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November 4, 2020

Downtown Petaluma Reopens to Boaters After Dredging

The Petaluma River has been waiting for a dredge for quite a long time. Or, to be precise, the city of Petaluma, the Petaluma Yacht Club, and Bay Area sailors have been waiting. The river is one of the Bay Area’s great North Bay boating escapes that’s been ‘off-limits’ for anything but paddlers, due to silting in the channel and around the docks in the main turning basin. So we were happy to get a call from Sarah Sass, owner of Boulevard Barbers, telling us the river is now dredged and reopened. Our local congressman, Jared Huffman, worked hard to get funds allocated and was there for the ribbon-cutting ceremony on Tuesday, October 13. The river was last dredged 17 years ago.

Petaluma River dredge
The dredge in the Petaluma
© 2020 Gary Reinartz

We got in touch with Lee Fishman, commodore of the Petaluma Yacht Club, who filled us in on the details. While the yacht club remains closed due to COVID, the town guest docks are open, both in front of the yacht club and across the basin by the River House. The basin and channel now have at least 8 feet of draft in front of the docks at mean low tide, and there’s room for up to 20 boats if Med-moored. The docks on the west side of the basin have locking gates and power, but the water supply to the docks is still being repaired. On the River House side of the basin there are more docks, though without security gates, water or electricity. Space is available on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Stephen Hamilton Petaluma Basin
Petaluma Yacht Club member Stephen Hamilton snapped this shot of the first boat to visit the reopened basin.
© 2020 Stephen Hamilton
Petaluma downtown docks
Blast from the past. This is a shot of a Club Nautique Petaluma cruise-out from several years ago. Petaluma is ready for their return.
© 2020 Ron Witel

The dredging project was completed in the middle of October and the basin has just started receiving guests. To get there you head almost due north from Point San Pedro at the entrance to San Pablo Bay until you reach the beginning of the Petaluma River channel, and then follow the winding Petaluma River up through the farm fields. Just before reaching the basin, you’ll need to pass through the Petaluma D Street drawbridge, which needs four hours’ notice before your arrival in order to be raised. To get the bridge opened call (707) 778-4303 and Press 1, which is where you ask for the bridge to be opened (or report a pothole or tree limb down), and you can also email [email protected].

Cruising the Petaluma River
It’s a beautiful cruise up the winding Petaluma River.
© 2020 Tim Crowe

Lee Fishman reports the restaurants are open for outside street dining under heaters and umbrellas and would look forward to serving any boaters heading their way. If you go, take some pics for us to pass along to other Latitude 38 readers who are looking for a close-to-home cruising escape. Send photos and story to [email protected] or add your comments below.

We also spoke to Jim Haussener of CMANC (California Marine Affairs and Navigation Conference), who sent us some links on other dredging news for those who want to keep up with these issues. Jim reports there are currently funds allocated for the environmental study necessary to get the San Rafael channel dredged, and Napa Valley and Moss Landing are also on the worklist. It’s all in the congressional budget process, but at the moment they’re busy with other things.

You can find US Army Corps hydrographic surveys here.

For those with more interest and questions, Jim sent us information on a webinar with the Corps of Engineers happening tomorrow and open to the public:

Thursday, November 5 from 9:45 a.m. until 12:45 p.m.. Virtual doors open at 9:30 a.m.

Please join us in presentations by the following from the United States Army Corps of Engineers:

Colonel Julie Balten,  Los Angeles District Commander; Tori White, South Pacific Division’s Chief of Operations and Regulatory Community of Practice; and Joe Wilson, Headquarters Environmental Dredging Program Manager.

All to be followed by:

Julie Minerva, Partner in the government relations firm of Carpi & Clay.

Log-In details follow:

Meeting number: 146 398 8726       Password: S2q36JtAke*

Petaluma Yacht club
While the yacht club has yet to reopen the docks out front now have room for up to an 8-foot draft out front.
© 2020 Rosemary Hart

Pottering About with the Potters

How good is small-boat sailing? We know West Wight Potters aren’t the only small sailboats in existence, but since early September, when we ran a story about the Potters, we’ve been receiving photos from Potter Yachters throughout the Bay Area.

Carolyn Rosner and Mike Hay bought their 2012 Potter 19, Kestrel, in June this year. “We fell in love with her shiny red hull and it turned out the rest of her was pretty Bristol as well,” Carolyn said. As the couple live in Bishop, CA, they have sailed mostly on Crowley Lake, though Carolyn said they are looking forward to sailing on the Delta as well as doing some coastal cruising.

Kestrel at the dock
The boat was purchased from a “reluctant-to-sell-but-moving owner.”
© 2020 Carolyn Rosner
Potter 19, Kestral at the dock
A couple of overnights and quite a few daysails on the lake over the summer have whetted this couple’s appetite for sailing adventures farther from home. After all, as Carolyn says, “Ventura is not all that far away.”
© 2020 Carolyn Rosner
Making coffee in Potter's cockpit.
What’s missing in this photo? Carolyn and Mike are new Latitude 38 magazine subscribers and are “Looking forward to getting our first print edition.”
© 2020 Carolyn Rosner

Bud Kerner bought his West Wight Potter 19 in December 2000, direct from the factory — making Cat’s Meow a 2001 model. “She is almost 20 years old, but still going strong,” Bud said.

2001 Potter, Cat's Meow under sail
“We have sailed many places including from Fort Bragg to San Diego. See you on the water!” – Bud.
© 2020 Bud Kerner

One of the things we love about the local Potter group is that they are inclusive of sailors who love to ‘potter’ around other small sailboats. For example, Jon Barber joined the Potter Yachter group five years ago and has now enjoyed “many fine sails” with them.

“When I bought my Montgomery 17 Ol’ 44 from Sean Mulligan, he recommended joining the Potter group because with an annual event schedule you sail more. He was right!”

Ol' 44 on the Bay
“I now have covered most of the Bay and Delta, as well as numerous trips from Moss Landing to Monterey and back, not to mention our premier outing, the Cruiser Challenge.”
© 2020 Jon Barber
Ol' 44 with another, unamed, Potter.
Jon says his abilities have been “much improved” and that he has met and sailed with many fine and like-minded people. “Come sail with us!” – Jon.
© 2020 Jon Barber

Potter Yachters commodore Eric Zilbert said, “Although Potter is in our name, we are open to anyone that sails a trailerable sailboat. We are all about good times on the water, and sharing our love of sailing and our experiences as trailer sailors. As I often say, pottering is a state of mind, not just sailing a West Wight Potter.”

Despite the 2020 challenges the club was able to run several events this year: an overnight at Spindrift Marina in late May, an overnight at Benicia in June, a sail-in to Loch Lomond in July plus a sail from Moss Landing to Monterey with two nights in Monterey, and then a trip to Huntington Lake in August. In September they had a sail to Angel Island with an overnight at Marina Bay, and a beach-camping trip in Tomales Bay. And this month they had another sail from Moss Landing to Monterey. Talk about busy!

“At each of the sails we wore masks, physically distanced, and ate our own food or ordered takeout and ate on the docks. Interestingly, each trip was made up of a different group of members; only two of us made it to all the sails,” Zilbert said.

What’s your favorite small boat?

Twin Rivers Marine Insurance Opens New Location

Gary Clausen of Twin Rivers Marine Insurance has been serving the needs of his clients throughout California for many years, from the offices located at the Antioch Marina in Northern California. Those who know Gary personally, know that in the ’70s he was involved in the boating industry in Southern California. It was at that time that a dream started to materialize into the idea of having an office there.

We are honored to announce the realization of this dream with the opening of the Twin Rivers Marine Insurance second location on the Balboa Peninsula. Although numerous Southern California clients were represented from the Bay Area offices, Gary felt it was time that these clients were given the same personal face-to-face service that his NorCal clients receive.

The new office next to Balboa Boat Yard will be managed by Roy de Lis, who in his own right is already well known to the area and is a great fit with the Twin Rivers family.

The office, located at 2600 Newport Boulevard, Suite 106, Newport Beach, CA, 92663, will be open Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. to assist with all your marine insurance needs. Roy can be reached at (800) 259-5701.

Euphoria and Electric Propulsion

David Smyth’s Olson 40 Euphoria shows us the promise and possibilities of electric auxiliary propulsion on a sailboat.

David is president of the Westlawn Institute of Marine Technology, and younger brother of Randy Smyth, two-time Olympic medal winner and Sailing Hall of Fame inductee. David also wrote the software for the Mars Rover missions at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, so technical decisions on his personal sailboat are not made willy-nilly.

With a diesel engine that was not only unreliable but leaked and stank, David faced an expensive and lengthy rebuild or re-power. After some research, and a look at the practicalities of his sailing style, David opted to chuck the whole thing and go electric. Taken as a whole, going electric is a great jump toward simplification, but it means changing several of the boat’s other systems, beyond just the propulsion system. We’ll get more into the nuts and bolts of his conversion in a subsequent article, and for now discuss the philosophy and practice of electric propulsion.

First, toss the old diesel. This means no more engine, tanks, fuel lines, oil, oil filters, fuel filters, exhaust system, vents, fill pipes, attendant through-hulls, or any of the claptrap of owning and maintaining a diesel engine. In its place goes a much smaller 10-kilowatt electric motor from Electric Yacht.

electric propulsion
The electric motor means no tune-ups, no oil changes, no noise — yet all the work still gets done.
© 2020 David Smyth

Engine compartments on sailboats are often filthy. Various petroleum products mix with fan belt dust, paint flakes and bilge water to form a stinky mess. When you go electric, all of this goes away. Electric is clean. So far, a great win for simplicity and better smells.

The next benefit is silence. The electric propulsion system is barely audible, meaning the loudest noise David is likely to hear during a cruise is a flogging sail or a crewmember’s voice. No chugging engine, no exhaust, less vibration. And no warm-up time: An electric motor is ready to go full speed right from the get-go.

Euphoria's clean bilge
David shows off clean electric power with a spotless bilge and the required ‘Discharge of Oil Prohibited’ sticker — which has been rendered irrelevant.
© 2020 David Smyth

Lead-acid batteries are not good at delivering large currents, then repeating the task regularly after deep discharges and recharges. Lithium-ion batteries do this much better, so enter the lithium-ion battery bank.

David went with a 5-kilowatt bank, which is about the battery capacity on a sailboat of this size without electric propulsion. The batteries supply enough to motor for just over five hours, or 30 miles, before the batteries are nearly dead. This same battery bank must power everything else aboard, so he can’t motor much if he wants to keep the beer cold.

Read more about David’s electric propulsion system in this month’s Latitude 38.

Cape Horners Launch Register of Solo Circumnavigators

The International Association of Cape Horners (IACH) has taken on the mantle of maintaining an official register of those who have completed solo circumnavigations via the Three Great Capes — Good Hope, Leeuwin and the Horn. Thirty-three potential Cape Horners are preparing for the start of the ninth Vendée Globe solo nonstop round-the-world race from Les Sables-d’Olonne, France, this Sunday, November 8.

The List

The list includes 155 solo nonstop circumnavigators and 143 who have completed true circumnavigations around the three Capes with stops. IACH compiled the list from one put together by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston; historian DH ‘Nobby’ Clarke; the World Sailing Speed Record Council; and information culled from books and the public domain.

Commenting on the new register, Sir Robin said, “It seems totally appropriate that the IACH now becomes the holder of the list of solo circumnavigators passing south of the Three Great Capes. This is a valuable resource.”

Jean-Luc VDH and Sir Robin
Sir Robin Knox-Johnston congratulates Jean-Luc Van Den Heede (left) after VDH won the 2018/19 Golden Globe Race. Sir Robin was the first sailor to complete a solo nonstop circumnavigation, back in 1969.
© 2020 Christophe Favreau / PPL / GGR

Jean-Luc Van Den Heede is the father figure of French solo sailing and a serial Cape Horner who has rounded the infamous Cape 10 times, the last time while leading the 2018/19 Golden Globe Race. He agrees with Sir Robin. “To list all the sailors who have turned around the world alone with or without stopovers has been a huge task. It is a very important part of the history of navigation. I hope a lot more names will be added over time.”

Click here to check out the IACH Register of Solo Circumnavigators.

Circumnavigation Records

Frenchman François Gabart holds the current record for the fastest solo nonstop circumnavigation. He set his time of 42 days, 16 hours, 40 minutes, 3 seconds in 2017 aboard the maxi-trimaran Ultim MACIF.

Maxi trimaran MACIF
François Gabart holds the current record for the fastest solo nonstop circumnavigation aboard the 99-ft trimaran Ultim MACIF.
© 2020 Jean-Marie LIOT / ALEA / MACIF

Fellow Frenchman Armel Le Cléac’h set the time to beat for the Vendée Globe monohulls. He set his time of 74 days, 3 hours, 36 minutes in his IMOCA 60 Banque Populaire during the last race in 2017.

Armel aboard Banque Populaire
Current Vendée Globe monohull entrants will attempt to best Armel Le Cléac’h’s record.
© 2020 Vincent Curutchet / DPPI / Vendée Globe

The oldest solo circumnavigator is Australian yachtsman Bill Hatfield. At age 79, Hatfield competed a westabout route in his 38-ft monohull L’Eau Commotion in 2018 with a time of 414 days. The youngest is fellow Australian Jessica Watson. In 2010, Watson, at the age of 16, completed a nonstop solo Southern Hemisphere circumnavigation via the three Great Capes  in her 34-ft yacht  Ella’s Pink Lady. But she failed to sail the full 21,600-mile orthodromic distance set by the WSSRC to claim a full circumnavigation.

History and Membership Criteria

All who complete a circumnavigation via Cape Horn are welcome to join the exclusive International Association of Cape Horners and claim an official certificate to commemorate their achievement.

The Amicale Internationale des capitaines au long cours Cap Horniers was founded in 1936 by a group of French Master Mariners based in St. Malo to form a bond between those who had sailed around Cape Horn in square-rigged ships. Those are now history. The last commercial sailing ship voyage was in 1949 when the Pamir and Passat sailed from South Australia bound for Falmouth. In 1969, the British chapter of the association became the International Association of Cape Horners (IACH). It amended the membership criteria to read: “To promote and strengthen the ties of comradeship which bind together the unique body of men and women who enjoy the distinction of having voyaged round Cape Horn under sail.”

Full membership, currently £20 a year, is open to those who have rounded Cape Horn under sail as part of a nonstop passage of at least 3,000 nautical miles that passes above the latitude of 52° south in both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans and is completed without the use of engines for propulsion.

Associates are those with an interest in Cape Horn but whose experiences do not meet the full membership criteria. One of the latest Associates is Susie Goodall, whose yacht pitchpoled and dismasted 2,000 miles west of Cape Horn during the 2018/19 Golden Globe Race.

This modernizing approach has opened membership to all those who have raced around Cape Horn in events like the Whitbread and Volvo Ocean races, Sir Chay Blyth’s Global Challenge events, the Jules Verne Challenge, and solo events such as the BOC Challenge, Vendée Globe, Five Oceans and Golden Globe races. Membership is also open to the many who have cruised around the infamous Cape under sail.

“Sailing around Cape Horn, the Everest of ocean sailing, has always been a badge of honour. I commend anyone who has achieved this great feat to join the IACH,” says the Earl of Portsmouth, the association’s president.

Apply by visiting: Click here to download membership flyer pdf.

West Coast Circumnavigators

Latitude 38 has long maintained a list of circumnavigations beginning (and ending, obviously) on the West Coast of North America. Check it out at

If you feel that your name should be on the list and it’s not, please email us your details. Include your name(s), port of departure/return, months/years of your voyage, boat name, and boat model. If you’d like to include a brief tale and a few photos of your adventure, we welcome that too.

The most recent attempt that we’ve covered in our pages is Philippe Jamotte’s planned westabout solo nonstop voyage, aborted just south of the equator. (Philippe hopes to arrive back in Pillar Point Harbor, Half Moon Bay, in the next couple of days aboard his Class 40 Changabang.)

Philippe Jamotte
Philippe Jamotte aboard Changabang in Berkeley before his departure from San Francisco Bay in October.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Nicki

Planning departure from San Francisco Bay this weekend on a solo nonstop circle is Whitall Stokes aboard Sparrow, Brad Van Liew’s old Open 50. We previewed Whitall’s plans in the December 2018 issue of Latitude 38. Whitall delayed his attempt by one year.

We’ll have more on the Vendée Globe and Whitall Stokes in future posts.

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A Late DIY Delta Doo Dah
My husband and I and our son enjoyed our own Delta Doo Dah the first week in October. We first sailed to the Delta 40 years ago and have done many summer trips through the years.