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APRIL COVER SHOWED A LACK OF COMMON SENSE
I was very disappointed in your April cover. While it certainly is a dynamic sailing photo, it also shows a complete lack of common sense and marine safety. You have a large, fast-moving sailboat, heeled far over, and there's some jackass standing on the rail without an inflatable PFD or safety harness! This is not, I believe, the image you want to push for San Francisco Bay - especially after the death of Larry Kline several years ago.
Capt. Henry E. Marx
Capt. Henry - Given that fact that Thierry Dubois had at the time single-handed most of the way around the world - including through the Southern Ocean - the shot of him nearly falling on his severely heeled Solidaires at the Brazil finish line actually shows him at one of his safer moments. But we get your point. Next time we'll run a car-commercial-style disclaimer in the corner: "Professional skipper on closed course, do not attempt."
By the way, if the French get wind of you calling Dubois a "jackass," the Franco-American rift over Iraq is going to seem insignificant by comparison.
A DIFFERENT REACTION FROM LAID-BACK MAUI
What a great cover on the April issue.
Action, graphic content, interest and composition. A+ brother!
'Lectronic Latitude recently ran pictures of a Catalina 42 sinking off of Kick 'em Jenny, which is just north of Grenada in the Caribbean. As a Catalina 42 owner, I did some research on the incident, and some interesting facts have come to light.
The boat was originally sold to a Catalina dealer in the Chicago area in late 1988. She had three different owners until '93, when she was based in Missouri - presumably on the Mississippi River. Two heaters placed aboard the vessel apparently were the cause of a catastrophic fire. Most of the deck and everything inside the boat was consumed. After conferring with Catalina, Boat/U.S. - which had insured the boat - declared her a total loss.
The hull was apparently sold as salvage for the value of the lead in the keel to somebody who believed they could rebuild the boat themselves. Bulkheads, interior furniture, and other miscellaneous items were ordered from Catalina and shipped to an address in Missouri. Having been rebuilt, in 2000, the boat was sold to the most recent owners, who were onboard and sailing her from Trinidad to the U.S. Virgins when she inexplicably sunk.
One can only speculate as to what might have happened to the boat while and after she was rebuilt. For instance, I can't help but wonder how well the new deck was attached to the hull, or how the remaining laminates had stood up to the intense heat created by the fire. Knowing the history of the hull, would you have purchased this boat?
Most things eventually succumb to gravity, so it seems that this Catalina 42 perhaps gave way earlier than her time, but only because of the fire or the way she was rebuilt. I am grateful to hear that the folks on board at the time of the sinking are safe, but the case should be another reminder of caveat emptor.
By the way, most reputable builders keep a history of each boat they build, and Catalina has a three-inch thick file on this particular 42. Anyone contemplating purchasing a used Catalina need only pick up the phone to find out all they want to know about a specific vessel.
Garry - That's certainly eye-opening information, and it sheds a whole new light on the sinking. We'd bet there is a 95% chance that the boat sank due to some aspect of the fire, rebuild, or the way the boat was maintained.
As for "most things eventually
succumbing to gravity," don't count on it happening anytime
soon with decently-built fiberglass boats. The earliest large
fiberglass boats are now almost 50 years old but showing very
little sign of deterioration. In fact, one of the growing problems
on the waterfront is that increasingly obsolete - but still perfectly
functional - boats are taking up slips needed by newer generations
What are the rules concerning anchoring in Clipper Cove at Treasure Island? I have heard everything from, "there have been boats permanently anchored there since the Navy left four years ago," to "there is a seven-day limit," to "technically, anchoring is prohibited." It would seem to be an ideal place to anchor out longterm, since there is a nearby bus line and a $25/month Treasure Island YC membership would permit the use of the marina facilities, including parking. And it does appear that there are a half-dozen permanently moored boats, including some with their own moorings.
Fred - Sorry to take so long to get
back to you, but your letter has been hiding in our hard drive.
As best we've been able to determine, the pending turnover of
the area from the Navy to San Francisco has left something of
an authority vacuum, allowing people to pretty much do what they
want. So if anyone wants to put down a personal mooring in the
middle of one of the Bay's best anchorages, nobody seems to be
stopping them. And if someone wants to semi-permanently anchor
their boat - or derelict - in the Cove, nobody seems to be stopping
that either. We're not sure how long this will be allowed to
continue. If anyone knows anything different, we'd like to hear
In the interest of helping others avoid a mistake - yet another in a long series of bonehead boating maneuvers featuring yours truly - I offer the following report. On April 19, I anchored in Clipper Cove with my 10-year-old daughter and her friend aboard our Ranger 26 Allons-y. After spending the night - there were about a dozen other boats on the hook - we left Saturday morning. To leave, we slowly motored out to the middle of the Cove - and got stuck. Yes, right in the middle!
I know - now - that there had been a significantly negative tide, but hey, I've been in and out of the Cove dozens of times. My boat only draws 3.5 feet, and I was in the middle only about 75 yards from the entrance to the cove. Nonetheless, oops. Sorry girls, how about a lesson on tide tables, chart depths, navigation and patience?
A 35-ft motor vessel also left the cove without getting stuck, but she hugged the Treasure Island side of the cove. I'm wondering if there is a channel there?
I'd like to give a big thanks to the very nice guys in the Treasure Island YC crash boat who eventually noticed our dilemma, and towed us - actually ploughed us - through the mud after we'd spent 90 minutes rocking and messing around.
I've been a dedicated reader of Latitude ever since my buddy Dave Gendell, who edits the sailing mag Spinsheet here on the Chesapeake, turned me on to your excellent publication. Your February issue was a real treat, as I discovered that an old friend whom I haven't seen in years is still alive and living in St. Barts! A lot of us old timers who have hung out in Key West for years were wondering about the whereabouts of dave Wegman after hearing about his time in the slammer for attempted drug smuggling. To find out he's living and thriving on the second floor of Marius' Le Select in Gustavia comes as a great relief.
Back in the days when Wegman was living upstairs from Howie's Lounge in Key West and painting signs for anyone in town who needed them, the hangout of choice was the Chart Room bar at Pier House when Phil Clark - of A Pirate Looks at Forty fame - and Vic Latham ran the place. Buffett occasionally played guitar in the far corner for beers, and a guy named Tom Corcoran bartended. Most of the town's politics played out in that bar, so payoffs and handshake deals were an everyday occurrence. It's not urban lagend - Key West Race Week really was an idea spun out over drinks there, although we never saw it lasting a whole week.
Corcoran is now a successful mystery novelist, still living in the Keys. Two days after I read your fascinating interview with dave, Corcoran was having a book signing for his latest novel. I braved the line to get a book signed and dropped the news on him that Wegman was alive and well at Le Select. We pissed off everyone else in line by retelling old Wegman stories from the '70's. Tom was going to try and send dave paperbacks of his novels, posted from Key West to Marius at Le Select.
Thanks for profiling a great guy who just happens to be a unique character and survivor - along with being a man of great talent. Just this one article justifies that check for first class delivery of your mag for years to come. Keep up the great work!
On May 5, 'Lectronic Latitude published a Photo of the Day of a bulk carrier down-bound in San Pablo Bay that was lining up to go east of The Brothers. The commentary implied that transiting east of The Brothers was not only rare, but could be considered unsafe due to the close proximity of shallow water. Let me assure you that it is a common route to follow, especially if there is a conflict with up-bound traffic or with the ongoing bridge construction.
In the past, when the three oil terminals were operating between The Brothers and the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, most vessels would avoid transiting the route because of the interaction concerns with the tankers or barges at those wharves. Now that all three terminals are inactive, the limiting factors continue to be draft, air draft, and overall size of the vessel. While there is shoaling to avoid, the pilot, like any prudent mariner, knows its location and cons the vessel accordingly. In fact, there are very few places in the Bay where shoaling is not a concern for the pilot guiding a deep draft vessel.
A pilot is required to report their vessel's intended route to the Vessel Traffic System (VTS) when they check into the system. I would urge all mariners to monitor VTS on VHF channel 14 whenever they intend to transit in close proximity to the shipping channels.
Captain Peter McIsaac, President
Capt. McIsaac - Thank you for your informative professional response. We didn't mean to suggest that ships transiting between The Brothers and the Richmond shore should be illegal - we're not qualified to make such a judgement - but that it appeared as though it might be dangerous, and was something we'd never seen before. In any event, as more and more sailors hug the Richmond shore on their way up to the Delta this summer, we think they should be aware that ships may be coming at them through that relatively narrow cut.
While on the subject of ships and sailboats,
we'd like to remind all small boat skippers that they can do
the pilots a huge favor by staying the hell out of the way of
ships. They have limited maneuverability, you don't know when
they have to turn, and you don't know what other boats and obstacles
might be in their path. So if you are anywhere near on a collision
course with them, do the kind thing by obviously sailing away
from that course at a 90° angle, providing them with an open
path and the knowledge that you're one skipper who knows what
the heck is going on. This takes only a few minutes of your time
and could prevent a serious accident.
I don't know if it's legal for ships to go between The Brothers and the Richmond shore - as you wondered in a recent 'Lectronic - but we saw it happen about seven years ago. We were actually on The Brothers touring the lighthouse when we saw an outbound ship pass between Point San Pablo and the lighthouse on the island. Like you, we couldn't believe it, but being so up close and personal, there was no mistaking that it happened.
Our question is whether anybody has seen two outbound ships simultaneously pass on either side of Blossom Rock? We were near Blossom when a ship passed us on the Berkeley side of Blossom Rock, while at the same time another ship passed on the Alcatraz side of Blossom. Both continued on and steamed out of the Gate.
Rick & Claire Toucan
Rick and Claire - We don't know that
we've actually seen the Blossom business, but it wouldn't surprise
us if it happened. As long as the ships have plenty of water
and inform Vessel Traffic Service of their intentions, ships
seem to have quite a bit of freedom. For example, if it's clear
and there's enough water, it's not unusual for inbound ships
to use the Harding Rock outbound channel to enter the Bay.
I have never seen a ship travel between The Brothers and the Richmond shore. However, while driving across the Golden Gate Bridge years ago, I couldn't believe my eyes, but there was a medium-size break bulk freighter inbound inside Mile Rock! I saw it in broad daylight and good weather. I drove down to Fort Point beneath the bridge expecting to see or photograph a wreck, but when I got there the freighter was steaming in without any problem. But at least she was between the bridge towers by then, not between Fort Point and the South Tower.
I later called the Coast Guard to report what I'd seen, with the ship's name and the time it happened. They said they knew nothing about it.
Dennis - When we asked if a pilot would take a ship between Mile Rock and the shore, pilot Eric Dohm laughed and said, "No way! The last ship that did that is still there. I wouldn't even take a sailboat in there because of all the rocks."
Perhaps your eyes were playing tricks
I have some advice for next year's Sail Expo exhibitors that, if followed, would go a long way towards making the boat show experience more enjoyable to those who pay money to attend and look at their products:
If you need to leave your booth for some reason, and have no one to sit in for you, please leave a sign saying when you will return. I came across a booth which had a product I've long desired, but could never find anyone there to sell it to me.
If you need to leave your booth for some reason, and do have someone to sit in for you, make sure that person can at least answer basic questions about your product or, if nothing else, be able to tell us when you will return. I came across a booth that had a guy rocking back and forth on his stool who didn't know anything about anything and was only playing the role of warm body.
Do not let one person monopolize so much of your time that others grow impatient and leave. I came across a booth that had a product - a very expensive one at that - for my sailboat I've been unable to find anywhere else, yet the exhibitor spent over 15 minutes talking general chitchat about sailing with someone else.
If you are unable to talk to them, at least acknowledge someone standing at your booth so we know that you know we are here. The exhibitor in the above-mentioned booth never even acknowledged my presence. Since he just kept talking, I eventually gave up and left.
I enjoyed Sail Expo and will attend next year, but it was really frustrating to attend and be ready to spend money - yet not be able to find, or get the attention of, people selling the products.
Christian - On behalf of all the exhibitors, thank you for the constructive criticism. We shopped the show as a 'civilian' and know what you're talking about.
On the other hand, show visitors should recognize that manning a boat show booth is a very demanding and draining experience. As such, we highly recommend that you and other serious folks try to attend on one of the weekdays, when exhibitors are more fresh and have much more time to spend with each visitor.
As exhibitors at the show, we had two
big complaints: 1) Everyone needed hipwaders for walking around
in the tents, and 2) The poster for Sail Expo was the worst ever.
My wife and I are planning our first trip up to the Delta, and are looking for a little advice. Our Dovekie is 21 feet long, 6 feet wide, and draws 4 feet. We can easily lower her mast, beach her, and sleep aboard. Her auxiliary power is us - using 10-ft oars. Here are our questions:
1) Is there a general area of waterways/sloughs that are not bordered by levees? Something more natural with low banks that affords a longer view.
2) Is there an area that is shoally enough to keep traffic - meaning waterskiers and definitely jet skis - to a minimum. Or perhaps an area of narrow sloughs that would provide some privacy?
3) Which direction of travel is preferable, downwind against the current, or upwind with the current?
4) Will there be a bug problem? Mosquitos are the biggest issue.
5) Can you recommend a cruising guide?
Waldo & Wife
W. and W. - Generally the water is higher than the surrounding fields, which means you'll usually be looking at levees. But it's not as bad as it sounds. Boats towing skiers and jet-skiers won't need as much water as your boat, so shoal water won't help. There are plenty of places to get away. Besides, in early June the Delta is very quiet because kids are still in school. If you have a choice, it's always better to go with the current. Bugs will be a problem. The windier the place you anchor, the less the bug problem. Hal Schell's little foldout map is all you really need.
You don't say where you'll be putting
your boat in the water. If you launch her in San Francisco Bay,
you'll have a wild and wooly - and warmer-by-the-minute - trip
up to the Delta. You'd get killed on the way back, though, particularly
in the narrow stretches when there's a strong ebb. Have fun.
I'm writing in response to Jeff Berman's letter in the May issue - the one in which he reported his Catalina 36 Perseverance being knocked down outside the Gate, and his depthsounder briefly recording a depth of 5'4".
About 15 years ago, an insurance company asked me to look at the damage to a 33-ft sailboat that had been rolled on her beam ends outside the Golden Gate on a trip back from Drake's Bay. As I understand it, this happened near the #1 and #2 shipping channel buoys - about the same place that Perseverance was hit by three big waves and rolled on her beam ends. The couple with their 33-footer weren't seriously injured, didn't lose their rig, and continued sailing into the Bay after bailing the boat out.
I inspected the 33-footer a few days later, and found cracks through the thin topsides laminate, deep vertical scratches in the port side of the hull, as well as deep scratches in the port side and bottom of the keel. One of the port main cabin windows was also missing. Not merely broken, but missing completely. There also were several handfuls of sand in the bilge.
Chart soundings in the area where the accident took place were reported to have been six to seven fathoms - 36 to 42 feet. The only scenario that seemed to explain the scratches to the hull and sand in the boat was that the trough of the wave stranded the boat on the bottom and laid her over. It sounds as if Mr. Berman's depthsounder readings were correct.
This should serve as a warning for mariners to never take a shortcut across the shoals at the entrance to the Gate. Follow the ship channels at all times. The 'Potato Patch' is named for the deck loads of potatoes that were lost there due to rough water. 'Four Fathom Bank' is quite descriptive of the depth of water there.
Jack Mackinnon, AMS®-SMS
Jack - As a surfer and sailor, we've been carefully watching waves all over the world for more than 40 years. And we've spent many hours standing on the Marin Headlands looking out at huge waves breaking across the Potato Patch. During that time, we can't remember seeing anything remotely close to a series of waves causing the water depth to drop - even for a couple of seconds - from 40 feet to 5 feet. We're not saying it's impossible, just very close to it.
It seems more likely to us that the
damage to the 33-footer was from the wave action alone. Fiberglass
hulls bend in big seas, so it's not that unusual for a port to
be popped out of the house. A few handfuls of sand in the bilge
could easily be the residue from the 150 gallons of turbulent
water that came aboard. As for the vertical scratches in the
side of the hull . . . well, that is a mystery - but less of
one than water depth suddenly going from 40 feet to 5 feet.
I thought you were kind in your reply to the skipper of Perseverance, who wrote in the May issue about being hit by rogue waves while on the San Francisco Bar. When any boat that size with an aft cockpit is anywhere near the Potato Patch at a time of maximum ebb - I think it was 4.8 knots that afternoon - one should expect rogue waves and therefore have the companionway boards in place. Many other skippers did.
I suspect that the exact depths of the San Francisco Bar, and how they change over time, is not of practical interest, as the Potato Patch has been known to be treacherous - especially during ebb tides - for over 100 years. When all that wave energy meets rapid shoaling - from 70 feet to 40 feet - it makes big waves.
Mike - To fully appreciate how serious
the situation can be outside the Gate during a big swell and
an ebb tide - it's most dramatic during the winter when swells
and ebbs are at the most extreme - we recommend that folks visit
the Marin Headlands. From there, you'll get a stadium-like view
of how bad it can get. Bring an extra pair of underwear, because
you might soil your shorts. Whatever you do, don't bring your
wife or girlfriend, or she'll never go out the Gate with you.
Having lived a number of years in a San Francisco neighborhood which affords an easy view across the Golden Gate Strait to Point Bonita, the Potato Patch and the alleged Bonita Channel, I've watched those waters act up, season after season, and I've grown more and more wary of them. It might be hard to find 10 sailors on the Bay who don't know that the Potato Patch is dangerous, but I think most people just don't know how really, really dangerous it is.
Like Latitude, I'd guess that Jeff Berman's Catalina 36 probably didn't go from 40 feet of water to 6 feet or less in mere seconds. On the other hand, if he simultaneously sailed onto the bar and met the advance action of a large wave, he might have. I'll leave that question to the professor-types. Berman's experience of being overwhelmed by large waves some 500 feet north of channel marker #1 speaks for itself.
I watched the Doublehanded Lightship fleet go out that day, and one other race in particular on a different day this year, because I like to watch boats, and because I thought I might at any minute be calling 911 for a patch through to the Coast Guard. I get like that when I see waves breaking between the channel markers and a sailboat.
This isn't science, but over time I have seen:
1) On mild days, breakers on the bar.
2) On those mild days, a breaker or two suddenly appearing where all had been quiet for hours.
3) On high-wind days, breakers rising and sweeping across the 'Bonita Channel'.
4) Boats treading where no tactical advantage was clear, and it wouldn't have been worth it anyway.
I'm not a preacher. Just thought I'd share.
Readers - Kimball has been sailing and writing about sailing in Northern California for something like 30 years. His most recent book is St. Francis Yacht Club, 1927 to 2002. He knows what he's talking about.
IN MY OPINION, THEY MEET ALL THE REQUIREMENTS
I have used a Porta-Bote on sailing vessels for over 10 years, and have been very happy with its ability to row and motor. It does flex a bit in a sea, but it's clearly not a problem. A Porta-Bote is superior to an inflatable for rowing, but inferior to a dinghy designed specifically for rowing. Although I now own a 9-ft model, I prefer the larger sizes for rowing and comfort. I have tried the sailing rig, but do not recommend that option. The Porta-Bote is quite stable in surf, and virtually indestructible on rocks and other hard surfaces. While in Florida, I have seen Porta-Botes that are more than 20 years old still giving good service. In my opinion, they meet all the requirements for cruising - easy to store, functional, and durable.
Terry - As it turns out, a Porta-Bote was small enough, functional enough, and durable enough to become the first boat to play an integral part in the ascent of Mt. Everest. For details, check out the website: www.porta-bote.com.
ANOTHER OPINION ON THE PORTA-BOTE
My ex and I purchased a used 10-ft Porta-Bote in about 1976 as a dinghy for our 23-ft twin-keeled, English Westerly sloop Babe. It was an earlier double-ended model constructed of black polypropylene, so we named it Black Bart. I could tell many stories about having fun with it, such as rafting down one of Northern California's shallow rivers, and riding it for fun in the surf in front of the Santa Cruz boardwalk - but will try to stick to our using it as a dinghy.
Its first years were as a tender on Babe while we explored San Francisco Bay and the Delta. It lived folded up and stowed on the cabin-top. Setting it up required lowering the lifelines on both sides of the cockpit, swinging Bart across the cockpit coamings, spreading the hull apart, and inserting first the center seat and four lock-pins, then the bow and stern seats. Since the boat was double-ended, the only thing that defined the bow was the painter. We would then briskly slide it over the side without shipping much over the stern in the process. Rowing it with up to three was very easy, as it only draws a couple of inches. It rode easily over waves - even whitecaps - and was tough as nails against abrasion while beaching. For that matter, we became unconcerned about dragging it across any size rocks, gravel, and sand, no matter how encrusted or sharp. The polypropylene has never showed any signs of harm.
We had Bart along for a summer of sailing Puget Sound, down the coast of Washington, and up the Columbia River. A couple of years later, we shipped it, along with Babe, to Texas for a 2.5-year cruise around the Gulf Coast, up the East Coast via the Intercoastal Waterway, coastal harbor-hopping to Maine, back down to Florida for the winter, and up the East Coast again for a turn at New York City, and up the New York Barge Canal system. Bruce Bingham spotted Bart, so it's mentioned with a couple of photos in his The Complete Live-Aboard Book. We lived aboard, sometimes at anchor, and commuted in Bart to our jobs ashore. Bart handled it all without fail.
We did learn some shortcomings - such as getting flipped in a squall in the Florida Keys. I had removed the slight flotation - styrofoam glued under the seats - so the seats would fit flat when stowed below, so we just hauled the flooded Bart up by the painter. Towing is best left to fairly protected waters. I tried a very small outboard, clamped to an aft gunwale, but gave it up because of the hassle of having the outboard, the gasoline, the smell and spare parts. It was far more rewarding rowing. Besides, if you're in such a hurry, why are you on a sailboat?
Although I have reservations, I'm currently looking for a Fatty Knees fiberglass sailing dinghy, but I still have Black Bart.
We - Kiwi veterans of the '95 Ha-Ha with our CF 37 Gumboots - may be way down here in New Zealand, but luckily, I have a wonderful brother-in-law who sends us installments of Latitude, three months at a time. It keeps our cruising dreams and friendships alive.
I was interested to see the discussion of the feasibility of Porta-Botes as tenders for cruising boats, as that's what we bought when we joined the Ha-Ha on our way home to New Zealand. We bought ours used in California, where she'd been well-used but also well-loved. We named her Jandal - we Kiwis wear 'gumboots' in the rain and jandals in the sun. For us, the Porta-Bote turned out to be just the thing we were looking for, as we didn't want to have the hassles of the whole motor and fuel thing. As such, our dinghy had to be rowable, and we also wanted minimal windage on the deck. I'd buy another Porta-Bote tomorrow for those reasons - but I must say the picture you had of the sailing version looked way more fun!
We certainly put Jandal through some testing times. As early as La Paz we learned not to tow her when it looked like the wind would get up. If we sailed any faster than 6.5 knots, she'd fill with water and do her drogue imitation. Porta-Botes are unsinkable, you just have to bale them from the outside until there's enough freeboard to get in. It's trickier than it sounds. We drilled holes in ours and rigged up a line so that we could use the halyard to hoist her onto the foredeck before disassembling.
Looking back, the biggest problem was getting her in the water. We had to get her high enough to go over the lifelines, then push her out as the halyard dropped. Wham! After 18 months of doing that, we managed to lose most of the pins holding the seats in place - but that was the only damage she showed. I think you could safely say that the Porta-Botes are indestructible, as ours barely had any scratches after being dragged over many sharp beaches and coral reefs. Porta-Botes are great to row, can carry a lot of weight, and as a special bonus, nobody seems to want to steal them! While in Mexico and Central America, our hard tender was the odd one out among all the inflatables. It wasn't until Panama - when there were boats from a number of different countries - that hard dinghies became more common.
We can't verify if Porta-Botes can plane under power, because we didn't have an outboard. As surfers, we know it would have been an advantage to have had a tender with a motor. Our solution was to use Gumboot to get to surf spots instead. We'd anchor just outside the break and leave someone on board to ring the bell for the outside sets. When it got late, we'd head back to calmer spots for the night. There are safety issues about not having a motor strong enough to take a kedging anchor out into headwinds when needed, but we figured plenty of people do cope without them, and we were lucky enough to do without also.
As for the fate of our Jandal, the last time I saw her was at the top of a huge cresting wave in the middle of the Cook Strait between the North and South Islands of New Zealand. We got caught in nasty weather on the way home, and the high confused seas resulting from a 50-knot norther becoming a 50-knot southerly in the space of five minutes. Somehow the sea just tore our Porta-Bote off the foredeck, and there was no way we had any chance of retrieving her. It's five years later now, and we still have the seat. So if anyone sees Jandal floating around out there, please send her back.
Regarding the letter from Rick Berne in March about the twin-keeled boats, I totally agree with Latitude's response on the advantages and disadvantages of bilge-keelers. In 1980, Bob and his brother Jeff each had smaller versions of the Westerly, which was the 18-ft Alacrity. After trailering them to San Felipe, Baja, they singlehanded them down the Sea of Cortez to the mainland. The two singlehanded the 18-footers to Puerto Escondido, the surf spot south of Acapulco. That's where I joined on with Bob for what turned out to be life.
Besides the fact that she only cost $1,500, Bob had chosen Delfina for her shallow draft. She was indeed great to take exploring up rivers and running up on the beach when we wanted to clean her bottom - or even to just have a potluck on the shore without all the carting of things. We later sailed down to Costa Rica on her, and it's a good thing the trip is generally downwind, because I can clearly remember the odd occasion when we'd be spending hours and hours trying to beat around a point, all the while dreaming of having another boat that could sail faster - and more importantly point higher! She was a wonderful boat though, and we doubled Bob's money when we sold her in Costa Rica. We sure didn't want to sail a boat like that 3,000 miles upwind, but it was sad to leave her behind. By the way, we had a Sport-Yak for a tender then - whatever happened to those tough little ugly things?
Thanks for the fantastic reading. We enjoy Latitude cover to cover each month, and often see mention of old sailing friends who are still out there. We'll be back out again ourselves, we've just got to raise the kids and a few more tons of fruit from our orchard first.
Jennie and Bob Crum
Sailing in races must be different than regular sailing. There's the skipper, who is usually in charge of the safe operation of the boat. Sometimes there's a navigator, who actually doesn't sail, but schemes and plots against the other boats. Then there are the trimmers, and other specialized crew such as the foredeck guy, who only works on the forward part of the boat. Lastly, there is the rail meat, who only provide weight to keep the boat from heeling. Sometimes there are other crew who do even less. Normally during a race there is no talking except about the race. There is no eating, and quite often no drinking - except water - until the races are done.
How could they take a great thing like sailing and completely ruin it like that?
Our point is that one would think that a champion racer would be able to sail his boat in and out of a slip. But the guy we're thinking about can't. In fact, he runs into the boat behind him on a regular basis. When caught in the act - because he bent the pulpit on the downwind boat - he immediately went into denial, then blamed his crew. He eventually blamed the guy who shoved his boat away from the dock, saying he pushed too hard.
The guy we're thinking of can obviously win races, but we don't think he's a real sailor - because sailing in and out of a slip is something that real sailors can do. Since he hasn't figured out how to sail backwards, he's busted.
Our advice to him when backing his boat out of the slip - after he left the motor in the garage instead of on the boat as the rules require - is that he has to wait until the boat is at an angle - by holding onto the shroud from the dock or using a stern line - until the helm is solid at the tiller. Then the boat can be released, and she will sail forward. Before that, she'll drift until she either tacks or falls off. In either case, that would take time, and while that time is passing, the boat is out of control. Furthermore, he needs to know that since he doesn't have a paddle out and ready to go, he's probably going to be hitting other boats - looking like a cheater because he's not carrying a motor as the HDA/YRA rules require.
Some Folks On A Dock
S.F.O.A.D. - We don't care for personal attacks on people, particularly by people who don't have the guts to identify themselves. If you've seen a skipper damage the boat in back of him, the proper course of action is to inform both parties and the harbormaster, not hold the guy up for public ridicule.
No matter if it's art, a car engine, or human nature, you have to understand something to be able to appreciate it. If you knew more about sailboat racing, you'd no doubt have a greater appreciation for the skills involved. Racing may not become your thing, but at least you'd have some idea of what you're talking about. In fact, your obvious lack of knowledge about racing makes us wonder if the skipper you're attacking races in a class that doesn't require there be an engine onboard. It wouldn't be nice if you accused an innocent skipper of cheating.
When it comes to sailing boats out of
slips, there are several techniques depending on the boat and
the wind conditions. In many situations, an experienced skipper
would need to cling to the dock with a limb or line to turn the
I saw seven African-Americans at this year's 2003 Sail Expo, the in-the-water boat show in Oakland. This was significantly fewer blacks than last year. Three of them were sailing friends of mine who attend the show every year. The other four were part of the show's janitorial staff.
When Kevin Murphy, National Show Manager for Sail America, which produces Sail Expo, asked me what can be done to increase attendance on the part of African-Americans, I wondered if he really wanted to know. After all, it has only been a few short years since Latitude suggested that the industry discontinue use of the term 'boat nigger' for people who maintain boats. So with that colorful bit of Americana behind us, what can be done to increase the numbers of African Americans in the sport of sailing?
Thirty years ago, Ben Finley, then president of 4 Seasons West, an African-American snow skier's club based in Los Angeles, and Art Clay, president of 'The Gang', an African-American ski club based in Chicago, met by chance while skiing in Vail, Colorado. Soon after, the National Brotherhood of Skiers was formed. The group now has 14,000 mostly African-American skiers, and is the largest ski club in the country. Did the ski industry take note? Just ask the folks at Vail, Whistler, Sun Valley, and Heavenly Valley. With African-Americans now the fastest growing segment of the skiing market, you can bet those resorts took notice. So I maintain there won't be change in the sailing industry until the sailing industry understands that it's in its best business interest to market their products to the black community.
How does 'sailing happen'? According to my African-American friend Hank, "It begins with a postive first experience." He took me out sailing on one of those warm and gorgeous - albeit rare - San Francisco days. It was a six-hour round trip from Ballena Bay to Angel Island, with our girlfriends, food, wine, and good music. That was in 1970. Thanks to that 'positive first experience', a short time later I bought the 32-ft Traveller ketch Tangaloa. I owned her for 14 years, the last four of them cruising from San Francisco to Florida with my wife Linda.
The Catch-22 of getting more blacks into sailing is that there aren't enough African-American boatowners and sailors to provide sailing opportunities, and without those sailing opportunities, there won't be more African-American sailors in the future. Catch-22.
How to start making changes? It's not rocket science, so here are my suggestions:
1) Decide that there is money to be made marketing sailing to African-Americans - who account for $554 billion dollars of the U.S. GNP. Without that, there is no real chance of success. The motive for doing this must be to make money, not to do what is thought to be 'socially correct'.
2) Stop the hand-wringing and hire a black diversity marketing company to sell sailing in the black community. It really does 'take one to know one'.
3) Practice what you preach. Look at the employee make up of industry boards and staff - and Latitude 38 - and move them toward racial parity. It will be a painful but necessary step.
4) Never say, "But we can't find anyone qualified." That will continue to make you part of the problem, not part of the solution.
Having worked without funding from my apartment's second bedroom, I took 170 African-Americans sailing in the British Virgin Islands last summer. Eighty-five percent of them had never been on a sailboat before. If I can do something like that, what's keeping the industry from doing its part? It's in the industry's best interest.
Paul H. Mixon
Paul - Given the fact that there has been a very small number of African-American boatowners in Northern California, it's surprising that the first 20 or so times we went big boat sailing on San Francisco Bay was with an African-American on his Islander 36. We don't know why, but only rarely did any of his African-American friends come along.
It's true that African-Americans are under-represented in the sailing world - but they're not the only ethnic group. There are large Latino and Asian populations in Northern California, but they don't sail much either. Economics is one big reason, of course, but that wouldn't explain the lack of Asian participation. Somebody should do a study on which ethnic groups are inclined toward sailing and why, and why other ethnic groups aren't. On the good news front, there are currently lots of programs to at least expose non-white youths to sailing.
When we got into sailing in the early
'70s, people who took care of boats were called 'B.N.s'. Despite
the fact that a lot of rich white boys proudly referred to themselves
as "the B.N. on Wild Wonder" or whatever, political
correctness soon put an end to that. But nobody really knew what
to call them. We think it was Chuck Hawley of West Marine - who
had previously been the 'B.N.' on Swiftsure and Charley - who
came up with and promoted B.M.W. for 'boat maintenance worker'.
That was clever, and we used it in Latitude
quite a bit, but it never really caught on. In fact, nothing
I read your April 18 'Lectronic Latitude review on Ferenc Màté's new book, The World's Best Sailboats, Volume II. You wondered why some boats were included and others weren't. Some years ago I spoke with one of the builders whose boats were included in Màté's The World's Best Sailboats, Volume I. This builder - well-known for his candor - chuckled that he got included, first, because, he does build a terrific yacht, but equally important, because he ponied up $10,000 to help with production costs! That might explain why some builders didn't get in!
P.S. We stinkpotters read your rag as well.
With regard to why some boats may not have been included in Ferenc Màté's The World's Best Sailboats, I talked to the manufacturer of Valiant Boats a long time ago, and he told me that the deal with getting included in the book was giving the author $10,000. Valiant told the author to take a hike, and therefore they've not been in either volume. But somehow Beneteau made it, so go figure.
Devan and Jay - We'd never heard about
the $10,000 business, so we put the question to Màté's
publicist. She contacted the author, who responded with the following
In the April 18 edition of 'Lectronic Latitude, you wrote the following review of my new book, The World's Best Sailboats, Volume II:
"Maybe we have a bad attitude, but we weren't as impressed as we hoped we'd be with Ferenc Màté's new book, The World's Best Sailboats, Volume II. Thanks to 535 color photos and 218 illustrations, it's a lovely follow-up to The World's Best Sailboats, Volume I, which sold an astounding 100,000 copies.
"We've got two problems with the book. First, on what basis does Ferenc believe he is qualified to chose the best sailboats in the world? According to the book jacket, he and his family spend their summers cruising aboard a Bruce King-designed cold-molded ketch. Big deal, so do a lot of other people. We have a nasty suspicion that Ferenc has never sailed on many of the boats he has anointed best in the world. Secondly, we've got some problems with his list. How could anyone claim that yards such as Huisman, and Abeking & Rasmussen aren't among the best in the world? Or that no New Zealand yards made the cut? Does Ferenc think that no Italian or South African brands were up to snuff? As a multihull sailor, we find it hard to believe that only PDQ catamarans were deemed worthy.
"We hate to have to say it, but we think the book could more honestly be titled Some Of The World's Nice Sailboats (And Lots Of Brochure-like Photos Of Them And Their Interiors). Which is not to say that many folks won't enjoy it or that it won't look great on salon tables."
Your review raised three very valid questions, which I hope to answer.
One. The likes of Huisman and A&R, obviously two of the very, very best in the world, were left out because - and I should have said so in the introduction as I did in Volume I - that I was covering only production - or at the most, semi-custom - fiberglass sailboats. I am, in fact, in the depths of researching the custom builders for a new volume which will, for obvious reasons, be more technically oriented. With the new volume there will be endless discussion - by both designers and builders - on the merits and demerits of cold-molded wood, aluminum and of course fiber-composites.
Two. As to why I included PDQ as the only multihull builder, the answer is that many of the multihull people I talked to always included them in the quest for simplicity, quality and value. The other builder's boats were simply too large and too charter-oriented for my criteria, which tries to lean - though it obviously often fails - toward family cruising.
Three. What makes me an authority on sailboat design and construction? I can only say that possibly the same thing that makes most critics and reviewers in any field - such as Robert Parker on wine, or in the golden days Pauleen Kael of the New Yorker on cinema - a passion for and dedication to what they write about. As you might have gathered from the other five books on sailboats I have written, I have spent a lifetime finishing out, and then sailing and researching sailboats - most often by personally interviewing builders and designers. My emphasis has always been on simplicity, reliability and quality, with an unavoidable influence of my personal aesthetics. While I clearly have not sailed all of the nearly 100 boats mentioned in this volume - a daysail in most often undemanding winds I have always found a rather superficial exercise - I have certainly sailed a good many, and more importantly, crawled through almost all of them in various phases of construction, which allows me to comment on their often-invisible quality firsthand.
My publicist also tells me that two of your readers wrote to you to claim that some boat manufacturers told them they could have been included in my books by paying $10,000. The 'payment' by the builders was for 3,000 bound, covered, and laminated copies of their chapters, along with boxes of copies of the book and use of the color separations - over $50,000 and counting - for their future promotions. A very minor portion went to offset the $30,000 in travel expenses to all the factories. Of course, I could have included other worthy builders, except some - such as Santa Cruz Yachts - were shifting to power boats. One fine southern builder - certainly of the most solid boats - did not like what I wrote about him, so in the last minute refused use of his photographs, leaving us no choice but exclude his company. Sadly though, a handful of builders are simply being destroyed by this economy with little chance of survival.
Again, many thanks for your comments; and please do send along the names of any builders you feel worthy for the next volume; believe me I can always use a helping hand.
Readers - As we said in our original
review, we think that many sailors will enjoy Màté's
latest book. Nonetheless, we are still bothered by the title.
If someone is going to claim something is the best in the world,
we think it's incumbent upon them to carefully spell out the
criteria for the selections - as well as any limiting conditions,
such as having to pony up a big chunk of cash. After all, it's
important not to confuse editorial with advertorial.
Aside from the overt plug in the May issue for Latitude readers to buy Fuji digital cameras, I felt the rundown of the benefits of purchasing these little marvels to be good. The application of the digital format to cameras has brought about a fundamental change in how people take and share photographs. In fact, I have not picked up my professional grade 35mm SLR since purchasing my Olympus C3000 more than three years ago.
Bigger is better when it comes to pixels because most amateurs have a nasty habit of standing too far away from what they're shooting at. A four- or five-megapixel camera will better allow users to crop into the portion of the image they want, without blowing out the image quality. It's also a benefit to fine publications such as Latitude, as they can better modify submitted photos.
Smaller is better when it comes to the F-stop. Cameras with a low F-stop - i.e. less than 2 - tend to be equipped with glass optics, and therefore take better quality pictures than those with plastic lenses, which tend to have higher F-stops and - to my eye - produce grainy photos.
You're right that the larger the memory card, the better. However, when I purchase my next digital camera - probably another Olympus - it will have Compact Flash, which has far greater capacity than the limited Smart Media cards I now suffer with.
The type of batteries might be nit-picky, but I find it a plus that I can go to nearly any store for a reload of fresh AA batteries, rather than be stuck with the proprietary and expensive lithium batteries which many cameras come with.
Finally, we're boaters, so our cameras risk getting wet. If you feel the risk is high, consider buying a camera that can fit into a waterproof case - one that will let you use all the camera features.
I can't speak for the color comparisons between your Fuji and my Olympus. I will say that the Olympus has never let me down. The attached photos were taken in mid-January en route and upon arrival at Victoria, B.C. The sunset portion was taken freehand in panorama mode, and the three images were stitched together with the Olympus Camedia software, with no adjustments necessary. The evening shot of Victoria and our new-to-us Cape North 43 cutter Concordia was taken with the assistance of the camera's internal timer and mini tripod.
We're off this week to Port Angeles, Washington, where we - spouse and two daughters, ages 2 and 4 - will take Concordia for a six-day cruise of the San Juan Islands. Following that, four crew and I will begin the first three legs of our trip to the boat's new homeport of Marina Bay in Richmond. Hopefully, we'll arrive by July. By the way, our new boat was formerly owned by Dwight and Maxine Isbell, who, last July, finished a 17-year, 56,000-mile circumnavigation.
Craig - Congratulations to Dwight and Maxine on their circumnavigation, and congratulations to you on your new-to-you boat.
To set the record straight, our recommendation of the Fujifilm products was based on our extensive experience of being delighted with them. Nobody has given us any stuff or even major discounts. We tried to make it clear that while there are many excellent digital cameras on the market, there were two things we liked about the Fuji that the other digitals don't have: Fuji color, which we think is best for marine environments because of the blues and greens; and a built-in 35-235 mm lens. The extra focal length means being able to zoom right in on subjects and not need millions of extra pixels to blow them up. Nonetheless, we hope we didn't give anyone the impression they got stuck with some lesser equipment because they purchased an Olympus, Nikon or Canon. As we said before, there are many excellent digital cameras around these days.
Sorry we didn't use your photos, as
the quality wouldn't be so clear in black and white. We'll try
to get them on 'Lectronic Latitude.
In response to the Top Ten Tips For Diesels in the April edition, I would like to add a comment, hoping to perhaps help some sailors in the future.
I have been in the electronic industry for more than 50 years, and have worked on automotive and boat electrical systems. I want to talk about troubleshooting bad starters and solenoids. If you have a starter motor that will not turn over, the best test is with a voltmeter. If you measure 12 volts, the starter is bad. Most likely it will be good, and you'll see no or just a little movement on the voltage scale. (It's best not to use a digital voltmeter, although they will work all right. Be sure you find a good, solid ground connection for the negative meter lead before measuring.)
If the starter is not bad, then you have to work backwards to the starter solenoid and repeat the measurement at the input and output of the solenoid. Some starters have the solenoid mounted on the starter, and have to be opened to test. When you attempt to start the engine, you may hear the solenoid 'click', which might help you locate it. If the solenoid is bad, you can start the engine by jumping the starter with a jumper cable - # 6 or larger - but there will be lots of sparks if you don't do it right.
Thanks to the laws of physics, there is always a logical explanation to those mysterious electrical problems.
I love Latitude, and have not missed more than a few issues in the past eight years. Great!
Cal - Funny you mention starter/solenoid
problems, as they have periodically been plaguing Profligate's starboard engine for the last year
or so. On numerous occasions we've tested the starter and solenoid,
and even replaced both of them. And we've gotten really good
at hopping into the engine room and jumping the solenoid with
a quarter. Yes, there have been some exciting sparks. Nonetheless,
about every 30 start attempts, particularly if the boat hasn't
been used in a couple of weeks, it won't start. After we jump
it with a quarter, or replace the solenoid, it may or may not
work reliably again. We have the same setup on the port engine
- although it's 30 feet closer to the ignition switch - and it's
never failed in over 1,000 attempts. What's the logical explanation
for our problem?
Can I tell you some things? I have a friend who bought a boat that is so big and so expensive that it almost obscures the fact that he is a drunk. Remember, an alcoholic is one who attends meetings. Ever had to pull someone out of the water and back onto his own boat? I have. Ever saved a drunk's life? I have. Ever saved a guy's boat from hitting the rocks because he didn't learn how to sail well enough to turn off the motor, then ran out of fuel, and did a 'dead stick' landing at the fuel dock? I have.
It's stressing to deal with drunks. I wish they all would go to AA and just get control of their overindulgence so that they are safe. I don't care how much money they have.
Unsigned - It makes no difference how
rich or poor a person is, nor whether they have an El Toro or
a 100-footer, alcoholism is a terrible illness. If you're a family
member or best friend of an alcoholic, you need to consult with
experts to get this person - and yourself - some help. If you're
just an acquaintance, you'd probably be better off finding some
While I have occasionally disagreed with Latitude's politics, my hat is off to you for putting together a damn fine magazine. Your content is diverse and well-written. The cover price up here in Oregon - while not free like the wind - is still well worth the money. Your 'Lectronic addition is concise, colorful, and always eagerly anticipated.
This letter was prompted by your comments regarding the content of Multihulls magazine. I never saw the 9.5-page dissertation on assembling the Windrider 17. That's simply because I allowed my subscription of Multihulls magazine to lapse due to my frustration with Charles Chiodi and his lapdog editorial staff.
The first issue of Multihulls that arrived at my door was a disappointment. The 'editorial' written in the Review of Sept/Oct 2001 was an argument for the cover price increase. Every issue for the next year seemed to contain at least two pointless photos of Charles Chiodi, besides his usual photo on the 'editorial' page. I was looking for photos of good designs, good boats, good construction techniques, and good anchorages. All I found were bad snapshots, and lots of them.
The content of Multihulls was a tremendous disappointment. I have looked in vain for other decent multihull-specific mags and have been frustrated - though honestly I haven't given the European or Aussie mags a chance. Perhaps I will someday. I hope that you will consider producing a magazine specifically for those of us interested in multihulls. I think you would do a fine job of it.
P.S. I've still never seen a photo of you. Thanks.
D. - We have warm feelings for Charles
Chiodi, as he's a very nice guy and was a bold entrepreneur back
when he started the magazine. Unfortunately, as multihull sailing
has really come on in the last decade, his magazine doesn't seem
to have kept pace. This frustrated us so much that one day we
called him up and asked him if he'd be willing to sell. He sort
of said "maybe," but that was the last we heard of
it. We honestly don't have the time or energy to do another magazine
- we're often embarrassed at how we have to slap 'Lectronic together
- so we hope Charles can do something like hire a new editor
to breathe life into the publication. We tried to help prime
the pump by providing them with a bunch of action shots of multihulls
in the last Ha-Ha.
Thanks for your response to the April letter from Patrice, who had so much trouble getting to Cabo San Lucas. As I read her letter, I kept thinking it had to be some kind of April Fool's Joke. You had reason to take it seriously.
Hopefully Patrice and others will get the message: boating on open - and closed - waters is serious business and not for people who are ill-prepared. Your advice to Patrice was right on.
Also, thanks for your explanation of why the West Marine stores in Washington charge a buck for Latitude. As an employee of the Bellevue store, I am repeatedly chewed out for charging for a 'free' publication. Our governor also requires that we charge tax. Some people get a lot of complaint mileage out of the $1.09 they must pay for your great publication.
I'm in the process of buying a small catamaran, a PDQ 32. I've looked at several of them in Florida and one in Oakland. I'm thinking of buying either a '96 model in Florida or a '95 model in Oakland.
The Oakland boat may require some heavy maintenance before I would feel comfortable sailing her to Southern California and Ensenada. The Florida boat can be maintained/used in Florida for up to 90 days before incurring Florida sales tax. I can move the Florida boat from Fort Myers to Fort Lauderdale/Port Everglades via the Okeechobee Waterway easily within that 90-day period, and use Dockwise Yacht Transport (the drydock-like ship) to transport the catamaran to Ensenada. Dockwise charges about a third less than the cost of trucking the cat to California - maybe even half the cost if you consider yard charges at both ends and getting the mast down and up.
So, the real point of my email is: How can I buy a boat in California without having to pay sales tax? I need to know because the Oakland boat looks cheaper - except if I have to pay sales tax. On the other hand, it looks like the Florida boat would be more simple and more believable to California tax authorities.
I've read some of what you have written concerning 'offshore deliveries' and not being liable for California sales tax. But when I read it, I wasn't planning on buying a boat, and thus my memory of the technique is somewhat sketchy.
Dick - As long as you do it correctly, you should be able to buy the boat in Florida, or buy the one in Oakland through 'offshore delivery', and not owe sales tax in either case. But if you do the latter, you must do it very carefully.
We don't claim to be experts, but here's how the 'offshore delivery' works in California. Once outside the state's waters, you swap payment for the boat for the title, then you head down to Mexico. As long as you actively cruise - a gray concept - in Mexico, you can return the boat to the U.S. 91 days later and not owe sales tax. This has given rise to the so-called '90-Day Yacht Club' in Ensenada. We're not as clear on another option, but if we understand correctly, you can buy the boat in California, but as long as you actively cruise it outside of the state for 51% of the next six months, you'll again not be liable for sales tax. There are some key details you have to get right or you'll be liable for tax, so you should check with the State Board of Equalization - which is very helpful - or a tax specialist.
As you probably know, the state of California
went on an incredible spending binge during the dotcom insanity,
so now it's $35 billion in the hole. As you can imagine, they
are now searching everywhere for money to get out of that hole.
As a result, legislation has been introduced that would make
it much harder to avoid paying sales tax. For example, anybody
who lives in California who bought a boat would be assumed to
owe tax on it, and things like offshore deliveries would require
six months, not just three, outside of the state.
Natalie and Jim Matlock wrote a very good letter recounting their travails with the California State Board of Equalization. At the end of their piece, they suggest that anyone heading out would be advised to change their Coast Guard hailing port, on Form CG-1258, to a state that does not collect property taxes. The question that immediately comes to mind is, which states meet that criteria? Perhaps during their research and battle with the California people, they learned which states will leave you alone after you depart.
For people leaving on a cruise, changing the hailing port to a state that does not collect property taxes sounds like great advice. There will be enough bureaucratic hassles to deal with going forward without having to deal with old stuff.
I also suggest making the city and state names painted on the boat appear as ambiguous as possible. In other words, do what can be done to make the name appear European, Latin American, or Asian/Pacific - almost anything except American or English. It is a very small security precaution, but the culmination of small events and actions can add up to make the difference at a critical point. Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance.
P.S. I must sign my letter 'anonymous' because we live in increasingly oppressive times.
Anonymous - You're missing a couple of important points. First, it's not the State Board of Equalization that assesses and collects personal property tax, but the individual counties. The state collects sales tax.
It doesn't make any difference if you even have your boat name and hailing port clearly painted on your hull or nothing at all. The counties send out tax bills based on things like marina records, and no marina is going to let you in without all the pertinent information about ownership. Furthermore, not having your boat name painted on the hull could possibly get you in trouble with the Coast Guard or foreign authorities.
Oregon does not assess personal property
tax on boats. But in order to register a boat in Oregon, you
must have a legitimate address there. If you've taken off cruising,
a place where you receive all your mail and an Oregon driver's
license might be enough. You can also get an address in the U.S.
Virgin Islands, another place where they don't collect personal
property tax. If your boat is worth enough money, it might make
financial sense to reflag her in the Cayman Islands, Anguilla,
or the British Virgins. It takes about $1,000 and one hour on
the phone to establish a corporation in the British Virgins to
own your boat. Have you noticed that almost every megayacht -
even if owned by an American - is flagged outside the United
I'm the owner of a mid-30-ft boat that participated in the Vallejo Race. On Sunday, we were involved in an accident with another boat. There was severe damage to our boat, including a hole in the hull. The other boat fled the scene - after yelling, "Oh my god, I'm so sorry, that was our fault."
Here's how it happened: We were on a port tack about 1.5 miles from Mare Island Strait, approaching the breakwater wall to our right. Behind us, on the same tack, was another boat. As we got closer and closer to the wall, we kept waiting for the boat behind us to tack, but they didn't. So both the skipper and I indicated that we were going to tack. The skipper on the other boat acknowledged our plans, and we began our tack. As we started to come around, I looked back at the other boat to see that he was not falling off or even going straight as we expected, but heading up toward us. Then, as if in slow motion, he sailed straight into the port side of our boat. I was speechless from shock.
As I mentioned earlier, the other boat - 24 to 30 feet long - immediately left the scene. Unfortunately, we didn't get her name or sail number. There was obviously damage to his boat also, as there is still green and red on our deck from his bow lights.
Not knowing how to get in touch with the other boatowner, I'm writing to you in desperation.
Readers - We've withheld the names of the parties involved because the owner of the other boat ultimately did contact the owner of the boat that was hit to make arrangements to settle the matter. We still wanted to run the letter, however, to show that such accidents do happen and explain the responsibilities of both parties involved. It's basically like a car accident. If you've been involved in a boat collision, your first responsibility is to make sure that everyone on both boats isn't seriously hurt. If someone is seriously hurt, contact the Coast Guard right away.
Secondly, the operators need to swap information regarding the ownership of their boats and insurance. In the case of relatively minor collisions during a race, it's not unusual for skippers to make sure that everyone is safe on both boats, just to identify themselves quickly - Joe Blow, Ericson 37 Oops - and promise to contact each other as soon as possible. Out of courtesy, it should be no later than noon on the next weekday.
State law requires that in the case of boating accidents where the total damage exceeds $500 - which means just about all accidents - a report must be made to Cal Boating. For a variety of reasons - none of them particularly nefarious - this law is often ignored.
If another boat makes serious contact with your boat and sails away without making sure you and your crew are all right, and without clearly identifying itself, you should jot down all her identifying characteristics, then contact the Coast Guard. It's a hit and run, no matter if it's with a car or a boat.
The first time one of our boats was
hit - causing some minor damage to the hull and mangling the
stern pulpit - we were horrified and outraged. With each subsequent
time - fortunately there haven't been too many - it has been
less of an emotional trauma. After all, just about anything in
fiberglass and other materials can be repaired to as good as
new. Nonetheless, collisions should be avoided at all costs,
because they are dangerous, expensive, and often result in a
tremendous loss of precious sailing time.
Every time I pick up a Southern California sailing rag, some technofile is espousing an opinion about offshore communication systems. I just returned from Operation Iraqi Freedom aboard the USNS Guadalupe, and have a few thoughts on the subject based on my experience - thoughts that don't necessarily coincide with the opinions of self-proclaimed experts.
While there is no substitute for amateur (Ham) radio, SSB, and VHF, there are several ideal ways - finances permitting - for the average Joe Blow to stay well connected with friends and family. For years now, I've been carrying a Motorola T900 email pager. The device costs about $100, while service is $20/month from www.weblinkwireless.com. Before deploying on the 'Persian Excursion', I gave the device to my girlfriend and gave her a crash course on reading and sending messages.
Based on how well that system worked, my Magellan GSC100 (www.mysatmail.com), with charging brick, 12-volt charging cord, and a spare Ni-Cad battery, went into the sea.
Facta, no verba - deeds, not words.
Alan Spears, RET2 USN/MSC
Alan - Thanks for the info. But we're a little confused. According to their website, "WebLink Wireless provides the most extensive, reliable and affordable wireless messaging coverage available in the market today. Our traditional paging network coverage extends from Anchorage, Alaska to Bogota, Colombia and includes the United States, Canada, Mexico, Central America, South America and The Caribbean. Our advanced messaging network is the largest 2-way, terrestrial-based wireless data network of any kind. Today, the advanced messaging network covers the United States, Canada and Mexico." Based on this, we can only assume that your ship in the Middle East had some kind of special connection with WebLink, as they don't normally provide coverage there.
For what it's worth, the Magellan claims
to offer two-way email communication anywhere in the world for
I particularly enjoyed the April issue because of the articles on going through the Panama Canal and on diesel engine maintenance. It occurred to me that I got a lot out of these articles because they were geared for newbies like myself. I would like to see more. Maybe a 'newbie corner'?
Mark - There will be no 'newbie corner'
because for some reason we hate that term. Besides, we don't
have a quota system for types of articles, but rather go with
the flow of what's happening. Nonetheless, there's usually something
for all levels of skill.
I am the proud owner of Pasado Mañana, Newporter 40 hull #18 that was built in 1957. We just completed our second Newport to Ensenada Race, finishing sixth in class. Wanderer, Newporter 40 #18, also entered and finished.
I had two questions I put to the race committee in Ensenada after the race, but was basically told to get lost. First, I wonder what happened to the 'permanent trophy' that had been provided by Stowman Shipbuilders, the East Coast builders of the Newporter 40, to be presented to the fastest Newporter 40 in the Newport to Ensenada Race. Second, why is it that last year the overall winner for fastest corrected time was Samarang, Ernie Minney's schooner that competed in the Ancient Mariner class, but this year the actual fastest corrected time was by a boat in the non-spinnaker cruiser class. I was told that the fastest corrected time category only applied to PHRF classes.
I would like to remind the NOSA race committee that: 1) If you're going to change the rules to benefit the sponsors, try not to do it after the race. 2) Over half of the entries in the Newport to Ensenada Race every year are in the cruiser categories. We support the race, we support the sponsors, and we are the public that buys the goods from your sponsors. And according to my entry form I am now a member of NOSA. Wake up guys, talk to your fellow sailors with respect, and remember where the money really comes from!
Rocky - When you're in a foreign country trying to manage a race with hundreds of entries, things can get very hectic. Now that the race committee has had some time to catch their collective breath, we suggest you give them another opportunity to answer your questions. After all, there could be excellent answers to your questions. For example, if no Newporter 40s had entered the event in 10 years - we don't know if this is true - the committee might have decided that it was in the best interest of the event to award the trophy to a boat in another category.
WIRE ALL THE LIGHTS TO A ROTARY SWITCH
In the last Latitude, you wrote that boats showing tricolor lights can, while motoring, have a steaming light on and be legal. While there are numerous exceptions to the rules, I could not find one that offsets a clear statement in Annex 1 pertaining to powerboats: The sidelights will be at least one meter below the masthead light (steaming light - the Rules define a masthead light as shining 225 degrees forward versus an all-around light) meaning this would not be a legal configuration because the sidelights would be above the steaming light.
An excellent suggestion I picked up from
a builder of electrical panels for work boats is to wire everything
- including the anchor light - to a rotary switch that is intuitively
labeled - under power; under sail; anchored; not under command;
towing, etc. That way you can only have one option on at any
As Latitude's record for 'getting it right' is outstanding, it's kinda fun to catch you getting it wrong. A case in point is your answer to Eric in the May 2003 issue regarding showing a steaming light simultaneously with a masthead tricolor. You wrote, "There's nothing wrong with having a masthead tricolor on at the same time as a steaming light." Ironically, the previous letter addressed having a copy of the COLREGS (Rules of the Road) onboard, and it is COLREGS that show the Latitude response to be incorrect. And, as lights indicate the right-of-way pecking order, the advice could possibly result in dangerous confusion.
First, look to Part C, Rule 20, paragraph (b) (both International and Inland), which states in part, "such lights as cannot be mistaken for the lights specified in these Rules." Then look to C, 25, (b) "a sailing vessel of less than 20 meters (65,) the lights may be combined in one lantern (tricolor) carried near or at the top of the mast..." There is no similar provision for "power-driven vessels." And, since once the engine and transmission are engaged, the sailboat is in fact now a "power driven vessel." So, a tricolor is not appropriate while under power.
Further, when viewed from the port bow, this combination would appear as "red over white" and could be mistaken for a "vessel fishing." From the starboard bow, it would appear as "green over white," a "vessel trawling."
So, there is no time that the steaming light and tricolor should be shown together. Nor should a tricolor be shown with deck level red/green side lights, as from the port bow this would show as "red over red" and could be mistaken for a "vessel not under command."
Thanks for letting me vent on my pet peeve. While sailing in the 2000 Ha-Ha, I believed about half the boats were lit wrong. Now, having recently received my 50-Ton Master's license, I'm quite sure. Otherwise, keep up the good work, I love the rag.
P.S. A portable dinghy-type all-around white light duct-taped to the mast would serve pretty well as backup steaming light.
Mark - As you and Peter pointed out, we were as wrong as wrong could be. Our apologies to everyone. Our excuse? We've been victims of something akin to the 'big lie'. Having seen so many sailors showing their masthead tricolor at the same time as their steaming light, over time we came to assume it was legal.
Now that we're wiser, it necessarily
follows that any boat that motors and has a tricolor light must
also have deck level running lights.
In the May 16 'Lectronic, as part of your coverage of the Challenge Mondial Assistance, you wrote: "In our opinion, the racing of 60-ft trimarans rates about a 9.9. on the excitement scale. Except for a few odd moments, America's Cup racing usually rates about 1.9. How do you [readers] see it?"
I'm with you siding with the multihulls. I will never race on an open 60 tri, but I have been on 25-ft carbon trimarans and 20-ft cats - and those are real sportboats. And yes, I've been on the monohull sport boats, too. I think the IAAC boats are just polished cannon balls. No matter how much money is spent 'polishing' them, productive technology has really passed them by.
I wonder if a production Corsair trimaran, say the C28R, is faster than an IAAC boat. I wish I knew their Portsmouth handicap rating to compare them both. Could Max Ebb ask Lee Helm? It might be fun to benchmark our icons.
Rob - When you wonder if an IACC boat is faster than a carbon Corsair 28, you need to specify what conditions you're talking about. If it was a race around an America's Cup windward-leeward course in lightish air, we think the America's Cup boat would kill the Corsair. If it was reaching in 20 knots of wind, we think the Corsair would be faster.
For an expert's opinion on how a Corsair
would do against an IACC boat on an America's Cup windward-leeward
course, we put the question to Gino Morrelli, who co-designed
PlayStation with Pete Melvin.
Morrelli figures that in a good breeze, the America's Cup boat
would tack in an incredibly tight 70 degrees, while the Corsair,
sailing at maximum VMG, would be tacking in 95 degrees. "I
think the IACC boat would win because it's such a longer boat,
but it might be closer than most people would think. A Formula
40 catamaran, however, would beat an IACC boat around an America's
Cup course. She might not be able to point quite as high, but
she'd still have a better VMG."
Regarding the ability of catamarans to sail to windward, would it be reasonable to identify Hank Easom's beautiful Eight Meter Yucca as a kind of yardstick for a boat's ability to sail to weather? I think most sailors would say 'yes'.
In approximately 1980, I sailed my 25-ft cat in the San Francisco YC's Round the Islands Race - Angel Island, Treasure Island, and Southhampton. The Yukker got to Southhampton light before we did by coasting through a huge hole - something cats do not do. So as we rounded Southhampton to beat up Raccoon Straits to the finish line, Yucca was already in the straits. We drove over the top of her pointing 10 degrees higher and doing double her speed through the water. We beat her to the finish line by several hundred yards, having given her a head start of at least a quarter mile.
That Latitude's cat - or the other catamarans mentioned - doesn't point is not proof of failure by the type, but just a recognition of the limitations of your own boat. Cats go to weather higher and faster than anything I have ever sailed on, or sailed against.
Charles - Perhaps we should have made
it more clear that we were referring to cruising cats, even performance
cruising cats. Your Class C cat was a specialized beast.
Is it possible to publish the log of the Profligate on the web? My interest does not extend to guest lists or other personal information, as I'd just like to see what elements there are to a good log. In addition, I'd enjoy seeing where Profligate has been, her daily distances, interesting destinations, weather conditions, and so forth. A fancier version would link to photos.
Kevin - If you'd like to see the elements of a good log, you don't want to see Profligate's because - and this is embarrassing - we don't keep one. When it comes to sailing, we're live-in-the-moment hedonists. We like to turn the wheel, watch the telltales, tweak the sheets, and feel the boat slide down a wave. The last thing we want to do is record things such as: "Wind 13 knots from northwest, swell three feet, broken clouds, steering 210°, speed 9.3, ship passed two miles to the east, somebody farted." We sail seat-of-the-pants, using a couple of GPS units, radar, a depthsounder and paper charts to tell us where we are right then. We suppose there are situations where it would be nice to know what the wind had been like three hours before - but we can't think of any.
As for using a log to be able to remember a particular sail or cruise, we take a zillion digital photos, which we can call up almost instantly, that do a much better job. You know the old adage, 'one picture is worth a thousand log entries'. Not keeping a log is probably sacrilegious to Old School mariners, but the only time we do it is when we're making longer passages with unfamiliar crew, and only then to make sure they keep on their toes. Sorry to disappoint you about the log, but there are some photos of the catamaran up at www.profligate.com.
As for where Profligate has been, we've refined a somewhat regular West Coast schedule over the last 5.5 years that we think is pretty cool. Here's the boat's basic itinerary, which for clarity's sake we start in early October: Depart Sausalito for Catalina - great time of year down there - San Diego, and the start of the Ha-Ha. Love that Ha-Ha! November: Finish the Ha-Ha - those last two legs are really great - and perhaps sneak in a quick trip up into the Sea of Cortez. December: Surfing/Sailing Week at Punta de Mita, with side trips to Yelapa and up to Rincon de Guayabitos. Is there a more consistent or pleasant spinnaker run than from Punta de Mita to Paradise Marina? January: Zihua Fest in Zihua. Good times in a terrific place with fine people for a great cause. February: Cruise up and along the Gold Coast, finishing at Banderas Bay. Two of our favorite stops are Manzanilla - not Manzanillo, although that's fine also - and the Bel Aire Hotel at Careyes. March: Spinnaker Cup For Charity, Banderas Bay Regatta, and more surfing/sailing and messing around Banderas Bay. This is always a terrific opportunity to reunite with friends made on the Ha-Ha and in the rest of Mexico, within an ultra-mellow racing environment. Don't miss it! April: San Diego, Newport Beach, Catalina - love that island in the spring! - and sometimes the Ensenada Race. May: Catalina at the beginning of the month, Sausalito at the end of the month, with lots of Bay sailing after work. The usual after-work sail is Sausalito, Golden Gate, Cityfront, Alcatraz, Cityfront again, Angel Island, Raccoon Strait, and back to berth in Sausalito. It's what keeps us semi-sane. June: Doublehanded In Bay Race, Catnip Cup to Vallejo, Midnight Moonlight Marathon, and lots more Bay sailing after work. July: Silver Eagle Long Distance Race, 4th of July cruise up the Napa River, and more Bay sailing after work. August: Santa Barbara to King Harbor Race, which you don't want to miss, Catalina several times, Long Beach and Newport Beach. We've had some wonderful spinnaker runs from Catalina to Newport - although the wind always pisses out the last five miles or so. If all works out according to plan, we're hoping to spend quite a bit of this August at Santa Cruz Island. September: Back at Sausalito for the great fall sailing, after which it's Ha-Ha time again. It's all the time on the boat in all the different places, constantly meeting new people and updating old contacts, that helps us stay in touch with what's going on in the world of sailing. And yes, we do know how lucky we are that our vocation and avocation are one and the same.
TREASURE ISLAND SAILOR'S BALL
I would like to thank everyone who attended our first annual Sailor's Ball, as your generous support will help us to expand the valuable community sailing programs we offer at the Treasure Island Sailing Center. Two hundred and eighty-five people from The City and sailing community attended the first annual fund-raising gala. Sailing dignitaries such as Paul Cayard, John Kostecki, Morgan Larson and Dawn Riley, showed their strong support of the project during the event. A certificate of appreciation from Mayor Willie Brown was presented to TISC in recognition of the hundreds of kids who have learned to sail at the center, and for the long-term commitment TISC has to improve the quality of life in San Francisco through community sailing.
Over $14,000 was raised for the Treasure Island Sailing Center Foundation. The proceeds will fund scholarships and boat purchases for the summer youth and adaptive sailing programs that we expect to have over 400 participants in this year, the most ever.
Carisa Harris Adamson
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