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June 9, 2021

Nelly Belle Tastes Saltwater in Time to Race to Fresh Water

50-Year-Old Boat Relaunched

“Alan Wirtanen relaunched his 24-ft boat, Nelly Belle, on May 29 almost 50 years since he built her,” reports Niels Kisling of Santa Cruz Yacht Club and Capitola. “Nelly was formed on the same plug as Steve Fennell’s boat, Pi. Alan found Nelly about 10 years ago in Texas, bought her, brought her home, and restored her in Alan Wirtanen fashion. She is immaculate.”

Nelly Belle on the hoist
Nelly Belle lookin’ good about to be splashed in Santa Cruz Harbor.
© 2021 Niels Kisling

“The people who gathered were a who’s who of Santa Cruz sailing history. It was quite an honor for Alan, his wife Melanie Kett, and Dennis Bassano Jr., who was also involved in the restoration. It was a traditional Santa Cruz-style boat launch. The best part for me was that I didn’t have to sneak beer from the keg like I did when I was 13.”

Bill Lee and Morgan Larson
Santa Cruz calling New Zealand. Bill Lee and Morgan Larson Facetime with Morgan’s parents Bobbo and Janie half a world away.
© 2021 Niels Kisling
Christening the bow with champagne.
Melanie Kett christens Nelly Belle in a shower of champagne.
© 2021 Niels Kisling

Nelly Belle‘s Ill-Fated Sistership

Pi in 1975
Pi departing Santa Cruz Harbor on June 27, 1975.
© 2021 Courtesy Niels Kisling

Three boats in the 1975 edition of the 245-mile Santa Cruz to Santa Barbara race came from the same plug — Nelly Belle, Loose and Pi. Two boats came home. On June 27, 1975, off Point Sur, Pi capsized and sank in a gale with 40- to 50-knot winds. The three-man crew took to the liferaft and spent the night adrift and awash in the breaking seas. Suffering from exposure, Steve Fennell, 33, of Capitola, and his brother Walter, 22, of Bethel Island, perished. After 24 hours, a Chevron oil tanker rescued the third member of the crew, Niels Kisling, 16. Fennell had built Pi himself.

Looking Forward

Wirtanen has registered Nelly Belle in the 30th Delta Ditch Run, which will sail from Richmond Yacht Club to Stockton Sailing Club this Saturday, June 12, 2021. We’ll take this mention as a reminder that the deadline to sign up for the Ditch Run is today, June 9. The Delta Ditch Run is an official event in the Delta Doo Dah. Registration in the Doo Dah is free; the Ditch Run sign-up fee is $125.

Nelly Belle sailing.
Saltwater anoints Nelly Belle’s shiny new bottom, with Alan Wirtanen, Dennis Bassano, Melanie Kett and Morgan Larson  aboard. Photobomb by Point Richmond-based Fats, Vicki Gilmour’s Grand Banks 32 trawler.
© 2021 Niels Kisling

Caption Contest(!)

Happy June, readers! This beautiful weather has us all wanting to lie about in the sun like this. Give it your best shot in this month’s Caption Contest(!).

June Caption Contest(!)
Your caption here.
© 2021 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Chris

Our racing editor, Chris, who captured this month’s photo at Santa Cruz Harbor, got the ball rolling with, “Does this dock make me look fat?”

What Is ‘Rapture of the Deep,’ and Do We Have It?

In June’s Latitude 38, Max Ebb explores sailors’ obsession with nautical artifacts.

“Rapture of the deep” is defined as “an obsessive desire to be surrounded by possessions of a nautical nature, such as lamps made from running lights and tiny ships’ wheels; and a conviction that objects are moving when they are in fact standing still.”

The source is one of the most authoritative reference works ever published: Sailing, A Sailor’s Dictionary by H. Beard and R. McKie.

Like most of us working from home for the past year and then some, Roxanne Scholes and her family had too much time on their hands. They had all turned their attention to interior decorating. Yes, I too had put some old paintings of clipper ships up on the walls, along with favorite photos of my own boat. I even bought an antique solid wood bookcase to display the best of my nautical book collection in the living room. But what I was about to experience as guest of a raptured family was nautical miles beyond.

My hosts were Roxanne Scholes, Sandy Barr and their identical twin girls. Finding the house was the first obstacle. Street parking was easy — my landlubber GPS phone app had me on the right block — but house numbers? I noticed one front gate with a string of number pennant code flags, but the flags seemed wrong. I was looking for number 1241. I remembered the flags for one and two, but I often get four and eight mixed up. And the last flag was the “general recall” signal, not another number pennant at all.

Sailing flags on the gate
Left: The house number, 1241, as displayed on the front gate. Guests are expected to know the code flags and the proper use of the first substitute for a duplicate number.
© 2021 Max Ebb

“This must be the place!” said Lee Helm, a little out of breath as she screeched to a stop on her bicycle. “It’s like, a good climb up this hill,” she gasped. “Three of the numbers look right,” I said as I looked up and down the block to see if another house displayed the correct number in a system I could read without a code book, “but I’m not sure about that last one.”

Please continue reading at Latitude

Wildcard’s Round-Trip Racing Ticket in the SoCal 300

J/24 racer Brandon Mercer joined the crew on Nick Grebe’s Santa Cruz 37 Wildcard for the recent California Offshore Race Week and sent in this tale from the SoCal 300 segment. Brandon reported the wind threw Wildcard a wild card, but they played it strategically. — ed.

Earning a third-place finish in the Spinnaker Cup and a tenacious yet less-than-successful attempt to beat the cutoff time in the Coastal Cup for a second-place finish, the new team Wildcard Racing was amped up for the SoCal 300. Unfortunately, the wind was not.

Nick Grebe Wildcard
Nick Grebe at the helm of his Santa Cruz 37, rounding Santa Cruz Island and bearing away in strong breeze. Anthony Jacuzzi and Rosanne Scholl are trimming.
© 2021 Brandon Mercer

The best teams know they must adapt to the conditions, throwing out plans as circumstances evolve. And so it was, 125 miles out from San Diego with the wind hole growing and the distance to finish not shrinking fast enough, the crew made the difficult decision to retire.

“It was extremely disappointing to make that call, but we felt it was the right thing to do instead of thrashing the rigging for two days, letting water supplies dwindle and fuel run low. We did not want to be placed in a position without safe exit options,” said Grebe.

Tactics often mean thinking outside the box, which literally meant sailing the wrong way from San Diego for Wildcard, motoring for 12 hours to reach offshore wind and a fast reach back up to Santa Barbara.

“Some of the best sailing actually came after we retired,” Grebe added. “As we rounded Santa Cruz Island, the clouds parted, the sun went down, and a spectacular Milky Way emerged as dolphins streaming bioluminescence streaked across the channel to dance around our bow when we hoisted the A2.”

Brandon Mercer Wildcard
In an effort to encourage Murphy’s Law mid-SoCal 300, the foredeck and pit/snacktician crew got the crazy idea to serve afternoon tea in the middle of the race, thinking it might summon sportier conditions. As they bobbed just east of the waypoint off Cortes Bank in 2 knots of breeze and 5-ft seas, Brandon Mercer and Stacy Riggs set to work. Cobbling together some leftover bread and packaged tuna, slicing some bite-sized peppers, and turning a hatch cover into a serving platter, the crew feasted on finger sandwiches, brie, crackers and tea before making the wise call to retire and go find some offshore breeze to carry them back to port.
© 2021 Nick Grebe

The Santa Cruz 37 ended up second in ORR-C for the overall California Offshore Race Week series, with the crew of Rosanne Scholl, Nicolas Schmidt, Anthony Jacuzzi, Anthony Murphy, Margarita Tzoka, Stacy Riggs, Brandon Mercer and Scott Racette, plus Will Paxton and Jeane Marie Rodgers for the Monterey leg.

Read more about California Offshore Race Week in the upcoming July issue of Latitude 38.

Showing the Way to Half Moon Bay
If you were going to be an ambassador to all the new boat owners wondering where to go and what to do with their new sailboat this summer, what would you recommend?