Among milestone anniversaries being celebrated in the West Coast sailing milieu this year is Sausalito Yacht Club’s 75th (trivia fans: that would be the Diamond Anniversary). The club was founded on New Year’s Eve, 1942, by seven boys, all under the age of 17: Roy Ashley, Park Densmore, Bob Dinehardt, Jim Enzensperger, John Ford, John Hooper and John Koenig. The boys were too young to go to war, and locals who were serving in World War II left their boats in the care of the teenagers.
"The new club was a magnet for the youth on Sausalito’s waterfront," states SYC’s newsletter, the Squeegee. "The first by-laws stayed in place for 10 years and didn’t allow members who were older than the oldest founding member." The youthful members partied and cruised together, visited other yacht clubs, organized intraclub races, and sponsored Small Boat Racing Association events in Sausalito. The club was incorporated in 1945. The current clubhouse opened in 1960 on a site where the railroad met the ferry (their next-door neighbor since the mid-70s has been the increasingly popular passenger ferry terminal).
Two of the young founders owned Mercurys, and historic events this year included the Homecoming Regatta for Mercurys on October 21. Fifteen Mercs sailed in light air within view of the clubhouse on Richardson Bay. PRO Jeff Zarwell set up a course along the Belvedere waterfront. Frequent wind shifts meant the course had to be realigned for each of the five races, with the benefit that the windward mark gradually moved closer to those watching from shore.
Sailing up and down Richardson Bay was new to most and a memory for the experienced. Some went to the Belvedere shore, others to the Sausalito side. After many lead changes, John Hansen with crew Tony Basso won the regatta with Magic, #562. More trivia bits: SYC’s 32-year-old purpose-built race committee boat is named Mercury; the Mercury is 78 years old; and the original Mercs were built by the Nunes yard — in Sausalito. See www.mercury-sail.com.
The three-race Twin Island Series this year honored the youthfulness of the club’s founders. Skippers were encouraged to bring kids along as crew, and the youngsters received special trophies. The club runs an active youth sailing program and hosts the Tamalpais High School sailing team. They also provide marine education to young community members, and conduct a youth sailing and cultural exchange with Sausalito’s Sister City, Cascais, Portugal. For more, see www.sausalitoyachtclub.org/about.
A boat that sailed in this year’s Baja Ha-Ha ran aground near Ensenada, about two weeks after the conclusion of the rally. Mr. Beefy — a Lagoon 440 catamaran from Newport Beach — was headed into San Quintín on her way back up from Cabo San Lucas.
"I guess I’m not eager to tell the story, but if it can help anyone else . . ." Dan Rawitch told us this morning, as he was heading back into Mexico with his wife Sophia to tend to the aground Mr. Beefy, which is named after their beloved English Bulldog that passed away while they were purchasing the boat. "I’ve replayed it over and over in my head. We knew exactly what our heading was and where we were going." Rawitch reported seeing 15 feet of water on his depthfinder while looking for a safe place to anchor. "All of a sudden, we knew the port prop was fouled because the port-side engine went quiet, and the boat was forcibly spun around and pulled down. Whatever fouled our prop was much stronger and bigger than a lobster trap. We later confirmed this when a local diver cut the line."
Mr. Beefy’s starboard keel ran into a sandbar. "We’re not sure how the stern ended up facing out to sea and the bow toward shore. That was 90 degrees in the wrong direction that we were going." Rawitch said that rather than feel like they ran aground, they felt a surge.
While experiencing this bizarre motion, Rawitch said that the saildrive seal warning on the starboard engine came on. "Once we spun around and were going to shore we still had forward momentum. When I went to power out and put full power on the starboard engine, smoke came pouring out. I thought there must be water in the engine. Why else would there be this billowing white smoke, especially considering the saildrive seal breach warning light was on? We basically had no engines, and tried all night to back off. And we were taking a beating. There were 8- to 10-foot swells all night and a lot of force on the boat. We were able to turn a little, facing outward. It was my wife’s idea to put up the jib, which got us turned in a better direction, and made the night a little more bearable. But it was a frightening night for us and our two dogs.
"I guess the adage ‘never go into an anchorage you don’t know at night’ is true," Rawitch said, adding that a perfect storm of unfortunate circumstances led to the grounding. Coming from Turtle Bay, the weather was forecast for moderate wind and seas, which the Rawitches had, until the last day. "We had 45 to 50 knots in our face, and were making maybe two knots of headway. So fuel became a concern."
But once things went wrong in San Quintín, there was an outpouring of support from the locals. "This guy in a wetsuit came swimming out, and eventually we had six pangas trying to tow us. They did all of this without knowing what was in it for them. Some guys went home, got pumps, and carried them over their heads and down to the beach for us. That was unbelievable."
Rawitch said that a respected patriarch of the community who owned many of the pangas rallied people to help. "We made friends. A guy there — an American — translated, drove us to Ensenada, and eventually drove us to San Diego.
"Human kindness when you’re in a jam like that is touching."
We’re calling it the Local’s Issue (hyperlocal, to be more accurate). The December Latitude 38 has stories concentrated in the Bay Area, including International 110s in Inverness, a young person putting some love into an old Albin Vega 27 in Sausalito, a profile on the J/35 Jarlen, an update on Cheyenne (formerly PlayStation), a short profile of Santa Cruz native Jim Holms plastic-to-diesel machine, and a musing on the joys of sailing small boats in San Francisco from one of our ‘new correspondents’, Mr. Jack London.
And that’s just Sightings. We also bring you a recap of the 24th Baja Ha-Ha, ask the existential question: How much does a free boat cost (?), and bring you Part 2 of the Season Champions. Plus, Max Ebb, Changes, Charter, Racing Sheet, and the Caption Contest winner in Loose Lips.
We hope you have as much fun reading the issue as we had putting it together. Look for it in your favorite haunts.
We received a hot tip yesterday that designer Bill Lee of Santa Cruz had sold his 1977 sled Merlin, and that the legendary yacht would be trucked to Florida. Brian Malone of St. Petersburg gave us the scoop: "The delivery/transfer of ownership took place at sea off Santa Cruz; the boat will be leaving California as soon as possible, and there are benefits to doing it this way."
"The actual buyer, and owner of Merlin Yacht Racing, is William F. ‘Chip’ Merlin of Tampa, FL," continues Malone. "Chip is the founder of Merlin Law Group and a lifelong sailor; he also owns a B-32 that we race locally."
Malone will be managing the Lee 68, as he does the B-32, and has arranged for Joule Yacht Transport to truck the sled to St. Petersburg in mid-December. "Bill’s guys in Santa Cruz, Ian Klitza and Homer Lighthall, are going to handle removing the keel and rig to get the boat ready for transport. I will head out at some point to oversee the loading," he said.
"We are working at getting the boat ready in time to participate in the St. Petersburg Yacht Club’s Race to Havana at the end of February. The long-term plan is the Regata del Sol al Sol, the Newport Bermuda Race, and then ultimately back to California for the 50th Transpac. Caribbean and Great Lakes events are in the mix as well at some point."
"Chip feels the boat is an icon and Bill is a legend. He really wants to preserve the legacy Bill created and carry forward the spirit in which it was created."
Within the pages of the aforementioned issue of Latitude 38, you’ll find the December Calendar, and within that you’ll find a long list of lighted boat parades and other festive waterfront holiday celebrations, ranging geographically from Portland, Oregon, to Southern California — starting as soon as tonight. We’d like to encourage our readers to attend one or more of these events and send us photos. Heck, we’ll even make it a photo contest, with prizes of Latitude swag to the winner(s). Make no mistake — snapping decent pictures of moving boats at night is harder than it might sound. A tripod helps a lot.
Deadline to submit your best shots for our consideration will be December 18. Bonus points for sailboats. Please email medium-resolution images to Chris.
An event that missed our December issue deadline is the City of Berkeley’s Winter on the Waterfront & Lighted Boat Parade: family fun, food, music, games, snow play and visits with Santa, starting at 1 p.m. on December 9, followed by a lighted boat parade, all taking place outside Berkeley YC. The San Diego Bay Parade of Lights slipped by us. It will be held on December 10 and 17, starting at 5 p.m., with a theme of Arrrgh! A Pirate’s Christmas. Waterfront festivities in the Delta can be found on the Delta Doo Dah’s Delta Doin’s page.