A DEPTHSOUNDER DOESN'T MEASURE DEPTH
The brief depthsounder reading of 5'4" over the Potato Patch shoal outside the Golden Gate - recently reported by one of your readers - obviously was not the depth beneath the hull of his boat in water that is normally about 40 feet deep. Often when a big wave knocks a sailboat far over on her side, the depthsounder comes out of the water briefly. In that case, the sound reflection is not from the acoustical boundary between the water and sea bottom, but the boundary between air and water. The depthsounder is typically not centered on the boat bottom, but lies to one side of the keel, making one side of the boat more prone to these air readings.
A sounder does not measure depth, but the time it takes the sound wave to reach the reflector and return. Since the speed of sound in sea water is 4.6 times the speed of sound in air, a reading of 5'4" would convert to a distance of 1'2" that the sounder was out of the water.
But, that incident certainly illustrates the hazard of coastal sailing over a shallow bottom where big waves can occur. Here in the 'Roaring Forties' of Oregon - where the fastest rise in wave height in the world was recorded 300 miles offshore, a rise from 5 feet to 36 feet in one hour - we survivors avoid shoals of 40 feet whenever the average height of the swells tops six or seven feet. One sneaker wave breaking over the boat's beam can spoil your whole day - if not your whole boat.
A local crab boat was apparently broadsided this way not long ago, pitching the four man crew into frigid water where they perished for lack of flotation devices. The unscathed boat drifted onto the beach. Ironically, as I write this, a news report came in that a charter fishing boat capsized in 10 to 15-foot swells just inside the bar at Tillamook. Nine people died in 58 degree water and one is missing. Possibly a similar case.
I think it was Cruising World magazine that reported that a boat sailing in relatively calm seas more than 1,000 miles from land was knocked over and dismasted by a big breaker that came out of nowhere. It turned out the boat unknowingly had sailed over a shallow seamount.
But depth devices can give some erroneously shallow readings for brief times in other cases. Off the coast of Oregon, the reflector is frequently a big salmon. Once when we lost sight of a grey whale that was feeding near us, our depth reading jumped from 45 feet to 16 feet and held for a while. That was too close for comfort. Another day a whale surfaced right under our bow at the entrance to our jetty, but luckily it dived barely in time because we couldn't stop. Our damned depthsounder didn't even pick him up.
I hope to sail someday in your beautiful Bay. Maybe one of your readers could take me out to watch the America's Cup Class Finals October 11-18? I would be glad to reciprocate with an invitation to sail with me - safely, no less - along our scenic coastline.
Bill - Your explanation for that depth
reading outside the Gate is by far the best we've heard to date.
We'd take you out on Profligate
to watch the IACC races, but the boat will probably already be
in San Diego for the start of the Ha-Ha.
The goosebumps hit me last night as I read last month's article on the Cal 40 design. It didn't seem as though our "great run" with the Cal 40 Montgomery Street to take overall TransPac honors happened 18 years ago. The memories of that race and the feelings we all had on the last morning's roll call as we charged down the Molokai Channel flooded back fresh and alive.
The photograph of our finish that you used to illustrate the Cal 40 article was from a vantage point we never saw, of course, but it captured the youthful spirits and comradeship of a great group of guys who had faith and respect for each other, and who put it all together on that great old war horse for one hell of a ride. How might I acquire a copy of that photograph?
Jim - That photo is one of the hundreds of thousands we have in our archives. Email Annie to find out how to acquire a copy.
DO IT BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE
I've been doing a lot of running around lately trying to get the equipment necessary to sail my new boat, a Kismet 31 trimaran, from Canada down to San Francisco, and then hopefully in the Ha-Ha in late October. In the process, I've also been stopping to look at boat gear that people have advertised in Latitude.
The first stop was to see a woman who had advertised a small portable generator that came from some boat once owned by Bruce Schwab. I bought the generator even though it sputtered. The woman said the sputtering was probably due to old gas that had been in it since they'd used it while cruising in Honduras years before. In any event, I was glad to hear that she'd done her cruise.
My second stop was to visit a gentleman who had advertised a lot of cruising gear. I was particularly interested in his practically new Avon inflatable and an outboard - both of which I ended up buying. I also bought some of his safety gear and other odds and ends.
In the course of buying his stuff, I asked why he was selling everything. He explained that he and his wife had spent six years preparing for their cruise, preparing the boat, acquiring the necessary gear, laminating charts, sealing dresses in baggies to give away . . . the whole works. Then, a month before their planned departure, she was diagnosed with cancer and they had to cancel their trip. He spent the next five years taking care of her. He said he had no regrets, as she would have done the same for him. His last remark was, "We started too late." He didn't say it out of self-pity or for sympathy, he was just stating a fact.
The process of preparing a boat for a voyage is a journey in itself that is rich and rewarding with human experiences. And there's also the joy of getting something to work, and the frustrations of not being so successful. I have been a part of the lives and energies of people who have made the trip, and of those who have merely spent years preparing for such a trip. I'm finding it a privilege, in a way, to be able to 'recycle' the generator, dinghy, outboard, and drogue into the next round of cruising. But the gentleman's sentiments have stuck with me. Do what you love before it is indeed, too late.
Stuart - In our capacity as the Grand Poobah of the Baja Ha-Ha, we've noticed a clear pattern. Every year one or two boats that have signed up for the event in early summer aren't able to make the late October start because a skipper or first mate becomes aware of a significant health problem. Most of them aren't fatal, but they give us a vivid reminder each fall that none of us has an unlimited amount of time to enjoy life on this planet. Procrastinating about one's major goals in life is not a virtue.
CLARIFICATIONS ON THE TREASURE ISLAND YC
The Treasure Island YC wants to clear up the misstatements made in a June Latitude letter to the editor by Fred Winneke - who is not a member of our club and who is not knowledgeable about our operation. Our club works with the Treasure Isle Marina, Treasure Island Sailing Center, and the City of San Francisco to develop boating on Treasure Island. But these are separate organizations and agencies.
Treasure Island YC does not offer use of any marina facilities as a member benefit. The only ones who have marina privileges are berthers at Treasure Isle Marina. And the Treasure Island YC certainly does not offer parking - as claimed by Winneke.
The Treasure Island YC does have a clubhouse, which is located at 66 Clipper Cove Way. We share in a variety of boating-related social activities that encourage the exchange of ideas - perhaps over a beer at our Lighthouse Bar - and foster the development of common water-based interests - perhaps during a race or cruise. We do provide reciprocal privileges with other organizations devoted to sailing and boating, and do welcome cruise-in visitors. Our club also gathers and disseminates boating safety information to our members.
Treasure Island YC has a great bunch of members who enjoy having fun together both on and off their boats. We welcome new members who are of like mind and interest. Our membership is no longer restricted to military personnel. In fact, we've been open to all qualified applicants for a few years. Please contact us at via email, visit our website www.tiyc.org, or call (415) 434-4475 if you want information on our offerings or are interested in membership.
Sandra Aberer, Vice Commodore
I have a question for Latitude regarding the issue of the rules for anchoring in Clipper Cove. In a response to Fred Winneke's inquiry about the rules, you responded by saying, "The pending turnover of the area from the Navy to the City of San Francisco has left somewhat of an authority vacuum, allowing people to pretty much do what they want . . ." If you know, or think you know that there is an authority vacuum, why would you advertise it and practically invite derelicts to drop an anchor in Clipper Cove? Doesn't that just muddy the waters even more? Ha! Pun intended.
Andy - We've always thought our job
was to report the truth, not massage it.
Your note in the June 6 'Lectronic Latitude stating that it's illegal to anchor in Clipper Cove was timely, as I had just researched the restricted area and read the same Code of Federal Regulations that you quoted. After all, there is that pesky warning on the chart. I thought the prohibition was outdated since it has been universally ignored, but wanted to give correct information to the classes I take in there. But the CFR is current.
What I don't know, however, is whether the Commanding Officer, Naval Station, Treasure Island, had given some kind of general authorization for vessels to enter or use the cove. Did the BRAC rep you spoke to indicate any such kind of authorization?
Note that the CFR restriction does not apply just to anchoring, but provides that "no vessel . . . shall enter the restricted area." This means you can't even go in the cove. Absent an authorization, this would also apply to all the small boats that race out of the Treasure Island Sailing Center, and the boats that go into the Treasure Island YC. I guess we are all in violation together.
Gordon - It's a mess over at Clipper Cove, but fortunately it's a relatively benign one so far. What we wrote at the beginning of this controversy - that there's a power and enforcement vacuum in the cove - continues to be the most accurate description.
According to the CFRs, nobody can legally anchor in Clipper Cove. Furthermore, nobody can legally sail in the cove - not even the students in the dinghies that are part of the various sailing programs at the Treasure Island Sailing Center. However, a woman from BRAC says the way she reads the CFRs, boats making passage between outside the cove to the Treasure Island Marina docks can do so legally. So according to that interpretation, transiting between the Bay and the marina is all right, but sailing and anchoring in the cove are not.
As for the business of the commanding officer at Naval Station Treasure Island being able to authorize use of the cove for sailing and anchoring, there hasn't been a commanding officer on Treasure Island for a long time. The Navy officer in charge of Treasure Island is actually located in Daly City, and he's also in charge of all the West Coast properties the Navy is giving up. We're told a press release about the situation will be forthcoming from his office - but it's not clear when. In the interim, underlings are not permitted to make policy statements to the press.
The City of San Francisco currently has no authority over the cove, as the property is still owned by the Navy. The Coast Guard may or may not be interested in enforcing the restricted zone that is the cove for the Navy, but right now they seem to think that the bigger priority is to stop Osama bin Laden from driving a bomb-laden jet ski into the Bay Bridge.
What to make of it all? While it's illegal to sail or anchor in Clipper Cove, everybody's been doing it for a long time, and we expect they'll continue to do it for at least the near future. The worst we think might happen to violators is that they'll be instructed to leave. In the case of someone leaving their boat derelict on the hook for a long time, it might be impounded and big bills incurred. All in all, the government has been handling the situation very poorly by allowing such an authority and enforcement vacuum to exist.
I'm new to the San Francisco area, am an active sailor, and would like to become more involved in the sailing scene here. The problem seems to be that, although I enjoy racing, it is not my main interest, and my Pacific Seacraft 25 is not much of a racehorse. My real interest is travelling and exploring on sailboats. I have been looking for a club in the Bay Area more oriented towards cruising and adventure sailing, but have not had much success. Do you have any suggestions or recommendations?
Kurt - On the assumption that your boat is berthed in Marin, we suggest you surf the internet to check out all the websites for yacht clubs in the county. These will give you a general idea about each club's facilities and activities. After you've found several that seem interesting, call them up for more details and to schedule a visit. They will all welcome your interest. Yacht clubs in Marin County - as everywhere in Northern California - have tremendous variety. Some have very inexpensive memberships, while others are quite dear. Many have weekday evening 'beer can races' that would be perfect for your 25-footer, and have longer local cruising programs for the weekends. Join one of these clubs and you'll quickly discover how much exploring there is to be done by boat in Northern California.
GOOD EXPERIENCES MOVING BOATS ON TRUCKS
I read Mike Moore's May issue comments about having boats moved by truck with a bit of astonishment. In contrast to his experience, I've had nothing but good luck having boats trucked to and from California.
In 2000, I found our current sailboat, a Mason 43, while at a business meeting in Florida. My wife found out - I want to know who the heck gave up the secret about 'going to business meetings' - and subsequently did the sea trial and purchase. And no, you can't have her either. One small challenge remained: getting the sailboat from Florida to Alameda.
Our long time friend and broker, Al Linhares of Bay Yachts, helped us secure the transportation with Marine Express, a now defunct yacht trucking service out of Bellingham, Washington. We had an excellent experience, as they came in under time and bid, and without any damage to our boat.
In 2002, I was offered an opportunity that I couldn't refuse, so we moved east to New York City. Al again came to our assistance, and with the help of Svendsen's, we located another trucking firm, J. Daniel Marine Trucking, to move the boat from Alameda to Lake Champlain in the Adirondacks. Even though we changed destinations from the Bahamas to Plattsburg a week before the move, Dan and Nancy Gooding were able to accommodate us, and the service was exceptional. They gave us regular updates with jpeg photos while en route, and even tolerated the scrutiny of my father's inspection upon the boat's arrival.
Given the choice between putting our second home on a ship for the three-month transit aboard a semi-submersible transport ship, having someone deliver the boat on her own bottom for six months, or having the boat trucked, our experience says the answer is a no-brainer. Yes, one needs to be patient and allow for changes in weather, DOT rerouting, and low bridge detours when having a boat delivered by truck, but the process can be safe, reliable, and relatively inexpensive.
We've been continuing the upgrades we started on our boat in Alameda, and are now the pride of the 'Sixth Great Lake'. We're entered in the 2003 Mayor's Cup - cruiser's division only - and look forward to flaunting our San Francisco hailing port to all who will see her this summer. We'll make sure to leave a few of our old Latitude 38s around the marina in hopes of getting you a few more long distance subscribers.
Allan Bombard & Paula Vance
Allan and Paula - Thanks for the great information - and for spreading Latitude around.
It seems to us that different modes of moving boats might be preferred depending on the circumstances. The key is that no matter how it's done, it be done well.
SHIPS IN RACCOON STRAITS
Regarding recent letters reporting people having seen ships between The Brothers and the Richmond shore, and between Mile Rock and the San Francisco shore, how about freighters going through Raccoon Straits? I saw that years ago from Ayala Cove where we were berthed in one of the slips. The ship caused such a wake that all the boats in the cove swayed wildly, including ours and the one across the finger from it. A relative pointed out the huge ship, and after it passed we watched in disbelief as our mast tangled briefly with the boat next to ours. The brief tangle bent our masthead fly 90 degrees.
The incident taught me that a dock separating secured boats may not be enough to keep their rigs from hitting each other. Fortunately, I've only seen that happen once, but we now always make sure that our mast is not aligned with adjoining boats at a dock - specifically at Ayala. Is Raccoon Straits considered acceptable for, or frequently used by, cargo ships?
Dale - We put your question to Bob Hastings, a Watch Supervisor at Vessel Traffic Service on Yerba Buena. Hastings told us that more than 20 years ago - when most ships were significantly smaller - they would occasionally let one pass through Raccoon Straits. But cargo ships of over 300 gross tons have been restricted for a long time. The exceptions are Coast Guard Cutters, Navy ships for the blessing of the fleet off the Corinthian YC, the Jeremiah O'Brien, and a rare tug with a tow heading to Tiburon. But you won't be seeing the Exxon Valdez - or whatever she's been renamed - slipping between Old Town Tiburon and Angel Island these days.
As for ships between Mile Rock and the San Francisco shore, Hastings laughed and said that would only have happened if the skipper had been lost. "Not even the fishing boats go between Mile Rock and the shore," he said.
CATS CAN SAIL UPWIND
Perhaps we should ask New Zealand's Michael Fay - owner of the NZ1, the 135-ft monohull that was defeated by Dennis Conner's 60-ft catamaran Stars & Stripes in the 1988 America's Cup - if catamarans can sail upwind. Likewise, the Morrelli & Melvin-designed PlayStation goes upwind. My point is that if a cat is designed to go upwind, there's no reason why she shouldn't.
Let's have some fun with this. Perhaps you could find time to accept David Renouf's invitation to sail the Cienzi 45 cat upwind and offer your report. Maybe there is at least one cat that sails upwind.
Bill - We think you're missing the point on two counts. First, neither Conner's Stars & Stripes nor Fossett's PlayStation are cruising cats. They are both as extreme racing catamarans as one could imagine. Second, if a boat can tack in 179 degrees, it technically 'can sail upwind.' Big deal. The discussion we've been having is whether any performance cruising catamaran can point as high as a similar length performance cruising monohull - which should tack in 85 to 90 degrees, depending on the wind-speed. We've heard a lot of cruising catamaran sailors claim their boats can effectively sail that high, but they've never been able to come close to proving it on the water.
We're all for having fun with the relative pointing ability of performance cruising cats versus that of performance cruising monohulls. In fact, as of right now, we're throwing down The Latitude Performance Cruising Catamaran Challenge. If anyone with a legitimate cruising cat thinks their boat can effectively point as high as a well-sailed and well-equipped J/Boat of a similar length, all they have to do is set up a time and place to prove it, and we will show up for verification. What a great opportunity for free publicity. The catch is that if the person's cat can't scratch as well as he thinks, he/she has to pick up double our travel expenses. It's fair enough to ask people to put their money where their mouth is, don't you think?
CATAMARANS ARE BEING STEREOTYPED
While it's true that most catamarans struggle to go to windward in light air, this does not have to be the case. Making a boat sail upwind well requires attention to some basic design principles - such as maintaining an easily driven hull (reducing drag), preventing excessive leeway (you need effective underwater fins), and providing enough horsepower from the sails to get the boat moving (carry enough sail area, minimize headstay sag, and use proper sail trim). Get the basic physics right, and quite good, all-round performance will result.
This is not exactly new information, as anyone designing boats knows this. The problem with catamarans is that for the last 15 years or so the large majority of the cats built have been constructed to meet the requirements of the charter industry. Designing a cat to rent to 12 people to float around the British Virgins for a week has its own requirements - and windward performance typically isn't one of them. Consequently, it seems the whole catamaran universe is being stereotyped with poor sailing performance - especially to windward and especially in light air.
A couple months ago, I was getting some sailing time on Synergy, a new Atlantic 55 catamaran - which I designed - in the British Virgins. This boat had just sailed up from Cape Town, South Africa, with owner and crew, and was waiting out the New England winter in Tortola before continuing north. The wind was light and we had been sailing around the British Virgins demonstrating the boat to some interested people. While there were many cats sailing within view, they were all of the 'charter barge' type, and provided no useful basis for comparison. We sailed past them going anywhere from three to five knots faster.
Later, while reaching northward across Drake Channel on our way back to the harbor, we noticed a fair-sized monohull going east. As we got closer, we saw that it was a smart-looking, dark-hulled J/160, 52 feet in length, with well-trimmed laminate sails, going upwind in about 10 or 11 knots of wind. Dave Penfield, the owner of Synergy, was eager to show me what his new cat could do. So he crossed the J/160's stern about 75 yards back, and came up hard on the wind. We cranked the sheets in tight, tensioned the runner to reduce luff sag, and pulled the boards down all the way. Within a few minutes we were charging through the lee of the J/Boat, barely noticing her disturbed air. When we were a boat length ahead of the monohull, Dave said, "Now watch this!" He cranked Synergy up another 10 degrees to windward, and we climbed right across the J/Boat's bow - still going faster! The point having been made, it was time to go back to the harbor.
The light-air, upwind performance of the Atlantic cruising cat was very gratifying to me, and an indication of what's possible. A catamaran designed from the start for ocean cruising is a different sort of animal from the catamaran 'charter barge'. The cruising boat gets sailed shorthanded, and so must be set up to do that safely. Also, it should have excellent performance both upwind and downwind in order to comfortably go the distances that cruising sailors sail. It is not as difficult to accomplish this as some would think, just a matter of sensible design and careful construction.
P.S. I also take some exception to the thought that a multihull can't or shouldn't be sailed to weather in gale conditions. But that is a discussion for another time.
Chris - Not to quibble over terms, but we don't think of 11 knots of true wind on the nose as being "light air". According to the Beaufort Scale, 1-3 knots is "light air," 4-6 is "light breeze," 7-10 is a "gentle breeze," and 11-16 is a "moderate breeze." In a "light breeze," most performance cruising monohulls - such as a J/160 - would be sailing upwind at a decent pace. But in 5 knots of wind, we've yet to see a performance cruising cat that wasn't a dog compared to the monohulls. That all cats are relatively poor performers upwind in light air is not false stereotyping, it's the truth. At least from everything we've seen, and in the minds of most multihull experts.
And we're clearly not anti-Chris White or anti-catamarans. In fact, one of the reasons we sold our monohull seven years ago and had a 63-ft, custom catamaran built was because of reading your book, The Cruising Multihull. Your statement that doubling the size of a cat increases her stability 16 times made a big impression on us - and was a major factor in our deciding to build such a large boat. Although we think you owe it to yourself to completely update the book, we took your performance recommendations - which are timeless - to heart. As such, our cat has narrow hulls - nearly a third narrower than production-built equivalents. She has daggerboards as opposed to fixed keels. And she's light and spartan enough that she floats about seven inches above her design waterline.
Because of those performance characteristics, she'll move. A couple of weeks ago a friend of ours was driving her at 18 to 19 knots carrying a 75% jib and a full main in about 22 knots true. But that was on a reach in a good breeze - conditions in which all cats should excel. A week after that we did a race in the Bay with a long windward leg in light air - conditions in which cats are notoriously poor performers. Every decently sailed performance cruising monohull outpointed us significantly. We were able to beat some of them to the weather mark because we had a greater VMG, but when it came to pointing, we wanted to cover our faces.
Admittedly, we're not the best sailors in the world, and some things about our cat compromise her windward ability: she wasn't built of carbon fiber, nor were her mast and appendages; her house is rather large and less than perfectly aerodynamic; she has a very small jib; and she doesn't have a wing mast. Nonetheless, we have raced her extensively against other custom performance cruising cats - some of which were built mostly of carbon fiber - but none of which pointed noticeably higher in 10 knots of wind. We also informally raced her against an Atlantic 44 on San Francisco Bay, and were able to sail through her lee and over the top of her - not that we'd read much into that. The bottom line is that we've yet to see a performance cruising cat that could tack in better than 100 degrees in 10 knots of wind with the accompanying light chop.
You say that your Atlantic 55 cat can do better than that. Our good friends Gino Morrelli and Pete Melvin say their all-carbon Gunboat 62 cats can do better also. As much as we want to believe you guys - and perhaps in part because of all the multihull performance b.s. that's been served up over the years - we remain skeptical. But The Latitude Performance Cruising Catamaran Challenge would be a great way to settle the issue. Since one of your Atlantic 55s is going to be in the Northeast this summer, and one of Peter Johnstone's Gunboat 62s will be up there also, let's round up a J/160, do some sailing, and get a definitive answer. What do you say, Chris? What do you say, Peter?
The Beaufort Scale also defines a gale as 34 to 40 knots of wind. While we agree that it might be possible to sail a cat upwind in those conditions, we think it would be the height of irresponsibility - unless it were necessary for survival. As you well know, the problem with sailing cats upwind in 25 knots and associated seas is they go so fast - even when reefed - that they frequently launch themselves off the top of the waves and land with a terrible crash. As hard as this is on the boat, the rig, and the sails - at times the apparent wind would be close to 50 knots - it would be most brutal on the crew. As you probably recall, when Grant Dalton had to sail the maxi cat Club Med upwind en route to his around-the-world victory in The Race, he complained long and bitterly about how inferior cats were to monohulls upwind in rough conditions. And a year later, when Bruno Peyron sailed the maxi cat Orange to a new Jules Verne around-the-world record, he gladly would sail 100 or more miles a day to be reaching rather than beating. 'Anything but beating' might as well have been his mantra all the way up the Atlantic.
What would we do in gale conditions? If possible - and this would be true for a monohull, too - take shelter immediately. If that wasn't possible, depending on the sea state, we'd strike all sail and either motor on the equivalent of a close reach or head downwind with the structure of the boat being the only 'sail'.
Even with their shortcomings, well-designed cats are terrific. There is no need to oversell them.
WHAT KIND OF SEXTANT?
I'd like to learn celestial navigation, and have acquired a couple of books to get me going. I'm now at the point where I need to get a sextant. Does anyone have a recommendation on a brand or model? I saw the Davis Mark 15 at over $100 in boatus.com. Are these plastic models the way to go? My price limit is about $150. I don't want to buy anything too expensive, but I want something that will last.
Martin - The Davis 15 is a perfectly fine sextant to learn on, and it's guided many mariners across oceans. Unless you put it inside an oven and bake it at 450° for 45 minutes, it should provide many years of service. Given your budget, the only new sextant you could afford would be a plastic one. Another option would be to try to find a used brass and aluminum sextant at a marine flea market or on Ebay. While they all originally cost more than $150, there are so many unused ones sitting around gathering dust - thanks to the advent of electronic navigation - that you might be able to 'steal' one. As of June 13, Ebay had over 200 sextants listed for sale. But be careful, many of them are decorative rather than functional.
It you want to know everything about sextants, call Scanmar Marine in Richmond and ask for Hans Bernwall. Even though Scanmar makes self-steering devices, owner Bernwall used a sextant to navigate the schooner he co-owned during a circumnavigation some 30 years ago, and has subsequently become a collector. We're confident he'd be happy to spend a few minutes giving you some advice.
NANCY AND JIMMY'S 55TH BIRTHDAY - OF SAILING!
Nancy Robinson (Farnum) and Jimmy Warfield began sailing together as kids over 55 years ago on Lake Merritt. Much water, as the expression goes, has passed beneath the bridge since that time, but both of these highly skilled and competitive sailors are still out there making waves in the sailing world. Both Nancy and Jimmy now reside in the Stockton area, and are both very active in the Stockton Sailing Club.
Friends, former and current competitors, as well as other interested persons are all welcome to celebrate their 55 years of sailing at the Stockton Sailing Club Retreat on July 27 from 1 p.m. until who knows when. There will be food, drink and all sorts of wild tales about sailing in the Bay Area and beyond over the last half century. If you have a reason to roast or toast either of these sailors, you should be there.
If you are trying to recall if either of these two have sailed through your life, check out the following: Nancy started sailing El Toros in 1948 after her big brother Herb refused to drag her along to his motorboat races. After several less-than- glorious starts - she capsized off Alameda's South Shore as well as on Lake Merritt - Nancy finally began to get the hang of it and later went on to win the El Toro National Championship in 1973. She sailed El Toros for two years, Zephyrs for six years, then she and husband Al sailed Snipes - before she went back to El Toros for 16 years. Since then, Al and Nancy raced and primarily cruised a Bay Lady, Santana 22, Ranger 29, and now the Islander 36 Silver Shadow. As a teenager, Nancy went to the Adams Cup (the Women's National Championship) twice, representing the Pacific Coast. She had a local and mail order boat graphics business, SeaScript, and a boat name company, Quest 7, for 13 years. She's also worked for Waypoint in Alameda. Although now retired, she sails the Islander 36 on San Francisco Bay, and a Columbia Challenger and El Toro at the Stockton Sailing Club.
As for Jimmy, at 11 years of age in 1948 he began sailing the El Toro Phhfftt at the Encinal YC. He became very skilled and went on to sail Snipe 505s at a world class level, Santana 22s at a championship level, Columbia 5.5s, and now sails his Etchells Final Final in club championships. He has always sailed his El Toro, and picked up several national championships along the way.
In 1956, Nancy and Jimmy were the lightest team competing in the Olympic Trials for Snipes off of the Berkeley Pier. Nonetheless, they won the bronze and were alternates for the Olympics. Both have won the prestigious Bull Ship El Toro race from Sausalito to San Francisco - Nancy twice and Jim four times.
Their 'sailing birthday' event promises to be a great time with fellow sailors and friends spanning more than 50 years. Nancy and Jim cordially invite any and all who have raced against, sailed with, or known them over this period to join them. Please RSVP to (209) 957-3361 or by email to let us know that you will be coming.
Sailing Birthday Committee
WOOD WAS GOOD TO MEXICO THIS YEAR
I was told that 'Lectronic Latitude's report on the 2003 Newport to Ensenada Race indicated that you didn't know who corrected out second overall, just in front of Dennis Conner and his Cal 40. Well, it was Spartan, our 42' 3" Rhodes-designed sloop that was launched in 1960 in Latitude's backyard at the Stone Boat Yard in Alameda. Actually, the wood design was so loved by the designer that the lines were used for his Bounty II design, which was the first large fiberglass production boat, and which was built in Sausalito. They later became the Pearson 41.
It has been a pleasure to own and sail this classic design - and even better when Patti and I can beat all those high tech modern boats built without trees! Yes, wood is good!
Steve & Patti Ward
Steve and Patti - Thanks for sharing the news with us. When we went to press with that item, the full results weren't available.
As Latitude was started aboard a Bounty II, we're very familiar with that design - of which there are still a lot around, particularly in Southern California. As we recall, the original Bounty was a 40-ft wood boat they tried to build on a production line just before the start of World War II. With a gas engine, they sold for about $3,000. We presume Spartan is a slightly longer version of a similar design.
ALL THAT'S LEFT ARE THESE GREAT WOODEN BOATS
What a great story on the Dutch Botter Groote Beer! I was born and raised in the town of Huizen where she was built, and was very familiar with Janus Kok and his descendents who built this boat - and many others like her. As a child in the '70s, I used to sail my dinghy around Kok's wharf and I can still recall the pungent smell of tar used to caulk these wooden plank boats.
These classic Dutch wooden boats are in very high demand in Holland, so it's probably right that she's left San Francisco Bay and is back with her own brethren. There's nothing left of the original wharf, fallen victim to development, so don't go looking for it. You will see nothing but new marinas, hotels and residences. All that's left are these great wooden boats, and the ongoing generations of folks that treasure them.
With regard to the revived Boat of The Month (BOM) feature on old boats and classes, I'd like to nominate the Lapworth 36. We raced as a onedesign fleet on the Bay up through about 1977, with several boats continuing in HDA thereafter. I can name at least six that are still sailing on the Bay, with some racing in the Master Mariners' Regatta each year. (Our Olé was featured in the 'Escape From Alcatraz' photo in last year's Master Mariners' coverage. As a lot of older sailors will attest, the L36 does very well both on the Bay and out in the ocean, with many having made passage to Hawaii and beyond. If it would help, I could put you in contact with folks who have been around the class much longer than our 25+ years.
John F. Hamilton
John - The Lapworth 36 is a fine nomination, and we'll try to get to it before too long. The big problem, of course, is that there just aren't enough months in the year to give coverage to all that deserve it. Young ladies looking for a shot at being a Playmate of the Month have the same complaint. But we'll do the best we can.
NOT EVEN ENOUGH PRECIOUS SECONDS TO PEE
I read the bit in the May Racing Sheet where the skipper of Sail A Vie said he finished second in his Singlehanded Farallones class because he had to turn on his running lights, pee, and grab a sandwich - all of which cost him precious seconds. He also stated that he'd been over early at the start and therefore had to restart. I don't remember the skipper's comments exactly, but they were something like that.
I think the skipper should realize that the rest of us had problems also. Let's see, my autopilot was a joke in the conditions we had, and since hand steering with a tiller took both hands, I had no opportunity to eat or pee for 10.5 hours. Further, with all the ambient light on the Cityfront, I had a hard time finding the finish line. Nonetheless, I did - after almost dropping out on the way to the Farallones - manage to win the class by a whopping 23 seconds. The way I see it, it makes no difference if you finish 23 seconds or 23 hours behind the first place finisher, you still got second place.
My J/30 Slim is on a roll. Lightship, Farallones, and the Vallejo Race. Three in a row is a personal best.
Loren - You make a good point that every skipper has difficulties and problems in a race that slow him down. But after every race, who among us doesn't take a few minutes to muse, "If I'd only x, y, and z, it would have been me who won the pickle dish." The 'if onlys' are a big part of the fun of racing.
As for three victories in a row in major events, congratulations. After success like that, it won't be long before you'll find yourself wanting to move up into more competitive classes.
REAL TIME TIDE AND CURRENT PREDICTIONS
Are there any places on the internet that give predictions and real time knowledge on local currents in the Bay and up the Delta? If there were, it would be wonderful to provide a link on your weather page section in 'Lectronic Latitude.
Jim - We've got just what you're looking for, but it's in the 'weather' section of links on the Latitude web page before you click on 'Lectronic Latitude. The really comprehensive site we link to is sfports.wr.usgs.gov/sfports.html, which describes itself as follows:
"The objective of this page is to demonstrate techniques for the delivery of value-added information to the real-time oceanographic observations collected by NOS/NOAA (InfoHub). The real-time data are displayed in graphical form to show historical changes in these data for the past 24 hours, and to forecast the tidal process for the next 24 hours. The real-time data are assimilated in a marine nowcast numerical model whose results, along with recent field observations, are delivered to the maritime community. This interactive near-real-time information is made available to improve navigation safety, provide hydro-meteorological information for spill prevention and cleanup, navigation scheduling and planning, search and rescue missions, and for recreation."
They also note that SFPORTS was created through a partnership of the National Ocean Service, NOAA, the U.S. Geological Survey, the California Office of Oil Spill Prevention and Response, and the Marine Exchange of San Francisco Bay. Check it out.
IN LIKE FLYNT
In your response to the Changes by Solstice in the June issue, you asked readers to guess who Doña de Mallorca had been a nurse for in Los Angeles during the '80s. Among the clues were that the person was still alive and that a major motion picture had been made about him. My guess is Larry Flynt.
Kirk - Your guess is correct. Now, for the million dollars, what up-and-coming New York promoter was she dating in the late '70s? Hint, he's now one of the biggest - in more ways than one - and most powerful men in Hollywood. Second hint: It wasn't Marlon Brando.
WARNINGS ABOUT STILLWATER COVE
Please don't advise your readers to visit Stillwater Cove near Carmel. It's a horrible and overcrowded place! Furthermore, it's always windy, foggy and cold! Don't be misled by the pictures sent in by your readers, or the pictures at californiacoastline.org - they must have been taken on the only two or three sunny days per year there. You probably won't even be able to get in - the entrance is usually choked with kelp. If you do get in and anchor, you'll need a machete to get the ball of kelp off your anchor and rode. And you probably won't be able to get back out - the kelp grows that quickly!
Every boat that has ever stayed in Stillwater for more than a couple of days has sustained extensive damage from golf balls. All the locals wear helmets when they're not in their cabins.
The tide pools are extremely dangerous - there are actual living marine creatures in them. They haven't been cleansed of dangerous wildlife by decades of tourists and school kids. And don't take your eye off that sea otter following you around in your dinghy.
One of your readers alluded to the extensive crime problem there. It's true - liquor, firearms, and virgins are not left safely unattended on boats at any time. And the owner of the world's biggest chandlery chain isn't the only one who's gotten in a brawl with the beach bums that hang out there, a brawl the sheriff's had to break up.
The workers at the golf links and resort there will all think you're just another of their filthy-rich Pebble Beach clients, and will treat you with the same rudeness and contempt that they do Bill Gates. If you go despite all these warnings, look for me and come say 'hi'.
During the last few weeks there's been a lot of discussion in 'Lectronic about the Stillwater Cove anchorage near Carmel. I've been there about four times in the last two years, and it's always been a beautiful place. Yes, there's lots of kelp, but there is a clear path through the kelp from the southerly entrance to the cove. The Pebble Beach Swim Club and YC keep mooring buoys there throughout the summer. Steer clear from the marked buoys as they are reserved for members. The harbormaster can usually direct you to an available buoy, or you can anchor. The harbormaster also will ferry people ashore when they are available. Or you can beach your dinghy on the beach beneath the golf course. Just don't do like we did a couple of years ago.
It was so calm and beautiful that we thought we'd take our dinghy to the Carmel Beach. So we did. We spent the day walking around Carmel, provisioning, eating lunch, and enjoying afternoon gelatos. When we returned to our dinghy in the late afternoon, the surf was up! So there we were with bags of groceries - including our fresh baguettes, our Golden Retriever, and the two of us. We timed the surf as best we could, me with the oars ready, my husband ready to lower the engine at the first instant and power us outta there.
After pushing off, I rowed my little heart out, but we were still crushed by a good sized wave - which inflated my automatic inflate lifejacket. I had no idea they were so huge when inflated! I was hysterically laughing while my husband was hysterically yelling at me to row. But I couldn't row because I couldn't reach around the inflated tubes of my jacket. The dog was looking a little worried at that point, and the baguettes were pretty soggy, as was my cell phone. We finally made it through the surf, much to the dog's and my husband's relief. We ate soggy bread with our pasta that night, but the extra salt made it quite tasty.
Karen Whittaker Crowe
THE ICING ON THE CAKE
Seeing the June cover of Latitude - with a close-up of me at the helm of my schooner - brought back memories of the 2002 Master Mariners Race when the photo was taken. I've had my 71-ft schooner Dauntless for almost 20 years. We have raced to Hawaii twice and have had our share of other great adventures, but we have never enjoyed ourselves as we did in San Francisco. The hospitality we received from everyone will never be forgotten. We plan to come up again for the 2004 Master Mariners. Thanks again, as the cover is surely the icing on the cake.
Paul - We needed a 'preview' cover for this year's Master Mariners Regatta, and thought the photo of you, one foot underwater, at the helm of your beautiful, heeled over schooner, said 'Master Mariners' better than anything we've seen in a long time. We're glad you liked it, and look forward to seeing you and Dauntless on San Francisco Bay again next year.
CONFUSING VISA SITUATION IN POLYNESIA
Once in a while, we get our hands on a Latitude through a book and magazine exchange with other cruisers. We have enjoyed many of the articles, even though we're from the East Coast and have taken about five years to travel between Florida, the Eastern Caribbean, the north coast of South America, through the Panama Canal, the Galapagos and, for almost two years now, have been here in French Polynesia.
Having read the February and March issues of 2003, I wanted to provide additional information and some corrections regarding the visa situation here in French Polynesia, as well as the resolution of the accident in the Panama Canal involving the Islander 37 Nepenthe.
We have been involved firsthand with the unfortunate and confusing visa situation. Although I, Bob, am a naturalized American, I grew up speaking French, so I helped out with communication and translations between the French Polynesian authorities and the cruisers, primarily in Papeete, from 2001 until recently. Also, being a member of the Association des Voiliers de Polynésie - an association of sailors in Polynesia, a primarily French local boat volunteer association, but open to any foreigners for less than $30/year fee - I have translated many of the information pamphlets given to sailors into English.
Latitude is correct in not believing the woman from the French consulate who proclaimed that foreign sailors were always given only a month in French Polynesia. It may also have been a misunderstanding. In fact, cruisers get one month 'free', during which time they can apply - at the Immigration Office at the airport in Papeete - for a two-month visa for a total stay of three months. Some people have gotten their three months upon arrival in Hiva Oa or Nuka Hiva in the Marquesas as well. To our knowledge, everyone that has asked for three months has gotten it, no problem.
The main change has been the near impossibility to extend that for another three months, something that started in May of 2002. Only major problems preventing navigation - engine, sails, medical, etc. - would be a reason to be given a chance to extend the initial three months. There are ways around the limitation. You can fly out of French Polynesia for a few days - Easter Island is a popular destination - come back in and get the 'free' month and reapply for another visa. You can sail to the Cook Islands and stay a few days, and then re-enter French Polynesia; or sail to the Line Islands for the cyclone season, which a few boats have done.
By the way, the risk for a cyclone in French Polynesia during a normal or La Niña year is the same as in New Zealand - meaning about one every 10 years. A very small risk. That risk is increased during a strong El Niño season. Many cruisers - including American cruisers - leave their boats in Tahiti or Raiatea for cyclone season. You can fly out for a few months and then return. This gives you additional time to cruise French Polynesia, and gives you a headstart sailing westward to New Zealand, Fiji, or Australia the following season.
Using the above means, we have stayed here in French Polynesia for almost two years. Theoretically, one can only stay six months during any one-year period. European Union citizens can stay much longer without problems, although some authorities intimidated some E.U. cruisers into leaving after three months during 2002. A couple with one spouse having a passport from a European Union country can be treated as a European couple.
Another form of intimidation existed - and may still exist. In October of some years officials would call on cruising boats and tell them they had to be out of Polynesia for cyclone season. This was incorrect as there was and is no such law. There is a rule, however, that says foreign boats may not stay in Papeete Harbour during cyclone season, as northerly swells can damage boats at the quay.
It is good to remember not to take at face value what some gendarme or other authority figure says. They do have the last word, but if you avoid antagonizing them and stay firm regarding what you know to be the law, they will back down. And most are very accommodating and friendly. Rechecking on another day with another person may be all that's needed to solve the problem.
But the best way is to apply for a visa in the French consulate of your area of residence in the United States. Getting a three-month visa takes one or two days. You are supposed to do it in the Consulate serving your area of residence, but some American cruisers who have been out of the country have been able to get them in Mexico and Panama.
If anyone would like to stay longer in French Polynesia - which we would recommend - they should apply for a six-month or one-year visa. This takes about two months and a fair amount of paperwork, but you can only be denied if you are a criminal or constitute a public danger! All boats - even French - can only be lived on in French Polynesia for a total of one year in a two-year period before exorbitant taxes become due. When you're off the boat - as in a marina or on the hard - the clock stops. They are talking about allowing boats to stay for two years maximum, whether living on it or not, but who knows when this might happen?
Regarding the Panama Canal incident involving the Islander 37 Nepenthe, we have been close friends of John Pearlman, her owner at the time, for several years. In fact, we often cruised together in the Caribbean and along the north coast of South America. I was a line-handler on his boat during the accident in the Canal - which happened in March of 2001 - and was involved in the hearing and follow-up. Being very busy in his new life on land in the San Francisco area, and since he knew I'd be writing to you, John asked me to give you this follow up.
The story of the accident has a good ending, as the handling of Nepenthe by the Canal personnel was very professional. The hearing, held within days, was conducted in English, with all present, in a very fair manner. The head of the Canal's investigating department readily accepted the Canal Authority's responsibility, and would have settled matters right then. However, it had to go through the usual procedures and authority levels, which took two or three months. Nonetheless, when John received a settlement check, it was for almost twice what he had anticipated selling her for once he got back to San Francisco and had done a lot of cosmetic work. In addition, he was able to sell Nepenthe 'as is' for $10,000.
We have now been at Mopelia - 125 miles west of Bora Bora - for three weeks. This is a small, unspoiled atoll with just a dozen inhabitants. We are waiting for better weather to head for Suvarov, Cook Islands, Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, and so on.
Bob and Kathy Pauly
THE BAJA BASH DOESN'T HAVE TO BE A HORROR TRIP
I think it is time to correct the myth of how horrible the Baja Bash - from Cabo San Lucas to San Diego - really is. Of course it can be uncomfortable for short periods, but it doesn't compare to some of the other really tough passages a cruising sailor is likely to encounter where, once they have committed to the passage, there is no place to seek shelter until the passage is over.
People who have made the Bash once or twice and not been anywhere else to form a basis for comparison seem to me to be trying to enhance their own credentials by making it sound like a horror trip. The result is they unnecessarily alarm a lot of cruisers who have the trip ahead of them. With proper management - which includes allowing enough time to make the trip - the Bash can be made very tolerable, with some parts even enjoyable.
My first trip up this coast was in 1973. In those days there were no usable weather reports for the area, as the weather service didn't have the necessary information, and even if they did the radios were incapable of reliable reception. But even if good forecasting had been available, I was on a deadline, so we just plowed our way north. It was rough and miserable, but the only negative note I can find in my old log books is the remark, "The boat can stand a lot more than the crew."
All of my trips since then have been better managed and therefore less unpleasant.
The way I look at the Bash, even today's weather forecasts should be treated like good luck charms - the less you expect from them, the more likely you'll be satisfied. There is no way a man sitting in California - with only a few seconds to cover both the northern and southern halves of the Baja peninsula - can tell you exactly what your local weather is going to be. For example, the water on the Pacific side of Baja was 20 degrees colder than the water in the sea this year. The intervening, barren desert mountains pick up and then lose the heat from the sun very rapidly. Those three factors seem cause enough to me to throw any local forecasts to the winds - if not out the window.
For those boats with the ability to receive email, I highly recommend signing up for Grib files from Saildocs. These are much-improved versions of weather maps in as much as you only download the areas you need. Wherever you place the cursor on the Grib, it will give the forecast pressure and wind information for that exact spot. So you can access detail that you will not receive from verbal weather reports. The Grib files are, of course, based on the same weather maps the forecasters are using, but this will give you the opportunity to make your own mistakes. Both times that we got hit this year, I could see the same mistake on the Grib file that was in the net forecast.
For accurate local weather information, nothing beats using the Porthole Forecast Method. For those not familiar with it, you stick your head out the porthole. If your cap blows off, it is windy; if your hair gets wet, it is rainy; and if neither happens, you pull up your anchor and go out of the bay or around the point and see if you can make your minimum expected speed. If you cannot, you return to the bay, and consider the exercise anchoring practice, which most of us need more of.
One mistake many mariners make is being ashamed of turning back. While doing the Bash this year, I left Cabo twice and Bahia San Carlos three times. On all occasions I benefitted from turning back and getting more anchoring practice. One big motorboat with us had made it 50 miles north of Turtle Bay before he realized he needed to turn back. I would have found a suitable anchorage somewhere along Cedros Island rather than coming all the way back to Turtle Bay, but we all need to seek our own comfort zone.
Baja Bashers can be thankful that the waves along that stretch of coast are short and choppy. If they were as big as you find coming against the Northeast tradewinds or south against the Agulhas current - or many other places - you would not be able to motorsail against them as your prop would get too close to the surface of the water as you go over the top of the big swells or waves. So it is a blessing we can motorsail up the Baja coast when necessary.
Here's how we managed our Bash this year, which I considered to be about normal. I'm in my mid-70s, so for the first time I had a lot of help - but this didn't change my methods much. Three other boat captains joined me: Bob Ketrenos of Kismet, Don Johnson of Sohle, and Gene Braziel of Quest. Bob is an old cruiser, Don has made one fast delivery trip up the coast, and Gene had not done it before. We wanted to enjoy the trip as well as get the boat home, so I asked them to set at least two weeks aside for getting my Cheoy Lee Offshore 50 from Cabo to San Diego. They joined me in La Paz, we harbor-hopped down to Cabo, where, after we stopped to fuel, we headed for Cabo Falso. Light winds had been forecast, but it was blowing 25 knots, so we turned back. We tried again the next morning, and, although it was still blowing and rough, it didn't feel as heavy as the night before. So we fell off to the west and were able to make my minimum expected speed - five knots at about 1600 rpms.
I plan my stops based on a maximum speed of seven knots and a minimum speed of five knots, and leave an anchorage at whatever time it takes me to reach my next desired anchorage at noon, figuring an average speed of six knots. Some of the anchorages are fine for night arrival, but all are good for departure in the dark. The only two that I am concerned about are Turtle Bay, because of the sometimes large kelp bed on the southeast side of the entrance, and anything around Abrejos. When we left Cabo, we were headed for Bahia Santa Maria, although we would have stopped at Bahia Magdalena if absolutely necessary.
A few hours after leaving Cabo, the wind eased up and we made our destination on time. When we round the points at Lazaro or Eugenia, I hope we can fall off and get in some good sailing. If we find some good sailing wind, we then pick our next destination. This time there was no worthwhile sailing breeze, so we headed for Ascunsion Bay. The anchorage east of Abrejeos village is good if needed, but is more valuable if you have sailed over toward Juanico and then headed upwind without stopping. That is a favored route for large motoryachts, but they don't stop. They just make the loop east to get out of the chop on the direct route to Turtle Bay.
At the speed we were traveling, our arrival at Turtle Bay would have been about 11 p.m., so we stopped at Ascunsion in the middle of the afternoon, showered, had a drink and a good dinner, and then left Ascunsion about 11 p.m. We arrived in Turtle Bay the next morning, where we used Jorge - an excellent man trying to give Ernesto some competition - for refueling.
With the weather deteriorating north of Cedros, the boats piled up in Turtle Bay for three days. Several went out trying to go north, but came back. We stayed for three days before getting restless and leaving with the idea of finding shelter at Cedros or returning. Conditions were all right to Cedros, but still rough once out of the lee. Bob wanted to keep going, and since the rest of us didn't care one way or the other, we started for wherever the wind would take us. Remember, there were four men on the crew. If it had just been my wife Pauline and me, I would have anchored for another day.
When it comes to life in general as well as Baja weather, there's one thing you can generally depend on - when it stops getting worse, it starts getting better. And vice versa. Lighter winds had been forecast, but it was obvious that they had not yet arrived. We were able to lay a good course for San Carlos, and had an excellent sail, but the wind finally headed us and piped up to 30 knots. We had a pretty nasty crossing to the Baja mainland, but it was only due to our decision to proceed rather than stay where there was shelter.
Having made it to San Carlos, we rested up. The good weather was a bit slow in arriving, so we ended up leaving the San Carlos anchorage three times before we finally found the conditions to our liking. We spent that night at San Quintin, and the next day continued on to San Diego in calm conditions.
So, any way you put it, there was just nothing horrendous about our trip home. Yes, you might get knocked around a bit if the local weather acts up along the Baja coast, but I don't see any reason for being exposed to it for more than a few hours at a time. It also helps any time you are out there to seek harmony by trying to find a speed or angle that will help your boat fit the waves and conditions as comfortably as possible. Instead of hitting the waves square, which leaves your bow unsupported and allows it to crash down, try finding an angle that will give you enough support to allow your boat to settle more gracefully. And please be honest about it when talking to new boaters. Do not just emphasize the rough hours, talk about the good parts, too.
Ernie - Like you, we think the key to a successful Baja Bash is not being in a hurry. If someone has a 50-ft boat like yours, two weeks is about the right amount of time to set aside for a nice passage. When conditions are satisfactory, you go like hell until it turns sour, then you take shelter for as long as necessary. If the spring northwesterlies are nasty, it will take the full two weeks. If you catch a couple of breaks, you might make it in seven or eight days.
What would we do if we had a smaller boat, less crew, or were pressed for time? We'd either have the boat trucked up from Guaymas/San Carlos or taken by ship - they seem to be starting service from Lazaro Cardenas and/or Puerto Vallarta to Ensenada and Vancouver. If those options were too expensive, we'd wait until late spring or early summer to do the Bash, as the weather conditions are much less harsh.
It's true that the Baja Bash usually isn't as bad as having to go from Panama to the Eastern Caribbean, up the Red Sea, along the coast of South Africa, or from San Francisco to Canada, but it can still be a real bitch. Especially in the spring, for small boats, small crews, and those in a hurry.
As for thinking Baja weather forecasts should be relied upon as much as "good luck charms," we couldn't agree more.
HE DESERVES SOME RECOGNITION
We are cruising these lovely waters for our second year, having done the '01 Ha-Ha with you. One thing that has been very different for the cruising community down here this year - and also for those crossing the Puddle - are the weather forecasts supplied by Don of the Ventura-based Summer Passage. We listen to his reports on the Amigo, Blue Water Cruisers, and Picante nets, and he is available three times a day to answer specific weather questions. Rumor has it he gets up at 0400, digests all his weather sources, goes down to his boat in a marina, and transmits the reports to us. We've found him to be very thorough and accurate, and since he's a sailor, he understands our needs and the places we're going.
Someone should do an article on him, because he deserves recognition for his invaluable service. His daily reports cover the entire West Coast, from San Diego to Panama, and offshore for those going to the South Pacific and Hawaii.
One morning back in March, a cruiser in Banderas Bay asked if it was a good time to head to the Galapagos Islands. Don responded in a strange way, saying: "You can wait 11 years and there will never be a perfect time to go there! It's about the worst passage in the world, for you'll almost always have great periods of light to no winds with adverse currents. All you have to worry about is getting offshore, having luck, and having enough fuel." Those weren't his exact words, but it showed a side of him that isn't often heard.
Alan, Caroline & Bryan Wulzen
Alan, Caroline and Bryan - Lots of cruisers in Mexico tune into Don's weather reports, so we'll see if we can't put together an article on him before the fall cruising season starts.
In all honesty, however, we're always a little surprised at how obsessed cruisers in Mexico seem to be with weather forecasts. After all, it's generally such a benign weather area, it's rarely very far between shelter, and the person on the scene often has a lot more insight into the weather than a guy forecasting from 1,000 miles away. As such, the only times we pay any attention to weather forecasts is if we're crossing the Sea of Cortez or doing a Baja Bash. It's the same thing with the Puddle Jump in the spring. We'd just pick a day and go, because the chances of dangerous weather in that part of the Pacific at that time of year are almost nil. True, you might have light wind, but that's not bad because it would let everyone ease into the passage without getting seasick. Or you might have 20 knots of wind, which would also be great because you'd get a swift start to the long passage.
In the May 21 'Lectronic Latitude, you wrote, "The Atlantic hurricane season doesn't end until December 1, a month later than the Mexican hurricane season."
Tropical cyclone (hurricane) season typically begins in the Eastern Pacific, meaning east of 140° - on 15 May. In the Central Pacific - west of 140°W to the dateline - the season usually begins on June 1. The season for both basins ends on November 30.
Rick - Has somebody or some official entity been messing with the traditional dates for hurricane season in the Eastern Pacific? In Jimmy Cornell's World Cruising Routes, he writes that the Eastern Pacific hurricane season is "from May until November." Charlie's Charts says the "typical period is between June 15 and November 1." We've always understood it to be from June 1 to November 1. Perhaps even more importantly, insurance companies have always recognized the June 1 to October 31 season. (Actually, Ha-Ha boats have never had any problem with their insurance companies moving the dates up until about October 26.)
The whole idea of a 'hurricane season' is something of a joke, of course, because Mother Nature never learned to read the calendar. Indeed, there have been many out-of-season hurricanes in both the Atlantic and Eastern Pacific, although more of them in the Atlantic. The good news about Mexico is that records - which admittedly aren't perfect - indicate there have been less than five November hurricanes in Mexico since 1948, and all of them were south by the Guatamalan border.
By the way, in early June NOAA - for the first time ever - made predictions about the Eastern Pacific Hurricane season: "NOAA hurricane experts announce the debut of an experimental Eastern Pacific Hurricane Outlook. Scientists at NOAA call for 11-15 tropical storms - 15 is normal - with six to nine becoming hurricanes - nine is normal - and two to five becoming major hurricanes - four to five is normal. Scientists at NOAA predict there is a 50 percent probability of a below- normal eastern Pacific hurricane season during 2003, a 40 percent probability of a near-normal season, and a 10 percent probability of an above-normal season. Similar to the Atlantic hurricane season, one of the major factors in eastern Pacific hurricane development is the El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) climate phenomenon (El Niño/La Niña). This month NOAA scientists continued to report the dominant trend is for cooling in the tropical Pacific to continue, and for La Niña to develop during summer 2003.
"If La Niña develops as expected, this would have an impact on the eastern Pacific hurricane season," said Jim Laver, director of the NOAA Climate Prediction Center. "Typically La Niña has the opposite effect on the eastern Pacific hurricane season than it does on the Atlantic hurricane season."
"La Niña tends to suppress Pacific hurricane development in contrast to increasing Atlantic hurricane activity," said Muthuvel Chelliah of the NOAA Climate Prediction Center. "The expected activity is based on a 70 percent likelihood La Niña conditions will develop during the next few months, combined with the overall reduced hurricane activity observed since 1995."
MAYBE IT'S A WEST COAST THING
In the last issue you wrote the following in an editorial response: "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 of boats."
Maybe this is a West Coast thing I don't understand, but at least in Maryland you pay your slip rent and put whatever type of boat you like in your slip - as long as she fits. My boat is 30 years old, and no one has suggested evicting her to make way for a newer boat.
Joe Della Barba
Joe Della - Perhaps we didn't express ourselves as clearly as we could have. Unlike the Chesapeake area, where there's a lot of waterfront relative to the population, places such as California and Florida have a critical shortage of boat slips. That's because manufacturers keep making boats, but thanks to environmental and other reasons, hardly anybody makes marinas anymore.
To give you an idea of how bad it can be, three years ago the City of Santa Barbara passed an ordinance preventing any new applications from being taken for their 1,000-slip marina. Why? Because some of the 60 or so people who were still on the waiting list have been on it since the '70s! That's right, sign up for a slip when you're 40 years old and maybe you'll get a slip when you're 75. It's not much better at most other places in coastal California. Small wonder the Wall Street Journal reports that boat slips appreciated an average of 20% nationwide last year. The Journal further noted that Jed Thompson of Fort Lauderdale let it be known that he was willing to rent the 150-foot deepwater dock behind his home for nothing - in return for the use of the boat that gets put there. You would assume that people with $50 million boats wouldn't go for such an outrageous offer, but he's apparently already received 30 inquiries.
The point we were trying to make is that in the days of wood boats, a couple of decades of exposure to the elements combined with normal human neglect would spell the end of the natural life of a boat. The boat would be sunk, burned, or cut up, and the slip she occupied became available for a new generation of boat. The 'problem' with fiberglass boats is that you can neglect them completely for 100 years and they'll still be seaworthy hulls. So most of the boats that have been built for the last 30 years are going to need berthing more or less forever. As time goes on, the berth shortage is just going to become worse and worse.
We think a 'use it or lose it' program is a great solution. If you hardly ever used your boat - as is often the case with the older fiberglass boats - you'd be required to move your boat to a more remote or on the hard location in order to allow other folks - presumably with mostly newer boats - to have the slip and get access to the water. Such a policy has been in place in Santa Cruz - which also has had people on waiting lists for decades - and other places, and as the problem gets worse, we suspect it will become more widely accepted.
FABRICATED DROGUE, BLUE HULL, WHITE DECK
Many years ago a group of day racers and I were on our way from Newport, Rhode Island, to Bermuda, when on a moonless night a couple of days out - with the warm waters of the Gulfstream periodically slopping us in the face - the constant and happy gurgle of the boat's hull in the water ceased entirely for a couple of seconds. We'd gone up a wave we soon discovered had no back. After the inevitable crashing of the hull back down into the sea, we rushed below to see if there was any damage.
We found the forward bulkhead smashed like a store window after a brick has been thrown at it. The head compartment had delaminated and was mostly adrift from the rest of the boat. The teak post amidships was dancing idly about the overhead. And without any structure left to support them, the bilges forward were panting in and out. The boat was no longer in good condition.
Further, the forecast was for "deteriorating conditions," as a weather system had fueled up on the heat of the Gulfstream. The anemometer was at over 70 knots. This wasn't good either.
Fearing that letting the flaccid bow continue to pound would cause it to crack, if not break off, we elected to keep stern to the seas until the storm passed. This became kind of a game, since the waves were coming from two directions, and each set was way bigger than the roof of my barn - which is 45 feet.
Our crew created a makeshift drogue by fastening pretty much anything we could find to anchor rodes, and then securing the bitter ends of the lines to the biggest winches. We ended up with a great long loop of line - festooned with life jackets and cushions - towed in an arc behind us. It didn't exactly hold us stern to the weather because the waves were coming from two directions. But what it did do - and I haven't heard this in other discussions of such conditions - was make a notch in the crest of each wave as it broke down on top of us. Taking turns with two at a time on the tiller, we would then wrench the stern into the notch as the breaking wave crashed past us.
The technique worked well enough that we're still around. After employing it for a couple of days until the storm passed, we gingerly motored back toward New England, being very wary of the panting bow. Eventually we got help from the Coasties. But the quickly-created drag probably saved our lives.
One other thing I learned on that trip
- don't get stuck in breaking seas with a blue boat that has
a white deck. At least not if you hope for the guys in the Coast
Guard helicopters to be able to see you.
CREW OPPORTUNITIES IN THE MARINA DEL REY AREA
I'm writing in response to college student 'Brittany D,' who wrote a letter in the May issue wondering where in the USC area of Southern California she could get more involved in sailing on larger boats. I'd like to alert her and others to the Yacht Racers Resource Center - www.yrrc.com - presented by Elliott-Pattison Sailmakers, which brings skippers and crew together in the Marina del Rey area. Brittany should definitely tap into this resource, apart from doing everything else you suggested in your printed reply.
WAXING PHILOSOPHICAL ABOUT DIFFERENT TOPICS
It seems to me that a majority of the cruisers in Mexico have boats that were built in the '70s and '80s - although mostly in the '70s. Why? Because they are more affordable. All the newer and more expensive boats seem to be sitting in the marinas while their owners continue to have to work to pay for them. Meanwhile, people with the older and cheaper boats - such as CT-41s, our Islander Freeport 41, and the like - are busy cruising. Sure, there are some wealthier folks out cruising with the latest and greatest, but they seem to be the exception. Actually, I haven't really made a detailed study of this, it just seems to be what I've noticed in passing.
In the last issue, Latitude mused about the reasons for the lack of ethnic diversity in the sailing community. My wife Virginia was raised in Korea, and each summer she used to sail her little Sunfish in the China Sea. Although she often offered rides to Asian friends, she never got any takers. She explains that they were generally deathly afraid of sailing and would get seasick just thinking about it. Her Sunfish was often asked to be a subject for photos and ads, but nobody wanted to sail on it. Since Korea is surrounded by water, there are many fishermen and the country has a big navy. Obviously not all Koreans are afraid of the ocean, but they don't seem to be interested in it as a recreational pursuit. And it's not as if they don't have a nautical tradition. Koreans know about their famous naval victories at sea - especially by Admiral Yi with his iron clad turtle boat. Virginia and I visited the vessel while we were in Yosu.
But there's lack of ethnic diversity in a lot of other areas also. Earlier in our lives, we were part of The Farm, an intentional spiritual community in Summertown, Tennessee, the roots of which go back to Monday Night Class held at the Family Dog in San Francisco in the late '60s. This back-to-the-land movement had a community of 1,500 members at its height, living on 1,700 acres of land. There was very little ethnic diversity in that movement, although there were some African-Americans in The Farm, where everyone took vows of poverty. As with many ethnic groups in this country, they are on their way up to the American Dream economically, and don't want to go back to old ways of trying to live. Economics probably played a big role in Koreans not being interested in sailing also. For at the time Virginia was there, they were just emerging from the devastation of the Korean War, and there wasn't the time or money to pursue these extravagances.
But today things may be changing. Koreans - in the south, at least - are becoming more affluent. And on The Farm in Tennessee, they have a Kids To The Country program where inner-city kids from Nashville spend time on the land enjoying nature while getting away from the harsh ghetto environment. Then there's Dawn Riley's AmericaTrue organization, which takes underprivileged kids out on sailboats. If you get kids started in sailing young, it will stay with them, and hopefully they may come back to it as adults.
Love the rag! See you down in Mexico. We leave in October for good, as we're selling our business to our #1 son and we're outta here. Harmony is currently on the hard in San Carlos, Mexico, for the summer. For the past three years, we've been doing six months on the boat in Mexico and six months back in Modesto.
Cap't Rob & Virginia Gleser
Rob and Virginia - Mexico is a budget-cruisers paradise and the weather is generally quite mild, so it should come as no surprise that oldie but goodie cruising boats are so popular down there. It's a different story in more expensive parts of the cruising world or in events such as the ARC. You should see the yachts 'Ma and Pa Cruiser' enter in that event!
As for the "latest and greatest" boats sitting in marinas in Mexico instead of being out actively cruised, we think there are a number of reasons for it. For one thing, the more expensive a boat, the more likely the owner paid - or could have paid - cash for her. Second, lots of folks with modern and expensive cruising boats own businesses and often enjoy working as much or even more than they do cruising. For them, the ideal mix is not your six months on the boat in Mexico and six months back home, but maybe two months on a boat and 10 months back home working. Finally, folks with the latest and greatest boats and gear often have bought them because they have ambitious plans and are charging off around the world instead of kicking back into the very easy cruising life of Mexico. But as with your observations, these are just off the top of our heads.
As for why there isn't more ethnic diversity in sailing, we think some cultures - just like some people - simply don't have an interest in it. Sort of like Americans and cricket. We could play, we just don't choose to. All we can say is that thank goodness not everybody likes cruising.
I'm writing you folks on behalf of a good old woodie sailboat, a very popular '50s vintage Norwegian one design called a BB-11. She's an open 20-footer, has a beam of five feet, with a cast iron full keel that gives her a draft of 3.5 feet. She has fantastic lines, and there is a set of blueprints that come with her. She has oak steamed ribs, an oak keel block, and mahogany planking. Her owner wants to give her to me, but I do not have the time or technical skills to restore her properly. The local maritime museum staff do not want her, as she's not part of the local history. The boat has been neglected - probably only 50% of her is salvageable - and will shortly meet her demise unless someone intervenes. You can find information on the BB-11 on the Internet - but you'll need to be able to read Norwegian. For further info, email me.
Mark - Often times the most expensive boats of all are those that were acquired for free. Maybe it would be most dignified if she were allowed to die, and her wood recycled for some new purpose.
LOOKING FOR INFORMATION ON WOLFPACK
I am looking for information on my boat Wolfpack, which is a Jim Donovan custom design built for Leland Wolf by Larry Tuttle in Santa Cruz. The boat was a ULDB racer built prior to the '86 MORC Internationals. I know that it had an interesting career and had some excellent sailors on it in the late '80s/early '90s. I bought the boat through City Yachts in '99 and moved to Minnesota, where I race it on Lake Superior.
If anyone has any information on Wolfpack, including race history, I would appreciate hearing from you via email. I bought the boat with almost no paperwork or any historical information whatsoever.
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