July 8, 2019

Craving a Sailing Adventure Story

Randall Reeves had been in port in Halifax, Nova Scotia, for about a month, when we started losing our minds.

We didn’t realize how dependent we’d become not just on Reeves’ regular blogs, but, more to the point, on his adventure itself. Our addiction was subtle, and did not fully rear its head until Reeves had been in Halifax for weeks on end. We found ourselves wanting to see photos of waves, deep-ocean blues, and, with any luck, some shots of icebergs.

To our lasting relief, Randall Reeves is on the move again. “Eight months following wind and sea succeeded by one month tethered ashore,” Reeves posted on July 2. “Neither seems real; in both cases, time has flown. This morning, Mo tugs gently at her anchor. She is happy enough here, as am I, but she knows we must move on. Much has been accomplished but not yet the goal. The whole of the north lies between us and a return.”

Randall Reeves and Moli left Halifax with the aluminum cruising cutter Dutch, whose crew snapped this photo of him.
© 2019 Randall Reeves

Confronting our dependence on another sailor’s adventures has made us aware of a strange condition — let’s call it cyber-sailor syndrome. While it’s likely a normal condition suffered by those who spend more time on their devices than they spend under sail (which is most of us who have to hustle to afford to live on the West Coast), it’s not necessarily linked to a lack of sailing. Our entire staff was lucky enough to fully realize the four-day Independence weekend and hit the water in a big way. Once we had dried off, cracked a beer and settled in for the evening, we were just as eager (maybe even more so) to catch up on Other People’s Adventures, even with a full day of sailing under our belts.

“I didn’t wish to press on in the dark; so, we anchored for a short night of sleep,” Reeves wrote on his blog this morning. “Cape Broyle Harbor. Admiral’s Cove. 60 feet. Mud. July 6.”
© 2019 Randall Reeves

Reeves arrived in St. John’s, Newfoundland, on Saturday. As he explained in this month’s Sightings, the eastern-most tip of Canada was his original first-stop destination. Upon his approach to St. John’s, Reeves was on the lookout for ice. “Over coffee, I set myself for a long shift in the pilot house. We were entering an area where icebergs could be found. And though the latest ice report was a far cry from the one we saw before our Halifax arrival–now there were fewer bergs per square degree than fingers on one hand — I still wanted to be cautious.”

“Would we see our first ice today?” Reeves asked on his blog. “Lack of visibility seemed to answer this in the negative. But would radar pick it up? That answer appeared to come in the early afternoon by an unmoving target to the northwest. First ice of the Figure 8 seen . . . if not by eye.”
© 2019 Randall Reeves

The short leg from Halifax to St. John’s  was marked by light, pleasant winds and warm temperatures, but plagued by a few mechanical issues, including his recalcitrant alternator, and what he initially perceived as problems with his AIS; as it turns out, Reeves said, lots of fishing boats like to “go dark.” It’s not clear how long Reeves will be in St. John’s. He said that he’d like to be at Lancaster Sound, the eastern entrance to the Northwest Passage by the first week of August.

We eagerly await what’s next, as in we’ll be glued to our screens. Mind you, we have no desire to follow in Reeves’ footsteps; you won’t find any of us doing a singlehanded non-stop circumnavigation any time soon (or ever), but how we love to read about people who do. This “syndrome” is, of course, not uncommon — the percentage of adventurers out adventuring is minuscule compared to the people reading about them.

But still, we marvel at the gravitational pull toward people like Randall Reeves (the same could be said for more “attainable” adventures, like SV Delos). Even though his adventure is way out of our league, we still find that it inspires the imagination for our own smaller-scale escapades. Things that seemed impossible now seem doable.

We wanted to ask you, Latitude Nation, if you ‘suffer’ from, or are blessed with, some form of cyber-sailor syndrome. Do you find yourself anxious, even jonesing for the next blog post or video? Have adventures inspired you to try something that you previously thought insane? (Or, is there a downside to this so-called syndrome?)

Please comment below, or write us here.

‘Maiden’ Coming to a Theater Near You

When 24-year-old Tracy Edwards, a stewardess who was working on charter yachts, decided to put together an all-female boat for the 1989 Whitbread Round the World Race, the doubt, lack of financial support, and raw sexism she and the team encountered was unparalleled by anything before seen in sailing. At the time, the sport — especially the offshore racing facet — was male dominated, though not without exception. Let’s not forget that in 1851, Eleanor Creesy was navigator aboard the commercial clipper ship Flying Cloud, which set a record for fastest passage between New York to San Francisco, a benchmark that stood for 138 years.

The story of Maiden is one of triumph over adversity. Given the extraordinary strides those women had to make, we hope it’s also a story that will take its appropriate place in history. With the last running of the Volvo Ocean Race being fully co-ed, we’d like to think that the sailing world has achieved some degree of equality — though we can’t say for sure. (Ask the women’s World Cup soccer team how they feel about equity.)

Maiden is now the subject of a documentary film that’s hitting Bay Area and West Coast theaters this week.

Maiden has been making the media rounds. Tracy Edwards was recently interviewed on Fresh Air about the documentary and the ’89 Whitbread. Out The Gate Sailing’s Ben Shaw also recently interviewed Maiden crew member Amanda Swan Neal. Also aboard that historic boat — and featured in the documentary — was the Bay Area’s own Dawn Riley.

Like other adventure stories our there, the story of Maiden doesn’t necessarily represent something all of us want to actually do, but it’s an adventure that can spark our imaginations. The Latitude Movie Club will have a full review of the film in the coming weeks.

Maiden opens July 12 at: Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas in Berkeley; Century 16 Downtown in Pleasant Hill; AMC Saratoga 14 in San Jose; Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center in San Rafael.

The film opens July 19 at: Landmark’s Piedmont Theatre in Oakland; the Tower Theatre in Sacramento; United Artists Stonestown Twin in San Francisco; Landmark’s Nickelodeon Theatre in Santa Cruz; Summerfield Cinemas in Santa Rosa.

Not in the Bay Area? Not to worry — the film will be released widely around the world.

This story has been updated.

Getting It On in Antigua’s ‘Off’ Season

Though weather gurus and insurance companies declare hurricane season to ‘officially’ run from about June 1 to November 30, the peak activity is usually around September and October. Antigua Sailing Week, which happens toward the end of April, was created as a kind of last hurrah for island sailing after which most transient boats start to migrate north or south to get out of the hurricane belt and comply with their insurance companies’ requirements. The combination creates the impression that no sensible sailor would visit after Sailing Week.

Despite this, locals know that May, June and July are among the best weeks to be in the islands. We visited Bay Area friends Astrid Deeth and Bo Stehlin who, with brother Paul Deeth, run The Admiral’s Inn in English Harbour. Checking out the off-season conditions, our one-week experience reminded us you should always listen to the locals.

The weather this time of year was considered nice enough that the International Optimist Class decided to bring 260 Opti sailors from 65 countries to race the  Opti Worlds July 6-16. The racing is being hosted by the Antigua Yacht Club in classic Caribbean trade winds right outside English Harbour. While we were there, the boats were arriving by the container load, and youth director Karl James of the Antigua Yacht Club plus volunteers and staff were gearing up for a busy event ahead.

Optis in Angtigua
There were few charter boats or other cruisers, but Optis competed in brisk West Indies breezes.
© 2019 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John
Optis heading out
Life looked pretty good for Opti sailors who arrived early to practice.
© 2019 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John
US Optis
Some of the US Opti sailors warm up in the warm waters of Antigua. The US team includes Samara Walshe, Gil Hackel, Jack Redmond, Thommie Grit and Tommy Sitzmann.
© 2019 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John

English and Falmouth Harbours, which are normally packed to the gills with charter boats, megayachts and cruising boats during the busy winter months, were as peaceful as could be. Many locals miss the activity, but also were happy to take a breather from the frenetic activity of the winter-sailing season. If you’re a charterer who’d like to cruise at a quieter time with more room in the anchorages and less mayhem ashore, this would be the time of year to go. This is harder to justify if you live in the Northeast, where the summer months are your cherished break from winter. But, if you’re from California or the South, this could make a lot more sense. Restaurants in Antigua do start to close down between August and November 1 so, generally, there’s still plenty of life and services ashore through July.

Antigua Sailing Academy
Top left photo: National Sailing Academy founder Elizabeth Jordan (right) and Chief Instructor Sylvester Thomas were busy with summer programs for the local, nonprofit organization.
© 2019 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John

On the Falmouth Harbour waterfront, the local National Sailing Academy of Antigua was busy with junior programs provided to the public with grants and donations from locals and visiting yachtsmen. It was started as part of the Antigua Yacht Club, but outgrew the facilities, and had to set up its own base across the harbor. Talking to founder and executive director Elizabeth Jordan, the Academy sounded like the many community sailing programs on the Bay — with one exception. Because of the scale of the Antigua sailing industry, they teach sailing not only as a form of recreation, but as a way to learn about the environment or gain the skills to turn it into a career path.There are many locals who started sailing with the Antigua Yacht Club or the Academy who are now crew on the many large yachts that pass through, or who are involved in the local marine trades providing services to the many visiting vessels.

In the Bay Area, we’re used to teaching sailing for racing or pleasure, while the local marine industry is left to its own devices when looking for skilled tradespeople and crew. Incorporating the possibility of a sailing career in youth sailing could provide a valuable service to local marine businesses and a beneficial option for youth program participants.

The Dockyard at English Harbor
In season, the wall along the Dockyard at English Harbour would be packed with large yachts, but it was all quiet, save the 260 Optis preparing for the Worlds. In the background, most yachts are either hauled or in the mangroves for the season.
© 2019 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John

During our stay, the weather was as good as it gets. Plenty of sunshine, warm temperatures and fresh trade winds to keep it all comfortable. We daysailed Paul Deeth’s California-built Columbia 5.5 Iris J, swam an almost empty Freeman’s Bay at the mouth of English Harbour, hiked the hills, and climbed to Shirley Heights for the sunset and steel band — which still collected crowds for the Thursday- and Sunday-evening events. The sailing scene didn’t have the energy of the conga lines, wet T-shirt contests and copious rum drinks that traditionally accompany Antigua Sailing Weeks of the past, but the tropic heat, beat and vibe make for an idyllic alternative Caribbean cruising season.

Quite times in English Harbor
The view from the hills is probably surreal to high-season cruisers. Normally, Falmouth and English harbours would be full of masts and megayachts.
© 2019 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John
Shirley Heights Antigua
Despite the off-season, there are still enough people to fill up Shirley Heights at sunset.
© 2019 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John

Finding time to sail Antigua in the off season seems like a perfect idea. There are charter boats available for significant discounts off peak-season rates, the weather is ideal, the trade winds are still blowing, and even Opti sailors are handily managing the wind and seas in their eight-foot prams. For those of us from the Bay Area, if Antigua in the off season fits your calendar, we think it looks like the perfect time to escape San Francisco’s Mark Twain ‘winter.’

Delta Doo Dah Bash This Weekend

The Delta Doo Dah promised to “turn it up to 11” this year, and various friends new and old will help us live up to that promise on Saturday, July 13.

Delta Bay Marina, off the San Joaquin River on the Delta Loop, will host a shindig that just keeps ramping up. We hope you’ll join us from noon to 4 p.m. for BBQ and tasting of local wines. The BBQ will be free to Doo Dah fleet members. A $10 donation for wine tasting will benefit a local charity. Rio Vista artist, sailor and Doo Dah vet Robbie Murphree Gabriel has organized a Delta ArtFest featuring exhibits by 20 artists. Starting at 2 p.m, singer/songwriter Michael McNevin will lead a jam session. He’ll bring amps and mics; musicians, bring your instruments.

At 4 p.m., Bill Wells will present a seminar about the maritime history of the Bay and Delta river route. He’ll share photos dating back to the early 20th century. Bill is the executive director of the California Delta Chambers and the author of the Delta Rat column in Bay & Delta Yachtsman magazine.

aerial view of Delta Bay
Delta Bay Marina is along the San Joaquin River on Isleton’s Delta Loop.
© 2019 Delta Bay Marina

All that’s needed to make this event something really memorable is you. If you’re coming by water, be sure to reserve a slip with our host, harbormaster Eric Chiu, at (916) 777-4153. If you need to come by land, no worries; parking is free. The address is 922 W. Brannan Island Road, Isleton.

If you haven’t already signed up for the Delta Doo Dah, please do so by July 11 so that we include you as a member of our fleet. It’s free, quick and easy to register at www.deltadoodah.com.

Cruiser's Rally
Based on the fact that Glory, Jennifer Frost and John Sweeney’s San Francisco-based Chance 55, became the 103rd paid Baja Ha-Ha entry in early June, it appears that the 2019 Ha-Ha fleet will be another robust one.
Preaching to the Choir?
The American Sailing Association wants to energize folks to start sailing by proclaiming this July the first-ever Learn to Sail Month. For every new sailing lesson purchased in July at one of their 350 certified schools nationwide, the ASA will make a donation to Sailors for the Sea and their mission to save the oceans.