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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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Dana Point’s Mitch Higginbotham, 91, recalls his time with the Army Air Corps’ all-African American squad of World War II pilots, depicted in a movie opening today.

By DAVID BRO / SPECIAL TO THE REGISTER

DANA POINT -(CA)- It was after 1 a.m. when Mitch Higginbotham got back to his Dana Point home Thursday, but the 91-year-old was wide awake. He had just attended the world premiere of the new George Lucas-produced film “Red Tails,” which opens Friday and depicts the World War II service of Higginbotham’s comrades in the Army Air Corps’ all-African American 332nd Fighter Group, more commonly known as the Tuskegee Airmen.

The fliers, trained at an Army air base in Tuskegee, Ala., were tasked with escorting bombers over Germany near the end of the war. They came to be known as the “Red Tails” because of the color they painted on the tails of their planes.

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Dana Point resident Mitch Higginbotham, 91, joined the Army Air Corps as a cadet, training to become a flight instructor with the Tuskegee Airmen. He remembers the “Red Tail” pilots and helping to train them on the ground as they prepared to enter World War II.
DAVID BRO, FOR THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

Higginbotham remembers meeting Lucas more than 20 years ago and talking to him about the Tuskegee Airmen, and now he’s happy to see a movie about them.

“We just wanted to fight and do our part,” Higginbotham said.

SEE PHOTOS OF SOME OF HIGGINBOTHAM’S MEMORABILIA HERE.

Higginbotham, originally from Sewickley, Pa., joined the Army Air Corps as a cadet, training to become a multiengine-aircraft flight instructor. He remembers the Red Tail pilots and helping to train them on the ground as they prepared to enter the war.

Higginbotham never made it overseas and finished the war being brought up on military charges in the then-segregated Army after he and more than 100 other African American servicemen attempted to be served in the white officer’s club at his base. Higginbotham’s record was expunged in 1995.

After the war, he hoped to become an airline pilot but soon found that pilot jobs were scarce for African Americans, he said. So he decided to finish college.

“I would work a year in the steel mills and then go to college for a year,” he said.

Before becoming an air cadet, Higginbotham said, his studies were more in line with physical science. But after his experience in the Army, he concentrated on sociology and race relations, getting a degree from the University of Colorado.

He eventually became a probation officer for Los Angeles County.

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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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By DAVID BRO / FOR THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

DANA POINT- (CA)-Retired Los Angeles Police homicide Detective Stewart “Stu” Jones, of San Juan Capistrano, turned 100 years old on Christmas Day and regaled guests at his birthday party with tales from his life and career. Jones is the last living detective to have worked the Black Dahlia case, which has never been solved.

One crime-scene tip he offered – cooking coffee in an open saucepan and letting it steam – was a trick of the trade to cut the odor where murder had occurred and the body or bodies had been around awhile.

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Stewart “Stu” Jones, 100, celebrates with family at the Brig Restaurant in Dana Point Harbor on Wednesday evening.
DAVID BRO, FOR THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

Family and friends gathered this week to celebrate at the Brig Restaurant in Dana Point. Birthday cards, photos, news clippings and a retirement book of Jones’ life and career were spread across tables. The memorabilia depicted a young boy in a sailor suit, a rookie in a newspaper photo, several official LAPD photos and a traditional retirement cartoon about Jones and his many jobs on the force.

Working at first as a rookie, assigned to traffic, Jones moved on to the vice squad and the homicide division where in 1947 he was the second detective to arrive on the scene where a woman’s body had been found, cut in half. The case would become known as “The Black Dahlia” and remains unsolved today. In 1943, homicide victim Elizabeth Short, known as The Black Dahlia, had been taken in for underage drinking in Santa Barbara. Her booking photo from that year jumps out from its spot in Jones’ LAPD retirement book.

Relatives said Jones does not believe the Black Dahlia killer has been identified, although some relatives hint he has someone in mind, but it can’t be proven. Grandniece Linda Hart said Jones believes the killer was a butcher, surgeon or other medical professional from what he saw of Elizabeth Short’s body. He had accompanied the body to the morgue in order to identify the body and catalog the medical examiner’s findings.

In 1936, Jones followed his father into the LAPD; and in 1965, Jones retired to his home in San Juan Capistrano. His wife, Billie, died 10 years ago so Jones lives alone with the help of two caregivers.

“He has a beer with a shot of whiskey every day before dinner,” Hart said. “It’s the only thing he’s always done …. except for being a Chargers fan.”

Caregiver Yolanda Camarena says Jones will often scan the neighborhood with binoculars in search of anything out of the ordinary, taking note, and checking on it later and tipping off the O.C. Sheriff’s deputies when it’s not.

“He is such a gentleman, we laugh and joke a lot and bet on football … a quarter a game,” Camarena said.

Dr. John Chard, 75, of San Juan Capistrano, has served as Jones’ physician for the past 40 years.

“It’s his fault I’ve lived so long,” Jones said, pointing out over his Corona beer and empty whiskey glass.

“He makes my practice look good,” Chard said.

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By DAVID BRO / SPECIAL TO THE REGISTER

CAMP PENDLETON -(CA)- About 800 Marines from the 1st Combat Engineer Battalion gathered in front of Camp Pendleton’s San Onofre Community Center to take in the smells of an early Thanksgiving dinner provided by San Clemente Presbyterian Church on Friday.

Peter Carissimo, the church’s head volunteer chef for the event, asked a Marine sergeant waiting in line if it smelled good, kiddingly telling the Marine it was all from Pendleton’s mess hall.

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Marine Cpl. Isaac Rivera, with his wife, Nadica, and daughter Isabella Marie, work their way through the Thanksgiving chow line Friday afternoon.
DAVID BRO, FOR THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
“Oh, no it isn’t, sir,” the sergeant said. “I work in the mess and it for sure didn’t come out of there.”

San Clemente Presbyterian holds several events every year for its “adopted: Marine unit, but Carissimo said the Thanksgiving meal is by far the most complicated. It brings together about 300 volunteers from all over south Orange County to prepare 100 turkeys, 600 pounds of stuffing and yams and 50 gallons of gravy. Even San Clemente’s Fisherman’s seafood restaurant helped out this year, cooking 28 turkeys in its kitchen.

SEE A SLIDE SHOW HERE.

Volunteers were especially eager to serve this year, knowing that in the coming week, at least one segment of 44 Marines will deploy to Afghanistan.

For Friday’s event, about 40 people served the meal. The youngest volunteer, 5-year-old Abigail Gratteau, helped place tablecloths on long tables set up by Marines earlier in the day.

Maj. Tony Mitchell, executive officer of 1st CEB, spoke to the assembled Marines, counting the things he is most thankful for. But he added some sad news and words of caution – earlier in the morning, a Marine had died in a motorcycle accident on I-5 just outside the Basilone entrance to the base.

“Remember to be thankful for everyone, and especially now with this reminder,” Mitchell said. “There are some pretty sad Marines somewhere on this base right now.”

Event organizer Chuck Herpick, a Navy veteran, thanked the Marines for their service. Then came Carissimo, known by 1st CEB members for his hand in a recent spaghetti dinner.

“We enjoy doing what we do for all of you because we know and won’t forget what you all do for us and protecting our country,” Carissimo said.

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