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WE‰LL USE WHAT WE HAVE

I read the February article Perspectives On A Nightmare with great interest. As a cruising sailor currently outfitting for additional cruises, I am always interested in reviews of disasters. They give all of us additional insight into the horrific loss of life and knowledge we may use to prevent these unbearable tragedies. Of all the possibilities of cruising, the ultimate price - loss of our lives - is one we most strive to forestall. As much as possible, we will do all we can to equip and sail our vessels with these objectives in mind.

Most - but not all - of us involved sailors currently own boats, and we have the boat now that we will cruise later. Not many of us are contemplating the purchase of a serious racer/cruiser for an upcoming event, or even more satisfying, a new, custom made, cruising boat. Except for the 'Bill Gateses' among us - who can purchase new boats by the marina-full - new boats seem very expensive. So we'll probably use what we have.

While I gained a great deal from the article, it left me afraid to head for sea in my less-than-perfect, mostly traditional, heavily-built, fiberglass ketch. She's just not fast enough. She has a very slow full keel, which I originally liked, but now learn is antiquated. The full keel was originally thought to help tracking and take those unavoidable groundings with consummate ease, but it seems not right for today.

My ketch also has heavier wood masts and a somewhat higher freeboard - which I had thought good for roll prevention, as it would slide across the face while the wave forces dissipated - but the weight keeps the speed down. She also has one of those clipper bows with a bowsprit that I really love, but I guess that's out because the original purpose of increasing the fore and aft sail area and thereby lowering the center of resistance is old hat, slow and dangerous, compared to that high aspect stuff. I could go on, but my boat is old and the design even older.

When I look her over, everything I look at doesn't fit with the current need to outrun the weather. From front to rear, she stinks. I'm sorry that I bought her. Unfortunately, I only had $15,000 and she was all I could afford. I was wrong to think she was safe and useful for extended cruising. Gosh, I'm really sorry now - especially after spending years making her look good, fit my lifestyle, and house the equipment that I thought was right. I was a fool. I should have read Latitude first.

But wait, I did read Latitude! It was so many years ago I forgot. But I did, I know I did. And I remember hearing about full keels and ketch rigs, and the pleasures of cruising. Yeah, it's all coming back now. It's why I bought this old boat that was old even back then. Boy, that was a lot of years ago. It was also a lot of cruises ago. A lot of gales and a few storms ago also.

Sure I survived, and it was even easy. But my boat's not the right thing now. I'm not young anymore, but I'm not too old to get in one more cruise. And I would y'know, I really would, if I could just afford that fast racer/cruiser experts say I need to be safe on the ocean. But I just can't afford one on this darned Social Security retirement income, so I guess I'll have to stay home. It's a shame, too, because I loved cruising on my old boat - and so did a lot of others.

I also remember sailors who sailed the dangerous boats, those Spray-type things, and even one fella who took this damned 13-foot Tinkerbelle across the Atlantic. We didn't call them fools then, they were just having fun. That wasn't the age of government applying the rules of seat belts and crash helmets and required insurance and all that. We just went and did, and we had fun. Boy, did we ever have fun! I remember the blue water, bright sun, tanned ladies, cool drinks, exotic lands, and adventure to set your heart on fire. Yeah, it was good!

It's a shame that it can't happen today because lots of those old boats are still around. And like mine, they aren't expensive, so most anyone can own one. But they ain't fast enough anymore. Not safe. Won't outrun the storms. No sir, no damned good.

One thing I don't understand is how the ocean has changed so much that these boats aren't any good anymore. What's happened to that damned ocean since I started sailing? We weren't so worried then, we went cruising and we had fun. We had old boats, but we still went everywhere, and we still had fun.

P.S. As a writer - technical - for more years than I will admit, I give you the normal editor's right to edit as you will. Bring on your bright sabers and come in swinging. Slash away, I won‰t complain. I‰m not a newbee. I understand that we both do different jobs and kind editors have saved my cranky ass countless times. I don‰t even read the finals. I write, you edit, they read. We all have good fun.

J.M. Cook
Aboard An Old Slow Boat
Richmond Marina

J.M. - We love guys like you!

It seems to us that it's all a matter of odds. If you take off on a non-stop drive from the West Coast to the East Coast in a brand new car, you're probably going to make it without any problems. If you take off on the same trip in a reasonably well-maintained '75 Chevy, you're probably going to make it, too - but the odds just aren't quite as good. Somewhat similarly, if you do a typical circumnavigation with your small ketch, the chances of getting caught in a really nasty storm are slight - but nonetheless greater than if you did it in a higher performance boat.

None of what we - or the Corenmans, or the Dashews, or the Neals - said was meant to suggest that people can't or haven't sailed all over the globe in all kinds of boats. In fact, your letter prompted us to search our mental files for people who've enjoyed great cruises in smaller and older styles such as yours. Lyn and Larry Pardey, for example, spent something like 15 years roaming the oceans of the world aboard a 24-foot boat, and they've spent the better part of the last 15 years doing it aboard a 29-foot boat. Of course, they never had engine trouble while trying to avoid a storm or make a quick passage for the simple reason they've never had an engine.

We suspect that Bill Pierce's Challenger ketch Tan-Tar-A probably isn't much different from your boat. We first met Bill in Puerto Vallarta in '79 at the end of his singlehanded passage up from Panama. It's 20 years later, and doggone if he and his wife Renée aren't in the Caribbean still having fun cruising that same old slow boat. Didn't young B.J. Caldwell sail around the world - including along the treacherous east coast of South Africa - in a slow 26-foot full keel Contessa. If we remember correctly, a young Tania Aebi also did a mostly solo circumnavigation with a Contessa 26 a few years before. And then there was a Bay Area resident who sailed an International Folkboat, also small and relatively slow, to New Zealand.

While it's true that a Westsail 32 was rolled in the Queen's Birthday Storm, scores of those boats have made long ocean passages or circumnavigations. Then, too, consider the full keel Odyssey 30 yawls. They only made about 15 of them, but a guy from Berkeley sailed one around the world, a Tiburon couple took another on a long cruise to the South Pacific and survived 30-foot seas on the way back, and a Peninsula sailor regularly singlehands his home from Cabo non-stop. We could go on and on with similar examples, but we only have 13 pages for Letters this month.

Of course, it would be negligent of us to forget the whole category of folks who've sailed around the world in small boats not even intended for ocean passages. While in Bora Bora, we met a Greek guy who had been cruising for six years aboard a 24-foot day racer. Despite having experienced the full fury of the ocean several times, he planned on going around a second time with a 24 foot - yikes! - catamaran. We know a Virgin Islander who did a circumnavigation with a Catalina 27, a family of three who did one aboard a Columbia 24, and a family of four who did it with a Cal 24.

If you want to talk 'real big' boats, a former Latitude contributor sailed to Japan and back in an Ericson 27, and then around the world in an Ericson 30+. If you're thinking smaller, remember that Webb Chiles nearly circumnavigated in an 18-foot open boat, that Dr. Lindemann crossed the Atlantic in a dugout log and then again in a 16-foot inflatable kayak, that a number of others have done it aboard sailboards, Hobie Cats, liferafts, inflatable dinghies and even a mooring buoy! And that's just scratching the surface.

As we said in the beginning, it's mostly about odds. Today's more modern - and much more expensive - designs simply give you a bigger advantage in avoiding bad weather in the first place. Of course, one of the reasons this is important is that today's average cruiser probably isn't anywhere as good as the typical sailor of your generation. But no matter what kind of boat a cruiser sails, there is no substitute for having her primed to make a good passage - which means a clean bottom, decent sails, uncluttered decks, a thorough knowledge of the boat, a general understanding of the weather - and above all - sailing skills. May your next cruise be the most enjoyable of your life!

60,000 MILES IN A CASCADE 29

In the Letters section of the January issue, fellow delivery skipper Warwick Tompkins made the following statement: "The closest I‰ve come to losing my life was delivering a Cascade 29 from Santa Cruz to San Francisco."

I've sailed for 22 years, and I own a Cascade 29. In fact, I once used that boat to make a voyage that lasted a year and a day and took me 12,000 miles from Portland to Mexico to Hawaii, to Alaska, and back to Portland. As I left Portland in September, I encountered days of heavy weather that are normal in the northeast Pacific at that time of year. But no matter if the conditions were light or heavy, my Cascade 29 always behaved predictably. Never once did I fear for my life. In fact, I never had a problem caused by the boat‰s handling or integrity.

Based on my experience with a Cascade 29, and over 60,000 miles that I've sailed as a delivery skipper, I'm puzzled by Tompkins' comments. On the superficial basis of his letter, I must believe that whatever happened on Captain Tompkins' delivery was not due to the Cascade 29‰s handling or strength characteristics. What happened on that delivery?

Donald G. Ferrell
Master 100 Tons
Portland, Oregon

Donald - Since 'Commodore' Tompkins is at this minute racing to Puerto Vallarta aboard a Santa Cruz 52, he's not available to elaborate. But as we recall, he told us that he and the Cascade 29's owner were coming north from Santa Cruz in a nasty southwesterly, and due to what Tompkins felt was the boat's inability to point, nearly weren't able to make it inside the Gate. Had they not made it inside the Gate, he felt they would have been in deep doo-doo on what might have been an inescapable lee shore.

We suspect the difference in opinions about the Cascade 29 mostly have to do with expectations. We're not going to come right out and say that our friend Tompkins is a 'boat snob' - he'll do that on his own - but he's accustomed to sailing on modern high-performance boats with the best in sails and other gear. In that sense, the Cascade 29 would be a relatively poor performer.

On the other hand, most of us start out sailing on whatever we can afford. The first boat we owned, for example, was a well-used, full-keel Bounty II, which for $233 a month provided us with great sailing fun, a home, and a first office for Latitude. We thought ourselves so lucky that we couldn't care less if a newer boat pointed higher or sailed faster. The reality for most sailors is not buying the best boat possible, but the best boat for the buck - and then being perfectly happy with her.

So while there have been design and construction improvements in 29-foot boats in the last 30 years, our impression - and your experience - would suggest that in the right hands a Cascade 29 can get the job done. Come to think of it, about six months ago we read about a 75-year-old singlehander who was on his third circumnavigation, the last one aboard a Cascade 29.

NEW RACE INSTRUCTION

As a follow up to my last letter to Latitude, the St. Francis YC has adopted a new sailing instruction with respect to racing sailboats interfering with ship traffic on San Francisco Bay. This new instruction liberalizes the ability of the race committee and competitors to protest other boats which have interfered with ship traffic.

From now on, the race committee will file an automatic protest if it receives a complaint from a ship captain, bar pilot or the Coast Guard in a situation where the ship has sounded five blasts and the offending yacht can be identified by sail number. We have also agreed to cooperate with the Coast Guard with respect to any investigations it might conduct regarding a Rule 9 infringement.

The new race instruction will be included in all St. Francis YC regattas for 1999. We would also appreciate any additional publicity you can get to the sailing public as we want everyone to know that this is a new policy for all St. Francis YC regattas.

NEW SAILING INSTRUCTION

22. Interference With Ship Traffic

Boats shall not impede the passage of ship traffic while racing. Rule 9 of the Inland Rules of the Road applies with respect to all shipping traffic on San Francisco Bay and its tributaries. A violation of Rule 9 is subject to protest by any competitor and the race committee. Compliance with RRs 60-63 will not be required with respect to a protest involving a Rule 9 infraction. A violation of Rule 9 may not be exonerated by an alternative penalty.

Any complaint received by the race committee from the United States Coast Guard or the captain or bar pilot of any ship that has sounded five blasts on its horn during the course of a race shall result in an automatic protest by the race committee if the captain, bar pilot or Coast Guard identifies an offending boat by sail number. In any case where a ship has sounded five blasts on its horn, a presumption shall be created at the protest hearing that the protested yacht(s) has (have) violated Rule 9 and the protested yacht(s) shall have the burden of proving that it did not impede the progress of the ship.

Race committee chase boats may patrol the race course from time to time and may hail boats to alter course to avoid impeding ship traffic. Failure of any boat to comply with the hail of the race committee shall result in an automatic protest by the race committee.

A protest of a Rule 9 infraction by a competitor may be made at any time prior to the conclusion of the regatta, but not more than 24 hours after the incident. A protest by the race committee for an infraction of Rule 9 may be made at any time up to two days after the conclusion of the regatta. The St. Francis YC will cooperate and provide relevant information to any investigations of violations of Rule 9 by the Coast Guard or other competent governmental authority.

Bruce H. Munro
Rear Commodore

HE WILL BLOW ONE LONG BLAST

I'm responding to the St. Francis YC and Bruce Munro asking for input on how to prevent conflicts between ships and racing sailboats. While I am not suggesting that the relationship here in Puget Sound between racers, ship pilots, and the Vessel Traffic Service is perfect, we at least have an ongoing dialogue and attempt to educate racers who have gotten in the way of large vessels. By the bye, I am a retired shipmaster who used to regularly enter San Francisco Bay as well as other ports here on the coast - and I have raced sailboats for many years here on the Sound and in the Bay Area.

Currently, if a pilot on a large vessel feels that the racers may impede his safe passage, he will sound one long blast as an advisory warning. If the situation deteriorates and the pilot feels that he needs to blow the Danger Signal - more than four short and rapid blasts - he may report the sail number or name of the offending boat to either the VTS or the race committee. If that happens, the boat may - in fact, most likely will - be disqualified for a violation of the International Rules of the Road. The only subjective aspect is the judgement of the pilot. I must say that the concern of ship pilots with regard to racing sailboats is not unique to Puget Sound, and some of them feel that sailboats should stay the heck off their waters, period!

I hope this helps more than it compounds your conundrum.

Gary M. Schmidt
Commodore, Port Madison YC

DOUG PETERSON

We are owners of the Peterson 44 Sojourner, and are trying to get in touch with the designer, Doug Peterson, or the builder, Jack Kelly. Friends Mary and Rob Messenger of Maude I Jones suggested that you may be able to assist me with ways to contact them.

Allen Hogan
Currently in New Zealand

Allen - Cherie Booth of Yachtfinders/Windseakers in San Diego was kind enough to supply us with some answers. According to Booth, Peterson designed the 44 and the 46 - of which 200 and 31 were built respectively - but had little else to do with the boats. Jack Kelly supervised the construction in Taiwan and imported the boats into the United States.

Booth reports that contacting Peterson is not easy, as he values his privacy. He does his naval architecture work at home, but doesn't give his number out. In other words, you have to know someone to be able to contact him. In any event, he's believed to be in Italy working hard on the America's Cup design for the Prada syndicate. As for Jack Kelly, he retired a number of years ago.

As such, if you've got a question about the design or construction of the Peterson 44, probably your best source is someone who has owned one for many years.

YRA MESS

It was pure luck that I happened to be bored enough this weekend to actually look through the 1999 Northern California Sailing Calendar and YRA Master Schedule. While I appreciate the amount of work you folks must put into this endeavor, I don‰t appreciate being listed as a 'fleet contact' for two fleets that I have no association with. At one time I was the Melges 24 fleet captain, but that job passed on to John Oldham about three years ago - a fact that you can verify by looking at the Melges ad that ran in the Calendar. And despite the coincidental name, I have never been associated with the Moore 24 fleet.

I don‰t want anyone to think that I have a problem with either of these two fine fleets, as just the opposite is the case. I've spent a lot of time sailing a Melges, and I think the Moore is probably one of the all time best boats. But I think those fleets would be better served if the correct person was listed as their contacts. If you could include a correction in the next Latitude, I'm pretty sure that everyone from myself, to my wife, to the fleets would appreciate it. If you feel the burning desire to include my name as a fleet contact, go ahead and list it with the Finn class.

Mike Moore
Northern California

Mike - We sincerely apologize for the mistake - but we're unsure who is responsible. In an effort to have as accurate a database as possible, Lynda Myers, Executive Secretary of the YRA, sent letters to each fleet captain of record asking to be notified if they were no longer the fleet captain. Since you were - rightly or wrongly - on record as being fleet captain for both the Melges 24s and Moore 24s, she sent two letters to your listed address in Point Richmond. When she didn't receive a reply to either letter, she had little choice but to assume the information was correct.

Having made a reasonable effort to update all her information, Myers then forwarded the information to us. Since the YRA office is the authority on the local fleets, we had no reason to doubt the information. And since editorial and advertising are separate departments, nobody caught the conflict. Thus it was published.

When we called Myers in late February to get the correct names of the fleet captains for the Moore 24s and Melges 24s, she reported that - because the YRA office has yet to hear otherwise - you are still listed as the fleet captain for the Melges and Moore fleets. So could you and the appropriate people please call Lynda at (415) 771-9500 to set the record straight? While it's too late to change the Calendar, at least the YRA website can be updated.

HURRICANE NAMES

Does anyone know if there is a way to have a hurricane named after someone specific? For a long time now, I've felt that my two-year-old daughter is deserving of such an honor.

Justine Schmidt
Oakland

Justine - Good question! There are a number of different agencies in the world that pick the names for hurricanes, tropical cyclones, and typhoons - all of which are the same thing, of course.

In the Atlantic Basin, the names are selected by the World Meteorological Organization's Region 4 Headquarters. The names are either English, French, or Spanish, so you get stuff like Earl, Gabrielle and Cristobal. In the Central North Pacific, the Eastern North Pacific, and the Western North Pacific, the names come from the Joint Typhoon Warning Center. Because of complaints of a Western bias, new more 'ethnic' names such as Akoni, Haloloa, and Ulia have been added to more traditional ones such as Beatriz, Flossie, Mort, and Orson.

In Western, Northern and Eastern Australian Regions, the names come from the Bureau of Meteorology, and include handles such as Selwyn, Taryn, Fergus, and the always popular Wylva. It's unclear who picks them in the Fiji region, where they have Zita, Hagar, Atu and Eseta; or the New Guinea region, which features Guba, Tiogo, and Abduhl; but we presume it's locals. The Seychelles Meterorological Service picks the names for the Southwest Indian Ocean region, and has come up with Beltane, Birenda and Chikita.

Hurricanes were first given names in the Atlantic Basin in 1950 when officials started with the international phonetic alphabet: Able, Baker, Charlie and so forth. Obviously that list wasn't going to last very long, so female names were added in 1953. Thanks to feminists, the names began alternating between male and female in 1979, the same year that French and Spanish names were included.

Depending on the region, there are all kinds of weird rules for hurricane, tropical cyclone, and typhoon names. For example, in the Atlantic Basin and the Eastern Pacific, the first 'hurc' of the year always starts with the letter 'A'. But the year's first hurricane in the Central Pacific from 140ºW to the International Date Line, as well as the first typhoon west of the Date Line, get the next available name on the list no matter what letter it begins with.

In the Atlantic Basin, the list is recycled every six years, so 1998's list will again be used in 2004. Some areas simply come up with entirely new lists of names. And particularly destructive storms are permanently retired. For example, Alex has replaced Andrew, Lorenzo has replaced Luis, Michelle has replaced Marilyn, Olga has replaced Opal, and Rebekah has replaced Roxanne.

Getting back to your original question, most of the naming organizations probably operate like the International Olympic Committee and American politicans: Unless you can come up with cash, booze, or hookers, your request won't even be heard.

IF I‰M SANE, IT‰S FROM MY MOM

Great rag as usual - but wow, is Steve Fossett just made of money? PlayStation has to be the biggest beach cat ever built!

Couple of other things. I'm not sure if it ranks in any books, but Edwin Arnold, my dad, just sailed around the Horn from Argentina to Chile this winter - summer down there. He actually rounded the Horn on New Year's Day, singlehanded, at age 63 - and backwards! Apparently he had the drogue out twice and he had the storm sails up for several days. We had regular contact with him as a Ham radio operator emailed us every couple of days. Not that I was worried about him.

He rounded the Cape in a 35-foot Ted Brewer design that he and mom built several years ago. After spending many years in Northern Europe, they decided to sail around to our ocean. Mom passed on the passage around Cape Horn, thinking it would be more fun to spend Christmas with the grandkids rather than freezing in a gale for a couple of months. If I'm sane at all, it's because of my mom.

Question: We‰re selling our 29 foot boat and buying a Laser to teach the kids sailing. I live in Redwood City and want to find some place I can store the boat close to where I can use it. Are there any places this is possible? I‰ve checked Sequoia YC, but they are big boat types and Shoreline Park has no storage facilities. What do people do?

Phil Arnold
Redwood City

Phil - Your dad is obviously a piece of work. We'd love to hear more details from him - not the least of which is the name of his boat.

As for storing Lasers in the South Bay, Jim Drake tells us that the Sequoia YC has a storage facility for Lasers and El Toros at the launch ramp for Redwood City, so we hope whoever you talked to was aware of that. If nobody else has any suggestions, call Drake Marine at (650) 365-8686. They might be able to rent you a spot on a dock.

TALK ABOUT AN EFFECTIVE FORUM

Last month you published a letter in which we announced the addition of our new cruising book, Utopia Revisited, to our web site. Prior to the publication of that letter, our site had received about 400 hits in 15 months - and most of them were from us checking on the comments or making modifications. But in the 10 days since your published our letter, we've had 360 hits! Talk about Latitude being an effective forum!

You folks also do a good job of keeping sailors in touch with one another. Because of the letter, we received an email from John and Victoria Guimont. John is a friend, former co-worker and carpooler, crew on my Mercury, and all around good guy. He and Victoria were featured in your visit to boatyards last year. They're planning to take their Spray 40 on this year‰s Baja Ha-Ha, so please hassle them a bit for me! You might also remind him that I taught him everything he knows about sailing - even if he managed to get from 18 to 40 feet by himself.

By the way, Utopia Revisited has been renamed Cruising Dreams to better reflect the contents. It can be found at: www.geocities.com/Athens/Oracle/3258.

Jack and Sandy Mooney
Utopia, Challenger 32
Hudson, Florida

WHICH MONTHS ARE THE BEST?

Generally speaking, which months are the best for sailing from San Francisco to Honolulu? Naturally, I would check the current weather before leaving. I'm cranking up for a singlehanded trip and would appreciate a hand from anyone who has knowledge or experience.

D. Roen Repp
Sea Ranch

D. - The major weather concern heading to and from Hawaii is getting spanked by a winter storm from the North Pacific. Such storms are most likely to occur between October and late March. As a result, cruisers start to head across as early as April. If they're coming back, they tend to leave Hawaii by the middle of September. The three races from California to Hawaii - TransPac, West Marine Pacific Cup, and Singlehanded TransPac - all start in either late June or early July. Part of it is because everyone is on vacation, but it's also because it's warmer than an April or May crossing.

If you read Jimmy Cornell's World Cruising Routes advice about the San Francisco to Honolulu trip, ignore it! Cornell's a nice guy but he's just plain wrong when he writes: "This route enjoys favorable winds throughout the year." The only people we know who've sailed the route between November and February got their asses kicked badly, and had to beat most of the way to the Islands. As Sam Vahey of Odysseus told us, "The pilot charts are right when they say the average windspeed is 20 knots in the winter, because either there's no wind or it blows 40!"

Cornell then claims that "summer months carry the risk of tropical storms". While summer is certainly the hurricane season in the Eastern Pacific, by the time storms get that far north they've usually lost all their punch. The only time we can remember a tropical storm affecting a TransPac is in 1965 when Ticonderoga used the 40-knot winds in the aftermath of hurricane Beatrice to win her great duel with Stormvogel to Diamond Head by a mere six minutes. Boats sailing from Honolulu back to San Francisco start out by going way north and thus aren't affected by hurricanes.

Cornell concludes that the months between the two extremes of winter and summer are "perfect," specifically November and May. We think anyone who tries to sail from San Francisco to Hawaii in November is nuts: It's too cold and there's too great a chance of a winter storm. You can make the crossing in May, but it's likely to be much cooler than in June or July. Cornell suggests the drawback of an April start is that it's likely to be overcast. Skip Allan, who has sailed to Hawaii countless times, will tell you that darn near every voyage to Hawaii is both cloudy and cold up until the last two days.

In closing, we urge you to contact the Singlehanded Sailing Society - they've got a good website - for further information and perhaps participation in one of their events.

SILVER AND SWEETWATER

I recently ran across a reference to the fact that silver coins were routinely placed in water kegs aboard sailing ships. The purpose was to help preserve the freshness and "sweetness" of the drinking water. And when kings went on journeys in ancient times, their water was carried in silver water jars to maintain its drinkability. Maybe that's even where the "born with a silver spoon in his mouth" came from. And modern science confirms that silver has important and powerful antibacterial and antiviral properties.

My question is whether voyaging sailors ever take advantage of silver to preserve the drinking water in their onboard water tanks. If so, how much silver should be used per gallon? Would the silver be used up as it tarnishes? Would the modern use of chlorine in drinking water be a factor in limiting the usefulness of this idea? Perhaps the chemists, rather than cruisers, in your readership would care to comment on the feasibility of using silver to help preserve drinking water on long voyages.

P.S. Latitude is the best read of the month on sailing topics!

Peter Hatch
Interlude
Marina del Rey

Peter - We don't know anything about what adding silver might do to the taste of water from tanks - or to the health of folks who might drink it. That's because hardly anybody we know drinks the water from their tanks. In our opinion, tank water - even the almost pure stuff made by watermakers - is for showers, washing dishes, washing clothes, and that sort of thing. If we want water to drink or for preparing meals, we use bottled water. In addition to it tasting good and being free of harmful bacteria, it never seems to go bad.

DON‰T UNDERSTAND OPEN OCEAN RACING

I've been sailing moderate-sized sailboats for many years in the Bay and sometimes offshore, and I've also done a little racing. But I'm still astonished at how little I know about the sport.

Having learned much through Latitude about what to do and what not to do in given situations, perhaps you can shed some light on the recent Sydney to Hobart tragedy. I don't really understand open ocean racing, but wonder if no lessons were learned from the '79 Fastnet that could have been applied to the recent Hobart Race.

It seems to me that if the race had been stopped when the conditions had deteriorated to a certain point, skippers might have been more diligent about personal safety. I'm sure it's difficult to order a race stopped for a variety of reasons. I'm also sure that it's difficult for a skipper to order sails shortened when maximum speed is desired, and for the crew to wear lifejackets when they might restrict mobility to a certain degree. The results of not taking such actions can be wildly thrashing broken spars that inflict great injury and force crew overboard.

Maybe a lot of us just don't understand competitive offshore racing. For example, what are the minimum requirements for personal safety equipment? Do these boats have storm sails, sea anchors, engines, and bilge pumps?

Smokey Stover
Alameda

Smokey - We're not sure if Smokey is your name or your boat's name, but we think most of your questions were answered in detail in our February issue coverage of the Sydney to Hobart Race. But we'll review your questions.

Yes, there are stringent minimum requirements for boats entered in sanctioned offshore races. Boats do have to have engines, numerous bilge pumps, storm sails, and a great deal of other gear. And given the traditionally stiff conditions encountered sailing to Hobart, most competitors take these requirements seriously.

Although it will long be argued whether the race should have offically been called off or not, remember that hindsight is 20-20. In the Latitude interview, Sayonara's Mark Rudiger - widely acknowledged as being one of the very best navigators in the world - said, ". . . I still couldn't see what all the fuss was about, for even with our real time satellite imagery the storm just didn't look like anything . . ." Then it hit.

Even more pertinent is the fact that by the time officials realized how bad the storm was going to be, it was far too late for many of the boats to reach a safe harbor. Indeed, several boats were lost while running for the nearest shelter. As for those boats that abandoned the race and ran with it, they tended to keep themselves in the storm even longer.

As for your assumption that lives were lost because skippers put safety over speed, that's incorrect. All the skippers and crew quickly became aware of just how serious the storm was, and even on the biggest boats such as Sayonara, the goal was safety rather than speed.

One lesson to be learned from the Hobart Race was best expressed by Rudiger: "No matter how good your boathandling skills or how good your boat is, if there's a wave out there with your name on it, you're toast." Fortunately, such storms and such waves are as rare as they are severe.

EPIRB BATTERIES

I own a Litton 408 EPIRB, model number 952, which has a battery that is nearing the end of its useful life. While in Panama, I contacted the Guest company - which had purchased Litton - to have the battery replaced. They demanded that I bring or send the unit to an authorized service agency for replacement - which meant the United States!

But as any cruiser knows, just about all packages mailed in Third World countries get stolen. So the only reasonable option seems to be to shipping it back and forth by DHL - which would cost $155 each way. With $310 in shipping costs, and $308 for the replacement battery itself, the total would come to $608. Heck, I could buy a new EPIRB for not much more money than that.

One of Litton/Guest's competitors, ACR, has an EPIRB whose battery can be bought in a common marine catalog for $99 and installed by the owner. For anyone purchasing a new unit, the decision of what brand EPIRB to buy should be easy.

Carl Bergan
Far Niente
Seattle

Carl - Over the years we've received quite a few complaints regarding the replacement of EPIRB batteries. Some have complained about the cost, others that it's illegal to ship some EPIRB batteries on airplanes. Given the different types of EPIRBs, the different types of batteries, and the different battery replacement policies, we'd ask a lot of questions before making a purchase.

By the way, we don't know of any 406 EPIRBs for anywhere near $600.

SHE‰S A NURSE, I‰M A JACK-OF-ALL-TRADES

If all goes according to plan, my girlfriend and I will leave this fall for Mexico. After that, we hope to sail west to the South Pacific and then on to Australia and possibly New Zealand. This cruise will be open-ended, meaning we'll stay out there as long as our meager funds hold us.

Neither one of us are opposed to working here or there to feed the cruising kitty to prolong the trip. She is a nurse, and I am . . . well, a jack-of-all trades. I've been in capital equipment sales for over 20 years - which is probably about as useful in foreign countries as an opening port hole on the bottom of a boat. But I'm also fairly handy when it comes to boat maintenance and repair, as well as basic carpentry.

My question is this: How difficult is it to find work in the South Pacific and beyond? Would heading over to the Caribbean make finding work easier? Are work visas required, and if so, how do you go about requesting them before you take off?

Greg Nichols
Tayana 37
Sausalito

Greg - Based on conversations with lots of cruisers, opportunities to make money while 'out there' seem to pop up with some regularity. Obviously, the chances of feeding the kitty are going to be better in places where there are more people and money - such as Australia and New Zealand as opposed to the Marquesas and Tuamotus. Indeed, a number of cruisers have told us there are plenty of jobs to be had in Oz for the simple reason that the typical Aussie has a much more cavalier attitude toward work than does the typical American - who is viewed as a workaholic.

As for work visas, we're told everybody in Oz just looks the other way. Indeed, many of the jobs that might come looking for you are likely to be one-time or under-the-table affairs. In other words, don't expect to go looking through the classifieds in Sydney and expect to get a 9-to-5 job. Besides, who would want to bother with nuisances such as paperwork and taxes? The key to finding work is hanging around places long enough to get to know the locals and hear about work that needs to be done. In other words, he who travels fastest gets no work.

If you insist on legal work, your best bet is to sail up to Guam where we're told that there are plenty of jobs that pay well - and a cruising community that takes advantage of them. You can also work legally in American Samoa. While there are job opportunities in the Caribbean, we don't think they're any better than in the Pacific.

There's also money to be made within the cruising fleets and sailing communities. If you know refrigeration, you can pretty much write your own ticket. You'll also be in the money if you're good with diesel engines. And everybody knows that most cruisers would rather pay a fellow yachtie $10/hour to help with a haulout than pay the yard $50/hour. Helping with boat deliveries is also another popular part of the underground cruiser economy.

We don't know what kind of nurse your girlfriend is, but in wealthy areas - and on mega yachts - there are never enough home care services or therapists. Our friend Dinah - the terrific cover girl for the March '98 issue - has made some excellent money giving ethical massages during term charters on big yachts. It's also possible to pick up jobs tutoring children.

If any veterans want to share experiences on getting jobs while cruising, we're all ears.

I COULD HAVE BEEN IN A WORLD OF TROUBLE

One weekend I was sailing out of the Oakland Estuary while a container ship was entering the channel. The ship was escorted by two tugs at the stern. I assumed that the ship was headed down the channel to the Turning Basin. I decided I would pass the ship port to port, and therefore was on the side of the Estuary next to the cranes.

Then I noticed that one of the tugs moved to the bow of the ship, and realized that they were planning to turn the ship right in front of the cranes rather than down at the Turning Basin. Since the wind was light, I started the engine and got well out of the way. We never came even close.

Needless to say, there isn't much room left in the channel when a big ship enters. If the timing had been different, I could have been in a world of trouble. If the ship had continued to the Turning Basin, I would have made the correct decision.

My question is this: Should I have contacted the ship on Channel 16 to find out its intentions? And should I have contacted or monitored Vessel Traffic Service (VTS)?

Van Taiariol
Pohono
Northern California

Van - You did exactly what you should have done, which is: 1) Monitor a developing situation, and 2) Respond by keeping out of the way of a large commercial vessel which had restricted room in which to maneuver. The bar captains and commercial skippers love recreational mariners like you.

We wouldn't have contacted the ship for several reasons: First, they already knew you were there and planned their maneuvers accordingly. Second, imagine the chaos there would be if 10 other recreational mariners all called at the same time to say, 'Watch out for us!' Third, you don't want to bother a ship's captain, who is plenty busy trying to coordinate with his engine room, the two tugs, and the linehanders on shore.

While you can monitor VTS, we've found that it's not particularly helpful. For one thing, it's often hard to understand their lingo. In addition, they usually only report general ship movements. Calling VTS in a non-emergency situation is an even worse idea. They've got more imporant things to worry about and they're not going to bother the ship's captain or pilot with non-essential radio traffic. The only time we'd call VTS is if we were in a thick fog, had to cross a busy shipping lane, didn't have radar, and were hearing ship's horns.

We realize that when you're in a small boat, large ships in narrow channels look larger and more menacing than ever. The truth is that there is sufficient room to pass on either side of even the biggest ships that enter the Estuary. Just stay within 50 feet of the shore and you'll be cool. By the way, the ship you saw had to be one of the smaller ones because the big ones have to use the Turning Basin.

ARE MY SPARS WORTHY?

I need to know if my spars are worthy of bluewater cruising. I've had surveyors look at them, and although they seem to question the size of the spar and the placement of the spreaders, they all claim that they're not qualified to make such a judgement.

P.S. If some soul does say with authority that my spars are too small, it may lead to litigation with the previous owner, so I request to remain anonymous.

Anonymous
Medium Size Ketch
Sausalito

Anonymous - The place to start is with the person who designed the boat. Contact him/her to find out about the basic calculations for the mast section, the spreader placement, and the rig support. In the event that neither the designer or plans are available, or that you're skeptical, contact a sparmaker or a naval architect. There are many variables in rig design and construction, so don't immediately jump to any negative conclusions. On the other hand, if the rig was designed by an amateur trying to keep to a budget, you might have good reason to shiver your timbers.

LITTLE RHYME OR REASON

Gary Alber's December article on watermakers was both excellent and most helpful. Nonetheless, your quote from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner caught my eye. I realize you hate poetry, but if you're going to quote from a famous poem, please try to get it right. The correct quote is not "Water, water, everywhere, but not a drop to drink," but rather ". . . nor any drop to drink."

I guess we pseudo literati have to draw the line somewhere!

John Kelly and Linda Keigher
Hawkeye
San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico

John and Linda - We don't hate poetry, but rather think there's a time and a place for everything. In general, the time for poetry was the 18th century, not in today's Latitude. There are exceptions, however, as you'll discover in next month's sampling of Longfellow in Changes. By the way, is a limerick a little too lowbrow for literati?

SEARCHING FOR THE BEEF

There were three natural blonde femmes,
whose tresses hung down to their shins.
Conception Point, as they understood,
meant merely the onset of motherhood.

They were inspired by folly and whims.
It‰s true that the lasses were quite busty,
albeit, their cranial space was dusty.
They bought a boat that was a dog,
the shaft was bent, the head had a clog.

The tub‰s ancient steel hull was rusty.
One sunny and warm day they set the sails,
on the boat there were nada (zero) males.

What they needed most was a rich mate,
to make the yacht payment that was late.
They opted to expose those nubile tails.

They were on their third and final reef,
still looking and searching for the beef.
Aboard jumped a nude sailor, what a nut,
the tar had two dolphins tattooed on his butt.
One look at this guy, the gals turned a new leaf.

Limerick or rhyme, shouldn‰t matter to thee,
I met the criteria, don‰t you agree?
It's a joy being in print, so I‰ll await,
the thrill of being published in Lat 38.
If Edward Lear were alive, I‰d be up a tall tree.

Arlene Davidson
Morgan 41 OK OK OK
Atlanta, Georgia

Arlene - After carefully reviewing your work for the better part of 12 months, we pronounce you Latitude's poet laureate - at least until a better limerick comes along.

INFLATED THE RAFT IN THE LIVING ROOM

Reading about Gary Magwood's liferaft problem in the December issue reminded me of some professional service we had on ours. Our liferaft came from a tuna boat, so it wasn't the type normally found on yachts. We bought it from a private party who, during an evening of unrestrained good fun, decided to pull the inflation line in the living room. You should have seen the guests and furniture fly up against the walls! And I can tell you that an inflated 10-person raft really fills up a room.

I nonetheless bought the raft in deflated condition, and took it to be serviced and have the gas bottles filled. The purpose of this preliminary tale is to show that all was well at this point.

When we got to New Zealand, we decided it was time to have the liferaft checked and possibly serviced. Since the only service facility was in Auckland, we drove it down from Whangarei. They told us to come back for it in two weeks, which we did.

When we returned, they told us how the raft had passed their checks with flying colors - except that they did not approve of our emergency rations aboard. So they added some kind of high carbohydrate survival rations. As we paid them and prepared to take away the raft there was . . . "Just one other thing."

They decided our C02 bottles were rusty, so they discharged them. Huh? Why not just replace them? They told us replacements weren't available! Some service, wouldn't you say? With our six-month visa near its end, we had to go because we were assured that no extension was possible - even though my wife was just out of the hospital and still recuperating. Leaving New Zealand in June is not to be recommended, and we ended up under bare poles for nine days in a storm that sunk two yachts and killed eight people. We amused ourselves with macabre speculations as to what would happen if the worst occurred; would Helaine or our liferaft hit the bottom first?

We arrived in Brisbane, Australia, about six months later. After considerable difficulty and delay, we were able to have new bottles shipped out from the U.S. By the time we left Brisbane, we had a functioning liferaft once again. We still have the raft, which now occupies space - too much of it - in our garage. One of these days I intend to pull the ripcord myself. Outside.

Michael Lewis
Helaine
San Diego

THE HAPPIEST KID IN L.A.

In the late '50s, when I was 13 years old, I read the Life magazine article on Dr. Lindemann‰s incredible voyage across the Atlantic in a Klepper folding kayak. Later that year, we visited my grandmother in Washington D.C., and saw a fully rigged Klepper Kayak in a store window. I begged to go visit the sailing kayak rather than the Smithsonian, and fell in love with my first boat. But it took two years of savings and the connection with a family friend in the army in Germany before I became an owner.

The original boat - including all of the sailing gear and shipping from Germany - cost $280 in 1961. When I got mine I was the happiest kid in L.A. We sailed the Klepper in the ocean off Santa Monica, carried it to Jamaica on a winter holiday, and after I came North to attend Cal, paddled down the Russian River countless times. Even when using the lee boards, it didn't point too well, but it screamed on a reach.

One Easter break we took two Kleppers down to San Felipe, Mexico, and sailed down the coast to go camping. I wanted to go to some offshore islands, but the local fishermen kept talking about the tiburones and made slashing motions around the rubber hull. So we stayed close to shore. If the Klepper had been 36 feet wide, as Latitude wrote, rather than 36 inches wide, I'd probably still be down there living aboard.

I still have the boat, and despite being 38 years old, it's in remarkably good shape. It does need a new hull, however, which now costs about 10 times the original price for the whole enchilada.

Michael Sheats
Klepper Aerius, Perseverance
Berkeley

STARVING STUDENT SAILORS

The comparatively small College of Marin Sailing Team - lead by Mikey Murison, the 1998 Santana 22 National Champ, and Jonathan Shinn, who graduated from perhaps the best high school sailing program in the country - kicked off the season by racing against the varsities of the toughest schools on the West Coast: Cal, Stanford, USC, and the University of Hawaii. While the team did pretty well in their first regatta, it is still struggling financially to keep on its feet.

If anybody out there likes to support the little guys and put their money where it goes a long way, please don't hesitate to call Mikey at (415) 0459-8174 or Jonathan at (415) 435-6326. All contributions or donations are tax deductible.

Wim Sprenger, Faculty Advisor
College of Marin Sailing Team

AVOIDING THE WAVES ON THE WAY DOWN FROM THE NORTHWEST

In the February Changes, you advised mariners heading south from the Pacific Northwest to be on the alert for steep seas that are often found on that passage. Could you please fill us in with more details?

For example, is this true at all times of the year, or are some months better for heading south? In addition, are such steep seas only usually found close to shore in shallower water? What's a recommended offing to minimize the chance of such waves, without going so far out that you pick up the regularly nasty weather coming out of the Gulf of Alaska? Or is it better to just go offshore when rounding Cape Blanco and Cape Mendocino?

I hope to make this passage south one day, and would love to avoid the seas described as being so bad that at times boats need rescuing!

Joe Lewis
San Leandro

Joe - We're not sure how many sailors appreciate just how dangerous the waters can be off Washington, Oregon, and Northern California. In a statistic that shocked us, Commander Durfey of Coast Guard Group Humboldt Bay reported that in one month last year they had to provide assistance to no less than nine sailboats coming down from the Pacific Northwest. We're looking into the details of those assists to see what conclusions can be drawn.

To be honest, we don't know enough about the waters between San Francisco and Washington to give a whole lot of advice - other than to be careful. Our assumption would be that the worst time to come south would be the spring and early summer when stiff westerlies blow with regularity. We suppose the best time would be the late summer or early fall when there is often high pressure over much of the area. In the winter, it's probably always either flat calm or totally hellacious - and always frigid!

We hope that someone with multiple trips between Seattle and San Francisco might be willing to share their strategies. Until then, we suggest allowing plenty of time in which to harbor hop during only the most benign conditions.

MAKING LOG ENTRIES

For many years I've sailed sailboards and Banshees. Then a few years ago, I helped my brother-in-law sail his Islander 36 from Marina del Rey to San Leandro, which brought me in contact with Latitude for the first time. I‰ve only been hooked on a few books or magazines in my lifetime, but yours is one of them.

I'm retired Coast Guard, but also have an electronics background. So when a friend creating Alpha Smart laptop and ran into a few problems, I helped him out. In the process, I was introduced to the little unit.

I‰ve done a few log entries in my career, but I found it a chore making log entries while coming up the coast in a 36-foot boat, particularly when it's 0300 and you're cold and damp, and it's hard to see by the illumination provided by a little red light.

Now I use the Alpha Smart laptop word processor, which is not only reasonably priced - $250 - but is ideal for log entries. Having done this, you can enter the information in your hard log, or put it in a P.C. and print it out. If you like computers, it even makes it fun. The Alpha Smart can be checked out at www.alphasmart.com.

By the way, I own a Buccaneer 240 and hope to make the Ha-Ha - probably in 2000. Are there any other Buccaneer owners out there?

Cal Chamberlain
Buccaneer 24
Red Bluff

Cal - Based on our times of being cold and damp at 0300 along the California coast, we always looked forward to the little visits to the nav station to manually write down the coordinates and other pertinent information. We also enjoy writing on original paper charts. As a result, we're not sure that typing the stuff on an ultra-basic laptop would have the same romance. And we're certain that nobody - no matter how noble their intentions - would ever transfer such information to a hard log.

Then, too, on longer trips these days most skippers bring full feature laptops with them for communications, weather, writing screen plays, and other purposes. So a second laptop might be overkill. Nonetheless, we're glad you brought this little product to our attention, as it seems like the perfect low-cost machine - as opposed to a full laptop - for taking notes or interviewing people for Latitude articles.

The Ha-Ha in a Buccaneer 24? That's a relatively small boat for such a big ocean - particularly when we don't believe it was designed or built with that kind of offshore passage in mind. It would be safer and more fun if you could talk your brother-in-law into taking his Islander 36.

WITHOUT A FOUL PEEP

In the October issue, a reader wrote in to ask if he could use 'Earth' as a hailing port on the transom of his boat. Well, my sailboat has had "Earth, Sol System" as her port of origin for 22 months - without a peep from the Coast Guard.

Rev. David Michael Rice
Mariner‰s Ministries, Dana Point

Rev. Rice - As we think we mentioned in the October issue, boats registered with the state of California don't need to show a hailing port. So if you want to put a hailing port on, let your imagination soar. Boats documented (registered) with the federal government, however, are required to follow specific rules with regard to hailing ports. Unfortunately, 'Earth, Sol System' just doesn't cut it. So why haven't you been busted by the Coast Guard? Simple: when it comes to their priorities, it's in the bilge.

OUTBOARDS AND INFLATABLES

In response to your request a year ago August - it takes time for mail to catch up with us in the Med - for cruiser comments on outboard motors, we offer the following observations:

There is no question that Yamaha dominates the outboard market, and we've seen them everywhere we've been on our circumnavigation. Only now that we have reached the Med, we are beginning to see American brands again; the last time we saw them was in Australia.

We have a Nissan (Tohatsu) 18 hp outboard that came with our boat new when we bought her in '92. Despite being used for six years in saltwater without a fresh water flush - sort of being 'run hard and put away wet' - it's been reliable.

The bad news about Nissans is that dealers are few and very far between. I couldn't find anyone in Israel, for example, to work on ours. They appear to be something of an orphan, too, as my wife called the well-known marine outfit that sells them, trying to get a fuel pump and carburetor kit and a new cooling pump kit. Surprisingly, they were less than responsive. She then called the good guys at Downwind Marine in San Diego, and had the needed parts in hand before she returned to Israel.

Although our outboard has been reliable, if I were to sail around the world again, I wouldn't buy another Nissan - or any other brand - that doesn't have worldwide distribution. Which brings me back to Yamaha.

Our 18 hp outboard is more powerful than many cruisers carry, but we like it for our hard-bottom Carib inflatable - which, by the way, is the best performing inflatable we've seen. The combination of the two gives us high speeds, which enables us both to anchor out further when necessary and to do more exploring. It's also been my observation that the more reliable outboards are of 5 hp or more - something that Practical Sailor noted. The little 2 to 4 hp motors are light and inexpensive, but we've seen a lot of cranking and mechanical work done on them.

Latitude has reported many tales of stolen dinghies, so perhaps an old cruisers' trick might help. You put your shiny new motor on a stand, go to the paint locker for the biggest old brush you have and some old paint - like Putrid Pink or Yucky Yellow - and slap it all over the engine cover thick enough to obscure the brand name. Painting our cover BBQ Black put a big dent in our pride of ownership, but may increase our term of ownership, as some thief checking the dinghy dock for a new ride will surely pass up anything so badly treated.

Outboard motors are certainly more reliable than they've ever been. It's been good for cruisers, but not for everything. In Mexico, for example, outboard reliability has contributed to the demise of the fishery as a whole. In the '60s, few pangas had outboards, and when they did they were usually older Evinrude/Johnsons. When we fished the Sea of Cortez, we had a spare outboard - and sometimes two - until too many aborted trips forced us to switch to inboards. The local fisherman often asked us for spark plugs, tools, flywheel shaft keys, fuel and so forth in order to get home. And I'm sure some died. An acquaintance of mine once rescued a young lad in a panga that had a dead engine - and a load of rotten fish and lobster. When asked if anyone was looking for him, he said nobody was, and that if he didn't return, everyone would know what had happened.

The San Benitos Islands just north of Cedros are a good example of the effect reliable outboards have had on a fishery. The first time I was there, in '85, there were only three or four residents of the islands and only an occasional brave fisherman from Cedros Island came over. Because the islands were isolated, abalone was everywhere and if you waded around in knee-deep water you'd find lobsters so big you'd have to lift them with two hands! By '92, however, I saw 15 or so new Yamaha-equipped pangas, and they were building a new cold storage facility.

By the way, it was during the '85 trip that I saw the Wanderer's Freya 39 in Puerto Vallarta, the one captained by a beautiful and capable Scandinavian woman. I can remember her, but not the name of the boat. By the way, when we reach Puerto Vallarta, we'll have completed our circumnavigation.

Sanford Evans & Shirley Foley
Slipaway
Bozukkale, Turkey

Sanford & Shirley - Ever since we bought our first new outboard and inflatable - a Suzuki 6 hp to go with a Metzler inflatable for our Freya 39 Contrary to Ordinary - we've had excellent luck with them. That Suzuki - which had just enough power to plane one person - gave us six years of great service with negligible maintenance. We've since had Johnsons, Evinrudes, a Mariner, and more Yamahas. There wasn't a one that - given clean gas - didn't start regularly by the second pull. One Yamaha we bought in the U.S. Virgins had shifting problems from the beginning, but the local dealer made amends by giving us a sensational trade-in on a slightly larger motor.

As for inflatables, we've had a Metzler, an Avon that lasted for more than 15 years, a Italian-built Raadial that was stolen, several ABs from Venezuela, and two Caribs. One of the ABs had a little problem the St. Martin dealer had cautioned us about. When the problem manifested itself two months later, he replaced it with a smile.

We agree that a planning dinghy is invaluable. That means at least 7 horsepower for singlehanders, 15 horsepower for doublehanders, and 25 horsepower for quartets. The two negatives of larger outboards - the extra weight and greatly increased fuel consumption - are offset by the benefits of increased speed and range.

The bad news is that good dinghy-outboard combinations don't come cheap. The good news is that with just a little care they should maintain most of their value for many years.

By the way, 21-year-old Viveka was the captain of Contrary to Ordinary in '85. She was even more competent than she was lovely.

LIGHTWEIGHT, BIG FLUKE

I read Ron Landmann's inquiry about the Barnacle brand anchor in the January issue. For those interested, Practical Sailor magazine has been publishing tests on various anchors. Although they have not tested the Barnacle anchor, they have reported the test results of many others - including the popular CQR, Bruce, and Fortress brands.

In their January 1 issue, they published the results of holding-in-sand tests, which according to them "produced some surprising results". The Bruce failed their test, ranking 9 out of 15; the Fortress FX-16 was the best of the lightweights at 5 out of 15; and the CQR, at 3 out of 15, was the best of the famous names. According to Practical Sailor's tests, the best anchors by far were the Spade Model 80, which ranked first, and the Bulwagga, which was second.

They found that some anchors didn't hold at all, and that "so-called lightweight, big-fluke anchors may not have the tremendous holding power generally attributed to them." Practical Sailor also did tests (February 1, 1998) to determine the setting characteristics of various anchors in sand and plans to continue their testing this summer in mud.

Practical Sailor, like Latitude 38, is always interesting reading. Back issues are available.

Neil Kaminar
Voluspa, Challanger 35
Santa Cruz

Neil - The thing that bothers us about Practical Sailor's tests - and the reason we don't do boat and/or gear tests - is that a little bit of knowledge can be misleading. We're sure the folks at P.S. do their testing as conscientiously as possible, but we suspect they don't have the resources to conduct what we'd consider to be meaningful tests.

For example, if you were going to test anchors "in sand", it seems to us that you darn well better test them in loose sand, packed sand, fine sand, coarse sand, sand over coral, sand over mud, and as many different permutations as possible. If you don't, you're likely to end up with misinformation. And the type of sand is just one of many variables that need to be considered. For example, how were the anchors set? How does the amount of scope affect the holding power of the different anchors? Is there a difference in the way anchors perform with chain rode as opposed to mostly rope rode? Do some anchors hold better when pulled from the side rather than from directly ahead? How do the different anchors hold when the wind shifts 180º? How do the anchors hold in rough water as compared with flat water? In other words, we think that merely testing an anchor for holding power is much too simplistic an approach for 'real world' conditions.

In 1995, a Sailing Foundation of Puget Sound investigation of anchors concluded that the Bruce - which PS apparently gave a "failed" rating - typically had 50% less holding power than the CQR. Since Steve and Linda Dashew, who have cruised nearly 200,000 ocean miles aboard a variety of boats, don't dispute this data, you have to wonder why they nonetheless describe the Bruce as the "champion" and "our favorite". The explanation is that the Dashew's evaluate anchors based on real life conditions, not a single lab test. The Dashews found that the Bruce: 1) Set more easily than the other types of anchors and was sometimes the only anchor that would consistently set. 2) Was the best when there was a change in direction of the pull, such as would occur in a windshift or tidal flow. 3) Did much better than a CQR in thin sand over coral. 4) Had better holding power in 3 to 1 scope conditions such as might be required in deep or crowded anchorages. And, 5) Was superior in areas where the bottom was fouled by rock and coral.

What to do about the Bruce's admitted disadvantage in sheer holding power? The Dashews solution was to dramatically increase the size of their anchor - noting that a 50-lb increase in the weight of the anchor was nothing in view of the weight of the entire anchoring package - meaning the anchor, the chain and/or line, the windlass, and the battery for the windlass. It's an interesting way to look at anchoring, one worth thinking about.

In their Offshore Encyclopedia - which has nine pages on anchors and 20 photos, some of them underwater - the Dashews recommend that active cruisers carry a Bruce for the main anchor, and Fortresses for back-up and stern anchors. For close-to-home sailing when the anchoring will mostly be done in sand or mud, they agree that Fortresses and CQRs would probably be the best.

As for P.S.'s apparent assertion that some 'lightweight, big-fluke anchors' don't have as much holding power as is sometimes attributed to them, perhaps they should talk to Randy West of Shadowfax. He had a number of anchors and moorings out on the southeast side of St. Martin when he tried to ride out the 205 knots of hurricane Luis aboard his 60-foot catamaran. Despite the fact that his single Fortress anchor was the smallest, it was the anchor that held the longest - even longer than the permanent moorings.

Ding-a-ling-a-ling! Excuse us, there's the phone.

We're back, and that was Lyn Pardey who we hadn't heard from in about 15 years. She and Larry have been cruising around the world together for more than 30 years on boats without engines, so their anchors are of critical importance. Just for kicks, we asked about their anchors. Lyn reports they trust their 29-foot boat and lives to a 35-lb CQR, two smaller Danforths, and one big Luke anchor that breaks down into three parts. "We're traditionalists through and through," Lyn notes.

If you're looking for extensive real life feedback based on cruising exclusively in the Pacific, John Neal reports that their Hallberg-Rassy 48 footer does well with a 75-lb CQR, a 44-lb Delta (which he describes as a "cross between a CQR and a Bruce, but better than a Bruce") and a 40-lb Danforth style anchor. These hooks have been up to the job, even in 85-knot winds just around the corner from Cape Horn.

By the way, we're not endorsing any type of anchor or anyone's quiver of anchors, we're just laying the information out for your consideration. We also don't mean to completely slam Practical Sailor, for while we think too much of their testing is overly simplistic, it's nonetheless one of several excellent places to start to become familiar with boat gear.

A NEW ALUMINUM BOAT MIGHT BE BETTER

The October letter writer looking for an aluminum sailboat - and anyone else interested in metal boats - might do well to get a brand new one rather than a used one.

Computer Aided Lofting/Numerically Controlled Cutting (CAL/NCC) is the process of using a numerically controlled torch to cut metal parts directly from the designer‰s CAD files. The result is essentially a boat kit, ready to weld together. This not only reduces labor costs by a lot, but means that homebuilding is much more feasible, and that a 'virtual shipyard' can be set up for just one project. In this case the owner gets a design and CNC data, then contracts out the welding, the cabinetry, and so on - acting as a sort of general contractor. The CAD files allow cabinetry and other components to be premade off the boat and delivered in kits as well. By the way, a CNC router for a full sheet of plywood only costs about $3,000, so they are fairly common.

The bottom line is that a custom metal boat can be built for about the same cost as a production fiberglass one. What is lost in one-time costs such as design fees and so on is made up by eliminating tooling, dealer and marketing costs. Readers interested in this can check out the 3D CAD/CAM forum on www.databoat.com or the metal boatbuilding forum on www.boatbuilding.com.

On the subject of balls, the expression "cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey" is entirely innocent. A 'monkey' is the frame that holds a stack of cannonballs. Since brass contracts more with temperature than iron, at some point, the 'monkey' can contract enough to slip under the edge of the pile, releasing the balls. Of course, this won‰t happen with an iron monkey.

Chris Barry, P.E.
North America

Readers - Speaking of new aluminum sailboats, one of the big hits of the Nicholson's 37th annual Charterboat Show in Antigua was Douce France, a lovely 135-foot by 50-foot aluminum catamaran - making her big enough to dwarf Steve Fosset's new PlayStation. Designed by Marc Van Peteghem and Vincent Lauriot-Prevost of Paris for the charter trade, berths go for about $10,000 per week. Check her out in this month's World of Chartering.

BOAT-BUYING PROCEDURES

I think you may be able to give me some guidance, as I need to know the transaction methods and procedures generally followed regarding boat purchases. For example, with residential real estate, the buyer presents a written offer, and then there are inspections, and an escrow. Can you point me to a publication, web site, or an association where I can, pardon the expression, get my feet wet?

Ken Coren
Mill Valley

Ken - Here's the normal drill, which is very similar to real estate:

1) The buyer makes a contractual offer and backs it up with a 10% 'earnest money' deposit that goes into either a broker's trust account or one the buyer and the seller set up at a bank. The contractual offer is typically subject to certain conditions. Common ones are the approval of a survey and the obtaining of financing and insurance. But such conditions can also include everything from getting the wife's appoval on the color of the curtains to having a week to think it over.

2) If the seller accepts the offer, the buyer hires a surveyor and pays to have the boat hauled out for a survey. At the same time, the buyer should get to work on eliminating the other conditions he put on the offer.

3) Most surveys identify shortcomings. It may be as short as getting the fire extinguishers refilled or it may be many pages long. Once the survey comes in, it's often time to start haggling again. The buyer may lower his price and/or demand that the seller take care of certain deficiencies. If an agreement is reached, an updated contract is signed. If no agreement is reached, the deal has fallen apart and the buyer gets his deposit back.

4) Assuming an agreement has been reached and the other conditions of sale have been satisfied, the broker or bank trust department handles the transfers of money and title.

5) The buyer of the boat goes sailing on his new-to-him vessel, while the seller starts prowling the pages of Latitude looking for his next sailboat.

WHY A 'SHE'

First, I need to let you know that there is no better rag in the world than Latitude! I don‰t know what I did before I started reading it three years ago. I also want to say that doing the Baja Ha-Ha is one of life's great pleasures.

Now, the real reason for this note. Have you or any of your readers seen a long description on why boats are called 'she'? It mentions stuff like . . . 'without someone at the helm, she‰ll flounder'. This is only one of the many examples I read a year ago on a poster in a fish market on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. It was very amusing and fun to read, but I can't find it again. Help!

George Kiselica
San Diego

George - We've read a number of cute and amusing explanations for why vessels are referred to in the feminine - but can't remember any of them. As for the real reason, it seems simple enough to us. First off, there are only three choices: Masculine, feminine, and neuter. Referring to a boat in the masculine just isn't going to cut it because the vast majority of guys aren't going to feel comfortable drinking in a bar and saying stuff like, "If I didn't love him so much I wouldn't have spent every last penny on him." And calling a vessel 'it' is to imply the vessel has no life or soul - attributes of only the very worst of boats. On the other hand, what guys isn't only too happy to proclaim, "I really love that girl!" Or brag, "She's my mistress, there isn't anything I wouldn't do for her!" So really, how could boats be anything but 'she'?

It doesn't hurt that men find enormous similarities in their relations with women and boats. In fact, we can't think of a description of a boat or a woman that couldn't be used interchangeably. For example, if a guys says, "I blew all my money on that cranky bitch, but she was so beautiful that I'll never regret it," who is to tell if he's referring to his girlfriend or his Santana 35?

WHERE CAN THEY BE CONTACTED?

We were sad to read about the lives and boats lost on the way to New Zealand in November. One of the boats lost was Freya, with Bruce, Marianne, and 13-year-old Heath aboard. We met the Burman family in La Paz last year and quickly became friends. We'd talked about buddyboating with them down the Mexican coast to Costa Rica and then west to the South Pacific, but they were on a faster track than we. We lost track of them as they went south, but we thought of them often. Then we saw the article abut them in Latitude. It's not what we wanted to read about them, but thank God they were rescued safely.

We're hoping that someone out there has an email or other address for the Burman family or knows where they can be contacted. Our email address is: KD7BXE@mer.win-net.org

Gary & Amy
Quartersplash
Puerto Vallarta

Gary & Amy - Our understanding is that the Burmans have been in New Zealand since the November incident, but will be arriving back in the States in early March. Someone who recently spoke with them reports that they eventually want to share their story so others may benefit from it, but we're not sure how or when that's going to happen.

Incidentally, after our December article appeared, we were forwarded a copy of an article by Pat Burman, Ron's mother, that appeared in The Islands' Sounder. She reported the following as fact:

- Before leaving Orcas Island in 1977, the Burman family had outfitted their 45-foot full keel cutter with new sails, a new engine "and every safety device and navigation aid available".

- When just 75 miles from their destination of Whangarei, the Burmans were hit by a low pressure system "that the satellite weather report didn't see coming".

(This 'fact' is curious. Des Rennar of Russell Radio reportedly advised Freya - and perhaps Salacia, too - that they would be hit by very nasty winds and big seas if they kept heading for New Zealand. At least six other vessels, Destiny and Mischief among them, heeded Rennar's advice and either stopped further to the north or turned and headed the other way. Apparently they ended up heaving-to in nothing more than 15 knots of wind and moderate seas. Rennar has reportedly lost quite a bit of sleep wondering what he could have possibly said to get Freya and Salacia to turn around before it was too late.)

- Before the winds reached the maximum of 70 knots and the seas 50 feet, the Burmans took down all sail and set a sea anchor from the bow - contrary to some reports which said it had been set from the stern. Nonetheless, the boat was "tossed around like a basketball", and before long the line to the sea anchor broke. (In early January at a cruiser party in Whangarei, Burman told Carol Noel of Elyxir that the 3/4-inch nylon broke six feet off the bow, which would suggest that chafe isn't the reason it parted.)

- Four or five times waves broke over Freya and rolled her 360º, resulting in "the occupants being thrown around like the contents of a clothes dryer". On a number of occasions they found themselves lying on the overhead of the overturned boat. (Noel was told that the first time Freya rolled was shortly after the line to the sea anchor broke. Burman told her that he was no longer sure if they were rolled more times after that or just very badly knocked down.)

- Freya was hit so hard by waves that the screwed down floorboards broke loose. The rollovers and/or knockdowns caused everything to be cleared from the deck, including the dinghy, liferaft, davits, lifelines, antennas and mast. Dogged down hatches were torn off, portholes were blown in, and teak planks stripped from the decks.

- The container holding the liferaft on deck, secured by two one-inch stainless steel straps, was torn loose. Although the inflated raft temporarily remained tethered to the boat, the line holding it eventually wore through. After the liferaft disappeared, the Burmans set off their EPIRB. (Noel was told that when the strobe on the inflated liferaft went off behind the boat, the Burmans - in the chaos - thought it might have been Salacia, which they knew was in the area.)

- Although the spar and rigging continued to slam into the side of the boat, the weather conditions made it too dangerous to cut the mast and rigging loose. (Burman told Noel that the mast wasn't lost in the rollover or even immediately after, but after repeated knockdowns the rigging had become very loose. Burman eventually went on deck with the boltcutters to cut the mast away, but after giving a second's thought to the working conditions, he laughed - and tossed the boltcutters overboard!)

- Unknown to the Burmans, their EPIRB stopped working. Fortunately, they continuously broadcasted a Mayday over the VHF. The signal from the VHF was weak because the main antenna was gone, but it was nonetheless picked up by a fixed wing aircraft just a mile away - about as far as their signal reached without an antenna. (Marianne later told Noel that she and her family were always "determined", even when continuously broadcasting a Mayday.)

- When a 50-year-old unpaid Kiwi rescue worker was lowered to the water next to Freya, he was smashed up against the hull. At this point it was impossible to look into the wind-driven rain. Marianne and the rescue worker were the last to be lifted off, and were twice dunked by huge waves.

- On a scale of 1 to 10, the storm was a 9, and the worst off New Zealand in many years.

- All three of the Burmans were taken by ambulance to a hospital where they were treated for cuts, bruises, contusions, and mild hypothermia. The hospital washed and dried their only clothes, and refused payment for their services. The ambulance crew later drove them downtown and paid for their hotel suite.

- Immediately after the incident, Bruce Burman said he was going to take up gardening. (In January, Marianne told Noel that the loss of their boat hadn't "cooked them" for sailing, and they would surely buy another boat sometime in the future. Noel noted that the Burmans felt like they were still part of the cruising group and didn't show or express any ill effects for the loss of their boat. They did have insurance.)

By the way, in our December issue we reported that Mike Fritz had told some cruisers that he hadn't broadcast a mayday from his San Diego-based Tayana 37 Salacia, and that the rescue attempt by the ship Direct Kookaburra hadn't been wanted. Official records, however, indicate receiving a mayday call from Salacia over Channel 16 at 272115 Zulu from 34-27S, 174-52E, and reported the vessel had steering problems. All vessels within 200 nautical miles were instructed to report their position, speed, course and estimated time of arrival.

Subsequently, several cruisers have told us that Fritz was very careful - even Clintonian - in choosing his words when discussing whether or not a mayday had been put out. In other words, some cruisers feel that either Julie-Ann Black rather than Fritz might have issued a mayday, or one of them had called for assistance but didn't actually use the word 'mayday'. Direct Kookaburra and Salacia, most readers will remember, slammed together during the pre-dawn rescue attempt. Black, who had first met Fritz in Bora Bora, somehow disappeared from the lifering that had been lowered from the ship. Neither she nor the Tayana 37 were ever seen again.

WEBS AND TIDES

I like your web page, because it's simple, doesn't have a ton of graphics I don't need and which take an hour to load up, and is easy to use. What more could we want - other than a good sailboat with clean lines?

Question. Is there a place on the net where I can get the tide tables? I don‰t sail enough to buy the tables, but sometimes I'd like to know a good time to visit the tide pools.

David Woods
Alameda

David - Take yourself to www.latitude38.com, hit 'links', and you'll find that the second link down is - courtesy of KPIX - the tide tables. But don't stop there, as these and other links will give you real time camera views of the Central Bay and other spots, wind patterns, currents and weather predictions - everything but the winning lottery numbers.

Or, you could pick up a copy - while they last - of Latitude's just released 1999 Northern California Sailing Calendar and YRA Master Schedule. The 52-page book has the weekend tides plus a ton of other useful information.

DOESN'T GIVE A DAMN IF IT WAS NYLON

Roger Bohl‰s lengthy dissertation on kinetics and the virtues of double braid versus triple strand nylon in the February issue left me wondering what he was trying to prove.

Published accounts of the fatal accident at Disneyland don‰t provide any specifics, and my comments on the topic are based on several assumptions: First, that the line in question was nylon, and second, that it was not properly - if at all - tended to on the dock.

Nylon lines have several characteristics which may be a blessing or a detriment, depending upon how they are used. Nylon is extremely strong, which makes it very popular. It's also very heavy, particularly in the large sizes used on ships, and therefore may require a half-dozen or so hands and power equipment to handle a single line. Finally, it stretches up to 30% of its length - which can make it extremely dangerous.

The U.S. Navy uses nylon mooring lines, which are expensive, almost exclusively. Fortunately, the Navy has lots of money and lots of sailors. Nylon lines are often used in conjunction with the ship‰s engines to bring a vessel alongside a berth when tugs are not available. When this is done, the line handlers are supervised by experienced petty officers to avoid excessive strain. It makes no difference if there is a cleat at the end or not, a nylon line which breaks under heavy strain is a potential killer. The petty officers also check to see that nylon lines are never allowed to fall into the water where they could sink and get fouled in the screws.

Other types of lines - such as polypropylene, manila and dacron - are cheaper, lighter, not as strong, and except for dacron tend to float. As a result, many shipping companies use these lines, particularly polypro, because they can be handled by inexperienced people with greater safety. Your new trailer boat has a winch on the tongue which is fitted with polypro or steel cable because neither stretches before breaking, so nobody would be injured.

In the Disneyland incident, I have to assume that the on-deck end was securely cleated down with no one tending it, and that the other end had a large eye which was simply thrown over a cleat, which then became a missile when the cleat pulled out of the dock. I‰m sure that the fellow who was killed doesn‰t give a damn whether the line was double braid or triple strand or what.

Frank Taylor
San Diego

Frank - Perhaps Bohl's point wasn't written - or edited - with sufficient clarity, but we think he was trying to make two points: 1) Nylon line is better for docklines than leftover dacron double braid because it stretches and therefore shock loads don't get transferred to vulnerable cleats and such, and 2) Don't use undersize nylon line because if it stretches to the breaking point, it can kill.

I DON'T EVEN REMEMBER A SPLASH

As I was leaving for work on February 4th at 2245, I stepped off my boat - and landed smack in the water! I don‰t even remember a splash or falling in. All I recall is realizing that I was underwater and someone whispering to me to drop all the magazines I had in my hands. I did and as a result rose to the surface.

Coughing, gasping and grabbing for the dock, I tried to pull myself onto the dock. I couldn‰t. So I decided to remove my tennis shoes by using one hand to hold onto the dock and the other to untie the shoes. Naturally, these meant putting my head under again. Although I valiantly tried to get one leg on the dock, it was simply too high over my head.

Then I tried to find a foothold with which to climb up. Because it's a cement dock, the foam pontoons are set well back from the edge - and loaded with either mussels or various sponges. It was so slimy and slippery that I couldn't keep a foothold.

I have a spring line on the boat that stretches from the stern to a center cleat on the dock. Going hand-on-hand along the dock, I made my way down to the center cleat and then grabbed the spring line that was in the water. Tucked in between the boat and the dock, I had more stability and support.

But before I tried to get out, I needed to remove my jacket, which was really weighing me down. Unfortunately, it was zippered and snapped, and every time I let go of the dock with one hand to try to undo the coat, I would slip back down into the water. By this time I was not only getting pretty exhausted, but I was very cold. My feet, for example, felt like ice cubes. But I still couldn't get my jackets off.

It's amazing how fast things start flashing through your brain. I thought about the security guard; when was the last time he'd been down here, would he be back soon, would he be back at all? Then I began going down a mental list of who else might be nearby in the marina, who might be sleeping aboard, who might be awake. I decided that my best bet would be to holler for help - while I still had the strength - until I couldn‰t holler any more. Having swallowed quite a bit of water, I was no longer in the best of shape.

For what seemed like five minutes, I yelled and screamed for help. Finally, I saw my neighbor Melody's head pop into the cockpit of a boat three berths down. You can‰t imagine the relief and feeling of tranquility that swept over me! I could see that she recognized my voice, that she was getting off her boat, and that she was calling my name. Then she couldn't find me, and was running up and down the dock. Finally she ran down the right finger and tried to pull me out. She couldn't.

After asking if I could hold on a minute longer, Melody ran back to her boat and pounded on the hull to get her husband up. Having obviously been asleep, he mumbled as he ran down the dock toward me. He pushed the boat away from the dock, which allowed me to slip back down in the water. But then they both grabbed me and yanked me up onto the dock! As I was lying sprawled flat out on the dock, Melody pulled my coat off. It must have weighted 15 pounds! It doesn't surprise me, because it's been very cold - even icy - on the docks, so it was my second heaviest/warmest coat. But it sure wasn't warm once I was in the water Beneath the coat was a sweatshirt which, when wet, must have weighed another 15 pounds! Beneath that I was wearing nothing but a T-shirt; boy, was I freezing! I figure I'd been in the water for 15 minutes.

I can‰t in a million years thank Melody and Ron Seagraves enough. They were new neighbors of mine so I barely even knew them. Initially she thought my shouts were merely a screaming cat. I have a boat cat. In any event, they saved my life.

I‰m originally from Washington State, and every dock I‰ve ever been on all the way up to Alaska has at least one ladder that stretches into the water. But I've never seen ladders on docks down here. Maybe it's something that's needed. I‰m berthed at Marina Bay in Richmond, and I have a ladder. But if it was hanging off of anything, it would surely be stolen - just like the gas can for my outboard was a few weeks ago. So what I'm going to do is take a line, put a loop in it, and keep it tied to a cleat. That way if I ever need it, I could pull the loop end into the water and use it for a foothold. That might work. I'm also going to put a whistle in every jacket I own.

I‰ve been on boats now over 50 years, and although I've been pushed in, shoved in, picked up and thrown in, I have never fallen in. And some people have told me that I'm the most coordinated person they've ever seen. So how could this have happened? When I stepped off the boat ladder, I stepped onto an electrical cord that had never been there before. I believe the cord rolled beneath my foot, and because I was top heavy from the weight of all the magazines, away I went into the water. I‰ve always told people to never jump off a boat, but rather always step off and hold onto something. I guess I wasn‰t holding on to anything but magazines. How could I be so stupid? What was my electrical cord doing there?

On long voyages, I always warn crew about complacency and the danger of getting too cocky. Good advice for myself, too. Especially at a dock. I‰m one mass of bruises and am limping like crazy - I think I must have hit the dock or boat while falling into the water. But at least I'm alive. Thanks, of course, to Melody and Ron. Actually, "thanks" doesn't begin to express my feelings to these two because for an instant, my life was truly was in their hands.

Rita Coy
Captain, Valkyrie, three-masted schooner
Marina Bay, Richmond

Rita - Thanks for sharing your experience with us. The last time we looked at a breakdown of boating fatalities, a shocking percentage of them happened when the boat was tied to the dock.

THE VIEWPOINT OF THE VICTIM!

I'm responding to a letter in your December 1998 issue from Keith Lawrie of Lawrie's Boat Services in Mooloolaba, Australia. Mr. Lawrie was responding to an earlier letter, of which we were not aware, that had been submitted by our cruising friends aboard Dreamer. Although almost a year has gone by since the unfortunate incident in question, I feel your readers have a right to hear our side of the story before they decide to use Lawrie's.

My wife Maggie and I arrived in Mooloolaba in November 1997 and hauled our boat, First Choice, out at Lawrie's for storage so we could travel back to the States. We met with Mr. Lawrie before leaving and asked specifically about security. He told us not to worry, that they would take care of our Centurion 47.

We use a combination lock to secure the companionway, and provided Charlie Miller, Lawrie's yard manager, with the combination. He requested it in case of an emergency. Miller was the only one besides us with the combination, and he agreed not to share it with anyone else.

While we were away, Mr. Miller notified us that our boat had been robbed. When we returned to Australia and examined the boat, we realized that the loss was quite extensive. Although Mr. Lawrie states in his letter that the items taken "were of minor and relatively little value", the final total came to over $6,000 U.S. - and among other things, included our new 15 h.p. outboard, cameras, and computer equipment. Unfortunately, our insurance deductible was above this amount.

We also found there had been no forced entry. The four-tumbler combination lock had been opened without any force. In fact, a similar lock - with the same combination - had been opened on the outboard motor. Although Mr. Miller had somewhat straightened up the boat to save us a shock upon our return, the boat was still a complete mess. Every drawer, cabinet, floorboard space and locker had been ransacked. In addition, we found empty wine and beer bottles - indicating that the thieves had been in no hurry and perhaps were even comfortable being aboard.

Since there was no forced entry, we spoke with Mr. Lawrie about his yard's responsibility. He was not at all sympathetic, and declared that he and his yard had responsibility to protecting boats stored in his care. Mr. Lawrie's letter to Latitude was full of misleading statements. Rather than contest each one in detail, I simply decided to state the facts from our viewpoint.

If we were to visit Australia again by boat, we would not leave our boat in the care of Lawrie's Boat Services.

P.S. We're continuing a slow circumnavigation which started in 1989.

Bill & Maggie Choice
First Choice, Wauquiez Centurion 47
Maldives, Indian Ocean / Texas


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