Front Rudder - September 2014

Hello And Goodbye, The Lap Of Luxury

Okay. I see myself sailing on a beautiful Oceanis Beneteau 34. I'm at the helm gliding wistfully under a full harvest moon, which illuminates the sky on a brilliant late summer eve as we make way to a romantic interlude on Catalina Island.

It was nearly morning and with autumn's early airs not quite in reach we crossed over to the island on an eerily magical evening. The wind that night provided a mournful howling as it ripped through the metallic tapestry of the bridge framework that surrounded us. The sounds of the fury churned like the climatic roar of a majestic symphonic crescendo.

With the restless, frothy waters of the Pacific Ocean below and the lights illuminating the darkness of the night from above, you could almost imagine the specter of ghostly yachts gliding wistfully across those wisps of wind toward a solemn solitary adventure at sea.

With three sheets to the wind, our sleek Finot Conq design gently tacks over as a massive grey whale breeches just off the port bow… splash, kerr-plunk! Then I woke up. What happened?

Just a dream; REM's gone wild. Well, thanks to Club Nautique it's not a dream and it won't cost $250,000 either.

Club Nautique had its genesis in 1980 by Don and Judy Durant. It was founded with one goal in mind: "to make quality boating available to everyone." It has two locations in the San Francisco Bay Area. The original location is at Ballena Bay in Alameda and a newer location in Sausalito at Clipper Marina.

The membership requirements are quite simple: "a desire to participate in the boating lifestyle, sail or power and no experience necessary."

Club Nautique's constitution is achieved by providing world class, professional sailing and powerboating instruction at every level to free you from the expense, labor and time investments of yacht ownership and most importantly to allow you to economically share your passion for boating with others, whether it's just a quick jaunt across SF Bay or an overnight cruise down our beautiful coast.

Club Nautique Founder and President Don Durant said, "A lot of people come to us because of our offshore program; it is probably the strongest program of its type in the country. We are on a pretty aggressive campaign to keep our fleet up to date. Right now we work just with Beneteau on the sailing side with Mainship and Marlow Mainship on power."

As a member you have access to the largest, newest and best maintained fleet of boats, all either brand new or up to 10 years old, though half the fleet is 3 years old or less!

"My next door neighbors had never sailed, so they enrolled, took the classes, bought a boat and sailed to New Zealand," said Durant. "That kind of thing happens regularly here."

Member benefits are as countless as the stars as Club Nautique has different membership packages designed to fit the needs of most prospective members. The "Basic" membership is designed for experienced boaters, and includes access to the charter fleet at a 40 percent member discount, classes on an a la carte basis at a 25 percent member discount, destination charter discounts worldwide, newsletter, Club social and cruising calendar of events, and more.

Other membership packages include instructional packages matched to the member's experience and needs, up to the top-of-the-line "Ultimate" membership.

"Most people come to us having never sailed before," Durant said. "Our most popular membership is called the Passage Maker, which takes people from pure novice to offshore passage making sail or power; our standardized certifications are recognized worldwide."

Inshore boats may go anywhere that's navigable east of the Golden Gate Bridge. Offshore boats may navigate from San Diego Bay north to Bodega Bay up to 200 miles offshore. Certification requirements vary with boat size and navigation limits. Rates vary from a half day up to a month.

For those of us who think the San Francisco Bay is just about sailing, there are powerboat adventures, too! As advertised take a spin around and around the bridges, then peel off to Napa or over to the mystery and magic of the Delta or venture out past the Golden Gate down to Monterey and Santa Cruz. With Club Nautique the world is at your porch step or on deck for the adventures of a lifetime!

Club Nautique teaches all U.S. Sailing (the National Governing Body for sailing) certified courses, from Basic Keelboat up to Offshore Passage Making, and all U.S. Powerboating classes.

"Our staff experience is literally hundreds of years and many of them are United States Coast Guard (USCG) licensed Masters," Durant said. "Club Nautique's training is comprehensive and rigorous with internal standards far higher than those required by the certification bodies. It's designed for students serious about learning and being safe at sea, not for people looking to check off a box the quickest and easiest way possible. We've had graduates go from rank beginners to crossing oceans."

From the start, most of the equipment you need is your own personal gear such as foul weather gear, deck shoes, hat, sun glasses, sailing gloves, etc. More gear is necessary for ocean classes, but most members begin building their sea bag when they join and add to it as they progress through the classes.

In addition to the fabulous array of boats, one of the main attractions is the sailing and power school. It reads like a progression from elementary school to high school to college and unto graduate school as you learn your way to a doctorate of the high seas!

Classes start out with basic keelboat and cruising school to help you in your transition to kicking butt during the Wednesday night beer can races! From there it can be on to Bareboat cruising and Coastal navigation.

Durant said, "The fact that we're not just a sailing school or rent-a-boat operation means we are committed to your long-term yachting success. When you take a class at Club Nautique, rest assured our goal is to make you into the best sailor possible. After all, when you graduate, you're going to be skippering our boats. Our courses are guaranteed exactly for that reason.

"We have a package of requirements that we set up on the boats, like heavier sails," said Durant. "Everything we have from 37 feet up is equipped and insured for the open ocean. Our insurance company doesn't like racing, it can create lots of damage and we are trying to work with that to relax it a bit, for club or beer can racing. We don't really want to send our boats out on the open ocean for racing like IYRA; our boats aren't really equipped for it.

"Once you're a member of Club Nautique, we continue to meet your yachting needs, from on-going instruction to worldwide charters and maybe even boat ownership," said Durant. "We're very proud of the fact that many of our members have been with us since we opened our doors back in 1980.

"We're also quite proud of our members who came to us never having sailed before and with the skills learned at Club Nautique, are out cruising the world."

Perhaps you simply look forward to flying to the Caribbean with your US SAILING Bareboat Charter certification in hand and skippering a charter boat on the vacation of a lifetime. Whatever your sailing dreams, they're there to help you realize them.

Local fun stuff includes flotilla cruises on Monterey Bay, up to Petaluma, over to the Delta, Yacht Club Crawls and of course Wednesday "Hump Night" barbecues and Souper Sails!

"In Sausalito I saw the new location as an opportunity to expand the classes, seminars and social events we do here," Judy Durant, Don's wife and partner, said. "The physical limitations of our other location made it a bit challenging, so we saw this as a green light to go! We have expanded greatly the number of classes we could offer. My goal was to literally set this place on fire and we did!"

Judy said, "People who are interested in charting a powerboat will call up and say: 'I don't have any experience, but I know how to drive a car' and they think that's enough or they have driven a powerboat on a lake or in the Delta, but the difference is that the Bay has some challenges, in the tides, the currents, boating traffic and shipping traffic. In order to help them enjoy themselves out there we need to make sure they are comfortable in those types of conditions."

Don Durant said, "There was a speaker a while back at the St. Francis Yacht Club that was somewhat railing about the lack of diversity in sailing stating: 'male, stale and pale' and we all looked at each other at our table and asked, 'What is he talking about?' He made it sound like it was a yacht club out of the 1950's and not the diversity that is embraced now. It was like the speaker wasn't up to speed here at all. I keep up with all the membership applications and we are adding about a new member a day.

"You can't believe the diversity. It's incredibly diverse and he was rattling off all the things that could be done to grow sailing and I'm thinking and some of the audience is turning around looking at me," continued Durant. "I'm checking off the list in my head thinking, okay, we do that and that and that. We do pretty much everything, except racing and I felt like I was either the luckiest guy in the room or the smartest. I'm not sure which and it probably doesn't matter."

Don began sailing in 1954 on Lake Merritt and raced with his dad as a teenager on San Francisco Bay. After college and a tour as a submarine navigator he began his career in the boating industry full time in 1968.

Since then, he has owned or been a partner in several boat dealerships, two boat yards, a sailing school and now, Club Nautique, which he founded.

Durant said, "My mother, who got the family into sailing, used to say it kept her kids off the street and doing things together with the family. Boating is something that sticks for life. Be careful though, as your avocation could become your vocation! But worse things could happen and I imagine there are lots of people who would be envious of my lifestyle."

He has also served the industry as president (twice), a director, and boat show chairman of the Northern California Marine Association, as a director and vice president of US Sailing, and as a director of Sail America.

"When I was a little kid my dad built a Chris-Craft powerboat kit and we would take it out on the Delta," Durant said."We also had a 35-foot Stevens that we had taken out on Suisun Bay in a nasty storm that my little sister and I thought was great fun, because we were jumping all across the boat, but when we got in my dad put it in the slip, gave the broker the keys and said 'sell it, I never want to see it again!'

"We moved to Oakland when I was 8 and in those days Lake Merritt was a hotbed of dinghy sailors, lots of big names," said Durant. "My mother saw all those sailboats on the lakes and she was getting a little frustrated with my dad just playing golf and going to Shriner's meetings and marching in parades; she was looking for something the family could do together and thought sailing could be the ticket.

"So they bought a little 18-foot gaffe rigged sailboat and we learned to sail," said Durant. "As a teenager I would buy a beater boat during the summer, fix it up, sell it and that kept me out of trouble.

"My dad was a plumbing contractor dabbling in boat sales. He got his start selling Columbia's and was really successful at it," recalled Durant. "I was in the Navy at the time and by the time I got out he was selling boats full time over at Embarcadero Cove. I was teaching sailing and rigging boats at the time and realized I would probably starve to death doing that. My dad didn't really want me to get into sales.

"One day a guy came out and was looking at a boat and I started telling him about it, so he went in to see my dad and he said, well I don't want to buy it from you I want to buy it from the kid out on the docks (me)," laughed Durant. "My dad said, 'He doesn't sell boats.' The guy said, 'Well I'm not buying it then.'

"My dad said, 'Have a seat,' went out and got me and told the man, 'He sells boats now' and that is how it all started. A year later I was running the place.

"When Pier 39 opened in 1979 I had a friend John who had a charter business called Sierra Sailing Club and I was kind investigating 'how do you do charter boats?' It was kind of fortuitous because he was looking for boats for his fleet. I asked how many slips he had. He said he had 25.

"I asked how many he had filled. He said three. Then I asked when he has to fill the slips. He said, 'The marina opens in 6 weeks and if I don't fill them, I have to pay for them.'

"I said, why don't you give me an exclusive on the slips and if I don't fill them I will pay for them. He says keep talking! We made that deal and I filled those slips. He was happy, I was happy. Customers were happy, it was amazing.

"Turned out I was good at that kind of 'investment banker' kind of a sale and I had a knack for that. So I started Club Nautique," said Durant. "It's like a timeshare condominium, but on the water with boats; and it's even better than having a condo at a ski resort!"

Club Nautique offers their members more yachting services than any other club in the country, all for the low price of one membership. Visit their website at to discover how they can make your yachting dreams come true.

West Marine's Awesome New Flagship Store

Shock and awe as West Marine in Sausalito has tripled the size of their space with a new "Flagship" size store in Sausalito. The space that used to be Baby's R Us has been transformed into "Boater's R Us!" The new superstore joins the ranks of Bass Pro Shops, Dick's, Cabela's etc. as the new prototype one-stop shop that fits all on steroids.

"Bigger is better!" said David Forbes, who is the General Manager of the exciting new location. He describes it as a water life sports store. "We want to dominate the market!"

"Wow!" was my reaction and it seems like I share the sentiment of what a lot of people are thinking. "That's the word I'm hearing from most of my customers," exclaimed Forbes.

The Sausalito store becomes the 19th designated West Marine "Flagship" store in the country. It is the direction the company is going in major markets and, yes, you will still be able to find your intimate West Marine down the block in ports of call that dot both the East and West Coasts!

"We have wanted to expand for years," said Forbes, an ex-Royal Navy veteran who comes from the South Coast of England. "The sleeper hit is our expanded fishing department; no one is doing this in this neck of the woods!"

It is an amazing site to behold. The store is big enough to create its own aura as a seven day a week boat show 360 days a year! Where else can you go to see SUP's (Stand up Paddle) boards standing up with no end in sight, and kayaks by the dozens and a rope/sheet line that dwarfs the size of the garage that West Marine's founder and owner started in his own garage 46 years ago!

West Marine opened the biggest boating store in the U.S. in Fort Lauderdale, FL., in 2011. This 50,000-square-foot store not only had an expanded selection of core boating products, but it offered a large selection of footwear, casual and technical apparel for those who enjoy being out and on the water. Customers responded positively to the larger store format where they could get everything they needed for a great day out on the water, in one location.

The company was founded in 1968 by Randy Repass in Sunnyvale, CA., with the name West Coast Ropes, selling nylon rope from his garage. The first retail West Coast Ropes store opened in 1975 in Palo Alto, CA. In 1991, the first West Marine stores opened on the East Coast of the United States in Miami, FL., and Annapolis, MD.

Farewell To Arms As We Say Goodbye To...

Ahhh; delectable, delightful, delicious and very decadent, nothing is better than the taste of some of the world's best oysters. I was able to enjoy, likely for one of the last few times, Drakes Bay Oysters from our virtually untouched corner of the world in Point Reyes National Seashore here in Northern California.

As many of you undoubtedly already know our Interior Department (which needs redecorating) has decided to shutter and shut down Marin County's only sustainable oyster farm on Drakes Estero. After a flurry of activity over the last couple of years to keep the century old farm open, we've been carpet bagged.

It is a mad, mad world when on one hand of the Bay Area we get a federal push out the door when a small little oyster farm gets closed and on the other hand there is a psychotic rush from our State Government to build the "Hoover Dam" of a water tunnel which could decimate life as we know it on our Delta.

It's one thing when environmentally companies get it wrong and our vast natural resources need to be protected, but it's another when an environmentally friendly small local business gets kicked to the curb by short-sighted special interests who come in, dictate change and then leave in someone else's neighborhood, certainly not their own.

Drakes Estero is part of the greater Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. It was originally explored by and named after the swashbuckling Sir Francis Drake on his ship Golden Hind, which may have been damaged and repaired there in 1579. His exploration of the world was at the behest of his Queen - Elizabeth.

The historic oyster farm has been part of the community for nearly 100 years. Kevin Lunny is part of a third-generation Point Reyes ranching family that purchased the oyster farm in 2004. He contends that the oyster shells make it possible for the restoration of native oysters in San Francisco Bay and the oyster shells are used to create habitat for the endangered Snowy Plover and Least Tern. It was the last oyster cannery in California.

Drakes Estero is a Congressionally-designated potential wilderness area and the Estero is protected as part of the National Seashore legacy agricultural uses. Our U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein criticized the National Park Service (NPS) at the time, alleging that "data used to support the non-renewal was flawed."

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar visited the site in 2012 and then directed the NPS to allow the permit for oyster farming to expire, stating that the land and waters of the Estero should be returned to their natural state. A lawsuit was filed by Lunny and ran the gamut of the Courts until the Supreme Court closed the door earlier this year when it refused to hear the case.

It comes as no surprise that the government's decision to close came from then Secretary Salazar who comes from Colorado where the environment has taken a backseat to corporate interests for years. In many respects, Colorado is ground zero (followed closely by Alaska and West Virginia) when it comes to big business's devastation of our natural resources and wilderness areas.

Remember it was Salazar as a U.S. Senator who voted to end protections that limit offshore oil drilling on Florida's Gulf Coast and was one of a handful of Democrats to vote against a bill that would require the Army Corps of Engineers to consider global warming when it came to planning future water projects.

Sorry for the rant. Many would say that the Lunnys knew the leases where set to expire, but that doesn't excuse our own U.S. member of the House of Representatives from San Rafael who wore a "cloak of invisibility" when it came to standing up for his constituents.

In a final statement, Lunny said, "We are very sorry to report that the oyster farm will no longer be open for visitors and we are out of legal options to keep the farm open while we continue litigation. In working against the oyster farm, the National Park Service has misrepresented the law, our contracts with the State of California, and the results of scientific studies. May truth and justice eventually prevail, with liberty and oysters for all!"

Where's San Francisco?

Unbelievably, the island of Bermuda and the former host city of San Diego, CA., has been shortlisted as potential (potential?) venues for the 35th America's Cup. Chicago, which had also been under consideration, is now a likely (likely?) venue for America's Cup World Series racing in 2015 and 2016. "Both Bermuda and San Diego have made very compelling cases to be the host for the next America's Cup," said Russell Coutts, Director of the America's Cup Event Authority (ACEA). "We will be in good hands with either venue."
Bermuda is 640 miles east-southeast of North Carolina. It is not in the Bermuda Triangle, but it is in the hurricane belt. Racing in Bermuda would take place close to shore (with little or no opportunity to watch from shore) within the Great Sound.

Sadly and incredibly San Francisco seems to be completely out of the mix, even though the 2013 final between Oracle Team USA and Emirates Team New Zealand was the most exciting America's Cup in recent memory! Clearly the ACEA squandered making the most of the opportunity and has resorted to blaming the city for some of their own problems.

SF city officials are still hopeful for a last ditch "Hail Mary" pass to bring the event back to the Bay Area.

Gloria Chan from SF's Office of Workforce and Development said, "We continue to want the 35th America's Cup in San Francisco and host another spectacular series of sailboat racing. Our door remains wide open to negotiating a return to San Francisco that would be a win for everyone."
The host city for the next America's Cup will be announced by ACEA (Russell Coutts) before the end of this year.

The GGYC has received notification from the principals of Hamilton Island Yacht Club (HIYC) of their intention to withdraw Team Australia from the 35th America's Cup. Not surprising considering the challenge was never really in to win.

"We are very disappointed to be receiving this news," Coutts said. "We were excited to have Australia as a challenger and we were also looking forward to the prospect of holding ACWS events in Australia. But, our focus going forward is with the teams that have already submitted challenges and the teams that have told us of their intent to do so before the entry deadline on August 8th."

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