Bob Johnston, who sails the J/92 Ragtime! out of Richmond Yacht Club, writes that on New Year’s Day, he and his wife Connie "had a delightful spinnaker reach down to Clipper Cove. Because of the king tides we didn’t linger in there, but we swung through and took a few photos. There were two small raft-ups, one of which included 200 years’ worth of Cal 40s: Rodney Pimentel’s Azure, Jim Quanci’s Green Buffalo, Robb Walker’s Nozomi and Vance Sprock’s Seazed Asset."
"Once around Yerba Buena Island, we enjoyed a swift close reach across the Slot, up Southampton Shoal and back to RYC. We saw a couple dozen other boats out there — it was chilly but really quite nice. Way to start 2018!"
There would have been an overabundance of water in the Bay’s coves during the morning, but soon that water would be rushing out the Gate, chasing the full moon in perigee to the other side of the planet. We wonder if anyone got left high and dry by the minus tides.
In a decision that could set a powerful precedent for the dispute between Westpoint Harbor and the Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC), a Solano County Superior Court Judge overturned $3.6 million in fines levied by the BCDC and the California Regional Water Quality Control Board against John Sweeney, the owner of a 39-acre island in the Suisun Marsh. The ruling was issued in late December.
"The work I did on the duck club was normal," Sweeney told Latitude this morning. "Why would my work be different than the hundreds of other duck clubs in Suisun Marsh?"
Originally from Tiburon, Sweeney is well known in Bay Area sailing circles as a racer and sailing promoter, including the 11 Meter Citibank/Wells Fargo racing series off Pier 39, the IACC Challenge Series based at Treasure Island, and a bid for an America’s Cup with the Sausalito Yacht Club. He also sailed on three America’s Cup teams.
Sweeney purchased Point Buckler Island — a duck-hunting club that had fallen into disrepair — in 2011. The legal action stems from repairs that Sweeney made in 2014 to a levee that had been breached, which prevented the club from maintaining consistent water levels in the duck ponds.
Although BCDC and the Water Board were aware of the levee repairs at the time they were being performed, no action was taken to stop Sweeney from making the upgrades. Over the next two years, however, the Regional Board and BCDC issued a series of orders imposing fines totaling $3.6 million and included restoration, mitigation and monitoring requirements. In December 2016, Sweeney filed suit in Superior Court, arguing that the orders were invalid and must be set aside.
Although the facts of the case differ from those in the Westpoint Harbor dispute, the judge concluded that both the Regional Board and BCDC exceeded their jurisdiction in imposing the orders, that they had denied the plaintiffs the right to due process, that they were guilty of vindictive prosecution, that the fines were excessive, and that the findings the Regional Board and BCDC used to support their orders were not supported by the evidence provided by their staff and technical consultants. As a result, the judge ruled in favor of the plaintiffs on every count before the court.
No suit has been filed in the Westpoint Harbor case, although lawyers for both Westpoint Harbor and BCDC acknowledged during a public hearing that a challenge in court would likely be leveled against the Commission’s proposed fines and Cease and Desist Order. That outcome seems all the more likely given the ruling in the Sweeney case, especially since many of the behaviors exhibited by BCDC in pursuing Sweeney and Point Buckler mirror claims made by Mark Sanders in the Westpoint Harbor dispute.
We’ll have more on this story in the coming days. And as always, we’d like to know what you think.
Yesterday in Hawaiian waters, the Coast Guard rescued a strange-looking boat. The Kehaar Darwin — apparently a junk-rigged, homemade vessel that we’re guessing is between 26 and 30 feet — flagged down another boat to ask for assistance. The owner of the odd vessel was described as a 62-year-old Australian mariner.
The Darwin had reportedly departed Panama 104 days earlier and was on its way to Australia when the owner became "disoriented, and was having trouble making it into port," a Coast Guard press release said. "His vessel became beset by weather forcing him into Hawaiian waters. He was without communications equipment [or] an engine, and his sails were in poor condition."
The Coast Guard took the opportunity to remind sailors to always have the proper safety equipment aboard, and to file a float plan when voyaging, all sentiments that we support. The Kehaar Darwin appears to be a throwback in time, and perhaps represents a different ethos in sailing — the Do It Yourself, old-school approach. We wish the skipper of the Darwin a safe voyage, wherever he decides to go.
The 2018 YRA calendar just hit the stands and is filled with almost 1,000 races happening in Northern California, most of them on the weekends. There are just three weekend days all year without a sailing event! The calendar includes everything from evening beer can racing to the Rolex Big Boat Series. You’ll find Central Bay racing, lake racing in the Sierra, Monterey Bay events and ocean events such as California Offshore Race Week.
Why race? As Greg Clausen of the Beneteau Oceanis 390 Free Spirit said in our December issue, "Racing forces you to go out on less-than-perfect days and sail courses that might not be easy and dry, but help you learn and build your skills. Summer Beer Cans are like having a practice race every week. I race mostly out of Tiburon Yacht Club, because its Friday night summer races are the best way to start the weekend. My favorite regattas are the Great Vallejo Race and the Jazz Cup — those are the fun ones, when there’s wind!"
If you own a sailing dinghy, keelboat, racer or cruiser there’s probably a course, a club and event you’ll enjoy. It can be a casual family affair or a full-on grand prix campaign. If you’re up for it, this summer you could race either the Pacific Cup or the Singlehanded TransPac from San Francisco Bay to Hawaii.
In the short term, the Bay Area’s single largest event, the Three Bridge Fiasco on January 27, already has 71 signups and usually tops out with more than 300 entries. You can sign up for this single- or doublehanded tour of the Bay here.