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June 24, 2016

Wonderful Woodies Alert

A greeting from the Sea Scouts on their open whaleboat, Viking.

©2016Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Lovers of classic yachts will want to set aside some time on Sunday to visit Corinthian Yacht Club, on Tiburon’s Main Street, for the Master Mariners Wooden Boat Show. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., visitors will be able to view and board classic sailing yachts, meet their skippers, and hear about their histories.

As at ‘regular’ boat shows, it’s a good idea to wear shoes you can easily slip out of and into, as etiquette dictates boarding barefoot or in stocking feet. Fortunately, the weather is predicted to be rather glorious.

©2016Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Large and small vessels will be on display. The SF Feetwarmers Jazz Band will play live music, Arques School of Traditional Boatbuilding will facilitate model boat building for kids, and an outdoor bar and grill will be open for lunch.

Corinthian Harbor is at its loveliest when packed full of classic woodies.

©Latitude 38 Media, LLC

The ticket price is $20; kids under 12 get in free when accompanied by an adult. The show is a fundraiser for the nonprofit Master Mariners Benevolent Foundation, which provides scholarships for youth sailing, wooden boat building, and maritime education. Founded in 1867, the Master Mariners Benevolent Association is devoted to the preservation of classic sailing vessels and traditional seamanship. 

The reciprocal view, looking toward CYC’s historic clubhouse, itself a classic of 1912 vintage.

©Latitude 38 Media, LLC

We’ve attended many of these shows right from the beginning and can hardly believe this is the 23rd one!

Medical Drama in the Clipper Race

This morning’s breaking news from the Clipper Round the World Race concerns the successful medevac of a crew member from IchorCoal. The Canadian Defence Department carried out a challenging helicopter rescue.

Chris Drummond, 62, from High Wycombe, UK, had complained of severe chest pains yesterday but was stabilized after receiving care from one of the team’s two onboard medics. The 12-boat fleet is currently racing from New York to Derry-Londonderry, Northern Ireland. IchorCoal diverted toward Halifax, Nova Scotia, until they got within helicopter range.

Around 220 miles from the Nova Scotia coast of Canada, two chopper crew were lowered onto the 70-ft racing yacht to help winch Drummond off into the Rescue 913 helicopter this morning.

Chris Drummond, 62, has been safely medevaced to a hospital in Halifax. “Myself and the crew would like to wish Chris a swift recovery,” said his skipper, Rich Gould.

© Clipper Race

Drummond was then transferred to Queen Elizabeth II hospital in Halifax, where he is undergoing tests and receiving the care he requires. All is well aboard IchorCoal, and the boat is motoring back to the race.


MAD Dogs Take R2AK Stage 1

Quite likely the craziest race in the sport of sailing — with hands down the most hilarious press releases — has officially started. Back for its second year, and with nearly double the entries at 65, is Northwest Maritime Center’s Race to Alaska. Beginning yesterday in Port Townsend, WA, the fleet sailed the qualifying leg to Victoria, BC, some 40 miles away across the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The second stage, 710 miles from Victoria to Ketchikan, AK, will begin on Sunday, June 26, at noon. First prize is $10,000, second is a set of steak knives.

The second Race to Alaska started early yesterday morning.

© Race to Alaska

What makes the R2AK so incredibly unique is the no-engine, no-ratings, pretty-much-no-rules format which allows anyone on practically anything to enter the race. The diverse mix of craft includes trimarans, catamarans, monohull keelboats, various paddle-powered craft and even a stand up paddle board. Every vessel in the race has been set up with some type of rowing equipment.

More an extreme human- and wind-powered odyssey in the wilderness than a proper yacht race, the Race to Alaska takes competitors to Alaska via the Inside Passage between Vancouver Island and mainland Canada, with just two waypoints on the course, the first being the Seymour Narrows, where currents can reach 20 knots. 

John Sangmeister’s Long Beach-based ORMA 73 trimaran Tritium was entered as the scratch boat, but had to bail after a problematic delivery. Multiple pieces of gear broke in the Channel Islands, the weather window between L.A. and Seattle was dead upwind, and the calendar had too few days on it. After the bowsprit broke off in the middle of the night near Point Conception, the team turned around and hightailed it back to Long Beach at speeds up to 30 knots before procuring a modified-to-foil Farrier 32 trimaran from San Diego.

Team MAD Dog Racing, aka Miller Racing, speeding their way to Victoria.

© Nick Reid

Up from the Bay Area are Team It Ain’t Brain Surgery, Mark Eastham’s F-31 Ma’s Rover, and Team MAD Dog Racing, Randy Miller’s Marstrom 32 catamaran, which is one of the quickest boats in the fleet and should be a force to be reckoned with even in the no-wind portions, thanks to a custom pedal-powered propulsion unit on the trampoline. The MAD Dogs led the way to Victoria, tearing up the 40 miles in 3 hours, 50 minutes. Their top speed, according to GPS, was 24.5 knots.

Organizers report that 58 teams made it past the start line and 55 made it to Victoria. "All racers are safe and accounted for." 

Team Sistership in Victoria Harbour.

© Race to Alaska

Follow the race tracker and the absolute hilarity that exists on the R2AK website as this spectacle of a race continues for its second crazy edition.

Third Lane of Canal Opens Sunday

Sailboats will probably never be allowed to transit the Panama Canal’s so-called Third Set of Locks, which open for business Sunday, but we’re sure many sailors will find this massive maritime engineering feat to be a fascinating accomplishment.

The new locks (left) utilize water-recycling basins, and funnel ship traffic into the Rio Chagres, just as the 102-year-old original lock system does.

© Panama Canal Authority

While cynics complain that it took two years longer than anticipated to build (eight years total), and its $5.3-billion price tag was hundreds of thousands of dollars over the original (lowball) budget, the new locks are marvels of modern engineering that recycle the water used during every ship’s passage, and will double the capacity of cargo that can pass between the Pacific and the Caribbean in a single transit.

When compared to construction of the original ‘ditch’, building the new locks was a cakewalk. The 13-year French effort took the lives of 22,000 workers, and cost nearly $300 million before ending in bankruptcy. Once the Americans took up the challenge, it took another 10 years and $375 million to finish it.

After 23 years of effort by two nations, the Panama Canal finally opened on August 15, 1914. The SS Ancon was the first ship to pass through the locks.

© 2016 Library of Congress

But, of course, the opening of the Canal in 1914 radically improved the cost and speed of moving international commodities to market, and — although a minor footnote — allowed private yachts to travel between oceans without having to perilously round South America.

For the vibrant economy of Panama, the Canal serves as a virtual cash machine, as there are always ships waiting to transit on either end, every day of the year. On a recent visit to check out its operation, our guide told us that 35-40 ships per day make the transit, paying roughly $100,000 to $300,000 each. The new cash machine — that is, locks — will accommodate New Panamax ships that are nearly 1/3 longer (1,400 feet), but will carry three times as many shipping containers. With 10-12 transits per day at a cost of $800,000 to $1 million each, well, do the math, that’s a healthy little business. 

The view from the deck of the S.F. Bay-based schooner Eros as she passed through the Canal last year.

© 2016 Grace Bodle

What’s it cost to transit in a private sailboat? We’re told between $800 and $1,200. Certainly not chump change, but consider the alternative.

San Francisco Cityfront landmark Balclutha depicted during a raucous voyage offshore.  SFMNMP
©2016Latitude 38 Media, LLC If you’re like us, your use of good old-fashioned postage stamps has probably diminished radically in recent years.
Comanche stormed across the St David’s Lighthouse finish line of the Newport Bermuda Race early on Sunday morning, smashing the race record.
Sailors, how is your backstroke? Only one of 11 skippers didn’t spend some time swimming on June 18 during the 2016 Sir Francis Chichester Race, the Laser fleet’s periodic circumnavigation of the island nation of Alameda.