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June 24, 2020

Tragedy, and an Attempt at Rowing Triumph on the Pacific

Angela Madsen, a 60-year-old paraplegic who was attempting to become the oldest woman to row alone from California to Hawaii, was found dead floating next to her boat approximately 1,000 miles from Hawaii, according to the New York Post.

“Madsen, a US Marine veteran, set sail in a 20-foot rowboat in April from Marina del Rey, California, to head to Honolulu,” the Post reported. “She had been hoping to become the first paraplegic, openly gay athlete and oldest woman to achieve the feat.”

That’s Angela Madsen (left) and Tara Remington, who rowed from California to Hawaii in 2014. Madsen was attempting the same route by herself when tragedy struck.
© 2020 Debra Moeller

A private Facebook group said that Madsen’s body was recovered by a German cargo ship. “Her family and film crew had requested to recover her vessel [and] belongings, but due to hard seas, the vessel was left adrift,” the Facebook group said, adding that onboard Madsen’s boat there are months of footage that had been shot for a documentary.

“We have one ship in Hawaii on standby for next week but want to see if there are options that might get there sooner. Are there any vessels nearby that might be able to help?” the group asked. The documentary was being produced by filmmaker Soraya Simi; the Facebook group asked that any mariners who may potentially be in a position to help recover Madsen’s rowboat contact Simi directly.

Meanwhile, San Francisco-based sailor and rower extraordinaire Lia Ditton departed the Bay Area for Hawaii last week to make her own record-setting attempt.

Lia Ditton apparently did an Instagram post before her departure last Wednesday.
© 2020 Lia Ditton

Ditton had been training in San Francisco Bay for years, and had her sights on rowing from Japan to San Francisco, but decided to go for Hawaii “for a variety of reasons,” she told us a few months ago.

Given the tragedy that befell Angela Madsen, the stakes are no less extreme along Ditton’s “shorter” rowing route. We wish her luck, success and safety. You can follow her progress here.

Ditton is slowly making her way south and west. She hopes to be in Hawaii in less than 99 days.
© 2020

Opti Heavy Weather Goes Virtual

Although St. Francis Yacht Club may not be able to host its signature Opti Heavy Weather Regatta on the Bay, that doesn’t mean the kids can’t race. As with many regattas, this one has moved online, using the Virtual Regatta platform. Racing is scheduled for this Friday, June 26. It’s open to all junior sailors, ages 15 and younger.

Opti splash
The Virtual Regatta won’t get the sailors wet, but hopefully there’ll be some thrills, and some skill-building.
© 2020 Chris Ray

The club has posted the Notice of Race. Registration is open through this Friday, June 26, at 9 a.m. The first warning signal will be at 10:05 a.m. Three equally sized divisions will compete for the top six spots in a championship round. Sign up today.

Opti fleet with Golden Gate Bridge
Cityfront Opti Regattas normally draw scores of young sailors.
© 2020 Chris Ray

‘Saint Nicolas’ on the Way to Glacier Bay?

For most of us, San Francisco Bay is a place of endless sailing possibilities. It can also be a ‘small’ cove to tuck into on the way north. For the second time in a few weeks, another megayacht has stopped by to drop anchor in Sausalito. The 270-ft Saint Nicolas was just pulling into the Bay on Saturday morning as we were headed out for our all-day Summer Sailstice sail. Like most vessels, she found protection on the outside edge of Richardson Bay, with Marin serving as a convenient breakwater from the Pacific.

Megayacht Saint Nicholas
The hills of San Francisco can look pretty small when a megayacht pulls in front of you.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John

The yacht was built in Germany in 2007 by Lürssen. Reportedly she sleeps up to 12 guests who are served by a crew of 19. With a beam of 41 feet and a draft of 11 feet, she’s hard to fit anywhere in the Bay. Once owned by Russian Vasily Anisimov of Coalco, Saint Nicolas now has a new owner sailing under the flag of the Cayman Islands.

Megayacht Saint Nichloas
And you think it can be hard to remember where you put your sunglasses on your boat!
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John

We’re not sure where she’s headed, but as noted in the past, this is the time of year that these boats occasionally pass through the Bay on their way to see the glaciers in Glacier Bay — before climate change melts them all away. San Francisco is many gallons of fuel away from the hub of activity for these boats, which at this time of year would normally be in Monaco, Palma or other Mediterranean hot spots.

If you want to follow her travels after she leaves San Francisco Bay click here.

Fiji Opens Up to Cruisers

Finally a bit of good news for cruising sailors out there: The South Pacific island nation of Fiji has once again opened its doors to cruising yachts and superyachts. COVID-free for more than two months, Fiji is now entering its second phase of economic recovery. That includes bringing back international travelers. While air travel from Australia and New Zealand is still a ways away, the nation’s Prime Minister Voreqe ‘Frank’ Bainimarama announced on Sunday the creation of ‘Blue Lanes’ that allow for safe travel to Fiji over the sea. Recognizing that private sailing yachts are both vital to the nation’s economy and safe for Fiji, Bainimarama and his government have welcomed these foreign yachts with open arms.

Malolo sailing
Sailing in the 2019 Musket Cove Regatta at Malolo Island, Fiji.
© 2020 Ronnie Simpson

“Being alone at sea is a verifiable, self-contained quarantine. That means anyone coming by pleasure craft to Fiji, so long as they haven’t interacted with others, are very low-risk, but their economic impact is very high-reward,” Bainimarama explained. “As those in our hospitality sector know, these ships — particularly superyachts — produce immense economic value for Fiji.”

Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama
Prime Minister Bainimarama during his address to the nation on Sunday, in which he announced the reopening of maritime borders.
© 2020 Fiji Sun

Utilizing a common-sense approach that requires both a negative COVID test and a 14-day quarantine, Fiji is riding a fine line of welcoming boats and tourism dollars back into its economy while making every effort to keep the coronavirus out. For a boat to sail into Fiji, all crew must take a COVID test before setting to sea and bring documentation of this negative test with them. Once testing negative for the virus, they must then quarantine for 14 days, which may be done at sea. If the voyage, say from America, takes 20 days, then those sailors will be free to sail around Fiji immediately upon arrival, once they have been screened for symptoms.

If the voyage is from a place like New Zealand, and therefore about 10 days long, the crew will be required to make up the difference of four days in quarantine upon arrival in Fiji, at their own expense. Once screened for symptoms, they will then receive their cruising permit and be allowed to cruise around Fiji. All vessels are required to provide advance notice of arrival, and cruise ships are still strictly prohibited from entering Fijian waters.

To start, the only port of entry will be Port Denarau Marina in western Fiji. If this pilot project is successful, the government will consider extending the blue lanes to include other ports of entry. Denarau Marina and its staff have been diligent in lobbying the government for not just a reopening of maritime borders to pleasure craft, but also for boaters’ rights in general. During the coronavirus pandemic, many yachts in other marinas, even just miles away, were fully locked down and prevented from making any movements while those in Denarau continued to come and go fairly freely.

Aerial shot of Denarau Marina
Denarau Marina in western Fiji.
© 2020 Denarau Marina

With the 36th America’s Cup in Auckland early next year, the reopening of Fiji’s maritime borders will begin to create a vital pathway for foreign sailors wishing to cruise the South Pacific and make their way to New Zealand to see the action.

Singlehanded Sailor's Weekend Adventure
On Memorial Day weekend, singlehander Graeme Lowe decided to attempt a “crazy but incredible” race against time. The skipper of the Berkeley-berthed Baltic 38 Merope had been planning a solo passage to Drake’s Bay over late May's holiday weekend,