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April 22, 2020

Observing Earth Day and Opening Day on the Bay

Opening Day Parade This Sunday

Fleet of model boats sailing
Neither full-size boats nor model boats will actually parade down the Cityfront this Sunday. However, creative alternatives abound.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John

This coming Sunday, April 26, was to have been Opening Day on the Bay. Amazingly, the parade is on — but not in the usual fashion. Instead, PICYA invites sailors to enter model boats in a virtual parade. This will be a two-hour Zoom event, starting at noon, with special guests and parade judges, and the chance to earn points toward Club of the Year. The theme is Bounties of the Bay. See entry instructions here and register here.

Boat ornaments with screws in the bottom
We added keels to these Christmas ornaments before sea-trialing them as possible parade entries.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Chris

You can also submit memorabilia from past Opening Days; email Patti Mangan at vicecommodore@picya.org.

Rubber ducky with boats in the water
As sailors, we’re embarrassed to admit that the stink-potters outperformed the rag-baggers. The latter had a tendency to sink or capsize.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Chris

Either way, enter by noon on Saturday.

Earth Day Turns 50 Today

Earth Day celebrates her 50th birthday ironically on a day when a global pandemic prohibits en masse activism. But, California’s Boating Clean and Green Program has some suggestions for how sailors can observe Earth Day.

  1. Reduce your use of toxic cleaning products. Choose less toxic cleaning products, such as non-phosphate, biodegradable cleaners. Click here to learn how to find less toxic, less volatile, more biodegradable products.
  2. Plan ahead and dump at the pump. Properly disposing of boat sewage makes a difference in water quality and aquatic environments. Check out this informative video, then download the free Pumpout Nav app to locate your nearest pumpout and dump station and more.
  3. Stow it, don’t throw it. Use reusable coffee mugs, canvas shopping bags and metal water bottles. Learn more here. (But be aware that many stores have reverted to “paper or plastic” during the pandemic.)
  4. Recycle, collect, report. Take the necessary steps to perform spill-proof oil changes and recycle your used oil and oil filters. Always use oil absorbents and dispose of them as a hazardous waste by visiting your county household hazardous waste collection center or marina offering this service. Never use soap to disperse fuel and oil spills: It increases harm to the environment and is illegal. Learn more here.
  5. Be a leader. Encourage others to adopt ‘green’ habits.
contents of the CA boater's kit
The California Boater’s Kit.
© 2020 Boating Clean and Green

We would also suggest that if you are near the water, checking on your boat, or just out for a walk today, that you pick up the litter you might otherwise just cluck your tongue at. Wear gloves to protect yourself, carry a trash bag, and pick up those discarded disposable gloves that seem to be everywhere these days. A DIY coastal cleanup.

Randall Reeves’ Figure 8 Voyage Book(s)

A few months ago, we asked Randall Reeves if he was going to write a book about the Figure 8 Voyage — or voyages. It seemed only natural, of course. Reeves had been writing a blog since long before he departed on his singlehanded, round-the-bottom- and-top-of-the-world-in-one-season trips, and then wrote prolifically as he tried, then tried again on his first-of-its-kind circumnavigation.

In May 2019 — as he was working his way up the Atlantic toward the Northwest Passage — we asked Reeves if he planned to write a book about the adventure. “My pat answer is, ‘If I don’t, my wife will kill me.'”

Need a little reading and viewing material while you’re on lockdown?
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Randall Reeves

Reeves recently released a coffee-table-style picture book. It “tells the story of the Figure 8 Voyage through the many images included in Mo and Randall’s daily reports from sea during their 384-day, nearly 40,000-mile odyssey,” Reeves wrote on his blog. “It’s intended to tell the story using images from the daily posts rather than the words,” Reeves wrote us. The book is the first of two volumes on the Figure 8. “The second volume, due out later in the year, will contain the longer narrative.”

The Figure 8 Voyage was one of the most ambitious sailing adventures to sail under the Golden Gate in some time. It’s also a gift that keeps on giving. On April 15, Reeves posted the following on his Facebook page: “Message in a Bottle Found on Berry Islands in Bahamas today, 11 months after being tossed over the side on day 216 of Figure 8 Voyage.”

A Cal 20’s Mergers and Acquisitions

Ouch. While recently checking on our boat, we came across one of the many boat projects currently underway during this ‘idle’ time. Unfortunately, it was during the final days in the life of the Cal 20 Raccoon. During the Saturday of February’s Corinthian Yacht Club Midwinters race, Raccoon was hit hard, breaking the hull and deck joint and severely fracturing the hull. The cost of the repairs was going to be far more than the value of the 1960s-era boat.

Dave Wilhite Cal 20 Raccoon
Dave Wilhite removes salvageable parts from the Cal 20 Raccoon.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John

Fortunately, another Cal 20 was waiting in the wings. Ted Goldbeck, owner of the Cal 20 Just ‘Em, was looking to retire from racing against his longtime competitor, Jim Snow, owner of Raccoon. Seeing the damage to Snow’s Cal 20, Ted offered to sell Just ‘Em. And just like that, a deal was struck. Now the retiring Raccoon will serve as a kind of nautical organ donor.

After the acquisition, parts from the old Raccoon — including mast, rudder and some hardware — will live on, as Dave Wilhite removes and merges them with Just ‘Em, which we’re told will soon be renamed Raccoon.

If all goes well, the new Raccoon will be ready in time for the re-opening of racing on the Bay. As Dave said, “Raccoon is dead! Long live Raccoon!”

Summer Sailstice Promises Not to Cancel 2020 Event

The only mystery surrounding the 20th annual Summer Sailstice celebration is how people will celebrate sailing on the weekend of June 20, 2020. The mission of Summer Sailstice, which is to unite sailors worldwide in a global celebration of sailing, appears in sharp conflict with the social distancing we’re all practicing.

What to do this year? Nobody knows. Circumstances on June 20 are uncertain. But Summer Sailstice will still somehow connect sailors at the start of summer. The event website is filling up with celebrations across the planet, even though the best anyone can do is post intentions. Come ‘game day’, sailors will have to adjust sails and plans as the situation evolves.

Sailstice 2020 Not Canceled
Summer Sailstice will be celebrated. The only question is, how will you celebrate?
© 2020 Nicki Bennett

Instead of a raft-up, how about a solo sail? Or a family sail, or a carefully-spaced parade of sail? Or a regatta without the usual post-race party (bummer)? Could we be on the world’s largest sailor Zoom call or watching sailing videos at home? Ideally, everyone will be sailing, but Summer Sailstice is ready to celebrate however the world allows on June 20, 2020.

On the upside, with fossil-fueled vehicles temporarily shut down, the air has cleared, silence has returned, and birds, animals and sea life are making their presence known, while the stars are more brilliant at night. It’s as if the whole world has a moment to experience the beauty of sailing right now.

Summer Sailstice event map
The 2020 Summer Sailstice event map is filling up with intentions from optimistic sailors.
© 2020 Summer Sailstice

It’s impossible to know the future, but hasn’t that always been true? Take a gamble by setting a goal to celebrate on the water under sail on June 20. Things will improve, and summer sailing will make life better.

Pandemic warning: Everyone’s first priority is the health of all first responders, family, neighbors and planet. Sign up and plan to participate, but adjust plans according to the best health guidelines and requests from officials at the time.

Sail Safe. Sail Often.

Transient Cruisers Lose Use of Radio Bay

Radio Bay, near Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii, has been available as an anchorage and seawall mooring safe haven for transient cruising boats for decades. It is an exceptionally well-protected anchorage fully surrounded by a large breakwater and concrete pier, with a good-holding mud bottom. It is the most windward safe harbor in the Hawaiian Islands and serves as an international check-in port. Due to its location, it is an ideal first stop for vessels sailing from Mexico, the South Pacific, and the US West Coast that plan to cruise through the Hawaiian Islands or continue to points west.

The Hawaii Dept. of Transportation (DOT) administers Radio Bay. The DOT also oversees the activity on the adjacent commercial pier. Large ships, barges and ferry boats dock along the west side of the commercial pier, not the eastern Radio Bay side of the pier that has served as the cruising-boat anchorage. A lengthy breakwater with a large open entrance on the west side protects the commercial pier and some of the Hilo Bay waterfront from ocean swells. DOT levied a daily mooring fee on visiting yachts in Radio Bay, whether anchored or moored on the seawall.

cruisers moored in Radio Bay
Cruisers snug in Radio Bay, Hilo, on the east side of the Big Island.
© 2020 Anonymous

In March, as the extent of the coronavirus problem was becoming clear and vessels at sea began looking for safe alternatives, authorities at Radio Bay and the Port of Hilo indicated that yachts at sea seeking a safe haven could use the Radio Bay anchorage and clear into the US there. This information was disseminated to vessels at sea through emails and the SSB cruising nets.

Radio Bay anchorage
Another view of Radio Bay. The breakwater on the right is more than 100 years old.
© 2020 Anonymous

Initially, yachts arriving at Radio Bay were well received and quietly waited out the required 14-day quarantine and subsequent lockdown. However, after subsequent waves of yachts began arriving in Radio Bay, with many crewmembers blatantly disregarding the quarantine and lockdown restrictions, DOT staff began announcing tighter restrictions on visiting yachts and crews. Then on April 15, and without any advance notice, DOT suddenly announced Radio Bay was immediately and permanently closing to all “transient” vessels. Vessels already there are being allowed to remain only until the end of their prepaid mooring days. They must then immediately depart.

One boat’s prepaid mooring days ended the same day as the new policy was announced. When arriving before the announcement that same day at the DOT office with the cashier’s check DOT required for additional prepaid days, despite no advance notice of the policy change, the vessel’s owner was told the vessel’s permit to be in Radio Bay was now invalid. They were told to leave immediately, despite not being prepared to leave immediately. Some of the vessels with days remaining on prepaid mooring fees were treated with increasing hostility by DOT staff, causing some to depart before prepaid mooring days were expired. As it now stands, all of the remaining transient vessels will be expelled by early May, and Radio Bay will be permanently closed to transient cruising vessels.

DOT staff stated that the new policy was enacted because Radio Bay is a commercial harbor and DOT only manages commercial use. However, at the same time, DOT staff admitted that Radio Bay recreational use permits for a local canoe paddling club and local educational programs will not be affected by the new closure to “transient” vessels. It appears the new closure policy applies only to “transient” vessels, code meaning non-locals.

The closure of Radio Bay is a significant loss of a safe haven for cruising yachts. Transient vessels are being told they will be allowed to anchor in Hilo Bay inside the breakwater, but not inside the much-better-protected Radio Bay. The much larger and more open Hilo Bay area outside the Radio Bay basin is administered by the Hawaii Dept. of Lands and Natural Resources (DLNR). DLNR has much more stringent insurance requirements, which is problematic for some visiting yachts, and significantly higher daily mooring fees, apparently including a $10-per-day per-person fee for each individual on a vessel in addition to fees based on the size of the vessel.

The Hilo Bay anchorage options appear to range from areas with poor holding on hardpan and rock to some patchy areas with mud near the breakwater that may provide better holding. Hilo Bay is exposed to the full brunt of trade winds, and even reinforced trade winds in the afternoons when warm air over land adds a sea breeze component. At least one boat is known to have been lost in recent years in Hilo Bay during unsettled weather due to wind exposure and the poor anchor-holding bottom conditions.

Also, with a large opening at the west side of the harbor beyond the end of the breakwater, the fetch and potential for exposure to ocean wave surge is much greater in Hilo Harbor. Dinghy landing security, known to be a serious problem throughout the Hawaiian Islands, is less in Hilo Harbor landing spots than in Radio Bay, where anchored and moored yachts are nearby and can easily monitor the dinghy landing area.

satellite map of Hilo Bay
A satellite view of the Port of Hilo. The Hilo Bay breakwater is approximately 1.9 miles long.
© 2020 Google Maps

The Hilo Breakwater was built starting in the early 1900s on what was a historic reef. Sensitive ecological resources such as patches of hard corals are known to still exist behind the breakwater. There is presently a study underway evaluating the potential benefit of breaches in the breakwater to improve water quality and marine habitat in Hilo Bay. It is unclear how any future breaches in the breakwater may affect anchoring conditions for cruising yachts. However, it is well documented in many places that anchor and anchor chain dragging in a radius around an anchor can have very serious impacts on bottom ecosystems, akin to cutting crop circles. On the other hand, Radio Bay is already a severely degraded bottom environment consisting of mud with poor water circulation. Forcing boats to anchor in Hilo Bay rather than Radio Bay will be counterproductive for local marine conservation efforts.

It appears the closure of Radio Bay has been contemplated for some time by DOT, but never occurred, apparently due to interest group pushback, according to a DOT staff member. Closure now appears to be triggered by the influx of transient vessels and the concern of locals regarding COVID-19 risk. While arriving yachts have typically been at sea for 20-plus days, and already self-quarantined, all were subject to an additional 14 days of self-quarantine once they arrived in Hawaii.

Unfortunately, some new arrivals failed to take this seriously and flagrantly violated the quarantine rules to stay on their vessels except for essential needs. Many of the new arrivals were congregating in groups and hanging out and socializing loudly in the dinghy landing park fronting Radio Bay, and playing with water toys such as kiteboards in the park, which is difficult to justify as an essential activity. The new DOT closure of Radio Bay to cruisers in response to complaints by locals seems to be largely triggered by the optics problem of the quarantine violations, with DOT using it as a pretext to close the bay to outsiders at a time when interest groups may be too distracted to push back as apparently occurred in the past.

There are many reasons Radio Bay is a better option for accommodating cruising vessels compared to the Hilo Bay alternatives:

  • Better protection from wind and waves
  • Better anchor holding conditions
  • Ecosystem bottom conditions less sensitive to anchor damage
  • Better dinghy landing site and dinghy security
  • Less likely to impact commercial activities in Hilo Bay by potentially dragging anchor into the shipping channel

There can be little doubt that an independent analysis of the local features and use patterns would identify Radio Bay as the more suitable and sensible site for accommodating transient cruising vessels. Nonetheless, without serious efforts by interest groups to change the DOT decision to close Radio Bay to transient yachts, it appears it will be a permanently-lost resource. This will be particularly dangerous for transient yachts during periods of unsettled weather.

“Since Hawaii is a state that receives a large surplus of federal funds compared to federal revenues received from Hawaiian taxpayers, that means funding for the Hilo Bay breakwater build and maintenance is largely from non-Hawaiian sources, including taxpayers who are now being expelled and permanently banned from using Radio Bay as an anchorage.”

Another important question is if the new DOT policy should be subject to an environmental review process since it may have significant impacts on more sensitive Hilo Bay natural resources.

DOT’s sudden new closure of Radio Bay during a time of crises that affects cruisers seeking safe refuge raises serious safety, humanitarian and ethical issues in additional to the environmental and breakwater-funding obligation issues. Interested parties should not delay in making their views known to DOT.

Inland Cruising Rally
By the time you read this, we will have opened registration for Delta Doo Dah Dozen. We're hopeful that the sailors who sign up for this inland rally will actually be able to cast off their docklines and cruise the Delta.
We're shining our Latitude 38 spotlight on local sailing instructors, the on-the-water community of folks who introduce newcomers to our lifetime sport. Trevor Steel is the head of instruction at Berkeley's Olympic Circle Sailing Center (OCSC).
They're Always Ready
On Friday, the Coast Guard came to the aid of an overturned kayak in Bay Area waters. The kayaker was rescued off the beach town of Pacifica, just south of San Francisco.
SIP with Latitude 38
Now offering a Shelter-in-Place special. Three months is just a ‘sip’ of Latitude 38. You can read Latitude 38 at home. The last day to sign up is April 24.