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December 20, 2023

Winter Solstice Starts the Countdown to Summer Sailing

All earthlings are about to complete another collective circumnavigation of the sun on the good ship Earth. The festivities start tomorrow when you can dance like a druid, party like a pagan, or celebrate like a sailor to mark the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. The sun will be about directly overhead for cruisers now on the Tropic of Capricorn at about 23° south, and, starting the next day, the sun will start its journey north toward the equator and the Tropic of Cancer. What are you going to do with the shortest day of the year?

Hood River
Though the days are shorter, this shot from Hood River, Oregon, reminds us why we’re grateful for California’s 12-month sailing season.
© 2023 Eric Sanford

Brushing today’s rain aside, every day going forward will have a bit more daylight for sailing. Our current, longer nights create a perfect time to plan the sailing year ahead. It’s never too early to start planning for the 30th annual Baja Ha-Ha, which will depart from San Diego on November 4. Closer to home and closer on our calendar (coming out on Dec 29) is Summer Sailstice weekend on June 22, the longest daylight weekend of the year.

Pacific Northwest Jeanneau Rendezvous
Sailors Tasha, Catherine and François celebrating at the 2023 Pacific Northwest Jeanneau Summer Sailstice Rendezvous.
© 2023 Marine Servicenter

On the Sailstice weekend, you could join the YRA’s Westpoint Regatta racing from the Bay to Westpoint Marina in Redwood City, or any one of over a dozen other races being held that weekend in Northern California. Farther afield, you could attend the new San Diego Boat Show or attend SailGP, which will be racing in New York City.

Big splash, little Optis
Six months from now Bay Area youth will be racing hard on the Cityfront in the StFYC Opti Heavy Weather regatta.
© 2023 Chris Ray

June is known to be blustery on the Bay, which is why kids who want to rip it up on the Central Bay take their 8-ft prams onto the Cityfront race course for the StFYC Opti Heavy Weather Regatta. Bigger, more seaworthy boats often flee to calmer corners of the Bay.

Summer Sailstice map before and after
It’s early, but not too early to put your 2024 Summer Sailstice plans on the map. By June next year it will looking like the 2023 map on the right.
© 2023 Summer Sailstice

In San Francisco, the sun will rise at about 7:21 a.m. and set at about 4:54 p.m. tomorrow, and, from there on out, the days will get longer. On the summer solstice on June 21 the sun will rise at about 5:48 a.m. and set about 8:35 p.m. Between now and then you can join a pagan ritual, or sail in one of the many midwinter regattas ahead. Starting tomorrow the days are getting longer, everything will be looking brighter, and, shortly, Earth’s whole crew will begin another circumnavigation of the sun.

Good Jibes #121: Chris Childers on Teaching Kids to Sail

This week’s host, John Arndt, is joined by Chris Childers to chat about teaching the next generation to sail. Chris is the executive director of operations at the Treasure Island Sailing Center (TISC), which creates opportunities for people to learn and grow through sailing.

Chris Childers in boat
What are Chris’s thoughts on holding the sailing community together?
© 2023 Chris Childers

Hear how he first learned to sail and then to teach sailing, about his first rescue, how we can better sell the sport to the next generation, of the connection he’s built with other sailing instructors, and how to get into a career as an instructor.

Here’s a small sample of what you will hear:

  • Did Chris’s mom come from a sailing family?
  • How was Chris’s racing experience?
  • When did sailing become more than a hobby?
  • What does Chris love about sailing in the Bay Area?
  • How do we make sailing appeal to the next generation?
  • What type of sailing does Chris do when he’s not teaching?
  • How do we bring more people into the sailing community?
  • Short Tacks: Does TISC have any plans for Summer Sailstice?

Learn more at and on Instagram @TiSailing

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

Is There a Safe Break in the Berkeley Pier?

Reader Alek Shestakov of the Sabre 34 MkII Kokopelli, berthed in Emeryville, wrote to ask, “Can you inform your readership about the status of the dilapidated portion of the Berkeley Pier? I refer to the mainly underwater, 1.9-mile-long section west of the 3000-ft extension from the Skates restaurant. Can vessels cross it anywhere?”

Berkeley Pier
The Berkeley Pier runs just over 2.5 miles into the Bay to the west of Skates restaurant. It’s worth leaving the whole thing to the east.
© 2023 Latitude 38 Media LLC / JR

We reached out to Max Ebb, who replied, “Only one gap in the pier is known to be navigable: the easternmost gap, about 3,000 feet from the shore. This is at the west end of what used to be the habitable fishing pier.

“There are many other gaps and some large missing sections in the abandoned pier ruins farther west, but I’m not aware of any survey that locates another safe passage or identifies broken-off, invisible pilings that might be a serious hazard.

“The piling spacing is 16 feet, if I remember correctly. Some boats have made the mistake of assuming that a double-wide gap is safer, but have sunk after hitting the invisible piling in the middle of the double gap. See the old Diane Beeston photo of a Soling, I think it was, sunk on the Olympic Circle after getting this wrong.

“BTW the pier is a great knotmeter. Count how many pilings go by in 9.5 seconds, and that’s your ground speed in knots.”

What’s the Latest on Jack van Ommen and ‘Fleetwood III’?

We’ve been following Jack van Ommen for years as he’s shared the highs and lows of his world-cruising adventures. The 87-year-old sailor has completed a 12-year-long circumnavigation taking in 65 countries. During that time we’ve seen him lose his boat, twice. Each time he survived to tell the tale and to fit out a new boat aboard which to live and continue cruising. But things don’t always go as planned, and van Ommen’s life is no exception.

Last month marked 10 years since van Ommen lost his first Fleetwood, a Naja 30, at age 77. He’s now completing work on his third Fleetwood, a 30-ft Waarschip that he bought after losing his second Naja 30, Fleetwood II. Sadly, Fleetwood III did not live up to the promises of her former owner and has required extensive repair and refit work. Now, van Ommen says he’s nearing the end of the project, and it seems, the end of his love for the lapstrake, plywood-paneled boat.

Fleetwood III nearing completion.
© 2023 Jack van Ommen

“It was starting to get chilly on the boat in Zaandam,” van Ommen writes. “But, with the help of a marine mechanic, we managed to get the old Webasto forced air diesel heater working. October and November turned out to set rainfall records in Holland. With the deck leaks repaired, all I have to keep well covered is the cockpit area where my next project requires replacement of substantial areas where the seller managed to skillfully hide rotten areas and leaks. My plan is to sell the boat as soon as I have these repairs done, hopefully before the end of the summer.”

Van Ommen is planning to head south along the West Coast late January, “… work my way down to Southern California and make stops along the way to see my two sons and friends.” We’re hoping to catch up with him somewhere along his route. In the meantime he’s asking his friends and followers to let him know of any suitable boats on the US Atlantic Coast or in the Great Lakes area.

Specifically, he’s looking for something “seaworthy, max. 32-ft and preferably a chined plywood construction.”

Van Ommen has a new adventure in mind, one that “keeps me excited after the three-year project I got suckered into.”

Jack van Ommen departing Plettenberg Bay, South Africa, aboard his first Fleetwood, in 2007.
© 2023 Jack van Ommen

Ever the optimist, he says that despite the downside of the Waarschip he bought last year, he has accepted the situation and muses that “there is always a reason for a setback.” In this case he says he has learned new skills and is “reinforced by the accomplishments.”

We’re hoping van Ommen will stop in the Bay Area. In the meantime you can catch up on more of Jack’s adventures here.

The Envelope Please
Help keep your friends and family happy and sailing long beyond the holidays.