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EVEN IF THEY DO SEE YOU . . .
A friend down here in New Zealand just gave me a copy of the Latitude that had a short blurb about our recent collision off the coast of New Zealand. I agree completely with the conclusions you printed, and the reasoning used to reach those conclusions. It is clearly the responsibility of the cruising sailor to keep a proper watch, and a failure to do so is to invite disaster.
"Don't expect them to see you" is the best advice a cruising sailor could get. However, given the facts in my particular case - which are somewhat startling in my view - this statement does not go quite far enough! I would expand upon that advice to: "Even if they see you, don't assume that they won't hit you!"
In our case, the crew of the ship admitted that they had a visual sighting of our vessel 4.5 miles before the collision - and they still managed to collide with us! The exact reasons why this happened are still not known to me, as the report of the Maritime Safety Authority - the government agency charged with investigating accidents at sea - has not been released yet. But we have been told by the MSA investigator that this was the case.
It is completely accurate that the watch crew of the Queen Jane - myself - was, in fact, belowdecks when the collision occurred. Yet the fact that the watch crew on the freighter failed to make any course adjustment after seeing us, failed to hail us on Channel 16 - which we were monitoring - and even failed to blow a horn before the collision, should seriously cause one to pause and reflect.
I would like to add that the Queen Jane was equipped - as are most cruising sailboats these days - with radar. However, the set was not on. Clearly, one can assume that had the radar been on, the crew - myself - might have had a chance to avoid the collision. The lesson I have learned is that radar only works when it is on. Duh. My attitude used to be that radar is a tool to be used in bad weather and at night when visual lookout is insufficient. In the future, I will use my radar more liberally.
It also has to be recognized that on a shorthanded cruising sailboat, it's inevitable that the watch crew must go below on occasion. In my case, I had a radio sked to meet and needed to use the head. While I was below, I examined the chart and made an entry in the ship's log - all activities that are completely normal and near-essential, and things that all crews do. However, it has been my practice to set a virtual timer of 15 minutes during such activities, and to go topsides after that interval to scan the horizon. And while this may have been said numerous times before in a variety of venues, 15 minutes is not frequently enough! My new practice will be to scan the horizon at 10-minute intervals - and it should be emphasized again and again that even this interval is not too often.
It should also be acknowledged that going
below cannot be avoided - but it must be done in a safe manner
consistent with the dangers involved. That about covers it.
Queen Jane is currently being repaired
in New Zealand and should be ready for the start of the next
South Pacific season. Despite the incident, Jordan, according
to the website, reports that cruising is exactly what he wants
to do and that he's never been happier.
Your argument that boats shouldn't have to pay fees to check in and out of Mexico's ports because RVs don't have to check in and out of every city they visit doesn't hold up. Look at the situation in the U.S. If I come back to the U.S. from Canada in an RV, the cost is nada. But if I come back in my 36-ft sailboat, I have to pay a fee. The fee is good for the calendar year, and they take credit cards so I don't have to schlepp to a bank, but it still burns me!
Three cheers to West Marine for 'importing'
Latitude to the far Northwest!
However, if you want to turn our argument
into saying that U.S. policy is no worse than Mexican policy,
you'd be just plain wrong. When you return to the U.S., there's
a once-a-year, $25 Customs fee that you can pay quickly and easily.
When in Mexico, you have to pay almost as much in fees each and
every time you check in and out of every port with a port captain.
And you have to make side trips to banks and sometimes to Immigration.
There is no comparison. If Mexico had a policy identical to the
one in the States, no cruisers would be complaining.
You San Francisco area sailors are not
only blessed with some of the best wind and water conditions
around, you have access to boats with which to enjoy it. Take
advantage of your opportunities to get out sailing. It's not
so easy in most other places.
I'm in the process of filling out the Crew
List forms that appeared in the January issue, but I have
a question. I would like to crew on a racing boat, but only have
Sundays off. Are there races on Sundays, Saturdays, or both?
Steve - Not only are there races on
both Saturdays and Sundays, but there are 'beer can' races on
most nights of the week, too. If you want the whole schedule,
pick up a copy of Latitude's 2002
Sailing Calendar and YRA Master Calendar, which lists all
the races and gives you all the information you need to know
to race on San Francisco Bay.
I find it insulting that I have to list myself with a bunch of inexperienced bunnies, when I have a lot more sailing experience than many of the men on the Crew List. I would have thought that Ellen MacArthur's record would have convinced the sailing world that women are not necessarily railmeat! I guess that hasn't registered at Latitude.
Do you know that in the United States it's
illegal to categorize classified ads by gender? It's called
sex discrim-ination! Why don't you organize the lists by
experience level or something more meaningful?
N.W. - We expect a lot of folks will think it insulting to find themselves on the same crew list as a woman as seemingly hostile and obstreperous as yourself - because they know that the ability to get along with others is the most important quality any crewmember can possess. After all, it's easy to teach just about anyone to be a decent sailor - even those you haughtily dismiss as "bunnies." On the other hand, it's virtually impossible to reform a natural born crank or troublemaker. Trust us, if it were possible to organize our Crew List by a person's ability to get along with others, that's exactly what we'd do.
Not to take anything away from the brilliant accomplishments of Ellen MacArthur, but she was hardly a pioneer of women's world class sailing. Surely you're familiar with the many stunning accomplishments of Frances Arthaud and Isabelle Autisser - or are you one of those who discriminates against women who don't speak English as a first language?
It is not sex discrimination to categorize classified ads by gender - not anymore than it is to have separate restrooms for men and women.
Where do we stand with women on boats?
As close as possible, if history were to be the judge. It was
more than 20 years ago that we hired a woman to be the captain
of our boat in Mexico. And for as long as we've owned boats,
we've sailed with a high percentage of women aboard - no matter
if it's crossing the Atlantic, doing the Ha-Ha, cruising in Mexico,
or racing on the Bay. And if you're familiar with this magazine
at all, you'd know that we think there's a word for people who
don't take women along as crew - fools.
I just looked at your West Coast Circumnavigator's list, and saw that the names of Don and Linda Bryce were missing. The couple circumnavigated from around 1985 to 1995 aboard their Long Beach-based 40-ft ferro-cement ketch Green Dolphin. They even wrote an article for Latitude a few years back about rebuilding their transmission in Mexico - somewhere in the Gulf of Tehauntepec.
Dr. Don and Linda now reside in Newport
Beach. When they are not cruising the U.S. in their 'land yacht',
they conduct cruising and medical seminars for the Orange Coast
College School of Sailing and Seamanship. They both are semipro
photographers, and have some awesome shots of their journey -
especially of the more exotic places in Asia and the Middle East.
This year's running of the Año Nuevo Race - to be held on March 23 - will be the 40th anniversary of that great event. Your '20 Years Ago' piece in the February calendar tells quite a story in that it was once common to get 40-60 boats on the line - '71 may have been the record. From '70 until '92, the Año Nuevo Race was one of the premiere sailing events in Northern California.
The race was conceived by Harvey Kilpatrick, John Neighbors, and Jim Womble on a Friday evening while sitting in the cockpit of the Lapworth 36 Sayonara. In the original version, it was slated to start in Monterey, take the Farallones to port, and finish back in Monterey. The next morning, the trio realized that maybe the evening's activities had clouded their judgement, and they replaced the Farallones as the weather mark with Año Nuevo.
The first Año Nuevo Race was held in 1963, and the first several were started after cocktails and dinner on a Friday evening. Before long, the start was changed to Saturday morning in order to reduce the likelihood of bobbing around off Cannery Row until getting wind on Saturday morning. More recently, the race has been modified to start in Santa Cruz and finish in Monterey. Although now only 56 miles, it's still a challenging and fun course.
Not only did the race once attract the top boats from Northern California, but it also drew a crowd of smaller boats - such as Santana 22s, Columbia Challengers, and Thunderbirds. And on many occasions, the Santa Cruz 27s, Moore 24s, and Olson 30s were able to put together one design classes.
I encourage everyone to have a fun time
in this race and help keep it as healthy as it deserves to be.
Race information may be obtained by contacting me care of the
Monterey Peninsula YC, Municipal Wharf #2, Box 14, Monterey,
CA 93940. I can be reached at (831) 333-9603. The information
is also online at www.mpyc.org.
Perhaps you or your readers can explain this mystery. During the last two years of cruising, we've been using the same 10-foot Achilles inflatable and 8-hp motor combination. Nonetheless, when we got to Venezuela - and especially after we got to Puerto La Cruz - the dinghy would no longer plane with the same two people in the same conditions as it had before.
We've tried changing the spark plugs, trying different octane gasoline, and cleaning the bottom, but the !#@$%! dinghy still wouldn't plane with me and my partner aboard - even in the calm waters of the canal system of the El Morro development. I had reluctantly concluded that the faithful Nissan was simply getting tired, and we gave up trying to plane.
But after returning to Trinidad and dinghying through Chaguaramas Harbor, the dinghy suddenly started planing again - without shifting weight or ooching. But now that we've left Trinidad, it continues to plane - just as it had done before we got to Venezuela.
The only explanation that I can postulate is that the waters in the El Morro canal system had a lower salinity due to freshwater runoff, and provided less lift.
Has anybody else experienced this phenomenon?
Roger & Helen - As long as the bottom has been kept equally clean, we suspect that extra weight is the problem. There are two possibilities. Perhaps you and your partner ate a little more than normal in Venezuela, or more likely - as has happened with us - your dinghy is retaining water. We got water inside the fiberglass bottom of our dinghy - unbeknownst to us - at which point we couldn't plane with two people, no matter how much we ooched and redistributed the weight. Once we got the water out, however, the same dinghy would easily plane with three people.
It was raining the other day, raining quite hard, while Cybele and I were looking at a derelict little sailboat. At $200, she was right in our price range. So Cybele and I bailed the boat out.
I want to report that it was a great, great pleasure to bail out the little boat in the rain. I had forgotten. It wasn't the society, the money, the latest gadgets, or any of that stuff that made it nice. It was simply being around a boat and other boats, sitting in the harbor dumping a bucket over the side, and goofing with a small girl who was sitting gleefully up on the rail, examining everything.
They go together, I guess - boats, rain,
kids, and souls.
Charlie - Well put.
LEEWARDS TO THE BVI
We have booked a 10-day charter out of St. Martin with Sunsail in late June and will be dropping the boat off at Hodges Creek in the British Virgins on July 2. We were told that St. Martin to the British Virgins was indeed the best route to take year round, based on the wind and current and such.
However, we were surprised when the Sunsail agent who booked the charter told us they had no recommendation as to what charts or cruising guides to purchase - even though this was a popular charter route. We have cruising guides from previous charters to the Leewards and the BVI, but are having difficulty finding the necessary charts hooking the two together.
We would appreciate any input from anyone
who has made this trip in the past - including charts, best departure
and arrival points, time en route, and so forth. We can be contacted
at tnj1970 at yahoo.com.
Ted & Judy - If you have the Cruising Guide to the Virgin Islands and the Cruising Guide to the Leeward Islands - both of which are excellent - all you're missing is the Imray-Iolaire chart covering the Anegada Passage, the body of water that connects the two areas. You can order the chart from any of the usual chart sources.
Whoever came up with your itinerary did you right, as it's excellent. What a bunch of great places to go: Tintamarre, Ile Fourche, St. Barts, St. Kitts, Nevis, Anguilla - and then crossing the Sombrero Passage to the British Virgins. We've made the latter passage a number of times, and always left from Anguilla because it was the shortest distance. We always left at night, too, because the Anegada Passage can get pretty nasty in the afternoon. We assume Sunsail lets you sail at night, because the distance is about 90 miles. You'll probably want to enter the Virgins at the Round Rock cut. But in any event, double and triple check your navigation because you don't want to get swept over to Anegada, the graveyard of hundreds of vessels - ancient and modern.
WATER QUALITY ON LA ROPA BEACH
I've been following your Z-town stories
and photos in 'Lectronic with interest. Since I won't
be sailing there just yet, I'm going to fly down and stay ashore
in April. I'll be staying right on Playa La Ropa - which is where
you report 70 or so boats are anchored. Are you aware of whether
these cruisers' effluent standards are compatible with my - and
my children's - love of swimming and snorkeling? Are there places
in this protected bay that have notable water quality problems,
or am I way off base? Since I assume cruisers are out there to
enjoy nature's oceans and also to partake in healthy water activities,
I'm hoping the level of awareness is fairly high.
Chris - We, like most other cruisers anchored off La Ropa, swim in that water every day, so we sure as heck don't poop in it. In fact, our morning routine consists of swimming to shore for a light breakfast - and to use the restaurant's facilities. In the case of middle-of-the night 'emergencies' or tourista, we insist that our crew use buckets or plastic garbage bags, and later dispose of them properly. If things got really bad, we could activate our onboard treatment system. By the way, these sell for well under $1,000.
Can we guarantee you that not a single
cruiser poops in Z-Bay? No, we can't. Nonetheless, we have a
much greater concern about the effluence from the typically poor
sewage system of Z-town - which is no longer the little village
it was just a few years ago, but is now a little city. Yes, we
swim in Z-Bay without giving it much thought, but no, we don't
consume the raw seafood taken or sold there.
We took our Cavalier 39 Jolly Mon down to Mexico in '99-'00. We always used our holding tank, and never pumped it out until we were at least a mile or two offshore. This worked for us, in part because we rarely stopped any place for more than a few days, and we have a large holding tank.
However, there are cruisers who set the hook in places like Inner Tenacatita, La Paz, La Cruz, and so forth, and stay there for weeks or even months. There are generally few or no public facilities ashore at these places, and I don't see anyone going ashore in the middle of the night to take care of business. So I have to assume that stuff is making its way into the water.
It's probably a small minority of cruisers
who actually do this, but if anyone is squeamish about it, I
would avoid snorkeling off La Ropa Beach.
David - There aren't many facilities at the main anchorage at Tenacatita Bay, but there certainly are plenty at La Paz, La Cruz, and Z-town. In 1994, we kept Big O on the hook just off La Ropa Beach for about three months. We can assure you that we never pooped into that bay, and neither did K.C. and Kay, who were running the boat at the time. There were just too many better options available.
Nonetheless, we suppose that a few cruisers
might not do the right thing - particularly at a place like Tenacatita,
which doesn't have many facilities. We sure hope that these folks
get with it. No matter if you get an MSD, a large holding tank,
or make lots of shore trips, it only takes a little effort to
keep your crap out of other peoples' lives.
I suppose that over the years you have found it necessary, if not desirable, to degrade into political correctness. How else could you be seen as 'right' by your readers. Politically correct is - but shouldn't be - a vogue way of lying.
Why would anyone go to the trouble of leaving Z-Bay to legally discharge human waste, when the extent of sewage treatment in many parts of the world consists of a ditch winding down to the beach? In my experience, once the sewage meets the beach, it typically mixes with stuff such as two-cycle oil jugs, beverage containers, fish offal, and plastic bags.
A few years ago, after leaving the noxious beach at La Cruz, we were hailed by fellow cruisers proclaiming that a whale shark was feeding in the anchorage. If a whale shark takes a dump in Banderas Bay and there are no magazine publishers to witness the event, does it really even happen? What about mantas or gray whales? I wonder what a blue whale's turd looks like.
No, I'm not trying to justify overboard
discharge, just trying to point out the realities of an imperfect
world. Beyond that, as it is also in vogue to plead the Fifth,
I feel so compelled. Please don't ignore the seedier side of
cruising to distant and not so distant locales. The truths of
sewage, manta slaughters, plastic trash, squid offal, pickpockets,
poverty and sickness, and alcohol abuse are real, even though
they are ugly to witness or experience. The bad lends credibility
to the good.
Dave - We'll tell you why a cruiser would take proper care of his/her human waste - for his/her health, for the health of the bay, and for the health of anyone enjoying the bay. No, the sewage treatment isn't as good as it should be in Z-town, just as it's not good in most Mexican towns. No, the typical Mexican beachgoer still isn't clear on the concept of litter-free and healthy beaches. No whale sharks haven't yet learned to use proper toilet facilities. But none of these things mean that we're not going to do our part to keep the waters as clean and healthy as possible - or that it's politically correct to insist that others do so, too.
Frankly, we're dumbfounded by your reasoning.
Are you suggesting that if any of us sees some trash on the side
of the road, we should ignore good habits and public health and
toss all our own garbage out the car windows also? You and we
have enjoyed the benefits of decent educations and of living
in the First World, so it's our responsibility to be part of
For some time I've been perplexed as to why sailors have such a difficult time figuring out what navigation light configuration to display at night. I know it's simple on recreational powerboats, as for the most part their navigation lights are all on the same switch. So they are either on or off. Because of the nature of sailing, sailboats have a variety of light configurations, and the correct one must be selected. The more night hours I spend on the Bay, the more wrong light configurations I see on sailboats. So I'd like to take a few lines to describe what lights are to be used when, in the hope that we sailors can do a better job of showing the proper lights.
1) When a sailboat is being propelled by machinery, it is essentially a power driven vessel, thus its light configuration is that of a powerboat: side lights, masthead light and stern light. Rule 23 i iii iv or 23 (c). The position of the sails - up or stowed - is not relevant. No part of rule 25 applies.
2) When a sailboat is actually sailing, then she should display sidelights and a stern light - but no masthead light. Rule 25 (a)
3) However, when sailboats of less than 65 feet are actually sailing, they have an option. They may combine the sidelights and stern light into one lantern at the top of the mast - commonly known as the tri-color. Rule 25 (b)
4) Another option is the red and green all around (360°) lights in conjunction with the side lights and stern light on the vessel. This option is not to be used in conjunction with the lantern described in rule 25 (b).
5) If a sailing vessel less than 23 feet is sailing at less than seven knots and does not have the lights as described in the previous paragraphs, she must be able to display a white light in ample time to avoid a collision.
6) Lastly, when at anchor, an all around (360°) white light should be displayed where it can be best seen.
I hope this helps clear up some confusion. I am not going to present my nautical resume, but I'm a professional mariner and know of what I speak. Furthermore, I am not going to give the laundry list of different light configurations that I have seen, but it's been enough to inspire me to write this letter. I have never jumped on the Latitude bandwagon before, but I am passionate about my time on the water, and am proud to be a sailor. So I hope everyone will take a few moments to brush up on rule 25 of the Rules of the Road, and to flip the right switch(es).
Capt. David Graham
Capt. David - We have a couple of more
common errors: 1) Showing a masthead tricolor and deck level
running lights at the same time. 2) Showing a masthead anchor
light and a steaming light at the same time.
We really appreciated the article by Jan and Sig Twardowski of Raven on their positive experiences with the people of Mexico. Our experience sailing the Sea of Cortez over the past six years has been similar to theirs. The Mexicans are open, friendly and courteous.
We had another great experience to add to the list a couple of weeks ago. We were anchored at Bahia San Marte - south around Punta Marcial from Agua Verde - for a couple of days waiting for a Northerly to settle down. As I went up to the cockpit the second morning, I saw a Mexican soldier on the beach waving a water bottle. Seeing a squad of eight soldiers around a cooking fire, I filled a five gallon water jug and took it ashore. It turned out that the patrol was on maneuvers trying to get around to Agua Verde, but had been stymied the previous night by the rugged terrain. As a result, they had gone without water for three days. So the five gallons disappeared in about 20 minutes!
Now they were facing a couple of days of backtracking, again with no water along the way. So they politely asked if we would give them a ride down the coast to Rancho Santa Martha. Why not? We were going in that direction anyway, and the seas had settled down enough to leave. So we loaded them aboard, two at a time, with their full field packs and carbines. The first thing their leader did when he got aboard was ask if we had a Spanish-English dictionary - none of them spoke any English and our Spanish is limited, to say the least.
When we got to Santa Marta and unloaded the squad, we found out why the leader wanted the dictionary - he wanted to ask us in English if he could pay for their ride. No way! They had all been very friendly and nobody had gotten sick during the five mile trip. The squad is stationed in La Paz, and we're hoping that we can track them down later on and give them copies of photos we took.
Were we nervous bringing armed men aboard our boat? Just a little - but we're glad we did! Now if we could just teach them how to work the foredeck.
Dave and Merry Wallace
I just heard a report that El Niño is expected to return to the West Coast by next winter. My plan was to sail south through Mexico to Costa Rica next fall. My question to you and/or your readers is what unusual weather patterns were experienced in those areas during the last El Niño?
Steve - According to NOAA, El Niño conditions - the warming of Eastern Pacific waters, as well as the combined raising of ocean levels in the Eastern Pacific and the lowering of ocean levels in the Western Pacific - may result in a serious ripple effect around the world. The impact on weather, animals, sea life and crops can be enormous.
There have been seven El Niños in the last 40 years, the last big one being in '82-'83. It was blamed for the deserts of Peru getting over 100 inches of rain in six months, droughts in Australia that later caused devastating forest fires, explosions in some crops and animal species around the world, and devastation of crops and other animal species in different parts of the world. More relevant to sailors, the '82 El Niño ushered in tropical cyclones, unusually far east to include Tahiti and the Marquesas, and severe winter storms in Southern California. On the other hand, it lessened the number of hurricanes in the Atlantic-Caribbean. December of that year also saw the famous Cabo Storm of '82, when 27 boats were lost. Many of them, however, were destroyed more because of a lack of preparation than because of the severity of the storm - including Bernard Moitessier's Joshua. For what it's worth, our Freya 39 spent the rest of that winter in Mexican waters, and it was delightful - all the more so because the coast of California was getting one of the worst shellackings in recorded history. If we remember correctly, two or three famous piers were badly damaged or destroyed.
Given the devastation caused by that El Niño, scientists have paid close attention to the phenomenon ever since. There have been lesser El Niños in '86-'87, '91-'92 and '93-'94. Their effects weren't anywhere near as strong. In fact, in some cases the affect on weather was inversely proportional to the strength of the El Niño condition. For what it's worth, there was a La Niña in '88-'89, which is when the water is cooler than normal in the Eastern Pacific. The other winters have been like this winter - classified as 'La Nada', or nothing.
If you're looking for guidance, all
we can tell you is that we'll be taking our boat to Mexico again
next winter - and very possibly on to Panama and the Caribbean.
By the way, when you said that your plan was to head south to
Mexico and Costa Rica in the "fall," we assume you
don't mean until November, as September and October are still
part of the hurricane season.
I live in Annapolis, and although I don't get Latitude in print, I do read the 'Lectronic version. Our family currently owns a monohull, but we're in the market for a cruising cat with which to take off in about 18 months from now. I have read Chris White's The Cruising Multihull, and it's had a profound effect on my cat hunt. I'm looking at production cats such as Catana and Outremer. In fact, we'll be chartering a Catana 411 out of Martinique for two weeks in May with our kids, ages 4 and 3.
My real reason for writing is to ask if you have a favorite list of books, websites, articles, or whatever that might shed light on the monohull-multihull debate? And since I'm asking, are there any articles on particular multihulls or designs that would be of help to a new cat sailor such as myself?
Joe - Chris White's book is the only one we know of that does a decent job of introducing monohull sailors to multihulls. Having said that, we think it's high time that White stop resting on his laurels and do a complete rewrite. The text - and particularly the photos - are really showing their age.
As far as we're concerned, there is no monohull-multihull debate. Everyone should sail both kinds of boats to decide which best suits their personal taste, the kind of sailing they plan to do, and their budget. If someone wants to do one-design racing, offshore sailing upwind, carry a lot of gear, or has a smaller budget, monohulls have a lot to offer. But if a bigger family wants to go cruising, needs lots of room, and has a few extra bucks, a cruising cat might be the answer. In any event, chartering a cat is the perfect step toward helping you make an informed decision. While in Martinique, we suggest that you visit as many other cats as you can - there are hundreds of them - and try to snag some rides on different ones. Cats of the same length can be extremely different animals. Whatever you do, be sure to do some upwind sailing in big and sloppy seas. That's a cat's most unpleasant point of sail, and you'll want to know about it.
We don't know of any particularly good articles to recommend on cats in general or specific cats, but we can explain our priorities in just a few words: long and light with lots of bridgedeck clearance. It's possible to have a wonderful cruise with a shorter and heavier cat, but you will be sacrificing some speed and comfort, and there will be a good chance that you'll be passed by some similar-length monohulls.
If you ultimately decide that you would
like a cat for cruising, you've got one thing going for you:
unlike a few years ago, there are now quite a few of them around,
so the prices on used ones have dropped significantly.
I love your rag - it's still the only one I read cover to cover every month. In your January 18 'Lectronic Latitude you guys made a comment about the global warming issue and how the Hollywood types might be wrong. But you only cited part of the story. Yes, parts of Antarctica are getting colder. But if you'd included other parts of the report, you would have noted that the Antarctic Peninsula has been warming at the same rate as the rest of the planet, and that there is concern about portions of the western Antarctic ice sheet due to this warming. It might be best if you folks stuck to reporting on sailing - the thing you do better than anyone else - and left science reporting to the scientific reviews.
Renny De Assis
Renny - Our report was generally a paraphrasing
of what was widely reported in the international press. There
were later follow-up articles describing how the scientists had
either done a bad job of describing what their research had found,
and/or how journalists weren't informed enough to understand
them. The old lack of communication. We apologize if anyone was
I noticed an item in 'Lectronic recently about global warming. I'm sure that you would find a near-unanimous agreement among scientists at U.S. universities that climate change and global warming have been significant over the last 100+ years. Every major U.S. university now has research teams, courses and public seminars about climate change - not whether it exists, but what is likely to happen because of it.
Please look at www.ipc.ch to see the output of the international science committee on climate change for a compilation of all recent data.
This is significant, because we are now in a more rational phase of research and policy-making. No, the ice caps are not about to catastrophically melt and submerge all civilization. Yes, we are putting too much CO2 and organic nitrogen into the environment as a result of fossil fuels and fertilizers. Yes, we will see times of no sea ice in the Arctic in the Northern Hemisphere summer within 50 years. And yes, that will have impacts on the ecosystems there.
Sailors seem to generally be aware of human impacts on our world, and are usually more interested in improving things. I'd like to see your message be correct: things are changing, sometimes in environmentally detrimental ways, and we should continue to work hard at understanding what the mechanisms are and how we can reduce our impacts.
Alan - Thanks for the pleasant letter.
Thanks for printing my letter last month regarding my search for Capri 30 skippers. I received a few emails and some good information.
Tom - You're very welcome.
We left Puerto Vallarta on January 14, and are now in Acapulco on our way to Panama and the Caribbean. We've enjoyed a wonderful 16 months here in Mexico, and are now looking forward to other cultures and experiences. As we leave, we'd like to offer some advice to other cruisers in Mexico.
Like most cruisers, we became so enamored by the friendly Mexican people and their honesty and kindness, that we never thought much about locking our boat when we went away for a few hours. Well, it finally cost us. We dropped the hook at Playa La Ropa in Z-town on January 22 among about 70 other boats. The next evening, we dinghied over to Starfoam to have dinner and socialize with old friends. When we got back to our boat at 9 p.m., we discovered that someone had been onboard and relieved us of our new notebook computer, a set of expensive binoculars, a set of used Teva shoes - who wants old raggedy shoes? - and Kathy's purse. They got her driver's license and credit cards, but no cash. It seems as though the thief or thieves may have been scared off by our old - and totally deaf - dog Moo Shoo, as they left without taking my wallet and some cash lying next to the computer, the handheld VHF in the companionway, and a spare set of Fujinon binoculars. The computer was carefully unplugged and no other damage was done.
Our message to everyone is to be a bit more cognizant that others around you may view you as very wealthy gringos and be tempted. Therefore, use common sense and secure your boat appropriately. This does not mean making it into a fortress - but then you wouldn't leave your car unlocked in the downtown area of a U.S. city, right?
This one unfortunate experience has not changed our opinion about the wonderful, kindhearted, generous and warm people of Mexico. Having lived in seven different countries, we still think Mexico is one of the safest places to be. Nonetheless, we should just not be lulled into complacency by this wonderful country. We need to exercise common sense.
Zihua Sail Fest was a blast! The organizers deserve all the credit they can get in your very much-missed magazine.
Tom and Kathy Knueppel
Tom & Kathy - Having been anchored near you at La Ropa just a short time later, we have to say the thief had a lot of gumption to strike in such a crowded anchorage so early in the evening. We know this sounds blasphemous, but we wouldn't necessarily assume that the perp(s) were Mexicans. Over the years, its been discovered that many thefts from cruising boats were done by other cruisers.
EXCESSIVE PAPER PRODUCTS
I'm incarcerated. I have a subscription to Latitude, but I'm not allowed to accumulate excessive paper products. Would you be willing to send me the address of the most deserving hurricane hole where Latitude is a rare commodity and would be appreciated? If you can do this, I'm more than willing to box up about 20 issues and ship them to that location. Thank you!
John Craig Uhrhan
John - They would love to get more Latitudes
in places such as Hawaii, Panama, Antigua, and St. Martin, but
we don't think you realize how incredibly expensive it is to
ship them. But thanks for the thought.
I would shop the Internet for a $75,000 boat in the Caribbean that had been used for cruising - but not a former charter boat. I would then fly down and buy her, provision her, and sail her around the Caribbean for one year.
Bob - We have no problem with your destination - as long as you appreciate the fact that it's hurricane season in almost the entire Caribbean from June through the end of November. This has its good and bad aspects. Unless there is a hurricane - which is unlikely - the sailing is generally mellower and the seas are flatter. It's also less crowded in most places. On the negative side, the possibility of hurricanes can't be entirely dismissed. It can be extremely humid, and many of the best restaurants and other businesses close for the off season.
If the best boat for the price is a former charterboat, why not buy her? In some cases, charterboats get used hard and put away wet. Yet in many other cases, they were mainly purchased for incredible French tax benefits and have had very little use. Some are good values.
Give me $100,000 and a year off, and you would find me heading for the South Pacific aboard a Sundeer 64, or maybe an ex-IOR racer, or even a 60-ft gaff-rigged schooner. I'd turn around for home somewhere in New Zealand or Australia, after I spent enough time learning the language and tasting the beer. What's the catch? The answer to this is found in Latitude's Crew List. Cruise on somebody else's boat.
First, look at your assets - lots of cash and some free time. But without a sound boat in hand, you are looking at a steep learning curve ahead that may not level out in just 12 months. After all, it's not uncommon for someone to spend five years or more becoming acquainted with their boat and getting comfortable with ocean sailing, navigation, storm sailing, and so forth. And realistically, one year is not enough time to get into the 'cruising mode' on your own boat. It's funny, though, how quickly you can turn into Jimmy Buffet if you are on somebody else's boat and don't have to worry about port fees, watermaker repairs, and the occasional engine replacement.
And don't believe that all skippers looking for crew are incompetent sailors that need someone to run their boat for them. Just the opposite is true, as most are great people who enjoy the company of personable folks while making long passages.
Given $100,000, a person could easily afford to pay $5 to fill out a Crew List form. Heck, since you're rolling in dough, what's another $35 to spend on a Classy Classified in the 'Crew' category? When it came time to fly home at the end of the year, you'd be able to fly first class - and buy a few drinks for your buddies. And if you still had money in the bank when you got home, you'd now have enough experience to know the cruising boat of your dreams - which, I can assure you, would not have been the one you would have picked at the beginning of the year.
Think I'm just talking through my hat? Fourteen years ago, my wife and I crewed on three different boats as a result of filling out Crew List forms. As a result, we enjoyed two years exploring the South Pacific Islands, Hawaii, and on down to Panama. We did this all on the money we made selling a used BMW.
Six years ago, we bought our dream boat, and started sailing her on San Francisco Bay. In 2000, we headed south, and did the Ha-Ha. We're currently cruising through Mexico and are headed toward Panama with our children, and having a great time.
The Winship family
SAILING - PLUS WINE, WOMEN AND SONG
As a globetrotting engineer and 100-ton Master, if I had $100,000 and one year to spend on a cruising boat and cruising expenses, I would buy a boat that's already in the South Pacific. Why? Because Europe will always be there and changes little, while the South Pacific is changing faster than ever and for the worse. Secondly, there are plenty of good cruising boats to be found in the South Pacific that have lots of life in them. Buying a boat in the South Pacific would save you from having to spend the time and money on outfitting the boat - leaving even more money for wine, women, and song!
Norman H. Black
You asked what we readers would do if we had $100,000 and one year for a cruise. I'd put our house up for rent/lease, pack up the family, drop the dog off at my sisters, then look for a 38- to 50-ft trimaran out of Southern California or preferably Mexico. I'd allocate about $55,000 to purchase and outfit the boat. As for the itinerary, I would spend winter and early spring in Mexico, then head west to the Marquesas. From there, I would head south and west until I ran out of time. My whole idea would be to leave the rat race - especially the race part - as far behind as possible. At the end of the year, I'd sell the boat and fly home with great memories - and hopefully an itch to do it again but for longer.
Renny De Assis
Renny - To each their own, but $45,000
seems like an extravagant cruising budget for one year. Are you
sure you're not budgeting for three years?
Can you help me? My boat's sail number is 8238, which was assigned to my Morgan 382 in 1978. She has always been named Coast Starlight Ltd., but for some reason she is more often than not identified as Starlight Express Ltd. This most recently happened in the 'Lectronic Latitude coverage of the Three Bridge Fiasco. I suspect that sometime in the previous century in a land close by, an assumption or other interesting error made it into a database. I have waited patiently to be photographed and published in your esteemed magazine, but it seems that I've been usurped by a lookalike. Your thoughts?
John Day English
John - Our thoughts are that it's an outrage. Here's a photo of your boat, identified properly for once.
THE TRIPLE CHROME HORN GANG
I thought you guys would be the right ones to know about Sea magazine's wonderful piece-of-crap article on Mag Bay that appeared in their February 2002 edition. The article is about three dopes from the Northwest who take a 43-ft Tiara open motoryacht from Seattle to Cabo. On page 93 of that issue, they offer some really great tips on how to handle all of the "banditos" that feed upon the visitors in the Mag Bay area.
Also, our friends aboard the Tayana 37 Aventura sent us an email before Thanksgiving last year mentioning that an eight-foot croc was seen swimming around the anchorage at Tenacatita Bay last year before disappearing up the river. They said it kind of made them nervous about getting in the water and cleaning their bottom! We had seen a smaller croc up the river earlier last year.
Ron and Valerie Hoskin
Ron & Valerie - It's not often that we break out laughing while reading a cruising article, but it happened as we read the Sea magazine article you refer to. The unidentified author quotes broker/crewmember Vic Parcells as saying that, "Mag Bay was hard to get into - and extremely dangerous." As anyone who has been to Mag Bay can tell you, it's about as hard to enter as the Golden Gate.
It got worse. Parcell said that after anchoring, his crew had to maintain a watch against "local banditos." In fact, he claimed that, "Every hour to hour-and-a-half, a panga would come to the boat. We scared them away with floodlights and triple chrome horns - and we kept the flare gun ready as the final deterrent." The final deterrent to what, having some friendly locals sell them some lobster? We know of countless cruisers who have enjoyed Mag Bay, and we've never once heard of any problems with 'banditos'. We doubt this article was written by Capt. John Rains, Sea's expert on Mexico.
As for crocs, we just returned from a sail from Puerto Vallarta to Z-town, and can confirm that large crocs are plentiful and on the loose. In the little town of Manzanilla on Tenacatita Bay, there were quite a few crocs - some of them well in excess of eight feet - in a fenced-in area at the end of the main street. The fence, however, had holes big enough for hippos to slip through. Later, while on La Ropa Beach in Z-town, there was a large croc completely loose in a small lagoon not 25 feet from where we ate breakfast most mornings. When we stopped by to take his photo the last day we were there, he was gone. His tracks led right to the water's edge, where countless people swam each day. From all we can tell, there are lots of crocs and lots of people on the coast of tropical mainland Mexico, and so far they all seem to be getting along.
Our American Express card was also hit hard last year in Mexico. We don't use the card very often, and believe the fraud was either by a car rental agent in P.V. or a restored hotel in Guadalajara that the agent had so strongly recommended to us. American Express admitted that this kind of fraud was a big and frequent problem in Mexico.
Michael Pardee might want to know that I felt it necessary to do the teak decks on my Cheoy Lee Offshore 50. I probably would have paid a big bill to have it done, but I couldn't find anyone that I felt was competent for the job. I finally devised a way that I thought would work, bought some special tools - and designed and made yet another tool that was necessary. My decks have looked so wonderful for the last five years that many people think I now have a new boat. They look good and I expect them to stay that way.
If anybody wants to know in detail how I did it myself, they can email me at erniecopp at aol.com. Or if someone wants to come to Long Beach to see my decks and the special tool that was necessary, they are welcome with advance notice. My boat is about 10 years older than Pardee's, and the job on their boat would be easier if they have stainless screws instead of the Chinese silicon bronze that my decks were fastened with. The cost was minimal except for the labor, which I did myself.
I don't normally care for the notes of praise about marine service companies, because magazines are reluctant to publish the more common complaints about such companies that would give a balanced picture. But in this case, there are so many complaints and bad rumors, that I think my praise is proper. While in Mexico last year, my Benmar autopilot went out. Because of Pauline's seasickness, I basically singlehand the boat - and I'm well over 70 years of age. So I stopped at Cabo and had Cabo Isle Shipyard install a new Robertson control head on my Benmar drive motor.
The installation looked properly done, but when I left, it blew a fuse after just three hours of use. When I came back, the tech installed a heavier fuse. That one lasted only six hours. By then, I gave up on the repair and kept heading north on our Baja Bash. By the time I had hand-steered to Isla San Martin - after some stops, of course - I was pretty tired, so I laid over there and removed the drive unit to see if I could find the problem that was melting rather than blowing the fuses.
The fix was pretty obvious after I got the unit out and taken apart. The technician had replaced all the power cables with heavier wire than the Robertson required, but made his connection to the old fuse holder - which was not heavy enough. The resistance there was melting the fuses as well as the fuse holder. An additional four inches of wire would have avoided the problem. I bypassed that connection with a heavier fuse assembly, and that took care of it.
Upon returning home, I received the final invoice for $930 dollars from Cabo Isle Shipyard. I asked for a $600 credit, since my spending a lot more for the installation in Mexico had given me very little benefit. To my surprise, I received a reply from the manager, Ari, that he was sorry for the problems I had, and he felt it was only fair to credit me with the full $900, not just the $600 that I had asked for.
If other cruisers have problems at Cabo Isle Shipyard, I suggest you talk to Ari rather than just complain about poor workmanship.
Can you tell me what insurance requirements exist in Mexico for visiting American boats, and what enforcement procedures/actions are common?
Mike - You don't have to have any insurance to go to Mexico, but you may want some. There are two kinds of insurance. The first kind is the 'normal' boat insurance that protects you in case your boats sinks, catches on fire, gets dismasted, or results in somebody being injured. A lot of folks who go cruising to Mexico have it, and a lot don't. There is no law that requires you to have such insurance, however, many marinas won't rent you a slip unless you can show proof of it.
Then there's Mexican liability insurance.
Suppose that you badly injure some Mexican child while trying
to dock your boat. If you have Mexican liability insurance -
which can be purchased almost anywhere - you probably won't go
to jail. But if you only have regular boat insurance from the
U.S. - even if it includes liability coverage - you may find
yourself in hot water unless you have lots of cash on hand. Once
again, lots of cruisers have this insurance, but many others
don't. You probably won't need it, but lord help you if you do.
I have a 1974 Cal 27 T/2, which I love. I've spent the last few years restoring this remarkable boat, and was wondering if you have any additional information on it. I also understand there may have been two other original 27 designs by William Lapworth - the 27 Pop Top, and the Cal 2-27. I know these boats are seaworthy, but I was wondering if you have any stories of their adventures.
I would very much appreciate any original articles/publications on my boat in that I do not have any of the original sales information, etc. Do all three versions have the innovative hollow keel (weight distribution very low). How many T/2s were/are there? Does it have the same hull as the original 27 or the 2-27? Thanks!
Kevin D. O'Leary
Kevin - After punching in 'Cal Sailboats' on Google, we came up with several relevant sites, including http://pages.sssnet.com/go2erie/calhome.html. According to this site, whose author isn't identified, Jensen Marine built three entirely different 27-footers, several of which were offered in modified versions. The first Cal 27 was splashed in 1969, had a nine-foot beam, and came as a Pop-Top. The T/2 was a racing variation of this design. In '73, Cal launched another Lapworth-designed 27, the Cal 2-27, which displaced 6,700 pounds - nearly 1,300 pounds more than the original. Unlike the original Cal 27, it had three inches more of beam, standing headroom, and most came with inboard engines. In 1983, the Cal 27 Mark III was launched. She was lighter, narrower, had a longer waterline, and deeper keel than the 2-27 - and naturally was the fastest of the three.
We assume that the above information is correct, but can't guarantee it. After all, elsewhere on the site there is a photo - lifted directly from Latitude - of Stan Honey sailing his Cal 40 Illusion on a great spinnaker run. The caption claimed that Honey had just started the Singlehanded TransPac, which is nonsense, of course, because you don't get 25-knot easterlies on June afternoons in San Francisco.
SHE'S A 39, NOT A 32
I know those editing gremlins sneak in from time to time, but there were two glaring ones in a recent 'Lectronic Latitude. First, if Tony and Terry are doing a circumnavigation aboard the Ericson 32 Maverick, you've besmirched their names regarding the 'Marina del Rey racing stripes', for the photo you published was of an Ericson 39. In addition, you must have had an 'old timer's moment' when you called F-28s catamarans, for they are surely trimarans.
Who loves you, babe? Me, for sure, but I couldn't let those errors pass. You still have the best boating rag - and electronic one - around!
Chris - Thanks for the bad and good
comments. Just so everybody is clear on it, 'Lectronic is slapped
together quickly each day it is run, so there will always be
an inordinate amount of spelling, grammar, and other errors.
In the case of Tony and Terry's boat Maverick, that was indeed
her in the photo, we just hit a 32 instead of a 39 by mistake.
Trust us, we know the difference between the Ericson 32 and Ericson
39, which don't look alike at all. As for the F-28s, at least
we didn't call them monohulls.
Three years ago we had a great experience bringing eight semi-pro sailors over from Europe to race on the Bay. And we'd like to do it again. So we're looking to charter a proven racing yacht - J/120, Express 37, Sydney 38 or equivalent - for two weeks during the St. Francis YC Big Boat Series. Our crew will have significant racing experience, including many offshore campaigns, winning in one design classes and such. Resumes available. If you have or know of a suitable boat, please contact me at Peter at Baldwig.com.
I sincerely hope the fee you proposed for an annual cruising permit in Mexico was in pesos, not dollars. Because for us Canadians, $350 U.S. equals about $500 Canadian. And that's outrageous! When privately-owned foreign yachts enter the United States, a year's cruising permit only costs them $20.
Why should cruising vessels pay $150 to $350 U.S. for a cruising permit in a country where marinas, many of them not very well maintained, are already much more expensive - from 55¢ to $1.10/foot/day - than in the United States? Furthermore, A.P.I. is charging for anchoring in many ports - as much as $10 per day. Fuel costs are extremely high compared to the United States, and nothing else is a bargain anymore. So what are we paying for, sunshine and Spanish lessons? We can get that in the U.S. from California to Florida for free.
We are in total agreement that the Mexican port fees now charged are aimed at commercial vessels and totally inappropriate for private noncommercial vessels. However, we believe an annual permit should be about $150-$350 pesos - or at today's exchange rate, about $15 to $38 U.S.
Here's an interesting fact: If a vessel is berthed in a marina where there is an 'authorized' individual who is permitted to handle the check in/out paperwork on behalf of the port captain, there is no port fee nor port development fee charged! Why is that? The marina may charge the vessel a fee for doing the paperwork, but that usually amounts to anywhere from $25 to $35 total. We have documented that this is the case for at least three marinas: Marina de La Paz, Marina Palmyra in La Paz, and Marina El Cid in Mazatlan.
Would this proposed cruising permit also mean that the captain and crew of vessels would not have to exit the country every six months to renew visas? We're interested, because this is a costly venture - considering the extreme expense of airfares these days, the long and dreary and not-all-that-cheap bus fares, and outrageously expensive gasoline and toll road levies for private cars? Or perhaps would it require that all persons permanently with the boat obtain the FM3 documents that cost approximately $100 U.S. for each annual renewal?
Cruising Mexico today reminds me of the sentiment in Shel Silverstein's poem: "The saddest thing I ever did see / Was a woodpecker peckin' at a plastic tree. He looks at me and 'Friend,' says he / 'Things ain't as sweet as they used to be'."
Mike and Anne Kelty
Mike & Anne - We came up with the $150 to $350 U.S. fee because we think it's best to deal in the realm of the possible. If you approach the Department of Tourism or the SCT with the idea of an annual cruising permit that costs the same as, or less than, what checking in and out of a single port costs today, they would think that you're insulting them. You'd have as much luck as trying to get the Golden Gate Bridge District to reduce the bridge toll back to 25 cents.
We don't see the connection between the price of a cruising permit and the price of slips. One is a government fee and the other is private enterprise. It's also important to remember that it's extremely easy - and pleasant - for cruisers to spend entire seasons without ever staying at a marina. And it's not as if the weather/cruising is anywhere near as good in California and Florida. Also, need we remind you that many slips on the East Coast are more than $1/ft/night, and that in places like Key West they run about $2/ft/night - on the off chance you could even find one.
Be careful when comparing costs in Mexico versus the United States. For if you start complaining about gas and berths being more expensive in Mexico, somebody is likely to ask you to compare annual incomes or the value of residences. Or start bitching about airport taxes and hotel taxes in the United States - the latter of which can be almost 18% in some major cities.
Are things as inexpensive in Mexico today as they were a few years ago? No, particularly not in the more populated areas. But it's still possible to cruise Mexico on very little money - as long as you stay out of marinas, don't eat out every night, avoid tourist areas, and sail rather than motor. A thrifty couple can still have the cruise of a lifetime in Mexico for $750 a month - even if there was a $250 annual cruising fee. And for $1,000 a month, a couple could cruise and enjoy quite a few extras.
Mexico is out of line with their check-in
fees and procedures, but it remains one of the very best - and
least expensive - cruising grounds in the world.
My boat's in a slip - the first one since November of 2000 - at La Marina de Acapulco. There are two other cruising boats here, Po O'ino Roa and Dolphin Spirit. After sharing the single copy of Latitude that my girlfriend brought down two weeks ago, Laurie from Dolphin Spirit noted that all three boats were in that issue. Po O'ino Roa had a letter published, and both Secret O' Life and Dolphin Spirit had articles in Changes. What a small world. There were another three cruising boats at the Club de Yates de Acapulco, none of which were in that issue of Latitude.
On the ongoing subject of checking in and out of Mexican ports, I agree wholeheartedly that some sort of change would be nice. At the very least, it would be nice if the law was administered uniformly throughout the country. I'm not complaining here in Acapulco, though, since I was able to stay at the marina for the price of checking in and out! Gisela, the manager, explained that six months ago she made an arrangement where she became the port captain's delegate, and only had to pass on reports to him once a month. There are no fees involved! Not for the port captain, nor API - and this is with the blessing of the port captain.
Two nights in the marina for my Union 36 cost 440 pesos. Had I stayed on the hook and checked in and out myself, I would have paid 296 pesos round trip for the port captain, and 140 pesos in API fees - for a total of 436 pesos. So it only cost me four pesos more to stay in the marina!
I understand that the Club de Yates also performs a similar service - although their daily berth rates are higher. I believe the Las Hadas Marina in Manzanillo has a similar arrangement with the Port Captain there.
La Marina was hit hard by a hurricane several years ago, and the docks are in poor condition, and don't have much water. There is power at the slips, and a wonderful rooftop pool makes up for other shortcomings. The location is good - close to the old town as well as the cliff divers, and well away from the tourist zone with all the high-rise hotels.
Terry - The lack of uniformity of clearing
rules is as exasperating as the waste of time and money. We know
several other harbormasters who have worked long and hard to
become delegates for the port captains - but were denied. Mexico
needs to get its act together in this regard.
Thanks for suggesting a letter to be sent to various officials in an attempt to get the check-in procedures and fees in Mexico changed for the better. What follows is what I sent - note the changes I made. But wouldn't these letters get better results if they were written in Español? Maybe the officials would at least read them!
Dear Lic. Berta Leticia Navarro Ochoa, Secretaria de Turismo,
As a mariner who loves the people, culture, land, and seas of Mexico, I want to respectfully object to the clearance regulations that were put in place by the SCT in January of 2000. I believe the regulations are bad for tourists by boat as well as bad for Mexico. These changes made clearing in much more expensive and time-consuming. In some cases, it could cost close to $120 U.S. in fees and probably more than a day of waiting in lines to cover just 20 miles!
Please realize that many of the boat tourists are retired people living on fixed incomes and pensions. They are spending their money in Mexico and supporting Mexico's economy already. Fees are very important to them.
In the short term, the effect is to discourage tourists by boat from visiting places with port captains, thereby denying business to nearby marinas, restaurants and stores. In the long run, the effect is to discourage Americans from bringing their boats to Mexico - at a time when the government of Mexico is investing $220 million to lure Americans down a 'nautical stairway'.
We believe that it is in the best interest of Mexico to offer boat tourists a reasonably-priced annual cruising permit - as is done in many other countries where boat tourism is popular. Upon entering Mexico, the owner of a vessel would pay a one-time fee - say $150 for boats under 45 feet to $300 for large boats - to purchase a permit that would allow his/her boat to travel about Mexico without having to check in with each port captain - or perhaps check in by only dropping off a crew list and having the permit stamped. Such a system would be much more attractive to boat tourists, yet would provide the Mexican government with an efficient means of collecting a cruising fee and keeping track of all boats and tourists. This is a very important issue for boat tourists - and for Mexico - so I hope that you will give it serious consideration.
It is our observation that many more boats than ever before are leaving Mexico this year and heading south or west. Mexico isn't the only place in which they can enjoy tropical conditions. We have been in Mexico for seven years and are planning to leave also.
Herman and Nancy Ford
Herman & Nancy - We italicized the areas of our sample letter that you modified or made additions to. As for sending the letters in Spanish, we don't think that's necessary. If somebody works in the Department of Tourism in Mexico, they know how to speak English.
THE PROCEDURES ARE A PAIN AND A WASTE OF TIME
I fully support your position that there needs to be changes in the clearing procedures in Mexico, because in their current form they are a real pain and a waste of time. As a result, many cruisers are now planning their itineraries to avoid places with port captains.
In fact, one of the reasons I stopped here in La Cruz was because the 2001 edition of Pat and John Rains' Mexico Boating Guide made no mention of a port captain. (They did report that the Mexican Navy occasionally comes by - which they did last Monday, conducting very thorough drug searches.) I should have known that there would be a problem with the guide's description of La Cruz, as the coordinates for the anchorage are off in their drawing by more than four degrees in both latitude and longitude. They got the coordinates correct in the text, but not in the drawing.
The main reason that I'm writing is to make a slight correction to your well-written January Sightings article about problems with clearing in and clearing out. You wrote that you had to visit the port captain, the bank, then the port captain again. But there is no bank in La Cruz. (There's not even an ATM, the nearest being at Bucerias - where you're lucky if it's working.) So unlike most other places in Mexico, in La Cruz you pay your fees directly to the port captain. Just don't try to pay with large bills, as he doesn't have much change.
In any event, the La Cruz Port Captain was extremely efficient and courteous. And it only took me ten minutes to check in and out. I will type up the letter and email it to all those mentioned in the January issue. Nonetheless, I'll be writing a letter to the Mexican officials you suggested in the hope that they'll get the procedures changed.
I also enjoyed reading about Philo's Place here in La Cruz. The veteran of the 2000 Ha-Ha with Cal 36 Cherokee Spirit hosted the best Christmas potluck that I've ever been to. There was so much delicious food that it truly was a Christmas feast. The local kids also made out, as Santa came by and handed out small gifts.
Thanks again for the 2001 Ha-Ha. It was great fun, well-organized, and a wonderful way to start my cruising life. My crew and I enjoyed it immensely. After the Ha-Ha, I hung around Cabo for a while, then headed for Mazatlan's old harbor, and Isla Isabella. When I got to San Blas, I was so insistent that they let me clear without an agent that I didn't have to use one. I also enjoyed Jaltemba before being anchored here at La Cruz for a month. I'm looking forward to your Spinnaker Charity Cup just prior to the Banderas Bay Regatta in March, and if I can get some crew I'll be out on the course with the fast boats.
Joe Scirica and Pipsqueak The Cat
Joe - You're correct, there isn't a bank in La Cruz. But when there is one, you will have to sandwich a visit there between trips to the port captain.
As if the clearing problems in Mexico
weren't bad enough, when Carl and Kim Schiele of the Texas-based
Valiant 42 Querencia tried to check out of Puerto Vallarta on
January 29, they were told they had to use a ship's agent. Carl
wasn't very happy about it, as he used to be able to do it in
about 90 minutes. Now he had to pay an extra $20 U.S., and he
had to wait nearly six hours for the agent to complete the job.
The procedures for clearing in and out of Mexico stink, and they
are getting worse.
I think your recommendation regarding an annual cruising permit for Mexico is a very good one. So I sent email messages to both officials that you suggested. However, one of the letters - the one to inavarro at mexico-travel.com - was returned with a "fatal error." The text in your magazine indicates that the 'I' in inavarro is in caps, and I had sent it off in lower case. I will resend it with a capital letter, but do you know if it's still a valid address? It's fairly important that I find out, as I sent the address to all of our cruising friends and off to another magazine to get their support.
Update: I just did some more checking and the error was mine. It's seems that I can't distinguish between 'i' and 'L'. I will resend and notify all of my cruising friends of my mistake. Thanks again.
Tom - Several others complained of their
messages not getting through - until they doublechecked and made
sure they copied the addresses correctly.
Here's a copy of the email we sent to Lic. Berta Leticia Navarro Ochoa, Mexico's Secretario de Tourismo:
"My husband and I are sailing our 45-ft sloop down the coast from our home in Tacoma, Washington, to Mexico. We have been eagerly looking forward to our stay in your beautiful country - until we heard of your new requirements for boaters, the clearance regulations put into place by SCT in January, 2000. These regulations are not friendly to boaters, and are not in the spirit of the Mexico-American commitment, as expressed today by Jorge Castenada, Mexico's Foreign Minister, on PBS Television's McNeil News Hour, to "freely and legally and more expeditiously move people and goods between our two countries."
The SCT clearance regulations penalize cruisers visiting Mexico by boat and do not support Mexico's investment of $220 million to lure Americans down a 'nautical stairway'. In fact, the clearance regulations will cause American cruisers to avoid the very towns where Mexico is investing millions in facilities to attract them.
We've been told we will be required to check in with the Migracion office and the port captain in each town we visit that has a port captain. Check-in includes the deposit of a substantial fee with a local bank and returning to show proof of deposit to the port captain. Depending on where the bank is located, this could take two days. We will then be required to go through the same process all over again to check out. Another visit to the port office. Another trip to a bank to make a deposit. A return to the port office to show proof of deposit. This could make a quick stop for fuel, supplies or sightseeing a three or four-day event.
We are not opposed to paying fees to cruise in Mexico. Many countries require the owner of a foreign vessel to obtain a cruising permit and pay an annual fee. We also understand that security is even more important now, than it was before 9/11.
The time requirement is the real problem. We will, most likely, try to avoid towns with port captains. Those towns will lose our business revenues. Most boaters will shop and refuel elsewhere. Not because we don't want to pay the fees - although $40 per visit gets expensive - but because of the time now required to check in and out.
Our plans had been to stay for some time in La Paz, have friends and family meet us there to go sailing, and then return to La Paz. We planned to do the same thing from other locations down the coast of Mexico. Most people have only one week of vacation, and spending two to four days of it waiting for us to clear out and clear back in is a big problem - and it's not good for Mexico, either. Our guests are required to sit on the boat, waiting for us to go through this complicated procedure, instead of enjoying Mexico, shopping for Mexican food and products, and contributing to the Mexican economy.
We believe it is in the best interest of Mexico to model the regulations for boating tourists on a reasonably-priced annual cruising permit, similar to what many other countries are now using. Upon entering Mexico, the owner of the vessel would clear customs, immigration and the port captain's office, present their boat's documentation and picture identification, and pay a one-time fee of around $100-$300 U.S. for a permit that would allow their vessel to travel freely in Mexico. The permit could be renewable annually at additional cost.
Instead of the complicated and time-consuming SCT process, an annual permit would be quick and simple for the boat's owner and efficient for the port captains to administer. The owner would present the permit and a crew list to the port office to be stamped at each port of call. It would provide the Mexican government with an efficient means of collecting cruising fees and of keeping track of all tourists, even the boating variety.
We were greatly impressed with Foreign Minister Castenada's remarks about the sincerity of Presidents Fox and Bush to improve the Mexican/American relationship. Cruisers love Mexico. Replacing the SCT clearance regulations with an annual permit and fee would be viewed in our country as a welcoming gesture to all American boating tourists and would ensure that their love and respect for Mexico is returned.
P.S. We initially were unable to send our email because we mistook an 'l' for an 'i' in the email address.
Ed Isenhart and Wendy Isenhart
IS THE CAL 34 SUITED FOR EXTENDED CRUISING
Thanks for such a great sailing magazine. I look forward to it each month, as it keeps my cruising dreams alive and well. By the way, I was wondering how well suited a Cal 34 would be for extended cruising - particularly in heavy weather. My plan is to spend a season down in Mexico, then sail across to the Pacific Islands.
R.W. - Thanks for the kinds words. All we can tell you about Cal 34s is that lots of folks cruise aboard them in Mexico and elsewhere. In fact, the photo you see here is of Mike Cannady of the Cal 34 Mark III Wild Rover. Having started out in Washington, they're now down in El Salvador and are continuing on.
There are certainly more robust boats
than the Cal 34, so it's up to you to decide where your comfort
level is at. It would also be nice if we heard from other Cal
34 owners who have taken their boats cruising.
My family and I want to do a bareboat sailing trip to Baja this spring, but we haven't found many companies or private parties that can accommodate us. If you have any contacts, I would greatly appreciate it.
Matt - The only game in town is The
Moorings, which has quite a selection of boats, including several
catamarans at their base in La Paz. A while back there was a
rumor they had closed that base, but that's not the case. Cheap
advice: Don't book your charter too early in the year or the
water will be too cool for pleasant swimming.
We read the January letter from the other trimaran named Perpetua - and do find it interesting that two trimarans would have the same name. I don't know of any monohulls with the same name, but I'm sure there must be some.
As near as I can tell, the name comes from one of two sources. One is a saint from the Roman days of Christian persecution, the other from a cape on the Oregon coast. Since my vessel was built in Oregon in the mid '60s, I don't think she was named after a saint - but you never know. My boat came with that name and I left it as such because it seemed appropriate for a boat built in 1964. She is currently alive and well in Mexico and, as you know, participated in the '99 Millennium Ha-Ha. We were awarded the prize for the oldest boat.
One other interesting fact. When I sent you the coordinates of the rock I hit in Banderas Bay, I also sent them to Pat and John Rains. They sent back a note saying they would name it Roca Perpetua in their next edition of their Mexico Cruising Guide. So the name will endure even longer!
Pat and Susan Canniff
I LOVED MY TEDDY BEAR
It's great to hear from a past Teddy Bear owner. After you sold her in 1986, she was owned by Charles Hayes and Ron Irelan, then subsequently sold to Gene Anthony in 1993. I purchased her in 1995 and happily sailed her on the Bay until a daughter and house came my way in 1997. I regret that I cannot find the name of the young carpenter who bought her from me.
During the time I had the pleasure of owning this sweet boat, with help from the Bear Boat Association I repaired frames, did extensive refastening and recalking, cleaned up and painted the interior, and revarnished her interior and exterior bright work. Repairs and upgrades were a constant feature of owning this old boat. She briefly returned to racing by attending several Bear Boat Class races, she sailed in the 1996 Master Mariners Race and even won her class in the 1996 Wooden Boat Festival class race.
I loved this boat, and still miss sailing her. God willing she's still the oldest Bear boat on the bay. Bear Boats forever!
HERE'S WHAT'S UP WITH DOC
I want to make some minor corrections to a report you made on my cat's dismasting off Hawaii late last summer. What's Up Doc? is 47 feet long and has a 62-foot rig. Her original mast was lost due to a combination of a squall and the fact that it was over 10 years old. The rig had been installed by Kiwis in New Zealand, and she'd been very strong and had never given me any problems prior to that.
My cat is a sistership to the late Lock Crowther's own cat Deguello, design number 150. The boat had been designed for his personal use as a cruiser/racer, and has no charter company or owner influence. We live for apparent wind. I am now finishing the new rig - which is 62-ft, rotating, single spreader, carbon, and - designed by Brett Crowther - here in Vancouver. I'll also be outfitting my boat with new North Spectra sails, Spectra running rigging and shrouds, and Antal hardware. I am also keeping the mast molds for more rigs, in case anyone else might want a similar type of rig. The molds can also be used to make shorter rigs.
I'm in the process of hitting all the big boat shows - Toronto, Chicago, Miami and Oakland - on behalf of my Blue Water Catamaran Expeditions, which will be hands-on sail training aboard What's Up Doc? I will be taking 4-6 people as working crew, to teach them good catamaran characteristics, boat handling, design ideas, and general seamanship. Depending on where the boat is, the classes will be for beginners, intermediate, or advanced. I hope that this year's sites will include Hawaii, Palmyra, Vancouver, Alaska, San Francisco, the Ha-Ha, Costa Rica, and Panama.
I'm looking forward to meeting people at the shows.
SURFING REEFS AND RIDING POCKETMAIL
The neat thing about surfing over reefs are the perfect peels, the perfect waves that seem to go on forever. Rincon on California's coast is like that, and Flatrock Break near the Napali Coast in Hawaii is awesome, too. The problem is that pleasure comes with a danger. Eating sand is alot more tolerable than eating coral or rock. And so it is with high-tech consumer products on sailboats.
Pocketmail. What a great device and service! Go to the heart of Russia, 180 degrees from San Francisco, plop 40 cents into an ancient train station phone that has Stalin's fingerprints on it, send five emails, receive three, all on a tiny pocket-sized device that costs 40 bucks - analog model - and less than $15/month. Wow!
As both a liveaboard and software engineer, I find this sort of thing to be a wonderful tool to traveling. I loved it so much that I gave them away as Christmas presents in 2000 to other sailors. But after they experienced similar nightmares as outlined below, last Christmas I stuck with sweaters and wine.
Sadly, most of the 'wow!' is limited to the exchange rate on dollars at Russian payphones. What a headache the billing and customer service departments have been. Since I originally picked up my device, they have double and triple-billed my card nearly $200. They promised to stop, promised to credit the account, promised to send a refund check, but never did. I finally had to cancel the credit card to unwind the nightmare, but it's still going on.
Now I am heading into a lawsuit over my credit report, because the credit card company - which was also notified of the errors way back in the beginning - is refusing to stand behind their policies on fraudulent charges. And Pocketmail isn't sending a check anytime soon, despite their promise to do so six months ago.
I smell a court case brewing to get the credit report fixed - and having been a law clerk, I hate litigation. It's one of the reasons I want to check out of the country for awhile in the first place, but I guess high-tech consumer convenience always comes with a price. Many high-tech firms have pulled overbilling stunts, and maybe I should just eat the $200 so I don't contribute to exactly these kind of legal snafus I'd like to walk away from. But watching my credit rating get dumped doesn't appeal to me much.
What is ironic is that I am funding my getaway with a website and service targeted at fishermen who, being extremely low-tech when it comes to the Internet, could benefit by use of the device in a big way. And I'd like to push the Pocketmail device into that community. Do I turn this group of innocents into more fodder for the Pocketmail billing team? We shall see how the Pocketmail cookies crumble.
In the meantime, I would suggest that cruisers considering the Pocketmail service avoid any credit card billing programs - which are worse than a bandido with your credit card receipt. Pay them by check, along with other monthly bills you set up before you go - such as credit cards, mortgages, and so forth. And as you use the Internet cafes and grab emails at a Mexican payphone - another source of bandido frustration, especially compared to Russia - be happy you can touch loved ones back home and be safe by paying for the service by check.
Craig - We've always heard great reports about Pocketmail. Have others had similar billing problems?
However, we beg to differ with you about Rincon's waves going on forever. One winter afternoon many years ago, on a day when the waves were consistently overhead, we and another rubber-armed surfer found our sorry asses way inside and trying to paddle back out through a seemingly endless set. But we kept losing so much ground that if there was just one more breaking wave in the set, it would have thrown the two of us onto the rocks that protect Highway 101, and our gigs no doubt would have been up.
In fact, we recall exchanging a very knowing glance with the other guy as we were going up the face of the last wave. Fortunately, there wasn't another breaking wave. A short time later we caught the smallest wave of the day, did a quick 'rock dance', and have scrupulously avoided overhead waves ever since.
What ever became of Stephens Brothers yacht builders of Stockton, who started in something like 1908 and continued until I'm not sure when. They built some of the finest yachts, both sail and power. They did a series of Farallon Clippers, which I believe were 38-ft wood boats. I checked the web, but couldn't find anything more. Could you direct me to more information on the company and about Theo and his brothers Barre and Dick?
Luciano - We're not experts on Stephens Marine of Stockton, but we know they did a lot of military work during the war, then built a number of highly-regarded aluminum motoryachts and sailboats - including the 12 Meter, USA 49, for the St. Francis YC. If we remember correctly, the company ceased business in the late '80s.
Of the three brothers, only Dick - who did a lot of the design work - survives. He lives on the water in Stockton. Theo was famous for owning and racing the 55-ft sloop Lightnin'. Barre cruised from the Pacific Northwest to Mexico - often by himself - aboard the lovely Rhodes-designed Rowena. We became friends with him a short time before he died in the late '80s. What a great guy.
While commuting to work across Marin County's Richardson Bay Bridge this morning, I witnessed workers from Caltrans - or more likely one of their subcontractors - disposing of collected paint flakes removed from the bridge. It appeared that the entire collection of paint debris from the previous nights' stripping was dumped or blown out of the machine directly over the side of the bridge into the waters below! The paint was red and silver, and I assumed toxic.
I called the California Coastal Commission, which referred me to the San Francisco Bay Environmental Commission - which I have not reached yet - and Caltrans.
Mike Flake of Caltrans assured me that he'd look into the matter, and sure enough, he called me back the same day. He told me that he went out to the site and asked around but everyone claimed ignorance. They were indeed subcontractors of Caltrans, but without evidence - pictures or corroborating reports - he could do nothing. Hopefully, simply the fact that someone turned the contractor in will be enough to make them think twice the next time. I now carry a camera in my glove compartment, but hopefully, I won't have anything to photograph, other than nice looking boats!
Readers - If anyone wants to report pollution in the Bay or ocean, the Coast Guard is the appropriate agency to contact.
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