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March 21, 2022

Solo Sailor Ryan Finn Rounds Cape Horn

In January, when we last reported on singlehanded sailor Ryan Finn and Jzerro’s second attempt to sail from New York to San Francisco via Cape Horn, they were mid-Atlantic heading south. A lot has happened since then, so we felt an update was in order.

Jzerro proa
Ryan Finn’s steed, the proa Jzerro.
© 2022 Courtesy Ryan Finn

Jzerro is a Russell Brown-designed and built 35-ft proa. Ryan is an accomplished sailor from New Orleans. His journey south was going well except for light headwinds. All was looking good until his watermaker failed. “I stopped working on the watermaker last night for the first time really, in three days. It is no longer working, full stop,” remarked Ryan in February. The next choice was to find a safe harbor and fix it.

Jzerro ended up in Mar del Plata, Argentina, with friends and family helping get parts and effecting repairs before Finn headed off again. “Watermaker and wind instruments back online. I’m leaving tomorrow,” was his quick post.

Sailing around the Horn ‘backward’ is a game of luck, skill and controlling fears. “I’ve been silent due to nerves. I’ve been plagued by light wind down here. At the moment I’m making 9.5 knots in 5.5 kts of wind.” The wind was forecast to build, so Finn sought shelter in a small bay at the tip of Argentina called Puerto Español. “I sailed in here in 20-35 knots from the S and anchored within the bay. Hectic. The boat held well in gusts up to 45 knots all night, and I slept like I’ve never slept on this boat before.”

Ryan Finn
A chilly-looking selfie from Ryan Finn.
© 2022 Ryan Finn

Three days later, with a weather window opening up, they were off again, this time to go around the Horn. And on March 16 they made it. “I sailed past Cape Horn in the early a.m. hours today,” Finn wrote on Wednesday. “All I could see were the two lighthouses.

“It’s been very tricky getting this far. It promises to be as hard or harder for at least the next three days. I’m already tired. However, I have to remind myself that this is a privilege and I feel blessed to be where I am. I’d like to think that I’m sneaking out of here, but for sure the great Cape is watching my progress. You can feel it down here.”

Jzerro's track
In this screenshot taken this morning, Jzerro’s track shows her climbing the eastern South Pacific, bound — eventually — for San Francisco.
© 2022 Courtesy Ryan Finn

Ryan and Jzerro are now heading north along the Chilean coast, racing to avoid the next big storm. Next stop San Francisco.

Follow along on the tracker: and on Facebook:

Epic Rampage for the Ages in Lahaina, Hawaii

Another thing we old folks are good at, besides treachery, is remembering stuff. For example, that story last week about the nut case who stole a motorboat in Newport Harbor and rammed several other boats before he was apprehended. Most people who read about it (and saw the video) probably shook their heads and moved on to the next news blip. Not former managing editor John Riise.

“What an amateur!” said JR (who these days puts the Changes In Latitudes column together every month). “This guy has nothing on the Lahaina Rampage.”

After searching it out in the archives — the article appeared in the August 1984 issue — we have to agree: When it comes to rampages-by-boat, the Newport guy was a rank amateur. We’ll also agree that, after almost 40 years, the Lahaina Rampage is pretty unforgettable. See what you think …

Lahaina Rampage 1984
This story first appeared in our August 1984 issue.
© 2022 Latitude 38

In the early morning hours of June 25, an Australian sailor on leave from his ship anchored in the Lahaina roadstead, having spent too much in the bars or on whatever else may be available in Lahaina, determined to steal a boat. His reasons are still unclear. Dave Russell, skipper of the Lahaina charter boat Sea Wolf, describes the ensuing chaos.

“This Australian sailor broke into another charter boat, the Aerial, a 44-ft Pacemaker,” Russell reports. “He must’ve been familiar with boats, because he found the master switch and got both engines started, let the lines go, pushed the throttle full ahead — two 300-hp Detroit diesels at full RPMs — and slammed it into gear. It took off like a shot. Well, what he didn’t know was that the boat was being worked on and the hydraulic steering was disconnected. So he couldn’t steer and the boat went straight across the harbor and up onto the seawall. A guy on a boat next to all this looks up at the Aussie on the flybridge and says, ‘Get off of there, you’re going to hurt somebody.’

“The Aussie says, ‘Fuck you mate,’ slams it in reverse and goes back across the harbor backwards — about eight knots I’d say — into the bow of the Jude Ann, a 44-ft trawler, lifts her three feet out of the water and splits the transom open on Aerial. He slams the throttle forward and takes off across the harbor in a different angle, shears off the transom of a 60-ft trimaran, Trilogy, then ran into our stern, which pushed Sea Wolf against the others in a domino effect. The impact with my boat knocked him from the flybridge onto the foredeck and he jumped off of the Aerial into the harbor. Now Aerial is taking off down the harbor all on its own. It shears off 10-12 lines of the boats moored Tahiti-style and impales itself on a Grand Banks 52. By then, everyone was awake, and someone jumped on Aerial and throttled back. Aerial was destroyed, totaled from the cabin forward. Now, when you dig a big hole like that in the water — well, it gave off a stern wake that pushed 133 boats up on the seawall, just like a tidal wave had done it. They’re laying all over, tangled masts, snapped rigging and broken spreaders.

“Meanwhile, sailor boy climbs over the seawall, crosses the reef, and swims out to a charter boat, the Broadbill, moored about 350 yards offshore, gets it started and takes off again. The Aerial III, with a Maui police officer on board, gives pursuit. The Aussie comes out of the dark with no running lights and tried to ram them. He spent the next hour roaring around trying to ram the five to six boats trying to stop him.

“When later questioned whether he really intended to ram the boats, the sailor replied, ‘Sure. They were chasing me. I wanted to get rid of them.’

“At dawn he was spotted near Lanai, and with the pursuers close behind, drove over the reef, grounded Broadbill on the coral with engines still wide open, and ran into the Keawe trees.

By now this guy has crossed two reefs and a rock seawall covered with bottles, chains, cables and beer cans, and he charges into trees covered with thorns. “It’s like running into a rosebush,” says Russell. “We lost him then,” he adds. By 7 a.m. the Lanai police finally had him in custody.

So who’s going to pay for the Lahaina Rampage? For the actions of one sailor who damaged 17 boats and put 10 charter boats out of commission? The captain of the supply ship and the Australian Consul, at their first meeting with those involved, accepted no responsibility. Says Russell, “Insurance companies, generally speaking, will pay for the damages, but, you know — when a boat’s hit that hard it may never be the same. Aerial’s a total. Broadbill’s a total. I can safely guess there’ll be $3 to $4 million in claims. We’ve got 25 people directly out of work, and then there’s the support groups, the guys who make the lunches, the girl who sells the tickets, the guy who sells 1,500 gallons of fuel every day in Lahaina Harbor. We’ll lose $200,000 in gross revenues for the month. That’s a lot of money that’s not going to move around.

“Now I’m not blaming the Australian Navy or Australians,” he adds. “They’re great people and there are rip-roaring, fun-loving sailors everywhere, but I am a little irritated by the attitude of their government, because, basically, they told us — ‘It’s your problem.'” “I’d say,” adds Russell, “that right now Lahaina would not be a very nice place for an Australian cruising boat to visit.”

— Annie Sutter

Defender’s 1st Annual Spring Launch Sale

Hello, Spring Savings!

Defender Spring Launch

Kick off the season with Defender’s 1st Annual Spring Launch Sale. Be on the lookout for Daily Deals, and save on thousands of products in stock, including Anchoring, Batteries, Paint, Electrical, Lighting, Docking, Electronics, and more. It’s the sale you’ve been waiting for, get ready to stock up!

San Francisco Coast Guard K-9 Awarded Distinguished Service Medal

K-9s are integral but often under-recognized members of the community. But this changed recently when Coast Guard K-9 Chief Feco, a 9-year-old Hungarian Vizsla stationed at Coast Guard Marine Safety and Security Team San Francisco, was presented the Animals in War and Peace Distinguished Service Medal Wednesday in Washington, D.C.

K-9 Awarded
Congressman Gus Bilirakis presents the 2022 Animals in War and Peace Distinguished Service Medal to K-9 Feco on March 9, 2022, at the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, D.C.
© 2022 USCG Petty Officer 3rd Class Kimberly Reaves

Feco is stationed at the Marine Safety and Security Team San Francisco K-9 Unit, where his main responsibility is explosives detection at the ports of San Francisco and Oakland. He was one of six animal heroes that were recognized at the second annual Animals in War and Peace Medal Ceremony earlier this month.

Feco’s 2022 Animals in War and Peace Distinguished Service Medal is displayed prior to the ceremony.
© 2022 USCG Petty Officer 3rd Class Kimberly Reaves

Since joining the Coast Guard in late 2014 Feco has participated in 1,467 events, including presidential security details for former President Barack Obama, judicial and Supreme Court security details, the 2016 Summer Olympic Track & Field Trials, the National Football League Superbowls L, LII, and LIII, the Major League Baseball World Series, the National Basketball Association playoffs, the National Hockey League Stanley Cup, and San Francisco and Los Angeles Fleet Weeks.

The ceremony, attended by members of Congress, highlights America’s appreciation of the sacrifices and heroism of American animals who have served the United States, and advances the effort toward the creation of an annual process to nominate animals for the Medal of Bravery and Distinguished Service Medal.

The Coast Guard has 16 canine explosive-detection teams around the country, each made up of one human handler and one working dog.

Feco, USCG K-9
Feco poses for a photo after completing training on Coast Guard Base Alameda on June 5, 2021. (He’s one proud and happy-looking pup!)
© 2022 USCG Petty Officer 3rd Class Hunter Schnabel

Congratulations, Chief Feco, and, thank you for your service!

(On a side note, we just happen to have watched a film about a K-9 service dog on Rhode Island last night. Rescued by Ruby is based on a true story. We know it’s not sailing, but if you love feel-good movies or movies about dogs, you might like this one.)

The Resourceful Sailor Weaves a Lee Net

There is no such thing as a lee net, you say? Then I guess you heard it from The Resourceful Sailor first. A lee net is an alternative to the more commonly referred-to lee cloth. They serve the same purpose: a removable barrier, aiding to keep a sleeper in a bunk when a boat is heeled over, rolling, or experiencing a rough sea. Sampaguita, a Pacific Seacraft Flicka 20, has a quarter berth that would contain someone quite well, but it is difficult for a full-size adult to crawl into and out of. The preference is to use that for storage and sleep on the settee, where a lee cloth (or net, as it turns out) is necessary.

The lee net is an alternative to the traditional lee cloth.
© 2022 Joshua Wheeler

I gleaned my original criteria for a lee cloth from experiences aboard other boats. Strength and durability were key. As were easy hanging, storage, entry, and exit. An internet search of lee cloths will show many vendors and “how-to” videos. On a quick look, none were practical or similar in design to what I needed on Sampaguita. While they looked great, I questioned the robustness of the materials and construction of some. With others, the practicality of entry and exit, and storage. Purchasing or borrowing specialty tools was inconvenient. Hiring a canvas or sail shop to design and build one would dramatically escalate labor costs.

Making a Lee Net
All the tools required were already on the boat.
© 2022 Joshua Wheeler

I can’t recall what inspired the idea of making a lee net instead, but once I had the vision, it checked all the boxes. It was an opportunity to expand my marlinspike skills, and required no special tools I did not already have; labor would be my own, and no one would know better than I how to make it fit into my boat and lifestyle.

I searched how to make a net on the internet and found plenty of videos. I chose one that resonated with me and applied it to my situation. I made a frame for the net from some 3/8-inch double-braid line. It would be easy to handle and plenty strong for the loads, static or shock. Having decided to build the net in place, I needed some creative marlinspike work to get it to hang right, but it could be adjusted and retied as needed.

Next, I used a hot knife to cut the pieces that would be the netting. These would be a series of lengths doubled over and cow-hitched to the top frame. Like a sailboat beating into the wind, these lines would zigzag to the bottom border, traveling at least twice the distance. The knots would take up even more line, with some also needed to tie off on the bottom. I figured about three times the height of the net, multiplied by two, per piece.

The pieces came from a 600-ft spool of 7/32-inch single-braid polyester line purchased from an online industrial store. This diameter was not too big and bulky, nor too small and stringy. The single-braid made it soft and inexpensive; the polyester, low stretch. It is not a high-strength line, but the loads would be spread throughout the net and transferred to the 3/8-inch line.

I cow-hitched several of these from the top frame at equally spaced intervals with equal hanging lengths and began a series of overhand knots between the lines, making diamond shapes of a consistent size. At the sides and the bottom, overhand knots encapsulated the frame.

Admittedly, with the first net I began, I had the lines too close and made the diamonds too small. It took longer, used more line, and became heavier than expected. I untied it and started again with more space for bigger diamonds. I considered this part of the exploration and learning process.

The Resourceful Sailor
The first and second attempts.
© 2022 Joshua Wheeler

Once I had a rectangular net in the dimensions I wanted, I tied the lines to the bottom frame. There were already eye straps attached to the teak trim rail on the settee. I incorporated them into the bottom knots. These would anchor the lee net to the bunk. At the top, I used surplus straps and snaps I had onboard for easy hanging and fair pull directions on the ceiling handrails under load. These handrails were added in a companionway sliding-hatch redesign and would provide well-placed strong points to hang a lee net. I was conscious about the weight on the rails and fasteners, mitigating rattling, and the potential chafe of the wood.

The lee net would also serve as a cargo net over the settee, an upgrade from a different setup, with eye straps on the shelf-rail hull side of the berth. This orientation would contain sails, covers, and other whatnots that needed quick and secure stashing while daysailing.

A cargo net comes in handy while underway.
© 2022 Joshua Wheeler

A third use of the lee net did not become apparent until I had completed it. Hanging down and doubled up, it is a convenient pocket. It immediately became useful for stashing my new acrylic drop boards and the removable leg for the table.

The quick-stash pocket.
© 2022 Joshua Wheeler

The Resourceful Sailor hopes to inspire ideas and alternatives for sailors and their boats through creative problem-solving. Remember, keep your solutions prudent and safe, and have a blast.

Ronnie Simpson finds another Doug Peterson design to add to the series of boats he's restored and sailed.