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November 18, 2020

Catalina Yachts Announces Loss of CEO Frank W. Butler

We were sorry to receive the news this morning that one of California’s legendary boatbuilders has passed away. We’ve had the pleasure of working with Frank, his team and his dealers, as well as telling the stories of so many of his customers. Many of our readers started in one of his Catalina 22s and moved on to sail the Delta or cruise in the Baja Ha-Ha aboard one of the thousands of boats he built. We received the following from Catalina this morning:

“It is with great sadness that we announce that Frank Willis Butler, President and Chief Executive Officer of Catalina Yachts, passed away November 15, 2020, in Westlake Village, CA, due to unexpected complications from a recent illness. We extend our most heartfelt condolences and sympathy to Frank’s family. Our thoughts are with them at this most difficult time.

“A sailing icon and industry ‘kingspoke’, Frank Butler has introduced hundreds of thousands of people to sailing during his lifetime. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to know and work with Frank have lost a dear friend and an inspiring mentor. Frank leaves behind a company that only he could have built, and his spirit will forever be the foundation of Catalina Yachts.”

Catalina Yachts
Wherever and whenever you sail, you seem to be crossing tacks with one of the boats Frank built.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John

“Born in California in 1928, Frank’s line of popular sailboats put more than 85,000 Catalinas on the water throughout the yachting world. His boatbuilding career began in 1962, when he contracted with a Southern California builder for a 21’ daysailer. The builder was unable to finish the boat, and gave Butler the tooling. He completed building the boat himself, found he enjoyed the process, and agreed to take over the company.

“A few years later he founded Catalina Yachts, which has grown to become the largest builder of fiberglass production sailboats in the United States, a position it holds to this day.

“A key to Butler’s success in the sailboat industry was his attention to Catalina customers. Handling warranty issues himself, owners were nearly always surprised and reassured to get a personal call from Frank to discuss their concerns.

“Butler was inducted into the National Sailing Hall of Fame in 2013. In recognition of his support of the Congressional Cup, a world match racing event, Long Beach Yacht Club awarded him the Crimson Blazer. He was also a founder and lifelong member of the Westlake Yacht Club in Westlake, CA.

“Awakening the joy of sailing for so many people in past generations, Frank Butler’s sailing legacy will certainly continue well into future generations.”

Circumnavigator Whitall Stokes Goes for a Swim

Everything is going swimmingly for Whitall Stokes on his route around the world — actually he had to jump into the water to cut a spinnaker off his keel in mid-ocean, but more about that later.

Whitall and Sparrow at the dock
Whitall Stokes on the dock on November 7, when a few friends visited to wish him well. Sparrow was berthed in Richmond’s Marina Bay Yacht Harbor.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Chris

Whitall is from Thousand Oaks in Southern California. He’s a long-standing member of the Pacific Singlehanded Sailing Association. He raced in the Northern California Singlehanded Sailing Society’s Singlehanded Transpacific Yacht Race in 2012, with his Tartan 10 Slacker. Now he and his Open 50 Sparrow are attempting a solo circumnavigation via the Great Capes from San Francisco to San Francisco. The route goes around the Big Island of Hawaii to port in order to gain the distance for an official around-the-world record. Halfway there the troubles began. “One of the larger issues that arose was that the water tank became contaminated,” he writes. “It was cloudy and soapy, and rather a big deal not having potable water.

“I determined that the a hose joint must have leaked, allowing some loose dirty bilge water into the tank. After pumping out the tank, I got the watermaker started. It’s been putting out one gallon per hour for a few hours now.”

After he fixed the water situation, his next problem was sails.

“I wanted an adventure. Looks like I’m getting it. Reader’s Digest version: Spinnaker wrap and my own ineptitude resulted in spinnaker in water and I had to cut it away. I jumped in water complete with knife to clear saildrive.”

The long version is that he waited too long to try to unwrap the chute. He had to go for a swim in order to cut it away and watch it sink. Then it was the Code 0’s turn: “3 a.m. this morning — it’s always 3 a.m. — a squall hit, not too bad at 22 knots. I happened to be awake about to make some coffee. Then, with the full main and Code 0 up, and before I could climb into the cockpit to blow the mainsheet, Sparrow rounded up and broached. I got her going again, then moved to roll in the sail but saw it was in shreds, torn from head to tack right down the luff.”

With both of his faster running sails gone, he’s in cruising mode as they approach Hawaii. “So now I only have sails that furl or hank. I’m very good with that. I will go 1 or 2 knots slower in some conditions such as the moderate air run to Hawaii, but I will get around in control. Definitely cruising mode, but I should have time for my reading list.”

Sparrow sails past Sutro Tower
Sparrow departed San Francisco Bay at sunset on November 8.
© 2020 Margie Woods

He summed up the experience so far: “Not a great day, as I will be slowed down, but I have reliable water, power and plenty of food, so things are actually looking pretty good. I am learning more about Sparrow and how to manage her. In the moments I catch my breath and take in the experience, I find Sparrow to be an amazing boat with smooth motion and reasonably fast so as to be a real joy to sail. I take in the continuous light show that is the Sea, and what a privilege it is to be out here to experience all this. In a few days I will reach a “bail-out” decision point as I approach Hilo. As things look now, I will keep Hawaii to port and head for the Horn.”

Learn more about Whitall and Sparrow at and follow their track around the world at

Taking a Sailing Break on San Francisco Bay

Before the rain arrived we had about as beautiful a weekend as one could hope for in the middle of November for sailing on San Francisco Bay. Both Saturday and Sunday were stunningly clear, and Saturday provided good breezes, allowing racers in all corners of the Bay to overcome the strong ebb.

The Matthew Turner was again out strutting her stuff, and the recently restored and launched schooner Viveka was out flashing her sailing wardrobe. Racers were sailing in Jeff Zarwell’s RegattaPRO midwinters, the Berkeley Yacht Club Midwinters and the Corinthian Yacht Club Fall Series. We also crossed tacks with a fleet of Lasers sailing out toward the Golden Gate and back. The world is facing challenges, but if you were sailing the Bay on Saturday, it was easy to forget them for awhile.

Matthew Turner
The Matthew Turner looking for an inside overlap at the reaching mark.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John
Lasers headed up
Lasers were sailing upwind while the big boats were sailing down.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John
The recently restored and relaunched Viveka was out in all her glory.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John
Sailing San Francisco Bay
Blue skies, nice breezes, sparkling water — what else could you want?
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John
CYC Fall Series
Close competition on comfortable days.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John
Solo sailing Katester
Byron Reeves doing the gentlemen’s Vendée Globe with a solo, nonstop afternoon buoy race aboard his Sabre Spirit Katester.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John
John Sweeney Glory
After doing the 2019 Baja Ha-Ha, John Sweeney is back cruising the Bay aboard his Chance 55 Glory.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John
Police Car
To tell the truth, the day didn’t start out all that well. It got better once we were on the Bay.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John
Parting shot: Mike Holmes captured this beautiful image of Viveka getting in one of her last sails in the Pacific before she’s put aboard a ship bound for Europe.
© 2020 Mike Holmes

We’re thankful we’re finally getting some rain. We’re also thankful it’s falling midweek. The view from ‘hump day’ is for a nice weekend ahead.

Boat Fire in Richardson Bay a Harsh Reminder

Sausalito waterfront residents were reminded of some of the harsh realities of boat life when an anchored boat caught fire in Richardson Bay last weekend. While there has been no official statement, scuttlebutt alleges the fire was preceded by an explosion.

We received this photo of Bella — the 34- to 35-ft trawler that allegedly caught fire on Saturday morning.
© 2020 Suzie Olson

Latitude was also on the water over the weekend and took the following photos of the same vessel.

Although there is yet to be an official report on the cause and result of the fire, it is believed that a man and his cat died in the incident.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John
Burned out hull on Richardson Ba
We understand the Marin County Sheriff’s Office is conducting an investigation.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John

This is a sad reminder that, as mariners, we need to be aware of the dangers aboard our vessels. Electricity, and fuel and other flammable materials, have the potential to cause serious problems. Please take care and be vigilant of possible hazards aboard your vessel, particularly now as the weather cools and the days get shorter. While warmth and light become more appealing, the potential for accidents increases.

We’ll bring you more news of the fire as it becomes available.

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