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THE RALLIES HAVE BEEN MORE THAN I EXPECTED

The last few years have seen a marked increase in the number of cruising rallies throughout the world. They probably started with Jimmy Cornell's ARC across the Atlantic some 12 years ago.

A loner sailor, I assumed that such rallies wouldn't be my gig. But this year I participated in my first rally, The Eastern Med Rally. There were 117 boats from 27 countries - and was I shocked to find that I had the time of my life!

I then went on to participate in the first Black Sea Rally, with 30 boats from 10 countries. Imagine a rally where everything - food, buses, inland lodging, and all harbor fees - were paid for by rally organizers. They're looking for sailboats on the Turkish coast of the Black Sea, and although the season is short up there, the people make it a great adventure.

Rallies are often a great way to avoid officialdom in foreign countries - and get to know the locals. We were invited into private homes - and in some cases schools were let out so children could practice English or German with us. It's great stuff.

The rallies I've been on have been more than I expected, and I would encourage anyone to take advantage of what's another level of cruising excitement. By the way, Turkey and the Turkish people are the most hospitable, honest, and fun-loving people I've found in over 100,000 miles of cruising.

A stormy day at anchor is always a good time to write. I was inspired after Ed and Janice Still of the San Francisco YC brought some of your excellent rags with them on their last trip aboard Pacific High to this part of the world. Latitude makes me proud to be a San Franciscan.

Bob Frank
Pacific High
Coyote Point YC

Bob - Thanks for the kind words.

Rallies comes in all sizes, styles, and price ranges, but they all seem to get people moving and meeting new people - and you know that can't be all bad.

HE PROCEEDED TO FILL HIS HAT

I'm catching up on back issues, so some of my letter may be a bit dated.

With regard to 'ralphing' stories, Bob, my navigator and friend of 30 years, has always gotten seasick the minute we pass beneath the Gate. His mal de mer normally lasts four to six hours, at which point he gets his sea legs and everything is fine. But once there was an exception.

We beat out the Gate aboard an ultralight headed toward L.A. in moderate winds and lumpy seas. The next morning we were still tight reaching in very lumpy seas - and Bob hadn't bounced back. He was sitting on the lee rail occasionally hanging his head over the side. Then a particularly large wave rolled through, causing Bob to get sick again. In order to keep his vomit from spilling all over, Bob removed his hat and threw up into it. Too sick to fully comprehend what he'd done, Bob proceeded to put his barf-filled hat back on his head! We simply couldn't stop laughing as the remains of his breakfast came dribbling down his face. All Bob could do was give a weary grin. Whenever we've sailed out the Gate since, one of the crew asks Bob if they can hold his hat until he feels better.

My next subject is hypocrisy. On our way from Panama to Florida, we stopped at Isla Mujeres, Mexico, for a few days. One day it rained heavily while we were having lunch in a Mexican cafe, so we decided so sit out the squall over a few beers. While we were sitting there, the young couple at the next table caught my attention because they were so busy with cigars. The man was peeling the identifying cigar 'rings' off one group of cigars and throwing the cigars away. He then put the 'rings' on the other cigars and repackaged them in the box.

Thinking this was a little strange, I leaned over and asked what he was doing. Holding up one of the newly 're-ringed' cigars, he replied, "These are some of Havana's finest, but we all know it's illegal to bring Cuban goods into the U.S." In other words, he'd removed the labels from cheap Mexican cigars and put them on expensive Cuban cigars so they could be brought into the United States.

What makes this story even more unbelievable is that we later learned that this fellow was a U.S. Navy officer who 'inspected' boats in the Western Caribbean. He couldn't wait to sit around the 'O' Club smoking his Havana cigars. Talk about double standards!

In a letter to Latitude a couple of months ago, Nancy wrote that the U.S. has an embargo on Colombia - and you said that wasn't correct. This naval officer told us there isn't a formal embargo against Colombia, but we're pressuring other nations not to trade with them - much as we did with Nicaragua many years ago. Kind of a reverse of China's 'most favored nation' status. I guess our plan is to destroy the Colombian economy.

Since our boat Destiny is a foreign flagged vessel, we've been stopped three times - twice by ships and once by a helicopter. But after identifying ourselves, we were allowed to proceed. One of the times we were stopped off Morro Bay while sailing from Mexico back to San Francisco Bay. On that occasion six Coasties sat in our cockpit for 90 minutes while talking to their mother ship on the radio. They were trying to decide if they could perform a 'safety inspection' on a foreign flagged pleasure vessel. On a humorous note, one Coastie said he remembered being asked the question on his final exam - but couldn't remember the correct answer! Finally the word came back from the mother ship that they could not inspect us, and they left.

P.S. Many thanks for Latitude's 20 years of doing a great job - we still have issue #1. Your magazine has been a major reason for us taking off.

Peter and Nancy Bennett
Destiny

Peter & Nancy - Thanks for the kind words. By the way, we still have your Changes from the East Coast and the waterway and will finally be getting it in print in the February issue.

NO LONGER ON THE BAY

In 1992, our daughter Nancy Wilson Cotterman and son David Wilson sent a letter to you regarding our 30 year ownership of Triton #374 Answer. In the letter they expressed the pleasure, love, and learning they'd received from this family enterprise - and thanked us, Dick and Meg Wilson, the parents and original owners.

Well! Since then David has gone to the Mediterranean crewing aboard the San Francisco-based Athene; Nancy and Steve have moved to Burlington, New Jersey - and so has Answer! So after 35 years her pretty blue-green hull will no longer be seen on the water of the Bay or Delta.

Answer was trailered - stern first! - with another boat bound for Annapolis to Dredge Harbor (guess how that name came about) near Burlington on the freshwater Delaware River. The plan was she'd then go on a mooring - her first except for limited times at Hospital Cove - oops, Ayala Cove.

When Answer got to her new harbor, Steve was off on business, so it fell to Nancy to re-rig the Triton and get her back in the water. Svendsens Yard in Alameda had put all the bits and pieces in a big box! Fortunately, two gallant men of the sea came along to help. When it was all done, only one halyard was out of its normal place. Hooray, for Nancy and crew!

Dick and I are no longer boating, but we still read and enjoy Latitude 38. And now our kids are at latitude 39!

Dick and Meg Wilson
Triton #374
Answer
Northern California

THE RISK OF RABIES

First, can you provide an assessment of the risk of contracting rabies in Mexico? We're planning a July '98 departure from Puget Sound for points south, and we've started the process of acquiring the recommended inoculations for ourselves and our two sons.

Whether or not to go ahead with the rabies inoculations presents a dilemma. On one hand, the series of shots for the four of us will cost somewhere around $800. On the other hand, the disease is apparently not treatable after exposure and, of course, is often fatal. My tendency is to skip the shots and make sure the cruising kitty is the only one we pet, but perhaps that's the wrong tack. Any advice?

Secondly, we plan to lay over a month or so on the Bay and wonder if you could recommend some anchorages for the times we want to be away from marinas. Your recent articles concerning Bay and Delta destinations and restaurants have been terrific, but we don't recall mention of public anchorages that can be legally inhabited for a week or so at a time. Do such sites exist anymore in the modern world? Anchorages close to transportation to and from The City would be great, but not a primary requirement.

Matt Herinckx
Lucky Dragon, Bowman 49
Olympia, WA

Matt - Based on our 30 or so sailing trips to Mexico in the last 20 years, it's our opinion that rabies shots aren't necessary. Having said that, we realize that the health of dogs in Mexico - particularly in places such as La Paz - is far worse than in the United States, so we're careful to steer clear of them.

By the way, just because you're bitten by a rabid dog doesn't mean you're going to die. The old method of treating people who had been bitten by rabid animals consisted of a 14 to 30 day course of daily injections to be followed up by booster shots. It was almost always successful. And now there's a safer and more effective vaccine that requires even less injections.

Most visiting cruising boats visiting the Bay Area anchor off the Sausalito waterfront: it's usually relatively calm, it's scenic, it's close to marine stores and services, and it's easy to get to The City. If you check in with the Harbormaster, you're usually good for three months at no charge. There are other good places to anchor, such as the backside of Angel Island, on the lee of the Tiburon Peninsula, up at China Camp, and over at Treasure Island's Clipper Cove. However, facilities, services, and transportation are poor or non-existent.

Make sure you don't forget the Delta, which is a unique place to take a boat. It's very warm in the summer and there are plenty of places to kick back and either relax or work on boat projects.

DRY OUT YOUR MUKLUKS

John Singer of the Seattle-based Sea Runner wrote some nasty things in response to a letter by professional captain Lu Dale. At one point he wondered whether it was right for Dale to claim the time she spent sleeping as 'sea miles'. What does sleeping have to do with mileage? I don't know of any sailors who - even when they make relatively easy runs between California, Hawaii, and Mexico - don't sleep occasionally. A little sleep does improve one's wits and awareness, so why does Singer criticize Dale for getting some?

Singer obviously has no idea of who he's attempting to put down. Ms. Dale, who has been a close personal friend of mine for over 30 years, has been a licensed delivery skipper for well over 20 years, is the possessor of more than one international racing trophy, and does have over 470,000 long-distance miles. And this doesn't even include coastal hops the world over. She has sailed in every ocean on the planet. How many times have you, Mr. Singer, been through the Panama Canal?

Perhaps your literary exposure stops with Latitude, and you read each and every issue. But obviously you're lacking in awareness of journalistic style - a style of summarily educating a new audience with each issue. This is why Dale gave a brief synopsis of her credibility before expounding upon the topic of safety. I might add that Dale is not lacking for work.

I don't quite understand where you're coming from, Mr. Singer, but it seems to me that you totally missed the point of Dale's letter. So get your rubber ducky out of Lake Union, dry out your mukluks, and get a map of the world - it's not flat.

Bonnie MacGregor
ex-
Patriot
Puget Sound

Bonnie - Since we're getting way off course, let's settle on a few facts: 1) Lu Dale is not only a respected licensed captain, but she has an unimaginable number of ocean miles to her credit; 2) That Dale sleeps shouldn't be held against her, because it's important to know how to wake up to a crisis and respond intelligently; 3) Dale is further entitled to be heard on the matter of safety at sea because, like Judith Sleavin, she lost a loved one from a boat while on the ocean.

Having settled that, perhaps someone can cure our California ignorance about 'mukluks'. What exactly are they, and is it safe to live in a region where people wear clothes with names like that?

SHODDY SEA-LAWYERING

Some of the recent correspondence on COLREGS and small boat/big boat crossing situations indicates a surplus of shoddy sea-lawyering - and a dearth of common sense.

COLREGS Rule 9 states, "A vessel of less than 20 meters in length or a sailing vessel shall not impede the passage of a vessel which can safely navigate only within a narrow channel or fairway."

Rule 10 regarding Traffic Separation Schemes states, "A vessel of less than 20 meters in length or a sailing vessel shall not impede the safe passage of a power-driven vessel following a traffic lane."

Rule 10 is very important in Southern California because most merchant ships that a recreational sailboat will encounter "out on the ocean" are actually in a traffic separation scheme. The traffic separation scheme starts up at Point Conception and extends down below Dana Point. The large six-by-nine mile trapezoidal area off the San Pedro and Long Beach breakwaters called the Precautionary Zone is part of the Traffic Separation Scheme. Most large vessels encountered in Southern California will be in this traffic scheme.

The approaches to most port complexes such as Seattle and San Francisco are also covered by traffic separation schemes. Much of the other commercial traffic such as tugs towing barges will have right-of-way rights due to restricted-ability-to-maneuver or constrained-by-draft rules.

Rule 7 lists four and Rule 8 lists five practical principles of applied good sense to be applied to potential close quarter situations.

The idea that COLREGS needs to be 'overhauled' because small boat sailors cannot read COLREGS and apply the rules in a practical context is totally inane.

The right-of-way violation I encounter the most is a recreational fishing boat with trolling lines out crossing my bow and forcing me to gybe or tack. Some willfully change course to force me to maneuver. These hapless individuals confuse "trolling" with "trawling" and as a practical matter probably don't even know that written rules exist. But hey, for one moment out there they were "in charge".

There is only one real response to this type of boorish behavior: sailors should set an example to the overall marine community by following Rule 8(a), "Any action to avoid collision shall, if the circumstances of the case admit, be positive, made in ample time and with due regard to the observance of good seamanship."

Paul A. Myers
Rancho Cucamonga

Paul - Amen.

NOT IN MY BEST FORM

Thanks for the great interview of me by Shimon van Collie in the October issue. I was not in my best form at that time, however, as it turned out that I had typhoid! The doctor in Puerto Vallarta discovered it during a routine checkup. After a course of antibiotics, I'm back to normal and sorting out lots of loose ends from my travels.

I plan to hang around Puerto Vallarta for the next year and a half and write 'the book' before I head out again to parts unknown.

Pat Henry
Southern Cross
Santa Cruz

BY THE WAY, THERE IS NO DMA

I've some comments regarding Joe Lewis' November letter about nearly running into Rocas de la Soledad - a hazard which didn't appear on his U.S. chart. To start with, there is no such thing as the DMA or Defense Mapping Agency. These U.S. charts are now published by NIMA or National Imagery and Mapping Agency. The name has been changed to protect the innocent.

The latest NIMA chart #21140, scale 1:300,000, was reprinted in March of '94. It also omits Punta Santo Tomas. This could be a deliberate degrading of the chart by the military in the same way they degrade GPS accuracy.

But if Lewis had read NIMA publication #153, 1997 edition, page 11, he would have known about Rocas de la Soledad. The volume devotes four lines to Rocas de la Soledad, which it notes is 1.3 miles west of Punto Santo Tomas, and up to 6m (meters? yes, 19.7 feet) high.

Then there's the old reliable British Admiralty chart #3056, scale 1:363,750, August 1984 edition, printed August 1997, which shows plainly the island El Isolate, 1.3 miles west of Punto Santo Tomas, height 20 feet above high water. The charted position is 0.9 miles 057¡ True from Joe's precise GPS reading. This is not bad for a chart not yet adjusted to WGS 84 datum.

The British Admiralty Publication 8, Pacific Coast Pilot, 1995

edition, page 230 devotes 15 lines to description of El Isolate, 1 1/4 miles west of Punta Santo Tomas, and its surrounding dangers.

The British Admiralty wins again!

Leonard Shrock
Captain's Nautical Supplies
Seattle

THE DANGER IS THE BIG KELP BEDS

Lewis is most likely referring to Rocas Soledad as shown on British Admiralty Chart #3056 and Charts Nautica F.H. #600. These groups of rocks are steep-to, 20 feet high, whitened by birdlime, and surrounded by kelp.

These rocks lie about 1 1/4 miles westward of Punta Santo Tomas. The channel between Punta San Tomas and these rocks is deep and clear. The danger here lies with the big kelp beds in the area.

I've stopped several times at Punta Santo Tomas for the night and found it to be a good anchorage sheltered from the prevailing winds. There are no services, however.

Even if Rocas Soledad are missing from DMA #21140, prudent skippers lay a course well clear of the coast anyway. Latitude's advice to use all means available - and then allow for error - is excellent.

P.S. Thanks for the years of fun and enjoyment.

Jim Samuels
Santa Cruz

YOU CAN'T DO BETTER THAN THAT

We ran the ad in Latitude. . .
and on the first day . . .
numerous calls began to come our way.

The results were outstanding . . .
we think you'll agree - our boat was sold . . .
on the first 'come-look-and-see'.

Our hearts are broken, but we know tried & true. . .
True Colors (Catalina 34 - #987) a National Champ,
Will have a great home with Dawn & Eric too ...

Seriously folks, we can't say enough good things about Latitude - especially your ad service. The first day our ad came out the phone rang numerous times. The first couple that came to see our boat called back the next day and said they wanted her. You can't do any better than that!

We'll continue to read Latitude, of course, and who knows, maybe get another boat. But sometimes you just need a break from it all. To Dawn and Eric Maxon, the couple who purchased True Colors, we wish the very best in sailing. You've bought a great boat and we know she'll give you a lot of good times. May your sails always be full and the wind at your back!

Ellen and David Boring
Boatless . . . for now
Mill Valley

Ellen & David - We just can't believe the lengths to which people will go to sneak poetry into Latitude! But we appreciate your kind remarks.

A GOOD SOURCE FOR REVIEWS OF OLDER BOATS

We want to know if you or anyone else can recommend a source for reviews on older world cruising / liveaboard boats. We prefer something in the 38 to 46 foot size range. Hopefully the source would be good for comparisons and show the pros and cons of each specific boat.

John and Susan Pazera
Planet Earth

John and Susan - The unfortunate truth is that there is no such source - and there never will be. The first problem is that about a billion "world cruising / liveaboard" designs between 38 and 46 feet have been built over the years. Not more than one in 100 has ever been reviewed anywhere, and almost zero in any detail.

Second, in our opinion most boat reviews are rubbish - which is why we don't publish any. The problem is that it takes the better part of a season to even begin to know how a boat sails. So what kind of intelligent opinion can a reviewer form after a couple of hours of sailing a boat in one specific wind and sea condition? If the reviewer went out in eight knots of wind and flat seas, what's he going to be able to say about how the boat will handle in 30 knots of wind and big seas?

For what it's worth, we think the best boat reviews are produced by England's Yachting World magazine. Unfortunately, they rarely do used boats and even more rarely do boats that are available in the United States. Yachting World's reviews provide a lot of worthwhile factual information, but rarely offer any serious criticism or anything but vague generalizations on how the boats actually sail.

So how do you track down the used boat of your dreams? In our opinion, the first step is to figure out what general type of boat appeals to you. Are you looking for an Island Packet traditional style cruising boat, an Islander / Ericson 'racer/cruiser', a performance cruiser such as a J/40, a Columbia 45 type motorsailor, or a multihull?

Once you've narrowed down your boat 'philosophy', find out which designs have been the most popular in the size range that meets your criteria. Then identify the three of these whose appearance excites you. When you're down to three designs, hit the docks in search of owners of these boats. Grill them. Weigh the owners comments based on how much sailing - particularly ocean sailing - they've done with their boats. Having identified the boat you're looking for, find one and buy her. After sailing the boat frequently for a couple of years, you'll finally be able to get an idea of what kind of boat she really is.

If you're in a hurry, just find a Cal 40 in decent condition.

ALL MY TRIVIA

I've searched all my trivia books but still can't find the name of the first naval vessel named after a woman. Help!

Bodag
Planet Earth

Bodag - The first vessel named after a woman was Eve. Adam built her while Eve was taking a fruit break with the Serpent.

HOW TO PICK A CAPTAIN

Kudos on the Baja Ha-Ha. Great weather, wonderful people, and some good sailing. But we want to share our experience in hopes of saving unsuspecting sailors the misfortune of repeating our mistake. It all revolves around how to pick a captain.

Our story began when a boat broker suggested we contact a fellow he'd just sold a boat to. After chatting with the new owner, he agreed to let my wife and I come along as crew. The other two members of the crew were to be the captain's business associate, a wonderful gentlemen with limited sailing skills, and a San Diego woman with a great deal of sailing experience.

Our first indication that there might be a problem happened during our first jibe, which occurred after dark. Only the captain had ever sailed the vessel, so none of us were familiar with the boat's rigging or other characteristics. In any event, the skipper totally lost his cool, made some amateurish mistakes, and proceeded to scream obscenities at the crew. We were all shocked and hoped it might have had something to do with initial jitters. Boy, were we wrong!

By Turtle Bay, the crew had united against this 'Mr. Bligh'. In the 48 hours of sailing, he'd consumed more than his share of alcohol but had grabbed less than five minutes of sleep. His final order - with Turtle Bay in sight at dusk - was a hard turn to starboard(!), a course change that cost us 10 additional miles and meant we didn't get to anchor until well after dark.

Our most experienced crewmember said that the captain was the most reckless, dangerous, and egotistical person she had ever sailed with. We were all relieved when we passed a feasting Tiger shark and, as one, realized the skipper was belowdecks - safe from our mutual desire to see how good a swimmer he was. Without belaboring the point, this guy was an above average sailor with sub par - even dangerous - skills as a captain.

There is no sure way to know what waters you tread in when you embark on a voyage with a stranger as skipper. But our advice is to try to complete a short shakedown cruise with the captain and crew well in advance of your departure. That way if problems arise, you have time to gracefully bow out and leave the skipper with time to find replacement crew.

On that note: Baja Ha-Ha '98 - anybody looking for crew?
G. and Y.
Northwest

G. & Y. - Since there are invariably two sides to every story, we've decided to leave out the names. Nonetheless, we have three comments:

1) While some captains are indeed bonkers, there are many different styles and ways of having fun while sailing. As a result, it's indeed wise to sail with the captain and crew before embarking on any long voyage to make sure everyone is compatible.

2) It takes a long time to learn to become a good sailor, but an even longer time to learn to be a good captain.

3) While a captain should certainly familiarize the crew with the boat long before the first jibe, a good crew doesn't wait to look around and see how a boat is rigged.

FIRST THERE WERE 'HEAD CHARTERS', NOW THIS

I thought I'd send you this photograph from our recent bare-boat vacation through the British Virgin Islands. As you can see, we managed to out-maneuver Tropical Storm Gayle - and still had a magical time.

I couldn't resist sending you the photo - but had to withhold the crewmembers' names. After all, employers tend to frown on this kind of activity.

Back At Work
Aptos

B.A.W. - We at Latitude don't frown on such mischievous behavior, so the three of you should feel free to drop by any time for an interview.

Having done Antigua Sailing Week six times - usually with a dozen or so topless women aboard - the Wanderer can report that the genders usually confuse the benefits of women going topless. Indeed, it's usually in the women's best interest - not the men's - for women to go topless.

How's that? When a bunch of women go topless, the first 15 minutes are really exciting for the guys. After that, "Look at that one!" usually means another lovely boat has come into view. After half an hour, most guys don't even notice who is topless and who isn't. Once the guys are past that point, the women get an accurate reading on that often bedeviling question: Does he love me or just my boobs?

THE AMISH PRACTICE OF SILENCING

What a bummer it is to read of the situation - one cruiser apparently stealing anchors from other boats - disrupting the cruiser sanctuary of Puerto Escondido, Baja. Having lived with the majority of Puerto Escondido cruisers for more than a year, we consider most of them to be part of our extended family. It's disturbing to even ponder the possibility of their being victimized by one of their own.

In such a tight-knit community - where the overwhelming majority of its members are good, honest and helpful folks - there is simply no place for thieves. We don't know all the facts but, as a topic of conversation, many issues are raised.

It's a tough call trying to figure out just what to do with an unscrupulous cruiser - or even one that is merely disruptive. When we were in Escondido, we observed the Amish practice of 'silencing' to be an effective deterrent. This is not to say that the community would actually organize their efforts to actively alienate one of its members, but individuals who made up the group would often independently decide to ignore and avoid the character in question. By our recollection, even this was extremely rare - and hardly ever necessary.

Unfortunately, Latitude 38 hit the nail right on the head. Good people, who are kind and considerate, don't engage in frontier justice - and the maggots of society know that. So what's the solution? Using the cruiser nets to identify troublemakers is one way, but then there would be the risk of false accusation or worse - a platform for some to grind their own axes.

Maybe the only positive aspect of this situation is to remember that such problems are a very rare occurrence. Indeed, it's a small dark cloud which nobody should allow to hang over their paradise.

Amy and Kevin
Free Fall
Ocean Beach

WHAT WOULD YOU EXPECT FROM PARADISE?

If anyone is still looking for an explanation of where all the water goes, there is a pretty good explanation of tides in Dutton's Navigation and Piloting (Chapter 9 of the Fourteenth Edition).

As for why it is always high tide at noon in Tahiti, what else would you expect from paradise?

Nameless
Cyberspace

NEITHER A HACKNEYED CONCEPT

Please advise the Sightings editor that the term 'tallship' isn't a "hackneyed" concept or unheard of to the "iron men of old" - as he suggested in November's ". . . three days of the condor". Read poet John Masefield: ". . . and all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by."

I'm sorry that a humble lake sailor from Kansas such as myself had to point this out to you.

Mark Loyacano
Rose Hill, Kansas

Mark - Sightings editor John Riise is delighted that this subject has come up again. Here's what he has to say about it:

"Just about every wooden boat guy I've talked to abhors the term 'tallship'. This includes Ottmar Friz, the 100-year-old sailor I did a Sightings piece on awhile back. He said the term 'tallship' was never used in the old days. If anything, such vessels were known as 'windjammers'. Diehard wooden boat guys I've talked to wouldn't be caught dead using 'tallship'.

"As for Masefield's, 'just give me a tall ship' reference, I don't want to nitpick, but 'tall ship' in the poem is different from 'tallship' as it's used today in the same way that 'white house' is different from 'the White House'."

NOTHING TO WORRY ABOUT IN RENEWING

The letter in the November Latitude about the difficulty in getting insurance for the Caribbean reminded me of my recent ordeal in trying to get our boat policy renewed.

We'd been insured for the past several years by Blue Water Insurance, a company sponsored by Seven Seas Cruising Association. In October 1996, while moored at Staten Island, New York, we were hit by an unseasonable and unpredicted nor'easter packing hurricane force winds. The newspapers said it was the worst storm in over 20 years, and several boats were lost. Although still attached to her mooring, our boat was dragged across the harbor to crash repeatedly against the docks of a newly built marina. Luckily our boat sustained only cosmetic damage to the hull, pulpits, davits, solar panels, cap rail and so forth. The insurance company, LaReunion Franôaise, based out of London, was fair and covered almost all damage. We were satisfied with the results and were generally pleased with the insurance company.

Our cruising plans were to winter in the Caribbean so, while in Virginia readying our boat for the upcoming passage, I called Blue Water Insurance about six weeks before our insurance expired to renew. We were assured that there would be nothing to worry about in getting our policy renewed and that we wouldn't have to pay anything more because of our claim. Several weeks later, however, we learned that LaReunion Franôaise refused to renew our policy - because of the claim! Blue Water could not even get Lloyds of London to accept us. So, with less than two weeks before our policy was to lapse, we had no coverage lined up.

For almost two weeks I frantically called as many marine insurance agents as were recommended to me. Every one of them turned me down cold. The reasons for refusal were beginning to take on a bizarre twist. They were:

1. We had a recent claim.
2. They wouldn't cover the Caribbean.
3. Our boat, built in '79, was too old.
4. We were liveaboards, thus apparently increasing our risk of getting into trouble.
5. They didn't like the surveyor who had currently surveyed our boat.
6. One company would only cover us in the Caribbean if they could first insure us for one year in the States, giving us a track record with them.
7. One agent said he thought that Lloyds would accept us, but at a premium price of almost $5,000. In the long run he didn't even call back to confirm this.
8. My favorite was - that we didn't have enough previous experience. We had only sailed trailerable boats before we bought our present boat, and we had never chartered. Our seven years owning our Perry 47-foot ketch, sailing her from San Francisco, down the west coast, through the Panama Canal, to Florida, up the East Coast to New York and through New England - over 10,000 miles - didn't count! This one fried me!

Several agents felt that having recently had a claim turned off many companies, and that they were really tightening their belts. On the other hand, other agents had never heard of being turned down because of a claim. One long time agent said he'd worked closely with LaReunion Franôaise and had never heard of them doing such a thing.

At this point I was becoming exasperated, as I personally don't feel that I can justify cruising without insurance. There's enough stress to the cruising life without worrying about losing everything we own without the possibility of at least partially recovering our loss. I was beginning to think that we might have to rethink our cruising plans.

Finally, one agent stood out among all the others in his expertise and knowledge of marine insurance. That was Al Golden, president of International Marine Insurance Services (IMIS) out of Chester, Maryland. He seemed to be able to perform miracles. For not only was he able to find a company that would insure our boat, he found four! The first company that accepted us - none other than LaReunion Franôaise! I was dumbfounded. General Star also accepted us, but required that we have a third crew onboard for all overnights. (In my opinion, this is ridiculous except for long passages.) Reliance would have accepted us if we were willing to have our boat surveyed again as they'd had some bad experiences with our current surveyor. All the companies were willing to insure us for the Caribbean at reasonable rates.

Mr. Golden also felt that once we left the borders of the United States for our eventual passage to Europe, that he would then be able to switch us to Pantaenius, an excellent and reasonable German-based company that refuses to insure any boats - American or foreign - cruising in American waters. They exclude America because we're too sue-happy. I wonder where they got that idea?

What I learned from my recent and exhaustive ordeal is that it really seems to be the agents themselves who can make or break you in the insurance game, and getting a good one is worth his weight in gold.

P.S. Now we're getting Latitude sent to us wherever we go. We've been missing it greatly over the years and have finally got smart and got a subscription. It's great being back with old friends.

Phyllis Neumann
Adventure, Perry 47
Presently in Great Bridge, Virginia

Phyllis - It's our understanding that the 'pitch' an insurance agent makes to an underwriter on your behalf can, as you've found out, make all the difference in the world. This is particularly true when it comes to special kinds of insurance such as for long cruises.

ADVICE TO FUTURE CRUISERS

Last summer in Mexico a group of cruising women got together and decided there was a need for a Ham net geared towards the needs of cruising women. After much deliberation, we decided to call ourselves the Women's Maritime Net. The purpose of the net is to encourage friendship and communication among cruising women. We meet Monday through Friday on 3.968 LSB at 2300 Zulu.

The net controllers have a different topic each day. One of the recent topics was 'Advice To New Cruisers' - which might be worth sharing with your readers. The consensus of opinions were these:

1) You've come to mañanaland to relax, so slow down.

2) Don't overprovision in the States. Most of what you're used to eating is available here in Mexico.

3) You'll get to know your mate better than ever while cruising - and probably more than you ever thought you would.

4) Always anchor anticipating bad weather, as cruising in Mexico is not as benign as some people think. In the summer months chubascos come out of nowhere to blow at as much as 50 knots - along with rain, lightning, and thunder. During the winter months, dreaded Northerlies blow frequently, usually for several days and sometimes with winds as high as 50 knots.

5) Get the license necessary to operate your Ham radio.

6) Unplug from shorepower for at least a month before you leave your dock, this way you'll get an idea of how much electricity you really need. Live like you're at anchor and test your systems.

7) Get to know your boat.

8) You'll use your cockpit more than any other part of your boat - so make sure it's comfortable.

9) Don't hesitate to ask questions of those who've been down here awhile. They know where to find things, what corrections need to be made to the charts, and all sorts of other goodies. Besides, we want to welcome everyone in the Class of '97 - '98 to Mexico - and the Women's Maritime Net.

Karin and Carl Amato
Reliance, Cal 3-46
Mexico

Karin - Sounds great to us! Could something similar be held on SSB so all the women who haven't had the time or interest to learn their dots and dashes could still participate?

COMPLICATED EVENTS ARE INHERENTLY DANGEROUS

I was down in New Orleans the morning of November 16 for the unfortunate launching of the CG Cutter Healy - as reported in last month's Latitude. The speeches went well at Avondale, but then things kinda 'went South', as we say in the Coast Guard, for the polar icebreaker that is now the largest vessel in the Coast Guard fleet. Mind you, the following are unofficial observations I made, and further investigation and an analysis of video tapes will reveal more.

I sensed a problem as soon as I arrived, for the audience of 1,000 was seated surprisingly close to the ship - which was hanging up in the air on its launch ramps. At 420 feet and built like the ultimate brick shit-house, the Healy is massive and heavy. Once she was set in motion for launch, there would be no controlling her.

The launch mechanism is complicated but, in essence, a huge steel bar running the length of the ship triggers the release of the things that hold the eight cradles on sloping ramps to prevent the ship from sliding into the water. The steel bar fired as expected, but the massive ship just sat there. The damned thing was so heavy that apparently the friction between the slides and the ship was more than gravity alone could overcome. So there the massive ship stood - to the great discomfort of all who of us who knew how the launch was supposed to go.

The backup system was eight guys with eight hand-operated hydraulic rams - not much different from car jacks - who understandably cranked away like men with fire ants in their britches. They cranked and they cranked, but for quite a long time still nothing happened. Then suddenly the ship began to move. Once the friction was broken, she moved fast - damned fast.

The crowd expected an impressive splash, but not that most of it would land on them. And the back-splash was totally unexpected. It wasn't a wave, but a hard spray as though from a firehose - and it got all of us. I was about at the middle of the ship, and got a full-frontal of water and sand that knocked me back. An eight-year old kid near me was thrown at least 10 feet back.

Though I was soaked and covered with sand, it was far worse for the folks sitting nearest the stern of the ship. They were hit with Mississippi River mud. Yeck!

What happened, apparently, is that the bow started down the ramp first, allowing the stern to lag. This meant the far aft cradle was subjected to enormous pressure. According to one guy I talked to who was back there, it basically exploded under the pressure. When it did, it took out the launch ramp - and pieces of wood and concrete blew back into the crowd.

By my own count, five people were leveled by the shrapnel. I don't know how badly they were hurt, but by the time we on the other end knew something was wrong, the security people had cordoned off the area. One lady we fear had a broken hip, one man a broken leg, a good friend of mine - Academy classmate Al Boetig - had been hit in the head with what was probably a chunk of concrete and was bleeding badly. A lot of other people were sitting around looking stunned, and I saw at least one lady in a van later holding her head, so perhaps some of them were hurt, too. The resulting scene was pretty chaotic, with ambulance crews and everything else. There was nothing much we could do but get out of the way.

The launch of a ship is an exciting event. I've been to several at Marinette, Wisconsin, where Coast Guard buoy tenders have been launched without incident. Once a ship goes down the ramp and explodes into the water, everyone gets excited and talks about how neat it was. Naturally there was none of that today. Even before we knew people were badly injured, everyone was too stunned to talk. The launch of the Healy was very impressive in its own way, but everyone left wet, dirty, and somber. It was sad that it turned out that way, but I'm just happy it wasn't worse. People could have been killed in the mishap.

This will serve as a reminder that these complicated events - which professionals normally make look simple, safe, and uneventful - are inherently dangerous and full of unpredictable surprises.

Fred
Cyberspace

ONLY TAKE LOBSTER WHEN DRIVEN BY HUNGER

I won't call you environmentally irresponsible, which you are, just culturally lame for running Allen Barry's piece on lobsters in the November issue. Here's my gripe:

Barry suggests that lobster is "catchable" in Mexico, which it is - but only to the people of Mexico. If you desire fresh lobster south of the border, you can buy or barter for it. I'm surprised you didn't amend the article stating so - although I did catch the little snippet in Changes regarding Mexican lobster law.

Second, the equipment list. To wit: "Get booties with good walking soles, as you'll be walking on the reefs sometimes." Great! Just what we need: a gaggle of cruisers tromping over Indo-Pacific coral in search of crustaceans. I thought that with the proliferation of eco-conscious information permeating our society that at least you would remember that coral polyps are too fragile to withstand being walked on by humans.

But that's not nearly as bad as Barry's suggested weapon(s) of destruction: a speargun or Hawaiian sling. Ouch! This invitation to slaughter is really in poor form. For if one spears a gravid female lobster, he has just reduced the potential lobster population in local and distant waters by some factor - greater or smaller depending on planktonic survival - which can last for many months in the water column.

Two more quick thoughts: 1) Barry states, "On isolated South Pacific reefs like the Minerva, Sumarez and Chesterfield that are not frequented by cruisers, lobsters are well-established." Hmmm. 2) The big bug that Kate is holding in the photo on page 121 is about 15 years old. It was most likely plying the ocean bottom before Allen and Kate even dreamed of cruising.

As a cruising sailor and a biologist, may I suggest that you only take lobster when necessary - that is, driven by hunger rather than decadence, and that you at least attempt to do so with selective precision. Barry's article should only apply to island-locked desperados who haven't eaten for weeks.

P.A. Dunn
Avila Beach

P.A. - We're not as alert to diving related issues as we should be because we have a hole in our ear drum and can't dive. But you're right, it's completely irresponsible to use a spear gun or Hawaiian sling to kill lobster because there is no way of telling if you'll be killing a female with thousands of eggs.

But before you get too 'holier than thou' on us, remember that it's every bit as illegal to buy or barter for lobster in Mexico - which is what you specifically suggest doing. What's your excuse?

We'll close with a sincere question: What's the difference - ethically and otherwise - between killing a 15 year old wahoo and killing a 15 year old lobster?

OUTSTANDING ASSISTANCE

Have you ever made landfall after dark, after 36 hours at sea in mostly Force 8 conditions, with the harbor lights obscured by the city lights - and wished that someone would respond to your radio call and render assistance. How about someone to meet you with a panga, in driving rain, at the harbor entrance? Then lead you to your slip and take your docklines?

Well, this dream came true for Newport Beach-based Tally Ho and her crew of five on November 12 at the end of our Cabo San Lucas to Mazatlan crossing following our participation in the Baja Ha-Ha. After being shuffled from anchorage to anchorage and slip to slip during our five days in Cabo, Dick Markie, Dockmaster at Marina Mazatlan, proved to be what we all hope for - the guy in foulies meeting us in the panga after an hour of radio contact 'talking us in'. Markie followed up by giving us outstanding assistance during our brief stay at his marina.

Markie's reputation for understanding service is real, and as a result, his marina is overflowing with happy tenants and transients alike. His colleague Juan makes checking in and out a no hassle deal, and is happy to also help with the 20 Year 'Temporary' Importation Documents should you want them.

Hats off and a heartfelt thanks to one of the 'good guys'.

Carl Mischka
Tally Ho
Enroute To the Caribbean

Carl - Having been 'talked into' Marina Mazatlan by Markie about a month after you, having had Markie take our docklines, and having watched him at work, we admit we've never seen as active a harbormaster as he. Big problem, small problem, advice, directions - he was totally involved.

At the same time, we must come to the defense of Enrique, Tim, Randy, and Mickey and all the others at Cabo Isle Marina. We don't think most people realize what a great job they did given the constraints, caused by a lack of slips, local government indecision and frustrated cruisers simply pulling into any unoccupied slip.

Things are simply different in Mexico - as Dick Markie will be the first to tell you. "Look at this group of empty berths," Markie told us. "They were all bought by a Mexican fellow who wants them kept empty. It's the same thing down at Ixtapa, where there are 120 unoccupied berths that the owners don't want rented out. Some cruisers get mad because they think they should be able to rent any empty berth - but there's just a whole different culture down here that cruisers have to learn to accept."

ADJUSTING FOR THE TIDES

How do I adjust the time for high and low tides for the Half Moon Bay - San Gregorio area based on the Golden Gate figures?

Where could I obtain this information and tide tables for 1998.
Name Missing
Half Moon Bay - San Gregorio Area

N.M. - High water at Princeton - Half Moon Bay is one hour and six minutes earlier and it's .3 feet lower. Low water at Princeton - Half Moon Bay is 50 minutes earlier than at the Gate but the water height is the same.

You can find this information in any of the Tide and Current Tables books that get handed around early each year. One from Marina Village Marina in Alameda just happened to land on our desk recently. We bet if you called Harbormaster Alan Weaver at (510) 521-0905, he'll tell you where you can get your own copy.

PESTO AND PLAYA POUNDING

During the past 12 years, we've trailered our boats to the upper Sea of Cortez. The first seven years were with our Cape Dory Typhoon Eurydice; the last five aboard our Flicka Sarafina.

We've explored the coastal waters north from San Carlos, crossed to Baja via the Midriffs from Kino Bay, and enjoyed many long weekends around Puerto Pešasco (Rocky Point), the port closest to Tucson. The harbor at Puerto Pešasco provides protection for the shrimp fleet, the Mexican Coast Guard, a few sightseeing charter boats, some pleasure craft, and a flotilla of pangas.

Puerto Pešasco is known for its dramatic 24 foot tides and gradually sloping sandy shoals. The bottom dries out for miles! We've spent more than a few sleepless nights pondering the obvious 'what if we find ourselves aground?' question. It's unintentional encounters with the sandy bottom that I wish to address here.

We finally did managed to stick Sarafina in the sand on an ebbing tide. At the time the water level was dropping at a rate of one foot every 10 minutes. All attempts to free her from the bottom having failed, we deployed our secret weapon. The Danforth was set 50 feet to starboard at a 90¡ angle while the CQR was set 50 feet to port at a 90¡ angle. Each rode led straight back to the corresponding genoa winch. We ground the winches until the lines were at approximately E flat, below low C, and the mast was vertical and steady. We'd created a sort of gigantic 'isometric slingshot'.

It was dark by the time all the water was gone beneath our boat. So I prepared shrimp and pesto for linguini - while my wife and I toasted everyone in sight. In time Sarafina floated free and we resumed our passage to the harbor basin and our intended anchorage.

The whole pachanga would have been unnecessary, however, had we not been run out of the channel and into the shallows by a shrimper. I always make a point of keeping well clear of workboats and their equipment as they're bigger and are trying to make a living. But the guy driving this shrimper had another agenda.

We had Sarafina's sail furled and were under power at two knots on the right hand side of the channel as we progressed toward the harbor basin. We were at the halfway point when an outbound shrimper entered the channel at flank speed. He could have passed portside with plenty of margin, but instead lowered his outriggers and steered toward us as if to make a clean sweep. Indeed, he did.

We must, however, also confess to one other bit of 'playa ploughing'. This was with the Cape Dory back in '88. While searching for a suitable anchorage out of the roadstead at the mouth of Pešasco's harbor, a miscue between the forward observer, armed with a lead line, and the helmsman resulted in a zig where a zag would have been the much better choice. This was when our above method for keeping our grounded boat upright was first employed. It's was pesto that night, too. Say, maybe it hasn't been us but the damn pesto!

So if those of you who at some time in the future find yourselves high and dry - and don't want to soak your cushions or hear your topsides making crunching sounds - make sure you have the anchors and line to keep your boat upright. And as the tide continues to ebb, repeatedly inspect the anchors to make sure that they're really dug in . . . and that your boat is built like a little brick. Then sit back and enjoy that pernicious pesto!

P.S. We both devour Latitude too.

Bill and Liz Ronstadt
Tucson

Bill & Liz - We've always loved the name Eurydice. She was the beautiful nymph who married Orpheus, the master musician. Shortly after their marriage, she was bitten in the foot by a snake and died. The grief-stricken Orpheus descended into the underworld to find her. Accompanying his song with the strains of his lyre, Orpheus begged Hades, god of the dead, to relinquish Eurydice. Orpheus' music so touched Hades that Orpheus was permitted to take his wife back with him - on the condition that he not turn around and look at her until they'd reached the upper air. They'd almost completed their ascent when Orpheus, overwhelmed by love, looked back to make sure Eurydice was following him. His promise broken, Eurydice vanished forever to the regions of the dead.

This fabulous story of too powerful a love was most movingly presented in the film Orpheo Negro, which is set during Carnival at Rio. Fabulous! Thus ends this month's cultural moment.

Back in the real world, cruising boats have occasionally been deliberately run down by Mexican shrimpers. It happened to an Oakland-based Peterson 44 about 20 years ago on the Pacific Coast and to a Tayana 55 in the Sea of Cortez about 10 years ago. If you've ever had such an experience, we'd like to hear from you so we can get an idea how common a problem it is.

PREVENTING HELMSMAN'S BUTT

I'm writing in regard to the Helmsman's Rear End piece in the October issue by Kent Benedict, MD. If I remember correctly, in about 1975 two guys from the Bay Area, perhaps Sausalito, sailed from the Farallons to quite close to Hawaii in an Avon Redcrest. They were demonstrating their survival kit that they wanted to market.

They were in the inflatable for perhaps 90 days, but had no saltwater sores and were able to get out of the raft and walk unassisted! The military doctors that examined them were impressed. Their secret was: 1) They took vitamin C to prevent the sores. 2) They ate dextrose, or some other type of sugar tablet, for energy.

Whatever type of sugar they used, the idea was that the body needs energy. However, it also needs quite a bit of water to process most foods. The type of sugar they used needed the least amount of water.

We were told honey was a good source of energy that wouldn't require lots of water. Just because we already had a bunch, we carried it on our boat instead. We kept the honey tightly sealed and didn't let the sun (UV) hit it. After 12 years we ate it to rotate our stock. It had turned dark. We assume that was caused by the years of tropical heat. It was still edible, but not as tasty as when we bought it.

The guys in the raft had a simple but useful navigation system that allowed them to find Hawaii, and a sail kit to get them there.

P.S. Do you ever publish e-mail letters? We've sent several with no luck.

Dave Heath and Janet Erken
Alegria, Ingrid 38
Seattle

 

Dave & Janet - The guy behind the inflatable adventure to Hawaii was George Sigler, who later founded an outfit called Survival & Safety in Oakland. Sigler went on to create the Singlehanded Farallones Race and light the fire under the concept of the Singlehanded TransPac.

Fresh out of the military, Sigler made the 'drift' to Hawaii with at least two others. The 'raft' was not an Avon Redcrest but several large inflatables lashed together. As luck would have it, there were big seas off Monterey and the rafts flipped causing the adventurers to lose their considerable supplies. The military, which was in on the 'experiment', wanted to pull the plug right then.

After 54 days, the military couldn't stand it any longer and picked Sigler and the others up about 100 miles from Hawaii. Sigler was extremely disappointed they hadn't been allowed to continue. We don't recall if they were free of saltwater sores or not, but we do know they put some time in at the hospital. It hadn't been an easy trip.

Thanks to the advent of EPIRBs - which no offshore mariner should be without - nobody should have to spend prolonged periods drifting around at sea again.

We publish e-mail letters all the time. It's important, however, that people include their full names and 'hailing port'.

LIKE MOTORCYCLES AND ACCIDENTS

We could write a bunch of letters about subjects raised in Latitude, but will only pick two.

We've seen a lot of teak decks during our three year cruise from California to Florida, and most leaked. It is kind of like motorcycles and accidents; it is not a matter of if, only when. There are plenty of problems to fix while cruising, so why buy a boat that has a potentially big one?

Sandy has a great solution for the problem of possibly being hit by a ship at sea. She always has the radar on at sea, and when a ship appears at 12 miles, she begins evasive action. She puts the vector on them and if they stay on the line she starts evasive maneuvers - such as a 90¡ turn. This may be an exaggeration on her part, but there is plenty of ocean, so why argue over a small part of it.

More advice for potential cruisers: make sure that your mate (Mate) really knows how to sail. That's why I sleep well off watch.

We recently did a 15,000-mile motorhome 'cruise' of the grandkids. I think that bragging about grandchildren is boring, but it's acceptable for great grandchildren - so you should see ours! We looked for a home in California and found that we couldn't afford one. We decided to emigrate to Florida - where we found a place with a dock and pool about 40 miles north of Tampa for $65k!

Utopia is on the hard with a case of blisters - that appeared in the last three months of the five years that we had her in the water. After a refit, we'll bring her to our dock and do the cosmetic work. Then we'll start cruising again with a home base at last. Since we are going to cruise for the rest of our active life, we decided that we should have a place to land whenever that is necessary. We will be here for a couple years while Sandy hunts a few heads - she's a recruiter for the electronics industry - to pay for it all. Then we'll be off again, probably 'down island' to Venezuela.

We miss California and our family and friends, but the cruising opportunities are great here. Three days to the Keys, four days to Cuba, and five days to Mexico or the Bahamas.

Please include our contacts (813) 868-7449 and srmooney@GTE.net. so that our many cruising friends - especially Jeff and Dawn Stone of Dawn - can contact us.

P.S. We've really been enjoying your great web page.
Jack and Sandy Mooney
Utopia
13702 Frances Ave, Hudson, FL 34667

CLASSIES ONLINE AND CLASSIES IN PRINT

I was just wondering if it would be possible to get the Classy Classifieds online about the same time that the latest issue hits the streets in the Bay Area. I live out in the hinterlands of Stockton, and by the time the new issue makes it to the West Marine out here, all the best buys are already snapped up by those who get their issues about five days ahead of us. I don't think that getting a subscription would even help.

Getting the Classies on time is important because I'm one of the true crazies who is building my own boat - and I need to save money any and every way that I can. And it would be a real help.

It would be real nice to have the Classies online before the paper version hits the streets, but that would be unfair, so a 'tie' seems like the most workable solution.

David Eberhard
Stockton

David - We feel your pain, but it's the print version that pays the bills so it's the print readers who are going to get first crack at the Classies. But hey, you must have a friend in the immediate Bay Area who'd be willing to fax you the Classies as soon as the print version hits the streets.

By the way, there's a lot more to a boat than it seems, isn't there?

DI-URINAL AND SEMI-DIURINIAL

I just read Stefan Svilich's December letter and was amazed that you so easily accepted the explanation that desalinators in Southern California were a major cause of tides. For these giant devices are backflushed to coincide with tidal action so as to conceal their existence and effect. In any event, they don't contribute more than a few inches to the tidal range.

In the years of sailing ships, a significant tidal effect resulted from sea water clinging to the hulls of barnacled bottoms. It was widely known, for example, that the tides ebbed when ships departed harbors and flooded when they entered. Savvy skippers of smaller ships used to time their arrivals and departures to get free rides on the 'tides' caused by bigger ships. With the declining number of large sailing ships, scientists were forced to look elsewhere to explain tides - and came upon the whale.

The real cause of modern tides are whales. These giant mammals swallow large amounts of seawater to strain the krill out of it, and when they do the level of the ocean falls. Because whales eat at different times in different areas, tides don't occur everywhere at the same time. By the way, you don't want to know what krill is, but if you ever have to eat any it goes better with wasabi.

Now comes the yucky part. After the whales have finished swallowing water and eating, they're full of water and have to urinate. Recent studies have confirmed that some species urinate once a day and some relieve themselves twice a day. The resulting outflows are the cause of seemingly contradictory 'di-urinal' and 'semi-diurinal' tides familiar to sailors on the different coasts.

The fact that high tide in Tahiti is always at noon can be explained by the fact that whales in French Polynesia like to eat their big meal in the morning. A couple of hours later they need to relieve themselves and voilĚ! it's high tide along the quai in Papeete! Ancient Polynesians were aware of the whale behavior and passed that knowledge along as the widely-respected taboo against drinking seawater. Seawater can be safely consumed - in small quantities - by tucking one's tongue into the cheek before drinking. However, even experienced practitioners only attempt this at low tide. The basic rule of thumb is this: 'If the first sip tastes salty, better have a beer instead.'

James D. Brown
Already There, F-27
Pleasanton

James - When the Godfather of Soul speaks, who are we to doubt?

THE OWNER TURNED OUT TO BE NORMAL

We saw the photo of our J/24 #8450 surfing madly in a MYCO Midwinter in the Ten Years After feature of the Calendar section. You wondered where the boat is now.

Originally known as Sgt. Shultz, we bought her in December of '94 and renamed her Fred. We've been racing her out of Brickyard Cove during the MYCO Midwinters and hanging out in Vallejo during the summer.

Even though we weren't on Sgt. Schultz the day the photo was taken, we remember the day well. We started the race sailing our Express 27 Presto, but decided we didn't have anything to prove in such conditions and went home early, wet and cold. We also remember the photo sequence running in Latitude and thinking the boat's skipper and crew must have been short a few brain cells. But the owner turned out to be normal and didn't think that they'd done anything special.

The boat was none the worse for the day, and still manages to keep up with the newer J/24s - when we can keep her pointed in the right direction.

We'd sure like to get a copy of the photo you ran. Any way to do it?

John Todd
Napa

John - Eight by ten inch black & white reprints of almost all shots taken by Latitude can be purchased for $25. Just identify the photo and send a check to Latitude 38, 15 Locust, Mill Valley, CA 94941.

PURCHASING AND FINANCING A USED BOAT

I'm hoping that you can help me with a research issue. In the not so distant future, I'm planning on buying a used 35 to 45 foot sailboat. I plan to liveaboard.

In your December issue, you list some Xmas books for the everyday sailor, but none of them would really answer my boatbuying questions. I'm looking for an up-to-date comprehensive publication(s) on purchasing and financing a used boat. Do you have any suggestions?

Eric
Northern California

Eric - We don't think there's enough to purchasing a used boat to fill a book. It's just not that difficult - or different - from buying a used car or home.

Normally you start by finding the boat you want. You can do this alone or by using the services of a broker. It's the seller rather than the buyer who pays the broker's 10% commission.

The next step is to make a formal written offer with 'earnest money' to be held in a trust account. Virtually all offers are made with several contingencies, such as the boat passing survey, your being able to get financing and insurance, and so forth.

Once you and the seller agree on a price, the boat is hauled for survey. The surveyor works for you alone to examine the boat for defects and to assign her a monetary value. Don't hire a surveyor until you're certain his/her work will be accepted by whoever will finance and insure your boat. They'll give you a list.

Frequently a survey turns up at least some deficiencies in gear and or other areas. If this is the case, you may want to renegotiate your original offer. If you and the seller can't reach a new agreement, you're still on the hook for the cost of the haul-out and the survey.

If you can reach an agreement, you take the sales agreement and survey to shop for financing. You could start at your corner bank, but they don't know diddly about boats or boat loans. As a result, it's almost always easiest - and cheapest - to deal with a company that specializes in boat financing. There are usually several that advertise in this magazine each month. You'll probably be pleasantly surprised at how low the rates are compared with car loans. We haven't checked lately, but last summer some outfits were offering up to 20 years at 8.25%.

All boat finance companies will require that the boat be insured. Again, there are a number of boat insurance brokers who advertise in this magazine each month. With a good survey, getting insurance shouldn't be a problem. Usually insurance runs less than 3% of the boat's value.

When all your contingencies are ticked off, you merely sign on all the dotted lines. Either the broker or the finance company will arrange all the paperwork, right down to the registration of the boat. If you have any questions about the process, simply call a broker or one of the boat finance companies. Most will be glad to take a few minutes to explain it to you.

In addition to living aboard being about the cheapest way to live in the Bay Area, it's also about the most fun and relaxing. When the kids graduate from high school in 3.5 years, we're back on board full time. Happy boat hunting!

WEATHER FORECASTS ON THE INTERNET

I need your advice. Is there any way I can get global weather forecasts and weather maps from the internet? Just like the forecasts we can get today with weatherfax and short wave radio.

Zoltan Zansky
Cyberspace

Zoltan - As far as we're concerned, the Internet does three things spectacularly well:

1) Makes an infinite amount of the world's raunchiest hard core porn immediately available - in graphic detail - to every child with Internet access.

2) Through e-mail makes worldwide communication easier - and more overwhelming - than ever.

3) Gives everyone with Internet access the chance to surf the world's weather in dazzling fashion. When we arrive at the office each morning, we first call up www.solar.ifahawaii.edu/Tropical/Gif/nwp.latest.gif, which brings up a map of the world with little squiggles on it. By clicking on a squiggly, the screen brings up the latest hurricane, typhoon, tropical storm, or what have you, complete with track, windspeed and tons of other information. After that, we click to another part of the University of Hawaii site and check the wind speed and directions in Mexico, the South Pacific, and the Caribbean. All this takes a total of about three minutes. What fun!

There are so many great weather sites on the Internet that we don't know where to begin, but the University of Hawaii, Ohio State University, and the Purdue Weather Processor are all great sites with lots of terrific links. Just make sure your modem hauls.

BROADCASTING THE WRONG EPIRB CODE

I had a problem with my EPIRB that may be of interest to your readers. It was broadcasting the wrong code number. Whoops! Can you say satellite in 'Mexican?'.

The cause? A paperwork problem from the factory. The solution is simple - make sure that the NOAA sticker number and the manufacturer's serial number are exactly the same. I would be happy to elaborate if the subject is of interest.

By the way, why don't you just scan the magazine as is onto the web using Adobe Acrobat format? Then charge your advertisers more for world-wide coverage. The IRS uses this technique with their publications and forms.

P.S. How can I get the telephone number for Marina de La Paz in Baja? I'd like to check in - every 20 years or so.

Lee Riley
Mako
Pier 39

Lee - We'd love it if you'd elaborate on your EPIRB story.

As for Acrobat, we're not fluent yet. Besides, our experience is that new technology usually promises more than it delivers. Also, we're too busy putting the magazine together.

The number for Marina de La Paz is 011-52-5-2112. But if you have a Temporary Import Permit for your boat, you never have to check in.

BASED ON 30,000 MILES

After losing contact with your excellent publication while we were up in Alaska, we decided to subscribe last spring. We're now slowly catching up on where our friends are and what's going on in the warmer climates such as Mexico and the South Pacific.

We are Peter, 63, and Antoinette, 56, Vogelsang from Brisbane, Australia, and we've been cruising for 12 years now. We started by sailing up and down the east coast of Australia aboard our 65-ft trimaran, then crossed the Pacific to Los Angeles aboard our Roberts 45 ketch. Most recently we've been sailing our Flying Cloud, a Force 50 designed by William Garden, between Mexico and Alaska. Prior to all this, Peter had some experience sailing in the North Sea, the Baltic, and the Med.

We've sailed about 30,000 miles now. We don't consider ourselves experts and probably never will - since there's always something new to learn, situations which haven't come up, or something we haven't dared to try. And there is still so much to see and so many nice people to meet - which is why we haven't covered more miles in 12 years. It's so easy to get sidetracked and stay in places for extended periods of time. Alaska, for example, where we just spent 18 months and where, after we warm up here in the Delta, we'll return for more.

Following the debates in Letters over various issues, we would like to comment on a few things we think we know something about. First, the trip from Seattle down to San Francisco.

We've made the trip in both directions and think it can be done with a reasonable amount of safety and comfort. An inexperienced sailor, however, should probably practice first by sailing around Vancouver Island once, starting on the east coast and heading north. The west coast of Vancouver Island gets all the weather, but it has plenty of safe havens. The rough weather will give the inexperienced sailor the opportunity to practice bad weather sailing in increments. All he or she has to do is head out into 25-30 knots of wind with cold rain and fog and see how they do. When they have enough for the day - maybe as little as an hour or two - they can run back for shelter. After a few times, they can try an overnighter. By the time they get to Barclay Sound, they'll be ready to handle the coasts of Washington and Oregon.

Before anyone starts, however, they should study Ocean Passages for the World published by the Hydrographer of the [British] Navy. This is the only competent publication on the subject. There is a similar book on the market published by a yachtsman, but we doubt that he ever did what he preaches in the book. Friends who have followed his advice have regretted it. In other words, do not go out 60 to 100 miles west of Cape Flattery. The waves are huge out there. We stay within three to five miles of the coast, depending on the weather and the wind direction, and sometimes even get 10 miles out. But the moment we see the barometer make any funny moves or hear less than an optimistic weather forecast, we run for shelter. Being so close to shore allows us to make port before the bars close. And then we stay in port until the first fisherman heads out again. We're right behind him.

By the way, we never make appointments to meet friends at specific times and places - until we're actually there. We also don't promise to call family and friends regularly on the phone to let them know how we're doing. Why? Because we've seen too many sailors take risks because they felt they had to meet somebody someplace at sometime or had to ring up Mom or whoever at a certain hour. We want to be free to do exactly what we want or feel we should do in any given situation. This is probably one reason why we haven't gotten into any trouble yet.

For the trip back up to the Pacific Northwest, some 'experts' say you have to sail via Hawaii. They, too, should read Ocean Passages and then figure out how many more miles they have to sail by going to Hawaii first. When we sail north, we utilize the same strategy we do heading south: we wait for the best weather, we stay close to shore, and we motor as fast as we can. The last time we did this, we only sailed 300 miles between San Blas, Mexico, and Port Townsend, Washington. We motored the rest of the way. But, we didn't have one bad day at sea!

In case somebody decides to go via Hawaii, don't do what we once did when we left Hawaii. We were so pleased that we could hold an easterly course early on that we totally forgot to check where it would take us. As we closed on the Pacific High, we twice were hit by gales, and then when we got into the High, there was no wind at all and we drifted for days in the company of the garbage of a thousand ships.

We'd also like to comment on outboards - and the controversy between two-strokes and four-strokes for tenders. To date we've owned two Evinrudes, one Mercury, and three Mariners. The only significant trouble we had was with the Evinrudes; they never wanted to start. We had to pull the starter cord so many times one arm is probably longer than the other! With our Mercury/Mariners we had no trouble at all; they just worked. The spare part question never came up because we never needed any.

At the moment we have a 25 hp Mariner, which is eight years old, and a 4 hp Mariner, which is two years old. Apart from a new set of spark plugs once a year and a grease job and oil change in the leg, there is nothing to be done. They just run and run and run.

The choice between a two-stroke and a four-stroke was easy for us to make. Whenever we thought about buying a four-stroke, we went to the dealer and had him set a two-stroke and a four-stroke of the same horsepower on the floor next to us. We'd then lift each of the engines for comparison. That ended the debate right there and we'd walk out with the two-stroke. We're not about to sit in wheelchairs with wrecked backs holding up signs reading "We saved the world".

Finally, there are the readers who seem to be upset about the accuracy of GPS and whether they'll take 10 minutes to work from a cold start in the year 2005. If we worried about trivial stuff like that we'd take up golf. The good news is that people stop having these silly worries once they actually get out and start cruising. But who knows, maybe we did the same when we were still armchair sailors.

We're currently spending the winter in a marina in the Mokelumne River. After a sail down to Ensenada for a haul-out and TLC for our boat, we'll head back to Alaska. Our goals this time are Prince William Sound, Kodiak, and the Aleutians. After that, we'll probably be ready again for a warm-up in Mexico or the South Pacific. Hopefully, we'll be around to tell you how it all goes.

Peter and Antoinette Vogelsang
Flying Cloud
Willow Berm Marina

TEAK OR FIBERGLASS

I don't want to argue the merits of teak versus other deck materials anymore than I'd like anyone to try to convince me of how much satisfaction they derive from polishing and waxing fiberglass or even manicuring their lawn. People have their preferences and I let it go at that.

I do, however, have some light to shed on the matter. When it comes to how a particular kind of deck material affects how hot a cabin gets, wood does not have a very high insulating or R factor - but it's much higher than fiberglass. I think the problem many boatowners have is probably due to lack of insulation, and here's why. I've lived aboard my Cheoy Lee Offshore 50, which has teak decks, for many years in Southern California, made several trips to Mexico, twice to Hawaii, and crossed the equator going and coming back from New Zealand. And I've never felt the need for a windscoop or air conditioning beyond small electric fans. I can't tell you, however, if the decks get too hot to walk on because for safety reasons I always wear shoes.

It seems to me, however, that the leaking problems the Neumanns have had with their Perry 47 might have been due more to the quality of workmanship and other materials than the actual teak decking itself. My Offshore 50, which was built 1969 and owned by me since 1972, has teak over fiberglass and has had only minimal leaking around the mast and one of the chainplates. The bedding material that was available back then was not very good, however, so apparently the screws kept the water from coming through the holes.

Since I never expected the boat or myself to last nearly this long, I was rather careless with the teak. I allowed it to weather and then would sand it smooth. Doing this repeatedly through the years reduced the thickness of the teak to the point where the screw heads became exposed. Since I would never consider replacing the teak decks with fiberglass, I explored the feasibility of replacing the teak. Unable to locate either the teak or the craftsmen of the necessary quality, I decided to restore it myself. The job came out beautifully, and I'm sure either the boat or I will surely founder before the decks wear down again.

I realize there are thousands of boatowners with the same problem that I had with my decks, so I'll give a brief rundown on how I did the job. Anyone with further questions can contact me.

First, I had to design and have a machine shop make me two tools, and then locate another tool in a specialty woodworking catalog. I based the project on using a Formica trimmer, which is similar to a small router. I designed a footplate for it that would guide the trimmer and keep it in the seam. I then routed out the old caulking, the wood, and the gel coat down to the fiberglass. Next, I poured West System epoxy - without filler - into the seams and allowed it to soak into any voids that were under the planks as well as saturate the wood and fiberglass. I then added filler to more epoxy and poured the seams about half full. I also replaced any planks that were too weathered or cracked for further use.

Because of other matters, I was only able to work on the project as the weather allowed in December and January. After that I had to stop for the year. Having to stop at that point turned out to be very fortunate as sealing the seams stopped water from getting between the deck and the teak, and therefore allowed it to dry out completely. The drying caused the wood to shrink a little, which in turn caused a few more of the planks to crack. Replacing the planks was very easy because I had the adjoining planks to keep everything in place.

During the second phase of the project, I used the other tool that I designed as well as the specialty tool I bought. I purchased some screw extractors that are built like small hole saws with an outside diameter of 3/8-inch, but with left hand cutting teeth. After removing the few plugs that remained, I used a reversible drill to work around the screw with the screw extractor. Some screws would come out or break off, but most often just the wood and fiberglass would come off leaving the screw.

I then used a drill guide that I had the machinist make; it had an outside diameter of 3/8-inch and a guide hole of 3/16-inch. I would drive the guide into the plug hole and then drill the screw down part way. I then cast a new head for the screw using West epoxy and replaced the teak plugs. Then I recaulked the seams, sanded it, and rather belatedly started using teak preservative on the decks. They look almost as good as new and there hasn't been any shrinkage or movement in the last year.

I'll be on my boat - phone/fax (562) 596-6404 - until February. I then will return to Idaho for the last time, and after June '88 will be aboard full time again.

Ernie Copp
Orient Star
Alamitos Bay Marina

THE BOAT THAT EVERY RAG WANTS TO PRINT

I'm a working stiff down in Silicon Valley and I own Pisces, hull #2 of the Hylas 44s, which I have entered in the June's West Marine Pacific Cup race to Hawaii. The crew would have fed me to the fishes if I missed the entry deadline, so I entered early.

I grew up in San Mateo, have mostly sailed the Bay and coast, and joining the Coyote Point YC was like 'coming home'. We'll be flying the Coyote Point YC burgee - and proud of it - in the Pacific Cup.

We're not racers and we need up tuning up, so we'll enter a few Ocean Yacht Racing Association (OYRA) races as warmups. Did someone say the Pacific Cup was the 'fun race to Hawaii'?

I've started my own website at http://www6.pair.com/hjg to chronicle our Pacific Cup saga and other cool stuff. Check it out. Critiques are welcome and I'm hoping to get some good press for Coyote Point YC. Latitude's website is awesome, but it will never replace newsprint.

Finally, I must get a photo of my boat in Latitude. It's my obsession, and until it happens I won't eat and won't sleep. I know I have to earn it, so I've taken away the crew's Latitudes. There'll be no more laying around reading those misspelled articles full of ridiculous humor. From now on we're going to be 'lookin' good', trimmed tight, polished, varnished and bristol clean! We'll be the boat that every rag wants to print.

Our crew includes a rock climber, photographer, soccer fanatic, triathlete, college student and me. Offshore sailors? Sorry, we don't have any. In fact, some of our crew is just learning not to call it a bathroom. We've got a lot to learn, but we could win. It could happen!

Do I really have to make an emergency rudder?

Henry Gonzalez
Pisces
San Mateo

Henry - You are the West Marine Pacific Cup. The Board of Directors of the race has one overriding fear: that the high profile sleds might take over like they have in the TransPac. So keep it coming.

On the other hand, remember that racing to Hawaii with an untried crew and yet-to-be raced boat is much more challenging that a sail up to the Central Bay. It would be foolish to underestimate the undertaking. Your time is going to be better spent in the Gulf of the Farallones in the middle of the night learning how to untangle a chute than it is creating a website. Just a word to the wise.

As for that emergency rudder, we doubt that you'd really need one. But then Bill and Rebecca Huseby probably didn't think they'd really need an emergency rudder when they entered with the Soverel 33 Sting last time. As you may recall, their primary rudder failed about 1,000 miles out and their emergency rudder couldn't cut the mustard. So they drifted and drifted and drifted. As long as their health wasn't in danger, the Coast Guard was content to left them drift. Finally, fellow Portland sailor Steve Rander, to his eternal credit, blasted 500 miles into the trades to deliver them parts and food.

So no, you probably won't need the emergency rudder - or your lifejackets, or your EPIRB, or your liferaft. But if you do . . .

In any event, we wish you good luck in the Pacific Cup. With any luck, we'll be participating, too.

HE'S STILL ALIVE AND WRITING

Imagine my surprise while perusing your book review section in the December Latitude to encounter the announcement that dear Patrick O'Brian of the beloved Aubrey/Maturin series was dead and that we could expect no more of the epic!

I searched for further documentation and could not find anything to substantiate this. I then gave W.W. Norton, the publisher of O'Brian, a ring. They informed me that pronouncements of his death, one from "some newspaper in Maine", were greatly exaggerated. That is, he's still alive and writing.

His next work should be published in late '98 - which is about six months later than previously announced. I enjoyed the book review - and was also pleased to see your website. Despite all your self-deprecation about it in your magazine, it's a beautiful piece of work.

Dave Sheehan
San Anselmo

Dave - We're sorry to have passed along bad information, but we'd heard O'Brian had died from so many word-of-mouth sources that we didn't bother to double check. Our error.

WOULD SAILING SENSE HAVE SAVED LIVES?

After watching last week's Himalayan/Everest thriller Into Thin Air on ABC and taking notes on the book, I have the following question:

Certain persons were unable to find their way back to base camp from the peak due to the whiteout conditions of the ferocious storm. While I understand that altitude causes judgement lapses, couldn't the addition of a $100 handheld GPS theoretically be used to guide one's self back to any given waypoint location on earth?

Would the altitude of Everest or any other mountain cause discrepancies in GPS location? Would some sailing sense have saved nine lives on Everest?

Just a wintertime musing from this armchair sailor.

Ken Miller

Pirate's Lair

Ken - If a GPS can 'see' two satellites, it can calculate latitude and longitude at any elevation. If it can 'see' three satellites, it can also calculate altitude. There is no reason we're aware of that a GPS shouldn't work on Everest.

According to several staff members who saw the program, a GPS probably could have saved the lives of some of the climbers, specifically those that were lost on a 'mesa' below the summit and who didn't find their way back to their base camp. But apparently there were a number of other problems.

Would sailing sense have saved nine lives on Everest? Certainly. After all, they could have been tanning their buns on a toasty broad reach in the Caribbean rather than literally freezing to death at one of the most inhospitable places on earth. But to each their own, and may those who lost their lives rest in peace.

A SCALED DOWN TWO-MASTED SQUARE-RIGGED SHIP

I'm interested in trying to build a scaled down version, 26 to 30 feet, of a two-masted square-rigged ship. Do you think it's possible? If so, do you know where I could get plans?

Dick Furrer
400 Dorchester, San Mateo, CA 94402

Dick - People have been successful at scaling down boats to model size for years, so sure, why wouldn't it be possible? In fact, we'd be surprised if someone hasn't already designed something pretty close to what you're looking for. Hopefully one of our readers can help.

JEFF'S KNEES AND FANNY

I was very impressed with your October issue, as page 95 had two lovely pictures of my bashful husband Jeff Breen, who along with Dana Smith had just sailed their Lasers from Richmond to Stockton in 16 hours.

It was reported that my husband is "in his 40s". Ha! He's closer to 60 than he is 40. Poor Dana put up with his chatter for 16 hours - and didn't even get his picture in the issue. Certainly by some error both pictures in Latitude were of Jeff.

The current rumor at the Stockton Sailing Club is that Jimmy Warfield, also closer to 60 than 40, is encouraging Jeff to join him in El Toros from Richmond to Stockton. When I remember it's Warfield who taught poor Dana how to smoke - encouraging him by explaining how wonderful cigarettes are in light air for telling wind direction - I'm not so sure it's a good idea. I understand that Dana stopped every hour on the hour from Richmond to Stockton to support Phillip Morris.

Once again, please encourage these nearly 60ish has-beens to please tend to their gardens and forget the Bull. It took Jeff's knees and fanny almost a week to recover from that Laser marathon and his hands were still cramping up days later.

Rofiah Breen, Sailing Widow
Modesto

Rofiah - While in Mexico once, we met a San Diego couple who'd been cruising for 40 years - and were on their way to New Zealand. He was 85 and she was 84. If they weren't ready to retire to gardening, you shouldn't expect it of a young pup such as your husband.


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