September 6, 2017

Hurricane Irma Makes Landfall

A satellite image of Hurricane Irma spinning violently in the Caribbean. 

© 2017 NOAA

Hurricane Irma gathered steam in the Atlantic before finally making landfall in the Eastern Caribbean early today, threatening thousands of lives and homes, as well as infrastructure, and one of the largest concentrations of sailboats in one of the premier cruising destinations in the world. Irma is currently expected to make landfall in South Florida on Sunday.

With winds up to 185 miles per hour, Irma is the second-strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic. The storm first made landfall in Barbuda which was hit with devastating winds — Barbuda’s sister island, Antigua, which is 20 miles to the south escaped with minor damage, said Latitude founder Richard Spindler, who has a 45-ft catamaran battened down on the island. "Even at Jolly Harbour [on the West side of Antigua], they’re saying they came out pretty well." 

But Irma wreaked havoc in St. Barthelemy and St. Martin, according to the New York Times. There were reports of roofs being torn away, floods and general chaos, though no casualties have yet to be reported. 

The British Virgin Islands — one of the cruising capitals of the world — is currently in Irma’s direct path. The storm is projected to go slightly north of Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba, and to the south of the Turks and Caicos Islands and Bahamas.

Stay tuned for updates on Irma as it continues to march toward the US.

CORRECTION: This story originally stated — incorrectly — that the island of Barbuda had not been badly hit.  

Adventures in AIS and Other Gizmos

As flocks of cruisers prepare to head south this fall, their nav stations will be packed with more state-of-the-art electronics than ever before. The Wanderer has broken down at length the pros and cons of the various systems available to oceangoing cruisers — deciding what’s best for you and your boat includes factors like cost (duh), installation versus a handheld system, the ability to text or communicate with other cruisers over thousands of miles, and even the ability to get Internet in the middle of the ocean.

It’s going to be a busy night on watch keeping an eye out for all these boats. AIS certainly makes it easier for sailors. But does it make it too easy? 

© wikipedia

We’d like to hear about your experiences with these gadgets. Have you recently installed Automatic Identification System (AIS), a single-sideband radio or purchased other new gadgetry? What’s the learning curve been like? Have these new-fangled navigation aids increased your willingness to go cruising or offshore racing? Or are you overwhelmed with all the gizmos you suddenly have to have, and all the owner’s manuals you have to read?

We also want to step back and ask an important existential question: While all of these technologies are undoubtedly useful additions to aid with safety and navigation, do these gadgets start to chip away at sailors’ seamanship skills? Are people too busy staring at screens, rather than trying to sense the hazards around them? With AIS, for example, are you less likely to keep a vigilant watch, know your navigation lights and learn to spot dangers on the horizon because you’re relying on an alarm from a computer?

What’s more, after the Navy was involved in back-to-back collisions, the utility of AIS was called into question, especially considering that some ships might simply disable their beacons to sneak stealthily through the ocean.

Or is this just the natural progression of sailing? Did old-time mariners scoff at the sextant when it hit the shelves, and say: "All you damn kids and your technology! Back in my day, we didn’t have all those fancy gizmos!"

Whatever your gadget stories are, please share them with us.

Crew List Fiesta Tonight

No, that’s not a yacht club. But it is the venue of tonight’s Crew List Party. The Latitude 38 crew is looking forward to seeing you tonight in Sausalito at the Spaulding Marine Center.

©2017Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Sausalito’s historic Spaulding Marine Center will provide the venue for Latitude 38’s Fall Crew List Party tonight. The fall edition of our popular Crew Parties has been known for decades as the Mexico-Only Crew List Party, and this year’s edition will continue to focus on cruisers sailing south for warmer climes in general, and for the Baja Ha-Ha in particular. But if you think you just want to go sailing on San Francisco Bay, don’t be shy — you’re encouraged to come too.

Yes, we’re throwing a party at a working boat yard!

©2017Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Before the party gets going, Paradise Village harbormaster Dick Markie will present a free seminar on cruising Mexico. The first 100 seminar-goers will receive a free beer, and Mexico raffle prizes will be handed out. The seminar runs from 4 to 6 p.m., so the Crew Party will start at 6:15 p.m. and run until 9 p.m. Admission to the Crew Party is $7 (cash only). Young people 25 and under (with ID) will get in for $5.

The cost will include door prizes, color-coded name tags, and an appetizer buffet. Spaulding’s will be selling beer, wine and non-alcoholic beverages (cash or credit cards OK); profits will benefit their educational programs. Latitude crew will be selling logowear.

Setting up the big screen for tonight’s sailing slideshow.

©Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Staff from many Baja Ha-Ha sponsors, including Marina Riviera Nayarit, Marina La Cruz, Marina Vallarta, Opequimar, Mariners General Insurance, Mexico Tourism, Paradise Village, Hydrovane, Inflatable Boat Specialists, Novamar Insurance, OCENS and Satellite Phone Store, will be on hand to answer questions. Sal’s Inflatable Services will bring a liferaft to ‘blow up’ right in the middle of the party, and everyone will have a chance to crawl in and try it out.

A party-goer gets to pull the cord on the liferaft, as seen here at our Spring Crew List Party.

©Latitude 38 Media, LLC

For the sake of our host’s relations with their neighbor, Clipper Yacht Harbor, please do not park in Clipper’s parking lot. For where you can park, visit our Crew Party web page at See you tonight!

As Houston starts to slowly recover from the devastating floods of Hurricane Harvey, the Eastern Caribbean is hunkering down in preparation for Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 storm packing winds up to 185 mph.