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A MASKED MAN WITH A MACHETE ASKING FOR MONEY

After reading so much in Latitude about Zihuatanejo, my wife and I flew down for a week vacation before this Christmas. We met several cruising couples at Noemi's, and had a great time. Just one problem: we got robbed.

It happened after we took a cab about 10 miles north to Playa Troncones. While walking on the beach, a masked man with a machete appeared out of the bushes yelling "Money! Money!" My wife gave him the cash from her fanny pack. He then grabbed our boat bag and ran off into the bushes. Although we only lost about $500 worth of cash, a VHF handheld and some other miscellaneous stuff, the robbery scared the hell out of us. Before returning home, we made out a police report.

We're now wondering how stupid we were for walking on a beach away from other people. As a result of the robbery, my wife is afraid to return to Mexico - which puts a dent in our cruising dreams. Do you have any advice or words of encouragement? I don't want to give up walking beaches or traveling Mexico because of this incident.

All the locals we met were great - except for the one guy waving the machete.

Joe and Sally Seitz
(between boats)
Golden, CO

Joe & Sally - All things considered, we believe Mexico is quite safe. We base this on having been there about 25 times on boats, and having never been robbed or threatened. We also base it on the fact that we seldom receive reports of such crimes against cruisers.

On the other hand, it would be foolish to think Mexico is crime- free or to ignore past incidents. In the last 20 years, we know of at least two cruisers who were murdered and two more who disappeared. One murder victim was aboard his boat with his wife in Turtle Bay about 12 years ago. The second murder victim was stabbed to death in a Mazatlan motel room about a year ago. And about 10 years ago a couple never returned to their boat after heading into the marijuana country behind San Blas. In the same 20 year period, there have been at least three cases of shrimp boats chasing and deliberately ramming cruising boats. And we're certain there's been a slew of robberies. But again, not enough to keep cruisers away from Mexico.

The fact that we Americans typically have so much material wealth compared to Mexicans is itself a source of crime. But there are obvious things you can do to lessen the chances that you'll be a victim. First off, don't be conspicuous about your relative wealth. If you wear the veteran cruiser's attire of worn shorts and a T-shirt, you don't make an attractive target. Second, avoid dangerous situations - which can include everything from certain parts of town, certain parts of the countryside, and even some deserted beaches. It also means not drinking in authentic cantinas and avoiding people who use or are looking for drugs. Finally, there is indeed safety in numbers, whether it be through buddy-boating or going out on the town with several couples. Of course, these are the same precautions you would take in the United States or any other part of the world.

In conclusion, we don't worry about crime when we get to Mexico because we're alert to potentially dangerous situations, because we usually do things with small groups, and because we think Mexico is a relatively safe country.

P.S. We just received word from La Paz that the cruising fleet has been shaken by the robbery of the vessel Our Pleasure. She had been left unattended at Ensenada Grande while her skipper and crew took the dinghy to dive with the seals at nearby La Lobera. Ensenada Grande is about 25 miles north of La Paz.

If cruisers would report such crimes to us at richard@lat-itude38.com, we'll make sure that everyone gets the word.

WHOSE CANAL IS IT, ANYWAY?

We built the Panama Canal, so we own it. And, yes, we paid for it, too!

Under the auspices of our former leader Jimmy Carter, and under the pressure of our big U.S. bankers, a deal was made to give Panama some income so they could pay back the huge loans they had received from the bankers.

Like so many rotten little Third World countries, the leadership in Panama rubbed their hands with glee - and promptly figured out a way to skim off even more money for themselves. So now they are about to raise the rates for yachtsmen to unconscionable levels.

The very idea of giving away the Canal was just plain stupid. We can well imagine that the Canal will not be maintained at a proper level, and that Panama may well holler for more aid. I think we should rescind the treaty with Panama and continue to run the thing as we have for 83 years. As for the bankers, let them figure out a way to be repaid - but not at the expense of us taxpayers.

Bery Brooks
Circe VI
Rohnert Park

Bery - It's mostly true to say the United States "built" the Canal - but not entirely. We may have financed it, our engineers might have come up with one of the world's great engineering designs, and our supervisors might have capably overseen the labor - but it was overwhelmingly 'third worlders' who did the manual labor. While the Third World certainly wouldn't have been able to build the Canal without America, we probably couldn't have built it without their help, either.

And while the United States might have built most of the Canal, it's certain that we "built" all of the Republic of Panama. As anyone who has read The Path Between Two Seas knows, Teddy Roosevelt and the U.S. Congress created Panama out of what had been an isolated and sparsely-populated corner of Colombia. Why? Because the Colombians were driving too hard a bargain for canal rights.

With the full support of the U.S. government, a bunch of local stooges declared Panama a sovereign republic on November 3, 1903. Just 15 days later - before the pathetic Colombian Navy had a chance to send in troops - the U.S. signed a treaty with a flunky Panamanian ambassador (who was actually French) - to buy Canal rights "in perpetuity" for $10 million and $250,000 a year. Panamanian leaders travelled to Washington to discover the fait accompli, but were powerless to do anything about it.

In fairness to our government, the deal we cut was far better than any other country would have given either Colombia or Panama. In 1921, for example, we paid Colombia $25 million for having allowed the U.S. puppets to take the land to create Panama. And in 1936, we signed a new treaty that gave Panama a much bigger cut of the Canal action. Furthermore, the Canal has not only been good for the world, it's been very good for Panamanians. They have a literacy rate of 88% - far higher than any other country in the region - and probably the U.S., too - and the life expectancy is over 75 years. It wouldn't be that way without the Canal.

You have to admire Jimmy Carter as an individual, but it's hard for an idealist to ride herd over a nasty and violent world. We - and many people in Panama - think Carter made a terrible mistake giving the Canal away. But he wasn't necessarily holding all the aces. He had to dicker with General Omar Torrijos, who had taken Panama over in a military coup and whipped the population into a nationalistic frenzy. Had Carter not given away the Canal, blood was going to spill. Of course, there's a good chance that will still spill before the end of the millennium.

WE'RE NOT FOOLS

Yes, Latitude is correct: Japan is in effect buying support from poor Caribbean countries to obtain their votes to lift the moratorium on whaling. But it's the International Whaling Commission (IWC), not the United Nations, which sets the rules on whaling.

An article in the L.A. Times (12/9/97) explained that it is no coincidence that Dominica, St. Lucia, Grenada, Antigua and Barbuda, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines - which have received over $77 million from Japan - all voted at the last IWC meeting for a resolution allowing Japan to kill 50 Minke whales a year. That resolution was barely defeated by a vote of 16 to 12.

The commissioners from these small island/countries stayed in luxury hotels for a week at the November IWC meeting in Monaco. "We're not fools," said one of the IWC officials, "we know the Japanese pay for these peoples' membership fee [in the IWC], for their hotel bills - even for the limousines they drive around in." This according to the Times report.

Incidentally, the IWC voted a worldwide ban on commercial whaling in 1986, but, using a legal loophole, Japan and Norway have continued whaling under the guise of 'scientific purposes'. Japan kills over 500 Minke whales a year, and last year Japanese fishermen captured five orcas at Taiji which were then sold to marine parks. My attempt on the singlehanded sailing record to Japan last year was dedicated to saving the 'Taiji Five'. Unfortunately, two of the orcas have died - a pregnant female which had miscarried, and a two-year-old baby.

Further note: Other than two sightings a few days after her capsize, there have been no reports of Nai'a, my 36-ft trimaran which capsized 250 miles short of Tokyo. When I was rescued, she was floating upside-down, high on the crossbeams. Will she reappear again somewhere like Peter Hogg's Aotea?

Michael Reppy
Nai'a Project

FISHING FOR LOBSTERS WITH BLEACH

I was shocked to read in the February issue that Bob Goldstein's method of catching lobsters was to stun them with a 50% bleach solution. How could someone be so foolish - and then so stupid to brag to the world in print about their environmental terrorism? He should rename his boat The Saddam Hussein Mariner.

Bleach is a powerful oxidizer that destroys living tissue on contact. Goldstein's claim that the solution only stuns the lobsters long enough so he can sort the males from the females is bull! Even the ones he returns to the sea will die a painful death.

What does Goldstein do for a living, captain oil tankers for Exxon?

Van Taiariol
Northern California

Van - It's come to our attention that the letter you refer to was one person's idea of a prank. It would have been a better joke except for the fact that someone's probably going to try it. After all, a few people are crazy enough to do stuff like that. Heck, the next thing you know someone will suggest that a second canal be 'dug' using nuclear bombs.

BUILDING A SECOND CANAL SHOULD BE A BLAST!

It's unfortunate that it looks like the cost of a small boat transit of the Panama Canal is going to jump to $1,500. However, if the reality is that increasing commercial traffic is going to necessitate additional construction to augment the present canal, or even the building of a second canal, it might create enough basis for consideration of costs relative to small vessels.

Many years ago, when the Cold War was still going on, protection of the existing canal was considered important - to the extent that an alternative canal was envisioned. An engineering analysis was actually undertaken, and it was determined that a second canal would cut through Nicaragua.

Cross sections and preliminary construction data appeared in Engineering New Record, a monthly civil engineering magazine. The second would be blasted using shaped nuclear charges, which would create a molten wall for most of the pipe. A one- day operation would take care of about 90% of the work. The balance would be completed in about two years using standard futuristic technology.

Bill Robertson
Tou Kou Rou
La Paz

Bill - As many people already know, the original canal was supposed to have been across Nicaragua, and would have made great use of Lake Nicaragua. And were it not for the last-minute political shenanigans of a senator from Alabama, we'd indeed be talking about raising the rates of the Nicaraguan Canal.

But that didn't happen. As it is, you might find a lot of people - Nicaraguans, in particular - who might feel a little squeamish about the concept of "standard futuristic technology" being employed to create a second canal. There might even be one or two odd-ball Nicaraguans who wouldn't be crazy about the use of "shaped nuclear weapons" either.

If the truth be known, using the Canal to get small boats between the Pacific and the Caribbean is a poor use of resources. See Sightings for a suggestion on how it might be done cheaper and more efficiently.

LACK OF COMMON SENSE THAT WE'RE FAMOUS FOR

I'm writing in response to the reply you gave to F.G. Knudsen, who asked if there wasn't a French doctor who crossed the ocean drinking sea water. The man he's referring to is Dr. Alain Bombard. I suggest that before you display your ignorant, pompous, illitteracy (sic) again, you check out The Bombard Story that was published in 1953. That you didn't displays a callous disregard for human life. It might even be your life.

In addition to doing a grievous disservice to your readers by letting them believe they can't drink sea water, you have once again displayed the pitiful lack of common sense that Americans are famous for throughout the world!!

The fact is that Dr. Bombard crossed the Atlantic from Morocco to Barbados in 82 days. He drifted in a rubber boat named L'Heretique, going with the tradewinds and eating only one meal in all the time afloat. He took a well-planned survival kit and used it to survive off the bounty of the sea, including plankton, fish, and fish sauce. He did not survive exclusively on seawater, but he did drink it!

If you would only think about all the salt we eat in our daily lives: bacon, potato chips, soy sauce, salt cod, ham and so forth, maybe you'd have second thoughts. Ask the Bombard inflatable boat company where they got their name. Do a little research next time!

Robert Allan
Surrey, BC

Robert - Mr. Knudsen asked if someone had "crossed the Atlantic westward from Spain drinking nothing but ocean water". The fascinating theories of Dr. Bombard as well as his courageous trip notwithstanding, the answer is that nobody has made such a trip and it's extremely unlikely that anybody ever could. Had crossing the Atlantic drinking only sea water and fish juice been Bombard's goal, he came up about 2,000 miles and 40-some days short. As Aristole once pointed out, one fine day doesn't mean it's spring.

While Bombard reports drinking seawater and fish juice at the beginning of his trip, it was not something he outright recommended - as you seem to suggest. He said only a small amount could be consumed, under certain conditions, and for a limited time. Many experts still consider it to be absolutely the worst thing you could do.

Be that as it may, Bombard and his trip are most interesting - which is why we have a feature story on him in this issue.

MANY DISAGREE ABOUT DRINKING SEAWATER

Contrary to your negative answer to Frederick Knudsen's inquiry about a French doctor having possibly drank salt water to survive while on a long transatlantic trip, it really did happen. It was Dr. Alain Bombard who did it aboard the rubber inflatable L'Heretique in 1951, and you can find reference to it in Richard Henderson's book Singlehanded Sailing.

Bombard made the crossing without food or water to prove that man can live off the sea itself. Certain French survival authorities endorsed Bombard's theories, but many British and Americans disagree - and are adamant that a castaway should never drink seawater under any circumstance. Bombard never claimed that seawater could entirely replace fresh water, but rather argued that very small amounts could be drunk to augment fresh water or on a temporary basis replace it entirely.

As yes, Frederick Knudsen, you did read about it somewhere. As I recall, Bombard was ultimately found not far from Bermuda; he was alive, well, and thirsty.

Mark Anderson
Stormbird
Ventura Harbor

Mark - Bombard drifted ashore at Barbados, having already declined several invitations to be picked up after more than two months at sea. He was indeed alive and he was not thirsty - but at the time his lack of thirst had little if anything to do with drinking seawater.

HE HAD COURAGE

In Survivor, by Michael Green Wald, there is an account of Dr. Alain Bombard's experiences and theories regarding ocean survival. Chapter 2, The Will To Survive, recounts the story of Dr. Bombard's 66 day crossing from the Canary Islands to Barbados in a small raft. He survived on a diet of plankton, fish, saltwater, and whatever rainwater he could get. While his theories are controversial, he certainly had the courage of his convictions.

Bill Waters
Alameda

Bill - Bombard certainly did have courage in his convictions. And after the first third of his voyage, he had plenty of freshwater, too: "It would really be too much if I drowned in fresh water," Bombard wrote one day, "but that is what is going to happen if this downpour goes on. I have enough water for a month." Indeed, he had water for much longer than that.

HE WASN'T FRENCH

Re: Frederick G. Knudsen's letter in the February issue about the French doctor who crossed the Atlantic westward drinking nothing but seawater. He wasn't French, but a German physician named Dr. Hannes Lindemann. He chronicled his two epic voyages in his book Alone At Sea.

In the early 1950's Dr. Lindemann was employed in one of the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company clinics in Spanish West Africa. While in Morocco, he met Frenchman Dr. Alain Bombard, an inflatable boat designer who had studied the problems of survival at sea. In his book, Lindemann states:

"One of his [Bombard's] most firmly-held convictions was that it was possible for a castaway to survive by drinking saltwater. I was convinced that acceptance of such advice might easily endanger the life of the castaway, that the human body is not capable of surviving the rigors of exposure and the dangers of dehydration without recourse to fresh water. I felt challenged both as a doctor and a sailor to put his theory to the test myself . . . I intended to find out and, therefore, planned to drink one pint [of seawater] every day. I knew that any amount beyond that would damage my kidneys. I carried canned milk and fruit juices with me knowing I would also have to drink other liquids or my kidneys would be unable to excrete the high percentage of salt."

Lindemann's first trip was in a dugout canoe from Liberia to Haiti. The trip took four months. His second trip, a year later, was in a Klepper-type Folkboat and also lasted four months. Dr. Lindemann was a survivalist, and he put up with great personal deprivation on his two voyages. While he did drink some saltwater during his voyages, but it was diluted with other liquids.

Mike Trueman
San Ramon

Mike - When Lindemann met Dr. Alain Bombard, the French doctor was about a third of the way through his inflatable trip from Monaco to Barbados. Lindemann made his two trips after Bombard made his. While the brand name Bombard later appeared on inflatables, he didn't design the one he took on his voyage.

ABSOLUTELY NOT

With regard to the letter on drinking seawater, the sailor in question was Dr. Hannes Lindemann, a German, who made two voyages from the Virgin Islands. One was in a dugout canoe and the other in a folding boat. One of Lindemann's goals was to determine whether drinking saltwater was all right as a survival tactic. His conclusion? Absolutely not! His book detailing these two voyages is Alone at Sea, published in 1958.

Loran Mebine
Machree
Corinthian YC

HE DRANK A BIG GLASS OF SEAWATER EVERY DAY

Re: Mr. Knudsen's son accused of being a liar because he said a man drifted across the Atlantic while drinking seawater.

The event Knudsen's son was referring to was a voyage that a French doctor named Bombard - the same as the inflatables - took during the '50s or early '60s. He crossed the Atlantic in a small inflatable type boat to prove that one could live off the sea. He carried no water, but rather drank a big glass of seawater every day and lived off juicy morsels that he would pick out of seaweed. If I remember correctly, he did carry some fruit juice.

Michael Kary
Beyond
Pittsburg

Michael - While Bombard did eat a little bit of plankton, most of the time he dined on what we now call sushi. And there was no shortage of it. Bombard reports that the only liquids he ingested during the first part of his voyage were small amounts of seawater and the fresh water he squeezed from the chunks of fish. From then on, however, he drank rainwater which came down in frequent torrents.

NO MORE THAN A PINT A DAY

I believe that Mr. Knudsen's son was thinking of Dr. Alain Bombard, a French doctor who crossed the Atlantic in an inflatable dinghy without food or water to prove it could be done.

Bombard is referred to and quoted in Single Handed Sailing, second edition, by Richard Henderson, in the chapter on handling emergencies. Bombard does not condone drinking salt water, but does state that it can have a very limited value in maintaining hydration as well as replenishing salt lost through perspiration - if done following certain guidelines.

A good deal of warnings follow Bombard's claims, but the general consensus is that salt water can be consumed provided that: 1) it's only in limited amounts - less than a pint a day - to augment an ample fresh water supply; 2) salt intake should not exceed a person's 'normal amount'; and 3) sea water should never be taken when a person is already dehydrated. Even advocates of drinking sea water say it should not be done for more than five days.

Keith Godfrey
Planet Earth

Keith - You've pretty much got it. For additional details, see pages xxx-xxx.

TORNADO RESISTANT TEAK

Bill Bodle's February letter about teak was very informative. With El Nišo upon us, we need all the tornado resistant teak we can get. Where can I find some?

J.B. Gill
San Diego

J.B. - We'll tell you as soon as you can located a spell checker that doesn't replace 'teredo' with 'tornado' when our backs are turned.

ARE YACHTS REQUIRED TO LEAVE BEFORE DECEMBER?

Can anyone at Latitude verify the following statement in Jimmy Cornell's World Cruising Handbook? "All yachts are required to leave French Polynesia before the start of cyclone season in November."

This is an important consideration for our cruise planning, as we expect to leave for French Polynesia in May, which is later than most, and might want to spend the cyclone season in French Polynesia.

Chuck Snyder and Jill McCready
Ariel, Cal 40
Los Altos

Chuck & Jill - Regulations and policies that affect cruising boats change all the time, so much of that material in the World Cruising Handbook - now in its third edition - is subject to change. We called Dominic Goche at Raiatea Careenage for the straight scoop. Goche reports that you can leave your boat in French Polynesian for the whole year, but - 1) it must be out of the water for six months, and 2) you personally must be out of French Polynesia for six months.

Where can you put your boat for six months? The main options are Raiatea Careenage and a second yard on Raiatea. Goche advises that he has 56 boats on the hard right now, which is about 95% of his capacity. The prices seem reasonable. For $340, he'll haul your boat out, pressure wash the bottom, give you four days on the hard, and relaunch you upon your return. Long term storage - meaning six months or more - is $240/month. If you want to reserve space for later this year, call Goche - a great guy - now at 011-689-662296.

Cyclones? Unlike Lautoka Marina in Fiji - which tends to get more and stronger cyclones - Raiatea Careenage doesn't dig pits for keel boats. Instead they put the boats on special cradles. "Back in '91 we had three days of 100 knots, and this season we've had two cyclones with 85 knots - and there hasn't been any problem." Raiatea Carenage also has a special marine rail for catamarans, and can haul cats up to 90 feet and 120 tons.

DINKS AND CRUISING ON HOBIE CATS

I've enjoyed reading all the good advice about dinghies - the best of which is to 'keep it simple'. For example, I've done without a motor on my dinghy because I didn't want gasoline on my boat. Gas smells terrible, burns easily and can even explode!

The basic Avon rowing dinghy has worked fine for me. It's been my experience that if you have good single piece wooden oars, you can still row into quite a bit of wind, current and chop. If you can't row into it with oars like that, even a small outboard won't be able to make it.

The simple Avon worked fine in Baja landings - so long as we didn't get too ambitious. And on those occasions we did take a dump, at least we didn't have to deal with a motor full of saltwater. If you don't have an outboard, you can 'back in' to the beach when making a landing. This helps avoid being pooped when the next wave rolls in. A small dinghy without an outboard means you can pull it up the beach before the next wave hits you.

As for cruising on Hobie Cats, we were sailing our Hallberg-Rassy around the 'boot' of Italy when a Hobie Cat caught up with us. The two guys aboard were from California, had their gear lashed to the tramp, and were on their way to Greece! They sailed close enough to shore so they could beach the cat if they wanted to camp or needed to avoid bad weather.

Jim Crittenden
Cal 2-25,
No Name
San Rafael

Jim - Everything's relative, we suppose. To a guy with a Hallberg-Rassy 31, ocean cruising in a Hobie Cat may sound crazy. But to a guy with a Hobie Cat, crossing the ocean in a three-foot boat - see this month's Sightings - would seem crazy. Actually, it is crazy.

HE TOOK HIS HANDHELD GPS TO BOSNIA

I've an interesting sidebar to the letter that asked whether a handheld GPS could have aided those who got lost near the summit of Mt. Everest.

My son, Sam Nivloc, has lived on boats ever since we moved to Sausalito in 1988. He's also in the U.S. Army. When his unit was sent to Bosnia, he took a handheld GPS with him. "I have met my officers, Dad, and I won't follow them anywhere," he told me.

It turns out they got lost in fog at night when convoying to a remote base. As luck would have it, Sam was riding in the HumVee with the officer in charge - and produced his GPS. Together they were able to convert from latitude and longitude to military coordinates, thus finding their way.

Bill Nivloc
Maytag
Sausalito

HELPFUL, COURTEOUS, KNOWLEDGEABLE

The San Diego Harbor Police has taken a few knocks from readers as well as the staff of your outstanding publication. Well, here's my take: I arrived at the sea buoy off San Diego Bay - having singlehanded from Catalina - at 0100 with fog thicker than sourdough bread. As a class of '97 Ha-Ha entrant from Seattle, it was my first visit to San Diego, so I waited outside for daylight and the fog to lift.

By the time things cleared up enough to enter at 0700, I was one tired puppy. I called the Harbor Police on the way in for anchorage information. I soon learned that depending on where you want to anchor, you needed an anchoring permit from either the Port of San Diego or the Harbor Police. So I tied up at the Police Dock, where the officers and the personnel behind the desk were helpful, courteous, knowledgeable - and made me feel welcome to San Diego.

The young blonde woman who helped me in obtaining an anchoring permit responded to calls from both a police radio as well as VHF marine traffic at the same time. Despite being busy with two radios, she didn't make me feel as though I were imposing.

While later attending Downwind Marine's free hot dog and chili feed, I had the opportunity to meet two Harbor Patrol officers, Bill Kellerman and T.B. Wright, who do at least some of their rounds on bikes. Both were very personable and obviously took pride in their work. As a matter of fact, while we were chatting a speeding automobile came down the street - and they nailed the driver!

One more thing: the editor's answers to Letters are cutting, abrasive, abrupt, scathing, querulous, cantankerous, pugnacious, irascible, and even abominable. I love 'em, so keep up the good work.

Bill Schmidt
Ragtime
Seattle

Bill - There was a long period when San Diego's Harbor Police was considered - by locals and transients - to be about as courteous and helpful as an occupying army. Thanks to the efforts of Chief Hight - and his men and women - there's been a dramatic turnaround over the last several years. Lately we've been hearing all compliments and no complaints. And you know, it wouldn't hurt to drop them a line and tell them you appreciate their efforts.

THE YOUNG LADY'S NIPPLES

It's hard to believe that it's been 20 years since Amy Boyer entertained us with her daring transoceanic exploits aboard her Wilderness 21 Rascal. Is she still active in sailing?

It's also evident - from the picture of the topless young lady in shorts overlooking a Mexican bay - that some maturation has occurred at Latitude over the last two decades. For lo and behold, the young lady's nipples have been electronically erased! The advancing age of your staff has probably dictated a little more discreet view of sailing activities, but it sure used to be a hoot when Latitude blew everyone's minds with the unsolicited shots of cruising lovelies. I'm not complaining, mind you, because you're still the most refreshing sailing publication around. Still, you used to provide some of the best guffaws I can think of with some of your antics - and subsequent defense of the same.

Rick Rohwer
Planet Earth

Rick - If Amy Boyer is still sailing, we're not aware of it.

We have no idea what photo you're referring to. And while we may be perverted, we'd certainly never electronically erase a young lady's nipples. We'll leave that kind of mutilating to the folks who put out the Victoria's Secret catalogs. Furthermore, we have the exact same policy regarding photos of topless women that we've had from issue one: we don't go hunting for such shots, but if some come over the transom with the least bit of a sailing context, we'll do our best to squeeze them in. Think of us as facilitators rather than procurers.

THE GREAT TIMES AND GREAT MEMORIES

To all of you who over the years have sailed aboard and helped us with our Catalina 27 White Satin, this is a open letter of thanks. We have just completed the sale to new owners Bob, Frances, Alex and Nicole Gibbs, and wish them the same kind of luck and success as we had with her for more than 15 years.

And to all of the people who sailed with us - and against us - thanks for all the great times and memories.

Thanks also to the many business who helped make her what she is, particularly Kame, Sally, Aimee and the gang at Pineapple Sails; Steve Seals at Seal's Spars and Rigging; Carl Nelson and his gang at Nelson's Marine; Kim Desenberg and his crew at the now-gone North Coast Yachts (good luck in your new endeavors, Kim!); and of course Dick Southworth and the folks at Farallone Yachts.

The years and miles have been good to us, and the memory of all of our adventures are sweet. Thanks and cheers to all.

Steve Rienhart and Family
ex-
White Satin
Northern California

Readers - We hope that Rienhart, who won many one design titles with White Satin, hasn't given anyone the impression he's bowing out of sailing. On the contrary, he'll soon be taking delivery of a new Antrim 27 to be named Cascade.

AN UNREMITTING REFUSAL TOP ANSWER

Another sad story of the Coast Guard bureaucracy!

I recently sent a letter to the Coast Guard Regional Exam Center asking for some clarification in the requirements for 'sea service' when trying to obtain a '6-pack' master's license. Specifically, I asked whether unpaid yacht deliveries, recreational racing, and recreational cruising were admissible as 'sea service' under the requirements.

For an answer, I received a long-distance call from a clerk at the exam center - who told me they would answer no questions without the submission of a completed application and fee. Since the preparation of a completed application requires a physical exam and obtaining notarized statements from every skipper I've sailed with for the past 20 years, I felt that my question wasn't unreasonable. If I wasn't going to have the required 'sea service', why should I have to waste all that time and money? All I got, however, was an unremitting refusal to answer.

Since I cannot get this information from the people whom my taxes pay to provide it, perhaps one of your readers who has been through the Coast Guard mill can give me the answer.

Larry Weaver
Santa Cruz

Larry - We took your problem straight to Capt. Larry Hall, the honcho at Group San Francisco. Capt. Hall thanked us for calling - this new cooperative attitude is fabulous - and said he'd have the person in charge at the Marine Safety Office, which is a different part of the Coast Guard, return our call. An hour later Lt. Commander Monica Lombardi, Chief of the Regional Exam Center, was on the line.

Commander Lombardi apologized for the fact that you didn't get the answer you wanted - but explained that such answers are harder to give than it might seem. She reports that she gets 30 calls a day from people asking if their 'sea time' qualifies them for a Six Pack or other license - people who then list a hodge-podge of the times they've been on boats. The fact is that the first of three steps in getting a Coast Guard license is paying $65 to have a 'certified evaluator' assess if you're qualified to sit for a license. In most cases the evaluator's primary job is to decide whether your accumulated 'sea time' is up to snuff. As such, the evaluations can't be done over the phone.

Commander Lombardi nonetheless recognized that a prospective applicant should at least be given some guidelines as to what counts for 'sea time'. While not guaranteeing anything, Lombardi says that if you're on watch a minimum of four hours on an active boat, there's a good chance that it will count as a day of 'sea time'. Depending on what license you're going for, four hours on Folsom Lake might even apply. If you sail anywhere and are on watch 12 or more hours a day, it might count as 1.5 days. The important thing to remember is an evaluator won't count anything as sea time until you list the day, the amount of time on watch, the route, the tonnage of the vessel - and have it certified by the skipper(s) involved.

What to do if all your 'sea time' came from spending two years cruising in Mexico? That claim won't be worth anything until you reconstruct it as mentioned above: the day, the time on watch, the route, and the tonnage. And it has to be certified by the skipper(s). Until then, all the time you've spent on boats won't count for anything.

To more specifically answer your question, generally speaking things like yacht deliveries, recreational racing, and recreational cruising count as 'sea time' - assuming they met the requirements mentioned above. Even so, there may be exceptions and/or limitations. If all your 'sea time' was operating a small powerboat on the Bay, the Coast Guard will not give you a license that will permit you to carry paying passengers on a sailboat trip to Hawaii.

We hope this clarifies the situation a little. We'll have more on the subject of getting 'a Coast Guard license' in either the April or May issue. There's all kinds of interesting aspects of it. For example, your chances of getting a license are lessened if you've ever gotten a DUI. And did you know that there are ways to get a license without having to go to the Coast Guard and pass a test?

AWAKE AND YOU SHALL BE FREE!

My parents came down from Oregon for the holidays. Since my mom has always been interested in sailing and the day after Christmas was sunny, we went out. We made a long motorsail from Vallejo to Angel Island. After tying up at Ayala Cove and paying the Iron Ranger, we took a nice walk around the island.

There wasn't much wind for the return trip, so we started motoring after Red Rock. It had gotten dark and my mother began to wonder about sailing at night. I told her to just keep an eye out for the Vallejo ferry, which is a catamaran that travels at about 25 knots. Against the background of city lights and the oil refineries, the ferry can be hard to see - and on several occasions have snuck up on me. At speed, they also produce a pretty good wake.

I decided to take the short cut through the narrow channel formed by The Brothers and Point San Pablo. Once clear of the point, I aimed the boat for Pt. Pinole. Five minutes later, the boat started to slow dramatically accompanied by a shaking of the tiller and rigging. After putting the engine in neutral, I tried forward and reverse. There was lots of vibration, but the boat didn't move. All kinds of nightmares ran through my mind: broken V-drive, fouled prop, lost prop blade and so forth. I was just thinking about putting on my dry suit and going for a swim when I shined the light on the water. It looked different; muddy colored. The depth gauge said "-.-". We'd run aground.

What a relief! After about ten minutes of trying to motor free, we spotted the Valley ferry charging through the shortcut. "I bet he knows where the deep water is," my mom said. When the wake hit our port beam a couple of minutes later, we managed to get our stern to the rest of the waves in the wake. With the tiller hard over and the engine at full throttle, we managed to surf for half a boat length - at which point we were free. We motored back to Vallejo without incident.

Thank you, Vallejo ferry, for saving our evening.
The Crew of
Ann, Valiant 32
Vallejo

DANA WAS IN SAN FRANCISCO BEFORE THE GOLD RUSH

I was pleased to see the nice article in January's issue about the Gold Rush history of the Bay. Well done. But, as I bet someone else has pointed out, Richard Henry Dana was here in the early 1830's - well before the Gold Rush. Indeed, in his epilogue, 24 Years After, he notes that it wasn't until '49 that his book, the only English language book available in California, began to sell.

I've also noticed that you refer to the body of water west of mainland Mexico and east of Baja as the 'Sea of Cortez'. When my family first started going there some 30 years ago, we always used the term 'Gulf of California'. And that's what my Mexican charts call it. Earl Stanley Gardener and John Stein-beck notwithstanding, calling that body of water a 'sea' seems like a literary affectation.

Dana M.
San Diego

Dana - Thanks for the correction about Dana's book. Are we correct in assuming that you were named after the famous author?

Let's review the definitions for the different types of bodies of water:

Ocean: Any of the large bodies of water, such as the Atlantic Ocean, into which the great ocean - meaning the whole body of salt water that covers nearly 3/4s of the surface of the globe - is divided.

Sea: The name given to bodies of salt water, such as the Mediterranean Sea, that are partially landlocked and are smaller than the ocean to which they are generally connected.

Gulf: A part of an ocean or sea extending into the land.

Under these definitions, what's commonly known to cruisers as the 'Sea of Cortez' is more properly the 'Gulf of California'. In reality, there's a lot of grey area when it comes to calling a body of water a sea, gulf or bay. For example, why aren't Hudson Bay and the Gulf of Mexico seas? Why isn't the Caribbean Sea a gulf? How can the Arabian Sea be called a sea while the Bay of Bengal is just a bay? And what's with calling one part of the Atlantic the Sargasso Sea and one part of the Pacific the Bering Sea?

But as far as we're concerned, if they can call the Flores Sea a sea, cruisers can do the same with what more properly should be called the Gulf of California.

THEY THOUGHT THEY WERE ON THE LOVE BOAT

Having read the January letter on 'how to pick a captain', I believe equal attention needs to be placed on picking a crew. My mistake in this year's Ha-Ha was relying on a guy's claim that he had significant sailing experience - including many heavy weather sails in the Pacific Northwest. But what I got was a couple who thought they were on the 'love boat' and that all their needs should be catered to. Other than standing a watch, they didn't otherwise participate in the running of the boat.

Soon after departure, we had repeated problems with the boat's refrigeration. Not once did any of the crew offer to assist trying to fix it. By comparison, one of the other Ha-Ha boats had a crew which rebuilt the engine! My crew wouldn't have lifted a finger to help.

Furthermore, my crew's lack of experience did make for some interesting sailing situations - but none that even a minimally competent crew couldn't have handled. Even after going over the rigging and systems patiently and calmly, my crew still didn't get it. It was obvious that they were afraid to fly the spinnaker at night. But to claim that would have been "reckless" spits in the face of sailing and all of the boats which did in fact fly their chutes at night. But hell, even wing-on-wing was too much for this couple - and as a result, I was forced to do carry more of the load than I should have.

As for the couple second-guessing my decision to head back out to sea when nearing Turtle Bay, they wouldn't understand that a SSB transmission had locked up the GPS and that the prudent thing to do was head offshore until I sorted the problem out and established a DR position. This took all of 30 minutes and wouldn't have resulted in our reaching Turtle Bay before dark anyway. But then the Love Boat probably always makes landfall during the day.

What's funny is that despite the crew's meager contribution and the my casual attitude toward 'racing', we ended up second in our class. But when we got to Cabo, these 'ugly Americans' didn't so much as lift a finger to help clean the boat, nor say 'thanks' or even 'good-bye'. Instead they went off to immediately begin working on their tans.

So take heed skippers, and beware of unappreciative crew who think you should do all the work while they lounge around. At least Captain Stubbing got paid for what he did.

Name Withheld
Planet Earth

N.W. - Now that we've heard both sides of this dispute, we're sure both you and your crew can agree on one thing: that you're lucky you hadn't entered the Whitbread.

BOTH DECLINED TO QUOTE THE NEUMANN ACCOUNT

There are several statements in Phyllis Neumann's February letter, which was in regard to having trouble getting her boat's cruising insurance renewed, that are incorrect or misleading. Let me clarify.

Blue Water Insurance, Inc. is a 'marine only' agency that specializes in writing cruising insurance for vessels worldwide. The Seven Seas Cruising Association (SSCA) has authorized Blue Water Insurance to present insurance programs to their members. However, the SSCA is not an insurance agent or otherwise connected with Blue Water Insurance. Furthermore, Robert and Phyllis Neumann are not members of the Seven Seas Cruising Association!

Blue Water Insurance represents a number of insurance companies, including La Reunion Francaise. La Reunion Francaise wrote an insurance policy on the Neumann's Adventure for the past two years, with navigation limits of the East Coast of the U.S. and the Bahamas. And the company did pay a claim for storm damages suffered by the Neumann's vessel on October 18, 1996.

On October 3, 1997, La Reunion Francaise declined to offer a renewal of the Neumann's policy for coverage that they wanted to include a trip to Bermuda and the Caribbean. The policy terms require a 10-day notice of cancellation, and the company gave them more than a month's notice.

We at Blue Water Insurance went to two different Lloyds facilities to request an insurance renewal with navigation limits to include Bermuda and the Caribbean. Both markets at Lloyds declined to quote the Neumann account. We did not offer renewal terms with any of our U.S. companies, including Reliance, because these companies would not write navigation limits to Bermuda and the Caribbean for the Neumann's. We did not offer a General Star quotation because the company requires a third crew onboard for all overnight passages.

La Reunion Francaise did not quote the Neumann's renewal account to another agent. But apparently Al Golden of International Marine Insurance Services (IMHS) of Chester, Maryland, went to a wholesale insurance broker of La Reunion Francaise, with quoting authority from the company, and obtained an insurance quotation from that wholesaler on the Neumann's vessel! Only a few U.S. agents have quoting authority from La Reunion Francaise. However, none of these agents can quote accounts currently written by La Reunion Francaise or those accounts with losses in the past two years. The only La Reunion Francasie agent who has authority to quote vessels intending to navigate in excess of 250 miles offshore is Blue Water Insurance, Inc.

Thus the only way IMIS could have obtained a quotation on Neumann's vessel from La Reunion Francaise was to not disclose, to the insurance wholesaler, that the current insurer is La Reunion Francaise, the fact that there was a claim in October of 1996, and that the vessel's navigation limits did not include the trip to Bermuda. All this is very important, because failure to disclose previous loss history to any insurance company is a material misrepresentation - and can be reason for an insurance company to deny coverage.

Pantaenius is a German underwriting agency, not an insurance company in its own right. The majority of companies Pantaenius represents are German and, as far as we can determine, are not approved to do business in the United States. U.S. agents are prohibited by the various state insurance departments from dealing with insurance companies not licensed or approved to do business in those states! Furthermore, Pantaenius does not any write insurance for vessels cruising in the United States or Caribbean waters, and will not write insurance for vessels documented in the United States - no matter where the boat might be located.

We agree the 'pitch' an insurance agent makes to an insurance company on a boatowner's behalf is very important when it comes to special types of insurance - such as long range cruising. However, it's important that the agent making the 'pitch' be a specialist, have direct contacts with the markets, and works in a professional manner.

Donald W. Spink, CPCU
Blue Water Insurance, Inc.

Donald - We don't have the time or resources to get into the specifics of the Neumann's case - but the Seven Seas Cruising Association assures us that the couple are indeed members of that organization, and have been for years.

As for your caution that it's important to disclose previous losses, and your conclusion that when looking for a specialized thing like cruising insurance the agent should be a specialist, have direct contacts with the markets, and work in a professional manner - we couldn't agree more. Nonetheless, it's been our experience that exceptional agents and brokers have a significant influence with some insurers, and are thus sometimes able to negotiate 'concessions' or 'exceptions' that other agents can't.

By the way, Pantaenius is based both in Germany and England. They will write insurance for boats in the Caribbean - and even in Central America. But you're correct in that they will not write insurance for U.S. documented boats. When we read that a U.S. jury awarded $80 million to a female UPS employee because a supervisor once poked her in the breast, it's easy to see the wisdom in Pantaenius' excluding of American-based risks.

NO NEED FOR SILLY SUPERSTITIONS

If Latitude keeps collecting superstitions, soon all superstitious sailors are going to stay at home cowering in front of their televisions. But I think I can help counteract that by explaining one common superstition - the supposed danger of bad luck that comes with renaming a boat.

Renamed boats have common characteristics; they're used and worn. The person selling the boat probably lost interest in it some time earlier, allowing things to corrode, the boat to leak and wood to rot. The seller may also not have been completely candid about some of the hidden problems. All of this is as true now as it was hundreds of years ago.

So, what happens after the boat is renamed - which is one of the things many new owners do? Things start breaking and leaking. So naturally it would seem that renaming a boat brought bad luck.

To counter this problem and superstition, I suggest an improved renaming ceremony that begins with two bottles of ritual beverage. After the appropriate words and libations to the gods - just in case they're really interested in the boat - the renaming ceremony should end with an inspection party to find what a surveyor may have missed. Whoever finds the most defects gets the second bottle. But remember, no cheap ritual beverages - or the 'inspectors' might not be sufficiently motivated!

In any event, this 'second survey' would make it obvious why the boat might be subject to 'bad luck', and the owner would have the option to repair it. And that would be the end of the superstition.

Ralph Hinegardner
Santa Cruz

Ralph - We would never rename a wood boat - and we'd be hesitant to change the name of a steel boat, too. Solid fiberglass and composite boats are a whole different story, as you can rename them as many times as you want without any bad luck. The only exceptions are fiberglass boats that were built in Taiwan, Hong Kong or China. Changing the name on such Asian fiberglass boats is best done with the help of a Feng Shui expert.

THE BCDC'S JURISDICTION OVER LIVEABOARDS

Do you know what happened in the legal battle between Oyster Cove Marina and the BCDC (Bay Conservation and Development Commission)? They were disputing whether the BCDC had the authority to control liveaboards at Oyster Cove. The last I remember, the judge tossed the BCDC's case on its ear, but that the BCDC was going to appeal. I haven't read anything about it since.

Ed Shirk
Northern California

Ed - The battle was not between the BCDC and Oyster Point Marina, but between the BCDC and the San Mateo Harbor District. The Harbor District's function is to develop state-funded waterfront facilities in San Mateo County - such as Oyster Point Marina, which is located in South San Francisco.

As a state-funded agency, the SMHD felt they shouldn't have to go to another state-funded agency, the BCDC, to get a permit to have liveaboards - especially since their liveaboard policies and regulations were and are in conformity with the BCDC's. And especially since it would cost about $100,000 to do what would have amounted to little more than kissing the BCDC's ass. Unfortunately, the BCDC has always seemed to have a thing about getting its ass kissed. The fetish isn't as strong as it used to be, but old habits die hard.

As it turned out, the SMHD won their suit in the early '90s, but then the BCDC won on appeal. The SMHD couldn't afford to fight the other state agency any longer, and let the ruling stand. Having spent all that time and money to win on appeal, you'd think the BCDC would have then demanded that the SMHD get a permit for the liveaboards. But the BCDC has done no such thing. Why not? We suspect that the BCDC, about as political and authoritarian a public agency as you'll find this side of a banana republic, was primarily interested in defending what they considered to be a threat to their turf. They're always very aggressive about this.

Under both San Mateo Harbor District and BCDC rules, liveaboards are limited to 10% of all boats in a marina. If you're not a registered liveaboard, you're allowed to stay on your boat no more than three nights a week - although this rule isn't always strictly enforced. We don't know if there are 'sneakaboards' at Oyster Point Marina, but there are in just about every other Bay Area marina.

AN EXTENSION OF OUR NAKED EYE

We just wanted to toot the horn for a product on the market which, when put to the offshore cruisers' test, actually stands up to it's sexy high tech claims. In our experience, the ITT Night Vision Viewer 180 scope has proven to be an excellent tool for our night passage-making.

We bought the ITT night scope as an anniversary present to ourselves. We expected to primarily use it as a navigation tool for cruising Indonesian waters - which were reported to be littered with poorly lit or unlit fishing vessels. We also bought it as a security device, as some areas of the South China Sea have reported incidents of piracy.

The night scope proved itself time and again, as small vessel lights were easily discernible and big ship lights became bright beacons long before they showed up on our 16-mile radar. As an extension of our naked eye, the night scope sharpens our watch-keeping and minimizes our reliance upon the amp-consuming radar. We now flip on the radar only to determine a target's distance and course.

The scope also defines shoreline topography for those unavoidable situations when you have to anchor at night. It also provides a spotting tool for unlit vessels which may approach our boat too closely at night - which is why we stow it close to our bunk. Last but not least, the night scope is a mind-boggling toy for stargazing! So, despite the $1,300 price tag, it has been worth every penny for us.

A word of caution about 'cheapie' versions sold at Price Club/Costco and other department stores; they don't seem to stand up to marine use. And, unfortunately, there probably won't be a GPS-like price drop on these devices anytime soon, as electronic imaging technology is still complex and costly to produce.

As a final note, Indonesia has turned out to be an absolute gem of a place to cruise! The rumors of unlit boats and piracy have, in our experience and that of all the other cruisers we've heard from, proven to be unfounded. What we discovered instead are the friendliest and most gracious people we have ever met.

Gary and Dorothy Wood
Gigolo, Horizon Steel Yacht Pilothouse 48
Singapore

UP TO THIS TIME I DON'T RECALL SHEDDING A TEAR

As a reader of Latitude 38, I have been provided generously with great humor, articles which aroused my anger, dreams of sailing destinations which served as tranquilizers during periods of stress, and thought-provoking testimony and opinion regarding topics too numerous to mention. But I never recall shedding a tear - at least not until you published Steve Oswald's sensitive and meaningful letter in tribute to his late wife Nancy, his "good shipmate". Thanks so much for printing it.

Rich Denning
Osage
St. Louis

NOW AND THEN IN NAWILIWILI

I was on the Hawaiian Island of Kauai in the middle of January when I came across this old rust bucket of a Chevy van in the parking lot of the Nawiliwili Small Craft Harbor. The van had been sitting for a while and had parking tickets. It also had a sign that read: "FOR SALE - $800/OBO - RUNS GOOD." The $800 was crossed off to read "$300/OBO - RUNS". Finally the $300 was crossed out to read: "TAKE IT!!"

I peeked in the back of the old van and noticed a bed, an old surfboard - and as you might be able to see from the photograph - a copy of Latitude behind the seat!

I asked around and was told that some months before a young man was observed backing the van up and unloading stuff from the van onto a sailboat that was rigged for heavy weather sailing. Later that day the boat was seen heading out to sea. Nobody seemed to know who the guy was or where he was headed. But at least he could have taken the Latitude - it was certainly worth more than the van!

While on the subject, later that night I put a copy of the December Latitude into my backpack and headed off to my watering hole. I showed it to the bartender - who took it and wouldn't give it back! Can you imagine? It also took me 20 minutes to get another beer - but it was free.

Fan Of The Best Sailing Mag In The World
Planet Earth

BOAT GUIDES AND REVIEWS

In the January issue, John and Susan Pazera asked about sources for information about boats - along the lines of used car buyer's guides. You pointed out the pitfalls of boat reviews and offered them some guidance in selecting a boat - but I'd like to mention some potential sources.

First, I finally ran down a copy of Practical Boat Buyer's Guide, which is published by the magazine Practical Sailor. Regrettably, it appears to be out of print. But if anyone can find one it does have reviews that have enough depth to be useful, and they don't hesitate to criticize.

Two other books, Mauch's Sailboat Guide and Boat Watch (ISBN 0-9627152-3-9) have basic specifications and line drawings from which potential buyers can draw some conclusions or at least narrow the field somewhat. Mauch's has short descriptions but not reviews. Readers can check their library; all three books are available at the Sausalito library.

Another book, The Nature of Boats by Dave Gerr, is packed with help on evaluating your needs and interests in boats, and translating cold stats into a feel for what a boat's like.

Finally, there's a cd-rom titled So Many Boats, with information on about 600 current production boats. The 'reviews' are obviously written by the manufacturers and hence almost completely worthless. But it does give specs, line drawings, and color photos that are great for daydreaming if nothing else. Their web site is www.boatshow.com.

As you point out in your reply to the Pazera's letter, there are a staggering number of boat designs. Flipping through the Classy Classifieds, I doubt that I could find half of them in any of the above publications. But reading them carefully will get you thinking more clearly about what you're looking for - either that or confuse you beyond hope to the extent you'll take up motorcycle racing.

Steve Molin
Richmond

Steve - While we still tend to think those guides offer precious little useful information, thanks for trying to help.

If anyone is interested in multihulls, the latest edition of the Sailor's Multihull Guide has just been published by Avalon House. The book offers the basic line drawings and specs of about 175 different multihull designs. As such, it's pretty complete.

JENSEN REEF

We haven't received a copy of the February issue yet, but David and Sally of Hopalong, who are still in the Bay Area, forwarded your e-mail asking for more information about Jensen Reef. We wrote about it in the February Changes.

The more dangerous - but not always visible - part of this reef is directly north of the part pictured on page 107 of the original version of Gerry Cunningham's excellent The Complete Cruising Guide to the Middle Gulf. Cunningham has an addendum for page 107 with a revised picture showing the entire reef. He was already aware of the reef, having found it last summer.

By the way, our intent in writing about the reef was not to denigrate any of the charts or cruising guides. We think that all of the several guides we carry are well done and quite useful, but that no cruising guide or chart can show every rock or reef. You always have to be alert. Cunningham, however, has done a very thorough job covering the middle and northern portions of the Sea of Cortez, and we consult his guides and charts carefully before venturing into unknown territories.

Right now we and Wings are making final preparations to depart Vallarta for a two-month cruise on the mainland coast of Mexico, hoping to get farther south this year than Barra, our southernmost point last year. We're heading west in April, assuming the effect of El Nišo doesn't look too dangerous at that time for a crossing to the Marquesas. We'll probably depart from Acapulco, despite the slightly longer distance and less favorable slant, instead making the long sail back up the coast of Mexico.

Fred Roswold and Judy Jensen
Wings
Mexico

Fred & Judy - You give excellent advice when you recommend that all guides and charts be consulted - and that mariners still be alert for dangers. By the way, we're certain nobody got the impression you were trying to slam any of the cruising guides.

As of February 13, NOAA was reporting that the water at the equator was 82¼ - or 10¼ higher than normal - to a depth of 240 feet. That should cool enough by April to minimize the chance of late or out-of-season cyclones. Anyone contemplating heading across the 'puddle' should be aware, however, that there have been quite a few cyclones in rarely hit parts of the South Pacific. Ursula, Veli, and Wes, all in the central South Pacific, were the most recent. None of them were particularly powerful, but Ursula ended up southeast of Pitcairn Island!

CRUISING AND E-MAIL

Your cruising boat is provisioned, all the charts are aboard, and you're dreaming of palm-lined tropical beaches. But if your business clients and family have been using e-mail to communicate with you, how are you going to stay in touch when you're in faraway places? Especially if you want to write on your laptop while at anchor and send and receive all your communication by e-mail. Here are the options - with variations in cost, reliability and security - as I've found them:

1) Keep your current e-mail account and call long distance to a major city that has your type of account. CompuServe, for instance, has Mexican numbers to call. The use of 800 numbers is usually restricted to calls from the U.S., and there are expensive charges to call 800 numbers from foreign phones. So you'll have to forget surfing the web unless you have an unlimited budget. But an international credit card and a phone coupler usually works.

2) Obtain a free web-based e-mail account such as http://www.hotmail.com, and use the web to edit and receive your mail while connected to any internet provider. This works well, and the only charge is connect time to the internet. You can obtain an e-mail forwarding address such http://www.big-foot.com or http://www.mailme.com. These accounts are free, and all mail they receive is forwarded to a temporary address. The forwarding address can be changed.

This option is fine if you are planning on staying in an area for more than a month and connect to the internet via an independent service provider who assigns you a temporary e-mail address. For instance, Puerto Vallarta, Cabo San Lucas and Mazatlan all have ISPs that charge reasonable fees. La Paz has three ISPs and the charges are approximately 30 dollars/month plus a one-time setup fee. You do, however, need a telephone connection. Ham connections can work, but we understand that it's slow, unreliable and very insecure. Furthermore, it's illegal to conduct commercial correspondence via ham radio.

3) Keep your current e-mail account and obtain an internet connection to your laptop through an ISP, and access your account using your own e-mail software and the internet. This method has been tested in Mexico with AOL and ISPs, and it works. The only charges are a one time setup fee to set up your laptop for a local dial up connection, and the connect time charges. There are no long distance charges. Depending on your e-mail software, there are usually a few minor alterations that need to be made. We have tested Eudora, MS Outlook Express and AOL with positive results. There have been problems accessing e-mail accounts with MSN, IBM and CompuServe through the internet.

4) Rent a computer and connect time at places such as the Internet Cafň and carry a floppy with your composed e-mail in text format. Currently, the Internet Cafň in La Paz will not rent an internet connection unless you use their computer. There also offer limited tech support in English.

5) 'Snail mail' and faxes still work.

These are a few of the methods to stay in contact in 'paradise'. Club Cruceros de La Paz is currently working on obtaining a free permanent e-mail address for club members so they can access world wide using the internet. We will be testing this system over the next few months.

Boone Camp
Maracay
bcamp@balandra.uabcs.mx
http://www.geocities.com/Baja/3091
La Paz, Mexico

Boone - While the start-up costs are much higher - in excess of $4,000 - we're told that approximately 10% of the cruising boats in the South Pacific are now equipped with Inmarsat C. It's extremely simple, reliable - and as easy to install as a VHF. Too bad it costs so much.

LIKE FOUR SPIDER ARMS

Someone asked where the water goes when the tide goes out. The answer can be found in Van Dorn's Oceanography and Seamanship, both the old and new editions. The current scientific explanation is that each ocean basin has 'amphidromic points' where there are either little or very small tides. The Pacific Basin has about 10 such points.

The actual tide we see is caused by a wave which rotates counterclockwise about the amphidromic points; the average period is 12 hours and 25 minutes. From above, it would look like four spider arms rotating about a point. Two highs and two lows each day is typical.

The amphidromic point near San Francisco causes the tide to sweep northward up the coast. That's why Santa Cruz tides are 1 hour and 15 minutes - for high tide - earlier than at the Golden Gate. Places with very low tidal ranges are most likely near an amphidromic point. Hawaii and Tahiti are examples.

So where does the water go? It goes up and down.

The other point I'd like to make is that Lee Helm only got it half right about the asymmetry in sunrise and sunset times near the summer and winter solstices. The equation of time effect due to the earth speeding up and slowing down as it falls toward the sun from January to June, and then speeds away from July to December, is only one of the two effects. Even if the earth had a perfectly circular orbit and hence uniform speed, we would still have the asymmetry in sunrise and sunset at the solstices - due only to the earth's tilt from the plane of its orbit.

My friend and colleague, R.M Sills, a radio astronomer from U.C. Berkeley, has written a detailed explanation of this - because lots of people at work were asking - asymmetry. We can e-mail it to anyone who wants the whole explanation. It's only a few pages of trig and calculus to explain the effect. Send e-mail to varner@etec.com for a copy.

A third point. Who is the asshole who drives the blue-gray Acura with plates 'TEAMNZL'? I've had four encounters with him on the San Mateo Bridge, and he's the most dangerous driver I've ever seen. He's not doing sailing or New Zealand any good by aggravating hundreds of people on the highways each day.

Does anyone else out there have a Ranger 28? I've had mine for 15 years with no big problems and lots of fun.

Jeff Varner
Full Circle, Ranger 28
Northern California

BRAVO TO MAX EBB

February's Max Ebb article zeroes in on almost every aspect of my own sailing experience to date - and starkly illuminates the aspects I wish could have come about differently.

I stood my turns at the helm of another man's very expensive Hallberg-Rassy off the coast of Oregon in 40 knots of wind and 20-foot seas. I know I acquitted myself honorably, because the owner offered a plane ticket for me to crew on the return trip from Seattle. Despite this, I still don't know how to sail a dinghy!

I hope Max's article will be widely read and pondered, and that people will take it to heart by acting on it.

Roy Kiesling
Santa Cruz

DEFENSELESS WITHOUT CLAWS

Since one of your readers asked about de-clawing his cat prior to setting off on a long voyage, it's time for me to rant!

In her book, The Natural Cat, Anitra Frazier gives an excellent description of this horrible mutilation - and the physiological and psychological trauma it inflicts on a cat. Removing a cat's claws is more destructive to the cat than it would be to chop off a humans hands and feet. A cat without claws becomes, in effect, a clubfooted animal. They must shift their weight back to the rear pads, completely altering their movement and destroying the inherent cat-like grace that helps make them so enchanting.

On a boat, this would be even worse. A cat could no longer hold on or have the agility to move through the boat in any sort of inclement weather. The cat, completely defenseless, would also lose confidence and because of the increased stress, would tend to bite more.

To each their own, I suppose. If someone feels it's necessary to chop their kids' finger and toes off to keep the house from getting messed up, then it would be consistent to get their cat de-clawed. On the other hand, there are more safe and humane - interesting word in this context, is it not? - alternatives such as 'soft paws' that can protect the interior of a boat without having to mutilate an animal. Any vet who cares about animals can tell you about such products.

End rant.

A while back you mentioned that someone had suggested you put Latitude in Acrobat format for use on the Web. This is an excellent suggestion. I've used Acrobat and it's easy and inexpensive. It would allow you to take your entire magazine - ads and all - and create one electronic file for use by anyone anytime. Since I assume that you create the issues entirely upon computer - with no final layout by hand - it's the easiest thing to do.

Patrick Wheeler
Richmond

Patrick - No 'hand layout' to Latitude? That's a whopper of an erroneous assumption! In our opinion, it's darn near impossible for a small staff publishing a large magazine to seamlessly flow into a completely digital world. We're getting there, but it's not fun.

NOT A DROP IN 19 YEARS

I simply must object to the negative letters written about teak decks! With all due respect, these complainers aren't suffering from teak decks per se, but from poorly built and installed teak decks. And I can't help but notice that the preponderance of complaints involve boats that were built in Taiwan.

I have an Alajuela 38 that was built, with beautiful teak decks, in Costa Mesa in 1979. Despite 19 years of use that's included many rough passages and lots of cruising, her decks have never leaked a single drop. Not from rain, not from seawater. And I can assure you that I spend precious little time on the upkeep of the decks. Furthermore, the decks haven't been recaulked yet.

The number one reason for having teak decks - other than the wonderful way they feel under bare feet on tropical mornings - is that teak is the best non-skid surface known to sailing. It keeps you from slipping without being the least bit rough on your shoes, clothing, buns - or should you take a spill, knees.

Are teak decks hot in the tropics? You bet they are! But so are fiberglass decks. But because wood is a great insulator, teak decks greatly moderate belowdeck temperatures in the tropics.

Lastly, teak decks are - or at least should be - beautiful. Boats are feminine for a reason, and beauty is a mostly feminine characteristic. Remember, we are what we sail.

Ryan Curran
Deborah Ann
Charleston, South Carolina / formerly San Diego

Readers - We continue to be amazed at the passion - positive and negative - aroused by teak decks.

WHAT BUSTED MY CHOPS

I want to respond to the letter from Dave Plantier, who speculated about how my wife may or may not have contracted hepatitis.

My letter was not an attempt to try to find out how my wife got Hepatitis A; my issue was with people who blatantly pump waste or say it's all right to discharge human waste into the water of places such as the Delta or San Diego Bay. Both of those places are 'No Discharge' zones - although many ignore it.

The situation I referred to involved a marina where people pumped the contents of entire holding tanks into San Diego Bay. And human waste with each time they flushed their heads. It was so bad that you could smell it! Remember, there are visitors to the area who actually swim in these waters. And believe it or not, San Diego Bay is cleaner today than it was even 10 years ago.

My wife's case was of sufficient interest that the county health department responded - and to a lesser degree the U.S. military. But what really busted my chops was a comment from a Navy Captain/Flight Surgeon, during my flight physical after I mentioned that my wife had gotten sick. "Everyone gets hepatitis," was his response. "

I would never go to him again - and I don't question the civilian doctors that feel strongly that my wife could have gotten hepatitis from San Diego Bay.

I thank Plantier for his extensive research, but his assumption and statement that my wife might have Hep B is definitely incorrect. My original letter to Latitude was a statement of the law, not a request for medical research.

Butler Smythe
San Diego

Butler - If you saw and smelled boats dumping entire holding tanks of human waste into San Diego Bay, why didn't you do something about it? Like ask them what the hell they were doing? Like reporting it to the marina? Like reporting it to the health department?

Should anybody cause human waste to end up in the Delta or San Diego Bay? No. But should people suggest they got Hep A from San Diego Bay if it's far more likely they got it somewhere else? To our way of thinking, probably not. In any event, thanks for raising the whole subject, because as a result of it, we're going to get the new vaccine. According to the Hep A Foundation, there's a high risk of getting Hep A from food or water just about everywhere in the world but the U.S., Western Europe and Australia.

MY WIFE WAS FURIOUS

After showing my wife Dave Plantier's letter, she was a bit furious with the presumptuous comments he made. A doctor he is not, and his diagnosis was incorrect.

My wife wanted me to point out that, yes, you can get Hep A from the water of places like San Diego Bay, and that the Navy SEALS are well aware of that. The SEALS used to get gamma globulin shots on a regular basis, but have since gone almost exclusively to Haverix, a product which prevents Hep A for the long term.

What Plantier left out of his dissertation was that children often do not show signs of the disease, and as adults won't know they have had it until they go to give blood - at which time they'll be told they can no longer give. This can come as a surprise.

I wonder how many surfers have had Hep A, especially those that surf in the winter months when the Tijuana River effluent moves its way up Imperial Beach in San Diego.

San Diego Bay does not flush very well, and the winter months are known for rain, direct discharge of sewers, runoff from city streets, trash and garbage from dumpsters - all of which ends up in San Diego Bay. This also includes boat discharges. Heck, one section of San Diego Bay's bottom is going to be capped to cover an area of high PCB content, and vessels will be restricted from anchoring - forever. A product of one of our environmentally conscious companies - not! San Diego Bay is, in fact, one of the top five most polluted bays in the country. The Coronado Cays - $$$ - in the South Bay was once the town dump for Coronado.

How much human waste that gets into San Diego Bay is not the question, just allowing it to get in is.

Butler Smythe (again)
San Diego

Butler - Oh boy! We don't think your wife has any reason to be furious with Plantier. We thought his letter was extremely informative - and respectful.

YOUR FIRST DEFENSE AGAINST BROACHING

In the Sightings piece describing the loss of a Rhodes 19, Sisyphus' Last Ride, the author states that "it's tough to say what would have saved Sisyphus in the end." I beg to differ. I think common sense and good seamanship would have prevented the loss. Having spent countless hours teaching performance-oriented sailing classes in performance keelboat/sailboats, I can think of a few specifics that would saved Sisyphus.

1) Don't fly a spinnaker from a swampable boat in questionable conditions. Sailing a Rhodes 19 in 18 to 20 knots of wind with lots of chop seems a little dicey. Once you get a few hundred gallons of water in a Rhodes 19, you're done for the day. So smart skippers view a bad broach about the same way as they do a sinking.

If a skipper still wants to ignore my first point, then the following points may lessen the risk of sailing in heavier conditions.

2) In planing conditions, keep the boat planing. Everybody who has planed in a small sailboat has experienced the accompanying floating sensation; things seem lighten up as the load on the rigging dissipates with increased boat speed. Unfortunately, if there is a sudden drop in boat speed caused by, say, the bow digging into a wave, the result is severe shock-loading to the rig. If not anticipated and dealt with appropriately, these loads usually lead to some sort 'wipe out'. Although it's not possible to keep most boats on a plane indefinitely, sailing fast is your first line of defense against broaching. Ever effort should be made to keep the boat moving quickly and efficiently through the water.

3) Keep the boat planing by keeping weight aft. Common sense dictates that weight positioned in the back of the boat helps reduce the chance of pushing the bow into the back of the wave in front of you. If you have any doubt about this, just take a look at crew position on any planing boat during a heavy air race on the Bay. In planing conditions, you'll note that the crews of boats like J/24s and Melges 24s almost fight to get behind the traveller. So walking on the foredeck of a boat like Rhodes 19 in heavy is similar to, maybe, 'walking the plank'.

4) In a boat less than 24 feet, if you have to stand up to do anything besides jibe the spinnaker pole, you're either doing it wrong or you boat is rigged incorrectly. In my teaching experience, I've noticed that people have an 'America's Cup attitude', where they feel the need to stand up and run around to solve problems. Acting like an America's Cup bowman on a small boat is a sure way to prevent you from attaining and sustaining point #2. Having sailed a Rhodes 19, I know that the jib can be brought down without sending a person to the bow. It may not be pretty and the jib may get wet, but sending a person to the front of a Rhodes 19 is simply unnecessary.

5) Don't worry about the damned jib in the first place. Unless you're racing at the highest level or the wind is very light and variable, a small jib eased out completely and allowed to luff doesn't affect spinnaker trim enough to justify sending a person to the bow of the boat. In fact, many novice sport boat sailors keep the jib up for backwinding to bring the bow back off the wind in case of broach caused by conditions described in #2. Had the jib been left up on this Rhodes 19, the boat may have been controlled more easily after the catastrophic broach.

I hate to add distress or further pain to the people who undoubtedly love to sail and placed an exceptionally high value on their beautiful boat, but I believe that addressing the causes of this accident will prevent the possible loss of life and the loss of beautiful boats in the future. This accident didn't need to happen.

Adam Pelletier
San Diego

SHE WAS BURNED AS PART OF A CARNIVAL

I enjoyed your January issue, but wish to point out a small error in the Gold Miner's Navy article. The photograph of the naval vessel on pages 134-135 identifies her as being the USS Portsmouth. The vessel pictured is actually the HMS Rose, a replica of an 18th century Royal Navy ship that was originally built in 1970 and then extensively rebuilt in 1985-87. She is one of the prizes of the American sail-training fleet, and as such deserves to be recognized as herself. However, she has no connection with California or the Gold Rush. The original Rose was built in 1757, almost 90 years before Portsmouth. She was scuttled by the British during the American Revolution.

The United States Sloop of War Portsmouth - the designation 'USS' was not used until closer to the Civil War - was built in Portsmouth, Maine, and launched in 1843. She was one of the last U.S. Navy ships built to be powered exclusively by sail. She was commissioned in 1844 under the command of Commander John B. Montgomery, and sailed on her maiden voyage to the Pacific later that year.

Portsmouth was stationed in San Francisco Bay in May of 1846 when news of the War with Mexico arrived. Her crew captured - without resistance - the town of Yerba Buena (the then-name for San Francisco) on July 9, 1846, making San Francisco a part of the United States. Portsmouth Square in Chinatown is the site of the Mexican Custom House where the flag was raised, and Montgomery Street was named in honor of the ship's commander.

Portsmouth was given to the City of San Francisco upon her retirement in 1910, but the money to refit her and sail her back from the East Coast was never raised. On September 6, 1915 she was burned at Governor's Island in Boston - as a part of a carnival.

Gordon Worley
worley@ns.net

VERSE FIT FOR LATITUDE

In response to the request for a limerick incorporating Sausalito, two sailing lasses, drippy fog, an Express 37, a Cal 20, the Potato Patch, varnishing, a singlehanded sailor, Pusser's Rum, a flogging jib, a GPS, Point Blunt, and a broken watermaker, here goes:

A lone sailor out of Point Blunt-ie
set sail, though he was rather runty;
At two sailing lasses
he tried to make passes
with his rundown and battered Cal 20.

These lasses appeared just like heaven
in their brand new Express 37;
he told them a fib
'bout his "big" flogging jib,
and he said, "By the way, the name's Devon."

He said "I'm a crusty old salt;
My dad was a captain named Walt."
He varnished the truth
(He came from Duluth!
But truly, that wasn't his fault!)

In the drippy fog off Sausalito,
wearing only a pink and green speed-o,
his GPS fell
in unusual swell.
(He began to wish he was in Lido!)

He slipped and broke open his hatch,
on his way to the Potato Patch.
His watermaker he broke,
and of rum he soon spoke
"Good old Pusser's, I've not met it's match!"

Shawn Cooley
Landlocked in Cupertino

Shawn - Don't quit your day job, but we can tell that we're beginning to zero in on some culture.

THE STRANGEST ONE YET

Please review the enclosed in response to your request in the Febuary 1998 issue for limericks:

As a reply, Please allow me the 'latitude' of submitting not one, but three entries in your ersatz limerick contest. It gave me something to do while the winds of February poured forth.

1) Two Sausalito sailing lasses with Pusser's Rum a'plenty,
Sailed into drippy fog on an Express 37 and a Cal 20.

One's flogging jib took a varnishing in the Potato Patch:
Th'other's GPS navigated Point Blunt - with a catch:

Her broken watermaker came with a singlehanded sailor gentry.

2) Two Sausalito sailing lasses once varnished
an Express 37, a Cal 20, and a singlehanded sailor-tarnished:

Distillin' Pusser's Rum got his watermaker broke,
Drippy fog off Point Blunt gave his GPS a good soak;

But 'twas his floggin' jib that the Potato Patch garnished.

3) There once was gent from Tibet,
And this is the strangest one yet:

His gaff was so long
And pointed and strong

He could bugger six Greeks en brochette.

What? You can't publish the third one? Well, that just shows you. And I thought that yours was a high-class literary magazine.

Ethan Hay
Planet Earth

Readers - This is what happens with poets; you ask for one limerick and they try to get you to publish three - one of which can't even stay on the subject.

COLUMBIA YACHT OWNERS UNITE!

As you know, Columbia Yachts has been out of business for quite a while, so there is no factory support for boatowners. So how does a Columbia owner find parts or learn about the strengths and weaknesses of these boats? Many turn to the internet. A couple of us took note of this activity and decided to do something about it:

First, Mike Keers recently began publishing C-Nuz, a newsletter for Columbia owners. It's a not-for-profit venture that provides a traditional forum for sharing information and telling sea tales about Columbias. Keers threatens to publish issue #2 any day now. He can be contacted at P.O. Box 68, Hereford, Arizona, 85615-9316. Or by e-mail at: emkay@sinosa.com.

Secondly, I started a website for owners of Columbia built boats. It's main purpose is to be a repository of Columbia Yacht information, but I've included an owner's registry, a page for owners seeking or selling Columbia boats or parts (no charge for listings), and more. The URL is http://www.monumental.com /ewhite/columbia.html.

Finally, just over a week ago Sailnet began hosting a Columbia mailing list. We're already up to 40 members and information is beginning to flow. There is no charge to join the list. Go to Sailnet (http://www.sailnet.com) to sign up.

Please help us to get the word out to other Columbia owners as there is a veritable gold mine of information about these vessels locked up in people's heads and this 'wealth' needs to be shared.

Eric White ('64 Columbia 24)
Binary, 1964 Columbia 24
Galesville, Maryland

Eric - It's hard to comprehend how many different models were built under the Columbia brand. We can remember the following sizes: 22, 23, 24 (several models), 26 (several models), 28 (several models), 29 (several models), 30 (several models), 31, 32, 34 (several models), 35, 36, 38, 39, 40, 43, 45, 50, 52, 56, and 57. And we're certain there were several others.

We did the New Year's Eve Regatta at St. Barts to end 1997, and out there with Adela, Endeavour, White Hawk, Destiny and all the others magnificent yachts was a Columbia 57. We passed her while beating around the windward side of the island, but the old Bill Tripp (Sr. ) design had been was all buffed up, sported new sails, and looked every bit a 'plastic classic'.

NO WAY TO PREPARE FOR THE WORST

Two things. First, your advice to Mike Denham's query regarding sailing from the state of Washington to San Francisco is valid - for the inexperienced and timid. And if the object is merely to move the boat from Sequim - which, incidentally, is a long way from Seattle - then without doubt 60 mph on the Interstate is vastly more comfortable than 60 knot winds and 20 foot seas offshore. It's also vastly more expensive, if that's any consideration.

If, on the other hand, this passage is merely the first leg of a cruise, that's another matter. There is no way to prepare for the worst conditions other than to go and deal with them. Endless seminars and shelves of books will not do it. Vast experience in lesser conditions will not insulate from the terror of the "brutal first experience".

Rick Rienks, with 20 years experience, tucked tail and ran when it turned gnarly - even though he was not in trouble or danger and despite the fact he had a good boat under him. Even the redoubtable Lin Pardey confesses that, after an extended period away from it, there is a brief resurgence of the 'terror factor' when exposed to heavy weather again. No shame in it.

So the place for Mike Denham to look for answers is

not without - outside advice is always colored and prejudiced - but within. Denham should search himself, envision these brutal conditions described so garishly, then ask himself: "Can I stand and face it or will I crumble, or cut and run?" That's the real crux of the matter, not training. If Denham is going cruising, he will face heavy weather sooner or later - and it will be just as terrifying later as sooner.

You and Rienks paint Mike Denham a pretty dismal picture of failure and Montana farm purchases. It happens, of course, because some of us were not just made to be sailors. But not as often as you would lead us to believe. Success or failure would seem to be more a matter of psychological preparedness than learning.

Here's an example: A few years ago two local retired folks, aged 55 and with little sailing experience, set out to sail their boat from Ventura north to - sheer coincidence - Sequim, Washington. By anyone's reckoning, sailing north along the west coast of the United States is much more difficult - because you have to beat into the wind and seas and current - than sailing south along the same coast.

The couple had adventures aplenty, you may be sure. There was initial terror and seasickness, blown out sails, cat and mouse - rather elephant and mouse - games in the fog with trunk-to-tail chains of fishing boats heading for port, hairy bar crossings and all the rest. But they didn't turn tail, they didn't cash out, and they didn't buy a Montana farm. They persisted and prevailed - and they are currently enjoying their boat in New Zealand. And they didn't truck their boat there!

They reported some very uncomfortable times during their crossing of the Pacific, but no mention of terror - no doubt because of their baptism by fire on the passage up the rough and unfriendly west coast of the United States. Followed, of course, by a passage down the coast. That trip wasn't even remarkable enough to tell friends about.

So listen to all the advice, Mr. Denham, it's all valid in its way, then evaluate it and yourself. Heed the advice and go the easy way if that seems appropriate for you. If you decide to bite the bullet and sail down, go for it! Many have done so successfully - including John Guzzwell in his little 21-foot Trekka. But if you do, first learn to heave to, don't lower a jib without securing it, and don't put to sea with dock lines loose on deck!

Second, I was aghast at a passage in Paul Cayard's

communique, the one in which he tells of standing over the toilet - in horrible conditions - to relieve himself. I find this incredible because the cardinal rule on all boats is that 'gentlemen sit for all functions'. There is a very good reason for this: no matter how good the aim, or how focused the equipment, there is considerable splattering - resulting in stains and smells in the confined space of the head compartment. If these guys are standing under the conditions Cayard describes, that head must be a glorious mess! And even if the rest of the boat survives the race, I predict its head will have to be razed and a new one erected. Terminally gross.

Why men cling to the primitive habit of standing while relieving themselves is a mystery. When in the woods, or when forced to go over the side on a boat - as I have been - it's nice to be equipped for standing relief. But when a nice comfortable seat is available, what sense does it make to stand, aim - and scatter?! Particularly on a boat in rough conditions? It's macho bullshit, nothing else. Or perhaps bull-urine!

Jim Troglin
Wind Song
Ventura

Jim - Let's see if we've got your psychological-preparadedness-is-better-than-actual-training concept clear. A guy wants to be a fighter pilot, so the Navy should, what, tell him to visualize flying an F-18 off the deck of an aircraft carrier at night - then have him actually try it? Your girlfriend wants to learn to surf, so you tell her to visualize dropping in at the Banzai Pipeline on a 25 foot day - then shove her to her death? Can we presume you'd instruct your kids to visualize snowboarding down double diamonds - and then p

No, no, and no! There are few if any challenges that a person wouldn't be better prepared to met than by having gradually worked up to them. Which is why F-18 pilots start in little trainers, why your start your girlfriend - assuming you want to keep her - surfing on ankle-slappers, and why parents teach kids to snowboard on bunny hills.

With time, tips, and experience, the pilots, surfer girls, and snowboarding kids all become more gradually more proficient and - this is important - more confident in their ability to face increasingly greater challenges. So when it comes to sailing, the person who has gradually worked up to being able to comfortable reef in 25 knots is going to have a hell of an easier time reefing in 40 knots than the guy who has only reefed in his mind. Indeed, the best way to psychologically prepare yourself for a serious challenge is to have properly prepared for it.

As for the "certain terror" you say that all cruisers are going to experience, it's by no means certain. We recently read an article by a guy who sailed offshore from Panama to Seattle in his Valiant 40; he never saw more than 22 knots of wind. When Steve Fosset raced Lakota from Japan to San Francisco, the highest wind he saw was 25 knots. Lots of people have sailed around the world and not been caught in anything more than 35 knots. In fact, if a sailor wanted to go looking for real nasty weather, one of the best places in the world to start would be between Seattle and San Francisco in the spring or summer. If a sailor can get comfortable with that stretch of water, a typical circumnavigation would be like a stroll in the park.

We stand by our suggestion that San Francisco is a great training ground for ocean sailing. You can work up to it by becoming proficient in the stiff winds but mostly flat waters of San Francisco Bay. Once you've got the techniques down pat, you take gradually longer jaunts out into the Gulf of the Farallones, where you'll get plenty of chances to hone your skills in relatively larges seas. Baby steps, Jim, baby steps.

As for the sitting versus standing while peeing question, we're told that when it really gets rough on a Whitbread 60, it's safer to brace yourself while standing than it is to risk being launched from the sitting position. Besides, in view of what Cayard has accomplished, people aren't going to mind if he does it sitting or standing.

TIRESOME AND IMMATURE

My congratulations on your many years of publication. Latitude is a pure pleasure to read - with one exception: the Coast Guard bashing.

The anti-government tone of the magazine, which has reached splenetic levels, is tiresome and immature. The magazine - including your 'creative' constitutional law theory - is beginning to sound like some of the right-wing militia 'rags' from the Intermountain Area. Will you soon be advocating that readers pay their subscriptions with phony U.S. 'warrants' and place bogus title liens on vendors - your advertisers - whose services they dislike?

For God's sake, stop the whining and move on to something else.

A. S. Weatherton
Leeward Bound
Richmond

A.S. - We're big supporters of the Coast Guard - except for those occasions when they trample the Fourth Amendment as though it were a dead mackerel. But to demonstrate how reasonable we are, we're willing to support the Coast Guard's phony 'safety inspections' as soon as you and the Supreme Court are willing to permit groups of armed building inspectors to search your home any time of day or night.

We're not anti-government by a long shot - but we do believe it's better to have too little government than too much government. The reason is simple: we think we have a better idea of what to do with our lives and our money than does some bureaucrat in the District of Columbia and Sacramento. And we, like most sailors, also believe in personal freedom - as well as the responsibility that comes with it.

We were idealistic communists/socialists back when we rioted at the Big U. Having since learned what kind of cheese-ball fascism that leads to, we've become more Libertarian than anything else. If we're not hurting somebody else, the government pretty much ought to stay the hell our of our lives.

PEOPLE LIKE DR. BOMBARD

Mr. Knudsen's letter in the February issue raised the question of survival by drinking saltwater. Research into survival at sea was initiated by Dr. Alain Bombard as detailed in his book The Voyage of the Heretique, published in 1954. Dr. Bombard's research at the Museum of oceanography in Monaco led him to conclude that survival at sea without supplies of fresh water would be possible by pressing liquid from fish, and other food sources were available from both fish and edible organic matter such as small crustaceans.

Dr. Bombard proved his point by drifting from Casablanca to the Barbados in a 16-foot rubber raft outfitted with a small sail. The trip took 65 days and there was no rain for the first 23 days. He drank seawater for 14 days in all and fish juice for 43 days. By the end of the trip he had lost 55 pounds and was seriously anemic - but he had proved that survival at sea for long periods without 'fresh water' was possible.

I think the world is a better place because of people like Dr. Bombard. The unfortunate reality is that people do not read, do not remember, and often die because they don't know what others have done that would have helped them survive.

David A. French
La Conner, Washington

David - The world in indeed a better - and more interesting place - because of the contributions of people like Dr. Bombard. But having just finished his book, we're not certain it's fair to say that he proved you could drink saltwater. See on article on Bombard latter in this issue to understand why.


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© 1998 Latitude 38