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March 29, 2021

A Little Piece of History with Milly Biller

Bay Area sailor Milly Biller commented on our story from last week about inspirational women sailors. Milly wrote, “All fabulous choices. Jocelyn Nash actually and totally saved my life once.” Naturally we were curious, and wrote Milly to ask for the details. Below is the story she told us.

I had just returned from Africa with my father and family after witnessing a solar eclipse. My dad was an astrophysicist who was studying solar flares and solar winds, so it was a research mission. (My dad’s telescope focused way too far past the sun and the ship was rolling like crazy, so he could not keep the sun in his field of view and ended up using the pics I took with my Pentax and 400mm lens. Fun stuff.)

We were on the P&O liner Canberra, along with 3000 other scientists and their families. On the trip you could take courses in all kinds of sciences from astrophysics to meteorology to navigation, from the likes of people such as Isaac Asimov. I took the meteorology and navigation classes.

P&O Canberra - history
The P&O passenger liner Canberra as she appeared in her final season in 1997.
© 2021 P&O Heritage

We stopped at the Canary Islands and climbed up to the observatory before going on to Dakar. We spent a few days there before heading back out into the South Atlantic for clearer atmosphere and the eclipse. We were running between a low-pressure system and a sandstorm, but our ship’s meteorologist put us in perfect position for a great observation. I got to be his little shadow.

Going from a tropical climate to New York and back to San Francisco, I caught a cold, which quickly morphed into pneumonia. I was working for DeWitt Sails at the time, and living on my boat. When Jocelyn saw that I wasn’t showing up for work, she came down to my boat to find me. I could hardly get out of my bunk and was completely dehydrated. She took me home with her and nursed me back to heath in her own home. My hero forever.

Milly Biller & Jocelyn Nash
What are the odds of these two having met up all those years ago? Well, they’re both sailors, so the odds are very good!
© 2021 John Skoriak/Cinde Lou Delmas
Milly Biller flies her chicken mainsail
And she’s still making sails — Milly is in the foreground with her new ‘chicken main’ that she cut out of an old mainsail, so she could singlehand easily with the Inverness Yacht Club in 2020.
© 2021 Cynthia Gerlinger

By the way, we consider Milly to be one of our own inspirational sailors. Thanks, Milly!

Timing Is Everything with Whale Sightings

There have been recent reports in the media about humpback whale sightings on the Bay, saying this is unusually early for them to be seen. Not so, according to Jan-Petter Haugen, who sails his Islander 28 Dire Straits II out of Berkeley, and sent us photos from his phone of a humpback he saw March 21 last year, and again this year.

As JP says, “Pay attention to date and time. These sightings are to the hour, one year apart and almost in the same place! Guess where I will be in a year. I feel like I have a date with a whale.”.

Date with a whale
JP Haugen is looking forward to his annual date with a whale on March 21, 2022.
© 2021 Latitude 38 Media LLC / JP Haugen

We don’t want to suggest the whale will date just anyone, but it did treat Tiburcio de la Carcova, sailing aboard the Contessa 26 Sarah out of Berkeley Marina, to a great leap at R4 off Point Blunt. It was caught on video:

We also saw a humpback in Raccoon Strait while sailing with Nick Raggio aboard Alpha. Could this be the same whale that shows up early every year just to keep scientists and sailors on their toes? The timing was right for both JP and Tiburcio. Keep your eyes open and your camera ready.

Club Nautique ‘Get to Know Jeanneau’ Event Coming in April

The Pacific Sail and Power Boat Show may have been cancelled, but we’ve got you covered! Get to Know Jeanneau at Club Nautique in Alameda, CA. You’re invited to come and see some of Jeanneau’s best-selling models at this ‘by appointment only’ event. Appointments are available every hour on the hour from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

About That Pool Noodle Crossing My Bow …

In our March issue, Max Ebb wrote about an innocent pool noodle floating by that turned out to be a serious scientific project …

It was a very odd piece of flotsam, and it was headed right for my boat. A lost pool noodle? An advertising sign that had washed into the Bay? No, this thing was sailing, and it was steady on course. I was watching from a cabin window, and lost sight of the thing as it came closer and sailed below my field of view. “Nothing urgent,” I thought to myself, having decided that the pool noodle’s bow was the only part of this toy likely to make contact.

But before I was on deck, there was a slight but sudden roll of my boat and a small jerk as the trim changed and the slack in the dock lines fetched up. Someone had stepped aboard. It was followed by several other bounces and small jolts, and many light footsteps on deck — too many for just one uninvited visitor.

I jumped up to the top step of the companionway ladder, and saw none other than Lee Helm and three young girls hopping across my foredeck, apparently on their way to catch the miniature sailing contraption.

It looked innocent, but what was lurking beneath this errant pool noodle?
© 2021 Max Ebb

“Uh, like, request permission to come aboard?” Lee asked a little sheepishly, followed by an exaggerated “Sir!” and a clumsy salute. “We didn’t think anyone was on board.”

“Permission granted retroactively,” I said, returning the salute. “For you and your boarding party.”

“We just have to tack the model and send it back across the fairway,” Lee explained. “It’s like, not radio-controlled or anything.”

“So that’s your creation?” I asked, watching one of the girls lean over the outboard rail under the lifelines so she could set the boat onto the other tack and send it back out across the marina.

“My team built it,” Lee explained. “It’s a science project.”

It turned out that the local middle school had asked the University if they could send over some grad students to help run some outdoor science activities.

Lee Helm, a graduate student in the naval architecture department, had of course volunteered on condition that she didn’t have to pay any attention to any published curriculum. The school had second thoughts but eventually decided to sign her up, and she had the kids building model sailboats and learning about lift, drag, buoyancy, ballast, and course-keeping stability parameters.

“These aren’t just any sailboats,” she boasted. “They’re made from old leftover political lawn signs.”

That explained why the sails were made of cardboard and had “VOTE!” printed on both sides.

“Where on earth did this idea come from?” I asked.

Please continue reading at

April Yacht Racing Preview

Northern California Regattas

St. Francis Yacht Club will host a Spring Fest for invited one designs, ORR and PHRF on April 10-11.

Berkeley YC’s Wheeler Regatta runs April 10-11, with the YRA Summer Series kickoff on Saturday only. Sunday’s race is a pursuit. Sign up for either or both on Jibeset.

Folsom Lake YC’s Camellia Cup Regatta will be one day only this year, on Saturday, April 10, so that road warriors can go home that night.

The San Francisco ocean sailing season will open with the OYRA Lightship Race on April 17.

San Francisco YC invites Melges 24, Express 27, Etchells, J/70, J/24, Cal 20, Folkboat and Moore 24 classes to race in the Resin Regatta on April 17-18.

Sausalito YC will kick off their three-race Twin Island Series on April 24.

The Singlehanded Sailing Society will launch a new in-the-Bay singlehanded-only North Bay Race on April 24.

Island YC’s Sadie Hawkins female skippers’ race will race on the Estuary on April 24. The skipper shall identify as female; other crew may be male or female. IYC offers divisions for singlehanded, doublehanded and crewed; spinnaker and non-spinnaker.

Taz!! finishing
The Express 27 Taz!! finishes the 2018 Sadie Hawkins Race on the Oakland-Alameda Estuary.
© 2021 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Chris

April Evenings on the Estuary

Encinal YC’s Twilight Series will begin on April 9 and alternate Friday nights with IYC’s Island Nights, which will start on April 16.

Oakland YC will run their Sweet 16 Series every Wednesday beginning on April 28. All three clubs are based in Alameda, with registration on Jibeset.

San Francisco Bay Beer Can Series

“Orange ya glad you live in the Bay Area?” is the rhetorical question posed by Corinthian YC. And the puns continue: “We can’t mask our pleasure!” CYC is inviting racers to sign up for their Friday Night Races, beginning on April 9.

Zsa Zsa and two other boats at Point Stuart
CYC racers return to Tiburon from the windward mark in a Friday night beer can race last summer.
© 2021 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John

Berkeley YC is running races every Friday night April-September.

Sequoia YC’s weekly Sunset Series begins on April 14.

“We will begin Tuesday team racing on April 20, and Thursday fleet racing on April 22,” writes Sam Wheeler, fleet captain of the San Francisco Bay Vanguard 15 fleet. The boats launch at Treasure Island Sailing Center and sail in Clipper Cove.

South Beach YC’s Friday night series will kick off on April 23.

Southern California Regattas

LAYC in San Pedro will reprise their Breakout Regatta Series, which debuted last year, with the first race on April 10.

The deadline to enter NOSA’s 73rd Newport to Ensenada Race is 5 p.m. on April 8. The race will start on April 23.


The Bay Area Multihull Association had scheduled a Doublehanded Lightship/Duxship Race for April 3, but they’ve canceled that.

The El Toro Yacht International Racing Association, in conjunction with Richmond and Sausalito YCs, had tentatively scheduled the Bullship Race for April 10, but that is now off the table. Richmond YC, Lake Merritt, Lake Elizabeth and most private launching facilities remain (mostly) closed, so no spring regattas are planned for the El Toros.

In the Virtual World

On April 7, NOSA plans an online N2E seminar, at 7 p.m. via Zoom.

Encinal YC will host a racing rules and tactics webinar with Dave Perry on Thursday, April 8, 7-9 p.m. PDT. Register here by April 4 for $20, or thereafter for $25.

IYC will present an online skippers’ meeting for the Sadie Hawkins Race combined with an Estuary racing clinic on Monday, April 19, at 7 p.m. See

As always, this is just a brief sampling. Many more events, both on and off the water, are planned than we can list here. Check out the monthly Calendar in Latitude 38, and the 2021 Northern California Sailing Schedule. Also feel free to note your favorites in the Comments section below.

Sponsored Post
This exquisite waterfront on Belvedere's Corinthian Island was custom designed and built in 2008 for a well-known yacht racer.
Views of the Pointy End
While walking the docks of the California Yacht Club we couldn't help noticing the jewels adorning the noses of the many boats in their slips.