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May 14, 2018

Weekend Report: The Gnar Factor

West Coast, how was your weekend? We’re talking to you, SoCal. Where you at, Pacific Northwest? Aloha, Hawaii. ¿Que pasa, Mexico? If you have a story or picture (or an arsenal of synonyms for "very windy") please let us know

Here in the Bay Area, as we took the last bend and headed onto the San Rafael/ Richmond Bridge, the water was almost completely white. We gripped the wheel tightly, because our car suddenly had weather helm and was getting nudged from side to side. We navigated the headers and lifts as best we could.

Mark Dowdy’s Santa Cruz 50 Hana Ho battles Saturday’s gale in the Golden Gate.

© 2018 Erik Simonson

Late on Saturday, we heard there were gusts up to 50 in San Rafael. Mind you, windy days are like catching fish — the increments get bigger as the story is repeated. Needless to say, it was nuking. The Bay was so studded with foamy whitecaps that the flecks of brown and green were few and far between, and covered in spume. It was blowing like stink. It was blowing so hard that we needed to search our internal cache of expressions for extreme wind: Snorting. Horking. Blasting. Atomic. In the end, we settled on simply and utterly gnarly.

Don’t take our word for it, let an objective, hyperbole-free anemometer tell the tale.

© 2018 Jeffrey Berman

The annual Duxship Race was (naturally) on Saturday. Boats race out of the Gate, go around the Duxbury Reef buoy off Bolinas, around the Lightship buoy and back into the Bay. We heard stories of carnage: rails deep in the water, rigs shaking perilously, and general chaos. We saw a few sailors at the bar with expressions of equal parts stoke and exhaustion. Stories were told; 30 with gusts to 40 seemed to be the consensus.

"It was a little too windy for the foil," this gentleman said. Photos never do justice to the sea state — this picture looks deceptively inviting.

©2018 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

I had plans to go windsurfing, but figured it would be too windy for my gear. While the Bay is rightfully famous for its big sea breezes, days like this are not all that frequent, and some of us don’t own boards and sails small enough for gale-force conditions. I stopped at Point Isabel in Richmond, where a handful of windsurfers were just coming off the water. "How is it?" I asked. "Windy!" everyone replied, before grabbing their smaller sails (4.2s to 4.7s) and re-rigging.

On Saturday, a Catalina 30-something’s mainsail became dislodged under the gale-force conditions on San Francisco Bay. "The attachment slugs all popped like a zipper," Jeffrey Berman wrote.

© 2018 Jeffrey Berman

Some of us purposefully don’t follow weather forecasts, because waking up to whatever conditions Mother Nature happens to be serving is exciting. There were, however, some natural indications on Friday evening — after a beer can at Corinthian Yacht Club in light to moderate conditions, there were distinctly warm gusts of wind that descended on Tiburon around 10 p.m. It was weird, and you could feel something stirring in the atmosphere.

The City was tranquil at sunset on Friday. Little did we know that the Bay would be roiling the next day.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

After checking out Point Isabel, I drove to Berkeley out of curiosity, having absolutely no plans to sail. To my surprise, the conditions were moderate. I rigged my standard "big" gear, but then it started to pick up and leveled off in what I would guess was the 25-knot range. So I re-rigged, got the smaller board and gave it a go. I’m not afraid to sit out gnarlier days, but it felt good to be out in some sportier conditions. I wasn’t killing it, but found a comfortable rhythm and thoroughly enjoyed myself. My cold beer felt well earned, and I — along with everyone else at the bar who’d been sailing on Saturday — exaggerated the gnar factor.

Can This Boat Be Saved?

We’ve all seen them. Wandering the waterfront, it’s fairly common to come across forlorn-looking vessels sorely in need of TLC. Some passersby see a mess destined for the dump, but others see potential. They can imagine when the boat was delivered new with fresh cushions and crisp sails to a family with many great times ahead of them. But those times are now behind them, and it’s a sometimes-dubious prospect to consider bringing a particular boat back to the good times.

A diamond in the rough? If you like a challenge and working with your hands, boats like this may have enough good sailing left in them to make them worth a look.

©2018 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Last year we found Glenn Shinn, who was finishing up a restoration of a prototype for the Moore 24. At the time Glenn said, "Last year, I bought George Olson’s original [1969] prototype for the Moore 24, Grendel. I first spotted it at UC Santa Cruz."

When we spotted her in February 2016 for sale at the UCSC Boating dock, Grendel didn’t look too bad, but when we walked on her deck we could feel the soft spots.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

"She was in sorry shape," said Glenn, "not even sailable — not even close (she’d been sitting in a slip for at least 10 years!). There were soft spots all along the plywood deck, which was totally delaminated, and the main support beam down the middle was broken. I had to cut out big holes in the deck and patch it up."

That old boat? Glenn has her looking good and sailing regularly. On Sunday a week ago Glenn looped Angel Island from the Estuary and had a brisk 12-knot ride home.

©2018 Latitude 38 Media, LLC
Glenn Shinn, happily sailing Grendel singlehanded out the Estuary on April 1.

© 2018

Glenn is not the only one who’s found a project resurrecting an old boat now enjoying a second life. However, anyone who’s taken on one of these projects would offer words of caution. It’s easy to get in over your head both financially and in terms of time commitment. But, as Glenn has shown, the rewards can be there.

This Santana looks like it hasn’t sailed in a while, but maybe all she needs is a good wash?

©2018 Latitude 38 Media, LLC
For the right person, a boat like this can be an inexpensive way to get started with boat ownership.

©2018 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Some of these boats may need no more than a good scrub to get you sailing by the end of the weekend. Others could take a year. With many boats you can start sailing soon and spread out your improvements over months or years. The old sails may be terrible but, if they don’t blow out, you can use them for a while until you get a handle on the scope of your project and then decide what to do next. Some of those ‘what to do next’ moments will appear after a few quick sails!


As they say, one person’s trash is another one’s treasure. It depends on your temperament, time, budget and skills. There’s plenty of ‘inventory’, so if you’re the next person resurrecting an oldie but goodie let us know.

We’d like to welcome two new sailors to our West Coast Circumnavigators’ List: Jack van Ommen and Julie Spencer.
When you’re a boat owner, it’s inevitable that at some point (and usually when you least expect it) your DIY skills will be put to the test.  
The eighth leg of the Volvo Ocean Race has drawn to a dramatic close in Newport, Rhode Island, with Team MAPFRE capping off a stunning comeback that saw them move up from fifth to first place in the final 24 hours.
Is it because it’s the 25th annual, or is it, as always, just a great idea to set a date to sail south in the fall that 82 boats signed up in the first 48 hours since the Baja Ha-Ha registration opened at noon on Wednesday?