Captain Donald Lawson has spent the past several months sailing up and down the West Coast raising awareness of diversity and inclusion in sailing through aiming to break 35 world sailing records aboard his ORMA 60 trimaran Defiant (formerly Mighty Merloe). After completing his last stop of the tour in Half Moon Bay, Lawson headed to L.A., where he was scheduled to haul the boat for some maintenance and upgrades. Last week, on the last night before reaching its waiting dock at the Los Angeles Yacht Club, Defiant was grounded on a rocky shoal some 12nm off the Southern California coastline.
We spoke with Capt. Lawson about the situation that occurred in the dark hours of Wednesday night. “It was around midnight,” Lawson told us over the phone. “We’d motorsailed through some dead spots coming out of Half Moon Bay, and around Point Conception we got some breeze.” Although the wind allowed Lawson and his crew, his wife, also an accomplished and experienced sailor, to pick up speed on their southbound journey, they still had several miles to go when they decided to drop anchor and get some rest before making their way into LAYC the next morning.
“Not everyone has dock space for us,” Lawson said, “and there was a lot of traffic.” They dropped anchor at Anacapa Island, part of the Channel Islands group. While it initially seemed like a safe place, Defiant dragged anchor, bringing the boat perilously close to the shoal. Lawson raised the anchor but quickly realized they were destined to meet the ground. “We were smashing onto the shoal, bouncing around.” That was when they decided to call for a tow, rather than risk further damage by trying to sail or motor out of the cove. During the 90 or so minutes that it took for TowBoatUS to arrive, Lawson lowered the daggerboard to try to stave off some of the damage to the outer hulls. “It took the brunt,” he added. The boat was eventually pushed up against the rock wall, which he said actually steadied the boat and helped stop it from slamming further against the wall and the shoal.
TowBoatUS Ventura and Channel Islands reported on social media, “Along with the US Coast Guard, Captains Paul and Carson responded to Defiant‘s distress call. A large kelp bed and shallow waters prevented resources from getting too close. To get the victims out of harm’s way and to act as quickly as possible to preserve the value of the vessel and before pollution could have occurred within the Channel Islands National Park and NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, Captain Carson was placed in the water to bring a towing hawser through the kelp and make an attachment to the vessel. The vessel, and the two people on board, were safely removed from the island and towed back to Ventura Harbor where they were brought to the launch ramp because of their size.”
Capt. Lawson reports that both he and his wife, and the vessel, are fine. Defiant was scheduled to be hauled out and have reinforcements made to her hulls. So some of the damage will be taken care of in this way. But regardless, she is currently being surveyed to determine the full damage, which includes some damage to her port bow, the rudders and the daggerboard.
In response to an article posted by Scuttlebutt, Capt. Lawson wrote the following:
“Those who have sailed with us and been following us have seen how difficult it has been to anchor or moor the boat as she tends to sail right over her anchor or mooring. We have tried a bridle system off the beams, the bow and even found some success at stern anchoring her.
“Ultimately, the boat with her wing mast tends to catch the wind and tries to sail.
“That evening as we were placing the anchor, a giant Danforth, with 50ft of line and chain out, the anchor wouldn’t catch and we drifted. We let out more line but still no catch.
“The new anchor we have is a giant plow anchor, which I didn’t want to need for this type of boat because it will be tough to raise up but at this point, the need for a reliable anchor is most important.”
The coming weeks will be filled with scheduled maintenance and upgrades, and now necessary repairs, as Lawson prepares to undertake his first record sail this coming fall. In the meantime, he is grateful for the assistance he received in bringing his boat and crew to safe shores. “I just want to say a big ‘Thank you’ to the TowBoatUS crew who came out to help us,” he concluded.
You can learn more about Captain Donald Lawson and his plans here.
Don’t worry, you have a friend in the Grand Poobah, whose purpose in life has been to try to help people have fun, usually through sailing. So he’s going to extend the deadline until September 12.
What if you also miss the September 12 deadline? You’ve got a good friend in the Poobah, because he’ll let you sign up right until the October 31 start of the Ha-Ha. The only thing is, you won’t get your bio in the Meet the Fleet booklet, and you might not get all the swag — backpack, hat, shirts, etc. — that everyone else will get.
The Ha-Ha, about to be run for the 28th time, is the 750-mile cruisers’ rally between San Diego and Cabo San Lucas with R&R stops at Turtle Bay and Bahia Santa Maria. Over 11,000 sailors have done it. Why not you? For complete information and to register, visit baja-haha.com. Here’s hoping that you’ll be sailing south with us.
Now that we have the deadline issue sorted, here’s an update on Starlink.
The current status of Starlink in Mexico as of September 4, based on our five-day bash from Puerto Vallarta to San Diego:
Starlink worked everywhere along the coast of Baja as long as we were within about 12 miles of shore.
This might lead some people to think Starlink geofences the service farther out. The problem with this theory is that Starlink worked for the first 170 miles of the rhumb line course from Punta Mita to Cabo. And that’s way the hell offshore.
So we’re just reporting our experience, not claiming to know why it works where.
And remember, it’s a rapidly evolving system.
Also note that Starlink will NOT be acceptable as the required two-way communication device for the Baja Ha-Ha. Because for the most part, at this time it doesn’t work offshore.
But when it works, it’s fabulous. We’re very thankful for the weather updates we were able to get on Tropical Storm Javier. They allowed us not to worry about Javier.
Bottom line? If you’re just doing the Ha-Ha and then heading right home, Starlink would be nice, but not essential. But if you’re going to be cruising in Mexico for a couple of months or more, we’d absolutely get one.
And remember, Starlink is a lot like booze in the sense that just because you have it aboard, this doesn’t mean you have to consume it all the time.
Also remember that Starlink units cost 16 percent less in Mexico than in the States, and the monthly service fee is 50 percent less. Musk is trying to price the service based on what locals can afford.
And one more thing… Fito asked us to say “hi” to all of you cruising friends of his.
If you’re doing the Ha-Ha and want to start from Ensenada because it makes the first leg shorter and you want to get your paperwork done there, contact Fito about a slip. But if your boat is over 45-ft or if you dally, you’ll be out of luck.
Looking for a place to keep your boat in the Sea of Cortez? Fito suggests the marina at Topolobampo on the mainland side. Deep water going in, cement docks, and a short distance from Los Mochis and flights to Tijuana.
San Francisco Bay Area sailors raced from the Central Bay to Benicia in the Jazz Cup on Saturday, and we’ll have a report and photos from that warm fun run in the October issue of Latitude 38. But did you know that the destination and co-host, Benicia Yacht Club, has an active year-round racing program? Stephen Dale filed this report from their Chase the Moon Race, held under a full moon on Friday, August 12. He sailed his Hunter 320 Playpen II. Stephen called the race the most challenging of the year in the club’s Beer Can Series.
“This is a 22-mile round-trip race, from the Benicia Marina, to marker “R8” in the middle of San Pablo Bay and back again. The race is timed to round the mark about sunset, and then return home in the dark. There were four other boats in the competition this year: Captain Dan Carnahan’s Santana 22 Sail la Vie, Chuck Hooper’s Contessa 33 Warwhoop, Greg Spencer’s Saga 409 Black Swan, and Noble Griswold’s Moorings 38 E-Ticket. The start was a reverse start. Start times depended on your rating. The first boat was Sail la Vie at 6 p.m., followed by us at 6:19 pm.”
“Dan took off like a rocket, and we never could close the gap. I had been watching all the different weather apps all week. I will confess I tend to focus on the ones that give me the result that I want. Unfortunately, San Pablo Bay does not subscribe to the same apps, and the winds and swells were a little bit more challenging than I had anticipated. Because we were sailing in a building ebb, the winds were going the opposite of the current, which tends to create some pretty challenging chop. Fred piloted the boat for much of San Pablo Bay. Gary congratulated him for not missing any of the big swells. We plowed through the chop, overpowered as usual, a wave over the bow baptizing us from time to time.”
“As we finally rounded marker R8, we went from 20 mph apparent wind on our nose to less than 10 mph for the return home. To compound this, the ebb current that helped push us to the mark now was against us for the return, so our speed over ground was 2-4 mph. Doing the math, with 11 miles to home, there was a good chance we would not finish until after midnight. Waaayyyy past my bedtime!
“Anyone who has ever sailed at night, especially in a body of water surrounded by city and nautical lights, knows it is easy to get disoriented. There were certainly a lot of distractions, not the least of which was a steady stream of commercial ships coming and going. After we passed the sea wall, I turned the wheel over to Andy. He did a great job staying on course with an ever-changing set of challenges.”
“About the time we passed back under the Carquinez Bridges, Black Swan was right behind us, so at least we had another boat to visually compete against. To add to the challenge, a car carrier was right behind him. By that time the current had reversed, and the challenge was to stay in the middle of the channel where the currents would help push us home without getting run over by a seven-story ship. If that wasn’t enough, as we came to Benicia Point, the winds dropped to 3-4 mph, barely enough to keep the boat in control. Another car carrier was leaving the Port of Benicia. So here we were with one car carrier going one direction, a second going the other direction, with Black Swan and Playpen II in the channel trying not to become roadkill. I will say — when you are right next to the behemoths, they are a lot larger up close.”
“We managed to survive that challenge and literally drifted over the start line at 11:49, just behind Black Swan. We then went though the routine of putting the sails away, with Andy at the helm. I was on the foredeck with Randy. We focused on trying to find the red and green lights at the mouth of the marina. We puzzled about why we could not find them until we saw the sea wall to the marina entrance right in from of us. We all started yelling, ‘Go left — go left!’ Andy promptly responded, averting yet another potential disaster.”
“Even though our evening flirted with a number of near disasters, and in the end we finished last of those that finished, I love sharing these experiences with the crew, who apparently have no more common sense than myself. As I like to say, any time we don’t sink or die is a good day. In this case, it was a good night.”
E-Ticket finished first, at 10:35 p.m. Sail la Vie, Black Swan and Playpen II followed, in that order. Warwhoop did not finish due to a broken forestay (repaired in time for Jazz Cup). E-Ticket went on to also win the Jazz Cup challenge between Benicia and South Beach YCs. Ben Landon’s Thompson 650 Flight Risk placed first overall, and the first multihull overall, D-Class cat Half Moon Bay Boys and Girls Club, sailed by Alan O’Driscoll and Bryan Wade, finished first.
This is Episode #56, and we’re casting off with Chris Otorowski, who’s interviewed by fellow sailor and host Moe Roddy to chat about his adventures around the world by sea. Chris is the 2022 commodore of the Cruising Club of America (CCA). He’s a seasoned offshore racer and cruiser with thousands and thousands of miles under his belt.
Hear about some of the amazing people Chris has met through sailing, the time he lost his rudder halfway to Hawaii, surviving 40-foot waves, the history of the CCA, and his favorite islands to explore in the Mediterranean.
This episode covers everything from balancing work and sailing to troubleshooting while racing. Here’s a small sample:
- When was the first time Chris raced?
- How long has he been practicing law?
- Where did the name Rocket J. Squirrel come from?
- How do you become a member of the Storm Trysail Club?
- What is the CCA doing to celebrate its 100th anniversary?
- When did Chris settle in Washington?
- What brought him to the West Coast?
- Short Tacks: Where’s his favorite place in the world to sail?
Learn more at CruisingClub.org.
The Eastern Pacific has had a fairly active hurricane season, though so far, the storms have mostly spun harmlessly off to the west. The latest, Hurricane Kay, appears to be on a different track, with the center a few hundred miles to the southwest of Cabo and its course heading up the west shore of the Baja Peninsula, toward Turtle Bay.
The eye of the storm is set to pass to the west of Turtle Bay in the early hours of Thursday morning with potential hurricane-force winds from the northeast quadrant striking the bay and Cedros and other offshore islands directly. Tropical-storm-force winds and rain could travel up north the length of both sides of the Baja Peninsula. The system will then continue north, bringing rain and flash flood warnings to San Diego and parts of Southern California and Arizona on Friday and Saturday.
Keep your fingers crossed for everyone along the coast and in Turtle Bay.
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