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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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):
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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 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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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 windy.com 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.
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.
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.