Archive for » May 12th, 2014«

Libya rescues 450 migrants on Europe-bound boats

African migrants stand in Tripoli detention center

Migrant boat sinks off Sicily

TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) — Libyan naval forces rescued 450 migrants off its coastline early Monday who were aboard a vessel making an illegal journey to Europe on Monday, a naval official said.

Mahmoud al-Akhsham says the migrants were rescued in Libyan waters near Zwara, about 110 kilometers (70 miles) west of Tripoli. He said most of the migrants are from Eritrea and Syria, and some are Palestinians. He added that women and children were among the Syrians.

Al-Akhsham’s remarks came the same day Italy announced it rescued hundreds of migrants sailing from Libya aboard two vessels. Last week alone, over 4,000 migrants reached Italy’s shores. Many of the boats set out from Libya’s loosely patrolled coast packed with migrants fleeing wars or hardship.

Libya has become a prime springboard for tens of thousands of migrants trying to reach Europe in rickety, crowded boats.

Last year, hundreds died after their boats capsized near Italian shores.

On Saturday, Libya’s interior minister threatened that his country would help migrants reach Europe if the European Union does not do more to help his country deal with a flood of migrants using Libya as a transit point.

Saleh Maziq said EU assistance would enable his North African nation stop illegal migrants arriving in Libya from sub-Saharan African nations en route to Europe.

Addressing a news conference, the minister blamed the presence of illegal migrants in his country for a rise in crime, the spread of illegal drugs and diseases. He did not elaborate. He also appealed to Libya’s southern neighbors to help it stop the flood of migrants.

Chaos has prevailed in Libya since the 2011 overthrow of dictator Moammar Gadhafi. With the police and the military in disarray, human smuggling has become an organized industry in which Libya’s militias have gotten involved, activists and police say.

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Sailing in Marin: The 80-foot Freda B to race Sausalito Yacht Club's Women's Skipper Regatta

Click photo to enlarge

The 80-foot Gaff rigged topsail schooner Freda B will race in Sausalito Yacht Club’s annual Women’s Skipper’s Regatta for the first time on May 17. The occasion is unique simply because of the size of this grand boat, which is sure to dwarf the competition by at least two times.

Marina O’Neill, co-owner of Freda B and Sausalito resident, is not intimidated by the prospect of racing her tall ship with a mostly women crew because she’s pulled together an all-star team. Friends and associates she knows from working on the Sausalito waterfront — professionals in the industry who do bright work like varnishing boats, work as professional captains like Freda B’s skipper Abby Taylor Mohan, sailors and deckhands — will be aboard.

“We have some of the most talented women on the bay racing with us,” O’Neill, 38, said. “Some of our regular male crew will also sail but they won’t be allowed to touch anything but a beverage once the regatta starts.”

Outside of her usual charter work, Freda B takes to the bay just a couple of times a year to race, sailing in the Master Mariners Regatta (hosted by SYC) and the Great San Francisco Schooner race (hosted by SFYC). When O’Neill was contacted by SYC to consider racing SYC’s women’s regatta, she thought it was a great opportunity to celebrate women in sailing, especially those in her own backyard.

She added, “I also wanted to encourage other special larger vessels to participate in this women’s regatta. Women don’t only have to sail small boats.”

Per the racing rules for the regatta, which has been sailed for some 30 years, participants must have a woman at the helm but the rest of the crew can be mixed.

Among those O’Neill has invited to crew are Sandra Cannon, a marine videographer from Sausalito; Alice Merrill, also from Sausalito who at 67 has been sailing and racing on the bay since she was a kid; and Heather Funkhouser, from Mill Valley who is an ASA instructor at the Modern Sailing School in Sausalito.

Merrill has done the race previously on a Bear boat she once owned, which was around a quarter the size of Freda B.

“I doubt there’ll be any big boats out there like Freda B, so the competition will be different. Big boats just sail differently but I’m sure it’ll be fun,” Merrill said.

Cannon, former owner of SF Bay Adventures and an accomplished sailor thinks the biggest challenge will be that the crew is new to sailing together.

“To get a crew of female sailors is challenging enough let alone together in the same place at the same time, but Freda’s a big boat so it’ll be difficult to do any real damage,” Cannon said.

It’s a bunch of work sailing a gaff-rigged schooner with its four lower sails — jib, staysail, foresail, and mainsail. Wind conditions will determine the amount of canvas Freda B will fly on race day and the subsequent workload for the gals on board. The mainsail and the foresail on Freda B each have two halyards (unlike a regular sloop with one), it usually takes two people to raise each halyard so eight people will be required to raise and lower these two sails. Maneuvering the 80-footer among a fleet of much smaller boats will also be a challenge for the crew.

Freda B is signed up to race in the “Exhibition Class” and will sail the same course as the other entries, but will start last. The actual course will be chosen the morning of the regatta and will depend on wind and tides, but will ideally constitute a 10-nautical mile bay tour, and if a favorable breeze prevails, a finish in front of the SYC deck. With more than just a few tacks and jibes, it will be a suitably challenging course for all participants.

Regatta chair Deana Maggard expects at least 12 boats on the start, including herself on her boat Cattitude, a Tartan 10 meter.

Her words of advice to women who don’t have quite the confidence to get out there?

“This race will attract experienced women skippers and some less experienced ones,” she said. “A good racing strategy is to bring an experienced tactician so that you have someone to help you make decisions on strategy. Try and bring an experienced crew that will get the tacks and jibes and other crew duties correct so that you have less to worry about.”

Et cetera

• At the High School Pacific Coast Championships in San Diego on April 26-27, Branson’s sailing team qualified for the ISSA National Championship that were held at the San Diego Yacht Club over the weekend.

• Here are the Marin sailing and yacht club summer events — check club websites for more information.

Corinthian Yacht Club ( Friday Night Racing through Aug. 29; Women, Wind and Water Regatta, June 7.; CYC One Design Invitational (J105 Championship Series Regatta), June 21-22.; Folkboat International Regatta, Sept. 20-26.

San Francisco Yacht Club ( Express 27 Nationals, Aug. 30-Sept. 1.; Melges 20 North Americans, Oct. 3-5.; Summer sessions for juniors begin June 9.

Sausalito Yacht Club ( Spring Sunset Series May 13 and 27, June 10 and 24, and Summer Series July 22, Aug. 5 and 19, Sept. 2 and 16.; Master Mariners Regatta, May 24.; Knarr International, Aug. 23.; Summer sessions for juniors begin June 9.

Tiburon Yacht Club ( Friday night racing through Sept. 12.; TYC/CYC Friendship Regatta, June 14.

Sailing Education Adventures ( National Safe Boating Day, public open sail, May 18; Summer Sailstice Celebration, June 21; Lawler Cup Regatta/China Camp Heritage Raft Up, Aug. 24; Summer youth camps begin June 23.

Marin resident Michelle Slade is a sailing journalist. Contact her about results, upcoming competitions and story ideas at Read her blog at

Women at helm

What: Sausalito Yacht Club’s annual Women’s Skipper Regatta
When: May 17, noon start time
Where: Sausalito
More: The regatta is open to all. A female skipper must helm, but the rest of the crew can be mixed. There are two Perpetual trophies up for grabs — the Women Skipper Trophy and the All-Women Crew Trophy.

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