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September 29, 2023

Oakland Shifting From Pirate Haven to Estuary Smiles?

Imagine if the Oakland Estuary and shoreline were all it should be. We’ll assume everyone’s imagination is different, so the details get messy, but creating a clean, safe, crime-free, pollution-free waterfront is a relatively easy starting point. New York’s Hudson River Park is where a vision was created and fought over for decades, but finally brought something inviting and open to more New Yorkers.

Oakland Estuary
We’ve all seen enough of the derelict boats. The Estuary is still a beautiful place to sail.
© 2023 Slackwater SF

Wednesday’s BCDC meeting showed hopeful signs of getting the responsible parties and agencies on board with restoring this valuable public space to the public on both sides of the Estuary. Wednesday’s meeting at the BCDC offices in San Francisco was attended by Brock de Lappe, Kame Richards of Alameda Community Sailing, and Steve Orosz of Marina Bay in Richmond. Additional people attended on Zoom and others emailed in public comments. 

Harbor 20 on the estuary
The Estuary has great small-boat sailing for kids both big and small.
© 2023 Slackwater SF

Brock reports that both the Oakland and Alameda police departments showed up and gave presentations. They have been cooperating and using state funds available to salvage abandoned and derelict boats that are on the shoreline or sunk. The best guess is there are about 18 boats currently abandoned on the Estuary. Alameda reports that their marine patrol boat is back in the water, and though they still have no dedicated marine-patrol officers, they are going to be giving increased attention to waterfront crime.

There is also more grant money coming, available to support continued cleanup.

The Oakland Police Department says they have now trained up to 10 more officers for maritime patrol, making increased enforcement efforts possible. The Coast Guard has also committed to increased patrol and regulatory enforcement for the boats sitting right off their shoreline.

Canoe on Oakland estuary
The Estuary is a popular and pleasant place to paddle.
© 2023 Slackwater SF

For many of the youth programs that have had safety boats and engines stolen by Estuary pirates, or other boat owners who have been victimized by crime, this can’t happen soon enough. It would be like calling the fire department when your house is on fire and hearing that they’ll have a meeting in a few weeks and start training some firemen. We all understand that government budgets and resources are strained and the wheels of democracy turn slowly, but this problem has been visible and escalating for years.

There's lots of racing on the estuary for anyone who wants to start crewing.
There’s lots of racing on the Estuary for anyone who wants to start crewing.
© 2023 Slackwater SF

It’s particularly unfortunate since de Lappe helped orchestrate a multi-agency response to the same problem in 2013. The $8 million cleanup restored much of the Estuary, but ongoing attention lapsed and the problems returned. To make this all worthwhile, it’s important for the City of Oakland to recognize the potential the waterfront brings to its citizens.

Rowing on estuary
The Estuary has been home to youth, collegiate and adult rowing programs and the birthplace of rowing champions.
© 2023 Slackwater SF

The Estuary has been the home of marinas, boatbuilders and numerous commercial and recreational businesses. California Canoe and Kayak sells and rents kayaks along the Estuary. Whale Tale Marine, Outboard Motor Shop, Afterguard Sailing and more continue to provide access and service to sailors along the Estuary. The Estuary has long been an active training area for youth rowing and sailing. It is a shame to have the egregious actions of a few become an international news story and overshadow all the Estuary has to offer. Oakland deserves better.

Sailing the estuary will make you smile.
Sailing the Estuary will make you smile.
© 2023 Slackwater SF

Imagining a shoreline that is clean and fun to sail by, row past, or ride a bike or walk along is not that hard. There are a lot of future battles about details of what it could become, but right now, it’s time to expedite and applaud whatever progress can be made. Wednesday’s BCDC meeting showed signs of progress emerging, and it’s people like Brock, Kame, Steve and many others who are speaking to make a difference. Getting it done is like a long upwind leg, but hopefully, the weather mark is not far away and everyone can head downwind soon.

The October Issue of Latitude 38 Is Out Today!

Hot off the presses and straight onto the docks, we proudly bring you the October issue of Latitude 38. We can honestly say that it’s one of our favorite issues ever. For your reading pleasure, edification on all things West Coast sailing, breaking news, humor, dispatches from sailors across the world, race reports and as always, a little bit of X-Factor, we present Volume 556 (that’s 46.33 years of Latitude):

The Rolex Big Boat Series

As the Rolex Big Boat Series progressed, the conditions moderated each day from Thursday’s typical San Francisco Bay breeze into the 20s with ebb chop to a kinder, gentler wind speed over flood-current-flat water. All proceeded under a foggy, gray ceiling until Sunday afternoon, when the sun finally graced racers (plus photographers and spectators) with its rays.

St. Francis Yacht Club hosted the prestigious regatta on September 14-17, with starting areas west and north of Treasure Island, and in front of the Cityfront clubhouse.

The Express 37 Limitless goes around the buoys in September.
© 2023 Rolex / Sharon Green

Wrong Way Across the Pacific

Peter Hartmann wasn’t looking to set a record when he cast off the lines of his DeRidder 52 sloop Ahaluna from Majuro in the Marshall Islands in early April. He just wanted to get back to Mexico for the next chapter of an amazing personal journey. But when the 86-year-old US-Canadian tied up in La Cruz — 80 days and 7,515 over-the-ground miles later — the passage fairly screamed “new record!”

There have certainly been other long passages by older sailors. Australian Bill Hatfield currently holds the record for “oldest nonstop solo circumnavigation” for his 295-day roundabout that started and ended in Australia in 2018 aboard his 38-ft sloop L’Eau Commotion. But he was “only” 79 at the time.

And just last year, renowned Japanese sailor Kenichi Horie singlehanded his 19-ft Suntory Mermaid III from San Francisco to Japan, a 4,500-mile trek that took 70 days. The feat was widely reported as “a new record for the oldest person to sail solo across the Pacific.” But he was “only” 80.

Hartmann is older and went farther.

Peter Hartmann, who looks a little bit like the actor Matthew Modine from the movie Wind, takes a selfie somewhere in the Pacific during his singlehanded 7,500-plus-mile passage. Peter is 86 years old.
© 2023 Ahaluna

The Arc+ and an Atlantic Crossing

On October 28, 2022, I started my journey to Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, Spain, headed to the Spanish island state for the start of the 2022 ARC Plus (ARC+) set to leave on November 6. I was invited as crew, and not only was this my first time participating in an ARC event, it would be my first Atlantic crossing.

To say I was excited is an understatement. Ever since I’d started sailing, I knew I’d end up crossing oceans. I just didn’t know which ocean would be the first. I had prepared for this trip for almost eight months — the longest I’d ever prepared for any trip. I upended my life and even my job to follow this dream and what landlubbers might call just a “feeling.” I felt called to the sea and I knew, in the words of Sterling Hayden, “I couldn’t afford to not go.”

Author Kira Maixner at the helm of Tui in the mid-Atlantic.
© 2023 SV Tui

Plus, we bring you all your favorite columns:

  • Letters: Trying to Reason With Hurricane Season — Was Huricane Hilary Overhyped?; The Rudderless Lucky Dog Was Resurrected, and an Armchair Sailor Weighed In; Great Experiences Aboard Baruna; A Long, Difficult Dialogue About the Oakland Estuary; The World Remembers and Celebrates Jimmy Buffett.
  • Sightings: Restored Gesture Debuts at Big Boat Series; Determined To Cruise; Exploring the Bay by Dinghy; Enforcement Ramping Up in the Estuary; and other stories.
  • Max Ebb on a Steady Course.
  • Racing Sheet: The Aldo Alessio/Phyllis Kleinman Swiftsure; Jazz Cup; Hobie 16 Nationals; Half Moon Bay Race and BYC Big Windward Leeward. Plus, the Mercury Labor Day Regatta, and the El Toro “Worlds” on Pinecrest Lake.
  • Changes in Latitudes: With reports this month from Hooligan’s youngest-ever Pacific Puddle Jump skipper; Eos’s hurricane education; Jack Iron’s hilarious-if-it-wasn’t-happening-to-you adventures; and a trick-or-treat bag full of Cruise Notes.
  • Loose Lips: Check out the September Caption Contest(!) winners.
  • The sailboat owners and buyers’ bible, Classy Classifieds.
Delivery driver Chris Siefert
Our new delivery driver Chris Siefert, who keeps his Cal in Antioch Marina, is headed out for the San Francisco Peninsula. Say hello if you see him.
© 2023 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John
Woodlands Market
Pick up a sandwich and a free magazine when you shop at Woodlands Market this month.
© 2023 Latitude 38 Media LLC /
Tiburon Library
Libraries are great places because they deliver great reading in a quiet place for free. And, if they’re as good as the Tiburon Library, they offer Latitude 38.
© 2023 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John

If you’ve subscribed to Latitude 38, you should receive your issue shortly. If you haven’t subscribed, boy, are you missing out, but you can always pick up a copy from your favorite distributor.

Patagonia Hosts Crew of ‘Hōkūleʻa’

Held together by six miles of rope with no nuts, no bolts, and no screws, the Hōkūleʻa‘ is an oceangoing canoe tethered together by trust, tradition, and Polynesian culture. Several of the crew who arrived in San Francisco on September 24 assembled Wednesday night at a San Francisco Patagonia retail store to share stories about their experience as navigators with the Polynesian Voyaging Society (PVS) and raise funds for their community at home in Hawaii, rebuilding after the fires.

Patagonia retail crew mingle with Hōkūleʻa’ crew in blue team shirts after the Q & A session, including captain Mark Ellis (second from the left, in back row).
© 2023 Heather Breaux

Patagonia partnered with PVS to craft foul weather gear inspired by the voyagers on their Pacific circumnavigation. Hōkūleʻa’s crew are like tall-ship sailors, but in a niche within a niche. Crewmember Pua Kamaka works for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as Pacific Islands regional coordinator; Nikki Kamalu, captain and navigator in training, has a bachelor’s degree in computer science; Kalo Daley works in tech; Shoko Ogata left her job to voyage on the Polynesian canoe. It’s a labor of love for these intrepid volunteers who aren’t paid anything, especially building trust with their team. Each voyager has their own journey, but the team on Hōkūleʻa’ is united by their love for their community and a desire to connect intimately with the ocean and make sure it’s all there for generations to come.

A display of foul weather gear inspired by a collaboration with the Polynesian Voyaging Society for their rugged sailing environment on the Pacific.
© 2023 Heather Breaux

Bioluminescent dolphin trails, orca sightings, thick mists, and sparkling city lights — each crew has experienced incredible beauty while serving with their ohana, Hawaiian word for family, on the boat. “The canoe is like an island, and the island is like the canoe,” quips captain Mark Ellis of the Hōkūleʻa’. “If the container ships stopped coming, and the airplanes stopped landing, we would run out of food in two weeks on the islands.”

But it didn’t use to be like that. It used to be that the islands and the peoples living there were self-sufficient for hundreds of years, just as today’s voyagers have everything they need to survive on the Hōkūleʻa’.

While underway on Hōkūleʻa’, there are no smartphones or electronics. They put away any watches, compasses, sextants, and photos to become one with nature. The ancient art of navigation is actually the art of observation. The navigators make thousands of observations each day: clouds, birds, migrating animals, swell, stars, sun and moon, scents, colors, and sounds, using basically every sense humans possess to understand the environment. From those thousands of observations, hundreds of choices are made, said Ellis. “From these choices we make two decisions at sunrise and sunset: Where are you and where are you going?” It’s a metaphor for the decisions everyone makes on land. And if all else fails, pray to your ancestors for guidance.

Shore team member Kalo Daley, left, and friend of Latitude 38 Dorian Chen, right, holding Patagonia’s book titled Malama Honua: Hokule’a — A Voyage of Hope, by Jennifer Allen documenting the project with Hōkūleʻa’.
© 2023 Heather Breaux


But the real power for the voyagers comes in knowing who they are. For indigenous peoples in the Pacific Islands, the erasure of their language, culture, and traditions has left today’s descendants in a diaspora, lost from their own history. For PVS, it is entirely a question of educating and preserving indigenous people’s history, including the ancient art of navigating. “The Hawaiian language is very important for voyaging,” explains Kamalu, a bilingual Hawaiian speaker. “The Hawaiian language has a very large vocabulary — we were very connected to our environment, very attuned to nature. Every valley has a name, every rain has a name, every place, every god, every kind of water has a name.”

Captain Mark Ellis, right, answering questions with a guest of the event.
© 2023 Heather Breaux

When it’s volunteers lashing the canoes together, you’d better hope you can trust them. Out on the water, it can be a matter of life and death. But the Hawaiians have a saying, “from the mountains to the sea,” meaning it takes everyone from the mountains to the sea to make voyaging possible. From the cooks to the shore teams, underway on the water to working the dry dock, it’s all for a good reason: to preserve the ancient customs and care for the Earth so that our children’s children will still have a relationship to the ocean as we have today. “It’s not about combating colonialization, it’s about helping everyone learn,” explains Kamaka. “Hōkūleʻa’ is very welcoming; she means so much to people from many different countries and many different races. She’s a collaborator, bringing aloha and love everywhere she goes.”

Hōkūleʻa’ crew voyage for Earth.

Happening Right Now on San Francisco Bay

As we write these words and bang away on the keyboard, as the October issue of Latitude 38 is making its way to your local waterfront, mailbox and inbox, boats are making their way onto the water. Today marks the last day of the biennial International Folkboat Regatta, sailing out of Corinthian Yacht Club in Tiburon.

The Folkboat fleet makes its way onto the Bay as fog fills the horizon, suggesting a bit of wind is on the way. (The forecast suggests it, too.)
© 2023 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John

There’s actually a bit of wind in today’s weather reports — it may be summer making an encore and taking a bow with one final day of fog and snorting San Francisco sea breezes. Looking at today’s forecast, there is a sea of upper-atmosphere green enveloping the Bay around 2 p.m., suggesting a brisk 20 knots of breeze and the kind of conditions hearty sailors, wingers, kiters and windsurfers love and maybe even plan their lives around.

Today’s forecast, fast-forwarded to 2 p.m., shows a solid 18-22 knots of wind throughout the bulk of the Bay, with the breeze backing off in the evening — a classic San Francisco late- (very late-) summer day.
© 2023

As welcome as a last day of big breeze might be, we are also looking forward to the fall, Indian summer, and light, 12-knot breezes that do not require white knuckles, foul weather gear or reefs in the main. Fare thee well, summer. You were windy, cool, foggy and relatively smoke (and aberrant heat-wave) free.

Karl the Fog makes his encore, as seen from the Latitude 38 satellite offices in San Quentin Village.
© 2023 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Tim Henry

The wind is light right now, but every now and then, a puff fills in outside here in San Quentin Village and stirs the abundant leaves on the ground, sending them swirling and scratching over the concrete. It is truly a shoulder-season kind of day.

Hello, fall, you beauty. Hello leaves, football and pumpkin spice lattes. We’ve missed you. We look forward to crisp days and light breezes.