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April 12, 2021

Is This the End of the Road for East Brother Light Station?

The East Brother Light Station has been a Bay Area icon since its construction in 1873. It was built as an aid to mariners navigating the San Pablo and San Francisco Bay waterways. Over the following decades (100+ years) the station went through several upheavals and threats to its existence. Yet due to the commitment and passion of locals and community groups it has managed to endure, and even evolve. What was once simply a lighthouse station eventually also became a Victorian lighthouse bed-and-breakfast inn, offering beautiful views and gourmet foods. Now this is all in jeopardy.

East Brother Light Station
After a fire destroyed the island’s wharf and boathouse in 1941, the light was automated but the buildings were boarded up and became targets for vandals. The station was under constant threat of demolition until it was taken over by a 501(c)(3) nonprofit under license from the USCG.
© 2021 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John

On April 1, the power cable connecting the station to the rest of the world broke. Unfortunately, the news was not a joke. Not only did the lights go out, the entire island was left without power. Lightkeeper Desiree Heveroh spoke with SFGate about the situation she now finds herself in. ‘”It gets real cold on this rock. If it was at all possible, I’m living even further back in time here now, I get the fireplace packed every morning with eucalyptus bark and branches from around the island that I collect.”‘

The failed submarine power cable is owned by the US Coast Guard. Whereas in the past USCG has organized repairs as needed — for example when the cable was damaged after a lightning strike in 1991 — it now seems unlikely that they will foot the bill for a full power restoration. The backup battery and generator systems that are in place are enough to keep the light blinking, but not enough to power the rest of the island’s energy requirements.

Heveroh told SFGate, ‘”The light itself is working now, it charges when I run the generator, so I’ve been watching it like the days of old. The Coast Guard told me when they came out that if the light goes out I need to notify them.

‘”We showed [the US Coast Guard] around, and they basically said, ‘It would be cheaper for us just to put the light in the tower on a solar panel.’ So they’re not going to replace the cable, which leaves us with no power at all. And their responsibility is done.”‘

In an effort to keep the island running and returned to its pre-blackout state, Desiree has organized a fundraising drive on GoFundMe. Her goal is to raise $150,000 to restore power to the island, whether through repair of the cable or installation of a renewable-power system such as a solar, wind, or wave generator. At last look, the tally was $42,816. Once again the community is rallying to save this historic landmark —  it is the oldest wood-frame lighthouse left in the United States; it’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and it is a registered California Historical Landmark. Plus, if you’ve ever been to the lighthouse, or have even stayed overnight in the B&B, you’ll have some idea of the joy the island brings to locals and visitors alike.

Sailing past East Brother Light Station
The East Bay Times reports that Richmond Mayor Tom Butt has “put out a public plea for ideas and funding to help to save the station. Butt was one of the founders of East Brother Light Station, Inc., a nonprofit that rehabilitated the East Brother Light Station in 1979 and opened it as a bed and breakfast inn in 1980.”
© 2021 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John

Desiree wrote on the station’s GoFundMe page, “Our History includes being saved 42 years ago by a large group of people [who] cared enough to pool their collective resources, connections, donations & love to save East Brother Light Station.  We are once again in historic times & we need your help to save her again.”

So what do you say, folks? Can you add your dollars to the growing funds to help save East Brother Light Station? Donations can be made here.

Rolex Big Boat Series Opens for Entries

St. Francis Yacht Club opened registration for the Rolex Big Boat Series last week.

An ORR-A start on Friday in 2019’s Rolex Big Boat Series.
© 2021 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Chris

Scheduled for September 15-19, 2021, the regatta includes four days of competition for boats in the following classes:

  • Monohulls with an LOA greater than 30 feet and a current fully or partially measured ORR rating certificate
  • Classic boats built prior to 1955 with an LOA greater than 48 feet and an ORR-EZ rating certificate
  • J/105, J/88, J/70, J/120 and Express 37 one designs
Mayan and Brigadoon at the A buoy
The schooner Mayan leads Brigadoon off the start of Thursday’s race in 2019. Brigadoon won the inaugural Classic division. Mayan has already signed up for 2021.
© 2021 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Chris

The event will serve as the J/88 North American Championship and the Express 37 Pacific Coast Championship.

With COVID-19 vaccinations increasing and restrictions easing, StFYC anticipates a full schedule of competition, with seven races for each class — plus the return of parties! “We are optimistic that we will be able to host a safe and fun regatta come September,” said St. Francis Yacht Club’s executive race committee chair, Lawson Willard. “With some modifications, we feel confident we’ll be able to put on the full spectrum of racing and socializing that competitors have come to expect and enjoy. The club will be following all state and city COVID policies.”

Commodore Bill Dana said the club is making the necessary accommodations to host visiting sailors safely, and he’s hoping a year off in 2020 will mean boat owners and crews are more eager than ever to compete. Dana recently purchased a veteran RBBS-competitor Santa Cruz 52, Lucky Duck. He’s working on updates and retrofits and hopes to race her soon. In this year’s RBBS, she’ll be lining up in the ORR fleet.

“I’m looking forward to the great sailing conditions we have in September drawing boats from all points on the West Coast,” said Dana. “I’d like to see some of the Southern California boats, including the TP52s, up here. After a year stuck at home, they should be ready for a change of scenery.”

ORR competitor Greg Dorn and his Dehler 46 Favonius will be fresh off Transpac and looking to test his crew within the tighter confines of the Bay. “Big Boat Series is the regatta,” says Dorn. “It creates an amazing competitive environment with the depth to bring out the best in our team and boat. RBBS is the capstone to the inshore season and thoughtfully, professionally and seriously managed. This year we will come with a full inventory of sails and we have optimized the running rigging.”

Regatta chair Susan Ruhne is looking forward to celebrating three decades of Express 37s on the start line by hosting the class’s Pacific Coast Championship. “Competition in that class has been phenomenal over the years. I am excited to see the local kingpins be tested by out-of-state talent traveling here to compete for the title.”

Golden Moon at the finish
Kame Richards and crew on Golden Moon win the Express 37 division of Race 2 in 2019. They would go on to win the regatta with a scoreline of 1-1-2-1-1. (Only five out of the seven scheduled races were completed in 2019.)
© 2021 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Chris

Enter online at To avoid a $200 late charge, pay the full entry fee on or before July 31. If we backslide into another coronavirus surge and the club has to cancel the regatta, they’ll refund all entry fees.

French Polynesia Considering Conditional Entry for Tourists

Kevin Ellis, from Yacht Services Nuku Hiva in French Polynesia, wrote to us about current discussions regarding the country’s plan to open its borders to tourists, under the condition of COVID vaccinations.

Kevin wrote, “The president of French Polynesia has just returned from France where he was seeking support for opening the borders of French Polynesia. Beginning in the month of May, the borders will begin to open for those coming from other countries for tourism, who can show proof of Coronavirus vaccinations.

“How this news will affect the cruising or the cruise ship communities is not yet clear as the announcement was just made today.

“We hope to have news in the coming weeks of how the maritime authorities in French Polynesia will change their policies based on the opening of tourism. We will do our best to keep you all informed as we learn more over the weeks to come.

“Fair winds and calms seas.”

French Polynesia
Wouldn’t it be nice to see this view from your boat deck this year? Making landfall in the idyllic isles of French Polynesia is often a highlight of any sailor’s career. Seen here is Seattle-based Pico on approach to Moorea during the 2014 Pacific Puddle Jump.
© 2021 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Andy

Jan Alexander from [email protected] added to Kevin’s email, saying, “When reading the original French news articles about today’s press conference by the President of French Polynesia, it’s worth noting that both news outlets I was able to see used the conditional verb forms to refer to opening the borders on May 1. That is, one article said Macron “would be” in favor of opening and the other reported that Fritch said the borders “should” open. So while it is likely, it is not 100% confirmed that May 1 will be the day.”

As this decision will affect Puddle Jumpers, we’ll let you know if we hear anything more on this topic in the coming weeks.

You’ll know you’ve arrived in French Polynesia when locals wearing flower garlands paddle out to welcome you.
© 2021 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Andy

Navy Trimaran USS ‘Oakland,’ ‘Sailing’ into San Francisco Bay

If you’re a Navy vet and know your naval history, you may know the third US Navy ship to be named for the city of Oakland will be sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge at 7 a.m. this coming Wednesday, April 14. She’s arriving for her commissioning ceremony, to be held at Pier 22 in Oakland.

The commissioning will be held at 10 a.m. on Saturday the 17th, but reduced to a small affair due to the pandemic. It will be viewable via live streaming here. Each commissioning has a sponsor who, for the USS Oakland, is Kate Brandt, the federal government’s first sustainability officer and now worldwide head of sustainability for Google. Interestingly, Kate grew up in Muir Beach, CA.

USS 'Oakland'
The most recent USS Oakland will be ‘sailing’ under the Golden Gate Bridge at 7 a.m. on Wednesday.
© 2021 US Navy

“We are honored to host Ms. Brandt as the ship’s sponsor,” said Austal USA president Craig Perciavalle. “Her time spent serving our country through her work for the government, specifically the Navy, and her dedication to green initiatives protecting the environment make her a clear choice as the sponsor of Oakland.”

While not quite as fast as the 60-ft foiling trimaran L’Hydroptere, this 471-ft-long and 104-ft-wide trimaran is capable of speeds of 40 knots.

We Said We Were Done Discussing s/v ‘Freedom’, then This Happened …

In our last post about s/v Freedom, we shared her mystery photo location as told by the photographer, Kirk Wagner — “The photo was taken on the beach in Puerto Balandra on Isla Carmen on Christmas Day, 2020.”

Although there were many readers who disagreed, we decided to call it quits and let the jury discuss the outcome among themselves. But then this happened …

Kirk wrote to us again a couple of days later and admitted he had given us a bum steer about Freedom‘s location. It turned out the naysayers were right.

“The photo was taken at Honeymoon Cove, not Puerto Balandra. Sorry for the mix-up.”

So congratulations to everyone who said Honeymoon Cove; you are all winners!

To add a twist to his updated photo confirmation, Kirk sent us the photo below, and asked if readers can guess where this one was taken. How about it folks, best out of two?

s/v Freedom dinghy twin
Kirk wrote, “The dinghy picture that brought so much discussion has a twin but it’s not in the same bay.”
Who’s willing to name the place?
© 2021 Kirk Wagner
What Is Going On Here?
Happy mid-April, readers. For this month's Caption Contest(!) we have a photo with a difference. What do you think is going on in this picture captured by Larry White?