Lauren Sloss got into sailing through her then-boyfriend (now-husband), Alex, about 11 years ago. “We were both living in San Francisco when we met. He and his friend had gotten in the habit of going in on pretty cheap boats they found on Craigslist together, teaching themselves to sail on the Bay. Because it was a lot of fun but also because Alex and his brother Nick wanted to sail around the world, and they wanted to get some experience and get a little more comfort and familiarity with everything. We started dating; I found out he had a boat — I thought that was pretty cool.”
Lauren started going out sailing with Alex. Then she moved to New York to pursue her postgraduate degree in journalism at NYU. Alex left on his circumnavigation aboard the 1979 Valiant 32 Saltbreaker. She met up with him in Central America and sailed down the coast of Nicaragua. Nick and Alex made it to New Zealand, and Nick continued on with the boat from New Zealand through Indonesia.
Alex and Lauren picked up the boat in Bali and spent a few months sailing around Indonesia, making their way to Singapore. “That’s the time that I developed my sailing instincts and experience,” she says. “It was just the two of us, it was a 32-ft boat, and we did a number of three-night passages. In the China Sea there was a ton of shipping traffic and a ton of fishing boats, so it was a lot of learning, being on watch, knowing when to change course, and dealing with a lot of weird weather at the equator and a non-functioning diesel, which made everything extra-exciting, with a lot of sailing into anchorages.
“After that, my brother-in-law brought the boat from Singapore to South Africa. We joined back up, and four of us crossed the Atlantic together to Martinique. Nick brought the boat back to San Francisco Bay, having done the bulk of the circumnavigation. “Alex probably did two thirds of it.” You can read Saltbreaker’s blog from that time, but it hasn’t been updated since 2015.
Lauren and Alex also share a San Francisco-based Catalina 25 with a bunch of friends. “We bop around the Bay a lot. So dealing with currents and strong winds and all that fun stuff that makes daysailing so fun and so exciting.”
When the couple took Saltbreaker to the Delta earlier this year, it was Lauren’s first time in the area. “I had driven past it a lot going to Sacramento, going to Tahoe, but had never explored any of the towns. It was amazing. There was so much to see, so much to explore.”
Saltbreaker has been back in Alameda for a couple of months now. “We’ve been talking about bringing that same boat up to Tomales Bay at some point and hopefully finding an anchorage or mooring where we can leave the boat for a little bit and have it as a base to go spend time up there, a real favorite spot of ours.”
Although she left the Bay Area to go to college and grad school, she returned because, as she says, “It’s kind of a hard place not to come back to.” (We agree!) Lauren is a full-time freelance journalist. “Right now I tend to focus on travel, which has been extra-interesting in the last year and a half when travel has become kind of a fraught thing. In the past I’ve covered food; I’ve covered music. I’ve done a lot of writing in the Bay Area for local publications. In the last four or so years have been doing more national stuff, but often with a focus on California. I contribute to the New York Times pretty regularly.’
You can read her beautifully written report on cruising the Delta in the NY Times here (free, but registration is required). Longtime Delta Doo Dah sponsor and Latitude 38 advertiser Owl Harbor Marina is included in the piece.
Drew Kelly took the photos for the Times story. “They assigned him; I never met him. At no point were we up there together, the idea being that I’m meant to be under the radar, rather than showing up with a photographer and making it pretty clear. I write a story; when it’s in the process of being edited, we’ll put together a photo memo with suggested shots of things that could be worth capturing. They hire a photographer and send that photographer up to take photos. They have people everywhere they can tap. In the past, I’ve taken my own photos. It totally depends on the publication.”
We’ve been praying for rain for months, and our prayers have finally been answered. But did it have to include the weekend? It could make for a challenging Fall Dinghy Regatta at St Francis Yacht Club, but it’s a good weekend to wash the boat and leave your salt-encrusted foul weather gear outside. It should be all rinsed off by Monday.
Make the best of it and celebrate the rain we’ve all been waiting for. Oh, and while you’re out there sailing, take some photos and send them to us. We’d love to do a photo spread of the Bay Area’s wet weekend on the water: [email protected].
In September’s Latitude 38, Michelle Slade, a board member with St. Francis Sailing Foundation, talked with three Bay Area sailing coaches about how they coach and what challenges they perceive, specifically on the Bay. We mention this now because based on what we are seeing from local sailing organizations’ advertising content, and of course local scuttlebutt, there also appears to be a lack of sailing instructors for adults in the Bay Area.
Across this year we’ve run ads for a number of Bay Area sailing organizations that are hoping to find, and keep, a crew of qualified sailing instructors or coaches. So what is it that makes these people so hard to find and hold on to?
While the three coaches interviewed in Slade’s story “Finding and Keeping Awesome Coaches” refer mostly to teaching and training kids through yacht clubs, perhaps some of the issues faced by these coaches are the same problems that cause adult-sailing instructors to be somewhat elusive right now. For example, Adam Corpuz-Lahnes of the St. Francis Yacht Club cites “the area’s cost of living” as one of the reasons for the current lack of sailing coaches for his programs.
But if we really think about it, perhaps the main issue is that sailors just want to go sailing. Have you ever been, or are you, a professional sailing instructor? What are your reasons for your choice to teach, or not to teach? For that is the question. Let us know here: [email protected]. And please include a little about your sailing background, and a photo!
In the meantime, here’s a link to our Job Opportunities section in the October issue of Latitude 38 — if you’re looking to put your sailing or associated skills to good use, you might find your next role here. You can also check online and see all the up-to-date opportunities as they arrive, on the Classy Classifieds “Job Opportunities” page.
As they say at the airport, “If you see something, say something.” Even better, do something. Stories of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP) have been circulating since it was ‘discovered’ by Charles Moore and his environmental organization, the Algalita Marine Research Foundation out of Long Beach, CA. The GPGP had started forming decades before. While organizations like The Story of Stuff in Berkeley, CA, are working to reduce the flow of plastics into the ocean, Mary Crowley of Ocean Voyages Institute in Sausalito has been successfully removing plastics with Project Kaisei, as has Boyan Slat’s Ocean Cleanup Project, based in Alameda, CA.
The video shows the results from this past August, when the Ocean Cleanup Project launched its System 002 or “Jenny” to be dragged through the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. It’s taken years of research and testing, with systems being dragged from their base in Alameda out through the Golden Gate to test and refine the ocean plastics removal system. The first haul is the proverbial drop in the bucket, but, as the Dalai Lama says, “Just as ripples spread out when a single pebble is dropped into water, the actions of individuals can have far-reaching effects.”
The Ocean Cleanup says it pulled 20,000 pounds of plastic out of the ocean in just 12 days. It’s a start on a project that they say will clean up 90% of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch by 2040. Which, if you think about it, is only 19 years away and a lot less time than it took to create the patch. The plastics will be returned to land with the hopes of recycling whatever is possible.
But to clarify, Slat says, “The word ‘patch’ is a bit of a misnomer. These accumulation zones are not islands of tightly packed trash, as they are sometimes portrayed in news reports. If only this were the case — cleanup would be so much easier! Instead, the trash is spread out over vast areas. In the GPGP, the average density of plastic is roughly the weight of one soccer ball for every soccer field worth of ocean; not exactly close to something you can walk on.”
Slat goes on to say, “If I could choose, I’d rather catch plastic with Interceptors in rivers than with ocean cleanup systems. Unfortunately, it’s too late for the hundreds of millions of kilos of trash that already pollute the ocean today.”
The efforts of Slat’s Ocean Cleanup Project, Crowley’s Project Kaisei, and The Story of Stuff are a reminder that individuals and organizations up and down the California coast are finding ways both to help prevent plastics from getting into the ocean in the first place, and to clean up what’s already there. Another help would be if we could remember to get folks not to give us plastic dinnerware with our takeout.
When we ran a photo by Chris Monti on Monday, capturing a Karl the Fog-enshrouded ship by the Cityfront, it inspired a couple of other sailing shutterbugs to send us more on the many faces of the Bay and Alcatraz. Paul Marbury caught the shot below while sailing with the Blue Water Foundation aboard the Golden Bear out of San Francisco with some students from the Revere K-8 School in January 2020 — just ahead of COVID. While perusing the organization’s website we saw this quote from Frederick Douglass: “It is easier to build strong children than to fix broken adults.” For the Blue Water Foundation, sailing is the path to helping children grow.
Another shot came in from Val and Greg Gillen, who keep their Cal 39 Grimsby berthed in Alameda.
Val commented, “We’ve only seen Alcatraz look like this once — on a beautiful October day a few years ago. The whole day was magical and October is always our favorite month to sail.”