Skip to content
July 28, 2023

No One Aboard as Authorities Reach Donald Lawson’s ‘Defiant’

Baltimore sailor Donald Lawson was en route from Acapulco to Baltimore, where he was to prepare for his around-the-world record attempt aboard the ORMA 60 Defiant, when he encountered a series of difficulties. On July 9, Lawson told his wife Jacqueline he was having problems with his boat’s hydraulic rigging and was without engine power, the Baltimore Sun reported. Then on July 12 he lost his wind generator due to a storm. At their last contact on July 13, Lawson told Jaqueline he had “25% of battery power and no way of charging.” Jacqueline reported her concern to authorities on Friday, July 14, after Lawson had turned around to head back to Acapulco for repairs. After a week of searching, his boat was reportedly spotted by a Mexican navy plane last Sunday, though they would not confirm its identity. Jacqueline Lawson did confirm the boat is Defiant.

Lawson was attempting to break multiple records under the banner of his nonprofit, Dark Seas Project.
© 2023

Rough seas prevented any vessel from approaching Defiant until Thursday, when a ship was able to reach the capsized trimaran. While there was hope that Lawson might still be with the boat, Mexican authorities determined he was not aboard. According to the Sun, Jacqueline received an email from Mexican authorities Friday morning stating that the boat was “found without any crew members on board or anywhere in the vicinity of the boat.”

The 210-ft US Coast Guard vessel Active has joined the search for any sign of Lawson in the ocean near Defiant’s location, approximately 300 miles south of Acapulco, the Baltimore Banner said. “The Coast Guard declined to give details about the search, but a crew would be typically looking for any sign of survivors and debris.”

Cruise-In Chad Shares the Ins and Outs of Sailing and Docking on S.F. Bay

While cruising through our ever-full email inbox recently, we uncovered a letter that we received from reader Chad Hedstrom. Back in 2020, Chad wrote us about his views on sailing the Bay, and the public dock system. And when Tim Henry wrote last week about the new India Basin Waterfront Park under development in San Francisco, we were reminded of Chad’s letter. 

Having grown up sailing aboard his family’s towable Catalina 30, Chad experienced the Great Lakes, the Bahamas, and the Inside Passage, and, when at 16 he could drive himself to the lake, spent a few years crewing in the Texas J/24 circuit. These days, the serial sailor and his wife are usually found sailing aboard their J/105 Spartan out of San Francisco, enjoying a mix of day cruising and participation in YRA destination regattas and some of the longer doublehanded regattas. So when we re-read Chad’s letter from 2020 about docking options on the Bay, we figured he knew what he was talking about, and he was entertaining, so we decided to share his letter with our readers.

You might have seen Spartan’s blue and gold spinnaker racing across the Bay
© 2023 Chad Hedstrom

I was cruising the social networks when I saw an ad from the Port of San Francisco, asking for points of interest along the S.F. waterfront. Well, opinions are like elbows, everyone has one.

Public docks are few and far between, especially those that don’t require a reservation, registration, insurance, previous addresses for the last 30 years and next six of kin. Especially a dock that has eight-foot draft at low tide. We religiously follow the Latitude 38 Guide to Bay Sailing, which follows a roughly counterclockwise course around the Slot. It includes docks like Ayala Cove at Angel Island, Sam’s Café in Tiburon, and Pier 1 1/2 at the Ferry Building. On occasion we’ve been known to sneak into South Beach Harbor to let off a seasick passenger (try hailing them on 16 first!). People always have great big smiles when we tie up at Ayala Cove, it’s almost magical.

Spartan taking advantage of docks at Pier 1 1/2 (left) and Sam’s in Tiburon.
© 2023 Chad Hedstrom

These docks are all great locations and should be noted for any sailor looking to give a good trip around the Bay. They are great locations because you can often pull up, let guests stretch their legs, buy a soda, sandwich and more. I don’t think the benefits of a public dock need much explanation.

Now the Port is asking for suggestions on where to make improvements along the seawall. I would like to propose three new spots, especially for sailors and other boaters plying these waters.

First, “Pier 46 1/2” just south of Oracle Park. There is significant development happening just south of Oracle Park, at the new Mission Rock park/expansion. There will be several shops as well as a number of restaurants going in. It is also in close proximity to guests coming in from the South Bay via Caltrain, N and T Muni lines, etc. Immediately south of the ferry dock at Oracle Park is a beautiful spot in about 14 feet of water, where there is room for a 100-foot single-pier dock.

The sailing couple — Chad and his wife enjoying a sunset sail.
© 2023 Chad Hedstrom

Next spot would be “Pier 66 1/2” for the new park/redevelopment project happening down at Pier 70. You might have had a Dark ‘n’ Stormy next door at The Ramp, or had work done at S.F. Boatworks; there is a significant park, along with space for many shops and restaurants. A 100-foot dock here near The Ramp would allow boaters to access this waterfront redevelopment. International tourists would like the name 66 due to the similarity to classic Route 66. Pier 66 1/2 would just be boring.

Rounding out our tour of the Bay would be “Pier T 1/2”, a public dock next door to Treasure Island Marina. As development accelerates on the island, a way to access the shops and restaurants near Clipper Cove would be great. I love anchoring out there, but when we go for a daysail we typically leave the dinghy at home.

On the hook at Clipper Cove in 2017.
© 2023 Chad Hedstrom

I’m sure there are additional locations along the waterfront, but while we’re spending millions of dollars redeveloping the precious few acres of waterfront, it seems like a gross oversight to not add public access to these new parks and waterfront public plazas by boat. My guess is that the people building up these colorful urban proposals probably have not spent much time on the water. Just make sure these new docks have enough draft for a sailboat at low tide.

What a cute kid! Chad, at age 2, sailing the Bahamas.
© 2023 Chad Hedstrom

And why does Chad sail? “Every trip away from the dock is an adventure and no two trips are the same.”

*The Latitude38 Guide to Bay Sailing Chad refers to was originally printed in the May 2009 issue of Latitude 38 magazine.

From Ha-Ha to Baja and Beyond: Where the 2018 Fleet Went Next

A few months back, before the Baja Ha-Ha XXIX registrations opened on May 9, the Poobah reached out to the fleet of 2018 to ask, “Where are you now, five years on?” We’ve already shared some of their replies; here are those that we missed.

Bruce and Audrey Toal, Wild Orchid, Beneteau Oceanis 58, San Diego.
Wild Orchid is currently in Australia. After the 2018 Baja Ha-Ha, we joined the Pacific Puddle Jump in 2019, departing Puerto Vallarta on March 15 and arriving in New Zealand on October 22. Then COVID hit and we stayed in New Zealand for 2.5 years before departing in April 2022 and sailing to Fiji and New Caledonia. We later cleared into Australia at Bundaberg in October of 2022. We enjoyed Christmas and New Year’s Eve in Sydney, and we are now in Southport (Brisbane) and will continue up to the Whitsunday Islands in May. Including the Baja Ha-Ha, we have cruised almost 17,000 nm so far.

“We got Starlink in Dec 2022 and are loving it!”

Audrey and Bruce of Wild Orchid.
© 2023 Baja Ha-Ha

Bruce McClean, Pacific Bear, Alaskan 66, West Vancouver, B.C.
“I’m still happily cruising Pacific Bear in the Pacific Northwest from Vancouver to Alaska. My advice to anyone considering joining the Ha-Ha? Do it!”

Robert Day, Daydream, J/122, Newport Beach.
“We still live in Laguna Beach and sail out of Newport Beach. We did the 2001 Newport to Ensenada Race and won our class — thanks to Stan Gibbs. During the 2022 Ensenada Race, we hit something just north of San Diego that brought us to a full stop from 10 knots while under spinnaker. Exciting! We are planning on doing the Ha-Ha again this year. It will be our fifth or sixth.

“Suggestions for people considering it? Yes! Yes! and Yes! The Ha-Ha certainly got me started sailing long distances, and we have some incredible memories from each Ha-Ha. Fabulous event!”

Bill Thomas, Epiphany, Crealock 37, Seattle.
“I’ve continued cruising after the 2018 Ha-Ha. After a year in Mexico, I sailed south through Central America, spending a few months enjoying El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. We hauled out in Panama, did some bottom work, and then explored Panama. Even crewed on a boat going through the Canal.

“We next sailed from Panama to the Galápagos and on to French Polynesia. Epiphany spent 18 months in French Polynesia before sailing to Fiji, where I spent all of 2022. She is currently in Vuda Marina waiting on engine parts. This summer I expect to sail to Vanuatu and then Australia’s Gold Coast.”

Perry and Patty Chrisler, C’est Si Bon, Beneteau 46, Scottsdale, Arizona.
“We did three Ha-Ha’s with C’est Si Bon before selling her in 2020. We did last year’s Ha-Ha as crew. We’ve since purchased a new Beneteau 46-3, where she is now part of the Moorings/Sunsail fleet in St. Lucia. In essence, we now have access to 20 international bases for charters with up to 12 weeks of time. We are still actively sailing!

“Our Ha-Ha’s were great experiences.”

Baja Ha-Ha_Santa Maria fleet
A Ha-Ha fleet anchors off Bahia Santa Maria, the second stop in the Baja Ha-Ha, approximately 175 miles north of Cabo.
© 2023 Baja Ha-Ha

Lee Leonard, Mi Casa, Hunter Legend 40, San Diego.
“Along with doing the COVID Nada Ha-Ha in 2020, I’ve done three Baja Ha-Ha’s. I’m still cruising from California’s Channel Islands to Barra Navidad, including the Sea of Cortez. I’m currently spending the season in Banderas Bay.

“From the good organization to the fun events to the first-hand experience of sailing to a true destination, I highly recommend the Baja Ha-Ha. In fact, I hope to do it again this year. ”

Pam and Howard Bean, Nomad, Jeanneau 49, Anacortes, Washington.
“We were part of the fun groups for the 2016 and 2018 Ha-Ha’s. After the 2016 Ha-Ha, we sailed to the Marquesas, the Tuamotus, Tahiti, Huahine, Moorea, Bora Bora, Hawaii, and back to Anacortes. In 2018 good friends wanted to experience the Ha-Ha, so we did it again! This time we shipped Nomad home from La Paz after enjoying the winter cruising Mexico.

“We had enjoyed Mexico so much that in 2019 we rented a condo, and then bought one in La Cruz overlooking the cruisers’ anchorage. In 2022, after two seasons of being in Mexico without Nomad, we sailed her back down from Washington. We are keeping her in the marina at La Cruz. Sailing in Mexico in the winter is awesome!”

George and Shirley Vallance, Sanderling II, Hylas 49, Vancouver, B.C.
“After the 2018 Ha-Ha, Shirley and I returned to Vancouver in 2019, and a year later sold our Hylas 49 to a really nice couple from San Francisco. They immediately turned around and did the same trip. I think they were in the 2020 Ha-Ha as Mickey and Jean. We were still living on Salt Spring Island at the time and purchased a 59-ft Selene trawler.

“Family circumstances made us move back to Vancouver in 2021, and unable to find moorage for a large boat, we eventually sold the trawler last summer. We have now found a slip on False Creek where we live, and are actively looking for another boat, probably power as we want to spend time in northern waters over the next few years.

“We have great memories of the Ha-Ha and made some great friends. It’s a terrific program.”

If you want to join the fleet, there’s still time. Right now there are nearly 90 boats signed up! Get all the details and register here:

Are ‘Latitude 38’ and Sailing the Cure for ADHD?

When facing the frenzy of incoming messages arriving on multiple channels, we occasionally pause to wonder how to manage it all. Now, hmmm … where were we going with this? Oh, yeah, the cure for ADHD. It’s incredibly hard to stay focused with the internet at our fingertips. To improve at anything, including focus, takes practice. We believe disconnecting from our digital umbilical cord to spend time immersed in the pages of Latitude 38 creates the ideal conditions for practicing focus.

The thought came to us when, while monitoring our email channel, we happily found this photo of the smiling Dana Ochstein from Spinnaker Sailing Redwood City, sent in by Rich Ferrari. Spinnaker Sailing is one of almost 700 Latitude 38 distribution locations from which you can pick up a magazine to practice your focus. Rich relayed, “It does seem like we are getting a few more people coming into the office these days and picking up a Latitude. We have them prominently displayed as you come into the office.”

The Cure for ADHD - Latitude 38
This is not a computer-generated image. This is Dana Ochstein smiling at Spinnaker Sailing Redwood City, where you can talk with real people, pick up a real copy of Latitude 38, and go sailing outdoors on real water.
© 2023 Rich Ferrari

Latitude 38 would also be a good antidote for all those Silicon Valley engineers and venture capitalists, who are feverishly working to develop AI so large language models can generate the language and photos on this page while we are out sailing. Perhaps, when AI development is complete, engineers and everyone will have more time for sailing while the bots share all of our personal experiences. Regardless, the Bay Area is crowded with sailing schools and charter boats ready to teach them and anyone else to sail.

Spinnaker Sailing Redwood City One Design Regatta
Welcome to reality. AI engineers can get real by grabbing the ultimate joystick — a tiller — and sailing the Bay.
© 2023 Rich Ferrari

We remain forever tortured by the allure of the latest nanosecond-paced technology, and by the peace we find reading and sailing. We always find it rewarding to downshift from digital life to sailing, or turning the printed page.

When you’re ready for the real thing, we encourage you to get out on the Bay and get down to one of Latitude 38‘s many distributors to pick up a magazine. As a bonus, you’ll find real people at these locations ready to greet you with a smile.

Overcoming ADHD isn’t easy, but sailing and reading can help.

Yacht Racing Highlights
Before we look forward to August's regatta schedule, let us just take a brief moment to mention today's deadline…