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July 27, 2022

A Funny Thing Happened on Our Way to the Start Line…

Marton Neher was part of the crew aboard the Farr 30 Frequent Flyer for last month’s West Point Regatta when they experienced a new maneuver on their way to the start line. The crew had sailed the boat to the South Beach Yacht Club the previous day and left the skipper aboard overnight. The next morning they returned in time to ready the boat and get to the start line. What happened next was not what they expected…

It’s still one hour from low low tide. Off we go. Not long after we leave the slip, the boat stops moving. People on neighboring boats, having their morning coffees, start looking. The skipper calls for everyone on the rails as we’ve struck mud.

Out we go, but it’s not enough. As the shrouds start to wear off our hands we figure we need more leverage. That’s when we decide to hoist a crew member with an offshore PFD (built-in harness) on a fractional halyard to exert some more de-righting momentum on the boat.

Still not enough. We’ve switched to a masthead halyard. The neighboring boats have all their phones out (it’s 2022 — if it’s not video documented it never happened!). Boat heels, depthsounder reads -1.2 feet under the keel. Still not enough to get us out of the fairway. Again: Low low tide is still one hour away and the race start is about to happen. This is no joke!

“Everyone on the rails!” comes the command. So out we go hang. The boat heels and slowly starts moving. And that’s when we hear the most unusual comments coming from off the boat.

“Do something, my feet are getting wet!!!”

Of course we can’t let our shipmate get completely teabagged, so we winch him out of the water promptly. (But not before Marton Neher got some footage of his crewmate dangling over the water.)

Not long after, the boat is out of the fairway with all crew safely back onboard, and we’re off to start the race.

sailboat on water
Frequent Flyer at the finish of June’s West Point Regatta with skipper Stan Phillips at the helm.
© 2022 Tom Borgstrom

We didn’t do well because of some undergrowth issues (I think we could legally classify ourselves as a botanical garden). We were the last boat finishing. But at least we fetched the windward buoy in one attempt!

And while the race had its own set of challenges with the flood currents of the Bay, getting underway was a maneuver that not many of us have lived through before. Plus, without a doubt, our morning performance must have made the day of all the non-racers in the marina.

Headed to start line
The crew (left to right): Marton Neher, Craig Burkhart, Rohan Morajkar, Maggie Heilman, and Dan Moran, the guy who got his toes wet.
© 2022 Marton Neher

What’s your funniest, or worst, grounding experience?

Get the Good Jibes With Behan and Jamie Gifford of Sailing Totem

Behan and Jamie Gifford of Sailing Totem have been sailing the world’s oceans as a family since 2008 and enjoy sharing their travel adventures afloat and ashore with their community. In this week’s episode of Good Jibes (our 50th by the way), Behan and Jamie talk with host Nicki Bennett about how a sailing sabbatical turned into a lifestyle; how cruising the world changed the way they look at family decisions, strengthening the relationship with their children; what it’s been like “world schooling” their children; and what’s next for them and their boat Totem.

Find out what shaped Behan and Jamie as sailors.
© 2022 Sailing Totem

This episode covers everything from raising your kids on a boat to dodging scary weather on the water. Here’s a small sample of what you will hear in this episode:

  • How old were Behan and Jamie’s kids when they set sail?
  • Why did they take the sabbatical in the first place?
  • How are their relationships with their children today?
  • Where is Totem now?
  • How has “world schooling” been?
  • What’s next for Totem?
  • How do Behan and Jamie manage sailing and raising kids full-time?
  • Short Tacks: What’s helpful for raising kids on a boat?

Learn more at and social media @SailingTotem.

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

Lake Tahoe Is Home to Godfathers, Dragons and Fire

I was rewatching The Godfather Part Two recently, when an unknown boat sailed through the frame on Lake Tahoe. As I was raised on boats in the 1990s in Southern California, to me, the vessel looked something like an Etchells or a Soling, with a sharp, elegant bow and a classic sloop rig. On the sail, there appears to be the letter “D”.

Clockwise from top left: You can just make out the bow of an attractive-looking racing sloop; the rig, now in frame, with the letter “D” on the mainsail; either the same boat or the same class, on starboard tack as the Corleone family celebrates on the west shore of Lake Tahoe. (The Godfather is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. The mansion from Part 2 was for sale in early 2020 for $5.5 million dollars.)
© 2022 Paramount Pictures

This was going to be an inquiry about what type of boat might have made a cameo in Godfather, but after a little research, I presume it’s a Dragon — a metre boat and former Olympic Class yacht that’s never been on my radar, until rewatching an old movie.

So the question has become: Does anyone have knowledge of a Dragon fleet, past or present, sailing on Tahoe?

There is no squiggly line under the D on the boat from Godfather, but otherwise, I see very similar lines, rigs, and letters on the sail.
© 2022 Right photo: Wikipedia/Left Photo: North Sails

Dragons date back to 1929, and might have been seen on Lake Tahoe in the 1950s, when The Godfather 2 was set, as well as in the early 1970s, when the movie was actually shot. Director and co-writer Francis Ford Coppola was known to have a keen eye for detail.

Coppola was also executive producer of the now-iconic-among-sailors movie Wind, so we are obligated to ask the question: Is Mr. Coppola a sailor?

He seemed to have had some interest, according to Kimball Livingston, Bay Area sailing expert, and one of the writers of Wind. “I once saw an E Scow (pretty sure) on a trailer at the house. On another occasion, [Coppola] showed up at the commissioning of a 50-ish-ft sloop to see if he wanted one like it; he sat in the cockpit, while we talked about Wind.”

Sailboats make appearances in The Godfather Part 2 even before the Lake Tahoe scene. A handsome gaff-rigged schooner greets young Vito Andolini Corleone upon his arrival to the United States.
© 2022 The Godfather Wiki

I don’t know why, but I’ve long romanticized about cruising on the deep-blue waters of Lake Tahoe, sailing rail-down under snow-capped mountains, anchoring at shores dense with trees and boulders, and swimming in cold, crystal-clear water.

There is such lore in everything about Tahoe. Whether it’s The Godfather or Mark Twain, or ski and snowboard magazines and videos, or whether it’s some meta-version of the Old West and California’s Gold Rush era, where native people and pioneers and immigrants created whatever Tahoe continues to evolve into, the “Ocean in the Mountains” (my nickname) holds a special place in my imagination. Even as Lake Tahoe has become a full-blown enclave and remote office of the Bay Area — crowded, expensive, choked with traffic and smoke, and under more regular threat from fire — the year-round appeal remains.

I dream about sailing on Lake Tahoe more than in the Caribbean or South Pacific.
© 2022 Wikimedia Commons

I wrote a second-hand feature about Tahoe sailing in 2018, and find almost any reason to publish words and photos — kind of like the story you’re reading now — about the second-largest alpine lake in the world. And as always, I’m trying to solicit your anecdotes.

Rest assured, there is plenty of sailing to be done on Lake Tahoe. Lessons are available, rentals are abundant, and beer cans are weekly for those looking to catch a ride, round some buoys, and get some local knowledge.

Emerald Bay, as seen while descending from Desolation Wilderness last summer. A friend and I did a two-day trip from August 1 through 3. Completely by chance, we arrived during a window where the smoke from one fire had cleared just days before the horrific Caldor Fire began. Beginning about three days after these photos were taken, the lake was socked in with toxic, bitter smoke for the next several weeks, and much of the lake was evacuated, or people simply had to flee what was then the worst air pollution in the world. What will this summer and the next 10, 20 and 50 years in Tahoe look like?
© 2022 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Tim Henry

Here’s my piece of Lake Tahoe lore, which kind of sounds like a movie:

Captain Richard Barter, a tough-as-nails retired British sailor, was called a “Robinson Crusoe,” and also, “The Hermit of Emerald Bay.” (I’ll call him the lake’s original “Godfather” for a sense of continuity in this story.)

Barter used to row some 14 miles from Emerald Bay to a saloon in Tahoe City, during winter, to drink whiskey. “After a night of drinking, Capt. Barter was rowing back to Emerald Bay when a storm pitched him into the icy waters,” reported the New York Times. “Death seemed certain. He cried out, ‘Richard Barter, never surrender!’ he later recounted to a reporter visiting from San Francisco. After climbing back into the boat, he rowed furiously the rest of the way to Emerald Bay.”

The reporter was reportedly skeptical, so Barter handed him a small jewelry box. “Them’s my toes!” he said of his salt-preserved digits inside, an apparent keepsake of his brush with death. Barter kept himself busy in his extreme isolation, and built a seven-foot model of a man-o’-war steam frigate.

Captain Richard Barter poses with his meticulously crafted model of a man o’ war. “Every rope, block, and sail was in its proper place; a wind-up clock hidden in the hold drove the running gear and propeller,” Sierra College said. “On the deck of the wooden vessel stood 225 crew members, officers, marines, boatswains, and sailors, all hand-carved from small pieces of wood.”
© 2022 California State Liabrary

The Times said that Barter later built himself a crypt on Fannette Island — Tahoe’s only island — in Emerald Bay, and declared, “When he was ready to die, he’d climb inside and close the lid.” But Barter was again tossed from his rowboat in 1873. His body was never found.

Lake Tahoe in February 2020, shortly before the world shut down.
© 2022 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Tim Henry

And let’s not forget: Poor Frederico “Fredo” Corleone sleeps with the fishes somewhere in the deep, ice-blue abyss of Lake Tahoe.

A Sampling of August Regattas

An Important Deadline This Sunday

Before we flip the calendar page to August, here’s a timely reminder from StFYC:

“Hitting the start line on time and in a strong position lays the foundation for winning races. Experienced skippers know that prepping for the start of a big race begins with completing entry forms and locking in crew lists on time. For boat owners competing in the Rolex Big Boat Series, hosted by St. Francis Yacht Club on September 14-18, 2022, completing the regatta’s online entry process by midnight on July 31 saves money and solidifies crew commitment.

“The invited J/70, J/88, J/105, Express 37 and Cal 40 classes must meet a minimum number of entries by the July 31 deadline to ensure they enjoy their own dedicated starts.”

Rolex Big Boat Series checkin
A fleet of competitors sails past the signal boat to check in on the first morning of the 2021 Rolex Big Boat Series.
© 2022 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Chris

Teams will be assessed a $250 late fee if they pay and register after midnight on July 31. Owners planning to race under ORC (the Offshore Racing Congress’s handicap rules) must register by the deadline to avoid late-entry fees, but they have until midnight on August 31 to submit their ORC certificates.

As of this morning, the regatta had received 76 entries.

While we’re calling attention to July deadlines, here’s a reminder that today is your last chance to register for this Saturday’s YRA Encinal Regatta. As of this morning, 48 boats had signed up.

Hitch Up Your Trailers in August, Keelboats

On August 6, Hood Rood YC’s Double Damned will sail from Cascade Locks to the Dalles on the Columbia River in Oregon.

Stillwater YC in Pebble Beach will welcome Santana 22s for Santanarama on August 6-7.

Santana 22s on pier
These Santana 22s and more wait on their pier for traveling sisterships.
© 2022 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Chris

Coronado YC in San Diego will  host the Mercury Nationals on August 11-14, Coronado YC, San Diego.

The Moore 24 Roadmasters will head to Belvedere for their Nationals, hosted by SFYC on August 19-21.

Hitch Up Your Trailers, Dinghies

The second season of the US Open Sailing Series will wrap up on San Francisco Bay on August 12-14. StFYC will host the board-heads and SFYC will host the dinghies.

Half Moon Bay YC will hold the Coronado 15 North Americans on August 12-14.

On August 13, The Delta Dinghy Ditch Run will sail 30 miles from Rio Vista to West Sacramento on the scenic Deep Water Channel.

Santa Cruz YC will host the Laser NorCals on August 13-14.

Treasure Island Sailing Center will provide the venue for the Vanguard 15 Nationals on August 27-28.

USODA (Opti) Pacific Coast Championships will come to SFYC the same weekend.

Around San Francisco Bay

SFYC’s Summer Keel Regatta will be on August 6-7.

Sequoia YC will combine their Summer Series #3 race with the fundraising Hannig Cup on August 13. This year’s theme will be Sailing Red for the Cure Ahead.

On August 14, Gracie & George duos will compete on the South Bay and Estuary. Gracie drives in this Encinal YC event.

Gracie & George racers
In last year’s Gracie & George, Summertime Dream (red spinnaker) and Snowy Owl run down the Estuary in the last leg of the race.
© 2022 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Chris

Women take the helm again on August 20 for Sausalito YC’s Women Skippers Regatta. This one is for full crews of any gender combo.

StFYC’s Phyllis Kleinman Swiftsure Regatta will be on August 20-21. Later that week, on August 25, the club will run the Thursday evening classic dash, the Ronstan Bridge to Bridge for windsurfers, kiteboarders and wing sailors.

Encinal YC will host the Millimeter Nationals on August 27-28.

Sequoia YC’s South Bay Championship Regatta and South-of-the-Border Party will be held on August 27-28, with multiple races for PHRF, one design, kids and El Toros.

The Bay Area Association of Disabled Sailors’ Herb Meyer Regatta will race in Hansas on August 27-28 at South Beach Harbor in San Francisco.

Out the Gate

StFYC’s Aldo Alessio visits the ocean on Friday, August 19. It’s a precursor and partner to the Phyllis Kleinman Swiftsure Regatta noted above.

The Drake’s Bay Race continues to be a joint effort of the OYRA and the SSS. Racers can enter through either organization or both, with registration on Jibeset. On Saturday, August 20, the fleets will sail to Drake’s Bay and anchor in the shelter of Point Reyes. Sunday’s the race back to San Francisco Bay.

We end this post with our usual caveat: As the title suggests, this is just a sampling. Find many more upcoming events in our monthly Calendar, coming out in Latitude 38 on Monday, August 1. Also learn more about racing in Northern California in our annual YRA Calendar.

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