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October 27, 2017

Sailboat Stranded at Sea for Months

Here’s what we know about two people — and two dogs — who were lost at sea for over five months: 

Jennifer Appel and Tasha Fuiaba set sail from Honolulu in early May, headed for Tahiti in what appears to be a Morgan 45 that we believe is the Sea Nymph, a vessel we reported on in June, something that one of our readers brought to our attention. The Sea Nymph was last heard from on May 3, and was reported missing May 19.

Appel and Fuiaba reportedly lost their engine after "a bout of inclement weather," according to the Washington Post. The two women  tried to sail the rest of the way but "soon found themselves lost."

We believe the sailing vessel is called the Sea Nymph, which was intercepted by the US Navy after nearly five months at sea.

© US Navy Specialist 3rd Class Jonathan Clay

The Guardian reported that the women "survived shark attacks and the loss of    . . . their main mast," but in video shot by the Navy, the rig is clearly standing — the article said later that the mast "broke;" we’ve heard speculation that there was a problem with one of the spreaders.

Appel and Fuiaba had been sending distress calls — apparently by VHF — for 98 days. They reportedly had "water purifiers," which we assume are watermakers, as well as "over a year’s worth of food on board, mostly dry goods including oatmeal, pasta and rice," the Post said. 

On Wednesday, a Taiwanese fishing boat spotted the drifting vessel approximately 900 miles southeast of Japan, and alerted the Coast Guard. The US Navy arrived on Thursday (the Post and Guardian have slightly diverging accounts of the timeline). 

Jennifer Appel, left and Tasha Fuiaba are more than a little happy after being rescued by the USS Ashland earlier this week.

© 2017 US Navy

Here’s what we don’t know:

We suppose the first question many of our sailing readership would ask is, did the crew of the Sea Nymph have an EPIRB, and if so, why didn’t they use it?

Regarding the extent of the search and rescue, we’ve put in a call to the Coast Guard’s District 14 Public Affairs Office in Hawaii, but did not hear back from them at press time.

There are many questions unanswered, and, we’re sure, plenty of opinions about what the crew of the Sea Nymph should or shouldn’t have done differently. We will keep you updated as details emerge. But for now, we’re relieved to hear that everyone is safe. 

The dog’s name is Zeus, one of two pooches and two people rescued after drifting at sea for nearly 100 days.

© 2017 US Navy Specialist 3rd Class Jonathan Clay

One thing we do know for certain: Appel and Fuiaba owe their dogs a very, very long walk.


San Diego Baja Ha-Ha Parade Monday

Not everyone is going to work on Monday morning the 30th. And maybe you should take a break on Monday too.

Even if you’re not sailing to Mexico, a perfect way to start your week would be to take out your boat on Monday and salute the sailors in the 24th annual Baja Ha-Ha as they cross the starting line off Shelter Island to begin the 10-day cruising rally to Cabo San Lucas. It’s always an inspiring sight and a festive occasion, as over 150 boats meet at 10 a.m. to begin the 750-mile voyage south.

This is not a blue blazer affair. During Halloween season participants dress appropriately.

©2017Latitude 38 Media, LLC

The parade is organized by the California Sportfishing Association and other local partners, with the startline boat the sportfisher Dolphin. The shotgun from the San Diego America’s Cup era will be fired off for the start. You can also watch from shore across the street from the Kona Kai Marina on Shelter Island.

The view from the Dolphin. It’s a cruising rally, so you start with or without wind and it only gets better from here.

©2017Latitude 38 Media, LLC

If you do get on the water you may just find you want to keep going and follow along in their wake. Or maybe you’ll get into the office by noon and give notice. It may just be the motivation you need!

Mexico’s Welcome to the Ha-Ha Fleet

The Mexican government will be giving all members of the Baja Ha-Ha fleet a special burgee like this, as well as a letter alerting officials to how important the event is to Mexico. How cool!

Mexican Tourism
©Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Without any prompting, and much to the surprise of the Grand Poobah, Jorge Gamboa of the Mexico Tourism Board in Los Angeles has announced a special welcome to Mexico to all members of the 24th Annual Baja Ha-Ha fleet.

On Monday it’s expected that 140 boats and nearly 500 sailors will start the 750-mile cruising rally, with stops at Turtle Bay and Bahia Santa Maria. The event will begin with a waterfront parade past Shelter Island, with the fleet passing between numerous American and Mexican dignitaries on a viewing boat, and a Port of San Diego fireboat giving a watery salute (see separate story above).

“We have a special gift exclusively for all Ha-Ha participants,” said Gamboa, “a beautiful burgee with a Mexico logo. A burgee will be placed in the swag bag that all Ha-Ha entries will get at the Ha-Ha Costume Kick-Off Party at the West Marine Super Store in San Diego on Sunday.

“In addition, we are currently preparing a special official release we’ll give to Ha-Ha participants, informing the Mexican navy of the importance of the Ha-Ha to Mexico.”

Not that the Mexican navy has ever been anything but friendly and helpful to members of the Ha-Ha fleets. And the same goes for Immigration and Customs folks at Cabo San Lucas. The bottom line is that if you’re a Ha-Ha boat and have had trouble getting a TIP or visas online, the Mexican government wants you to come on down and not stress about it.

We also had a great conversation with SAR Specialist Layne P. Carter of the Coast Guard Search and Rescue Center in Alameda. Had Layne not been new to his position, he says he would have come down to San Diego for the kick-off party, as he wants to meet all the Ha-Ha participants. It’s something he plans on doing for next year’s 25th annual Baja Ha-Ha.

The Ha-Ha is providing the Coast Guard with contact information for all boats — except one owner who opted out — to make things easier in the event anyone has a life-threatening emergency.

This year’s Ha-Ha marks the 20th time that the Grand Poobah’s Surfin’ 63 catamaran Profligate will be the mothership of the event. The boat is based on a Kurt Hughes 60-ft charter cat, extensively modified by the Poobah.

The Kurt Hughes-based 63-ft catamaran Profligate will be the mothership for the 20th Baja Ha-Ha in a row. Either the crewmembers are midgets, or she’s one big boat. Oddly enough, she’s easy to doublehand — or even singlehand. 

©2017Latitude 38 Media, LLC

The Poobah particularly likes the compromise Hughes made between speed potential and load-carrying capacity. For even when loaded down with all cruising gear and provisions, Profligate has hit just over 25 knots with a chute and 23 knots with white sails.

Not that the Poobah is very interested in going that fast any more. Twenty knots during the day and 15 knots at night is as fast as he wants to go these days. That rule was briefly broken again last year, so we had to get the chute down.

It looks as if the 360-mile first leg will be in light air, which is just fine with the Poobah. As far as he’s concerned, the longer the sail takes, the better. Well, within certain limits.

Baseball anyone? Mike and Leslie Chase, Ha-Ha vets with the Peterson 55 Whistle Wing V, have donated a pitching machine and about 60 baseballs to the Cruisers vs. Turtle Bay Kids strictly amateur baseball game in Turtle Bay. After the game, all the equipment is donated to the local players and teams. The Cruisers vs. Turtle Bay Kids — they are terrific players — is one of the highlights of the Ha-Ha. Their stadium is the nicest thing in Turtle Bay, too.

Mike and Leslie Chase of Whistle Wing V have made a big donation of baseballs and a pitching machine, even though the Ha-Ha vets won’t be sailing south for another month or so.

©Latitude 38 Media, LLC

There will be three official Ha-Ha seminars at Driscoll  Boat Works on Shelter Island this afternoon starting at 4 p.m. The Poobah will talk on ‘Cruising Mexico, the Big Picture’ starting about 4. Jimmy Drake will talk about Emergency Diesel Fixes While at Sea, starting about 4:30. Patsy ‘La Reina del Mar’ Verhoeven will speak on ‘Learning to Love Your InReach’ at 5 p.m. The event is free and there will be free hot dogs until the 200 or so are gone.

As you can probably tell, we’re jacked about the start of the 24th Baja Ha-Ha, and hoping you’ll be one of the 500 or so folks about to sail south with us.

Linda Elias Memorial Regatta

Co-skippers Wendy Corzine and Lisa Meier of Long Beach Yacht Club won the 26th annual Linda Elias Memorial Women’s One-Design Challenge on October 14-15, breaking a 14-year dry spell — the hosting LBYC team last won this regatta in 2003. The event used the Long Beach Sailing Foundation’s fleet of matched Catalina 37s.

Weather conditions were good for the 11 West Coast teams representing yacht clubs and sailing organizations from Tacoma, WA, to SFYC in Marin County, to San Diego. Principal Race Officer Sharon Bernd made the call to run five of the seven scheduled races on Saturday, just in case the wind didn’t show up on Day 2.

At the end of the first day, California YC’s Marilyn Cassidy had a six-point lead over the LBYC team. All that CalYC had to do was not let the LBYC boat slip by them. But they did, with LBYC winning Races 6 and 7. 

The moment of victory on the LBYC boat.

© Tracy St. John

“There were so many years of practice and training,” said Corzine, “and the magic came together this year. We couldn’t get a good start yesterday, but today we had two good starts.”

Cassidy commented on Day 2: “We just couldn’t get up to speed today. Today’s lighter conditions were a challenge for us. Today was a credit to their team.”

Calling tactics for Corzine and Meier was Liz Baylis, a San Rafael resident and member of SFYC and Richmond YC. Baylis is a skilled match racer, having won a silver medal at the 2008 Women’s Match Racing World Championship in Auckland, New Zealand, and also winning LBYC’s Mayor’s Cup women’s match race in 2007. She was US Sailing’s Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year in 2002.

Years ago, she raced with Linda Elias. “This feels really good for me,” said Baylis. “I have never won this event, and I have always wanted to come back. It’s nice to be back and to be on the winning team with my name now next to hers. All we had to do is sail our races. That’s what we did. We sailed our races.”

Christy Smitheran, Merry Cheers, Carly Meyer, Sharie Sneddon, Blair Carty, Cheri Busch, Marissa Pei, Sheri Sanders, Beth Winton and Janice Eagle were the crew.

LBYC co-skippers Wendy Corzine and Lisa Meier (front center, holding the perpetual) celebrate with their team. Tactician Liz Baylis is hoisting the crystal trophy.

© 2017 Rick Roberts

The Women’s One-Design event began 26 years ago and Linda Elias won the championship three of the first five years. Elias passed away in 2003, and the Long Beach/Los Angeles Women’s Sailing Association rededicated the event to her memory. For complete results see

Casual club racing brings an alternative style to the normally very competitive and very challenging high-profile sailing events found on San Francisco Bay.