As the tack of the calendar barely digs into the wall — hardly enough to hold all the pages beneath it — it’s plain to see that another year has come to an end, and I figure, since things are rather calm, it’s time to reflect on what has happened over the past 12 months in the watery world that is our collective backyard.

The highlight of 2008 would have to be our own Zac Sunderland beginning his solo circumnavigation from the docks of Marina del Rey back in mid-June. Only 16, Sunderland climbed aboard his Islander 36, Intrepid, and crossed the ocean to Hawaii en route to a round-the-world voyage where he looks to be the youngest person to ever manage the task.

Today, he is near Durban, South Africa, and going strong. Media from all over the country and indeed the world have covered Zac’s travels, but I was lucky enough to do what I believe was Zac’s first interview. I plan to do an update on Zac’s trip in the next column.

Before Zac made world headlines, local nautical headlines were made earlier in the year by powerboater Bruce Kessler. Both the Association of Santa Monica Bay Yacht Clubs and the Pacific Coast Yachting Association picked Kessler as Yachtsman of the Year for contributing generously to the yachting community.

The former television director organized a wildly successful powerboat rally that ran from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico called the FUBAR (Fleet Underway to BAja Rally) Odyssey. Kessler, a longtime Del Rey Yacht Club member, recognized the need for an organized rally of this kind and executed the task as well as could be asked.

“I could not be more pleased,” said Kessler of the FUBAR’s success at the time. “It was a very carefully planned and well executed event, but sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. Everything went the way I hoped it would.”

Today the San Diego Yacht Club has taken the reigns and is planning a second FUBAR that is expected to be equally as popular, if not more popular, than the first.

Last winter, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department officially christened two new boats into its Marina del Rey fleet, the Tradition and Edgington.

Supervisor Don Knabe and Sheriff Lee Baca were in attendance to formally welcome the boats that would make the fleet bigger and this area that much more secure.

“When you have something at sea that requires that we’re out there for an extended period,” Harbor Master Rod Kusch said, “you need the boats’ long-range capability, like, for example, for a downed aircraft.

“You hate to talk about downed aircraft in the LAX area, but this vessel enables us to keep divers (for example) out for longer periods of time — we have the capability of refilling our dive tanks on the boat. We don’t have to get air from another source. We could sustain a pretty long dive operation without having to come back to port.”

The spring of 2008 brought long-awaited good news for one of the local yacht clubs that had been dangling in uncertainty for years. Members of the Santa Monica Windjammers Yacht Club (SMWYC) had nearly conceded to the reality that they would have to relocate from their gorgeous location that overlooks Burton Chace Park and the main channel, but were finally given positive news from the Los Angeles County chieftains that they could stay.

Steve Napolitano, assistant to Supervisor Don Knabe, sat with SMWYC’s commodore Deena Suffin in March and signed a five-year lease in front of an audience and said, “SMWYC would always have a home in the Marina for as long as they choose to be a part of the community.”

The next month, at the California Yacht Club, Marina boaters got the opportunity to meet with Tom Ehman, the public face of the BMW Oracle America’s Cup team. A crowded room sat listening and watching Ehman’s presentation, in which he described the current state of the ill-fated America’s Cup.

The light-hearted Ehman gave first-hand accounts of the incredible circumstances that surround one of the world’s most formidable sporting events in one of its most confusing and chaotic places in the Cup’s long history.

After young Zac departed for lands far, far away, in his outfitted and strong cruising boat, Matt Shultz, founder of the Marina del Rey-based youth group Lifesail, staged another incredible event. Shultz cherry-picked three of his best sailors from his program — one just 12 years old — to sail eight-foot bathtub-sized dinghies across the ocean shipping lanes to Catalina Island. The trio made the journey successfully, at times sailing in waves as high as their masts.

In addition to these highlights the year saw a 750-pound shark caught nearby, the Jr. Olympics held in the Santa Monica Bay and the usual highly competitive racing that happens through the course of the year.

As ’08 drew to a close, our first African American president was elected and the economy crashed, but things on our local waters remained mostly unchanged.

For 2009, I expect much of the same. We’ll undoubtedly rack up another collection of inspiring highlights and hopefully we’ll see young Zac return safe and sound, the proud owner of a world record effort.

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