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January 11, 2019

Twilight – Nautical and Otherwise

The sun rose one minute earlier (on the West Coast of the US) this morning for the first time since the winter solstice! In San Francisco, sunrise on the solstice occurred at 7:21. Although the 21st was the shortest day of the year, the additional sunlight was added to the end of the day, not the beginning. The sun continued to rise later until yesterday, when it came up at 7:25. Sunrise today came at 7:24. (Thanks to for the info.)

Twilight in the Delta
Twilight in the Delta on December 26, with Mount Diablo in the distance.
© 2019 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Chris

Did you know that there are three definitions of ‘twilight’? According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac:

  • Civil twilight starts at sunset and ends roughly 45 minutes later, when the sun has plunged 6 degrees below the horizon — equal to 12 times its own width. That’s when streetlights must be on, according to most municipal ordinances.
  • Astronomical Twilight continues the longest, until the sun has fallen 18 degrees below the horizon, letting the faintest stars emerge. Its conclusion heralds the arrival of full darkness.
  • Falling in right between is ‘Nautical Twilight’. Nautical twilight persists until the sun is 12 degrees down. “That’s when the horizon vanishes, when a mariner cannot distinguish between sea and sky.”

The sun will set today at 5:10 p.m., and nautical twilight will extend until 6:11.

You can read more about the Earthly phenomenon of twilight at You’ll find a guide to San Francisco sunset/sunrise times in the 2019 Northern California Sailing Calendar & YRA Schedule.

All Ships Alert, and a GGR Update

All Ships Alert

We heard this morning from Golden Globe Race HQ that the Falmouth Coastguard has issued an ‘All Ships Alert’ for British singlehanded sailor Robin Davie. His Rustler 36 C’Est La Vie is now three days overdue on a 300-mile solo voyage across the English Channel from Les Sables-d’Olonne, France, to his homeport of Falmouth in Cornwall.

Robin Davie
Robin Davie, 67, sailing aboard his Rustler 36. He intends to sail in the 2022 Golden Globe Race.
© 2019 Barry Pickthall / PPL Photo Agency

Davie, who has successfully completed three solo circumnavigations, set out from the French port at 10:00 on Saturday morning, telling his brother Rick Davie to expect him on Tuesday. Nothing has been heard from him since. Davie was reported overdue on Wednesday morning, and the UK Maritime Coastguard Falmouth have been broadcasting alerts to all shipping in the area since then. No EPIRB signal has been detected. Weather conditions have been light and variable for the past week.

After serving in the British Merchant Navy for 20 years, Davie competed in the first BOC Challenge Around Alone Race in 1990. He made his second and third solo circumnavigations in the 1994 and 1998 BOC races. During the ’94 race he was dismasted thousands of miles from Cape Horn and sailed under jury rig around the Cape to the Falkland Islands.

C’Est la Vie had recently undergone a complete refit including new mast and rigging, as Davie had entered the 2018 Golden Globe Race but ran out of time to complete his preparations before the start on July 1.

C'Est La Vie
Davie’s Rustler 36 prior to her refit.
© 2019 Robin Davie / PPL Photo Agency

Golden Globe Race to the Finish

Now 194 days into the solo nonstop circumnavigation, none of the racers has finished yet. (These are not MOD70s, nor even IMOCA 60s! All the boats resemble what you see in the photo above.) Five skippers out of 18 starters remain in the race; all but one are now around Cape Horn. None of them is currently sailing faster than 5 knots. Dutchman Mark Slats has eaten away at the lead of Frenchman Jean-Luc Van Den Heede. The leaders are the only two competitors north of the equator. Slats is at the 20th parallel and VDH is 190 miles ahead of him to the NNE. The 73-year-old French sailor is now expected to finish on January 27. On Saturday, VDH served an 18-hour penalty for improper use of his satellite phone (he used it to call his wife following a knockdown that damaged his rig in the Southern Ocean).

Race leader Jean-Luc Van Den Heede’s Rustler 36 Matmut at the film gate off Hobart, Tasmania.
© 2019 Christophe Favreau / PPL
Mark Slats
The much younger Mark Slats, 41, is nipping at the heels of the legendary VDH. He also sails a Rustler 36, The Ohpen Maverick.
© 2019 Christophe Favreau / PPL

The hull of last-place Tapio Lehtinen’s Finnish entry Asteria is covered in barnacles, sapping her speed at an ever-increasing rate. She is still on the Pacific side of Cape Horn. Lehtinen, 60, humorously messaged Race HQ on Saturday: “CAN I GET 2 THE GUINNESS BOOK OF RECORDS 4 THE SLOWEST TIME ROUND THE WORLD?” Yet, the Gaia 36 Asteria is still 695 miles ahead of the reference time. The 2018-19 sailors are in a virtual race with Robin Knox-Johnston’s 1968-69 Golden Globe Race winner Suhaili. (See the tracker.)

Those Who Were Lost at Sea

It’s easy to report the news and quickly move on to the next thing. But when someone is involved in a tragic accident or lost at sea, families have to absorb terrible news, and then move on with their lives. Last month, the wreckage of Bob Smith’s home-built 44-ft catamaran Pantera was found in the Sea of Cortez. A body was also found, but it’s not clear if it has been identified yet.

Smith’s daughter Natalie Fairley started a Facebook group Celebración de la vida for Bob Smith and Pantera, a site in memoriam of Smith. Fairley said the group “was created to share stories and pictures of my Dad. The sailing community in Mexico is his other family and he loved you as much as he loved us. I would love you to share what my Dad meant to you.”

This photo of Bob Smith — apparently on the water in his native British Columbia — was shared by his daughter Natalie in a Facebook Group celebrating Smith’s life.
© 2019 Natalie Fairley

“[Bob] was my neighbor for many years when he was in La Paz, hanging on the hook,” wrote Billy Delmer in the Facebook group. “Bob is a good friend who was good to me, was a comfort when I needed it and told and listened to a good joke. He was free with his knowledge and helped if he could. Aloha Nui Loa my friend, wherever you are. The universe is a better place because of it.”

Neil Royer was anchored in La Paz with Bob Smith in 2011 when his dinghy was flipped in heavy wind near Pantera. “Bob came out, and put down his swim ladder for me to climb aboard. He gave me a cup of coffee, and let me calm down. Every time I saw Bob after that, he would always tell me the coffee is hot if I ever needed a cup again. And we would both laugh. He was a great guy!”

The sailing community had another tragic loss last year in Mexico. Patrick and Sandi Foree were sailing their 52-ft Irwin ketch YachtCruz off Baja when something went inexplicably wrong.

This photo was posted on Facebook in early 2018 by a friend of Patrick Wolfgang and Sandi Foree. “To our dismay they have been recovered from the unforgiving sea,” wrote Annette Dee Walker.
© 2019 YachtCruz Facebook Page

“Their yacht was never found, and we still have no idea what took place that early morning,” Eva Emelev, Sandi Foree’s daughter, wrote us. “We are thankful that both bodies were recovered. Although it’s nearly been a year, it still feels like yesterday that we received the news.” Emelev said that the Mexican authorities did not have much information about the accident. “We were not allowed to see the bodies (which were identified through photos). Their death certificates say they drowned. My mom’s body was recovered on the beach and Patrick was found at sea. We know the weather was bad; we also know it was a dangerous area. The boat vanished, the beacon was recovered near some rocks miles away from the bodies. Lots of theories were thrown around, but there’s no proof of anything. Without their boat, it will remain a mystery.

“Again, we are so thankful for the efforts btwn the US Coast Guard and Mexican Navy for searching and recovering their bodies.”

We’d like to extend our condolences to the families and friends of all of those who were lost at sea.

Government Shutdown
The United States Coast Guard may soon be working without pay. As the government shutdown enters its 18th day today, more and more federal agencies are seeing whatever funds that had been tiding them over dry up. 
News Nuggets
A Setback for the Ocean Cleanup After steaming out of the Bay in late September with the ambition of cleaning up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the Ocean Cleanup project has suffered a major setback and is heading back to Alameda. “Due
Junior Programs
Jack London started sailing San Francisco Bay at age 14. He borrowed money to buy his own boat, the Razzle Dazzle, and became an oyster pirate.
Commuting by Boat
Good news for sailors, the city of Richmond, the Richmond Yacht Club and the Pacific Sail & Power Boat Show! The San Francisco Bay Ferry’s Richmond-San Francisco service will launch tomorrow, Thursday, January 10, 2019.