Because of continued ensnarement in environmental litigation, skyrocketing costs of waterfront real estate, and dogged declining participation in both the sport and lifestyle of sailing, a group of lawmakers has quietly been discussing an outright ban on recreational boating in San Francisco Bay. While seemingly extreme in its breadth, the proposal may become a model for the entire West Coast. The group of state and local officials, which spoke to Latitude on the condition of anonymity and has not yet formally announced its plans, told us that they’ve been crafting a bill that would effectively make West Coast waters off-limits to recreational sailors. (It’s not clear what restrictions, if any, would be placed on commercial fishing or shipping vessels.)
“We’ve been looking at making some very tough choices,” said the head of the clandestine cabal, who’s been a longtime Bay Area lawmaker. “This isn’t ideal, but when you start to look at the issues facing the Bay, and the issues facing sailing, we see it as a viable option to protect the Bay for future generations.”
Dissenters within this group of lawmakers immediately raised the question of what, exactly, “protecting the Bay for future generations” entails if it’s completely off limits. A member of the BCDC who sits on the group immediately pointed to the proliferation of paths around the Bay. “Access has never been greater,” said the BCDC official.
According to one source, an important factor in the group of lawmakers’ thinking was the declining interest in sailing, especially among younger generations. “It’s complicated and therefore expensive for taxpayers to fund well-regulated recreational boating infrastructure. And increasingly, it seems like this infrastructure is there for a decreasing number of people. Would you keep building roads in sensitive habitats if only a small handful of people were driving?”
That same official also said that, with the perception of sailing — or yachting, as they made sure to call it — as an elitist sport, there was little to no support from the community at large. “In the ’70s and ’80s, sailing was a real middle class thing to do. Well, there’s not much of a middle-class anymore!”
The BCDC official interrupted to further emphasize the importance of paths: “You can see the Bay from Marin, you can see the Bay from the East Bay, you can even see the Bay from Redwood City, now that the pesky, award-winning harbor — you know the one I’m talking about — has finally come into compliance. The ability to admire the Bay from a distance has never been greater.”
It’s important to note that while dire in scope, the proposal by the group of lawmakers is just that — a suggestion that, at the moment, has no official bearing. But the writing is certainly on the well-regulated, interagency managed wall. If we, as sailors, are to have our say, we’d better say so.
In Other News: East Brother Light Station to be Replaced by App
We’ve also been made privy to a Federal Government proposal to remove the East Brother Light Station from San Rafael Bay and replace it with an app.
Lighthouses and foghorns may be going the way of the dodo — they’re expensive, bulky and cumbersome, and often difficult to maintain. In the digital age, maritime officials see no need to perpetuate archaic technology when a simple app can do the trick.
“If we replace a big lighthouse with a digital alternative, then everyone’s life gets easier,” said John McJohnersonsen of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The proposal calls for the immediate razing of the historic hight station, though it’s not clear if an “app,” or another type of Internet service, would be physically installed in its place. “There have also been proposals for an AccuWeather station or office at the old site,” said McJohnersonsen, “where you can dock, tie up, and go buy a subscription to that company’s service.”
When asked what sailors without smartphones would do to navigate in inclement weather, McJohnersonsen asked, “There’s people without smartphones?”
Federal Government Recommends Lowering Seawalls to Taunt Climate Change
The federal government is considering lowering the height of seawalls and downgrading other infrastructure in a direct challenge to the veracity of climate change. “If climate change is so real, then we think it’s time for it to show up and deliver on all of these dire predictions,” said Joe Bethersonton, a former manager at a used-car dealership who was recently appointed head of climate science and research at NASA.
“And if climate change is real, then we don’t think we should pamper our waterfronts. It’s time for streets, bridges and waterfront businesses to toughen up, take it on the chin, and show ‘climate change’ who’s boss,” Bethersonton said, doing “climate change” in air quotes. The NASA official went on to cite the fact that winter remains cold and summers continue to be hot as obvious, clear-cut evidence that climate change is an undeniable hoax. “And nights are still dark, while the days are sunny. If mankind were really ‘changing’ [air quotes] the weather, then wouldn’t time get all screwy, too?”
Bethersonton cut our interview short because of a subpoena to appear before Congress over ethics violations.
April Fools, Latitude Nation. These three stories are entirely fabricated, and any resemblance to the truth is purely coincidental, even if not entirely far-fetched.
But seriously, folks, the April issue is out today, and it’s one of our favorite Latitudes ever. April has traditionally been our “Boat Show” issue, and this month, we have a 40-page guide to the upcoming Pacifc Sail & Power extravaganza coming to a Craneway Pavilion in Richmond near you this Thursday.
The April issue also tends to be the most story-packed of the year. Here’s a taste:
From our youth sailing story, Launching Tomorrow’s Sailors:
“‘Kids still get the same things from sailing that I did when I first learned,’ says Paul Lang, Instructional Coordinator of San Diego’s Mission Bay Aquatic Center. ‘That is, feelings of freedom and independence and the joy of overcoming challenges. Kids now also get to take a break from their phones and online worlds through sailing — a hands-on activity that requires full awareness and engagement from the individual to do it well.'”
“As with every Banderas Bay Regatta, the motto is ‘They had a party and a yacht race broke out.’ This year’s event was no different. Vallarta Yacht Club in Paradise Village Marina hosted the opening day and nightly themed parties, with buffet dinners and live music.”
From Max Ebb, A New Spin on Spinnaker Spinout:
“The boom flew across in the classic jibe-broach maneuver. I called for holding the sheet and running the guy, but the sheet had already been let halfway out in a panic, and the two wraps left on the winch drum had found their way into a tight override knot so the sheet was not going out any more just then. The afterguy had also been released, but so had the foreguy, and that allowed the pole — which had been eased forward not just for roll control but also to keep it out of the water if we broached in this direction — to became deeply immersed in the Bay and promptly wrap itself around a shroud.
“There’s nothing like the real thing, baby. That’s why we’re looking forward to the new F50 catamarans coming to San Francisco Bay on May 4-5 to do their thing, which, reportedly, includes foiling at up to 50 knots!”
And from Saving Boatyards — One Permit at a Time:
“All of this regulation comes at a cost, and it is those of us who have boats and use boatyard services in the Bay Area that ultimately pay. However, these regulations also produce real benefits.”
While we joke about the health of the sport and lifestyle of sailing, the challenges are real. Reporter John Tuma brings us continuing coverage on the evolution of the Bay’s waterfront. There are also plenty of positive developments to be touted in the Bay Area’s sailing lifestyle — like cleaner water and more wildlife — and there are things that we can do as sailors to protect what we love.
Spoiler alert: You can join the Recreational Boaters of California (RBOC), an advocacy group that lobbies for a boater-friendly environment. You can also make your voice heard, especially when there are proposed waterfront developments and builders aren’t convinced of a marina’s importance.
The April issue also features: Windships — Will There be a New Age of Sail?
We spoke with Gavin Allwright, the secretary of the International Windship Association (IWSA), a nonprofit that works with governments and companies offering wind-assisted innovations. Allwright said that it’s an “exciting time” for the windships.
We also got to sail with Jay Gardner and Charlie Bogue of Wind+Wing Technologies, a Bay Area company that’s been working on wind-assisted ferries here in the Bay, as well as modular wings for container ships. When ferries or ships use and wind assist, they’re able to throttle back and cut their fuel use — and emissions — by 20% to 50%.
Both Allwright and Bogue will be giving free seminars at the Boat Show. We’ll have more on this — and on the developments in commercial wind — in a Wednesday ‘Lectronic.
Don’t forget that you can pick up an always-free issue of Latiutude 38 at a gazillion West Coast locations (as well as select spots around the country). The entire issue is also on this very website and is downloadable for all your devices.
We’ll leave you with the winner of this month’s World Famous Latitude 38 Caption Contest(!):
Some beer can series begin in March, right after Daylight Saving Time begins. The Wednesday night rabbit-start races in Santa Cruz come to mind. But most clubs and organizations at sea level* start their casual evening races in April.
If you’re new to racing, beer cans are a great place to start. Pick a series that’s convenient geographically, but also consider the race’s culture. Some are more competitive than others; some have series scoring; some have daily prizes; some have overall awards.
Like the Santa Cruzers, Richmond Yacht Club’s free Wednesday night races are among the most casual. Don’t try to sign up, just go out and sail. Bottles of wine await many lucky racers at the end of the quick sail out of Richmond Harbor. But we’re still not sure how winners are chosen.
Well organized into series with daily prizes (glasses or mugs) and competition that is sometimes fierce, Friday night races at Corinthian YC in Tiburon and South Beach YC in San Francisco provide good practice and crew-building for more serious weekend racing. Both are notable for their finishes: light air in sheltered Belvedere Cove or swirling winds with wind shifts of up to 180° in front of Oracle Park. SBYC is the only place we know of where huge crowds in rows of bleachers cheer as the boats finish in McCovey Cove. Be sure to wave to the fans!
Berkeley YC offers casual racing every single week of the year. The Friday night beer cans (April-October) pick up where the Sunday Chowder races leave off (November-March).
On the Estuary, three clubs headquartered in Alameda host beer cans. Island YC and Encinal YC alternate every other Friday night, and Oakland YC hosts the Wednesday night Sweet 16 Series on eight weeks in the spring and another eight weeks in the summer.
Though Wednesdays and Fridays are the most popular nights of the week for beer cans, it’s possible to race every night of the week thanks to Bay View Boat Club’s Monday Night Madness, Sausalito YC’s Tuesday night Sunset Series and Benicia YC’s Thursday night series. If you’re hardy enough (or can get away from work enough) to sail in five beer cans in a row, let us know — you could be crowned Latitude 38’s King or Queen of the Beer Cans!
New evening sailing opportunities include Laser racing out of Alameda Community Sailing Center on Thursday nights and the new Club at Westpoint’s monthly Friday Fun Series in Redwood City. Neighboring Sequoia YC hosts a weekly beer can series on Wednesday nights.
*For obvious reasons, clubs at higher elevations get a later start. Lake Tahoe Windjammers YC in South Lake Tahoe hosts weekly Wednesday night races starting on May 15. Lake Yosemite Sailing Association’s Thursday night series in Merced will begin on May 16. Tahoe YC in Tahoe City (North Shore) offers Laser racing on Monday nights and beer can racing on Wednesday nights starting in late May.
There are oh, so many more. Apologies if we didn’t name-check your favorite in the notes above. But we have attempted to list all of them in our Calendar. If any are missing from that list, please let us know at [email protected]. The Calendar deadline is always the 10th of the month.