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December 19, 2016

Big Hearts with the Holiday Spirit

Sailor on a mission: Captain Kirk Miller was all smiles when he showed up at the Encinal Yacht Club docks with a boatload of Christmas toys. In addition to Legos, dolls, toy trucks, games and craft projects, some lucky kid will receive ‘Safety Bear’, who made the Bay crossing wearing his lifejacket. (Also crewing was Kirk’s pup, Trevor.)

Bay Wolf
©2016Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Needless to say, the holiday season is rich in traditions that go back generations. Adding to those, Bay Area charter-boat skipper Kirk Miller and his wife Sachi Itagaki have developed an annual custom of their own: Using their Santa Cruz 50 Bay Wolf as a surrogate for Santa’s sleigh by sailing a boatload of Christmas toys to Alameda’s Encinal YC, where they are happily received by local firefighters, for distribution within the community. 

The charter biz has been good to Kirk and Sachi, so last week they opened their hearts and wallets, and bought more than $1,000 worth of new toys and Toys-R-Us gift certificates for Alameda’s toy drive.

Kirk explains that this effort was "part of the ongoing donations that we are making to nonprofits, equaling 10% of our gross revenues." Looking ahead, he says, "We would love to do a really big donation for next year, if we could get other charter-boat operators and other boating companies and suppliers to participate."

Sounds like a fine idea to us, and we applaud Kirk and Sachi’s big-hearted efforts. We can only imagine the joy that those gifts will bring to the underprivileged kids who receive them.

Dramatic Damage for Solo Racers

Le Souffle du Nord on December 19. The IMOCA 60 monohull hit a UFO, and her hull is breaking apart.

© 2016 Thomas Ruyant

Day 43 for the Vendée Globe nonstop solo race around the world sees some trials and triumph in the Southern Ocean. Thomas Ruyant on Le Souffle du Nord pour le Projet Imagine hit a UFO (Unidentified Floating Object) while at speed between Tasmania and New Zealand, which caused damage that’s now getting worse. “The damage at the front of the boat is spreading," he reports. "The hull is opening up and the frame coming away more, everywhere. I’m sailing to the south of New Zealand. I’m not sure if it will all stay in one piece until then.” This wasn’t just a bump in the night, as he described the hit. “The shock was exceptionally violent. It gives me the shivers just thinking about it. I was at 17-18 knots and came to a sudden standstill, hitting what was probably a container, seeing the damage it has done to the hull. The whole of the forward section exploded and folded up.” He is 205 miles away from the rugged South Island New Zealand coast and heading for the closest civilization at the town of Bluff.

An overlay of the Vendée Globe tracker with the Windyty graphical wind map shows Thomas Ruyant making way toward the south coast of New Zealand’s South Island.

© Windyty

Stéphane Le Diraison’s Compagnie du Lit/Ville de Boulogne-Billancourt was dismasted south of Australia when a simple piece of gear failed. “I went surfing along at 28 knots and heard a lot of noise and rushed outside in my socks, as I was inside trying to sleep. I grabbed the helm and saw that I didn’t have any mast. All the sails (jib top, J3, mainsail) were in the water and pulling down. I cut all the stays to allow this to float behind like a floating anchor. I tried to lift up my sails, but it was too risky, so I let everything go. My first analysis showed that the dismasting was due to a backstay pad-eye breaking. I don’t know why that happened. It shouldn’t have broken.” He is now heading to Melbourne. “I spent 12 hours cleaning everything up. I found a way to set up a jury rig. I now have a 7-meter mast, and it’s fantastic. I don’t think this one will come down.” Although not able to continue racing, Stéphane is still a part of the Vendée mystique. “People often talk about jury rigs, but when you get involved alone on a 60-ft boat, it’s not easy. I’m proud of being able to get back heading north 15 hours after the incident.”

The jury rig aboard Compagnie du Lit/Ville de Boulogne-Billancourt.

© 2016 Stéphane Le Diraison

Jean-Pierre Dick on StMichel-Virbac is in fifth place after making an interesting move on day 37. Just like a big version of “Do we go through Raccoon Strait or around Point Blunt?” to get around Angel Island on San Francisco Bay, Dick decided to take a flyer through Bass Strait, which separates Tasmania from Australia. Although it added miles it worked! He passed Yann Elies on Quéguiner-Leucémie Espoir, who now lies in sixth place.

The leaders continue way up front near Cape Horn, and Armel Le Cléac’h on Banque Populaire VIII is more than 500 miles ahead of Alex Thomson on Hugo Boss. Armel hopes for a nice Christmas after a hard sail so far. “Conditions are rather unstable. I’m on the back of the low and the wind is going from 17 to 30 knots. The seas are heavy. They aren’t the right conditions for being fast, but I am making headway. We’re going to have to watch how things change before the Horn. I asked Father Christmas if I could lead the way around Cape Horn. We’ll see…”

For all the Vendée Globe info you need see For a cool look at the tracker combining windyty and the boats see:

In maxi-trimaran record attempt news, Thomas Coville on Sobedo Ultim’ is currently 2,600 miles from finishing his singlehanded lap around the world, in trade winds north of the equator in the Atlantic and looking good to finish ahead of Francis Joyon’s 57-day solo nonstop record. And speaking of Francis, Joyon and crew on IDEC Sport are doing OK off the Canaries, but not great, just 67 miles ahead of Banque Populaire’s record in their attempt to capture the Jules Verne Trophy.

The Wanderer’s Health Care Review

Dr. Olga is not only restoring the Wanderer to health, she’s restoring his faith in humanity, which is even more important. 

©2016Latitude 38 Media, LLC

There is a Mexican woman who has partially restored the Wanderer’s faith in humanity. She’s Dr. Olga, who, along with her husband Rigoberto (also a doctor), runs the clinic in Punta Mita, Mexico, at the northwest corner of Banderas Bay.

Most of the locals in Punta Mita are very poor, while most of the tourists stay ‘behind the gates’ at the Four Seasons or the St. Regis hotels. The tourists are obviously at the opposite end of the wealth spectrum.

The Wanderer has had good doctors in his time, but he can’t think of one who was as competent, patient, thorough and obviously caring as Dr. Olga.

Given the free medical care that she dispenses to locals without jobs or money, and the low rates she charges for locals, the Wanderer can’t believe she’s got all state-of-the art equipment.

For example, the Wanderer was declared medically unfit to serve in the military in the 1960s because of a perforated ear drum he’d gotten while surfing. He’d seen several doctors about it, but not one had ever shown him what it looked like. Well, the Wanderer went to see Dr. Olga for a cough that had persisted since the recent Baja Ha-Ha rally, and in the middle of the visit she whipped out a camera on a stick, stuck it in the Wanderer’s ear, and displayed big images of both inner ears on her computer. She then very patiently explained what everything was, from hairs, to bones, to veins, to the hole itself.

Olga and her husband are in the midst of installing a state-of-the-art digital X-ray machine and other facilities, as well as getting an ambulance.

Did we mention that either Dr. Olga or Dr. Rigoberto answers their phone 24 hours a day? You don’t get an answering service; you get one of the doctors. They also make house calls and have also made ‘boat calls’. The two also frequently escort patients who need greater care to the major hospitals in Vallarta.

In the Wanderer’s opinion, Dr. Olga is the epitome of what a doctor should be. He doesn’t know what it costs to get a half-hour consultation with a doctor in the States these days, and he’s too embarrassed to say how ridiculously low his ‘local rate’ was, but you can get an idea from the fact that Dr. Olga’s typical consultation fee for tourists is $25.

If you’re on a boat in the Banderas Bay area, there are a number of good doctors around. If you’re in Mita area of Banderas Bay, the Wanderer recommends Dr. Olga and Dr. Rigoberto. Their clinic is on the main street in Mita across from the restaurants.

After prescribing several medicines for the Wanderer’s persistent cough, Dr. Olga said he needed to take them with a meal. So Doña de Mallorca and the Wanderer went to El Coral restaurant, at the far end of restaurant row in Punta Mita. They both ordered the breakfast special: a sweet bread, fresh cantaloupe and fresh pineapple, fresh squeezed orange juice, coffee, a Mexican omelet, beans and toast. The total bill for the two of us came to less than $10 US. Mind you, this was at a restaurant right on the sand in front of Mita’s most popular surf break, and it was 85 degrees in the middle of December.

Wish you could be here with us, because the weather, the food and the health care are all excellent and inexpensive.

If you’ve had a good health-care experience while cruising, we’d like to hear about it

One frustrating aspect of living in this ‘app-happy’ era of endless innovation is that is it seems almost impossible to keep up with the latest, greatest developments.
A 75-year-old former sailor from Northern California has been arrested in the case of two 25-year-olds who were killed and dumped off a boat in 1978.