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November 27, 2019

Let #optsailing Turn Black Friday into Blue Friday

After our long-overdue first seasonal rain, our boats have finally had a Mother Nature-provided rinse to get them ready for a Thanksgiving sail. Over the past decades, Thanksgiving weekend has transformed from a family celebration of gratitude into a celebration of rampant consumerism.

Fortunately, you can #optsailing.

The beauty of having access to sailing is leaving all that mayhem ashore and spending a quiet day on the Bay with the seals, migrating whales, harbor porpoises and, most of all, friends.

Last weekend we found dozens of boats taking it easy with a friendly, relaxed sail on the Bay. Furling jib only? Why not? It’s easy on you and your friends.

We went sailing both days last weekend with light air and cool temps, but it was an overall pleasant time on the water. Both days were the basic, classic ‘cruise to nowhere’; it was nice to just be out with friends, catching up, seeing the sights, and enjoying the Bay Area’s magnificent Bay.

Hakuna Matata
Hakuna Matata had the same idea. Beautiful day, let’s go sailing.
We cruised by Carter Cassel just as he and his crew were furling sails on the Alma.
© 2019 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John
Sailing San Francisco Bay
The 12-month California sailing season and a favorable forecast for Friday gives everyone the opportunity to #optsailing before the rain returns on the weekend.
© 2019 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John
San Francisco Yacht Club Youth Sailing
Winter sailing is for everyone. The San Francisco Yacht Club youth program comes home after a day on the water last Sunday.
© 2019 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John
Brisk sailing Scarlet Fire
The Beneteau Ocean 41 Scarlet Fire found a nice breeze in Raccoon Strait.
© 2019 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John
SFYC Opti Sailor
Friday #optsailing is for all ages, too.
© 2019 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John
Sailing Smiles
The sun is lower, the air cooler, the breeze lighter, but being on the Bay always brings a smile.
© 2019 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John

For the long weekend of gratitude after our first blustery rain, make sure you find some time to hoist those sails. The 2019 Northern California Sailing Calendar shows that Tiburon Yacht Club will host Friday’s only scheduled event with their Wild Turkey race in the North Bay. Saturday doesn’t have any events scheduled at all, and on Sunday there is the Berkeley Yacht Club Chowder Series, the Sausalito Yacht Club Midwinter #2 and the first Small-Boat Midwinter at the Richmond Yacht Club. With so little racing, it means the Bay will be one of the least crowded places in the Bay Area and one of the greatest escapes you can have close to home.

Have a great Thanksgiving, and, if you #optsailing this weekend, send us some shots of your time on the water. It’s time you won’t regret.

Lia Ditton’s Tenacious Row Down the West Coast

Here’s a dispatch from sailor-turned-ocean-rower Lia Ditton‘s human-powered trek from Washington state. She rowed more than 700 nautical miles in 24 days, down the Oregon and California coasts to the Bay Area.

“What the hell are you thinking? You’re a brave soul!” a fisherman shouts as I row out the channel and head for the infamous Columbia River bar. I fight to get my oars in and out of the water as the GPS tracks 8.75 knots over the ground. Birds swoop around me in the pre-dawn. Next stop, San Francisco!

Crossing the infamous Columbia River Bar.
© 2019 Lia Diton

On night number one in the open ocean, I glimpse a shark in my headlamp. My imagination is playing tricks I assume, but the shark — or sharks — returns in the morning. By the afternoon, there are three 10-ft sharks circling my boat! How do I feel about this? I decide the best way to cope is to talk to them. “I am sorry about the toothpaste juice,” I say before I spit over the side. “It’s Tom’s from Maine. Ingredients are organic. Maybe you’ve been to Maine?”

My foot catches the handle of my oar and I jump out of my skin. I am about to try and sleep with a shark under my bed. Have you ever tried to sleep with an actual shark under your bed? I start writing a future children’s book. ‘The Shark Under My Bed.’ It goes, “Child: There’s a shark under my bed. Adult: what is the shark doing under your bed? Child: He’s eating fish. Adult: What kind of fish? Child: Tuna fish.” I fall asleep.

“Pardon me, but have you by chance ever been to Maine?”
© 2019 Lia Ditton

For three days I row south and lose ground to the north when I rest. I am caught in a counterclockwise current. The question is how to escape. How far south or west or east do I need to row? A professor from Oregon State University rightly advises me to row northwest, against the prevailing wind.

Some interesting-looking conditions somewhere between Oregon and California.
© 2019 Lia Ditton

Once free of the eddy, I am under siege from squalls. The sky is littered with grey pouches with streaks running to the horizon. In between are rainbows and great white sharks leaping, prey dangling from their jaws. The scene is surreal, like the Hieronymus Bosch painting The Garden of Earthly Delights. And this was ‘just’ supposed to be a training row!

At the Oregon-California border, I get run over by a storm. For five hours I am on sea anchor wedged inside my cabin, listening to what sounds like the boat being gradually ripped apart. When the wind eases I pop out on deck to find a US aircraft carrier standing by at a respectful distance. I imagine the conversation onboard: “A person has emerged on deck. It’s a woman!” Quickly, they are gone.

“Me, riding-out-the-storm, taking an Addam’s Family-esque selfie,” said Lia.
© 2019 Lia Ditton

Days of huge swells roll under my boat before the wind clocks to the NW and I can make progress south again. ‘This could be heaven or this could be hell.’ I play the song Hotel California by the Eagles.

I begin covering 60 miles per day — in a 21-ft rowboat! — the wind ratcheting up into the high thirties. The North Pacific high is pressed against the coast, and a week of gale force winds stretches ahead of me. On deck I struggle with feelings of fear. I remind myself that I am in the best possible craft for the conditions. “Do your flotsam thing, babe!” I pat my boat before going to sleep. It’s a tribute to the design and build that, when left to drift, my boat tracks beautifully down monstrous waves.

Note the ‘whitecap’ — or breaking wave — in the near distance.
© 2019 Lia Ditton

The next day and the next day, waves crash against my boat and fizzle into spume. Epic. Beautiful. Frightening as hell. The waves are loud; the spray fierce . . . and all the while, there is a mounting problem. My US visa will soon expire! To reach land, I have to cross the continental shelf. Cross the shelf in breaking seas in 40 knots of wind? You’d have to be out of your mind. What kind of horror show was that going to be? Mexico starts to look like an appealing option . . . only another 700 miles of rowing south!

Lia enjoys a moment of placidity on the Pacific.
© 2019 Lia Ditton

Every day I row east perpendicular to the waves. The exposure is exhausting and a foul wave could break an oar, or worse, an arm. Sometimes I blast music. “We wake up. We row. This is just a normal day.” I coach myself out of the rising sense of panic, as the wave tops become transparent, wine-bottle green.

As I near the Bay Area, I head for the shelf. An 80-ft wave roars away from me. I row amongst 60-ft waves. The sun begins to set, and in order to stay off Cordell Bank (150 feet compared to the 10,000 feet of the continental shelf) I calculate I need to row non-stop through the night. I close my eyes and try to row blind between breaking waves. Impossible, foolish even to try, especially skirting the shipping lanes.

Lia DItton during a stretch of calmer-looking conditions.
© 2019 Lia Ditton

The setting sun kisses the horizon. Have I left it too late to clear the west side of Cordell Bank? I head back out to sea as fast as I can. I row for my life, I row with everything I can give and then when the night is pitch black and I can row no more, I sink to my knees and pray.

I skirt the bank. Miraculously, the wind switches off and I wake up shivering and sore. I remember being knocked down, the boat side-slammed by a white wall of water. Exhausted, I tell my shore team that I can’t make San Francisco. I can’t do it. Let’s aim for Monterey. Four hours of sleep later I change my mind.

“What is wrong with you Lia?” I ask myself. “Why don’t you ever quit?” For the next two days, I row 25-30-mile days, rowing for 12 hours non-stop. The human body is amazing.

Lia Ditton’s slow trek from Portland, Oregon, to San Francisco Bay.
© 2019 Lia Ditton

Then there it is: the south tower, the support arms stretching across the middle and the Golden Gate Bridge towering before me. I expect to cry. Instead I am overjoyed. I soak in the familiar sound of the horn off Point Diablo, the rumble of traffic over the bridge, and as I turn the corner into the Bay, I can hardly believe myself what I have just endured.

Recognition for an Amazing Rescue Story

On Sunday, November 3, PICYA bestowed awards for 2019 at Encinal Yacht Club in Alameda. Significant among them was the Meritorious Service Award. PICYA awards the Individual Meritorious Service Plaque to any person, regardless of their affiliation, who has performed exceptional acts of rescue and aid in saving of life and/or property in the age-old tradition of the sea.

On the evening of July 19, around 2145 hours, Michelle Norman, a resident of Coast Guard Station Rio Vista housing, along the Sacramento River, was lying in bed and heard cries for help from an open bedroom window. She jumped out of bed to inform her husband, Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class Seaver Norman. He ran out of his house and headed to the station to alert the duty crew. Two CG boats got underway by 2153. Seaver followed the SAR crews down to the dock to help vector the boats to where he thought the cries were originating. After going to the dock, he realized he could no longer hear the cries for help. His wife Michelle was able to hear them from the bank.

With the help of Michelle, Seaver was able to successfully direct the boats with a flashlight to two people in the water. The small fishing boat they had been on began taking on water in the stern and sank within a matter of minutes. They had only enough time to try to don their lifejackets (incorrectly). When the rescue boats arrived on scene, both individuals were having trouble keeping their heads above the choppy water. They told the rescue crews that they would have drowned if the rescuers had not reached them. The Coast Guard crew recovered the first PIW (Person in the Water) by 2200. They recovered the second PIW three minutes later. They took the two to nearby Delta Marina for medical evaluation and to be reunited with family.

three people with trophy and plaque
Left to right: USCG Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class Seaver Norman, his wife Michelle Norman, and Patti Mangan. Patti was there representing South Beach YC, which nominated Michelle for the award.
© 2019 Milt Smith

The PICYA Safety Committee considers recommendations for this award when received on a letterhead of a PICYA-member club and signed by a flag officer. This is limited to the total geographic area represented by the member clubs, not to exceed 35 miles offshore. The recommendation should include a date, time, and description of the incident; the location, weather and water conditions; and names of the rescued and persons performing the service; plus all pertinent factors. Of value also is supporting information such as press clippings, radio transcripts and accounts by witnesses, if available.

Learn more about PICYA, the Pacific Inter-Club Yacht Association, at

A Heaping Helping of Holiday Happenings

Santa Sightings

On the slopes, Santa arrives on skis during the holiday season. So it’s fitting that at the shore, Santa arrives by water.

In Petaluma, Santa will arrive in the Petaluma River Turning Basin by riverboat at 11:30 a.m. on November 30. Shortly thereafter, he’ll use some of that Santa magic to get to Capitola and surf onto the beach aboard an outrigger canoe at noon.

Lighted Boat Parades

Lighted boat parades proliferate in December. We keep collecting more events to add to the list.

Sunday, December 1:
Monterey Lighted Boat Parade, Monterey Peninsula Yacht Club, 5:30-8 p.m.

Friday, December 6:
Lighted Boat Parade in Benicia.

Lighted sailboat
Decked out for the holidays, lighted boats parade up and down the San Rafael Canal.
© 2019 San Rafael Lighted Boat Parade

Saturday, December 7:

Sunday, December 8 and 15:
Parade of Lights, San Diego, 5 p.m. Theme: Comic-Con on the Bay.

Friday, December 13:
Decorated Boat Parade, San Francisco, 6 p.m. Anita Rock to Pier 39 to St. Francis YC. Organized by StFYC.

Spectators along the Sausalito waterfront.
© 2019

Saturday, December 14:

Saturday, December 21:
Lighted Boat Parade, Coyote Point, San Mateo, 5:30 p.m. Viewing along the levee and the berm in front of CPYC. Followed by holiday treats and music at CPYC and special guests arriving by boat. Dinner available at the club.

But First, Thanksgiving!

After today, we’re outta here for the rest of the week. The Latitude 38 office will be closed Thursday-Sunday. We’ll distribute the December issue on Monday, December 2. Happy Thanksgiving!

December Issue Sneak Peek
Stacy the bow gal on the Express 37 'Bullet' wrangles the spinnaker at the very-light-air downwind start of Golden Gate Yacht Club's Seaweed Soup Midwinters. We'll cover that and much more in the December issue of Latitude 38, coming out on Monday, December 2.
The Happiest Day?
How does the saying go? “The best days of a boatowner’s life are the day you buy the boat, and the day you sell it.”
Sponsored Post
Westwind Washing, Waxing, Varnishing. Serving the Bay Area for more than 25 years.
Young Sailors Write
Are you a sailor and still in grade school or high school? Do you get back to the dock and all you can do is talk about what happened out there?
Racing Preview
Regular readers of 'Lectronic may notice that our racing preview for December is a bit shorter than other months, but we do have a few events to share.