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April 21, 2023

Mexican Navy Suspends Search for ‘Ocean Bound’

A press release issued by the US Coast Guard advises that the Mexican navy’s search for three missing American sailors and their boat Ocean Bound has been suspended.

“The U.S. Coast Guard has been informed that the Mexican Navy (SEMAR) has suspended their search for three American mariners aboard the sailing vessel Ocean Bound, which was last heard from on April 4 near Mazatlán, Mexico.”

Missing sailboat
The search for the Lafitte 44 Ocean Bound has been suspended.
© 2023 FB/Ocean Bound

“The search was suspended pending further developments after SEMAR and U.S. Coast Guard responders conducted 281 cumulative search hours covering approximately 200,057 square nautical miles, an area larger than the state of California, off Mexico’s northern Pacific coast with no sign of the missing sailing vessel nor its passengers.

“’An exhaustive search was conducted by our international search and rescue partner, Mexico, with the U.S. Coast Guard and Canada providing additional search assets,’ said Cmdr. Gregory Higgins, command center chief, Coast Guard District 11. ‘SEMAR and U.S. Coast Guard assets worked hand-in-hand for all aspects of the case. Unfortunately, we found no evidence of the three Americans’ whereabouts or what might have happened. Our deepest sympathies go out to the families and friends of William Gross, Kerry O’Brien and Frank O’Brien.’”

The USCG wrote, “This is a reminder for mariners of the importance of providing a person ashore with your float plan, which in this case allowed the U.S Coast Guard to be notified when the missing sailors did not check in with family. It also underscores the importance of carrying a registered 406MHz electronic position indicating radio beacon (EPIRB) for automatic notification in emergencies.”

Ocean Bound left Mazatlán at around 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, April 4, and headed west across the Sea of Cortez en route to San Diego. The crew had planned to stop in Cabo San Lucas on April 6 to check in and reprovision, but they did not report in or arrive in Cabo San Lucas, and have not been heard from since.

Search and rescue coordinators contacted marinas throughout Baja, Mexico, and urgent marine information broadcasts were issued over VHF radio but resulted in no additional information. According to Douglas Samp, Search and Rescue Program Manager US Coast Guard Pacific Area, there was no EPIRB registered to the boat.

ABC10 News reached out to the Lafitte’s designer, Bob Perry, to ask how the boat would have fared in rough sea conditions. Perry spoke positively of the boat’s ability to withstand the seas and winds said to have been prevalent at the time of Ocean Bound’s voyage (as we understand, 30+ knot winds and 15- 20-ft seas). “You’re not out there enjoying yourself in those conditions,” Perry said, “but you should not be in survival mode.” He told the reporter that other possibilities include fire or collision.

At this point, all sailors are fearing the worst but hoping for the best. These are three capable sailors aboard a capable boat in breezy but not stormy conditions. As we all know, it’s possible they may have had engine or communications failures and could have decided to proceed offshore under sail. They may have decided to do the clipper route, going well offshore. While the circumstances appear unfavorable, it is hard to give up hope until some confirmation of loss is made.

Oakland A’s Waterfront Stadium at Howard St. Terminal Strikes Out

The Oakland A’s have announced a commitment to building their new ballpark in Las Vegas, ending the long negotiations to create a new stadium site along the Oakland Estuary at the Howard St. Terminal near Jack London Square. While this is a huge disappointment for local Oakland A’s fans and the City of Oakland, it keeps critical land adjacent to the deep-water waterfront available for the maritime trades.

Artist rendering of proposed Oakland As stadium.
An artist’s rendering of the now-canceled Oakland A’s waterfront stadium on the Estuary.

The Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce was not happy, nor was Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao, who was quoted in the San Francisco Business Times, saying, “I want to be very clear: This announcement happened mid-negotiation, and it shows they have no interest in making a deal with Oakland at all. Oakland is not interested in being used as leverage in an A’s negotiation with Las Vegas.”

Barbara Leslie, president of the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, issued this statement: “For over five decades, the Oakland A’s have been an important local employer and are woven into the cultural fabric of The Town. We hope circumstances work out for the team to remain rooted in Oakland. However, we are a strong and resilient community and will move forward as One Oakland.”

The entire Bay Area waterfront remains under pressure from real estate development, often more suited to inland uses and needlessly reducing space available for the maritime trades and public access to the Bay. Many planning commissions and developers consider public access to be walking or bike paths or decks with views of the Bay, while most boaters know public access comprises launch ramps, docks, marine repair facilities and other infrastructure that actually allows people to get into and out of, or onto and off the water. We want to preserve the working waterfront and would rather see ramps that expand access, rather than seawalls that reduce access.

Unless there’s an unforeseen change, the future of Howard St. Terminal now goes back to the drawing board.

Take a Moment This Weekend to Participate in Earth Day

Each year Earth Day, April 22, is marked by millions of people around the world. It is a “day of action to change human behavior and create global, national and local policy changes.” That action can be broad scale, or even as simple as going out into your own neighborhood and picking up trash that has accumulated along the street, or, in our case, along our waterways.

As sailors, we see a lot of the trash that floats along the surface of the water. What we don’t always see are the pieces that sink to the bottom, get caught up in river banks and between rocks, or are too small to be immediately visible. And that’s without considering the pollution from oils and other liquid contaminants that find their way to the streams and oceans.

Most of this trash would be invisible to us as we go about our usual activities on the water.
© 2023 Scott Chowning

The San Francisco Bay Area has miles of watery beauty that we can all enjoy. But we’re not the only ones out there. Give a moment’s thought to the marine creatures whose home we play upon: seals, porpoises, dolphins, and in the right season, whales, along with myriad fish and seagrasses, all of which play an important role in the biodiversity and health of the Earth. We need to do our part to help preserve and protect these beings, and in the long run, ourselves.

Most animals who get tangled in trash aren’t lucky enough to be found while they’re still alive.
© 2023 NOAA/Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center/Brenda Becker

Today, and across the weekend, while you’re out sailing or walking the docks, take along a couple of bags (hopefully recycled or degradable) and fill them with the unsightly, unhealthy bits of trash that are in your immediate vicinity. If we all do a little, the planet will benefit a lot.

Here’s a short quiz we found on on the Earth Day website — Whale Conservation Quiz.

By the way, another way we can all help is to ditch the single-use plastic. We’ve opened up our new Latitude 38 store and are stocking the perfect boat drinkware. Check it out.

George Bush and the Line Behind the ‘Mayflower’

Rob Moore captured this shot of the Mayflower replica in Plymouth, MA.
© 2023 Rob

Next time you see a line trailing in the water behind your boat or someone else’s, rather than criticize the sloppy seamanship, maybe remember the story of John Howland.

One dark and stormy night in the mid-Atlantic in 1620, he was washed overboard off the Mayflower. Yes, that Mayflower. Howland managed to grab a rope that was trailing in the water, and was eventually pulled back aboard. He went on to have quite a life in America, working as Plymouth Colony Governor John Carver’s executive assistant, marrying, and eventually fathering 10 children — all of whom survived to adulthood. And through them, possibly millions of descendants. Without that rope, none of them would have been here, including George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush, Alec Baldwin, or any of his actor brothers.

The Mayflower did not have PLBs, an MOB plan, an EPIRB, DSC, PFDs or practice in the Quick Stop man-overboard maneuver. It was a different world.

Australian Woman Sets Pacific Ocean Solo Rowing Record

From time to time we’ve written about rowers who set out to cross the Pacific; mostly recently Cyril Derreumaux, who kayaked from Monterey, California, to Hilo, Hawaii. Last week we learned about Australian Michelle Lee, who has become the first woman to row solo across the Pacific — nonstop and unassisted. She rowed 14,000 kilometres (approximately 8,700 miles) aboard a 7.7 x 2m carbon fiber rowing boat, Australian Maid. During her 237-day crossing she endured five hurricanes and four cyclones.

Australian rower
Strong outgoing tides slowed Lee’s arrival in Queensland by around two days.
© 2023 Michelle Lee

Lee, a 50-year-old massage therapist from Sydney, Australia, set off from Ensenada, Mexico, on August 8, 2022, and arrived in Port Douglas, Queensland, on April 5, 2023. While her time on the water was unassisted, Lee did have land support from family and friends who encouraged her and were available for chats across the lonely miles. She also had a dedicated weather router who tracked her progress and advised her of favorable currents and winds whenever possible.

Celebrating her 40th birthday on day two of a 100km (approx. 62 miles) trek along New Guinea’s Kokoda Trail was a catalyst for the many physical adventures to follow. The odyssey sparked her “love for extreme adventures requiring uttermost physical fitness, mental resilience, and self-discipline.” She then set about completing numerous treks, triathlons and endurance challenges before turning her attention toward the sea.

“I wasn’t scared, just horribly uncomfortable,” Lee wrote about being cabin-bound during extreme weather.
© 2023 Michelle Lee

Lee is also the first Australian woman to row an ocean, solo. She spent 68 days rowing unassisted across the Atlantic Ocean, which earned her The Australian Geographic’s Adventurer of the Year award in 2019. Now, her successful Pacific row has cemented her place in the ocean-rowing, and other, record books, including holding the world record for the fastest woman to row one million meters on a Concept 2 rowing machine — that’s around 621.5 miles. She completed the task in 5 days, 21 hours, 35 minutes. Lee has also completed the Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge, a 3,000-mile ocean row from La Gomera, Canary Islands, to English Harbour, Antigua.

Michelle Lee lives by her motto, “Don’t die wondering. Start thinking you can and you will.” You can learn more about her adventures here.

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