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July 21, 2021

Seawind Catamaran Collides with UFO During Pacific Crossing

Yesterday we received word from Bruce Balan, aboard the Cross 46 Migration, that a catamaran had collided with an unidentified floating object (UFO) 10 days out of Hawaii while on a voyage to the Pacific Northwest. Bruce included a few links, and this is what we’ve been able to put together.

JollyDogs is a 2008 Seawind 1160 catamaran — full-time home and cruising vessel of Mark and Isabel Hardesty since 2014. Most recently the couple had embarked on a crossing from Hawaii to the Pacific Northwest. They did their research, consulted with several experienced ocean-crossing sailors including Latitude 38 contributor Ronnie Simpson, who has completed dozens of crossings from the US island state to the mainland, in his role as delivery skipper for returning Transpac Race boats. And of course they’d read Jimmy Cornell’s World Cruising Routes. But regardless of all the preparation and heeding of well-placed advice, it’s almost impossible to prepare for the unknown — partially submerged objects, such as shipping containers, navigational markers that have come adrift, even perhaps abandoned sailboats. Whatever was floating in JollyDogs‘ path that evening left a large hole in the vessel’s starboard bow.

Seawind catamaran collision
While it’s not the sharpest of photos. it’s pretty clear that this is a big hole.
© 2021 S/V JollyDogs

Mark described the damage in JollyDogs‘ blog on PredictWind: “The guy was in the water trailing at the piece of bow structure it’s attached to. Kind of in disbelief I retrieved the assembly to the deck and then took a look at the starboard lower bow, or at least where there used to be one. Pretty much gone, with the seas pounding against the flat collision bulkhead about one meter aft of the bow.” The couple’s immediate response was to heave to and strategize their next several moves.

They alerted the US Coast Guard, who remained on standby and informed the sailors that there were several ships in the area that could divert to assist if necessary. They were also able to connect with “the Seawind factory folks and some rather smart pals in the aircraft mechanics and composites fields,” to determine if a repair could be enacted at sea.

“We inventoried all our repair materials today, brainstormed with the wizards, and tomorrow morning we’ll embark on the mission of reinforcing the collision bulkhead forward of the starboard head,” Mark wrote. “Once we complete the inside repairs and know how much epoxy we’ve got left, we’ll do our best to create and install a fairing where the bow used to be in an effort to reduce the water pressure against the collision bulkhead. Next we’ll try and fashion a fabric bow bra and secure it to the structure. That’ll reduce the water trying to get in and slam[ming] against that bulkhead. Lastly we’ll see how much floaty stuff we can get inside the cavity where the bow used to be. Air-filled things and closed cell foam will hopefully fill much of the space keeping water down and damping the impact.”

No, the bow should not look like that.
© 2021 S/V JollyDogs

On Friday, July 9, two days after the collision, JollyDogs was looking in better shape and her crew were hopeful that they would reach Port Townsend, where they had scheduled a haulout and repairer for July 29.

“It’s been a rather busy day. Fabricating reinforcement braces, cutting up a diesel jerry can to act as a bow structure, bolting it partly on, all in all we earned our dinner. The weather is chilly and we’re surrounded by fog at times, so getting the fiberglass surfaces we need to bond the epoxy in proper condition has been impossible due to condensation. We finally got the surfaces down to the same temperature as the outside environment, so tomorrow we’ll hopefully have dry surfaces to sand and bond to.

“We also did our best to fashion a crude bow section using some bits of fiberglass sheet and a plastic diesel jerry can. We got that partly bolted on today before the clock ran out. Hopefully wrap that up tomorrow along with the fiberglass work. A nearby yacht named Lady Amber heard of our plight and is proceeding in our direction; we spoke with them on SSB tonight and hope to see them when we awaken in the morning.”

We can only wish these two resourceful sailors the very best of fair winds and following seas as they continue their voyage, “carefully and a good bit more slowly,” across the Pacific.

We found this photo of JollyDogs anchored at Los Muertos, Baja California Sur, Mexico, on Mark Hardesty’s Facebook page.
© 2021 Mark Hardesty

JollyDogs‘ most recent blog post, dated July 20, indicated that Mark and Isabel are still afloat and their repair is holding. You can read more about their current status here.

Lasers Battle for North American Titles

Last week, in what turned out to be a fitting tribute to designer Bruce Kirby, 124 Lasers gathered at the St. Francis Yacht Club to compete in the ILCA North Americans. San Francisco Bay dished up its normal challenging summer conditions, though sun and smiles were both abundant.

The regatta was held July 15-18, and Kirby passed away at age 92 on the last day, Sunday the 18th. He designed many boats but is best known for designing the Laser in 1971. More than 218,000 have been built since, and this year is the boat’s 50th anniversary. Of those Lasers, StFYC members Don Trask and Bill Kreysler built 11,000 in San Rafael, creating a local fleet that spawned many Bay Area champions including Craig Healy, Jeff Madrigali, Russ Silvestri, John Kostecki, John Bertrand and many more.

ILCA North Americans
With 124 boats divided into four classes you had to be on your starting game.
© 2021 StFYC/Gerard Sheridan
ILCA North Americans at StFYC
Mark roundings were busy, but, even in Cityfront breezes, sailors mostly kept their boats upright.
© 2021 StFYC/Gerard Sheridan
ILCA North Americans
A narrow leeward gate gave competitors extra choice and room, but not much.
© 2021 StFYC/Gerard Sheridan
ILCA North Americans
It takes a great on-the-water and shore team to manage a regatta of this scale. Luckily StFYC has both.
© 2021 StFYC/Gerard Sheridan

Lots of San Francisco Bay sailing legends cut their teeth sailing Lasers on the Cityfront. More legends were being created by upcoming stars who competed in the NAs. If you’re a weekend racer who notices that there’s a fleet member who nails the start, executes the perfect rounding, and regularly ends up at the top of their class, it wouldn’t be surprising to find they spent some time competing in Lasers in their youth. Designer Bruce Kirby departed this past weekend, but the legacy he created continues to challenge and inspire new generations of sailors around the world.

We’ll have more on the ILCA North Americans in our August issue of Latitude 38. In the meantime, you can see the race results here. And, for a 50th-anniversary retrospective on the local Laser class, watch a panel put together earlier in the year with Don Trask, Bill Kreysler and ILCA World Council president and StFYC regatta chair Tracy Usher in this Youtube video.

Visiting with Vesper and Dawn Riley in 112th Chicago-Mac

Chicago Yacht Club’s magical freshwater adventure to Mackinac Island returned for the 112th time. More than 326 yachts took part in what turned into three races for the price of one.

On July 16, a blustery Saturday afternoon with steady 12- to 14-knot breezes and up to 6-ft lake swells, 20 divisions started at 15-minute intervals just south of Chicago’s historic Navy Pier. The boats pointed their bows to the north in unison. A majority tacked over toward Michigan’s sandy beaches in groups of packrats, heading toward the Manitous in breezes they knew would die come nightfall.

TP52 start
The TP52s Vesper, Windquest, Heartbreaker and Mockingbird start the 112th Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac.
© 2021 Mark Reid

This was a race with three Acts. The first was the healthy start and sprint north toward Ludington, MI, which lies south of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park’s Manitou Islands, a strategic center point for the skippers and their crews. The racers spent the second Act connecting the dots in a patchwork of light air as the fleet separated into the groups that captured a little bit of breeze and those that didn’t. For all the teams, it was an agonizing night of trying to stay ahead of your competitors while swatting away the hordes of mosquitoes and flies. (Never a bat around when you need one — or many.) This led to Act 3, beautiful spinnaker finishes in a nice southwesterly under the Mackinac Bridge (which closed briefly on Sunday for a bomb threat) and onto the Straits to the finish line off Windermere Point on Mackinac Island.

It wasn’t the fastest Race to Mackinac in history, but after last year’s COVID hiatus it was a welcome relief.

Mackinac has a unique charm and character all of its own. The island, which lies on Lake Huron sandwiched between Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas, is home to majestic Victorian-era hotels, lots of fudge — and no automobiles!

Mackinac Island street scene
Mackinac Island is all horses, fudge and bicycles.
© 2021 Mark Reid

On approach one cannot mistake the elegant and historic Grand Hotel, which hovers majestically over the island. The hotel plays host to the infamous Porch Party, which for the elegant women of the yacht club and their fanciful hats has become the Kentucky Derby of yacht racing.

Grand Hotel Porch Party
The Grand Hotel Porch Party is the highlight for everyone who is not racing.
© 2021 Mark Reid

Checking in with Dawn Riley

The fleet included a dozen Great Lakes (Santa Cruz) 70s, six of the blazingly fast TP52s in one of the more competitive divisions, and OC 86 (ex-Windquest), the Frers 80 skippered by Dawn Riley and crewed by students from the Oakcliff Sailing Academy. For Riley, recently named to the National Sailing Hall of Fame class of 2021 and originally from Michigan, it wasn’t her first Chicago-Mac, but for her ‘kids’, about half the crew, it was! In many respects, Riley was not only the skipper but the ‘camp’ director and counselor too.

Dawn Riley with kids from Oakcliff Sailing
Dawn Riley and her ‘grinders’.
© 2021 Mark Reid

“We started off really well; it was maximum for this boat because it is so powerful,” said Riley. “We kept it safe.” She noted that the Academy kids were her rock-star grinding team. “They spent a lot of time practicing jumping on and off the grinders. When the winds died, we drifted sideways over toward Wisconsin a bit. I have never seen it so close! That allowed everyone to catch up to us.”

We’re planning a longer interview with the former America’s Cup skipper; look for that in the August issue of Latitude 38.

Visiting Vesper

California sailors raced on several boats, none more so than on Vesper (TP52), which has several Rolex Big Boat Series to its credit. The name pays homage to one of 007’s gorgeous girls. Unfortunately, her engine failed to start after the finish, which led to an admonishment from the race committee and a stiff penalty for the safety infraction.

Vesper crew with race committee official
The crew of Vesper get a visit from the race committee after their engine wouldn’t start at the conclusion of the race, which led to a safety infraction penalty.
© 2021 Mark Reid

Vesper’s owner David Team hails from Newport Beach, California, as does most of the crew. “It was a great race until we finished!” said Team. Their closest TP52 competitor was Natalie J. “We went to the outside [of the Manitous], and there were a couple of holes on the weather side of both islands. They stayed outside much farther. Once we finally got inside them, they were much farther ahead as they went out toward Beaver Island. We were both becalmed for a couple of hours. This morning they got the wind first and scooted away from us. Natalie J did a great job!

It was Matt Reynolds’ second Mac race. He’s from San Diego. “It was a bit light,” said Reynolds. “But, there are different aspects of the race, and you have to be on your toes the entire time. It rewards you when you do it right!”

Vesper’s watch captain and tactician Morgan Larson is from Santa Cruz. He also sails in the TP52 Super Series in Europe on Bronenosec Gazprom from the St. Petersburg YC in Russia. “It was a great race with plenty of opportunities,” said Larson. “We had a little bit of luck in the middle of the race and extended to a nice lead until this morning [Monday], when we ran out of wind and Natalie J sailed up to us. We drifted with them for a few hours and eventually they got away.

“We had a little dispute with them because they used a masthead jib they were not rated for in order to get out to the wind line,” said Larson, who added that they probably weren’t going to protest them. “They hoisted a staysail up from the bowsprit to capture the higher wind, which wasn’t legal to their rating certificate. But, they sailed an amazing race anyway!”

Most of sailing’s rock stars have at least one Mac Race on their résumé, if not more. Larry Ellison brought Sayonara here in 1998 for the 100th anniversary and almost broke the record set by Roy Disney on Pyewacket of 23 hours and 30 minutes on the 289.4-mile course. This year’s race was a bit more pedestrian. Riley and her student contingent brought OC 86 in at 45 hours and 47 minutes.

OC 86 at the lighthouse
Oakcliff Sailing Academy’s OC 86, skippered by Dawn Riley and largely crewed by students, crosses the finish line in front of the Round Island Lighthouse.
© 2021 Mark Reid

The largest boat in the fleet was Whitehall, a 104-ft ketch. The smallest was Nemo, a Seascape 27. The oldest sailor was 93 and the youngest 14, with plenty of ‘old goats’ (minimum 25 races) in between.

See the full results and more at

Birds Take Line Honors in Non-Sailing Day Excuses

Last week we wrote about a how a bird’s nest had paused Tom and Anne Bishop’s sailing plans for several weeks. Well, it seems we stirred the nest with this one — despite our initial skepticism, it turns out that birds are quite adept at keeping sailors at the docks. We received comments from several readers who’ve had similar experiences. When you think about it, it makes sense that birds would choose to nest in sailboats. What better way is there to give your babies a flying start than to bring them up on a wind-powered vessel?

Gary Clausen is another sailor who waited until the kids had ‘flown the coop.’ “Me too, it was during spring with flawless weather and discovered a nest made into the boom gooseneck, we thought about going out but Mom would have come back to an empty slip and maybe taken off. The boat sat for weeks while the three babies grew and then flew away.” Gary also mentioned that he’s been stuck in marina mud a few times when his keel dug in during low tide, so it’s not always about the birds.

“Pigeons keep laying eggs in my overturned kayak on the deck of a friend’s catamaran in Grand Marina,” Dana Smith shared.

Birds take line honors
OK, the nest is not in a sailboat, but the kayak was on a sailboat, so in our way of thinking, that counts.
© 2021 Dana Smith

“In Panama we had a bird build his nest in our sail cover. I would destroy the nest and a day later it would be back,” Chris Lonjers wrote.

One of Aldred Chipman’s customers asked him to make a mainsail cover that would “keep the birds out.” His response? “I asked if he’d ever noticed the size of the entry to a birdhouse.”

It’s interesting to note that our tiny feathered friends also enjoy building their homes in radar reflectors.

Patricia Ching wrote, “We delayed moving our sailboat from San Diego to Ventura until the hummingbird who built her nest in the radar reflector raised her baby! ?

“Same thing, (and the same species of bird) happened to us,” Steve Bondelid commented. “The nest was built in the “catch rain” position of our radar reflector, which was protected from weather by its mounting position under our radar.”

Thanks for sharing your bird stories, sailors. It seems we’ll have to keep a closer eye on what’s going on inside our covers; in fact, in any little crevice. But, as Lola Roxy wrote, perhaps there’s a silver lining. “They are kind and leaving you breakfast ????? All you need is some bacon ?? ”

Maybe we should have used the nest photo for a Caption Contest(!)?