Archive for November, 2005

The Dismasting of the Pride of Baltimore II

Posted by John Callender on November 8th, 2005 at 9:04 pm

Pride of Baltimore II before

The Pride of Baltimore II, a reproduction of an 1812-era tall ship, was dismasted on September 5 while competing in a race from England to Spain. The Captain’s log on the ship’s official site describes the event this way:

While sailing in a localized squall, the bowsprit cracked and broke at about half its length. Since there are wire rope stays from the bowsprit that secure the foremast, after five minutes in the rough seas the foremast cracked off three feet above the deck The wire rope stays that secure the foremast are also fixed to the mainmast, so it too broke off under the strain of the sea swells about 25 feet above the deck.

Thankfully, no one was injured in the dismasting. Writing on the web site she shares with photographer T.C. “Bhodi” Sheridan, Erin Doak gave the following description of what happened: Tragedy on the Pride.

On Monday at 3:45 pm, the second of two similiar squalls hit Pride II. The first had heavy rains and wind up to 45 knots that made the boat heel till the water was up to the tops of the bulwarks. We quickly struck the jib topsail, but before the sail was completely down, the squall was over. In mild conditions, we reset the sail and continued on. 10 minutes later, the second squall hit and the boat heeled again. I was standing on the starboard side of the quarter deck when I heard a loud crunch of wood and saw the bowsprit, jibboom, and all its sails go tearing off to port. I have never seen the crew rush onto deck so quickly and we all looked to the captain for orders. He called for the striking of the main and we rushed to comply, but it had just barely hit the deck before we heard the noise that sailors never wish to hear, the slow, loud crunching of a wooden mast. Looking forward and up, the foremast twisted to port and fell. Bhodi and I, along with most of the crew were still on the starboard side, and we pushed back against the rail and aft, watching as it fell along the port side of the ship. It collided with the main and the mast broke 30 feet off the deck, and came down with a crash little more than 6 feet from us.

Pride of Baltimore II after

There are lots of great photos on Bhodi and Erin’s Our Pride Adventures weblog, and information about the ongoing repairs to the ship, which is currently docked in Saint Nazaire, France.

Anyone who’s been dismasted remembers the experience vividly. I was aboard my father’s Columbia 52 Victoria when we were dismasted during the 1978 Santa Barbara Island Race. We were approaching the island on the evening of April 1, beating into a 25-knot wind just after dark, when a fitting at the base of the starboard shrouds failed. I was below at the chart table when it happened, and what I heard was not a slow crunch, but a tremendous bang, as Victoria’s aluminum mast snapped about nine feet off the deck. The bang was accompanied by a lurch that threw me onto the cabin sole, and I jumped up and ran up the companionway steps just in time to see the mast and sails settling into the water on the boat’s port side.

There’s a real sense of shock to losing a mast; a sudden, abrupt transition to a new reality. I’ve often thought that a sailor’s education is largely a matter of learning to cope with forces beyond human control, and a dismasting represents an extreme example of that. It’s the sort of lesson that no one would choose to experience willingly, but that certainly sticks with you afterward.

Dismasting-aftermath photo by T.C. “Bhodi” Sheridan, courtesy of

Pier at Catalina’s Isthmus to Be Expanded

Posted by John Callender on November 8th, 2005 at 9:47 am

Catalina\'s Isthmus pier

I came across this article in San Diego’s The Log the other day: Renovation planned for Catalina’s Isthmus pier.

Isthmus Pier on Santa Catalina Island will get a facelift next year, including the addition of a new harbormaster office and a pumpout station.
Work on the 180-foot pier is scheduled to start in early 2006 and will likely take three to four months, Two Harbors Harbormaster Doug Oudin said. It should be completed in time for the summer season…

The pier will likely be completely closed, including the fuel dock, for the duration of the project, Oudin said. Details are still being worked out to provide emergency fuel and water and passenger access to and from the beach.

I remember tying up to the current pier on a busy Fourth of July weekend a number of years ago, after a long morning row from Howland’s Landing to buy ice. Dinghies were tied up three deep, and I had a tricky scramble before I could actually reach the pier.

(Photo by Becky Mucha.)

CNN: Seabourn Cruise Lines’ ‘Spirit’ Outruns Pirates off Somalia

Posted by John Callender on November 6th, 2005 at 8:46 am

Not really relevant to Southern California, or sailing, but this story caught my eye. From CNN: Cruise liner outruns armed pirate boats.

(CNN) — A luxury cruise line will re-evaluate whether to offer future cruises off the coast of Somalia after pirates attempted to attack one of its ships early Saturday.

The pirates were in two small boats and were carrying machine guns and a rocket-propelled grenade when they attempted the attack on Seabourn Cruise Lines’ “Spirit” about 5:35 a.m. local time Saturday, Deborah Natansohn, president of the cruise line, told CNNRadio.

The ship was carrying 150 passengers and a crew of about 160…

The cruise ship eventually outran the pirates’ boats, Natansohn said. One person suffered minor injuries, she said without elaborating.

Piracy, obviously, is one of those subjects that’s interesting, and even romantic and adventurous, when it’s comfortably far away (in either time or distance). As silly entertainment (as in the Disney movie Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, or the upcoming sequel, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest), I can enjoy piracy just fine. And I’m okay with Disney sponsoring the Pirates of the Caribbean entry in the Volvo Ocean Race.

But as this story underscores, real piracy still exists, and isn’t fun and games. From the “Pirate” article at Wikipedia:

Piracy in recent times has increased in areas such as South and Southeast Asia (the South China Sea), parts of South America, and the south of the Red Sea, with pirates now favouring small boats and taking advantage of the small crew numbers on modern cargo vessels.

Ventura Harbor Village’s November and December Events

Posted by John Callender on November 6th, 2005 at 7:42 am

Ventura Harbor Village

If you need an excuse to visit Ventura Harbor over the next few months, you could attend one of the free afternoon concerts held each Sunday at Ventura Harbor Village. From’s events page, here are the scheduled events for November and December:

  • November 6: Mango – Hawaiian musical duo
  • November 13: Yogi Mango – Reggae music
  • November 20: Ron and Mike Show – Music variety show
  • November 27: Tim Seehusen Music – Holiday piano music
  • December 4: Ron Sexton Duo – Holiday music
  • December 11: Ventura Chorale – Holiday music
  • December 16 & 17: Parade of Lights
  • December 18: Phil Birdsell – Impressionist/karaoke style

Ericcson Wins Volvo ‘In Port’ Race One

Posted by John Callender on November 5th, 2005 at 12:46 pm

Ericsson wins race 1 of the Volvo Ocean Race

With John Kostecki calling tactics, Ericsson won today’s opening “in port” race of the Volvo Ocean Race in Galicia, Spain. Winds were light for the two-hour buoy race, which Ericsson apparently won with a combination of a good start, light-air speed and the decision to go left on the first beat. Ericsson had a four-minute lead at the first weather mark and was never seriously challenged after that. Here’s the write-up from the official site: Blow by blow. And here’s the report from Team Ericsson’s site: Flying start in Volvo Ocean Race 2005-2006.

Final results:

  1. Ericsson 01:51:29
  2. Brasil 1 01:54:55
  3. The Black Pearl 01:56:30
  4. Movistar 01:57:13
  5. ABN AMRO TWO 02:00:07
  6. ABN AMRO ONE 02:04:11
  7. Premier Challenge DNS

Reportedly the two ABN AMRO boats have been optimized for heavy winds, and they suffered badly in the light going. It’s an interesting question of whether that will pay off for them in the long run; as a Southern California racer I know that many overnight races are won or lost at night, when our local winds tend to be light. A boat that’s fast in light air can sometimes go two or even three times faster than a slower boat, building a huge lead in a very small amount of racecourse.

On the other hand, Southern California races don’t tend to feature 60-knot winds and 80-foot waves. A light-wind flyer might begin to look like a much riskier proposition in the high southern latitudes, where a boat built for rougher conditions could be pushed harder.

Time will tell, I guess.

Update: Tactician John Kostecki describes how the race looked from his point of view aboard Ericsson in this article from Yachting World: Kostecki on VOR win.

Powerboat Sinks — On Dry Land!

Posted by John Callender on November 5th, 2005 at 6:30 am

boat sinks on dry land!

This story by Jack Innis of San Diego’s The Log caught my eye: Sinkhole swallows boat and vehicle.

A late-model trailerable boat sank in a Point Loma alley October 18 when a broken water main opened up an enormous sinkhole that swallowed the boat, a trailer and a tow vehicle.

Not really relevant to sailing, or even boating, I admit. But I thought the headline was kind of funny, in a “man bites dog” kind of way. (As long as it happened to someone else. If it was my boat, not so much on the funny part.)

Weather Page Updated

Posted by John Callender on November 5th, 2005 at 3:50 am

map showing weather buoy locations

I’ve done some cleaning up of SoCalSail’s weather page. Mainly, I’ve updated the map showing weather buoys so it matches the current version of the National Buoy Data Center’s Southwest California Recent Marine Data page.

I remember how excited I was when I first saw the progenitor of that page a number of years ago. That was back in the mid-1990s, when doing cool things on the Web still had a clubby, subversive feel to it. Here, I realized, was the work of a kindred spirit, someone who felt the way I did about putting useful content online.

In a funny coincidence, I subsequently was at the second annual Perl conference, and struck up a conversation with the young man I happened to be sitting next to. We asked each other the standard Perl conference question (“So, what are you doing with Perl?”), and I practically fell out of my chair when he told me that he worked for the National Weather Service in Florida, and had recently used Perl to put together a little CGI application to report observations from weather buoys.

“You’re the guy who did that!” I exclaimed. “I love that site!”

His name was Dave Faciane, and meeting him was definitely one of the highlights of that conference for me. I’ve lost track of him since then, and several years ago the application he built was moved to a new server and his name removed from the credits, but I remember that chance meeting, and thinking about it now reminds me of those good old days when the Web was first being imagined into existence.

Anyway, give the new weather observations page a try, and let me know if you notice any problems.

Some day soon I hope to update it to do automated processing of the buoy data, so I can display a version of the map with near-real-time wind data graphically displayed on it. From that it would be a short step to doing an animated version of the same map so you could see how wind conditions had been changing over the last 24 hours.

I think that would be pretty cool. And I bet Dave Faciane would get a kick out of it if he saw it.

Wakeboarding Behind a Volvo 70

Posted by John Callender on November 4th, 2005 at 10:20 pm

wakeboarding behind a Volvo Open 70

In a few hours the Volvo Ocean Race will be starting in Galicia, Spain. (Well, technically, they’ll be sailing the first of the “In Port Races” that have been added to the event this time around. The first long-distance leg — from Vigo, Spain to Capetown, South Africa — starts a week from tomorrow.) In any event, in honor of the occasion, here’s a link to some humorous (well, to me) video footage of British wakeboarder Dan Nott wakeboarding behind one of the two boats being fielded by the Dutch ABN Amro team: Volvo 70 wakeboarding.

I can imagine taking a Volvo Open 70 out on the water. I think that would be really fun and exciting, if somewhat scary. I cannot even begin to imagine trying to race one through the Southern Ocean. Hat’s off to the people nutty enough to try it. Good luck, and I hope to see you all safe and sound at the finish about eight months from now.

(Footage from Scuttlebutt. Photo by Chris Ison.)

Channel Islands Harbor ‘Parade of Lights’

Posted by John Callender on November 4th, 2005 at 9:02 am

Channel Islands Harbor is my home port these days; my Kettenburg 32 Gypsy currently lives at Anacapa Isle Marina.

It has always been interesting to me how different harbors, and on the smaller scale the individual yacht clubs and marinas within them, have their own personalities. Some are big and impersonal, others are small and funky. Some are stuffy and ooze self-conscious wealth; others are friendly and down-to-earth, with owners puttering away on their own (relatively) low-budget maintenance projects.

I’ve been pretty happy at Anacapa Isle Marina; there are nice amenities and not too much attitude, and there are some really nice owners who share my dock (“B” dock).

One larger-than-life personality is Nick, who owns the humongous powerboat Neverending Story that lives on our end-tie. I think of Nick as the patriarch of the dock, stumping up and down, calling out a greeting to everyone. To the extent there’s an actual community of people on our dock, Nick is at the heart of it.

All of which brings me to the Christmas boat parade. Like most Southern California harbors, Channel Islands Harbor puts on a Christmas boat parade each year. As part of that, Anacapa Isle Marina sponsors a boat-decorating contest, where each dock competes for a free catered lunch. B dock is something of a powerhouse in the competition, and my first Christmas in the marina I found out why: Every time I was down at the boat from November on Nick made a point of talking to me about the competition and asking me how I was going to decorate Gypsy.

I’m normally something of a bah-humbug guy about holiday decorations, but between the urgings of Nick and those of my wife I managed to string some lights from the bow to the masthead and down the backstay. We also put a big red bow on the bow pulpit, and wrapped some sparkly gold stuff around the lifelines.

I can’t say that Gypsy outclassed the other decorations on our dock, but we at least held up our end, and B dock won the prize that year. I decorated again the following year, when we came in second, after a tough-fought match with H dock.

Which brings us to last year. My schedule was really hectic last December, and I ended up going several months without getting down to the boat at all. I missed the Christmas boat parade, and (obviously) I failed to do any decorating.

I’m hoping that enough time has now elapsed that Nick will forgive me. I suspect he’ll be fine with it — assuming I decorate Gypsy for this year’s event.

This year’s Channel Islands Harbor ‘Parade of Lights’ will take place Saturday, December 10. Festivities will run from noon to 8:00 p.m., but the parade proper is scheduled to begin at 7:00 p.m.

For more information visit’s events page (you’ll have to scroll down a bit to find the relevant section). More information is available by phone at (805) 985-4852.

Photo: No, that’s not Channel Islands Harbor. As you may have figured out from the Canadian flags, it’s a marina somewhere in Canada (Ottawa, maybe?), as photographed by Flickr user fabianfischer.

A Little History

Posted by John Callender on November 3rd, 2005 at 9:17 pm

Hilaria back in the day

I registered the domain name ‘’ on July 9, 1997, intending to create a site that would be a resource for Southern California sailors. Over the next year I played around with setting up automated updates of the coastal marine forecast, and created an early version of the site’s Buyer’s Guide. But other projects intruded on my time, and what with one thing and another I never completed the site. It remained an unfinished demo, basically.

Although I never publicized the site, at some point I inadvertantly exposed its URL to the search engines, and shortly thereafter I started to notice that it was picking up some traffic. As time went on, I began to receive email from people about the site; most of them trying to contact companies in the the Buyer’s Guide. Eventually this shamed me into adding tools to allow users to register on the site, and for registered users to submit updates to the Buyer’s Guide info.

A few months ago I added Google Adsense ads to the site. A few weeks ago I got an email from Chris Tucker of SailTime Channel Islands, a fractional-ownership/charter outfit, asking about advertising possibilities. On November 1, 2005, SailTime became the site’s first banner advertiser.

I’ve been sailing in Southern California since I was a young boy; that photo is of Hilaria, the vintage 10-meter (originally built in 1927) that my father owned during the 1960s and early 1970s. It was on Hilaria that I first learned to sail, and I treasure those memories to this day. I’ll probably share some stories from that time in this weblog. In the meantime I’ll also be talking about sailing news, sharing information about resources for Southern California sailors, and generally doing my best to make this site as useful as possible.

Thanks for visiting.

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