical heroes, military heroes and other inspirational figures. Linda invites all local boaters to "Come on out and decorate your boat for this traditional event." The annual Blessing of the Fleet will take place at 10:30 a.m. in Raccoon Strait off the Corinthian YC, and the parade itself will begin off the San Francisco waterfront at noon, led by the fireboat Phoenix.
If you’ve never participated before, why not give it a go? After all, if you’re like us, you’re probably always looking for an excuse to get out on the water. And this is a particularly good one. Afterward, we’d love to receive a few of your favorite Opening Day photos.
Half Moon Bay Yacht Club’s second annual Sail a Small Boat Day on sunny Sunday, April 17, was as much a celebration of small boat sailing as a membership drive. “We are a sailing club that happens to own a bar, rather than a bar that happens to own sailboats,” said Scott Pyne, rear commodore of HMBYC and event organizer. “Sail a Small Boat Day has become our de-facto open house.” With 40-50 people signed up and three to five new member families, Pyne is “extremely pleased.”
His feelings were echoed by the new sailors. Linda Galindo of El Granada sailed on three different boats and loved it. “It was completely worth my time. I can’t wait to learn to sail and I’m especially looking forward to sailing with the HMBYC Women’s Sailing Group,” she said. “You think of yacht clubs and think of stuck up people, but this group is really friendly.”
Experienced sailor Sean Handel of Moss Beach brought daughter Natalie and son Tyler to try sailing for the first time. They went out on a Cal 20. “It’s fun!” exclaimed Tyler. “It’s a lot of work,” said Natalie, whose father explained that she paddled when the wind died. “When you’re sailing, sometimes you need to be patient,” said Tyler. Wise words from a new sailor.
After a southern-summer layover in New Zealand, irrepressible American circumnavigator and author Webb Chiles is poised to continue his latest solo lap around the planet aboard a remarkably small boat. From the Bay of Islands he writes, "The Southern Hemisphere Moore 24 fleet, aka hull #40, Gannet, will be departing Opua, New Zealand, when the wind comes up on Tuesday, April 26 — Monday the 25th in the US — to resume what, time and chance permitting, will be her first circumnavigation and her owner’s sixth."
Now 74, Chiles’ goal for this year is to reach South Africa, a voyage of roughly 10,000 miles with stops at Bundaberg, Cairns and Darwin, Australia. "The sail from Cairns to Cape York is my favorite coastal sail in the world," he says, and he will be enjoying it for the fourth time, having already done it in three previous boats. He’s contemplating making the 6,000-mile trip from Darwin, Australia, to South Africa nonstop, which is, needless to say, a very long trip in a Moore 24 — roughly three times the distance from San Francisco to Hawaii.
Chiles observes that during the 40 years that he’s been sailing the world, "the average cruising boat has become ever larger. Forty-five feet is now probably the norm. And the norm may be a catamaran. Obviously, Gannet is not a cruising boat and Webb Chiles is not a cruiser."
The solo sailor says that when he sails offshore he enters what he calls "the monastery of the sea" and does not communicate with resources on land. However, you can follow Chiles’ progress via his tracking page. For additional info, see his blog site and his website, where you’ll be greeted by his credo: "A sailor is an artist whose medium is the wind. Live passionately, even if it kills you, because something is going to kill you anyway."