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April 19, 2019

Normally We Love Seeing Whales on the Bay

One of the many great things about sailing San Francisco Bay is the frequent whale sightings the past few years. They’ve returned in force. Their spouts, breaches, tails and flukes are fun to see — except for times like the J/105 Jam Sessions’s rudder-disabling collision with a whale during the Three Bridge Fiasco, and, sadly, the occasional sighting of a dead whale. Matthew Sessions came across just such a scene. He was thus reminded of why you should never sail downwind of a deceased whale without holding your nose. They spotted this whale about 300 meters from Southampton Shoal heading southbound in the ebb.

Whale on the Bay
After a winter of watching plenty of debris wash out of the mountains you still have to keep an eye out for obstacles arriving from the ocean.
© 2019 Elena Stephens

Matthew, with friends Mike and Elena Stephens, was out for a Sunday Bay tour on his new-to-him Freedom 36 Swan, which he’s joined as one of four partners sailing out of San Francisco Yacht Club. When not pleasure-sailing aboard Swan, Matthew races in events like the Corinthian Friday Night Races aboard the J/124 Good Call, or with — or against — son Nick, who’s been burning it up on the race course.

Freedom 36 Swan
When not racing, Sessions has found a good partnership for cruise mode.
© 2019 Matthew Sessions

Curious about whales? The American Cetacean Society meets monthly at the Bay Model in Sausalito. A great place to learn more and get answers to your questions.

Big Dinghy, Little Crash

Following last weekend’s Big Dinghy Regatta, hosted by Richmond Yacht Club, Laser sailor Emilio Castelli posted this video on YouTube.

“Leaky Lena survived another adventure,” he wrote. “She’s over 30 but still sturdy.” Like Emilio himself. You might also title this video, “When old red centerboard boats collide.” (The Laser’s hull is also red, which you can’t see from this angle.)

A Thistle sailor called the weekend one of the nicest in 30 years of racing on Southampton Shoal. The fleet found no breeze at the docks and plenty of current, then a building breeze with whitecaps but also wind holes outside the harbor. The last race of the day was just plain windy. For the pursuit race around Brooks Island on Sunday, it was blowing hard, and several boats capsized. Find results from Big Dinghy on RYC’s website, and also in Racing Sheet in the upcoming May issue of Latitude 38.

Next up on the Laser Grand Prix series, and the schedule of many other types of trailerable boats, will be Folsom Lake YC’s Camellia Cup on April 27-28.

The Tides Have . . . Turned?

Cameron Tuttle, the former race chair at Tiburon Yacht Club and Latitude 38 reader, has a question. He saw a Facebook post from Bay Area PRO guru Jeff Zarwell, who described the rigors of running the Nations Cup Grand Final during some bizarre tides.

“The Nations Cup . . . a world championship in match racing with 19 teams, match after match after match,” Zarwell wrote on Monday. “I have no idea how many matches we actually got off, but when you figure racing started at 10 each morning, and didn’t stop until 6 in the evening, that alone sounds like a lot.”

J/22s match racing
A semifinals match-up during the World Sailing Nations Cup last Saturday, hosted by St. Francis Yacht Club in J/22s.
© 2019 Amanda Witherell

“To make it even more challenging,” Zarwell continued, “a normal tide cycle is a little over six hours. Because of rain runoff and dams like Oroville releasing over a billion gallons of water, we actually had tidal changes every two hours, causing us to have to stop and completely re-set the race course every couple of hours. It was the most challenging course to manage that I have ever encountered.”

Tides table graph
The tide tables from last weekend don’t tell the full story of what was going on in the Bay.

Tuttle said that he had been observing some aberrant tides.

“I’ve been noticing that the tides aren’t exactly as predicted lately,” Tuttle wrote us, “and did attribute it to the runoff, but I can’t quite get my head around the physics and hydraulics that result in such a dramatic a change in periodicity of the tides. I’m wondering if anyone else out there in Latitude Nation has also observed what Jeff is speaking to, and if someone can offer a technical explanation.”

We are calling on Kame Richards, Max Ebb (and, like, Lee Helm) and any hydrometeorology aficionados for some answers. Please write us here, or comment below.

Coast Guard Open House Tomorrow

Bodega Bay surf training
Coast Guard motor lifeboat crews from Station Bodega Bay conduct surf training with a 47-ft motor lifeboat. They were taking advantage of a swell that brought consistent 15-ft surf to the area.
© 2019 USCG

Coast Guard Station Bodega Bay, located at 355 Doran Beach Rd., and Cutter Sockeye invite members of the public to an open house tomorrow. This Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., visitors will have the opportunity to tour USCG boats and aircraft, observe search and rescue demonstrations, and meet local Coast Guard members. Spokespersons will also be available to answer questions about missions in the area.

“We’re proud to serve this community,” said Senior Chief Petty Officer Jeremiah Wolf, Station Bodega Bay’s officer-in-charge. “We hope the public takes this opportunity to come out and learn about the Coast Guard’s role in maritime safety and security along the California coast and meet some of our awesome partner agencies.”

Visitors will have the opportunity to tour USCG boats and a helicopter, as well as other assets and equipment used by the Coast Guard and partner agencies. The event will be kid-friendly, including games. For more info, call (707) 875-3596.

Alameda Community Sailing Center
While volunteers at Alameda Community Sailing Center were getting their space ready for the recent Spring Sailing Camp at their Encinal Boat Ramp location, they saw the need to do something about all the weeds that have grown in the boat storage area.
A Dog's Way Home
Workers on an oil rig in the Gulf of Thailand were astonished to spot a dog swimming toward the structure last Friday — especially so, since the rig lies 135 miles from the nearest land.