Author: patreynolds

Gray whale calf fights for life in local waters

A young gray whale is struggling to survive off the coast of Marina del Rey after local rescuers removed a 10-foot line that was tightly tied to the whale’s fluke on Sept. 7. Peter Wallerstein from Marine Animal Rescue and members of Baywatch originally came upon the lethargic young whale off the coast of Manhattan Beach and attempted to free the animal from the inhibiting entanglement that could well have been picked up in the breeding grounds of Mexico. “When MAR arrived in our Zodiac, we observed a 20-foot gray whale with rope line tightly wrapped around its tail,” said Wallerstein. “The small whale was trailing about 10 feet of line on either side of it. We wasted no time and began our approach to attempt to free the whale.” Wallerstein and company, who are trained to handle such circumstances, preformed the rescue from the MAR Zodiac by grabbing hold of the line and using it to bring them close to the whale’s tale. The longtime marine mammal rescuer said their main intention was to cut the line away from the animal so it had a fighting chance at survival. “The main thing we wanted to do was at least relieve it from the life threatening problem of the entanglement which was tightly embedded in the fluke area,” Wallerstein said. The rescue itself was no light-hearted fun-in-the-sun event. Wallerstein...

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Endangered blue whales spotted in local waters

Earlier this month I drove my 14-foot inflatable boat 10 to 15 miles down the coast to see if I could happen upon blue whales. I recognize that there aren’t a lot of people in this world who could utter that sentence truthfully and am humbled that I am one. On the way down I looked to my left at the beachfront homes so packed together, the Chevron oil refinery and the never-ending stream of jumbo jets flying overhead. I was happy to be away from the complication those things represent and curious to find out if I would see the largest animal on the planet feeding on its life source, krill, just a short distance away. It was a weekday; I was alone and glad to be. Since the blue whales started finding their way towards this area a few years ago, the boating community, kayaking enthusiasts, jet skiers and paddleboarders have all been understandably excited at the sudden presence of not only the largest animal on the planet but the largest that has ever lived, including dinosaurs. The excitement is more than justified. It’s beyond seeing a being so physically incredible in its natural environment – the blue was hunted to near extinction 100 years ago, thereby their population has been very much depleted, making these sightings particularly rare in the grand scheme of things. But now,...

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Marina del Rey sailor completes Transpacific race in smallest boat

Last month 22 boats passed under the Golden Gate Bridge bound for the shores of Kauai, Hawaii in the Single Handed Transpac race. Two of the skippers were from the Marina del Rey area, one of whom was sailing a 21-foot boat, the smallest in the fleet. The boat, sailed by Jerome Sammarcelli, is what’s known as a Mini-Transat boat – a little bruiser, slightly longer than a family car, that’s designed to manage open ocean conditions. It was created for a contest called, yes, the Mini Transat, a race that crosses the Atlantic Ocean from France to Brazil. Some of the most respected racers in the world have participated in the Mini-Transat. Ellen MacArthur, Michel Desjoyeaux, Sam Davies and other legendary sailors have cut their teeth and earned respect sailing the smallest boat in ocean racing. Sammarcelli’s mini is a Pogo 2 that his company, Open Sailing, builds in Long Beach and sells in Marina del Rey. Sammarcelli, 37, has done some long distance sailing in the recent past but never a crossing this long. The trip is over 2,100 miles and took him two weeks to complete. He said he mostly slept in 45-minute increments and ate dehydrated food, but would do it again. After an initial acclimation period that lasted about three days, where he confessed to keeping an eye on how far he was from...

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Scale-breaking shark caught off the coast of Marina del Rey

In August 2007 I wrote a story about a local angler who had caught a 1,000-pound, 12-foot mako shark in his 25-foot Wellcraft. A still awestruck skipper, Chad Compton, relayed the experience of landing such an incredibly enormous fish. “I was holding myself up against the boat to keep from going over and the rod was completely bent. I thought – ‘I think I’ve just bit off more than I can chew,’” said Compton at the time. “It was massive.” In the piece he told of the adventure and what an undertaking it was – how he heard fiberglass cracking and feared the 1,000-pound ferocious shark might capsize the boat; how he managed the manic and violent situation that is big game pelagic fishing. But in the past five years in this area, trends and public sentiment have changed. Catch and release methods for animals like this are more the practice, and public opinion generally frowns or at least feels unsettled about the idea of killing these apex predators. So when a 800-900-pound, scale-breaking mako that was reportedly caught 15 miles off the coast of Marina del Rey, was being weighed at the Del Rey Landing this past July 4, word traveled fast. Del Rey Landing’s General Manager Craig Campbell, who was present at the time, told NBC News that their digital scale maxes out at 750 pounds, and...

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Marina del Rey boat maker to sail solo in race from San Francisco to Hawaii

Many years ago, when I first started covering on-the-water news in Marina del Rey, I kept coming in contact with a young French sailor named Jerome Sammarcelli, who avidly sailed a small sportboat in nearly all the local races. The boat, a Martin 243, was built for speed and loaded with sail area and big outboard racks where the crew would sit in an attempt to counter all the horsepower the boat packed. Sammarcelli was often on the top of the leaderboard and I would have the chance to interview him after the various local races. Since then, Sammarcelli has started a local company called Open Sailing, which builds high performance boats – one of which he will be sailing single-handed from San Francisco to Hawaii in the Single Handed Transpac at the end of the month. The kicker is that the boat is only 21 feet long. Crossing an ocean on any boat is an accomplishment. Doing it solo is infinitely more difficult. But going solo on a 21-footer is, by most sailors’ standards, off the charts. However, Sammarcelli doesn’t quite see it this way. For him, this journey is about proving the boats he builds (Pogo 2 mini-transat boats) are what he advertises – solid, open-ocean capable pit bulls that will not only endure the punishment of the menacing Pacific Ocean, but excel in it. When I...

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