Ridingto Mexico on a jetski

Published on Thu, May 26, 2005 by Jack Kintner

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Riding to Mexico on a jetski

By Jack Kintner

A 56-year-old grandmother left Blaine last Friday on a jet ski, bound for her San Diego home. But before you jump to any conclusions, she’s not nuts, just adventurous.

Jane Usatin is both a grandmother and a dedicated, if un-tattooed, biker chick, a gray-haired academic close to retirement and someone who routinely rides thousands of miles on her BMW motorcycle with her husband Joe. The couple likes to ride from their San Diego home to Calgary, Alberta, every year, and have each managed to put well over a quarter of a million miles on both of their motorcycles.

Usatin is head of the undergraduate business college at the University of San Diego, an academic citadel sitting on a 180-acre campus known as Alcalá Park. The most popular undergraduate program, enrolling a third of the student body, is the college of business that Usatin runs.

That is, when she’s not out on her Yamaha FX 140 Wave Runner, a 140-horsepower three passenger jet ski, the closest thing to a floating BMW road bike she could find.

“I’ve got four goals in mind,” said the vivacious and energetic professor, “I wanted to do a ride this long one last time. I want to bring awareness of water and of the historic communities that surround it, to publicize the need for ocean conservancy. Third, there are two scholarships that this will raise money for, and fourth, to counter the stereotype that personal watercraft have, that riders can be law abiding and considerate of people, boats and the environment.”

She and her husband drove through the route last year to check out possible landing sites, as she has split the trip from Blaine south to the Mexican border into day-long rides. The longest stretch is from La Push to Gray’s Harbor, about 70 miles, which is also about her maximum range at her cruising speed of 20 knots, or about 23 m.p.h.

Usatin wears a number of layers of polypropylene topped by a “dry suit” that she’s borrows from J.T. Whittaker’s Island Outfitters in Anacortes. “I like to help out adventuresome folks like this,” Whittaker said, “and she’ll have a great time doing this.”

Usatin’s Wave Runner has just a single engine, but she carries advanced personal beacons, flares and said that if worst comes to worst, she can summon the Coast Guard to her exact GPS location with the touch of one button.

Usatin blasted out of Blaine on a cloudy day last week and once out of the harbor proceeded in a beeline for the Canadian border. “I have to prove I was there,” she said, lining up the Peace Arch with the border tower on the shoreline, “so I can say I went all the way.” She scooted into Canadian waters for a few hundred feet, then turned south and roared off toward Anacortes like Evel Knievel on a very rainy day.
She expects to take about six weeks on the trip, giving her plenty of time to wait out weather, which she did in Anacortes for two days, heading off again on Monday of this week. “She got stopped by the Coast Guard right out of Cap Sante marina,” Whittaker said, “but they took one look at her and realized she knew what she was doing, so they waved her on with a hearty good luck!”

You can track Jane’s progress on www.PacificOceanRider.org.