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STILL LIKE ADVENTURES AND CHALLENGES
Copies of a letter from your February issue - asking what I was up to - managed to make it all the way up here to my current home of Whistler, British Columbia. Basically I'm the same as I was 18 years ago when, at age 20, I singlehanded across the Atlantic and the following summer across the Pacific to Hawaii. I like adventures and challenges, and am always looking for new opportunities.
In the winter, I'm a part-time trail guide for Tyax Heli Skiing. The rest of the time I teach skiing, snowboarding, rock-climbing, and work in the movie industry in mountain safety or coordinating logistics. Last summer I worked for the Eco-Challenge Adventure Race in Australia - where I ran into Ian Kiernan. Participants in the 1980 Singlehanded TransPac will remember Ian as the Aussie who sailed all the way to San Francisco just to participate in the Singlehanded TransPac. Kiernan now runs a program called Clean Up Australia - but still finds time for singlehanded sailing.
As for my own sailing activities, this coming January I'll be skippering a yacht in the Caribbean for some clients. In addition I sail on friends' boats in Squamish - where Little Rascal, the Wilderness 21 I singlehanded from England to the Canaries, the Canaries to Antigua, and later San Francisco to Hawaii - still does well in races for her new owner.
Old friends can contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Amy - It doesn't surprise us at all to learn that you haven't changed. Just for kicks, we pulled out the 1980 Singlehanded TransPac entry list to see how many of the 38 starters we know to still be actively sailing:
Last month we took some pictures of Lester Roberston doing the Doublehanded Farallones aboard Legs, the same Moore 24. Rod Park did the last West Marine Pacific Cup with his son aboard True Blue, a BOC 50. Chuck Hawley is so busy being 'Mr. Tech' at West Marine that we're not sure he has much time for recreational sailing anymore. Last month we think we saw Hans Vielhauer aboard his Cal 40 Chaparral serving as a mother boat for the Bullship Race. Hans, as publicity shy as ever, recently completed a circumnavigation in something like 15 months. While up in Seattle last year we saw Doug Fryer's Custom 42. We were told that she and Fryer - who although in his 70s still practices law - had returned from Cape Horn the year before.
Sam Vahey keeps his Ranger 37 Odysseus near his winter home in Lanai, but he also has a Santa Cruz 27 in Oregon. Linda Weber-Rettie, now Linda Newland, does yacht deliveries - among other things. Sam Crabtree is still very active with his Cal 39 Catch the Wind. Bob Counts, the only one to beat you in division, still has his Golden Gate 24 Sanderling - and, in fact, had a letter in the last issue. We think Frank Dinsmore still sails his Newland 368, a boat he developed with Dan Newland, winner of the SSS Singlehanded TransPac. Other veterans of that race may still be actively sailing without our knowledge - and it would be great if they checked in.
We know of only two entries who have passed on. Mike Harting died of cancer a few years after the race at a young age. Dan Byrne, who completed a BOC Singlehanded Around the World Race, also died of cancer a few years later.
BIKES ON BOATS
Latitude asked for opinions on the wisdom of carrying bikes on cruising boats. My wife and I cruised for 12 years between '83 and '95. We started with four years of cruising the coasts of the United States as well as the Great Lakes and down the Mississippi River. Then we crossed the Atlantic to spend five years cruising in Northern Europe. And finally we spent three more years cruising in the Med.
During this time we had two folding single speed - for simplicity of maintenance - Dahon bikes with 16 inch wheels. We kept the bikes attached to the lifelines near the bow. They were covered with fancy tarps. The bikes were so invaluable that I can't imagine cruising without them. We estimate that we put 30,000 miles on the boat - and the same number of miles on the bikes.
The bikes did require frequent oiling onshore and might not be as useful for more traditional around-the-world cruising.
If anyone has any questions, they can call me at 885-5688.
THE FIRST AMERICAN ENTRY
I came across your February issue the other day - someone had it in the marina office at Las Hadas. I enjoyed the interview with Mark Rudiger, the navigator on Whitbread Race winner EF Language. It made for very interesting reading and gave, I thought, a good feel for the Whitbread and both the trials and thrills a participant experiences.
I do, however, disagree with one of Rudiger's comments. When discussing which was more of an 'American' entry - EF Language, Toshiba or Chessie Racing - Rudiger says that he feels EF Language is the first "true American entry". At the very least, such a statement is misleading. I'm writing to be sure that credit is given where it is due - and that people not forget the efforts of previous Whitbread competitors.
In 1981, Neil Bergt, a successful oil-related company CEO, adventurer, and sailor from Alaska, decided to live out a dream and compete in the Whitbread. The campaign went practically unnoticed in the United States, as the coverage of the Whitbread was little to none in the States back then. Nonetheless, the British and other foreign press all recognized Alaska Eagle for what she was, "The First American Challenge!"
Our program was well-funded and sponsored by Alaska International Industries, one of Bergt's companies. Alaska Eagle's hailing port was Anchorage and she flew the American flag. Prior to the race there were official receptions held in Anchorage, Washington D.C., and at the New York YC. There was even an official proclamation from the U.S. Senate wishing "God speed to the Alaska Eagle in the Race".
I was the Project Manager for Bergt's endeavor, and can assure you that while our crew was not entirely American, the basic core indeed was. This core included such well-known sailors as Greg Gillette, Dick Seay, and Ted Allison (who had already done a Whitbread and would go on to do others). It also consisted of an American living in England, Skip Novak, and two Englishmen who lived in America, Bob Thompson and 'Mugsey' Hancock. Among our 'foreign' crew on board was Roger Nilson, who is currently aboard Swedish Match.
Even though Alaska Eagle had won class A in the Fastnet Race just prior to the start of the Whitbread, when we arrived in Cape Town at the finish of the first leg in fifth place, we knew we were too much lacking in boat speed to expect great results in the end. While we didn't set the world on fire, Alaska Eagle did finish a respectable 9th out of 29 entries in what will always be remembered as a classic Whitbread. This was the time there was 10 dismastings.
As I look back on that Whitbread, I often give thanks for having met up with Bergt and having had the opportunity to experience all that encompasses 'doing a Whitbread'. After all, it was not without a fair bit of pride that we sailed as the 'First American Challenge'. Today, years later, I would like for your readers to know of and not discount the dreams and efforts of people like Neil Bergt and of his Alaska Eagle Project.
As some of you may know, Alaska Eagle sails on, having been donated to Orange Coast College after the race. She passed by Manzanillo about a month ago on her way to Europe, still logging thousands of sea miles a year.
A few weeks ago, my family and I were sailing with Keith Lorence, who was down here cruising with his wife and son on their sailboat Aqui no Mas. Keith had been aboard Sayula during the first Whitbread and, with Sails by Watts, helped in Alaska Eagle's sail program. Over a few days we had a few conversations about the Whitbread and the changes over the years.
I envy the racers in this year's Whitbread for both their boats and the technology that goes with them. The speeds achieved, the efficiency of the boats, and the day's runs are all beyond what we dreamed possible when we did the race. But then just ask any driver in the Indianapolis 500 of 20 years ago if he likes this year's cars better. On the other hand, back then we had only four stopovers and relatively slower boats, so we didn't have the luxury of shorter legs. Our passages took 42, 36, 29, and 35 days respectively, and were very enduring. Different times and conditions make for different races. I tip my cap to all who are out there on the course - it is an achievement one never forgets.
As the current Whitbread comes to an end, and as those who've done it already know, and those who are doing it for the first time will soon find out, with the finish comes elation and relief - and an incredible letdown. After putting over a year's time and effort into such an all-encompassing endeavor and adventure, it's a rough landing. Welcome to the real world!
In closing, I don't mean to sound like a broken record reminding everyone of the Alaska Eagle project, but as I said back then, 'I don't want my kids to think I made it all up!"
Las Hadas Marina
Mike - We appreciate your letter, and there is absolutely no question in our mind that Bergt's Alaska Eagle was 'the first American entry in the Whitbread'. We've known Mark Rudiger for many years, and can say with full confidence that it wasn't his intention (or ours) to slight the effort made by Bergt and his crew.
As for a post-Whitbread letdown, it's going to affect some sailors much less than others, as it's now time for many of them to get on with their various America's Cup efforts.
RETURNING TO THE GULF OF NICOYA
I recently returned to California after a delightful month of sailing in Costa Rican and adjacent waters aboard Bahia Luminosa resort's 40-ft Islander ketch. I had missed the March Issue of Latitude while I was gone, so one of the first things I did upon my return was to get that issue and 'catch up'.
The surprising text of the Boehms' Changes - in which they reported being the victims of a $1,000 credit card fraud in Costa Rica - caught my attention. Their view is tempered somewhat by their picture - in essence an interesting sense of humor is evident, although they're a bit confused as to the facts. Specifically, signing two blank credit card vouchers for a merchant. I agree with their observation that this was a mistake - in Costa Rica as it would be elsewhere. The Boehms' mistake. Further, the November '97 exchange rate for colones was above 240 to the dollar - a fact well known to anyone who bought anything.
And people should remember that credit cards scams don't work just one way. One of the credit card companies told me a common customer scam is to pay for something with a credit card - then claim non-satisfaction. Although credit card companies try to check the validity of such claims, they will often refuse to honor a duly executed voucher that originates outside of the United States.
The Costa Rica YC, where the alleged fraud took place, is based in Puntarenas, Costa Rica. It's my opinion - and that of many other yacht owners - that Puntarenas is a rather dicey place to leave a vessel. It's no secret that there's theft in that economically depressed town.
The observations - I'm not sure if they are the Boehms' or Latitude's - concerning the incident in Pavones in which it was reported that an American landowner was murdered, were also incorrect and misleading. There was mutual armed combat between the gringo and the squatter. Both died. It's true that the investigation took too long. But a comparison between the number of killings in Richmond, California, and Costa Rica would be interesting.
I look forward to returning to Costa Rica soon. I've sailed extensively in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans, and I don't know a friendlier place - particularly in the Pacific - than Costa Rica. The Gulf of Nicoya side of the Nicoya Peninsula is my preferred area for local cruising, as it has many excellent anchorages, green islands, and fair breezes. By the way, there is no record of a hurricane ever hitting Costa Rica.
And a fair number of transiting yachts - as many as 20 at a time - and local yacht owners visit in front of the Bahia Luminosa Resort at 9¡ 53'N - 84¡ 56'W. Some stay for months at a time.
A word of caution about navigation: Charlie's Charts depicts two routes into the protected bay in front of Bahia Luminosa and behind Isla Gitana (identified as 'Isla Muertes' on most charts). For boats with a draft of more than four feet, I seriously question the advisability of the route around the north end of Gitana. Of course at a normal high tide - which averages plus 9.7 feet - there is no problem. But the entry from the southern side is always hazard free.
The bay is well protected: by Punto Gigante to the north, Isla Gitana to the northeast, and Pajaros Island to the southeast. There is little chance of any significant sea, as the fetch is quite limited.
George - We've been to the relatively isolated Isla Gitana / Bahia Luminosa area, thought it was terrific, and unless things have changed dramatically in the last two years, would consider it to be a great and safe place from which to enjoy Costa Rica. We also agree that Puntarenas, across the Gulf, is approaching hellhole status.
As for your blaming the Boehms' for being victims of credit card fraud, we think you're making a terrible mistake. The couple may have lost close to $1,000, but what Costa Rica loses by its growing reputation as a free zone for crooks of all forms and styles is many times greater. It's simply stupid and false economy for the Costa Rican government not to acknowledge these kinds of problems and do something to stop them.
The American killed by a squatter while trying to establish a model farm in Costa Rica was what, 85 years old? There's no way a guy that age can engage in 'mortal combat'. Based on all the reports we've read, it was nothing short of murder - a murder perhaps carried on by the squatter on behalf of rich Costa Ricans who wanted the American's land.
LOOTED OF EVERYTHING I HAD
You indicated an interest in the situation in Costa Rica. In July of '97, I had the misfortune to go aground in Bahia Ballena, Costa Rica. The entire story of what happened is too long for a letter, but the end result was that I was looted of everything I had - even my toothbrush. Being a singlehander without funds, there wasn't a thing I could do to prevent the looting. The thieves just hung out in the jungle until I had to leave the boat for supplies, at which time they moved in to disencumber me.
In addition, my backpack was stolen from right under my feet in Puntarenas by a snatch and run artist. The pack contained a change of clothing and all my important papers: birth certificate, bank card, passport and boat documents. I should have been more on guard, but it was early in the day. As a result of this theft, I had to make my way - without money or identification - to San Jose for a replacement passport.
I won't burden you with a description of my encounters with the U.S. embassy in San Jose, but the bottom line was if you had no money, it was just too bad. You got no passport, no food, and no shelter (San Jose is up in the Central Plain where it gets cold at night.) During several visits to the embassy, I had occasion to visit many other Americans seeking replacement passports. The thirty or so that I met related a recurrent theme: they had visited a bar after dark. Upon leaving they had been jumped, beaten and robbed. There were bruises and black eyes all around.
Typical of my visits to other countries along the way, the people of Costa Rica weren't all bad. Several times, for example, the poor citizens of that country fed me. One lady beautifully washed and pressed my remaining shirt. After the embassy told me that I needed $65 for a temporary passport - money I didn't have (well, too bad!) - a Costa Rican gentleman came to me. Having been turned away by my own (wealthy) country, he handed me 15,000 colones - about $60 U.S. - a lot of money for down there. It was enough, with the $10 I had, to purchase my I.D.
How I scrounged up enough money to leave Costa Rica is another story.
Costa Rica is a beautiful country with dazzling wildlife and clean air and water. Unfortunately, it is also a lawless country. If anybody wants to sail there, I would encourage them - as long as they're aware that it's about as safe as Rio de Janeiro was before they hired some police to protect the public. Speaking of police, during my approximately two month stay in Costa Rica, I saw not one uniformed officer.
For anybody visiting Costa Rica, I offer the following suggestions:
- Never carry more cash than needed for the day.
- Never visit bars after dark. If you must go, enter and depart as part of a group.
- Don't walk alone, especially after dark.
- Avoid carrying a backpack or shoulder bag. One lady I spoke with was dragged two blocks by the shoulder strap of her handbag. Young motorcycle thugs had swooped down on her as she waited to cross the street, and they dragged her until the strap on her bag broke. There was nothing in the bag but cosmetics and Kleenex. Anyway, you want to avoid that.
You take your chances when you venture into the wide world alone, people, but my advice is to do it anyway. Troubles can come in spades, but it's better than sitting home in black ignorance. So go sailing!
National City, CA
COLOR ME STUPID
The purpose of this letter is to alert anyone benefitting from the acts of a 'good samaritan' that a word of thanks is appreciated. I have two cases in point.
I pulled into Nuku Hiva after listening to the plight of the owners of a Hans Christian 48 who had a broken headstay pin on their Profurl roller furling. The owner intended to use a 3/4-inch diameter threaded rod as a pin. I explained that this was potentially a dangerous thing to do and that what he really needed was to have a pin made out of stainless rod. He checked with the local machine shop, but all they had was steel.
Enter the 'stupid samaritan'. I scrounged around my boat and found a 3/4-inch forged stainless shackle. It could be cannibalized to make the required pin. I also gave the Hans Christian owner a USNF tap and bolts to replace the Profurl threaded nipples on the pin ends. After several consultations with the owner, I actually drew the part for the machine shop. The part was ultimately made successfully and even looks lovely.
My 'thanks', however, was a big 'no thanks'. Apparently this guy's idea of help is that it's his inviolate right to be bailed out of a serious jam. The odds that anyone else would have had the necessary part he could use, along with the expertise to design it and show him how to install it, were zip. After all, this was Nuku Hiva. On top of all that, I even took the furler and headstay down for him so he wouldn't kill or maim himself. If my thanks are knowing that I did a good deed, then I ain't doing any more of them. The cost to me - not counting the fact that if I need the tap I haven't seen it since - was well over $300. Counsel me if I'm off base here, but it seems like I'm out of touch with today's sailors.
The second case involved a DownEast 32 whose owner had blown his old Farryman diesel and managed to reach Nuku Hiva the day before I arrived. By then his batteries were dead and he needed to get them charged. He had minimal solar panels and the weather had been lousy, so the charging wasn't coming along very fast. Chump that I am, I offered to loan him two solar panels for a day or two so that he might get his batteries back up.
After four days, I went over to his boat and asked him when I could get my panels back. You'd have thought I had asked for his first born! He asked me whether I was planning on leaving. I guess he thought my $1,400 worth of panels had only been on my boat for decoration. On the contrary, I'd been having to run my generator to compensate for not having the solar panels. My generator is one of those old fashioned kind that uses diesel fuel. Nonetheless, the fellow who used my solar panels didn't offer any 'thanks', nor any diesel - not one damn thing.
So counsel me about this good samaritan stuff again.
If somebody does a favor for Latitude readers, I hope they'll be more appreciative of somebody's efforts in bailing them out of serious trouble than these two people were. I would only ask them to remember that nobody has to help anybody. So it's probably best just to color me stupid and easily taken advantage of. There's an old saying that if you start using your spares to help people, you'll shortly find yourself out of spares. It won't happen again.
On a more pleasant topic - and as you can probably discern, there aren't many here - I sure miss your magazine after a couple of months in Mexico and then down here in the South Pacific.
W. M. Wochos
Doc, 53-ft sloop
Nuku Hiva, Marquesas
W. M. - Having not gotten the 'other side of the story' from the other two boats, it's hard for us to comment intelligently on the situation. In any event, there are some guidelines in providing help and loaning stuff that you should follow to prevent you from getting your strut bent.
First off, make sure that other people really want to take advantage of your expertise and/or parts. In the case of the guy with the Hans Christian, you might have mentioned that it's your educated opinion that a stainless pin is much better than a threaded rod, and suggested that he check with Profurl or a professional rigger before settling on that option. Who knows, maybe the guy felt like you intimidated him into doing something he didn't really want to do? Secondly, you should make all possible expenses clear as early as possible. If helping someone is going to cost you a minimum of $300, it is important to let the guy - who might be ignorant about such things - at least know the 'hard costs'. After all, everybody resents getting a bill 'after the fact'. Thirdly, when loaning tools or gear or providing labor, make sure all the conditions are clear from the outset. "I can lend you these solar panels for just two days to help you out of your jam, but they cost $1,400 and I really need them, so I'm only loaning them to you on the condition you absolutely promise to get them back to me on Wednesday." If that would embarass you too much or if the other guys are not in immediate danger, you've got to let them make their own way in the world.
On the other hand, we're not totally discounting the possibility that the owners of the two boats might just be plain and simply ingrates. There's a bit of that going around.
THE WIRE THAT KEEPS T.I. FROM DRIFTING AWAY
I found the proverbial cable at Clipper Cove.
I hail from Reno and keep my old Coronado 34 at the Port of Oakland. My friends Ted, retired, and his wife Nonda, retired, and our other regular hand Mike, who was starting a new job the following Monday, and I get down here about once a month to sail the Bay. We had a gorgeous sail around the Bay on Saturday the 25th, and ended it up with our first 'campout' of the year at Clipper Cove.
Since the weather was perfect for overnight anchoring, the Cove started to get crowded. We edged up close to shore next to Yerba Buena Island and found a dinghy tied to a line in a choice inshore spot. So we went a little to the east and dropped our hook.
After breakfast the next morning, we started the engine and my two trusty male crewmembers went forward to raise the muddy anchor up. No way. So I went up there and the three of us pulled - but again to no avail. I figured taking a run at it under power would pull it loose. Well, the boat shook, shuddered and dipped - but stopped dead. By this time we had a pretty good audience composed of the crews of other boats.
We were only in about six feet of water, and I told my crew that I would sooner lose the anchor - a good CQR - and 20 feet of chain rather than have to get in the water to try to retrieve the anchor. But my crew was persistent; they noted that we weren't in a hurry and that if we put our heads together we could figure something out. So I told them how the old sailing ships actually used a smaller line around the windlass that was clipped to the anchor line. We already had a jib sheet run, so I told Mike to tie a series of half hitches around the anchor chain. Then Nonda and I went aft; I worked the winch handle while she tailed.
After much effort, the crew shouted, "Hold it!" from the bow. I went forward and there caught on the anchor, as pretty as you please, was the six-inch diameter wire that obviously is used to keep Treasure Island from drifting away from Yerba Buena. After much discussion, we decided to drop the anchor rapidly, with the hope that the cable wouldn't follow so quickly and we'd be able to slip away. Not a chance!
Based on what we now knew, we decided to hoist the anchor and cable again, tie a line around, then swing our anchor clear. As it turned out, the next time we winched the anchor up, it was free of the cable and our little adventure had come to a close - except for all the mud on the crew.
By the way, the dinghy anchored in the choice spot was still there the next day. I'd like to think that the guy who 'reserved' the spot had some emergency preventing him - and everybody else - from using that spot. Sailors aren't that inconsiderate, of course, so it must have been a powerboater.
Patience, Coronado 34
Reno / Port of Oakland
Bill - St. Tropez, Mikonos, St. Barts, Clipper Cove. . . snagging something while raising your anchor (usually it's another anchor rode or two) is a universal problem. The solution is as you suggested; raise the hook as far as you can, secure the offending rode/cable to a line from your bow, then release your anchor to allow it to slip free of the rode/cable. This is a hazardous activity, however, in the sense that it's easy for fingers to get crushed in the confusion or back discs to be herniated while pushing hard with poor support. So be careful.
As for you folks who 'reserve' spots in anchorages or demand enormous room in which to swing, remember to treat others the way you'd like to be treated. If everyone tries to accommodate their fellow mariners, there is almost always room for everyone.
LOOKS BAD, BUT RUNS PERFECT
I'm glad I saw the letter to Latitude about Cruise 'n Carry outboards. I have a 1.5 hp that looks bad - but runs perfect. The only parts I need are a new cover and exhaust pipe. Did anyone have any luck finding out where to call and write for parts?
Daniel L. Delane
Wet One Two, Columbia 36
King Harbor, Redondo Beach
Daniel - You're in luck! Check out the next letter.
CRUISE AND CARRY PARTS
After a long search, we found the people who have the remaining stock of parts for Cruise 'n Carry outboards. They are: Western Lawn Equipment Co., P.O. Box 55276, Hayward, CA 94545-9926. Their phone is (510) 732-6843, and you can fax them at (510) 732-9986. We love our Cruise 'n Carry, too.
Bob and Pat Partridge
MANY UNANSWERED QUESTIONS
I did a classic double take after reading Capt. Petersen's letter to Governor Wilson et. al. in the April issue. In that letter Capt. Petersen blames the damage to his powerboat at Pebble Beach - after it became disabled as a result of his hitting a submerged rock - on "gross negligence" on the part of the Coast Guard.
I agree with Latitude's response, which basically is that if a captain can't operate his vessel safely, he should stay ashore and avoid putting his crew, passengers - and potential rescuers - in harm's way. I also liked the comment that the Coast Guard's Semper Paratus motto doesn't mean 'always there'. After all, Latitude would be filled with letters of objection if each of us had a Coast Guard helo or patrol boat shadowing our every move on the water.
I have no previous knowledge of the facts surrounding Capt. Petersen's misfortune, but his letter leaves many unanswered questions:
First, his reported position two miles from the Coast Guard Station appears to put him either in the vicinity of Point Pinos, which is northwest of the Coast Guard Station, or north northwest of Point Joe, which is over the hill due west from the Coast Guard Station. Charts of the area show that rocks extend a substantial distance from the shoreline. So what was Capt. Petersen doing operating his vessel so close to such a shore in conditions he described as including high winds, six-foot seas, and near darkness?
Second, Capt. Petersen reports that he put out a general distress call on channel 16 at approximately 2030 - and that there was no response. Does he know that his transmitter was working? Did no other vessels respond to his distress call?
Third, the quoted text of Capt. Petersen's distress call fails to include a position. Did he give one? It's not clear from Capt. Petersen's letter how long after he lost power and steerage that he decided to abandon his boat. But from his own account, it appears he drifted approximately two miles in a southwesterly direction along a dark rocky lee shore before drifting approximately another two miles in a southeasterly direction before the boat hit Pebble Beach. The way I see it, Capt. Petersen should consider himself extremely lucky that he is still around to complain about his perception that the Coast Guard is somehow responsible for the damage to his boat and the fact that he didn't have insurance.
Steve - We'd like to clarify our position slightly. None of us are perfect, so from time we're all going to be in a position to benefit from outside help. So while we all would appreciate that help when needed, no one should ever leave port expecting it.
5 MINUTES, 30 MINUTES, 90 MINUTES
With regard to Capt. Robert P. Peterson's April letter, Coast Guard Group San Francisco has no record of radio communications with his vessel Tootsie on September 1, 1997. Coast Guard Station Monterey's live radio watch is secured daily at 2200, and is assumed by remote link from Group San Francisco's Communications Center using the same antenna 'high site'. As a result, there is no break in the continuous listening watch, and no change in the Coast Guard's ability to hear and respond to radio calls in the Monterey area. We follow a similar procedure with all stations within Group San Francisco's area of responsibility.
VHF-FM radio coverage in the Monterey Bay area is extremely good. If someone in Capt. Petersen's reported location were to transmit a 'Mayday' on Channel 16 for 45 minutes, our communications watch would very probably have heard it. Other mariners in the area would also likely have heard and responded to it. We keep audio tapes of communications on Channel 16 for only one month, so it's too late to review the tapes for any confirmation of Tootsie's call for assistance. However, the Group's written communications log doesn't mention any contact with Capt. Petersen or a vessel named Tootsie.
Despite Capt. Petersen's recollection of the information provided to him by Lieutenant Commander Blanton, Commanding Officer of Station Monterey, I assure Latitude and its readers that our distress response standards are the same in Monterey as they are Coast Guard-wide: Make an initial response within five minutes of the call; launch an appropriate search and rescue unit - boat or aircraft - within 30 minutes; and have that search and rescue unit on scene within 90 minutes of getting underway. The communications equipment, search and rescue resources, and people assigned to this area can easily meet these standards, and their response to distress calls has historically been much faster. In Capt. Peterson's case, Station Monterey received initial notification from Monterey County at 2215 and a rescue boat was underway by 2225.
I can't explain Capt. Peterson's inability to communicate with the Coast Guard. His radio or antenna may have been damaged in the grounding that disabled his steering and propulsion. It's also possible that he didn't use a frequency that we monitor. It might have been prudent for him to use other distress signals, such as flares - required to be carried on boats of Tootsie's size - when his attempts to radio for help were unsuccessful. I'm confident our response to a functional distress signal - radio call or visual signal - in the Monterey area would meet or beat Coast Guard standards.
A significant aspect of this case, which Capt. Petersen neglected to mention, is that the Monterey County Sheriff's Deputy who investigated the incident and interviewed Capt. Petersen shortly after he came ashore, quickly found reason to suspect that he was intoxicated. Public records show that two hours after the grounding, Capt. Petersen's blood alcohol content was found to be in excess of the legal limit. Capt. Peterson was arrested by a California Highway Patrol Officer for operating a vessel while under the influence of alcohol.
I invite Latitude 38 readers to visit Group San Francisco, which is located on Yerba Buena Island. Come get a look at our communications and operations facilities, and most important, see our highly professional people committed to serving you, our customers. Please call (415) 399-3400 to set up a visit.
Captain Larry Hall
Coast Guard Group San Francisco
Readers - My oh my, the stuff that comes out when you hear 'the other side of the story'.
By the way, Capt. Hall is the most accessible and responsive Group Commander we've seen in the last 20 years. When he invites you to visit Group San Francisco, he means it.
HOW DO NORTHWEST SAILORS SURVIVE?
Living in Florida, where cold and lack of sun are just rumors, we're curious how Northwest sailors survive - spiritually and physically - where temperatures are always cool and most months are gray and cloudy.
My wife and I sail Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, but are thinking about relocating to the Puget Sound area. As such, we're looking for input from anyone who has lived and sailed in that area. We're concerned about living conditions when eight months - or so we've been told - are gray, cloudy and cold. Are there more months of non-sailing than sailing?
We would appreciate any e-mail comments sent to email@example.com.
Pat and Linda Coakley
Pat & Linda - If you think the Pacific Northwest gets four months of sun, blue skies and warmth a year, you've spent too much time sitting in the Florida sun. It's more like four weeks - and some years it's only four days.
Of course, this year those of us in California aren't in any position to be smug. John Neal tells us that last winter was the Pacific Northwest's warmest and driest ever, and Vancouver actually saw temperatures in the 90s this May - which was about 30 degrees higher than the highs we were getting in chilly Northern and Southern California. You don't suppose it could have anything to do with El Niño, do you?
But what great questions: How many months a year do people sail in the Northwest, and how do they survive the cold and gray?
Having been faithful readers of Latitude, we were certainly surprised to find a photo of our Dreadnought 32 Annalicia in the 'looking good' section of the May issue. We do agree that our boat does look good - but in all fairness, we must credit Tradewinds Sailing Center for teaching us the sailing techniques that we're constantly striving to improve on.
Within the next year or two we're looking forward to joining you on the Baja Ha-Ha before continuing on to points west. Anyway, thanks for including Annalicia in your publication.
Pat and Al Graham
Pat & Al - The pleasure was all ours. You sound like terrific people, just the kind we like to do the Ha-Ha with.
HE WAS THE LAST AMERICAN PIRATE
Latitude's reporter/photographer spoke with me and my crew at Marin County Boat Works as we readied Bar Taut for the coming YRA season. There were two things I failed to mention.
First, Marin County Boat Works on the San Rafael Canal is a small yard that welcomes and accommodates the small boat do-it-yourselfer. Owners Al and Sharon are friendly and helpful, with reasonable yard and supply costs. They also take a personal interest in your boat and projects at hand.
Second, Bar Taut is a term used to describe a manner of tuning the rigging on ships of the early 19th Century. My great, great - to the 9th - grandfather was Thomas Truxton, the first Commodore of the U.S. Navy. (According to family lore, he was also one of the last of the American pirates.) Anyway, Truxton advocated the English rigid 'bar taut' style of tuning a ship's rigging.
Being bar taut and having been bar taught, it seemed an appropriate name for my boat. The alternative - given I sail Ariel #222 - was Take Off Your Toeshoes And Your 222.
THE POLICE JUST LAUGHED ABOUT 'THE CLUB'
We've been cruising Mexico since November of '91 and would like to share our perspective on crime in that country.
We lost our dinghy in Zihuatanejo in January of '92. When we went ashore to report it stolen, we spotted it parked on the beach behind the naval base, missing only the cover to the Honda 8 hp engine. (Getting that engine cover replaced is a whole other story!) Some fishermen told us they'd found the dinghy floating near the entrance to the harbor and brought it in.
When we talked to the Navy about getting it back, they wouldn't release it until we could show proof of ownership. Thank heavens for the registration from the California Department of Motor Vehicles, because this was before dinghy purchases came with their own proof of ownership.
In March of '93, the same dinghy was stolen from the inner anchorage at Tenacatita Bay. That same night the dinghy from Bongo John's Mašana was stolen from the outer anchorage. Despite an exhaustive search around both anchorages and in the river to the lagoon, no trace of either dinghy was ever found. These thefts were reported to the local police and to the Port Captain in Barra de Navidad.
In February of '94, the artist Ann Sayers was mugged and robbed at knife-point in Zihuatanejo. She'd been walking along the path from town to the beach near the canal. This incident was reported to the local police.
In January of '97, our '71 Ford Pinto Runabout was stolen during daylight hours on a street adjacent to Marina Vallarta in Puerto Vallarta. We reported the theft to the local police. When we told them the steering wheel had been locked with 'The Club', they just laughed. "No problema, sešor," they told me. "The thieves just remove the steering wheel and drive the vehicle with a wrench." The police found the car about a week later, abandoned on a downtown street with the front end smashed in. The steering wheel was in the back seat, 'The Club' still attached. The damage was over $400 U.S.
Since this is being sent via ham radio e-mail, we've kept it brief. While our dinghy was insured, the big problem was getting it replaced in Mexico. It was very difficult. In addition, it's hard to believe how helpless you feel when you realize your dinghy is gone and you have no way to get back out to your boat! At least it wasn't life-threatening.
We guess we need to sharpen our skills at protecting our 'wheels', dinghy or otherwise. Nonetheless, we feel pretty lucky as we've never been confronted face to face - as Ann had been in Z-town.
Bob and Sally
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Bob & Sally - When you say you felt "helpless" after your dinghy was stolen, we know exactly what you mean. About eight years ago we were anchored off Palm Island in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, when we decided to take our young kids and friends ashore for a Friday night jump-up. When the 'guard' took the dinghy painter and said he'd "watch it", we didn't fully appreciate his meaning. In any event, as soon as we walked off, he took off - in our dinghy. She was a real beauty, too. We searched all over for that dink, both that night and the next morning by boat, and by chartered plane the next day. We never found a trace.
While we don't care for people who steal things, we can't help but giggle at the ingenuity Mexican thieves use to circumvent security measures such as 'The Club'. Who else would even think of steering a car with a wrench? On a further lighter note, it does our heart good to know that people still have cool nicknames like 'Bongo John'.
BLEACHING FISH IS NOTHING NEW
I was quite surprised to read, after all these years, about the practice of killing fish with bleach and chlorine. More than four decades ago, in what might as well have been another life, I lived in Okinawa. While there, I spent a lot of time diving around the reefs of the Ryukyu chain and on World War II wrecks. I was not a spear fishermen at the time, and was mostly interested in underwater photography and just looking. But some locals and other Pacific Islanders I knew used the bleach and powdered chlorine technique in tidal pools to find out what might be lurking in the depths.
One day I witnessed the use of this chlorine technique in a tidal pool - and was amazed at the results. Everything in the tidal pool from sea snakes to octopi to sculpins came out - and in a hurry.
Later, while working in the Marshalls on Rol-Namur, I witnessed something similar. I didn't participate in this activity and certainly don't condone the practise, but I thought you might be interested to know that it's nothing new.
W. H. Wiley
W.H. - It's nothing new - and unfortunately hasn't stopped.
And here's some really shocking news. According to recent allegations, Jacques Costeau - long synonymous with ocean conservation - used such poison solutions to get octopi and other sea creatures to jump out of their nooks and crannies for his underwater cameras. We always wondered how they got all that great underwater footage - and now we wish we didn't know. If the allegations are true, our beloved Costeau-endorsed swim mask is headed for the trash.
If you ever want to see a depressing sight, snorkel in the Med - particularly around the Cyclades Islands of Greece. As a result of 'fishing' with combinations of dynamite and poison, and the affects of industrial pollution, virtually all sea life has been destroyed. After coming from the Sea of Cortez and the Caribbean, the Med looks like the underwater version of scorched earth.
AD COPY FOR ERICSONS FROM THE '60S
Ken Brink wanted information on Ericson yachts from the '60s. I have some old ad copy for the Ericson 32 and Ericson 35 that were built in the mid '60s. There's no mention of the designer in any of the ads, but these were the first Ericsons and are probably Alberg designs.
If Ken wants he can contact me through my e-mail address.
40,000 MILES ON OUR ALBERG 35
Ken Brink wants to know about Alberg-designed Ericsons? I was involved with the San Francisco Alberg Association, which we started in May of '77. In fact, I have the papers from the club from the very beginning.
Based on information I obtained from Fraser Yachts of Southern California, Pearson built 276 Alberg 35s between '61 and '66. There were two models; a sloop and a yawl, and they came in either a dinette or settee configuration.
Fraser Yachts told me that Ericson built about 30 Eriscon 35s to Alberg's design. Actually, they had Alberg hulls and Ericson cabins. I know that one of these boats, which I believe was called the MK II, lived at the Richmond YC in the '70s.
To my knowledge, Eriscon never built a 30-footer to an Alberg design. Odyssey Yachts of Southern California, however, built about 20 Odyssey 30 yawls to Alberg's design.
I owned hull #87 of the Pearson-built Alberg 35s for 23 years. My wife and I lived aboard for 15 years and cruised her for 13 years during which time we put 40,000 miles under her keel. She was an excellent ocean boat. I know of two owners who have owned sisterships since the '60s.
Peti Babe, Alberg 35
Rich - We recall the Changes you were so kind to send to Latitude while you were out cruising on Peti Babe. As for local based voyages with Odyssey 30s, we remember when Mike Lingsch and Patti Bodeson did a year tour of the South Pacific with theirs. Benjamin Wells, a resident of Berkeley, later did a circumnavigation with his.
WHAT COULDN'T HAVE EVER BEEN NOW IS
I'd like to send along my appreciation for the portions of your great rag which you put online - particularly Letters. As a blind sailor, this is the easiest way for me to have access to the editorial material in a timely fashion.
No, folks, 'reading machines' are not what they should be. In this regard, I hope Latitude never even thinks about scanning to Adobe Acrobat or other bit mapped image file formats, which are a curse for blind folks such as myself. Besides, they are based on that idiocy of modern shallow thinking that permits content to be subverted to image. Yuck! Yes, I'm aware of Adobe's so-called attempt to make Acrobat accessible. Unfortunately, it doesn't work. So please, Latitude, continue - as you have time and energy - to make more of the magazine available in HTML, the only accessible standard for text. It's happily gotten me through some dreary days and nights.
I'd also like to thank Steve Oswald for his letter about his late wife Nancy. It brought tears to my eyes, too. I'm so lucky to have my own 'Captain Susie'. While she and I haven't yet chartered in the Caribbean, you never know. But it's this kind of companionship and shared love for sailing that life is all about.
On the bright side of things, it seems like only a little while ago that Susie and I walked by marinas looking at boats and sighing, "That will never be for us." But now, through BAADS, the Bay Area Association of Disabled Sailors, we can boom about the Bay in the club's beloved Ericson 27 Endless Time - and know exactly why we're here.
AN OLD ALBERG HULL AND AN ALL-STAR CAST
Ken Brink's letter asking about Ericson designs by Carl Alberg sent me to the DeWitt sail plan museum that we inherited here at Quantum Sails. (These files became Sobstad property when Jim DeWitt sold the loft in '83, and remained here along with everything else when the individual Sobstad lofts formed Quantum in '96.)
Sure enough, there was an old and special Ericson 35 sail plan "drawn by Bruce King" in '67 and marked, in Jim DeWitt's handwriting, "old Alberg hull". There are added notes identifying it as "the original Ericson 35, taken from the Alberg 35". My recollection is that this early Ericson production boat was a thinly disguised Alberg 35 built on a mold obtained, one way or another, from Pearson Yachts. Richard Seales has one at Richmond YC named Escape.
All the other Ericson sail plans clearly state "designed by Bruce King" - except for a little known 26-footer by W.B. Crealock.
Prowling through old files reminded me of the amazing cast of people who did time at DeWitt Sails before moving on to add, in their own way, to the Bay Area's emergence as a spawning ground for world class sailors, Olympic medalists, and America's Cup contenders. DeWitt himself was the first Californian to win the North American Men's Sailing championship, and had an artist's eye for talent. At one time or another he employed naval architects Bob Smith, Tom Wylie, Gary Mull and brilliant sailor/engineer Rob Wade of Santa Cruz.
Then there's Bill Green, who builds famous race boats at his yard in the United Kingdom, and Henry Jotz, Paul Kroll, Hal McCormack, Jim Warfield, Jake van Heekeren (before Pineapples), delivery skipper Robert Flowerman, Bill George, Jim Maloney, Jim Wondolleck, Kim Desenberg, Greg Paxton, Pat Vincent, Don Peters, Tom Alexander, Millie Biller of Richmond Boat Works, George and Frank Pedrick, Bruce Powell, John Kostecki, Howie Marion, Bill Sisteck (who went into windsurfing), Brian Kellog, Steve and Annie Lewis (Lewis Sails, Santa Cruz), Mike Herlihy, Lynn Wright, US Sailing Judge Vicki Gilmour, Vicki Sodaro, Liz Baylis, Gordy Nash, Russ Williams, Tom Krase and even Dee Smith.
No wonder it's been so much fun.
Jocelyn Nash, Archivist
Quantum Sail Design Group
Brickyard Cove, Pt. Richmond
WINNING THE MILDEW BATTLE
Lucy of the South Bay, who complained about mildew on her boat, asked for suggestions. As an old hand at living aboard boats of wood and boats of 'frozen snot' (as L. Francis Herreshoff called fiberglass), here's what I learned:
1) Always keep the bilges really dry. This makes a huge difference.
2) Whenever a warm, dry day comes along, take advantage of it by opening the boat up and letting the air blow through.
3) Heat the boat, at least partially, with wood. All those little bitty wood stoves for boats really do work, and no other heat source dries air like a wood fire.
4) If you've a solid fiberglass hull, first get rid of every last bit of mildew, then line the hull in your lockers and areas next to the bunks with closed-cell foam - the kind campers sleep on. (Don't do this on a wooden boat, however, or you'll encourage rot.) Cut the foam so it pushes tight against bulkheads, and then carry it across the top under the deck. You might want to hold the foam in place with Velcro strips or buttons rather than contact cement, because it will allow you to periodically remove it for cleaning.
If your fiberglass boat has a wooden-slat ceiling but no insulation behind it, pull the ceiling, install the closed-cell foam as described above, and reinstall the ceiling.
Miradrain - or some brand name like it - is an inexpensive closed-cell foam or neoprene substitute that works well. You can find it at big commercial builders' supply houses. Builders use it to keep ground water from coming in contact with foundations and backfilled walls. The stuff is made of polypro sheeting that's formed so there's hundreds of little round top-hat indentations in the plastic. One side is faced with filter-cloth of some synthetic fiber. When you line lockers and such with it on a boat, have the filter cloth facing the inside of the boat.
This Miradrain stuff is also great when tailored to fit the bunkboards under your mattress, as it controls the dampness that accumulates there - even if you don't wet your bed. Put the filter-cloth side up, toward the mattress.
Having sex also introduces lots of moisture belowdecks, so you might want to avoid that. Then again, maybe it's worth the bother.
Stoney Knob, North Carolina
TO MAKE YOUR CLOTHES SMELL BETTER
I think the reason Lucy is having to complain about her clothes "molding away in the South Bay" is because she's expecting Golden Rods to actually do something. Based on my experience, the only thing they do is waste space and electricity.
My solution is to run a heater every night, because you have to increase the spread between the temperature and dewpoint and lower the humidity inside the boat. I also try to open my boat up every day - El Niño permitting. On a general level these techniques seem to work well.
To make your clothes smell better, remove them from the closet and hang them in the main salon - or other large, open area. The louvered doors on most closets don't allow enough air circulation to prevent the growth of mold. Or you might try cutting out half of the louvers - or better yet, removing the closet doors entirely. This would help immensely.
For removing mold, I suggest diluted Simple Green.
Mold-free in the Central Bay
MOST OF HIS MOISTURE CAME FROM KRILL
I wound my way around to your web site of Letters today, and came across a February one from Fredrick Knudsen who asked whether or not their had been a guy who drank saltwater during a crossing of the Atlantic.
There was such a guy; the French doctor Alain Bombard. You can read about him and his trip in The Alain Bombard Story. The doctor deliberately crossed the Atlantic in a liferaft to test survival tactics. He drank small quantities of saltwater that were supplemented by the amount of water you'd have in a basic liferaft supply. But if I remember correctly, most of his moisture came from plankton and krill collected with a silk 'straining net'.
Durham, New Hampshire
Kate - A number of readers have somewhat fractured recollections of what Bombard did and didn't do during his courageous experiment. His plan was to live on small amounts of sea water and 'fish juice', a liquid he obtained by crushing chunks of fish with a fruit press. As it turned out, after a relatively short period of time Bombard "nearly drowned" - his description - in rainwater.
The catching of plankton with a straining net had nothing to do with getting moisture for his body. It was done specifically to get Vitamin C, the only bodily requirement - other than water - that wasn't available from fish.
We covered the first half of Bombard's voyage in an April feature story. The second half of his voyage is covered in this issue. Nonetheless, don't come to any conclusions about Bombard's theories until you read the May letter from Ronald J. Kallen, M.D., a specialist who offered a detailed explanation of the human body's need for fluids. Doctor Kallen's conclusions: 1) Drinking 'fish juice' doesn't help at all because it has the same sodium content as human blood. 2) It's better not to drink anything than it is to drink saltwater.
THE SOUTH BAY WRECK
I'm a captain for the Marine Science Institute. We operate Inland Seas, an 85-foot former air/sea rescue boat remodeled as a school ship. Our mission is to take grade school to college age kids on four-hour trips in the South Bay between the San Mateo and Dumbarton Bridges for some basic hands-on marine biology. The subject of the most questions? The 'South Bay Wreck'.
I had a copy of Latitude from some months ago that carried an extensive biography of that wreck - which I believe was identified as the former USS Thompson, a four-piper of the Clemson class. Unfortunately, that copy of Latitude has walked off the boat and now I must recall the ship's history from memory. Even more unfortunate is that my memory has walked off the boat also, so I'm forgetting the details of what was a very interesting tale.
Would it be possible to obtain a copy of that story so I might have the facts once more at my neuron tips?
Captain Ernest Queck
Master, Research Vessel Inland Seas
Capt. Queck - We don't have the staff to search through the archives, but you're in luck as the Managing Editor just happened to recall that the USS Thompson story appeared in the May '97 issue. Send $7 to Reprints, Latitude 38, 15 Locust, Mill Valley, 94941 if you'd like us to send you a copy.
Recent copies of Latitude are hard to come by in New Zealand, so I've really enjoyed reading the parts you put online. And your website looks great.
Any chance you'll be adding Changes in Latitude to your website?
Whangarei, New Zealand
Jeanette - Thanks for the kind words. We should be adding Changes within the next two months. And remember, e-mail makes it so easy for you to let Latitude's readers know what you cruisers are up to in that part of the world.
LOST AND FOUND FROM SAIL EXPO
Did you lose something at Sail Expo? On Monday you were at my booth talking about Mariner's Choice White rigging tape, and I believe that you left something of value on the carpet in front of my booth. This was the Mariner's Choice booth next to the IOD 35 booth.
What was left is smaller than a breadbox. If you can identify it, I'll be happy to return it to you. Reach me at 800-551-8990.
Kirk S. Brown
Multiple Choice, Inc.
DON'T SEE HOW OIL COULD DO MUCH GOOD
I have some comments on Max Ebb's April Oil On The Waters article.
Oil has a higher, not lower, viscosity than water. This higher viscosity is what makes oil seem 'thicker' than water - despite the fact it's really less dense. While I can't say for certain, that's probably what Coles was referring to when he said that the oil should be "heavy". For some odd reason, my engineering texts don't list the properties of sperm whale or porpoise oil, just the usual lubricants.
Max and company didn't read Coles carefully - perhaps this was for the sake of argument. I reviewed that section immediately after recently finishing The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger. "There seems little evidence to support the textbook theory that a thin film of oil seeping slowly from an oil bag will subdue really big breaking seas," Coles wrote. (pages 280-281, 3rd revised edition)
While this isn't really my field, given the energy in large waves, I still don't see how oil could do much good. Also, my understanding of the mechanics of breaking waves is that they break due to size and shape, whereas oil only affects the surface.
Greg - Max responds as follows:
"Well, I just report what I hear on the dock. It was my engineer friend with the "low viscosity" theory, but you'll remember that he was quickly corrected by another sailor with a "low friction" theory - who pointed out that oils are often more viscous than water. You're quite correct that all lubricating oils are much more viscous than water - otherwise they wouldn't work so well as lubricants. The engineer must have been thinking of some light hydrocarbons with very low viscosities - although they're not normally thought of as 'oils'.
The Coles quote appears in my 1967 edition of Heavy Weather Sailing - but it's immediately followed by detailed recommendations of how and when to use oil. Coles even suggests that it might be useful when running a breaking inlet.
I'll keep out of the argument, but Lee would seem to agree with you on the main point: the physics of breaking waves says that oil shouldn't have any measurable affect beyond the appearance of the surface.
As for the record, sperm oil's viscoisty at 15 degrees C is 42.0 centpoise - about 37 times that of water at the same temperature.
A HELL OF A TALISMAN
This past Christmas I received the book Epic, edited by Clint Willis. It's a collection of riveting mountaineering stories - except for the last chapter titled Endurance, which is the story of Sir Ernest Shackleton's 17-month ordeal in the Antarctic in 1915.
I read Endurance last month, and it caught my eye that among the things that Shackleton did in his preparation for their final desperate sail of 800 miles from Elephant Island to South Georgia Island, was to render enough seal blubber to fill two wooden kegs. As author Alfred Lansing notes portentously, the kegs could have been filled with water.
It's not recorded if Shackleton ever actually used the oil in their perilous passage, but regardless, the seal oil must have been a hell of a talisman. For as you know, Shackleton and his crew of five not only survived gales, ice and freezing temperatures, but he managed to defy the odds and return to Elephant Island three months later with three ships to rescue all 21 remaining members of his crew.
Paul L. Bancel
Ann Arbor, Michigan
NAMED AFTER THE SAILING VESSEL CARRIER PIGEON
In keeping with my earlier e-mail in regard to corrections, I generally confine them to those of nautical import. You graciously accepted that approach earlier, so I am emboldened to return with the following - since you may be referring to Pigeon Point on more than one occasion henceforth:
In Volume 251, May 1998, page 180, column two, third paragraph, Pidgeon Point is properly Pigeon Point - since it was named after the sailing vessel Carrier Pigeon which sank there in the 1800s.
I benefit so much from your publication, and continue to marvel at how you accomplish such an excellent and comprehensive production on a monthly basis. Please accept my corrections as an attempt to help you to maintain your excellence and to return to you some of what you have given to me.
Richard E. Turk
Richard - With a full-time staff of only 11 putting out such a large publication, we need all the help we can get. We're grateful rather than offended when errors are pointed out.
YOU REALLY OUGHT TO USE YOUR RUNNING LIGHTS
It's hard to find Latitudes here in Malaysia, so we've just recently read - via the internet - a series of letters from last November and December regarding COLREGS and sailing vessels.
Quite a few years ago, at about midnight, as we were heading to Martinique from Venezuela, I heard a conversation on the VHF radio. There was an American-sounding voice talking with a "motor vessel", giving his course - and a comment that caused me to prick up my ears. "May I remind you," he said, "that you are the burdened vessel?"
About half an hour later, I saw a large cruise ship pass me, the 'motor vessel' in question. When Peter, my husband, came up to take the watch, I warned him to beware of a sailboat ahead of us that seemed to be playing chicken with large ships. Later that night, this unseen sailor had another radio conversation with a commercial ship. The conversation went as follows:
Ship: "About time you did that."
Sailboat: "I had to turn the lights on - I thought you were going to hit me."
Ship: "May I make a suggestion? Fort-de-France is a very busy harbor and there is a lot of ship traffic in this area - you really ought to leave your navigation lights on when sailing at night around here."
Sailboat: "I was trying to save my batteries. I figured you would see me on your radar." (!!!!)
For those who may be as misinformed as the sailor above, just because a ship knows you're 'there' doesn't necessarily mean he can 'see' you on his radar. After all, there's a lot of clutter out there - especially if the seas are rough. To be sailing at night without navigation lights and expect a large ship to see and avoid you is truly suicidal. Amazing - but not unique.
One night, while under sail about 200 miles off the coast of Ecuador, a fishing vessel appeared on the horizon. The vessel was steering a collision course with our boat. A young fellow sailing with us, who for many years was a crewmember on professional trawlers, told me to never trust a fishing vessel to know the Rules of the Road - let alone observe them. "When you see them," he recommended, "get out of their way." Which is exactly what we did. As for the trawler, they never veered from their course. We suspect nobody was even awake let alone standing watch.
The moral of these stories is that it's foolish - and possibly fatal - to put your trust in anyone besides yourself. Or, to stand up for your 'right of way', no matter what. As Latitude mentioned, the COLREGS state that regardless of right of way, it is incumbent upon both vessels to take measures to avoid a collision. So do be careful out there.
Pete and Jeanne Pockel
Boston, Mass. / Langkawi, Malaysia
Pete & Jeanne - We're in complete agreement that when it comes to avoiding ships or other vessels, it is - as you put it - foolish or fatal to put your trust in anybody else.
THE OLD MEN AND THE SEA
I read with interest your May Sightings about David Clark, "the old(est?) man and the sea". While Mr. Clark believes he may have been the oldest person to complete a circumnavigation, I believe that distinction is held by my longtime friend, Merl Petersen.
Merl completed his circumnavigation with Viveka, his 75- foot staysail schooner, in October of '96 at the age of 74. And Merl surely holds the record for taking the longest time to complete a trip around the world. He and Viveka departed Sausalito in August of '65, took a 24-year stopover in Hawaii - during which time he refurbished Viveka - then resumed his circumnavigation in '89, doublehanding Viveka for over 13,000 miles. He arrived back in Sausalito 31 years after he left!
Some readers will recall that Viveka was damaged when she was hit by a tug and salt barge in May of 1997. Merl is awaiting the outcome of litigation regarding that incident. Once the matter is settled and the damage to Viveka can be repaired, Merl plans to resume ocean sailing.
Sorry, Mr. Clark, but I think you've been 'one-upped'.
Gayla - Things like 'oldest circumnavigation' records are tricky, because there is no central clearinghouse. In fact, we just got a letter about a circumnavigator who is even older than Clark and Petersen - tune in next month to read all about it.
DYLAN AND WIFE AGREE: DON'T LOOK BACK
I couldn't help but think of the fate of Dos Lobos - which was recently lost on the South Bar - a couple of weeks ago as we were coming back from a trip up to Drake's Bay.
My wife Janet and I, anxious for a trip out into the ocean after a winter of bad weather and a lot of work, had headed for Drake's Bay on the weekend of April 18-19. We were already off the Marin Headlands when we saw the Doublehanded Farallones fleet sailing out the Gate. It was a beautiful but wet sail on the beat up to Drake's Bay, and we were surprised to be the only sailboat there for the night.
Large swells were called for on the next day's trip home, and sure enough, they were big. Fortunately, they were far enough apart to make it a really fun sail home. With the wind off our quarter, we got to surf down the big swells. Given the size of the swells, I decided not to try the Bonita Channel next to the Marin Headlands - especially when we could see what looked like about a mile-long stretch of waves breaking over Duxbury Reef.
Playing it conservatively, we headed for the Lightship and planned on coming in the deep water channel at slack water just after an ebb. As we approached the San Francisco Bar, the waves - in just a matter of minutes - were suddenly a lot closer together, steeper - and breaking. It was actually terrifying to look back at them.
"HOLY #@#%$!", I said to my wife, "I don't think we can do this!" She told me that I was doing fine and that I shouldn't look back. This seemed to work, as I just concentrated on steering the boat. For the first 10 minutes it was pretty scary, but I soon realized that we were going to be fine. By the time we reached Pt. Bonita, we were cool. We even shook out our reef before we passed under the Golden Gate.
I guess the reason I'm writing is to reinforce the lessons learned from the unfortunate loss of Dos Lobos - and to confirm that conditions outside the Gate can indeed suddenly go to shit. For just 20 minutes before we got into the scary swells, I'd been down below making cappuccinos and everything was lovely. Then, in just a matter of minutes, we were a broach away from disaster.
It turned out to be a great experience for me, as I now know much more about what my boat can do, and my wife and I both upped our threshold of offshore experience. But there was high risk in gaining that experience. If I were to find myself in similar conditions again, I would either heave to and wait for the flood to calm things down, or just continue down to Half Moon Bay and wait for better conditions.
Most of the sailing we've done is coastal, and we truly believe that the entrance into San Francisco Bay is an area to be respected. We generally consider ourselves to be conservative sailors.
P.S. We read all the sailing publications, but Latitude is the best. We've bought three of our last four boats through the Classy Classifieds. We're hoping the Wanderer will still be doing the Baja Ha-Ha when we retire in four years and take off.
Bob and Janet Griswold
Scaramouche, Tanton 42
Bob & Janet - Assuming there's a medium to large swell running outside the Gate, the difference made by an ebb over a flood is something that has to be seen to be believed.
Looking back at huge overtaking waves has scared helmsmen throughout the ages. As a result, many clipper ships were equipped with curtains so the helmsman couldn't look aft even if he wanted to. Fortunately, most well-designed ocean boats are capable of handling even very large waves - as long as they aren't breaking - with aplomb.
WHO IS AT FAULT WHEN BOATS COLLIDE?
I work for a large insurance company which occasionally insures sailing vessels. Because of my general sailing background, I've had several sailing claims assigned to me. One particular claim has me stumped, and maybe you can help.
I understand that according to international rules on the ocean, a starboard tack boat shall have the right-of-way over a boat on port tack. I understand this rule also applies during racing. I have also read in the Rules of Racing, 1997-2000 that there should be a lookout while racing as well. Here, then, are my questions:
When two boats are vying for a spot before a race and neither have lookouts, who is at fault if a starboard tack boat collides with a port tack boat? Is it possible that there is partial liability? Do the racing rules change after the starting gun? Do rules differ on different races? Is there an assumed risk for both parties?
Help, because I'm sure something like this will happen again in the future, and I'll get the claim.
San Rafael, CA
Derek - We're not experts, but here's our best shot: 1) If there aren't mitigating circumstances, it's the port tack vessel's fault if she collides with a starboard tack vessel. 2) Yes, there can be partial blame - particularly if the boat on starboard didn't have a lookout or didn't attempt to avoid contact. 3) There are differences in the rules prior to the starting gun as opposed to after the starting gun - but we can't think of any that would involve a port-starboard situation. 3) Rules can be changed for specific races and sometimes - although very rarely - these can impact the port-starboard rules. 4) We're not qualified to comment on 'assumed risk'.
LITTLE WHITE ONES
While reading through a recent issue of Latitude, I came across the phrase 'huevos to the wall racing'. I imagine the use of 'huevos' to be a euphemism for parts of the human male anatomy.
Contrary to common belief, 'balls to the wall' is not a gross or uncouth phrase. It comes from the balls on the throttle and mixture controls on early combat airplanes, which went into battle mode by pushing those balls to the firewall to get full throttle and a full rich mixture.
'Balls out' is another often misunderstood phrase. This one comes from the centrifugal governor on early steam engines, which, when steam was fully up or excessive, flew out, raising the escape valve and controlling pressure. Thus 'balls out' meant operation was at maximum pressure and horsepower.
Lastly, I'm told that polite Mexican ladies often ask for 'blanquillos', which translates to 'little white ones' in order not to use the Mexican slang for that part of the human male anatomy.
Bill - Here's the 'egg problem' in Mexico: If you go into a small market and ask a women for "huevos", she might smack your face because the literal translation is 'male seed'. It's better to ask for the 'blanquillos'. But if that's the case, how come every restaurant in Mexico feels fine about offering huevos rancheros, which is 'male seed prepared rancheria style'?
Since you seem to warm to the subject of balls, perhaps you'll enjoy this ancient joke: "Balls!" cried the queen. "If I had 'em I'd be king!" Of course, in Latitude's part of the world, lots of queens do have balls.
ANOTHER OPTION FOR E-MAIL FROM BOATS
We wanted to add a couple of thoughts to Boone Camp's good discussion of e-mail access for cruisers.
In every town or marina in Mexico you'll find cruisers lugging their laptops to wherever they can get a good phone connection for e-mail. Such connections are now as common as dirt in Mexico. Most people are using those U.S. providers which have local numbers in Mexico - although some people sign up with one of the many local Mexican ISPs. We have a Mexican ISP and it's worked well, but we prefer another option which allows us to do our e-mail from the boat.
While we do have VHF, SSB and Ham radios - and use the SSB for longer range communication needs - we also installed a cell phone before leaving Seattle. As it's turned out, the cell phone has been great for sending e-mail from Mexico. Initially we wondered if the cell phone would be worthwhile since we didn't know very many people with e-mail addresses. Boy, were we surprised on that count! Every day we hear from another person who has gotten e-mail, and nearly all our family - including our parents - have it, too. For people who want to stay in touch, e-mail is just great. Here's how we recommend doing it:
1) Install a 'transportable' phone with 3 watts of power, a good cellular antenna, and a 'cellular connection' device. The 'cellular connection' box goes between your computer's modem and the phone. It provides dial tone to your modem and also allows the modem to dial the phone. The total cost for this hardware, back in '96, was $500.
None of this was software, and none of it was difficult to install. However, be sure that the 'cellular connection' box is made for the particular phone you buy. We went with Motorola because the tech rep at AT&T Wireless in Seattle said the Motorola equipment was simple, designed to do exactly what we wanted it to do, and that it would work. It did. It's likely that other manufacturers besides Motorola have comparable equipment, but this set-up worked for us.
You'll also need your computer and a modem. On the advice of the tech rep we installed a 'cheap' modem rather than one which was touted as 'cellular ready'. Apparently these fancier modems try to outsmart the cell phone and wind up not working as well! We were also advised to avoid digital phones because of the lack of digital service in Third World countries.
2) Sign up with a worldwide ISP - such as AOL, Compuserve or IBM. We use AOL and have found it to be fine.
3) Sign up with a local - in the U.S., before you leave - cellular service provider. We used a reseller of ATT Wireless and the service was fine on most places along the West Coast. Once you leave the U.S., you drop the cellular service provider.
4) Debug your system in the States. San Francisco was a great place for us to do this because the cell systems are modern and, for us at least, AOL's server was fast and rock solid.
When you have the whole works running right, you'll find that you use your onboard computer precisely as you would ashore. Once the communications software - such as AOL - dials the phone and makes the connection, bingo!, you're connected.
5) When you get to Mexico, sign up for a Mexican cellular provider. We used TelCel, an excellent Mexican cellular provider with not only coverage all over Mexico, but with good roaming agreements in the U.S., Canada, and Central America. We signed up in Puerto Vallarta so that we would have local coverage during our long stay in that area. When we got further away, such as Mazatlan, Baja, or south of Manzanillo, we were 'roaming', which cost a little more.
The cost of Mexican cellular service was equivalent to U.S. cell service, plus you get voice mail, English-speaking customer service reps (when you ask for them), and other freebies. The hard part is trying to understand the recorded Spanish voice menus, but it's a great opportunity to brush up on your Spanish. We pay for the service with an automatic credit card charge, and the billing has been exactly the same as our phone call log every month.
6) That's it! You're connected and now all you have to do is stay within cell range of 40 to 100 line-of-sight miles - and try to control your phone usage so that your costs don't go up. To keep the air time to a minimum, we use 'flash sessions' and find that we can usually exchange five to 10 e-mails in a minute or two.
Since we tend to stay near towns, we've always had good cell coverage. The poorest coverage was in Baja, which was to be expected, as there aren't even many landlines. Nonetheless, we managed to get out fairly often. There are also 'hot spots' when there is line-of-sight across the Sea to a good cell transmitter; just leave the phone on and when you get a strong signal transmit your e-mail.
We had more trouble - slower transmission rates and/or dropped calls - in La Paz, and no success in San Carlos. On the other hand, people couldn't even get their e-mail connections to work on the office phone in Marina San Carlos, so we think this was a landline rather than a cellular problem.
The other benefit of the phone is that you can make and receive voice calls at almost all times. And unlike some people, we don't mind having the phone ring while in the middle of crossing the Sea of Cortez. It's nice, for example, when your father calls to see how you're doing - even if you have to tell him you're on watch and need to go back on deck. If you don't want to hear the phone ring while cruising, it's easy enough to set your phone to transfer incoming calls directly to your voice mail.
We mostly use our phone for e-mail - but we also use it to call marinas to reserve slips, to call back to the boat from town if we can't remember what was on the grocery list, and to call equipment manufacturers in the States when we are having problems with gear on the boat. We have ordered parts from Downwind and Fishery's Supply. Naturally our phone bill has gotten pretty high sometimes, but it's still much cheaper than using your AT&T credit card for calls from shore.
We'd dearly love to use our system to surf the worldwide web, but it would be too terribly expensive.
While our current system is fine in Mexico, we'll require some significant changes in other parts of the world. Erick Reickert of Escapade reports he's had similarly excellent results with his cell phone in Europe. So when we need to, we'll buy a European (GSM) phone. In the meantime, we'll keep using cellular until we can no longer afford it - or until a new and reasonably-priced satellite phone system appears. We're hoping that Bill and Craig will have success with Teledesic and will be able to market it at a low cost.
Fred Roswold and Judy Jensen
Wings, Serendipity 43
Fred & Judy - Having tramped all over ports of the world searching for phones for the privilege of paying a fortune to make a simple call, we're as thankful as anyone for the revolution in modern communications. But stand by for a new revolution! September 23 marks the introduction of Iridium, the first of a number of worldwide cell phone systems. The basic equipment will cost about $3,000, and depending on where you are the fees might be anywhere from $1.50 to $5 or more a minute. It will be interesting to see how popular this and the other cellular systems become, because billions and billions have been invested in them. See Sightings for details.
BURIALS AT SEA
The State of California will not issue a Permit of Disposition for a body to be buried at sea - but the State of Oregon will. So a body would have to be taken to Oregon where a funeral director would process the paperwork for $25. All you'd have to do then is find a boat that would take the body out to sea.
Here's something many people don't know. If the body is a World War II - or any other U.S. war - veteran, the U.S. Navy will do the burial at sea for you. Being the Navy, there are many regulations pertaining to embalming, a metal casket with four-inch holes drilled everywhere, and so forth. And the burial would be at the Navy's convenience. The best the Air Force and Coast Guard will do is scatter vet's ashes off the California coast.
I'm trying to get California law changed so that any family can scatter their loved one's ashes anywhere in California's rivers, lakes, bays or private land, as well as state and federal parks. The law prohibiting it was passed a couple of years ago after it was discovered that the Neptune Society had dumped the ashes of 5,000 people in a field. Many readers may not know that the Neptune Society was sold to a multinational conglomerate that now charges $1,300 for cremation and scattering at sea. Your local independent funeral director charges hundreds less.
Readers - The ashes of 5,000 people were dumped in a field by a pilot who had been contracted by a number of burial outfits - the Neptune Society being one - for spreading from the air. The Neptune Society says that none of these ashes were meant for dispersal at sea.
HIS NAME SHOULD HAVE BEEN NEPTUNE
I read Ian Elliott's 'A Man As Tough As Willis' letter in the April issue - and Latitude's casual response - with great interest. That Elliott and Latitude might be ignorant of Willis is understandable, but I've been a staunch defender of his for the 30 years I've known about him. And I've tried to learn everything about him that I could.
In the October 4, 1968 Life magazine article about Willis, Keith Wheeler wrote, "The man breathed joy of a fierce and special kind denied to most of us. He looked what he was exactly, lion-maned and tight braced against gale and wave, not defiant exactly but content with the challenge he sought. His name should have been Neptune or Triton - but he was mundanely called William Willis."
The two full-page color picture of Willis on his raft, as he was departing Samoa for 2,500-mile distant Australia, is one of my lasting treasures. Wheeler went on to describe Willis' "dietary laws". He carried jars of whole wheat flour, tinned evaporated milk, olive oil and honey - plus lemon juice to fend off scurvy. He took no fresh water, believing that a thirsty man could make do with seawater if he kept his intake down to a quarter or eighth cup at a time. And, of course, "it would rain fresh water from time to time."
Willis was an accomplished enough sketch artist that the editors of Life included three of his works in the article. He was also the last of a breed of poor man's adventurer, as he made his rafts by hand from balsa trees. One of them was made from seven logs and hence called Seven Little Sisters. Willis was a very accomplished man for his time, most of his sailing adventures taking place in his latter years with no state of the art technology. His likeness is that of Joshua Slocum. Willis never allowed his wife to venture with him, fearing that if ever she was lost he "could never go home."
On June 22, 1968 - after two failed attempts - Willis left New York for England aboard Little One, an 11'6" wooden vessel named in tribute to his wife. Wheeler finished his article by writing, "A fishing boat out of Liepaja, Latvia - it was reported by Tass, the Russian news agency - had come upon a tiny sloop 400 miles west of Ireland, dismasted and half swamped. No living soul was aboard, but a passport, No. 22757, issued in the name of William Willis, was."
I have searched the internet and other various libraries trying to get more information. (In fact, the last time I was able to find one of his books was from the San Francisco library, which shipped it down to the Santa Ana library in the early '70s at my request.) Willis' books are a good read.
Did Willis survive on saltwater and life from the sea? It's doubtful. Was William Willis a true life adventurer with a strong zest for life? Find one of his books if you can, and tell me if you do. I'll leave the answer to you.
IT IS POSSIBLE TO SCARE YOUR FRIENDS
I'd always thought it was impossible to convey the enormity of large open ocean waves with a still camera. My own photos of the relatively small seas I've been in - 20 feet max - have been pitiful. But illustrations in books about storms such as Fastnet Force 10, or Seamanship, Chapmans and the others, have done little better.
And Latitude's article on the Queen's Birthday Storm off New Zealand used a photo taken from the deck of a ship making a rescue that was also pretty low on the shudder meter. The conditions at the time - winds gusting as high as 80-90 knots and 40-foot seas, as I remember - were horrendous, yet the resulting photo seemed to show a stretch of ocean in a moderate rainstorm. It's a conundrum.
My thinking on the power of photography has been changed, however, by the 'double truck' photograph that accompanied the Max Ebb article. The photograph of the freighter in the Bay of Biscay made me realize that it's indeed possible to scare your friends - not to mention yourself - with a picture of an open ocean storm.
I'd been calmly working my way through that issue of Latitude, feeling warm and dry and safe, when I turned the page to the picture in question. But when I saw the freighter - wrapped in the prayers of its crew and running scared from monstrous vertical cliffs of water, one behind the other, and all of them hunting this splinter of steel on the breast of an angry ocean - it all changed. Suddenly, I no longer felt warm, dry or safe. I felt the way Adam must have felt when God asked him, "Who told thee that thou wast naked?"
In other words, what a great picture!
The point of my letter is two-fold. First, congratulations on the best storm photo I've ever seen. And second, can I get a copy of it from Latitude - or did you buy it from a stock agency or copy it from a book? Please let me know because I need it on my wall as an antidote to complacency and egotism.
MacMahan Island, Maine
Dave - We got the photo from the National Maritime Museum in San Francisco - and had it kicking around the office for about 15 years. You might call them and see if the code number J7.30162N means anything to them.
As for the nasty Queen's Birthday Storm, the conditions were terrible - but not quite as bad as you recall.
ARE ADDITIONAL NAVIGATION LIGHTS LEGAL?
I sent the following question to the Coast Guard, but they have not found the time to reply - beyond referring me to their web page. Unfortunately, the web page mentions nothing about additional navigation lights. Perhaps Latitude can get the answer to this question - which is fairly basic and may be of interest to other readers.
If I am displaying, between dusk and dawn, all the navigation lamps required for a sloop of 9 meters under auxiliary power, is it legal for me to display an additional combination (port-starboard-stern) lamp at the masthead? This additional lamp is located at the top of the mast, some two meters above the 'steaming' lamp?
By 'steaming lamp', I am referring to the white lamp, mounted on the mast and shown through 240 degrees towards the bow of the vessel. It indicates that the boat is being driven by its auxiliary motor.
Robert - Capt. Larry Hall, Group Commander San Francisco was good enough to have one of his experts look into your question. The answer is that you can install what amounts to two sets of navigation lights, but only one set should be used at a time. The masthead tricolor, according to this Coast Guard source, should only be used when under sail.
By the way, did you know that all sailboats motoring during daylight hours are required to fly a black 'steaming cone'? We've yet to see any sailboat comply with this rule.
HA-HA ACROSS THE PACIFIC
Yes, we're interested in and following any and all references to a potential Ha-Ha Across the Pacific starting in March of '99. This is exactly the incentive we need to get us moving. And the staggered start sounds just ideal for us. We were able to stagger to the starting line of Ha-Ha III, so we should be able to do it again - assuming there's an appropriate send-off party. We're already in San Carlos, and look forward to joining the Ha-Ha Across the Pacific group somewhere in the Sea of Cortez. But send us the forms as soon as they are ready - because we want to go!
From what we hear in the Sea of Cortez, concerns about El Niño postponed many Pacific crossings that were planned for '98. So assembling a substantial fleet should be a cinch for March of '99. In fact, there may be too many people who want to go.
It would be nice to get some suggestions for offshore insurance. In addition, some input on current requirements for port clearances, visas, cruising permits, and so forth would be helpful. We've been doing a lot of reading lately, and we hope it's all the right stuff.
Jim and Barb Nerison
Kiva, Challenger 50
Laveen, Arizona / San Carlos, Mexico
Jim & Barb - Here's the latest thinking on a Ha-Ha Across the Pacific: It would be limited to about 25 well-equipped boats with experienced crew, each of whom would be expected to 'bring something to the party'. The staggered start for the first leg to French Polynesia would be between the 7th and 22nd of March. The entry fee would be about $200, enough to cover the cost of souvenir hats and shirts and a little organization.
If you're interested, send a one page summary of you, your boat, your plans, and mail it with an SASE to: Ha-Ha Across the Pacific, 21 Apollo Road, Tiburon CA 94920. Watch for news in Latitude - but don't expect to get anything back in the mail until about December. Only boats that are already planning to go across the Pacific in '99 should consider taking part in this 'possible' event.
Rants, raves, comments, drink recipes, may be sent to our Editor.
© 1998 Latitude 38