June 5, 2017

Jack O’Neill’s Sailing Odysseys

If you’ve ever worn a wetsuit, then you know Jack O’Neill. Any surfer (or dinghy sailor) staying warm in frigid water owes their comfort to the pioneering O’Neill. But the pirate-looking, swashbuckling Santa Cruz icon — who passed away on Friday at the age of 94 — was a sailor, too.

Born in Colorado, raised in Portland, Oregon, and eventually settling in San Francisco, O’Neill loved the ocean. But for a bodysurfer in the 1950s, the only protection against the icy ocean was a healthy bonfire on the beach. O’Neill’s quest for comfort became surf-industry history: O’Neill eventually sewed neoprene and nylon together, opened a surf shop, and built one of the first international surfing mega-companies.

Jack O’Neill and family aboard the 60-ft gaff-rigged schooner Marie Celine. 

© Santa Cruz Waves

But the wetsuit was actually just a small part of O’Neill’s history with the ocean. In the 1970s, after his first wife Marjorie passed away, O’Neill went cruising to Mexico with three of his six children on the 60-ft, gaff-rigged schooner Marie Celine, according to Santa Cruz Waves. The O’Neill family also raced in Wednesday night beer cans in Santa Cruz — Pat O’Neill said the family’s full-keeled boat was especially adept at slicing through the kelp beds.

Jack eventually established O’Neill Yacht Sales and Brokerage and O’Neill Yacht Charters. In 1996, he founded O’Neill Sea Odyssey, a living classroom on board a 65-ft catamaran that sails the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. "Grade school students throughout Central California receive hands-on lessons about the marine habitat and the importance of the relationship between the living sea and the environment," the Odyssey website said. A nonprofit, the program is free of charge, but students earn their way into the program by "designing and performing a project to benefit their community."

O’Neill called Sea Odyssey — which has taught over 100,000 kids in its 21 years of service — one of his proudest achievements. “The ocean is alive and we’ve got to take care of it,” O’Neill told The Guardian. “There is no doubt in my mind that the O’Neill Sea Odyssey is the best thing I’ve ever done.”

Surfer, sailor, and hot-air balloonist (really) Jack O’Neill. We try not to overuse the word "iconic" here at Latitude, but we can think of no better word to describe O’Neill. 

© 2017 Surfer Magazine

One of Jack O’Neill’s most famous sails came in 1964, when he was 41. A huge earthquake hit Alaska in March that year, sending a tsunami toward California. O’Neill and his friend Dave Wahle were sailing a 19-ft P-Cat, when they saw lines of earthquake swell stack up at Lighthouse Point off Santa Cruz’s famed Steamer Lane. Yes, O’Neill wanted to sail into the waves, and surf them.

“We could see that wave up over the top of the mast, and the P-Cat has an 18-foot mast,” O’Neill told Santa Cruz Waves. “You need to have that wind coming out of the Northwest, from the outside, and get the wind in the sail, and that’ll get you on the big waves at Third Reef. And as you come into the lee of the cliff, you lose that wind, but you generate your own wind from surfing the wave.”

O’Neill and Wahle ate it. The rudders snapped, but the two men reportedly filled the P-Cat’s stern compartments with water, pushing the stern into the water and giving them enough steerage to sail back in.

Wahle said he lit a candle for O’Neill when he heard of his passing. "Jack was a just a good guy, a pioneer and real ocean keeper. He always appreciated and understood the value and threats to the oceans. He always tried to share ocean sustainability with kids in his Sea Odyssey program and all the guests on O’Neill charter boats."

BOLO for Celebration

Pacific Ocean passagemakers are asked to be on the lookout for singlehander Richard Carr and his 36-ft Union cutter Celebration, which are missing. A member of the Pacific Puddle Jump fleet, Carr departed Puerto Vallarta on May 2, destined for Hiva Oa in the Marquesas, with an estimated arrival date of June 26. He’d been in touch with his family via DeLorme tracker, but his last report was on May 28, when his position was 06° 53’N 127° 35’W, on a course of 247° true at 0.7-1.1 knots. That latitude is notorious for a lack of wind, and, indeed, Celebration’s speed might indicate that she was merely drifting.

The cutter has a white hull, white sails, a green dodger and green trim.

Alicia Troxell
©Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Celebration is equipped with marine VHF and SSB, and is possibly monitoring distress and calling frequency 8291 kilohertz. Her call sign is WDJ4510. Carr is described by the Coast Guard as a "71-year-old Caucasian male" and may be in distress. His daughter, Ali Carr Troxell, said that "recent attempts to ping his inReach showed that it is either off or ran out of batteries."

The rest of the Pacific Puddle Jump fleet have been emailed, but the majority of them have already reached French Polynesia. Anyone with information is requested to contact the US Coast Guard’s Joint Rescue Coordination Center in Honolulu at (808) 535-3333 or email jrcchonolulu@uscg.mil.

Alert for Civic Activists

A special Study Session of the Alameda City Council will take up the topic of development of Mixed Use sites, including Alameda Marina. A volunteer from Save Alameda’s Working Waterfront believes that "this is the meeting where we should be arguing for more dry-storage space. Currently, there are approximately 300 dry-storage paid spaces. The Bay West Master Plan allows for 50 spaces."

"Even if people don’t have a boat at Alameda Marina, the effect is widespread from maintenance to other races and clubs that rely on racers from Alameda," pointed out another of our contacts in Alameda.

The meeting will be held tomorrow night (Tuesday, June 6) at 6 p.m. in Alameda’s City Hall. See www.alamedaca.gov.

Two Out of Three YCs Ain’t Bad

The ornate Model Room at the New York YC in New York City. The Wanderer is willing to concede that NYYC may be the ‘Most Prestigious’ yacht club in the United States. He was invited to the club in 1985 on the basis of having purchased his Ocean 71 through Sparkman & Stephens, then the most prestigious yacht design and brokerage firm in the country. He was duly impressed by the club, but his personal taste runs to the extreme end of the simple and informal spectrums.

© 2017 New York Yacht Club

The Most Exclusive Yacht Clubs in America is the title of a year-old article that we only recently stumbled across. It was compiled by the mostly serious financial site insidermonkey.com. The degrees of exclusivity were based on the club’s rating in Platinum Clubs of America — "with added points for winners of the America’s Cup and the Resolute Cup."

The Resolute Cup? Although we’ve never heard of it, the monkeys inform us that the Resolute Cup is “sometimes called the unofficial club championship of America in yachting.” You learn something new every day, don’t you?

Normally we don’t pay much attention to articles claiming to list the best of anything. But this is different, because the monkeys are apparently experts at it. For example, they also have lists of things like the 10 Therapy Dog Breeds for Depression and Anxiety; 7 Best Smartphones for Parents and Senior Citizens in India; 20 Best English Karaoke Songs with Lyrics; 10 Best Places to Retire in Colombia; and 10 Best Bourbons for Under $100. Their list of ‘Best Lists’ goes on forever, so they’re obviously experts in this challenging field.

They couldn’t find any club more ‘Exclusive’ in the United States than the Royal Yacht Squadron in England, which went 198 years (until 2013) before they allowed a woman to join. On the ‘men-only’ grounds, they once denied entrance to the bloody Queen of England! Perhaps the RYS policy was more sexism than ‘exclusivity’.

For whatever reason, they came up with a list of the 11 Most Prestigious Yacht Clubs, not the normal 10 or 20 or 100. The list is as follows:

11. Southern Yacht Club, New Orleans, founded 1849.

10. Grosse Pointe Yacht Club, Grosse Pointe Shores, Michigan, founded 1914.

9. Palm Beach Yacht Club. Palm Beach, Florida, founded 1890.

8. Chicago Yacht Club, Chicago, founded 1875.

7. Annapolis Yacht Club, Annapolis, Maryland, founded 1886.

6. Newport Harbor Yacht Club, Newport Beach, California, founded in 1916.

5. Carolina Yacht Club, Charleston, South Carolina, founded 1883.

4. San Diego Yacht Club, San Diego, founded 1886.

3. The San Francisco Yacht Club, Belvedere, founded 1869. 

San Francisco YC is the oldest yachting club on the West Coast. The clubhouse was moved several times, until it finally settled in its current location — in Belvedere Cove — in 1926. The move split the membership and one group decided to form a new club, called St. Francis YC. Despite the controversy surrounding the relocation, it proved to be the right move, as Belvedere Cove is an excellent harbor and it allowed the club to create world-class amenities for its members and their guests. The clubhouse went through an extensive reconstruction in 2007, modernizing existing features and adding some new ones, in order to bring it up with the times.

2. St. Francis Yacht Club, San Francisco, founded 1927. 

Formed by the dissatisfied members of the SFYC who opposed the move to Belvedere, the St. Francis Yacht Club quickly gained a reputation as a premier club, often ranking higher than their rivals at the San Francisco Yacht Club, much to their chagrin. It is generally considered the most prestigious yacht club on the Western coast. One of the reasons for its popularity is the club’s location near the Golden Gate Bridge. Some of the most notable members include James David Zellerbach, Tom Blackaller, Pamela Healy and Roy Disney.

1. New York Yacht Club, New York, NY, founded 1844.

The top spot on our list of 11 most exclusive yacht clubs in America goes to the New York Yacht Club. It has about 3,000 members and the only way to become one of them is to be invited. New York Yacht Club is the essential part of the iconic America’s Cup, having won it 25 times. It is officially the longest winning streak in the history of sports. The cup itself is named after America, NYYC schooner which won the first cup ever held in 1851. Its rivalry with Britain’s Royal Yacht Squadron is one of the greatest in the history of the sport and certainly the greatest among yachting clubs of the world. New York Yacht Club is regularly listed among the top three best yachting clubs in the world.

If you disagree with this list — it’s full of hilarious factual blunders — take comfort in the fact that according to the monkeys, Say It Ain’t So by Weezer is the all-time best karaoke song.

The St. Francis YC, seen here during the boat parade on Opening Day, April 23, enjoys a prime location on the San Francisco shoreline.

©Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Furthermore, according to the most recent Platinum Clubs of America survey, a record number of club managers, presidents and owners came up with the following list of the Most Respected yacht clubs in America.

1. St. Francis Yacht Club
2. San Francisco Yacht Club
3. San Diego Yacht Club
4. Grosse Pointe Yacht Club
5. New York Yacht Club

In any event, the St. Francis and the San Francisco Yacht Clubs rate high no matter who makes the list. Should your club, or some other club, have made either of the lists? Let us know.  

How the magic happens on delivery day. latitude/John
©Latitude 38 Media, LLC The June issue of Latitude 38 was tucked into Bay Area delivery vans, postal service vehicles and FedEx trucks yesterday for distribution to all the usual places.
John Mott just emailed us with following questions: "My wife and I are departing the Pacific Northwest in September with a stop in Mexico and then direct for the Marquesas, two to three years in the South Pacific, then on to Australia, New Zealand and the Seychelles.