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April 15, 2019

Windsurfers Christen New Launch in Richmond

Yesterday marked a milestone at Point Isabel Park in Richmond, as a new windsurfing launch was “christened” by a dedicated group of East Bay sailors. The launch was made possible by the advocacy of several involved citizens, as well as funding from multiple agencies. Technically, the new concrete ramp is “water access” and not exclusively designed for windsurfing. Point Isabel Regional Shoreline is also one of the most popular dog parks, like, in the entire world — or at least in the East Bay. The improved access is a win for everyone, but, that said, the hardcore East Bay crew will likely be the main beneficiaries in the coming summer months.

During a time when the Bay Area’ sailing infrastructure is slowly shrinking, a new launch is a positive step — and one taken just in time for the windy season.

What a difference a little concrete and gravel can make to the sport and lifestyle of windsurfing. A scene from early in the year at the new Point Isabel launch.
© 2019 David Fielder

The concrete ramp replaces haphazard steps that used to lead down to the water. There’s also a large pit filled with “pea gravel” which is ideal for rigging and unrigging (it’s relatively soft, and your gear doesn’t get sandy or grassy). This new “rigging station” replaces a haphazard patch of gravel and large areas of dirt where sailors formerly set up their gear. The pea gravel was another critical design feature that came to fruition from user input, according to a windsurfer involved in the project.

Top photo: The rigging station, as seen yesterday, is a dramatic improvement from the patches of grass, dirt and rock that it replaced, as seen in the bottom photo. In the old days, we had to beware of the occasional “poop land mine” (though most dog owners are diligent about cleaning up, in my opinion), whereas the new rigging station is clearly demarcated.
© 2019 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Tim (bottom photo David Fielder)

Yesterday was forecast to be super windy, but when this writer arrived around 2 p.m., the breeze was fizzling out. Windsurfer James Shalaby hosted a small BBQ as about 10 to 15 sailors shuffled in and out of the water, and back and forth from the buffet table.

I have been casually running into these guys (and a few women) for over a decade now, usually starting around March or April and extending into October. Yesterday, seeing the crew for the first time this year, some guys told me they already had 5 to 10 days of sailing under their belts.

That’s the always-affable Jim Shalaby (center, red shirt) hosting windsurfers yesterday in Richmond. And that’s Jim McGrath, a BCDC commissioner, in the wetsuit talking to Shalaby.
© 2019 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Tim

It was my first day of the season.

Officially known as the Point Isabel Water Access and Shoreline Restoration Project, the improvements were first proposed in 2002 in the Eastshore State Park General Plan. Construction at “Isabel” (its colloquial handle among sailors) began late last summer. There were numerous “cognizant agencies” involved in the project, but we’d like to tip our hats to the Bay Conservation and Development Commission, or BCDC, for helping to make this happen.

Another old vs. new contrast. The new concrete on the right is just above the high-tide line, which prevents the growth of “green slime” found on other ramps. The slime can be as slick as ice, and is absolutely treacherous to walk on — especially for windsurfers carrying gear.
© 2019 David Fielder

Perhaps the most involved windsurfer in the Point Isabel project was David Fielder. “He’s our activist,” another sailor told me last year. Initially, Fielder lobbied the East Bay Regional Parks District (EBRPD) Board in 2015 to plan and fund the Isabel project; he subsequently helped ensure that the final design met the needs of the windsurfing community. “That kind of advocacy — of who knows what’s what — is critical,” Fielder told me. He also started an email group among the East Bay crew soliciting feedback during the public comment period, as well as keeping everyone updated and documenting the project.

The tireless David Fielder has been a champion for windsurfing in the East Bay.
© 2019 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Tim

Fielder also made sure to credit the SF Bay Water Trail, specifically Ben Botkin (who was at the BBQ) as well as the California State Coastal Conservancy. “Both organizations were key project funding sources, although I believe the EBRPD put in most of the money.”

The new launch represents Phase 1 of the Point Isabel project, which is estimated to take six years to complete. Next on the agenda is more parking. And next in line for an upgrade is the “other” East Bay windsurfing spot: the Berkeley launch at the now-boarded-up Hs Lordships. Stay tuned for our reporting on the fate of Berkeley’s waterfront infrastructure — and some of the characters that windsurf in the East Bay — in a future issue of Latitude. 

The agencies that made this project happen are too numerous to name here. We will give proper kudos in a future story.

There were still a few puffs coming though yesterday afternoon, so I decided to take a lap or two. I was mostly “slogging,” or not planing, but all it took was one decent gust — as I was headed toward Craneway Pavilion — to get things going. And so it starts: I trade obsessing over snow reports for obsessing over wind reports.

Let the Bay Area’s windy season begin.

This story has been updated.

YRA Strikes Southampton from Racing Marks List

Bob Walden, president of the Yacht Racing Association’s In-the-Bay Series, writes, “YRA is adding the Southampton Shoal as a restricted area (200 feet around) for YRA races due to the hazardous condition of the old platform pilings.” The YRA is removing the platform from its list of designated race marks on San Francisco Bay.

Southampton Shoals platform
This drone shot taken at low tide shows just how ugly old Southie has become.
© 2019 OCSC

The YRA lists the Southampton Shoal platform as Mark #14. Berkeley Yacht Club had it on their list of marks for the Rollo Wheeler Regatta on April 6, which also served as YRA Summer #1. BYC advised the fleet during a postponement that they would be using Southampton as the first windward mark in the first race of the day.

Bob hailed the race committee from his Cal 39 Sea Star and pointed out how dangerously decrepit the old lighthouse platform had become. Some of its pilings have toppled over and lurk just beneath the water’s surface. Racers from Richmond YC pointed out that their beer can races now round the Bob Klein Buoy, a bit to the north of the old platform, for this very reason. The race committee switched to a completely different course before going into sequence. (We’ll have more on the Wheeler Regatta in Racing Sheet in the May issue of Latitude 38.)

Kira rounds the mark
Southampton has long served as a ‘fixed mark’ for races on San Francisco Bay. Here, the Cal 33 Kira prepares to round it to port in an SSS Corinthian Race.
© 2019 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Chris

Bay Area: Where to Bring Your Old Sailing Gear

In the March issue’s Letters, Steve Grealish of South Beach asked: “I have accumulated a lot of marine gear that clogs our boat and my garage. Are there good places to donate things like lifejackets, foul weather gear, used lines and tired sails? I’ve tried youth programs but didn’t get much interest. Any suggestions?”

Got old sails? Old lifejackets? Old gear? Got taxes to pay and need a write off? Consider donating to BAADS.
© 2019 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Tim

Yes, Steve.

“I read Steve Grealish’s letter in the March issue,” wrote Jim Staley. “May I respectfully and enthusiastically suggest donating to the Bay Area Association of Disabled Sailors (BAADS), a nonprofit association of volunteers dedicated to empowering, training and supporting sailors in the disabled community? BAADS operates out of South Beach, and would be a fantastic local group to benefit from donations. I’d be happy to assist coordinating a donation, or Steve can contact us through our website”

Thanks to both Jim and Steve for your inquiries.

How Do You Dispose of Old Line?

Latitude Nation — What do you do with old line? Really old line? We’re not talking about something that can be donated to a second-hand pile, or even gifted to a new sailor on a tight budget. We’re talking about line that is breaking down at the atomic level.

We’re talking about line whose innards are spilling out, revealing its sinewy intestines. This former jib halyard served us well, but its days of raising and lowering sails are over.
© 2019 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Tim

We’re talking about line that is flaking like it has chronic dandruff, or shedding like a reptile. We’re talking about line that can no longer be classified nor serve as line.

Are there eco-minded sailors out there who can clue us in on the most responsible way to dispose of synthetic line? We’re reluctant to throw it into the garbage and have it decay — along with all the other plastic that will be decomposing for eons — in a landfill.

Artistically minded sailors — is there an artsy way to repurpose old line? Does anyone, like, make bracelets from the inner core?

Please let us know.

Match Race Finals
Both French teams — top-ranked Women’s Division skipper Pauline Courtois and Open Division skipper Maxime Mesnil — and defending Nations Cup Women’s champion Nicole Breault scored all picket fences on the first day of racing on Wednesday at the 2019 World Sailing Nations Cup.
Buy or Sell Marine Gear
Nautical Swap Meet at Owl Harbor on May 4 from 8 a.m. to noon. Free space and free entry.
Cruiser's Rally
If you'll be cruising south this fall, and intending to do the Baja Ha-Ha, the Grand Poobah highly recommends that you mark noon on May 8 on your calendar. For that's the moment entries will first be accepted for the event, and berth space in Cabo San Lucas is based on how early a boat was signed up.