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December 19, 2022

Zany Half Pint-o-Rum Race Wraps Up Ancient Mariners Season

The Ancient Mariners Sailing Society of San Diego ran their final regatta of 2022 on sunny Saturday, December 10. The wild and wacky Half Pint-o-Rum Race boasts many shenanigans not normally seen in your typical yacht race.

Fifth of rum handoff
No need to pull out your credit card to enter the race. Simply hand off a fifth of good rum to the admiral — er, commodore — before the start. (A fifth? Not a half pint? Must be inflation!) Here Butcher Boy pays her entry fee.
© 2022 James Ward
The skipper (or designated crewmember) from each boat in the Racing Class must paddle, row or swim onto and off the beach before the start and at the finish. This kneeling, kayak-paddling SUPper is from Dauntless.
© 2022 James Ward
Wood dinghy being hoisted aboard
The beach crew’s craft must be hoisted aboard or taken in tow. This is the New Zealand 37 Lola. Three generations of Spriggs were on board: father Robert, son Morgan and Cam (lifting the wooden rowboat).
© 2022 James Ward
Chimaera lowers the ladder
Chimaera lowers the ladder for their swimmer.
© 2022 James Ward
swimmer with fins
Some swimmers wore wetsuits, but trunking it was an option in San Diego’s 60º South Bay waters. This is Chimaera’s finish swimmer, Fernando Caceres, MD, DDS.
© 2022 Janie Noon
Oh Cecilia and Dauntless
Oh, Cecilia, AMSS member Zoltan Sarda’s Leyman, went along as photoboat. Here she is alongside the schooner Dauntless.
© 2022 Janie Noon
bar on 6-Meter Sprig
Open bar on Sprig. Doug VerMeulen offers pre-race hospitality on Greg Stewart’s 6-Meter.
© 2022 James Ward
classic sailboats sailing
And they’re off! Seen here are John Driscoll’s S&S 46 Chimaera and C.F. Koehler’s 10-Meter Sally, towing the landing craft.
© 2022 James Ward
Janie Noon on Chimaera
Thanks to Janie Noon for sending us the photos taken by her and James Ward, and for all the info. Here she is sailing aboard Chimaera.
© 2022 Sandy Vissman

We’ll have much more on the Half Pint-o-Rum Race in Racing Sheet in the January issue of Latitude 38, coming out on Friday, December 30. In the meantime, learn more at

Finding a Golden Ticket (and a Boat) in ‘Latitude 38’

Small world. A few months ago we were introduced to active-duty USCG member John Daughters, who was looking to buy the Sabre 36 Panache, berthed a few slips away in our marina. Not long after, John had bought Panache and she disappeared from the neighborhood, sailing off to who knows where.

Fast-forward a few months, and in comes the photo of John, below. He’d picked up the November issue of Latitude 38 at Gate 8 at Marina Village and found a blue “Golden Ticket” inside, earning himself a free Latitude 38 T-shirt. John said, “There’s always a reliable stack of Latitude 38 magazines at the Marina Village Yacht Harbor ice maker at Gate 8. A longtime reader of the magazine, I’ve always enjoyed reading the Changes in Latitudes segment, but it was in the classified listings section of the May/June(?) issue where I found S/V Panache!”

Joh Daughters Panache
John Daughters shows off his Golden Ticket next to his new Sabre 36 Panache, berthed at Marina Village.
© 2022 Panache

We reached out to John to find out more about his sailing and life with Panache. Besides being an active member of the USCG, John says he’s a licensed captain and avid sailor. He said, “Panache can often be found introducing newcomers to the joys of sailing, tacking and jibing in the Oakland Estuary, or out plying the waters of San Francisco Bay with longer voyages on the horizon. Prior to her acquisition in the spring of 2022, Panache was lovingly cared for by her previous owner of 20 years, Will Deady, and many friends at the Corinthian Yacht Club.”

John’s wife and family live in San Diego; however he’s on active duty here in Alameda, so travels north and south between work and home. He grew up in Seattle, where he took basic sailing and sailed with his family, and he now has a 100-ton license and US Sailing bareboat certification. He’s owned a Catalina 22 in San Diego, but now does his San Diego/SoCal sailing with the Harbor Island Yacht Club. At one time he also had a Catalina 25 in Seattle and has done a good deal of cruising in the Pacific Northwest.

“Longer voyages on the horizon?” Currently, he’s on active duty with the USCG through 2026, after which time he’s planning on sailing the boat south to San Diego, and sometime after that heading farther south to Mexico. John remembers becoming interested in Sabres in about 2010, when he first set foot on one: a beautiful, well-maintained Sabre 42, part of a USCG recreational boating safety boarding in Seattle’s Elliott Bay. He said he’s been a big fan of Sabres ever since, and added, “Thanks again for providing me the opportunity to further discuss one of my favorite pastimes!”

If you want to unplug and relax, there’s nothing like reading an actual hard copy of Latitude 38 picked up at your favorite local distribution point.

Untethered: A Rite of Passage During the Spinnaker Cup

In the December issue of Latitude 38, Brandon Mercer tells the story of his son’s rite of passage during the Spinnaker Cup aboard the Santa Cruz 37 Wildcard.

At 12:23 a.m. on that moonless night, we were 25 miles out from Monterey Harbor, pounding through heavy seas and struggling to keep things upright in winds peaking above 33 miles per hour. As the keel spun out from under the rig yet again and we lurched into another violent broach, it hit me.

Graduation day was still a week off. Senior prom wasn’t for another 12 hours and an unlikely early morning bus ride away — if the boy even made it. His Eagle Scout court of honor was a parental pipe dream at this point. Yet, at that moment, in rising seas and the howling winds of a coming squall, I realized it: My little boy was now a man.

When I finally bought our J/24 — registered in both our names — and began racing, he usually drove while I trimmed and crewed. With all the rites of passage available to a middle-class kid living on the edge of suburbia, his quintessential rite was, appropriately, during a passage.

James Mercer at helm
James Mercer takes the helm in calm conditions following the start of the Spinnaker Cup.
© 2022 Brandon Mercer

The Spinnaker Cup from San Francisco to Monterey started under the Golden Gate before transitioning into a completely foggy, cold and rainy evening. Finally, a fresh breeze and a developing gale enveloped the fleet. We reached like a bat out of hell toward the final mark, already tasting the famous chili and chocolate chip cookies awaiting us at 2 a.m. at the Monterey Peninsula Yacht Club.

boat crew in red jackets
James Mercer (far left) and his father Brandon (second from right) with the crew of Wildcard.
© 2022 Brandon Mercer

My son was mid-bow on Wildcard, a racer-cruiser — emphasis on racer. The Santa Cruz 37 was designed to fly downwind on offshore races, with a carbon fiber hull and rig, a massive sail plan, and a stiletto keel around which the boat could spin on windward broaches. I was pit. Middle of the boat. I relayed communication from the helm to the bow, ran halyards and tack lines, and played a key role in sail changes.

As the winds rose, everyone was clipped in. The skipper made sure of it. As night descended, the endurance race began wearing on us. Visibility decreased to as far as the lifelines, with just a few phantom, distant glows that might be a trawler, another racer or a reflection in our own retinas.

The best drivers were taking turns on the helm, but even then it was like keeping an avalanche under control. Jerk the wheel and throw the stern left and right. Keep the center of gravity underneath the mast and that masthead spinnaker. Don’t let the speed of surfing down the increasingly large swells turn us to windward.

There were plenty of broaches. My son expertly rigged the smaller spinnaker as I eased or tightened control lines. We peeled from the biggest A2 to the A4, a smaller, more manageable fractional downwind sail. But still, we wiped out several times. That’s normal. A broach can be slow — a few seconds before all hell breaks loose. Or it can be fast and violent. Surfing down a wave, a puff hits you, the driver pumps the wheel to leeward, but the wind spins the boat like a top, with the rudder unable to overcome the force of a massive piece of canvas pulling the yacht over.

Continue reading at

Was This My Worst Day in 55 Years of Sailing?

At the start of last week, the Vallarta Yacht Club, in Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico, hosted their annual Banderas Bay Blast — a three-day event that includes the Pirates for Pupils Spinnaker Run for Charity. It was on this third day that Baja Ha-Ha Grand Poobah and Latitude 38 founder Richard Spindler experienced what he thought could very well have been his worst-ever day of sailing.

My worst day in 55 years of sailing? I think so. And it was supposed to be such a great day, with us on Profligate going up against Fred and Judy’s all-conquering Serendipity 43 Wings, Randy and Sally-Christine’s Wylie 65 Convergence, and about 20 other boats. To add insult to injury, the event was the Pirates for Pupils Spinnaker Run for Charity from Punta Mita to Paradise Marina, an event I started and have done countless times. It’s always a downwind sail in which, unlike the light-air upwind races, Profligate can shine.

sailing boats
Day 1 of the Banderas Bay Blast.
© 2022 Catalina Liana

The morning started great, with the very young local kids putting on a dance performance for members of the fleet. Doña was in heaven, dancing and hugging all the little kids. But she wouldn’t be in heaven for long. As I motored Profligate upwind to raise the main, we were getting closer to the shore by the Punta Mita restaurants. We were having some issues with the lazy jacks, which meant it was taking longer to get the main up, which meant we kept getting closer to shore. But I know the area well, and judged that we were still in deep enough water. My judgment was proven wrong as Profligate slammed to an abrupt halt from about five knots when the starboard daggerboard crunched into one of the big rocks that are scattered around the otherwise sand bottom.

While Profligate came to a complete stop, the 11 crewmembers didn’t. Some were tossed into bulkheads or knocked off their feet. But Doña, who had been leaning on the seagull striker, suffered the most. When Profligate stopped, she kept right on going. Right off the front of the boat. It wasn’t the most enjoyable swim of her life, as the current was pretty strong and she’s not the strongest swimmer. She never did get far from Profligate, still grinding her daggerboard on the rock, but it was easiest for a panga to fish her out of the water.

The weather was perfect. The entire event would have been perfect but for that mishap.
© 2022 Richard Spindler

Over the years we’ve seen a lot of very large “boat bites” during boat-bite contests in the Baja Ha-Ha. But when we got back to the condo that night, we discovered that Doña had the biggest boat bite we’ve ever seen. It’s a wicked-looking hematoma about the size of Rhode Island, right on her bum. And it was swollen.

Striking the rock, and Doña’s going overboard, weren’t the end of our troubles. I’d invested a small fortune in some upgraded halyards and sheet stoppers that are a little bit different from the ones we had before. They are still a little confusing, too, so — and I still don’t know quite how — after we had the spinnaker up for a few minutes the spinny halyard slipped about 35 feet. We were shrimping! We tried to hoist the spinnaker back up, but that merely succeeded in getting the chute caught under both sides of the starboard hull. Merde! Not only was it the end of that old chute’s life, it took a lot of work on the part of the crew to retrieve it. Ultimately we got another chute up and had some decent sailing, but by this time Fred and Judy, and Randy and Sally-Christine, were so far ahead we couldn’t have seen them with the Hubble telescope. So we headed for the barn. Mind you, hitting the rock, Doña’s going overboard, and shrimping the chute were only the highlights of a day when pretty much everything that could go wrong did go wrong. Even the autopilot decided to stop working. Merde! Merde! Merde!

When Doña was in the water, she was surrounded by bits of foam and fiberglass, the source of which could only be the bottom of Profligate‘s starboard daggerboard, now firmly embedded in the crash box. It’s likely going to need a haulout to get that daggerboard out, although we’ll try other methods.

Hopefully it will be another 50 years before we have another day of sailing so awful. Now that I think of it, yesterday was probably my second-worst day sailing. The worst was in the early ’70s when I was about 21.

We’ll save this second story for later in the week… Stay tuned!


Advocating for the Waterfront
For years now, we've heard that Ayala Cove has become too shallow for many sailboats. Readers have asked us what we've heard about dredging around Angel Island, which is part of the California State Parks system.