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November 12, 2021

Keeping Up with the Baja Ha-Ha Happenings

Yesterday we received the following communication regarding the Baja Ha-Ha, from our “deaf guy driving a convertible at 80 on Highway 1.” (Although he may have been off the highway by then.)

“The Mexico navy made their presence known and boarded a few boats. They are always a little intimidating with their automatic weapons, but also always polite. It’s nice to know they’re out there. The fleet happily continues on.”

The Poobah had called in with another garbled message from Bahia Santa Maria to report that all was well among the fleet. Several boats had sailed the entire way, including Heidi Benson Stagg.

Heidi and her husband Aaron Stagg, both from Alameda, are crewing aboard the Bavaria Vision 46 Fundango, owned by Scott Sibbald and Joanne Pilkington from Carson City, NV.

Aaron and Heidi are rigged up for the cold passage south.
© 2021 Heidi Benson Stagg
Baja Ha-ha
As the weather warms, the fish start biting. Scott hauls in a snack for the crew.
© 2021 Heidi Benson Stagg
Baja Ha-ha
Heidi and Joanne share a toast to their successful passage.
© 2021 Heidi Benson Stagg
And the very latest: “Buenos dias from Cabo aboard SV Fundango! Morning swim and some writing while our captains check us in with the Mexican authorities … then it’s off to a beach party with the Baja Ha-Ha Fleet. Life is beyond good!”
© 2021 Heidi Benson Stagg

Stay tuned for more Ha-Ha happenings.

A Word About Non-Brightly Colored Foul Weather Gear

“I have a rant,” wrote Rodney Morgan in the November issue’s Letters. He was talking about foul weather gear.

“While watching the Rolex Big Boat Series on my computer, I saw the crews of damn near every fast boat wearing dark foul weather gear — charcoal and black foulies, to be exact. Because the boats are so fast, maybe the belief is, ‘I don’t expect you to find me, or be able to come back for me.’ That this shit is accepted, I don’t understand.

foul weather gear
Two color-palette theories of foul weather gear design.
© 2021 The Internet

“This evening, I showered wearing my 50-year-old Atlantis seafarer hood, and it worked perfectly. All I expected, when I purchased the gear, was to be more visible than the freakin’ ocean, should the need arise — marketing be damned. Transit workers wear reflective vests to be seen, but they’re not going 15 knots downwind. It seems odd that this isn’t a sponsorship, insurance and yacht club understanding, as they all stand to lose when the fan soils.

“Pardon my rant.”

What is your foul weather gear philosophy? Do you choose bright colors for safety, dark colors for style, or do you just buy what’s affordable, or accept what’s been handed down? Please comment below.

Skippers Wanted: US Coast Guard-Licensed Captains for Charters and Private Lessons


Wanted: US Coast Guard-licensed captains for charters and private lessons. For power & sail. Hourly rate from $50 up. Weekend and weekday work available.

1160 Brickyard Cove Road, Suite 21, Richmond, California 94801 • (510) 236-2633 • info@passagenautical.com

2021 Season Championships — Part One

In November’s Latitude 38, we shared the story of this year’s season champions. Here’s a sneak preview:

The sailing year 2021 got off to a slow start due to a holiday surge in coronavirus cases. Although the vaccines swooped in to save the day, they came too late for a few of the usual suspects (Northern California one-design classes, that is) to organize a championship season.

Other classes never missed a beat.

J/105 — Ne*Ne Tim Russell, SFYC

Among those classes that persevered through the pandemic — even in 2020 — was J/105 Fleet 1. As it did last year, Tim Russell’s Ne*Ne emerged victorious (see our Champs report in the December 2020 issue of Latitude 38 to learn how this class and others handled a season of lockdown, social distancing and the like).

“I just love racing J/105s, especially on the Bay!” enthuses repeat champ Russell. “The competition and camaraderie of the fleet is second to none. The fleet keeps getting stronger, and we keep pushing each other to get better. We might be fierce competitors on the race course, but we are all friends at the dock.”

This fabulous photo from Day 3 of the Rolex Big Boat Series in September shows Tim Russell’s Ne*Ne, #003, ahead of a pack of J/105s. The class had the largest division — with 22 boats — at the regatta, which served as the final event in the Bay Area J/105 Fleet 1’s 2021 season.
© 2021 Sharon Green / Rolex

International 110 — Lady Bug Bren Meyer, Inverness YC/RYC

Bren Meyer won the District 3 Championships for the International 110 class. The Bay Area fleet is based out of Inverness YC on the Point Reyes side of Tomales Bay.

“Sailing on Tomales Bay returned somewhat to normal this year, and normal never felt so good,” reports Bren.

“Racing in earnest started in April with an informal practice day and then on to the season opener, the Half Hog on the 11th. Winds seemed to be a bit lighter and shiftier this year, but generally blew either straight down the bay or straight up the bay.”

Season Champions
From the I-110 District Championships in September, left to right: Phil Macafee (race committee), Emma and Michael Sporer, Skip Shapiro (RC), Milly Biller, Bren Meyer.
© 2021 Milly Biller

Melges 24 — USA 856 Geoff Fargo, Santa Barbara YC Cal Cup

The Northern California Melges 24 didn’t put together a championship series this year (“Expect a different answer next year,” advised Donald McIlraith). However, Santa Cruz YC hosted the Cal Cup regatta as part of the West Coast Championship Series.

Melges 24 scribe Joy Dunigan sent us the following report: “Santa Cruz once again delivered the conditions and homespun hospitality that it is known for and that keeps the West Coast Championship Series coming back year after year. Enduring modestly chilly temperatures was a small sacrifice to make for the idyllic 15- to 20-knot breezes each day. The regatta was a two-day affair the weekend of September 11-12.

You can read the full stories at Latitude38.com. Then stay tuned for the December issue, in which we bring you Season Champions Part Two. And if your Northern California fleet is crowning a 2021 champion, let us know by December 1 by emailing racing@latitude38.com.

Could Zombie Purple Urchins Eliminate Kelp and Kelp Cutters?

To most sailors, kelp is a nuisance. It’s a hazard we all try to avoid, since catching it on keels and rudders slows you down whether you’re racing or cruising. It’s never fun. Getting rid of kelp would make sailing so much better. But most sailors also love the ocean and the sealife it supports. Sailors are also sushi lovers, fishermen, watermen and divers who dodge kelp on the surface, but dive to explore it on other days.

A recent story on KQED highlighted a distressing change in Northern California’s kelp forests, meaning life under your keel is not doing well. In 2014 a combination of warm water from the Northwest, an El Niño, and other factors killed the large 24-limbed sunflower stars that feed on purple urchins. The lack of the sunflower stars meant the purple urchin population grew, and since they feed on kelp, the kelp forests have been decimated, thereby upsetting the ecological balance along the California coast.

Purple Urchins have decimated the Kelp
Purple urchins are devouring a sailor’s enemy but an ecosystem friend.
© 2021 Ed Bierman

Having eaten up most of the kelp, the now-undernourished purple urchins, called zombie urchins, have been undermining the incomes of urchin divers and disrupting the recreational and commercial fishing world. Solutions from trapping to teams of divers harvesting the urchins have helped, but the problem isn’t yet solved. If you like sushi make sure you order uni, the sea urchin; it’s a way for you to help the return of the kelp forests one bite at a time.

You may be using the kelp cutter on your keel less often, but it’s not a good thing for sealife along the California coast.

Tuning-in to Sailing Stories
In this week's Good Jibes, hear how Chip became the proud owner of Merlin, the changes he’s made since buying her, his impressions of the Rolex Big Boat Series, just how fast the boat is, and his new book Mavericks & Merlins.
HIgh-Speed Ocean Racing
As of this writing the fleet is now very spread out with the fastest trimarans rumbling south in a moderate northerly flow in the Portuguese trades, while the slower monohulls are sailing in the Bay of Biscay in relatively light air.