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The best response to the terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C., is to continue on with normal life, as difficult as that may seem, to the greatest extent possible. As such, we've decided to carry on with our tradition of speaking our minds - sometimes in a fiesty tone - in our editorial responses. After all, the purpose of Latitude is not just to inform, but also to entertain - particularly in these trying times. So if we passionately debate some issues in the following Letters, rest assured that we're fully aware that none of them amount to a hill of beans compared to the real problems of the world.
CUBA SENDS ITS CONDOLENCES
The Hemingway International YC of Cuba wants the nautical community of the United States to know that we, in the strongest terms, condemn, reject and repudiate the terrorists attacks in New York and Washington, D.C. We want to express our most sincere condolences to the people of the United States and all the families of the victims during these days of pain and sorrow over the countless loss of innocent human lives.
At the same time, we of the Hemingway International YC, as members of the great international nautical family, reaffirm our conviction that it's only with love, friendship, solidarity and respect among all human beings, that we will achieve a happy world in which there will be no space for those who don't care about the sufferings of others.
Lic. Jose Miguel Diaz Escrich
The $20,000 I spent to cruise Mexico during previous cruising seasons was justified by modest marina costs and relatively minor hassles with paperwork. But that was prior to the year 2000. After my most recent eight-month cruise, I won't be returning to Mexico for any extended periods with my 47-ft trawler Crackerjack. My decision is based on there being too many problems:
1) Time-consuming and expensive port clearance procedures. Just going out to the islands from La Paz for the day required that I went through a complicated check out and check in - and about $100 in fees. Furthermore, port captains do not interpret the clearing policies uniformly.
2) Marinas that charge lots of money but care little about the quality of their service. Why should I pay Newport Beach prices for marinas that can't reliably provide clean water and shorepower? Furthermore, some of the marina operators seem to have a bad attitude.
3) Generally poor infrastructure.
4) Getting ripped off while taking on fuel at Turtle Bay. It was petty stealing, but I was charged long prices for a shorted load of fuel.
5) No conscious effort on the part of Mexican officials to speak English. In California, all government agencies have to have Spanish-speaking officers.
6) Officials who have a standoffish attitude - although there were major exceptions.
7) Poor public health. Most restaurants don't have hot water or facilities for washing hands. How are employees supposed to wash up after using the toilet?
8) Mexico's refusal to accept foreign insurance policies for liability. If there is a problem, the port captains will only accept Mexican liability insurance.
President Fox claims that 8,000 American boats visit Mexico each year. For the foreseeable future, it's going to be 7,999. Since returning to California in July, I have met the owners of nine other yachts that are making the same choice as my wife and me. We're all willing to spend $20,000 for the season, but we're not going to until we can get more value and better service in return.
Before I sign off, let me acknowledge the one bright spot we found: Dave and Olga's El Faro store at Marina de La Paz. They've got everything a boat needs - from salsa to steaks to chicken - at bargain prices. And they deliver it to your boat for free!
Jack - Twenty thousand dollars for eight months? That's living high on the enchilada! Let's examine your complaints one by one:
1) Port fees and procedures for clearing in and out. Mexican officials clearly have no idea how outrageously time-consuming, expensive - and offensive - their clearing procedures have become. It was always a slow and inefficient process, but as a result of the changes in the law last January, it's become much worse. As such, cruisers are becoming adept at working around it. One way is by avoiding places where there are port captains, which is an easy but somewhat limiting solution. Another strategy is simply 'forgetting' to check in. Usually you can get away with it, but if you get caught you can end up in a mess of trouble.
Recognizing that the check-in procedures have become a big problem for cruisers, it's our intention to start a campaign to help Mexico realize how detrimental it's going to become for their marine tourism. What's needed is an annual cruising permit that can be purchased at the first port of entry for something like $150. Once cruisers had the permit, they would be able to travel freely without having to constantly check in with officials and pay fees to banks. If RV tourists were treated as badly, Mexico wouldn't have any of them. We're hesistant to criticize the policies for visitors in other countries, but in this case it's badly needed - and for Mexico's sake even more than that of cruisers.
2) High-priced marinas that don't provide good services. It's true that many of the marinas in the more popular areas of Mexico are more expensive than similar marinas in California. Sometimes it's with good reason, as in many cases the basic materials had to be brought in from the United States, and in some cases it's up to the marinas to create and maintain their own water and electricity plans. That said, some are more professionally run than others. But don't forget, there's almost always a terrific and free alternative - enjoying life on the hook.
3) Generally poor infrastructure. If you're going to manañaland in search of good infrastructure, you've only got yourself to blame. Try the Pacific Northwest, the East Coast, or parts of the Med. By the way, lots of cruisers love Mexico precisely because it doesn't have a First World infrastructure.
4) Getting ripped off while taking on fuel at Turtle Bay. This common little bit of piracy at Turtle Bay is something of a tradition. You can either get all huffy about it or go along with the joke. After all, how much did it really cost you?
5) No conscious effort on behalf of Mexican officials to speak English. It would probably be in Mexico's best interest if the officials who dealt with tourists became bilingual. On the other hand, it would eliminate some of the charm.
6) Officials have a standoffish attitude. Mexicans generally aren't as outgoing as Americans, and that holds true for most Mexican officials. But if you smile a lot, don't behave as if you're in a rush, and mirror their behavior, they usually warm up.
7) Poor public health and a lack of facilities for workers to wash up with hot water while preparing meals. This is a genuine health problem. It can sometimes, but not always, be avoided by carefully selecting where you eat. If you're looking for the highest level of hygiene, forget all Third World countries.
8) Mexico's refusal to accept American liability insurance as proof of coverage. It's an annoyance to be sure, but you have to remember that most American insurance isn't much help initially in a guilty-until-proven-innocent legal system.
In our opinion you have several legitimate
complaints, and that it would be in Mexico's best interest to
do a better job of resolving them. But realistically, it's going
to take time. Some of your other complaints, on the other hand,
seem to suggest that what you really want is for Mexico to be
an extension of America. We don't think the majority of cruisers
would agree with that notion.
We're getting ready to return to our Islander Freeport 40 Harmony, which we left in the Sea of Cortez at Marina Seca, for the start of another season. We started our cruising three years ago with a trial run from San Francisco to San Diego and back. Last year we sailed to Mazatlan and through the Sea of Cortez for four months. This year we plan to stay out for at least six months.
Cruising has provided us with some of the most memorable times of our lives. It is fantastic to live so close to nature, and to share our life with folks as wonderful as the people of Mexico and other cruisers. After a summer of hard work to make money, we can't wait to start cruising again - it's just too much fun!
When it comes to cruising, a lot of people talk about 'just doing it'. It's true, most people need an extra push to get off the old butt, but we found that going unprepared wasn't all that great, either. For instance, we met some folks who sailed to Mexico and: 1) Ran out of money, 2) Didn't have a real plan worked out, or 3) Didn't have complete agreement with their spouse on the adventure. None of those are good scenarios. Having a plan - whether it's a three-year, five-year, or eight-year - that works out the details of what to do with children, work, having the boat together, and having enough money - will make a cruise more carefree.
Lots of people think their boats need all the bells and whistles in order to go cruising, but that's not true. We have a GPS, autopilot, radar, good anchoring system, ham radio and safety equipment. Liam of LTD Electronics in Alameda also helped me install a diesel generator that was incredibly useful for when we were away from shorepower for days at a time. The only other thing we wished we had before we left was solar panels. During our time aboard in Mexico, our 28-year-old boat needed a new water pump, heat exchanger, riser, and alternator - all of which we had rebuilt at minimal cost in La Paz. When we returned to Alameda, Liam congratulated us on having gone cruising without having spent a small fortune on gadgets. In addition to being expensive, these can present obstacles to 'just doing it'. We also kept expenses down by buying many things from bargain bins and swap meets over a period of four years.
Here's a tip for first-time cruisers: Make sure you have plans for the winter holidays. Either return to your family in the States or have your family join you wherever you happen to be on the boat. If you have no family, at least immerse yourself in the local Christmas activities in La Paz, Mazatlan or wherever you happen to be. Christmas is the traditional time of family gatherings and happy children, and to not have that can cause unnecessary tears, loneliness and stress for those - especially women - who are far from home. We had our family down to the boat, and had some of the best times ever.
P.S. Thanks for the wonderful magazine - a very hot commodity in far flung places!
Capt. Rob and Virginia Gleser
My husband and I are in the process of acquiring our first sailboat, and I'm wondering if anyone can give advice on sea pets. We have an adventurous cat who will be joining us aboard, and I'm wondering how to best keep her out of the chilly Bay waters. I've seen the pet PFDs on West Marine's website, and am wondering if they are a total gimmick. I know a lifeline and harness might work, but she tends to get very tangled up in the course of her explorations. Any tips would be appreciated.
Jessica - In general, cats make excellent
boat pets, and the cruising boats of the world are full of them.
It's our understanding that the pet PFDs are indeed a legitimate
product that have saved the lives of numerous pets, particularly
dogs. Perhaps some of our readers would be willing to share firsthand
We just arrived in Port Vila, after spending the last 3.5 months cruising the boonies. Vanuatu has provided some of the richest and most interesting cruising we have experienced to date. Waiting for me in the most recent pack of mail was, among other things, the last couple of issues of Latitude.
I read with interest and sorrow the Final Log Entry of Passage West. While I don't believe I've ever met the owner, Monk, I remember Passage West from my days of working at Club Nautique in Sausalito. I think Monk wrote an excellent account of his experiences. Fortunately, he lived to tell about it, was insured, and didn't let it ruin his passion for sailing and cruising. Good on him! I was particularly interested in a few points he made in the article, and some of the lessons learned in the 'aftermath'.
First is the issue of his concern about the loss of his pocket knife and not being able to cut the tether to his liferaft. Many liferafts have a knife attached to the canopy near the tether for cutting away from a sinking vessel. If yours doesn't, consider installing one at the next recertification.
I think it's also a good idea to have an up close and personal look at your liferaft when it is inflated during the certification process. You don't want your first time aboard to be in the middle of the ocean during an emergency. Many people are shocked to discover just how small their liferaft is! It would also be a good time to take a close look at what is packed in with the liferaft in the way of equipment and supplies. After reading Steve Callahan's Adrift, we added a hand-operated watermaker to our liferaft's gear bag, and stuck a portable VHF and GPS - plus extra batteries - into our abandon-ship bag when passaging.
Most cruiser's have some sort of 'abandon-ship bag' to carry all sorts of items that won't fit into the liferaft canister or valise. The normal items carried are extra flares, flashlights, food, fishing gear, first aid kit, sun protection, etc. The lesson to be learned from Monk's experience is to stick in the crew's passports and a copy of the ship's documentation while passaging. This should help to avert the 'illegal entry' issue. We now also carry a pack of U.S. currency - usually welcome everywhere - as it could come in handy in getting good transportation and perhaps cutting through some bureaucracy if we make it to dry land. In an emergency, there may not be time to gather up these things, or they might be forgotten.
In a lighter vein, some cruising friends of ours even carry little packets of soy sauce and wasabi in their abandon-ship bag - to help make raw fish a bit more palatable.
George - Trying out one's emergency gear in non-emergency situations is a great idea. When it came time to recertify our liferafts, we used to throw them off the side of the boat into the water, inflate them, crawl aboard, and sample the food and water. It was a real eye-opener in placid harbors, so a first time in rough seas would be really traumatic.
If anybody is looking for an opportunity
to watch a couple of liferafts be inflated and have a chance
to climb inside, they should stop by Latitude's Mexico-Only Crew
List and Ha-Ha Kick-Off & Reunion Party at the Encinal YC
in Alameda on Wednesday, October 10, from 6 to 9 pm.
Victoria University - located in Wellington, New Zealand - has a weather website that has proven popular for mariners with net access in the Southwest Pacific. And now they have started a free service for yachties. Depending on the request, every 12 or 24 hours they will email weather prognostications for the Southwest Pacific for the upcoming 24, 48 and 72 hours. This service will not only eliminate the need to get weather charts in other ways, but it will result in better charts than are currently available with weatherfax. It will be a particularly good way to get weather forecasts, particularly the 72 hour prognosis.
The information that gets sent out needs to be broken down using Fleet Code, a computer program that digitally converts weather and synoptic charts for easy emailing. Fleet Code is available as a simple zip file download from www.rsnz.govt.nz/clan/metsoc/program.html.
Cruisers can subscribe to the free service by sending an email to j.mcgregor at vuw.ac.nz. You will need to provide the following information: 1) Email address; 2) Complete name; 3) Boat name; 4) Which weather maps you want: 24, 48 or 72-hour prognostications, each of which is approximately 1.5 kbytes of Fleet Code; 5) Time of day 0000 or 1200 UTC (or both) that you want to receive the information; 6) The date you want to start and terminate the service.
This is a new service that is just out of beta testing. For what it's worth, the Victoria University Meterology website is www.geo.vuw.ac.nz/meteorology/current/wafs/wafs.html.
Readers - This is excellent news, because
the 1,100-mile passage between Tonga or Fiji and New Zealand
is normally one of the most dangerous that is commonly undertaken
by cruisers. Since many cruisers will be heading to New Zealand
in the next two months, it will be interesting to get feedback
on how well the new service works.
Re: Last month's Coastal Cleanup Day and the Coastal Commission. You've done it again - written another misinformed piece about something that makes you and all your staff look like retards. You know, I've met you several times with a friend of mine, Warwick 'Commodore' Tompkins. Once when the two of us were eating dinner in Mill Valley, and at other functions such as his 65th birthday and the launching of Flash Girl.
In any event, many of my friends will be responding personally to your piece. But before that happens, you should know that most of your credibility has been shot to hell. You've got to be on some pretty good drugs to draw a conclusion between the brown shirts and some volunteers handing out oil absorbers and key floats. Obviously your personal paranoia has really gotten in the way of objective journalism, and it's too bad. I imagine the likes of West Marine - and people who don't spend most of their time with their face in a bong - will want to put some distance between you and themselves. But then you've got a lot of other friends, doncha?
Fast is fun - but not when you're dumb!
Kit - When you're in a calmer frame of mind, please read our article. You'll note that after we stated our position against Dockwalkers, we made four arguments in support of it. Rather than rationally challenge our arguments, you've stooped to accusing us of having our face in a bong and trying to distort our argument by taking words out of context. That's not the most fair or effective way to disagree with someone. When disagreeing over a matter, it's also considered proper form to admit one's biases from the outset. Since you - according to Commodore - are an employee of the California Coastal Commission, you had an obligation to identify yourself as such. As for all your friends who were going to write to object, none of them did. (Ed. note: One received after deadline, see page 86.)
As for our drug habits, we never used a bong in our life, and never even bought a lid. Didn't have to, for when we attended UC Santa Barbara and later UC Berkeley, there was so much pot smoke in the air you couldn't help but get stoned just walking down the street. But we think the effects have probably worn off by now.
Before the issue with the Dockwalkers article hit the streets, we made a courtesy call to Miriam Gordon, head of the Dockwalkers program to give her a 'heads up'. It may have just been a coincidence, but a day or so later we finally got a call - and had a pleasant conversation - with Peter Douglas, Executive Director of the California Coastal Commission. When we explained that we were unhappy that the Dockwalkers Handbook included extremely misleading factoids about boat pollution and failed to put the amount of boat pollution in context, he stopped us. "I'll tell you right now," he said, "boats are a minimal cause of water pollution." We think this should have been clearly stated in the Handbook, not to give mariners an excuse to slack off, but because it's the truth, and to encourage mariners to do an even better job. No matter how psuedo-environmentalists try to demonize us, mariners are not the enemy of clean water.
We then asked Douglas about his apparent opposition to creating fish habitats off the coast of California. "The jury is still out on those," he claimed, "particularly when things like old tires are used." We had to explain to him that just the night before we'd watched a television program describing the great success they are having with artificial reefs - made of tire chips and cement pyramids - off Miami. We also reminded him that hundreds of subway cars were right then being sunk off the East Coast to create sealife habitats. And 20,000 artificial reefs off Alabama have been instrumental in restoring at least one endangered fish species. Douglas remained adamant that fish habitats haven't been proven beneficial.
He did, however, say he "had something for mariners" - which turned out to be a 'marine vista preservation plan'. Apparently Douglas believes that mariners transiting the more rural parts of the California coast have a right - we're not making this up - to not see any houses along the shore! In other words, if you own a piece of coastal property in a rural area and want to build a house, the Coastal Commission thinks you should have to build it in such a way that it can't be seen from boats.
That odd notion paved the way for our musing about whether Douglas - who has been part of the Commission since the early '70s, and the Executive Director since the late '80s - may have gone J. Edgar Hoover on us. As might be expected, Douglas was very defensive about the issue, and said that just a couple of years before he'd asked for a vote of confidence and got one. He then turned the tables on us by asking how long we'd been doing our job. "Ah-ha!" he said when we told him it had been 25 years. He apparently failed to see the distinction between his being the nonelected head of an extremely powerful government agency and our being the head of a small private company that has to prove itself to readers and advertisers with each and every issue.
Our final issue was how responsive he was to public input. He said that he could personally be reached by phone and/or an email address listed on the Commission's website. While this is true for BCDC Commissioners on that website, it isn't so for Douglas - though Douglas insisted that we were wrong about this and he was right. We encourage each of you to visit the Coastal Commission website and decide which of us is correct.
While we and Douglas obviously disagree on a number of key issues, he was friendly throughout and encouraged us to visit him in San Francisco to discuss common issues. We plan to do so during the winter.
Ironically, the only other comment we got on our article was from the head of one of the larger public marinas in California, who wrote:
"My purpose for emailing you is
to echo the sentiment of the editorial on the Dockwalkers program.
I've been doing a slow burn at the thought of non-boating do-gooders
coming to my boat to teach me how not to pollute the Bay. As
was touched on in the article, there is enormous political pressure
to support this movement. Every city councilman in every beach
town is in favor of this program to clean up after those "nasty
boatowners" polluting our harbors. Any public official who
would come out against this program would be labeled as pro-pollution
and would surface as a target on the radar screen of every environmental
group up and down the coast. Now we come to my real point. Miriam
Gordon's job depends on the success of this program. Suggesting
that people write to her is pointless because the information
will never get to the decision-makers. Tell mariners to object
to Peter Douglas directly."
I absolutely can't let your slam against the Chesapeake Bay go answered. Just to remind everyone, here's what you wrote in response to Juan, who asked about the differences between sailing the Chesapeake and San Francisco Bay:
"There are some things that the Chesapeake has that San Francisco Bay doesn't. You mentioned the bugs and snowy cold winters, but don't forget the heat and humidity - and sometimes hurricanes - of summer. Oh yeah, the lightning storms, too. Then there's at least three things that San Francisco Bay has that the Chesapeake doesn't: consistent wind, deep water, and spectacular scenery. We also have fog, but we're not sure if that's a good thing. As far as we can see, the only advantage is that the Chessy is only a couple of hundred miles from the great cruising of the Northeast, which all things considered, is superior to that of Southern California. If we had to move to the Chesapeake for business or family reasons, we would keep our boat on the bay for one summer and fall, then take her to the Caribbean. From then on, we'd commute to the islands one or two times a month for great weather and great sailing. If you bought tickets in advance, it would actually be quite economical - and a heck of a lot more fun."
Hard as this may be for you to believe, we don't all sit around our boats huddled in the cabin during hurricanes, thunderstorms, and ice storms wishing we lived in San Francisco or New England. The collective experience of our yacht club covers much of the U.S. and the world, and we are all pretty sure that we have it about the best of anyone. I have sailed San Franciso Bay, and while it is fun, I am in no hurry to trade our 200-mile long bay with thousands of miles of shoreline for daysailing in cold wind and waves. We have an incredible variety of scenery, wildlife, and weather. Sometimes it is too hot, and sometimes it's too cold. We have light air sometimes in summer, along with 90-knot thunderstorms. This may be a little difficult for those used to more consistent wind speeds, but you learn to handle it. On the other hand, I'm always reading about hassles you have with the Coast Guard, various harbor police departments and liveaboard hassles. If we want to move aboard our boats here, we just do it. And unless you insist on being in downtown Annapolis, there are plenty of slips for all. You can anchor where you want to, and even put down moorings with no government hassles. Maryland has no yearly tax on boats. I think you have also severely exaggerated our winter weather. Some years it is cold and snowy, but not consistently so. We have racing here year-round and decent cruising from April to November. I have been sailing on Christmas day in 70° weather more than once - which is more than I can say about San Francisco in June!
I especially take exception to the comment about our only good feature is being 200 miles from New England. To us Chesapeake Bay sailors, New England looks like a severely overcrowded place with rocks, fog, too few anchorages, and too short a sailing season. In three weeks I have done round trips to Bermuda, with one week on the island. Where do you get in one week from San Francisco? You'd better say something real nice about us or I will start boxing up our bugs and mailing them to you!
P.S. - Reader Rick Daniels asked about storage on the East Coast. If someone is not going to use their boat, storage would be far less expensive. The Chesapeake has many great hurricane holes, but I wouldn't leave a boat sitting on a mooring for eight months unattended. Since we sometimes have thunderstorms with winds that reach or exceed hurricane intensity, our yards block the boats on land to withstand this. None of the hurricanes we have had here have caused any kind of large scale damage to boats on land. The biggest hurricane risk is from extreme tides for boats in slips.
Joe Della Barba
I beg to differ on your opinion of the Chesapeake. In 1983, my company transferred me to southern Maryland, so I had my Nor'Sea 27 trucked there. I lived aboard for two years at Solomons, Maryland, and really enjoyed living there.
Sailing on the Chesapeake is quite different from San Francisco Bay. For one thing, it's mostly light-air sailing, with an occasional squall to contend with. It does get kind of hot and humid in the summer, and very cold in the winter. But the spring and fall are very nice.
The best thing about the Chesapeake is that there are lots of places to go cruising, both for a weekend or for a month. There are also lots of restaurants with great seafood right on the water, and many of them have docks for those who arrive by boat. The bay is full of interesting boats, too, such as the Skipjacks that still dredge for oysters, and an occasional Bugeye ketch. There are rivers to explore and islands - such as Smith and Tangier - where the people were isolated from the mainland for so long that they speak with an Elizabethan accent.
I don't know what the marina prices are like now, but when I first got back there I was quite surprised. The quote I was given was slightly higher than what I'd been paying per month on San Francisco Bay. Then I learned the quote was for 'the season' - six months! This was for a liveaboard slip at a nice marina with a pool! I do recall that some of the marinas charged quite a lot for just an overnight stay, but those were at resort marinas with restaurants, golf courses and other major amenities. There are lots of places to anchor out, so you don't have to pay the exorbitant prices.
It is true that an occasional tropical storm will come through that area. But there are lots of sheltered areas to anchor in and ride it out. All in all, I would recommend the Chesapeake as a cruising area. In fact, I would like to go back there someday.
John W. Bunnell
We will be heading off to Hawaii soon aboard our Union 36, and plan to log into your Changes in Latitude online. Will we be able to attach digital photos to the log-on page? And if so, in JPEG format? I didn't see any way to do so.
Bob Hungerford and May Jane Saveskie
Bob & May Jane - While our website is not specifically set up so that you can send us your digital images while browsing, you can, of course, send them as attachments to an email message. (From our home page, click on "Contact Us" for hotlinks to all staff email addresses. Changes in Latitude and Letters submissions should be sent to richard at latitude38.com or editorial at latitude38.com.
Please note, however, that in order to be usable in print, images must be at least 1000 x 750 pixels per inch. Shots taken at 'low resolution' settings in order to save storage space are often unusable in the magazine - which is a source of tremendous frustration for us. Please note also that if you want to scan snapshots and send them to us, set the scanning resolution to 300 dpi (dots per inch) or higher. JPEG format is fine for us, and we are equipped to deal with images that have been compressed via either ZipIt or StuffIt software. (This makes the file size smaller and speeds transmission time.)
Finally, the above assumes you plan to forward your images via a shoreside cyber cafe. You cannot send attachments via SailMail. However, you can do so using a Globalstar/Qualcomm satellite system or via the Winlink Ham radio system, but both have definite limitations. All this being said, we absolutely love receiving good digital images from far flung cruising grounds, and we greatly appreciate the effort some cruisers make to get them to us. So keep those (electronic) cards and letters coming.
I THREW ALL MY GUNS INTO SAN FRANCISCO BAY
Like Steve Faustina, I also retired from the Oakland P.D. with 25 years in municipal law enforcement. Including several earlier years with the Marine Corps, I spent my entire adult working life carrying a gun. Shortly after my retirement, I held a private ceremony at the end of the dock, and threw all my personal guns into San Francisco Bay. The service ended with the prayer, "May everybody die a natural death - particularly me." For a cop, guns are part of the tools of the trade. When the jobs ends, you don't need those tools any longer.
After my retirement, my wife and I cruised from San Francisco to Ft. Lauderdale, taking 3.5 years for the adventure. In the course of that cruise, the only incident occurred while anchored in the old harbor of Mazatlan. We were boarded in the wee hours of the night by three men who broke the lock and stole our outboard. There was literally a Mexican standoff, as two of them were in the water with knives and I was in the dink with an oar. The end result was that we lost the motor and nobody got hurt. It wouldn't have made any difference if I'd had a gun, for the outboard wasn't worth anybody getting killed over.
In my years as a police officer, probably the most dangerous part of the job - on a daily basis - was changing clothes in the locker room with 40 men waving guns around. Over the years, they had accidentally 'killed' the Coke machine and several lockers. Similarly, some cruisers I met carried more weaponry than a military fireteam. I remember hearing a cruiser in Acapulco telling of firing at the bridge of a tanker for failing to recognize the sailor's rightofway. Forget the pirates, it's people like that who are scaaarrry.
In my experience, if a lethal weapon is available, the thinking is that a show of force will quickly settle the simplest of altercations. In truth, weapons only escalate the problem.
The second question Faustina was asked is how he identifies himself when dealing with foreign police officers. In Mexico, Central America and Europe, I have identified myself as a retired officer. In all cases, it has been a very friendly, positive, professional experience - even though most foreign officers think of their American counterparts as Dirty Harry.
My advice? Throw away the guns, carry a smile and a good attitude - it will be a great cruise.
In the September issue, Margaret Weller and Conrad Hodson asked about the best credit card to use while cruising, and you recommended Visa. It's true that Visa is accepted just about everywhere, and was my primary card of choice for cruising. There is, however, one significant fact about American Express that made it very useful to Mary and me while we were in the Caribbean. When you present an Amex card to any Amex office in any country, you get immediate access to your checking account in the States up to $1,000 per month. That's pretty useful, and I'm sure you can negotiate a higher limit. What it means is that they will take your personal check and give you Amex Traveler's Cheques for the same amount - except for the 1% fee. And Amex Traveler's Cheques are accepted just about everywhere we went in all the islands - including the French, Dutch, and Spanish. We found Visa and Amex to be the ideal combination.
Donald - Since we travel a lot, we carry
Visa, MasterCard and Amex. But we don't see the advantage in
the Amex check cashing feature. Paying $10 to be able to get
$1,000 in traveller's checks is no bargain when you can use your
debit card to get the same amount in local currency - which is
accepted everywhere - for about half the price. Furthermore,
who wants to wait for the Amex office to open when ATMs work
24-hours a day? We're not suggesting it doesn't make sense to
carry Amex, just that it might not be the cheapest way to get
In response to your reader's questions about which credit card to take overseas, I have traveled/sailed/worked extensively in over 30 countries, work in a related industry, and might be able to provide some direction and resources for further inquiries. The short answer is when traveling overseas, choosing the 'right' credit card is a function of what countries you will be visiting, length of travel, and financial services you will require.
Here's some basic industry info: Visa is roughly twice the size ($1.5 trillion - yes, trillion U.S.) in terms of value of transactions worldwide compared to MasterCard, but both Visa and MasterCard are accepted at about 22 million shops, vendors, and ATMs worldwide. American Express is a distant third.
Here's a quick comparison of issuer programs: American Express requires that you pay the full balance each month - although the new 'Blue' Smart Card is just like a normal credit card. Amex members can receive their mail at local offices and/or have it forwarded to any Amex office worldwide. And most major cities and resort destinations have multiple offices. I used this feature for one year to have all my mail forwarded to the Bangkok Amex office while I traveled in various Southeast Asian countries. Later, when I spent one month on a project in Bali, I had them forward my mail there. It wasn't 100% reliable, but I got most of my mail.
Visa and MasterCard both are much more
widely accepted than Amex - in part because they charge vendors
lower fees. When it comes to choosing between Visa and MasterCard,
it depends on the country. In some countries you'll find one
more accepted than the other, but the opposite will be true in
other countries. Sort of like Coke and Pepsi. In all westernized
counties and regions - Europe, Australia, Japan, Korea, Hong
Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia - it's about equal, although
Visa might be a little more widely accepted. Both Visa and MasterCard
have ATM locator search engines on their respective websites,
which are: www.master-card.com/cardholderservices/atm/index.html,
The choice is not just between Visa and MasterCard - which are really marketing and payment associations - but which bank issues the card, such as Bank of America, CitiBank, Wells Fargo, Providian, Capital One and so forth. In fact, many banks offer both cards. There are also major differences in the credit card 'programs' - Gold, Silver, Platinum, Advantage Gold, Air Miles Silver, UCLA Alumni Gold card, ad infinitum. Different programs offer significantly different interest rates, loyalty programs - air miles, cash back, nonprofit donations - yearly fees, credit limits, etc. Most bank credit cards charge a 1% fee on international transactions, but some are as high as 3%. Read the fine print or ask. If you'll be travelling where a credit card issued by a U.S. bank might not make you new friends, consider getting one from an offshore bank.
How to decide between all these choices? First, spend some time thinking about a wish list of features important to you. Then call around or shop the web for the banks offering the card with the features you want. A great non-biased source of credit/smart card information is www.cardweb.com. You can find just about everything you want there, as the site has stuff for consumers (card/bank/program comparisons and lots of advertising), and industry executive information (subscription based). Another site that is more industry focused but has great consumer links is Card Technology at www.ct-ctst.com/CT/.
Here are some personal examples of cards I decided to use. While working in India for two months, I only used my Bank X credit card for big purchases such as hotels, planes and other travel. I used my Bank X savings/checking/debit card to get cash at ATMs in local currency for smaller things such as taxis, tips, and so forth. When in India, I would go online at any of the numerous cyber cafes to view all my credit card bills, balances, and stock portfolio, and then transfer my monthly credit card bill payment directly from my checking account. I also paid my U.S. utilities/rent/parking bills online. I don't worry about card interest rates because I pay my balance in full each month. Instead, I chose a good frequent flyer program, online access/payment, high cash advance limit, and no annual fee. As I expense lots of business and big-ticket items, the free air miles give me at least two free round-trip air tickets anywhere in the world.
With a little thought, planning and research, you can choose both the bank and card program that suits your financial needs during your overseas travel. To choose the 'right' credit card(s), don't be afraid to shop around, work with an offshore bank, and have a few unused credit lines for emergencies. Safe travels.
Scully - Great information, thanks for
sharing it with us.
I know it's not a new idea. I also know that it would be most difficult, very costly, take an act of God to start and forever to finish. But so what, as what worthwhile public projects don't? I think it's time for what remains of the Berkeley Pier to be removed. Let's get rid of this eyesore and hazard to navigation. Do you think it can be done?
Mike - We're not experts on what's left
of the Berkeley Pier, but we never thought of it as a hazard
to navigation, and think there are worse eyesores. In any event,
we suspect the money needed for that project will now be used
for more urgent projects.
I just came across your website - I'm an East Coaster - and found an amazing amount of info to help me on my trip this spring from San Diego to Panama and then on up to New England. One question. I've read where in the past you guys used the Globalstar phones and service for the Ha-Ha. I've been checking into satellite phones and have found that Iridium is back on their feet and seems as though they might offer the best deal for initial cost as well as cost per minute. Is there something I don't know about, or are you guys going to use Iridium now?
Sprague - Two years ago, Iridium was the official communications system of the Ha-Ha. Last year - and again this year - it was/will be Globalstar. So we're familiar with both systems. Although both are satellite telephones, they use different technology, and therefore have different characteristics. Iridium, for example, covers the entire world, while Globalstar's 'bent pipe' technology limits coverage to within about 250 miles of the coast. On the other hand, a very high percentage of our Globalstar calls went through, and the audio quality was superb. When we used the Iridium, only about 80% of the calls went through or didn't get dropped, and the sound quality ranged from decent to extremely poor. So it's not so much a case of which is the better phone system and which is the least expensive, but rather which best meets your needs.
Could you please repeat the information and invitation for the Baja Ha-Ha fundraiser for the people in the mountains above San Blas?
Dick - The next fundraiser will be in
the middle of the Ha-Ha when the fleet gets to Bahia Santa Maria.
If you're not part of the Ha-Ha fleet, it's going to be hard
to get there. We'll also be having a fundraiser during the Banderas
Bay Regatta out of Paradise Marina next March 15-17. If you want
to set up something in San Diego for next April, we could probably
do that also.
Here are a few comments on topics recently discussed in Latitude.
I agree that there is no real necessity to have a sextant aboard these days. Of course, there is also no pressing need to own a boat or to voyage under sail at slow speed and great expense. You do it for the experience and the satisfaction. It is for these same reasons that I use my sextant when going offshore. There is also the chance that celestial observations will have practical value as well.
If you find my opinion strange, consider that the rewards of many of our endeavors are frequently more spiritual than practical. For instance, I'm certain that Latitude provides you with a good income and good job - but I also believe that your knowing that you provide joy and valuable information to an untold number of appreciative readers each month must give you satisfaction as well.
The ability to communicate in Morse code (CW) is different. It has - or had - greater practical value. While I enjoy working CW with a competent operator, the practical advantage is also very real. CW transmissions will get through and without language problems, where voice transmissions fail. However, Morse code is largely gone from all but amateur radio communications now. I regret this, as I'm licensed to work and operate commercial CW on my boat.
With regard to your advocating the installation of Catalina-style moorings at Angel Island and Richardson Bay, it's an excellent idea. Such moorings are a cinch to pick up, and allow greater and safer usage of an area. I don't often engage in the zoo-like activity at Ayala Cove, but this year I did it a couple of times on my way out the Gate. Picking up a mooring in the cove is now a challenge for the solo sailor, as most of the time it's antisocial to tie to a single mooring. So after you tie up to the first buoy, you have to launch a dinghy to tie up to the other one.
In the past, the buoys at Ayala Cove all had a rigid ring on top, which made it easy to grab them with a 'happy hooker' device. Now most have a loose ring or shackle, which renders the happy hooker nearly useless. If your deck is too high to slip a line through the ring by hand, the buoys pose a problem. And with the present layout of buoys, boats are often moored so close that they collide. I lost a long section of good line last time when the bowsprit bobstay of a strangely moored Westsail sawed through it!
The Park Service should at least restore the buoys to their previous condition - or, better yet, replace them with the Catalina-type moorings. Lying to a single anchor in a nice spot is always better, but with few decent anchorages in the Bay, we must make the most of what we have. A better mooring system is a great step in the right direction. Some will condemn this as L.A. creeping north, so let me add more blasphemy: Often times I will gladly trade the Bay's near gales and poor anchorages for the mild winds and great island anchorages of the Southland.
Louk - Thanks for sharing your opinions.
You're right, a lot of the joy of Latitude is being able to produce
something that most sailors seem to enjoy picking up and reading.
For us, the magazine has always been more of an art project than
Over the years, we've all read crazy stories of large, wayward ships - often owned and/or operated by Third World countries, yet crewed by people from other countries. What security is in place for these errant vessels? If an airplane with only 25 tons of fuel can be commandeered and cause such devastation in New York and Washington, D.C., it brings to mind what havoc a fully laden VLCC might bring to bear by striking the South Tower of the Golden Gate or some other accessible target. Are they not capable of carrying greater than 1,000,000 barrels of fuel? Is that more than 25 tons? Maybe we should ban box cutters at sea?
Gregg - Ships intending to enter San
Francisco Bay have to take on bar pilots near the Lightbucket,
about 10 miles outside the Gate, and are constantly tracked on
radar by Vessel Traffic Service. As such, it's highly unlikely
that a VLCC - which probably wouldn't even fit under the Golden
Gate - would be able to mount much of a sneak attack. That's
not to say that the Golden Gate Bridge, a great symbol of America,
doesn't have vulnerabilities. We like to think that much consideration
has been given to its defense, and that much of it is not obvious.
I'd like to make a few corrections to the August issue's High Flying Art article on sail graphics. My name is Gae Pilon, and I live and work in Port Townsend, Washington. The name of my business is now Art On Sails, and I exclusively do inlays rather than appliques. An inlay is integral to the sail - with the sail being cut away, it gives a stained-glass window effect. An applique, on the other hand, is applied on top of the cloth. If one reads 'inlay' rather than 'applique', the article reads as it should.
By the way, I do not have a photo of C'est la Vie in my portfolio, and would love it if Keith and Susan would contact me at info at artonsails.com.
Gae - Thanks for the correction.
WINTER BOAT CHARTERS IN MEXICO
Help! We're looking for a reasonably-priced boat charter for two adults in the middle of December in Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan or Baja. So far everything we've come across has been cost-prohibitive. We're looking for an older boat. Can you suggest who we should contact?
Stirling and Diana Peart
Stirling & Diana - If you're looking to do a low-cost charter, we presume you want to bareboat. Most bareboat charters are predicated on carrying a minimum of six guests, so you might have trouble finding what you're looking for from a traditional charter company. Often times there are ads in Latitude by individuals willing to charter their boats. Or, you might take out a Classy Classified asking if any boatowner in Mexico might be willing to charter or 'trade time' on his/her boat with you. We say 'trade time' because there are a lot of bureaucratic restrictions and potential hassles with formal charters in Mexico.
When it comes to locations for chartering
in Mexico, there are major differences. In Baja - no matter if
you're up around Puerto Escondido or further down at La Paz -
the water will be too cold for swimming and you'll be subject
to Northers. Mazatlan is a wonderful city that many cruisers
love, but there's a limited amount of nearby cruising destinations.
Puerto Vallarta and Banderas Bay would offer both the best weather
and the best nearby cruising destinations.
Your response to the 'scarcity of berths' letter was an eye-opener. I had no idea that you had become so hostile to infrequent sailors and liveaboard boaters. If your idea of raising marina rates to $25/foot/month, with credit for use, were to be implemented, the marinas would be empty - except for the handful of people who race. I doubt that you would fill one marina.
Perhaps the scarcity of berths is a big problem in Santa Cruz, but I just don't see it in the East Bay. I think the Knueppels are correct, and that the situation will eventually regulate itself through 'supply and demand'.
I agree there are boats which simply seem to take up space in marinas. Every marina seems to have a few run-down old clunkers that aren't worth a month's rent. It amazes me that people shell out the cash year after year for these things. A few years ago, I inherited such a boat - even the Sea Scouts didn't want it. I was surprised that there just don't seem to be any junkyards for boats where they can be taken. You can haul off an unwanted old car, but fiberglass boats don't decompose, and old woodies aren't worth the effort to haul, demolish and rid of toxic waste. I suspect one of the reasons that near derelicts still occupy slips is because it's cheaper to keep them there than it is to get rid of them. I think an inexpensive solution to this problem would free up quite a few slips.
Peter - You completely mischaracterize our position. We're not the least bit hostile to people who use their boats infrequently or to liveaboards. In fact, we support them completely - as long as they don't deny others access to the water. By the way, this is not a racers versus non-racers issue. Many racers who want to be competitive these days drysail their boats - and we're talking about big boats, not just 20 to 30-footers.
Whether or not there is currently a scarcity of berths problem in the East Bay is immaterial to thinking about the principles of who should get berths and why, because there currently is a serious berth shortage problem in many areas. And given the difficulty of getting new marinas built, it will ultimately become a problem in the East Bay, too.
You're taking the $25/ft figure completely out of context. The idea is that the marina collects fees at an average rate of $8/foot - or whatever - for folks who use their boats a normal minimum amount. And yeah, just farting around on the boat at the dock might well be considered using it. The only people who would pay more than $8/foot are those people who are merely using a slip for storage, thereby denying water access to others. It puzzles us why you want the government - meaning taxpayers - to subsidize people who deny others access to the water. People who need to store boats can do so in outlying areas where there are plenty of slips.
If you don't like our 'use it or lose it' concept, that's fine. But remember the last time we tried your 'supply and demand' solution to govern a commodity when there wasn't an adequate supply? That's right, the energy crisis that has now saddled Californians with billions of dollars in unnecessary debt. What a terrific model. By the way, the nautical version of that is in effect in Santa Barbara, which is why if you want a 50-foot berth there, you have to expect to pay a private individual about a $50,000 surcharge for whatever boat he happens to have in the slip at the time. Assuming, of course, Larry Ellison doesn't fancy the same slip and decides to pay a $100,000 surcharge.
If you can't figure out why people pay for slips in which they keep unused and/or derelict boats, we'll explain it to you. At the Ala Wai in Honolulu, it's because a mere $200 a month gives them a waterfront residence on Waikiki in perpetuity. Who could possibly give it up, seeing they'll never get another chance at a deal like that in their lives? In Santa Barbara, it's because the surcharge on the price of a person's unused slip keeps appreciating all the time. After all, they're not building any more California waterfront, and they're not building anymore slips in Santa Barbara either. Interestingly enough, Santa Barbara harbor officials estimate that getting rid of the marina's derelict and never used boats would probably free up a minimum of 120 badly-needed slips.
What to do if you find yourself stuck with a boat you no longer want and even the Boy Scouts won't take? Our first suggestion is to call Richardson Bay Harbormaster Bill Price and see if he can't get his volunteers from San Quentin to chainsaw it up and toss it out with the other derelicts at the Army Corps of Engineers facility in Sausalito. If that's a no go, you could always clean the boat of all the toxic materials, take her somewhere outside the Gate, and have a thru hull failure. The California Coastal Commission may not believe in artificial fish habitats, but we do.
Last month a reader asked about renting C-Map cartridges. Cartridges from both C-Map and Navionics are available for lease. There are 30, 60, and 90-day leases. The cost is on a prorated basis: 30 days is 33% of the cost of buying the cartridge outright; 60 days is 50% of the cost; and 90 days is 75% of the cost. If you're going to rent a cartridge, be sure to allow some time for setting up the lease and return, as it's not something that can be done two hours before you take off on a trip.
These cartridges also have trade-in value. Typically, a cartridge trade-in reduces the new cartridge's price by around 50% of the original value of the old cartridge. This can be a good deal if you need a set of charts for more than 90 days or are not in a position to get them returned on time - say if they're being sent back via the Guatemalan postal service.
Each cartridge company has unique points regarding rentals, trade-ins and updates. We're dealers for all of them and program cartridges in house, too, so we always have the cartridges in stock and up-to-date for immediate delivery. In general, it's possible to buy a new cartridge in less than 15 minutes.
Having just returned from a sailing trip in Maine, I thought the California sailing community might enjoy an update about one of the greatest naval architects in history: Olin Stephens of Sparkman & Stephens. Folks in the town of Castine, Maine - which is on Penobscot Bay and has a year-round population of 200 - have a big interest in old wooden boats. In order to honor the 70th birthday of Dorade, the first and perhaps most famous S&S ocean racer, members of the Castine YC thought it would be great to assemble a fleet of classic S&S designs and have a race to Camden some 20 miles across the bay. And to invite Olin Stephens to participate.
It's unclear to me why anyone thought that Stephens, who is 94, would attend. Perhaps the fact that he recently published his autobiography, All This and Sailing, Too, had something to do with it. Or maybe the author and Castine resident, Rusty Bourne, who wrote The Best of the Best - A History of Sparkman & Stephens Yachts, had inside information or connections. In any event, Olin agreed to come and race with us.
The race was held on August 2, and more than 30 vintage S&S yachts from all over the Northeast showed up to strut their stuff for the designer. Olin arrived the day before, having driven himself 250 miles over difficult, narrow roads from his home in Vermont. A dinner was held in his honor, and he spoke with clarity and authority. Among other things, he noted that wooden boats "smell better" while being created than do those of other materials. Stephens was the Bill Lee of his time in that his boats were radical departures from what preceded them, but interestingly enough, he was distainful of the current trend to build replicas of boats he and others drew many decades ago. He described them as "questionable investments", given that modern designs are so much more fun to sail.
When it was time to race, Olin was invited to sail on the New York 32 Falcon, a relative of Dorade, while I got a ride on the sistership Siren. Our boat got a better start, but was somewhat slower due to its yawl rig and the fact that the dinghy we were towing - a race requirement - didn't have a bailer. When we were about to cross tacks a short time later, Olin was on starboard and looked as though he'd cross far enough ahead of us so we, on port tack, would have to tack. But Olin guilefully sailed what seemed to be a little free of the wind, resulting in our having to make a chaotic tack after all. I swear I saw a small smile of satisfaction cross his face. We lost the race to Stephens and Falcon, but how often do you get to lose to a legend?
Olin later autographed my copy of his book. During the course of the two days, I had the privilege of hearing a good bit from him. Based on that, I can confirm the language and self-effacing style of the book is authentic. Anyone with an interest in yacht design or nautical history should have a copy of All This and Sailing, Too.
By the way, I rarely see anything from your readers on cruising Maine. Although the season is ridiculously short - they finish putting boats in the water around July 4th, and start taking them out after Labor Day - and while the rocks and fog make it a might more challenging, the experience is simply fabulous. Hinckley runs an incredible charter operation in the heart of the best cruising grounds. Check it out.
Back in the late '80s or early '90s, you reprinted a poem titled, It Reigned A Pawn The See. Could you tell me where to find it, send me a copy, or send me the issue it appeared in? I'd be happy to pay in advance. By the way, I know that many boatowners here in Astoria would greatly appreciate it if Latitude could be delivered here. Can you do that? Currently, the closest marine store that carries it is two hours away in Portland.
I'm a former cruiser, and did Cabo in '90 with the Lord Nelson 35 Abishag. We continued on for six years.
Brian - Our very small and hard-working staff has two options. Either we can fulfill the monthly deluge of requests to look up old articles and produce a 64-page sailing magazine, or we can just stick to publishing a magazine and produce editions that average about 264 pages. Most of our readers prefer we stick to the second option, so we don't do any research for past articles. If, on the other hand, you know exactly when the article appeared, we'd be happy to mail you a back issue for $7. Send your request to "Back Issues" at the address in our masthead.
As much as we'd like to publish several hundred thousand copies of Latitude each month, so that everybody who wanted a free copy could get one, it's not economically feasible. The way free publications work is simple. Readers who live close to the advertising base get them free; readers who live a long way from the advertising base have to pay. Alas, you're going to have to 'pay' one way or the other.
You might consider subscribing ($26
per year for 3rd class mailing or $50 per year for 1st class
mailing.) If there is a marine business in Astoria that would
like to receive Latitude, they can call Mary at extension 104
and make the arrangements. (Distributors outside of Northern
California pay $1/magazine to cover shipping charges.)
We have adopted an East Coast-West Coast lifestyle. We're natives of the California Republic, and our home is above Nevada City in the snow country. But we wanted to see how others live in the USA, so we keep our Island Packet 31 on the East Coast for winter use. So we've faced the long term storage question, too. In our opinion, it's safe to dry store a boat just about any place on the East Coast as long as you're two or three miles inland. Most of the weather damage occurs along the coast, and diminishes rapidly as you go inland.
Since '96, we have stored our boat in the following places: Indian Town in central Florida; Green Cove Springs in northern Florida; Oriental, North Carolina; and Deltaville, Virginia. Our boat is currently on the hard 60 miles below Jacksonville, Florida, on the St. John's River at San Mate - about 25 miles west of St. Augustine.
If you're a Californian, you will probably like the South - aka Bubbaland. The people there are wonderful, and most Bubbas are good guys. Boat storage prices aren't bad, either. It's about $250 for a round-trip haul, bottom wash, and block. And it's about $150/month for storage. We currently pay $170 per quarter, and keep our RV in our storage spot when we take off in our boat.
We tried to find a place on the west coast of Florida, but it was too expensive and we didn't always feel right about things there. We would avoid anything south of Jupiter. The nearer you get to Key West, the more expensive everything becomes. We once paid $93 a night there!
Harley and Vickie Monian
Readers - Some cruisers complain that
marinas in Mexico are expensive - and many of them aren't cheap.
But $2 to $3 foot/night isn't uncommon in the more expensive
places on the east coast of the U.S.
Act One. On the afternoon of June 9, we hopped into our 12-ft Avon inflatable dinghy for a photography and fishing expedition near Agua Verde in the Sea of Cortez. We were well in the lee of a reef - which had a tall rock topped by an osprey nest, complete with osprey, and were taking photo after photo - when a fishing panga literally came out of nowhere. It was headed directly at us at full speed. We were unable to get their attention by shouting and waving - they were coming so fast that their bow was up and we couldn't even see them. And with just a little 15 hp outboard, we didn't have time to get out of their path.
We were hit square amidships! Bill was thrown into the water. I was pure and simple run over by what I estimate was 24-feet of panga, with the outboard going over my full backside. My view before the collision was surreal - nothing but the wrong side of a speeding panga coming right at us. All I could do was duck. Thank God - and I mean exactly that - Bill was pushed out of harm's way into the water and the prop missed him, and I was ducked down between the tubes of the inflatable. The panga passed over one tube, my back, then the other tube, pushing us underwater briefly as it went over the top of us. I know that if I looked closely, there would be, amid the bruises and contusions on my back, the handprint of The Big Guy, who pushed me down to keep me alive.
We were very scared, but alive. I'm just starting to feel the aftermath of the propeller massage, complete with the Swedish panga treatment. Seriously, had it come six inches to one side or the other, neither of us would have survived. In the end, all we lost was our digital camera and a bit of rear-end skin.
Act Two. At 3 a.m. on June 19, while on the hook in the established anchorage area of Santa Rosalia, Baja, our boat Pelagian was hit by a panga that we estimate was travelling at 20 knots or more. It was a hit and run. We immediately searched the water for an injured party, as we could not believe that the person driving wasn't injured or killed. We found no one in the water, and no blood in the area. At the time our boat was hit, we had the masthead light on and a kerosene light on in the cockpit. As such, we were much more visible than several other boats in the anchorage.
The panga hit our boat hard below our stern pulpit. The one-inch diameter stainless support strut was torn loose, and two 3/8-inch bolts were bent 90 degrees. There was also extensive fiberglass damage from the direct impact. Pelagian was still seaworthy - we later had to cross the Sea to the mainland. But she was damaged, and frankly, so were we. After two such collisions in a matter of week, it's hard to remain openhearted. But we do so anyway, as it's the correct way in the big passage we call life. Anyway, this is just the way it is here, as in many other parts of the world.
Act Three. It's September 9, and we're back in Seattle, along with Pelagian. As you might remember our writing in a previous issue, we're WWWs - warm weather wimps. It might seem that we returned to the States because we got hit by the pangas, but that is absolutely not the case. However, we felt the need to report the incidents now because of the panga attack on Bob Medd of TLC. We want everyone not to close their heart to Mexico, but to keep their eyes open.
We also have a tip for anyone having their boat trucked back to the States from Marina Seca in San Carlos. Wrap your own mast and rigging - even though this is supposed to be covered in the price of the shipping. When we inspected the rig before leaving Mexico, we were not pleased with the wrapping job. Jesus, the foreman, agreed that it wasn't a good enough job, and assured us that it would be rewrapped. But when Pelagian arrived in Seattle, there was no wrapping whatsoever on the mast or boom, and the standing rigging was simply rolled and thrown in the cockpit - where it gouged the varnish and damaged the wind generator, which had also been tossed into the cockpit. We've now spent $8,000 for a complete overhaul and paint job of the mast and boom, and now it's already the wrong end of summer. Ah well, caveat emptor, folks!
P.S. We're glad to hear that Grant Todd, whose Hans Christian 48 Koonawarra exploded off El Salvador, is doing better. We seriously attempted to purchase this vessel about two years ago, but he wouldn't sell. Wow.
Bill & Sharon Jensen
Bill & Sharon - Wow is right. We have some obvious questions. After the panga ran over your dinghy near Agua Verde, did they stop and come back? Were you ever able to track them down? Did you report it on the nets or to the authorities? Everyone would like to know if it was intentional or not.
We're glad you survived both incidents, and that you raised this important issue. Because no matter if you're cruising in Mexico, or in the Caribbean, small but powerful boats are a real threat to health and life. In the Caribbean, the threat is mostly in the form of high-speed dinghies flying out from behind a string of anchored boats or running at night without lights. We don't have statistics to back it up, but we're sure more people get killed each year in dinghy accidents than boat accidents. About 10 years ago, for example, six people died in one late night dinghy-against-dinghy collision.
In Mexico, pangas are usually a greater danger than dinghies. Let's face it, the pangas are operated by tough and hardened fishermen, not all of whom are sober, and a very small number of which aren't thrilled by the sight of yet another comparatively rich gringo. About 10 years ago, the owner of a Long Beach-based Bowman 57 was operating his dinghy - we believe near Punta Mita - when he was killed by a hit and run panga.
The best way to combat these dangers is to dinghy defensively. When you operate a dinghy in any crowded harbor in the Caribbean, you have to assume that every other dinghy is being driven blindly through the fleet at maximum speed by a drunken lunatic. The later it gets in the day, the more likely this will be true. As a result, you must always be listening for the sound of other dinghies, and always expecting a dinghy to suddenly appear from behind any boat in the anchorage. When underway in your dink, wave around the brightest light you have, and have an air horn ready. Most anchorages or harbors have 'freeways' for dinghies. Take the 'back roads', particularly if your dinghy doesn't have a powerful engine.
In Mexico, it's pretty much the same thing. Operate your dinghy defensively. Be ready at a second's notice to avoid an approaching panga at 90 degrees. Carry a very bright light, and carry a horn. If you were in a totally defensive mode and had a planing dinghy, it would be pretty hard to be hit.
It's not that uncommon for anchored boats to be hit, particularly on dark nights. Most guys operating a panga aren't going to be looking up enough to see a masthead light - even if they are sober. So at least one light at eye level is good. Two or three are much better. Even the toughest hombre knows a panga versus a cruising boat is not a fair fight, so we can't imagine it would ever be intentional.
How serious a danger are pangas to cruisers
in Mexico? Not as great as dinghies are in the Caribbean, but
both are potential dangers you want to keep aware of.
We came through Turtle Bay on June 24 while on our way back to San Diego. There were five boats in the anchorage, and Ernesto, as always, was right there. His services - such as taking garbage, getting fuel and water, or providing local information - are very useful.
During the week we were there, many boats came and went - and they all got what they needed from Ernesto. It's noteworthy that all this time Ernesto was rowing his panga as the motor was being repaired. Our dinghy outboard was muertos also, so he rowed us in and out every day. He also managed to find a new fuel pump for our generator, and gave us a bag of potatoes and a gallon of bleach. Later he took us as his guests to the tuna boat Proximus G4, where we had tacos carnes with all the fixings, beer, and got a tour of the vessel. When it finally came time for us to leave Turtle Bay, our cranking battery turned out to be fried. So Steve and Ernesto walked about three miles to a friend's house who had a deep cell marine battery in his truck! It's now our cranking battery. We were a little short on cash, so now he has our handheld VHF.
In our estimation, Ernesto provides a good service at a fair price. After all, I have been to his house and I can report it's not a condo in Redondo with a satellite TV and a Beemer in the garage.
There are alternatives to using Ernesto's services, of course. Hiking your fuel jugs up to the Pemex is one of them. But we're glad Ernesto is our friend. He is fun to have aboard for sharing meals, stories and beers. Some people have written in that he's an alcoholic. In our experience, he turns down more beers after he's had a few. We're glad that others have written in to express their support for our amigo.
We also want to report that the Club de Yates Bahia Tortugas has been started. It's located on the right side of the pier - as viewed from the water - where Carlos and Marselas have a great palapa where they provide a great view and delicious food. We were treated like family and were as sad to leave as they were sad to see us go. We hope all the Ha-Ha folks check it out.
P.S. Don't forget your girly magazines.
Steve and Yani
Readers - Ernesto gets mixed reviews from cruisers who want fuel delivered to their boats in Turtle Bay. Most folks get along with him well enough on most days, and some become buddies. But if you're expecting precise amounts of fuel to be delivered at a certain hour and at an exact price, there are days when you'll be disappointed. When this happens to us, we write it off as part of the charm of Mexico. But some cruisers take a dimmer view.
Twenty years ago it was common for cruisers to trade beer, .22 shells and girly magazines to Mexican fishermen for lobster and/or fish. At the risk of being politically correct, there might be more suitable things to trade.
KEEPING THE BIRDS OUT
In a recent issue, some of your readers complained about birds building nests under their sail covers and in the folds of their sails. I had a similar problem on my O'Day 25 Pescarus II for several years, but eventually figured out a simple and humane way to discourage birds from building their homes on my boat. I bought some wooden clothes-pins - for just a couple of dollars - and clamped them on the sail cover between the regular snaps or whereaver I noticed gaps where birds might crawl in. Voila! No more problem. Wooden pins work best because the plastic ones deteriorate in the sun.
John L. Crisan Jr.
Racing can be a dangerous sport. I should know, as my 3,000-pound Merit 25 Challenger was recently holed and sunk by an 18,500-pound J/40. I was on starboard and the other boat was on port when the collision occurred.
Do you think there would be any value in having crewmembers sign a form acknowledging the dangers of sailing before allowing them to come aboard? It would merely state that the crew understands that in sailing - as in all of life - there are certain dangers, and that the crew accepts them. Of course, this would not protect the owner in cases of deliberate negligence or if the other boatowner was found to be at fault. Naturally, an attorney would know all the right things to say in the form to protect the boatowner, but I think you get the idea. To make the 'pill' easier to swallow for potential crew, signing the form could be one of the requirements to being listed on Latitude's Crew List.
No matter what, thanks for a great publication and community service. I've been a Latitude fan for the past 15 years or so. On the weekends, I teach sailing for UC Berkeley's Cal Adventures - in fact, you have my How to Sail in 4 Days website listed under your sailing links.
Douglas - We're not trained in the law, but it's our understanding that there's nothing anybody can do to prevent another person from trying to sue them. We, for example, could file suit against you claiming that you liabeled us in your letter. It would be groundless, of course, and would immediately get tossed out. But we have the right to file it, and you'd almost surely have to hire a lawyer to get it thrown out. In cases where there is the possibility of even very minor harm, it's not quite so simple. Indeed, there are plenty of individuals and lawyers who make comfortable livings by filing harassment suits, where it's cheaper for the defendant to give in to the extortion than to defend himself. The bottom line is that no written form can shield you from being sued.
A small number of boatowners require all their guests to sign a basic form that says something to the effect that they realize sailing is an inherently dangerous activity and that the boat they are getting on is neither professionally skippered or maintained. We're not sure how much - if any - protection it affords a boatowner. Perhaps a lawyer who reads the magazine could offer some insight. By the way, it's also our understanding that California courts have ruled that sailing is a 'high risk' sporting activity, and therefore the participants aren't entitled to the same degree of care and protection as someone walking down the street. But as we said, we're not lawyers.
For general sailing, the best defense is having plenty of insurance. If there's an accident, turn it over to your insurance company, and hopefully you're done. Lots of insurance is also good because we're sure that you, like us, want to make sure that our crew is covered if they genuinely get hurt.
For more adventurous sailing endeavors - such as the Ha-Ha - we make everybody who sails aboard Profligate sign a form acknowledging that they are fully aware that offshore sailing exposes them to all the possible dangers of the sea - including injury and death. Again, we're not sure how much this might help in litigation, but it would save us the ultimate insult of somebody saying they didn't know what they were getting into.
Update: As we go to press, a maritime
lawyer tells us that such forms do, in fact, provide quite a
bit of protection. We hope to have more on the subject next month.
Our family trip to Cuba - we actually made it in the summer of 2000 - was among our most memorable experiences together. To have shared knowledge through friendships with Cuban families, to have been immersed in the culture of these families, and to have learned first-hand about their way of life left deep impressions.
We spent three weeks in places such as Santiago de Cuba, Guantanamo, Baracoa and Havana, during which time we were surrounded by the awesome beauty of Cuba's people and country. We came to appreciate their spirit and hardships, their strength and love for each other, the undercurrent of the laughter of the children, and their music and dance - which rose like a flag above all else to announce their identity.
Despite their common identity, each person was trying to develop the best within themselves, and seemed genuinely concerned with their community at large and the well-being of others. The way the Cuban people go about exercising their freedom to develop the best within themselves and further their rich heritage and culture reminded me of the aloha spirit that once prevailed in Hawaii.
Havana is a mecca of travelers, Santiago de Cuba a bustling city rich with music and intellectual activity, and Baracoa is a bountiful country town nestled in the mountains and tropical forest at the edge of the sea. Guantanamo, whose history needs to be rewritten, is a treasure chest of Caribbean folklore.
Our family was fortunate to be able to take a journey to Cuba, as it was an unforgettable experience.
Carmela Bozina and the Bozina Family
Carmela - It's fantastic to hear how much Cuba has changed since we did our '96 cruise along the north coast from Baracoa to Veradero, and then by car to Havana. You probably won't believe this, but back then Castro still didn't allow voting or political dissent, and the neighborhood snitch programs kept everyone from saying what they really thought. At least Cuba was on the cutting edge of medical treatment. Anyone with AIDS, for example, was rushed off to prison for life.
We're thrilled to learn that Baracoa, a natural tropical paradise, has finally started to reach some of its tremendous potential. For when we were there, the natural harbor was dead, the sad little structures in town were crumbling, the Cubans weren't allowed inside the only store that had anything on the shelves, and there was about one running vehicle for every 25,000 people. There was, however, passenger air service to Havana: once a week aboard - we're not making this up - an ancient Russian biplane. Unfortunately, the average Cuban couldn't get permission to travel even if he/she had been able to afford it.
It was, of course, the people that made the biggest impression on us. Since few Cubans had any hopes, dreams or aspirations back then, it was like a visit to the land of the living dead. And since all behavior that wasn't specifically approved was prohibited, we didn't see anything that suggested much in the way of creativity or spontaneity. No wonder all the young kids wanted to stow away when we pulled out of Baracoa. And how could we ever forget 'Commander No'? This local official insisted that we weren't permitted to anchor where we were, and furthermore, weren't permitted to leave either. The illogical contradiction didn't register with him because of his total dedication to preventing all behavior. In a bit of comic relief, he was given a 15-minute tongue-lashing by a fiesty female on an Italian boat.
It's absolutely true that many parts of Cuba are beautiful, and despite their horrific circumstances, most of the people were quite friendly. We even give high marks to Castro for having had the courage to try an economic system that he believed might be the best for the majority of his population. It's a shame he's never been able to admit it's been a dismal failure, and has therefore had to rely on force to maintain what seems to us to be little more than a malfunctioning slave plantation. It comes as no surprise to us that hundreds of Cubans continue to risk their lives each year trying to escape.
The Bush administration is foolish in
trying to fine Americans who have visited Cuba by plane, for
there's no better argument against the concept of a centralized
totalitarian government. We hope that both you and we can return
to Cuba in five years and see if the country has lived up to
We've all read about the importance of preparing your boat for extended voyages by carrying pertinent spares in adequate quantity. Through personal experience, I am now educated on the importance of carrying some of those spares - specifically fuel filters - right here on the Bay. On a recent Sunday, we discovered that just having the replacement element for the primary Racor filter was not adequate, as we also needed the secondary filter. Yes, that was us being towed. A $10 filter or a $200 tow - it's not a difficult decision.
Brad - We weren't there so we don't
know the circumstances, but was it possible for you to have sailed
back to your Alameda berth and saved all that money?
You have been very helpful over the years, even though we have only met twice. A Latitude article in June of '85 helped us get a good turnout for the chartering of the Alameda YC - which is now 15 years old and still going strong. I was also a liveaboard for 13 years, and my boat Geisha took me to Sea of Cortez Race Week in '86, where we came in second in the beer can races. The trip was a great experience, and the reduction in stress probably saved my life. Our slogan back then was from Christopher Lloyd in the movie Back to the Future, "Kid, where we're going, we don't need roads."
Over the years, I made it to several Latitude Crew List Parties. The most memorable was in '88 at the Metro YC in Oakland, where I met Allison Blair. She played hard to get for years, but this year we'll celebrate our 10th anniversary. We have three kids - Natalie 8, Blair 5, and Travis 2. The two older ones lived aboard with us until we bought a house in '95, although we still spend the occasional night aboard. But my admonition still holds: Be careful at the Crew List Parties, because you might find what you're looking for.
Robert D. Austin
Robert - Thanks for the kind words.
We hope that everyone has heard by now that the Mexico Only and
Ha-Ha Kick-Off and Reunion Crew List Party had to be changed
to Wednesday, October 10, at the Encinal YC in Alameda, 6-9 p.m.
The account of Neosal's grounding in the August Latitude thankfully had a happy ending. There was mention of a 45-pound CQR anchor dragging, and this reminded me of my own brief experience with a CQR anchor - which I replaced after about six months of problems in the sandy bottoms of Southern California. I had more problems setting that anchor than I had previously encountered in 30 years of sailing. I've also watched other boats with CQR anchors make several attempts before the anchor set. Is this a common problem with CQRs or are we just dopes?
I've tried to contact Simpson-Lawrence and the companies that purchased them, but they haven't responded to my emails. I've dived on my CQR after a failed set, and found that it was lying on its side in the sand. Once dug in, it works fine. My CQR was older and maybe the newer ones are better, but it seems that there is a potential problem that sailors need to be aware of.
I now use a Danforth, but the Bruce anchor is reputed to be the most reliable anchor to set, and may be the anchor of choice in emergency situations.
John - The CQR is a great anchor. So are the Danforth and the Bruce. The keys to success with them are: 1) Using the right anchor for the conditions, 2) Using a big enough anchor, and 3) Knowing how to properly get the anchor to dig in.
Even then, there are times when you simply won't be able to get any anchor to grab. It's happened to us near Bodrum, Turkey; on the face of Catalina; at Little Harbor on Jost van Dyke; and at Dickinson Bay, Antigua. If you've tried your whole quiver of anchors and can't get any to bite, sometimes you just have to go someplace else.
The CQR is an extremely popular anchor because it works well on a variety of bottoms - although it, like all other anchors, can have trouble in grass or where there is only a thin layer of sand over a very hard bottom. Because there is no projecting fluke, the CQR tends to do well when the direction of pull is changed because of the wind or current. If you dive on a CQR and find it still on its side, either you haven't backed down far enough, or the bottom is impenetrable.
The Danforth is a lightweight anchor that tends to work well in mud and sand, but can skip over grassy or hard bottoms, and can be jammed by gravel and small rocks. Setting them can be a little tricky, too, as they can 'sail' when being lowered, and they need more scope than most other anchors. Small Danforths are usually used for lunch hooks or secondary anchors, and in the right bottoms, large Danforths can be excellent storm anchors.
The Bruce anchor is good in most conditions - it sets quickly, is good for crowded anchorages because it needs less scope, and is easy to pull out. One the negative side, it can false set on moderately rocky bottoms, and has a reputation for dragging under the highest loads.
No matter what kind of anchor you use,
make sure that it's big enough, and be very careful about your
anchoring technique. You should back down very slowly in the
beginning, giving the hook plenty of chance to bite slowly but
surely. As you back down, feel and listen to the anchor chain,
as it will 'talk' to you just as much as the telltales on your
sails will about sail trim. Once you know you've got a good grip,
slowly back down even harder to make sure the hook's really got
a good bite.
I think your diatribe on the (dis)advantages of sailing on the Chesapeake was not only uninformed, but unfair. Yes, there can be bugs, but not often. Yes, it does get cold during the winter, and sometimes the wind dies out during the summer. But we have many thousands of miles of shoreline, and some of the most beautiful anchoring areas you can experience. There are also many places to cruise to with quaint towns and lovely scenery. And places where you can set up a week long or two-week long cruise and not have to go to the same dock day after day.
On the other hand, we don't have eight-knot currents under the Bay Bridge and 54° water year 'round. We don't have much fog, and definitely don't have the gray overcast skies of San Francisco all summer long, with the attendant cold weather. We enjoy sailing in something other than foul weather gear. So, you sail where you want, and I'll sail where I want.
Gary - Our comments were meant in jest, so there's no need to be so touchy about it. There is no question that the Chesapeake is a great place for gunkholing for a week or two. But when it comes to actual sailing, there's no question that San Francisco Bay is far superior, no matter if you're enjoying a hearty slog in The Slot, or mellowing out in the warm and tranquil 'Bajarribean' lee of the Tiburon Peninsula.
FOOLISH, UNINFORMED AND OFFENSIVE
Latitude's August issue diatribe against the Coastal Commission and its Clean and Green Boating program does great disservice to the boating and broader community. It also proves that ideological blinders, a little knowledge - much of which is inaccurate - and convenient access to a bully pulpit - your editorial pages - can easily mislead and combine to paint false pictures for an uninformed public. In America, we value and protect a free press and free speech, so anyone can say anything they want - no matter how foolish, uninformed and offensive. And many do.
Leaving ideological biases aside, correction of all inaccuracies and distortions in your editorial would probably not be printed. However, I want to highlight a few: Your selective use of two gratuitous anti-Commission statements by judges opposed to government protection of the environment ignores the hundreds of decisions upholding the agency's actions on behalf of the public and California's coastal environment. You praise the Marine Forest Society for putting hundreds of tires, thousands of milk jugs, concrete blocks and rope into the ocean to create marine habitats when there is no scientific basis for it, and much of this junk breaks loose and washes up on beaches. We view these materials as ocean pollution. The Commission has approved many artificial reefs that use proper materials for habitat creation and are located in the right place. To encourage anyone to throw junk in the ocean and call it a habitat because some sealife may be attracted to it is irresponsible and uninformed - and is against the law.
You suggest the length of my tenure impairs my ability to carry out the responsibilities of the job, yet you appear to know nothing about it. The executive director is the only non-civil service employee of the Commission, and serves at the pleasure of a majority of commissioners. If I am not able or willing to do the job effectively and responsibly, with integrity and respect for the public I serve, I should resign or be replaced. I am proud of my public service work, and think I do it very well.
You say I am not reachable and did not respond to your inquiries. My phone and email address are public information (415 904-5201; pdouglas at coastal.ca.gov.) I phoned as soon as I returned from an overseas trip and look forward to getting together to provide accurate information about the Commission's work.
Finally, a response is needed to the misguided attack on the Commission's Dockwalkers program - which is part of the nationally-acclaimed Boating Clean and Green program that was launched in 1997 to educate California boaters about environmentally-sound boating practices. The Commission has been actively involved in efforts to address marine water pollution since its creation by voter initiative in 1972. Indeed, the boater education program is just one element in a much broader strategy to address all sources of marine water pollution.
The Commission's boater education program encourages boating while reducing discharge of oil, sewage, and boat cleaning and maintenance products. It was designed with input from boating and marina associations, who emphasized that education, not regulation, should be the primary strategy to encourage boaters to enjoy and protect coastal and marine resources.
The Dockwalkers program trains volunteers to talk to and distribute free boater kits to boaters about clean boating practices. There is nothing coercive or offensive about it. The Commission and its partner, the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, started training volunteer boaters - mostly from the Auxiliary - last season. We adopted the concept because it matched the approach boaters suggested during focus groups conducted in 1997 as part of our search for the most effective educational strategies.
Dockwalkers are instructed to talk with marina operators and to gain their support before entering marina property. Many operators appreciate our help in alerting boaters to the availability of services such as bilge pump-out facilities and places to recycle used motor oil and used oil filters or deposit hazardous wastes. They know that an informed and conscientious boating community leads to a cleaner marina and cleaner water. Dockwalkers are trained to move on if a boater doesn't want to talk.
The Boating Clean and Green Program also provides boaters with information through signage and publications. Research shows that 85% of California's boaters access waterways at boat launch ramps. So we prepared 450 signs that were posted at launch ramps statewide. We have also installed 600 Shopping Clean and Green displays at marine supply shops and attended 35 boat shows. The Commission has a website on clean boating, produced information included in tide tables and nautical charts that show where environmental services for boaters are located, and makes information available on the 1(800)CLEANUP hotline.
The Commission relies on input from its Board of Advisors that include representatives of the Recreational Boaters of California, the California Port Captains and Harbormasters Association, the Northern California Marine Association, West Marine, the U.S. Coast Guard and Coast Guard Auxiliary, the California Department of Boating and Waterways, and various other state and local government agencies.
Because we want to ensure that Dockwalkers are helpful to the boaters they meet, we are conducting a survey at the end of this season to determine how boaters perceive the program. We hope you will print the results of this survey.
Peter Douglas, Executive Director
Peter - Your letter appears at the end of this month's Letters section because it was received after the deadline. We tossed out a couple of other letters and lengthened the section to be able to include your letter.
We appreciate that you provided your phone number and email address. As we stated in our article, neither of these can be found on the California Coastal Commission website, which we think is a major omission. If any of our readers want to express an opinion, we hope they'll do so by email so as not to interrupt your day.
Distorting words? You claim we praised Marine Forests for putting all kinds of garbage on the bottom of the ocean. What we actually said was, "We're not familiar with the details [of the Marine Forest program], but the concept [of artificial reefs] sounds great." During our subsequent telephone conversation, you twice told us, "I think the jury is still out on artificial habitats." Now you write that the Commission "has approved many of them." Which is it? If it's the latter, we'd like to get a list. We'd also like to know what's necessary to help create more, as we have access to a great fund-raising vessel and are very interested in restoring the sealife populations along the California coast.
We did not state that your length of tenure impaired your work - but we did raise the possibility, as there's considerable historical precedent for such a thing happening. And frankly, after you outlined your 'Marine Vistas' program, the one that would prevent owners of rural coastal property from building houses that can be seen by mariners from more than a certain distance out to sea . . . well, we're still wondering. We've run that idea past a lot of mariners, and we're all scratching our heads. What's the deal with that?
When property rights advocates blame losing court cases on 'tree-hugger' judges, it sounds like sour grapes to us. And it also sounds like sour grapes when you blame some Coastal Commission court losses on "judges opposed to the environment." You've got tunnel vision if you think environmental considerations should always reign supreme. By the way, you didn't comment on the Commission being declared "unconstitutional." Was our portrayal inaccurate? Was that also the result of a judge opposed to the environment?
As for the Dockwalkers program, we listed five specific reasons why we opposed it. Nothing you have said has changed our mind about any of them. You claim the program was the result of input from an impressive Board of Advisors, which you list. Unfortunately, that input may not have been as sincere as you'd like to think. We promised confidentiality so we can't reveal any names, but some of the 'positive input' came from groups or organizations that didn't really like the program, but felt they had to support it - or suffer the consequences. Want some genuine input from the people the plan will affect? Walk the docks with us and see what mariners really think.
Or perhaps take a minute to see how you'd feel if the tables were turned. Suppose, for example, you took your family out to dinner to celebrate a graduation or something. And as your son or daughter's steak arrived, a Coastal Commission volunteer approached your table to ask if he/she could take a minute to explain the irreparable damage done to the state's waters by the cattle industry that produces the steak. As noble as the volunteer's goals might be, it's the wrong time and the wrong place. The Dockwalkers program has got it wrong, too.
It's inaccurate to portray us as being anti-Coastal Commission. In last month's article we gave total support to Coastal Clean-Up Day - just as we do every year. As for the Clean and Green's program to paint "This goes into the Bay" next to storm drains, that was genius. So we evaluate each program on its merits. And when it comes to something like the Dockwalker program, which singles out mariners as being in need of special environmental education, we're going to use our freedom of the press rights and some of the goodwill we've garnered over the years to staunchly oppose it.
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