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I'm responding to the letter concerning turtles eating cigarette butts. I have found this to be true. In fact, turtles addicted to cigarettes may be found on many South Sea islands bumming smokes from the yachties. It is not a pretty sight to see them with their crudely printed signs that read, "Will give turtle rides for Marlboros." I hope this clears up the mystery.

Holy Man Gone Bad


"That's all I can stand, I can't stands no more!" to quote a famous sailor. Letters from boaters reprimanding guests for tossing a cigar butt into the Bay. Claims of seaweed encrusted cigarettes killing turtles. How naive and gullible can some people be? I know, I know, their hearts are in the right place, but they chastise guests on boats for insignificant acts while millions of gallons of waste and pollution flow into the Bay and under their keels daily - and they never raise a voice in protest.

As proof, I would invite them to visit a spot in the South Bay located at 37°39.9' N, 122°21.8' W. This is the location of the discharge pipe from the local sewage treatment plant and it's well noted on the charts. It's also easy to find because of the huge upwelling of 'water' that flows almost constantly. The pipe opening lies in 15 feet of water and is less than a mile from the entrance to a very popular marina - which has a public beach.

I've lived aboard my motorsailer at that marina for years and have had an office on my boat. When it was time for lunch, I would often grab a sandwich, soda and fishing rod, then jump into the dinghy and spend an hour trying to catch 'the big one'. I bring this up because the discharge pipe is usually one of the local fishing hot spots - as long as you practice 'catch and release'. For the effluent from this pipe is often a 'soup' of solids containing everything that landlubbers place into their toilets, garbage disposers and drains. This includes 'guano', plastics and yes, cigar and cigarette butts. These supposedly 'treated' solids usually attract the wildlife - including fishermen.

I say 'usually', because on occasion the discharge has a distinct black color along with a particularly odious smell. At those times, it is so disgusting and putrid that even seagulls won't land or swim in it. Folks familiar with seagulls can appreciate the implications of this statement. I don't mean to single out this location, as I suppose all sewage treatment plants share in this habit. But I do resent having to carry my own 'discharge' around like it was nuclear waste, while entire municipalities freely dump theirs into our Bay. In this day and age, I consider this practice a slap in the face. By comparison, a cigar butt constitutes less pollution than a fart in a hurricane.

The tragedy is that our government - with the 'environmental' Vice President - is the greatest polluter. From MTBE poisoning our groundwater and heavy metals at Hunter's Point to beach closures from sewage spills - ever hear of a beach closure due to cigar butts? - our 'Republicrats' turn a blind eye to the real causes of pollution. Instead, they criminalize our activities and restrict our freedoms as a smokescreen. Sadly, most of the population buys into this smokescreen with no sense of logic. Even those charged with pollution control - such as BayKeeper, Clean Bay, and the Coast Guard, who fly over the site daily - ignore these sources.

I applaud Latitude's efforts to get municipalities to be more responsive to boaters' needs. But mooring buoys and dinghy docks are only the tip of the iceberg. These governments need to be held accountable for their share of our environmental problems. Perhaps we need a forum in your fine magazine to alert the public to these sources of obvious pollution. How about a Classy Sludge or Loose Sphincter section? Once these things get greater exposure, maybe our tax dollars could be directed to truly benefiting our environment - as opposed to denuding Angel Island or poisoning lakes to kill non-indigenous species.

If mariners really want to clean up our Bay, they shouldn't chastise their guests about cigar butts, but rather complain to their representatives about government pollution. Better yet, let's all send our holding tanks to Washington, DC, in protest. They need them much more than we mariners! As for me, I'm thinking of mounting a toilet seat on the bowsprit in protest - I may even install an ash tray and magazine rack. Just kidding. Hell, I don't even smoke.

Thanks for letting me rant about a sore subject. Keep up the greatest boating magazine - and website - on the planet. It is the only example where advertising is welcome aboard my boat.

John Kostyal
On The Primordial Soup

John - If anybody doubts what you're saying, they should visit the nearest storm outlet into the Bay after it rains for the first time in a few days. What pours into the Bay by the tens of millions of gallons is a disgusting mix of oil, grease, solvents, fertilizer, animal feces, human waste and countless other types of pollution. In Southern California, such pollution flows into the ocean at an estimated rate of nearly three trillion gallons a year. Under normal dry conditions, the number of Southern California beaches that are low risk for fecal bacteria is 174, while the number that are high risk is just 15. After a rain and runoff, however, the low risk number of beaches drops to 42, while the high risk group explodes to 162.

Northern California sewer treatment facilities have a long record of being overwhelmed, permitting monumental amounts of raw and partially treated sewage to flow in the Bay and ocean. The ironic thing is how different amounts are viewed. When a sewage treatment plant allowed 350,000 gallons of raw sewage to spill into the narrow San Rafael Canal that flows into the Bay, officials said, "It's nothing to be concerned about." But if a little piece of poop was ever found in a marina, so-called environmentalists would proclaim a catastrophe to any newspaper that would listen. The encouraging news is that many environmental organizations have backed off from scapegoating mariners as the source of all water pollution, and have identified government, industry and the general public as the biggest sources. Oddly enough, many say that of the three groups, industry has made the most progress. No matter what, let's all do as much as we reasonably can to keep the Bay and ocean as clean as possible.


I hope you'll allow me to use Latitude to sincerely and publicly thank my wife and kids for sticking with our goal of going cruising and participating in the 2000 Ha-Ha. It hasn't always been easy.

About three years ago, my wife Shari agreed to sell our very comfortable house in San Diego, along with most everything in it, to finance the purchase of our dream cruising boat. The plan was to fly to Martinique, take delivery of our used catamaran, and sail her to and through the Panama Canal. There we would turn the boat over to a delivery crew, who would then deliver her as far as Ensenada. We leased a small duplex to live in while this took place.

That was the plan. The reality was that Shari and the kids had to fly home from Martinique empty-handed as it were, because the boat wasn't ready to sail. Six long months later, we had lost the lease on the dumpy little duplex and had to collectively start couch surfing at the in-laws. All the while, Daphne, our four-year-old, kept asking for her house back. How embarrassing.

Meanwhile, the boat's "rebuilt engine" packed it in somewhere around Acapulco, but was able to limp north to Puerto Vallarta. The boat spent the next few months luxuriating in Marina Vallarta, while we continued commuting back and forth to work and school from the couch. In a final effort to repower the boat, Shari and our friend David Schuell headed south with a used engine in the back of his Ford Explorer, hoping to rendezvous with the new delivery crew in Cabo San Lucas. Thankfully, David had the presence of mind to buy all the Mexican insurance he could before crossing the border. The insurance came in handy when he and Shari were run off the road by some North Americanos trailering jet skis. Dave's truck was totalled, leaving our new used engine lying in the high desert. By the grace of God, they made it to Cabo, and assisted with the installation of the engine. As our entry form suggests, the story has a happy ending.

Now that we're about to start the Ha-Ha, I want everyone to know how fortunate I feel to have a wife who has been willing to do whatever it takes - including schlepping (rowing) kids, laundry, groceries and ice in all types of weather, at all hours of the day and night, out to our mooring. And for living without refrigeration and hot water for the past two years. Shari has been wonderful. Thanks, family! I love you and am so proud that you never gave up the dream when others were telling us that we were crazy - and I was beginning to believe them. I wouldn't trade you for all the bad ass, winch grinding, salt encrusted, sled gods in California. Our family rocks!

Monte Cottrell
See Life, Kennex 445
La Jolla

Monte - Way to go, dad!


This summer's West Marine Pacific Cup, 'The Fun Race to Hawaii', was challenging for both the racers and race committee members alike. Uncharacteristically light winds for many days produced slower than normal crossings for most of the fleet. As a member of the Pacific Cup YC board and the West Marine representative on the board, I'd like to explain how we came to some of the decisions that were questioned in recent letters to Latitude.

We pick the starting times and time limit for the race approximately one year before the start, and these are then published and distributed in the Notice of Race. It's not that we can't change the Notice of Race, but these dates have been formulated based on what happened in the Pacific Cups between 1980 and 1998. We know how long it takes boats to get to the Islands under a variety of conditions, and we also have a pretty good idea of how much time people can spend in Hawaii before they have to return to the 'real world'. By having staggered starts, with slow boats leaving up to four days ahead of the big sleds, everybody should normally finish within a couple of days of each other.

But this year, due to a poorly defined Pacific High, we had conditions not unlike the Singlehanded TransPac of '82, in which the winds were very light at the start and the middle of the race. As a result, a lot of boats either dropped out by firing up their engines or continued sailing and didn't arrive in Hawaii until after the time limit had expired.

As a result, the race committee was placed in a difficult position. Unlike around the buoy races, you can't equitably shorten the course, and if you extend the time limit after the event has started, it opens the door to changing other rules in the middle of the game. Those who suggested that the Awards Ceremony should have been delayed probably don't realize the enormous preparations that are involved or the number of racers whose plane reservations for home are early the next day. The Law of Unintended Consequences guarantees every well-intentioned change of a published schedule will be responded to with irate responses by those affected.

One area where I could have done a better job is acknowledging the hard work and tremendous efforts put in by those crews that weren't able to finish within the time limit. The Pacific Cup is a race in which the emphasis has always been on having fun rather than beating the other guy. So those crews that were still battling to finish while the awards ceremony was going on, and particularly those who finished during the awards ceremony, should have been recognized. This was my oversight, and I extend my sincere apologies to all of you.

West Marine was proud to again be the title sponsor for one of the largest ocean races in the world, and we look forward to an even better - and windier - Pacific Cup in 2002.

Chuck Hawley
West Marine Representative to the Pacific Cup YC Board

Readers - We agree with Chuck that once the race started it would have been impossible to extend the official time limit or change the date of the awards ceremony. Extending the time limit by a couple of days sounds simple, but actually would have required that the huge team of volunteers continue their 24-hour a day duties in the radio shack, up on the hill, on the tow boats and on the dock. Unfortunately, these folks had families and jobs they had to get back to. As such, the only possible solution would have been for the remaining boats to have re-started in the middle of the ocean with an unofficial race of their own. Everybody in a division could have reported their distance to the finish, then calculated the results based on the best average speed. No, it wouldn't have been perfect, but it would have maintained something of a structure that makes such an event so enjoyable.


I picked up a copy of the Latitude's free First Timer's Cruising Guide To Mexico as I left the Crew List Party at the Encinal YC, and I want to commend you on an excellent piece of work. It should be required reading for any cruiser going to Mexico, no matter if they are going on the Ha-Ha or not.

But I'd like make one clarification. When it comes to your comments on 'Charts and Cruising Guides', you write the following: "When Charlie and the other authors say their charts are 'Not to be used for navigation,' they mean it." I don't know if you've noticed or not, but there are no such caveats on the various cruising guides I produce for the Sea of Cortez. You see, I assume that the reason cruisers buy charts is to aid their safe navigation of those waters. As such, I do not use the old 1873-5 government charts for my grids and shorelines. True, these Defense Mapping Agency charts served me well for over 40 years in the Sea of Cortez when we sailed with nothing but a compass and my eyes for navigation. However, now that we have GPS telling us within feet of where we actually are, such inaccurate charts can be dangerous.

And these charts can be more than a little inaccurate and dangerous. For example, #21008 Golfo De California, Northern Part, is as much as two miles off station at Santa Rosalia and to the north. And it's a mile off around Conception Bay, up at Puerto Refugio, and north of San Carlos on the mainland. These errors are naturally perpetuated in all of the copies of these charts, whether paper or electronic. This is why I use the only modern survey made of the Sea of Cortez. Back in the '60s, the United States and Mexico did a well controlled aerial survey of all of Mexico, and all the current topographical charts for Mexico are based on that data. These maps have proved out nicely with GPS.

A few weeks ago, we had occasion to make our way into the little harbor at Santa Rosalia. There was a rambunctious squall, and naturally it was the middle of the night. We'd plotted a waypoint off the harbor entrance from my Santa Rosalia Mini-Guide, and as nearly as we could tell in the dark, it put us right where we expected to be. Had we taken this waypoint off #21008, we would have been a mile or so inland.

Although using those original charts may be 'romantic', you have to remember they are not accurate. The 'Not For Navigation' caveat should be on those oldies as well as many of the current 'sketch charts'.

Gerry Cunningham
Patagonia, Arizona

Readers - Gerry Cunningham has been cruising the Sea of Cortez since the mid-'60s and knows what he's talking about. He is the author of the Cruising Guide to the Middle Gulf, the Cruising Guide to the Lower Gulf, and several other guides to the Sea of Cortez. Our comments about not using charts for navigation was aimed at the sketches of anchorages, so we're glad he reminded us of the problems with the main charts.

Just to remind everyone, if you take off for Mexico - or just about anywhere else - and rely solely on GPS and charts, you're asking for big trouble. The problem is not with GPS, which is very accurate, but with the charts, which in many cases are based on very old and sometimes imprecise data. If you sail close to shore down the Pacific Coast of Baja and check your GPS positions versus the paper charts, you'll see that they often don't agree. This is yet another reason why mariners are always advised never to rely on just one aid to navigation. Unless it's perfectly clear when we're approaching the coast, we'll use our paper charts, GPS, depthsounder, radar and one or more cruising guides. There's just no such thing as too much information.

For those interested, it's possible to download the text of our
First Timer's Guide to Cruising Mexico by visiting Baja Ha-Ha, and clicking in the appropriate spots. If anyone has any suggestions on how to improve it, email Richard.


On Sunday, October 8, I was invited to go out on a small powerboat to watch the Blue Angels perform over San Francisco Bay. We found an area that wasn't too crowded and were enjoying the show when a sailboat, with all sails set, approached us from astern. "We have right of way," the skipper yelled over and over as they approached from astern. It looked as if they would hit us amidships, but my friend was barely able to get us out of the way. We came within two feet of being hit. The skipper then continued on and almost rammed a catamaran. Perhaps this character's friends - if he has any - could point out to him that overtaking boats don't have the right of way.

I own and live aboard a sailboat, but must admit that the number of sailboats with sails in the mass of spectator boats made me nervous. I hate the idea of yet another rule or regulation, so perhaps these people could voluntarily drop their sails in such situations.

Milt Tanner


On August 11, the Chevron Washington was 1,100 miles off the California coast. While in the process of making a routine product run between Hawaii and Oregon, they heard a distress call and soon diverted to a sailboat 80 miles away. Tech. Sgt. David Armstrong of the Air Force Reserves recounts what happened:

Around 2 p.m., the Chevron Washington responded to a vessel in distress. The sailboat's mast had broken and one of the crewman had suffered a severe back injury. The crew of the Chevron Washington diverted from their course to render assistance by lowering their liferaft and taking the injured crewman from the sailboat to the tanker. As soon as he was on the Chevron Washington, treatment was initiated.

Transporting the injured sailor to the tanker was an amazing feat due to the difficulties involved in raising and lowering a lifeboat at sea, and because the injured man could not move his lower limbs and was having trouble breathing. Two of the crew members, 2nd Mate Charlie Cutter and Chief Engineer Tom Morris, had previous emergency medical technician training, and therefore were able to give oxygen to the patient and to also catheterize him. Both crew members attempted to start an IV, but were unsuccessful. During treatment, the U.S. Air Force Reserve Rescue Squadron was called upon to begin a rescue effort. Four pararescuemen, including myself, were flown by C-130 to the ship's position 1,100 miles off the coast of California.

We arrived around 11:30 p.m., and parachuted into the water with medical equipment and an inflatable Zodiac boat. At 12:30 a.m., we were alongside the Washington and were assisted onboard by the crew and the ship's crane. We immediately started an IV, continued giving oxygen, and inserted a breathing tube in the patient's chest to relieve the blood collected in his collapsed lung. As time passed, the oxygen we brought onboard, as well as the ship's medical supply, was running low. At this time, it was imperative that the patient continue to be supplied with oxygen. The crew informed us that they had welder's oxygen onboard, and after discussions with a doctor on shore, it was decided that the welder's oxygen would be adequate.

For the next 36 hours, the crew of the Chevron Washington worked diligently to maintain our oxygen supply by refilling our small bottles from their large welder's tanks. The captain and his crew made us feel very welcome and comfortable by providing us with a stateroom. This allowed us to continue round-the-clock treatment and still get some rest. The ship's steward, Krista Bjelde, made sure we had meals and beverages available even when we weren't able to make it to the galley.

Due to the severity of the patient's condition, Capt. Toledo decided to change course in order to get the ship close enough to land so it would be accessible to rescue helicopters. Prior to the rescue, Capt. Toledo held a safety briefing on the sequence of events that would take place when the helicopter arrived. I was very impressed by the professionalism and coordination shown by his crew. At approximately 3:00 p.m. on August 13, two HH-60 rescue helicopters arrived on scene and hoisted the patient and two pararescuemen off the ship. They were flown safely to a hospital in Portland, Oregon, where the patient was admitted into the intensive care unit.

If not for the valiant efforts of Capt. Toledo, the Chevron Washington, and her entire crew, the injured man would not have survived. We could not have performed our medical or rescue efforts on the sailboat. Our most sincere thanks to: Capt. Gary Toledo, 1st Mate Robert Carr, 2nd Mate Charlie Cutter, 3rd Mate Joe Campos, Chief Engineer Tom Morris, 1st Engineer Earl White, 2nd Engineer Jim Dyer, 3rd Engineer Kevin Bardwell, Engineer Cadet Jason Marin, Bosun John McNeill, A. B. Dimos Frantzesko, A. B. Rolly Mendoza, A. B. Ray Morales, A. B. Mike Nielsen, A. B. Anton Seravaseiy, A. B. Gabe Sipin, Steward Krista Bjelde, Messman Arturo Pacana, Utility Doug Ensminger.

The letter was signed by David S. Armstrong of U.S. Air Force Reserves 304th Rescue Squadron, 939th Rescue Wing.

David McMurry
Chevron Public Affairs

Readers - As Latitude readers probably know, the rescue effort was initiated as a result of an injury a crewman suffered when the Santa Cruz 52 Kokopelli2 was dismasted on the way back to California after the end of the Pacific Cup. The crewman was Daniel Garr, who at last word was paralyzed from the waist down. There are a lot of sailors thinking about you and pulling for you, Daniel.

This brilliant rescue was pulled off by both Chevron employees and members of the U.S. military. There's a long history of merchant shipping and the military coming the aid of mariners in distress, often times at considerable risk to their own safety and at great cost. We salute all of them.

As might be expected, lawsuits have already been filed as a result of the
Kokopelli2 accident. Because of the way the American legal system works, it wouldn't be unusual for every individual and business that might have ever seen the boat to be named as a defendant. So while this is obviously a terrible time for Daniel, it's also a difficult time emotionally and financially for some other sailors and marine businesses - who may ultimately be absolved of all responsibility. On their behalf, we remind everyone that defendants are innocent until proven negligent - and when it comes to personal injury litigation, even the innocent are found responsible because it's prohibitively expensive to defend themselves. Our heart goes out to you folks, too.


In the Ha-Ha profiles, you wrote that I ". . . worked on an Alaskan ferry during the winter and taught scuba in the tropics during the summer." Wow, just call me certifiably insane!

Lynne Stevens
Wild Flower

Lynne - We apologize for getting our seasons crossed. The only evidence we have that might suggest you're insane is that you're going on another Ha-Ha.


We're still in the Mexican highlands escaping the heat of La Paz. The other morning at breakfast we spotted a Latitude on the table next to us. We naturally asked if we could borrow it. It belonged to Drew of Rocinante, who had just driven down from the Bay Area and was on his way to his boat in Puerto Vallarta. We read the letter of complaint about the 'Cape Cod Dining Society' with great interest, as we were at the Pedro Miguel Boat Club the first two weeks of February. We met almost everyone who was there, and we can't even place the author from Quintana Roo. He must have kept a low profile.

During that time period, the boats that came in were all at least 10 years old - with the exception of a three-year-old Santa Cruz 52. The other boats were a Tayana 52, Stevens 47, Valiant 40, and a custom boat from Maine that had already completed one circumnavigation. The boats were from Maine, Annapolis, Florida and San Francisco, and since they were home to their owners, all had been kept in top condition. The two boats with children were from Florida, and the kids couldn't have been nicer. We found Craig and Sarah, the caretakers/managers of the Boat Club, to be friendly and helpful hosts. Everyone at the club cooked and ate dinner in the upstairs dining room, and once a week there was a pot luck - which to our knowledge everyone attended.

Anyway we had a wonderful time at the Pedro Miguel Boat Club, and the Cape Cod Dining Society has some of the nicest people we have met cruising. There are always two ways to look at something, and some people just always look on the dark side of life. We just wanted everyone to know that we sure didn't see things the way Quintana Roo made them out to be.

Peter and Nancy Bennett
Swan 46, Destiny

Peter & Nancy - We weren't there at the time, so we can't comment on the specific situation. But we will say that we think the Pedro Miguel BC - which is landlocked inside the Canal on Miraflores Lake - is one of the coolest and most communal places in the world of cruising. Because the club is isolated and because cruisers share just about everything from workshops to refrigerator space to picnic tables with views of the Pedro Miguel Locks, it's about as anti-aristocratic an environment as we can imagine.

On the other hand, when we read the nickname 'Cape Cod Dining Society', we couldn't help but laugh a little in recognition. For while cruising in the Caribbean and New England, we've come across a couple of boats from the Northeast where the prim and proper members of the owners' parties seemed as though they were wandering around in a cloud of assumed superiority. But given that it's a world full of fun and fascinating people, it wasn't something that bothered us.


In a recent letter, someone suggested that there be more facilities available for boaters in the Bay, including mooring buoys. But such facilities require money, either from the government or private sources. Besides, one of the pleasures of sailing is assuming some of the risks associated with self-sufficiency, developing basic sailing skills, and avoiding bureaucracies of all descriptions.

One great source of education and amusement is the anchor drill. In our early days we contributed mightily to the latter, and probably still do. We don't, however, cast a 15-pound Danforth, pay out 150 feet of rode, and consider the deed is done. This relatively commonly observed exercise drastically reduces the availability of space for anchoring. Those who are satisfied with this are probably best served with buoys. But if their buoy lets go, they will be running to their attorneys faster than an Ethiopian chicken.

We certainly recognize and embrace the inevitability of progress, but until we get out of here, we accept cleaning the mud off our chain and hook when we leave Clipper Cove, enjoy the fog and horn at Pillar Point, and consider the kelp and eel grass at Stillwater to be part of the price of admission.

On the subject of anchoring, Earl Hinz refers to the bit of nylon attached between the chain and hawse as a riding stopper. Who comes up with these names? Also, we are told that phosphoresce in the head is not a natural phenomenon, but is rather attributable to the dietary habits and exercise regimen of inexperienced sailors.

Carl and Leslie Kirsch
Charisma, Tayana 37

Carl & Leslie - Say what you will about the mooring buoys at Angel Island's Hospital Cove or at Catalina's Avalon, but they permit many times more boats - and therefore many, many times more people - to enjoy a nature experience. If you're suggesting that these were a bad idea and should be removed, we strongly disagree with you. The fact the buoys at Hospital Cove are usually in terribly short supply leads us to believe there should be more of them so more people in the crowded Bay Area have easier access to the water. And it's not like it would be skin off your ass, as you can still anchor to your heart's content.

As for financing the installation and maintenance of such buoys, how about doing it with the millions we Bay Area boaters pay in personal property taxes to the counties each year. Shouldn't we get something for our money?


My wife and I just moved down here from Oregon. I'm 28 and she is 25. I've read the last two Latitudes cover to cover. For some time it's been our dream to learn to sail. Because we're not familiar with San Francisco or sailing, we were hoping you might offer us some advice.

We've already started by taking beginner lessons at Spinnaker Sailing. The reason we signed up with them is because they are located in The City near our residence. Have you heard positive comments about them? Is there a specific certification agency that we should try to get certified through? Are there any clubs in the city where we could meet other young sailors of all levels?

We don't have a boat yet, and won't be able to have one in the near future either. Would other people look down at us because we don't have a boat? Are there any kinds of events we should look forward to doing? Any other advice?

Gil and Allison Burgess
San Francisco

Gil & Allison - While we haven't taken any classes with Spinnaker Sailing, they've been around for many years, so we're confident they do a good job. In the traffic-clogged Bay Area, the fact that they are located close to your residence counts for something. Virtually all sailing schools have a curriculum aimed at getting their students to pass either US Sailing or American Sailing Association (ASA) certifications at various levels. So you're on the right track.

There are a number of different clubs in The City where you can meet other young sailors. For starters, we suggest you stop by the South Beach YC, which is located near you and Spinnaker Sailing at the South Beach Marina. Visit some Friday evening or weekend afternoon, and tell the club manager that Latitude said they would be delighted if you came by to check out their facilities. Trust us, they'll be happy to show you around and tell you about their club. You can do the same thing at the Golden Gate YC over in the Marina, and even the St. Francis YC - which admittedly might be a little more intimidating.

What should you say if somebody asks you if you have your own boat? Tell them the truth. That you recently moved here, that you're very interested in sailing and are currently taking lessons, and that you're looking forward to crewing for other people. We suppose it's natural for someone not familiar with yacht clubs to fear that some people might look down on them because they don't have a boat, but in reality nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, yacht clubs lust at the prospect of having young folks like you become members - not that you have to do anything of the sort. Furthermore, only a complete loser would look down on anybody because they didn't own a boat.

Each of the three big clubs in San Francisco has something different to offer. One of the neat things about the South Beach YC is that they host a terrific Friday night 'beer can' racing series on summer nights that is popular with a lot of younger sailors. The Golden Gate YC hosts a big midwinter racing series that starts on November 4. And the St. Francis YC has the biggest sailing schedule of all. Please don't be put off by the word 'racing'. The beer can and midwinter races are for fun and socializing more than they're for winning pickle dishes. Nonetheless, these 'fun races' are ideal opportunities to improve your sailing skills and meet other sailors.

There are tons of midwinter and beer can races. Look in each month's
Latitude for a complete listing. It's a time-honored tradition at most of these events that anybody who shows up with a six-pack and a smile gets a ride. Sure, it takes a little guts, but just walk the docks near the host club or go into the host club and ask for assistance. Don't be put off by those 'Members Only' signs out front as an Alcoholic Beverage Commission formality makes them put them up. After sailing in an event, make sure to return to the host club to support them by buying a drink or two and maybe a meal. This is when everybody networks and sets up future rides. Within just a couple of weeks, you'll know lots of people with boats, most of whom are at least occasionally in need of crew or know somebody else who does. And if that's not enough, each March Latitude puts out a Crew List and then throws a big Crew List Party at the Corinthian YC in Tiburon.

Assuming that the two of you are reasonably friendly and helpful, and willing to make a little effort to get rides at the various midwinters for the next several months, you could spend all next year racing and cruising on all kinds of different boats, all over the Bay and Delta, and walking in and out of all the major clubs. And like most folks, you'll neither own a boat or belong to a yacht club. So welcome to sailing on San Francisco Bay, which just happens to be one of the top five metropolitan places in the world for pure sailing fun.


I just completed my third reading of the Once Is Enough article that appeared in the August issue. I have never had the pleasure of meeting sailor Peter Augusto, nor was I there during the incident involving his boat and the ship. Therefore, this is not intended to be critical of him or anyone else identified in the article.

However, the tone of the article against the so-called "petro devil" Theodorus IV and its captain and crew, and the very biased comment referring to the "World Wreaking Federation of Tankermania" was found offensive by this ex-tankerman. The very righteous opinion that every problem was the fault of the tanker, its captain, crew, home office and lawyers is ridiculous. I suppose that the problems on Augusto's boat - the faulty rigging, the crapped-out engine, not having bolt cutters aboard needed to cut the largest stay, the lack of a radar with a proximity alarm, the lack of a standby VHF - are also their fault. I must also assume that his lack of insurance - so he can rely on our kindness - must be the problem of every one of us out there who does have insurance.

I would recommend that all go to 72 COLREGS with special attention to:
Rule 2 (a) and (b) - Responsibility. (This is the old Rule 27 and 29 of the International Rules of the Road that all of us at the 'schoolship' had to memorize).
Rule 5 - Lookout.
Rule 18 (a)(iv) and (b)(ii) - The first gives privilege to vessels under sail which everyone who has spent over an hour on a sailboat can almost quote verbatim. But hardly anyone can quote the second section, which counters that sailing vessels must keep out of the way of power vessels that have a restricted ability to maneuver. Contrary to popular belief, this rule is not restricted to narrows, traffic lanes or harbors.

The item about being up all night watching his GPS hit 10 knots - but never looking outside - reminds me of a story when I was breaking in a new third mate while doing the Hawaiian interisland trip on an old tanker named the M.E. Lombardi. As we were approaching Hilo Harbor, the new Third was running back and forth from the azimuth to the chart room plotting his bearings. After watching for a short time, I asked him what he was doing, for we were heading right for the breakwater. He said that I was wrong if I thought we were headed for the breakwater, and wanted to know if I wanted to inspect his work in the chart room. I told him that I didn't have the time, and suggested he "look out the f--king window instead!"

In 'pampas grass' - a sea condition and related sea clutter on a radar - it is far easier for the mouse, a small boat, to see the elephant, a ship, than vice versa. And in the second impact - taking into consideration visibility and maneuverability - what fact establishes who hit whom? Augusto's statement that it allegedly took the 'petro-demon' approximately two hours to turn around should give a reasonable person some idea how difficult it is to manuever such large vessels.

Singlehanded sailing offshore has always been a mystery to me, especially as it relates to Rule 5. I certainly respect such sailors for their strength, fortitude and conviction. However, as has been pointed out for years, there is no way anyone can singlehand for very long and not be in violation of the requirement that all vessels must maintain a watch at all times. Steve and Linda Dashew put it best on page 375 of their Offshore Cruising Encyclopedia when they wrote, "So . . . [singlehanders] are taking a chance with their own safety (which is okay as long as they assume responsibility for any problems that arise). However, they are also taking a chance with the safety of other yachts around them, which I find a bit disconcerting. . . "

P.S. I have enjoyed Latitude 38 since you guys started. I am amazed that somehow you get better with each volume. I have also been curious as to the layout of Sightings - which I guess is supposed to be a speed bump for readers.

Stuart G. Sall
Red Rover, Hans Christian 34

Stuart - We've always considered it our legal and moral responsibility to keep from being run down by ships - and have found it easy because we take evasive action long before situations have a chance to develop. And we're not the only ones. If you observe the big charter sailboats on the Bay - such as Adventure Cat, Second Life, Hawaiian Chieftain and others - you'll notice that they don't get five toots from ships because their skippers give large commercial vessels plenty of room well in advance. It's equally prudent to do the same thing out on the ocean.

Singlehanded sailing for much more than a day is, by definition, illegal because no individual can maintain the continuous watch required by law for such a long period of time. We think the majority of singlehanders are willing accept the consequences of what happens as a result of not maintaining a continuous watch in return for singlehanding not being actively banned. In any event, the bottom line is that if there's a collision between a ship and a small boat, it's virtually always the small boat's fault.


Our cruising dream is getting closer. Four years ago we purchased an Allied Mistress 39, and have been working on her ever since. She's tested our budget, our patience and even our bond as a couple. But with the completion of every project we become more confident in both ourselves and our love for one another.

Although it's been a long road, we're still far from having the boat ready. When we get a little discouraged, I pull out a Latitude and read some of the letters or articles to Peggy. No matter if they are about cruisers having good times or cruisers having some troubles, they always cheer us up. Peggy, who is by far the most beautiful thing I've ever seen besides our boat, likes me to read to her. She is an earth sign and I am a fire sign. Add water to the two of us and you get hot mud - which is good for wrestling naked. But you have to watch for the burns.

Keeping our cruising dream alive has been a constant struggle, but we know we have to take the good with the bad. We're a little down right now as we've just got done putting in a new engine - and it was a lot of work. But writing this letter seems to help. I hope you'll find space for it in your magazine, as I'd love to read it to Peggy at bedtime. Looking forward to next year's Baja Ha-Ha also cheers us up.

Marcus, Peggy and Rory Catania
Cantaimya, Allied Mistress
Newport Beach

Marcus - We hope you read our response to your letter before you read your letter to Peggy - because you made a major boo-boo. A lot of guys don't understand this, but no matter how beautiful any boat is, she is never more beautiful than the woman in one's life. Not if you hope to ever do any more naked mud wrestling with her.

By the way, it might also cheer you up sometimes to check out 'Lectronic Latitude, as we post lots of dreamy looking cruising photos. In fact, by the time you read this, we should have a bunch of color shots up from this year's Ha-Ha, thanks to Qualcomm and Globalstar satellite systems. Just go to www.latitude38.com, then click on the blinking box to the right, and bingo, you'll virtually be doing the Ha-Ha with us.


Our 84-foot Beowulf is ensconced in a spider web of lines at Atlantic Yacht Basin on the ICW near Norfolk while we return to the office and catch up on a few things before heading back to do the West Marine Caribbean 1500 in early November.

As to the May issue debate between the Wanderer and Doña de Mallorca about whether or not the Swan 651 she helped deliver could average 10 knots across the Atlantic, I'd have to agree with her. While I'm not a big fan of Swan types, I must admit that it shouldn't be that difficult for a 651 to average 10 knots across the pond; all they need is a little breeze. I realize that your experience base - heavy lead mines and now cruising cats - probably doesn't allow for anything like a 10-knot average, but a couple of owners of our Deerfoot designs in the same size range have made the trip in 12 days and change. One of these was done in the ARC with, much to our embarrassment, a Swan 57 just six hours behind. We're also familiar with Wakaroa, a 72-foot very short rigged ketch - like ours - that regularly averages 10 knots between her home in New Zealand and the South Pacific Islands.

Our Beowulf is 12 feet longer, of course, but we hardly ever average anything as slow as 240 miles a day. In fact, in 29,000 miles of sailing, the only time this has happened was during our dead uphill trip from Panama to Curaçao. Yuck! Otherwise we seem to be able to do a pretty steady 270 to 300 depending on conditions. And before you throw sled performance at us, remember that we did the 42-mile Guadaloupe to Antigua Race in three hours and one minute. The Santa Cruz 70 in the race finished 37 minutes back.

We've also done Marina del Rey to the Marquesas in 12 days, 11 hours, and Taiohae to San Diego in 12 days, 3 hours - which is about 2,900 miles. Heck, we even made the 630 miles from Bermuda to Newport in 60 hours, but then Linda and I were racing the 140' Frers ketch Rebecca at the time, so we were paying more attention to sail trim in the continuously frontal and changing weather. By the way, we beat Rebecca by 5.5 hours.

So Señor Wanderer, it is possible to average 10 knots or better - you just need the right conditions and/or the right boat.

Steve Dashew

Steve - We'd like nothing better than to believe Doña de Mallorca's claim that she and some other folks delivered a Swan 651 some 2,700 miles across the Atlantic at an average of 10 knots. And to believe your claim that a 10-knot average isn't so difficult. But documented sailing times and ocean crossing records leave us no choice but to be extremely dubious.

You back your claim by saying that one of the Deerfoot 65s did the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers in "12 days and change". But if anything, that only supports our contention. In order to do the 2,700-mile ARC at 10 knots, a boat would have to do it in 270 hours - or 11.25 days. Assuming that "12 days plus change" means the Deerfoot did it in 12.25 days, she only averaged 9.1 knots - well off the 10 knot pace. Furthermore, based on ARC information two paragraphs down, we suspect she was only able to do that with a substantial amount of motoring through the light stuff.

The Atlantic Rally for Cruisers is a perfect yardstick for this argument because it's almost identical to the course de Mallorca claims to have done at 10 knots, and because it's long enough to include several of the inevitable lighter days found on any long passage. We did the ARC rally in '95 with
Big O. It was the tenth running and said to have had the strongest and most consistent fair winds of any ARC. So it's informative to see the kind of times that were recorded. Of the 176 boats that did the '95 ARC, the four fastest elapsed times were 13.5 days, 14 days, 14.5 days, and almost 15 days. We can't remember what kind of boats the first two were, but the third and fourth boats were 80-foot Whitbread veterans. In other words, the best average speed the Whitbread boats could make in the best conditions the event enjoyed was 8.3 knots - two full days short of a 10 knot average. So how are we supposed to believe that a Swan 651 - which displaces a whopping 80,000 pounds, can't surf, and is 15 feet shorter than the Whitbread boats - could have sailed the same course 20% faster? We can't.

If we look back at many of the sailing records as they appeared in the August '98
Latitude, it becomes clear that a 10 knot average is actually very difficult to achieve - even for the fastest racing boats with the best crews, sails and gear. At the time, the Annapolis to Bermuda record was an 8.8 average; the Sydney to Hobart was 10.1; the Cape Town to Rio was 10.1; the west to east Transatlantic 10.5; the Newport to Ensenada 10.5; the Long Beach to Cabo 10.5; the Santa Barbara to King Harbor 9.1; the San Francisco to Tahiti 8.1; the Los Angeles to Tahiti 10; and the Victoria to Maui 9.1. Many of these records have been eclipsed in the last two years, so we're working on a new list. Nonetheless, if the fastest times in the history by the fastest boats in history on some of the fastest courses in history are barely 10 knots, we're not buying that anyone could do 10 knots for that long on a delivery. In fact, anytime somebody from a non-racing boat starts telling us they averaged 10 knots for much more than 100 miles, our mind slips into a state of suspended belief.

We don't doubt the passage times you've cited for
Beowulf, since you've already told us that she's capable of motoring at 15 knots. If you motor at 15 knots for half a passage, you only have to sail at five knots during the other half to average 10 knots for the whole thing. So we'd need more information to know whether or not to be impressed by such claims. If you want to stake a speed claim, there's only one way to do it: race in an organized event against several boats of similar length.

For the record, we don't want anybody to get the idea we have anything disparaging to say about the Frers designed Swan 651. This is a superb design that was a major improvement upon the original S&S designed Swan 65 - which itself was a legendary yacht.


I've been an avid reader of Latitude for 10 years, and bought two of my previous boats through the Classy Classifieds. And since I've also learned a great deal through reading the magazine, I hope someone will be able to benefit from my tale.

While wandering the docks about a year ago, I came across a beautiful sailboat, and upon closer inspection noticed a worn and sun-bleached 'for sale' sign. I liked the boat and started thinking of things I could sell to raise the down payment. Since I'm a diesel mechanic in a small harbor, it was easy for me to get the scoop on the boat. Since I could find nothing bad, I contacted the owner to set up a time to inspect the boat more thoroughly.

We met on a beautiful October day, which added to the charm of the somewhat neglected boat. I instantly felt comfortable with the owner, and quickly regarded him as though he was an old friend. We talked for several hours in the beautiful teak cockpit, during which time he informed me that he would soon be hauling the boat at the yard where I work for a bottom job. He told me I could better inspect her then.

Everything seemed to suggest that this would be the best boat at the price to suit my needs, so we took the next step, which was listing the boat we then owned with a broker - as well as taking out a Classy Classified. At that point, the deal was that we would sell our boat to create the down payment for the larger boat. The owner said he was willing to keep us at the top of the list until January - three months away - to give us time to sell our boat.

When January came and went without our boat selling, we called the seller and informed him that we needed more time to sell our boat. If he got a better offer, we told him to take it and there wouldn't be any hard feelings. By early July, neither our boat nor the other guy's boat had sold. Then I got a call from him sweetening the deal slightly. He said that if I lowered the selling price of my boat so that it would sell more quickly, he would lower the sale price of his boat to us by the same amount. I immediately got on the phone with my broker and told him to start collecting offers. An offer soon came in that was approximately 20% lower than the lowest price I felt was reasonable, but with the new deal I wouldn't be losing anything, right? I called the owner to make sure that our deal was still on, and that I wanted to mail him the check and take ownership on August 1.

It was here that I screwed up, as I didn't get any of it in writing. Operating on the assumption the deal was still on, I called my broker and instantly my faithful old boat was sold. I was slightly nervous not having a boat to call my own, so I called the owner of the boat I was to buy and left a message for him to call me, and that I would be mailing the down payment to him on July 25.

I didn't hear from him for three days, and when he did call, it was one of the worst calls I'd gotten in my life. The owner informed me that he felt bad about things, but that I would have to wait several months until the new Classified ads he'd taken out kicked in. So now I was out of both my boat and the cash I would have made had I waited to sell. I'm a trusting person, but I should have gotten the deal in writing. I'll certainly do it next time.

So take my warning and be smarter than I was. This is only my side of the story, of course, so I'm leaving out the incriminating information as well as my name.

Name Withheld
Northern California

N.W. - Your advice to get deals in writing is excellent for two reasons. First, if properly written it spells out the deal clearly so there isn't confusion. Second, it's a good tool for helping people remember their promises.


I bought a boat in Mexico last May, and it's still in Mexico. However, the California Board of Equalization seems to have taken an interest in the deal. What's the law on this? I was under the impression that if the boat stayed in Mexico for 90 days, the state was out of the picture with regard to taxes.

Jim McGuire
Westsail 32, Aguja

Jim - As long as you bought the boat out of the state and don't bring her back into the state for 90 days, you shouldn't have any problem - with two provisions: 1) Get everything documented in writing. 2) Make sure you spend at least some of the time actively using the boat in Mexico as opposed to letting it just sit in a marina or on the hard. One of the folks from the Board of Equalization recently assured us that they know exactly what's happening with many boat transactions, and as long as they are completed to the letter of the law, no tax is due. But if someone screws up - such as leaving the boat to sit in Mexico as opposed to actively using her - the state will happily come around for your money. By the way, if you have any questions, call the Board of Equalization, as they are very helpful in explaining under what circumstances sales tax is owed and when it's not owed.


I recently purchased a 1983 CT-49 cutter designed by Kauffman & Ladd. But, I'm having lots of trouble finding information on the boat, other owners, design reviews and so forth. Can you help me find out more?

Steven Renz
Santa Barbara

Steven - We'd suggest starting with Kauffman Naval Architects at (410) 263-8900 or Rob Ladd Yacht Design at (410) 263-3398. The only CT-49 owner we know is Mike Hibbetts of the San Francisco-based CT-49 Orion. A couple of years ago, his was one of only two boats that completed that year's entire Ha-Ha without resorting to motoring. While in Mexico, Mike bumped into Heather Boyd, who did the Ha-Ha on Profligate last year, and now they're a happy cruising couple.


I'm in the market for a new eight hp outboard. I'm considering the new Honda four-stroke, which runs cleans and burns less fuel, but I'm also concerned about the weight and availability of parts and service. I sail in Mexico and Central America. I recall that you wrote an article about Yamaha versus Honda, but can't remember what issue it was in. Could I get a copy?

John Kelly

John - We didn't write an article about it, but made some general remarks in response to questions in Letters about two-strokes verses four-strokes, and how hard it is to get parts and service for the various engine makes outside of the United States. To review the situation, there is no doubt that four-strokes run cleaner and burn less fuel than two-strokes, but they're also heavier. However, if weight becomes a major issue, it's worth knowing that the new two-strokes run much cleaner than the old ones did. Modern outboards are extremely reliable, but when it comes to international parts and service, Yamaha offers much better coverage than does Honda. For what it's worth, Yamaha has long offered two models of 9.9 four-stroke outboards.


I would like to praise Galley Marine of Seattle for going far beyond the realm of normal customer service. In February of 1999, I had them install an Entec 4.2 KW generator on my Hardin 45 Freyja. That September I left Seattle for warmer waters, and San Diego for Cabo as part of the '99 Ha-Ha. After a season of cruising Mexico, I decided that I would leave Freyja in Puerto Vallarta and fly home for the summer. But before I left, I discovered the shore power at the dock was temporarily out, so I started my trusty Entec. Unfortunately, it soon stopped. After numerous attempts to diagnose what seemed like a fuel problem, I obtained some excellent assistance from Greg of Vallarta Adventures, who found that the piston, rings and cylinder had been extensively damaged. It was then May of 2000, months beyond the one-year factor warranty. I had a total of 186 hours on the generator.

After a couple of emails to Galley Marine to try to get parts shipped down for Greg to install, I received an email from Don Gonsorowski, the owner of Galley Marine. He said he would fly to Puerto Vallarta on June 1 with the parts. To be honest, I thought he was using the parts delivery as an excuse for a mini vacation. Nonetheless, Don arrived on a Thursday afternoon, came directly to my boat, and worked nonstop until he got my Entec running again. He then discovered a plugged oil pressure relief valve, which had been the cause of all the problems. Using my scuba tank, he blew out the blockage. So now my generator is running again and the cause of the problem has been solved.

Don said that he was able to fly down on 'miles' and was able to stay at a friend's condo in Marina Vallarta, so there would be no charge for his work. Furthermore, he would attempt to get Entec to replace his parts stock because the defect had apparently been there from the beginning. By the way, Don told me that based on his accurate diagnosis, and systematic and neat disassembly of the Entec, Greg of Vallarta Adventure was obviously a very skilled mechanic.

I know we all complain about high hourly shop rates, but if a firm does quality work and stands behind it beyond legal or even expected standards, it gives us some faith in the marine industry.

John Pedersen
Freyja, Hardin 45
Seattle/Puerto Vallarta

John - From now on we're not buying any marine products until we find out how many frequent flyer miles the owner has and whether he has any friends with condos in Mexico.


As was reported in Latitude, we did have a fire aboard our charter boat Marco Polo. We were on our way from Marina de La Paz in Baja to pick up passengers at La Concha. The fire - which started in an electrical bundle over one of the engines because a 32-volt water pump shorted and didn't trip the breaker - broke out while we were passing Marina Palmira. Three of the boat's five fire extinguishers failed, including the Halon system in the engine compartment. All had been tested within the previous 12 months. Fortunately, we have a great crew that was able to put the fire out with the boat's other extinguishers. In addition, the crew got help from Marina Palmira and the Mexican Navy. The fire had been so hot that the water boiled out of one of the engines. The damage was repaired within three weeks, and now all the breakers also have in-line fuses.

More Americans than ever seem interested in putting their boats into the charter business in Mexico, so maybe I can explain a little of what's involved in doing this legally. It never was a requirement that the boat had to be owned by a Mexican citizen, and boats can be temporarily imported for the purpose of chartering. After NAFTA was passed, Mexican corporations could be 100% foreign owned. We, for example, have our own corporation and accountant. However, it's not cheap to start a corporation in Mexico and it can often be frustrating as we're often surprised with new interpretations of the same laws. Fortunately, my partner does a great job of dealing with the bureaucracy.

Any company in Mexico has to pay corporate taxes as well as IVA on all corporate income. Mexican taxes aren't outrageously high. While having a Mexican partner and Mexican employees aren't essential, it helps show that you are serious about contributing to the Mexican economy. And if you're not going to contribute to the Mexican economy, they understandably aren't very interested in you starting a business. The owner has to have a FM3 permit, and if you don't hire Mexican employees, it can be difficult to get a work permit. Naturally, you have to pay personal income taxes on any money you earn.

In addition to having to start a corporation, quite a few permits are required. These aren't cheap. In order for a foreign owner to captain his foreign boat, she must be temporarily imported. But it's a special kind of temporary importation. If the boat is fully imported, she must have a Mexican captain. In addition, the boat must be based out of a marina, and the boat has to be registered with the city and port captain of the jurisdiction where you want to charter. Different permits are required if you plan to go from one jurisdiction to another. Nobody is permitted to charter without insurance for all the crew and passengers.

If someone were to come down to Mexico for the first time and try to set up a charter business on their own, it might take them as much as six months. It can take much less time if you hire someone who knows the system. By the way, it makes no difference if your passengers came down from the States with you or not. If they're paying for being on your boat, you have to have a legal Mexican corporation and all the permits.

Jim Hughes
Irish Mist/Marco Polo
Baja Coast Seafaris

Jim - In other words, anyone who figures they can pop down to Mexico with their boat for the winter and rake in a couple of grand a week might be in for frustration and disappointment.


Hard to believe, but I was reading the September issue of Latitude in mid-September. Good news travels fast in Mexico! After reading Mr. LaChapelles' letter about mordida in that issue, I feel compelled to share my own experiences.

After our recent trip home to the States, and then during the return trip from Tucson to San Carlos, Mexico, our bus was stopped just after crossing the border. This was the normal stop, where everybody has to get their baggage and take their chances pushing the traffic light button to see if they have to have their bags searched. After we, the only gringos on the bus, unloaded our six bags with over 300 pounds of stuff, the official at the light asked if everything in the bags was clothes. We didn't want to deceive anyone, so we told him that it consisted of lots of clothes but also of many parts for my boat. He then had us move to another area, where he asked for our boat's Temporary Import Permit - which we showed him. He then asked for receipts for all the stuff we were bringing in. We, of course, had conveniently 'lost' these long before getting to Mexico. When he asked for the value of the stuff, I came up with $400 - which I must confess was a ridiculous underestimate! He then asked if I had a letter from a marina showing which parts I had either destroyed or had taken out of Mexico. I didn't have one of those either.

The official then began punching the buttons on his wristwatch/calculator - and said I would have to pay $60 and go over to another office and fill out some forms. While this was going on, the alternate bus driver said something in Spanish to the effect that he had a bus full of people and wasn't waiting for me to do an hour's worth of paperwork. He was loading our bags back onto the bus as he said this. The customs official then asked if I had $30. As I quickly reached for my wallet, he stopped me from being so obvious and told me to put the money in my carry-on bag. After guiding him to where the $30 was located, he asked my wife to go over and push the button on the traffic light - which naturally turned green. I have always believed there is nothing random about those lights! The alternate driver already had the rest of our bags in the bus, and in seconds we were on our way again!

I didn't have a problem paying that kind of mordida - because the guy saved me money and made my life a whole lot easier. He also made the lives of the 50 other passengers on the bus easier, too. I hope he put the $30 to good use! As for people who think there is no corruption in the United States, they should pay more attention to the news. California's former Insurance Commissioner should serve as just one good example. The bribes are just a little different in the States. The little guy on the street may not be taking your money, but the big fish find all kinds of ways of misusing taxpayer funds.

Bahia de Los Angeles, Sea of Cortez

G.S. - We hope you don't mind, but given your confession, we decided it might be in your best interest if we withheld your full name. The mordida situations offer a dilemma. On the one hand, going along with it really does subvert the rule of law and the Mexican government's efforts to eliminate it. On the other hand, foreign visitors are in the weakest position of all to fight it. That the Mexican government doesn't eliminate situations in which mordida is encouraged - such as yours, where doing the legal thing would have taken an hour and wasted everyone's time - is what allows it to continue. Experts say it's best to resist mordida when it doesn't endanger your safety. We would have done exactly what you did in your situation.


Do you have any information or anecdotal references on Clipper Marine boats designed by William Crealock? I've started my personal website about my sailing activities and about my second boat, a Clipper Marine 21. My first boat was a model of PT-109. Anyway, my website is http://home.sc.rr.com/joecox.

If anyone could remember any articles - positive or negative - about the boats, company or designer, I'd be most appreciative. By the way, in today's Internet of eye candy and other crap, Latitude's site is simple, direct and informative. Please don't learn more about web design and spoil what you've already done.

Joe Cox
Columbia, South Carolina

Joe - Thanks for the kind words. Criticizing a man's boat is right up there with criticizing his lady. Nonetheless, we'd be negligent if we didn't have to tell you that we don't believe Clipper Marine boats were designed, built or rigged for anything but sailing in protected waters. Yes, one fellow singlehanded a Clipper Marine 32 from San Diego to the Marquesas, but it's not something we'd recommend. In addition, there is a guy who frequently sails a blue on blue Clipper Marine 26 or 30 on the Bay. It certainly wouldn't be the boat we'd want to be sailing in The Slot on an ebb in the middle of summer, but this guy seems to trim and reef his sails well, so maybe he knows something we don't.

There's an active Clipper Marine owner's website at www.angelfire.com/ca/ldrust/cmoa.html, with an interesting history of the company. [Webmistress's note: When we posted this page, this link was active, but it is no longer. If anyone knows of a current site for Clipper Marine owners, please email us.] What gets us to worrying, however, is when one contributor says not to worry too much about the flexing flat expanses because a Moore 24 has them, too. That's as misleading as comparing a Yugo to a Mercedes because they both have four tires. The web history cautions that boats built after '75 were inferior to the earlier ones. If we remember correctly, one of the smaller Clippers sank off Southern California after the hull and deck separated.

A Clipper Marine on a small lake or within the confines of places such as San Diego Bay, Newport Harbor or the Oakland Estuary seems like a reasonable proposition to us. However, we wouldn't suggest anyone consider anything more arduous without the particular boat having been checked out by a competent surveyor.


I was disappointed that Don Bryden took such a strong stance after reading a short article on the collision my crew and I had in the waters off the coast of Nicaragua/Honduras. I'm reminded of the saying about walking a mile in another's shoes.

Given the circumstances - a black night, a boat with no lights, in the middle of the drug-smuggling highway - I believe we made the most prudent decision possible. That fact that there had been 'pirate problems' in the area did weigh heavily on our decision. So did the fact that we'd been warned that darkened fishing boats wait offshore loaded with drums of fuel awaiting the smuggling boats heading north.

Following the collision, we watched and monitored the other vessel for at least 30 minutes. Nobody on the other vessel made any attempt to contact us. It was only when we got out of sight that we began looking after our own problems - including taking water on through the bow. The incident never would have occurred had the other vessel shown any lights - as we did - or maintained a lookout. The vessel didn't show up on radar either.

If someone wants to denigrate the character of my crew and me, it might interest them to know that we helped build houses in Chacala, worked on sewers on a Rotary International project, provided food and clothing to families in Baja, mainland Mexico, Costa Rica and Guatemala. We have also helped the sick in Guatemala and El Salvador. We're not the "uncaring gringos" that the one reader accused us of being. I mentioned the incident to warn others making the passage of potential navigational hazards.

Joe LaRive


Before skippering Dave Oliver's Olson 30, I spent many of my early years sailing a Rhodes 19. The noted marine photographer Diane Beeston took some pictures of us in the early '70s - when we raced against current Olympians Jeff Madrigali and Russ Silvestri, who at the time were still pre-puberty. Is Diane still around and are her files still available?

Paul Bancel
Northern California

Paul - From 1960 through 1988, Diane Beeston was the premiere yacht photographer on San Francisco Bay - and perhaps the country. Several books of her photographs were published, and they are familiar to all Bay sailors of that era. She was a big help to us at Latitude, too. Having had her fill of photography in the late '80s, Beeston moved to Astoria, Oregon - where she'd like her friends to know that she was able to purchase "a spectacular, modern 3,000 sq. ft home with a four-car garage and a million dollar view of the Columbia River and bar for - sit down - $145,000. You'd have to pay $300,000 for it now, but if it was in Tiburon it would bring $2 million." Anyway, she's got an art gallery downtown, is busy painting, and recently did 16 small murals on Astoria buildings. She's healthy and wants to say 'hi' to all her old friends from the Bay Area.

As for Diane's photographs, R.C. Keefe bought many of the early ones of big boats, but Diane donated the rest to the San Francisco YC - where she was made a lifetime member. "The club did a better job of organizing them that I ever did," she laughs, "and they are all still available. I have nothing to do with them, however, but interested parties only need call Leigh Abell at (415) 453-8765 for further information."


Don't sell electric motors short! Multihulls magazine had a review on a unit that had a prop that would reverse its pitch and charge the batteries at one-third the amps it used while running. It had a pretty good range too. Heck, if you have a monohull you're going to need some lead ballast anyway, so why not make the lead do double work?

I even built a 26-passenger catamaran using 2,214-pound thrust D.C. electric outboards. Unfortunately, the Coast Guard was not willing to sign them off on an ocean route, so I switched back to gas to get my Certificate of Inspection. It sure was fun when it was electric, though.

Lloyd Reeves
Morro Bay Charters

Lloyd - And we thought the government was in favor of reducing the number of internal combustion engines.


Thanks for the mag - and in particular, opening up the subject of cruising multihulls. A significant number of we monohull cruisers who sailed across from Mexico to the South Pacific this year have become very interested in multihulls. For a lot of us, they would offer the advantage of being able to return to California each year - as Blair and Joan Grinoles have been doing with their 46-foot Capricorn Cat. They've sailed to Mexico three times, Hawaii once, and the South Pacific twice, sailing back to California at the end of each season, then taking off for the tropics again a few months later at the start of winter.

We have read Chris White's The Cruising Multihull, and found it to be packed with great information. Based with this information, several of us went and looked at the charter cats - there are lots of them - in the Raiatea, Tahaa, Bora Bora area. We also talked to private owners of production cats. Nonetheless, we're not completely satisfied and feel we're missing some important information - such as the name of a company that makes a real cruising cat in the 36 to 42-foot range. All the ones we've seen are three and four bedroom jobs with bridgedeck layouts that make space conscious cruisers cringe. I'm 6'5", so I wonder how hard it would be to 'raise the roof' of the bridgedeck a bit? And even with my very long arms, I still couldn't reach the bottom of the veggie bin on one charter cat. A normal-sized human would have had to crawl onto the counter top to get the last pampelmous.

Doreen and Mark on Imani are friends of ours who took us through all of their experience building their cat in the Bay Area. I keep forgetting what the length their boat was - maybe only 34 feet - but they and their children Maya and Tristan and their cat live aboard very comfortably. And they still sail their buns off. I was amazed at how much room there is on their boat.

The bottom line is that there are a bunch of us out here who would like you to publish an article or create space for opinions on multihulls. We want to know stuff such as the pros and cons of daggerboards versus keels, and what to do about engines and sail plans. Blair's thoughts on the latter really helped us out tremendously. We also wonder if it's possible to refit a used cat with daggerboards and/or rebuild two interior bedrooms into storage. We're also curious as to the best market for used cats.

Anyway, Dian and I decided to extend our visas, hang here in the four-island area of Raiatea, Tahaa, Bora Bora and Huahine this season, haul out for storage at Raiatea Carenage, then return next year.

Bob Walker and Dian Drake
Zeeotter, Tayana 37
French Polynesia

Bob & Dian - We've published a lot of information - some say too much - about cruising mulithulls in the last six months. Before we give you a quick review, we want to caution you. The idea of sailing from California to Mexico to Tonga, then sailing back to California for a few months before starting the cycle all over again, isn't realistic. If we remember correctly, Blair and Joan started out by spending their winters in Mexico and their summers in California - which is perfectly reasonable, no matter if you have a fast cat or a heavy displacement cruiser. The third year, the Grinoles cruised to Mexico, Hawaii, and then back home. That's quite a bit further, but still within reason. The following year they sailed to Mexico, Tonga, then back to California - where they stayed for a few months before heading back to Mexico. This last 10,000-mile trip might be faster and more comfortable with their 46-ft cat than on a Tayana 37, but it's still far more passagemaking than 95% of cruisers would be interested in doing on a regular basis. We love being on the ocean, but if anyone wants to commute between California and the South Pacific, we recommend a jet, not a monohull or catamaran. By the way, we just got off the phone with John Neal of Mahina Tiare III, who regularly puts in about 10,000 miles a year. He agreed that commuting to and from the South Pacific is not something he'd recommend.

Here's our take on cat qualities, in order of importance. All things equal, the longer and lighter the cat, the faster and safer she will be. White's assertion that doubling the size of a cat will make her 16 times more stable made a big impression on us. The late multihull designer and sailor Lock Crowther of Australia - who knew a million times more about cats than we ever will - said he thought the minimum size for an open ocean cat is about 44 feet. While that sounds like about the minimum size we'd feel comfortable with on mid-ocean, scores of others have made long and safe cruises on smaller cats.

A family of three from Berkeley, for example, had a wonder-ul cruise to the South Pacific a few years back aboard their 24-ft cat. And the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers allows cats of just 25 feet in length, while monohulls have to be at least 27 feet. Incidentally, nine of this year's 235 ARC boats are catamarans, the average length being 43 feet. You may also remember that last month Michael Beattie and Layne Goldman of Santa Cruz wrote about cruising their Gemini 34
Miki G. from San Francisco to Florida. They also said they wouldn't want to sail her across a really rough ocean, and more recently told us they hope to buy a much bigger cat in a few years. Some of the most powerful evidence for the ability of smallish cats to survive atrocious weather comes from Ramtha and Heart Light, two cats of less than 40 feet that survived the Queen's Birthday Storm with little or no help from their crews. This was the storm in which two Westsail 32s were rolled, a Norseman 447 was pitchpoled, and a 40-ft Kiwi sloop was sunk with the loss of her entire crew. By the way, if there's anyplace where we think relatively small cats could be safely cruised, it's Mexico.

In addition to being long and light, we think a cat also needs plenty of bridgedeck clearance - three feet is a good start - so ocean sailing isn't ruined by waves exploding off the bottom of the bridgedeck. These are known as 'bombs', and send salon chairs and tables flying, and sometimes leave cat crews whimpering. We don't know what Blair told you about sail plans, but we're completely sold on the idea of a huge main and a tiny - and this is important - self-tacking jib. Having sailed with such a scheme for three years now, the idea of touching a line or picking up a winch handle in order to tack seems positively primitive.

Deciding between daggerboards or keels is kind of like deciding between dogs and cats, as each have their pros and cons. Daggerboards allow you to point much higher and can be raised to perhaps allow a cat to surf sideways in a storm. On the negative side, daggerboards and daggerboard cases are relatively fragile. Blair had trouble with his after hitting a coral head in Polynesia. The beauty of keels is that you can haul out on any calm beach where there's a good tide, they are cheaper to build, and they won't break. But pointing ability suffers significantly. So it's simply a matter of picking which attributes you like best. Yes, it's possible to retrofit a catamaran with daggerboards - but only in the sense that you can do anything to a boat if you're willing to spend enough money.

In our highly personal opinion, the least important cat quality is a luxurious interior, because it dramatically increases the cost and the weight, and the latter is devastating to catamaran performance. When we settled on a budget for a cat, we found that we could either afford a 44-footer with a beautiful and luxurious interior, or 63-footer with simple accommodations for 12. We're glad we went for the latter because we're more interested in speed - which as everyone warned, is addictive - and space than we are comfort and luxury. Many other sailors - possibly a majority - would have the reverse priorities. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that, especially for living aboard and/or gunkholing in places like Mexico, for which purpose such boats would be ideal.

Headroom in the salon of a 35-footer for a guy who is 6'5"? It's not going to happen. Figure that you need three feet for bridgedeck clearance and a total of seven feet for headroom and structure in the main salon - which means the top of the house has to be 10 feet off the surface of the water. Try sketching a cat that's one third as tall as she is long - and doesn't look ridiculous or have a horrible amount of windage. This is not to say that you couldn't cut out the overhead of a 35-foot cat and install a cabriolet top for when it rains. It's been done, but not often.

The problem with oceangoing cats of any size is that they're not cheap. In fact, for a given amount of money, you could probably find used monohulls that would be faster, better built and better appointed. The lowest priced cats are white elephants that only you see the beauty in; daycharter cats adapted for cruising; smaller retired term charter cats, even though you have to live with the fact they were designed more for maximum berths than for performance; and even smaller cats which may not be as safe or comfortable in rough ocean conditions. In many cases, the best value in a cat might be something you pay more for in the beginning, really enjoy while you own, and ultimately sell for a good price. But only you can make a decision based on a combination of your desires and your budget. Good luck.


Last week we sailed out of the Berkeley Marina ahead of a guy with a 42-ft wood boat. Evidently, the owner hadn't kept up his end of the slip rental agreement, which required him to sail the boat regularly or lose his slip. It seemed a waste to have to move this boat to Sausalito and anchor out in Richardson Bay. I believe the guy had been a liveaboard, and since he hadn't sailed in the required 90 days, he was responsible for not pumping his boat out, too. If that was the case, I partly agree with them having to move out.

Are there really that many people who manage their sailing schedule so poorly that the harbormaster can kick them out? It seems that many people just own boats and don't sail them. If the rigging and sails are in decent shape, maybe a small group of sailors including myself could keep trouble at bay, so to speak, by taking the boats out for the owners. We can be reached at (510) 531-4159.

The last point I want to make is about the letter last month in which someone was calling on nearly every government agency to clean up Richardson Bay. Even if this were possible, we could not even send the boats rejected from other marinas, and it would create a conflicting and adversarial situation in what's currently a safe place for people who just don't give a damn anymore. I suggest leaving the government out of places we don't want them, so whoever wrote in last month should get a grip and realize that there needs to be a haven for boats so they don't get caught in a terrible set of circumstances. Shame on whoever you are, tattletale! More government is not better government. And if you haven't noticed, we already have too many regulations.

A Guy With A Boat That Noticed
San Francisco Bay

A.G.W.A.B.T.N. - Let us first comment on the situation at the Berkeley Marina, which has 950 wet berths. The BCDC (Bay Conservation and Development Commission) has given approval that 100 of these can be used for legal liveaboards. About 85% of these are currently filled, and the rest will be filled shortly after a new harbormaster is hired. Al Citero, an assistant manager at the marina, says they get "two or three requests a week for liveaboard berths". The liveaboard of record, who must be the owner of the boat, pays an additional $125/month, while up to three other liveaboards must pay an additional $75 each.

There are a lot of rules for legally living aboard in Berkeley. Here is a rough outline of the major ones: The boat must be over 24 feet, in good repair and able to navigate the Central Bay in typical conditions; it must have a holding tank for all waste water; adjacent dock areas must be kept clean; the boat must leave the dock at least once every 180 days; on June 30 and December 30 the owner must submit a log of the days the boat was taken out of the marina and a log of when a pump-out station was used; the owner must live aboard more than 50% of the time; boisterous and loud activities are not permitted; pets that are a nuisance are not allowed; the liveaboard must submit to drug testing every three months. In addition, there are a bunch of other minor rules. All right, we just snuck in the drug-testing rule to see if anyone would notice. A source very familiar with the situation in Berkeley says his best "wild guess" is that there are an additional 100 sneakaboards. The above is a long way of saying that, yes, the marina has grounds for kicking out a liveaboard boat that hasn't left the marina in 180 days or hasn't regularly used the pump-out station. However, Citero assures us that although these regulations are on the books, they have not been used to evict anyone.

Moving over to Richardson Bay, we don't think you were complaining about a letter that was written to us, but rather something we wrote in Sightings. And either we did a terrible job of expressing ourselves or you completely misunderstood our point, for we never mentioned anything about wanting anchor-outs kicked out. We have Libertarian inclinations, so our basic outlook is that as long as individuals don't harm others, the government should stay the hell out of their lives. As such, we think that the BCDC's illogical declaration that boats are 'Bay fill' and therefore they (the BCDC) get to determine how many hours a week a person can spend on their boat is far too authoritarian for us. Nonetheless, Libertarians also believe that it's the government's responsibility to oversee basic public safety, which means there should be reasonable standards for things like pollution, consumer products, highways and roads - and navigation and anchorages. As such, we think that boats anchored in Richardson Bay should be required to meet basic navigation, safety and anti-pollution requirements - and then be left the hell alone. And that channels and fairways be clearly identified and maintained. Given all the money we mariners pay in county taxes, we think that this is the least we deserve - along with dinghy docks, public showers, secure mooring buoys, and perhaps a fund to help current anchor-outs bring their vessels up to minimum standards.


Frankly, your response to Jacqueline Maupu's letter stinks. Her point - that in comparison to the European and Asian situation, American justice is far more responsive to injuries sustained by individuals at the hands of large corporations - is valid. Your biased comment that Maupu will modify her well-founded opinion if she stays in this country long enough is hot air. You publish a nice magazine, but should not use your position for name-calling and bigoted rants on issues you clearly know little about. Since Maupu wrote in reaction to a letter concerning the lack of compensation by Exxon to an Alaskan fisherman, you may note that this month the United States Supreme Court has rejected Exxon's request to review the five billion dollar punitive damages it was ordered to pay

K. Mileck

K. - If you recall, we wrote that we thought that the U.S. legal system was superior to the European and Asian equivalents, but also that the American system of justice is still an insult to anyone who values the ideals of truth and justice. Having purchased a little 'justice' ourselves, and having firsthand knowledge of lawyers - officers of the court, if you will - deliberately instructing their clients to lie under oath for financial gain - we don't believe we're as ignorant as you suggest. Furthermore, having cited the reasons for our disgust with the American legal system - that 'justice' often goes to the highest bidder, that extortion is not only permitted but encouraged, and that for all practical purposes the majority of the population is denied access to the system - we think we rated a more thoughtful response than the inarticulate suggestion that our opinion "stinks".

Were we ranting, full of hot air and biased? One is a very small sample, of course, but in the course of researching an article, we just spoke with a very successful San Francisco lawyer who has practiced law all over the world. Having never met the man, we asked for his candid assessment of the American legal system. "It's a complete f--king joke," he responded, "that serves the interests of the monied classes." He further volunteered that the system did a very poor job of dispute resolution and left middle class people as the most vulnerable to "really getting f--ked". He nonetheless said he loved his job because he saw his role as "getting people out of the system."

Sure, a sailing magazine may not be the most appropriate forum to speak out against failures and abuses in government, but we feel a moral obligation to raise the issue from time to time. Our apologies to those of you who see no room for improvement or feel the general population's disenchantment is no cause for concern. And no, we're not whining because we lost a lawsuit or have a particular interest in how any given case turned out, we just happen to believe in truth and justice. Anyway, back to sailing.


Westrec, with a regional office in Lodi, owns and operates marinas in the Bay Area - including the one where I keep my boat. During a recent friendly - if passionate, on my part, at least - conversation with Jay, a Westrec rep, I was informed that "even two hours" aboard my boat could constitute one full day of occupying my boat. We non-liveaboard tenants are allowed 15 days of being on our boats during any 30-day revolving period.

Whether he intended to say what he did, and whether he was quoting actual Westrec policy, I'm not sure. But what is clear to me is that it's time for boatowners everywhere to organize an association for the purpose of permanently employing a lawyer and two part-time assistants for the defense of our ecologically harmonious interests.

Jay also told me that "the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is pressuring the Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) to completely eliminate liveaboards from San Francisco Bay."

I've owned my boat for just nine months, but the friendship and support I've gotten from the boating community has been refreshing and uplifting.

Peter Metcalf

Peter - The BCDC doesn't need any pressuring from the EPA, as they've wanted to eliminate liveaboards for the last 25 years. But the BCDC has two problems. The first is they have no policing power, and they can't get any agencies that have it - such as the Coast Guard or the county sheriff or police - to do their dirty work for them. Particularly not in Richardson Bay, where we believe some anchor-outs would fight to the death to prevent having their ever-so-humble floating residences taken away. Secondly, as powerful as the BCDC is, they don't quite have the political muscle to eliminate liveaboards - especially now that housing and traffic are such major problems. Indeed, for a number of years the BCDC has said that if marina owners will kiss their ass just the way they like it, they can have up to 10% liveaboards. Some marinas have taken the offer, others haven't liked all the strings that are attached.

Whether or not Jay was serious about two hours counting as a full day of 'boat occupation' isn't something we'd worry about. We don't know of any marina that tracks boat usage anywhere near that closely. If you're a friendly tenant who pays his bill on time, keeps his boat in good shape, doesn't leave crap all over the docks, and doesn't have an annoying pet, you're every harbormaster and marina owner's dream. We're not sure what you mean by "ecologically harmonious interests", but one lawyer and a couple of assistants isn't going to be a drop in the bucket of what it would take to get the BCDC to reverse their anti-liveaboard bent. And given the BCDC's inability to enforce these laws for the last 25 years, why would anyone want to waste the time and money trying?


Sitting in beautiful Bora Bora, it was a little disturbing to read the one-sided July story about the boat S.A.M. The warning to stay away from this gentle, elderly retired couple from South Africa - not England, as was reported - is as ridiculous as the droll slobbering money-grubbing trolls they were made out to be.

Over drinks on Moorea, they told us their side of the story about what happened in Panama. After they had successfully passed through the locks and were lying to a mooring at the Balboa YC preparing to depart for the Galapagos and beyond, they were horrified to watch as the boat Day by Day broadsided them in broad daylight. The boat was on its way to pick up a pilot to transit the Canal. The boat's bowsprit came up on their deck and through their hard dodger with enough force to continue on and break their mooring! The damage was not by any means minor, and it was easy for us to see some of the remnants. Stunned at this clever bit of yachtsmanship, the couple were even more aghast when shortly thereafter they watched Day by Day proceed to pick up their pilot and continue on through the Panama Canal. S.A.M. was thus left with just their names, name of their insurance company, and a promise that it would get settled.

The owners of Day by Day may be fine, outstanding people with the full intent of making sure that everything gets settled properly - but what are your options when a foreign boat in a foreign country broadsides you in daylight while sitting at a mooring? And then the vessel at fault leaves with only their word that everything will get worked out? We have all heard stories of foreign freighters, fishing boats and such hitting sailboats and carrying on, and the resulting nightmares of trying to get things settled after the fact. Should an incident with a yacht be handled any differently?

The owners of S.A.M. report that luckily there was a marine surveyor around, and on this local's advice they contacted the Marine Court in Panama, put up a $5000 cash bond - which they said was incredibly difficult to do - to get Day by Day impounded until a settlement was to be reached. This as opposed to just taking their word. Day by Day was then impounded halfway through the Panama Canal. From this bond, $50 a day went to a guard to make sure the boat did not leave until a surveyor was able to assess the damage, and an award was guaranteed from the insurance company.

So instead of the legal question of 'do you have to pay for damages immediately' being addressed, the more appropriate questions should be: "What are your obligations if you are at fault, and what do you do if someone hits you and then departs?

As for the advice to stay away from S.A.M., it sure sounds much safer to be anchored next to S.A.M. vs. being tied up to a mooring in front of Day by Day.

Chris and Geraldine Blomfield-Brown
Tahirih, Hardin 45
Bainbridge Island, WA/French Polynesia

Chris & Geraldine - We suppose there are two ways to view the incident, depending on how much or how little one has faith in their fellow man. If it's true that both of the folks on S.A.M. are lawyers, it would be understandable to assume they saw the worst in others and therefore felt the need to run to yet another lawyer. We, on the other hand, prefer to look for the best in people, and would therefore have made a much greater effort to resolve the situation in a less adversarial manner. And that's not talk, as we've been in the same situations before in foreign countries and had our faith in others justified. In any event, based on what we've heard - and we've gotten a bunch of other reports on the event - here's why it seems to us that the S.A.M. owners wildly overreacted:

1) Shit is going to happen when you cruise, no matter if it's a boat T-boning yours by accident in broad daylight or two boats on the hook swinging into each other during a midnight windshift. If a person can't accept that there will be some unpleasantness while cruising, they'd be better off staying home. And it's how a person reacts to unfortunate incidents - and this was rather minor - that define their character.

2) If the folks on
Day By Day showed any signs of being irresponsible - such as having a trashed boat, not having any insurance, or not having a reservation at a marina in Panama - we could have seen a reason for the S.A.M. to be paranoid. As this wasn't the case, we think the Days were entitled to at least a little benefit of the doubt.

3) If we'd been the
Days, we would have cancelled our Canal transit, but the assertion that they were trying to "escape" by going through the Canal strikes us as being ridiculous. By going through the Canal, they turn their boat over to somebody else, they are trapped inside the Canal, and everybody knows where they are. If they wanted to run out on their responsibility, all they had to do was wait until dark, slip behind an outbound ship, and in a matter of minutes they'd be on the open Pacific free to head to Ecuador, Costa Rica or the Galapagos.

4) What really leaves us totally unimpressed is the
S.A.M. folks seem to have flipped out and immediately hired a lawyer - thus ensuring that a mountain be made out of a relatively minor problem. It's noteworthy that they ultimately settled with the Days' insurance company for 40% of the amount they had originally demanded. We're not saying there is an absolute right way or wrong way to handle unfortunate situations such as this, but it seems like there was plenty of room for improvement in this instance.


As a former civil engineer and proponent of common sense, I agree with Geof Potter who contended that it would take more water to send a small sailboat through the Panama Canal locks than it would a large freighter. To be sure, I conducted a small test. I used a pot to represent the lock, a block of wood to be the sailboat, and a two-quart plastic jar almost full of water to be the big ship. As common sense and Geof Potter could have told you, it takes a substantially greater amount more water to raise the block the same distance as the jar - in fact, an amount of water approximately equal to the displacement of our 'freighter'. I don't know if the dynamics of moving water through the locks changes the number, but I know for sure that your explanation - "concentrate on the concept of lifting an already floating object another 85 feet" - does not prove the point.

Vin Sumerlin
Former Owner of a 20-ton Steel Sailboat

Vic - Common sense would also dictate that your small test isn't meaningful unless it accurately reflects what happens in the Panama Canal - and your test doesn't. Vessels aren't lowered down into the first lock by a crane - which is what would have to happen for displacement to have an effect - but rather they float in at sea level.


I'm not a rocket scientist, but if Craig Owings believes that it takes as much water for a ship to go through the Panama Canal locks as it does a small boat, I'd like him to send me a sample of whatever he's been smoking. After all, it doesn't take a lot of science to prove it. Put brick in small bucket and fill it with water. Remove brick. Measure water. Go through the same process again, but use an egg instead of a brick. Has Owings heard of the concept of displacement? Either I'm wrong about this - extremely unlikely - or I should start looking for my long-lost waders.

Eduardo Ruffat
Northern California

Eduardo - Before looking for those waders, conduct an experiment in which vessels float into a open lock - as happens in the Canal - as opposed to coming in at sea level.


It takes the same amount of water for any size vessel to transit the Panama Canal. Here's the final explanation from a certified non-technical, right side of the brain type female - who has to think twice about the difference between a square root and a root canal. Think of the water in the lock as a frozen ice cube. Think of the tanker and the El Toro as two bugs caught in the ice. Now think of replacing the ice cube. You need a new ice cube of exactly the same size to fill the empty space - that is, to push the transiting vessel up to the next level - whether the bug is a gnat or a big fat cockroach. I'm so low tech that I can't trim sails according to curve and twist, so I just talk to them and make sure they're happy.

Mabelle Lernoud

Mabelle - Right answer, wrong explanation - at least as best we can understand it. Nothing gets replaced, but rather a lock-shaped 85-foot tall block of water is added to float the vessels 85 feet higher than when they entered the lock.


The concept that most of your readers seem to miss when considering how much water it takes to raise a ship or a small boat in a Panama Canal lock is that both ship and yacht must enter and leave the lock. The water each displaces entering the lock is replaced by an equal amount as the vessels leave. Thus the total weight of fresh water used to raise either the ship or the El Toro would be the same, but this is not the case when vessels are lowered back to sea level. In this instance, the fresh water displaced as the vessel enters the lock is replaced by seawater as it leaves. Therefore, the total weight of fresh water used to transit the ship from Atlantic to Pacific is less than for the yacht.

Jim Wagner


After writing the above letter, I conducted a little gedanken experimenten or 'thought experiment', such as Albert Einstein was fond of doing. It turns out that it does take exactly the same amount of water for a ship or an El Toro to pass through the Panama Canal. My experiment consisted of a canal three feet above sea level with locks measuring one square foot at each end. My ship was a one-foot cube weighing 62.4 pounds, while my El Toro was of negligible size. It takes six cubic feet of canal water to raise each vessel to the level of the canal and then lower it back to the sea at the other end.

Jim Wagner


Thank you, thank you, editor, for being so stubborn in the ongoing controversy about the amount of water required to get small boats and large ships through the Panama Canal. I've been quietly sitting by, reading the multitude of letters from the well-educated readers who assert that a large ship will require far less water, waiting for you to finally see the light and admit that you were wrong. But now I realize that you were right. All the other readers and I would have been right if the vessels entered the lock going up or left the lock going down on rails, depending on the water in the lock to 'launch' them. But the key point you made last month - that the vessels are already floating when they enter the locks - makes all the difference. For once the gates of the locks close, the amount of water required to lift vessels will be exactly the same no matter what size the vessel. I stand corrected - and humbled.

Ted Miller
An Engineer In Los Gatos

Ted - Unless you've forgotten, we also stand corrected. For several years we've been arguing that it was inefficient for small boats to use the Panama Canal because they waste so much more fresh water than big ships. In fact, we probably would have bet big money on it. Craig Owings of the Pedro Miguel Boat Club finally set us straight, but even then it took a long time for it to sink in. The following letter and illustration are the last word we're going to run on the matter.


Well, up to now we've had a civil engineer, thankfully retired, and a physicist, who I hope isn't working on any projects that I might run into, both unable to visualize a simple, logical, situation. That is scary. It shows the difference between the ability to reason - otherwise known as I.Q. - and the mere acquisition of knowledge. The accompanying sketch demonstrates clearly why both the civil engineer and the physicist are wrong, and Latitude - as usual - is correct. It always takes the same volume of water to raise the level between low and high water because you are raising a block of water with a vessel already in it, not the vessel itself.

Mike Holt
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

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