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I DON'T KNOW WHERE I GOT THE IDEA

The 1998 Baja Ha-Ha was a delightful experience for me and the crew of my boat, Gypsy Dolphin. This letter is intended to renew my thanks to the staff of Latitude and others who worked on and sponsored the event. The entry fee of $139 was some of the best money I ever spent.

I would also like to share my perception of the event with the readers of Latitude, and to do so must share some personal history. I retired 18 months ago after 23 years as a judicial officer with the Alaska Court System. A very large percentage of the persons who appeared before me did so because of alcohol abuse. As a callow youth, I consumed more than my share of booze, but 15 years ago made the choice to quit drinking. I have no objection whatsoever, however, when others drink responsibly.

In the light of my background, I was mildly concerned that the Ha-Ha might just be an excuse for folks to engage in one long party - or worse. I don't know where I got that idea, but I am pleased to report that I was wrong! Right from the very start the Wanderer, this year's Grand Poohbah, emphasized the importance of being responsible cruisers - especially since we would be visiting a foreign country. Almost without exception, the '98 Ha-Ha group took their cue from the Grand Poohbah and behaved admirably.

When we reached Cabo San Lucas, I told the Grand Poobah that he'd set the tone for a good time for everyone, a tone I would describe as "genteel merriment." I had a great time, and I recommend the Ha-Ha '99 to anyone planning to head south a year from now.

Ethan Windahl
Gypsy Dolphin
Alaska

Ethan - We appreciate your comments because for whatever reason there's a certain percentage of folks who have the mistaken impression that the Ha-Ha is a two-week floating frat party. On the contrary, the aim of the Ha-Ha is G-rated fun and responsible cruising. To our way of thinking, this means having a safe trip to the Cape while making new friends, respecting nature, and respecting the people of Mexico.

The overwhelming majority of this year's group, we're happy to report, shared that vision. In fact, a number of participants told us they'd entered somewhat skeptically, ready to bail at the first sign of group buffoonery, but ultimately were delighted to be a part of the Ha-Ha. We think it's indicative of the fleet's priorities that there was free beer left over after both the West Marine-sponsored Kick-Off BBQ and Halloween Costume Party in San Diego, and at the Corona Beer-sponsored Awards Party in Cabo. That's what the Ha-Ha's all about; folks who are more interested in cruising than drinking.

Running the Ha-Ha involves a lot of responsibility, work and aggravation, and the Wanderer thought this one might be his last. But thanks to the priorities and cooperation of the folks in this and previous Ha-Ha's, he and the Baja Ha-Ha, Inc. have decided to do it again in '99. If you're into responsible and self-sufficient cruising, respecting nature and the people of Mexico - and perhaps a wild night in Squid Roe after it's all over - you're invited to join us. Whiners, polluters and irresponsible drinkers need not apply.

SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN REPACKED

I've a whale of a tale to tell you lads, but it's not a pretty one. I write this story not to complain or point fingers, but to offer some advice to all those who carry liferafts while crossing large bodies of water.

I sailed from Whitby, Ontario, out the St. Lawrence River/Seaway in July of '96 aboard my lovely old 35-ft wood S&S sloop Inward Bound. I intended to sail to Halifax, continue across to the Azores and Canary Islands, then circle back to the Caribbean. As fate would have it, I spent a delightful month on the Halifax waterfront in an unsuccessful attempt to find crew for the crossing. Unable to locate any takers, I headed for Mahone Bay - a little further west on Nova Scotia's very beautiful south shore - to gunkhole for a couple of months. There I was able to sign on two stalwarts looking for a trip to warmer climes. On the advice of the old salts in this area, we decided on a run to Bermuda at the end of October and then to continue on to the Caribbean - just as the renowned trading schooners had done in years gone by.

My preparations in Halifax included the purchase of a liferaft. I located a used Avon 6-person unit (serial #4396) and had it delivered to Sea Pro Services, Ltd. in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, for inspection and, if satisfactory, servicing and repacking. The vendor agreed that I would purchase the liferaft only if the Avon dealer, after inspection, agreed that it was suitable for servicing and repacking. Sea Pro called to confirm that all was in order, and that they would proceed with the work. Exactly $738.87 Canadian dollars later, I was in possession of what I thought was a reasonable 'security blanket' if the need arose.

Well, guess what? The need did - almost - arise. Inward Bound was knocked down in a gale 350 miles south of Mahone Bay. We ended up upside down in the Atlantic - which was very scary. But my boat soon righted herself, bless those 7,000 pounds of lead in the keel. We were half full of water, however, and there was other damage. The hatches and ports were smashed, the dinghy was gone, the dodger and a dorade were ripped off, the stanchions and lifelines were flattened, and there was other destruction. But we were alive.

In any event, we figured it was time to trigger the EPIRB and deploy the liferaft. Well, guess what? The EPIRB - which had been serviced by another company in Dartmouth - didn't function!

The second surprise was that we weren't actually sinking. I determined that the water hadn't risen in the cabin during the time it had taken to prepare for the deployment of the liferaft. The old adage, "always step up into a liferaft" filtered through the confusion in my wet and tense brain, so we suddenly became motivated bailers rather than the crew of a liferaft. The story goes on from here, but suffice it to say that we made it to Bermuda. After a couple of months of repairs, we were able to complete our trip to the British Virgins.

Now comes the really scary part! In October of '97, I took the liferaft to the Avon representative in Tortola for its annual reservicing - as per the certificate of service and testing issued by Sea Pro Services. Imagine my shock - followed by disbelief - when I was informed that the liferaft was "unusable and not worth repacking." The basic problems were that the main tubes were leaking, the patched-up orange cover was perforated in many places, the CO-2 cartridge was rusted and seized, and the electrical connections were corroded. In the opinion of the folks in Tortola, there was no way the liferaft could have been in serviceable condition when it was repacked for me in October of '96!

I made several calls to Sea Pro Services, but they weren't returned. Two letters - mailed and faxed - also elicited absolutely no response. Copies of the letters sent to Avon Inflatables, Ltd. in the United Kingdom resulted in a telephone call from the Avon rep in the United States. A quick check of the serial number led him to state that this liferaft should not have been repacked because it was too old and because of the material it had been made with. He told me that it was negligent for Sea Pro Services to have repacked it.

Hire a lawyer, you say? Did that. Sea Pro Services ignored all correspondence. I could have kept going with it, but how much money do you throw at 'getting satisfaction?' I decided the sailing community would be served better if I wrote this letter and offered the following advice based on my experience:

When it's time to service your liferaft, take an extra hour or two out of your life and be there during the process. Watch it inflate, see what's actually packed inside, ask the technicians if they are aware of any possible problems with your particular brand of raft, and get familiar with its deployment mechanism. But I don't suppose liferaft companies receive very many warranty claims - after all, you have to survive to make a claim.

In addition, test your EPIRB every couple of months. Mine was replaced, no questions asked, by the servicing agency. The liferaft problem, on the other hand, has not been resolved, but putting these words on paper makes me feel just a little better.

Inward Bound is on the hard for the winter of '98, the harsh reality of 'earning a crust' to continue the adventure.

Gary Magwood,
Madoc, Ontario, CAN

Gary - Yours is a really spooky tale. If all you say is true, we'd find a more aggressive lawyer. After all, other lives may be at risk.

As for your advice to be present when your liferaft is tested and repacked, we think it's excellent. The only problem is that it takes a couple of days to make sure the raft holds air to a certain pressure. If you could arrange to observe at the conclusion of that test, it would be perfect.

About 15 years ago, we toured Avon's then-repacking agent in Newport Beach. They showed us numerous ruined rafts that had been sent to them for repacking. The repacker repeatedly emphasized that most sailors don't properly protect their liferafts from the elements and rarely keep up with scheduled maintenance. It's a deadly combination to the raft - and anyone who might need to use it in an emergency. We have no way of knowing for sure, but it seems possible that your raft might have suffered significant deterioration shortly after your boat rolled.

A SPECIAL PLACE IN OUR HEARTS

I can't begin to tell you how overjoyed I was to see the photograph of the Ericson 30+ Hellebore that appeared on pages 110 and 111 of the October issue. The boat was built in 1984, and we were fortunate enough to own her from '92 until '96.

She was a truly wonderful boat - in fact, it's hard to imagine a better boat for the Bay. A fun boat that sailed great, she provided my family with countless hours of sailing pleasure - while being incredibly safe and seaworthy. To see her in this hallowed spot in your magazine was so great that it gave me goose bumps! As you saw, even the slight faux pas of dragging her fenders - the so-called 'Marina del Rey racing stripes' - did little to detract from her graceful lines.

We had to sell the Ericson in '96 because my wife - thank you, God - informed me that we needed a bigger boat. When we owned the Ericson, her name was Queue Et tu. Why? In '92, when I broached the possibility of buying a sailboat to my wife, she replied, "Sure, as long as it's the QE 2." Well, that was then and this is now, and we're currently fortunate enough to have a Caliber 40 LRC we call Omega.

But as I've said to many people, I could have sailed our Ericson Queue Et tu for the rest of my life on the Bay and been a very, very happy sailor. Thank you so much for providing those wonderful photographs that reminded us of her, as she'll always have a special place in our hearts.

P.S. In recognition of your job supremely well done, I have taken the liberty of enclosing a tee-shirt for you.

Donald D. VanDyken, M.D., F.A.A.F.P.
Omega
Reno, NV

MISLEADING STATEMENTS

We at Lawrie's Boat Services in Queensland, Australia, have been advised by a number of people that a letter in your July '98 edition contained some incorrect and misleading statements about us. We've only recently been able to obtain a copy of the letter and would hope that in the interests of fairness and honesty that you'll print our side of the story.

Lawrie's Boat Services is a medium size boat maintenance facility at Mooloolaba, Queensland, Australia, and is located alongside Lawrie's Marina. There is no longer any connection between the two operations - although I originally built, owned and operated the marina from 1975 to 1989. It was the first marina ever built in Queensland. Whilst the marina was sold in '89, we retained the small boat maintenance complex - which was substantially upgraded and enlarged.

Charlie Miller was appointed manager of the marina in '84 and remained as manager until '96. During those years, many thousands of cruising boats - including a considerable number of overseas vessels - stayed at the marina and used the existing yard facilities. I doubt if there was a more highly-respected and liked marina manager on the east coast of Australia.

Charlie Miller had been operating the yard by arrangement whilst he was still manager of Lawries Marina, but in '96 he chose to resign from the marina and take on the position as full time manager of the yard.

The incident referred to in the letter by Rog and Debbie Cason of the Sausalito-based Dreamer was a forced entry into the U.S. based vessel First Choice. It was an unfortunate and isolated event. Whilst there was a spate of similar but minor incidents over a period of about six weeks during February and March of '88, they have totally ceased since then.

In any event, the inference that it was an 'inside job' was totally incorrect and malicious. The statement that the owners of First Choice didn't find out their vessel had been broken into until after their return is incorrect. Indeed, the break-in was noticed on resumption of work after a weekend break, and the police were immediately notified. Their attendance also included personnel from their Crime Laboratory in Brisbane for finger printing purposes.

Charlie Miller went to considerable trouble to track down Bill Choice in the U.S.A to advise him of the entry, establish what valuables had been aboard and determine what was missing. A number of calls took place whilst the details were clarified. All the valuable items nominated by Bill Choice were found to still be aboard.

The statement that the "thieves were neat and didn't appear to be in a hurry as they left several beer cans on the table" is completely wrong, as the vessel was left in a substantial mess. After notifying Bill Choice of his intention, Charlie Miller personally went on to the vessel after the police had finished and cleaned it up so that Mr. and Mrs. Choice would not be so distressed when they returned in late March. There were no beer cans on the table either before or after the clean up.

When the Choices left their boat in Australia prior to returning to the States, they gave the combination of all their locks to Charlie Miller. This is normal procedure in order to allow emergency entry if necessary. Arrangements were also made for access to nominated tradesmen and others for work to be carried out during the Choice's absence. No agreement was made for Charlie Miller to personally provide access to these people. The principals of all companies with access to the vessel are well-known and trusted by the yard.

We also believe that a contact of Bill Choice's from Brisbane was aware of the combination.

The whole incident remains very mystifying to us, as most of the items taken were minor and of relatively little value. On the other hand, all of the expensive navigation, communication, sound, diving and other equipment - most of it highly visible - was not touched.

We have insurance for goods under our control, insurance that is - like most similar policies in this country - subject to our being negligent or in some way at fault. It was the opinion of our insurer that we had done nothing wrong. We are not aware of the circumstances that apply in the United States, but we do not believe that there is any yard or marina in this country that could accept unconditional liability for vessels or goods left in dry storage or in a marina - unless a premium was paid to cover additional insurance costs.

Again, we hope you will publish this letter in fairness to help offset the misleading and somewhat damaging inferences implied in the original letter from Dreamer published in July.

Interested in any advice on advertising if you have it.

Keith Lawrie
Managing Director, Lawmar Pty, Ltd.
lawmar@ozemail.com.au

ALL FACTORS IN BALANCE

As so often is the case, Lee Helm was partly right and partly wrong - this time in her criticism of Marchaj.

Unless Marchaj has done other research on sail shapes beyond what he did in connection with Jeremy Howard-Williams (mentioned in his book Small Boat Sails) to discover the best sails for "third world conditions" and not the U.S., then Lee Helm was quite correct in questioning the advantage of the crab claw sail over the marconi sail. Furthermore, Howard-Williams, working from that data, concluded that the crab claw sail had an advantage of 25% reaching over a low tech marconi rig of the same size, but that the marconi sail had an advantage close-hauled and to a lesser extent downwind.

Hence, Lee Helm was quite correct to say that a high tech boat, able to take the high tensions needed to make optimal use of high tech sails, possibly could outsail a boat with a crab claw sail on almost every point - especially close-hauled.

But Lee Helm was off-the-wall in her interpretation of Marchaj's criticism of boats with high aspect ratio fins for keels and rudders. Marchaj never said that they were hard to steer, but rather that in survival storm conditions - such as the '79 Fastnet Race - the fins tend to stall out quicker than those on long keeled boats, requiring much more effort and concentration on the part of the helmsman to keep the boat under control. Furthermore, because the fins stall out so quickly, they often are of little use in preventing violent rolling, further fatiguing the crew.

Marchaj never considered whether the speed of the boat would have any effect on the stalling of the fins. But probably the faster a boat sails, the more resistant the fins would be to stalling - just like airplanes. That's probably why Whitbread racers can use high aspect fins and not stall out - despite sailing way south in continuous storms.

Finally, Marchaj has a good point when he says that the best boat designs for racing are not necessarily the best for other uses. In particular, boats built to beat the rules in IOR are rather unseaworthy in survival conditions. Well-built cruising boats need to: 1) Be seaworthy, which includes being well-made; 2) Be able to comfortably carry crew and sufficient supplies; 3) Be able to get into harbors that the crew wants to visit; and lastly, 4) Have high performance - nobody wants to sail like a slug. Daysailors, of course, have a different set of requirements, and so forth.

For some uses, the crab claw sail - or even something weirder - may be the best design available. Hull, keel and rudder shapes could also vary widely. I haven't seen Marchaj "go anti-performance in such a big way," in the words of Lee Helm, but rather put out the message that it's important to keep all factors in a proper balance.

Still, that crab clawed sailboat would probably still be a poor performer.

Karl W. Randolph
San Francisco

PANDA

My family owns the fishing vessel Panda that had been built in Aberdeen, Washington in 1939. She was in Moss Landing for several years before my father bought her in about 1968. The Panda is a well-built boat and quite a unique design.

If the Taylors want photos of what she looks like now, I'd be happy to send them some. I can be faxed at (541) 469-5316.

Kathy Lindley
PO Box 2766, Harbor, OR 97415

SUCCESS IS A REFLECTION OF YOUR ATTITUDE

Your readers might be able to learn from our experience importing an engine into Mexico.

Last December, we found ourselves in Bahia Tortugas - halfway up the Pacific coast of Baja - with an engine full of siphoned saltwater. Since quite a while passed between the time the saltwater got into the engine and the time we discovered it, the engine was ruined. Our only real option was to buy a rebuilt long block in San Diego and salvage the peripheral parts from the old engine.

Our good friends Tom and Jackie Keenan of Halcyon in San Diego bought a rebuilt Perkins 4-108 long block at Admiralty Marine, loaded it into their van, and then headed for Bahia Tortugas. Armed with copies of our vessel documentation and our 20 Year Import Permit, their mission came to a screeching halt at the border.

They encountered the following problems: 1) The owner named on the vessel documentation and Import Permit was not present. 2) We had no official documents substantiating the need for a 'replacement' engine. 3) Since the Import Permit indicated that the vessel needing an engine was 'sail' rather than 'auxiliary sail', the border officials took it as proof that the boat didn't need an engine.

While remaining in Bahia Tortugas, we were actually able to rectify this situation - with a lot of help from friends and a little luck. Fortunately, my wife's mother had our power-of-attorney in San Diego. She had to go to Mexican Customs, where the paper made it as if we were there.

Since Bahia Tortugas has no Port Captain, we went to the Delegada - sort of the county mayor - and requested substantiation of our need for an engine. We had met the woman previously on a social occasion and she was aware of our problem. She was happy to write a letter on official letterhead explaining that we did have an engine in our boat and that it needed replacing. We immediately faxed the letter north.

All of these things together - along with the persistence of Tom, Jackie, and my mother-in-law, who were willing to spend hours at Customs - finally paid off. Tom was finally able to bring the block across the border, and spent the next week with me working on installing the new engine. We installed it in record time.

Customs policies seem to vary depending on the time and place - and even more significantly with the official. In the past, we've been able to import items for our boat, no questions asked, as soon as we presented the 20-Year Import Permit. The way we see it, when dealing with Mexican Customs you just have to hope for the best and prepare for the worst - and even more importantly, be patient and courteous. Often the level of your success is a reflection of your attitude.

Bruce Smith
Argonauta, Yorktown 39
San Diego

Bruce - Your "hope for the best and prepare for the worst, and above all, be patient and courteous" formula may not always work, but it's giving it the best shot. By the way, you didn't mention Option B, which would have been to sail the 360 miles back north to San Diego. In retrospect, wouldn't that have been a better way to go?

THE MEANING OF LIFE

Yet more on Donald Crowhurst.

In last month's Letters, Richard Mainland recommended a fictionalized account of the tragic voyage of Donald Crowhurst. Latitude readers may also be interested in two books for wintertime reading that provide a factual account of the incident which occurred in 1968 during the first nonstop solo around the world race.

The Strange Last Voyage of Donald Crowhurst by Nicholas Tomalin & Ron Hall (1995, International Marine) is based on the actual ship's logs. They were, of course, written by Donald Crowhurst as he began his descent into manic psychosis after realizing that he would not be able to continue his ill-planned and ill-fated solo circumnavigation. The book provides an excellent accounting not only of Crowhurst's personal voyage into madness, but also of the impact that the media and race promoters had in creating an environment in which untested and unprepared sailors rushed off to meet race deadlines.

For those with a psychological bent, Crowhurt's megalomaniacal state of mind was analyzed in the chapter titled The Seduction of Madness by Edward M. Podvoll, M.D. While this book is primarily about the psychotic mind, this chapter details the formative events in Crowhurst's life leading to his eventual breakdown.

It's also interesting to note that Crowhurst was not the only sailor during the 1968 race to suffer from 'different' thinking. Bernard Moitessier, sailing the steel ketch Joshua, was nearly the winner of the race - an honor awarded to Robin Knox-Johnston - except for the fact that, after having passed the three great capes in his eastward voyage around the world, he decided against turning north towards the finish line in England. Instead, he continued on a second circumnavigation, not stopping until he reached Tahiti. Considering that he decided to keep living in Tahiti, perhaps he wasn't so mad after all.

Moitessier's memoir, Tamamta and the Alliance (1995 Sheridan House), details his sailing adventures and experiences in Asia. Here's a sample quote from Moitessier's book: "I believe our purpose in life is to participate in creating the world. Each of us according to our sail surface, our draft, our tonnage, our ability to point up, to heave-to, to bear the weight of breaking waves while running before the wind".

Thanks for letting us know about the upcoming Berkeley Rep play Ravenshead based on Crowhurst scheduled for March 1999.

Larry Rota
Spirit, Olson 30
Santa Cruz

MONOHULL BIGOTRY

Intense lower back and leg pain for the last six months has kept me from reading the monthly issues of Latitude. Better able to concentrate now, I've started reading my tall stack of saved back issues.

Latitude always has lots of great information, but I was very surprised when I read the Doublehanded Farallones Race account in the May '98 issue. The article claims the F-31 trimaran Babylon Rocker, the winner of this year's Doublehanded Farallones Race, was the first multihull to ever win overall honors in that event. The article also claimed that it is a "fundamental error" to score multihulls and monohulls together under the PHRF rule. To quote the article, "It's apples and oranges. You can't handicap multihulls and monohulls together in any meaningful way." Further, "No one has ever paid much attention to this issue because multihulls have historically finished way down the list."

The first claim is historically false. In the record-setting reach-reach race of '92, my trimaran Sundowner - with Wayne Kipp and myself holding on - sailed the course in 4.5 hours and corrected out first overall in a fleet of 180 boats. David Hodges, the perennial winner of the Doublehanded Farallones, did not sail the Moore 24 Adios that year - so a multihull "stealing" honors from him was not made into the big deal as it was with this year's race and article on the race.

I've known Hodges since he was a teen at the Island YC, and he's a great racing sailor and a good sportsman. It is typical of Dave's laid-back approach to be most interested in figuring out where he lost the 2.5 minutes that dropped him to second place in this year's Doublehanded Farallones. Hodges has raced to the Farallones enough to know the 'rules of the game'. In the '90 Doublehanded Farallones, for example, Hodges knew that my Sundowner came in second overall, losing to his Adios by less than two minutes. The 40-knot winds and thick fog bank at Point Bonita turned half the fleet back - including some of the 'hot' boats. This allowed Sundowner to finish first on elapsed time and correct out second.

Further, the claim that a 'fundamental error' was made by scoring "apples and oranges" with PHRF numbers is 1) Irrelevant; and 2) Just another instance of the fuzzy philosophy of 'monohull bigotry'.

I was one of the founding members of the Bay Area Multihull Association back in '78 and its commodore for three years when Paul Mazza instituted the Doublehanded Farallones Race in 1979 under the BAMA banner. From the very beginning, the Double-handed Farallones Race 'rules of the game' allowed monohulls and multihulls to compete equally for the overall corrected time honors. Mazza had competed in the Singlehanded Farallones Race with his Tremelino trimaran, and used the rules of that race as the model for the rules of the Doublehanded Farallones.

The Singlehanded Farallones Race is run by the Singlehanded Sailing Society, which has been very welcoming to all sorts of sailboats. In its 21-year history, SSS has allowed monohulls and multihulls to compete equally for overall corrected honors in the suite of races it sponsors every year. I should know, because I raced Sundowner with the SSS for 16 years - and had the privilege of serving as the club secretary for six of those years.

Thanks to using a new set of mylar racing sails - including a roller furling gennie - Sundowner won overall corrected time honors in the '92 and '93 seasons. (My furler was the only one in the SSS fleet at the time, and made a tremendous difference when racing singlehanded.)

Concerning PHRF numbers, I have always been baffled by the claim that all the various sorts of monohulls - apples, oranges, pears, grapefruits, etc. - can be successfully handled by PHRF, but multihulls inherently can't. It's 'white' versus 'black' bigotry, plain and simple.

I thank my lucky stars that I didn't listen to the cry of 'monohull bigotry' when I chose to build Sundowner 25 years ago. The past 20 years of sailing Sundowner have been a great joy, and she has never betrayed my trust. I can't imagine ever having as much fun sailing a monohull as I have had racing, daysailing and cruising Sundowner. Although I've hardly been able to walk these last 6 months, I've still been able to aggressively daysail Sundowner singlehandedly every weekend this past summer on the Bay and ocean. What a sailboat!

Sundowner retired from racing last year. She is very grateful for the opportunities to know her capabilities provided by the SSS's races, the Doublehanded Farallones Race, the Double-handed Lightship Race, and the Silver Eagle Race. The 80 pickle dishes were nice, but not the reason for racing.

Sundowner and I are grateful to old friends for the good times. Next summer will be Sundowner's 20th - and last - year of daysailing the Bay. She has been very anxious to retrace her '81-'83 cruise to the Caribbean, this time open-endedly. And I've promised Wiley and Carol Stagg, the creators of the Silver Eagle Race, that I'd visit them in La Paz for Christmas '99.

By the way, BAMA's Multihull Performance Handicap Racing Formula numbers are not just pulled out of thin air, as we are very serious about having valid numbers. We intentionally over handicap our multis with respect to monohull numbers to avoid making it too easy for us to correct out ahead of the monos. It is true, however, that exceptional conditions - such as reach-reach races - do favor the multis given the present lack of factoring in boat polars and real-time race conditions. However, Sundowner's handicap wins with the SSS in '92 and '93 had nothing to do with handicaps, and everything to with roller furling jibs. Check with Joe Siudzinski for a lesson in diligent handicapping. Over the years, I've continually listened to the monos complain about their PHRF numbers, so maybe their handicappers could learn a lesson or two from Joe.

Joe Therriault
Sundowner
Marina Bay, Richmond

Joe - Our apologies for incorrectly reporting that Babylon Rocker was the first multihull to ever correct out first overall in the Doublehanded Farallones Race. As you stated, you and Wayne Kipp indeed sailed your Sundowner to overall victory in the '92 event.

As Latitude owns both an Olson 30 monohull and a Surfin' 63 catamaran, we'd like to think that we can be relatively immune from accusations of "bigotry" on monohull versus multihull issues. While respecting opposing opinions, it's our view that it's all but impossible to put monohulls and multihulls together and come up with some meaningful winner. The boats are just too different. In fact, we're hard-pressed to think of a major race where it's ever been attempted.

IDYLLIC WEATHER AND GREAT FRIENDS

Best wishes to the Wanderer, the Baja Ha-Ha V and the Cruising Class of '99! We had a blast doing the Ha-Ha last year - and look forward to joining you again on a massive outbound trek in '99 or '00.

After leaving Cabo for Mazatlan, Isla Isabella, La Cruz and Puerto Vallarta for the Christmas layover, I changed crew and continued south to Z-town. Linda, my best friend and partner, had not had sufficient time to emotionally or vocationally prepare herself for cruising through the Canal and beyond, so we turned around at Z-town and headed back north via Mazatlan and Baja. After more than six months of rather idyllic weather, good friends, interesting harbors, fun marinas, boat work and great times on our shakedown cruise, we had the only 'rough' weather of our trip: slogging north along the Baja coast early in May.

My Tally Ho is now dried out, her equipment has been repaired as required, and we've been enjoying many weekends at various Catalina anchorages to remind us of the great cruising times we've had in the past year. I've decided to work for another year or two while doing lengthy coastal cruises for R&R, while Linda is getting ready for the big leap of faith - so we'll be taking off cruising again before the millennium. Trips to the Annapolis Boat Show, Ft. Lauderdale plus Sail Expo (while home for a week in April), Long Beach and the upcoming Seattle In-The-Water Show may encourage us to change boats for the next cruise.

P.S. Thanks for making Latitude so great; it's enjoyed as much here in Corona del Mar as anywhere its read. The November pieces on It's The Little Things That Get You and the sailing destinations south of Puerto Vallarta were spot on!

Carl Mischka
Tally Ho, Nauticat 43
Newport Beach

Carl - For lots of folks, a short cruise followed by a little more work and then a long cruise is the ideal. The short first cruise helps you get acclimated to a new lifestyle and helps you decide what kind of boat and gear you really need.

WE DON'T KNOW WHERE TO START

Great rag, love the humor, blah, blah, blah.

Now for something serious. What books do you recommend for maintaining a boat? Here's our story. We had a great 25-ft sailboat that was virtually maintenance free and because it had few moving parts, easy to figure out. Well, we got cocky and bought a 32-footer that hadn't been kept up very well, and there are so many moving parts that we don't know where to start. Secondly, so far we've made all kinds of stupid mistakes. We've already looked in the standard books such as Chapmans, but they're so superficial that they don't address our concerns.

We're specifically looking for information on diesel engines, wheel maintenance, and rigging information for things like the roller furling, tuning, and hydraulic backstay adjuster.

Chelsea N. Day
Northern California

Chelsea - If you want to know everything - including the theory - behind boats, gear and equipment, the best book by a large margin is Steve and Linda Dashew's monumental Offshore Cruising Encyclopedia. The very readable opus is 1,232 pages long and has 2,500 photographs and illustrations. Only available by direct mail, it can be ordered by calling (800) 421-3819. It comes with a money back guarantee, too.

If you're looking for a lighter book, try the Boatowner's Mechanical and Electrical Manual by Nigel Calder. It's available at most places that sell marine books.

But based on the specific problems you've described, we'd also suggest that you consult with a qualified diesel mechanic and an experienced rigger to check over and explain your propulsion system, your rig and your steering. Once you get things set up right, it will only take a little maintenance to keep them in top shape.

WE PLAN TO CRUISE WITH OUR DOG

A few months back someone inquired about any problems they might have taking their dog through the Panama Canal, but I don't recall ever seeing a response. I'm growing concerned as my husband and I plan to retire next year and cruise with Ajax, our four-year-old Schipperkee.

I understand there are some strict quarantine laws imposed by the United Kingdom. Does this include all areas such as the British Virgin Islands? Does anyone know of any literature on cruising with a dog? I would love to hear from anyone who would care to share their experience of traveling with their pet and any problems encountered.

The State of California Veterinary Services (1-916-857-6170) provides current information on the regulations of other countries, however they didn't have any info on Panama. They did mention that Costa Rica requires a health certificate that must have state as well as consulate endorsement showing current rabies and distemper vaccinations - although no quarantine is imposed. According to the state office, so many changes are made that the information quickly becomes obsolete.

Linda Jurczyk
Catmandu, Beneteau 40 CC
Martinez

Linda - Wendy Ballard, who publishes Doggone, a Vero Beach newsletter for folks who like to travel with their dogs, suggested trying: www.aphis.usda.gov/vs/ikreg_txt/table.html. It's a great site, but unfortunately only for those interested in importing things like goats and cows and embryos and semen. Nothing is mentioned about dogs and cats.

So we're putting out a second call to anyone who has recent firsthand information on cruising with dogs. In any event, we don't believe you'd have any problem getting Ajax through the Panama Canal.

WHAT'S WRONG WITH NAIL TRIMMERS?

I'd like to respond to Mark Krajcar's letter concerning Patrick Wheeler's "rantings" against the declawing of cats. I'm glad the issue came up because it might save the lives of a few kitties.

Since Krajcar - who is in favor of declawing - "can't attest to the exact procedure," I'd be happy to enlighten him. Picture having your fingers reduced to the second knuckle! Yup, that's about it! And the pain after the surgery is as you would expect if your fingers were cut off to the second knuckle.

As far as Krajcar's other comments about claws, he obviously doesn't know what they're for - but then neither do a lot of folks. Not only are claws a defense against other predators - cats included - they allow cats to climb.

Having lived on a sailboat with Chester, my big black cat, I can confirm that cats need claws. If Chester didn't have claws when the raccoon chased him into the water, I doubt he'd be here today. And having watched my declawed cat try to climb/claw to the top of the cat tree (yes, we're on a regular houseboat now) to escape my other nine cats with claws, and slip - I can tell you that it's humiliating.

In addition, cat claws have scent glands in them and cats use them to 'mark' their territory. Even after being declawed they still try to mark in the normal manner, but obviously can't. Lucky Krajcar's cat is a female, because they are less likely to use other methods of marking - such as spraying, which is a lot more aggravating to deal with than shredded upholstery.

As far as the cat being painful to roughhouse with, what's wrong with nail trimmers? They're simple to use and cost all of $5.

I volunteer at the San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals - which explains my 10 cats - and we're trying to get more people educated about declawing so more cats don't end up like Krajcar's Suki or my Norton. In fact, the declawing question is part of a questionnaire we require folks to fill out before we even consider allowing them to adopt!

So please, save yourself a lot of money on declawing - and save your animal a lot of pain - and perhaps their life.

Shelli Hamblin
formerly Kismet, now Chester's Digs
Sausalito

THE MORRELLI & MELVIN TEAM

In your last edition you mention that Steve Fossett is having a new multihull built for The Race. You credit Gino Morrelli as the designer of the boat. The actual designer of the boat is Morrelli & Melvin Design & Engineering - aka 'Morrelli & Melvin'. Please give credit to the design team in future press.

Pete Melvin
Newport Beach

Readers - Our apologies for the boo-boo. Gino and Pete, who pretty much do equal amounts of design and engineering, have been partners since 1991. Melvin, by the way, is the current world champ in Class A (18-foot) catamarans.

The following are some of Morrelli & Melvin's sailing projects nearing fruition: Guy Bunting of Vista just launched a beautiful M&M 46 cruising cat, and should be getting his sails next week. Steve Fossett's gigantic 110-foot racing catamaran is slated to be launched in New Zealand around Christmas. The Dardens of Tiburon have a M&M 52 approaching launch in New Zealand early next year, and there's another M&M 52 nearing completion in South Carolina.

DAMN YOUR EYES

At the risk of sounding like a shrill 'me-too' bore, I wanted to add a comment to one of the letters you replied to in the October issue concerning racers who don't give any hint of their intentions.

One race day - Wednesday - in Dana Point Harbor, I put out of the harbor on a shakedown sail to test some new rigging. The race course, as far as I could judge - I'm a cruiser, not a racer - is usually set in a west-northwest/east-southeast line, I suppose in order to be square to the prevailing wind. Most of the time the racers keep well off the coast, although now and then some will come very close and cross the harbor entrance - just outside of the lobster pot floats. This can be a problem, because you have to cross their course to leave the harbor.

On this particular Wednesday, I was on a starboard tack heading southwest, while a racing boat was coming at me close-hauled on a port tack. As any seaman would, I assumed that I had the right-of-way and kept my course and speed constant. Nevertheless, the racing boat kept closing on me, showing no hint of falling off to avoid me. She closed to within 30 feet, her helmsman staring me right in the eyes, before I came to the conclusion that they weren't going to fall off. The helmsman of the racing boat did not want to fall off even a tiny bit to avoid me because that would have slowed his boat down.

When they got to within 20 feet, I did a panic jibe - into the wind, as I still expected him to fall off - hoping my stern would clear his bow. When I did so, the half-dozen people in the racing boat screamed "Port! Port!" - meaning they knew that I had the right-of-way - and called me foul names no family magazine would wish to print. Just what the bloody hell else did they expect me to do?! The racing boat cleared my Myste by six or seven feet.

Such behavior on the part of this racer was unseamanlike in the extreme, and the helmsman deserves to be flogged around the fleet. It would have cost him so little time to fall off a bit and pass me port to port. My life and my vessel are worth more than a thousand trophies this racer may have coveted. And if the scurvy natural-born son is reading this, well, damn your eyes!

The folks on this boat are no where near typical of the racers and cruisers I meet at Dana Point. Indeed, when one bloke - a professional sports fishing chap - accidentally fouled my hawse, he spent an hour later that evening looking for me just to apologize. The vast majority of racers I meet at Dana Point are good seaman and polite and safe on the water.

David Rice
Myste
San Clemente

David - The thing that keeps us from immediately jumping on your bandwagon is the contradictory statement that you did a "panic jibe into the wind." A boat tacks while sailing into the wind, it jibes while sailing downwind. Given what appears to be a misunderstanding of one of the most fundamental aspects of sailing, we can't help but wonder if you weren't confused. Perhaps the racers were actually yelling, "You're on port, you're on port!"

HAVE A PROBLEM WITH HERA?

My first comment must be to congratulate you for admitting a mistake and taking responsibility for your actions in regarding the photo of you towing a water skier without the requisite flag and observer. One more sign that you are the best sailing rag in the business.

My second comment is on Latitude's remark that 'sailing a large vessel through a fleet of slow moving boats would constitute reckless operation of a vessel.'

I would agree that racing sailors who know only one speed for their boats should not sail in situations where there are many slow moving vessels, but those of us who can slow our boats down to a reasonable speed by reefing or taking in sail, flirting with irons, and so forth, can be perfectly safe in such situations and therefore would not constitute "reckless operation of a vessel."

Admittedly, I was hove to most of the time, but I was under sail - using the engine when prudent - during the entire Fleet Week show and experienced no difficulties. Further, I would like to hear from anyone out there that might have felt that they experienced difficulties because of my Hera, an easy-to-identify black-hulled, 13-ton, CT-41 ketch, fifty feet tip to tip, 40 feet stem to stern.

P.S. If the crew can't do it, the 'Capt. Will'.

Bill Jordan
Northern California

Bill - When you make as many mistakes as we do, it becomes increasingly easy to 'fess up.

We can easily imagine times when it would be reckless to sail through a slow-moving fleet and other times when it wouldn't. It would all depend on how crowded the fleet was and in how many directions its members were moving.

I KILL ANTS, MOSQUITOS, MICE, COCKROACHES

We were at the Crab Drags in '94 and had a ball. I helped a five-year-old find and race a crab - and had the time of my life. We may have terrorized the crab a bit, but we had a release ceremony after he had won the prize for us. If us cruisers make a practice of releasing the crabs - as was done - the ecology is not harmed.

All kinds of creatures suffer at the hands of we humans. I eat meat. I kill ants, mosquitos, mice, cockroaches, and other critters. I have knocked off a few fish and a couple of boobies who struck my lure. I do none of these things sadistically, merely to increase my comfort or enjoyment. These activities would not be acceptable in India, but they have always been all right in the western world. So maybe those who object to the Crab Drags should convert to vegetarianism or Hinduism.

Our return to cruising has been delayed until spring.

Jack Mooney
Utopia, Challenger 32
Hudson, FL

Jack - We're sure you had a great time and glad you did - but would you continue hunting in a place that's become a game reserve? A few people mocking nature in a wildlife reserve isn't really a danger to the ecology, but to continued cruiser access to the islands in the Sea of Cortez - all of which are part of the same wildlife preserve.

We can't speak for anyone else, but we fully intend to try to assure continued access to the islands by being as much on the leading edge of conservation as possible. In fact, if there's a conservation effort that could benefit from the use of a sailing vessel that can accommodate as many as 16 people for an extended period this spring, we'd like to hear about it.

THE WOMEN ARE UGLY AND THE DOGS VICIOUS

So, it was a warm day - new boat, new gal, and so forth. The picture on the front of the November issue made for a good cover, but isn't it kinda funny that a magazine that espouses safety - and even gets kinda preachy about PFDs - would be so bold? In this day and age, when we all but sew our kids into lifevests, nearly every picture in every mag shows bitchin' people having fun PFD-less. Some of these same folks have vests for their dogs! Maybe it's just the cold medication, but is there some irony here?

Also, please return to your past policy of slagging and dissing Pacific Northwest cruising. There has been a shocking tendency lately to publish positive letters and articles about Up Here. Please remember the following about north of Pt. Reyes: there's no wind, it always rains, everything is expensive, the women are ugly, the dogs are vicious and the men all drive Bayliners and wave shotguns while drunk. So when you head out the Gate, remember to turn left.

P.S. Thanks for stickin' it to Marda Phelps in the last issue Letters; we peasants need that kind of support.

Dan Lynch
Everett, WA

Dan - New boat? Profligate is now more than a year old. New girl? The lovely woman on the cover is Susan the Night Nurse, who sails and races on a lot of boats. Behind her is her boyfriend, the wine merchant Juan de Juanderer. The Wanderer and Juan de Jaunderer are two entirely different people.

Preachy about PFDs? We have Libertarian inclinations, so if you know all the facts and still don't want to wear a lifejacket then don't. But for your kids' sake, we hope you're a better seaman than the late Eric Tabarly.

As for our response to Marda Phelps, we weren't trying to stick anything to anybody, but rather report the facts.

LAST TIME I CHECKED

Just one clarification regarding Marda Phelps' letter about her Marda Gras and the Big Boat Series. She said they had a "100% amateur crew." But the last time I checked, a sailmaker isn't an amateur, and wasn't Jeff Thorpe - who works for the UK loft in Victoria, Canada - a member of the crew?

As for myself, I'm a Seattleite who was sailing aboard Bill Buchan's China Cloud, and would greatly appreciate it if you could withhold my name. I run into the principals from time to time and don't want to give anyone ammo to whine at me.

Anonymous
Seattle

Readers - It's our understanding that Jeff Eckard, who works at the UK loft in Sidney, BC, was a member of the Marda Gras crew and drove at times when the class rules allowed. Eckard is a past member of Canada's Olympic sailing team, having competed at both Seoul and Barcelona in 470s. He is currently mounting a 49er campaign.

JUST DUES

After reading all the press that a certain Seattle boat received in Latitude for a second place finish in September's Big Boat Series, it seemed only fair that we get our just dues. After all, we finished first in the same Keefe-Kilborn division. So if the second place boat got one column of coverage in Latitude, I demand two columns! After all:

- We were not only 100% amateurs, we were 100% old and bald amateurs. Aft of the companionway, our average age - including the grinders - was 51.

- Unlike that Seattle boat, we did have a 'rockstar' aboard. Everyone should hear Ted Wilson doing Smashing Pumpkins songs in the shower, but only after two Full Sail Ales.

- We were also the laziest boat in our division, as we almost took the last day off. We were so far ahead of that Seattle boat that we didn't even have to sail to win. Perhaps if the second place boat had not "paid little attention to the other boats" in the division, they might have won.

So, even if Latitude has to use large type, we expect our just dues - two columns - for being the winning boat, not the whining boat.

P.S. Contrary to some stories, I am not the Racing Editor's brother.

Ken Moore
Swiftsure II, trimmer
Foster City

INSIGHTS ON THE BOTTOM LINE?

I sailed bow aboard the SC 52 Marda Gras in the '97 Big Boat Series, the San Diego Yachting Cup, Long Beach Race Week, and again with owner Marda Phelps in the recently completed '98 St. Francis Big Boat Series. I am in complete agreement with Latitude's thoughtful response to her letter as published in the November issue - especially with regard to the under-represented SC 52 'Nationals', which unfortunately was folded into the Keefe-Kilborn division. Kind of silly, don't you think?

However, with regard to Marda Gras' controversial close call with the tanker, I do recall hearing a blast or two, but certainly not the five blasts that you mention. I assume that the tanker captain did alter course as we cut across his bow, leaving one of our competitors, the SC 52 Ingrid, to have to sail all the way around the ship.

Following the race, there was continued speculation on the dock that a close crossing - we were never in doubt of making it - while unnerving and not always in the best judgment, does not constitute an infraction unless the tanker signals with five blasts. Had this occurred, we would have assumed we were toast and would have withdrawn. Others suggested differing versions of the rules of inland waterways as they relate to racing yachts.

As a member of the local crew represented on Marda Gras and because we frequently see tanker traffic in the Bay while racing - on July 18, after racing 15 hours and gaining the lead in the Silver Eagle Race, we on Charisma withdrew due to the combination of light air and tanker traffic - I'd like to know if you have any insights on the bottom line with regards to this issue. I know Matt Jones was very pissed off about the incident, and I would hate to incur his ire again.

Dave Grandin
Mr. Magoo, J/120
Menlo Park

Dave - As you probably already know, you won't incur Jones' ire any more - after 15 years as race manager for the St. Francis YC, he recently resigned (see Racing Sheet). We've now heard from nearly a dozen competitors about the Marda Gras incident, but still haven't heard any 'official word' from the club.

HEIGHT OF HYPOCRISY

Since you asked for opinions of the Crab Drags, I would like to put in my two cent's worth.

It seems to me that the Crab Drags are not really about racing crustaceans, but an excuse for bored cruisers to have a big blowout. Sort of like the Sea of Cortez Race Week not really being about racing, but about cruisers just wanting to have fun. As you point out in the same Sightings, things are changing in Mexico and the locals are starting to think about preserving their treasures - even if it inconveniences cruisers. And as the Mexican economy worsens, the local's perception of rico gringos starts to matter.

You point out in your Sightings article titled Wake Up Call that Mexican officials are concerned about "commercial ventures that bring large groups of people to the islands" - but it may be that the biggest promoter of large group bashes in all of Baja just well may be the Wanderer or Poobah - whomever he/she might be. The examples of dragging 150 boats down the coast and organizing the biggest blowouts Partida has ever witnessed - and then pointing an editorial finger at the Crab Drags - is the height of hypocrisy.

My fear is that the universally warm greetings we remember from the '70s and '80s may become a memory as large group behavior causes both eco-damage and locals to perceive, your words, "a group of organized cruisers . . . often seen as indolent rich folks." I would think the locals have an easier time watching two buddy boats silently glide into Agua Verde than a dozen who will be sure to be seen and heard despite their best intentions.

While it's very nice of Latitude to offer to print and distribute good behavior signs, I offer a suggestion that might do more for the long term interest of the Mar de Cortez. This suggestion is based on the observation that small groups do less damage than large and people conduct themselves differently when they are not part of a very large group.

Perhaps the best thing Latitude can do for the future of cruising in the Sea of Cortez would be to go back to reporting the news instead of trying to make it. You have the best and most popular sailing rag ever, so get out of the promotion biz and leave that job to the Mexican Department of Tourism. It's really in the best interest of the cruising community. While it's true that it's too late to turn back the clock to the good old days, large groups partying their way through the Sea of Cortez will surely hasten the decline of this magnificent cruising ground, as cruising will come under attack for both ecological and political reasons.

Ned Ebersole
Davis

Ned - While we want to thank you for your kind comments about the magazine and your pleasant tone, you're unfortunately a fountain of factual errors and slurs. Is it ignorance or malice?

1) The Ha-Ha doesn't "party through the Sea of Cortez". See the first Letter this month from the retired judge. Furthermore, the Ha-Ha goes from one established maritime center, San Diego, to another, Cabo San Lucas.

2) If you'd done a Ha-Ha, you'd know that we don't do "bashes" - not that we have anything against them at the proper time or in the proper place. But if you read our First Timer's Guide To Mexico and/or Latitude, you'll know that we're careful to caution about the dangers of alcohol. As you probably know, a disproportionate number of cruisers in the '80s ran aground on the alcohol reef. Based on our observation of cruisers then and Ha-Ha participants now, today's cruisers seem more focused and ambitious.

3) Check your charts again, and you see that the Ha-Ha doesn't come within hundreds of miles of Agua Verde. Furthermore, large groups of Ha-Ha boats don't descend on places like Agua Verde. After the finish in Cabo, the fleet pretty quickly disperses. Some linger in Cabo; a bunch head up to the marinas in La Paz or out to the nearby islands; a bunch head to Mazatlan for Thanksgiving; others immediately take off for Puerto Vallarta and/or Z-town. A few head right back to California. That's a whole lot of territory for only a few boats.

By the way, would you care to comment on cruisers who use pristine coves such as Agua Verde to store their boats while they return to the States for a few months?

4) While it's true the Wanderer started the Sea of Cortez Sailing Week, it was done with the enthusiastic support of local officials and business who wanted to build the local economy. The Mayor of La Paz and the head of Tourism regularly made appearances and donated trophies, and the Navy even lent a ship for the start and finish line. But as Isla Partida is now part of a wildlife preserve, we'd have second thoughts before starting another event there.

For the last decade or so, Sea of Cortez Sailing Week has been run by the Club Cruceros de La Paz. We're confident they work with local officials to hold a conscientious event.

5) The Ha-Ha has never "dragged" anybody down the coast. Indeed, people always ask why we seem to actively discourage participation. Answer: Because we're only looking for folks who would have been heading down to Mexico anyway.

6) Most of the locals and officials love the Ha-Ha. In Turtle Bay, it's the biggest event of the year, and all the kids eagerly look forward to it. The adults like it, too, because it's a change and brings money into their little town. And you're sadly and arrogantly mistaken if you think you're the only one who can develop warm relations with the locals. Even at nearly uninhabited Bahia Santa Maria we were welcomed back by Manuel, who said it was great to see us and the fleet once again.

And with the Mexican economy hurting so badly, the airlines, hotels, restaurants, and stores - and their employees - don't object to the extra business the Ha-Ha brings.

7) There's never been anywhere close to 150 boats in a Ha-Ha. There were about 112 last year and - in part because we heavily discouraged participation - 100 boats this year. Approximately 85% of these people indicated they would have been cruising to Mexico anyway. So the Ha-Ha perhaps adds 10 to 15 boats to Mexico each year.

8) Today's typical cruiser is more environmentally aware than those of even a few years ago. The biggest round of applause at the award's ceremony, for example, went to Todd Stokes of Rhumb Rose. Why? While sailing along, he noted a turtle trapped in some debris. Sticking a big knife between his teeth, he jumped overboard and cut the turtle free.

And had anyone at the Turtle Bay party suggested catching crabs, dressing them up with beer cans and shaving cream, and then racing them for yuks, a number of folks would have immediately dropped out.

9) But what particularly offends us is your intimation that you're somehow better than the folks who decided to participate in the Ha-Ha, and that a group that gathers for a total of four days in two anchorages is necessarily destructive. First off, group behavior is inherently neutral; you can have positive group behavior, such as the Hidden Harbor YC and cruisers at Puerto Escondido, who each year have a big party to clean the shore and the bottom of the harbor; or you can have three boats full of irresponsible drunken louts who can do more damage in a day than 1,000 boats in a year. Maybe you've been cruising around with the wrong kind of people.

As for the Ha-Ha group necessarily destroying the ecology, that's rubbish. As the last boat to leave both Turtle Bay and Bahia Santa Maria, we can guarantee you that the next day nobody could have known the fleet had ever been there.

The big difference between you and us is that we truly believe in responsible cruising. We believe it makes cruisers more appreciative and protective of nature and the environment; that it helps Americans and Mexicans to become better friends; and that it's just plain fun. Furthermore, responsible tourism is perhaps the best economic engine to drive the lower Baja economy without destroying the Sea of Cortez. You, on the other hand, seem to suggest that cruising is some furtive activity only to be enjoyed by a small cruiser elite from the old days. Great deal for rich gringos such as yourself, having a free private playground in a foreign country; but it's a terrible deal for the locals and others who'd like to be able to enjoy the same beauty.

In short, we'd have preferred that you were slower to condemn people and events you know nothing about.

HAVING GREAT FUN

We just want to thank everyone for the terrific Ha-Ha! It was our first long passage and the organization - or lack of it - was just right. We felt we had direction and yet enough 'latitude' to do what we wanted. As been mentioned so often, the people really make the difference.

We're in La Paz now, ready to head for Mazatlan, and are having a great time bumping into members of the Ha-Ha fleet. We hope you continue hosting the Ha-Ha, as we know many friends who'd like to go next year.

Judy and Bob Lyon
Lyon Around

THE WHOLE STORY IS YET TO BE TOLD

We're so far beyond San Diego that it's only on rare occasions that we get to see a copy of Latitude. Having just read a couple of older '98 issues, we wanted to share some thoughts.

You appear to have a high regard for Dominic's Marina Careenage on Raiatea. Having done business both there and at Bernard's, the other marina on Raiatea, we prefer the latter.

It should not be a surprise to any cruiser to hear that French Polynesia is one of the most expensive places in the Pacific to buy anything, and that most of the businesses operate on 'island time'. We, however, may have found a place that's more expensive than French Polynesia: New Caledonia, another French Overseas Department. We had the unfortunate experience of breaking our mast off the coast of New Caledonia in July, and we're still here waiting for parts and action by the insurance company. In the process, we've learned a couple of lessons we want to pass along.

Just after we arrived in New Caledonia, the government cancelled the 'Yacht in Transit' duty exclusion on imported goods. The long and the short of it is that anything brought into the territory is subject to duty on the retail price - plus the cost of shipping and insurance. The duty is generally 38.2%, but can be even higher on some items. It's difficult to get a clear explanation of the reasons or conditions, but we've been told there are no exemptions.

Since the failure of our mast, we've been doing a lot of talking to insurance people trying to get our boat repaired. We noted that some readers wrote in to Latitude to complain about Blue Water, our insurance carrier. The whole story is yet to be told, but we have been here for over three months and have not seen a cent from the insurance company. Further, when I dared to question how long it was taking, I was told I had a bad attitude and my complaints could be construed as a negative factor in the settlement - if they choose to make one!

As a member of the Seven Seas Cruising Association and a policy holder with Blue Water, I feel obligated to sound a caution to my fellow cruisers.

The good side of the deal is that Noumea is an interesting place, and we have met many old friends and made lots of new ones at the Port Moselle Marina and other sights in the area. We noticed today that there are boats at the visitors' dock from Austria, Australia, Canada, England (UK), Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Sweden, Switzerland, the United States and Vanuatu. Like most others, we will soon be heading for Australia - or New Zealand - to get out of the cyclone area. We expect to have our new mast installed next week and do some shakedown cruising in the area to try out our new equipment before continuing on to Oz.

Richard Cross
Yacht Evie
Nouvelle Caledonie / Seattle

Richard - That you haven't gotten a cent in three months doesn't necessarily mean you're going to get stiffed. Lloyds once took nearly a year to cover a major claim that we had. But by all means, let us know how it turns out.

Since an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, our readers might also be interested in the cause of your rig failure.

Z-TOWN IS NOT RESPECT

A long time ago a popular singer named Jo Stafford had a hit record titled Far Away Places. The refrain line was, "Those far away places with strange sounding names are calling, calling me."

I sort of hear Jo Stafford when I think of names like Bougaineville, Ontong Java, Bora Bora, Mangareva and an endless list of others. But I wince when I read or hear someone reduce those magical names - perhaps in an effort to be among the intimate - to 'Raro' for Rarotonga, or 'Pago' for Pago Pago, and so forth. To me, the most jarring example is using 'Z-town' for Zihuatanejo.

If San Franciscans abhor 'Frisco' and Cape Towners insist on two words capitalized - it's their city and their right to say how it should be spelled - how must the people of Zihuatanejo feel when the most euphonious of Mexican city names is so degraded?

We've found that the people in the smallest village on the least significant island or bay take great pride in the place they live. The question we've most frequently been asked when visiting a place is, "How do you like where we live?" We always answer truthfully - and say that we really like it. The fact is that one island or atoll is pretty much like another, and it's the people who make the places special.

If cruisers don't like or respect the people who live in these far away places, it's a waste of time and energy to sail to them. It would be better to just hop a jet, buzz down to 'Bora' or 'P.V.' or 'Z-Town', sit in your hotel, drink a bunch of mai tais or margaritas, and get back to the 'real world' with your fast-fading tan. And, don't forget the camcorder.

P.S. I wrote this two years ago and didn't mail it because it sounds bitter. My excuse for writing it was that I'd recently had a conversation with a person who had sailed a yacht to "Pago" and "Bora" and "Raro," and who expressed much contempt for the locals. But now that I think about it, there is no reason not to mail it. I believe we all are responsible for treating people with respect - and Z-Town is not respect.

Bill Pool
Pilar
Redwood City/Santa Cruz/Portland

Bill - 'Z-town' is the common nickname for Zihuatanejo, and we think it's silly to claim that all nicknames are "degrading" and/or "disrespectful". This is particularly true in the case of 'Z-town', a term used with great affection by the overwhelming number of cruisers who've been enchanted by the place.

According to Professor Nick de Plume, there are two primary uses for nicknames. "The first is to shorten a long name that's used repeatedly: 'P.V.' for Puerto Vallarta, 'the Cape' for Cabo San Lucas, 'Paco' for every Spanish guy named Francisco, 'Di' for Lady Diana, 'The City' for San Francisco. These aren't terms of belittlement. The other major use of nicknames is to express affection or to denote a very personal relationship. I call my daughter 'Moo', short for Maureen. I'd tell you what I've called my girlfriends and wives, but it's a little too embarrassing. Rest assured, however, that they are shortened versions of their formal names."

Thanks, professor. You might also note that many individuals and groups prefer to be called by their nicknames because they're less pretentious. Lots of mariners who would recoil at being called a 'yachtsman', for instance, have nothing against being called a 'yachtie'.

All of this notwithstanding, if most of the folks who lived in Zihuatanejo objected to the nickname Z-town, we'd be happy to comply with their wishes. But here's a curiosity: how come 'A-town' never caught on for Acapulco? If it had, West Coast cruisers could have sailed from A-town to Z-town in less than 24 hours.

HOW TO SUBMIT AN ARTICLE

I guess Latitude and photographer Tom Lyons showed all of us how to submit an article for publication. The October feature on Mazatlan included great photographs, copy and diagrams.

By the way, it sure was exciting to see Latitude's charter cat Profligate pull into the entrance to Nuevo Vallarta - even though she turned left to berth at Marina Paradise instead of right to berth at the Nuevo Vallarta Marina.

P.S. Yes, I read the lecture about including all our personal information with our email.

Susan and Grover
Second Wind, Union Polaris 36
Formerly Anaheim / Now Nuevo Vallarta

Susan & Grover - Thanks for the kind words - and thank you even more for making our lives a little easier by including your names, boat names, boat type and hailing port. We love you! In fact, next time you see us aboard Profligate - she'll be on mainland Mexico for most of the winter - we'd like to take you and a bunch of your neighbors out sailing.

GOING OVERBOARD ON CRABS

We just read your October issue comments about the Crab Drags. Since you've never been to them, I thought I'd fill you in on what it's all about.

Ten years ago my boyfriend felt sorry for the cruisers boiling in the August sun inside the natural harbor at Puerto Escondido, so to give them incentive to get out to the islands where it's much cooler, he jokingly announced over the VHF that "the International Crab Drag Races will be held on Isla Coronado in two days." He was very surprised when 20 boats showed up. The beer and ideas flowed, and the group came up with decorating hermit crabs and racing the ghost crabs after sunset. It was a two-day affair and everyone had a great time. There were no crab injuries at all. The only blood drawn was human blood - those ghost crabs have incredible claws!

Over the years, the Crab Drags grew into a three-day event. And when the beach at Isla Coronado became intolerable from the smell of hundreds of stinking fish and manta ray carcasses, the site of the Drags was changed to Isla Monserrate. We've had as many as 50 boats show up and many articles published about it in Latitude.

My boyfriend and I organized the Crab Drags - with the help of many others, of course - from '88 to '95. The event wasn't held in either '96 or '97, and this year it was organized by the Hidden Port YC. We were not at this year's races, but we have never heard of a crab fatality. The decorations that are lightly glued to the shells of the hermit crabs are removed after each race and the ghost crabs are also released unharmed after each race. The races are just a small part of the event. We have cooking contests, dinghy races, sand sculpting, dancing on the beach and so forth. It's been like a small version of Sea of Cortez Sailing Week except that it was done by cruisers for cruisers. We always had a permit and always left the beach much cleaner than when we arrived.

We think that you are going overboard on this issue and should rather be focusing your efforts on conserving the Sea of Cortez by stopping developments slated for some of the most pristine areas. There is one place in particular that, although known to almost all Sea of Cortez cruisers, is as pristine now as it was a million years ago. Man's only scars are a dirt road cut through the desert a few years ago and . . . well, I can't mention the other distinguishing feature or I'd surely give it all away. But if left to Mother Nature, both of these scars would 'heal' rather quickly.

Unfortunately, the Mexican family that owns this pristine area plans to put in five hotels, a golf course, 250 homes, two marinas and shopping facilities. Their original plans were for just 12 exclusive homes, but it has since grown like a cancer.

I have been in 97% of the anchorages in the Sea of Cortez - including the mainland - and this is the most incredibly fantastic area of them all. Totally clean, clear, unspoiled and spectacular. I don't know if you have ever been there, but if so, you must know how I feel when I say it breaks my heart to see it disappear forever.

Now, that's where you should be focusing your efforts, not on a few crabs that are unharmed. Do some good with your widely read magazine. Have your readers write to La Reserva and President Zedillo and ask that they look into this destruction. If it's stopped, you can be proud to tell your children that the most beautiful bay in Mexico was saved by your efforts. Go for it!

P.P.S. Please do not publish our boat name or location. I don't know how much influence this family has, and we certainly don't need any trouble.

You Know Who
Sea of Cortez

Y.K.W. - Since you and a few other folks continue to miss our point, we'll try to explain it once again: 1) We don't have anything against you or any of the other folks who started the Crab Drags. 2) We don't have anything against anybody who has ever participated in the Crab Drags. 3) We have no problem with folks enjoying more than a little fun, games and nonsense. 4) And as we also enjoy a good crab louie from time to time, we don't have anything against killing crabs either. All clear, so far?

What we do have is a small but significant problem with the inherently blasphemous nature of desecrating nature in a wildlife preserve. It's the same problem we'd have if turtle stew were served in the Galapagos Islands, or alcohol at an A.A. meeting. And while we can also understand that you, Tim Tunks, Tim Schaarf and some other folks think we've going "overboard" on the issue - we merely suggested folks could come up with something better - we think you're all being shortsighted.

For one thing, we don't believe you appreciate the real threat such insensitive behavior poses to future cruiser access to the islands. If you do a risk/reward analysis, it's just not very smart behavior. Secondly, you and your boyfriend want to save pristine you-know-where, which - from having been there a number of times - we agree is an excellent cause. And as much as you'd like to sluff the responsibility for 'saving' it onto a sailing magazine based 1,000 miles away, it's only going to be saved if folks in the area - such as yourselves - lead the way. But as you're two foreigners who have been living rent free in Mexico for close to 20 years, and to a large extent have been living off Mexico's natural resources, you have limited leverage. Indeed, if you alone tried to stop the family who owns the land from developing their property, they could pretty effectively dismiss you as a couple of free-loading gringo squatters.

As such, your only hope to save the pristine spot is to form an alliance with other like-minded folk and buy it as a nature reserve. The other 'like-minded people' would include other cruisers, American and Mexican fishermen, kayakers, birders, Mexican and American conservationists, Mexican and American environmentalists, and hopefully some environmental foundations. But rest assured, the minute any of them get wind that you even tacitly approve of gluing wings on crabs in a wildlife preserve for amusement, they're going to disassociate themselves from you as though you were clueless Neanderthals. Baja may be a little behind the times, but it's not just the '90s, it's the late '90s, and presumably we've all developed a little greater respect for nature.

We wouldn't bring this up if names were being used, but remember when your boyfriend used to catch all the fish he could just for the fun of it? When he used to punch fish for kicks? And then how he came to realize how foolish it was and how important it is to try to preserve the Sea and its sealife? Trust us, you and he, and Tim and Tim are all going to come around on this issue, too. And it's not a matter of us trying to be holier than thou, but rather to try to do all we can to make sure future cruisers get to enjoy what you've enjoyed for all these years.

Where to start in an attempt to save you-know-where? As we mentioned several months ago, we think the Crab Drags should be transformed from a good party with crab racing into a good party and Sea of Cortez conservation fest. Reach out to all the people and groups who have an interest in the preservation of the Sea of Cortez and invite them to attend. Everybody can still dress up crazy, have cooking contests, drink and dance, clean up the beach, and all that stuff. The only difference is that the one dubious part of the event will have been replaced with a noble goal. As you say, it wouldn't be an easy challenge, but it would be worth it. And we at Latitude would be happy to support the effort in any way we could.

PERFECT FOR JUST PLAIN RELAXING

I'm writing because there was an error in your October Mexican Marinas article, and error that related to the San Carlos Marina in the Sea of Cortez. You reported that there is no international air service available from the San Carlos/Guaymas area to the United States. I know that's not correct, because my husband and I flew in and out of Guaymas last October.

By the way, my husband and I also visited good friends at the nearby Marina Real in San Carlos. We've since learned that Marina Real is now under new management and has made many new improvements. In addition, the marina even offers free Spanish lessons three days a week for the visiting sailors!

The San Carlos area is so beautiful and the waters are perfect for cruising, fishing - and just plain relaxing. My husband and I enjoy the Marina Real area so much that we're now looking for a home to purchase so we can retire there. We hope that more and more people can take the time to visit Marina Real, meet the new management, and check out the facilities. They're all great.

Kena and Todd Daugherty
Susanville, CA

Kena & Todd - You're the third ones to correct us for saying there wasn't international air service. But you're the first ones to give Marina Real such a glowing review.

SUNSET SLOOPS

I'm the proud owner of the 34-foot Sunset class sloop Aeolus. Mine is number four of five hulls built in the early '60s in the Bay Area. I'd like to communicate with anyone who has owned or now owns a Sunset class sloop.

I can be reached by mail at P.O. Box 2716, Friday Harbor, WA, 98250, or phone/fax at (360) 378-7158.

Don Payes
Yankee Mariner Yachts
Friday Harbor, WA

MY GEM

After five long years - less the horrible winters - my 1960 Triton has gone through a complete refit. At this time I'd like to express my thanks to several people.

First, a lot of credit has to go to Svendsen's Boatworks. My experience with them was for the most part very professional, and they made my work a lot easier to accomplish in a timely manner.

Second, I would like to thank Arne Jonnson, boatbuilder, for the use of his shop and tools. Arne's all around good humor, patience, and guidance were of great use.

Third, I'd like to thank Hogin Sails for my custom mainsail and working jib. My deepest appreciation goes to one I refer to as 'McGyver' - who I might add was well paid for his ingenuity.

By the way, cover to cover, Latitude can't be beat. Thanks for also helping my dream come true. I found my gem of a boat six years ago in the Classy Classifieds. Believe me, without a great boat it's hard to go out for a great sail!

See you on the Bay - I'll be the one in the white boat!

Patrice Scofield
Makai, Triton
Alameda

TENSIONING THE SHROUDS

I own a Balboa 27, and each time I lower and raise the mast I wonder how to correctly tension the shrouds and stays.

So far, I've been checking to make sure the mast is straight, that the stays are tight - no sag on the luff of the jib - and that the shrouds are snug, but not tight. In 10 knots of wind, the leeward shrouds flop some, but the mast is still straight. This seems to work all right, but I read a thing on the Moore 24 web page abut how they crank down on everything until they think they're going to break.

Anyway, if you have any information on the subject, I'd like to hear about it.

I've been reading Latitude since '86 and am a world cruiser wannabe who sails Clear Lake.

Jack Farrell
Lakeport, CA

Jack - What a great topic for a January 'idiot's guide'! Until then, make sure your mast remains in column and rest assured that you tune the same boat differently for different purposes, and you tune non-racing boats differently than you do racing boats.

SEEKING CAL 32 INFO

Do any of your readers have information about any surviving Cal 32s - the 46-foot LOA boats designed by Nick Potter in 1936 or '37? I know one is based at the San Diego YC and there is a rumor of another being dismantled in a nearby shed.

I'm also interested in any sightings of the S&S-designed New York 32s.

Patrick Matthiesen
Classic Boat Secretary, Sparkman & Stephens Association
101630.2144@Compuserve.Com
London, England

WHERE DOES THE TIME GO?

We're anchored in Ringi Cove on the island of Kolombangara, just 20 miles from Gizo, capitol of Western Province, Solomon Islands. The wet season is upon us and rain has been falling steadily all morning. I don't like to travel in coral waters when the visibility is so poor, so I'll take time to offer praise to two of the many things that make voyaging possible.

First, my marvelous Monitor windvane. We sailed without vane steering until just before we left Mexico 4.5 years ago. Then, in one of the best moves I've ever made, I bought a used Monitor from a boat in La Paz. We've sailed all about the Pacific in all kinds of conditions, and the Monitor has never failed our full keel, 15-ton boat yet.

We also have nice things to say about our Tinker inflatable dinghy/liferaft, made by Henshaw Inflatables, Ltd., Southgate Road, Wincanton, Somerset, BA99RZ, England. We mainly chose the Tinker because I couldn't see hauling an expensive liferaft all about, all the while hoping we wouldn't need to use it. Also, I was thinking of the many stories of liferafts not inflating on demand. A bonus was the Tinker's performance with 2-hp outboard.

But those aren't the reasons I'm writing about the Tinker. When we were finishing our refit in Australia, I discovered both of the 'inner' tubes on the Tinker refused to hold air. I sent a fax to Henshaw telling them of the problem and followed up a bit later with a telephone call. The woman who answered told me she had been instructed to ship two replacement tubes, complete with new valves. They arrived in Maryborough, Queens-land, eight days later. There was no charge and no questions. You can't ask for any better than that.

Maybe tomorrow the rain will let up and the skies clear so we can pick our way through the coral reefs to Gizo. And, maybe not.

Oh, one more thing: I spent my 18th birthday on Guadal-canal, in the Solomon Islands, and now it seems certain I'll be in Gizo for my 72nd. Where does the time go?

Bill Pool
Pilar, Atkins Ingrid Gaff Ketch
Portland/En route to Palau


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© 1998 Latitude 38