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STUGERON SIDE-EFFECTS

Caution on Stugeron!

I'm reluctant to write this, but it may help some of your readers. We also heard that Stugeron was a good cure for motion sickness. We read a little bit of anecdotal information on the Internet that portrays it to be a safe drug with no known side-effects. Since friends of ours had used it for two years without side-effects, we purchased some in Mexico for use while sailing.

Anyone opting to take Stugeron should be careful when purchasing the product. We, for example, were not aware that it comes in 75 mg tablets and 150 mg capsules. Because of the language barrier in Mexico and our own ignorance, we assumed that Stugeron was a motion sickness medication - like Dramamine. Consequently, we wound up taking the capsule. One person in our group of six became very ill and another was drowsy for eight hours. The rest of us felt a little queasy.

Because of these reactions, we decided to do a little more research on the product to learn more and determine the proper dose. What we learned has caused us to rethink the use of such a powerful drug for just motion sickness. The reason stronger doses of Stugeron are available is because it's used in the treatment of epilepsy, Meniere¹s Disease, migraine headaches, vestibular irritation, labyrinthine arteriosclerosis, arteriosclerosis, vasospasm, vertigo - and a host of other serious disorders. It is a powerful calcium channel blocker, a strong antihistamine, and a vascular spasmolytic. It also reduces motion sickness. Your readers should give careful consideration to whether motion sickness is a sufficient illness to warrant the use of such a powerful drug.

In addition, we subsequently found that Stugeron is not a 'new' drug - as had been our impression. Cinnarazine, the generic name, has been around since the '70s - although the United States Food & Drug Administration has yet to approve it for use. We contacted Janssen, the manufacturer, directly and a researcher, who shall remain nameless, suggested that for casual sailors other remedies might be more prudent choices for combating motion sickness.

Stugeron may eventually prove to be a good choice for treating motion sickness, however for the moment we have opted to return to taking approved over-the-counter medications. Should the USDA eventually give Stugeron the green light for use in treating motion sickness, we'll then be the first in line. In the meantime, we'd suggest that everyone heed Latitude's advice of talking to their doctor before taking Stugeron.

I'm not interested in getting into a debate on this, so please withhold my name.

N.W.

North America

Readers - Modern drugs have the ability to do fantastic good - as well as harm - so it's just common sense to proceed with caution. Even though a number of cruisers have raved about Stugeron to combat mal de mer, it would be very foolish for anyone to take it without having consulted their doctor first. After all, the last thing you need at sea is a bad reaction to - or overdose from - a powerful drug.

ONE OF THE GREATEST SAILING VESSELS AFLOAT?

Having just finished reading the September issue of your fine publication, I feel compelled to jump to the defense of the marine surveyor whom you quoted regarding Bill Tripp's Columbia 26 Mk II design.

Having sailed extensively in the Columbia 26, 34 and 45-footers, and having survived hurricane force winds on three separate occasions - once in my father's 45-footer and twice in my own 26-footer - I throw my hat into the ring with the marine surveyor.

I won't go quite so far as he did, but Bill Tripp's Columbia 26 Mk II is definitely one of the finest production boats of its era.

Bill 'Capt. Bubba' Hoffman

Vancouver, WA

Bill - We like to see people who take pride in their boats - but please, let's not get carried away! The marine surveyor who made the absurd claim that the Columbia 26 Mk II is "one of the best all-around sailing vessels afloat" is unfortunately all too typical of those expressing opinions on the Internet. If he were to objectively compare the Columbia 26 to an Express 27, for example, he'd have no choice but to conclude that the latter was vastly superior in design, construction, sailing ability, and handling characteristics. If the Express was a 10, the Columbia would only be a 3 or 4.

As for your lesser claim that the Columbia 26 Mk II is "definitely one of the finest production boats of its era", we suggest you spend a few hours checking out a Yankee 26. We doubt you'd find any Yankee 26 owners willing to swap boats for your Columbia 26, but there would be plenty of Columbia 26 owners willing to swap their boats for Yankee 26s.

For the most part, Tripp-era Columbias were the Chevies of the sailboat world. For the time, the designs were good enough - especially if you were looking for maximum interior space. The construction was nothing to write home about, however, as the glass work was usually done with chopper guns as opposed to being laid-up by hand. In some models, the combination of design and construction methods resulted in serious cases of 'oil-canning'. Furthermore, a lot of fin keel Columbias had problems with their cast iron ballast.

Mind you, we're not trashing the Columbias, as the smaller ones were perfectly decent boats for what they were designed and built to do - sail the relatively benign waters of Southern California, San Francisco Bay and such. This is not to say that some ballsy cruisers haven't taken them much further afar - and even around the world.

FINDING A BARGE AND ANCHORING OUT

I¹m wondering if you know what the situation is with anchoring a boat or barge off Sausalito? It looks as though there are a bunch of people anchored out and living out there. I¹m thinking about finding a barge and anchoring it there so I can have a little place to get away from The City. Should I be aware of any issues?

Ben Rigby

Sausalito

Ben - The main issue you need to be aware of is that your barge will not be welcomed by the Richardson Bay Regional Agency (made up of all the cities that front Richardson Bay and the County of Marin, or the BCDC (Bay Conservation and Development Commission). For the better part of a quarter century, the above agencies have been trying to get rid of what they consider to be illegal anchor-outs. In the short term, they're allowing the problem to somewhat take care of itself through attrition rather than sudden abatement, but rest assured that you most certainly will not be allowed to anchor a non-commercial barge in Richardson Bay - particularly one that might be used for residential purposes.

Just so everybody is clear on the matter, navigable vessels can legally anchor off Sausalito for 72 hours. After that, they need to get a permit from Harbormaster Bill Price. If you have a legitimate navigable vessel, he will issue a permit for 30 days - and almost always grant two 30-day extensions.

There are numerous visions of the future of anchoring/mooring off Sausalito. We, for example, believe their should be four different areas: One for vessels that are currently there and can be brought up to reasonable sanitation and safety standards; one for permanent anchor-outs that comply with navigation and sanitation regulations; one for up to 90-day transient vessels; and a large day anchorage. In our opinion, all vessels should hang on professionally installed and maintained mooring buoys - except for day visitors during major holidays - and that there should be adequate dinghy docks and restrooms - with showers. The latter is the least Sausalito could do for all the money they make off of sailors.

CHANGES AT ADUANA?

The rules for re-importing gear into Mexico have evidently changed. Again.

While making our way down from Mazatlan to Nuevo Vallarta last spring, our Furuno radar, depthsounder, 1kw inverter, and all of the handheld VHFs went on the fritz. Parts for this stuff could only be found back in the States, so we packed the stuff in our motorhome - which we'd brought down from Petaluma, a story in itself - for transport back to California.

Before leaving for the summer, we told Sergio, the Harbormaster at Nuevo Vallarta, of our plans. He told us to provide him with a detailed list of the gear going back, and that the best way to return the repaired equipment was to fly it back down. Customs, he said, would take possession of the equipment upon arrival, but a simple letter from Sergio would release the stuff to us at no charge, because we'd already imported the electronics - along with our boat - during the '97 Ha-Ha under the 20-Year Import Permit.

But apparently there's been a change in the rules. Rumor has it that a cruiser imported an entire diesel engine using this process and sold it at a huge profit. Mexican Customs is said to have gone ballistic. This incident apparently prompted the change.

When I flew back down to the boat in September for a week of vacation with a box of repaired electronic items, Customs took possession, as promised. However, they said they were no longer accepting letters from anyone but acknowledged agents willing to take full responsibility for the disposition of the gear.

So I hired Vilma, who speaks perfect English, monitors Channel 22, and has an office at Marina Vallarta. She charged $40 U.S. for a letter to Mexican Customs, and $20 to accompany me to the airport to convince Customs to release the stuff. The agents there wanted receipts for every piece of gear in the box, but after four hours of pawing through the box, 'discussions', and waiting, they reluctantly let me have my stuff. Considering the delicate and complicated negotiations with the suspicious Customs agents at the Puerto Vallarta Airport, Vilma earned her money.

I don¹t know if the rule changes are widespread, but this was the protocol in Banderas Bay as of September 7. But who knows, this target could still be moving. I still love Mexico and her people, and I¹ve learned that you need to expect the unexpected - and take a good book wherever you go.

Jim Cochran

Bliss, Morgan Out-Island 33

Nuevo Vallarta / Petaluma

Jim - Your letter makes two very valuable points: 1) The laws in Mexico are subject to constant change and interpretation; and 2) Being very patient is a virtue in Mexico - although it may require hours if not days of waiting.

Trying to import or re-import boat gear duty-free into poorer foreign countries is never a sure thing. Over a period of many years, we almost entirely rebuilt Big O by importing gear that certainly totalled more than $100,000 in value - including two complete sets of sails, two stoves, 23 cushions, 24 opening hatches, a roller furling system, a complete set of rigging, windlasses, blocks, radars and other electronics, dinghies, outboards, sailboards, the materials for an osmosis job, and just about everything else that could possibly go into or onto a boat. Thanks to a variety of techniques we ultimately became quite adept at, we managed to get this massive amount of gear imported duty-free through just about every island with a major airport in the Caribbean, from the British Virgins all the way down to Trinidad. St. Martin, of course, was the easiest. To this day you can bring anything onto that island that airlines will allow on a plane.

After about 10 years, we finally got 'busted' in Antigua, where the Customs people knew us and where we'd already brought in a small fortune worth of gear. Our situation was similar to yours: we were trying to bring obviously repaired electronic gear back to our boat. Mr. Customs Man didn't care that it was repaired gear or that we had receipts for the work. Nor was he willing to explain how he valued the gear to calculate the duty owed. The figure of $112 popped into his head and he was sticking with it no matter what. Realizing we'd enjoyed an extraordinary run of good luck importing stuff, we paid the money, and made our way down to English Harbor and the Galley Bar, where a couple of Planter's Punches helped us forget all about it.

Back to Mexico. If anyone else has had good or bad current experiences importing or re-importing boat gear to Mexico, we would like to hear about it.

IS SHE BUILT WELL ENOUGH?

Four years ago I realized a 25-year dream and bought my first sailboat - a great little Columbia 26 Mk II. She has a good suit of sails and a professionally installed Johnson saildrive with 40 hours on it. Since then I've taken her out every month on San Francisco Bay. She's beautifully handled the great weather - as well as some 50+ knot winds and six-foot chop around Horseshoe Cove. I've also singlehanded her out the Gate, through the Potato Patch to the Farallones - and I'm thrilled.

I've completely redone her interior: new wood hatches front and rear, drop boards, and refitted her with a beefier boom and an internal outhaul.

Here's my question: I'm getting 'the itch' and keep thinking about sailing to Hawaii, then Japan, and then continuing down the coast to Australia and Borneo with her. You know, pack it up and take off. I know my little Columbia is no bluewater cruiser, but do you think they were built well enough to handle a trip like I'm planning?

John

Dawn Treader, soon to be Ronin

South San Francisco

John - Your Columbia 26 definitely might have been built strong enough - as long as you don't encounter too much bad weather. Seriously, here's the deal: The sailboat hasn't been built that can't be destroyed by the sea, so what you're dealing with are degrees of risk. Would you be safer attempting the trip in a Westsail 32 or a Cal 40? Yes. Would you be guaranteed of completing the trip safely if you had a Westsail 32 or a Cal 40? No.

Despite the fact that Tripp didn't design the boat and Columbia didn't build the boat for the purpose you propose, a few people - even families - have sailed around the world in similar boats. Usually the boats have been beefed up in key areas, but they've made it. If you feel comfortable regularly sailing the boat to the Farallones and back, who are we to say you shouldn't expand your horizons?

On the other hand, far more people who start such adventures in similar boats quickly give up because they've misjudged what they're getting into. Nothing personal, but we wouldn't be surprised if you started but then gave up at - or even before - Hawaii. But it would probably be because the boat was too small for your personal comfort, not because she fell apart.

You also might want to consider sailing to Australia by way of Mexico and the South Pacific rather than Hawaii and Japan. It's a lot easier and you get to avoid the waters around Japan, which are subject to typhoons almost every month of the year.

By the way, we've been sailing the Bay for nearly 30 years, and we can't ever remember being out in more than 50 knots of wind or seeing chop anywhere near six feet. If you want a realistic idea of what 50 knots of wind feels like, drive down the freeway at about 55 mph and stick your head out the window.

THE WORST NIGHT OF OUR LIVES

In the September issue, Jim and Pam McEntyer asked about screens for and comments on 'no-see-ums'. While I've often been tempted to respond to articles or comments in Latitude, no subject is as near and dear to my skin as no-see-ums. For all of my 67 years, I have thought of myself as able to handle any flying bug. But while spending three years up and down the west coast of Mexico aboard our boat Awesome, I met my Waterloo. We had run-ins with no-see-ums in lots of anchorages, but none like at Isla San Francisco in the Sea of Cortez.

It has been over five years since we were there, and I'm recalling from a bad memory bank, but it happened something like this: We had anchored about 3/4 mile from the mangroves just to be sure we were far enough away from the no-see-ums. Then, at midday, we took the dinghies ashore to explore "before the no-see-ums come out to play". The group included Pril and me, our friend Lauri and her son Jeff, and Alan and Nedra from Blythe Spirit. After about half an hour, Lauri began complaining about getting bitten, so we returned to the boat.

Alan and Nedra spent the afternoon and evening on our boat, and we enjoyed dinner just before dark. About the time we finished eating, we all started getting bit. Alan and Nedra returned to their boat. We later heard that they only had minimal discomfort from the little beasts. As for the four of us aboard Awesome, we had the worst night of our lives! We sprayed and doused ourselves with every insect repellent on the boat, but within minutes of each application the biting would resume. A breeze might have helped, but there was none. As it was a black and moonless night, and there were reefs offshore, I was afraid to raise the anchor and move away. So we suffered.

At daybreak we left. When we got a couple of miles offshore, I closed up the belowdecks area and sprayed a lot of flying insect spray. When I opened up and went below, I found that our white Formica countertop was brown with thousands of little specs. One of the regrets of my life is that I cleaned off that counter without looking at it with a magnifying glass. How anything so small can hurt so much by biting - not to mention the later infection - is beyond me. They have to be one big mouth with huge teeth. I've since read that the real pain mechanism is that they deposit an acid-like substance that both stings and creates an allergy.

For some reason, Pril¹s body got over the effects within a couple of days, but it took me two full weeks to get over the itching and oozing of the bites. Pril put calamine lotion on each of my individual bites several times a day and entertained herself by counting the spots. Her count was never the same, but the average number was 550! Later experiences taught me that I could get over the effects in two or three days if I showered at least three times a day and scrubbed the affected area with a soapy washrag. Rumor has it that the no-see-ums lay eggs in the skin and that those, in turn, hatch, bite, lay eggs and so on. There may be some truth to this as the act of washing often seemed to break the cycle.

As for Jim and Pam's question about how fine a screen is needed to kept them out, in my opinion nothing short of a sheet of glass or plastic will do the job. I have heard that regular screens will work - if they are sprayed every day with insect spray. The theory is that they'll touch the edge of a hole - and the poison - they're coming through and die before they get to you. But I've never tried it. When we started our cruise, we had screens on every opening. As time has gone on, we've pretty much given up using them because regular window screens restrict air flow by an incredible 75% - and you need maximum air circulation in the tropics. Anything with smaller holes would be like no screen at all. Anchoring well offshore gives you the best protection - and also gives you the best chance for maximum air flow for comfort.

Why were we so badly attacked 3/4 mile offshore while Blythe Spirit was relatively unaffected? I believe that it was because our boat was in a party mode when it turned dark, and our spreader and cockpit lights drew the no-see-ums to us. It's still a mystery to me how they can fly so far with such tiny wings. But they can!

One of the great advantages to being where we are now - Majuro, Republic of the Marshall Islands - is that there are no no-see-ums. While there are mosquitoes here, we've never gotten a welt to indicate having been bitten. Hence, no need for screens.

On another subject, you published a letter in late '87 from Bill and Ann aboard Sendya, who wrote about what a great place this was. You responded by saying that several years before a cruising boat had been boarded in Majuro and the skipper badly beaten, and wondered if things had changed. We've been stalled here for almost three years and can report that we've never locked our boat yet, no matter if we're aboard or not. We leave everything - including dive and scuba gear on deck - and haven't had anything taken. We have never been anywhere where we have enjoyed such freedom from harassment as we have in Majuro or in the whole of the Marshall Islands. Micronesia is an undiscovered cruising paradise!

Actually, there is one exception here in the Marshalls. During our visit to the Kwajalein Army Base on Kwajalein, some Marshallese visitors got away with several things while we watched a great Fourth of July fireworks show.

Dick Brooks and Pril Hagen

Awesome

Majuro, Republic of Marshall Islands

Dick & Pril - It's been our experience that no-see-ums are indeed party animals who have a penchant for bright lights and crowds.

With respect to Majuro, it must have been 15 years ago that we interviewed the older couple who had been attacked there aboard their Cal 46. They reported that the only thing that prevented his being beaten to death in the cockpit of his boat was the fact he'd just received a shipment of tear gas the day before. We're pleased to learn that such violence seems to be a thing of the distant past.

DON'T TOSS AWAY THAT WEDDING DRESS JUST YET

Our solution to the no-see-um problem was simple: we purchased white netting at Downwind Marine in San Diego to make covers for our hatches and companionway. The screening that came with the ports worked just fine for us. After several cruisers were having problems, I took them to a fabric store in Z-town where they bought bridal veil material - which worked just as well.

Having participated in both Ha-Ha I in '94 and Ha-Ha IV in '97, we're looking forward to doing it again - possibly next year. By the way, we no longer have an address for Mark and Debra of Eagles Quest and Ha-Ha I. Does anyone have an email address for them? We were also glad to read about John and Kim on Skywater. It sounds as though a lot of Ha-Ha I participants made it to New Zealand. We did, too - although by plane.

Dick and Marcia Rowland

West Wind

Santa Barbara

THE GOOD AND BAD ABOUT FERRO CEMENT HULLS

Can you tell me where I can find out the good and bad about ferro cement hulls, and if they are worth considering when buying a boat? Heck, maybe someone at Latitude knows the answer. Please?

James Walldow

Galena, AK

James - 'The answer' for ferro cement boats doesn't exist, as there are only opinions. If we were to give ours, the pros and cons would be as follows:

Pro - Ferro cement boats are usually inexpensive compared to similar size and type boats of more common boatbuilding materials.

Con - Ferro cement boats are usually less expensive because: 1) So many of them were poorly built; 2) It's almost impossible to determine the condition of the structure; 3) It can be difficult to get some ferro boats insured; and 4) The resale value of ferro boats is usually lower than similar vessels built of other materials.

While ferro cement would be at the bottom of the list of boatbuilding materials we'd choose, many people have made long and enjoyable ocean passages with them. While at Pier 39 a few months ago, we saw the first boat we'd ever gone offshore on: a 55-foot ferro cement ketch that we helped deliver from Santa Barbara to Berkeley. After 30 years, she was obviously still floating.

RIDICULOUS COMPLAINTS

I have been a Port of Oakland marina tenant for two years and would like to comment on a recent letter about the situation here.

First of all, I have never known a security guard to behave in anything but a respectful way. I only wish we could have them around more often to help prevent theft and illegal activity. I will also go on record to say the Port of Oakland has been nothing but good to me - especially when it comes to fulfilling a young man's dream of buying a yacht when he gets older and then spending a lot of time on it.

What I have noticed is that there are some troublemakers - be they boatowners or just people living on other people's boats. They tend to speak out like James Howard O'Leary did in a recent letter and, as another reader pointed out, tend to be selfish and self-serving and try to hide in a cloak of 'community awareness'.

I've met O'Leary, and from my experience believe that he's only interested in himself and not anyone else. And just because he can print a document on a computer doesn't mean that his 'Marinas 4 the People' organization really exists. I believe this organization was developed by O'Leary for the sole purpose of getting people to listen to his ridiculous complaints that would otherwise be ignored.

I want to say 'thank you' to the Port of Oakland security team for keeping my property as safe as they have for the last two years. I'd also like to thank Louise Irvin-Jones for being a very, very, very tolerable Harbormaster.

Port of Oakland Tenant

Central Basin

BRILLIANT JOB

Thanks for the great article on the Lewmar Farr 40 Worlds in the October edition. Mark Heer, John Craig and their team did a brilliant job on behalf of the St. Francis YC, and all Farr 40 One Design owners left the Bay more than satisfied with the event.

Geoff Stagg

Farr International

Annapolis, MD

BRITISH NAVAL HISTORY

It¹s petty to criticize editorials in Latitude 38 as you guys produce the best sailing publication in the English language - and I¹ve seen them all. But your British naval history was a little wobbly in the September issue. Admiral Nelson defeated the French - not the Spanish as you had written - in the Battle of Trafalgar off the Spanish coast. The victory prevented Napoleon¹s Mediterranean fleet from getting north to cut British supply lines across the English Channel.

Secondly, Edward Tadefa, the guy who wrote the letter about Captain Bligh possibly setting an endurance record, was not referring to Bligh¹s original mission to gather breadfruit, but his voyage in the Bounty's longboat after the mutineers dumped him in the middle of the Pacific. Getting all the non-mutineers to the northeastern tip of Australia alive and well earned him commendation and promotion, not just as an extraordinary seaman, but as a particularly caring skipper. Life¹s funny, isn¹t it?

Iain Woolward

Dublin, Ireland

Iain - Life is hilarious - if we can step far enough back to get a broad perspective. It's not at all petty of you to criticize our making a mistake about who Nelson defeated at Trafalgar - and we sincerely thank you for emailing us all the way from Ireland with the correction. To tell you the truth, we weren't sure if we had it right or not - but decided not to check our facts for two reasons: 1) It was near deadline and we were already too worn down not to wing it, and 2) We wanted to see how many readers would catch the possible error and take the trouble to correct it. So far you're the only one.

By the way, we were aware of which of Bligh's voyages Tadefa was referring to: The magnificent 3,500-mile, 42-day open boat voyage from Tonga - not Tahiti, as many assume - to Dutch Timor, not Northern Australia. At the time, it was the longest open water voyage in an open boat, but has since been eclipsed a number of times.

While we're on a historical bent, may we recommend The Rise and Fall of the British Empire by Lawrence James? It's actually poorly written, but the subject is so fascinating - and so often sail-oriented - that shortly after finishing the monster volume we began reading it again. It explains a whole lot of why the world is the way it is.

I VISIT OFTEN

I was pleased to see the Latitude page on the Internet. I was a regular reader while living in landlocked Fresno for four years before moving back to Ohio. While living in the Central Valley, I was introduced to the pleasures of sailing - and enjoyed some great sailing on the lakes in the Sierras.

While cleaning some stuff in my basement - we have basements in this part of the United States - I came across an old issue of Latitude. So I thought I'd see if you guys had a web page. You do and I visit it often. I might even subscribe again - even though it's a four-hour drive up to Lake Erie.

Rick

Ohio

FREE OF CHARGE

I haven¹t been much for writing, but perhaps our participation in the Baja Ha-Ha will spur our efforts. I do, however, want to register my appreciation of Fleming Windvanes for their support of our 11-year-old windvane. The foot of our unit's stainless steel vane fin was showing some cracking and water was leaking into the fin. We inquired about having it repaired, but Tom at Fleming told us to just send it back and they'd take care of it. Well they did. We had a new foot plate welded on and some other welds cleaned up. They sent it back saying "no charge, happy sailing". When a company does that for an 11-year-old product, it deserves a public thanks.

Moe Beauvais

Sea Change, Tayana 37

STORM TACTICS AND PARA-ANCHORS

Much has been written about heavy weather tactics in general, and heaving-to in particular. Lin and Larry Pardey are strong proponents of heaving-to rather than running off before heavy winds and seas, and their Storm Tactics Handbook is a must-read sailors planning to venture offshore. In their book, the Pardeys suggest heaving-to at about 50 degrees off the wind and seas. They also discuss deploying a para-anchor about 50 degrees off the windward side - as opposed to directly off the bow, as suggested by the distributors of Para-Anchor.

The advice of the Pardeys - along with our own more than 20 years of sailing experience - made us advocates of heaving-to. In fact, we also bought a Para-Anchor and set it up with 450 feet of rode. But here's a big problem: How do you ever retrieve the Para-Anchor? Everyone seems to assume that once the wind and waves have abated enough to want to retrieve the Para-Anchor, you'll be on a mill pond and will therefore have no trouble pulling it up. Well, that's a false assumption. Furthermore, there are reasons why you may need to resume sailing while conditions are still bad - or have even worsened - from the time you decided to heave-to and set a Para-Anchor. Drifting into a busy shipping lane or being too near land are but two reasons.

Here's what happened to us in mid-May when we were sailing Nereid - our Wauquiez 43 cruising ketch with a modified fin and rudder on a skeg - about 200 miles off Point Conception. We'd planned on sailing to Hawaii, but decided we'd put in at Long Beach first to spend a few days with family and make a few minor repairs. The forecast called for 25 to 30 knots of wind, but by the time we were 80 miles off Conception, the forecast had been revised to gale warnings. We got 35 to 40 knots with 15 to 20 foot seas on the beam, and responded by carrying a double-reefed main and a storm jib. We certainly weren't in survival conditions, but it was pretty uncomfortable. Rather than close on Conception at night in such conditions, we decided to heave-to for the afternoon and evening.

As nightfall approached, the conditions worsened and the boat began to behave differently. For instance, she started falling off waves and was waltzing around much more than before - with the result that she was often beam-to the Force 8 winds. The waves also kept getting bigger and there was so much foam it seemed as though we could have gone skiing. Although we tried many different sail combinations, nothing seemed to improve our situation.

Since we were in precisely the conditions the Para-Anchor had been designed for, we decided to give it a go. It opened, deployed - and worked like magic! It was sort of like being tied to a concrete post in the middle of the ocean. We'd deployed it off the bow roller, as suggested in the literature. The Pardeys suggest setting it off the windward bow, but we didn't have another snatch block for that purpose. We still kept the reefed mizzen up as a riding sail, but nonetheless waltzed through 40 degrees on either side of the wind. Above all, we marveled at the forces involved.

We had 450-feet of nylon line attached to the Para-Anchor on one end and to 3/8-inch chain on the other end. The chain meant we didn't have to worry about the nylon chafing on the bow roller. Unfortunately, the boat was bucking so wildly in the conditions that it didn't take long for the chain to tear out the retaining pin in the bow roller - at which point it began to destroy the sides of the bow roller as well as the bow pulpit.

We kept watch throughout the night. By morning we were experiencing full Force 9 conditions, so we decided to retrieve the Para-Anchor and try sailing. Here's where we had the big problem! Deciding to sail off a hove-to situation is fairly straightforward: You slack the backwinded jib, ease the main, turn downwind - and you're running off. But it's not so easy when you've hove-to with a Para-Anchor.

Retrieving 450 feet of line, 30 feet of chain, and a huge - 18-foot diameter - parachute in more than 40 knots of wind and big seas is, in our opinion, virtually impossible. Given the incredible forces at work in such conditions, pulling the boat up to the anchor is not an option. Driving up on the Para-Anchor would make it easier to reel in the rode, but it would still be terribly difficult. For one thing, it would take a long time, as you can only bring in so much line at a time before the boat begins to fall away - necessitating adjustments in the course and throttle. Secondly, imagine the huge mess of line on the deck. A windlass is not going to neatly stow 450 feet of line without lots of help - and there's not a lot of help on a double-handed boat when the other person has to be on the wheel. Thirdly, it's almost impossible to bring an 18-foot waterlogged parachute onboard in huge seas because the boat falls off to a beam-to position - and puts herself in danger of being rolled. It's just not a pretty sight trying to retrieve a Para-Anchor.

A trip-line back to the boat may be the only answer. However, that's a lot of extra line to have to put out, and the chances of it fouling something or getting fouled seem pretty high.

The Para-Anchor literature suggests a shorter trip-line on a float - which is what we had. But in our case, we had other problems. During the night, the mizzen split and ripped to shreds. At first light, we decided the most prudent thing to do was to sail off, but while attempting to drive up on the anchor rode, we discovered that we'd lost our steering because of a busted quadrant. I hope the know-it-all armchair sailors will realize that while this was certainly a huge problem and killed our trip for the time being, it doesn't change the problem of how to retrieve a Para-Anchor in storm conditions.

In any event, our rudder was banging around from stop to stop, so we set up our emergency tiller and lashed it amidships. It lasted 30 minutes before coming apart at the seams. Folks, we advise you to give your emergency steering set up a close look and give it an honest-to-God evaluation. The only thing we had left to steer was the autopilot, which fortunately worked directly off the rudder post. Unfortunately, it could not control the rudder's violent swings. The windvane was useless as it was set up to drive the wheel which was connected to the busted quadrant. As a result, our options were limited and we knew we were in trouble. Mind you, it was trouble of our own making, not Nature's.

After many futile attempts to stabilize the rudder using the autopilot tiller, we reached a Maritime Mobile Ham net in Maryland. We asked the guy to call the Coasties in Long Beach to let them know that we had lost our steering. Without being asked, the Coasties deployed a vessel with an ETA of eight hours. They also deployed a helicopter and had another ship standby until the tow vessel arrived.

After a 16-hour tow with strong winds and huge seas on the port bow, we arrived in Morro Bay. Our hats are off to the Coasties, in particular, Senior Chief Lars Kent, the skipper of the tow vessel Barracuda. These guys did an absolutely outstanding job in terrible conditions.

Many times since then we've asked ourselves what we could have done to prevent the situation from developing, what we could have done differently, and what we've learned.

Mistakes. We think we probably hove-to at the right time, but perhaps deployed our Para-Anchor too soon. Although conventional wisdom says you should heave-to when you first think about it, deploying a parachute has its own set of problems - as outlined above.

Should we have resumed sailing rather than deploy the Para-Anchor? Hindsight makes me wish we had, but at the time it seemed like the right thing to do. Not getting the boat stabilized was a bad idea, as swinging around by 40 degrees or so causes all kinds of trouble. As we found out, the rudder slamming around and the waves hitting the side of the boat eventually take their toll. We simply hadn't been out in such conditions with this boat and therefore didn't know how she'd behave.

When the brake wouldn't hold the wheel in place, I tried tying the wheel down to one of the big winches in the cockpit. Even though the line had some stretch to it, I think the shock forces of the rudder slamming the wheel hard over are what eventually caused the quadrant to fail.

Observations. Once we were on the Para-Anchor, we were left with few options. Even if we could have motored up to the anchor, it's unlikely we could have pulled it back aboard. At that point, our only option would have been to cut it loose. In fact, this is what we ultimately had to do in order not to foul the Coasties' tow lines. In either case, you end up beam to the seas while trying to raise sail - which is not a happy prospect.

We hope someone doesn't suggest that one should set storm sails or reef the main and mizzen before trying to recover the Para-Anchor. Can you imagine your sails flogging in 45 knots of wind for the long time it would take you to pull the Para-Anchor back aboard?

It's not recommended that you have a trip line all the way back to the boat, as it will likely get fouled. So it's suggested that the trip line be no more than 100 feet or so. Based on our experience, it would be impossible to get to the trip line in such conditions.

Our conclusion? Think ahead and evaluate all your alternatives before you deploy your $1,300 - total set-up cost - Para-Anchor. We think it should be reserved for true emergencies.

We'd like to try the Pardey's idea of setting the Para-Anchor - also using a snatch block so the boat would be hove-to at an angle. But rather than running the line through the hawsehole, we'd think about running it out through the bow roller with chain on the first few feet. To that chain, we'd propose to attach a chain hook with a pendant running back through the hawsehole to the deck cleat. That should take the strain off the bow roller. Then we'd set a snatch block on the line, per the Pardeys, to the amidships for directional control. We think this would enable us to take strain via the chain hook and snatch block, while being able to cut both of these loose as necessary and retrieve the line via the bow roller and windlass. Maybe.

We haven't replaced the Para-Anchor yet. We hear lots of people advocating running off before a blow, but we suspect there is a time and a place for both heaving-to and running off. We'd very much like to hear other opinions on the subject.

Mike and Joyce Creasy

Nereid, Wauquiez 43

Alameda

Mike & Joyce - You and other sailors concerned about heavy weather might be interested in Steve and Linda Dashew's soon-to-be released book, Surviving The Storm, Coastal And Offshore Tactics. It's filled with many first-person accounts from experts and amateurs alike about responding to heavy weather. One of the situations that might interest you the most is that of the boat Freya in last November's terrible storms off New Zealand. In truly dreadful conditions, the family crew set a Para-Anchor off the bow with the recommended 3/4-inch nylon line. In something like an hour, the line parted - as if it had melted - some 10 feet from the bow on the Para-Anchor side. Apparently it's common for frequently stretched three-strand nylon to develop enough internal heat to melt.

The Dashews would concur that there are times and places for a wide variety of responses to storm conditions, and it's important to understand the limitations of each. The just-released fifth edition of Adlard Coles' classic Heavy Weather Sailing, by Peter Bruce, gives a similar warning about both parachute anchors and drogues. As Elaine Bunting wrote in her October '99 Yachting World review of the book, "For example, parachute anchors and drogues, once seen as ideal solutions, now come with a caution. In many cases cited, the difficulties and dangers of using them greatly outweigh the advantages."

As if to support that opinion, earlier in that October issue of Yachting World is a report by Tim Trafford of using an 18-foot Para-Tech sea anchor on 600-feet of line when his 55-foot ketch was caught in 45-knots of wind - with gusts to 60 knots - off Chile: "By 1900, the sea anchor was fully deployed. The motion was appalling. Ardevora was pitching heavily: chafe marks later seen on the stem indicated up to 45° above and below horizontal. She was also rolling her gunwales under and yawing up to 40° either side of the wind." After four hours of carefully adjusting the rode to reduce chafe - and worrying that, 1) The rudder would be damaged from occasional rapid surges backwards, or 2) The two Lewmar 65s taking the load would be ripped off the boat - the one-inch line parted. "The relief that it had gone was just - I don't know what - but like throwing off a huge weight, stress just went. We immediately lay ahull and it was as if the wind had died, gone were the dreadful yawing and rolling."

Let's be clear on our point: It's not that parachute anchors aren't any good or might not be the best storm survival tactic for a given condition, but rather that they may not always be the best response to heavy weather, and that they may present tremendous problems for their rodes and boat rudders.

DESERVING MORE OF PRAISE

Having made the trip like so many, I read the Hard Lessons Of A Baja Cruise with great interest. Taken in total, Pierre Lorillard¹s adventure deserves more praise than criticism.

Cruising - in fact small boat operation in general - is not just about mistakes and misfortune, but about how these challenges are handled. On that basis, Lorillard is a pro. For my next ocean cruise, I would prefer to be with a sailor who has the experience Lorillard has gained - rather than the dockside observer who has never dragged an anchor, gone aground or broken something major.

Steve Carr

Isis & Captiva

Redwood City/New Orleans

Steve - We think Lorillard deserves praise on two counts: 1) For having the guts to share the somewhat embarrassing mistakes he made so that others might learn from them, and 2) For the way he responded - as you pointed out - so positively to the challenges he faced. We loved the way, for example, that he and his First Mate respectfully declined the Coast Guard's helicopter rescue to stay with their beached and possibly destroyed boat. On a remote island. In the middle of the night. With a bunch of grizzled Mexican fishermen.

On the other hand, we think that Lorillard would agree that it's no particular honor to be a "pro" at responding to challenges that could have - by his own admission - been avoided in the first place.

TWO YEARS LATER AND HE¹S STILL WHINING

I was under the impression that the prime directive for the Baja Ha-Ha has always been 'No Whining'. That¹s why I¹m surprised that Latitude gave Ethan Hay almost two full Letters pages in the October issue to do just that. But alas, the fault is mine, for I am the bumbling, stubborn, incompetent owner/captain portrayed in his letter. It is I who regretfully invited Mr. Hay along on the '97 Ha-Ha. Two years have passed and Hay is still whining!

There's just one problem: his addled account of his experience is riddled with errors and lies. For example, after nine months of cruising Mexico, I have yet to see a 10-gallon water bottle. Have you? I can¹t imagine a Mexican granny being able to carry a 10-gallon bottle. Actually, I bought ten 5-gallon bottles for $1 each.

Hay taught me how to wash dishes in seawater? The boat came plumbed with a seawater foot-pump in the galley sink. Further, I don¹t recall him washing a dish during the entire trip. He snivels because nobody wanted to get drunk with him at the end of the cruise. Awwww. I¹m sure he has some positive memories of the Ha-Ha - he can just make them up. But do I have to spend the rest of the day debunking Ethan Hay¹s remembrances - or can I get on with my life?

Before I close, I have to ask what was the purpose of this hit piece? I think it was written to discredit me and make himself look wise and well-travelled at my expense. After all, Hay is looking for another ride down to Mexico this year and I¹m sure he wants to look really good to any potential owner/captains out there. Go ahead, ask him. I sure as hell wouldn't.

J.C.

Mexico

J.C. - If Hay's primary purpose had been to write a 'hit piece', don't you think he would have mentioned your name, your boat name or type, or otherwise given some hint as to which of the 120 boats he'd been on? He did none of those. Indeed, 99.99% of our readers wouldn't have known who he'd been talking about if you hadn't identified yourself. Actually, we've decided to print only your initials and withhold your boat name precisely for the purpose of preventing you personally from being the object of ridicule.

While Hay may indeed have also been trying to give you a slight private needling, we think there were substantive reasons for him to have written: 1) To indicate that water is available in Turtle Bay; 2) To report that the people of Turtle Bay had been very helpful and friendly to him; and 3) That it's not always a good idea to expect to install gear offshore. We thought it was a legitimate informative letter - and still do. Now that you've both taken a couple of swings at each other, can we leave the personalities out of it?

One clarification in closing: While Latitude 38 founded the Baja Ha-Ha and continues to support the event, it is now entirely owned by a completely independent non-profit - although not by intent - corporation.

NEW REELS CATCH FISH

About a month ago, I read something in Latitude which questioned whether a seaplane on the water was considered a boat, and if so, where it would fit in the pecking order of the Rules of the Road. If my response is a little late, it¹s because I was on a ship in the Persian Gulf when I read the item - the magazine having been sent to me by my wife in a 'care package'.

Anyway, I hope this will help anyone having trouble remembering the pecking order: New Reels Catch Fish So Purchase Some - or NRCFSPS. 1) Nuc (Not Under Command). 2) Ram (Restricted In Ability To Maneuver). 3) Cbd (Constrained By Draft). 4) Fishing. (Commercial only, all types except trolling). 5) Sailing. 6) Powerboat. 7) Seaplane. For details, refer to the bible: USCG Navigation Rules COMDTINST M16672.2C.

Oh, and if anyone is going to push the issue of sailboats and powerboats by classifying a 900-foot ship as a powerboat, please remember that a large ship needs the better part of a mile to alter course - and, due to momentum and the complexity of machinery, considerably more than just a mile to come to a stop.

P.S. Great mag, been reading it for years.

Ray Hatch

USCG Master ASA Sailing Instructor

Novato

Ray - The 'New Reels' is something we hadn't heard of before; thanks for sharing it - and the kind words. As for large ships, we know to stay out of the way. We were once privileged to be able to make the trip from L.A. to San Francisco aboard the President Jackson, a 960-foot container ship belonging to American President Lines. As we recall, the captain shut down the power and 'coasted' from Davenport to the Lightbucket - a distance of 50 miles or so.

DROPPED PROPS

On page 54 of the July issue, there was a letter from Ray Taylor about folding props falling off. We've experienced the same problem three times. Taylor wanted to hear from other people who've experienced similar problems. Do you have a phone number or other address for him?

George Kuperis

C'est Si Bon

gkuperis@hotmail.com

George - Sorry, but we no longer have it. We've printed your email address so he can contact you.

GOOD GOLLY, MISS MOLLY!

Mike Fitzgerald¹s article on Sausalito was interesting. We've called on the 'little willow' several times while transiting between the rain and gale swept Pacific Northwest and sunny Mexico.

But we take vigorous exception to Fitzgerald's reference to Molly (sic) Stone¹s supermarket. No matter what you buy there, it's a flagrant rip-off. Friday Harbor, in the San Juan Islands, is a close contender for the title of the maximum rip-off, but nonetheless has to yield to Molly (sic) Stones.

 With such high prices, it's a small wonder that many cars in the parking lot only had one cellphone. We even saw several that didn't have any! With Molly (sic) Stone's prices, one is clearly forced to choose between sustenance or a properly equipped vehicle.

Pete Kantor

Tsaritsa

Friday Harbor, WA/San Diego

Pete - Unlike 25 years ago, Sausalito is now home to web start-ups, software entrepreneurs, webmasters and mistresses, and 80-hour work weeks. Since the new locals work so much, they hardly have time to spend their stock option money, so they can easily afford Mollie Stone's prices. And frankly, we'd rather have just a little of Mollie's wine herring than a whole pizza from Costco - and we love Costco. There's a bonus, too. Once you become accustomed to Marin and San Francisco prices, the rest of the world seems like a ridiculous bargain.

RIGS AND ANTENNAS

As I write this, Tropicbird is currently at the Hawaii YC and I'm back in the office working for a couple of weeks. But by the time anyone reads this, I should have returned to the boat, sailed her to Fiji, and later put her in dry storage in Australia for the cyclone season. In any event, I thought I'd pass along a few tips based on my latest trip.

1) Always doublecheck any outside work you have done on your boat. I had to abort my initial attempt to sail from San Diego to Hawaii after about 75 miles because the roller furler failed to furl. The problem was that the riggers - a very well-known San Diego outfit - had serviced my furler incorrectly. They'd put Tef-Gel, which is a grease, on the three-torque tube screws, rather than the Loctite that the furler manufacturer, Harken, called for. The Tef-Gel held for a couple of trial sails in San Diego Bay and for a daysail down the beach to the Mexican border. It took a night of sailing upwind on the way toward Bishop Rock for the screws to vibrate out of the torque tube. I recall Mike Plant having a similar experience with the fittings holding his rig up.

The riggers may have been confused because Harken changed the design of the torque tube when it introduced the Mark III furlers. The newer units use a different fastener that should be bedded in Tef-Gel, while the older ones use flathead screws secured with Loctite. I'm sure that the riggers who worked on my boat have installed and assembled hundreds of the older units and, as called for, put Loctite on them. But I bet they put mine together without referring to the correct older instructions and got confused. I also believe that riggers have a natural inclination to put things together with Tef-Gel or Neverseize, because at some point they envision having to take them apart.

Needless to say, the riggers were a bit chagrined when they came to work after the holiday weekend to find me tied up at their dock with the Harken instructions and Q-Tips with grease samples on them. Fortunately, except for an adrenaline rush, a sleep-deprived night hove to outside San Diego Bay, and a few days delay, no harm resulted. Needless to say, I bought a couple of extra tubes of Loctite. From now on, anytime anyone works on my rig, I'm going to wait until they are done, then go up and pull a few fasteners off to make sure they have the right stuff on them.

2) My second tip involves a cheap and simple way of setting up an external antenna for the Magellan GSC 100/Orbcomm. I bought the Magellan unit just before I left, but was unable to purchase the external communications antenna because they weren't in production yet. After a few days of standing on the companionway ladder, waving the whip antenna out the hatch, and waiting and waiting and waiting to connect to a satellite, I knew I had to make my own antenna.

So, I removed the GSC 100's attached whip antenna - there is an alignment mark when you fold the antenna back showing where the antenna unlocks. I put a BNC to PL-259 adapter - usually used to connect a handheld VHF to the yacht¹s antenna, West Marine SKU 261859, $6.49 - onto the GSC 100. Then I unscrewed the cable for the VHF antenna from the back of my VHF radio, and screwed it to the adapter - and thus to GSC 100. It works like a charm! The GSC 100¹s frequencies are a little lower than marine VHF, so the ideal antenna would be a little longer. Even so, the signal through a marine VHF antenna is a lot better than with the GSC 100¹s attached antenna. The 3db gain of the VHF antenna particularly seems to help in reaching satellites low on the horizon.

I was able to send and receive email messages in standard mode all the way to Hawaii - which Orbcomm tells me should be almost impossible. Sometimes I would have to wait a while, however, as I needed a satellite trajectory that would pass to the northeast - where I could see the satellite and the satellite could see an earth station at the same time to make a standard mode connection. But waiting was no big deal with the GSC 100 sitting securely behind a fiddle next to the chart table, hooked up to the power cord and the yacht¹s VHF antenna. I would just queue up my mail to send, and eventually it all went out and my incoming mail would arrive. Meanwhile, I could sleep or read or eat or navigate or sail or take a shower or whatever - and not waste my day waving the GSC 100 out the hatch.

Frankly, I think any VHF antenna with clean connections and appropriate coax will work. Tropicbird¹s VHF antenna is an inexpensive regular Metz stainless whip mounted on the stern rail with about 20 feet of RG8X coax. At Hawaii YC, I helped Holly Hilton connect her GSC 100 to the masthead VHF antenna aboard her family¹s Beneteau First 45.5 - which has about 60 feet of coax. It also works well. Holly sat at the Aloha Dock sending and receiving in standard mode - even though she'd never been able to do that with the GSC 100's attached antenna.

Leslie C. King III

Tropicbird, Wilderness 40

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Readers - During a subsequent telephone conversation, King reported that Magellan Orbcomm lived up to its claims - as long as you understood its limitations. He was quite happy with it.

WEBSITE FOR LOCAL WEATHER

Do you know of a website where I can find real time weather for Sausalito? I'm looking for photos, wind speeds, temperatures, and whether it's sunny or cloudy. I come down from Santa Rosa and it would be great to know what to expect when I get there.

Jay True

Santa Rosa

Jay - We don't know of a site that provides such detailed weather for Sausalito. Even if there was, we don't think it would be helpful. The problem is that nowhere in the Bay does the weather change as quickly or dramatically as in Sausalito. For

example, one of several typical days in Sausalito goes like this: Warm and sunny from 0800 to 1300. Windy and cool from 1300 to 1700. Howling and freezing from 1700 to 1930. Light breezes and surprisingly warm from 1930 to 2200. Furthermore Sausalito is riddled with microclimates. In a quarter mile there can be a 20-knot difference in windspeed and a 20º difference in temperature.

If we may be so bold, we think what you're looking for is actually a broader picture. We suggest you go to our links page at latitude38.com and look up Real Time Wind Patterns on San Francisco Bay. This site provides hourly updates on the windspeeds everywhere in the Bay. Armed with this information, you can get a realistic idea of what the weather is like - and likely to be - on the Bay. After all, often times it's idyllic in Raccoon Strait when it's howling in Sausalito. While at our links page, we also suggest you check out Real Time Bay Views from Sybase, Inc. - which gives a view from Emeryville out toward the Golden Gate; and Real Time Slot and Treasure Island Views courtesy of KPIX. There are probably other good ones - which we'd like to hear about.

As for Bay Area marine weather, check out the National Weather Service's site at <www.nws.mbay.net/marine.html>. One of our personal favorite sites is <www.nws.fsu.edu/buoy/sw.html>, which gives current wind and wave information - as well as enormous historical data - from all the weather buoys along the coast of California.

THE YOTREPS SCHEME

Many cruisers only discover the YOTREPS scheme after they¹ve set off and when it¹s almost too late. For boats on passage, the radio sked is often a part of the daily routine that¹s looked forward to. It may be the only reminder that you¹re not alone on the planet - and a time to find out how other boats are doing and what kind of weather might be coming your way.

Radio nets are regularly formed between groups of cruisers and sometimes land-based stations. By taking turns as the net 'controller', cruisers routinely pass on position and weather observations, and other information that could be of interest to weather forecasters and interested friends and supporters at home. Unfortunately, very few radio nets actually make use of the information they collect - come the next day, it's usually discarded as the new set comes in.

Late in 1997, in a move to improve communications between net forecasters and boats on passage, the YOTREPS scheme was established. The name was chosen more because it fitted an existing messaging system rather than for its appeal. It was thought that someone would soon think of something better, but it's not happened.

However, by using a brief, formatted email report, net controllers or single boats are invited to forward their reports to an email address that¹s linked to forecasters in New Zealand, Fiji and the United States - and also a website data base. This is connected to a plotter that shows a chart with positions of the most recent check-ins. By typing in a boat¹s name or call sign, shore-side friends can see a plot of the boat¹s last 10 reported positions.

Speaking to this year¹s arrivals in the southwest Pacific, several have said how useful they would have found the scheme had they known of it earlier. So if you're planning such a voyage, why not check out the YOTREPS web site? It can be found by following the links from www.pangolin.co.nz and, in addition to the plotter, contains downloadable software to help with forwarding reports. If you happen to be a radio amateur - which is certainly not a prerequisite - see also: The Pacific Seafarer¹s net: www.wcinet.net/~aspect/sf.htm and Ken Mayer¹s plotter page: www.bitwrangler.com/yotrep.

Mike Harris

Nelson, New Zealand

IF IT AIN¹T BROKE

Hey man, Latitude's website came up on my computer in one second flat. Actually it was probably less, as I expect it took me that long to look up and find the home page was already there.

Do you have any idea how refreshing it is to click on something and see it come up before your eyes? Spartan web sites are great! I¹d like to see lots more of it on the web. But when I get frustrated and start to think of tossing my very expensive PowerBook out the window, I know I can click on over to Latitude 38¹s site and click away and watch pages come up before my eyes - instead of dots getting painted, one by one, before my eyelids.

It ain¹t broke, don¹t 'fix it' too much, okay?

Doris Lea Tuck

San Jose

Doris - Okay.

A CANADIAN RECOMMENDS THAT YOU BUY AMERICAN

Shortly before my 72nd birthday, I left La Paz on what turned out to be a non-stop singlehanded passage to Gladstone, Australia. It took 83 days. Some of the equipment I had onboard included a new Garmin GPS and, as a backup for my old Navik, a new Autohelm ST4000 Tiller Autopilot. Eleven days out of Mexico, the Autohelm autopilot quit, and all I was able to use it for was a compass when setting the Navik at night. During a tropical squall near Tavalu, the paddle shaft on the Navik's underwater paddle parted, so that was it for the Navik.

Soon after arriving at Gladstone, I turned the GPS and the tiller pilot in to their authorized agents. The Navik is long out of warranty, but the underwater paddle and shaft were relatively recent replacements. The weld looked faulty to me, so I contacted Scanmar, who told me to send a photo of the weld and they would forward it to France. Very shortly after that, I received replacement parts from France - along with a very sincere fax expressing their regrets. The GPS was returned in about 10 days and has been all right ever since.

Which brings us to Autohelm. The autopilot was also returned in about 10 days. It only worked for one day, however, so I returned it to the authorized agent while I went on a four- week tour. Upon my return, I learned that the original agent had suffered serious and unexpected health problems and therefore had closed his shop and transferred to a new agent. The original agent old me that the unit had been sent to the distributor in Sydney for repairs, and by now should be back at the new agent. The new agent knew nothing about it. Mr. Kydd, who seemed to be in charge of the Sydney office, denied any responsibility, and insisted that I report the loss to the police.

Having reached a dead end in Australia, I sent off a special delivery letter - with supporting information - to the Autohelm office in England. Approximately three weeks went by with no response.

Giving up hope, I called my wife and asked her to order a new Autohelm Tiller Pilot from Defender. When she called Defender and told them what had happened, they suggested she call the U. S. distributor. When she did, she spoke with Mike Ryan, who asked her to fax him the information she had - and within three hours she had a call from him saying that he had called England. Ryan had been assured that I would be getting a replacement, but said that if I didn't get anything in a week, he should be contacted again.

Nine days passed with nothing from anyone, so my wife contacted Ryan again. Within an hour he had returned her call saying he was now certain that action was to be taken and that I would be informed. In a day or two, I received faxes from both England and Sydney saying that a new unit was on its way. Ten days later it arrived - eight months after being turned in.

The moral of the story? Purchase your equipment in the U.S., and at the first hint of a runaround on the warranty in another country, contact the U. S. distributor!

B. E. Shetterly

Winnipeg, Canada

B.E. - Congratulations on your terrific voyage.

As for the moral of your story, it couldn't be more spot on. While U.S.-style capitalism may have its faults, it sure has its good points - such as mostly excellent warranties and reasonably fair return and exchange policies. How bad can these policies be in the rest of the world? Wal-Mart stores in Germany have been brought before the German version of our Supreme Court. The charges against them? That Wal-Mart's 'satisfaction or your money back, no questions asked' policy gave them an unfair business advantage over competitors - who presumably want to retain the right to stick customers with defective goods. Buying American is smart.

RUNNING LIGHTS

On page 52 of the September issue of Sail magazine, it's stated that navigation lights that are mounted on the surface of a hull - and not above it - are illegal. As readers of Latitude must know, there are many boats which are equipped in just this manner. These include Catalinas, Cheoy Lees and Ericsons, to name a few.

There are various good reasons to mount a lamp in the hull and not on the superstructure or pulpits. These reasons include protection from moisture and from mechanical damage. On Cheoy Lees, the bulbs can actually be changed from inside the boat while underway without getting wet, which is kind of a nice feature.

Anyway, a lot of us own boats with navigation lights mounted on the hulls, the lights work, and it would be a pain to have to replace them - if as reported in another journal - they no longer comply with the law. What's the deal on this?

Robert Chave

San Pedro

Robert - According to the just-released updated revised third edition of The Annapolis Book of Seamanship by John Rousmaniere, "Sidelights may be placed on either side of the bow, in the shrouds, in a single lantern on the bow, or - in sailboats smaller than 66 feet - in a tricolor atop the mast." There was no mention of sidelights in the hull being illegal.

So we consulted with Capt. Larry Hall, Commander, Group San Francisco of the Coast Guard. His search of the rule book turned up nothing indicating such lights are illegal. So we wouldn't worry about it. Besides, if they were ever made illegal, the ones already in place would surely be grandfathered.

What's the most common violation recreational sailors make regarding running lights - other than not having them on between dusk and dawn? Having a tri-color masthead light and deck-level running lights on at the same time. You can have one or the other on, but not both.

HAMSTER WHEELS FOR THE BOYS

Here¹s a quote for you:

Jeanne Barbara, the mother of teenage boys Sam and Lee, was standing on the docks with me watching her sons practice capsizing and righting their Lasers. For quite a while, they seemed content to keep doing this. She finally turned to me and said, "I think we've finally found the perfect hamster wheel for the boys."

Katy Patton

Commodore, Rogue YC

Medford, OR

Katy - Responding to simultaneous mental and physical challenges is not just the 'perfect hamster wheel' for boys, but for men also. Get us out on our boat and we're perfectly content to spend the entire afternoon fiddling with the various sail controls to get the jib telltales and mainsail leech telltales flowing 'just so' in order to eke out an extra tenth of a knot of boatspeed. For those searching for the meaning of life, forget the meditation robes and trips to Kathmandu, it's as close as getting your boat to sing.

PRIVATE CHARTER IN THE SOUTH PACIFIC

G¹day! We're a family of five living in Sacramento: Sue and I are both in our 40s, and the kids are 12, 10 and 6 - and we'd all like to charter a boat for a month or so next year in the South Pacific. We've sailed quite a bit together, and Sue and I built and sailed our own 30-ft sloop from South Africa to the States 14 years ago.

We're working on getting another boat together, but in the interim we need to do some sailing. Our whole family had a great week chartering in the San Juan Islands last year and would now love to sail in the South Pacific. Alas, we don¹t have the $8,000+ it would cost to charter a boat there from The Moorings or other outfits for a month. We don't need anything fancy, just a 36 to 46 footer that floats. What we really want to do is go through a private owner.

Any ideas on whom to contact? Do you think an ad in Latitude would work?

Justin Malan

Sacramento

Justin - We're not sure how many private parties would be willing to 'charter' their boat in the South Pacific to a family of five, as there are major insurance and liability issues. And who would pay if the dinghy/outboard were stolen or there was major damage? On the other hand, there are always cruisers who would risk quite a bit to earn a few thousand and therefore be able to extend their cruise for another six months or so. We don't know if taking out a Classy Classified would result in your chartering in the South Pacific next year, but we do know that it would get the word out. Good luck.

RIGID VERSUS INFLATABLE

I¹m chewing over the pros and cons of an inflatable as opposed to a rigid dinghy for use as a tender to our Tayana 37 on our next cruise. We used and liked the 8-foot Apex RIB we had on a South Pacific cruise a few years ago. Before buying another, however, I¹d like to benefit from the views of Latitude and your readers. Does anyone have experience with the Fatty Knees or the 8-foot Trinka? Either would stow tidily on our deck - and row better than an inflatable, of course. But inflatables are more stable. I¹d value other thoughts.

Derek Warton

South San Francisco

Derek - We pretty much said all we had to say on dinghies in the October Dinghy Intelligence article. But let's see what other readers have to say.

I HAVE THE RIGHT OF WAY

Last year I wrote a letter, which was not published, in response to several letters to Latitude regarding cruising in the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia. I also mentioned the unfortunate loss of four Coast Guard Servicemen¹s lives involved in the rescue of two very foolish sailors off the coast of Oregon (I believe) in the dead of winter. Even though your magazine is tailored for sailors, it is very well written and includes valuable information useful to all sectors of the marine genre. In particular, I am retaining the October issue as a reference source for me as a first-time cruiser into Mexico.

I now write to discuss some of my experiences in San Francisco Bay while cruising south.

The North Bay is becoming very crowded it seems. Coming down from Bodega Bay on a Sunday afternoon, after passing under the Golden Gate Bridge, I literally had to jockey and maneuver my way through various fleets of racing and cruising sailboats, which presented the potential of collisions at every turn. I made my way through this seemingly endless 'minefield' to find there was no berthing to be had anywhere in Sausalito - including my old home port of Schoonmaker Point Marina. Both yacht clubs in Tiburon were full, and since I wasn't willing to moor at the Sausalito YC or anchor out, I crossed the Bay. I spent one long night at Pier 39, where I was charged $50 for the 'privilege' of enduring the worst marina surge I've experienced in over 30 years of boating!

I boarded an out-of-town guest and cruised around the Bay on a weekday to show her the sights. I was further unimpressed at the local sailors' seeming disregard of common courtesy regarding Rules of the Road, giving way, and so forth. There seems to be a lack of courtesy - maybe even an air of superiority - on the part of many Bay Area mariners, both power and sail. It's a mindset not unlike that of California vehicle drivers.

The most alarming display of complete disregard for Rules of the Road, common courtesy, common sense, and probably ignorance of signals, happened when I entered the San Francisco Marina. I was slowing from three knots westbound on the north side of the narrow channel and just about to reverse course to port and land starboard-to at the pump-out dock when this 50-foot flybridge, twin-screw, plastic sportcruiser came steaming alongside too fast for the conditions and situation, and without giving a signal or showing any concern at all for what he was doing. This in-a-hurry, totally ignorant, inconsiderate, and borderline unsafe skipper passed my portside without so much as a nod! I was so shocked and so busy controlling my boat to avoid a collision that I failed to note the vessel's name. An omission I regret, for I would love to have had a conversation with this person!

My hope would be that he learned something that day. I know I did - trust no one but yourself, and be ever vigilant out there. By the way, I had cleared myself about a minute earlier, so he must have been coming in pretty fast. I¹ll never again fail to clear myself immediately before turning. Lesson learned.

I'm now pleased that you did not publish the letter I wrote last year, because in it I had invited any and all to come on up and enjoy what we enjoy in the Pacific Northwest - the limitless beauty and endless waterways of the region - and I¹d hate to think skippers such as the above might be operating their vessels up there.

Part of my last year¹s letter included my firm belief that operators of vessels in U.S. waters should be licensed. We all know that as it stands today, anybody can purchase a vessel, slip the lines and endanger his vessel and all aboard her - as well as imperiling all other mariners in the vicinity. A tragic example of the consequences of inexperienced or unqualified people operating a vessel occurred recently out of Vancouver, British Columbia. A Bayliner 48 was steaming at a high rate of speed at night. The inexperienced skipper passed behind a properly lighted tug but in front of his tow, tripped on the tow wire, became airborne, and landed upside down. Out of eleven souls on board, four were lost, including the skipper. Tragedies like this might be avoided if operators were required to take an approved course, then successfully pass a written and oral exam to be licensed and type-certified. No license, no insurance.

Marty Seahale

Viking, in transit, lying Monterey Harbor

Seattle

Marty - You mean to tell us that it took you 30 years to realize that every mariner must be constantly vigilant? That's rule #1.

As for the 'minefield of mariners in the Bay ignoring the Rules of the Road and common sense', we must respectfully disagree with you. Since July, we have spent about four days a week sailing the Bay, our usual course being from Sausalito to the Cityfront, to Angel Island, back to the Cityfront, behind Angel Island, up and down Raccoon Strait a couple of times, then back to Sausalito. While it was often crowded, particularly in Raccoon Strait, we can't remember a serious incident even beginning to develop between sailors. What we frequently did notice were skippers wisely altering course well in advance to prevent incidents from beginning to develop. While this certainly doesn't mean there weren't near-misses that we didn't see, we feel the standard of safe sailing was by far the highest we've ever seen on the Bay. Well done, most everyone!

We do, however, recall four incidents of what we considered to be reckless boat operation - all of them involving powerboats, all of which were either arriving or departing from the Sausalito Channel. Two of them were big heaving pigs of recreational boats going down the Sausalito Channel at about 15 knots, sending all the boats in Sausalito Yacht Harbor pitching to and fro for about five minutes. These skippers were indeed ignorant. The other two incidents involved a Blue & Gold ferry and a commercial fishing boat returning to Sausalito, the skippers of which had apparently forgotten that they are responsible for any injuries and damages caused by their wakes.

While we believe that the least government is usually the best government - and therefore have generally been against the licensing of boat operators - we've been having a change of heart. Given the idiocy on the waters, we feel it's time for anyone who operates a motorized boat capable of more than 10 knots to be licensed. This has nothing to do with sailors being better or more intelligent than powerboaters or jet-skiers, but with the simple recognition that it's speed - far more than anything else - that damages and kills. And do we hear any seconds to a motion for there to be a 30 mph speed limit in all but a few designated places in San Francisco Bay?

As for there not being any place to berth your boat in Sausalito, what do you expect, the place is very popular. And what's wrong with anchoring out? While it has nothing to do with the substance of your letter, we think you've confused the North Bay with the Central Bay. The North Bay is usually relatively empty.

SAN FRANCISCO TO MARINA DEL REY

I was wondering if you might have any information as to when you've run articles dealing with sailing from San Francisco Bay to Marina del Rey?

Orlando Duran

Cuba Libre 2, Catalina 320

Marina del Rey

Orlando - We don't remember running any such articles, but here's the poop: On the most basic level, you simply sail out the Gate past the South Bar; turn left and stay a couple of miles offshore; make a left at Point Conception; then wave to all the girls as you enter the breakwater at Marina del Rey.

From spring to fall, you have to expect 15 to 30 knots of wind from the northwest, as well as a big swell and seas. From the middle of July on, it's not quite as windy so often. Although it's downwind sailing, it can be challenging downwind sailing - particularly off Davenport, Pt. Sur and Pt. Conception, where the wind tends to blow the hardest. Conception is doubly challenging because the waves bunch up and become very steep. It would be unusual not to have fog some or all of the way. From late fall through early spring, there's generally much less wind. When there is strong wind, it's often out of the south as part of a storm front. You'll want to be in port then.

You can day-hop from San Francisco to Marina del Rey, making stops at Half Moon Bay, Santa Cruz, Monterey, San Simeon, Morro Bay, Port San Luis, Point Conception, Santa Barbara, Ventura, and Oxnard - among other places. The longest passage is between Monterey and San Simeon, which is about 70 miles. Dress warmly.

TROUBLE WITH THE FEDS AND/OR THE CUBES

I recently sent you an article about cruising in Cuba. After reading it, one of your frequent contributors warned me to be careful not to incriminate myself by saying we spent money there, because it meant we would have been guilty of Trading With The Enemy. I guess your contributor is in a little trouble with the Feds. So do you edit that kind of stuff?

Secondly, when we left our favorite spot in Cuba last July, we - like many others before us - didn¹t want to beat the 70 miles to Hemingway Marina to clear out. And the Cubans wouldn't let us clear out from our favorite spot. Since we didn¹t think we would be returning to Cuba in the near future, and knowing the Cuban's lack of equipment for keeping accurate records, we didn't think this would be a problem. However, we would now like to return for Christmas. With your experience, what do you think will happen if we tried to return?

C.S.

California & Florida

C.S. - Rather than wasting time editing self-incriminating articles about visits to Cuba, we just send them directly to The Department of Treasury's Enforcement and Incarceration Division. We get 20% commission on all convictions.

Based on our experience, Cuban officials check-in boats using such hi-tech gear as tiny pencil stubs and worn out scraps of paper. Seriously. The only computers they see are on television when the Home Shopping Network gets beamed down from Florida. So they're probably not going to catch you for having not cleared out. While the chance of getting caught is low, however, the bad news is that Fidel is big on punishment. For example, tens of thousands of Cubans have been executed or imprisoned for life because they'd rather live under a democracy, and the 'treatment' for contracting AIDS is usually prison.

Our suggestion is that you contact Jose Escrich, Commodore of the Hemingway International Marina. A cool guy who has already been presented the 'key' to the City of Fort Lauderdale, Escrich is not your typical Cuban functionary. Simply explain what happened - or at least tell him that you got blown back to the States before you could make it to Hemingway to check out - and ask if you're in trouble. He'll shoot straight - pardon the pun - with you.

Unfortunately, we don't have the commodore's email or phone number. We suggest you try to contact him via the Hemingway Marina by either calling 537-80-1336 or emailing: com-ercial@comermh.cha.cyt.cu.

EX-WIVES ARE FOREVER

Thank you for remembering the gallant men of Marin - such as yourself - who have gone before the honorable Judge Michael Dufficy. These men went through the revolving doors of the Family Court tall and proud - only to come out broken in spirit and broken-hearted as their children, cars, boats, and houses were taken from them.

Yet they stand before the honorable Michael Dufficy knowing they have finally ridden themselves of their wives - but knowing they will never rid themselves of their ex-wives. As Sterling Hayden struggled to sail away with his sons to the South Pacific, the long arm of the law stretches itself to squeeze out the last drop of blood.

John - free at last - of Rose

Marin County

John - Suppose you're racing another boat to weather, and you get hit with an unfavorable windshift. You're entitled to a little swearing, but the sooner you can get over it and make the best of whatever situation you're left with, the better off you are. It's the same thing with divorce. We're sure it wasn't fair to you, we're sure it wasn't fair to your ex-wife - and it sure as hell wasn't fair to your kids. That's the nature of divorce. But after bitching about it for awhile - everyone's entitled to a little - try to let it go and concentrate on making the most of the rest of your life. It might not be easy, but do the best you can for your own sake. Having been divorced twice in 10 years, and having gone from being bitter to friendly with both ex-wives, we speak as experts on the subject. If nothing else, console yourself with the fact that you're not a Family Law judge who has to spend all day dealing with people who've come to hate one another.

BOAT CARDS

We¹re getting ready to go cruising next year. Not being ones to procrastinate, we're designing our boat cards now. You know, like a business card for boats? I was wondering if you or any of your readers knows what information should be included - and what information should be avoided. We're also going to get a rubber stamp made, and we have the same questions for it.

Mike Giarratano and Jean Engel

S/V Descansa, Cal 31

Alameda

Mike & Jean - We pulled the accompanying boat card off our wall for review. The things we like about it are the reasonably large type, the nice graphic, and the inclusion of a telephone number and radio call sign. If these folks are still cruising, they have probably included their email address - assuming they have one.

There are a couple of things we don't like about the card, however. The biggest omission was neglecting to mention what kind of boat Golden Eagle is, as often times cruisers are able to jog each other's memories by saying, "You remember Lee and Betty, the folks with the Westsail 43 (or whatever)." For handing the cards out to officials, it would have also helped if the card included the boat's documentation number and physical homeport.

 (photo not available...sorry!)

 In summary, boat cards should include the following: Boat name, type, homeport and documentation number. Names of the skipper and first mate, as well as their calls signs, email address, and permanent address. If possible, include a line drawing of the boat or some other attractive graphic - such as a color photo of the boat.

For the rubber stamp, we suggest a round shape, a boat graphic in the center, and the boat name, homeport, and documentation number written in a circle around the graphic. Rubber stamps are so much fun in Latin countries that it wouldn't be a mistake to make several stamps: perhaps an old 'manual' model as well as a self-inking hi-tech one. And just for kicks, bring along a 'UPS' stamp, a 'Paid' stamp, a 'Past Due' stamp and whatever else you might have. Then when you find an so-inclined Port Captain, you can have a grand old time stamping the heck out of all the documents, making them look really, really official.

For what it's worth, nobody has to have boat cards or stamps. We've never had them and never needed them.

DEFIES LOGIC

I own one of the GPS units manufactured by Micrologic. When it quit working in August, I thought I'd end up throwing it away. But recently I found a company that will recalibrate them for $85 - which means they're as good as new. The outfit is Pete¹s Electronics, 1710 Overseas Highway, Marathon, FL 33050, Phone (305) 743-8328. Apparently they're fixing a lot of them. Hope this can help others.

Ken Koerwitz

Jazz, Celestial 48

THE ZEPHYR CLASS

As historian to the Capitola YC, I wish to jog your memory about the following statement you made in the October issue: "We can¹t think of any double-ended designs that were ever one-designs on the Bay.² The Zephyr class, a scaled down version of the 110, was active on the Bay and Oakland Estuary through the '70s.

P.S. Have a good Ha-Ha!

Skip Allan

Wildflower, Wylie 28

Capitola



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