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'MAYDAY, I HAVE HIT A ROCK'

The following is pretty much a copy of a letter that I've sent to Governor Pete Wilson, Senators Boxer and Feinstein, and others.

This is to inform you of the gross negligence of the U.S. Coast Guard, which affects the safety and lives of each and every person, and boat operating on or near the bays and coastal waters of California.

I am not a novice yachtsman, as this is the second yacht I have owned and captained over the past 10 years. Further, I have had the opportunity to learn well from my father, Paul C. Petersen, who owned and captained more than five Hatteras motor yachts while I was growing up.

My Hatteras 38 motor yacht Tootsie was wrecked on Pebble Beach on September 1, 1997, due to a lack of response from Coast Guard Monterey. At approximately 8:30 p.m., I made the following transmission over Channel 16: "Mayday, Mayday, Mayday, SOS, this is the vessel Tootsie. I am the captain, Robert Petersen. I have hit a submerged rock and have lost steering and power in six-foot waves. Mayday, Mayday." At the time I made my transmission, I was only two miles from Coast Guard Monterey. There was no response.

Five minutes before I was to abandon my vessel, Coast Guard San Francisco did respond, but it was too late as they were 90 miles away.

I made the decision to abandon ship as I was being beaten against rocks in six foot waves and I feared that my boat was going to either sink or explode. I then dropped my anchor in 27 feet of water about 200 feet offshore. My shipmate and I immediately got off of the boat and into the dinghy, then started paddling by hand towards shore. By this time we'd been spotted by five or six cars, which shone their headlights at my yacht so I could see.

Fortunately, an off-duty Carmel police officer came out in the water - fully clothed - and grabbed the front of the dinghy, for the surf almost tipped us over. With his help we safely made it ashore. After pulling the dinghy up on the beach, I sat on the shore and watched Tootsie break loose, because of the strong winds and large waves, and then wash up on shore.

Coast Guard Monterey did show up the following day to inspect Tootsie for any fuel or oil leakage, and for any violations of Coast Guard regulations. She passed all with flying colors.

That same afternoon a woman - I can't recall her name - who identified herself as the person in charge of Coast Guard Monterey came to inspect the site. I questioned her as to the lack of response from Coast Guard Monterey. Her response was, "Well, after 10 p.m. all of our calls are automatically transferred and forwarded to Coast Guard San Francisco. After they get the call, it takes at least 45 minutes to contact us."

The damage to my boat was extensive and documented by every paper and television station in the Monterey Bay area. Towing and repairs to the boat personally cost me $60,000 - because the boat was built in '68 I was only able to get liability insurance.

This financial tragedy and burden would have been avoided entirely had the Coast Guard lived up to their 'Always Ready' motto. Because it took 45 minutes to get a response, lives could have been lost and there could have been an environmental disaster to some of the most desirable coastline in California.

Robert P. Petersen
Northern California

Robert - The way we see it, when a person takes his/her boat to sea, he/she accepts complete responsibility for the safe operation of that vessel. If a person doesn't want to accept that responsibility, he/she should stay on shore. Yes, we have a Coast Guard, but like all people, businesses and agencies, they do not have unlimited resources. 'Semper Paratus' doesn't mean "We'll be there wherever and whenever anybody needs us". So unless the station wasn't staffed when it should have been, we think you were on your own.

By the way, if your Hatteras is in decent condition, we can't understand why you couldn't get full coverage.

SMALL BOATYARDS WERE MALIGNED

I'd like to respond to the blatant horseshit expounded in the March KKMI ad in Latitude - the one in which the craftsmen, owners, and clientele associated with small boatyards were maligned in one fell swoop of egocentric copy.

As the owner of a small boatyard, I am not party to the propagation of the so called 'myth' that the size of a boatyard doesn't matter. We don't have the tools of a bigger yard or the crane capacity - but we do a good job at reasonable rates for a loyal clientele. And we've been doing a great job for 35 years. We don't sell what we are not equipped to do, but refer that work to businesses that are - including boatyards that we feel are competent.

The ad copy stated that "smaller yards have no option and must charge their customers more simply due to their modest capacity." We tell our customers to call around for alternate quotes, and many do such research before they come to us. But they come for a variety of reasons; sometimes price, often times reputation, and sometimes location.

Small boatyards can have advantages. All our equipment is paid for, and we have no mortgage to amortize. A small yard also has smaller expenses to contend with when times are slow, such as when the recent rains slowed down much of the work at Bay Area boatyards. Painting or doing fiberglass work during periods of high humidity is a poor practice, and for most yards the bulk of operations is outdoors.

Quality and size are not a direct relationship. Many exquisitely made boats, reconstructions, and repairs are produced by small boatyards all over the world. Quality has to do with the caliber of craftsmanship and design of a product or a repair.

Many larger boatyards have a category in their bills called 'miscellaneous materials'. We don't. All our time and materials are accounted for.

I don't begrudge KKMI its success, and wish them well in running an honorable business. But I do resent the implication that smaller businesses are less competent, qualified, value and quality oriented, and that we somehow need to rip off our customers to stay in business. For us, and for many others, it just ain't so.

Douglas Wood
South Bay Boat Works
Redwood City

Douglas - In the publishing business there are some advantages to being big and some advantages to being small. We're sure the same is true with boatyards.

EYEPATCHES OVER HER NIPPLES

I sent you a couple of photographs to post on your website. One, titled 'Pirate', and was of my wife with eyepatches over her nipples. Did you get it? If so, will you be posting it on your site?

Mike
Cyberspace

Mike - We had indeed planned to post reader photographs on the 'Gallery' section of our site. We've since changed our minds because of a combination of the expense and mediocre quality of the photographs we received. Mind you, the mediocrity refers to the exposures, not the subjects. Your wife, for example, looks fetching in her pirate outfit - or lack of it.

THE TIJUANA POLICE

Trailering your boat to Baja? Be ready for the unexpected when dealing with officials and the police. I was stopped on the Mexican side and asked for the boat's registration. I couldn't find it, so I said, "Okay, I'll go home." The official said that he'd take care of it for $20. When I insisted that I wanted to turn around to go home and get the registration, he gave up and told me to continue on.

Three others with Schock 23s were stopped earlier because their boats were "too wide." They weren't too wide, but for a total of $60 they were given a 'special permit' and allowed to continue. Mind you, it was a verbal permit, not one that was written out.

On the way back home you may well be pulled over by Tijuana police for some imagined infraction. But don't bother trying to prove that your turn signal does work, because they'll just claim something else is wrong. At which point they'll say, "You'll have to come down to the station to take care of this. But if you pay us the $40 fine, we'll take care of it for you so you can continue on."

When it happened to me the last time, I went into an act that convinced the police that I was crazy. They were quick to jump into their vehicle and leave.

What will you do when your time comes?

Tim McCall
Los Gatos

Tim - The last time we pulled a boat trailer through Tijuana - about seven years ago - the fine was only "ten or twenty dollars - whatever you have." Sounds like inflation is getting out of hand south of the border.

MARKET FORCES ON LATITUDES

I want to advise your readers that when traveling on charters, particularly to the Caribbean, current issues of Latitude can be used as currency in the marina bars. I was in St. Martin during hurricane Bertha last year, and succeeded in trading two current issues of Latitude for seven - count em', seven - Heinekens. I believe this 40 ounces per issue is a world's record.

The cruisers down there all know people in the Changes section and the ads give everyone current intelligence on prices of boat gear. Anyway, somehow we managed to start a flea market of old Latitudes in the Dinghy Bar at Marigot Bay. Between about six of us, we had the entire most recent year of Latitudes! As there is no blue book on issues of Latitudes, market forces quickly kicked in and late model issues were roundly appraised at about three beers each. But with bidding, the price reached four beers - before congestive brain failure set in.

How to market them? My advice is wait until just before closing time, hold them up over the bar, and shout "Newest issue of Latitude! No free reading!" Then wait for the best deal, then close, close, close.

By the way, I am one of many interested in stories on trailering sailboats to the Sea of Cortez, and would like to see letters and articles from readers with recent experience. I'd like to know the best times to go, the best places to put the boat in, and about Mexican regulations, permits and such.

Dan Baker
San Bruno

Don - Spring and fall are the best times to trailer a boat to the Sea of Cortez. Summer is too hot for most people, while winter exposes you to significant cold and the possibility of strong winds and big seas from the north. Launching options depend on what size and style boat you have. You can launch a Hobie Cat from almost any beach, while an Olson 30 is another story.

When we last trailered a boat to Mexico, you could drive past the checkpoint at Manadero undisturbed - if you waited until after midnight. We think that's all changed now, what with federales looking for drug smugglers.

IS IT LEGAL TO LET A BODY SLIP OVER THE SIDE?

A couple of friends were discussing the inevitable - our deaths. Basically, we decided that funerals cost too much and graveyards take up too much valuable space. We all agreed that we don't need headstones for our families to remember us by, and that we'd rather be self-indulgent now and spend our money instead of putting some away for an expensive funeral that we won't even get to enjoy. That being said, we were left with two possibilities; we're sure about one, but the other might be illegal.

The first option is cremation, of course. One friend said he wants his ashes scattered on the water so that when his family sees any body of water, they'll know that they are somehow connected to him. Nice to know that all those water molecules around the globe are connected to each other, huh?

The other way of disposing of our remains in the ocean would be for friends to simply take the whole body out to sea and slip it over the side. Hey, that's what you'd have to do if somebody died and you were in the middle of the ocean. We discussed what we thought would have to be done if choosing this option: wrap the body in a cloth shroud, weigh it down; and go at least 12 miles out before committing the body to the sea.

By the way, we also agreed that option #2, being dumped in the ocean, is as natural a way as you can get to become part of the food chain again. You know, giving something back to nature, as it were. But can you do this legally? Or have the funeral organizations closed off this once commonly used method of disposing of remains? Does the Neptune Society provide these services?

Inquiring and lively minds would like answers to these questions. If you don't know the answers to these questions, I'm sure some of your readers would. Thanks - and enjoy what's left of the rest of your life!

Ron and Friends
Alameda

Ron - The Neptune Society will dispose of cremated remains - although they now have to go out past Pt. Bonita. Up until a short time ago, they only had to go beneath the Golden Gate. There's no reason why ashes can't be spread from a private yacht - but remember to spread them to leeward. People who forget tend to have their departed loved ones blown back in their face.

The woman at the Neptune Society tried her best not to laugh when we asked her if they'd do a 'whole body' burial at sea. She wasn't sure if it would be illegal, but she was sure the Neptune Society wouldn't have anything to do with it. And we somehow doubt that many funeral homes would deliver a body to a private yacht. But maybe some of our readers know better.

Since we're on the subject of death and boats, we'd like to hear from anyone who has been aboard a small boat in the middle of the ocean when a member of the crew passed on. What was done with the body? And did you do anything to prove that you hadn't murdered the victim? Inquiring minds want to know.

INSTALLED THE RUNNING LIGHTS ON HIS COFFIN

We have sad news to report. Our old friend, Hard Luck Charlie Carlson, who had the marine rail at New Haven in southern Belize, died on January 6 as the result of a skiff accident. Many cruisers who spent time in Belize will remember Charlie's hospitality.

Charlie lived in the bush and so it was fitting that he be buried in the bush at New Haven. We dug his grave, and with the help of Charlie's neighbor Kirby, built his coffin from mahogany planks we found lying around Charlie's shop. We found the bow pulpit from Indemien, the boat Charlie sailed to Belize 25 years before. So we removed the running lights and installed them on Charlie's coffin to guide him on his way.

Charlie's service was attended by about 50 people who had, of course, arrived by boat. Charlie's epitaph was borrowed from Robert Louis Stevenson, and ends: "Home is the sailor, home from the sea . . . and the hunter home from the hill."

P.S. Patty still encourages sailors to visit New Haven.

Melly and Harry Gorman
Bigfoot IV
Seattle / Belize

Melly & Harry - It would be instructive to learn the nature of the 'skiff accident'. Did Charlie run into a mangrove, collide with another skiff, get ground up by an outboard, or what? Perhaps other lives can be saved by learning from his untimely demise.

CRUISERS SPEND WHAT THEY HAVE

It's always fun for us bluewater cruisers to come home at the end-of-the-year holiday season. We get to visit with family and friends, participate in all the holiday festivities, stock up on boat parts and supplies - and read all the accumulated Latitude 38s!

Two topics discussed in the last few issues were of particular interest. The first concerned tides; specifically, why does high tide always come around noon in Tahiti? The answer involves the effect of the sun's gravitational force and the shape of the ocean basin in which Tahiti lies.

In general, the moon's gravitational force has a far greater effect - 2.5 times - than the sun's even though the moon's mass is only a fraction of the sun's. Why? Because the forces vary inversely with the cube of the distance, and the moon we all know is much closer to the earth. Nevertheless, the effect of the sun's gravitational force cannot be ignored. When the sun's force is aligned with the moon's, we get spring tides. When it's at right angles, we get neap tides.

Consider now that every body of water has a natural period of oscillation, and the Pacific - like all oceans - is composed of a number of oscillating basins. Depending on their shape, these basins respond more readily to some forces than others. Tahiti, as I recall, is near the center of one of those vast oscillations so far as the lunar tide is concerned, and as a result is relatively unaffected by it. Tahiti is more affected by the solar influence, or solar tide. Hence high tide is not only about the same time each day, but about noon, when the sun is highest.

How do I know all this? Most of it is discussed in great detail - and with a lot of mathematical formulas - in Bowditch's American Practical Navigator.

The second discussion that caught our attention concerned the costs of cruising. The O'Neill's article in the June 1997 issue was well done, but elicited some follow-up questions in the August issue - and maybe others that we haven't read.

The question in the August issue was how people can afford to cruise. As the author suggested, in many cases cruisers are retired couples living on pensions or investments. The writer implied that these people were old - 55 or 60! - and ready for a wheelchair. This, of course, isn't true, as most cruisers 55 to 60 - and much older - are vigorous and vital, and the cruising lifestyle keeps them young.

There are a variety of ways the younger cruisers afford it. Some have what one cruiser called 'family money'. Some have a kitty that lasts only a few years, and therefore they have to be on a fast track and complete their circumnavigation in something like three years and then get back to work. We've met a number of younger couples that fit in this category. Others are on a limited budget that they supplement with work as they cruise along. Frequently they work as diesel engine or refrigeration mechanics.

What we feel many of the comments and questions didn't make clear enough, is that apart from the basics - meaning food - the cost of cruising depends on how high on the hog you want to live.

The total expenses on our circumnavigation have remained fairly constant, but they differ in some significant ways from Shibui's. The toughest part of our decision to leave was the knowledge that we'd be separated from our family. Because keeping touch with them was very important to us, we budgeted for one or two trips home every year. Since we're retired, in no hurry, and can afford it, we also take occasional tours of the countries we're visiting. While we were in India, for example, we and another cruising couple flew to northern India to see the Taj Mahal and some other unforgettable sights. We also pay for boat insurance each year, since most of our assets are tied up in the boat. And we like eating out occasionally, which adds to our entertainment budget.

The point is that each of these categories is discretionary. So are other categories such as berthing fees (we have friends who live on the hook in the Med in the winter!), laundry, gifts, telephone calls, and so forth.

Apart from some minor expenses, such as visas, the essentials are food, fuel and water, and boat maintenance. Our annual costs for boat maintenance have remained remarkably stable at $3,000 for the last three years. The first year they were even less, probably because we did everything we could think of before we left.

However, the other two categories, provisioning and fuel, have varied considerably depending on the area we were cruising. Provisioning costs were about $4,500 per year the first two years, which we spent in Mexico and the South Pacific. That jumped to over $6,000 in 1995-'96 when we spent most of the time in New Caledonia and Australia. Then it declined to just $2,800 in 1996/97 when we were in Indonesia, Southeast Asia, and the Red Sea.

Diesel fuel and water expenses were $1,200 the first year, $700 the second, $1,000 the third, and just $240 in 1996-'97.

In summary, the costs of cruising depend most on two factors: where you cruise, and how you live. But most cruisers, we've observed, spend what they've got.

Steve Salmon and Tina Olton
Kusadasi Marina, Turkey / Berkeley

A VOTE AGAINST THE MANDATORY USE OF PFDs

It's refreshing to reflect back on just how well we got along in Mexico during the '96-'97 cruising season without Secretary of Transportation Pea and his hired thugs - the United States Coast Guard - attempting to control every aspect of our on-the-water lives. We voluntarily donned inflatable PFDs - especially at night and when it blew like snot, we threw a couple of Type IVs in our dinghy when we felt it made sense, and we stood ready to assist others.

But now, because 476 non-swimmers were clumsy or stupid enough to fall out of a boat while not wearing life jackets, it looks like it will become mandatory to wear PFDs anytime anyone is on the water. Charles Darwin would have simply pointed out that this was 'natural selection' at its finest and leave well-enough alone!

I guess Pea is pushing the PFD thing because he feels as though the Coast Guard needs to succeed at something. After all, they've had a miserable string of failures: the drug interdiction efforts, the influx of illegal aliens by sea, the violation of 4th Amendment rights in the name of 'safety inspections', and their ineffective enforcement of MSD regs (ie. potty patrol).

So in response to the Coast Guard seeking 'public comment' on the mandatory use of lifejackets, here's mine: If the U.S. Coast Guard were to burst into flames before my very eyes, I would not waste the energy to lower the zipper on my fly to deploy my non-Coast Guard-approved PDD (personal dewatering device) to extinguish the fire.

I've withheld my name because I'm gutless and spineless, and I also simply don't have the energy to withstand a lifetime supply of IRS full-compliance audits and Coast Guard 'safety inspections' in retribution for voicing my Constitutionally-protected opinions.

Gutless and Spineless
Planet Earth

G & S - You're the one who has gone completely overboard! We're firmly against any law that would require mariners to wear a lifejacket at all times. If one passed, we'd surely ignore it on placid afternoons. Nonetheless, your 'natural selection' comment is not only grossly insensitive, but asinine, too. If you think the vast majority of the 476 died because they were clumsy, stupid or couldn't swim, you don't have any understanding of the typical maritime accident.

TIRESOME AND IMMATURE

My congratulations on your many years of publication. Latitude is a pure pleasure to read - with the exception of 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 Coastie 'safety inspections' - as soon as you're willing to permit armed building inspectors to search your home any time of day or night.

We're not anti-government by a million miles - but do believe it's better to err on the side of too little government rather than too much government - especially when the government is as bloated, whorish, and inefficient as ours. (Having said that, we nonetheless admit that the United States has one of the best two or three governments in the world. Unfortunately, that's not saying very much.)

The philosophical reasoning behind our 'less government is better' beliefs is simple: We're confident that we know better how to live our lives than does some numbskull bureaucrat in Sacramento or Washington, D.C. Call us Libertarian if you will, because as long as we're not hurting somebody else, we think the government should pretty much stay out of our lives. Like many other sailors who believe in maximum personal freedom, we also believe in maximum personal responsibility - a point that should never be underemphasized.

It will probably amuse you to learn that we were communist/socialists back in the late '60s and early '70s when we had a jovial time rioting through U.C. Berkeley. Having learned what kind of cheese-ball fascism the forfeiting of personal responsibility leads to, we've mended our ways.

LEE HELM MUST OWE A MILLION IN STUDENT LOANS I've been reading Latitude since 1983, and it seems to me that Lee Helm has been a grad student the entire time. What gives? Is she a professional student or what? Seems to me that she must owe about a million dollars or so in student loans. Why doesn't she get a job?

Also, every time Max turns around, Lee is there somewhere. Is she stalking him, or does she have a 'presidential' relationship with Max that we haven't heard about?

Sal Nichols
Oakley, CA

Sal - The author reponds:

"Will Dennis the Menace ever get out of the second grade? Will Charlie Brown ever connect with the football? Will the Lockhorns ever get a divorce? Will Dilbert ever get a promotion?

"And if the crew of the Enterprise can save the galaxy in every episode, and Jack Aubrey can win a stunning naval victory in every book, then it's not at all improbable for Max to run into Lee once a month.

"As far as the 'presidential relationship' goes, Max claims 'executive privilege' when questioned on this point."

GARY MULL DESIGNS

As the owner of a Gary Mull designed Newport 30 (Mk II, '78), I'm interested in finding out more about Mull's designs and technical data. I've had some e-mail interaction with Hugh Johnson, who maintains a home page for the Mull-designed Ranger 26, but neither of us know where to go looking for additional information. I'd also be interested in maintaining a home page for an owner's association.

Liz and I have enjoyed Latitude for many years. During seven of those years we lived aboard the Coronado 41 Bullwinkle in either San Diego or San Francisco. We moved up to Vancouver, Washington, where Bullwinkle found a new home. The mountains and trees are so beautiful in that part of the country, but we eventually came to realize that the rain and gray were just too high a price to pay. So we returned home to San Diego and Silver Gate YC, where we have been members for 17 years. After being boatless for a couple of years, we had to have another one and picked up the Newport 30.

Glenn and Liz Haddick
Petite Moose, Newport 30 Mk. II
San Diego

Glenn & Liz - The late Gary Mull drew many fine boats, the most well-known probably being the Santana 22, the Newport 30, almost all of the Ranger line, much of the Freedom line, and Jake Wood's 82-ft Sorcery. We're not aware of any compilation of Mull's work, but perhaps one of our readers could help.

HONOR THE KING AND QUEEN OF THE SEA OF CORTEZ

The 15th annual La Paz Race Week - previously known as Sea of Cortez Sailing Week - will be held April 24 through May 4 starting in La Paz, but mostly at Isla Partida. The only thing serious about this week is that all the proceeds will go to needy children's programs in La Paz.

These are the Racing Rules:

1) If you don't have a good time, it's your own fault. 2) Don't damage or endanger any people or property. 3) This is a no whining zone. 4) Compete as much or as little as you want, as there is lots going on. 5) Honor the King and Queen and whatever additional rules they decide to enforce - whether you know about them or not. Ignorance is only an excuse for being stupid.

There will be seven classes of racing:

1) OSDS (Our Shit Don't Stink). This is the all-out racing class for macho dudes and dudettes. We're going to really race - unless the wind dies completely forever - because that's the kind of folks we are. We use spinnakers, exotic sail materials and all that.

2) WRFF (We Race For Fun). We're out for a good time, so don't count on us to drift around if there isn't any wind. We'll be there for the start, but we won't miss the party just to race. We'll fly whatever sail we feel like and we won't start the motor until we are sure we need it.

3) AFTR (Along For The Ride). We're along for the ride, to keep pace with the fleet, to encourage and entertain them, and to record the legends of their great feats. We'll stay out of their way, but if we don't, it's okay for people to yell at us.

4) ICCL (I Could Care Less). Apathy now! Don't look for us at no stinking starting line and don't expect us to follow no silly race rules. But we'll still be there at the finish, we wouldn't want to miss that.

5) NOPE. We're bored and we couldn't care less about fun or nuthin'.

6) HWYG (Heck With You Guys). We're going to blast up to Caleta Partida early to get the best spot to anchor, do our own thing, and shoo off all jerks that want to anchor in our face. However, we're still in the running for prizes because we're going to do something memorable.

7) RYOC (Roll You Own Class). Tell us what you want.

Other Sailing Week activities include: Lots of kids activities, beach art, volleyball, horseshoes, dinghy races, wild wooden horse races, movies, music, King and Queen elections, beer belly contest, dessert contest, potluck pasta dinner - and several other things we'll think up between now and then.

The actual race dates are April 26, 28, 30 and May 2. Opening ceremonies in La Paz are April 24. Closing ceremonies are May 4. Sailing Week T-shirts have been on sale since the first week of March.

To get an application form, more information, or to find out the price of cold cervezas and fresh shrimp, fax the Club Cruceros de La Paz at 011-52-112-5-59-00.

Arlaine Scherazade Cervantes
La Paz

ALL FOR ONE, ONE FOR ALL

The cruising lifestyle is best described as the 'other side'. Recently, while in Puerto Escondido, we witnessed how truly supportive and heroic many cruisers can be.

On February 3, Puerto Escondido was unexpectedly hit with southwest winds up to 65 knots. Dinghies were flipped, outboards were dunked, nine boats were blown onto the beach, many boats dragged from one side of the bay to the other, and the marina roof blew away. The VHF radio channels were busy with distress calls and people checking on others. The night was made even more stressful by the fact that about half of the 50 anchored boats were unoccupied.

Despite the terrible conditions, people risked all to help others. Between the cruising fleet, the folks at the Tripui RV park, and the campers on the beach, it was one big family of support. By first light the next day, it was calm and the surface of the bay glassy. Six boats still lay on the beach like wounded soldiers on a battlefield. The Catalina 30 Cherish, on the rocks, was the most badly damaged. Brandywine and Stargazer lay on their sides close together not far away; somehow they had never collided. Baja Lana and Sunshine lay limp at the northeast section of the bay, while Gypsy had found her way into the mangroves out in the 'waiting room'.

Immediately heroes began to appear, creating a master plan to save the beached boats, recover lost gear, and bringing the bay back to normal. Others found lost items and returned them to their rightful owners, and divers went down to locate sunken outboards and check anchor lines.

There were so many heroes that we won't attempt to name them all, but everybody knows that Lynn of Endless Summer played a major role in the operation. But the ingenuity, skill, hard work, and determination of the entire fleet was amazing. Within two weeks all of the boats had been pulled off the rocks and were sitting upright, their masts at full attention.

Puerto Escondido has had a month to reflect on a series of troubling incidents: a hard fall in a companionway that resulted in serious injuries; three folks in a dinghy who were swept away and missing for 24 hours before they were found 10 miles to the south; a heart attack scare the night before the storm; the ransacking of vehicles and campers after the storm; and a 'man overboard' cry at night between the islands. But each and every time, heroes surfaced and everything turned out as well as could be expected.

Cruising means a lot of do-it-yourself work, but with it comes unbeatable pride and satisfaction. The all-for-one and one-for-all spirit among cruisers is like nothing you'll find - except on the 'other side'.

Bonnie Harrington and Jack David
Red Sky
Seattle

WE WERE ALL VERY LUCKY

We know that Dave Smith of Moremesa wrote you a report about the storm that hit Puerto Escondido, Baja, on February 3. Hopefully, this letter will reach you before you publish Smith's letter - which contains serious inaccuracies - and our Mystical becomes the most feared sailboat in the anchorages of Mexico. I'd like to clarify these points:

1) The only reason we pulled Mystical's hook was because we were 300 feet off a lee shore and our GPS indicated we were getting closer. As such, we weren't 'white knights' who decided to try to rescue the Catalina 30 in distress, but rather folks headed for another anchorage that tried to help a boat in distress. In any case, we were unable to help because five minutes after leaving the unsafe anchorage the wind had increased to over 50 knots.

2) We'd lifted the anchor before it got dark, and at that time it was only blowing 35 to 40 knots. We have motored in 40-knot winds before; it wasn't comfortable, but we did it.

3) Our boat was not out of control. In fact, when our anchor wouldn't set and it became apparent that we were going to collide with another boat, the application of full throttle and turning hard to starboard resulted in a very gentle collision. We bumped beam to beam and there was no measurable damage to either boat. When we separated, the other boat was still on a tight nylon anchor rode. Within five minutes, she was loose and headed for shore.

4) We only touched the one boat, and her owner is making no claim against Mystical for negligence.

5) I question the report about a fire on Cherish, and it was the extremely high winds and approximately seven-foot waves that caused Brandywine's chain to stretch and break. There is no evidence that she was hit.

6) It appears that 50% of the boats in Puerto Escondido dragged anchor during that blow. The consensus of opinion is that we were all very lucky not to have lost boats or lives.

It's easy for cruisers who do not get involved to sit back and criticize those who do. For those of us who believe in action rather than talk, I would appreciate your taking this letter into consideration and saving the precious space in your magazine for something more worthwhile than an inaccurate version of a terrible storm which caused 10 boats to end up on shore. All were refloated without serious damage, as the community really pulled together to help each other out. Nobody cried, "Poor me!"

Janet E. Davis
Mystical
Puerto Escondido, Baja

Janet - As you probably now know, we published Smith's letter before we got yours. The irony is that you came across better in Smith's letter than you did in your own. Smith didn't have anything bad to say about you or your boat, yet your letter is so defensive it seems as though you feel guilty about something.

For the record, just because two boats collide doesn't necessarily mean there was negligence on anyone's part. If there were extreme weather conditions and everyone did what was reasonable, such collisions are considered 'acts of God'.

SEX SHOULDN'T BE THE FIRST CRITERION FOR CREW

I've gone to sea since 1953 and have over 570,000 ocean miles. After being on cruising sailboats, research vessels, fishing boats, ocean tugs, harbor tugs, oil field tugs, freight vessels, and oil support boats, and after living and working with 67 different ethnic groups - all of whom had their own languages - I have come to the conclusion that finding good crew is the toughest problem for any serious seagoing venture.

And contrary to what seems to be the typical view of many cruisers, the most important criterion for crew is not that he or she be of the opposite sex. Besides, if there were to eventually be sex between the two, it would only be worthwhile if it were the result of mutual respect having developed. In my humble opinion, most Americans put the cart before the horse.

Don Cameron
Port Townsend, WA

Don - You're probably right, but given these hectic times lots of people don't have time to think about horses - which is why so many are resigned to hopping aboard the first good-looking cart that comes along.

WATCHING THAT SAILBOAT DIE

I read your magazine from cover to cover each month - mainly to see what problems the modern yachtsman can come up with.

Being an ex-yachtie and ex-commercial fisherman, I was concerned when I looked out my window on February 15 to see a sailboat trying to sail over the South Bar outside the Golden Gate. I had the misfortune of watching that sailboat die. She wanted to live - and probably could have, had her jib been sheeted in tight. As it was, the boat was helplessly thrown from one tack to the other by the force of the waves - which I estimate to have been 20 feet.

Mother Nature brought on the end at 11:49 a.m., when a large wave from starboard laid the boat over and engulfed her. She never came back up. I was relieved to see the Coast Guard chopper and a 44-ft surf boat arrive on the scene. My next thought was, 'Why would anyone take his/her boat over the bar on a lousy day like this?' The skipper didn't heed the weather warnings for the day, which were for "hazardous surf and sea." Nor did he use his eyes or any other sense.

I'm very glad to hear that all hands escaped serious injury. I am also glad the boat wasn't insured by the same company I used.

Name Lost In Cyberspace
San Francisco

AVOID SEAL ROCKS

I've just finished reading the March issue account of the loss of Dos Lobos. It reminded me of an experience my family had with our 40-ft staysail ketch Marre Cuerno on the way back from an overnight trip to Half Moon Bay.

Since the wind was light and the swells only about three feet at the Lightbucket, we motored north along the coast. As we drew abreast of Seal Rocks and the Cliff House Restaurant, the sea became very confused, with waves coming from what seemed like all directions. Our ketch started drifting sideways toward shore at an alarming rate even though we were at least a mile offshore and in deep water. Nonetheless, I had to 'crab' at least 45¼ to the west of our intended path to maintain course - even though we were moving at five knots. It scared my wife and son enough for them to go below and put on lifejackets. Eventually, we passed safely through the area of confusion and resumed our original heading.

I have a theory about what happened. The rocky coast was reflecting the waves back to sea as an undertow, which was causing the incoming waves to act as if they were passing over a shoal area. I know I was in the deep water passage between the shore and the actual shoal area further out, yet we experienced shoal water conditions. My theory comes from something I leaned as a kid swimming in Lake Michigan: If you get caught in an undertow when close to shore, swim on the surface all the way to shore to escape it.

I think Dos Lobos was caught in the same thing we had been - only in much more severe seas. I remember the same thing happened several years ago to a couple of sailboats motoring north at night past Seal Rocks; their deck houses were ripped off and both boats were sunk with some loss of life.

Ever since my experience off Seal Rocks in Marre Cuerno, I've always gone out the channel to at least Buoy #2 before turning. When I return, I do the same thing. It may take longer, but at least I make it. I strongly recommend avoiding the inshore channel off Seal Rocks - no matter the conditions. I think it's a sneaky danger that could cost you your boat and your life.

Joe Lewis
Oakland

SURPRISED AT LATITUDE'S LACK OF COMMENT

I'm writing in response to your March account of the loss of the Dos Lobos off the Cliff House headland area on February 15. It was fortunate that no lives were lost, but this was due to the chance observations and persistence of two guardian angels on shore. What could have been a real tragedy ended with the opportunity for the crew to start over again on another day - although it will have to be on another boat.

I was surprised, however, at the lack of editorial comment by Latitude on the foolishness of taking a shortcut across the south bar when winter storms are prevalent. Just because it isn't storming locally doesn't mean that approaching winter storms aren't generating huge swells that will break on the south and north bars. During these times, the prudent course - if someone has to venture out the Gate - is to stay inside the shipping channel until at least the Lightbucket before turning north or south.

Had the crew of Dos Lobos done this, it's likely they would have made their destination safely or would have realized that conditions were too rough to proceed. If they decided to turn back while still in the shipping channel, they probably would have made it back into the Bay without incident.

In the time that I've lived in the Bay Area, I've recalled many boats foundering as a result of trying to take shortcuts across the south bar during the winter. The north bar, or 'Potato Patch' has a similar but not quite as nasty reputation during the summer and fall when the winds are from the northwest.

The second surprising element was that Bay Area sailors with 20+ years of experience would attempt such a thing. Even if their experience has been mostly inside the Gate, surely they must have heard accounts of other boats getting into trouble on the south bar during the storm season. Chances are that the next boat that attempts to cross the south bar with a winter storm approaching won't be so lucky.

Len Tiemann
Northern California

Len - In case the fate of Dos Lobos didn't speak for itself, we'll again remind all mariners that while sailing outside the Gate can be dangerous at anytime, it's particularly hazardous between the months of October and April. We'll further remind mariners that the waters directly outside the Gate are deceptively shallow, especially on the bars to the north and south of the shipping channel. Combine the swells of distant storms with the shallow water, and you have a recipe for destruction and possibly death.

Further complicating the situation are the extreme winter tides. If you're on the bar during a strong flood, the ocean surface might be nearly flat. But three hours later, when the tide has changed, you may find yourself battling for your life in huge breaking waves. If you don't believe it, spend an afternoon on the Marin Headlands looking out to sea when there's a big swell running.

Is the south bar more dangerous than the Potato Patch on the north side of the shipping channel? We think they're equally bad and suspect the reason more boats and lives have been lost on the south is because it's more heavily trafficked.

THE CLASSY CLASSIFIEDS REALLY GET AROUND

As I enclose a check to renew my subscription, I'd like to tell you about the somewhat unusual response I got to the Classy Classified ad I took out to sell my Lido 14. I received two calls from Anacortes, Washington, one from Port Ludlow, Washington, one from Modesto, California, and I ultimately sold the boat to a guy from Oak Harbor, Washington. Your Classy Classifieds really do get around!

A while back somebody wrote that they couldn't find a pump-out station in Washington's San Juan Islands. Last time we were in Friday Harbor was '91, at which time they had a pump- out station plus a portable one that you could wheel down to your boat.

Rome J. Shaul
Planet Earth

NO CHOICE BUT TO WITHDRAW

Recently I wrote the St. Francis YC withdrawing my boat Just In Time from last year's Big Boat Series. I also returned the trophy that had been awarded my boat and crew. I withdrew because it had come to my attention that my boat hadn't been in compliance with her PHRF certificate.

When I filled out the Northern California PHRF application, I accurately stated that my boat had a fixed propeller. Without my knowledge, however, the fixed prop was replaced with a feathering prop prior to the start of the Big Boat Series.

In the Corinthian spirit, I had no choice but to withdraw from the regatta and return the trophy. I have extended my apologies to the St. Francis YC for any embarrassment this action may have caused them. I also want to apologize to my fellow competitors.

Subsequently, we've done one San Francisco YC Midwinter and most of the Golden Gate YC Midwinters. I've withdrawn my boat from both of these regattas as well, and extended my apologies to the race committees and competitors.

I've informed the Northern California PHRF Committee of all of the above facts and have submitted application for a corrected certificate.

Norman Olson
Just In Time, Beneteau 42s7
Northern California

SEEKING CONSUMER ACTIVISTS FOR BOATS

I'm seeking the names and contact numbers of agencies for boatowners who have been unable to receive proper warranty repairs on boats less than five years old. Can anyone help me out?

Dennis Evans
(310) 328-4001

Dennis - To the best of our knowledge, there are no such agencies. So if you have a dispute that can't be resolved, your only recourse would be to hire an attorney. Before proceeding, however, make sure that: 1) The dispute is big enough to be worth a long and expensive hassle, 2) The defendant has enough exposed assets to make it worth the trouble, and 3) You can accept the fact that usually the only ones who win are the lawyers. Good luck!

A TRUCK THAT'S HARD TO STEER

There's nothing new about cars and trucks parked at Puerto Escondido, Baja, being ripped off. But the 17 vehicles - including a motorcycle on a trailer - stolen in 1997 means the thieves - and perhaps their associates - were particularly active.

The busiest months were July and August, when no less than five vehicles were stolen from the lot. Trucks and four-wheelers got the most attention. It's not just cruisers - many of whom bring cars down to Mexico - who have been victims. One of the five taken in July and August was a four-wheeler loaded with dive gear that belonged to the dive concessionaire at the Presidente Hotel in Loreto. It had only been in the lot for two hours before it was taken.

Furthermore, there has been lots of funny business associated with the thefts. After the first few thefts, a 'watch committee' was established. But somehow the thieves always knew when the 'watcher' wasn't around. Or when the night light was going to be burned out.

One of the vehicles ripped off in August of '97 belonged to Cal of Desperado, a retired L.A. police officer. The truck just happened to have its power steering not working. Anyway, Cal knows how to make a lot of noise, and eventually went off to talk with his 'buddies', the Federales on Highway 1. After several weeks of hashing the matter over, one of the Federales said, "Oh, your truck must be the one that's hard to steer. It's in Constitution. For $350 U.S. dollars, I'll go have a look."

Cal provisioned his boat and took off.

After a bunch of thefts, Keith, the marina manager, hired a guard, Marcello, to look after the parking lot. Although Marcello was always on duty at night, he somehow never managed to see any of the vehicles that were stolen from under his nose. A Costa Rican woman aboard Sojourn reports that Marcello told her he was 'glad about the thefts because he might get paid to watch vehicles in the future'. At least the ones that hadn't already been stolen.

Ultimately, about 10 of the remaining vehicles were moved to a lighted area next to Marcello's shack, where they would supposedly be watched and protected for 50N$/week. What a joke! Several of the 'protected' vehicles were bugularized in January of '98. All the rip-offs took place during the day, but once again Marcello claims to have not seen anything.

You have to feel for Marcello, for if he ever identified any of the thieves he'd be dog meat. Or road kill. As for Keith, he's no longer the marina manager. After selling the 10 moorings he rented out, he retired.

Consider yourselves warned.

J. Linstrom
Free Spirit
Puerto Escondido

WE FLED THE ANCHORAGE AS FAST AS WE COULD

Late on February 23, three cruising boats became so frightened by events at mainland Mexico's Maruata anchorage - often times referred to as 'Buffadero' because of the spectacular blow-hole nearby - that we fled as fast as we could. Maruata is located about halfway between Manzanillo and Z-town.

It started shortly after the crews of the three boats - Dilly Dally II, Sea Turtle and Route du Vent - were enjoying late afternoon deck showers and sundowners after swims. Nobody had launched dinghies because the swells were so large and the surf was booming on the beach. A panga approaching from the sea with four men aboard, then pulled alongside Sea Turtle.

There is nothing unusual about a panga pulling alongside a boat. I assumed they were fishermen and wondered out loud to Bev what they were offering for sale: lobster, shrimp or fish? And I wondered how much they were asking for it. After a few minutes the panga left Sea Turtle and made for Dilly Dally II - for some reason passing right by us. Even though I wasn't in the mood to clean and prepare whatever the fisherman had for sale, I wondered why they snubbed us.

We continued enjoying our sundowners after the sun set. When Bev went down below to prepare dinner, she heard a bit of VHF conversation between Bob and Jerry: "I don't want to talk about it now, but Linda and I are no longer comfortable here. As soon as we finish dinner and get the boat squared away, we're leaving."

Before I could grab the mike and find out more, Jerry was on the air. "Jane and I feel that way, too. We're prepared to follow you out as soon as you are ready."

When I got on the radio, our friends explained that the guys in the panga weren't trying to sell seafood, but a GPS and charts. After being told, "gracias, no," the guys in the panga continued on ashore. Just minutes later an American voice came on the VHF with a warning - in English. The speaker said that one of us had better buy the GPS or "we'd be sorry."

Bob called the gringo back to ask what he meant by the threat. The conversation didn't go well, as the gringo accused Bob of being "anal retentive," and it continued downhill from there. While all of us suspect the gringo was just some wise ass playing with the radio who didn't have any connection with the panga guys with the GPS, we decided it didn't make any sense to stick around and find out if we might be wrong.

So our fleet of three boats lifted our hooks and motorsailed to the southeast in light winds. It was a beautiful night and the cabin temperature was 84¼. You should have been there.

Seth and Bev Bailey
Route du Vent
Alameda

A PISTOL PLACED TO HIS HEAD

I hope you don't mind if I don't use my name, as I don't think it's a good thing to identify oneself when criticizing the Mexican police or military!

On the March 11 morning net, a man described how the week before he and his wife were held up at gunpoint aboard their sailboat while at anchor at Caleta de Campos, which is south of Manzanillo. The two bandits boarded about 0200. One was armed with an automatic pistol and the other with an "AK-47-type" rifle. The owner had heard the two board and tried to get them to depart - until he had a pistol placed against his head. The bandits demanded money, and remained aboard for about 90 minutes. They didn't quite believe that the owner didn't have much money aboard.

When departing, the armed thieves grabbed a pair of binoculars and the women's purse and a small number of other things. They made their getaway in a very quiet outboard. Their appearance was described as 'clean cut' and 'military-looking'.

Last year some of the people in the marina at Puerto Vallarta chartered a 12-passenger bus for sightseeing. About 12 miles north of the city, on a side road, the bus was stopped by a log across the road. Four bandits boarded the bus and fired two shots thrugh the roof. Then they robbed everybody. When Alison, the Puerto Vallarta consular agent heard about it, the "**it hit the fan." In the next two days, three bandits were arrested - and it was learned they were former policemen. The fourth bandit was arrested two days later; he was still a policeman!

The year before, a similar busload of tourists had been robbed. When they went to the nearest police station, the chief "couldn't have cared less." But at the time, Alison was not involved.

In the case mentioned above, the owners of the boat went to Manzanillo and reported the incident to the Port Captain. He did not encourage them to report the armed robbery to the police or the military/navy.

Name Withheld
Puerto Vallarta

THERE IS BOUNTY FOR ALL

The dry storage area here at Marina Palmira has been a candy cane since its inception - and the less fortunate Mexicans seem as though they may have been taking an occasional lick.

Yard workers who are trying to feed families or a 'guapa girlfriend' can't do it on 25, 40 or even 100N$ a day - which is $3, $5, and $12 U.S. respectively. So why not, they might think, help yourself survive by helping yourself. Or perhaps by suddenly turning blind if your amigos do it. If you're quiet, there's bounty for all. Besides, it's not manly to complain.

As a result, yachties have to bend over and take it. In January and February the following vessels have been the subjects of thefts or other incidents:

S/V Patricia - The owner returns to find his vessel had been lived in and somewhat trashed.

S/V My Turn - The owner returns to find his vessel robbed of $1,000 U.S. worth of electronics and other gear.

S/V Bella Philomena - The owners return to find their vessel robbed of $6,000 U.S. of electronics and other gear.

S/V Unnamed - The owner returns to find the starter missing from his Volvo engine.

Not bad for the first two months, eh? Got insurance? Good for you, I wish I had it.

Now for the good news. Deposit a check in a Mexican bank and they have their hands on it in three days. So how come it doesn't show up in your account for 30 days? I guess the bank has to test the money first.

George Miller
S/V Miller Time
La Paz, Baja

Readers - We're very concerned by what seems to be a dramatic increase in crimes against cruisers in Mexico. Theft seems to be a growing problem, and now boats are being robbed while at anchor. Worse still, we seem to be getting cases where heavily armed men are boarding boats and threatening the lives of cruisers who don't hand over enough money. We recently received a second-hand report, for example, that Blair Grinoles and the crew of his 45-foot catamaran Capricorn Cat were robbed by armed men while anchored on the mainland. Whether this is the same incident referred to above, we don't know.

A couple of things to remember. First, the bandito tradition never died out in Mexico. Second, crime in Mexico City has gone through the roof. It's estimated that there were about 1,000,000 muggings in Mexico City last year, as well as 70,000 car thefts and 21,000 truck heists. In addition, kidnapping for profit has become a rapidly growing industry - although the majority of victims have been wealthy Mexicans.

Despite the problems in the rest of Mexico, it's always seemed as though cruisers have been - up until now, anyway - relatively immune. How bad is the situation? We don't think anybody really knows - which is why we at Latitude wish to be a clearinghouse for such incidents. If you've been the victim of a theft or armed robbery while cruising in Mexico, will you please send us an email with the basic facts? By accumulating the facts, we'll be able to give everyone a good idea of the true situation.

By the way, we're told that there's been an epidemic of thefts from boats anchored out at Key West, Florida, too.

WHY I'M BEING SO NICE TO HER

I couldn't agree more with Latitude's reply to Steve Oswald about his tribute to his late wife Nancy! My own wife is probably trying to figure out why I've started - after recovering from Oswald's letter - being so nice to her.

Although I never knew Nancy, I offer my condolences to Steve. I suspect that Nancy would want him to keep sailing, as the sea gives us a sense of eternity and our place in it. While at sea, we all - past, present, and future - seem to be out there together.

On the matter of what Mr. Knudsen's son told his teacher, I recall that a Frenchman crossed the Atlantic drinking nothing but seawater. No lie! I think the theory was that if you could keep your bodily fluids in balance you could make it.

I really enjoy Latitude - even though I sometimes get ticked off from time to time. But then along comes a letter like the one in which Oswald described his wife Nancy, and Latitude's heartfelt reply, and it restores my faith in being part of the human race.

Terry Kenaston
Northern California

Terry - Thanks for the kind words. The Frenchman you refer to is Dr. Alain Bombard - and like a lot of people, you have the mistaken impression that he crossed the Atlantic drinking only saltwater. He did no such thing.

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 that 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 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, WA

David - The world is indeed a better - and more interesting - place because of the contributions of people like Dr. Bombard.

HE WAS TOO OFTEN MISQUOTED

The man who advocated drinking sea water was the Frenchman, Dr. Alain Bombard. In 1952 he sailed his aptly-named rubber dinghy, L'Heretique, across the Atlantic, taking no food or water with him. He subsequently wrote a book, The Voyage of the Heretique, which caused quite a controversy at the time - largely because he was too often misquoted.

Bombard did not claim that you can survive by drinking sea water alone, but that it can be drunk as a supplement to freshwater to provide necessary salt. He did, however, argue that castaways should drink sea water "to maintain the body's water content at its proper level during the first few days before fish can be caught", but also warned that, "It is essential not to wait for dehydration before drinking sea water." He himself survived off rainwater and by squeezing the juice out of fish in a fruit press.

The German doctor, Hannes Lindemann, undertook two solo Atlantic crossings in the 1950s - in part to put Bombard's theory to the test. His experiences were chronicled in his book, Alone at Sea, in which he concluded that "a small amount of salt water may be drunk as a salt replacement, but that is all.Ó

Ken Meyercord
Samira, Bay Lady
Martinez

IN THE STRICT SENSE, LATITUDE WAS CORRECT

In the February Letters, Frederick Knudsen asked if you were familiar with the story of a French doctor who crossed the Atlantic on a raft drinking seawater. You replied that it was not possible. In the strict sense you are correct - but, there was a French doctor who did drift across in 64 days drinking rainwater, sea water and the body fluids of fish.

Consider the following post from rec.backcountry:

"Alain Bombard spent 64 days at sea with only rain water, liquid from fish, and sea water as his sources of hydration. Bombard drank sea water during 14 days in total, in consecutive periods of three to six days maximum. The fish liquids also were used and permitted him to wait for rain, which came after 23 days.

"The French Navy's experiment after the Bombard experience was that sea water is an acceptable drink under certain conditions, and for someone who is shipwrecked if he has only a scant soft water ration. The trick is to start with small doses of saltwater while the body is still hydrated and thirst has not set in, then to follow with fresh water after about three days, which helps flush the excess salt from the system.

"The French Navy determined that the dangerous step was only crossed after the sixth day of a straight saltwater diet. And the Navy found that if the subject drank nothing during the first three or four days, that it was then dangerous to drink seawater. Apparently, by that time the body is dehydrated to begin with."

There's also more on a survivalist page at: http://www.zoom-net.net/~grsc/bible/seal.html.

Pete
Cyberspace

AT LEAST SOME SALTWATER CAN BE CONSUMED

Many thanks to those who wrote in about the French doctor Alain Bombard who crossed the Atlantic drinking saltwater. Now my son can vindicate himself at school.

Reviewing my original letter to Latitude, I see that I left out the part about Dr. Bombard also drinking rainwater and getting fluids from fish that he caught. I guess that's important to the overall picture. In any case, it remains that at least some saltwater can be consumed to supplement small fresh water supplies in case of emergency, both to replace salt lost through sweat and for the water itself.

Although I used to live in Northern California, I now live on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe. I still dream of returning to California and sailing, however, and almost had my son convinced after he saw the movie Captain Ron a couple of times. We now rent or borrow boats, which is not the same as owning, where whenever you want you have the freedom to head off where the wind blows and the sun shines.

Frederick G. Knudsen
Nevada

Frederick - Perhaps both of us were a little at fault, for while it's true Bombard definitely didn't cross the Atlantic drinking only seawater, he did drink seawater for extended periods of time. In any event, we're glad the ruckus was raised because we've all learned something and it's inspired this issue's article about the fascinating French doctor.

MYSTERIOUS GREEN FLARES

I've been unsuccessfully trying to figure something out for three years. I've yet to hear a credible explanation and wonder if maybe Latitude readers might be able to help.

Three years ago in May, I was singlehanding my Tartan 37 back to Alameda from Santa Barbara when I ducked into Coho for a little sleep before rounding the 'Horn of Conception' in the middle of the night. I got underway at about 0130 with the wind blowing about 22 knots and the seas about seven feet. The only reason I left then was because the weather was scheduled to get even worse in the next few days. Besides, in all my trips north I've never caught the calm conditions everyone seems to be waiting for.

In any event, I was about a mile off the point when I saw what I'm relatively sure was a green flare coming from the land. A minute or so later there was another green flare. I frantically checked my radar and navigation thinking that I might have been making some terrible navigation error that was about to put me on the rocks. But aside from the usual pounding, everything seemed all right.

I'm not aware of any signal or message denoted by a green flare, and am curious if anyone could explain what these signals might have been.

Ray Durkee
Velera
Alameda

Ray - When you think of the kinds of people who hang around that isolated part of the coast - the military, the rocket people, the oil companies, and surfers - any number of explanations leap to mind. Amped-up surfers getting a head start on Fourth of July fireworks is one of hundreds of possible explanations. That they were green would suggest they weren't intended for marine use. Marine flares are generally red for distress and white for signalling. A green flare would blend in with the color of the ocean.

RATHER THAN DIVIDING JUST BY NUMBERS

Rob Moore, Latitude's Racing Editor, has been incredibly helpful in assisting the '30 Footer Fleet' - PHRF ratings of 117 to 141 - to complete its first winter season. We are now developing a summer race schedule.

I suspect that our model may prove useful to other racing fleets. In fact, I've heard that Don Lessley of the OYRA (Ocean Yacht Racing Association) is considering a similar approach for boats he'd like to race against, although they would be 30 footers that have higher PHRF ratings.

Rather than dividing fleets purely by the PHRF numbers, we looked at boat length, waterline, displacement and rig height to determine which boats would race well against each other. Then we organized it through a simple e-mail discussion.

What I find so gratifying about the approach is that skippers who had given up racing because of poor fleets or a lack of social interaction can now easily build fleets, get to know each other through e-mail, and tailor races and schedules to meet the needs of their members. As crazy as it sounds, e-mail may rebuild flagging interest in racing because the participants can now take control of their events rather than having to rely on the OYRA or the HDA (Handicaps Division Association) to guess at what would work best. I would encourage anyone who is disappointed in his or her racing fleet to give it a try.

The obvious first step is to identify the boats you wish to race against, then seek them out, either by writing to class associations or paging through the Yachting Yearbook - as I was forced to do. Once the core group is established, it's amazing how quickly word gets out as everyone knows someone else with a similar boat. Thus the fleet can begin to take whatever shape the skippers want.

It's a little known fact that the YRA and its charter organizations are generally very supportive of the fleet's needs. Sometimes there is the 'square peg, round hole' problem of trying to match a fleet's needs to an established racing schedule, but my experience with OYRA, and to a lesser extent HDA, convinces me that the charter associations will go out of their way to accommodate new fleets and their idiosyncracies.

Bob Izmarian
Jane Doe, Olson 911-S

A WAVE OUT OF NOWHERE

It was one of those warm and windless days in mid-December when I had my most exciting 'sailing' experience to date. It happened while my partner and I were motoring our fantastic 24-foot Islander Bahama Artesian from Alcatraz toward Sam's Cafe in Tiburon - the terrific 'dock & eat' restaurant with the huge outdoor deck and the hilariously obnoxious seagulls.

My partner was at the tiller and I on the foredeck dousing the uselessly flapping jib when out of nowhere we were struck by a monster wave! Our 5 hp. outboard was at full throttle, so the boat shot up the wave. I latched on to some part of the boat and crouched low to stay aboard. After the bow went over the wave, it dug into the water, sending two feet of water into the cockpit. Not only did our cockpit fill, but everything inside got drenched.

Poor Artesian kept bobbing up and down with succeeding waves, her outboard roaring each time the prop came out of the water. Fortunately, I was able to make my way aft to save the engine. That's when my heart started thumping. There was water everywhere, but at least we weren't swamped. The water slowly drained out of the cockpit so everything was fine - except for the fact that we were soaking wet on a dead calm winter afternoon as we motored up to Sam's crowded dock. Boy, did we look like amateurs.

Dripping wet, we humbly approached the deck, got a table and set ourselves out to bake in the late afternoon sun. A bowl of chowder helped us relocate our wits and pride. Fortunately, the local Tiburon thrift store had dry wool socks for $1 or it would have been a bitter buzz home to Emeryville Marina.

We remember seeing a ferry pass by in the distance, but what caused that monstrous wave? And, what's the proper etiquette in approaching such a monster?

Aon
Emeryville

Aon - The 'monster wave' was almost certainly a ferry wake. Why was there a wake? Because displaced water has to go somewhere. The wakes are often most pronounced in winter when they don't get beaten down by the normal chop of summer.

If you take such a wake head on, your boat is going to pitch severely and the bow might well scoop up a bunch of water and bring it back to the cockpit. That's not good. Neither is taking a wave on the beam, because the boat will roll like crazy and may cause someone to get whacked in the head with the boom. There's no 'etiquette' involved because Mother Ocean doesn't put much stock in manners, but the smart response to a wake is to take the first wave at about a 30¼ angle and then 'scallop' succeeding waves for the smoothest ride.

Whenever operating a vessel, the helmsmen and crew need to be alert to what's going on around them. Another vessel's wake should never take you by surprise. By the way, wakes aren't all bad. Fast and light boats can sometimes surf wakes for minutes at a time. Cowabunga!

TO GET ON WITH THE REST OF OUR LIVES

My husband David, 57, and I, 58, have happily lived aboard our sailboat Duet at Shoreline Marina in Long Beach for nine years. And with each passing year we come to love it more. Although our slip is at the very end of the dock, the long walk is worth it. The ever-changing view is extraordinary, and having water all around us keeps our boat an island, giving us wonderful peace and pleasure.

We've also dreamed the dream that has bewitched so many sailors: to plan, to save, to do without, so that one wonderful day we'll be able to cut the docklines and sail away forever. Here we come, La Paz! Or maybe not.

I shall always think of April '97 as my evil month, for it was when our entire world was turned upside down by the appearance of a cancerous lump in my right breast. Not only did it threaten our cruising plans, but my life. The cancer paralyzed us with fear. There were tears; lots of them. They rolled down my face, into my hands, and all around the floor where we both stood.

Nonetheless, we moved quickly, as I immediately had a mastectomy. Then we got a bit of good news: of the ten lymph nodes examined, only one was affected. Then more good news: my oncologist at the wonderful City of Hope Medical Center said that with a vigorous course of chemotherapy, my chances for survival were 85%. We held on.

In the very beginning of chemo, God wrapped His arms around me, squeezing away most of the fear. I never struggled, but rather just relaxed in His grip. My husband David never left my side. His arms were always reaching out to me, his ears ready to listen. Nonetheless, chemo was no picnic.

Caught up with the cancer, we naturally had to set aside our sailing plans. There were doctor and chemo appointments to be kept. And then there was a frightening and life-threatening staph infection of my face that required a week's stay in the hospital and IV treatment for another week on Duet.

November 7 and 8 were my final chemo treatments, and David and I rejoiced together. Now it was time to get on with the rest of our lives. We both felt it at the same time, like a tap on the shoulder. That night the two of us, both a little bruised and broken, had dinner in the cockpit of Duet. We put our loving arms around one another and renewed our dream to retire and sail away together. Baja Ha-Ha, here we come!

P.S. I would love to exchange encouragement and/or ideas with Latitude readers via e-mail at Donna Simpson, Aboard-Duet@aol.com.

Donna Simpson
Duet
Long Beach

Donna - We hope your experience will remind all of us to appreciate each day - and one another. We look forward to sailing to Mexico with you in late October.

A MAN AS TOUGH AS WILLIS

I'm writing about drinking saltwater. I don't know the medical ramifications of doing it, but many years ago I read a book called Epic Voyages of the Seven Little Sisters - that was published in the United States as The Gods Were Kind. It was written by William Willis, who in the '50s sailed a raft across the Pacific.

It's difficult to imagine a man as tough as Willis in any era, but he sailed alone from Ecuador on a raft. Somehow he'd spent a long time training himself to live on just rain and salt water. I am sure there is not very much sailing expertise in the book, but I would recommend reading it - and stand in awe of this man's resourcefulness and durability.

Ian Elliott
Petaluma

Ian - We're not familiar with Willis - and are unsure what claim you're making on his behalf. If you're saying that he was able to quench his thirst using just rain and saltwater, that's no big deal. After all, most people on Pacific and Caribbean islands get all their freshwater from above. If you're saying that Willis was able to quench his thirst using rainwater and saltwater, and that he was able to get food from the sea, that's not such a big deal either. Put any floating device on the ocean and it will soon have an aquarium around it.

But if you're saying that Willis was able to get his entire sustenance - food and water - from just rainwater and saltwater, that would propel him into the ranks of a special group of people - not the least of which was the Breatharians. Remember the Marin County - where else? - based Breatharians, who claimed that all you needed to live was air? The movement lost much of its credibility when the Jefe's secretary reported that he ducked out to the 7/11 every morning for coffee and donuts.

We're sure Willis was indeed a tough and resourceful man, but you'd be surprised how many people have done amazing things on the oceans of the world. Taking just the Atlantic Ocean, people have 'swum' across it; drifted across it on rafts, mooring buoys, and logs; and have sailed across it in a number of boats under 10 feet in length. If you read the last issue, you know that one guy is currently attempting a crossing in a three-foot long sailboat.

THEY GO WHERE THE CURRENT FLOWS

A Special-Ed teacher once told me that Macs are for right-brained people and PCs for left-brained. What I say is there are enough hemispheres to go around, so we'll take our half. Local Knowledge, our software program, is for the L-brained - and with a little extra help, for the R-brained, too. Since Mac users can install SoftWindows or Virtual PC, they can do anything we can do, too.

We read about the "tidy little program" for Mac users in your March Sightings. To complement this, we'd like to draw your attention to our Local Knowledge program, which displays current vectors everywhere on an electronic chart of San Francisco Bay. This program of real-time currents and navigation can be viewed on the new St. Francis YC website that is scheduled to be up and running by April 10.

What makes Local Knowledge unique is its ability to reflect current changes resulting from variables such as El Niño. With Local Knowledge, the user can add NOAA sensor data. What's that? NOAA has telephone relayed recordings under each bridge rimming the bay. This data can be entered into the program, which will automatically update predictions to accurately portray real time currents.

For example, during the Corinthian Midwinters there was a considerable change in the shape of the tidal curve, with the ebb peaking much earlier than tidebooks predicted. Thanks to the invitation of Latitude's Racing Editor Rob Moore, Local Knowledge gladly provided pictorial timepoints for that race.

Since the introduction of Local Knowledge last year, many navigational tools have been added. Now the software can integrate data from GPS and other instruments to utilize actual boat data in planning laylines and courses. This has expanded its use to include sailboat racers, predicted log racers, recreational cruisers, and commercial shippers, too. Last month Local Knowledge was invited as a third party developer to appear at the Governor's Commission ('Ports') meeting to help decide the future of NOAA sensors.

We especially want to thank Latitude's Moore for referring county officials from as far as San Jose to help predict the time and heights of the tides during the recent storms. We were able to anticipate that the tides would be up to 2.5 feet higher than expected. The uses of Local Knowledge continues to expand. Most recently, Gary Jobson of ESPN called to collaborate on current predictions for future telecasts.

Latitude 'goes where the wind blows'; Local Knowledge goes where the current flows. It now covers not only San Francisco Bay up through San Pablo to Benicia, but also Puget Sound and the San Juans. Soon it will go east to the Chesapeake, Long Island Sound and Newport. You can visit us at Sail Expo and check the St. Francis website (www.stfyc.com) for free actual data.

David Brayshaw
Local Knowledge
Sausalito

THE UNDERWATER SCENE WAS DEPRESSING

This letter is in response to the Goldstein's purported method of catching lobsters as claimed in the February issue. In particular the statement, "the bleach temporarily blinds the lobster, but is quickly assimilated into the environment with no ill or after affects."

Fifteen years ago, I visited the town of Spanish Wells on the island of Eleuthera in the Bahamas. Being a scuba diver, I hired a skiff with an American skipper to do some diving. The underwater scene was most depressing, as the giant coral formations were totally without life.

When I asked the skipper about it, he told me that many of the locals had once made their living by catching lobster, and that their favorite method was 'bleach'. The bleach may only stun the lobsters, as Mr. Goldstein states, but the damage to the coral polyps was more than obvious.

Nature is very delicate at best, and as a result of the shortsightedness of the fishermen at Spanish Wells, the balance had been upset drastically. Lets hope this method doesn't find favor in the States.

Mike Wasco
Sylmar

WITH DRIPPING FOG AND FLOGGING JIB

In Sausalito, two hip sailing lasses
were singlehanding their Cal 20 classes
They mixed sipping Pusser's Rum and Pibb,
with dripping fog and flogging jib
now the girls are quite flat on their assets

Caroline Woulds
Marina Sailing

Poets - Mixing Pusser's Rum and Pibb? It must be time for a new contest. The new limericks should include most of the following words or concepts: a warm and sunny day, three sailing lasses, a windvane, Point Conception, a bent shaft, three reefs, a late mortgage payment, two dolphins and a clogged head.

WE SMELL A BIG GREEDY RAT

In December of 1997, we were treated to a luxury trip through the Gatun Locks of the Panama Canal on a cruise ship. On board was a Canal representative, who furnished a most informative narrative on the history and operation of the Canal. Here are some of the interesting statistics:

1) The Canal is one of only three U.S. Government projects that was ever completed ahead of schedule and under budget.

2) Due to its engineering excellence, the Canal mechanically operates on minuscule expense thanks to Mother Nature and a few 40 hp motors.

3) Most mechanical parts of the Canal are still original and in excellent condition, although there are on-site machine shops to repair and/or duplicate any parts necessary.

4) The Canal has an accredited engineering program and its students are actively involved in keeping the Canal in full operating order.

5) The current fee schedule was and is considered to be the most fair. The larger a vessel's cargo/passenger space, the more you pay. This is in direct relation to the amount of Canal manpower required for a vessel to make a transit. The least transit fee ever paid was 36 cents, that for a swimmer; the most was $144,000.

6) Small vessels seldom transit the locks solo. In fact, 99.9% of the time they are shepherded through on the tail of large ships. Small vessels furnish their own line-handlers and are usually tied to Canal tugs that routinely - like chickens who cross the road to get to the other side - transit the locks. In these cases, the small boats are using zero extra services or resources, and are not considered to have a measurable impact on operating expenses.

7) At absolute peak capacity, the Canal could transit 144 commercial vessels each 24 hours. Said vessels paying an average of $50,000 each would generate a daily gross income of $7,200,000.

In response to your Sightings article in the March issue, we have but one question and a simple observation. Question: Imagine these two sailboats currently paying $750 each to transit. Now double or even triple that - and explain what possible impact they have on the daily income/expense of the Panama Canal?

Answer: (Fill in the blank.)

We personally smell a great big greedy rat and are saddened that our marine political voices are willing to sit back and allow our access to the Panama Canal to be threatened by the power-hungry Canal Commission. There is no way that this proposed increase can generate enough money to constitute even one 'drop' in their overfilled cash buckets.

Greg and Arlene Davidson
Okokok, Morgan 41
Atlanta / Gulf of Mexico

Greg & Arlene - In our opinion, the real threat to small boat access to the Canal is not the Canal Commission - which might very well be 'greedy' and 'power-hungry' - but reality. Consider the following:

1) Since its inception, the Panama Canal has been, by intent, a non-profit operation. Unfortunately, the idealist Jimmy Carter gave the Canal to Panama, which wants to make it a for-profit operation when they take over in January of 2000. And if you think American monopolies run toward high prices and atrocious service, wait until you experience a Latin American version - especially when the jefes dwell on the fact that small boats account for 11% of Canal traffic but a mere .01 percent of Canal income. Come 2005, we predict the Panamanians will be wanting to charge $3,000 to $5,000 for a Canal transit.

2) Even when the Canal is operating at maximum efficiency, it can't handle all the traffic during peak months. And with the increase in world commerce, the situation is only going to get worse.

3) Running small boats through the locks is a waste of natural resources. When you put a ship or two inside a 900-foot long lock, they displace most of the water. But when Jimmy Cornell's Around the World Rally took 14 sailboats through a single lock at once, they hardly displaced any water. As a result, locking the 14 small boats through used up enough fresh water to supply the entire city of Chicago for a week. Is this a good use of a resource or should we be looking for an alternative? (For those not familiar with the Canal, it's 100% dependent on rainwater. If Panama ever suffers a drought, the Canal would have to close down.)

The bad news is that small recreational vessels are never going to be a Canal priority, and are being viewed as an increasingly large pain in the ass. But there's good news, too. The Canal's 'choke points' are the locks, but with a minimum amount of ingenuity and expense, small boats could easily bypass them. Indeed, using the locks to transit small boats is about as efficient and intelligent as using a 747 to carry a single small express package.

'HAIRCUT AND A SHAVE' WHILE DOING THE CANAL

I'm just a local buoy racer, but I had an idea for a solution to the problem of transiting small boats through the Panama Canal - a boatyard barge. Simply place a crane on a large barge or make a slot on one end to accommodate a Travel-Lift. A dozen or so boats could be set on adjustable cradles or stands, and get a 'haircut and shave' while they make the transit. Other goods and services could be offered as well. This would provide jobs for the locals, a profit for the owner, an easy way across for the cruisers, and a remedy for the Canal Authority's grief. Everybody wins!

Perhaps some day I'll get my own boat gussied up on its way to Antigua while I enjoy a cold one.

Tim Donnelly
Chewink, Golden Gate

Tim - If you understand that the Panama Canal isn't really a canal in the common sense of the word, you'd realize there isn't a need for barges - or even for small vessels to use the locks. It's about 45 miles from one end of the Panama Canal to the other. About 42 miles of this is nothing more than Lake Gatun, which is about 80 feet above sea level. All that's involved in a Canal transit is lifting a vessel 80 feet on one end, having it motor 42 miles across a lake to the other end, and then lowering it 80 feet back to sea level.

It's not possible to lift giant ships with cranes, so they have to be lifted and lowered using a series of three locks. But lifting and lowering small vessels and hauling them the mile or so to Lake Gatun would be as easy as pie. All that would be needed is a modified Travelift or a crane and a small tractor and trailers. There would be plenty of opportunity for a bottom job and other work. We don't see a need for small boats to use barges or locks.

BUYING A HOUSE WAS A SIX MONTH DELUSION

We're on our way to the Panama Canal to complete the circumnavigation we started from San Francisco in 1988. The delayed finish included Hurricane Andrew - and worse, the delusion it was time to buy a house and settle down in St. Augustine, Florida. That lasted all of six months.

We'll be crossing our outbound path aboard Silver Dancer, a Tyler 42, rather than Saravah, the Amel 36 aboard which we started the trip. Or does the new boat mean the beginning of a new circumnavigation?

Happily, the new boat brought with it the opportunity to at last join the ranks of happy Monitor windvane owners. I must say that the service we've had from the Monitor staff regarding information on the unit on the boat was extraordinary. And it wasn't like they were going to have the opportunity to sell us a new one. The Monitor staff have been very generous with their time explaining the working of the unit, and very gracious when our change of plans required us to cancel an order at the last moment.

We have our permit to visit the Galapagos Islands, but plans for a family reunion in Puerto Vallarta in June may not allow enough time to visit the giant tortoises. Rescheduling the reunion isn't an option, not with the logistics of family coming from South Africa, Singapore, Canada and perhaps Australia.

We look forward to returning to Latitude's homebase after following the magazine's progress from afar these last 10 years - although it may be awhile yet if we take in Hawaii and Alaska on the way. Here's to the day we sail back under the Golden Gate - if only we can find the down jacket we stowed away so many years and tropical days ago.

Barbara Dresslar and David Morgan
Silver Dancer
Miami

TRY KITNOS INSTEAD

I hope the Wanderer got over his amebiasis by now. If not, I suggest he try Kitnos instead of Flagyl. It's sold over-the-counter here in Mexico, and is much easier on the digestive tract. It worked for me in less than one week.

The great thing about Mexico is that you can buy many drugs over-the-counter that would require a prescription in the United States. And in cases where a prescription is required, you can often get it from the pharmacist himself!

We got our copies of the March Latitude just after the 1st - it's hard to keep track of the date down here - from a cruiser who dropped them off at Noemi's, the cruiser hangout in Z-town. Latitude is always the hot ticket. We're headed for the Marquesas later this month, and are hoping that everyone who comes to visit boats in the South Pacific will remember to bring a bundle of Latitudes.

George and MaiTai the Cat
Moonshadow, Deerfoot 62

George - Kitnos? It sounds like it ought to be a Greek island halfway between Kea and Tinos. As for the Wanderer, he's out of Flagyl, but the bad little guys aren't out of him.

Reader Arnold Haskins of Southern California swears there are two better cures. One of the them is Bavarian-style yogurt - such as is made by Continental Dairies. The other is even better: Guinness Stout. Haskins swears that a single bottle of Guinness cured him - and the 25 or so other people he knows who've tried it.

As for any readers headed out to distant cruising destinations, we'd be happy to provide them with a bundle of Latitudes to pass around. We assure you that you'll be greeted with open arms.

THE OMNIPRESENT ROLL OF TOILET PAPER

After reading about the Wanderer's acquired Flagyl habit, do I laugh or cry? In 1995, I went through three months of torment - and several cases of Papel Santario - while a chorus of live protozoa performed in my intestines. Early on, I had sought advice in a clinica, and they recommended Flagyl "Tres veces por dia," for a period of ten days.

On the 11th day, I ceased ingesting the evil cousin of Antabuse, and resumed my normal diet of totopos y Pacificos (tortilla chips and beer). "What the hell," I decided, "ten days on Flagyl would kill anything, right?" Wrong! I soon found myself once again perched-on-porcelain.

The doctor proclaimed, "Ten days isn't enough. Take Flagyl for three weeks." I moaned a little as I handed him a well-thumbed 50 peso note. "Man, here I am in Mexico, the weather's perfect, the sea is as flat as a pancake, and I can't drink one lousy beer - never mind a margarita."

My despair turned to resentment, I mean after all, why should I put up with this (uh) crap? So I purchased four 5-gallon garrapones of purified water and a liter of chloro (chlorine bleach). My intention was to super chlorinate my domestic holding tank, which in turn would sterilize everything that the water touched - dishes, produce, fruit, sink, counter tops, toilet and holding tanks. Sure, every time that I opened a water tap the pungent smell of a public swimming pool assaulted my olfactory sense, but it was worth it. After all, nothing could live under that direct fire of chemical warfare, right?

El incorrecto!

On the 22nd day, I had the audacity to leave the omnipresent roll of toilet paper behind as I headed toward a distant cantina to celebrate my 'new found freedom'. Ten minutes later I found myself behind a thorn bush, my shorts down around my ankles, and a huge thunderhead of rage boiling just above my sweating head.

I had done everything to prevent re-infestation, and for much of the three week period I had virtually lived on canned and dry food. The owner of the local purified water plant had recoiled in horror when I vocalized a desperate theory that perhaps the "contamination was universal" - meaning everything, as by now my paranoia was complete.

The classic Mexican shrug is never as disheartening as when performed by a puzzled or perplexed Mexican pharmacist. "Don't you have anything else for los animales?" I pleaded, as I patted my very touchy belly button. "Quizzas?" (perhaps?) he replies, as he reached under the counter. A ray of hope was dashed as I read the label, 'hemorrhoid suppositories'. I scuttled toward the door.

My affliction disappeared just as suddenly and mysteriously as it had appeared. It was a good thing, as my overworked toilet was threatening to pop its seals.

To this day I do not know how I contracted the parasite, nor do I know how I got rid of it. Maybe it simply got tired of living in such a bad tempered host and hopped a ride on some poor unsuspecting passerby.

I would much appreciate any information that you could share with me, especially if your case ends like mine did. It's no fun to be sick in paradise, especially when the 'final diagnosis' ends with a shrug.

But what to name the disease? How about the Squat and Shrug?

Forgive me, but should you decide to write back, I'm going to microwave your letter on the highest power level for a full minute before I touch it with my bare hands. Please use a moistened sponge rather than your tongue to seal the flap of the envelope. And get well quick.

I did the weekend version of the Cabo Cruiser's net on the VHF in early 1996. It was an experience. By then the affliction had long passed.

David Eidell
Antioch

MY BUOY WENT WALKABOUT

I read with interest about weather buoys in Sightings.

Our own buoy, 'M2', went walkabout last month from its usual location at 36¼N42.5', 122¼W23.4'. We lost radio contact on February 2. When the weather settled down on the 18th we went looking for it, but it was not where its GPS last reported it to be. A subsequent air search was also negative.

Over the last seven years, we've had no problems with vandalism at our moorings - despite initial fears that we would. Our current theory is that heavy weather or a collision/entanglement broke the buoy free - and possibly damaged the electronics as well. If anyone should sight our wandering child, please contact us at Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, Box 628, Moss Landing, CA. 95039-0628. You can also call us at (408) 775-1941 or fax us at (408) 775-1652. Our e-mail is: wrda@mbari.org http://www.mbari.org/~wrda.

For more information about our mooring program, check out http://www.mbari.org/oasis/.

As I write this, I'm gazing out the office window at the surf on the beach here at Moss Landing, recalling the opening of racing in Monterey last Sunday, where I bashed to weather in a Shields to start the season with a win. The likelihood of doing any useful work today is diminishing quickly.

Dave Wright
Monterey Bay

Dave - We frequently check out the conditions at the weather buoys using the net. It's terrific stuff! Our only complaints are that there aren't more buoys, and that the current ones - such as yours - have been going AWOL.

BLEACH IS A DANGEROUS OPTION

The February letter by the Goldsteins recommending using bleach to catch lobsters hit me with a vengeance, as I've seen the kind of destruction caused by using dynamite and bleach as 'fishing aids'.

I stopped at Wallis Island, to the NNW of Fiji, during a South Pacific cruise a couple of years ago. The island is beautiful and the people are wonderfully friendly - but their immense tropical lagoon was totally dead. It had been completely destroyed by fisherman who had first used dynamite and later bleach to catch fish and shellfish. I dove in various places in the lagoon, but it was an underwater desert. All the coral was dead, and when the coral is dead fish move on.

The situation was so bad that the locals didn't even bother going out fishing anymore. The lagoons and surrounding reefs of most islands in the South Pacific provide their residents with most of the food they require. But that was no longer the case at Wallis, where they had to have frozen fish flown in from New Caledonia.

Nobody should use dynamite or bleach to catch fish - not unless they're also intent on destroying the local environment for many years to come.

On another subject, I've been using e-mail while cruising and have found it to be a very cheap form of communication while in major cities. I use a international provider, IBM.NET, which charges $4.95 a month for three hours maximum. I also use an acoustic coupler, which allows me to use any pay phone. The handset just attaches to the coupler, the coupler attaches to the modem, and voila, I have access to the internet! This means I can send and receive messages around the world for the price of a local call. And believe me, you can receive a heck of a lot of e-mail in three hours!

Chuck Houlihan
Jacaranda, Allied 39
Brisbane, Australia

Chuck - It turns out that the 'lobster and bleach' letter was a moronic hoax perpetrated by a Northern California-based cruiser. Hilarious, wasn't it? What will he do next, radio in bogus Maydays? Pull fire alarms? It's hard to say.

RACE ORGANIZERS CONVICTED OF MANSLAUGHTER

You may already know this and have reported it - I sometimes miss an issue - but the result of the second Nioulargue trial in France is in, and the Appeals Court found the Race Organizers, in the person of Sylvie Viant, guilty of manslaughter. Myself, my captain Tom Eaton, and the 6-Meter skipper Claude Graff had already been convicted of manslaughter.

In the United States legal system, if you're found innocent once, you're off the hook. But in France the Prosecutor gets a second shot. The second trial was aimed entirely at the Nioulargue organizers, since the three of us already found guilty didn't appeal the verdict. So Sylvie, a very nice young lady who is also a very prominent racing skipper in France, was found guilty along with us.

The Nioulargue race organizers are outraged by this decision and promise they will appeal it in the Supreme Court in Paris. But it's doubtful that the Court will hear the case. The Organizers also say they will not have another Nioulargue until they are found innocent. Meanwhile, another French group is attempting to take over event and run it. Stay tuned.

Thomas J. Perkins
San Francisco

SO THEY CAN LOOK COOL

The best things in life - surfing, sex and sailing - are free. Well, the sailing part isn't free, although reading about it - thanks to your fine publication - still is.

Since everyone seems to write in with their complaints, I might as well let mine fly. I think that people who take more from the ocean than they really need - such as 20 lobster or 300 pounds of tuna - are just doing it so they can look cool back at the dock or have something to brag about over sundowners. These people should know that I think they're assholes.

Now a request. I've seen a couple of mentions of Rhodes 41 Bounty IIs in Latitudes, but I can't seem to find any in my area to look at - besides my own. I'm looking to upgrade my boat, so if anyone out there has a Rhodes 41 Bounty II, please call me at (619) 273-8413.

Richard
Southern California

Richard - 'Asshole' is an accurate description of anybody who takes more than they need from the sea. As they say in the enlightened islands of the Caribbean, "Take only photographs, leave only footprints."

Latitude 38 was founded aboard a Bounty II in Sausalito's Clipper Yacht Harbor back in 1977, so we have a soft spot for that design. For our first nine months of operation, she ably served as our office, photoboat, cruising wheels and love shack. Oh yeah, she was our home, too.

Bounty IIs were not only built in Sausalito, they were the first large fiberglass sailboats ever built - but then you knew that. We used to visit marinas up and down the coast looking for Bounty IIs. We remember a couple in Newport Beach, three in Ventura, and two in Santa Barbara. But that was many years ago, so who knows where they are now. There's at least two of them in the Ala Wai in Hawaii, one of them right in front of the Ilikai Hotel. Our old buddy Warren Stryker has owned his Dulcinea for nearly 30 years now, the last 15 of them in the Virgin Islands. She's still going strong despite spending more than a month on the bottom after hurricane Marilyn.

FRIENDLY PEOPLE, PRISTINE BEACHES, NUDE FRIDAYS

Once more, someone who was in and out of Pago Pago without seeing anything but the harbor and the Cost-U-Less store has taken a cheap shot and said there is no other reason to go there.

I wasn't there when Starkist was dumping fish waste directly into the harbor years ago, but I understand it was awful then. I was there for seven months last year when they had just finished building, and like most capitals in the South Pacific, with any industry, it is not a pristine showcase. However it is much cleaner and quieter than the quay in Papeete.

There is a lot to see on American Samoa and a quaint and reasonable bus service to take you around the island. The people are friendly, hospitable and quite large. Since the buses are quite small it makes for an amusing combination which requires its own protocol on customs on and off the bus.

If you take a bus in any direction out of Pago Pago you quickly discover that there are many beautiful villages with traditional fales, pristine beaches, spectacular overlooks, and our newest National Park. For a wild and crazy time you can go to Tisa's Barefoot Bar and Grill that has its own private beach and coral reefs with great snorkeling. Friday's with a full moon are traditionally considered "Nude Fridays" so be forewarned.

The Pago Pago Yacht Club goes out of its way to help visiting cruisers more than any other club I've seen. They don't ask to see a reciprocal card and they charge nothing. If you are staying for an extended period they invite you to join, but its not required.

If you only use Pago Pago to fuel and provision that's your choice and you will miss a lot. But let's quit reviewing the restaurant when you haven't read the menu.

Bill Sewaix
Schooner Migrant
Majuro, Marshall Islands

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
Binary, '64 Columbia 24
Galesville, MD

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 not remembering all of them by any means.

We did the New Year's Eve Regatta at St. Barts to end last year, and out there with Adela, Endeavour, White Hawk, Destiny and all the others 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 all buffed up, sported new sails, and looked every bit a 'plastic classic'.

RANDY'S SMILING PRESENCE

The March '97 issue of Latitude carried the announcement of Randy Waggoner's untimely death. Randy was a special light on the waterfront. Living aboard his Quarter Tonner Radical in Gashouse Cove, he travelled around in his old van taking care of his clients' boats - which soon became 'his' boats. As one of his boatowners, each year I looked forward to his cheerful spring phone call, arranging the schedule for work on my boat. His call would always brighten my day.

Vignettes of Randy in my memory include the time he showed up accompanied by a tiny baby duck with its leg in a splint&127. "I couldn't leave him home alone all day, and anyway, this'll get me to wash your cockpit." Then there was the time I came back from lunch to be asked by a crowd of dockyard loiterers asking who the man was who had just "ran up" my mast. Once I told Randy that I wished my outboard could be just nine inches higher than it was. When I came back, I found a plate welded to the motor mount that had accomplished just what I'd wanted.

Randy's work was exceptional. During the eight years that I knew him, it was as though my 'plastic classic' boat was truly plastic in the sense that anything I wanted changed was changed - in Randy's typical fashion. He and I renovated Cat's Paw, my Gladiator 24, and he gave my small project the same care and attention I know he'd lavished on the bigger boats he sailed and worked on.

But most important was Randy's smiling presence and the respect and support he accorded me, an inexperienced boatowner . Randy taught me how to care for my boat and how to be safe with her. Randy has been gone more than a year now, but I'm still benefitting from the joyful generosity of the man's spirit.

Abigail Grafton
Cat's Paw, Gladiator 24
Berkeley

TREMENDOUS DEMAND FOR GEAR IN MEXICO

First off, thanks to the Grand Poobah for setting the date to get us out of the Bay and on our way south. We're currently in Mazatlan and will be in Mexico until May 1 when we'll return - kicking and screaming - to the U.S. for six months. We can't believe how much we enjoy waking up to 70¼ plus sunny weather most days. Nonetheless, it's true that the most wonderful part of cruising is the people you meet.

We'd like to suggest that your advertisers might want to consider placing their e-mail addresses in their ads. The access to the internet in Third World countries is extremely limited, but the use of e-mail is widespread. As a matter of fact, we sent this letter to you directly from our boat over a seven year old cell phone!

The problem is that web pages don't exist at this level of technology, but there's still a tremendous demand for boat gear and parts here in Mexico. If clear and accurate orders and deliveries could be orchestrated by e-mail, major benefits could be realized by all parties.

The way we see it, a chandlery at Marina Mazatlan would provide its owners with wealth beyond measure. Do you hear us Rhonda, formerly of Dutch's Marine in Novato? A chandlery wouldn't work as well in La Paz, which is too windy and rolly for boat projects, or Puerto Vallarta or Cabo, which are both packed and too expensive for cruisers.

What also would be nice down here is some good French roast whole bean coffee. Peet's is our favorite. We've had to settle for re-roasting the local stuff - which has actually worked quite well.

We got our latest 'tudes down here on Valentines Day - which was almost better than the traditional bouquet. We're staying in Mazatlan to catch the 100th celebration of Carnival and pass our ham tests, then we're off south. All our best to our friends at the Sausalito Cruising Club and the Island YC in Alameda.

Jim & Bliss Cochran
Bliss, Morgan Out-Island 33
Petaluma / Marina Mazatlan

REDUCING THE RISK OF HEART ATTACK

In regards to your reporting of heart attacks, the risk of heart attack and death can be reduced if people at risk would carry nitroglycerin tablets. These tablets can be purchased over-the-counter in Canada and Mexico, but require a prescription in the United States.

Robert Clement
Seattle

Robert - If people are at risk of a heart attack, it's best they get their advice and medicine from a physician or cardiologist.

ECONO TRIPS TO THE '90-DAY YACHT CLUB'

For those Latitude readers about to buy a boat and thinking of taking it to Ensenada for 90 days to avoid paying California sales tax, the important things to remember are to follow all the steps carefully and keep lots of written documentation.

But once you get the boat to Ensenada, how do you visit it? The straightforward way is to fly to San Diego and rent a car. But if you stay with the boat for several days, the car rental plus Mexican insurance can get expensive. An alternative drill we've found takes about three hours from the San Diego Airport, which is a little longer than if you take a rental car. But when you return to the States, you avoid the huge traffic jams at the border. Besides, you don't need a car in Ensenada as the taxi's work fine and the local bus system is fun and cheap.

In any event, here's the seven-step way we've been doing it:

1) Take a taxi from Lindberg Field to the San Diego Trolley American Plaza Station. Cost = $8.00

2) Take the Blue Train to the San Ysidro/Tijuana border. Cost = $2.00 each.

3) At San Ysidro, walk around the front of the trolley and take the Tijuana dollar bus into town - but get off just after the border crossing at the Yellow Cab lot. Cost = $1/person.

4) Walk through the Yellow Cab lot and across the street to the ABC bus station. If you are hauling a lot of stuff, let one of the men with shopping carts help you for $2 or $3 U.S. They really appreciate the business.

5) Take the ABC bus to Ensenada. These buses are well maintained and relatively clean. The buses leave every half-hour during midday and hourly during off hours. Cost = $11.00 per round trip.

6) Get off at the first station in Ensenada. Just across the street is a clean and well stocked Gigante Super Market where you can pick up any provisions you might need for your stay on the boat. Take a taxi to your marina. Cost = $5.00.

7) For the return trip, just do everything in reverse - except walk across the border instead of taking the dollar bus.

Total cost for a couple is about $50 U.S.

Brent & Susan Lowe
Walnut Creek

Brent & Susan - This is how screwed up we are: Knowing full well that legions of lawyers - including the First Lady before she moved into the White House - are paid small fortunes to show corporations and wealthy people how to legally avoid taxes, we still feel a little guilty that Latitude's new charterboat doesn't owe California sales tax because we took offshore delivery and cruised her in Mexico for five months.

AMAZED AT THE TEAK LETTERS

While considering buying our first boat a couple of months ago with the intention of taking off cruising in three years, we wrote Latitude for comments about teak decks. Yes, we're the ones who started it all.

We've been amazed at all the response with all the excellent - and sometimes conflicting - information. We had three fundamental questions: 1) Were the decks going to create too much heat - both to touch and inside the cabin? 2) Were the decks going to promote leaks? 3) How much more work than fiberglass were they going to require?

We knew that teak decks would be more work than fiberglass, but since one of my other hobbies is refinishing furniture, we weren't sure about combining sailing and woodworking. I don't think that we got a clear answer for this question, but it certainly helps that I enjoy working with wood.

As for heat, the consensus seems to be that the teak works as an added layer of insulation, and in most cases keeps the inside of the boat cooler. Some people said that teak decks are cooler to touch, although I still find that hard to believe.

The leak issues seem to be related to the method used to apply the teak and how well the teak is then maintained. I am certainly oversimplifying all of the input provided by everyone, but these are basically the answers we got.

Anyway, we decided to buy a Centurion 47 - and she has teak everywhere. She's an '85 model and has been 'yard maintained', so her decks - as well as everything else - are in excellent condition. The teak decks have a Cetol finish with Sikaflex 241 caulking.

We bought the boat in Connecticut, where she has been pulled out of the water every year and stored inside. It will be interesting to see how the deck holds up in the Bay. We will continue with the Cetol finish for now just to see how it will hold up. Some folks say that it tends to get slick when wet, but only if you're barefootin' it.

Thanks for providing an excellent forum for great sailing and a place to exchange information. Thanks also for providing a barometer for a balanced life. If we can't get through the next issue by the end of the month, we know that things are out of whack!

Joe Brandt and Jacque Martin
Marna Lynn, Centurion 47
Northern California

Joe and Jacque - Congratulations on your new boat, we're certain she'll bring you plenty of happiness.

A NEW SALT LIKE ME

Thanks for producing such good literature; the responses to Letters are particularly well written. What I really like about your magazine is that it makes so much sailing knowledgeable accessible to even a 'new salt' like me.

I've only recently discovered the art of sailing, but already I'm in love. So much in love that I just bought a Columbia 24 to live aboard. I hope to see everyone on the water.

Undecipherable Signature
Northern California

U.S. - Get into the zen of sailing and your modest Columbia 24 can provide you with as much or even more pleasure than new and larger boats costing many times more. Just remember two things: 1) Everyone learns by making mistakes, and 2) Reef early.

DON'T DANGLE GANGRENOUS BODY PARTS

My brother, Capt. Ray Kytle of the Fortmann Marina based Seascape, informed me that the general advice in our liferaft instruction manual was: "Keep your spirits up!" It was followed by a more specific recommendation: "1) Do not drink your own urine."

This inspired me to ponder other survival advice that perhaps should have been included also:

2) Do not drink anyone else's urine either.

3) Just ignore the vomit and shit floating in the bottom of the raft.

4) Fish eyeballs are a good source of protein.

5) Some cultures consider seagull guts to be gourmet treats.

6) Do not even think of eating your deceased crewmember.

7) Do not dangle gangrenous parts of your body in the water. The smell, like blood, attracts sharks.

8) Do not watch the dorsal fins from the raft, you might find it too depressing.

9) Do not tell the most seasick crewmember that if he throws up one more time you will kill him, as this does not promote camaraderie.

10) Pray silently, as other crew members may be cursing the same deity.

11) Lose the ukulele - no matter how well you play.

And remember to think positive. You're not half-dead, you're half-alive!

Kay E. Huff
Santa Rosa

Kay - Perhaps they could also enclose a flyer for 406 EPIRBS.

DESIRE WILL NOT DICTATE ACTION

It's my own fault! I wrote to you in September about our upcoming passage to San Francisco from Seattle, and I left out of my letter more than I put in it! I told you simply that we were going to make the trip, that I had little experience, and was looking for advice/information to add to that which I had already gleaned. The important things left out were omitted for the sake of brevity and because we were not seeking negative comments, but assistance and enlightenment for those of our crew who are of limited experience. Believe me when we say to you that we do not take this trip lightly!

Some of the details we omitted:

Our crew will include a Coast Guard licensed captain in his 50s who has sailed since he was a Sea Scout in his teens; a man who has sailed for over 45 years, including crewing on TransPacs, crewing on deliveries of new boats to the South Pacific, and who has raced his entire adult life; and a third man who has also sailed since he was a teenager and has owned his own boat for more than 20 years.

The boat is a new Perry 43-footer equipped with autopilot, radar, radar reflectors, two GPSs, Chartplotter, cell phone with masthead antennae, two VHFs, large scale charts of the entire coast, small scale charts of those few harbors along the route which seem somewhat acceptable as shelters in the event of rough weather, an 18-foot Para-Tech sea anchor with/ 400' of rode, a six-foot Delta Drogue to stabilize us in a strong following seas, a sail inventory that includes a triple-reefed main, furling jib, reacher, storm jib and asymmetrical spinnaker, six-man life raft, a 406 EPIRB, a commercially prepared coastal-cruising First Aid kit with supplemental items added by my ER nurse daughter and her paramedic-firefighter husband (who wiII also be part of the crew, as will my other son-in-law who is also a paramedic firefighter, emergency tiller, jacklines, LifeSling, throw rope, PFD's, harnesses and tethers, strobe lights for the deck watch and a bunch of other stuff.

Now I'm sure I have left out some of our equipment and preparations. I'm also sure that there's no way that we can prepare for every eventuality which we might encounter on the high seas. That's why we wrote the first letter in September; to seek assistance and advice from your vastly experienced subscribers towards making this the safest trip possible.

But if all else fails, and we do run into Godzilla, the 100-foot wave, and the 'Perfect Storm' all at the same time, and determine that there simply is no other choice, we will surely bend over, place our heads between our legs, and kiss our sweet asses goodbye! Remember what Camus said earlier this century; "Man wants to live, but is useless to hope that this desire will dictate all his actions."

Mike Denham
Sequim, Washington
 

Mike - First limericks and now Camus; Latitude is really getting sophisticated! Based on what you've just told us, you only have one worry: that your boat will sink under the load of all the experience and gear. Have a great time!

  

 

 


 

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