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April 22, 2024

Earth Day Reminds Us Why Sailors Will Save the Planet

Who’s on board for Earth Day? Yesterday could not have been more beautiful on San Francisco Bay. Though we spent most of the day on boat projects, we were there to see the well over 200 Opti sailors from all over the country heading out from San Francisco Yacht Club to race the Optimist Team Trials on the Berkeley Circle. It reminded us that Earth Day is for the next generation.

It’s a small boat and all these kids have spent hours learning on their own to navigate the vicissitudes of Mother Nature.
© 2024 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John

This was a huge race weekend for these kids, who have spent years learning to sail and race to qualify for the team trials. While the focus here was competition, it could be easy to miss the years they’ve already spent so close to wind and water. It’s something that brings all sailors together.

Youth sailing programs today teach far more than tactics and race rules. Today, teaching sailing combines learning to sail with learning to love and protect your planet.

Translated 9 out for a sail.
Who knows which Opti sailor will grow up to sail on boats like Translated 9? She was looking good as she sailed up through Raccoon Strait.
© 2024 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John

The evolving message is everywhere. The recent Summer Sailstice newsletter highlighted Sailors for the Sea, which was founded in 2004 to unite sailors worldwide to take on the task of creating a sustainable future for the next generation. It’s daunting, but signs of shifting trends are everywhere. We are amazed at how many initiatives, started by individuals and organizations, are underway. We see more sailors sailing with electric auxiliaries, more solar power, paper straws at yacht clubs, balloons banned from more events. Mary Crowley and the Ocean Voyages Institute are hauling tons of plastic out of the oceans; 11th Hour Racing is sponsoring sailing impact assessments. And the list goes on. From new legislation to transition to a carbon-free economy to straws at the yacht club to kids learning through the Sailors for the Sea Kelp project, society is slowly getting the message. Will it be enough?

The Friday evening CYC Beer Can race was another moment of appreciation for the Earth, the Bay and sailing.
© 2024 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John

Whether all the technology and societal shifts will be enough to avoid the possible climate-change disasters remains uncertain. We worry as we see many events, programs, and projects that appear to be of questionable value or are outright greenwashing.

It’s easy to point the finger at all the gross violations perpetrated on the planet by individuals and companies, but on today’s Earth Day we’re going to remember why we care and the things we can do ourselves, and focus on the positive trends we see happening all around. Humans are imperfect and so is everything they do, but the momentum shift in human behavior and technical advancements is encouraging.

Through all this change we see sailors as the people mostly likely to understand the why and how. They’re always trying to figure out how to align with nature to move through the world. Good sailors know you don’t fight Mother Nature, you respect, adapt and align. Sailors also learn how to live simply since their energy, water, fuel and other resources are often limited. They are some of the most creative people on Earth. They learn to conserve and know the waters through which they sail so they know where the trash goes.

San Francisco Yacht Club Optimist Team Trials
It was amazing to watch the 200+ kids heading out to spend their Sunday on the Bay. We hope they’ll be part of your motivation to keep moving along the sustainability curve and that they will join future generations of sailors who will be caring for the planet.
© 2024 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John

The next generation is growing up differently and looking for the support of current generations to ensure a livable future on Earth. If you were out sailing on the Bay on Sunday you know why it’s worth it. For adults and kids it was a reminder why we all need to be on board for Earth Day today and for 365 days of the year.

Confusion at Cabo Marina as Change of Ownership Takes Place

Cabo Marina underwent a sudden change of ownership recently, causing alarm and concern among boaters. According to the Gringo Gazette, Mexican navy personnel, national guard and state police arrived at the docks and secured the area with chains, and instructed boat owners to relocate their vessels. The Gazette reported that the Mexican government did not renew its lease agreement with former owners Fonatur and the Island Global Yachting (IGY) company. “This changeover marks a new chapter for the marina, promising a different management style and possibly new regulations.” But by the end of the day, the marina was back in business under the administration of an organization known as ASIPONA.

According to Megayacht News, the Mexican newspaper Diario El Independiente reported, “a siren sounded in the marina the morning of April 11. The siren reportedly alerted those in the marina that the docks were closed.” The Independiente also reported that the Mexican government had officially published news of ASIPONA’s receiving the concession for a 50-year period on March 22.

In digging deeper, Megayacht News contacted an IGY Marina spokesperson, who declined to comment. IGY is owned by MarineMax, which reportedly “believes that the takeover of Cabo Marina’s facilities is illegal and that the alleged violations underlying the sanctions proceedings against Cabo Marina are illegitimate.” Megayacht News reports, “MarineMax says it’s working with both American and Mexican government officials to resolve the situation.”

This sounds like a messy situation that may take a while to sort out. In the meantime, our understanding is that boaters already in Cabo Marina are allowed to stay and that prior bookings are being honored. BOAT International writes, “Since the initial filing, Mexican newspaper Diario El Independiente reported that normal operations appeared to resume on Friday morning (19 April) at the marina, but that the dispute had yet to be resolved. McGowan [Kitty McGowan, president of the US Superyacht Association] added that the marina is not accepting any new dockage requests at this time, but it will honor all previous bookings. ‘I have been told that a number of captains were pleased with the professional conduct of the government officials who have asked for patience in this transition,’ she said. ‘Despite what the rumor mill might be grinding, the area continues to be safe and secure for visiting superyachts. There are no vessels or companies being seized.'”

The Baja Ha-Ha’s Grand Poobah says, “… in November marina management told us it was going to happen.” He adds that while he can’t be sure, he doubts it will have much effect on the Baja Ha-Ha.

Baja Ha-Ha_marina_Cabo
Business as usual in Cabo?
© 2024 Richard Spindler

We suggest that if you’re heading to Cabo, check before you go and update yourself on the situation. As of this writing, Cabo Marina’s website looks unchanged, still indicating it is operated by IGY.

Pacific Cup Profiles: Chris Maher and the Olson 34 ‘Keaka’

We ran into Chris Maher at the Svendsen’s Spring Fling as he was picking up some stainless steel fasteners for his next project — getting the family Olson 34 Keaka ready for the Pacific Cup. He says it’s a tough job preparing the boat for Pacific Cup safety inspector Bob Hinden, whose job it is to make sure no one has any surprises out there. But Chris says they’re coming down the home stretch. We asked if he’d give us a little more background on the boat and the reason for the race. His wife, Sheila, responded with the story below.

“Chris said he had promised to send you some background on Team Keaka and their quest to race in the Pacific Cup this summer. As you know, our family has had many boats over the years. The first major family trip was cruising the San Juan Islands when our boys were only 3 and 5. That was long before email and cell phones. I remember trucking the boat to Anacortes, and I think most people thought we were a bit crazy. We did two Baja Ha-Ha’s, in 1995 and 1997, and then Chris went on to do another five over the years onboard various boats of ours and on friends’ boats. He always told me it was ‘work’ because, as an owner of UK Sailmakers, he met so many customers while cruising in Mexico.”

Chris and Annabelle Maher
Chris Maher with granddaughter Annabelle Maher, who’s helping him get the boat ready for the Pacific Cup.
© 2024 Maher Family

“Thinking the grass might be greener working for a large company, Chris became an industry representative for AkzoNobel Yacht, Division/Interlux and Awlgrip, and was transferred to the Northwest. We felt bad for Patrick and Thomas because we took our boat to Anacortes. They were just finishing college at Cal Poly, and Chris thought they needed a boat on the Bay to meet girls. We purchased the Olson 34 and gave it to them, hoping they would sail together as partners. Apparently it worked, because they met and married two amazing young women and we now have four grandchildren.

Patrick Maher
Patrick Maher cultivating future crew as he brings his son Ollie Maher.
© 2024 Maher Family

“That brings me back to the name Keaka. It means ‘Jack’ in Hawaiian. For years no one could agree on a name, but after Chris’s father Jack passed away in 2019 it was named in his honor. He and Chris both shared a love of sailing and were always boat partners.

“When we moved back to the Bay Area, Chris and the boys started racing together. I always assumed someday they would do another Ha-Ha together. Since retiring, Chris has taken on many challenges such as long backpacking trips like hiking the John Muir Trail and summiting Mount Whitney. I really shouldn’t have been too surprised when he wanted to race in the Pacific Cup. Patrick really wanted to go, and convinced his good friend Blake Martini to join the crew. John Ross is our nextdoor neighbor who owns the Widerness 30 Special Edition and is the only crew member to have raced to Hawaii. Nick Degnan rounds out the crew. Nick, Patrick and Blake were all college sailors.”

Keaka Crew
The rest of the Keaka crew from left to right: Nick Degnan, John Ross and Blake Martini.
© 2024 Maher Family

“I am still not exactly sure why they all want to do this. It takes an incredible amount of work to get a boat ready. There are more requirements to do an ocean crossing than a coastal trip. I think it has been fun for Chris to reconnect with all the marine industry professionals that he has known over the many years of sailing. He has started a ‘support group’ of Encinal Yacht Club members who will be racing this year, to share information and get to know each other better.”

Patrick getting ready for the Pacific Cup on Keaka
Patrick Maher getting ready for the Pacific Cup.
© 2024 Maher Family

“The team has learned so much attending the seminars and safety training. One reason Chris told me he enjoys ocean sailing is that it is the same as backpacking. You are self-contained and on your own.”

Meet the Sea Clowns Sailing the Med and Bringing Their Circus to Shore

Sailors have been called many things, but never before have we been called “clowns.” Sure there’s a good deal of “clowning around” on sailboats, but the antics we’re thinking of are very different from the antics of the Sea Clown Sailing Circus, whose members spend their time sailing the Mediterranean, entertaining shoreside audiences along the way. These clowns are musicians, acrobats, jugglers, tightrope walkers — theatrical artists of all sorts — and sailors.

Sailing Circus performers come from all around the world.
© 2024 Sea Clown Circus

The Sea Clowns have been on the water for around 17 years. What started from one man’s desire to change the world has evolved into three boats and a troupe of characters who are as varied in their performances as the ocean itself. Alaskan-born Fred Normal is a circus performer. Two decades ago he gave up the gas-guzzling world of the circus caravans and took his own show on the road, using bicycles. He and his crew moved from town to town, camping under the open sky and offering pop-up performances wherever they went. While traveling the southern coast of Italy, Normal met kindred souls Nikoleta Giakumeli, a Greek acrobat, and Alvaro Ramirez, a clown from Uruguay. Together the trio envisioned a circus that travels the sea. None of them knew how to sail, but they learned, and thus the Sea Clown Sailing Circus came to life.

Sailboat rigging is the perfect place to practice.
© 2024 Sea Clown Circus

The circus started with just one boat, Surloulu, which they bought for €5,000 and sailed for 13 years. During that time the crew expanded and the sailing circus became a lifestyle for many. They then spent their earnings on a 13.5-meter (approx. 45-ft) wooden vessel that they named The Utopia Quest; or, for ease of use, Utopia. Captain Normal told writer/photographer Nicola Zolin, “Our mission is a journey. It’s a process, a quest. The fact that the world keeps traveling in the opposite direction, that everything gets faster and less human, it makes our work even more important.”

Zolin joined the circus for a summer in 2020, learning its history and listening to the crew’s stories. By this time the circus had grown to a fleet of three boats, including a rescued racing boat named Valkirie.

The performers don’t earn large pots of money, but with their simple lifestyle, it is enough. Their summers are spent moving from port to port. Days are spent relaxing aboard, enjoying the coastal scenery of the Ionian Sea. At night they head to shore and entertain locals and tourists with their skillful, energetic performances. On a good night they might earn a few hundred euros, which pays for the boat and food, and leaves some for the crew. It doesn’t pay as well as the land-based circuses we’re familiar with, but according to Zolin, “The nomadic sea life is too sweet to pass up.”

“While living communally on our small fleet of restored boats, we embrace recycling, repairing and reusing as a way of living, striving to have a regenerative effect on the planet and leave no harm in our wake.”
© 2024 Sea Clown Circus

Can anyone run away and join this circus? “To be a member of the Sea Clowns, you either have to be an acrobat, a musician or a sailor,” Zolin’s guide, the crew member Pericles, told him. “If you know a bit of everything, that’s ideal!”

The Sea Clowns state their mission is “to bring positive change through art and interaction with the people and communities we encounter, inspiring engagement, laughter, and creativity.” But their reason for traveling by sailboat is what interests us the most. They say on their website that “Sailing is getting to know the world from the biggest continent on earth: the Sea.” They also believe sailing should be accessible to every aspiring sailor. Their crew list is open and constantly changing; they are fluid, and encourage inclusive participation. Their wish is to help popularize their lifestyle and “reawaken the sailing practice.”

“Our wish is to give the Sea back to the people as a public good, rather than a privilege,” — Sea Clown Sailing Circus.

This video shared by Captain Andy Clayborne gives a good overview of the circus, both on the water and ashore. You can also learn more about the Sea Clowns at their website: Sea Clown Circus

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