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March 23, 2020

This Is Not the Year to Sail to Tahiti

Unfortunately, Pacific Puddle Jump Grand Poobah Andy Turpin is advising all cruisers on the West Coast to postpone their plans to sail to the South Pacific this year. In his recent newsletter to the PPJ fleet he states, “It is a cruel irony that while some crews now underway to the islands are experiencing stellar sailing conditions in the watery wilderness of the Pacific, an increase in COVID-19 cases on Tahiti has caused French Polynesian authorities to implement drastic policies toward both land-based and maritime visitors. And most other island nations in the region have closed their doors to visitors also until the COVID threat subsides.

“We expect the release of a detailed official policy statement soon, which will hopefully clarify whether individual cruisers such as you can clear in at the Marquesas (our hope), or must go directly to Tahiti. (The ARC Rally was required to do this, but it is a formal rally where all 30+ boats travel as a group. ARC boats will be moored and their crews will be ‘repatriated’ by air to their home countries.)

“Those of you now en route should be clear that no inter-island cruising will be allowed for the foreseeable future. Also, you may only be allowed a ‘pit stop’ to refuel and re-provision before moving on, or choose to leave your boat moored and fly home. Again, tomorrow we hope to have details on your options after arrival.”

Timo Vuda Marina
Timo, from Vuda Marina in Fiji, was at the Pacific Puddle Jump party at Paradise Village Marina in Nuevo Vallarta. He was looking forward to greeting arriving cruisers. Probably not this year.

“If you are in a ‘holding pattern’ in Las Perlas, Banderas Bay or elsewhere, we strongly encourage you not to make the crossing this year, at least for the next few months. Sadly, if you do, it will not be the cruising experience that you have been dreaming about.”

This is certainly not the news Puddle Jumpers wanted to hear. Most have been planning for years, provisioning for weeks, and are more than excited to go. With that in mind, though it might be small comfort, we want to remind cruisers of the story we ran in our November 2019 issue story from Bruce Balan and Alene D. Rice of the Cross 46 Migration.

Diving with manta rays
It’s different from the South Pacific. But most cruisers agree that Mexico is one of the best places to cruise in the world.

They’ve been out cruising for over a decade, came back to Mexico, and were diving in the Revillagigedos in May 2019 before heading off to the Marquesas. They finally set sail to head west when suddenly they felt sad to be leaving Mexico. In a spontaneous moment, they reversed course to spend another year in Mexico simply because they loved it so much.

Cruising Mexico is stunning
Cruising Mexico is stunning.

We’re not sure where Migration is right now, but the best way to handle all of this is to just be glad to be where you are.

New Girl on the Block

Wilbur Spaul achieved a significant milestone in his bid to sail the smallest boat to Hawaii: In February, he chainsawed the 8-ft Chubby Girl into pieces and tossed them into a dumpster.

Her slightly longer, significantly lighter, and hopefully better-sailing sibling is currently under construction.

As you may recall from a Sightings piece in our October 2019 issue, Wil is a longtime sailor and cruiser with the equally longtime dream of doing this passage. His inspiration — and the person to whom he will dedicate the voyage — is Gerry Spiess, the current smallest-boat-to-Hawaii record holder. In 1981, Spiess sailed the 10-ft Yankee Girl from Long Beach to Honolulu. It took him 34 days.

Spaul designed and built the recently-departed Chubby Girl of glass-covered plywood in a friend’s garage in Walnut Creek. He began sea-trialing the boat out of Berkeley last spring. Despite a new set of sails from Pineapple and design assistance from naval architect Jim Antrim, progress — and performance — was slow and disappointing.

Wil in Chubby Girl
Wilbur Spaul and the old Chubby Girl.
© 2020 Chubby Girl

“Once I got all the stores and equipment aboard, it was just too heavy,” says Wil of the little boat. “Very sluggish, not responsive, even in good breeze.”

After 10 months of tweaking and trying, it was chainsaw time.

Wil is one of those indomitable-spirit guys. He saw it as less of a failure than just another speed bump in the learning curve. (As Thomas Edison once observed: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”)

So he’s building a new Chubby Girl in an all-but-deserted (due to the coronavirus outbreak) Berkeley Marine Center. This one is a Jim Antrim design. Both Jim and BMC’s Cree Partridge have been mentors, friends and invaluable consultants in the process.

Cree Partridge
Cree Partridge shows us the plans for the new boat.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Mitch

For ease and expediency of building, the new Chubby Girl looks like (and is) a giant clamshell made from two dinghies. The hull and ‘top’ are both out of the same mold. They are joined in the middle by a 15-inch spacer. Construction is vacuum-bagged foam/fiberglass, which when completed will yield a 9-ft boat around 600-700 pounds — about a third less than her predecessor. The new mast will be slightly taller, but Spaul will be able to use many of the same rigging parts, sails and other equipment from the first boat.

Green hull
The new hull at Berkeley Marine Center. Both the hull and ‘deck’ of the new Chubby Girl will come out of the same mold.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Mitch

Spaul could be a poster boy for “70 is the new 40.” He is full of energy and enthusiasm. With the help of Raphael, a young Brazilian eager to learn boatbuilding, Wil works on the boat seven days a week, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. If all goes as planned, he plans to start sea-trialing next month and hopes to depart for the Hawaiian Islands in May.

Look for more on Wil and the new Chubby Girl in the April issue of Latitude 38. In the meantime, check out

COVID-19 Adjustments Continue

Pacific Cup Seminars Online

The Pacific Cup Yacht Club has taken their preparation seminars online. “Responding to viewer input, we are setting the seminars to be live on Tuesday and Thursday evenings at 7 p.m. They will be recorded if those times are not convenient for you.”

Runaway aerial
Thomas Corkett’s Andrews 70 Runaway approaches Oahu in the 2018 Pacific Cup.
© 2020 Ryan Rothwell

Information on the seminars is available on the Seminars page here.


  • Getting Your Boat Back from Hawaii: Jim Quanci, Tuesday, March 24
  • Provisioning: Michael Moradzadeh and Melinda Erkelens, Thursday, March 26
    • Knowledgebase Materials: Food

In Prep Mode

  • Medical Planning and Emergencies
  • Liferafts and Other Required Gear Tips
  • Navigation Strategies for the Race
  • Getting and Using Weather Information
  • Green Sailing

Register to attend the webinars here.

In the Archive

  • See the recording: Sail Selection
    • North Sails’ own Seadon Wijsen, a skilled navigator and sail expert, talked about what sails you should take, when to use them, and how to fix them underway. (See the recording and slides here.)


From the organizers of Les Voiles: “In light of the most recent information concerning the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic around the world, and the new travel restrictions that have been announced, it is with great regret that the organizers of Les Voiles de St. Barth Richard Mille have made the decision, in consultation with the Prefecture and the Collectivity of St. Barthélemy, to cancel the regatta initially scheduled for April 12-18, 2020.” Enjoy “les photographies” from last year here.

bow splash
There’s plenty of eye-pleasing action for the armchair sailor to enjoy from last year’s Les Voiles.
© 2020 Michael Gramm

Closer to Home

This morning, Laura Muñoz, executive director of the Yacht Racing Association of San Francisco Bay, wrote to us: “All events this coming weekend are canceled. Events for the following weekend (April 4-5) are also canceled. Beyond that, the picture isn’t as clear. As long as the shelter-in-place orders are in effect, there won’t be any racing.” Once the orders are lifted, though, the Coast Guard will consider permits on an event-by-event basis. “It very much will depend on what the federal recommendations will be regarding social distancing (after the shelter-in-place orders are lifted), and how event organizers are going to ensure that those recommendations can be followed, for both the sailors and the race committee.”

We’ll continue to post COVID-19 impact information here on ‘Lectronic Latitude.

Should We Be Sailing? How Sailors Are Trimming Their Sails

How are sailors managing the current pause in sailing? Some are going sailing, some are still sorting it out, and others are getting together virtually.

Bella Luna
Jim and Meredith Tull slipped out for a peaceful sail on their Beneteau 321 Bella Luna. They live together so why not sail together?
© 2020 Jim Tull

At the end of last week, we received the following question from a local sailor, “I was just trying to find out if it’s OK to go sailing on the Bay during our shelter-in-place order when I saw the Summer Sailstice email. I couldn’t find any info, so I hope you don’t mind me asking for your advice.

“We live in Berkeley and our boat is in Richmond. I feel that it’s wrong to drive to Richmond to go sailing under the shelter-in-place order. My husband says it’s OK. What do you think? Couldn’t we be fined ’cause it’s not an essential activity? My husband says it’s exercise and we need to check on our property.”

We replied, “We’d hate to get between you and your husband on this or between your husband and your sailboat! However, everything we read says outdoor activities are OK.”

But that was three whole days ago. We heard there was an article in the paper last week with suggestions on where to go to “get outdoors and away from it all.” The result was that the beaches and parks in Marin County were so crowded that on Sunday the county issued an order closing all parks.

In our view, we’re all in a ‘pay me now or pay me later’ situation. The more we take this seriously now and do what we can up-front, the more lives will be saved and the less pain later. We’re not just trying to keep ourselves healthy. We’re trying to keep family, friends, neighbors and the nation healthy.

Hoisting the QFlag
We hoisted the Q flag both on the boat and at home.

That said, we do think people who own their own boats can find safe ways to sail them just as they can find safe ways to go to the grocery store. If you sleep together you can probably sail together. You can’t load a boat up with friends and just go sailing but, as long as you’re being as careful as you’re being in all of your other interactions with the world, it should be OK. We did see some boats on the Bay this weekend, but, sadly, like all activities, we think this is not something we can share beyond our own, very restricted participation.

If you’re not getting out on a boat, there are some alternatives to maintaining a connection to sailing. Like many restaurants, yacht clubs are inviting members to do curbside pick-up of takeout meals. The Long Beach Yacht Club organized a virtual cocktail party. Sail Newport held a virtual regatta. These are all great efforts to keep the community together and help us all get through this trying time, though we all know “there ain’t nothing like the real thing, baby.”

Long Beach Yacht Club
LBYC had to postpone the Congressional Cup, but, thanks to the now exceptionally popular app Zoom, the club got members together for a virtual cocktail party.

Brandon Mercer, the new owner of the J/24 Evil Octopus with his son James, wrote in to say, “I gotta say, re-reading old copies of the printed Latitude 38 has been my evening escapism. Thank you for what you do.” (You can read issues online back to 2005 right here.) If you want the April issue delivered, you can subscribe now and we’ll make sure it’s in the mail to you.

Corinthian Yacht Club
Members Jon Kahn and Jack Mavis pick up meals to go from Corinthian YC manager John Nicolai.

Naturally, it’s also a good time to get down to work on your boat. While you may not be able to assemble the whole crew to work together, you can take care of projects large and small that you meant to get done over the winter. Just like taxes, the deadline to be Bay-ready has been extended.

Ben Shaw
We came across Ben Shaw of Out The Gate Sailing. He was working on his new-to-him Hallberg-Rassy 35, which had just arrived from the East Coast.

So what should you do? Can you go sailing? First, despite the fact that spring is here, the Bay looks beautiful, and we can’t wait to go sailing, it’s not the top priority now. Yesterday it was OK to go for a walk in the parks of Marin; today it’s not. We’re not going to dispute the difficult decisions that the WHO, the CDC and local authorities have to make. In fact, we’re incredibly happy we don’t have to make those decisions or issue those proclamations. We all need to read the latest information available and do what we think is best, not just for ourselves, but for everyone.

That gets us right back to where we started. In any particular household, there might be a difference of opinion. Things are evolving so quickly that a noontime opinion might change by four in the afternoon. In the big picture we should remember that however long this lasts there will be great sailing ahead, and we need to all do our best to help out our community for the long run.

We simply can’t wait until we can start writing more about your sailing adventures. If you did go sailing let us know. You can write a comment below or send an email and photo to [email protected].

Seeking Some Normalcy
Latitude Nation — We were going to publish some good news this morning, but unfortunately, it was canceled due to the ongoing pandemic.
Sunday Race without the Brunch
From the first horn of the start to the last gun of the finish, it was business as usual for the 22 boats that competed in Oakland Yacht Club’s Sunday Brunch Series on March 15.
Rewriting the Calendar
"The April 4th Wheeler Regatta has been canceled, and the 2020 Great Vallejo Race is officially postponed until October 10-11. We have yet to make a final decision on the April 18th Lightship…"
Fun 'Sailing' This Weekend
"During the virus crisis, we're joining forces with to hold a purely entertaining virtual regatta series starting on Sunday, March 22."