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In a recent issue, Mark Graves wrote a letter wondering where he might be able to live aboard again on San Francisco Bay. He doesn't have to look too far, as (Censored) Marina is wide open. The management does not care if you live aboard as long as your slip rent stays current. Right now there are approximately 30 of us living here openly in our tight little community, and some of us have been here for four years without a hassle. At one time there was a gung-ho marina manager who tried to evict all the illegals, but that person is gone and the current management seems to be okay with things the way they are. So look no further, come join the party - but B.Y.O.B.!

Illegal - And Loving It
(Censored) Marina

K.M. - It certainly is kind of you to want to tell Mark Graves where he can live aboard, but we had to take it upon ourselves to censor the name of the marina for fear they'd be overrun with liveaboards - and that the 30 of you currently doing so might soon be hassled to no end or even kicked out. We're sorry, but given today's climate, folks who want to live aboard are just going to have to do the research on their own.


We are the skipper and co-owner of Jammin', the J/35 that was lost during March 15th's Doublehanded Lightship Race. We'd like to thank Shawn Winters and crew aboard the Coast Guard rescue boat that came out into breaking seas near the South Bar to rescue us. When they arrived, Jammin' was close to being awash, with only about 12 to 18 inches of freeboard remaining. We were considering what we should do if Jammin' sank out from under us. As is always recommended, we decided to stay with the boat as long as possible - although we were concerned that if she inverted or rolled, we could become injured or trapped. Having been dismasted and knocked down four times, we didn't want any more trouble.

We'd also like to extend our thanks and gratitude to the Coast Guard helicopter pilot and crew who first spotted us for the rescue boat. When we called the Coast Guard on our cell phone, we were unable to give our latitude and longitude coordinates because the handheld GPS had washed away in the first knockdown and the fixed unit GPS had been knocked out of commission by the seawater.

As skipper, I'd like to acknowledge the sailing community in general and especially the friends and crew of Jammin', who, through phone calls and emails, gave their sympathy and support. I told the story of what happened about 25 times in the first days following the incident, so I was glad when the Latitude story came out as I could say, "Just read it in Latitude - it's all there." (Thanks, John Riise.)

I must also thank my wife Maureen, who, for the third time in our marriage, took a phone call from an emergency room nurse that began like, "This is Marin General Hospital. Your husband is OK."

I now believe you can't be too prepared or have too many backups - our cell call to the Coast Guard was back-up #3 for being able to call for help.

By the way, Jammin' was a great boat.

Many sailors sign off with 'Fair Winds' - but now we prefer 'No Breaking Waves'.

Steve Klein & Jaime Quevedo
Jammin', J/35 (R.I.P.)


I started the Island YC's Doublehanded Lightship Race on March 15 with my Catalina 36 MKII Perseverence. While about 500 feet to the north of shipping lane marker #1, we were almost driven aground by a large rogue wave. We had been in 45 to 55 feet of water until that wave, at which point my depthsounder alarm went off indicating six feet or less of water beneath my boat. I then looked back and saw a much larger wave headed our way. Knee-deep in water in the cockpit, with whitewater pouring down the companionway into the main salon, I fired up the lung, dropped out of the race, and motored in. It was the only answer, as the waves were large and breaking on both sides of the shipping channel - and noticeably worse in the Potato Patch.

My personal computer recorded the depth of the water during that day. From 14:38:08 to 14:38:10, with the depthsounder alarm going off, the lowest depth recorded was just 5'4". Thankfully, my boat never touched bottom.

Jeff Berman
Perseverance, Catalina 36
San Francisco

Readers - We contacted Jeff to make sure he believed that his boat really almost went aground in what had been about 40 feet of water seconds before. He said he indeed believed that it was the case, and that his belief is backed up by his computer's record of the depths. He also says he's done research, and what happens when a wave comes along is the water in front actually gets sucked out.

With all due respect, we think there is probably another explanation. Momentary false depthsounder readings are not uncommon, even in the open ocean. This is particularly true where the water is murky or turbulent.

On the other hand, it raised another interesting question: How stable are the shoals that surround the entrance to the Golden Gate outside the shipping channel? How much might the bottom depths fluctuate from year to year, and from decade to decade? Anybody have any ideas?


In the April issue Michael Symons wrote in asking about using a Porta-Bote as a dinghy. I have some experience with this craft. In the early '80s I was given a Porta-Bote, complete with a sailing rig, oars, and the bracket for an outboard motor. I purchased a Cruise 'N Carry outboard. Remember them?

The Porta-Bote has its advantages. Depending on how much equipment you are using, they are fairly compact.

However, they can be a real challenge to set up! The problem was that if the boats are not used frequently, they very strongly want to stay in the collapsed configuration. I still vividly remember one incident in particular. My Porta-Bote had been in storage all winter long, and when spring came I tried to set it up in my garage. I was having trouble prying the sides apart so that I could get the center thwart in place, so I stepped into the boat for better leverage. Unfortunately, I slipped and fell inside the boat - whereupon the sides curled in and the big blue clam swallowed me up! Fortunately, my wife at the time was there, so she ran throughout the neighborhood until she found someone that was home. The two of them were able to pry the boat open enough for me to climb out! Together, we got the thwart in. From then on, I made it a point to set the boat up frequently, no matter if I intended to use it or not. By the way, my present wife had a similar 'eaten alive' experience with the boat.

Another problem with them is that the performance is marginal. One day I launched my Porta-Bote from my slip in the Brickyard Cove Marina and sailed out into the Richmond Channel. On my way, I crossed tacks with a beginner's class in 8-ft El Toro dinghies. They were fascinated by my strange-looking boat, so they all literally sailed circles around me, asking questions and telling me how cute they thought my boat was. After they finished sailing around me a couple of times, they proceeded on to the mark they were headed for.

The new Porta-Botes have more flotation than mine did, but they can still be a challenge to set up. I don't know if the performance has improved.

Rick Schneider
Spirit, Com-Pac 16


When we started cruising in June of '98, I thought that a 12-ft Porta-Bote tender would fit ideally on the 14-foot wide solid foredeck of our catamaran. One of the members of the Tomahawk Bay YC here in Portland had an 8-ft Porta-Bote and we had been impressed with it, as it planed nicely and was comfortable for two people.

At the time, I thought bigger was better. It's not. It was tough to put the 12-footer together as it was four feet too wide and too long. Yes, it fit on our foredeck, but there wasn't any room leftover. I'm sure we would have been much happier with the 8-footer.

The only downside we discovered - the hard way naturally, as all my lessons seem to be learned - is that the seats are very flimsily attached with only two screws on each side going into aluminum brackets. Anyway, we were anchored off Wrigley's rock quarry - just down from Two Harbors, Catalina - and dinghied up to the dock. After visiting and having lunch, we started back to our boat. Out past the moorings and almost ready to turn south, a large powerboat came by and created a four-foot wake. Our Porta-Bote surfed the first one nicely, and I told Linda the fun was about to begin. But the second wave picked up the stern while the bow was still held up by the first - causing the screws to pull out of the wooden seat she was sitting on and dropping her to the bottom of the boat. Without the seat, the boat folded up in the middle. Our Porta-Bote went sideways, and I think the only thing that kept us from capsizing was Linda grabbing the two sides and pulling them together while sitting on the bottom of the boat. I never did trust the Porta-Bote after that and sold it for half its value in La Paz.

My wife still liked the Porta-Bote after that incident with the wake, but we're back to an 11-foot Avon. Would I buy another Porta-Bote? Not a new one, but I would buy a used 8-footer if I could get it at a bargain price.

Ron & Linda Caywood
Catamaran Spindrift
Palatka, FL


Here's my two cents on a couple of issues raised in the April edition:

I just had my Islander 37 Scallywag trucked from Marina Seca in San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico, to Marina del Rey. It cost less than $3,000. Marina Seca took my boat to Tucson, where it was off-loaded at the Marco Crane Company. It was then taken by Kerry, a Phoenix-based trucker, to Marina del Rey. Kerry did such an excellent and economical job, I want folks to know he can be reached at kerryall at

Of the six times I've brought boats back north from Mexico, this was the fastest and easiest trip.

Secondly, I remember one Super Bowl Sunday in Zihuatanejo about 10 years ago - I think Latitude's ketch Big O was also there - when there were a bunch of us watching the game at a restaurant on La Ropa Beach. As the day wore on to evening, the surf grew ever larger. Before returning to Scallywag at anchor, I visited the shoreside restrooms - where I noticed a novice Canadian cruiser in the shower with his 4 hp outboard! He was doing his best to flush the saltwater from his engine.

Earlier in the afternoon, this same fellow had being telling the rest of us cruisers what a wonderful tender his Porta-Bote was, the main virtues being its light weight and portability. But now from the shower he was telling me what had gone wrong with his beach launch. He went right up the face of an oncoming wave and was almost over the crest. . . when the Porta-Bote folded up, the motor took a swim, and he was rolled ashore in the surf. He later showed me the Porta-Bote's bent aluminum transom brace.

So I would certainly advise folks against using Porta-Botes as their primary dinghy for cruising.

Tim 'Padre Timo' Tunks
Scallywag, Islander 37
Keeping The Faith In Marina del Rey

Readers - We've gotten a lot of response about the suitabillity of Porta-Botes as yacht tenders, and will have more letters on the subject next month.


Having shipped my Hallberg-Rassy 46 Ayu from Florida to California two years ago, I felt compelled to respond to Susan Pieper-Bailey's letter inquiring about trucking their Beneteau 51 the other way. When you get into trucking larger boats, there are significant challenges that no one shared with me until I was too far down the road to pick an alternative method. Here are the things I learned: 

First, whoever you sign a contract with is likely to subcontract to another trucker to make the actual delivery. It's not a big deal, but it's nice to know about this.

Second, if the load - including the truck, trailer, your boat, and all equipment - weighs more than 80,000 pounds, you will be forced to split the load. This means putting any items that could be separated - mast, boom, dinghy, etc. - on a second truck/trailer rig. Naturally, this significantly increases the cost. The truck and the trailer are likely to weigh 30-35,000 pounds. Since my boat weighed about 49,000 pounds, the total was over the limit, and I was forced to pay for a second truck.

Third, make sure you know what your boat weighs before you get cost estimates, as all estimates are based on what you tell them the boat weighs. The price will change if the actual weight of your boat is more. I told the trucking company that my boat weighed 49,000 pounds. They said that had to be wrong, and that it probably weighed about 35,000 pounds. Fortunately, I kept my records and used that to help negotiate the price increase when the boat was on the trailer and they wanted to raise the price significantly.

We had initially looked at Dockwise Yacht Transport, which deliver yachts by semi-submersible ship, and trucking as the two alternatives. We didn't have time for the sailing option. DYT wanted about $12,500 to ship our boat from Florida to Vancouver. (Because of the Jones Act, they can't stop at any ports on the West Coast of the United States, so our choices were either Mexico or Vancouver.) The trucking option was $12,000, but did not include decommissioning and recommissioning. We chose the trucking option primarily because they could do the delivery on our schedule. We would have had to wait 10 weeks for the DYT schedule.

As it turned out, the truck showed up about a week late to pick up our boat. Because of the delay, we were not able to be there when they loaded the boat and left. Rather than alerting us to the weight problem, they took the boat across Florida before contacting us to tell us they would have to get a second truck to carry the mast/boom/dinghy - at which point it was too late for us. It also took about twice as long for the boat to get to San Francisco as we'd been told.

I won't mention the yard that did the recommissioning, but it took them almost two months to do about one week's worth of work - and they only started the work after I threatened to take my boat out of their yard. Then they tried to charge me for a long list of items that either weren't done or were things they did that I had not asked them to do. This is an entirely different story, but I will never take my boat to that yard again.

The trucking process did result in some minor damages to the gel coat and dodger, and a thruhull needed replacement. In the end, the entire process cost close to $25,000, took about three months, and significant effort in negotiating with the trucking companies - both the one I contracted with and the one who did the delivery - and trying to get the boatyard to do the work they had committed to.  

By the time it was all over, the Dockwise Yacht Transport process would have taken the same amount of time but cost half as much - and rather than spending all my time on the phone dealing with problems, I could have spent the time sailing from Vancouver to San Francisco. Given my experience, I would never consider trucking a boat that size again. If I didn't have the time to sail the boat on its own bottom, I'd use DYT to do the job.

Mike Moore
Ayu, Hallberg-Rassy 46


We just ended a two-year plus battle - in victory - over disputed county property taxes for our Union 36 La Buena Vida, and feel compelled to share some of what we've learned with all the California boatowners planning an extended cruise out of the state.

Our story is a complicated one because it involves two counties - Los Angeles County, where our boat had been moored, and Orange County, which was our hailing port and was listed on our Coast Guard documentation. When Los Angeles County lost their tax battle with us, they turned us over to Orange County, and we had to start the process all over. But we were wiser the second time around.

Rather than bore your readers with the details, we'll just state for the record that we're not the kind of boatowners who move their boats from location to location around the lien date each year simply to avoid paying taxes. In fact, it's these people who are partially to blame for the mess we ended up in, because county assessors are now highly suspicious of all California boatowners.

We regularly paid our boat property taxes up until the time we left on our cruise in the spring of 2000. We didn't feel we should be obligated to do so once our boat was out of the country indefinitely, as in our book that would be taxation without representation. So before leaving, we sent a notarized affidavit to the County Assessor stating that we were removing our boat from the county, and country. Many of our cruising friends had done this before and had successfully been removed from the tax rolls. Unfortunately, this didn't work in our case - but we didn't find this out until we were out of the country and well into our cruise. Fighting a bureaucracy from Central America isn't anything we would wish on our worst enemy, so we hope the following information will help others be more prepared than us, should the same thing happen to them.

In the state of California, the State Board of Equalization regulates county property tax assessment practices to ensure that these practices are "equal and uniform" among all California counties. The county assessors are obliged to follow the rules and regulations mandated by the State Board. While the State Board may seem like an organization to avoid because they write the tax codes, they were actually our saving grace. There is an abundant amount of information available on their website to help inform and educate the taxpayer with regard to tax rules and taxpayer rights. Most helpful to anyone in a dispute situation like ours, was the Assessor's Handbook, Section 576, Assessment of Vessels, dated February 2002.

This is the handbook county assessors use to help determine and qualify a vessel's assessment. One of the most informative sections of the handbook is the chapter on "situs" - the location where your property is regularly or legally situated - which is a key determinant when evaluating an assessment. A vessel's taxable situs is established on January 1st of each year. You may end up on the county's tax rolls if any of the following apply to you on January 1: your boat is registered with the DMV; you have a slip in a California marina; your boat is in California, even if it is registered to another state; the mailing address on your USCG documentation is in California; or the hailing port on your USCG documentation is in California - although this isn't a valid determination of situs and is addressed below.

By providing a letter from our marina in El Salvador showing mooring fees paid over the January 1 lien date and six months thereafter, we established situs outside of California - and this was finally documentation enough for Los Angeles County to reverse the assessment and remove us from their tax rolls. While marina receipts are the easiest documentation to provide, counties are also supposed to accept check-in/check-out papers from other countries, ship's logs, passport copies, and other various forms of proof that your boat has, indeed, been out of the state. This is also addressed in the above referenced handbook.

Thinking we were finally over this bureaucracy nightmare, a tax bill from Orange County arrived soon after at our mailing address. Apparently, Los Angeles County notified Orange County that they should pursue us because our hailing port was in Orange County. When Orange County deemed the same documentation from our marina in El Salvador as insufficient evidence, we requested help from the Taxpayers' Rights Advocate.

This group, under the State Board of Equalization, helps taxpayers "when they are unable to resolve a matter through normal channels, when they want information regarding procedures relating to a particular set of circumstances, or when there are apparent rights violations in the audit, compliance, or property tax areas." The representative who helped us was successful in getting our case to the head assessor of the marine division, as well as to the Orange County assessor himself. She made phone calls and inquiries on our behalf, saving us the expense of having to do so from Panama. Orange County did not have a case, but they refused to budge on their position. They continued to insist that in order to be released from the assessment, we needed to forfeit our U.S. Coast Guard documentation and import our boat to another country - a ludicrous argument.

At our representative's suggestion, we wrote to the State Board's Legal Division to request clarification on our liability. Any member of the public can write to the Legal Division and request free written advice on property tax issues, with the guarantee that that Legal Division will respond in writing within 30 days. Before our 30-day wait was up, we received a letter from the Division's assistant chief counsel informing us that Orange County had decided to reverse their position and was releasing the assessment - apparently a phone call from him was all it took. The assistant chief counsel also informed us that as long as our boat did not return to California on a permanent basis, we would not be subject to property taxation in California, regardless of the hailing port on our documentation.

It may sound as though this was easily resolved, but we have a file about three inches thick, representative of the bureaucratic paper chase we were caught up in. Our most important advice is to not let the assessor's office intimidate you, and get everything in writing. Almost every time we called the counties, we were harassed and questioned about our income taxes and voting practices, and were threatened with penalty of perjury - of course, these comments were never made in writing. The emotional toll, sleepless nights and tension between the two of us - not to mention the expenses we incurred with international telephone calls and faxes - almost justified paying the taxes, but it was the principle of the matter. Hiring an attorney to handle this for us was beyond our means and cruising budget.

Because the Assessor's Handbook was not available when our fight began, it took us months to find an assessor willing to tell us that we simply needed to provide a letter from our marina. By that time, we already had a lien on our boat. The assessor's office will also advise you to pay your bill and later request a refund, should you fight the assessment and win. We elected to take the risk of accruing interest and additional fees because we were confident in our position, and weren't hopeful the money would ever be returned. We did have a lien imposed by both counties, but Los Angeles County rescinded it and notified our creditors, and Orange County is now in the process of doing the same.

With regard to the hailing port issue mentioned above, many assessors try and say you are liable because of the "home port doctrine." The hailing port stated on your documentation is not enough to qualify the assessment. The hailing port can be anywhere in the United States and does not have to be the location where your vessel is habitually moored. If we were to start this process over knowing what we know now, before leaving on our cruise we would have filled out the Coast Guard's form CG-1258, paid $84, and changed our hailing port to a state that doesn't collect property taxes.

Helpful Web sites:

State Board of Equalization:

Assessor's Handbook, Section 576, Assessment of Vessels, February 2002: then click on, pdf AH 576, Assessment of Vessels, (2-02).

Taxpayer's Rights Advocate, State Board of Equalization:

Legal Division, State Board of Equalization:

U.S. Coast Guard - Basic information and forms:

If your boat has had any connection to California prior to leaving on your cruise, document everything once you leave. Good luck!

Natalie and Jim Matlock
La Buena Vida, Union 36
Huntington Beach / Currently In Isla Parida, Panama

Natalie and Jim - On behalf of our readers, thank you for the extremely clear and informative letter.


I used to crew on a friend's boat out of South Beach YC in San Francisco, and considered participating in the 1998 Baja Ha-Ha. Unfortunately, I was in trial at the time and had to pass. Now I live in Dallas and miss this opportunity soooo bad. Do you know if there are any similar types of activities in the Gulf of Mexico, or am I just going to have to move back to California?

Molly Morris

Molly - There's nothing remotely like the Baja Ha-Ha in the Gulf of Mexico - or most of the rest of the world for that matter. One of the neat things about the Ha-Ha is that it makes no difference if you reside in Danville, Denver, Dallas, Detroit, Dusselldorf or Dar es Salaam, you just have to show up in San Diego on October 27 for the start and be ready for nearly two weeks of sailing fun.

By the way, in the Sightings section of this issue, Lauren Spindler, Honcho of the Ha-Ha, announces entry information for this year's Ha-Ha, which will be the 10th.


A reader wrote in asking where he could find insurance for a ferrocement boat. I suggest that he contact Or he can talk to them at (800) 940-0600. Hell, they even talked to me! By the way, thanks for the publication.

Larry G. Bell
Neptune Calling


I thought Northern and Southern California racers might be interested in hearing about the 36th running of the Marina del Rey to San Diego Race on July 4 and 5. Each year we attract racers from all over the state and country to participate in what we think is the best overnight sailboat race around. The renewed version of the event, called Survive the Night, is sponsored by Santa Monica Windjammers YC of Marina del Rey in conjunction with Southwestern YC of San Diego. It's an open ocean overnight race - without the hassle of customs and immigration, as in the Ensenada Race.

It's much more than a race, too, as the fun starts on July 3 at the Santa Monica Windjammers YC, where starting at 1800, there will be an outdoor BBQ, drinks and dancing to kick off the weekend festivities. Everyone is invited, but a party mood will be required.

The race starts on July 4th, with PHRF, ORCA and Cruising classes - and there is even a Doublehanded Division. As in previous years, the Cruising Division will be permitted to motor, although there will be a penalty for motoring. The course usually features light winds and gentle seas and, as such, is great for those skippers and crew who are new to ocean racing. As an added bonus this year, racers will be able to watch the various fireworks displays as they sail down the coast.

After the finish - usually about 24 hours after the start - the partying will begin in San Diego. The beautiful Southwestern YC will have slips and raft-up accommodations for all participants. There will be a buffet dinner, drinks, dancing and plenty of chances to tell lies about the previous night's racing. The trophy and awards presentation will be on Sunday, July 6 at 9:00 a.m.

But there's even more. Starting on Sunday afternoon, and for the rest of the week, a flotilla of boats will head back up the coast, harbor hopping - with planned stops in Mission Bay, Oceanside and Dana Point - all the way to Isthmus Cove on Catalina Island. The partying will continue there with a series of events in conjunction with the Arizona YC until July 13.

For more information, folks can visit either or

Orlando Duran
Race Chairman

Orlando - It sounds like a lot of fun. With all the partying and post-race activities involved, folks will probably have just enough time to recover before the start of the 86-mile Santa Barbara to King Harbor Race on August 1. Although the latter is currently our favorite race in Southern California, we'd like to give Survive The Night a go also.


I take exception to Max Ebb's recent comment ". . . because they (catamarans) have to use their engines to go upwind in anything less than a full gale and a half. . . " I'd like to invite Max - or anyone else - out for a sail after Pacific Sail Expo on our New Zealand-built Cienzi 45 cat to show him what we mean.

David Renouf
Yachtfinder Yacht Sales
San Diego

David - Having owned the catamaran Profligate for more than five years, we've raced her against a wide variety of other racer/cruiser catamarans, as well as many monohulls. It's been our experience that none of the catamarans can point anywhere near as high as a good racer/cruiser monohull. The difference is most extreme in winds under 10 knots, but it's still obvious in moderate and strong winds. Cats just aren't inherently good at pointing. Where they do excel, however, is at every other point of sail - and often by a wide margin. If someone wants to kick ass sailing upwind, they should by all means get a good monohull. But if someone wants to kick ass close reaching, beam reaching, broadreaching, and running in a good breeze, a cat might be a better choice.

Nonetheless, we think Max has it all wrong, as the last thing in the world you'd want to do with a cat is try to sail her upwind in a gale - and the seas that accompany gale-force winds. The much better alternatives are to either motor 30 degrees to one side or the other of the wind, or head downwind under bare poles until conditions improve. Cats can actually be relatively comfortable downwind in a gale.


Thanks for letting us know - through your Letters section - that there was going to be a boat lien sale at the Berkeley Marina. We attended to look at the "32-ft Columbia" - which turned out to be a Columbia Sabre. No one bid on her, so we were told to come back 10 days later and make an offer. We returned, made the minimum bid of $150, and became owners of the boat! Our intention in buying the boat was for the purpose of using the Sabre's unusually skinny hull as the center hull of a trimaran.

Although Berkeley Marina will not let buyers of lien boats have a guest slip, Ann the Harbormaster was nice enough to give us five days to get the boat ready before we had to leave. It turned out that the next week was the swap meet at the Berkeley YC, where we managed to pick up a motor and other miscellaneous gear - including a dink that needed repair. When we test-sailed our new boat, she was sluggish - after all, there was nine years of growth on her bottom.

We got a quote from a boatyard on getting the bottom cleaned. After getting the money from a bank, and while on our boat at the fuel dock about to make a haulout appointment, a strange thing happened. Some guy with a mustache stormed over to the boat and started throwing our lines off while yelling, "I'm tired of you freeloaders, there's nothing in this world for free!" He then grabbed me by the throat with both hands and attempted to throw me back into the cockpit. So we decided to find another place to have the hull cleaned.

We're starting to find out that the Sabre design we bought is quite popular. Before we purchased the engine at the swap meet, we were given assistance by the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary vessel Scout. One of those aboard, officer Dickson, said he used to have a Sabre and was thinking of getting another one. Next we saw an article in Latitude saying the boats are raced as one designs in the Oakland Estuary. Since then we've talked to a few more people, and everybody seems to have a comment on this 5.5 meter. Now we're trying to figure out how popular they are, as we'd hate to cut something up that's a classic and in good shape.

Richard & Sofia Smiley
Skinny Blue Puppy, Columbia Sabre

Richard and Sofia - There's good news and bad news. First, the bad news. Attempting to convert the hull of a Columbia Sabre - or any other monohull - to be the center hull of a trimaran is a very bad idea. Not only was the hull not designed or built for that purpose, it would cost a ton of money to convert it. You'd have to get rid of the lead keel, reshape the bottom, figure out some way to put in a new steering system and rudder, and make major structural modifications to accept crossbeams. And after you'd done all the work and spent all the money, you'd still have a donkey to do a horse's job.

If you really want a trimaran, buy a trimaran. There are plenty of fixer-uppers around at low prices. But please, please, please, take somebody along who really knows about boats - specifically trimarans - to make sure you don't overpay or end up with a bottomless money pit.

The good news is that you may - depending on the condition - have bought a pretty cool little boat for very little money. In fact, we know one guy - Don Eddy, if we remember his name correctly - who bought a Columbia Sabre in San Diego about 10 years ago, and then spent several years cruising her down to Panama and up to Florida. He became a minor hero to some for doing it on such an inexpensive boat. We're not recommending that anybody try a similar voyage with a Sabre, but in experienced hands she could be an acceptable ultra-budget cruiser in the Sea of Cortez or along the coast of mainland Mexico.

To better understand the boat you've bought, here's a little history. The 5.5 Meter used to be a highly-refined developmental - and therefore expensive - class in the Olympics. In the early '60s, Columbia Yachts, apparently believing that the class was about to accept fiberglass versions of the boat, came up with a molded fiberglass 5.5 hull, apparently modeled after George O'Day's world champion Minotaur and Sigurd Herburn's original 5.5 Carina. The fiberglass one design versions would cost about half the price of wooden 5.5s. Alas, the class rejected the fiberglass versions, so Columbia's sales of the 5.5 from 1963 to 1965 were a disappointment.

Seeking to capitalize on already having the mold, Columbia plopped a cabin on the 5.5 and dubbed it the Sabre - and tried to pass it off as something of a cruiser. Here's how they described it: "Sabre, the Columbia 5.5 Meter with cruising accommodations! Here is an Olympic class racer with separate staterooms, four berths, head, galley, ice box, and storage lockers. The Sabre has caught on as an ocean racer as well as a local fleet racer and daysailer. She has a well-balanced responsive helm. The roomy 8-foot self-bailing cockpit keeps you dry and comfortable. She is big and powerful, rates high with approximate C.C.A. of 27.0, but she can sail. In open races they will know you are there as you go by larger, more costly yachts on the windward leg. Reaching and running can be a ball as well. This is a sophisticated yacht at a down-to-earth price."

To say a boat with just 6'3" beam has "cruising accommodations" is a bit of a stretch - most boats that length have 10 feet or more of beam. Nonetheless, Columbia reportedly sold 143 of them.

The Columbia 5.5s and Sabres have enjoyed something of a local renaissance, first up in the Delta, and more recently on the Oakland Estuary. Depending on the condition of the hull, the sails, and the rig, you may be able to sell her for quite a bit more than you paid for her - if you do it quickly. If you can't sell her quickly, all your profits will be eaten up in berth fees. But whatever you do, give up on using the hull as the basis for a trimaran.

By the way, we're a little confused about the choking incident at the fuel dock. Clearly there must be much more to the story than that. In any event, if somebody chokes someone, the proper response is not to take your business elsewhere, but to call in the police.


Your February article on the Columbia 5.5 design deserves some comments as to how the class came about. I was a college student in Southern California in the early '60s when I saw an ad for a 5.5 Meter located in Newport Beach. At that time, the 5.5 was the largest and only open design class racing in the Olympics. Being an Olympic aspirant myself in the Finn class, and having never even seen a 5.5, I thought I'd take a look.

It turns out the 5.5 was named Carina, and had been built in Norway for the '56 Olympics that were held in Finland. Her owner was Bus Mosbacher of Galveston, who took a bronze medal with the boat. (Mosbacher would later win fame in the America's Cup, winning with the four-year-old Weatherly in '62, and the Intrepid in '67.)

I never found out why Mosbacher had brought Carina to the West Coast, but when I saw her she had not been used for quite a while and was in need of some TLC. I made an offer that I thought they would laugh at - and ended up with the boat. She dressed up beautifully, of course, and in the ensuing years I sailed her all over the Southland when I wasn't competing in the Finn. However, the only organized racing I could do with Carina was PHRF, and that was not what a onedesign racer like myself or a thoroughbred like Carina was particularly adept at. But I have some great memories of sailing Carina. Unique among them was a slide from the West End of Catalina to Alamitos Bay on a typical summer afternoon. Carrying the oversized spinnaker in a 25-knot westerly with an enormous rolling swell provided a thrill that was truly awe-inspiring.

During the second or third year I owned the boat, Columbia Yachts contacted me regarding their desire to use Carina to strike a mold for a one design class. Their objective was to come up with an alternative to the popular PC class, a boat of similar proportions that had been built in Kettenberg's San Diego yard since the early '30s. Columbia Yachts had originally tried to buy George O'Day's Minotaur, the radical gold medalist in the '56 Olympics, but they could never come to terms. Carina was a convenient and probably more sensible solution, so they used it. It pleases me to no end to see that now, some 40 years later, the class based on a boat I owned lives on.

Alex (Sasha) von Wetter
Pt. Richmond

Alex - We'd heard that was how the class evolved, but are glad to have gotten firsthand confirmation.


I read the April issue letter from Patrice Scofield, who had some difficulties while sailing her Triton 28 Makai to Cabo San Lucas. When I got to the part about the $100,000 refit, I reached for my hip-boots. It's quite a yarn, I believe. In all its clarity, Latitude's response echoed everything that was going through my mind. What was this person thinking? With Tritons selling for $2,000 to $5,000, I could probably refit about six of them with all new equipment for $100,000 - especially if I did all the work.

John (With An Illegible Last Name)
Northern California

Readers - It wasn't our intent to dump on or discourage Patrice's cruising aspirations. In fact, we admire her courage for embarking on such an ambitious singlehanded voyage. Nonetheless, for her own safety we think she needs to hone her sailing skills before taking off singlehanded again.


As I sit now in Marina Vallarta and reflect on the Zihua Fest, while I read the March Latitude, I just came across the letter titled Soul Sailors And Bullhorns. It seemed a little irresponsible for someone to tack out of a marina channel and expect a 65-footer to try to avoid him. Then to my astonishment, a Harbor Patrolman made the statement that "sailboats always have the right of way."

I spent 11 years with the Seattle Port District Harbor Patrol, and frequently reminded skippers of vessels under power to yield to a sailboat under sail - but not in a narrow passage! I then looked up my chart for Marina del Rey channel and found: Note F, Traffic Separation Lanes. Uncharted buoys, labeled 'No Sail', mark the Traffic Separation Lanes in Marina del Rey Entrance Channel."

I think Rule #9 of the 72 ColRegs also covers narrow channels quite clearly. Sometimes it might be prudent for the Harbor Patrol to reread the rules or take a seamanship class.

John Pedersen
Seattle / West Coast of Mexico

John - For more than 30 years there has been a rather unique traffic separation scheme in the world's largest man-made harbor to keep boats under power from tangling with boats under sail. There are three lanes. The two outside lanes are reserved for vessels under power, one lane going out, one lane coming in. The third lane, in the center, is reserved for boats under sail. The entrance to Marina del Rey is not narrow. The sergeant on duty that we spoke with estimated that both of the lanes for vessels under power are about 200 feet wide, while the center lane for boats under sail is only 400 feet wide. Although there is occasionally a numbskull skipper of a boat under power who strays into the sailing-only lane, and the occasional skipper under sail who violates the under-power-only lanes, the system apparently works out quite well.

The Harbor Patrol folks at Marina del Rey are not idiots, so we're confident they are fully aware that there are situations in which boats under sail don't have the right of way. But that would rarely be the case in Marina del Rey.


We're writing in the spirit of an addendum and bringing the February issue article Where's Harry? - Idle Queen's Longest Passage, full circle. We spent three weeks in January and February at La Vida Marina, in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. Our mission was to evaluate and upgrade our recent purchase, a Swan 41. Our final job was to ready her for transport to her new home in Long Beach, California.

Three thousand miles away from the Left Coast and armed with eight suitcases of parts, tools and sailing gear - including a fine used mainsail from Minney's Marine Surplus in Newport Beach - we braved the tropical temps and humidity to bring the boat's diesel, running rigging, sails, electrical system and instrumentation back from two years of being on the hard. So far from family, and without a phone or car, we focused on our tasks, limiting social contacts to the Independent Boat Yard personnel and residents of the marina.

Well, it was our good fortune to find that among those inhabitants were Catherine and Kirk McGeorge, who provided such incredible hospitality that we were both sad to leave them behind. Catherine ran interference when my son called the marina office trying to update me on his Air Force Reserve pilot assignments. When she found that we were out on shakedown cruises, she was a stand-in mom of the first degree - a skill she will use this September when they welcome a new first mate (baby #1). The McGeorge's offered their car, phone, Internet access - and most importantly, their friendship. We will always value it.

When we found out that it was Kirk who had submitted Harry's article about his misadventures crossing the Pacific, we were excited to see the article in print. All four of us were pleased that Latitude has offered to put new sails from Minney's in Harry's future. To celebrate, Richard presented Kirk with his navy blue Minney's Yacht Surplus cap. It seemed like the perfect punctuation to a sailing saga, and in keeping with the cruising world's goodwill.

Gayl Opatrny & Richard Briles
Second Wind and Moonraker
Long Beach

Gayl and Richard - Congratulations on your new acquisition. Your trip reminds us of the scores of flights we made from San Francisco to Road Town in the British Virgins to totally refit our Ocean 71 Big O. One morning we showed up at the crack of dawn at the Pan Am counter at the San Francisco Airport with 25 stuffed baggage parcels in a long line across the terminal floor. "Oh no! No, no, no, no way!" shrieked the Pam Am ticket agent, "we're not running no cargo airline." Finally we had to call out the station manager, who checked the computer and disgustedly admitted that all the extra baggage had been paid for and preapproved by headquarters. For all we know, it's what drove Pan Am out of business - but they did get every single parcel to St. Thomas. Of course, that wasn't the end of our trip, as we still had to wait for the next Bomba Charger or Native Son ferry for the passage to Soper's Hole, then go through Customs and Immigration, then reboard the ferry for the last few miles to Road Town. Thank God they served all the free rum punch you wanted on those ferries, even the ones that started at 6 a.m.

We're glad you bumped into Kirk and Catherine of the Honolulu-based Islander 37 Polly Brooks, as we sort of lost track of them after their reports from the Phillipines and Southeast Asia a couple of years ago. We're delighted they are becoming parents.

As for our offer to Harry of a used sail from Minney's, he hasn't taken us up on it. We hope somebody will remind him.


I'm writing in response to Capt. Mike Schachter's letter in the April issue. When I wrote the story of our rudder problems and rescue in last year's Ha-Ha, I had put in a note that we'd lost the names of the people that had helped us. Now that I have the names again - thanks Mike - let me say that if it weren't for Lee and Kitrina Higbee, my Geronimo would probably still be in Mexico. So the couple deserves as much credit as can be heaped on them for their outstanding seamanship and going way beyond the call. We thanked them profusely at the time, and I'm doing it again now.

Michael Campbell
Geronimo, Lancer 30


A few years ago, we had the pleasure of acknowledging the existence of the Easter Bunny - at least one on the loose at Treasure Island's Clipper Cove. It was our understanding that this most righteous rabbit retired. But we are pleased to report that in the oft-quoted words of Yogi Berra, "It's déjà vu, all over again." So if John and Sharon happen to read this, be advised that your most gracious tradition continues.

Carl & Leslie Kirsch
Charisma, Tayana 37

Carl and Leslie - A number of other sailors - including Chris and Frances on Snow Dragon II, and Don and Bettie on Theodosia - also want to thank the anonymous bunny of Clipper Cove.


For many years now, the folks on boats at anchor at Treasure Island's Clipper Cove on Easter Sunday morning have found that someone placed an Easter basket on deck. It's a very nice gesture in a cove where sanity still prevails - if you can ignore the 60 or so hideous orange and white keep-out buoys that recently were placed there to prevent people from visiting the miniscule beaches. I'm told the buoys are to help with Homeland Security. Or perhaps the buoys are there to remind potential terrorists not to land there, making them scale the steep cliffs instead. Would someone please remove that garbage!

Louk Wijsen


Cruising the Internet for a Rhodes 19, I ran across a link to your February 2003 Letters - including one from Eric Schoenberg regarding the scam he was offered. The 'advance fee' fraud scheme is tried and true, and continually harvests new victims. For details, search Google for '419 fraud' or see

Presuming the check never arrived, I wondered if Schoenberg's Rhodes 19 is still available.

Tip Johnson
Bellingham, Washington


I put our Catalina 25 up for sale in March 2003, and got some responses. One of them, however, was pretty strange. I never actually talked to the person, as all the communication was via email. In any event, the person wrote that they would pay full asking price, $12,000, for the boat - without ever seeing it. But that they wanted to pay for it by wire transfer. I responded by saying that I'd only accept a cashier's check or money order. Then they said they wanted to pay me a check for $10,000 over our asking price, have us cash it, then send a money order to pay for the shipping. If that wasn't odd enough, the boat was to be shipped to England, where it was to be purchased by the McMillan Construction Co. Our last name is also McMillan.

They claimed they bought all kinds of things this way, but it sounded more than a little fishy to me. Have there been any problems in the past with this happening? We didn't go through with the deal as we insisted that the purchase of the boat be separate from the shipping, and they could handle the shipping themselves.

Jim & Teresa McMillan
Northern California

Jim and Teresa - The offer stinks in so many ways - supposedly willing to pay full price without seeing the boat; supposedly willing to pay as much as the boat is worth to ship her to England; asking you to get involved with the shipping; the name of the buyer is supposedly the same as your last name.

Two of the unfortunate wonders of the Internet are spam and the ease with which people can try to pull off frauds from the other side of the world. If an offered deal in any way sounds too good to be true - particularly if the buyer says they'll front you a large sum of money - cut off all communication.


Late on the afternoon of April 5, there was a white Boston Whaler-type boat out under the Golden Gate Bridge, where it was blowing more than 20 knots and there were ebb-reinforced steep waves. There was a single person taking photos from the boat, including some of our white ketch. Was that Latitude's photoboat?

Northern California

Andrew - It was not our photoboat, which is a Bertram 25 sportfisher. She currently has no name on her transom, but will soon bear the name .38 Special. We're not sure whose photoboat you saw, as there are several operating on the Bay.


Stephen Orosz finally cleared up a lot of questions about navigation lights for sailboats. To answer his question about the requirement that a copy of the COLREGS be kept aboard all vessels over 12 meters in length, the answer lies once again in the actual COLREGS Inland Rules book. Annex V, section 88.05, Copy of Rules states, "After January 1, 1983, the operator of each self-propelled vessel 12 meters or more in length shall carry on board and maintain for ready reference a copy of the Inland Navigation Rules."

Robin Llewellyn
Northern California

Robin - We know you're right because when Profligate got stopped by the Coast Guard for a safety inspection on the Napa River last year, not having a copy of the Inland Navigation Rules was the boat's only deficiency. But it's a little 'Catch 22', isn't it, that you have to buy a rule book and read it to be able to know that you have to have it onboard?


Now that you've run, in the April issue, the definitive and proper definitions of running lights for sailboats, I still have one last question. It's about running lights while under power. Would it be incorrect to have both the steaming light and the masthead tricolor on at the same time? For example, suppose that I'm sailing along from South Beach Marina on a beautiful summer's night, after watching the Giants edge out the Dodgers 2 to 1 at Pac Bell Park. I have my tricolor on doing its best to draw attention to me for the dozens of tugs, dinner cruise boats, tankers, containerships and other Bay co-floaters out there. Then the wind dies behind Angel Island, forcing me to crank up the iron sail - and my steaming light. Is it then only proper that I turn off my masthead tricolor and turn on my deck-level running lights?

In a separate question, if on such an occasion my steaming light is inoperative, should I flip on my foredeck light as a 'replacement'?

Eric Lyons
Pearl, Islander 36

Eric - There is nothing wrong with having a masthead tricolor on at the same time as your steaming light. In fact, many boats don't have deck-level running lights, so they have no choice but to have their masthead tricolor and steaming light on simultaneously.

Your foredeck light, which presumably shines down on the deck, is not going to be a suitable replacement for a steaming light, which shines forward and to the sides. In fact, the captains on big ships and ferries aren't going to be able to see the light at all, just the broad downward illumination it provides. As long as your masthead tricolor works, other skippers will be able to know which way you're going, and you shouldn't have any trouble making it safely back to your berth. The fact that they won't be able to tell whether you're under power as opposed to being under sail shouldn't be catastrophic.


I wanted to follow up briefly on your response to the Buying A Boat In Mexico letter that appeared in the March issue. In the editor's response, you discuss the purchase of a boat in Mexico, and provide some advice on the 'offshore delivery' aspects of the purchase - which may result in the boat not being subject to California Sales Tax. Such a discussion is incomplete without warning the buyer that he may be subject to Mexican value-added taxes that could amount to 15% or more of the purchase price. These taxes appear to be selectively enforced, but the buyer should seek Mexican legal advice before deciding to go through with the purchase.

On the subject of offshore deliveries in general, your readers should be careful not to oversimplify the process. This is not a simple black and white test, where the buyer is automatically granted an exemption if he waits three months before bringing his boat to California. Instead, it is a subjective test of the buyer's intent at the time of the purchase of the boat, and the '90-Day' test simply provides a rebuttable presumption that your intent, at the time of purchase, was to, in fact, use the boat outside of the state for an indefinite period of time. Buyers should seek legal advice before blindly jumping into this.        

The simplification of the process has led the public to believe that this is a 'fat-cat yacht owner' tax loophole, and in the current fiscal environment the consequences of that perception will not be pretty. A bill has been introduced in the California Assembly that may forever change the sales and use tax analysis on vessel purchases. AB 694 was introduced in February by Assemblyman Lloyd Levine of Van Nuys, and is scheduled for hearing before the Committee on Revenue and Taxation. Among other things, this bill would change the 'presumption', so that any boat (or airplane or RV) purchased by a California resident would be presumed to have been purchased for use in California. Period. There are a lot of unanswered questions with regard to the implementation and application of this proposal, and it may not even pass constitutional muster, but your readers should be aware of it. 

David Weil
Long Beach

David - We were not aware of any California boat buyers who have been hit with value added tax (VAT) in Mexico, but that possibility would certainly be something of which buyers should be aware.

You're absolutely correct that taking 'offshore delivery' of a boat and keeping it in Mexico for 90 days does not automatically exempt one from California sales tax. In fact, if somebody just takes a boat and parks it in an Ensenada marina for three months before coming back to California, they'll almost certainly get hit with the tax. In order to be exempt, the State Board of Equalization will want to see detailed documented evidence that the buyer not only had the boat in Mexico for more than 90 days, but frequently used the boat in Mexico. We've always tried to emphasize that being exempt is not a 'slam dunk' in such cases, but perhaps we could have done a better job in response to the March letter. There is yet another six-month scenario in which taxes may also possibly be avoided, but it also is not a 'slam dunk.'

Given the stupendous state deficit, you can bet government agencies are scouring every opportunity to look for extra revenue - which brings us to AB 694. On April 10 the bill was amended in the Assembly Committee on Revenue and Taxation, and according to the legislative analysis, "Tightens the requirements that must be met in order for the purchaser of a vehicle, vessel, or aircraft to avoid paying use tax on the purchase." Among other things, it would presume that any vehicle, boat, or plane purchased by a resident of California, or any vehicle, boat, or plane stored in California more than six of the first 12 months would be presumed to be subject to sales tax."

For an analysis of the bill, take 'Google' to 'California Legislature' to 'AB 694'.


Have you tied off to a mooring at Angel Island lately? Most of the renovated moorings have a large chain link on the top of a metal tripod which is mounted on top of a cemented tire, which is chained to a cement block at the bottom of the anchorage. 

The mooring link lies flat on the tripod, making it just about impossible to hook onto - at least that was our experience about a month ago. As we were leaving, we noticed a young gal in a rowing dinghy go from mooring to mooring, spending five or so minutes with each. When we revisited Angel Island last week, we realized what the girl had been doing. She'd tied a bungie cord to prop up the mooring link, making it much easier for mariners to pick up the mooring with a hook/line threader.  

So from our perspective, last month there was a real life 'angel' visiting Angel Island. If she's reading this, I'd like to thank her for making it much easier for all of us to tie off our boats.

Unfortunately, there are several mooring buoys which were inverted and therefore unusable - and have remained that way. So it is my guess that angels can't do everything, but I'm sure this one tried.

Northern California


Responding to the letter from the Mehserles regarding berthing fees at yacht clubs offering reciprocal privileges, we at the Marin YC have grappled with this problem as well. Our solution is 'reciprocal charges'. If a boat from a club that doesn't charge berth fees visits our club, we don't charge them. This is the policy adhered to by most PICYA member clubs. But if we get a boat from a club that would charge our members for berthing, we charge them the same amount.

In any event, we encourage PICYA clubs to visit Marin YC. Some clubs follow a weekend sailing regatta format, taking self-recorded times at the Mark 17 finish line at the San Rafael Channel. Then they proceed to the club to enjoy our hospitality. We're happy to announce that effective this month, we have incorporated the adjacent Marin Beach and Tennis Club, with facilities available to our membership and guests. These facilities consist of three tennis courts, a hot-tub and pool, and a clubhouse with lounge areas. The tennis clubhouse also has shower and dressing areas. We offer PICYA clubs use of these facilities for a weekend cruise-in, for a nominal fee, subject to availability. Court time is subject to availability, with first priority reserved for tournaments and Marin YC member reservations.

Our main clubhouse is available for groups that utilize our bar and dining facilities, with quality meals prepared and served by our excellent staff. We have regularly scheduled meals on Friday and Sunday evenings. With prior arrangement, our dining facilities can be available on Saturday evenings. Contact our Club Manager, Gabrielle Singley, at (415) 453-9366 for reservations and to make arrangements for your club's cruise-in.

Our expanded program with enhanced facility utilization is open to all PICYA member clubs based on reciprocity, with berth fee charges equivalent to what Marin Yacht Club is charged by yacht clubs for our cruises to their facilities.

Ron Witzel, Vice Commodore
Marin YC

Ron - It's seems like a sensible and fair policy to us.


Yesterday, I attempted to check out of San Carlos on the mainland side of the Sea of Cortez in Mexico. What happened will explain why many cruisers are so unhappy with the clearing procedures south of the border.

Leaving Zebedee, my engineless junk, I climbed into Dougal, my 6'6" square plywood pram, and rowed one third of a mile to Marina San Carlos. Then I walked several hundred yards to the bus stop, where I caught a coach to the city center of Guaymas. I then got on a bus marked "Calzada," which the people at the port captain's office said would take me to the immigration office. Once on the bus there ensued a heated but friendly discussion with the occupants of where I needed to go. When we pulled up in front of a Banamex building, many of the passengers suggested I get out there. But I insisted that it must be elsewhere, as I had been told to look for Coca Cola signs. Such signs are common in Guaymas, but not around the Banamex building.

Finally we reached a place where there were all kinds of Coca-Cola signs, at which point the passengers - and the bus was now quite full - strongly suggested I get off. I did, but then didn't see any sign of the Migracion office. So I asked a passerby near a Coca-Cola sign. He pointed up in the air and said a lot - unfortunately, I don't speak Spanish. A nearby road went uphill. It didn't look promising, but I took off anyway. After a while, I entered a shop and asked again. Everyone in the shop pointed upwards - heaven, perhaps?. Then a man explained that it was upstairs! So I eventually walked through the door, where the officials took my papers - Crew List with just my name on it - and stamped it and another Crew List.

When I finally made it back to the port captain's office, the official said, "No good, only entrada."

I pointed out the second Crew List and said, "Salida."

The official said it was alright. But 10 minutes later he returned and said, "No stamp here," pointing to a spot on the Crew List. I had the right stamp, it was just two inches from where he wanted it.

So I left the port captain's office, got back on the bus marked "Calzada," and set off for the Migracion office above the Coke signs again. I arrived at five minutes after 1:00 p.m. - to learn they had closed for the day. So I got on a bus, then another bus, then walked several 100 yards, then rowed a third of a mile against a strong headwind back to my boat.

I won't be able to check out tomorrow because it's one of Mexico's many public holidays. Then it's the weekend, so the offices will be closed for two more days. On Monday I will be able to make a second attempt at leaving San Carlos, providing, of course, that I pay the 156 peso - about $15 U.S. - fee for clearing out as well as another 156 peso fee for clearing in. At least they don't charge a 60-peso-per-day anchoring fee, with a 50-peso-per-day dinghy fee as in Ensenada. And it took me four days to get out of Ensenada!

Maybe they just like me so much they want me to stay.

Alan Martienssen
Zebedee, 34-ft Jay Benford Schooner

Alan - The good news is that Mexico may be changing their clearing regulations. Enrique Fernandez of Cabo Isle Marina tells us that Mexico's version of our House of Representatives has passed legislation that will do away with all domestic checking in and checking out. In other words, boats would check into Mexico once when they entered the country, and once when they left, but never when just moving about inside the country. Such legislation would still have to pass their version of the Senate before it became law, and it's not clear if or when that might happen. But we can keep our fingers crossed, as it would be a huge improvement for both Mexico and cruisers.

Everyone will agree that Mexico's current system for clearing in and out of domestic ports is horrific, and in some cases officials don't lift a finger or say a word to make it easier. However, there were certainly things that you could have done to minimize your misery. For example, by just asking other cruisers or at the marina office, you could have gotten a map that would have indicated exactly where the various offices you needed to visit are located. It's true, however, that some don't have signs, nor posted times and days that they are open.


Here we are again! Latitude has been such a big part of our 'sailing' and 'saleing' lives. We sold Viking, our first boat, through the Classy Classifieds. Then we sold our house in Vallejo through the Classies. A few years ago we bought our current boat through you-know-where. It's now time to sell her, so we're taking out a Classy. Thank you for being there all these years, and for being such a huge part of the 'information highway' to the waterways.

Paulla & Jay O'Bannon
San Diego

Paulla and Jay - Thanks for the kind words, we're pleased that you've had such success.


On March 27, the Oregon Supreme Court ruled that there is no "boat exception" in the Constitution that permits the police to conduct suspicionless, warrantless searches of boats. The decision, which applies only to actions by state and local law enforcement officers within Oregon, means police must have reason to suspect a violation has occurred before a boater may be required to stop and submit to an inspection. This affirms that Oregon boaters have protections against unreasonable searches similar to the protections motorists have long enjoyed.

The case is State v. LeCarros. The text of the decision can be found at:

Hugh Sage

Hugh - That's really something - thanks for passing the news along.


Our family aboard the Alameda-based Crowther 33 catamaran Chewbacca are enjoying the islands of Northern Panama so much that we will probably stay here until Christmas. That said, I want to thank you - I think - for publishing my Changes about provisioning south of Mexico. We heard lots of positive comments from cruisers who have read it - although some people at Bahia del Sol, El Salvador, seem to have taken it personally. One woman in particular is disappointed that I didn't write only good things about the provisioning options there.

I'm not writing to put Latitude in a crossfire, but I thought I'd give you a heads-up about the situation down here before you get besieged with letters from special interests saying how perfect Bahia del Sol is. These special interests have a vested interest in the place, and seem to be afraid that my comments may affect how many future cruisers stop there. But when I wrote the Changes about provisioning south of Mexico, I was trying to help fellow cruisers by giving them accurate information, not pump up business at a specific place. But yikes, sometimes telling the truth puts you on the hot seat!

To bring everyone up to speed, here's a condensed version of a letter we received from a woman in Bahia del Sol:

The email you sent to the two boats yesterday has reached others of us as well. One person sent it on to me because of my statement that the bar was 'open' here at Bahia. The bar is very much open. My husband and I have sometimes been escorts for those entering and exiting Bahia, and I can't tell you how careful and exacting we've been. If we'd been the escorts, we'd have not let you leave with Chewbacca when you did. Bar entrances are commonly closed all around the world, and weather windows are just that. Sometimes the sea is stormy, sometimes the sea is calm, but if we only travelled on calm seas, we'd never get very far from home.

Bahia and Barillas are both nice places and both have much to offer - although they are very different. Although we like both, we prefer Bahia. Barillas definitely has great hot dogs, although that's the only place we've ever had them in El Salvador. You certainly slammed both places in your last Changes that you had published in Latitude. This angered many cruisers who are here now and/or who were here last year. You fooled many of us, who thought you liked El Salvador. We passed through many places on our trip down from British Columbia - some good, some great, some bad - but all very interesting. But we've not felt it necessary to tear down the not so good, as others may find them perfect for their taste.

Lastly, you should be careful about what you write in your emails. Your letter to that other boat about the idea of putting cockroaches on another vessel also reached more people than you probably expected. Shame on you! We'll have to be careful about ever anchoring near you. I'm so very sorry to have to say these harsh words, but I believe the way to handle things should be between the people involved.

Here's my response to her letter:

Since you felt compelled to read emails sent to others, I feel that we should share our response with others. First, I'm sorry if you took that cockroach story seriously. If you would have read all the emails I sent to that boat, you would have realized the joke was part of my twisted sense of humor. I told the same story to a cockpit full of cruisers last night, and they thought it was funny. Nobody thought I really had a bag of cockroaches with me. So lighten' up. You came across an inside joke between two cruisers. And, yes, shame on me for writing a joke in a private email. But what can you say about a person who takes email not sent to them and then distributes it - after making false assumptions about what it meant?

Secondly, I realize that you and other friends have a vested interest in Bahia del Sol, and have taken on the responsibility for leading boats across the bar that separates the ocean and the river. But I'm puzzled why you don't want to be forthcoming about the safety issues of crossing the bar. You have repeatedly stated on the SSB net that "no one has sustained damage coming across the bar." That's a bit of a stretch since three boats bumped bottom while we were there. Another almost broached when the bar was supposedly "open." Of the five boats that left with us, three sustained damage while crossing the bar. Who benefits when such potential dangers are denied?

I would trust you or your husband leading us across the bar, but that isn't really why you wrote me. What's made you angry is that I didn't paint a completely rosy picture of all the places we've visited, but rather tried to portray things accurately. Unbelievably, you're the second person from Bahia del Sol who has asked me to suppress - or at least not speak unkindly - of our experiences there. Even the net controllers tell other cruisers "not to believe the bad things that have been written about Bahia del Sol."

Further, I don't understand why you feel "personally involved" in my article about provisioning - unless you feel you are representing Bahia del Sol in some capacity, and want to contest everything I said. My position is that it wouldn't be fair to other cruisers if I gave a false impression of the experiences our family had while cruising on a limited budget. How can you feel betrayed or fooled if all I did was write accurately about our provisioning experiences in Central America.

It's wrong for you to say we didn't like El Salvador. We have great respect for the people of that country, and as for the provisioning, it is what it is. It's true that provisioning around Bahia del Sol made our stay in El Salvador a bit more challenging - but also more colorful and interesting. And isn't that why we went cruising? Others have told me they enjoyed my report about provisioning because it was unbiased. In fact, try to find anything about it that wasn't true. And it was based on our having spent a month in Guatemala, a month at Bahia del Sol, six months at Barillas, and having visited Honduras.

Since you own land and a home near Bahia del Sol, and presumably have better access to transportation, your provisioning experiences are probably different than that of most cruisers. What I did was write accurately about what it was like for our cruising family of four to provision. Riding a bus three hours and having to carry everything back in a knapsack wasn't as fun as provisioning was in other places. Yes, our family did eat a lot of hot dogs, strawberry yogurt, jam, and other stuff in El Salvador. I did write that the variety and quality of food in El Salvador and Guatemala and Honduras, isn't as good as it is in Mexico or Costa Rica - because it's true. But I also reported that eating out with the locals in El Salvador was not only inexpensive, but fun. I further wrote that although Häagen-Dazs ice cream and Skippy Super Chunky peanut butter were available, they were more expensive than our budget-conscious family could afford. I'm sorry if you consider this to be a slam against El Salvador. Our family took it all in stride, and continue to have a great time throughout all of Central America.

Our advice to other cruisers is that they'll love Central America - and it gets better the further south that you go.

Bruce Winship & family
Chewbacca, Crother 33 Cat

Readers - That some people may have vested interests in pushing Bahia del Sol and environs would seem to explain several things. For example, a few months ago we received a very favorable - but rather wordy and overly detailed - report on Bahia del Sol. We shortened it up and made changes for clarity, but clearly left the same favorable tone before including it in Cruise Notes. A short time later we got a surprisingly angry letter, apparently from the same woman who wrote the letter to Chewbacca, demanding that we reprint her original version. We've been publishing Latitude for over 25 years, and we can't remember the last time somebody made such a big stink over such a minor matter.

Further, we've gone back and read Chewbacca's Changes on reprovisioning south of Mexico. It seemed very balanced and fair to us, and certainly didn't hold Bahia del Sol up for ridicule. Yet in this month's Changes there is another report, again from a long-time cruiser at Bahia del Sol, disagreeing with Chewbacca. The author contends that the local provisioning is fine - although he admits it's an hour bus ride to and from the store. Sorry, but we don't think most cruisers would consider that to be a great place to provision.

Our advice to you folks at Bahia del Sol, whatever connection you might have to the place itself or future development of the area, is to stop being so defensive. We've edited every report about Bahia del Sol that's ever appeared in Latitude, and there hasn't been one that would cause us to even dream of passing it by. Sure, there's a bar that can be a problem if there's unusually bad weather, and the provisioning might not be as convenient or good as in Mexico. So what? It's also the first stop in El Salvador, the anchorage is perfectly calm and secure, the people and the officials are very friendly, there are great deals on meals and accommodations, and the President of the country comes by from time to time. Why the heck wouldn't any cruiser stop there?


Mine is a letter to second Latitude's on the responsibility of rendering assistance while underway. On two occasions while delivering Latitude's catamaran Profligate from Puerto Vallarta to San Diego, the crew rendered assistance to vessels in need. In both cases it cost us but a few miles of progress, but returned much goodwill - not to mention a few laughs.

The first instance was the result of rough weather taking a modest toll on the sportfishing boat Grand Slam, a Pacemaker 48, on the way back to Alameda after a season in Mexico. The wind and sea states increased after Profligate and Grand Slam cleared the northern tip of Cedros, and the associated pounding removed two bow lights and a port light from Grand Slam's topsides. Although the capable crew - who we'd first met at a taco stand in Cabo - had closed off the openings in the hull, they were in need of some waterproof putty to stop the last few streams of water that were entering the boat with each bash through a wave.

We had the perfect product aboard Profligate to solve their problem, and as we were only about five miles astern, all they had to do was slow down to allow us to close the gap. Since the seas were too rough to make a boat-to-boat transfer, we assembled a package that consisted of two one-gallon water jugs and a $3 PFD. One water jug contained the goodies that needed to be kept dry; the second was half-filled with water to act as a sea anchor; and the international orange PFD was so the package could easily be seen once in the water.

Once the boats closed to within two boatlengths, we simply dropped the jugs and jacket into the drink. Grand Slam fished them out with a boat hook Mexican-style. No problema.

Of course, a care package containing nothing more than waterproof epoxy wouldn't do, so we packed in some extra goodies for the 'Slammers'. We cut two ads from a glossy sailing magazine that were apropos of the moment, and included a handwritten note that read: "Plywood, $8. Fasteners, $5. Five-minute epoxy, $15. Knowing where to find this stuff 100 miles offshore - priceless! Good luck from Profligate and crew, 29°41'N, 115°52'W. P.S. We close for lunch at 1200 sharp!" We also sent along a ripe banana, the time-honored indicator of bad luck, to our safe-but-wet friends, now referred to as the 'Wet Slammers'. 

Our second case of rendering assistance was limited to some radio chatter. As we approached San Diego near the end of the Bash, we heard repeated calls on Channel 16 from a sailboat near Ensenada trying to reach Vessel Assist. The calls - there must have been one a minute over a course of half an hour - were not returned by Vessel Assist. Hoping to restore a little peace and quiet to 16, I picked up the mic and intervened. What ensued was a VHF comedy of sorts involving the sailboat, Vessel Assist, Profligate and the Coast Guard. It turned out that the sailboat had fuel problems, didn't think they'd be able to sail back to San Diego - and wanted immediate assistance. After about 30 minutes, it was determined they couldn't reach either Vessel Assist or the Coast Guard by VHF, but only Profligate. It was also determined that they had a cell phone compatible with Ensenada's system and could simply call Vessel Assist on their phone. There wasn't much work involved on our part in this assistance, but it did restore a little peace and quiet.

Would we render such assistance again? In a minute, for it's a great way to create goodwill, score big karma points, and is an easy way to make friends. Cruisers helping other cruisers - no matter if it's sharing local knowledge about entering a harbor, giving a hot tip on a restaurant or transferring needed parts on the high seas - are a big part of the overall cruising experience.

Wayne Meretsky
Co-Skipper on Profligate for 2003 Bash
Owner, Moonduster, S&S 48


Last month's letter calling for a revival of racing the old IOR boats has gotten some traction, for along with my Davidson 44 Infrared, Keith Brown's Peterson 46 Aleta, and the much-travelled Farr 52 Zamazaan, the herd is forming.

'War Horse' divisions exist on the Great Lakes and East Coast, as owners of these boats need a place to go and have fun with similar older and heavier boats. So why not on San Francisco Bay, too? Division C at the St. Francis YC's Big Boat Series now seems to be a showcase for brand new designs fresh from the factory at displacement weights one-third to one-half of our older IOR boats - but with the same sail area. Tell the backroom boys at the St. Francis that the Americap II rating system preserves nothing that was good in the past. The Stone Cup is the most recent loss to this new modern trend of handicapping.

Ray Lopez
Infrared, Davidson 44
Burson, CA


My name is Brittany D., and I'm from Los Angeles. I'm taking a sailing course through school here at USC, and recently went out for the weekend on a Catalina 36. I loved it, and I'm really looking forward to more. I was surfing the net looking for sailing sites, and I came across yours. I was wondering if you had any contacts you knew of in my area that are looking for eager and enthusiastic crew for any type of sailing excursions. Longer trips to places such as Santa Barbara or San Diego would be great as well. I know this is kind of random, but I really love sailing and am trying to get as much exposure as possible.

Brittany D.
Los Angeles

Brittany - Since you're a young woman and therefore have to be cognizant of your personal safety, we recommend that you start out by calling some of the local yacht clubs. According to SoCal sailor Tom Leweck, creator of the online newsletter Scuttlebutt, your best bet in breaking into a casual sailing scene would be to show up for a Wednesday evening beer can race at the California YC in Marina del Rey. Races start at 6 p.m., but Tom suggests arriving about 4:30 and let it be known that you're looking for a ride. You'll almost certainly make good connections. You might also call Redondo Beach's King Harbor YC or the Long Beach YC in Alamedas Bay. By doing just a few of these races and retiring to the club after for a little food and drink while rehashing the fun, you'll quickly meet a lot of other skippers. When you come across a skipper and crew that looks like they might be fun to sail with, let them know you're interested in longer races or cruises on the weekends. Believe us, once you make that first little effort to get into the game, you'll find countless opportunities, and all up and down the coast, too.

Our favorite race in Southern California is the Santa Barbara to King Harbor 86-miler on August 1. If you still haven't gotten into the swing of things by then, give us a call and you can crew with us aboard Profligate. By the end of that weekend, you'll have made a bunch of new sailing friends.


In your March article about sailing records, I noticed there was no mention of the Ancient Mariner Sailing Society's San Diego to Maui Classic. The event has been held four times - in '78, '81, '85, and '91 - and such wonderful boats as the Californian, Dauntless, Spike Africa, Rowena, Rose of Sharon, Pacifica and Caprice have participated.

My boat was one of two Bay Area boats that did the '91 race. Ironically, I have a list of all the participants and times for the first three races, but not the '91 race that I did. We had the time of our lives! I spent the summer of the race in Lahaina and Honolulu, but the only results I saw were in the local newspaper - and they weren't quite right. After sailing back to the Bay Area, I never bothered to check it out further. I now have four grandkids and am getting along, but I have more interest than ever in the results. I do know that Rowena and Caprice finished seconds apart, and we came in a day later, a few hours ahead of Dauntless. We had a 75-hour handicap, so I figured we had some sort of record - maybe two days - for unused handicap.

Do you know any way I might be able to find the results?

Bob Griffiths

Bob - We suggest you contact the Ancient Mariner Sailing Society at Perhaps they - or some of the other participants - can help you out.


Thanks for posting the information about our Spencer Yacht Owners Group and our upcoming gathering in British Columbia. But there was a mistake in the email address, which should have been reblackwell at

Ron Blackwell
Port Sidney Marina, British Columbia, Canada


First, please accept my thanks for your magazine, as I think it is the finest ever published. Not just the finest sailing magazine, but the finest magazine - period! It's become a publishing institution, one to which all other periodicals should aspire.

In the April 2003 issue there was a letter from Terry Wepsic, M.D., titled Check Your Bilge . . . And Your Prostate - which gave excellent, common sense advice. However, I'm convinced that excessive concern about the condition of one's organs can be unhealthful, and going to doctors for justincase checkups is tantamount to asking for permission to live. We are only here for a twinkle in the eye of time, so we should make it count - not try to artificially extend it. Each of us will know when it's time to cast off our dock lines, so to speak, for the last time, and we should take the final ebb tide with good grace, a smile, and no regrets.

My wife, Tessa, and I will be 70 next birthday, and since I retired 18 years ago, we have had no medical insurance. We never get colds or the flu, and the aches and pains of growing older have all melted away with patience, exercise, and a love of life. Our bodies have responded magnificently to growing older, without pills or doctors. We regularly play tennis, jog, walk, bike, swim, do our own yards and housework. And, of course, we still sail April Dancer, our Fairweather Mariner 39, anywhere that takes our fancy. Oh, and I still clean her bottom - April Dancer's, that is - using only a mask and snorkel.

We have found that what goes on in our minds is as important as what we do to honor the fabric of our bodies. Just a few simple concepts guide our lives. Each day, try to do something nice for someone, and if they don't know who did it, so much the better. It can be as simple as disposing of trash that someone left on the sidewalk, or as significant as seeing someone in trouble and doing what cruisers do - risk their own safety to help. Try not to be judgmental. Try not to harm living or nonliving things. When someone hurts you, forgive, smile, and move on. And when you fail in any of these concepts, acknowledge it, forgive yourself, and keep trying.

If you have strong religious feelings, none of these ideas should offend you, and the healthgiving effects will work for you for all of your precious days. Try it, it works. Oh, and it's noninvasive, nontoxic and nonhabitforming. Fair winds and happy landfalls.

Lyn Reynolds
San Jose

Lyn - You may have gone overboard with the compliments, but thank you very much.

You remind us of our grandparents, who in their 60s retired to the Santa Cruz mountains and lived - particularly our grandfather - a natural life. For instance, they believed in preventing disease rather than treating it, most of their food came from their orchard and gardens rather than stores, he pooped in the compost pile in the woods rather than a toilet to save water, they both swam in the ocean even in the winter, they didn't own a television, and they shooed bugs and pests away rather than kill them. For the last 15 years of his life, our grandfather told us, "I've had a full and wonderful life, and am ready to die anytime." We've always envied that kind of contentment. But we're still going to get a prostate exam.

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