There are a lot of good reasons to head out sailing on the Bay or to sail out the Golden Gate to Mexico. But for many the question is how. If you don’t know where to begin, a good place to start is the Latitude 38 Crew List and Party. It’s not magic, but sometimes magical things happen when you bring together a group of people with sailboats and people who want to go sailing. This past Wednesday’s Crew List Party at Spaulding Marine Center in Sausalito again confirms the value of making the connection.
In attendance were cruisers from the Pacific Northwest heading south to join the Baja Ha-Ha, local cruisers doing the same, and many Bay Area sailors and boat owners looking to connect up with crew for local sailing opportunities. There’s no shortage of people who want to step off the land and get on the water.
If you find the sea calling and are looking to escape the mayhem ashore, the answer may be as close as San Francisco Bay, or it may take you miles beyond. Our twice-a-year crew parties are a reminder that, after deciding to go sailing, the next step is making the right connections.
If you’re a sailor in the Pacific Northwest, then be sure to check out the Wooden Boat Festival starting today and running through Sunday at the Northwest Maritime Center.
Port Townsend is said to be one of the most sailor-y locales on the West Coast, with wooden boats galore (including the Northwest School of Wooden BoatBuilding). This weekend promises to have "tall ships, vintage and modern wooden boats, racing schooners, and more."
If you’re able to make the trek this weekend, please, send us pictures!
Late one Friday, we poured ourselves a cold beverage and got cozy with the laptop for the new episode of Delos. In episode 185, the crew had left Rio de Janeiro and was anchored in the Abrolhos archipelago, a national marine park made up of five islands. Delos met up with a group of Brazilian researchers who were tagging sea turtles. "It’s just as we suspected," said Brady Trautman. "A bunch of really cool people out here who care about the environment and are doing research and stuff."
As it turns out, Delos was doing a bit of their own research. One of the crew dropped a microphone (or hydrophone) off the stern to listen for acoustic pings from tagged sea life. They were collecting data for the Ocean Research Project’s Volunteer Sailing for Science program. The ORP aims to foster "scientific exploration under sail in pursuit of the knowledge necessary to better understand human-induced stress on the Ocean," according to its website. "Citizen science has proven successful at solving major scientific challenges, [and] is uniquely suited to addressing some of the challenges presented by ocean research."
"We got involved with the project from a pretty badass sailor and ocean activist: Matt Rutherford," said Alex Blue, referring to the first person to sail singlehanded nonstop around the Americas from Annapolis, through the Northwest Passage, down to Cape Horn and back to Annapolis. In a TED Talk, Rutherford said he’d done his circumnavigation as a fundraiser for a local nonprofit. After seeing the state of the ocean during his trip, Rutherford immediately founded the ORP upon his return. (Bay Area sailor Randall Reeves said that Rutherford’s first-of-its-kind route inspired him to conceive of "a super-long, super-interesting trip," which would eventually become the Figure 8 Voyage.)
ORP’s strategy reflects something we’ve heard recently from other innovators of ocean research, namely Alameda’s Saildrone, whom we profiled in the August issue. The traditional research-vessel model — where one large, slow, expensive, diesel-guzzling ship plows through the ocean and deploys its millions of dollars of instruments — is not necessarily well-suited to widespread data collection. When considering the size of the ocean and the unimaginable abundance of information to be observed, recorded and cataloged, a single ship is a drop in the bucket, where the aggregate of a few thousand cruisers, not to mention the greenness of their means to get from A to B, may yield meaningful data in the long term.
We don’t mean to disparage the research-vessel model; indeed, there’s a proud history of scientists going to sea aboard big ships. Jacques Cousteau has had an immeasurable impact on ocean conservation, and no doubt inspired generations of explorers. (The Delos crew seems to have adopted the red beanie, or wool caps that Cousteau (and Steve Zissou’s crew in The Life Aquatic) famously sported.)
So we’re curious: Is there anyone out there who’s ever heard of or is currently participating in the Ocean Research Project’s volunteer citizen science program? Or are you out there doing your own brand of amateur research? Do you think that we’ve reached a new ethos in the cruising world, where sailors are taking a more active role in environmental issues? We’d like to know what you think.
Is September too early to nail down next year’s Northern California racing schedule? With so many races in the mix, the answer is a resounding "No!" The crews at the Yacht Racing Association and Latitude 38 are already hard at work putting together the 2019 calendar.
"Now is the time to begin compiling the 2019 calendar," says YRA chairman Don Ahrens. "Our goal this year is to complete the calendar process earlier than we have in the past in the hope that we can further minimize race conflicts and deliver a more enjoyable season to San Francisco Bay racers. Finishing the calendar process by mid-October will give yacht clubs the advantage of working with race and flag officers who have run races over the last year or more. This way we can avoid issues like the changing of flag officers. New flag officers need time to learn and digest information about a club’s racing activities." Once they leave the flag, officers who have given so much of their time and energy over the past few years often need a well-earned break from club responsibilities.
Another reason we can’t leave the process until November and December: They are short months with a completely different focus and demands on everyone’s time. "The holiday season impacts all of us," points out Ahrens.
"The YRA and Latitude 38 will publish a set of deadlines in the next couple of weeks. We will include deadlines for the clubs’ racing schedules and deadlines for the advertising that will be included in the Northern California Sailing Calendar and YRA Master Schedule.
"There’s a lot of competition for racers with more than 800 races each year. It’s important that yacht clubs work with the YRA and with each other to minimize conflicts. Some clubs have worked at thinning their race schedules, removing races that have fallen out of favor and are no longer well attended. All clubs could benefit from analyzing their races to see if any thinning can be done. Try to think more broadly about the race season and discuss not only the club’s needs but the needs of racers, especially members who race consistently." Active racers compete in regattas put on by their own clubs, other clubs and organizations like BAMA, SSS and the YRA.
Don points out that "Running too many races can result in race committee fatigue." Flag officers and race committee volunteers can get burned out and lose interest. "We’ve seen this happen at a couple of clubs this year.
"We’ve seen racer participation increase in the last couple of years after many years of decline. We’d like to see this trend continue, and to do so we all have to work at building a great season for San Francisco Bay racers. Please consider finalizing your racing plans a little earlier this year and working more closely with the broader racing community."