April 24, 2017

Clouds Clear for Opening Day

San Francisco Bay saw clear skies and a generous breeze for Opening Day 2017. Lengths of colorful, flapping signal flags and burgees decorated a line of boats snaking its way through the calm waters of Marin, waiting to be blessed by the Corinthian Yacht Club’s official Blessing Vessel. 

The clouds parted on Sunday for Opening Day festivities. People all over the Bay took advantage of the breeze to sneak in a sail.  

latitude/ John
©2017Latitude 38 Media, LLC

A stately and jovial ceremony in the modern era, the blessing of the fleet has its roots in maritime communities praying for a bountiful season, and the safety of seafarers making their way across oceans.

Pomp and Circumstance. Boats dressed to the nines at the Corinthian Yacht Club. 

latitude/ John
©2017Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Once blessed, boats crossed the Bay — the breeze now kicking up in earnest — to Crissy Field, where a fireboat waited, waited … waited to blast its high-pressure hose, and lead the parade of boats past St. Francis Yacht Club and down the Cityfront.

A priest aboard the Blessing Vessel Aurora V waves as the procession of boats makes the rounds. 

latitude/ John
©Latitude 38 Media, LLC

We’d like to thank the owners and crew of Freda B for hosting us in style. 

Petaluma River Not So Bad

On April 14, we posted a story from ABC7 News about islands of silt in the Petaluma River, the cancelation of Petaluma Yacht Club’s Memorial Day event, the lack of yachts at the club and the general headaches boaters have been dealing with.

 A screen shot from an ABC7 report shows less than ideal conditions for some bigger boats on the Petaluma River. But things aren’t as bad as they seem, according to some Alameda boaters. 

© 2017 ABC7 News

But the situation isn’t quite so bad, according to one Alameda couple.

On April 17, Erik and Brian Jones wrote: "We just returned from a trip up to Petaluma on our Island Packet 370. We successfully navigated the river and entered the turning basin on a high tide through the D Street bridge without any issues."

The Joneses went on to say that once they docked, they never touched bottom through a 0.4 low tide during a three-day stay, but said there is substantial silting that might cause problems for bigger boats drawing more than six feet.

This graphic shows the areas that are shoaled.

©2017Latitude 38 Media, LLC

"Boaters, particularly those with shoal draft or shallow draft, can still enjoy Petaluma and all that it has to offer," Erik said. "We planned our departure on a plus 2.4 tide and navigated around a little hump just off the end of the dock, but otherwise had no issues leaving on an ebb tide through the river and back into San Pablo Bay."

We’d like to thank the Joneses for the clarification. If you’ve been on the Petaluma River recently, we’d like to hear from you.

What’s That Olson 30 Costing?

Slaloming between all the anchored boats off Gustavia is the name of the La Gamelle sunset sailing game in St. Barth. In anything less than 15 knots, with a full main and #4 jib, the nimble George Olson design provides incredible sailing pleasure for the singlehander.

© 2017 Doña de Mallorca

As some Latitude 38 readers will remember, about six or seven years ago the Wanderer bought an Olson 30 in Richmond and christened her La Gamelle. After a few years of Zen sailing on San Francisco Bay, he had her trucked to Florida and then put on a ship to Martinique. He and Doña de Mallorca then enjoyed a wild adventure sailing her 250 miles north in the brisk trades to her current home of St. Barth.

The Wanderer already had a Leopard 45 catamaran in the Caribbean, one that would be in the BVI Yacht Charters management program for 10 years. The problem with typical charter cats is that they don’t sail that well in what are about the most ideal sailing conditions in the world. It was frustration with the charter cat’s sailing ability that prompted the Wanderer to bring the Olson to the Caribbean, where the Leopard has since served exclusively as a condo and the Olson as the Wanderer’s Caribbean super sailing machine.

The offseason, however, always presented the Wanderer with a bit of a problem. The Olson had to be taken to St. Martin and hauled out, then launched and towed to St. Barth the following season. It was a pain in the ass — everything to do with St. Martin seems to be a pain in the ass — and expensive.

Then a hurricane came to the rescue. A sudden hurricane that struck St. Barth and sank about 50 boats, including Axel Jouany’s beloved Magic Carpet. So it transpired that Axel needed to put a boat on his valuable mooring or he would lose it, just as the Wanderer needed someone to care for La Gamelle in the off-season.

A deal was struck in which Axel would have his name on the title of La Gamelle and take care of the boat in the off-season. The Wanderer would get use of her in perpetuity. Was there risk? Of course. There is risk in all of life.

So far the arrangement has worked great. Poor Axel has worked on La Gamelle a lot more than he has sailed her, and the Wanderer has had great times sailing her — not having to do much work at all. While the Wanderer didn’t do any circumnavigations of the island this year, he enjoyed a lot of sunset sails, zig-zagging between all the anchored boats. And, taking some locals out for their best sailing in years.

Axel wasn’t jealous at all when the Wanderer used La Gamelle. In fact, when he looked down from a hill one day and saw his boat sailing around the harbor, it filled him with great joy. As for the ownership issues, Axel insists on referring to La Gamelle as "our boat." Part of the agreement is that we share annual expenses. Our share for last year was under $1,500. Not bad. Not bad at all.

The Wanderer realizes his is a unique situation, but nonetheless encourages others to look into outside the box for solutions to their sailing needs. 

During much of Webb Chiles’ trip up the South Atlantic weather conditions were mild — sometimes so mild, in fact, that tiny Gannet could sail with her hatches open. 
There is federal money available to dredge silted-up Bay Area waterways, but boaters will have to act fast, before April 28!