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September 15, 2023

As Piracy on the Estuary Continues, Coast Guard Announces Patrols

After nearly a month of lawlessness and what liveaboard residents have described as a state of perpetual fear and anxiety, the Coast Guard announced this week that they will begin patrolling the Oakland Estuary to combat a recent outbreak of piracy.

“Our plan is to increase the level of Coast Guard law-enforcement presence in the Estuary at random times throughout the day,” Captain Taylor Lam of the USCG told ABC7 News this week. Lam said the Coast Guard will deploy different multi-mission small boats, as well as “some of our aviation resources to provide overt presence from the air.”

This is certainly welcome news for residents who have seen the near-daily theft of boats, motors and equipment from local marinas and yacht clubs. This is also probably uncharted territory for the Coast Guard, who are tasked with homeland security, drug enforcement on the high seas, and the safety of mariners, and who have told Latitude that they don’t typically engage in civilian law enforcement.

“So far, we’ve seen little to no change,” an Estuary liveaboard told us yesterday. “[On Wednesday], a friend reported there was a patrol boat across from us and they were excited that they seemed to be kicking folks out of their anchorage,” the liveaboard said, referring to a flotilla of illegal anchor-outs near Union Point Marina. “[But] as soon as they left, all the derelict boats were back.”

After reportedly being shooed away by a new Coast Guard patrol on Wednesday, this anchor-out returned a short time later.
© 2023 Anonymous

“We have seen quite an increase in Coast Guard patrolling — they just went by now in their helicopter, flying low,” a longtime Alameda liveaboard told Latitude this morning. The liveaboard also told us that just last night, several gas cans were stolen on the Oakland side of the Estuary.

“Something has got to be done — it’s so brazen. There’s such a high level of concern and fear from people who live on and have boats. It’s pretty scary. It’s led me to buy a shotgun.

“We’ll have to wait and see how effective [the Coast Guard patrols] will be.”

It’s obviously early in the Coast Guard’s deployment, and it’s unclear when (or if) it might bear fruit. Regardless, the Coast Guard’s presence will be just one piece of the Estuary puzzle — meaningful and lasting enforcement will require the efforts of multiple agencies.

There’s been speculation that the Oakland Police Department’s marine unit is expanding. According to former Oakland harbormaster Brock de Lappe, OPD officer Kaleo Albino, the lone “waterside” officer assigned to the Estuary, has reportedly trained/certified three additional officers for a temporary 90-day deployment. “He is awaiting the award of a $170,000 grant from the SAVE [Surrendered and Abandoned Vessel Exchange] program of the California Division of Boating and Waterways for dealing with derelict and abandoned vessels.”

A City of Oakland spokesperson told Latitude that OPD is prepared to enforce the new Nuisance Vessel Ordinance, pending grant funding.

“Primary funding for the maritime unit has relied on state and federal grants. Over the last four years, OPD has secured nearly $2 million in state and federal funding to purchase our police boats and equipment related to the marine unit; a portion of our fuel costs are paid for by the Port of Oakland.” the spokesperson told us.

“Typically, we apply for $50,000 per grant and have expended the funds quickly. This year, we applied for $170,000 to deal with the increased number of vessels in the Estuary.”

The Alameda Police Department will continue to have a limited presence on the Estuary; APD’s marine patrol boat is still on the hard, and all staff have other full-time responsibilities, according to de Lappe. “Alameda has done an exemplary job of preventing anchor-outs on its shoreline; they apply annually for SAVE grant funds. Alameda PD recently provided Oakland with $30,000 from their SAVE grant to assist with Oakland’s vessel cleanup,” de Lappe added.

The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office no longer has a marine unit due to budgeting and staffing, according to the City of Oakland spokesperson.

Enforcement is, of course, just one part of the criminal justice system. Once caught, accused thieves must be prosecuted. After our story about the rash of thefts in the Estuary, several readers wrote to tell us that after having their cars and other property stolen, Oakland and Alameda district attorneys declined to press charges. It’s presumed that in Oakland, there is a backlog of violent crime that takes precedence over larceny, or dare we say piracy?

Editor’s note: The word piracy has been making the rounds in the media, and is obviously in the title of this story. Latitude’s understanding is that piracy typically describes theft or violence committed on the high seas, or “the ocean water column that lies beyond the boundaries of any one country, also known as areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ),” according to the United Nations Law of the Sea. The same theft or violence committed in inland jurisdictional waters is simply considered robbery and assault.

Cover photo: The Oakland Estuary, as seen from Union Point Park, in November 2021.

America’s Cup World Series Sails This Weekend

The America’s Cup World Series (ACWS) clock is set for the historic port city of Vilanova i La Geltrú along the beautiful, mountainous Spanish coast. Weather wreaked havoc today as thunderstorms and heavy rain forced postponement of the opening ACWS regatta earlier today.

The ACWS is the first preliminary event for the next America’s Cup. Racing will resume tomorrow (Saturday, September 16) and Sunday at 6:30 a.m. PDT in the United States. You can watch the races on YouTube; search “America’s Cup.” Or go to This regatta is the first ACWS in AC40s.

AC40 fleet
The AC40s prepare to round the mark during a scheduled practice race for the upcoming ACWS this weekend.
© 2023 37 America’s Cup / Vilanova

American Magic is the US entry for the America’s Cup, which will take place in fall 2024 in Barcelona, Spain. The American Magic team represents the New York Yacht Club and is based in Pensacola, Florida. Tom Slingsby and Paul Goodison are the two helmsmen and are responsible for steering the boat and flight control. Slingsby is an Olympic gold medalist and was part of the afterguard on the America’s Cup winning team in 2013. Goodison is a three-time International Moth (sailboat, not insect!) World Champion. Joining them this weekend on board will be Riley Gibbs from Long Beach and Michael Menninger.

“It’s huge,” said Slingsby. “As a team we haven’t raced much together, so it’s a chance to improve as a team. If we beat whoever, it would give a mental edge to know that our team can beat your team in equal boats. I happen to think the mental game is very important in the America’s Cup.”

American Magic with splash
American Magic’s crew pop their heads out of a snug cockpit as they crash through the chop off the Spanish coast.
© 2023 37 America’s Cup / Vilanova

The AC40 is a foiling monohull approximately 40-ft long, about half the size of the larger AC75 that will be used for the America’s Cup Match. Most of the systems are only a pushbutton away to adjust the foiling aspects and angles on the wings and rudder and control the self-tacking headsails. The AC40 is sailed with just a crew of four. Batteries have replaced traditional grinders to supply power to control the foils and sails. Foil arms raised in and out the water one at a time provide increased righting moment (stability) and reduce the amount of drag or friction in the water.

These boats essentially fly over the surface of the water and can travel at amazing speeds of more than 45 knots! To date, practice time for all the teams in this downsized version of the real thing has been largely a splish-splash affair of daily capsizes. Hardly an hour goes by without an image of an AC40 going down in the drink, as it if were a large white stork or albatross feasting on a wayward herring.

The crewmembers on the AC40, like on a full-sized Cup Class AC75, are essentially strapped in their cockpits like fighter pilots, with only helmets visible to minimize wind resistance. There is no scurrying about on deck changing sails and riding the rails as in a traditional racing sailboat. If organizers elected, they could probably just run them by remote control or with artificial intelligence on board.

ACWS skippers
The ACWS skippers. Left to right: Peter Burling, ETNZ; Sir Ben Ainslie, INEOS GBR; Arnaud Psarofaghis, Red Bull Alinghi; Franceso Bruni, Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli; Tom Slingsby, American Magic; and Quentin Delapierre, Orient Express.
© 2023 37 America’s Cup / Vilanova

Six teams are competing for the next America’s Cup. Emirates Team New Zealand are the Defenders and represent the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron. Three ACWS preliminary regattas lead up to the America’s Cup next year in Barcelona.

The Defenders of the America’s Cup, Emirates Team New Zealand.
© 2023 37 America’s Cup

America’s Cup World Series Teams

Emirates Team New Zealand (RNZYS)

The Kiwis have performed consistently in the practice racing in Barcelona with a tight-knit team that trusts in their process. Peter Burling, Blair Tuke and Nathan Outteridge have proven to be excellent afterguard as they learn how to sail together. Hopefully, they will shake off the effects of last week’s catastrophic wingsail collapse at SailGP in Saint-Tropez, France. With a lot of time on the water, they are the team with a target on their back. Several teams are rapidly closing the gap.

INEOS GBR Britannia (Royal Yacht Squadron)

The Challengers of Record (CoR) led by CEO and skipper Sir Ben Ainslie and flight controller Giles Scott, the Brits bring a lot of experience to the table. Crewman Luke Parkinson told it straight when he said that the team hadn’t done enough racing and sailing in the AC40 as a team. They have spent much of their training on the team’s LEQ12 prototype foiler. But they have superb coaches and a crew who can learn fast. There is no more dangerous sailor in the world than BA with his back to the wall!

American Magic Quantum Racing (NYYC)

The Americans chose to sit out the first few days of the recent practice races, preferring to complete their aero- and foil-testing schedule. But when they came to the racecourse, they were sensational. This is, no doubt, the team to beat, with Tom Slingsby, Olympic gold medalist and SailGP “kingmaker” and Paul Goodison, a three-time International Moth World Champion sharing the helm. Joining them this weekend on the AC40 are Riley Gibbs from Long Beach, California, and Michael Menninger.

Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli (Circolo della Vela Sicilia)

Luna Rossa made it to the America’s Cup Match last time. Francesco Bruni is a perfect foil for the mercurial genius and downright competitiveness of Jimmy Spithill. Their flight control team of Vittorio Bissaro and Andrea Tesei are arguably the best in the business. If the Italians can string together some consistent results early on, they could easily make the match-race final this weekend.

Alinghi Red Bull Racing (Société Nautique de Geneva)

Ernesto Bertarelli is back. He won the America’s Cup on his first try in 2003, so he and his young Swiss team are not to be overlooked. This “red” bull is charging! Arnaud Psarofaghis and Maxime Bachelin have formed a dynamic partnership, rooted in steady progression. Can the Swiss make it to the final? Early results in Vilanova will be crucial to their overall America’s Cup chances next year.

Orient Express Racing Team (Société Nautique Saint-Tropez)

The new “kids” on the block. Having taken delivery of their AC40 just last month, the French are methodically approaching this preliminary regatta with humility, according to their coach, Thierry Douillard. The French are brilliant sailors, of which there is no doubt. Quentin Delapierre, who drives for the French SailGP team, and Kevin Pepponet are forming a formidable afterguard. Whether they can challenge for the title in Vilanova will be a tall ask with so little time in the AC40 compared to the more established teams.

The AC40 is also the boat that the Youth and Puig Women’s America’s Cup teams will be sailing next year as a pathway for the next generation of foiling superstars to display their talents on and above the water at high speed.

American Magic’s full-size AC75, Patriot, is currently at the team’s compound in Barcelona preparing for extensive testing later this fall and into the next year, when a brand-new America’s Cup Class AC75 hits the water.

So, tune in tomorrow and Sunday to root for our home American Magic team!

Shakespeare on the Water Comes to the Sausalito Waterfront

Gulls crying, anemometers whirling, life jackets rustling, and waves lapping — would you believe it was the scene of a Shakespeare play? Outdoor theater is a natural setting for Shakespeare, but last weekend Sausalito’s only operating theater group, Shakespeare on the Water, brought A Midsummer Night’s Dream to the docks of the Sausalito waterfront community.

Director Ash Baker, left, and producer, Mill Valley native and “Shakespeare on the Water” founder Isabelle Ellingson. Sign art (and Shakespeare on the Water web designer, by Sabine Kelly!)
© 2023 Isabelle Ellingson & Ash Baker

Sausalito had no operating theater company until Isabelle Ellingson, founder of Shakespeare on the Water, was struck with inspiration born from COVID-era restrictions. “I grew up here [in Mill Valley], and you know, left to do theater in New York City and film in Los Angeles, so it’s been a great homecoming,” Ellingson explained. “The main story I want to tell is about our community here.”

From Agnes Varda to Otis Redding, Sausalito, and its famous houseboat community, is home to a rich artistic and maritime history. But in today’s world, existing as an artist adjacent to the tech world renders many talented, inspired creatives critically underutilized and underesourced.

Enter Galilee Harbor, the member-run cooperative at the foot of Napa Street in Sausalito is made of artists and maritime workers actively employed in boatbuilding, sailmaking, boat repair and marine canvas work, as well as creative writing, theater, painting, photography and other visual arts. As a close friend of the community, Ellingson is a natural fit, a welcome instigator of art made by and for her boat-dwelling community.

Some behind-the-scenes dock setup.
© 2023 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Heather Breaux

Named after the brigantine Galilee — whose sunken midship wreckage is still visible today in low-tide mud — Galilee Harbor is not 10 minutes away from the Bay Model and tall ship Matthew Turner. The tall ship is named after the real-life Bay Area master boatbuilder Matthew Turner, who built the Galilee in 1891. This waterfront has been home to artisans, builders, and creators for 100 years. It’s now a haven for today’s waterfront artists and creatives, who struggle to make a living in one of the most expensive places in the country to live.

“My goal in living here as an artist is to find a way to have the community involved as much as possible — and to pay my artists.” said Ellingson. For this year’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, every industry on the waterfront got involved: Boaters, marine fabricators, metal shops, restaurants, and others donated time, goods, and their enthusiastic support. “The best part about doing it in 2021 was that everyone said yes, to where it snowballed a bit this year, becoming much bigger than I anticipated,” said Ellingson. “Our land show was held at the new Sausalito Center for the Arts, and we had sold-out weekend shows.”

The first Shakespeare on the Water dockside production in 2021 was free to attend, and had a cast of maybe seven. This year, with the land show, they charged $20 to attend, and had a cast and crew of more than 20 people. They held a gala opening night at the Sausalito Center for the Arts on September 7, but the weekend shows were held at a secret on-the-water location, map coordinates disclosed with the purchase of your ticket. These shows were accessible by boat, kayak and SUP only, with nearby sponsor Sea Trek giving discounted rental rates for attendees. The affordable theater helped many locals get out on the water. Sea Trek allegedly had to bring more kayaks to their fleet to accommodate the weekend’s sold-out shows.

A variety of floating vessels arrived to watch Shakespeare on the Water.
© 2023 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Heather Breaux

It’s multigenerational community art too, reflecting Ellingson’s own childhood spent in Marin County art programs and inspired by generations of female creatives in her family. “Isabelle’s grandmother was at the first play and has since passed,” explained Ellingson’s mother, Susan. “She has given the love of art and to be free and to be strong to Isabelle. Just look: This year, everything is being run by women.” It’s true — the play was created and produced by Ellingson with her director, Ash Baker, musical direction by Ruby Day, and choreography by Victoria Gusciora.

“In case she was modest, Isabelle is extraordinary,” explained Ash Baker, who is a teacher at Tamalpais High School. “She has put her all into this. It’s really amazing to see her have this success.” Baker is modest too: She abridged the original play into a seamless one-hour production — easy to understand for younger audience members, with clear storytelling. Under her direction emerged a deeply humorous but classic story of love, mischief, and magic.

“My students are my creative inspiration. They are a daily reminder of why I started. Regardless of what my students go off and do with their lives, I love to see how theater brings them friends, community, and safety on campus,” said Baker. “Everything makes sense coming back to this as a teacher.”

According to Baker, half the cast were actor friends and half were students from the Tamalpais High dance and drama theater ensemble. The cast performed with rare-find authenticity, depth, and humor. Of course, the gorgeous poetry of Shakespeare’s classic lines echoed across the water with impressive loveliness, punctuated with asides in modern parlance, drawing in the floating assemblage and building intimacy, rapport and even interjections from the audience.

Puck, played by Kit Kulina, and fairies perform for the audience.
© 2023 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Heather Breaux
Baker and Ellingson performing as Peter Quince and Titania.
© 2023 Isabelle Ellingson & Ash Baker

The flotilla of kayaks, dinghies, boats and other floating vessels was as much a part of the dock, houseboats in the background, and vintage costuming that set the Shakespearean scene. The floating audience shifted and bumped around in the swell — everyone held on to the vessel next to them to stay front and center to the stage, passing snacks and sunscreen from one kayak to the next, forming natural friendships on the water.

Benjamin Spendov played Demetrius (Helena’s lover for our Shakespeare fans) and talked about outdoor theater. Baker grew up doing local outdoor theater, but Spendov noted it’s a little different performing on a floating dock. “Being outside means being vulnerable to the elements and still serving the purpose of the story.” 

Behind-the-scenes preparation.
© 2023 Thea Lauren

Actress Emily Barrett, who played Helena, was quick to remind me: Shakespeare was meant to be performed outdoors! “Shakespeare wanted the shows to be seen outside, daytime lit. In America, I think Shakespeare can be perceived as this exclusive, highbrow thing, but doing it this way makes it really accessible,” said Barrett. “Being British, my understanding is we have a lot of Shakespeare happening at home, but here, perhaps less.”

This production served the local waterfront community’s needs on multiple levels: launching local community theater, paying local artists, activating local houseboat and waterfront community members, supporting local businesses, increasing waterfront access, and even bringing more diversity and multigenerational representation to the arts.

The finale of the September 10 performance.
© 2023 Peek Media

If you missed out on attending this year, check out nonprofit Shakespeare on the Water for news on upcoming projects, or to volunteer or donate. All donations are used to pay artists and actors, perpetuating something profoundly healing in community members serving their own with whimsical, playful art in harmony with the natural beauty of the Bay. It would make a perfect cruising weekend, sailors!

Rick Marvin Welcomed David Crosby and WTR Racers to Hanalei Bay

In the current issue of Latitude 38, Hawaiian sailor Rick Marvin recounts a story of sailing and diving with David Crosby aboard the schooner Mayan off Catalina Island, and also picking up Spike Africa’s daughter, Dana, off the ferry dock. It was right after David had had a liver transplant, and then dove out of sight.

They lived to tell the tale.

Rick and his wife used to charter a Pearson 424 out of Hanalei Bay, with David Crosby being one of his charter guests. It turns out Rick is still busy with boats, and Latitude’s Chris Weaver caught up with him on his landing craft, where he connected with Jackie Philpott and the crew from the Singlehanded Sailing Society at the finish of the Singlehanded Transpacific Race.

Rick Marvin and Jackie Philpott
Rick, left, was at the finish line with Jackie Philpott of the SSS at the end of the Singlehanded Transpacific Race.
© 2023 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Chris

It wasn’t long after that participants in The World’s Toughest Row started to finish, and Rick was on hand to help rowing teams finish a human-powered race 2,800 miles from Monterey to Hanalei Bay.

Rich Marvin World's Toughest Row
Rick Marvin and his landing craft greeted participants in The World’s Toughest Row.
© 2023 The World's Toughest Row

It was back in 1994 that Rick found himself and his wife aboard Mayan with David Crosby and his diving buddy Bev Morgan, anchored among the unexploded ordnance off Pyramid Rock on San Clemente Island.

In the end, all turned out well.

David Crosby diving
Beyond musician and sailor, David Crosby was an avid diver.
© 2023 Rick Marvin

Rick Martin has welcomed a lot of sailors to Hanalei Bay, Kauai, and he’s still helping those who show up from over the horizon.

[Correction: story was modified to correct Rick was on hand helping finish the rowing race though not part of the SHTP finish.]

Low-Overhead Sailing on Folsom Lake

Towing sailboats with the mast up can be dangerous, and we’re sure that everyone has a story to tell. (Please comment below!) A sailor sent us a photo after a, ahem, failed launch at a ramp on Folsom Lake. Fortunately, the culprit was tree limbs and not electrical wires, which can be a lot more worrisome.

Folsom Lake
Keep your eyes aloft when towing with the rig up.
© 2023 Latitude Reader

Speaking of electrical wires, years ago we were sitting with Don Trask in his Sail California office in Mariner Square on Alameda. Suddenly, there was a bright-blue flash, combined with the power going off in the building. We jumped up to look out the window: There was a J/24 being towed across the parking lot with the rig touching the overhead wires. Luckily, the driver jumped out unharmed, but we watched as the electrical short ran down the overhead wires leading from Mariner Square, blowing up one transformer after another with more bright-blue flashes. Nobody was hurt, but it was frightening.

We all need these reminders that if it can happen, it will — sometime.

St. Francis Yacht Club's 59th Edition
Anticipation is high as 79 teams gather at the docks of St. Francis Yacht Club for last-minute preparations before tomorrow’s start of the Rolex Big Boat Series.