40 Years of Mischief, Part 1
What happens in Vegas might stay in Vegas. But not at Latitude. Longtime readers will know we’ve been pretty forthcoming about mistakes, screw-ups and bloopers (which can be one and the same, but not always). What you likely haven’t heard until now are some of the crazy things that went on behind the scenes as we went about the business of bringing you the latest sailing news.
When the first non-American America’s Cup kicked off in Perth in 1987, it was back in the Pleistocene age when mammoths roamed the earth and, in the Latitude offices, things like computers and digital photography were still years away. There was no money to actually send a reporter to Western Australia. (Whaddya think — we actually get rich doing this? Ha.) So how to cover the action? Well, we did have a cruising person who sent regular reports of activities ashore, and our good buddy, the late Bobby Grieser, would send a CD of great color shots every month.
But to get a real feel for the action, every afternoon, we’d go over to the 2 AM Club — a bar near the office — and beg them to change the channel on the newfangled big screen TV to that newfangled sports channel, ESPN. Of course we had to legitimize the request by buying a beer or two. Then we settled in for 15 or 20 minutes and hoped for some key action we could cite in our upcoming coverage. Fortunately, when the Fremantle Doctor (Western Australia’s seabreeze) came in, there was usually plenty of that. The reason these sessions would last only 15-20 minutes is that’s how long it took for the other bar patrons to tire of sailing and get the TV switched back to basketball.
Remember film? For the first 20-some years of the magazine, we shot almost exclusively Ilford HP400 black-and-white film. It was cheap and easy to develop, and we made our own prints and half-tones. The process wasn’t flawless. One month we recall turning in all the rolls we’d taken on the weekend, and all six of them came out blank. So much for the planned spread on THAT regatta. But two rolls were of transient cruisers taken for an upcoming article. S*%T! We scrambled around and the next day were able to re-take almost all the pics that had been lost.
But those rolls came out blank, too. Damn! Thinking the camera was screwing up, we ran out the door with a different camera, and managed — once again — to get most of the photos . . . the rolls were blank. For the fourth time, half the cruisers were gone and the other half thought we were some kind of pervs and wouldn’t let us aboard their boats again. Turned out that the darkroom person had mistakenly marked the bottle of fixer (or was it stop bath?) as "developer." Whoops.
On the advice of a physician to "do something relaxing once in a while," the overstressed Publisher/Wanderer decided to take one Friday off in July, 1987, and sail his Olson 30 Little O to the Delta with friends. These particular friends weren’t sailors, so they apparently didn’t think it was odd that there were no nautical charts aboard. But the publisher did have a road map of the Delta area. All he had to do was stay in the blue areas. What could possibly go wrong?
He later told us they were whizzing up Suisun Bay under spinnaker when "the wheels fell off." The boat had strayed out of the channel and hit the mud, going from about 12 knots to zero in a boatlength. The impact flopped Little O over onto its side and launched the Wanderer out through the lifelines into the brown water. The guests knew this wasn’t supposed to happen, and started throwing liferings and other floaty stuff. The Wanderer told them to stop. Then he stood up in the thigh-deep water and walked back over to the boat. They finally got the sails down, a pull off the mud from a good Samaritan, and — once again stress-free — soldiered on.
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