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December 23, 2022

Winter Storms To Follow After Christmas Weekend

The forecast across most of the country for this holiday weekend is miserable. A winter storm is currently wreaking havoc across the Northwest, with blizzard conditions closing down services and transport in many areas. Holiday plans have been abandoned as thousands of flights are canceled. There’s even talk of Floridians having to rug up. But here in California, we’re counting our blessings — it looks like a good weekend for sailing. Of course many of us will also spend some time at home enjoying Christmas celebrations, but keep in mind that the weather is forecast to turn on Monday, making now a good time to check that your boat is prepared for rain and potentially rough conditions. Boats anchored in Richardson Bay want to make sure they have plenty of scope. Those at docks should check fender lines, docklines and roller furling to make sure all is secure. Oh, and don’t forget the hatches and covers!

Aground in Berkeley
On a recent sunny Friday, this boat got in danger.
© 2022 Chris Maher
This boat dragged up on the Tiburon lee shore during an earlier December storm but managed to get off under its own power during the next high tide.
© 2022 Jim Tull

Enjoy the weekend and take advantage of the opportunity to make sure your boat is ready for the next stretch of winter weather. If you want to ensure that you have thought of everything, check out Mary SwiftSwan’s “Storm Prep Check List.”

Take a Quick Dive Beneath Your Keel Without Getting Wet!

Our friend Max Fletcher is taking a Christmas “holiday” aboard a Garcia 50 under sail in Antarctica. One of the fun facts from the sail is the fact that the Antarctic shag is the deepest-swimming flying bird. It can dive to depths of 371 feet.

Cruising Antarctica
It’s a warm 30 degrees while cruising in Antarctica’s summer season.
© 2022 InReach

It reminded us of a clever online tool we ran a few years ago, and that is always fun to revisit. It shows sea creatures and how deep they can dive below the surface. How deep can a polar bear dive? The answer is almost 90 feet!

Did you know that emperor penguins can dive 1,700-ish feet? Do you know how deep a human being has dived (and when)? What’s the largest type of crab? Who were the first people to take a submarine into the Mariana Trench?

These are some of the many cool facts we found when scrolling down, down… down on The Deep Sea. We highly recommend taking a deep dive, by clicking here.

If you have a few minutes to kill (or even if you don’t), you should take a dive into the deep blue sea.
© 2022

Upon Reflection, Perhaps This Was My Worst Day Sailing

On Monday we shared Richard Spindler’s story of what he thought could have been his worst day of sailing in 50 years. But by the end of his tale, he remembered that he’d had another challenging day a long time ago, and decided that the current worst day was, in reality, only his second-worst. His story continues…

The worst was in the early ’70s when I was about 21.

Having gotten a hole in my eardrum from surfing and being told I could never even swim again, I had to take up a sport near the water. My brother just happened to own a Flying Dutchman, a two-person then-Olympic-class dinghy, so sailing was the obvious sport.

My knowledge of sailing was extremely limited. Just enough for three of my friends and me to regularly pile into the two-person boat with a couple of six-packs and a handful of joints and be able to sail — the boat had no engine — from the Estuary to Central San Francisco Bay on summer afternoons. Being young and unusually stupid, and having only recently given up surfing, I actually believed that I was invincible. And if necessary could swim to shore from any part of the Bay.

As was our habit, once we were in the Central Bay and the wind was howling, we’d bear off for Richmond like a bat out of hell. That’s exactly what we did… until the daggerboard came up, the mast came down, and the boat turned turtle. It was a weekday, so there were almost no other boats on the Bay.

Fortunately one boat did come by, picked up two of our crew, and headed off to find the Coast Guard. That left me, and a friend named George with a dislocated shoulder, to fend for ourselves. Let me tell you, if you’re sitting on an overturned dinghy on San Francisco Bay, you’re wearing a pair of shorts and a T-shirt, and it’s blowing 25 knots, you’re going to get cold really quickly.

As a result, we had to be at least a touch hypothermic when a Coast Guard boat finally picked us up. It took them four hours to tow the overturned boat, with the mast, sails and everything else dragging behind, to get us to Yerba Buena. Because the painter broke four times during this tow, my freezing self was obliged to jump back into the icy Bay four more times. It was horrible, but we made it.

So yes, that was worse than yesterday (see Monday’s ‘Lectronic). The thing that amazes me is that not only have I made it to 74, but that I have taken thousands upon thousands of people sailing on my boats all over the world, and to my memory, none have gotten hurt worse than Doña did yesterday.

Profligate with guests and dinghies - worst day story
Richard has been sailing for decades, and as the Baja Ha-Ha’s Grand Poobah, has been joined by scores of sailors over the years aboard his 63-ft catamaran Profligate.
© 2022 Richard Spindler

The Usual December Dilemma: Max Ebb Goes Shopping

As November became December, Max Ebb found he was running out of ideas for Christmas gifts. He decided to take up Lee Helm’s suggestion and found himself shopping for books. But not the ones you might expect…

Where was Lee Helm? We had agreed to meet at the bookstore at 11 o’clock, but there was no sign of her. This was not like her at all. Usually she turns up everywhere, invited or otherwise, so it was hard to imagine that she’d miss a firm appointment.

The occasion was shopping. The prior weekend I had complained about my usual December dilemma: what to buy for someone who has everything. “Books!” she replied. “Kids’ books! Kids’ books about sailing!” As if it should be obvious. “And like, age of giftee no prob. The books are good at autonomous navigation; they will find their way to age-appropriate offspring, nieces, nephews, grandchildren. They will be re-gifted as necessary if duplicates. It’s the best way to promote sailing and maybe, like, spark a lifelong passion or a nautical career.”

Lee, it turned out, was planning a trip to one of our local brick-and-mortar bookstores, and invited me to meet her there so we could check out this year’s offerings. But it wasn’t like her to be late. Where was she?

The store had a huge section devoted to “young readers,” and a small shelf of sailing books hidden in the “sports” area. But not much intersection of the two genres was in evidence.

I asked one of the store employees for assistance.

Salty Dog,” she said with much enthusiasm as she handed me a slightly worn, used copy from a hard-to-notice shelf of used books. “This was my favorite when I was a kid. A young boat builder gets a puppy and starts building a wooden cruising boat.”

Salty Dog book cover
Did you read this book when you were a kid?
© 2022

“Looks like a 26-ft Lyle Hess design,” I said as I admired one of the illustrations.

“Over the next year,” she added, “the boat takes shape and the puppy grows up. The artwork is wonderfully detailed and almost photo-realistic, right down to watching the seasons change through the boat shed window. There are three sequels: Aloha Salty, when they are accidentally stranded on the beach in Hawaii, Salty Sails North, in which they sail to Alaska, and Salty Takes Off, in which the dog falls out of an airplane, lands in snow, and — spoiler alert — is rescued unhurt the next day. Based on a true story!”

“This one is definitely a keeper,” I said after examining the art.

“At the other extreme for realism,” the store employee continued, “is Captain Abdul’s Pirate School. By Colin McNaughton, who knows why pirates are funny. It’s full of the usual comic pirate stereotypes but with unexpected plot reversals. These same ‘lovable’ pirate characters appear in a companion book, Jolly Roger and the Pirates of Abdul the Skinhead, by the same author but with a completely unrelated plot line.”

My store assistant did not have copies to show off, used or new, so I would have to look for this one online.

Continue reading Max’s tale in the December issue of Latitude 38.

And if you want to buy a book but don’t want to go out, check out the titles in our online bookstore: You’ll find Salty Dog and more of Max’s favorites among them, along with “adult” sailing books.

Just a small sample of what’s on offer.
© 2022 Latitude 38 Media LLC /
Circumnavigation in Class 40 Sailboats
Sailing in the Globe 40 race, the doublehanded Class 40s have finished a marathon leg of ocean racing and arrived in Ushuaia, Argentina.
Jumping Overboard for a Dip
How often do you think about the creatures that may be lurking beneath your boat while you're out at sea, or in the Bay, or even docked at the marina?