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January 11, 2017

In Praise of Small Boat Sailors

One of the most famous authors ever to emerge from the Bay Area, Jack London had a special reverence for small-boat sailors.

© 2017 Jack London Historic Park

Renowned Bay Area author and sailor Jack London famously said, "Barring captains and mates of big ships, the small-boat sailor is the real sailor."

The Bay Area is famous for its hearty, challenging and blustery Central Bay conditions, but this high-visibility arena masks the more diverse sailing settings, styles and conditions available for small-boat sailors. If you enjoy dropping a 12- to 20-ft sailboat into the water in order to enjoy for sailing in moderate conditions, where do you go to launch and sail? 

We’d love to hear from small-boat sailors about their favorite Northern California launch points: Please tell us their locations and what you like about them — and if possible, send along a few photos. We’ll share your input with Latitude 38‘s readers in an upcoming article.

Young Opti sailors prepare to take to the water from the Alameda Community Sailing Center.

© 2017 Alameda Community Sailing Center

To get the conversation started, below are a few popular spots that are already on our list. If you are familiar with them, we’d like to hear the pros and cons of using them, as well as any specific tips that might be useful to small-boat sailors:

• The ramps at the end of Grand St. in Alameda
• The ramp behind Encinal High School in Alameda that is also home to Alameda Community Sailing Center
• Ramps along the Oakland Estuary
• Ramps along the Petaluma River provide great access gentle inland sailing conditions
• Shoreline Lake in Redwood City hosts easy-to-access small-boat sailing in the heart of Silicon Valley

Thanks in advance for your input.

Sometimes the Problem Isn’t so Obvious

Perhaps the white shell on the ‘chisel’ of the Rocna anchor reduced the anchor’s holding power. 

©Latitude 38 Media, LLC

We got a laugh out of this photo by Lewis Allen of the Redwood City-based Voyager 43 catamaran Quixotic, which is currently in New Zealand. It shows his Rocna anchor — and the reason that it wasn’t holding as well as it should have. Yes, that darned wedged-in shell had effectively blunted the anchor’s "chisel tip" that is so important in allowing it to get a good bite into the sea bed.

This incident also underscores the importance of firmly backing down on an anchor to make sure that it’s set. The Wanderer can recall many times when the anchor held under moderate load in reverse, but not under stronger load. Usually the anchor didn’t hold because the bottom didn’t offer good holding or we hadn’t let out enough scope. But on more than a few occasions it was because grass or a clump of hard mud had blunted the tip, or because a rock or piece of coral had otherwise interfered with the working of the anchor.

In the tropics it’s usually easy if not pleasant to dive on the anchor to make sure it’s set properly. In the colder and grayer waters of California, the Wanderer finds that it’s less of a pain and less chilly to simply back down hard to simulate windy conditions, and to also set an anchor drag alarm of some sort. (In addition to hardwired options, there are also smartphone anchor-alarm apps available.)

While we’re on the subject of fouled anchors, we’re reminded of several other classic shots that have crossed our desk in recent years, and we’ll bet many readers have also snapped similarly bizarre images. If so, we’d love to see them. Senders of the most impressive images will be rewarded with an item of official Latitude 38 logowear.

Sailor to Row Solo Across the Pacific

Lia Ditton was the youngest skipper and the only female to complete the 2005 OSTAR (Original Singlehanded Transatlantic Race), in a 34-ft trimaran called Shockwave. 

Lia Ditton
©2017Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Tomorrow night (Thursday, January 12), the Corinthian Yacht Club Speaker Series will present 36-year-old British sailor Lia Ditton, who will talk about her upcoming attempt to row, solo and unsupported, the 5,000 miles from Japan to San Francisco, early next year. So far, only two people have successfully rowed solo across the North Pacific Ocean.

Ditton has raced alone across the Atlantic three times, finishing second in the 2006 Route du Rhum from France to Guadeloupe Island in the Caribbean.

Lia Ditton
©Latitude 38 Media, LLC

For her third Atlantic crossing in 2010, she swapped sails for oars to compete in the 3,000-mile Woodvale Challenge, called the ‘The Toughest Rowing Race on Earth’, from La Gomera in the Canary Islands, to Antigua in the Caribbean.

Ditton’s boat is 21 feet long and will be packed with six months’ worth of food for the Pacific crossing — just in case.

Lia Ditton
©2017Latitude 38 Media, LLC

The upstairs bar at CYC in Tiburon will open at 6:15 and the talk will start at 7 p.m. It’s free and open to the public, but RSVP to (415) 435- 4771.

The crossing will be from west to east.

© 2017

Ditton will train in the San Francisco Bay Area.  She is searching for a reliable boat, skipper and crew to support a series of three- to five-day mini-adventures outside the Golden Gate, starting in mid-January. Email [email protected] for more details.  Also see and

Ditton is a 36-year-old Brit who will train in the Bay Area during 2017.

Lia Ditton
©Latitude 38 Media, LLC
Just as there are many ways to enjoy sailing — daysailing, racing, cruising — there are also a variety of ways by which you can learn to sail.