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May 22, 2023

State of California Proposes 300% Increase in Boat Registration Fees

Yes, you read that headline correctly. (No, this is not satire or an April Fool’s joke.)

After proposing a 250% increase in boat-registration fees two years ago, the State of California has upped the ante, suggesting instead a 300% increase in fees. This calculates into the current $20 biannual fee’s rising to $80 every two years to register a boat. (Fees have not been raised in 18 years.)

At a time of nagging inflation, arbitrarily increasing property-tax assessments on boats, decreasing numbers of marinas and boatyards, and well-intentioned but onerous environmental regulations, the proposed 300% fee hike is yet another example of California sailors “being made to pay more for less,” according to boating advocates.

Warning of declining numbers of registered boats in California, the Recreational Boaters of California (RBOC) is urging boaters to contact their state senators and assembly members and request that their representatives reject Governor Newsom’s proposed registration-fee increase. The RBOC said they’re “frustrated and concerned” that governor Gavin Newsom’s budget revision, submitted on May 15, was “rushed through with minimal notification to the boating community who had engaged in good faith to discuss fees over the past two years,” a press release read.

The RBOC also said that the state is effectively “ignoring” the $107 million-per-year contribution boaters pay in the state fuel tax. The RBOC called for the state to dedicate “a minimum of $20 million annually in fuel tax dollars, directly attributable to boaters, to the HWRF,” referring to the Harbors and Watercraft Revolving Fund.

When the California State Parks merged with the Division of Boating and Waterways, a fund dedicated to boating interests was used for other government projects, creating a shortfall and the need to raise revenue.
© 2023

When the State of California proposed a 250% hike in fees in 2021, the increase was designed to shore up the HWRF, which finances boating infrastructure such as launch ramps, boater education, the boater certification card, aquatic centers, local boating law enforcement, and invasive species prevention and control. The HWRF was facing a $52 million annual deficit, according to The Log, because the Department of Parks and Recreation, which recently absorbed the Department of Boating and Waterways (DBW), was dipping into the fund. (It was estimated that the 250% fee increase would have put another $22 million into the HWRF each year.)

In other words, boaters paying into the HWRF are now financing many non-boating-related expenditures, such as beach restoration — a worthy cause, but one not directly tied to boating interests and fees.

The RBOC said that the proposed increase does not address the “inappropriate uses” of registration fees, such as the DMV cost of administering and collecting the fees, “as well as the depletion of the fund by re-direction of significant vessel registration fees to [the California Air Resources Board.]” The RBOC also called for transferring boat registration functions from DMV to DBW in an effort to increase efficiency, and warned that registration fees can be increased again without legislation.

At least some portion of boating law enforcement is paid for through the Harbors and Watercraft Revolving Fund.
© 2023 Department of Boating and Waterways

The net effect of increasing fees by 300%, the RBOC argued, “will create a financial barrier to healthy on-the-water opportunities for the average California boatowner, whose boat is under 25-ft in length, and even more so for individuals in disadvantaged communities or on fixed incomes. The average boat owner in California has an income of less than $70,000 per year, among those who are least able to afford the significant 300% increases in their registration fees. It will essentially make boating an activity that the average Californian family cannot afford.”

The number of registered boats in California has been decreasing, according to the RBOC, citing a number of familiar culprits. “A few years ago, California ranked third in the number of registered boats by state; today the state is fifth. Local assessors have been drastically increasing the assessed value of vessels for local property tax purposes, regardless of their age. New marina developments are reducing the number of slips available for small boats. [And] boaters are being required to spend more money on less effective hull paints.”

Master Mariners Gather Ahead of Annual Race on the Bay

On Friday, May 19, we had the privilege of attending the Master Mariners Benevolent Association’s (MMBA) Sponsor Luncheon. The gathering is held each year at the St. Francis Yacht Club, and is an ideal setting in which to share sailing stories and savor the anticipation of the coming annual regatta on the Bay. It is also an opportunity for the MMBA to present the race sponsors. We’re honored to say we are among those sponsors.

Ideally, each organization presents the boat it is sponsoring with a company flag to be hoisted aloft on the day of the race. Sadly, our Latitude 38 flag went missing after another event. But the MMBA organizers were on the ball and filled the gap with their own banner to symbolize the Latitude flag. Fortunately, our embarrassment was somewhat reduced by our not being the only sponsors lacking a flag at that time. (Note: We do have a new flag on order, though it probably won’t get here in time for this Saturday’s race.)

Among the guests were representatives of many of the Bay Area’s wooden boat fleet and the numerous businesses and individuals providing expertise, knowledge, boat parts, and support. So we were in very good company!

Master mariner's lunch
A quick, rough count had us estimating 80 to 100 wooden-sailboat enthusiasts getting together for this annual event.
© 2023 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Monica
MMBA members
MMBA membership officers Diane Walton and Neil Gibbs (chair) display the MMBA burgee — a Herreshoff anchor with an “H” across its shank. The burgee was designed in the late 1800s to reflect the newly formed Master Mariners Benevolent Association’s ongoing objective to raise funds from local maritime businesses for distribution to widows and orphans of seamen lost at sea.
© 2023 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Monica

Neil Gibbs owns the 1977 Sparkman & Stephens yawl Kay of Göteborg — the boat that we’re sponsoring in this year’s regatta.

Kay of Göteborg will be in spectacular company as she races across the Bay on Saturday.
© 2023 Benson Lee

The Master Mariners Regatta comes with its own swag, and this writer picked up a hoodie with this year’s feature boat on the back: the 1889 Edward Burgess cutter Folly, owned by MMBA’s treasurer, Allen Gross.

Folly in her full glory.
© 2023 Master Mariners Benevolent Association

During the sponsor’s flag presentations, the luncheon’s MC and MMBA Commodore Hans List mentioned that he blames his wooden boat affinity to the Latitude 38 Classifieds. What can we say but, “You’re welcome!”

We look forward to the regatta this Saturday and hope you get the opportunity to see these classic wooden boats in action. If you do, and you happen to take some photos, send them our way for the next Sailagram: [email protected].

You can read about the history of the MMBA in our May issue, and we’ll be sharing the story in this week’s episode of Good Jibes!

Wosser Trophies: This Is So 2022

We have to admit we’ve dropped many balls while attempting to juggle all the fun, fascinating and truly worthwhile things going on in the West Coast sailing scene. One of the balls we dropped last year was selecting the 2022 Wosser Trophy winners. Ron Young organized the Wosser Trophies to recognize three unique annual accomplishments, with the goal of encouraging participation in Bay Area racing.

Wosser Trophies
The Wosser Trophies will look good in your yacht club trophy case.
© 2023 Wosser Trophy Supporters

The three annual trophies include the Jake Wosser Trophy, which goes to the winner of the largest one-design regatta held on San Francisco Bay. The Ruth Wosser Trophy goes to the owner whose boat has raced (or started) on the most individual YRA-sanctioned or Coast Guard-approved race days in a year. And the Susie Wosser Trophy goes to the owner who takes the highest total number of different people racing on his/her boat during the year.

Needless to say, this is long overdue. Regardless, we’re forging ahead to ask racers to enter or nominate someone for the three 2022 awards. This may be a brain-racking experience but, we hope, worth it. To do this, nominate a winner of a one-design regatta run by your class or club by emailing Laura Muñoz here. It might have been an Opti regatta or perhaps a Moore 24 regatta or …? We don’t know the answer but would love to determine who might qualify.

To win the Ruth Wosser award for the most races raced in 2022 fill out this form here. To win the Susie Wosser Trophy for bringing the most crew racing in 2022 fill out this form here.

The 2021 winners were Charlotte Rose of the Houston Yacht Club, who won in the ILCA Radial Gold Fleet in the ILCA North Americans. The winner of the Ruth Wosser Trophy for the most races raced was Ron Young, whose boat Youngster raced in 64 races in 2021. The winner of the Susie Wosser Trophy was Cinde Lou Delmas, who won by taking 51 different people racing in 2021. Taking crew members under age 19 gets two points per crew.

Another Girl
Another Girl won the Susie Wosser Trophy because Cinde Lou took lots of kids racing. And many others who act like kids.
© 2023 Chris

The Wosser Trophies are a new tradition, a bit of an oxymoron since traditions are things that have happened for a long time. It makes it even harder to start a tradition when the start-up is sporadic. We’re hoping to end that this year and, to do so, are also making this an early warning for people to submit their 2023 results for races completed by November 15. We’ll send out several more reminders before then.

We suspect the 2023 Jake Wosser Trophy candidate will be the winner of the 5O5 Worlds, to be held at the St. Francis Yacht Club, but we’d love to hear of other one-design events that may rival that fleet. There are a lot of races you can sail between now and the end of the year for a chance to win the Ruth Wosser Trophy, and there are a lot of potential crewmembers who would love to sail with you (especially those under 19) if you want a shot at the Susie Wosser Trophy.

To help you on your way, we remind you to pick up the 2023 Latitude 38 YRA Sailing Calendar, which includes almost 1,000 Northern California races. There’s no shortage of opportunity. One of the easiest ways to start is beer can racing, with the inviting ethos of the Beer Can Ten Commandments. To find crew, you could cruise by the docks of your local junior or community sailing program, where you’ll find kids under 19 who count for two points each, or head over to the Latitude 38 Crew List to find crew or skippers who might act their age (no guarantees!).

It’s a bit ridiculous that it’s taken this long for us to make this announcement, but growing participation in racing on San Francisco Bay is worth a little egg on the face. Racing is a ton of fun, and the Bay is a fantastic place to do it. We thank Ron Young, the Wosser family and the YRA for creating the opportunity to invite more people racing.

West Coast Boats Enjoy Podium Finishes at BVI Spring Regatta

Seventy boats celebrated 50 years of fabulous sailing and island fun over five days of outstanding racing in perfect conditions at the BVI Spring Regatta and Sailing Festival, held March 27 to April 2. The BVI Spring Regatta is undoubtedly one of the most beloved regattas on the Caribbean racing circuit, and this year, the competition could not have been better — nor the conditions: warm turquoise water, temperatures in the mid-80s, and a consistent breeze in the high teens every day. Oh, and super-fun parties every night in the regatta village as well as the Nanny Cay Resort and Marina (the host sponsor) beach bar.

This year was notable, not only because it was the 50th edition of the regatta, but because there were more than just the usual handful of West Coast competitors. Ten groups of sailors from the Western United States made it to the BVI for the regatta’s 50th anniversary celebration, including a group of women from the West Vancouver Yacht Club calling themselves the Salish Sisters: Kelly Wharton, Kerry Phillips, Kathy Parslow, Kelly Brix, Lisa Andersen, and Melanie Brisbois, who raced on Spirit of Juno, a Farr 65, in the CSA 1 division.

BVI regatta crew
The Salish Sisters on Spirit of Juno’s transom.
© 2023 Bonnie Kogos

“The BVI Spring Regatta and Sailing Festival delivered a sailing experience beyond expectations,” Kelly Wharton said with a big smile. “On the first practice day, the Salish Sisters stepped on our Farr 65 ride and felt like characters out of Gulliver’s Travels. The bow was a football field away, barrel-size winches loomed in the pit, and the sequoia-wide boom floated overhead. We soon learned that the principles of sailing, whether you have an Opti or a Farr 65, are universal. The skills we had acquired from years of cruising and racing directly transferred to larger boats, albeit with some important caveats. We felt confident in our positions, nailed the starts, and ended every race with smiles and laughs.”

She added, “The BVI weather was beyond perfect: 20-25 knots, sunny skies, and aqua waters. Between tacks, jibes, and sail changes, we soaked in the spectacular and dramatic BVI seascapes, especially the wild windward sides of Ginger, Cooper, Peter, and Norman islands.”

Jonathan Cruse and his friends from Seattle chartered a Sunsail 46 and raced in the Bareboat 1 division, and Peter Nelson, also from the Seattle area, raced with friends in the Bareboat 2 division on a chartered Sunsail 41.

In the Cruising Multihull division, Ron Boehm, an I-14 sailor from Santa Barbara, California, raced his boat Little Wing, a Perry/Antrim 52 that he keeps in St. Croix. Boehm took second in the division.

There were plenty of cheeky moments during this year’s regatta.
© 2023 Ingrid Abery

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