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May 18, 2022

Evidence on the Friday Night Buoy Tour

We now have evidence, and we see it regularly. We sign up for Friday night beer can races (“buoy tours” — more on that later) so that we commit to sailing at least once a week. We often have friends join us from the City warning us of the foggy, cold gale they passed through on the Golden Gate Bridge, and advising us to suit up and reef down. They’re talking about the kind of conditions that keep many people off the Bay. Then we leave the dock and the wind is gone, the sun is out and a pleasant evening unfolds.

Yes, we’ve had many cold, foggy evening sails, but also dozens of glorious sails. We know, as much as we love evening sails, we’d miss many more of these spectacular evenings if we weren’t signed up for the evening beer can series.

Friday night beer can racing
The only boats out last Friday were boats signed up for beer can racing. All other Bay Area boat owners missed a beautiful evening.
© 2022 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John

If you’re not signed up for the evening beer can series you’ve probably missed some of the best sailing on the Bay. Can’t find crew? It’s a challenge we’ve faced too. We ask friends out for a Friday Night “race” and instant panic sets in. “I don’t know how to sail. I got yelled at last time.” Or, “I’m afraid of racing,” they say. So we don’t invite our non-sailing friends racing anymore. We invite them out for the Friday night “buoy tour.” We say, “We’re going to start the tour near the club and then go around these four buoys. If you’re lucky you’ll see porpoises, seals resting on the buoys, and maybe even a whale.” (We’ve seen whales a couple of times this year during races.) It’s much more fun. Yes, the classic bait and switch, but we work hard to then make sure it’s fun.

Friday night beer can racing
When there are lots of boats out, there’s more excitement and buzz to sailing.
© 2022 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John

Many don’t race because starts are intimidating. Rightfully so. But we have a strategy for that. Start last. If winning is your primary goal you don’t want to do this, but if a great evening on the Bay is why you signed up, it changes the whole evening.

And sometimes it works. A few weeks ago, for the 10,000th time, we didn’t have the amended race instructions and had our start time wrong. We were sailing around behind the line looking for our competitors when we noticed they’d already started two minutes earlier. Helpfully, they all sailed into a wind hole and sat there. With their help showing us where not to go, we sailed around many of them and got back into the game. This can make starting last extra fun.

Close encounters
Close encounters give you the opportunity to make new friends.
© 2022 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John
CYC Friday night racing
It’s just racers out there, where laughter and sunsets drown out the troubles left ashore.
© 2022 Jennifer Gridley

We know most people aren’t racers, which is fine. We have great fun racing, but we love cruising and having great afternoon sails with friends. From the evidence we have, evening beer can racers make up the vast majority of boats out on any evening. Everyone else is missing it. Casual sailors should note: The Beer Can Ten Commandments #10 is “Thou shall not worry. Thou shalt be happy.”

Shirt sleeve sailing
We might not be heading for a win, but we’re still going to trim the sails just right.
© 2022 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John

Let go of the results and embrace an evening with friends. You’ll want to pay attention, so it’s wise to save the beer, wine, cheese and crackers until the end, but signing up is always worth the price of admission. You’ll have some great evenings and can show your friends some of your favorite buoys on the Bay.

Colorful evening sailing on the Bay
We’ve had cold, windy, foggy evenings but it’s amazing how many nice evenings we have.
© 2022 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John

Don’t get us wrong: We prefer winning, but we try not to let the risk of losing spoil a great night on the water with friends. Plus, if you start last and finish last, you’ll have the reward of more sailing than anyone else out that evening.

You can find evening beer can racing, and all kinds of racing, in our calendar. You can also find crew amongst the over 700 people signed up on our crew list.

It’s Time for Good Jibes With Marissa and Chris Neely

Welcome back to Good Jibes! In this week’s episode, host Ryan Foland is joined by Marissa and Chris Neely to chat about living and working on your boat while knocking out endless boat projects.

Marissa and Chris have been crewing together since they were 15, and have made Avocet their home since 2018. Hear their thoughts on what holds us back from what we love to do, what they’ve learned over four years of rebuilding Avocet, why you shouldn’t be afraid to change plans, their favorite type of sailing content, and their goldfish-turned-cat, Cleo.

Marissa and Chris Neely
At minute 37:12 find out where Marissa and Chris see themselves in the coming years.
© 2022 S/V Avocet

This episode covers everything from boat life to cruising to your favorite places in the world. Here’s a small sample of what you will hear:

  • What got Marissa and Chris into sailing?
  • How did they find Avocet?
  • What’s their advice for living and working on your boat?
  • How did they find their sailing cat, Cleo?
  • Where do they see themselves in the coming years?
  • Do they enjoy all the work it takes to get out there?
  • How often should you get out on the water?
  • Short Tacks: What’s Marissa and Chris’s favorite type of sailing content to consume?

Learn more about Marissa and Chris at and YouTube @SailingAvocet.

Listen to the episode on Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle Podcasts, and your other favorite podcast spots — follow and leave a 5-star review if you’re feeling the Good Jibes!

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Breaching Humpback Whale Lands on Boat

Four whale watchers got the shock of their lives on Saturday in Sinaloa, Mexico, when a breaching humpback whale landed on their boat. Photos and video of the landing quickly found their way onto social media and online news channels. According to, the whale, known to local authorities as Pechocho, “leaped out of the water” and landed on the small powerboat.

Whale damaged boat
This screen grab from a Twitter video shows the damaged boat under tow.
© 2022 @liera_sergio

“The large mammal leapt in the air to perform one of its characteristic acrobatic jumps,” Mexico News Daily reported. On its way down, the whale landed on the boat’s stern and caused it to roll heavily, resulting in severe damage to the boat.

The accident occurred at around 6 p.m. in Topolobampo Bay in the Sea of Cortez — approximately 127 nm northwest of Culiacán. Authorities said the whale “felt harassed” when the boat got too close.”

We have found no reports of the whale being injured in the encounter.

This situation does remind us that when we sail, we are entering the home of the oceans’ multitude of sea creatures and marine life. Watching whales play in their own natural environment is a privilege, one that we should appreciate by showing respect to the animals that give us such pleasure. Whales need space; that is why there are perimeters. NOAA recommends a 100-yard approach guideline for all large whales. That said, it is of course possible that the whale will come to you, and for all we know, that is what happened in the above situation.

Anyone who is planning on cruising offshore, and particularly those sailors planning on heading south with the Baja Ha-Ha — as Mexico has some spectacular whale-watching opportunities — please spend some time familiarizing yourself with the regulations and best practices for safe and respectful whale watching. The Pacific Whale Foundation is a good place to start.

And who knows? If you’re lucky, the information may even come in handy when you’re sailing on the Bay this summer!

Seven News, Australia compiled and shared the above YouTube video of the whale encounter in Mexico last Saturday.

Hydrogen Fuel Cells Coming to San Francisco Bay With Hornblower

San Francisco-based Hornblower Cruises has been a ubiquitous presence on the Bay for decades. In the April issue of Latitude 38, we shared a story on repowering your sailboat with green energy using an electric or hydrogen fuel cell auxiliary. Now we’ve learned that Hornblower Energy, a subsidiary of Hornblower Cruises, has received an $8 million grant from the US Department of Energy to build the first facility to produce hydrogen fuel via hydroelectric power that will be dispensed to ferries and other vessels.

Hornblower San Francisco
The California Hornblower is one of many Hornblower vessels on the Bay.
© 2022 Hornblower

“With Hornblower Group’s longstanding environmental record of developing ways and resources to implement green practices, I am incredibly proud of the work our team has put forward in leading this next phase of hydrogen-fueled technology,” CEO Kevin Rabbitt said in a statement. “This industry-first fueling station proves our commitment to investing in new and innovative technologies within the maritime industry and beyond.”

According to the statement, the project will demonstrate the use of zero-carbon hydroelectric energy in the electrolysis of water, producing green hydrogen. The company said the floating, movable system is also compatible with other zero-carbon sources of electricity — for example, offshore wind.

The first-of-its-kind project began in 2021 in San Francisco and has a projected completion date of 2025. Perhaps there will be an opportunity to refuel hydrogen fuel cell-repowered sailboats!