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October 28, 2019

Northern California Fires Spreading Ash and Impact

The Mill Valley office of Latitude 38 is among the hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses without power in Northern California, but we recognize this is trivial compared to the impact from the fires people, homes and businesses are feeling to the north of us.

Among those on the edge of their seats are John Schulthess and Monique Boucher, who just landed in Puerto Vallarta to reunite with the Lagoon 440 Baja Fog, which they took south in last year’s Baja Ha-Ha. That’s the good part.  But John is also the owner of Windtoys, the Northern California Hobie dealer with offices in Santa Rosa. John and Monique also have a home in Windsor, which is all under threat and evacuation orders. While they are safe, their property and neighbors are under threat.

John Schulthess Lagoon 440 Baja Fog
John Schulthess and Monique Boucher made a great getaway aboard their Lagoon 440 Baja Fog during the start of last year’s 25th annual Baja Ha-Ha. They escaped again this year.
© 2019 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John

These threats are becoming all-too-familiar territory for the fall departure of the Baja Ha-Ha. While being on a boat surrounded by water may be one of the safest places to be during a firestorm, it is unsettling to leave fire-exposed friends and property behind. This happened to Rob and Nancy Novak of the San Francisco-based Oyster 485 Shindig when they lost their home in Santa Rosa while they were off cruising. We also remember, years ago, arriving at the Oakland airport to fly south to San Diego for the Baja Ha-Ha kick-off party, only to find the flights canceled because San Diego was covered in ash (as was the whole Ha-Ha fleet) from fires to the east.

Sailors trying to make their way south in October are impacted as the traditional flow of winds from the north and west, which usually provide a reliable downwind ride south, suddenly turn into easterlies, southerlies or simply disappear altogether.

Sailflow Easterlies
The sreenshot of Sailflow’s wind display of San Francisco Bay from our weather page this morning turns ‘normal’ West Coast conditions inside out.
© 2019 Sailflow
Wind on the California coast
Everything can go backward and upside down in the fall. Normally windy Point Conception is calm, normally calm Southern California is windy from the east, and you can be met with easterlies or southerlies if leaving from the north.
© 2019

We hope most Baja Ha-Ha participants are already far south and getting ready for the Baja Ha-Ha kick-off party this coming Sunday and the start the next day. We also hope the fires are brought under control and everyone left behind can get back to ‘normal’ life.

Is this the new normal?

SailGP to Return to San Francisco

SailGP will return to the US of A in 2020, with Season 2 grand prix events set for San Francisco and New York. The spectacle will return to San Francisco Bay on May 2-3 and to the Hudson River on June 12-13. The American events will serve as the second and third stops of Season 2, following its inauguration in Sydney at the end of February. Tickets will go on sale for San Francisco SailGP in January 2020, with New York to follow.

Team USA foiling past the Golden Gate Bridge
The American team foiling on S.F. Bay last May in their 50-ft catamaran.
© 2019 SailGP

The dates are good news for Bay Area racers, as the Yacht Racing Association has already announced that the Great Vallejo Race will be held on the previous weekend, April 25-26. April 26 will also be Opening Day on the Bay. (This year, racers had to choose between SailGP and the Vallejo Race on the first weekend in May.)

Rome Kirby and his all-American team won one race during Season 1, at the 2019 New York SailGP. But the Americans finished the series in sixth (last) place. They’ll be looking to add wins and climb up the rankings when they take on Season 1 champion Australia, as well as China, France, Great Britain and Japan. The league plans to add at least one additional team during Season 2.

“We were able to see American flags waving and hear the cheers of the shore-packed crowds at both US stops,” said Kirby. “It was like nothing I had experienced before, and propelled us to our first victory. I very much look forward to sharing it with home crowds in San Francisco and New York next year.”

Try to learn more, if you can, at SailGP’s website, It looks nice, but many of the links don’t work.

A Warning to Southbound Sailors

Crews heading south to Mexico this winter who’ve upgraded their nav stations with AIS and digital radar will probably feel safer than ever. But there’s one type of offshore obstacle that doesn’t subscribe to AIS and rarely if ever shows up on radar: whales.

Two humpbacks lunge feeding
Migrating whales are a common sight along the West Coast during winter. These mature humpbacks are lunge feeding.
© 2019 Cornelia Oedekoven / NOAA/GFNMS

As most West Coast sailors undoubtedly know, humpbacks and gray whales migrate south to the warm waters of Mexico in early winter and make the return trip north in spring. The odds are minuscule that your boat will accidentally hit one, but it is a remote possibility. While dolphins can dart left and right within inches of your bow without the slightest chance of making contact, whales aren’t nearly as nimble. Grays and humpbacks travel at only 5 knots, max, when in migration mode. Plus, they often sleep on the surface.

What to do? During daylight hours don’t be tempted to pass too close to them no matter how badly you want to grab some spectacular photos. And at night be sure your watchstanders keep their ears open for the telltale sound of whales’ deep, hollow breathing or spouting.

Most offshore sailors consider it a privilege to spot whales along their route, especially since they are among the largest and smartest creatures on Earth. The more you know about them, the more rewarding your offshore encounters will be. So we suggest you do a little homework in advance, while you still have online access. A good place to start is by tapping the resources of the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. There are also several informative whale apps you might want to check out, including Whale Alert, which encourages mariners to report sightings of whales offshore in order to minimize ‘ship strikes’ and other vessel contact.

With these warnings, here’s wishing you a whale of a good time on the trip south.

Alameda County Flare Collection Event

Alameda County Department of Environmental Health received a grant from the Department of Resource Recycling & Recovery (CalRecycle) in partnership with the California State Parks Division of Boating and Waterways and the California Coastal Commission for a one-day pilot collection event to get rid of expired or unwanted marine flares.

The event will be held on Sunday, November 3, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. You’ll need to schedule an appointment to find out the collection location(s). Call (800) 606-6606 or email [email protected].

Box of flares
Are your flares still good? Check the expiration dates.
© 2019 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Chris

On Saturday, November 2, San Mateo County will offer two collection sites, one on the Bay side and one on the ocean side. For information on those, see our post on October 21 at

If those dates or locations don’t work for you, contact the California Department of Toxic Substances Control at (800) 728-6942 or your local Certified Unified Program Agency for assistance.

Power’s Out, Office Is Closed

As pretty much everyone in the entire country has heard on national news by now, the power’s out at Latitude 38’s headquarters in Mill Valley. (OK, so the mainstream news outlets didn’t get that specific, but pretty much all of Marin County is blacked out.) We’re posting this today from our Delta bureau. Other Latitude staffers have dispersed to San Francisco and Richmond in order to find power and Wi-Fi. Bottom line: The office is closed, and you may experience some delays if you try to reach us today. Another possible shutoff might affect us Tuesday night into Wednesday. PG&E might not even restore in between times. We appreciate your patience!

Latitude office
The lights are out so no one’s home at Latitude 38 World Headquarters.
© 2019 Google Maps

Later this week, our office will close at 4 p.m. on Thursday, October 31, for Halloween. It’s not that we all have parties to get to — it’s because we’re in a ‘Halloween neighborhood’ and the littlest goblins venture out and about on our narrow streets before 5 p.m.

Licence to Sail
Earlier this month, we asked the Latitude Nation to share their sailing license plates.
Racing News from the Southland
News from latitudes a bit farther south crossed the Racing Desk at Latitude 38 this week.
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