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April 24, 2019

Peruvian Tall Ship ‘Union’ Headed for the Bay

Early Friday morning, the Peruvian tall ship Union will sail under the Golden Gate Bridge. For those of you early birds out there, the Union is expected to hit the Bay at approximately 7:15 a.m. on the 26th. At 378-ft, the Union is a newish training ship for the Peruvian Navy staffed with 210 crew.

The Union will surely be a sight to see on the Bay.
© 2019 Captain!

The Union will be at pier 15-17 at the Embarcadero, and open to the public from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on April 27 and 28. The ship will depart on Monday, April 29 at 8 a.m.

“The Sailing School Ship carries 106 Cadets in their final year of Naval Academy,” a press release said. “Union is a tall ship Ambassador to Peru, sailing to expose cadets to other countries and cultures while giving them hands-on exposure to traditional sailing.” Union’s mission is to teach cadets how to sail without electronics, how to work as a team and how to appreciate life at sea. “Cadets embark on this sail as one of their final rites of passage before graduating to junior officer status.”

Union is on a 14,500-nautical-mile voyage — she’s arriving from San Diego and will be sailing on to Vancouver.

‘Voyage of Inspiration’ Reaches Japan

On Saturday, blind sailor Hiro Iwamoto  accomplished his dream and made the 6,000- mile crossing from San Diego to Fukushima, Japan, aboard Dream Weaver, an Island Packet 40. As we reported in the March issue of Latitude, Hiro, along with his crew and visual navigator Doug Smith, departed from California on February 24 to make the “first blind, nonstop Pacific crossing,” according to the Japanese Blind Sailing Association.

Hiro Iwamoto, foreground, and Doug Smith practiced for their Pacific crossing before leaving San Diego for Japan in February.
© 2019 Voyage of Inspiration

This was Hiro’s second attempt at the crossing. His first was an ill-fated attempt in 2013 when his boat was hit by a blue whale during a typhoon. Although the crew was safely rescued, the boat was lost.

When addressing Japan’s Kyodo News Agency at Iwaki Sun Marina, Hiro said that completing the challenge was a “dream come true. I’m the happiest person on Earth!”

The goal of the trip is not only to break down barriers about disability, but also to give hope to the Fukushima victims of the 2011 tsunami.

The Mysteries of Renaming a Boat

Last week, Berkeley Yacht Club commodore Mark Bird sent out a note reminding the club’s membership that once again this year, in the over 100-year tradition of Opening Day on the Bay, the blessing of the fleet and boat-naming ceremonies will be conducted all over the Greater San Francisco Bay.  BYC has sponsored boat-naming ceremonies for 80 of those years. Commodore Mark has honored me by requesting that I conduct our ceremonies this Sunday, since I’m a salty notorious captain with a loud voice.

There seems to be a great deal of mystery around how to name a boat.


Is changing your boat’s name bad luck?

Renaming a yacht is, of course, not something to be done lightly. Since the beginning of time, sailors have sworn that there are unlucky ships and the unluckiest ships of all are those who have defied the gods and changed their names. So, the caveat is to do it correctly.

Can you rename your boat?

There is a lot of superstition around renaming a boat, and for good reason. Fortunately, properly renaming a boat is not impossible if you follow a systematic process. Before you rename a boat at a christening ceremony, you must systematically remove/cover all instances of the boat’s old identity. More about this in a moment.

How do you christen or rename a boat?

We usually start by pouring champagne overboard to appease Neptune, while splashing some on the boat hull. An alternative is to smash a bottle of champagne on the boat hull, bow, or dolphin striker, so Neptune and the boat both get their appropriate portions. Then, while you’re surrounded by family and friends, name your yacht as if it was the first time.

Dock party
Perhaps because Richmond YC’s commodore has instructed all boats to go out sailing on Opening Day, this Alerion Express 28 celebrated her renaming and christening on April 20. Her previous owners had named her Ditzy.
© 2019 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Chris

Why do we even name boats?

There should be great significance in the naming of a boat. Naming a sea vessel is an important tradition before the inaugural launch of the ship. The majority of vessels are named after important figures, men and women, historical or personal, with the names often including important persons in the captain’s or owner’s life.

What is bad luck on a boat?

Women were said to bring bad luck on board because they distracted the sailors from their sea duties in the days of old. This kind of behavior angered the intemperate seas, which would take their revenge out on the ship. Sailors of today maintain that bringing bananas on board is bad luck, and not presumably because of the chance you might slip on a banana peel and go overboard, but because you’ll incur the wrath of the God of the Fruit Flies

Why are champagne bottles smashed on boat hulls anyway?

A ceremonial ship launching is the process of transferring a vessel to the water. The process also involves many traditions intended to invite good luck, such as christening by breaking a sacrificial bottle of champagne over the bow as the ship is named aloud and launched.

So, how are ships named?

The names for new military ships are personally decided by the Secretary of the Navy. Cruisers were named for cities, while destroyers came to be named for American naval leaders and heroes, as today’s destroyers are still named. Starting in 1931, submarines were named for “fish and denizens of the deep.”

Zenaida transom art
The Alerion’s new owner, Fred Paxton, named her Zenaida (a genus of doves) and commissioned the beautiful transom art. She was in boat-show condition for her big celebration.
© 2019 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Chris

Preparing for the Ceremony

About de-naming/renaming ceremonies this coming Opening Day:

I cannot say enough how important it is to remove every item with the previous name before doing anything, while preparing for your yacht’s de-naming/renaming ceremonies. If you don’t, and you find one small thing — a floating key ring perhaps — we will have to perform the ceremony in its entirety all over again, and go buy more champagne. And, as it does make for great pictures, a wonderful feel of tradition, and a good time, it does take away from the time you could be enjoying your new boat on the water.

How do you prepare for your boat’s renaming ceremony this coming Sunday?

  1. Provide lots of liquid spirits for your guests: soft drinks, beer, wine, rum and other loved adult beverages.
  2. Provide lots of food available for all of your guests to eat.
  3. A silver dollar — the older the better!
  4. Bottles of champagne for the Gods of the Seas and your guests.
  5. Red wine for the final blessing.
  6. Your ship’s bell for ringing.

Readers — We hope that BYC will send us photos of their ceremonies on Sunday; we’re curious about the red wine and the ship’s bell. If you participate in a boat renaming or christening ceremony this Sunday in observance of Opening Day, please let us know. — ed.

Siebel Sailors Program to Kick-Start Youth Sailing

We’ve always loved people who can’t get enough of sailing — or sailboats. Tom Siebel has been one of those people. His success founding Siebel Systems has allowed him to create a life in which almost unlimited sailing has been possible. This passion for sailing led to the accumulation of an enormous variety of boats. So much that he was at times ahead of Jim Clark for the title Owner of the Longest Cumulative Total Feet of Epic Sailing Yachts (OLCTFESY).

In the Bay Area, the boats have included the J/125 Tyr, sailed for fun in Corinthian Yacht Club beer can races. The MOD70 Orion has scorched the Bay in the Rolex Big Boat Series and Ronstan Bridge to Bridge. Farther afield the sailing fleet has included a 45-ft high-tech cat kept mostly in Mexico, the stunning J Class sloop Svea, and a Swan 60, 90 and 110. We understand that Siebel is cutting back on boats, with some of the fleet currently up for sale.

MOD70 Orion
Tom Siebel’s MOD70 Orion has been one of the Bay Area’s largest, fastest multihulls.
© 2019 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Chris

However, that does not mean he’s cutting back on his dedication to sailing. In fact, US Sailing has just announced the Siebel Sailors Program, described as a landmark community sailing program made possible by a groundbreaking donation from the Thomas and Stacey Siebel Foundation. The program’s purpose is to increase opportunity and diversity in the sport of sailing by providing resources and support to youth at public-access centers across the country.

The program aims to increase access to sailing for youth, regardless of socioeconomic background, a goal of US Sailing. With the help of the Siebel Sailors Program, US Sailing will provide fleets of boats (they selected the RS Feva XL), equipment and expert coaching at community sailing centers. The program will significantly enhance community sailing center offerings, advanced skill development, and competitive opportunities for youngsters.

This feeds into a shift in US Sailing’s focus on competitive sailing to include more diversity in the sailors they’re attracting, as well as diversity in the types of sailing they support. Recreational and adventure sailing are all most sailors need to enjoy time on the water. But, as US Sailing’s Olympic FAST center headed by Malcolm Paige attests, Olympic success is still a significant part of the mix, bringing new talent and opportunities to the Bay Area.

“US Sailing is thrilled about the generous donation from Tom and Stacey Siebel. We are excited to be launching this game-changer for community sailing, as we engage with a growing audience of youth sailors,” said Jack Gierhart, CEO of US Sailing. “The Siebel Sailors Program allows US Sailing to increase diversity in the sport and work more closely with community sailing centers around the country to offer opportunities for youth who are looking to advance their skills and learn from the top coaches.”

Youth Sailing
Who’s going to benefit from all this high-level planning and activity? Kids at water level. That’s a good thing.
© 2019 Treasure Island Sailing Center

Throughout 2019 and 2020, US Sailing will select qualified community sailing centers to establish five regional Siebel Sailing Networks. In total, twenty such centers are to be established across the US in cooperation with local communities. Each center will be provided with a fleet of sailboats and associated supervision and equipment.

All of this follows on the heels of a recent US Sailing Regional Symposium held at the Sequoia Yacht Club in Redwood City, and the National Sailing Symposium attended by many West Coast program directors and instructors and reviewed with the help of tireless sailing advocate and US Sailing vice president Rich Jepsen in our April youth sailing story.

We salute Siebel’s passion, dedication and vision for the future of sailing. We also salute US Sailing for its refreshing efforts to provide opportunities for a more demographically diverse population of sailors. This also includes the 2017 establishment of the US Sailing Foundation, which allows donors, such as Siebel, to support the expanded vision. Learn more about the Siebel Sailors Program at

Daysail Destination
While Easter Island in the South Pacific is one of the world's most remote inhabited islands, Angel Island is one of the world's nearest (practically) uninhabited islands. We took advantage of a fair forecast and sunny Easter weekend weather for a Saturday escape to Angel Island.
Bay Area Racing
The foiling cats return to San Francisco Bay as SailGP’s first-ever US-held event is set to ignite the waters of San Francisco Bay.