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November 28, 2018

Extreme West Coast Weather

If you’re from the East Coast, you might find that for a state with so much sunshine, Californians sure do complain about the weather a lot. In Southern California, a rainy day often makes the news (and a newscaster is always [inexplicably] sent into the drizzle for a report).

But the weather hitting the Golden State today is no joke, according to the US Coast Guard. “Mariners are encouraged to take precautions to protect themselves and their vessels.” In the Bay Area, heavy, gusty winds and big surf are forecast through Friday, with waves in the 12- to 25-ft range. SoCal will see similar conditions. The Coast Guard recommends that mariners throughout the state go through the standard motions in securing their vessels during a winter storm. They also recommend extreme caution at the beach, as “sneaker waves” are prevalent, and a legitimate danger,  claiming a few lives every year.

The National Weather Service’s forecast for the Bay Area today.
© 2018 National Weather Service

“Extreme” winter West Coast weather always brings with it extreme feats and extreme fun. The ski season in Lake Tahoe looks to be off to a good start.

There’s nothing extreme about a tranquil alpine lake . . . but Lake Tahoe is undergoing its annual metamorphosis from summer-sailing paradise to winter wonderland. This photo was taken during “Miracle March” in the spring.
© 2018 Latitude 38 Media LLC /

Yesterday in Maui, the Big Wave Tour’s Jaws Challenge saw waves in the ridiculously huge range. Men and women from all over the world displayed harrowing acts of bravery (and insanity) in riding these monsters.

This is not a photoshopped image. On Monday, the “Jaws Challenge” in Pe’ahi, Maui, was put on hold because conditions were too big. That didn’t stop Hawaiian madman (and occasional sailor) Kai Lenny from getting some tow-in action.
© 2018 @kai_lenny

Please be careful out there these next few days, West Coast. And, as we said on Monday, the weekend is looking pretty good for sailing.

The Story of Stuff

Longtime readers of Latitude 38 are probably familiar with the adventures of Bruce Balan and Alene Rice of the California-based Cross 46 trimaran Migration. Stories from their 60,000 miles of cruising have included visiting Easter Island in 2008, their most recent Changes in Latitudes in February, and their stop in the Bay last spring, where they crossed paths with a controversial boat in Aquatic Park.

We were delighted to discover that the cruising couple were recently in a video with the Berkeley-based The Story of Stuff to bring attention to the plastic pollution epidemic — and to offer a chance to make a difference.

We spoke to Stiv Wilson, the director of campaigns for The Story of Stuff, a documentary series about the “life cycle” of material goods. A sailor, Wilson lives aboard his Catalina 30 in Berkeley Marina. “Bruce and Alene contacted The Story of Stuff to see what they could do to help; they’ve been longtime contributors to the organization ever since. Coincidentally, when [Bruce and Alene] were in the Bay Area recently, they spent some time at Berkeley Marina and I ended up having a casual beer with them aboard their boat. Having never met them and only talking sailing, we didn’t put it together at that time that we had The Story of Stuff in common! We figured it out later, but it’s funny how it goes, walking the docks and talking sailing.”

We first crossed tacks with Stiv last summer when we took a sail on the 72-ft ocean research contract vessel Sea Dragon while she was in the Bay. Stiv has sailed 35,000 miles, much of it aboard Sea Dragon while he was doing work with the nonprofit 5 Gyres.

Stiv Wilson, the Story of Stuff
The Story of Stuff’s Stiv Wilson at the helm of the 72-ft Sea Dragon with boat captain Eric Loss and crew Katie Jewett.
© 2018 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John

Stiv and The Story of Stuff are currently in the midst of producing a major feature-length documentary titled The Story of Plastic, which will focus on how to prevent plastics from entering the ecosystem in the first place. (Got your reusable water bottle and coffee mug handy?)

To learn more about the movie or make a contribution on ‘Giving Wednesday’ (hey, why not?) visit here.

Jean-Luc VDH around the Horn

When last we checked in on the solo Golden Globe Race (in Lectronic Latitude on November 5), Jean-Luc Van Den Heede had suffered a knockdown in a Southern Ocean storm. The 73-year-old professional sailor had done a horizon job on the rest of the fleet. Dozens of horizons, actually. His Rustler 36, Matmut, suffered damage to the bolt attachment that holds all four lower shrouds. He thought he would have to drop out of the nonstop attempt and put into Valparaiso, Chile, to make repairs. This would relegate him to the ‘Chichester Class’, named for Sir Francis Chichester, who circumnavigated via the Great Capes with just one stop in 1966-67, before the first Golden Globe nonstop solo race in 1968-69.

French skipper Jean-Luc ‘VDH’ Van Den Heede, 73, aboard Matmut.
© 2018 Jean-Luc Van Den Heede

But after three days of deliberation, VDH alerted race chairman Don McIntyre that he had decided to make the best repair he could at sea and continue sailing. “The worst that can happen is that I lose my rig, and I have my jury rig at the ready.” That was three weeks ago, and Matmut is not only still sailing but still leading the race.

Van Den Heede applied for a time penalty after he called his wife twice on his satellite phone following the knockdown. The rules only allow sat-phone use as a safety measure to call race headquarters. All other communications must be made via HF, VHF or Ham radio net. Noting that VDH received “no material assistance through use of his GGR sat phone,” organizers penalized him 18 hours.

On November 13, VDH detailed his knockdown — actually a pitchpole. “He had already prepared for the worst, having screwed down floorboards, stowed loose items securely, and closed the companionway hatch,” reported McIntyre. “He was in his bunk, and his storm tactic was to allow the boat to run freely downwind with 6 square meters of headsail set and no warps trailing astern, steered by his Hydrovane windvane self-steering. Suddenly, the boat was picked up by a huge wave and surfed down the forward face. The bow dug in and the boat went end-for-end before rolling out on her side. Jean-Luc says that he was thrown out of his bunk and finished up on the ceiling surrounded by all manner of gear. Some water got into the cabin, and everything got thrown around. It was a complete mess, and a week on, he is still searching for some things.”

The French skipper climbed his mast four times to inspect and repair the damage. The damage is centered around the bolts securing the hounds of the lower shrouds to the mast just below the lower spreader bracket. He climbed up to the second spreaders to check for any damage there and found none. He managed to tighten the lower rigging.

Sailing before the wind with repairs made at sea, Matmut has weathered the Southern Ocean and is now headed up the Atlantic.
© 2018 Jean-Luc Van Den Heede

As noted briefly in Monday’s ‘Lectronic, Matmut safely rounded Cape Horn on Friday the 23rd. VDH extended his lead over all but second-place Mark Slats’ The Ohpen Maverick, another Rustler 36 masthead sloop. Though this event features old-school boats and technology, one modern advantage for race fans is the GPS trackers. This morning, 150 days into the race, the trackers show Matmut in the lead by 1,249 miles, with 6,354 miles remaining until the finish in Les Sables-d’Olonne, France.

Estonian skipper Uku Randmaa’s Rustler 36 One and All shows her barnacles at the Hobart Film gate.
© 2018 Christophe Favreau/PPL/GGR

Among the eight skippers who remain in the race (18 started), others have had their own problems. Some boat hulls have offered an enticing habitat for barnacles. Mark Sinclair and Igor Zaretskiy diverted to ports in Australia to clean off barnacles and make repairs. Sinclair, who is also running perilously short of drinking water, is heading for Adelaide, his hometown. The Australian twice dove on his Lello 34, Coconut, to scrape the hull  but sharks thwarted his attempts. The Hungarian-American Istvan Kopar has reported major problems with the pedestal steering system on his Tradewind 35 Puffin.


All You Need to Know
On Friday, a ferry crashed into the dock at the San Francisco Ferry Building. There were 53 passengers onboard at the time, but no injuries were reported.
Latitude Nation:
A former CNN producer and self described cruising novice recently asked an interesting question in an online article: “We are two years and 4,000 nautical miles into our dream of sailing around the world. 
Solo Transatlantic Race
Route du Rhum Happy The Route du Rhum — now more than three weeks old — is entering its closing stages, though many boats remain on the more than 3,500-mile course.