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The WikiWki, built by a model-making class that launched it Thursday afternoon from Capistrano Beach on a course for Hawaii, had last transmitted late Saturday near San Clemente Island. It was heard from again Sunday evening from San Clemente Island, where it washed ashore.

A model boat thought lost at sea late Saturday transmitted a GPS signal Sunday evening from San Clemente Island, where it ran aground after traveling some 60 miles off the south Orange County coast.

The WikiWiki’s onboard GPS tracking device pinged a signal at 5:10 p.m., 18 hours after it had last been heard from at 11:09 p.m. Saturday. At that time, it was three miles from Pyramid Point on the south end of San Clemente Island, having traveled the ocean for 56 miles.

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ROP instructor Malcolm Wilson, left, and student team leader Maurice Bollhorn wade into the water to launch the WikiWiki on Thursday afternoon at Capistrano Beach.
DAVID BRO, FOR THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

ORANGE COUNTY -(CA)- The monohull WikiWiki is one of two model boats launched Thursday afternoon from Capistrano Beach by a Capistrano-Laguna Beach ROP 3-D model-making class. The class had been following its course via GPS.

Class instructor Malcolm Wilson said Monday that he is working on a way to get the craft off San Clemente Island, which is used by the Navy for training.

GPS information on MarineTracking.comshowed the WikiWiki had a close encounter late Saturday with the Cap Pasado, a 700-foot-long cargo ship weighing almost 39,000 tons. The ship, traveling at 16.7 knots en route from Los Angeles to Auckland, New Zealand, had reported its position in virtually the same spot as the WikiWiki a minute before the model boat’s last transmission Saturday night.

It’s uncertain whether the brush with the cargo ship had anything to do with the loss of the WikiWiki’s signal.

Meanwhile, the class’s other boat, the trimaran NeNe, is being repaired after sustaining a broken mast. It washed ashore in San Clemente hours after its launch Thursday. No date has been set for a relaunch.

The builders hoped their boats would sail as far as Hawaii.

SEE GPS TRACKING SHOTS HERE.

SEE STORY AND PHOTOS OF THE LAUNCH HERE.

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A monohull and a trimaran were let loose from Capistrano Beach on Thursday afternoon. One came ashore in San Clemente hours later. It is undergoing repairs for possible relaunch today or this weekend. The other is at sea and being tracked via its onboard GPS.

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Looking like a shark ready to strike, the WikiWiki is prepared for launch Thursday afternoon from Capistrano Beach. The WikiWiki is one of two boats made by a Capistrano-Laguna Beach ROP class at San Clemente High School. The students hope the boats will sail as far as Hawaii.
DAVID BRO, FOR THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

By DAVID BRO / SPECIAL TO THE REGISTER

CAPISTRANO BEACH -(CA)- An ROP model-making class at San Clemente High School was at it again Thursday afternoon, trying for the second year to launch handmade watercraft from Capistrano Beach on a course students hope will take the boats as far as Hawaii.

About 50 students in instructor Malcolm Wilson’s 3-D model-making class in the Capistrano-Laguna Beach Regional Occupational Program gathered to launch two of their latest projects, the monohull WikiWiki and the trimaran NeNe.

SEE A SLIDESHOW HERE.

They think improvements they made in the design of these boats will give them better results than different students in the class got with a single boat last year – it washed up in Laguna Beach.

The boat building is meant to teach the design process from start to finish. The students, divided into two teams, worked all semester to complete the boats.

“The students get hands-on knowledge in completing a project and learn that hard work pays off,” said Dave Giertych, director of the Capistrano-Laguna Beach ROP.

Team leaders Dallas Krick, 18, a San Clemente High School senior, and Maurice Bollhorn, 16, a Tesoro High School sophomore, said they’re excited to be able to follow the boats’ progress via the onboard GPS the students installed. A tracking device on each boat reports its location every two hours. That information is posted on the class Facebook page.

At the launch Thursday, the breakers sent the WikiWiki back to shore with minor damage on the first try. After some quick repairs, the boat was relaunched with volunteer Michael Tracy swimming alongside and pushing the craft through the higher-than-normal surf.

There were tense moments as the NeNe was tossed almost completely out of the water by a high breaker. But soon both boats were out to sea.

Wilson reported that the NeNe washed ashore in San Clemente late Thursday. The WikiWiki came back to within 200 yards of shore and then turned around, making it as far as 18 miles offshore Thursday night, Wilson said. On Friday afternoon, the WikiWiki was about 22 miles off San Onofre State Beach, according to its GPS tracker.

The NeNe was back in port for repairs and is to be relaunched Friday or over the weekend.

“Who knows where they’ll end up?” Wilson said.

The students used mostly donated supplies and funds from area businesses such as Rainbow Sandals, Basham’s Surfboard Factory, Interlux Yacht Paint, AirFlow Systems, CalebWorks, Glas Werk Inc. and The Surfer’s Journal. They even used old sails from the 82-foot schooner Curlew, a charter boat out of Dana Point Harbor.

“I liked shaping the boat and putting on the fiberglass,” Krick said.

Bollhorn said that the class sparked his interest in 3-D computer design. “I liked managing the whole process and going out to test the boats at Dana Point Harbor,” he said.

Sarah Smith worked on the NeNe, preparing the boat for paint and putting on its bright red color. “It was hard but fun,” Smith said. “The best part was watching it go out.”

She and Krick said they intend to take the class again next semester.

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By DAVID BRO / For THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

DANA POINT -(CA)- Kami Parsa, a fifth-grader at Westpark Elementary School in Irvine, loves worms.

Well, maybe she doesn’t love them, but they were the 10-year-old’s favorite part of this year’s Kids’ Conferences on Watersheds hosted by Dana Point’s Ocean Institute.

Article Tab: A young couple stands together last Tuesday afternoon near the Dana Point Tidepools where students began a study in September and October on watersheds, culiminating this week with final reports on their projects.
A young couple stands together last Tuesday afternoon near the Dana Point Tidepools where students began a study in September and October on watersheds, culiminating this week with final reports on their projects.
DAVID BRO, FOR THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
The ninth annual program, involving about 2,200 Southern California fifth-graders, began Jan. 9 and continues through Tuesday. The students have worked since September and October on projects meant to illustrate the importance of watersheds and how they contribute to a healthy ocean environment. The conferences feature presentations from area experts.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency defines a watershed as an “area of land where all the water that is under it or drains off it goes into the same place,” such as a river, an ocean or another body of water. The EPA quotes geographer John Wesley Powell as saying a watershed is an area “within which all living things are inextricably linked by their common water course.”

Given the task of investigating the watershed they live in, students put together their own studies of the effects on ocean health of pollution, land use and natural events.

A watershed is separated from other watersheds by elevated land features defining that area as unique. Orange County has 14 distinct watersheds; the continental United States has more than 2,100, according to the EPA.

South Orange County has four watersheds: Aliso Creek, Salt Creek, San Clemente and San Juan Creek, which has an overall surface area of almost 160 square miles.

Kami’s fifth-grade class did a project titled “Benthic Habitat Viability Study,” aimed at testing the ecology of Balboa Bay where the Newport Bay Watershed drains.

The class collected mud from the bottom of Balboa Bay and placed Neanthes worms in it to see whether the mud would provide a healthy environment for them. The worms are a sensitive marine species also called clam or pile worms.

The baseline for the study came from the students’ time aboard an Ocean Institute vessel last fall checking out the worms’ habitat in the open ocean. Those worms thrived; the worms in the Balboa Bay mud didn’t make it.

The results led Westpark Elementary fifth-grader Jeremy Rim, 10, to a conclusion:

“Respect nature,” he said.

  • VIDEO: Students experience O.C.’s watersheds

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By DAVID BRO / FOR THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

LAGUNA BEACH -(CA)- Laguna Beach Books held a brunch and book signing for about 100 people featuring New York Times best selling authors T. Jefferson Parker and Elizabeth George at Laguna Beach’s Aliso Creek Inn on Sunday afternoon. Parker and George each spoke briefly about their latest books, followed by a question and answer segment before moving onto the signing table where many event-goers held in their arms the latest mysteries from both authors.

“The Jaguar,” by T. Jefferson Parker, tells the story of Erin McKenna, a beautiful songwriter married to a less than honest Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputy, who is kidnapped by a powerful gulf cartel and threatened with death unless she writes a folk ballad about the exploits of Mexico’s drug dealers, gun runners and outlaws.

Article Tab: T. Jefferson Parker, author of The Jaguar signs a book for Coto De Caza resident Joanne Redwood Sunday afternoon at the brunch and book signing at Laguna Beach's Aliso Creek Inn .
T. Jefferson Parker, author of “The Jaguar” signs a book for Coto De Caza resident Joanne Redwood Sunday afternoon at the brunch and book signing at Laguna Beach’s Aliso Creek Inn .
DAVID BRO, FOR THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

“Believing The Lie,” by Elizabeth George, unfolds as British police inspector Thomas Lynley is sent undercover to investigate an apparent accidental drowning only to discover, with the help of friends, the complicated secrets, motives and lies deep within the dead man’s family and how his death might not have been an accident.

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Nuclear plant’s website may automate notifications of onsite alerts like the one that occurred with an ammonia leak Tuesday. Emergency procedures don’t require public announcements of low-level, nonradioactive alerts, but some south San Clemente residents who heard the plant’s onsite sirens were left wondering what was going on.

By DAVID BRO / SPECIAL TO THE REGISTER

SAN CLEMENTE -(CA)- Southern California Edison is considering enhancing its public communication procedure so that information about onsite alerts at the utility’s San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, like the one that occurred Tuesday, would be made available automatically on the plant’s website.

On Tuesday, information about an ammonia leak did not appear on SONGS’ site until two hours after the alert was declared about 3 p.m. and workers near the leak began being evacuated.

Article Tab: San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station containment domes can be seen looking south from near the entrance to San Onofre Surf Beach on Tuesday afternoon while a low-level alert was going on at the plant.
San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station containment domes can be seen looking south from near the entrance to San Onofre Surf Beach on Tuesday afternoon while a low-level alert was going on at the plant.
Under existing procedures, Tuesday’s event did not require a public announcement, according to Edison spokesman Gil Alexander, which is why community-alert sirens did not sound in nearby cities and no announcement was made onKWVE/107.9 FM – Orange County’s primary Emergency Alert System station – or KOGO/600 AM in San Diego County.

Alexander said that soon after the leak was discovered he made several calls to media outlets, including The Orange County Register, to say the ammonia leak was nonradioactive and that the alert was confined to the plant.

SONGS personnel noted the leak in a non-nuclear area of the plant’s Unit 3 reactor and declared an “unusual event,” the lowest of four emergency classifications. At that level, there is no leak of radioactive materials, though plant safety is considered reduced.

As required by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, SONGS notified the NRC and the regional Interjurisdictional Planning Committee– consisting of several city, county, state and private agencies – via a special “yellow” phone line within 15 minutes.

But south San Clemente residents Skip and Traci Streets wish more information had been readily available to the public. They heard sirens sounding at the plant some two miles away in their Cypress Cove neighborhood Tuesday afternoon, unsure whether it was a test or an actual emergency. They said they searched the SONGS website but saw no advisory except for a general notice to tune to KWVE for information in case of an emergency. With no announcements on the radio as the sirens persisted, the pair eventually called Southern California Edison and the city of San Clemente.

“The sirens kept going … we called around but no one knew anything,” Traci Streets said. “My mom lives down here, too, but was in Newport for dinner, so we just decided to go up there and eat with her and hope nothing was going on.”

Jen Tucker, San Clemente’s emergency-planning officer, said that when San Clemente is notified of an event via the yellow phone, she follows guidelines that begin with notifying the city manager and initiating the city’s Emergency Planning Center. About 50 municipal employees are activated to emergency-response positions within about 35 minutes, she said. That applies not only to events at SONGS but also to earthquakes, tsunamis and other natural emergencies. The EPC then stands by to implement emergency services according to guidelines set by the IPC. Tucker said the city of San Clemente is responsible for activating the 19 sirens within city limits.

In Tuesday’s case, the response was based on information communicated by SONGS.

At the two highest alert levels, involving radioactive releases, all sirens across Orange County would be activated simultaneously and public announcements would be made on KWVE and KOGO, Tucker said.

On Tuesday, KWVE was notified by the county Emergency Operations Center of the situation at SONGS, but due to the low level of the alert, the station was not required nor asked to make an announcement, according to station engineer Marcos O’Rourke. At 4:27 p.m., the station did broadcast news of the event, he said.

San Clemente closed its EPC about 45 minutes after SONGS ended the alert at 6:07 p.m., Tucker said. She said she was happy with her team’s performance.

“This is reassurance for the residents of San Clemente,” she said.

Tucker said she expected as many as 50 phone calls from local residents about the incident but instead had received six by late Wednesday afternoon, including one from San Juan Capistrano.

Alexander said SONGS community relations received about a dozen calls and Edison customer service received a few.

Alexander said that before Tuesday, the most recent alert declared at SONGS was May 9, 2010, after earth movement was detected at the plant following an earthquake in Baja California.

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Class at San Clemente High School that tried to send a miniature trimaran on a course to Hawaii in April plans to try again in December with two new boats equipped with altered designs, GPS units, digital cameras, navigation lights and a path-tracking Facebook page.

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By DAVID BRO / SPECIAL TO THE REGISTER

SAN CLEMENTE -(CA)- A 3-D model-making class that tried to sail a miniature trimaran to Hawaii in April is at it again.

Instructor Malcolm Wilson’s Regional Occupational Program students are meeting twice a week at San Clemente High School with plans to launch two new 6-foot-long foam and fiberglass boats in early December, probably from Capistrano Beach, where the spring attempt began.

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Regional Occupational Program 3-D model-making student Ian Sprenger stands beside the trimaran Wilson in April before its launch at Capistrano Beach for a hoped-for voyage to Hawaii. It was found three weeks later washed up at Laguna Beach.
DAVID BRO, REGISTER FILE PHOTO

SEE A SLIDE SHOW HERE.

In April, 80 students from several south Orange County high schools put together a miniature sail-powered trimaran named Wilson, after Tom Hanks’ volleyball buddy in the movie “Cast Away.” They designed the bright yellow craft to sail on a predesigned course to Hawaii, though it was found three weeks later about 200 yards off Laguna Beach.

The boat, a sort of “message in a bottle,” held a log book in a waterproof compartment so that anyone who found it could write where, when and how it was found.

This semester, 50 different students modernized the concept with onboard GPS units and a Facebook page (Team Wiki Wiki.webloc) that will illustrate the projected path south across the Pacific Ocean. In addition, a pair of digital cameras to take timed photos along the voyage will be mounted on the vessels, as well as battery-powered LED navigation lights.

The boats, already shaped in foam and in the process of having fiberglass applied, are the products of what project leader and San Clemente High School senior Dallas Krick, 17, said were several weeks of class study on what ancient mariners used in their quest to conquer the waves. The students settled on a design that most resembles what Philippine fishermen have traditionally used, with features especially constructed to get through big waves.

This year’s effort is spearheaded by the monohulled Wiki-Wiki (“speedy” in Hawaiian), with a larger and heavier fixed keel and a wing foil instead of a traditional sail. Malcolm Wilson said he’d like to provide space on the vessel for a sponsor logo in exchange for helping with the project’s estimated $1,000 cost.

The other boat, the NeNe, is a sleeker, slightly smaller and faster trimaran than the more stable Wiki-Wiki. The NeNe, named after Hawaii’s state bird, will have a more traditional sloop sail rig, with sail material already donated by sailors with boats at Dana Point Harbor.

San Clemente High junior Daniel Therrien, 17, and senior Matt Cox, 17, worked together this past week on the final shaping of the NeNe in the hallway outside their classroom, with shavings of foam swirling around them.

Before joining the class, Cox had thought of signing up for a restaurant course.

“I’d rather build a boat than a hamburger,” he said.

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Five days after the beach’s landmark stump bearing an American flag proved too stubborn for about 200 people trying to relocate it away from the threat of high surf, heavy equipment donated this afternoon moves it in 30 minutes.

By DAVID BRO / SPECIAL TO THE REGISTER

SAN CLEMENTE – (CA)- Heavy equipment arrived Friday afternoon at Poche Beach and moved a landmark flag-bearing driftwood tree stump to higher, safer ground after hundreds of people had tried unsuccessfully last weekend to move it themselves.

The 6- to 7-ton tree stump across from the Palm Beach Park mobile-home community in San Clemente has flown an American flag since somebody placed one there soon after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. The flag has been replaced periodically through the years by residents of Palm Beach Park and others.

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A bulldozer operated by Tommy Sherman of TS Grading is guided Friday by Mark Meintel of Meintel Construction Management as it moves the 6- to 7-ton flag-bearing tree stump up a berm to a safer place on Poche Beach.
The trunk had become increasingly threatened by high surf that had moved it about 200 feet and sometimes submerged the flag under the waves.

San Clemente resident Joe Wilson organized an effort last Sunday to relocate the stump to higher ground on property owned by Palm Beach Park. More than 200 people tried for three hours to move it by human power and a lot of rope, but the stump was too heavy and too imbedded in the sand. They did manage to tilt it and place plywood boards under it to prepare it for the heavy machinery.

On Friday, it took a bulldozer volunteered by Mark Meintel of Meintel Construction of San Clemente about 30 minutes to relocate the stump and its flag farther from the water’s edge.

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