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THANKS FOR THE SUGGESTION!
After reading several stories about Carmel's Stillwater Cove anchorage in Latitude, Teresa and I decided to check it out last month. We had a spectacular sail down the coast on our Catalina 36 Kia Orana, stopping at Santa Cruz and Capitola before heading further south. We happened to time the trip during the heat wave of mid-July, so we were spared the normal fog. Sailing across Monterey Bay under clear blue skies, we saw a rare leatherback turtle as it lifted its head out of the water to watch us pass. We spotted dozens of whales playing not far off Cypress Point before heading into Carmel Bay.
Stillwater Cove is easy to find with the aid of a chart, and after avoiding the expected kelp, and with the advice of a very friendly harbormaster, we were able to easily anchor in a spot just outside the mooring buoys. Our friends Don and Terri aboard the Gemini 105 Double Play had arrived about an hour earlier and were anchored closer to the beach. We took their dink ashore and no more than a second after walking onto one of the greens of the famous Pebble Beach Golf Course, were greeted by a course employee - who gave us a golf cart ride to the clubhouse overlooking the 18th hole. It was a smart business decision for the golf course, as we spent $100 on appetizers and beer.
The image of Kia Orana as the centerpiece of a million dollar view from one of the world's most exclusive golf courses made us feel as though we had crashed a very expensive party. As the shadows grew longer, we headed back to Double Play for dinner and later returned to our boat for the night.
Unfortunately, it was the worst night of rocking we've ever had! The swells came into the cove in an unrelenting manner. Every round object on the boat rolled back and forth. The electrical cables inside the mast slapped with annoying frequency. We could not avoid rolling onto one another as we tried to get some sleep in the V-berth. By morning, we had renamed the place Swellwater Cove.
It's nice the former America's Cup boats are getting used, but you'd think they could at least duct tape a flashlight to a halyard or something on the dark nights when they're anchored off the Sausalito YC and near the Sausalito Channel.
Due partially to all the plugs you have made, we decided to sail our Celestial 48 Tamara Lee Ann to Southern California for the month of September. We'll be leaving with one crew on Thursday, September 4, and plan to arrive in Long Beach on Saturday afternoon. We - my wife and two kids - will then fly to L.A. for the next two weekends to cruise to Catalina. I'll then sail the boat back north the last weekend of September.
I need some advice, however. Just like last year, before the start of the Ha-Ha, I am getting nervous about where to leave our boat during the week I'll be back in Northern California. The folks at Shoreline Marina in Long Beach say they might have a slip, but haven't been willing to commit yet. They are apparently reconfiguring the marina about that time, and will have to shuffle around many of their permanent slipholders.
I wouldn't mind leaving our boat on a mooring in Newport Beach, but how would I get to and from the boat? I can't really take the dink in and leave it anywhere for a week at a time while I am gone. I guess I could probably snag a ride from a passing boat if I had to.
Are there any other good places to check for slip availability? The few marinas that I called just dropped the phone in laughter when I told them I needed a 50-foot slip for a month. Of course, everything worked out just fine in San Diego last year before the start of the Ha-Ha, so maybe I should just stop worrying and figure it out when I get there.
Doug - One of the last places in the world you'd expect to find a place to keep your boat - especially at a very inexpensive price - is Newport Beach. But that's the ticket for Southern California. Bow and stern moorings go for just $5 a night for a maximum of 20 nights per month. And, we're told that Newport virtually never has to turn anyone away. In our opinion, Newport is by far the most fun place to have a boat on the Southern California mainland, as it has great beaches and other attractions. It's also convenient to John Wayne Airport for commuting back and forth to Northern California. To get a mooring, call the Orange County Sheriff's Marine Division on 16 as you approach the Newport Breakwater. You'll need to tie up to their dock while you check in with your boat papers and personal identification. The folks in the harbor office are a little formal - as you might expect from law enforcement officers - but they've always been very friendly and helpful. If there's any wind and current, tying up to two buoys can be difficult the first time. Unless they're really busy, the Sheriff's Department officers will help you out.
As you mentioned, a downside of leaving a boat on a mooring in Newport Beach is how to get to and from shore without having to leave your dinghy at a dock for a long time. Based on our experience, you simply have to be willing to lock your dinghy to the guest dock for however long you'll be gone and take your chances. Hitching a ride to shore is not a satisfactory option, as you'll probably be rushing to catch a taxi to the plane late at night or early in the morning when there's not much casual boat traffic. If it gives you any comfort, the dinghy dock is right next to the Coast Guard station. We've left our inflatable and 15-hp locked to the dock for a week or more on several occasions. It's always been there when we've come back.
So we recommend Newport Beach as your first option. Folks planning to do the Ha-Ha should keep this in mind, as it's only about 70 miles from the Ha-Ha start in San Diego, a place with limited guest berthing.
Your second best option would be the various municipal marinas in Long Beach. We'd start with Alamitos Bay, then the Shoreline Marina and Rainbow Marina in the downtown area. Over the years, we've had reasonably good luck getting a slip in Long Beach, scoring one about 50% of the time. As we recall, it's about .50/ft per night, with a two week limit per month. The only slip they had for us during the busy month of August was the state tallship Californian's slip at Rainbow Marina. It is close to downtown restaurants and other attractions, and there's a great beachfront path nearby. While it wasn't quite as nice as Newport, wasn't as convenient to an airport, and costs about five times as much, we still enjoyed ourselves.
If for some reason you get totally shut out on the mainland, we can promise you that there will be plenty of available moorings at Catalina. And if you registered with Vessel Assist, both Avalon and Two Harbors will allow you to leave your boat unattended. Leaving your boat at Catalina would add a cross channel ferry or helicopter ride to both ends of your commute, but it's fun the first couple of times.
The bottom line is that finding a place to kept your boat in Southern California may not be the easiest or most convenient thing in the world, but it's absolutely doable. If you have to go to a little extra effort to do it, trust us, it's worth it - particularly in September. Just about everyone agrees that September is the best month of all at Catalina, as it has the warmest air and water temperatures of the year, and it's not very crowded because all the kids are back in school. This isn't just hype on our part. Usually we take Profligate down to Southern California for August and half of September, then bring her north for a month before heading back down to San Diego for the start of the Ha-Ha. Not this year. We're keeping her in Southern California right up to the start of the Ha-Ha, with an eye toward returning to Catalina and exploring Santa Cruz Island between now and then. Late summer and fall sailing in Southern California is something many more Northern California sailors ought to take advantage of.
As a final bonus, September and October
are two of the easier months in which to head north from L.A.
to San Francisco. Generally speaking, the winds are lighter and
the seas flatter, and the time between bad weather much further
apart than in the spring.
My fiancée and I are getting married on September 27, and are in need of an officiant. We are water lovers and avid sailors, and ideally would love to get married at sea. Unfortunately, we have too many kin prone to seasickness. As a compromise, we are going to have the ceremony on Stinson Beach. Nonetheless, we would still love to have a boat captain officiate the wedding. Can you recommend any boat captains who are licensed to conduct marriages on land?
Joy - It's a common misunderstanding
that vessel captains have the authority to marry people. Technically,
they don't - unless they also happen to be a judge, justice of
the peace, minister, or other officially-recognized officiant.
The good news is that lots of boat captains are also recognized
officiants, so if you have trouble finding one, call us and we'll
put you in touch with some of them.
Thanks for printing my letter regarding the Magellan GSC100 Orbcomm Satellite Communicator and the Motorola T900 WebLink Wireless device. My apology for the confusion.
The Motorola T900 (www.weblinkwireless.com) stayed with my girlfriend (i.e. CONUS), and I took the Magellan GSC100 (www.mysatmail.com) with me on the Persian Excursion (OCONUS). The Motorola T900 only works for a mile or two offshore, while the Magellan GSC100 works to approximately 65 degrees latitude north/south. It is very important for mariners to remember to reprogram the Magellan GSC100 to the Europe and/or Asia satellite gateways when sailing in those regions, and equally important to reprogram the unit to the U.S. Gateway upon returning home. The technical support staff at www.mysatmail.com will provide the necessary info via email.
P.S. The fact of the matter is that during Operation Iraqi Freedom, while we were conducting ops in the North Red Sea, I was able to send/receive email from my Magellan GSC100 - while the ship's best satellite system was at the edge of its footprint!
We'll be doing the Ha-Ha this year, and we'll need to leave our boat in Puerto Vallarta for six weeks from mid-December on. I'd like to book a slip now, but am having trouble contacting the management of the marina in Puerto Vallarta. Can you help with the appropriate contact information?
Glen - The most recent contact information we have for all the marinas in Mexico is contained in the Latitude 38 First-Timers Guide to Cruising Mexico - which gets sent out in every Ha-Ha entry pack.
For what it's worth, there are two big
marinas in the Puerto Vallarta area: Marina Vallarta, and Paradise
Village Marina a few miles to the north. The former is closer
to downtown and right next to the airport; the latter is better
maintained and has terrific beaches. Other post Ha-Ha options
for leaving boats are the several marinas in La Paz and in Mazatlan.
For the average cruiser, Cabo would be prohibitively expensive.
I enjoyed your article from Key West, featuring the schooners Western Union and America. I ran into that version of America several years ago while walking the dock in Beaufort, North Carolina. The size of the yacht was brought into perspective when the captain explained that they were waiting for a shipment to arrive before casting off. When we asked what the shipment was, he explained that they were waiting for a pallet of rope and a barrel of varnish! Here on America's North Coast, we have few boats that deal in those units of measure.
By the way, thanks for the electronic editions, they are most enjoyable.
Peter O. Allen
Latitude 38 is incredible! Thank you for the article on the great schooner Lord Jim, as it brought back great memories for me. I'll always be looking for Simon, who used to skipper the schooner when she was in Grenada 1969-70. Those were halcyon days.
Ollie - To be a young woman aboard a
beautiful schooner Down Island in the early '70s before there
were many boats around - that had to be the life!
Thanks for the great August 1 'Lectronic Latitude photo spread of the Santa Barbara YC's Wet Wednesday Race, and of our harbor. Great pictures! As the gunner on the race committee, I was wondering who the attractive young lady was on the deck near me with the serious-looking camera. But with five classes to start, I was too busy to chat.
Joseph - You're suffering from a case of mistaken identity, as no one has ever described the Wanderer - who is 6'4" and on the shady side of 50 - as "an attractive young lady." We were actually down on the breakwater taking the photos with a $350 Fujifilm 3800. The camera looks anything but serious, but nonetheless takes great digital photos - as long as one can compensate for the shutter lag.
As you probably guessed, we were in
town for the Santa Barbara to King Harbor (Redondo Beach) Race
that followed two days after Wet Wednesday. It's 'the race' in
Southern California that we recommend to all Northern California
racers, serious and otherwise. As you well know, it's wise for
participants to arrive at least several days in advance of the
race in order to enjoy one of California's best coastal cities
during one of the best weather months of the year. We'll be back
I was wondering if you can recommend any books or other materials for those of us who are comfortable with monohulls, but who have an interest in learning more about catamarans. I want to know more about the general differences between monohulls and multihulls, about sail trim techniques for the different kinds of boats, maneuvering with multiple engines, and those sorts of things.
Randy - The book that probably comes closest to what you're looking for is Charles E. Kanter's Cruising in Catamarans - although it's not a book we're enthusiastic about recommending. It isn't that Kanter doesn't know what he's talking about, as he's sailed over 100,000 miles on multihulls and critiqued over 1,000 of them. He says he's been a multihull enthusiast for 32 years, and in our estimation that's the heart of the problem - he seems to be trapped in a time warp. For example, he devotes an inordinate amount of time and space to some very outdated - and frankly, very bad - multihull designs. When it comes to rigs, he analyzes things like the sliding gunter, gallant, lateen rigs and A-frame masts as though they are somehow relevant to the year 2003. "I cannot explain why tthis rig [junk rig], which has so many advantages, has not been fully developed." If that isn't the kind of multihull speak from the '70s that turned so many sailors off to multihulls, we don't know what is.
Our suggestion is that you try to find a copy of Kanter's book, page through it, and decide whether or not you think it's worth your $40. The stuff you're looking for is in there, it's just hard to find within all the other nonsense and fluff. We think Kanter should publish an updated edition of the book that's 300 pages shorter, sells for a quarter of the price, and ignores all multihulls designed prior to 1985.
Having taken over 1,000 sailors out for their first cruising catamaran experience, we don't think a book can do justice to the difference between monohulls and multihulls anymore than reading a book could accurately convey what it's like to have an orgasm. Monohulls and multihulls are so different that you just have to experience it to appreciate it. The first time we ever sailed on a larger catamaran, it seemed so bizarre that we couldn't stop laughing. It's also one thing to read that catamarans sail flat and have many times more usable space than similar-length monohulls, but it's an entirely different thing to experience it. In addition, they sail so differently. For example, while you actively steer a monohull, you simply point a catamaran in a direction and it pretty much goes that way without working the wheel. Another significant difference is how multihulls - at least modern ones - handle waves. Rather than slamming or plowing into them, they slice through and lift over the top of them. Again, you have to experience it to understand it.
When it comes to maneuvering a cat with two engines, it's no different than a powerboat with two engines - you should be able to make it do just about everything you want, including rotate in place. Although you might think that having two engines would make things more complicated, with a little experience it's just the opposite.
There's much to love about both monohulls
and multihulls. In general, we'd say that when it comes to absolute
expense, you can get way more boat in a monohull, the competitive
racing opportunities are much better, it's easier to find a permanent
slip, and they are aesthetically much more pleasing. When it
comes to multihulls, they're generally much easier and more comfortable
to sail, making them ideal for older sailors. In fact, if you're
over 55 and think you'll soon have to make a move to a trawler,
do yourself a favor and try a sailing catamaran with a couple
of electric winches first. Not only do sailing cats make better
powerboats, you can sail them whenever the urge strikes you,
giving you the best of both worlds. We can see why somebody would
buy a new monohull sailboat, but unless money is the overriding
consideration, we can't see why anybody would buy a new monohull
motoryacht. That's a concept whose time has passed - as evidenced
by all the catamaran ferries replacing monohull ferries because
they are faster, ride flatter, and are more economical.
Bothered by the constant peeling and lost DMV stickers, I wrote the following letter to the Commandant of the Coast Guard:
The United States Code of Federal Regulations, Title 33, governs the placement of vessel stickers. The Coast Guard administers the sections of the USCFR that pertain to vessels. In California and other states, the Department of Motor Vehicles issues these stickers. Despite some stringent requirements, the California stickers - and to the best of my knowledge, those of many or all other states, will not attach well if at all to the material of inflatable boats. Placing them on a board that is detachable from the inflatable can solve that problem, but invites theft or abuse of the registration.
Most of the inflatable boats subject to registration nowadays are U-shaped with a hard transom. These transoms offer a far superior place to permanently attach the stickers. The USCFR regulations do not allow that, however, even though it is not only convenient to put the stickers there, but highly desirable as well. I would appreciate it if you would work toward changing the regulations in order to allow placing the stickers on the hard transoms. A requirement that one sticker face aft and one forward would reasonably ensure that they remain highly visible.
L.M. - The DMV stickers really are a
problem. We had ours professionally affixed when we bought our
last inflatable, and in less than 18 months, one of the two had
peeled off. Something needs to be improved.
I was looking into crewing opportunities for the Ha-Ha Ten, when I saw a notice about possible positions aboard Profligate. I'm writing to be added to the list for consideration. I love to cruise and race, so any and all opportunities on the Pacific are welcome. Right now I'm fighting going back to a dead end corporate job, and any kind of sailing helps me get closer to what I want to do - long term cruising. I'm in Seattle now, but could easily make my way south for such a trip. And please pass on my interests to anyone looking for crew on the Ha-Ha 10. I would love to have the chance to join in.
Julie - Profligate
is full. However, with indications that it might be the biggest
Ha-Ha in history, we highly recommend that you fly down to the
Encinal YC in Alameda - not far from the Oakland Airport - for
Kick-Off Party on October 1 (6-9 p.m.). There will be scores
of Ha-Ha skippers in attendance, making it a great time for you
to try to snag a berth. You should also sign up for the Mexico
Only Crew List
- the forms are in this month's Sightings - and work it when
it comes out in early October.
I'm a 26-year-old Cupertino woman who sails out of Redwood City and who is always looking for new chances to get out on the water. Specifically, I've been perusing the crew lists and random Web sites looking for boats needing crew for the Ha-Ha 10 in late October. I've completed the ASA Basic Keelboat and Basic Coastal Cruising courses, and will be doing a bareboat charter in the British Virgins in December. I've been sailing weekly for about six months, I cook, I haven't gotten seasick yet, and could be available for the return trip. I know that it's getting close to the Ha-Ha deadline, so I thought I'd take a chance by writing to see if you or any other entries might need someone like me as crew. I'd love to do the Ha-Ha this year - but will consider all other racing/cruising opportunities in California and Mexico.
Bri - As we told Julie, Profligate is packed to the gills for the Ha-Ha. But don't despair, for as a young woman who likes to sail and cook, and who doesn't get seasick, you have most of the qualities that many Ha-Ha skippers seek in prospective crew. And we're only half joking. While the start of the Ha-Ha is certainly drawing near, many boats still haven't finalized their crew positions, and we think your chances of getting on a boat are quite good. Just follow the advice we gave to Julie in the previous letter.
Assuming that you do get a berth on
the Ha-Ha, your days of having to search for crew positions will
likely be over, for the event is a perfect sailing network for
women. Whether your desire is to sail more back on San Francisco
Bay, or continue on to the Caribbean or the South Pacific, if
you're the least bit outgoing, you're likely to get at least
I've just started sailing, am excited about learning, and plan on being certified in the next couple of months. As such, I'm interested in learning about sailing opportunities, be it for the Baja Ha-Ha, day sailing, or short trips. I would gladly help prepare the boat and am not afraid of breaking a nail by working hard. And, I have a great sense of humor.
Eileen - Although it's a little late
in the prime season to get started in networking within the sailing
community, you can go back to the April edition of Latitude, find the Crew
List feature and work the phones to see if anyone is looking
for crew. Of course, one of the best ways to suddenly have several
hundred sailing friends is by doing the Ha-Ha, but since you
have so little experience, we'd be hesitant to recommend such
a long event. What you might do is try networking at the Mexico Only Crew
List/Ha-Ha Kick-Off Party in Alameda on October 1 to see
if you can help deliver one of the Ha-Ha boats from Northern
California to Southern California as a trial. If you find that
trip to your liking, you might even snag a berth for the Ha-Ha.
I have written suggesting an article about weatherman Don of Summer Passage, in Ventura. No matter whether we are moving our boat or not, we tune up the Amigo Net every day to listen to his weather report. During the last few weeks it's been extremely helpful to have an idea of what is happening with the tropical disturbances further down the Mexican coast, and how they may influence our weather. We also get an idea of the conditions fellow mariners will likely incur.
A few days ago we received a copy of the June issue, saw the note from our friends on Marna Lynn about Don - but were truly shocked at your response. Sure, Tehuantepeckers are easy to forecast, but I know of only two sources where one can get that info via SSB/Ham radio, so we truly are dependent on the 'radio news' format to be informed.
But I was even more shocked by your additional comment that ". . . not all cruisers hold Don's forecasts in such high regard." No forecaster is ever going to be perfect, and I can't even imagine anyone finding fault with Don's broadcasts! After all, at the beginning of each transmission he states that his forecast is from the perspective of an amateur.
You can't imagine the amount of time and effort Don puts into doing three broadcasts on two nets seven days a week. And then he's available at other times to be called for individual questions. It's just amazing how much time he puts in. But it's not just that he gets up at 0400 daily to gather the weather material. He processes raw data that our weather faxes give us as just that - raw. And the response I hear each day by the net controller is: "Thank you very much Don for your service to us . . . we look forward to hearing from you tomorrow!"
I know of several cruisers who have gone through Ventura to take Don out to lunch, and to get to know the person behind the radio voice. Besides his weather analysis, he has done extensive sailing in the Pacific, so he knows the places he talks about and that we ask about. When a question about a specific spot is brought up, he has an immediate and knowledgeable response.
So I ask, who could have a gripe about him? That someone does leaves me upset.
Alan E. Wulzen
Alan - We think you're taking this a little too personally. Our first statement was: 1) "Except for forecasting the weather for crossing the Sea of Cortez and doing a Baja Bash, weather forecasting isn't very hard or such a big deal in Mexico." This isn't saying anything negative about Don, it's just something we believe to be true.
When we first sailed to Mexico in the early '80s, there weren't any good weather forecasts, so we never became dependent on them. In the subsequent years, we've taken our various boats to Mexico something like 15 times, and we still don't check out weather forecasts - except when leading the Ha-Ha, crossing the Sea, or doing the Baja Bash. For example, when the Wanderer and Doña de Mallorca doublehanded Profligate from Zihua up to Puerto Vallarta earlier this year, it never occurred to us to check the weather - not anymore than we'd check the weather before we set sail on San Francisco Bay or left Long Beach for Catalina. After all, if there was bad weather, we'd be aware of it, and if it turned bad during the passage, there would be plenty of nearby places to seek shelter. It's the same thing when we sail north from La Paz to Isla San Francisco. If there was going to be a Norther, we'd stumble into it soon enough and take shelter in one of the many anchorages. Even if somebody told us there was a Norther forecast for that day, we'd probably still take off, thinking that we'd probably be able to at least make Caleta Partida if the Norther materialized. Besides, what's the worst that could happen if a Norther started honking before we crossed the San Lorenzo Channel? We'd just head back downwind to Pichilinque and sink the hook in deep.
On the other hand, we'd be quite interested in any forecasts where the conditions often get rough and/or shelter is hard to come by. For example, sailing north from Conception, crossing the Gulf of Tehuantepec, heading from Panama or Cartagena to the Eastern Caribbean, sailing along the coast of Oregon and Washington, crossing the Anegada Passage, sailing from the South Pacific to New Zealand, sailing from Bermuda to New England - passages where the weather can be a significant issue. But if we're just sailing from Chacala to Banderas Bay, we're going to rely on what we see rather than what somebody forecasts from 1,000 miles away.
Our second statement was: "Not all cruisers hold Don's forecasts in high regard." Don't shoot us, we're just the messenger. Or would you prefer that we kept this information to ourselves? In any case, it's the opinion of some cruisers - and it's only their opinion - that Don is a tireless and well-meaning amateur forecaster who puts in a tremendous amount of work to help cruisers, but doesn't always come up with the most accurate forecasts. You seem to think this is a terrible personal affront, but what weather forecaster doesn't get a load of criticism? If you have complete confidence in Don's forecasts, what do you care what others think?
As for our personal view, if we're doing the Ha-Ha, crossing the Sea, or doing a Baja Bash, we would absolutely try to pick up Don's forecast. We would then put it together with the other weather information we have to come up with our own personal evaluation. We certainly wouldn't dismiss what he had to say.
By the way, somebody else sent us a
letter blasting us for our point of view on weather and weather
forecasting in Mexico. We'd appreciate it if that person would
email us their thoughts again, as the first message disappeared
into the bowels of our computer.
Folks - We get tons of requests such
as this one. We're only running it as an opportunity for us to
say that we regretfully don't have the time or editorial space
to put readers in contact with each other. Sorry. The alternatives
are to use the Crew Lists
or take out a Classy Classified.
Having just finished servicing the two heads on my 14-year-old Tayana 42, I did one of the relaxing things that I look forward to doing each month - reading Latitude. Having read Phil Ackerman's What's Possible With Women letter, I feel compelled to respond.
As a woman who is "very intelligent, successful, attractive, kind, classy, adventurous, fun - and who loves to camp," enjoying the comfort of my success translates to having the freedom to explore the world, accept challenges, and share and achieve a goal with that special someone.
After cruising 20,000 miles from Florida to New Zealand, I still love the cruising life. I also learned early on that life is to be lived, and the best things in life aren't things. For some of us women, "rocking around on a sailboat for days" is far more appealing and rewarding than rocking in a chair on the front porch!
To the cruisers in Mexico, the mention of San Blas stirs as much controversy as expressing an opinion on which anchor works the best. We are almost finishing up our second - and probably last - year in Mexico, and have to say San Blas can be a manic/depressive experience.
Last year we entered the Estuary twice, and stayed a total of nearly three weeks combined. We put up with the required ship's agent and a few bugs that really aren't such a big deal. We did, however, insist that the agent should earn his money by facilitating our check-in and check-out rather than add to the hindrance. After we refused to walk the 3/4 mile to his closed office again, the somewhat accommodating lady in the Capitania office called him on his cellphone - she knew the number by heart. Lo and behold, he appeared shortly thereafter on his bicycle. That resolved, we did note that the shrimp fishermen - not just the cruisers - also have to deal with him.
On the manic side, Semana Santa (Easter) and San Blas Days were a hoot, and made our visits quite memorable. We made some lifelong friends among the locals, and even considered looking for a house nearby. Although our second visit ended up with our dinghy and motor being stolen on our last night there, we held on to our overall favorable impression of San Blas, and we fully intended to return this year.
After Hurricane Kenna laid a direct hit on San Blas last summer, someone on the SSB net claimed that if they hadn't heard a hurricane had hit, they'd never have known. Well, we drove to San Blas to see the damage and assess what needs the cruising community could help with. What nonsense that original report had been! In addition to significant damage to the infrastructure, the local fishing community has been devastated, and depths in the estero entrance were changed.
This April, we were travelling north from Punta Mita, when we overheard the local San Blas character Norm Goldie, an American who has lived there for decades, yelling over the VHF to no one in particular that anyone entering Mantanchen Bay - which is about three miles south of the Estuary entrance - who didn't check in was unwelcome and would be reported to the port captain and API, and so forth. "We don't want you here!" he said.
We knew Norm from our visits the previous year, and had been hesitant to believe the old stories about his behavior. But we were shocked by the tone of his haranguing. Traffic in San Blas is way down from previous years. I had confirmed this last year with Norm, and saw it in his logs. After hearing him on the radio, I understand why.
Aside from putting a cloud on the San Blas experience, I feel Norm's behavior constitutes a safety hazard to mariners. The mainland coast has little or no shelter between Mazatlan and Punta de Mita, depending on the wind direction. Mariners in need of a few hours of shelter for rest would be hesitant to use Mantanchen Bay, preferring to avoid being harassed. I have discussed this matter with many people, and two cruisers who succumbed to his threats last year wasted days dealing with the check-in/out procedures and thereby lost their northbound weather window. Following that, they had miserable passages north. Many cruisers vow to never visit San Blas.
Although the check-in/out rules are known to be vague and variable, I doubt if they are intended to endanger life. Though Mantanchen Bay and Isla Isabella are supposedly within the jurisdiction of the San Blas Port Captain, I haven't found any history of him patrolling the area - unlike what happens in Barra de Navidad/Melaque/Tenecatita, for example.
The latest from San Blas, according to three boats who checked in there this spring, is a mandatory drug boarding with a dog immediately on entering and on leaving the port. The dog apparently will jump on your berth and does not take off his sandy shoes! One could get the impression cruisers really aren't welcome in San Blas at this time.
Dick - The unpleasant situation in San Blas is unfortunate, because it's really a neat little place with a terrific history. Among other things, it was the base for all Spanish naval operations in the Pacific way back when, and news of the discovery of gold in California reached Washington, D.C., by way of San Blas.
Shortly after we received your letter,
and apropos of nothing, we received a long letter from Norm Goldie.
It will appear in the next issue.
Last weekend, as we stretched out on the sunny deck of the good ship No Strings Attached, and slurped our post-sail Sierra Nevadas, we perused the August issue's Letters section with rapt attention. We'd love to say that this is a ritual of ours, but in truth it was because one of the letters, Job Well Done Worth The Extra Cost, was written by Nick, our skipper.
After reading the editor's response - which admonished our skipper to consider attempting his own repair project before criticizing a boatyard, and to avoid boatyards during the high season, we loyal crew members feel it necessary to respectfully raise a few points of clarification.
First, the letter was from a kinder, gentler Nick, who took great pains to avoid directly calling out any particular establishment. We trust the boatyard proprietor responsible for our skipper's ire knows who he is.
Second, we can testify that Nick has indeed undertaken formidable repair projects on his Baltic 37 - unless you'd consider replacing the entire wiring system and rebuilding the entire head/septic system, both to ABYC standards, to be trivial efforts.
Third, the repair that prompted his missive - we mean letter - was of his engine, whose death throes we witnessed at the Vallejo YC on May 4. That kind of thing simply isn't what most would regard as "elective," and therefore needed to be fixed right away, high season or not.
But more importantly, you seem to have misinterpreted the main point of Nick's letter. He was not criticizing the length of repair time outright, or the cost of repair per se. He was calling for a sense of professionalism in the way that boatyards do business, in keeping with the lusty sums that are typically charged for their work.
Professionalism means that when the job runs over in time and budget estimated - say, four weeks instead of five days, and $13,000 versus $10,500 - you communicate it ASAP to your customer out of respect for their business. You don't wait until the customer calls you a week after the job is due, you further don't tell the customer you're "too busy" to talk to them, and you certainly don't surprise him with a $3,000 overrun when he arrives to take delivery. No business, no matter how busy they are, should consider themselves exempt from this basic tenet. You're too busy? Get help or decline to take the job.
But being of a generally sunny disposition as we are, we'd like to suggest a shift in perspective: When you as a boatowner do receive exceptionally good service from a boatyard, let them know. Make a phone call to the manager. Or write them a thank you letter. One letter bearing positive reinforcement is usually worth three irate phone calls.
The No Strings Attached Crew
NSAC - Thank you very much for the clarification
- and for the excellent advice in the last paragraph.
I'm responding to Cabaret's June issue letter about the cost of cruising in Mexico, and the quality of some mechanics in Mexico.
I'm definitely not going to get into the crossfire concerning the cost of cruising south of the border, something that has been an ongoing controversy in Latitude for some time. I will say that each person gets to choose how they want to cruise, be it on the hook for free or in luxury marinas for quite a bit of money. I'll also say that prices rise everywhere - especially in areas that rely on tourism - and that once you leave your home, no matter where that might be, you become a tourist.
Wherever you go, there are more than just "American wannabe mechanics" claiming to be experts that Cabaret complained about. There's also a whole host of perhaps serial killers who have reinvented themselves as experts of all sorts that you also have to watch out for. These days banditos don't necessarily have Zapata moustaches and wear crisscross bandoliers. But if anyone has the good sense to know the basics about their boat and systems, be safety conscious, and heed the advice of locals - they should be able to identify the guys wearing the white hats.
Cabaret's visit to Paradise Marina near Puerto Vallarta was the result of a bent prop. Having become 'street wise' - or road worthy - they received the best of local advice and assistance, and were under way before you could say Liza Minnelli. Teapot Tony - that's me - is delighted to have received John and Susie's unsolicited praise - even though I never even laid a dirty thumbprint on their boat. I just gave them good advice, as I would do to help any cruiser/tourist.
But how could anyone with a nickname like Teapot be described as "a local American mechanic?" For shame! I'll have to ask 'Her Maj' to set the Royal corgis upon you!
Readers - For anyone trying to get an
idea of the current cost of cruising in Mexico, see this month's
Changes by Frank and Ellen Atteberry
of Hot Ice, who have spent the
summer in La Paz.
In November of 1999, a friend and I stopped at Isla Mujeres on the Caribbean side of Mexico enroute to Belize aboard my boat Quittin' Time. Because of some minor engine trouble for which we could not find the replacement part, we could not go on. So I paid Marina Paraiso slip fees for three months, planning to return in the spring and continue on to Belize.
In January of 2000, Miguel Magana, Manager of Marina Paraiso, called to tell me there had been a "raid," and that 13 boats had been impounded because they did not have a Temporary Import Permit. Most owners or captains were nearby and could take care of the problem. Unfortunately, I was in Tallahassee, Florida, being treated for throat cancer. The sore throat that I had when I came back from Isla Mujeres was diagnosed soon after my return. I did not realize our boat was in danger of confiscation, and we had our minds on cancer.
I had been in and out of Isla Mujeres several times, and have published some research work done on Isla Contoy, a government-managed wildlife sanctuary. I had come on my first trip with an experienced captain, and had always checked in with the proper authorities. No one had ever informed us of such a required permit. We were told later that this was a "resurrected law" that had not been enforced for over 20 years. We made numerous calls, and about a month after hearing of the impoundment, my wife went to Cancun. She had been told by a customs official she could come and resolve the problem. On her arrival, she was told that the matter had gone to a "higher authority."
In spite of many appeals to Congressmen, Senators, American Consuls, and Mexican officials, and 'resolutions' presented by lawyers we hired, our boat was confiscated and eventually sold. Two other boats, including Rodney Mundale's and Joseph Brueggler's new $70,000 boat were also sold because the owners were unable to meet the 10-day deadline!
During my wife's visit to Isla Mujeres, she and Señor Magana removed much of the gear - outboard engine, dinghy, generator, spare sails, and so forth - for "safe keeping." When I returned in April of 2003, I found that this gear was gone, having been sold or otherwise disposed of by Magana. Neither the marina owner, Sr. Manuel Guitterez from Merida, nor Magana would accept responsibility for the loss.
So even though you do all that Immigration, Customs, and the Port Captain tell you to do, an unused law can be revived and rip you off. Also, choose your marina carefully.
The moral of this story: "Tenga cuidado" - but enjoy the wonderful people and places of Quintana Roo and Southern Mexico.
Charles L. Coultas
Charles - We're not at all familiar
with the state of Quintana Roo - other than to know it's reputed
to be prime drug smuggling country and a center of corruption
- or the sailing scene in Isla Mujeres. But it's been quite some
time since we remember anything like that happening on the Pacific
side of Mexico. There was a bunch of boats seized because a La
Paz marina fell behind in taxes about 10 years ago, but everybody
stayed cool and that got worked out. We're very sorry that you
were taken advantage of.
I saw John Hamilton's July letter nominating the Lapworth 36 as a candidate to be a Latitude Boat of the Month. As such, I wanted to make you aware of another Lapworth 36 in the Bay - Papoose, hull #5, which has been in our family since 1975. I'm told that the Papoose was built to race in the TransPac, and did so twice. She supposedly did well, but I don't have any details.
I'm very interested in Papoose's history. I know, for example, that her original main had a couple of chevrons on it, for reasons I don't know, and that she had a reputation for being very fast. I have also managed to correspond with people who crewed on her for her first two owners. They replied to a post I made on rec.boats several years ago. One told of racing in SF Bay and hitting a buoy - that's no longer there - off Crissy field in a fast tide. That explained some hull damage I'd previously wondered about. The second respondent said that they took first in half of the races they entered. But the only specific knowledge I have of Papoose's racing success was a third place in the Long Beach YC Opening Day Regatta in 1967 - I have the trophy. The boat was from Southern California, but came to race on San Francisco Bay at least once.
Fourteen years ago, I brought Papoose up here permanently. As with many of the Lapworth 36s in the Bay, she is meticulously maintained. One of my proudest moments was when a powerboat pulled up to me and the skipper yelled over, "She looks even better than when Cliff owned her," referring to Cliff Tucker, the owner prior to 1975.
I am very interested in the boat's history and would be thankful for any further information. I can be reached via email.
Allen - We hate to possibly be the bearer
of bad news, but did Papoose
ever race under another name? We ask because TransPac records
indicate there's never been a Papoose that has done that
race. Doing a little more research, we found that only three
Lapworth 36s have done the race to Hawaii: Jo Too, which
took 5th in class in '63; Gambit, which took 13th in class
in '67; and Woodwynd, which took 17th in '71 and 14th
We were fortunate to receive the July Latitude in a timely manner - and would like to second what Bob and Kathy Pauly of Briana had to report regarding the visa situation here in French Polynesia. Doing things the right way may be frustrating, but it's still more simple than checking into Mexico. We are currently anchored in the beautiful Baie d'Opunohu on Moorea, and here's our situation.
1) Visas. We obtained a Carte de Sejour - extended stay visa - which allows us to stay in French Polynesia up to one year. We did this because we plan to put our boat, Wind Spirit, on the hard at Raiatea for tropical cyclone season.
Sue began the paperwork required for the visa in mid-August - before we set sail for Mexico - by making several trips to the French consulate in San Francisco because the requirements differed from those posted on the French consulate's website. We finally submitted the complete application in late September. The approval process takes about 2.5 months. At first the consulate wanted to keep our passports. After we objected, they finally just stamped them. This was a good thing, because we couldn't have gone to Mexico without our passports. We sailed to Mexico while our application was being reviewed in Papeete. When we returned to the States for personal business in February, we picked up our visas.
We were surprised to learn that even though we had the visa in our passport, we still only had three months from the effective date on the visa or from the date we arrived in the Marquesas - whichever was earlier - to pick up the actual Carte de Sejour in Papeete. This was a disappointment because we had planned on spending more time cruising in the Tuamotus.
While obtaining the Carte de Sejour was time-consuming, frustrating, and somewhat expensive - mostly the translation fees - it certainly cost less than having to make a trip to Easter Island in order to obtain our proper paperwork. For two people, such a trip would cost about $2,000. Not that a trip to Easter Island is any great hardship - in fact, we'd recommend it to anyone.
2) Bonds. Yes, you will need to post a bond or have an airline ticket good to take you out of French Polynesia. While you may be able to postpone posting a bond depending upon your Marquesan port of entry, you will need a bond or plane ticket in Papeete regardless of what type of visa you have. If you use your airline ticket to fly home - for parts, a wedding, etc. - you will need to obtain another one before returning to French Polynesia. Of course, there will always be someone who proves to be an exception to the rule.
One alternative to posting a bond is hiring a company to do it before you arrive. These outfits work much like bail bondsmen. The advantages are that there are no currency exchange risks, and there is no problem about where to pick up your bond prior to departing French Polynesia. We used an outfit called Tahiti Ocean. Most cruisers, however, just deposited the bond or bought an airline ticket.
3) First landfall. Yes, French regulations dictate that you must make your first landfall at a port of entry. A number of Puddle Jumpers and others made their first landfall at Fatu Hiva, where there is no port of entry. Some were told they could spend three days there before proceeding to a port of entry - which turned out not to be true. Some overstayed even this grace period. A very few people were fined for not having checked in before visiting Fatu Hiva. We checked in at Hiva Oa first, so sailing to Fatu Hiva was no big deal.
The French douane (customs) patrols the anchorages in the Marquesas and the rest of French Polynesia. They boarded most of the boats we knew, some more than once. They were professional, courteous, and even friendly - as have been the gendarmes. They conduct a cursory search of the vessel, asking about liquor, guns, ammunition, drugs, and the usual things. Some vessels had to lock up excess amounts of alcohol. Boats that had not already checked in were frequently checked in at this time. However, some were searched thoroughly and fined more heavily.
Our conclusion is that the law is the law, and we didn't want to be singled out as an example or jeopardize our chance to stay in French Polynesia. The procedures are simple and straightforward, but getting the information ahead of time was difficult.
Barry & Sue Swackhamer
Barry and Sue - Very interesting information.
It's the first we've heard that bail bond-like agencies can post
bond for cruisers. What does their service cost?
As there have been many responses to my letter regarding what happened to my boat during the Lightbucket Race in March of this year, I only object to the use of the term 'knockdown'. As indicated in my letter, I was going almost dead downwind at the time the wave hit - I never said anything about a side roll or knockdown.
As for my location at the time, I was next to the shipping channel for safety. All of us who have sailed out the Gate know the depths in and next to the channel until you get to around buoys #8 and #10. As for my exact location, I have GPS positions recorded on my laptop via Raymarine Navigator. I can send the plots to anyone interested. Write me via email.
I certainly know sounders/transducers do give false readings at times. This may have been one of those times.
To briefly restate what happened, I rode the face of a large wave just after the sounder gave me a low water alarm. When I later read about how wave dynamics work, I considered the fact that my sounder was reasonably accurate, and at the time of the wave the 'pool' in front of the face was drained as I rode up the face to the peak. I stand by my original letter.
We've been catching up on our Latitudes, and came across your plan to take Profligate to St. Barth via the Panama Canal this winter. Although we wrote a rough cruising guide to negotiating the north coast of South America between Panama and Aruba (which is most of the hard part of the way to the Eastern Caribbean), we don't consider ourselves experts. But we do have some thoughts.
First, we would never attempt your plan - but then we don't have a delivery crew to deal with the problems. We assume that you are going to do Ha-Ha 10 with Profligate, so there's no way to get out of Cabo before mid-November. And you do want to do St. Barth's for New Years. So we think you have the following options:
1) Get Profligate to Cabo or Mazatlan before October 31, then 'beat feet' direct to Panama by mid-November. Hopefully you could get through the Canal and east across the Caribbean before the extra-strong Christmas Winds start to blow. That would leave you without a boat for the Ha-Ha, but I'm sure you could get a berth on one of the other Ha-Ha boats.
2) Do the Ha-Ha this year on Profligate, fly to St. Barths for Christmas, then enjoy the Mexican season like you usually do. But at the end of the season in April, head south to Central America and the Pacific side of Panama instead of returning to California. Then transit the Canal in late September, and do your easting in the Caribbean along the South American coast when the winds are always light.
As for the Caribbean Sea, the most important issue is the weather. Some years the extra-strong Christmas Winds start in early November, other times not until January. Only Mother Nature knows for sure. As you've noted, cats don't go to weather very well, so you'll want reaching winds. Since the winds are out of the northeast from November until April, you'll have the following sub-options:
1) In December, beat east from the Canal to Cartagena, tack over to Jamaica, tack the ABC's, then east along the Venezuelan coast - where the winds are usually much lighter than further north around Hispanola and Puerto Rico, then up north through the island chain.
2) Wait until October of next year to go east along the coast of South America to Trinidad, then sail up the island chain.
If we were doing it, we'd go for option #2.
As for us, our Moorings 510 was hauled out in San Carlos, Mexico, to get a blister job while we spent nine months in California dealing with the loss of two parents. Thankfully, most of that is behind us. We're out cruising Pizazz once again, and enjoying it. Actually, we're just hiding out here in Mexico to avoid the lawsuits from the families of sailors who died as a result of following our advice about using the north coast of South America to get between Panama and the Eastern Caribbean. Seriously, why is it that only the few bad reports on weather and security in that area get published, but none of the stories of the hundreds who have gone that way without problems get published?
Randy & Lourae Kenoffel
Randy and Lourae - Our situation is a little different from that of typical cruisers. First, Profligate is an essential editorial tool for Latitude, and needs to be working as much as possible. To have her sit idle in Central America for months waiting for more favorable conditions in the Caribbean is simply out of the question. Waiting another year to get her to the Eastern Caribbean is almost as unthinkable.
Our situation is also different from most cruisers in two other ways: 1) Profligate is faster and can keep going in rougher weather than the average 45-ft cruising sailboat, and 2) there are a lot of experienced sailors who have expressed interest in volunteering for what all realize will be a relentless, hard-driving delivery under power as opposed to a pleasure cruise under sail.
Our plan is actually only about a week different from your first option. We must have Profligate for the Ha-Ha, but that doesn't mean she can't leave Cabo until the middle of November - which would indeed be very late to try to make it to Panama, through the Canal, and across the Eastern Caribbean before the Christmas Winds are likely to set in. Our goal is that Profligate will arrive in Cabo on the afternoon of November 6th, and that the delivery crew will take off by noon on the 7th - yeah, it's a Friday - with four additional 55-gallon drums of fuel aboard. From then on it will be a nonstop sprint under power for as long as the engines, transmissions, props, and crew hold out. Fortunately, the spacious Profligate is often a relatively pleasant ride even under power.
The way we figure it, it's about 2,100 miles from Cabo to the Canal. Throttled back to fuel-saving rpms, Profligate can average 8.5 knots - or about 200 miles a day in reasonably flat conditions. If all goes very well, and the fuel stops are limited to hours rather than overnights, she might make it to the Canal in 12 days or by November 18. Hopefully, she could be admeasured and moved through the Canal in five days.
We're fully aware that getting to Panama is merely the ante that has to be put up in order to have a chance to make it 1,100 miles east across the Caribbean Sea at that time of year. We are also fully aware that once the Christmas Winds start blowing, and the adverse current flows even stronger, the odds against making it to St. Barths quickly or without a lot of damage increase quickly. That's the reason, of course, for going hell-bent from Cabo to the Canal.
But if all goes to plan, Profligate would still have a week of November - considered by many the best month to try to cross the Caribbean - to get as far east as fast as possible. The big question, of course, is which way to go. If there was a period of light air and flat seas - perhaps caused by a hurricane further north sucking all the air out of the region - Profligate would probably try to make the 600-mile dash for Aruba, hoping to make it in about four days, figuring once there, she could duck down to the Venezuelan coast for relief from the trades, and have most of two weeks to make it the remaining 500 miles east to Grenada, and then north up the island chain another 380 miles to St. Barth.
The other option would be to sail/motor toward Jamaica, or maybe even the western tip of Hispanola. From there, she would use the 'Thornless Path's 'night lee' technique to work the south coasts of Hispanola and Puerto Rico. Profligate actually motors upwind reasonably fast, even in quite a bit of wind and seas, so presumably she could cover more ground than most boats in the few hours of calm each night, and hang in there longer to make more progress. To our way of thinking, if Profligate could make either Aruba or Hispanola by the 12th of December, she could probably easily make the remaining distance to St. Barth by December 31 - even if the Christmas Trades kicked in. It might be hard, and might require taking the maximum advantage of lulls and windshifts, but we think she could do it.
What could possibly go wrong with such a plan? Just about everything, of course: a post-season tropical storm off the southern coast of mainland Mexico; a debilitating failure of the engines/transmissions/props; unexpected rough conditions or delays caused by Tehuantepeckers and/or Papagayos on the way to Panama; revolution in the Canal; Christmas Winds arriving early; administrative delays in one of the Central American countries or in Panama; crew mutiny; a dismasting; lightning strikes; going up on a reef; being run down by a ship; catching on fire; being boarded by pirates. These and a million other things.
We're not unaware of the obstacles to the success of such a voyage. Earlier this year, Bruce Cleveland and his wife, aided by 'Commodore' Tompkins and others, tried to average 180 miles a day with the Clevelands' new Swan 56 Alizana from San Francisco to Antigua in order to make Sailing Week. By the time they got to Panama, the owners had tired of the pace. But they were on what was at least partially supposed to be a pleasure cruise, and their boat was brand new and needed shaking down. Our delivery crew(s) know that they are joining a potential hell trip, and Profligate is reasonably well shaken down.
We're sure there are many experienced
cruisers who are guffawing at our plan. Wait until they hear
that the subsequent plan for Profligate
- we couldn't leave such an important editorial tool lollygagging
in the Caribbean for the summer - is to either be in Barcelona,
Spain, or San Diego by June 1. Fortunately, both of these trips
would most likely be much easier than the one to the Eastern
Caribbean. Anyway, those are our plans, and we're sticking to
them for as long as we can. If they become impossible at some
point, we'll have to change them. By the way, there may be crewing
opportunities for some of these legs. Watch for announcements
on 'Lectronic Latitude.
Although I am on the East Coast, the August issue of your fine magazine - with the Ranger 33 as the Boat of the Month - has generated quite a discussion on the ranger.list section of sailnet.com.
For Ranger 33 fans, I have a site at www.members.dca.net/pwink/ranger/ranger.htm. In it, there is a link to an article/interview with Gary Mull originally published in Good Old Boat, and there is also a database/list of rangers here at www.members.dca.net/pwink/ranger/rangers.htm.
I wonder if you would consider publishing the article on the web, or even providing a link to it for me and others? Interest in Rangers in general seems to be on the rise, as they are certainly excellent boats.
Phil - Thanks for the info on those
Ranger links. As requested, we've posted our article
on our Web site.
With regard to the pointing ability of cruising catamarans, such as the Atlantic 55 that I designed, I'd like to share our experience from her first race.
July 25 was the start of the 94-mile New England Solo/Twin Race from Newport, Rhode Island. A total of 51 boats started, most of them monohulls, and most of them being doublehanded. There were six boats in the multihull division: five trimarans by various designers, and one catamaran - the Atlantic 55 Synergy sailed by owner Dave Penfield and crew Rob Malin. I sailed with my friend and master boatbuilder Don Watson on his venerable 35-ft trimaran, Swampfox. (West Coasters might recognize some of Don's work in the form of Heart of Gold, which he built a number of years ago.)
The multihull fleet was a competitive bunch, with lightweight, slippery boats and experienced skippers. While many of these boats are offshore capable, few would meet the consensus definition of a 'cruising boat'. None of the trimarans had inboard power, and their accommodations were spartan, to say the least. The Atlantic 55 cat Synergy is quite a different animal. She has a beautiful interior, accommodations for eight in four double cabins, two spacious heads with hot showers, two large inboard diesels, abundant tankage, a freezer, cruising-size battery banks, and she carries a large hard-bottom dinghy. She weighed four times as much as the next largest multihull in the event.
The 25th was a beautiful summer day with southwest winds at 10 knots, with puffs to maybe 15 knots. The first leg was directly upwind 25 miles to the buoy on the southwest corner of Block Island. The multihulls were the last class to start, 70 minutes after the first monohull class.
Swampfox, the tri that I was sailing on, has a beautiful new kevlar mainsail and overlapping jib, and usually does well, particularly upwind. I was quite nervous at the start of the race, wondering how Synergy would fare upwind against Swampfox and the other well-tuned trimarans. My nervousness turned to relief when, after short-tacking down Narragansett Bay, Synergy, which had gotten a good start, was still ahead of us. The western shore was favored, and we spent the next two hours splitting tacks and swapping leads with the big cat. Due to the need for rapid tacks, Penfield was sailing Synergy with the small self-tacking jib rather than the larger and slower tacking genoa. I was amazed the cat could do so well with the small self-tacking jib.
During the beat toward Pt. Judith, we passed numerous monohulls that had started ahead of us, and would continue to do so for the rest of the race. Watson likes to sail Swampfox close to the wind, as he maintains "higher and slower' is really the fastest way to windward. I never noticed any difference in our pointing ability compared to the monohulls that we sailed past, or Synergy, which we sailed close to for hours.
As we passed Pt. Judith, there was no longer a need to short tack, so Penfield unrolled Synergy's genoa - and she promptly began to walk away from us. After the three-hour beat to windward, she was the first multihull to reach Block Island. Naturally, I was very pleased with Synergy's progress - although my captain wasn't.
As the chutes were hoisted on the south side of Block Island for the 36-mile deep reach to a buoy south of Martha's Vineyard, the lightweight trimarans took off. Synergy lost ground on this leg, as the wind was too light to get such a big cat pumped up, and the trimarans - which have less wetted surface and much more sail area for their weight - sailed faster. We on Swampfox - having blown our best headsail - struggled to catch Synergy, but couldn't. We passed a few monos on the reach, but there wasn't enough wind to have much of an advantage over them.
Shortly after sunset, we rounded the leeward mark and sheeted in hard for the Racon buoy at the Narragansett Bay approach about 30 miles to the west. We could lay the mark, but just barely. The wind had backed off some, and shifted toward west. The nearby Buzzard's Bay tower reported a steady 8.2 knots. Swampfox really hurt for the lack of the big kevlar jib, and we lost yet more ground.
I was steering around 11 p.m., and getting cold sitting out in the wind. My foul weather jacket was zipped tight with the hood up, as I was trying to retain all the body heat possible. I was also pretty sleepy, having departed very early that morning to sail to the start. As my eyes glazed over watching the compass dance, trying hard to keep Swampfox sailing on course, my thoughts strayed to the crew of Synergy many miles ahead of us. I suspected they were sitting comfortably inside the pilothouse with the autopilot doing the work, looking at their exact position on the chart plotter, and probably sipping something hot. The next day I found out that I was nearly correct - but had missed the fact that they were also enjoying the Red Sox game!
We passed the leading monohulls before reaching the Racon buoy, then bore off on the short leg for the finish, close reaching with the big chute in about five knots of wind.
Synergy beat us by 20 odd minutes, and beat all of the 45 monohulls that started. She beat the fastest monohull - the radical canting keel Red Herring - by 17 minutes in elapsed time. She was 1 hour, 38 minutes, faster than the next fastest monohull in elapsed time. Given that most of the race was to windward and there was no close reaching except for the very short last leg in light air - sorry, Beaufort "Light Breeze" - I would say this is pretty convincing proof that a cruising catamaran, if designed to do so, can sail to windward well.
Are there faster monohulls than the ones entered in the Solo/Twin? Certainly. Would the multihulls have fared as well sailing against a state-of-the-art IMS 50-footer with 15 hefty bodies sitting to windward? Not likely. But then again, why were no boats of that type participating in this race? Probably because they can't be sailed by two people. Most cruising boats are sailed shorthanded, so I think a race of this type establishes a more realistic comparison to real world usage than most race courses.
P.S. Sailing a multihull upwind in gale conditions is a topic worthy of discussion. While I disagree with some of the points you made in the July issue, let's sort out one problem before we get immersed in another.
P.P.S. I'm enjoying the back and forth with Latitude, and am not offended in any way. In general, I like your skeptical attitude. We multihull sailors have suffered for so long by being noncritical of our own product.
P.P.P.S. - I'm glad to hear that John Haste's high-tech Perry 52 cat Little Wing, and your 63-ft Profligate are planning to try to get to the Caribbean next winter, as it would be fun for the East Coast and West Coast cats to play around together. There are always a couple of the Atlantic 42s I designed in the British Virgins or further south. John Franklin on LightSpeed is a good sailor who enjoys racing. Synergy should be south this winter, and Rocketeer, a slightly different Atlantic 55 skippered by your friend Joe Hutchens, is also expected to head to the Caribbean. The next Atlantic 55 launch belongs to me. I'm pushing hard to get her wrapped up by November 1 so that we can do a family sail up from South Africa. I'm hoping to spend a bit of time cruising Namibia, St. Helena, Ascension, and Brazil, so we might not get there until February - just before the Heineken Regatta in St. Martin. Of course, work might interfere, but I'm trying not to think about that.
Chris - When it comes to us, you're preaching to the choir on all but one point. Do we think that a long, lightweight cat, with narrow hulls, daggerboards, and a self-tacking jib is the fastest, easiest, safest, most comfortable shorthanded cruising vessel in the world? Praise Jesus, we do! That's why we own one. And lord knows we've converted scores of sailors who have come sailing on our boat.
The one point where we may differ is on how high a cruising cat can point. In a previous letter, you suggested that one of your Atlantic 55s outpointed a J/160 in light air. In this letter, you can conclude that "a cruising cat, if designed to do so, can sail to windward well." To our way of thinking, these are two significantly different claims. The first is about raw pointing ability, and frankly, we'd have to see a cruising cat outpoint a J/160 with our own eyes before we could believe it. The second is about velocity made good to weather, in which a lower pointing cruising cat might, because of her superior speed, be able to reach a windward mark before a J/160. We're not positive, but we suspect that a really good 55-ft cruising cat could do that if there was a strong enough breeze. In any event, it sure would be fun to find out.
We're glad you don't take offense at
our comments and opinions, and we're keeping our fingers crossed
that our West Coast cruising cats will get to join your East
Coast cruising cats in the Caribbean this winter for some fun
I read with interest the controversies and hypotheses regarding the ability of cruising catamarans to sail to weather, both in heavy weather and while racing. I would like to interject realism on how Capricorn Cat, my mostly self-designed and self-built 45-ft cat, goes to weather.
In the past seven years of extensive cruising, we have suffered through three instances of having to sail on a close reach in gale force winds. The worst was on a trip from Tahiti to Hawaii, where we saw two full days of apparent wind of 33-37 knots, with gusts over 40. We did a lot of launching off the crests of the oncoming waves before I finally got Capricorn Cat slowed down to a crawl. I triple-reefed the main and towed a Gale Rider drogue. With that, we were able to keep the speed down to about six knots, and then it wasn't so bad. Joannie and I just sat inside the cabin and held on.
When racing against other cruising cats with daggerboards and reasonably narrow hulls, Capricorn Cat has held her own pointing. In light winds - meaning 10 knots or less - we have been lucky to tack within 110 degrees - and we have very efficient daggerboards. Remember, ours is a cruising cat that remains in cruise mode even when in a regatta.
In a fresh breeze, we can point 25 degrees apparent, but with the speed, that translates to 50 - 55 degrees true. Catamaran 'salesmen' who claim their cats can tack within 90 degrees are looking at their windvane and not the GPS.
We remember having breakfast with the Wanderer at Paradise Resort after the Banderas Bay Regatta in March, and telling him that we were taking our Perry 52 catamaran Little Wing to the Caribbean for this coming winter. The Wanderer said he hoped that Profligate would be dashing there too, right after the Ha-Ha. We joked about meeting up in St. Barth on New Year's Eve to renew our rivalry for the Around The Island Race and competing for Mt. Gay Rum instead of Pacifico Beer - as we always did in Mexico.
If you want to know the truth, the general consensus of everyone there was that the Wanderer would be too constrained by Latitude for Profligate to get to the Caribbean. Despite his assurances, we didn't really believe him.
But apparently you're really serious about having Profligate in the Caribbean - and we couldn't be more thrilled. After all, we definitely prefer to race for rum, especially Mount Gay Rum, the sailing skipper's drink of choice. Beer? I never drink the stuff. So when I won those cases from you in Mexico, it wasn't even that satisfying.
I have just returned from Nicaragua, where Little Wing is spending the summer at cruiser Robert Membreno's brand new Puesta del Sol Marina. Robert is going all out, so this will probably become a major stop for cruisers. The location is only 90 miles from Marina Barilles in El Salvador, and Puesto del Sol has some advantages - an easy deep-water entrance, total protection, and it is cooler because of the breeze. Marina construction is well under way, as they are working on a clubhouse, restaurant, pool, and fuel dock. I'm kind of shocked at the scope of the overall project, which eventually will consist of a hotel, tennis courts, golf course, and airstrip. Sort of like a little Paradise Resort and Marina, but in Nicaragua!
We checked into leaving Little Wing in Costa Rica, but slip fees were in excess of $20/ft at one of the marinas, and they get a lot more rain at this time of year. Having an excellent alternative in Nicaragua made Puesto del Sol an easy choice. We'll be leaving Nicaragua in September to go through the Canal and on to the Caribbean.
While in Nicaragua, my cat got hit by lightning, and now I need a new KVH masthead wind sensor. Can anybody help me find this?
By the way, on our way to Nicaragua, we really enjoyed our stop at Huatulco, Mexico. It's a very nice place with a great marina and a wonderful port captain. Nothing but good!
P.S. On the catamarans to weather controversy, my opinion is that no cruising catamaran can point as high as a similar sized J/Boat.
John - God willing, as the Arabs say, Profligate will be in St. Barths by Christmas. Come New Year's Eve, we're hoping to have a good turnout of West Coast catamarans for the Around The Island Race - Little Wing, Profligate, and the Bernhard Brothers have assured us they'll be bringing their Catana 58 Aurora across the Atlantic to be there. Hopefully there will be some East Coast cats, and we're even going to make Bruce Cleveland's Swan 56 Alizana an honorary catamaran for the day.
As for Mt. Gay Rum, we want to warn you that they sell it in gallon jugs at the photo mat in St. Barth.
FIRST IT WAS 'BUY THIS MAGAZINE OR WE'LL SHOOT THIS DOG,' NOW THIS
If you can answer any questions about a boat that I am going to buy from a local pastor, I will sign up for a subscription today. The boat is a Sea King 18, a cute little thing I'd use for sailing in the local ponds such as Whiskeytown Lake and Lake Shasta. The hull looks to be in great shape, although the paint inside is cracked from expansion/contraction. I can't find out anything about the boat online though.
Thanks in advance. I was probably going to subscribe anyway, but your response will just move the ball upfield a little faster.
Jonathan - If you think we'd answer
your question about a Sea King 18 just to get you to subscribe,
you don't understand our motivation for busting our butts to
put Latitude out every month.
This is all about love, not money. So if we knew anything about
the Sea King - which we don't - we would have gladly told you
I'd like to query Latitude readers as to their opinions on a good trailerable boat that can be used on the Bay as well as be transported to exotic retreats such as Clear Lake, Lake Tahoe and Southern California. I expect that Bay sailing will account for about 70% of our sailing time, so we want to make sure whatever we get is stiff enough. When it comes to boat experience, we had a 28-ft full keel Triton, then I sailed I-14s for about eight years. Those are two extremes, but I had a great time on both. Comfort and room with a cabin to sleep four comfortably would be nice. High performance is not necessary, but I would like something responsive. My preference is toward a tiller.
I talked with a Classy Classified seller who loved his Catalina 22. He said he'd taken her out the Gate and north for six or seven miles. Another guy trying to sell a Hunter 26 described her as a "terrible Bay boat, but great for lake sailing." I'm considering a MacGregor 26 for its size and trailerability, but question how good it would be in the Bay. I've heard that MacGregors are more of a Southern California-type boat.
I know there are other considerations, but thought this would stimulate some open dialogue. Thanks.
Chris - We don't consider ourselves to be experts on trailerable boats, but offer four things to consider:
1) While it's normally rougher in San Francisco Bay and outside the Gate than it is in the waters off Southern California, sometimes it can blow like hell down there. As such, there are times when it would be easy to sail a Laser around the Farallones while you couldn't sail a Catalina 22 back from Catalina. You tell us what the weather is going to be, and we'll tell you if a certain type of boat would be suitable.
2) The skill of the person sailing the boat is often more important than the boat itself. So unless you knew the Hunter 26 owner to be a very good sailor, it would be hard to know what to make of his opinion.
3) There was an incident a couple of years ago in which a MacGregor 26 loaded down with about seven crew flopped on her side beneath the Bay Bridge in mild conditions. As we recall, it had something to do with the faulty use of the water ballast system. These are popular boats, but we'd want to know more about the design before we bought one.
4) What do you plan to tow the boat with? A vehicle that might be able to tow a Cal 21 could be destroyed trying to pull a Laguna 28.
Having raised these considerations,
we'd love to hear trailerable boat suggestions from our readers.
What's the proper procedure for cremating a copy of Latitude prior to a burial at sea?
My brother-in-law, a Kansas resident and Lake of the Ozarks sailor, started reading Latitude when I began sending him issues after we moved to the Bay Area 20 years ago. He loved to hunt, fish and sail, but when he went to the hospital for the last time, a dog-eared June issue of Latitude was among the reading material he brought along.
I spoke with my sister over the phone the other day, and I told her that I'd bring a Latitude to be a part of the burial at sea ceremony off Newport Beach. Not wanting to pollute, I incinerated an August issue in a small Weber BBQ. I started out using low cholesterol olive oil as fuel, but that barely got the newsprint burning. So I resorted to a higher-octane BBQ lighter fluid, which made the flames leap. Then I watched the pages burn while sipping from a glass of 'Two-Buck Chuck'.
The question I have for you is whether or not my wife and I should have put a few slabs of beef or fish on the grill. For when Latitude really gets going, it gives off quite a bit of heat. Indeed, what is the proper ceremony/procedure for an avid reader of Latitude when he/she casts off the lines for the last time?
Vince - It sounds to us like you handled
the ceremony properly and with impeccable taste. Although putting
meat or fish on the funeral pyre isn't common, there's certainly
nothing wrong with it. It all depends on how hungry you are.
We just got back from five months of sailing in the Eastern Caribbean, and I am in the process of reading all my back issues - so forgive this ol' man if I missed something.
In the June issue, you wrote about an undependable starboard engine starter/solenoid combination that would sometimes start and sometimes require that you jump it with a quarter. Well, we had the same problem for several years. Finally during the '02 Antigua Sailing Week - where we tried our luck against the Oysters and got smoked - we had to do something. Tom Fugina, our able foredeck crew who works for the WI electric company here in Milwaukee, showed us how to jump the solenoid. From then on we used a little yellow wire that had two alligator clips to start the Merc 150 hp diesel - yes, it's a Mercury diesel - when it got stubborn.
While at Admiralty Bay in Bequia this past season, we decided to rig a permanent jumper. I put on a wire and ran it to a convenient place so I wouldn't have to tear up the engine room just to start the motor. After a few hours work, I tried the new rig and . . . nothing! After several beers and a day or two to cool off, I hired the local electrician. He ran a heavier wire with a new starter switch. It was $100 well spent as it works every time.
The original and still present starter has several relays in the circuit. These relays are located in the electrical box on the motor and serve to keep the motor from starting when in gear or when the electrical throttle/shift is not powered up. We need to have that fixed someday, but our list is long, and since we can start the motor at will, it's a low priority. I suspect that your relays are the problem.
That was an interesting letter about the burnt out and restored Catalina 42 that sunk off of Kick 'em Jenny in the southern part of the Eastern Caribbean. They were making the most respected passage in the Eastern Caribbean. We have made that run from mainland Grenada to Carriacou - which is a possession of Grenada - and back many times. It usually blows 25+, and I have seen 40 a few times. The seas are mixed and irregular because of the current and major changes in depth. When going north, the wind is usually on the nose. Lately, we've taken to turning on the motor and slugging it out for 25 miles. Lots of cruisers just stay way offshore either to weather or leeward, and haul up to Martinique's St. Anne's harbor - which is absolutely the best anchorage in the Eastern Caribbean - to avoid both this passage and the newly instituted $40 entrance fee at Grenada.
Speaking of Catalina 42s, my son Scott - who won't leave California - and his bride Rebecca were recently hitched at the Mission in Ventura. Since I was there, I couldn't pass up the chance to walk the local docks, which is how I stumbled across a new Catalina 42 that has an electric motor for her main engine and a fuel cell as an energy source! She's on L Dock in Ventura. You should check it out. Owner Craig Schmitman is checking out this approach. He explained how it worked to me three times - and I still don't understand where the power is coming from.
We are still looking for a reasonably-priced interchange for our main engine fuel filter. If any of your readers can help, it would be appreciated.
Ken & Anne Nigel
Ken and Anne - Thanks for the advice and information. We're going to try to make it to the Eastern Caribbean with Profligate this winter - probably with some heavier wire for our starter. We'll be keeping our eye out for you.
By the way, we know what you mean about
the Mac 65s at Antigua Sailing Week. They could outreach and
outrun our much heavier Ocean 71 Big
O, but when it came to the rough windward stuff on the south
coast from Cades Reef to English Harbor, it was a different story.
But win or lose, how could you not have fun at Antigua Sailing
In your June issue you reported on an upcoming transatlantic race for smaller craft in which you interviewed a young American sailor entering a 20-ft racing boat. I was intrigued to read that he had aboard a "gyro autopilot." West Marine hasn't heard of it either. Can you point me toward info, or is it a put-on?
Donn - That doesn't ring a bell with any of us, but you'd probably be talking about Jonathan McKee who will be doing the Mini-Transat aboard Team McLube.
It sounds as though McKee may have the same system or a similar system to the RayMarine autopilot Bran Van Liew used with great success in the Around Alone Race. With normal autopilots, Van Liew - and all the others - had problems with gybes caused by the autopilot not being level and giving erroneous readings - sometimes erroneous enough to cause wicked jibes. With the gyro autopilot, Van Liew no longer had such a problem.
In recent issues I've read that several folks are interested in learning more about celestial navigation. I was in the same position several years ago, and spoke with Ken Gebhart of Celestaire at Pacific Sail Expo. With that as a start, I spent some time reading up on celestial navigation in preparation for a class at a local sailing school. Since then, I believe that I've come to understand the topic reasonably well.
As it turns out, celestial navigation isn't that difficult once you understand what's going on. I must say, however, that few of the books available do a good job of covering the conceptual aspect of the topic. But I digress. One book that I can recommend is Susan P. Howell's Practical Celestial Navigation. It has lots of examples and plenty of sample problems to solve.
By the way, one of the folks who wrote in about celestial was Randy Ramirez, who may well have been a sailing classmate of mine in January of '97. If Randy can contact me, I'd be happy to share what I've learned.
John - It's hard to believe, but when
we started Latitude in the late
'70s, celestial was the only way to navigate on the open ocean.
Nobody carried Omega, and there was no Loran, no SatNav, and
certainly no GPS. This led to some humorous results, for more
than a few sailors set out from San Francisco for Hawaii with
nothing more than a general idea of where the Islands were, a
sextant, some tables, and a manual about how to do celestial.
As we recall, it took some of them halfway to Hawaii before they
figured it out. A few of them never did learn, and only found
Hawaii with a little DR and a lot of luck - and sometimes after
sailing past it.
I'm writing in regard to your response to Sebastian Tindall's August letter, the one in which he inquired about the sinking of the sailboat Spirit in the mid-Pacific back in the '70s. In the first sentence of your response, you wrote that Spirit "sank for unexplained reasons."
I thought you and your readers might be interested in what happened to me some years back. In December of 1986, I sailed my Westsail 32 Fresh Breeze from Ventura to Hilo. After spending seven months in the Islands, I departed Nawiliwili, Kauai, for Port Hardy, British Columbia. I was essentially singlehanding the boat, and although I knew it wasn't very safe, had gotten into the habit of catnapping for about 20 minutes through the night, then getting up and looking around for traffic.
One morning, while in the Japan to San Francisco shipping lanes, I went on deck to have a look around. Looking about 100 yards ahead, fine on my port bow, I spotted a large object bobbing up and down. As I approached it, I came within a heartbeat of unclutching the winch and steering around it by hand. I stood on, though, and passed it close enough to spit on it.
It was a boiler, about 15 feet long and three feet in diameter. When I was safely past it, I went below and worked out my DR based on a three-star fix the night before. I then got on the Ham radio and began calling for a San Francisco Ham who could report it to the Coast Guard as a hazard to navigation. No joy. After my fifth call, an Alaskan Ham in his car on his way to work came back and told me that he would be driving by a Coast Guard station in a few minutes. I gave him the Lat/Long of the object and requested that he report it.
To this day, I occasionally wonder what might have happened if I had hit that sucker. At the time, Fresh Breeze was doing about six knots, and although she was built hell-for-stout like all Westsail 32s . . . well, I rest my case.
I currently sail the Columbia 22 Cool Change in Puget Sound, where all we have to worry about are deadheads, sinkers, and floating logs.
Syd - If you're trying to make the case that Spirit might have sunk as a result of sailing into a floating or semi-submerged object, that was considered by everyone, including all five of the crew who survived for many days. But that theory was pretty much rejected because that wouldn't explain why such a big and heavy boat suddenly seemed to be thrown on her side, and secondly, why there was damage to the bow, stern, and side of the boat. With two of the crew ultimately dying from the incident, every possible cause was considered by the Coast Guard, other experts and lawyers. Nothing seemed to fit the evidence - except perhaps being hit by a surfacing submarine - but that seemed too unlikely also. The way we remember it, the cause has remained a mystery.
But speaking of sailboats sailing into
floating or submerged objects at or close to hull speed, it must
happen all the time in the Pacific Northwest. What is the spectrum
of damage from such incidents?
In the August Letters you ran Jim Eakin's letter about his Frisco Flyer May Yan. My Dad and I used to sail on her out of Coyote Point when we were 'boatless' sailors back in the mid-50s. We were friends with Dr. Sweeney, May Yan's first owner. We crewed on his "Big Birdboat" on the Bay, and when he bought the Frisco Flyer we had free use of her as long as we maintained her. The doctor was a great physician, but was not mechanical - and thought motors knew it.
I'd love to contact Jim about the section on May Yan mentioned in his letter, but he didn't mention how to reach him. I am still in touch with Doc Sweeney's widow, and I'm sure she'd be interested, too.
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