From the Boathouse: In the home stretch before Labor Day


The summer sailboat races are starting to wind down as Labor Day approaches. Labor Day weekend typically signals the end of the summer boating season for our local harbors' sailing programs and for boating in general across the nation. Likewise, in our local mountains, Labor Day weekend is the finale for the sailing races on Lake Arrowhead, which sail out of the Lake Arrowhead Yacht Club. It is amazing that a vast number of the sailors are active in sailing and yacht clubs located in Orange County's three harbors, comprising Dana Point Harbor, Newport Harbor and Huntington Harbour.

I am pleased to report that team Yacht Rod, C-Scow No. 911, is currently in first place, and this is the boat that I crew aboard with my two teammates. Next weekend concludes Lake Arrowhead Yacht Club's Championship Series, so we are hoping to stay out in front.

However, sailing on the lake can be a tough challenge because of the shifting winds blowing over the water and last weekend was no exception. On Saturday, the winds were gusting over 20 knots, and a 25-knot wind is about the maximum these boats can handle. The strong winds caused boats to demast, capsize and probably keep a few sailors dockside. Luckily on Sunday, the winds calmed a little and sailing was great, especially since the air temperatures warmed up in the afternoon.

However, about 400 nautical miles to our north-northwest in San Francisco Bay, the Louis Vuitton Cup semifinals were won by the Italian team, Luna Rossa, by sweeping the first four of the potentially seven races against Artemis Racing. The Luna Rossa's skipper, Max Sirena, and helmsman, Chris Draper, will now advance to the finals against Emirates Team New Zealand. The winner of the finals will then compete for the coveted cup against Oracle Team USA.

Artemis Racing did well on the water in the semifinals but had to overcome the devastating and fatal capsize in San Francisco Bay where, very sadly, British sailor and teammate Andrew "Bart" Simpson died in May. The team was able to resume racing in July when a replacement AC72 was ready to sail, with the first race scheduled for July 24, and then race about two weeks later in the semifinals. It's a remarkable effort by the crew of Artemis Racing, and I am sure we will see them sailing again in the next America's Cup challenge.

I will have front-row seats Aug. 21, when I will be reporting from the America's Cup media room during the exciting finals. Each scheduled race day will have two races and an extra day at the end of August for a tie-breaker if needed. I cannot wait to see which team will be advancing to go bow-to-bow (nautical version of head-to-head) against Oracle Team USA.

Tip of the week and for the recreational boater is a little guidance when using your VHF marine band radio to hail for help aboard your boat. No matter where I am boating, I still hear boaters anxiously yelling Mayday for situations that are not a Mayday emergency.

Again, I advise boaters to not yell Mayday over the VHF marine band radio if you run out of fuel, your engine stalls or you are lost traveling to your destination. Simply hail a station such as the Coast Guard, Harbor Master or a private towing service if you need non-emergency assistance while cruising in a harbor, on a lake, in a river or out on the ocean. Hailing Mayday will set off a chain of sequences that are unnecessary, and potentially can start responding rescuers in your direction. However, if you are going on the rocks or have an onboard fire or medical emergency, then hailing Mayday is correct in these and other emergency situations.

Channel 16 is a hailing-and-distress channel only that is often misused by some boaters who will chat on this channel. You use 16 to hail a station or another vessel, and then switch as directed by the station or use one of the working channels—68, 69, 71, 72 or 78—to chat. Keep in mind that 16 is the only channel where you will transmit a call if you are in distress, and Mayday is reserved for the immediate danger to life or the vessel.

An excerpt from my book, "VHF Marine Radio Handbook": "Channel 16 is the international hailing, safety, and distress channel and the channel that most radios will default to when powering on the radio. This is the channel that is used for emergencies and to hail other vessels anywhere in the world. This channel is to establish communications with another boater and immediately switch to an appropriate channel. Never chat with another boater nor ask for a radio check on channel 16."

Please be boat smart and boat safe. Lastly, please boat responsively and look behind you before you turn the wheel at the helm.

Tune in to the No. 1 boating radio talk show in the nation, "Boathouse Radio Show," broadcasting live coast-to-coast on the CRN Digital Talk Radio syndicated network. See times at, and

Safe voyages!

MIKE WHITEHEAD is a boating columnist for the Daily Pilot. Send marine-related thoughts and story suggestions to or go to

Copyright © 2019, Daily Pilot
EDITION: California | U.S. & World