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November 8, 2023

Santa Barbara Considers Closing Part of its Anchorage

A few weeks ago, Latitude 38 received a letter expressing concern about Santa Barbara’s plan to reduce or completely close part of the city’s free anchorages along its beachfront over concern for underwater infrastructure. Reacting to the proposal at a city meeting in late October, Santa Barbara’s Harbor Commission said they’d like to find solutions other than closing what’s known as the seasonal anchorage near Stearns Wharf. (There is also a permitted mooring area farther east of Stearns, as well as a free year-round anchorage.)

“There’s no proposal to touch or close the year-round portion of the anchorage,” said Mike Wiltshire, Santa Barbara’s harbormaster and waterfront director. Wiltshire confirmed that the city’s Harbor Commission would prefer a solution that preserves the seasonal anchorage in addition to the year-round anchorage. He believes a solution is possible that can preserve mooring and anchoring in the seasonal anchorage while still protecting utility infrastructure. He said the seasonal anchorage is closer to Stearns Wharf and the harbor, which is where people typically take their tenders/skiffs.

Wiltshire said the waterfront department and public works need to put together a proposal that “protects the infrastructure and preserves moorings.”

Santa Barbara has three anchorage zones. (Here’s a PDF of the Anchorage Area Map.)

A press release from Santa Barbara’s Waterfront Department said the city was taking “proactive steps to safeguard its offshore resources and the environment,” and added that “incidents of damage to [underwater infrastructure] due to anchors dragging have heightened concerns, prompting the need for protection.”

The letter we received, written by Jeff Mcfarlane, read, “Vessels have been anchoring in this area since Stearns Wharf was built 150 years ago. Pipes have been in place and survived anchored vessels for 100 years. The only issue is that 30 years ago, a desalination water intake structure was added to the end of one pipe at the outer edge of the anchoring area. In the last 30 years, there have been two incidents where the grate to the intake was disturbed, supposedly by a vessel’s anchor. Public Works has recently added a large buoy to mark the structure and keep vessels from anchoring in that area. Problem solved.”

Wiltshire said that there have been “a couple of occurrences” of damage to infrastructure, but admitted the proposal was “more preventative than for issues that have occurred to date. We hope people are using charts and that their anchors hold.”

Wiltshire said there are 15 to 30 vessels on the seasonal anchorage — which is open from April to October — during the summer. “Predominantly, the makeup is not necessarily transient but liveaboards or non-occupied vessels.”

Santa Barbara’s historic Stearns Wharf sits just west of the city’s anchorage. Santa Barbara is a wonderful stop for sailors transiting the coast, or coming from or going to the Channel Islands.
© 2023 Wilipedia/Don Ramey Logan

Mcfarlane’s letter, as well as a Santa Barbara news site, quoted a city employee who appeared to speak somewhat gravely about boat owners on the anchorage: “They are not part of the harbor community necessarily. They are just an adjacent community of boaters with this open field where they can basically kind of do whatever they want.”

For a moment, this seemed like a story we’d heard before, especially here in the Bay: Sailboats are potential renegades and environmental liabilities, so their access to anchorages should be limited. Does Santa Barbara face some of the same problems as the Bay Area, and have unhoused people living on old, non-operable boats?

“We do see some of that,” Wiltshire told us. “There are a number of derelict [boats], but our municipal code governs the anchorage. Those boats are required to be operable; [we] do semi-regular checks. Boats can be noticed.”

Wiltshire said that during heavy winters, such as the last one, as many as 8 or 10 boats were blown ashore, with the city often left with a bill of $50,000 to $100,000. Sailors who don’t stand a proper watch or have good ground tackle can become de facto renegades and environmental liabilities, and invite a tightening of the rules for those who follow them.

“[City] staff seems to think that these vessels are there for ‘boat storage’ and have ground tackle that is not secure,” Jeff Mcfarlane wrote us. “Regardless of the accuracy of the statements made, none of this has to do with the pipes and underwater infrastructure.

“Santa Barbara has a long history as a stopover for vessels traveling up and down our coast. We have one of the handful of safe and free city anchorages left. Besides the visitor vessels, there are a few boats that spend the summer, moving in and out of visitor slips in the harbor. The Summer Anchorage is a valuable resource to both the City of Santa Barbara and the larger boating community.”

Here’s the NOAA chart of Santa Barbara’s anchorage.

The website Noozhawk said that Santa Barbara’s Harbor Commission “tanked” the reduction/closure proposal in October, and quoted commissioner Kate Ford: “I would like to find a different solution than closing that anchorage. I wonder if there’s a better way to help boaters in that area understand what’s in that area, rather than closing it off.

Wiltshire said that the [reduction/closure] proposal was the first introduction of this to the Harbor Commission, “but we have work to do to figure out a solution. The Waterfront is working with Public Works to better define ways to protect submerged infrastructure. Closing the Seasonal Anchorage was one way to accomplish this, but we aim to work with Public Works to better define and come up with a solution that preserves mooring in the Seasonal Anchorage while protecting subsea utility infrastructure.”

Good Jibes #115: Ronnie Simpson on Sailing Around the World

This week’s host, Nicki Bennett, is joined by three-time guest Ronnie Simpson to chat about his prep for the Global Solo Challenge. Ronnie is a professional racing sailor and retired US Marine.

Good Jibes_boat
Tune in as Nicki and Ronnie chat about the transformative power of sailing.
© 2023

Hear Ronnie speak on turning dreams into reality, what he’s most excited and nervous about, what the Global Solo Challenge route looks like, how long it’ll take, and where his dreams go from here.

This episode covers everything from the Global Solo Challenge to Shipyard Brewing. Here’s a small sample:

  • What’s Ronnie been up to in the last year?
  • How did he get his title sponsor?
  • What kind of team does he have to support him?
  • How was he feeling before the Global Solo Challenge?
  • What is he most excited about for the race?
  • When did the first boats set sail?
  • How does it feel to do the first iteration of a race?
  • What has Ronnie added to Shipyard Brewing in terms of safety?

Follow Ronnie on Instagram for live race updates daily. Learn more at, and

Listen to the episode here or on Apple PodcastsSpotify, and your other favorite podcast spots — follow and leave a 5-star review if you’re feeling the Good Jibes!

Entries Open to Win the 2023 Wosser Trophies

The 2023 racing season is ending, and whether you’ve won a single race or not, some trophies are still within your grasp.

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) in the most individual YRA-sanctioned or Coast Guard-approved race days in a year. 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.

We are soliciting nominations for the Jake Wosser Trophy, which, at this time, we suspect is going to the winners of the 60-boat fleet in this year’s 5O5 Worlds, Mike Martin and Adam Lowry. If there has been a larger one-design fleet victory on the Bay, email your nomination to Laura Munoz here.

Mayan Racing in Big Boat Series
Big boats like Beau Vrolyk’s Mayan can take big crews, but they may not race as often, so submit everyone who crewed with you in 2023 to see if you are a winner.
© 2023 Sharon Green / Rolex

To win the Ruth Wosser award for the most races raced in 2023 fill out this form here. To win the Susie Wosser Trophy for bringing the most crew racing in 2023 fill out this form here.

The trophies were not awarded in 2022, but they are polished and ready to sit in your yacht club display cabinet if you get your entries in. 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.

There are a few races left in the season. You can find them in the 2023 Latitude 38/YRA Sailing Calendar. You can add those last few crew for the year by looking in the Latitude 38 Crew List.

We again thank Ron Young, the Wosser family and the YRA for creating the opportunity to recognize the active racers who are dedicated to Bay Area racing. Deadline for entries is December 15.

La Paz Is Cleaning Up Nicely After Hurricane Norma

Not everyone who heads south sails with the Ha-Ha. Petaluma sailors Rich and Laura Brazil have just flown to La Paz to reunite with their boat, the 1987 Nauticat 43 Tally Ho. We can only imagine their apprehension of what they might find after Hurricane Norma tore through the region two weeks ago. Rich wrote to fill us in.

“We arrived in La Paz yesterday after five months away from Tally Ho. Marina de La Paz has been her home during the hurricane season. Our trepidation following the recent Hurricane Norma had us on the edge of our seats as our airport shuttle crept along the Malecon.”

La Paz malecon
The sailor is still keeping watch, while boats in the background wait to be salvaged.
© 2023 Rich Brazil

“Several masts protruding at grotesque angles from the anchorage and marina area confirmed our sorrow for the boats lost. We could make out six to eight boats, mostly older, un-cared-for vessels still underwater or beached.”

As the saying goes, it could have been worse.
© 2023 Rich Brazil

“Marina de La Paz looks fine to us. Lots of missing screws in the dock boards from the swell, but considering what a nightmare ensued, I am incredibly pleased. Tally Ho fared well. Our boat-watch man, Alon, from La Paz Cruisers Supply, and the wonderful crew at Marina de La Paz, can’t be thanked enough for their help during the hurricane.”

Video © Rich Brazil.

“Cleanup is well underway, with only occasional signs of hurricane damage. The weather is fantastic, the views spectacular, the anchorage looks inviting (not sure about slip availability), and all signs point to a great sailing season.”

That’s good news! And especially so after all the dramatic stories we’ve had to share of late. We hope to hear more good-news stories as Baja Ha-Ha XXIX arrives in Cabo tomorrow.

Captain Found Guilty in 2019 ‘Conception’ Fire

The captain of the Southern California dive boat Conception, which burned in September 2019, resulting in the death of 34 people, has been convicted of negligence. “Jerry Nehl Boylan, 69, of Santa Barbara, was found guilty of one count of misconduct or neglect of ship officer — an offense commonly called “seaman’s manslaughter” — a crime punishable by up to 10 years in federal prison,” the United States Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California said in a news release on Monday.

diving boat 'Conception' on fire
The diving boat Conception burns off the coast of Santa Cruz Island, California, on September 2, 2019
© 2023 Santa Barbara Sheriff's Office

After a 10-day trial and a day of deliberations over evidence presented, the jury found that “Boylan, as captain of the Conception, committed a series of failures — including abandoning his ship instead of rescuing passengers — that resulted in the disaster. Such conduct constituted misconduct, gross negligence, and inattention to his duties and led to the deaths of 34 victims.”

Boylan’s “failures” included not setting a night watch or roving patrol and failing to conduct sufficient fire drills and crew training, along with a list of actions he neglected to take once he’d been alerted to the fire. These included directing the crew, using onboard firefighting equipment, and using the onboard public address system to warn guests and crew of the fire. And lastly, he was the “first crewmember to abandon ship even though 33 passengers and one crewmember were still alive and trapped below deck in the vessel’s bunkroom and in need of assistance to escape.”

Conception was on a three-day scuba diving trip and was overnighting in Platts Harbor at Santa Cruz Island when a fire broke out in the early hours of September 2, 2019. Thirty-three passengers and one crewmember were trapped in the bunkroom, while Boylan and four crew jumped overboard and swam to a nearby vessel.

Jerry Boylan, right.
© 2023 Facebook

During the trial, Boylan’s defense had argued the captain learned how to run a boat from Conception‘s owner, Glen Fritzler, who also owns the company Truth Aquatics, and that Fritzler’s boats “did not use an overnight watch,” the L.A. Times reported.

While the court’s verdict brought relief and a flood of emotion from relatives of the dead passengers and one crew, there are outstanding civil lawsuits including against Truth Aquatics, and, AP News reports, against the Coast Guard for “alleged lax enforcement of the roving watch requirement.”

This photo of some of the Conception fire victims has been circulating on news and social media sites.
© 2023 Facebook

Boylan’s sentencing is scheduled for February 8, 2024, at which time he could receive up to 10 years in a federal prison.

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