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May 13, 2020

Delta Doo Dah Dozen Kicks Off This Saturday

Three boats sailing on the San Joaquin River
Four singlehanders (including the photographer) headed out from Owl Harbor last week for a properly-separated daysail (not a race) on the San Joaquin River.
© 2020 Jackie Philpott

Sailors and other boaters are already out there doing their thing in the Delta. Cruisers usually sail with their significant other or family members. So a do-it-yourself Delta Doo Dah is not really a problem. Most if not all marinas remain open — practicing social-distancing procedures — and welcome visitors. Many launch ramps are open to accommodate trailer-sailors. Fuel docks still are pumping gas and (some of them) diesel. Markets are open, and we can get takeout meals and drinks.

What we can’t do is meet in person at Richmond Yacht Club this Saturday for our Delta Doo Dah Kickoff Party & Seminar. So, like everything else these days, we’ll meet virtually via Zoom, starting at 6 p.m. We’ll send an invitation (probably tomorrow) to all Delta Doo Dah Dozen registrants.

paddling a kayak
Kayaks are incredibly useful (and fun) in the Delta. They serve as water toys, exercise machines and transportation.
© 2020 Roberta Montero

Our featured speaker will be Bill Wells, commodore of the California Delta Chambers & Visitor’s Bureau. Bill also writes the Delta Rat Scrapbook for Bay & Delta Yachtsman. He’ll give us some history of the region plus update us on what’s happening this (very strange) year. Additional experts will include Tom Lueck from Stockton Sailing Club and Craig and Ann Perez of RYC.

Family of geese swimming by
If you’re not a birdwatcher when you first visit the Delta, you may quickly become one. This is a family of Canada geese. Unlike white-fronted and snow geese, many Canada geese — despite their name — stick around all year. The other species overwinter in the Delta, which lies along the Pacific Flyway.
© 2020 Roberta Montero

We’ll have door prizes to give away, including:

  • From the Delta Chambers:
    A small brass sextant for use as a paperweight or decoration.
    A Delta T-shirt.
    Two California Delta Boaters’ maps/visitors’ guides.
  • From Delta Bay Marina, Isleton:
    20 gift certificates for a one-week’s stay at their marina off the San Joaquin River in Isleton on August 8-15.
  • From Delta Kayak Adventures in Antioch Marina:
    A $100 gift card good for kayak or SUP rental.
  • From Latitude 38:
    A theme-related surprise.
  • From Owl Harbor, Isleton:
    A gift certificate for one night’s free stay in the marina and one of their fabulous gift bags.
Owl Harbor gift bag
Last year’s Owl Harbor gift bag.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Chris

To be eligible for prizes, you must be an official 2020 entry, check in to the Kickoff, and be present to accept the prize when we call your name during the event on Saturday. We’re still accepting prizes from sponsors — contact Doodette Chris ASAP if you’re interested in donating.

Small brass sextant
This sextant is authentic with all working parts, but it’s a smaller version, so it’s intended as a decoration.
© 2020 Bill Wells

Pat and Carole McIntosh of Cruising Notes will provide free digital downloads of Things to Know Before You Go, tenth edition, to all our fleet members. We’ll invite Pat to be a guest panelist on Saturday too.

If you haven’t signed up yet, it’s free, quick and easy. Learn more and register at Don’t wait until the last minute! Help us out by signing up before this Saturday.

Please note that our June event, the Delta Ditch Run from RYC to Stockton Sailing Club, has been canceled. We’ll keep our fingers crossed for our three official events in August.

YRA Takes First Steps to Resume Racing on the Bay

Good news. We just spoke to Laura Muñoz at the Yacht Racing Association of San Francisco Bay. She let us know that both Contra Costa County and Solano County have now approved organized regattas. While this is far from ‘getting back to normal’, it’s a welcome step in the direction of resuming organized sailing. As the state begins to ease restrictions, each county is managing its own process. This means that the rules in Marin County are different from those in Santa Clara County or Contra Costa County.

The YRA and supporting yacht clubs have been working with the counties and the USCG to determine the best way to slowly phase racing back in. For Solano and Contra Costa counties, this means organized regattas can be held as long as all other health guidelines can be maintained. Those guidelines include social distancing and wearing of masks when ashore, no regatta parties or gatherings, and only sailing singlehanded or with members of your same household.
Sorry to say this scene won’t be allowed for organized racing in the near future.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Chris

This means rewriting the Notice of Race and Sailing Instructions. Organizers need to plan other aspects of race organization carefully. Committee boats and mark-set boats would need to be operated by one person, or race committees would need to be able to manage the race from shore using only government marks. As a starting point, this likely means casual beer can races and simpler regattas requiring fewer crew and less infrastructure. As of last night’s general meeting, Richmond YC “is not doing anything official on the water right now.”

Singlehanded Sailing
Singlehanded sailing is possible, and if you practice, you can really power up!
© 2020 Tony Hoff/Kuewa

Whether this is the first step in a continued expansion of racing or a short-lived burst of activity will ultimately depend on the course of the virus. If sailors can demonstrate that races can be held without increasing the spread of COVID-19, the opportunities to race will surely grow. If things head the opposite direction, racing will be curtailed. We are hoping for the best and that this is just the beginning of restoring some of the many regattas that have been postponed on the 2020 schedule. See you out there.

What’s the Sketchiest Harbor You’ve Ever Sailed Into?

On my last day in New Zealand, we took a long drive. After weeks of lingering near a marina and industrial hub, a drive — and the proverbial stretching of the legs — was welcome respite from the quarantine routine of long walks to the grocery store. As I’ve mused many time before, all things New Zealand could easily be all things California. The road wound through rolling hills and past long beaches with small, weak waves. The end of the road, however had some of that unique Kiwi character. Whakatane (pronounced fah-kah-TAH-nə), a town of 37,000, is wedged between a steep hill and a long river. It was another New Zealand town carved around the country’s unique geography.

Looking inland from the Whakatane River in New Zealand. The city’s body of water — a narrow waterway bordered by a low-lying sand spit — reminded me of Morro Bay. Remember, it’s red, left, returning in this part of the world. So there’s some good news.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Tim

And where river met sea in Whakatane sat one of the narrowest and awe-inspiringly sketchy harbor entrances I’ve ever seen.

Well, the harbor looks fairly tame, and without a boat for reference, reasonably wide in this shot; pictures never do justice to the sea state. But this harbor mouth evoked a visceral response at the thought of navigating it, especially if there was any kind of swell running — though it was dead-flat on this day in early May.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Tim

Slabs of rock dotted the harbor entrance, creating a tiny mouth for navigation. The ebb made the entire river stand up, causing the channel markers to ‘heel’ under the heft of the water. As I imagined  sailing in on a 35-ish-ft boat, the channel seemed maybe a boatlength and a half wide in most places.

A patchwork panorama of Whakatane Harbor.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Tim

The entire beach at the bitter end of Whakatane was littered with piles of driftwood. Everything about the locale suggested a regular onslaught by the sea. We caught it on a day with no swell and maybe eight knots of breeze, but still, for this relatively inexperienced coastal cruiser, everything about the place felt intimidating. The currents at latitude 37 south rivaled our famous Bay Area tides, creating standing wavelets and a general agitation on the water.

That’s White Mountain, or Whakaari, on the horizon, a popular tourist destination for decades. In December 2019, the active volcano erupted, killing 21 people.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Tim
Evidence of a beach bombarded by the sea.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Tim
In my extensive global cruising of harbor parking lots, I have never seen a sign like this.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Tim

Anyway, Whakatane got us thinking: What’s the sketchiest harbor you’ve ever sailed into? We’ve heard many a Pacific Northwest-based Baja Ha-Ha veteran tell us that the trip down from latitude 40+ put them in the way of several scary harbor entrances — the Columbia River ranking high on the list. Humboldt and Fort Bragg can get fairly sporty, too. But we’re thinking global here, Latitude Nation. We hope to hear harbor stories from the Seven Seas. Please comment below, or email us here.

Please be sure to include your boat name, make and port of call, or just tell us where you’re from.

45 Knots in Paradise

Latitude Helps Win Zoom Contest

Last week, reader Jeff Berman sent us these images of a recent Zoom gathering he attended. “We had a contest for best background. I won!”

Red foulies with Latitude 38
Last week, Jeff Berman reported on a virtual sail in actual full foulies. His copy of Latitude 38 stayed miraculously dry.
© 2020 Jeff Berman

“I am in my house using movies as background, and wore a sailing jacket for effect and removed it at anchor. I was able to dynamically stitch together my sailing trip. All the videos were taken with my cell phone and are posted on my YouTube channel as Pandemic Video 1 to 8.”

Jeff at anchor
Phew, foulies off, warm and comfy in his favorite anchorage — to which he would return in real life in the next part of this story.
© 2020 Jeff Berman

A Night Sail and Breeze-on Day

This week, Jeff sent us this little tale of actual — not virtual — sailing:

“I took my Tartan 4000 out Friday night to head to Paradise Cove,” writes Jeff Berman. (Paradise Cove is off the east side of the Tiburon Peninsula.) “I saw the fog rolling in from Highway 24. Ugh, a cold, blind ride from Alameda. When I got to the boat I listened to VHF 14, hoping for some visibility reports. None came, so I hailed Vessel Traffic and inquired: None really to report. I decided I would be happier waking up there!”

Jeff got the boat ready, “canvas off and stowed, topped off water and diesel from the day before. I left, and a USCG RIB came into the Estuary, flipped on his blue lights on approach, then off. I guess he was going to find out why I was leaving at 9:30 p.m., but decided against it.

“I proceeded on out, passing Clipper Cove. Now there was dark, cold, and wind building to 25 knots in a half-mile visibility. Now many barges and tugs were crisscrossing the Bay. Two miles to go, and I needed to figure out where all these were going and stay clear. I hailed a couple and made sure all was well with them. Three tugs were going from Richmond to the South Bay, a ship with Caden Foss tied astern, others transiting. Slowly and safely I proceeded.

“Paradise was busy, although no one has AIS. That made me think it would be sort of empty, but it wasn’t. I anchored about three quarters of a mile north of the fishing pier, a half mile past my favorite tucked-in spot. Saturday I was in the gulch under the V from the hills, and the wind never let up. Great mud there — 17 feet of water and 140 feet of chain seemed to work OK.

“It was an OK night sleeping, but I am out of practice. On this boat, Maverick, I have a tablet with Raymarine on Wi-Fi and can leave the radar on, so I can check quickly without getting cold out of bed.

“The wind piped up and stayed up, 10-20 knots, until later in the afternoon. I wasn’t in the mood for a foggy ride home in the dark or staying the night hoping the weather would lie down, so I left. At this time, it was blowing 30-40 knots. But the buoy reports at 6 p.m. said 0 knots at Point Blunt! I had much disbelief.

“I was obviously heaving my anchor in 40 knots when a Delta-style powerboat honked at me as they were slowly motoring along the coastline and not waiting for me. I sailed off on a triple-reefed main. As I was sailing along, a midsize powerboat dragging a kid on a tube circled me like in the Delta!

“The wind died shortly, and in fact was 0 at Blunt, but spotty, from 0 to 10 to 25 to 15 to 0. By Treasure Island, 4-ft wind waves in the Slot tossed the boat with 30 knots on the beam, a ride for sure. The jib needed to come in, ugly fouled roll, balloon at the top, lines overwrapped. !@#@!##! Alone on board but in control.

True wind speed reading 44.6 max.
Damn near 45 knots.
© 2020 Jeff Berman

“I got to the Estuary, and it calmed to 7. I fixed all the lines and rerolled the jib just fine before returning to the slip. My exercise program works!

“Listening to the VHF all day was a hoot. From a vessel in the South Bay: ‘Coast Guard, can you tell me where there is a ramp? I want to get in before the wind comes up. I am on my trolling motor.’

“’26-ft Islander no sails, no engine — they don’t know where they are and I am a 50-ft fishing boat trying to lend assistance, have you a cell phone for them?’

“Another guy in a powerboat calling CG saying he is in the Estuary but might not make it with his gas. CG asks, ‘Have you called Vessel Assist?’ He says, ‘I don’t know how!’

“It was an entertaining 24 hours.”

Waterfront Politics
On Wednesday, a bill recommending targeted reforms to the Bay Conservation and Development Commission, or BCDC, will be up for discussion in Sacramento.
Sponsored Post
Washing, waxing, varnishing. Serving the entire Bay Area for more than 30 years. “I have never seen the teak look so good."
The Latest Updates
The board of the Singlehanded Sailing Society had been hard at work right up until Friday to make the Singlehanded Farallones Race happen. They'd had it on the schedule for this coming Saturday, May 16.