Monday, December 17, 2012


Actual track from the SPOT Satellite tracking device 
Video at the end of the run:

Santa Barbara to San Diego / Mission Bay ride accomplished! Gerner and Belton of PWCOFFSHORE Racing would encounter wind waves and chop the entire ride with very heavy seas for the last 48 miles of the run. The Kawasaki ULTRA LX watercraft selected for the run for their reliability were bullet proof in the rough seas, even with the front hood cowling being ripped off by the sea state, they performed exceptionally well in the big waters.

The voyage started just before 7am on Sunday November 18

Please remember, as exciting as it was to track this quest, it’s all about the charities. Please support (directly to the charities) one or all of these three causes that are giving so much to our nations veterans and families.

DONATE to The Phoenix Patriot Foundation:

DONATE to The Wounded Warrior Project:

DONATE to The Travis Manion Foundation:

Thank you Kawasaki for the two watercraft, Shawn Alladio for playing a role in prepping the craft and setting the example for charity rides of this nature, Aaron Cress, Kim Bushong for running logistics support on land and being the backup rider for the run, Dan Ketchpel for assisting with navigation and logistics, and most importantly thank you for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice and/or been severely wounded for our country - thank you

Warrior Ride Article  


Final Fueling In Santa Barbara on Saturday   
Gerner Sunday at 5 am
Sunday November 18, 2012 at 3 am:  Up and time to rock and roll.  What lies ahead for John Belton and Mark Gerner is a route from Santa Barbara to San Diego on JetSkis that has never been done before on a Jet Ski. This very “big blue” run in the open ocean would take these two accomplished riders up to 40 miles offshore for 200 miles.  The ride would start  from Santa Barbara and proceed to Ventura Harbor, then 82 miles due south to Catalina Island (Avalon) for refueling followed by another open ocean run from Avalon directly to the entrance of Mission Bay in San Diego, all in pursuit of bringing exposure to three key charities that support our country’s wounded or deceased veterans.  This was not a hug the coast ride; this run would take the team deep into the open Pacific Ocean with no chase boat or safety umbrella minus the safety equipment the team could carry aboard their Kawasaki ULTRA LX Jet Skis the team selected for the ride.  The reliability of these two ULTRA LX JetSkis provided by Kawasaki would end up serving the riders well with what lie ahead. 

Gerner & 30 year PWC Veteran Belton Final Prep At The Ramp 
Anyone who knows Mark Gerner knows that he seeks out rough water for races and riding.  For racing “flat water is about a check book, a fast boat and less about the ability of the rider, the rough stuff exposes the talent and true mental toughness of the rider, it separates the men from the boys” Gerner has said.  Given the magnitude and desired timeline of the ride, it was all about selecting the right weekend to allow for manageable, hopefully calm sea state for this epic ride across the open ocean.  Although the team had night riding gear on the craft  as part of their contingency plan, a major component of the plan was to complete the ride with sunlight and avoid riding at night.  Relatively calm seas would allow for the appropriate fuel consumption, craft reliability and daylight to complete the ride.  PWCOFFSHORE Hall of Famer John Belton aka “The Master” of the Long Beach to Catalina Channel was tasked with selecting the appropriate day for the run.  Belton’s thirty years of offshore experience determined that November usually offers the calmest conditions and was selected during the planning process as the best month to proceed.  Although the weather reports would all read positive for November 18, 2012, Mother Nature would not be so accommodating; she is so unpredictable and there would be no freebies.  The two riders would have to earn this epic ride for their three charities.    

With former Offshore National Champion and Iron Man Triathlete Kim Bushong following in trace on land as logistics support and as the backup rider, the team launched the Kawasaki ULTRA LX JetSkis at 6:45 am for the first leg from Santa Barbara due South to Ventura for final refueling prior to the first big ocean run across the Pacific to Avalon on Catalina Island.  Mild seas would greet the riders for the first half of the first leg to Ventura, however the seas would slowly pick up as the wind continued to gain momentum.    
Santa Barbara 
Refueling at Ventura. “Where you guys going” said the gas station attendant.  Avalon on Catalina Island. Avalon?  Yes we’re going to Avalon.  “You have radios on those things?”  After briefing him on the charities the ride was all about, the team said “Yes, radio and about every other piece of safety equipment money can buy minus a satellite phone.  “OK, well that’s a long run, be careful out there and I’ll check out those charities” said the attendant.     

Off and running only to be greeted by
Harbor Patrol at the Channel Islands Harbor.  After questioning us regarding our intentions, we were off once again. It was clear that JetSkis don’t frequent the big waters around the bend.  We also suspect that the large fuel carrying device on the back of Gerner’s craft was an anomaly and got people’s attention.  Drug runners have been using watercraft to smuggle drugs across the border from Mexicointo the United States so we tend to be scrutinized ever so aggressively lately.  Around the bend past the point off Oxnard and into the open Pacific waters and the seas turn big, this is tanker water.  Only ten minutes into the run the team is intercepted by a US Naval Vessel that questioned the team regarding their intentions.  After studying Gerner’s craft and the unique fuel carrying device on the back of his Kawasaki ULTRA LX JetSki, the Navy said “Just stay away from Point Wyneme, we have operations going on.”   “Roger that” Gerner said.  Onward it was and the ride continued on into big water. As the ride progressed into the open ocean, the land got further and further away and the seas became bigger and bigger resulting in the jet-pumps wanting to come undone more than what they had wanted, mother nature is so unpredictable.  That calm sea state the team wanted was not going to happen today and it was game on.  Quite an interesting feeling when you’re out there twenty miles offshore in the open ocean beyond a desired quick response time should something go very wrong.  Trust your machine?  Have the appropriate safety and communications equipment?  Suddenly all of the preparation and money spent on safety equipment and communications gear including the new ACR Epirb devices and other safety gear all seems well worth the big dollar investment.  By the way, how much is your life worth? Think about it next time you’re considering what safety equipment to purchase.  

As the team progressed the wind would continue to pick up and generate more aggressive sea state.  This is going to be a long run.  Gut check baby.  "Heck, for those that are giving their lives and limbs for our country and in the theme of what this ride is all about, this ride is nothing, the least we can do and a piece of cake” the team thinks.  Such an honor to bring exposure to these three great causes that support these great men and women who have served our country so valiantly.        

Three and a half hours later the team arrived at Avalon for refueling.  “Is there a new small craft advisory out there today” Gerner asks the attendant? “No, but it’s really choppy south channel and it’s picking up” says the attendant.  A big fuel bill at the Avalon gas station and the team is ready to make the final run from Avalon on Catalina down to San Diego.  There is no island to protect the riders for those final 79 miles.  For those who have made a run South between Catalina and the San Clement Island, you know that the wind blows hard between the two islands creating a combination of wind waves, swells and washing machine like water, totally different from the water encountered in the channel between Long Beach and Catalina.  This is nasty water for watercraft and the riders would take a beating during this stretch. 

"Lets do this Mark" said Belton.  Thirty miles into the final open ocean run the seas would turn to what offshore racers call “punishment water,” large steep following wind waves at short intervals.  This sea state results in the craft going up over a large wave followed by the nose dropping directly into the back of the next wave resulting in hard nose plows and water over the bow.  With 40 miles offshore and 42 miles to go, both the riders and the two Kawasaki JetSkis would take a severe beating, the sea state ripping the front hood cover off of Gerner’s craft and bending the front plastic nose cover on his Kawasaki.  The front hood cover also carried Gerner’s GPS navigation devices requiring him to adjust his navigation approach and dead reckon for the final 42 miles with periodic GPS checks.  There would be 42 miles of water over the bow saturating the team’s goggles making them useless and having to be removed.  This meant salt water directly in the eyes every 10 seconds.    The wind waves would become so large that the team members would temporarily lose each other twice in the large swells of the rolling seas and white caps.  At one point a military helicopter would come close to the riders to observe what the two were doing so far offshore in big seas.  Both Gerner and Belton would wonder if they had inadvertently activated their EPIRB PLB causing the helicopter to come it.  They did not; it was just a curious pilot.  Even with all the beating these Kawasaki ULTRA LX JetSkis would sustain, they would not miss a mechanical beat, they were bulletproof.

Refueling in the rough seas while underway would have presented issues.  “Given how big it was during the last leg, if we would have had to fuel the craft underway during that last stretch, we probably would have ingested water or capsized” said Gerner.  Since Kawasaki was so generous to sponsor the ride with the two ULTRA LX JetSkis and were not owned by the team, the team did not install an extra custom integrated fuel tank in the nose of the craft.  Should the craft have needed fuel; the team had two full five gallon fuel containers on the back of Gerner's craft requiring the team to manually refuel with the jugs.  Thankfully, the Kawasaki ULTRA LX JetSkis had great fuel consumption and range and there would be no need to refuel while underway. 
With the sun starting to set in the West, the team would arrive at the mouth of Mission Bay at 4 pm, both glad to be in safe harbor and welcoming the flat, serene waters off Mission Bay.  From one extreme to the other, getting hammered with six foot wind waves to riding half foot wind chop felt like going from riding an angry bull to riding a soft, comfortable couch.  Kim Bushong would be there to greet the team with a large smile on his face; “You guys made it just in the nick of time with the sun going down, and all for a good cause” said Kim Bushong. 

All for a good cause.  We thank all that have been wounded and made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.  Please review these websites and consider making a donation directly to one or all of these charities:    

DONATE to The Phoenix Patriot Foundation:

DONATE to The Wounded Warrior Project:

DONATE to The Travis Manion Foundation:
Thank you Kawasaki, Dan Ketchpel of the SoCal Watercraft Club, Dave “Pirate” Tew, Kim Bushong, Aaron Cress and Shawn Alladio for their support of this epic ride.

Santa Barbara pre-launch 
Santa Barbara pre-launch
Gerner and Bushong 
Kim Bushong, 5 am Sunday morning   
Spot satellite tracking device - actual track