Back to "Letters" Index
It's been a while since I have written, but since bringing my Hunter 35.5 Kooyah to the Bay Area from the Caribbean, life has become less exciting. There is one subject however, that I think must be of common interest to Latitude readers.
For years I have filled my diesel tank from 5-gallon jugs. You know, the ones with a spout and a small vent for air release. Well, I recently had to replace my jugs and found that the only type now available are sold as being 'environmentally friendly' and 'spill proof'. They have a short spout that you have to pull down and somehow create an air vent with, then lock open while you pour. Maybe I'm really dumb, but I'm having a heck of a time getting the hang of the darn thing. I took mine back to West Marine, and the folks there became as frustrated as I trying to get it to work. The problem is that there isn't an exterior vent and the spout won't lock open - resulting in more fuel being spilled than with the old, 'environmentally unfriendly' type.
I keep my boat at Brickyard Cove, and several of the guys on the dock there have had similar problems. They suggested some alternative solutions, the best of which was to siphon my fuel from the jug into the boat's tank. It makes a lot of sense to me. I'm wondering if Latitude readers are having the same trouble as I, or if they have found the secret to mastering this new type of spout?
P.S. Latitude has gotten better every year and is now the best boating magazine anywhere.
Don - Thanks for the kind words. We
visited several chandleries, and each of them reported customer
complaints about the new fuel jerry jugs.
Your response to Roy Beauchamp's inquiry about weather conditions for sailing Hawaiian waters in February contained a couple of inaccuracies that I must respond to. First of all, it was surely a typo, but the prevailing winds - the fabled trades - blow in from the east to east-northeast, not from the northwest.
In the months of December, January, and February, cold fronts can come through from the northwest - preceded by southerlies and followed by northerlies. If they aren't enough to keep mariners on their toes, the giant winter surf can build rapidly on northwest shores - usually ahead of these fronts - making west-facing anchorages dangerously unsafe. There aren't any east-facing anchorages in Hawaii, as most of the islands are steep-to along the northeast coasts due to the relentless east winds pounding the shorelines for most of the year. There are east-facing commercial harbors that sailors can moor in briefly, but they aren't what most people are looking for.
Latitude was correct in mentioning that light Kona winds make for pleasant interisland sailing, but they are unpredictable and often very light.
Tom Ross's estimate of about a 20% chance of good sailing weather in February is about right on. Because of the lack of predictable conditions and safe anchorages in Hawaiian waters in the winter, there is no winter charter industry to speak of. The best sailing and cruising is in the summer, when most folks in the States are enjoying sailing in their home waters.
I have been in the ocean recreation/daysailing business here in Hawaii for over 27 years - I had a Kurt Hughes-designed catamaran - and am frequently asked why there aren't any bareboat sailing fleets in Hawaii. In addition to the weather reasons cited above, the difficulty in getting insurance also plays a role.
I thoroughly enjoy Latitude. The only other sailing magazine I subscribe to is Multihulls, which I have done since the beginning. I agree that publisher Charles Chiodi should pass the helm to a new watch and let them pump some fresh blood into Multihulls, but am glad to see increasing multihull coverage in your magazine.
Jay - Thanks for the more detailed explanation on weather conditions in Hawaii and the kind words.
We don't know if our attempt at constructive
criticism had anything to do with it, but we think Multihulls magazine has improved significantly
in the last several issues.
It's October again, so thanks to Latitude, that means there'll soon be another release of newbie Ha-Ha 'cruisers' to infect my anchorage. So before I have to go any further south to escape all your hand-holding, pot-lucking, cliquish rule-making, let me tell you folks how it really is out here.
I left San Francisco a few years back on a sailboat to enjoy the free life, to live as I want, and not be told what or how to do things by anyone. If you don't like the volume of my music, please don't come over and tell me to turn it down. You can just as easily pick up the anchor and move to another anchorage. Yes, that anchor does go up just as easily as it goes down.
People say I'm inconsiderate, but by whose definition? I ain't breaking any sound laws because there aren't any out here. So if you don't like it, stick your make believe anchorage etiquette up your collective butts and move on!
Just Being Me
J.B.M. - Goodness gracious! We're a little curious when you say it's "my anchorage" - is that because you've become a Mexican citizen, or is it some sort of personal Manifest Destiny, or just because you say so?
You might be careful what you ask for,
because the cutting edge of anarchy and lack of consideration
swings both ways. You might sing a different tune, for example,
when Pierre de Paree anchors his badly rusted hard-chine steel
boat with 2:1 scope just 50 feet upwind of you in a strong breeze.
When you object that he's endangering your boat, he'll scream
that nobody can tell him what to do on "his ocean,"
and berate you for being a poser-cruiser who is too chicken to
have gone anywhere, and he might toss a few empty wine bottles
on your deck just to watch them break. Then he'll expropriate
your dinghy for the afternoon based on the fact that "property
is theft." You know that's the way it can be out there,
so don't start sniffling when you meet someone who decides to
be an even bigger asshole than you are.
"Locked into the 70s."
"Reason for low acceptance of multihulls."
Surely you were jesting when you made these comments in review of my book Cruising In Catamarans. It seems to me that I'm one of the most published authors ever on the technology. Seems to me that I am one of the most recognized writers defending the new technology and its uses. Seems to me I am in the forefront of critique for new products, new developments, and new boats. I had a monthly boat review column for years in a popular Florida magazine in which I reviewed dozens of new boats as I sailed them at boat shows or demo days in Annapolis.
I'm sorry that you are all the way out on the Left Coast where your average multihull is a 30-year-old home-built plywood trimaran. It's not your fault that you are out of touch, as the economics of the matter simply did not favor cruising catamarans until they became larger, more powerful, and more expensive to meet the particular needs of West Coast ocean sailing.
I'm not sure if I should laugh or cry at your comments on my half-page explanation of various sailing rigs. Lots of people want to know about stuff like that. Where else would you explain these things if not in an exploratory tome about catamarans? The products of the present and the dreams of the future rest firmly on the experiments of the past.
The same can be said about older boats. As a surveyor, I get many more calls about older boats than new, simply because they are here and people are still interested. You simply must understand that the multihull world does not revolve around the West Coast of the United States, as there are hundreds of 20th century catamarans still viable back east, in Europe, in the Caribbean, and elsewhere.
You also need to know that Cruising in Catamarans is the best selling book ever published on the subject and is available virtually everywhere. It was developed as a response to thousands of questions from people at boat shows.
Oh yes, another boo boo - the price is $29.95, not $39.95 as you stated.
By the way, your website is terrific!
Charles E. Kanter AMS
Charles - The boo-boo we made on the price of your book was based on your boo-boo. We direct your attention to page 407 of your new book, where the order form for Cruising In Catamarans clearly lists the price as $39.95 - not counting $5.75 for shipping and handling. Upon checking your website, we find a discrepancy, as it's listed there for $29.95.
There is just a slight chance that it's actually you who is out of touch with multihull sailing on the "Left Coast." As the instigator of the Catnip Cup for cruising multihulls on San Francisco Bay, we can report that over 90% of the multihulls that have participated in its three-year history have been modern era sloop-rigged catamarans. And as the volunteer Grand Poobah of the Baja Ha-Ha Rally to Mexico for the ninth year, we can report the same has been true in that event. In fact, we've yet to have a participating multihull sport any of the following rigs which you wrote about: aero, bi-plane, una, A-frame, junk, gallant, lateen, sliding gunter, schooner, yawl, or lug. In fact, other than one or two ketch rigs on older trimarans, all have been modern fractional rig sloops.
We're confident that most of those intrigued by multihulls on the Left Coast are less interested in A-frame and sliding gunter rigs than they are in the subtleties of sail trim on a modern multihull compared to that of a monohull. It was the first thing we looked for in your book. But with all due respect, we learned almost nothing from the few short paragraphs on the topic. For example, under the heading of Traveller - a critical sail trim tool on catamarans - you write, "Ask any Hobie or Tornado sailor, he can show you exactly the preferred usage." We're sorry, but we think folks paying $29.95 deserve both a little better sentence structure and more information.
We're not saying there isn't any good information in your book. In fact, it seems particularly suited for folks looking for a history of multihulls, as 242 pages of the 406 pages are devoted to mostly one-page reviews, most of which are dominated by large but fuzzy line drawings of dated designs, long out of production. Even so, how informative is a review that, in its entirety, reads as follows:
"In 1996, I flew to Guadeloupe to survey a Kennex 380 for clients. As it turned out, they did not purchase the one they went to see, but another that was on the same dock. This gave us good opportunity to view several boats of the same vintage and get a good idea of its strengths. Summer, 2000, I surveyed the same boat again, giving me an in-depth view of its aging process."
This qualifies more as a brief reminder
of a trip to the Caribbean than a meaningful boat review, wouldn't
you agree? With all due respect, we think you can do much better
than that, perhaps with more feedback and help from an editor.
I watched the last Louis Vuitton Cup and the America's Cup on television, but never imagined I'd get the chance to be a member of the spectator fleet chasing magnificent IACC boats around the Bay. What a thrill that was! Thank you, Larry Ellison, Ernesto Bertarelli, and the Moët Cup team for bringing such a wonderful event to the waters of San Francisco Bay.
If we get this opportunity again, I have a request of my fellow sailors - please lower your sails and use your engine if you're going to be part of the spectator fleet. It was very difficult and dangerous to give way to boats sailing through the crowd when doing so violated the right-of-way of adjacent vessels.
The July and September issues of Latitude had good information for sailors cruising to Catalina for the first time. Here are some additional tips from a longtime San Francisco YC member who frequents the island about twice a month to sail, dive - or both.
The spring and late summer and fall weather windows Latitude gave for Catalina were right, but there is more to it. Late summer and fall bring the best tanning weather, but also the greatest chance of Santa Ana conditions. During these times the usually-mild westerlies reverse, and hot and dry wind blows off the deserts toward the island. Some Santa Ana winds are mild, blowing at 10 to 15 knots, but some blow 50 knots or more. The good news is that Santa Ana conditions are very predictable. The weather channels usually give 24-hours notice, and six hours at the very least. If you are moored on the 'front' of Catalina - meaning you're facing the mainland - you simply motor around to the backside to get protection. The Coastal Pilot recommends the Palisades, which are two miles northwest of the light on the south end.
Is there a bad time to go to Catalina? Not really, since Bay Area sailors are used to wearing foulies from Opening Day through September. Catalina in the winter - December through mid-April - is very much like summer sailing in the Northwest. Some days are spectacular, but other days it rains just like the San Juans or Desolation Sound. One of the best days we ever had at Avalon was a January 5 - it was warm, there was lots of sun, and there were no lines for pancakes at Joe's at the foot of the Green Wharf. No matter what kind of diving you do - scuba, free, or mask and snorkel - the best visibility is in the winter when it's as much as 100 feet. It's typically only 15 to 20 feet in the summer.
The typical weather pattern in the winter repeats itself every four to six days. It starts with light wind and rain for a day. Then the wind shifts to the north, the clouds disappear, and there's great winter sailing in 15 to 20 knots of wind. After a few days the winds die, the sky clouds over, and it rains again. When the wind dies, we dive - even if it's raining.
Getting a boat down from San Francisco and back in the winter is a more serious matter, but there are always people who find a weather window to do it - even if it's on the I-5.
The picture you ran of Cat Harbor on the backside shows a crowded day. Except for special events, that's about as many boats as ever go there. All the bad things associated with too many people on the front side don't occur on the back side, which feels more like the other Channel Islands. Besides the moorings in Cat Harbor, there are some great places to anchor - Little Harbor, Shark Harbor and Cottonwood Canyon. These are somewhat exposed, but if necessary, relief is just a few hours away by motoring around either end of the island.
Diving on the back side is more advanced than on the front side. Between West End and Sentinel Rock at Cottonwood Canyon, there are 17 great dive sites - with promising names such as Kelp Point and Lobster Bay - which rarely see divers. Catalina's primo dive site is Farnsworth Bank, lying about 1.6 miles off the back side. Farnsworth is a seamount, so you need the skills to hit the top of the seamount in 55 feet of water with your ground tackle. Down the anchor line you'll find the only big patch of purple hydrocoral at Catalina. With depths to 120 feet, you won't have a lot of bottom time, but you'll see an unusual mix of local fish plus open ocean voyagers looking for a meal.
Joe - Thanks for the great information. Just for fun, we called the Avalon Harbormaster's Office to get their take on when folks should be most concerned about Santa Ana winds. Harbor Patrolman Orne Carstarphen says they can actually occur during any month of the year, but are most likely from November through March. Although Santa Anas are sometimes light, Carstarphen says that at least once a year - and sometimes four or five times a year - they blow at 20 knots or more. In such instances, officials have to advise skippers to take their boats off the moorings and seek shelter. Avalon boats that can't be evacuated for one reason or another are put on double moorings and tucked up in the corner near the Casino, where there is often protection from the typical northeasterly Santa Anas. But sometimes Santa Anas come out of the east, putting the entire cove at risk. On those occasions it's best to be on the back side of the island tucked up close to shore. The last big Santa Ana Carstarphen can remember was in '97, when it blew 50 knots for about four hours. One 30-ft boat was lost on the beach.
During the last three years, we've made
about 15 round-trips to Catalina, and have become big fans. We
like the fact that you can have a major people/restaurant/nightlife
experience at Avalon, a more rugged mostly mariners-only experience
at Two Harbors, or an all-by-yourself nature experience on the
back side of the island. We've also been extremely impressed
with the Harbor Patrol and other island employees at both Avalon
and Two Harbors. We've never had a bad experience with any of
them, and have had many good ones. Late summer and fall at Catalina
have become a permanent part of our sailing year.
It's weird how little news there was in the United States about the damage caused by Hurricane Marty. Is there a place to donate money and/or contribute relief items for the people of Baja and cruisers who may have lost everything? Having just recovered from my own dismasting, I feel for those people who launched their cruising dreams only to have them dashed to pieces.
John - Nice thought. Try www.clubcruceros.org
- they have an emergency fund for cruisers and also do great
things for the poor locals.
To the best of our knowledge, our Mi Amante suffered only minor damage after being in Marina Palmira during Hurricane Marty. We have a Rutland 913 wind generator, and before leaving the boat had tied off the blades. We're told the blades and tail fin are gone, but otherwise our boat is fine. We have numerous friends and acquaintances that I'm afraid were not so fortunate.
We have been very lucky during the past two years. When Hurricane Juliette came through La Paz two years ago, our boat was on the hard in the yard where something like 17 boats fell off their stands. Boats fell all around ours, but ours stood. And with Marty, we lucked out again. So we count our lucky stars every day.
Before leaving our boat for hurricane season, we naturally strip her of all sails and dodger windows, and make sure that all other items are well-secured. We think this year's tragedy in La Paz might enlighten more cruisers to take similar precautions in the future.
Howard and Terry Howe
You've probably been flooded with stories and photos about Hurricane Marty and the damage it caused here in La Paz. Granted, three days before he hit, he was just a tropical storm forecast to head toward Hawaii. Nonetheless, it's no secret that we in the Sea of Cortez are affected by hurricanes in the Pacific, some of which turn and sweep up into the Sea, and some of which cross over Baja and come up the Sea.
Marty was a mini-hurricane in the sense that it blew for just a few hours before the eye and another hour after the eye passed. Nonetheless, there were gusts to over 100 knots, the strongest being about 113 knots. The damage in town was not unusually great.
Many cruisers go north for the summer, leaving their boats in the marinas or on the hard. But few bother to take down furled headsails and otherwise reduce windage. Furthermore, many boats are left unattended at this particularly dangerous time of year. La Paz has a big bay with mostly great holding, but many owners with anchored-out boats put out countless lines to unprotected docks or to concrete pilings. In many cases, this resulted in the boats ultimately being destroyed.
Let's get serious about hurricane preparations before next September comes around!
Hamish A. Hunter
Hamish - It seems certain that the amount of damage to cruising boats in La Paz and Puerto Escondido could have been reduced had some of the most basic hurricane preparations been followed. For example, at Marina de La Paz, which was so badly damaged, the management reported that at least 20 roller furling jibs had come unfurled in their marina alone. Imagine the destructive power generated by 20 genoas flogging around in 100-knot winds. Why the owners hadn't removed the furling jibs and mains before leaving for the summer is something of a mystery, particularly because not having done so may result in some insurance policies being voided. Hindsight is 20-20, of course, but we're also a little puzzled as to why boat owners on hand and the marina staff didn't at least remove the furling genoas when it became obvious Marty was going to hit. It must have been too late by then.
It will be interesting to see if there
will be changes as a result of Marty. Will boats still be able
to get insurance for summers in the Sea, particularly if they
are not in a marina with a permanent breakwater, or if they are
south of Bahia de Los Angeles? Will marinas and/or the government
demand that boats be stripped before being left for hurricane
season? Will unattended boats still be allowed to be left on
moorings or their own anchors in La Paz Bay and Puerto Escondido
for the hurricane season? Only time will tell.
I've only sailed western Mexico and particularly the Sea of Cortez as a '6-month sailor' since 1998, but unless this year's Ha-Ha class is into assisting construction projects while roughing it, it might be a good idea to suggest that they sail from Cabo to either Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta, or other points on the mainland. It appears that the Baja infrastructure for cruisers will be hard-pressed to deal with more than simply getting their lives back together for awhile. In fact, maybe this would be a good year for Mexico to open up the Islas Tres Marias as rumored.
P.S. Have a great sail . . . all the way to St. Barth.
Jon - With the almost complete destruction of Marina de La Paz by Hurricane Marty, we wondered where all the damaged-but-still-floating boats would go. But Mary Shroyer told us that everyone was almost immediately able to find a place for their boat, many of them at Marina Palmira at the other end of town. We were further surprised when, a week after Marty came through, a Ha-Ha entry told us he was able to secure a guaranteed berth for the winter at Marina Palmira. So while we sure wouldn't head up to La Paz looking to get work done on our boat, we wouldn't automatically assume that it was off-limits - other than the fact that hurricane-ravaged cruising communities tend to be very depressing places for many months. Even if one decided to bypass La Paz itself, there would be no reason whatsoever to miss the cruising wonderland between La Paz and Puerto Escondido, which is usually excellent - warm air, warm water, and more greenery than at any other time of year - until about the middle of December.
As for the Tres Marias, until Mexico
takes all the violent prisoners off the island, they won't be
ready to welcome visitors. Knowing Mexico, if the island group
is ever opened to cruisers, the announcement will likely come
out of the blue.
The residents and users of Ventura Harbor were living in a watery version of hell late last month, as there was another invasion of 'red tide', the algae bloom that removes oxygen from the water and kills much of the sea life.
Red tides have been prolific this summer, with levels ranging from mild to severe - and culminating with the nightmare we are facing as I write today, September 22. When the oxygen levels began to drop on the 20th, the sardines and smelt began leaping from the water by the hundreds. By the next day, we saw the beginnings of the fish die-off. The fish with swim bladders floated on the surface after they died, while fish such as white sea bass and halibut would take their last gasp from the air, die, and sink to the bottom. In both cases the process of decomposition began quickly, which created an unpleasant odor that quickly escalated to an overpowering stench.
The smell was so bad that it drove customers away from the Village complex and liveaboards off their boats. Many liveaboards sealed up their boats to prevent the stench from permeating everything, and went to stay elsewhere. Residents who stayed behind began scooping up the dead fish by the thousands when the necessary gear was finally provided. Ultimately, the Harbor Patrol organized commercial fishing boats to haul the rotting fish out to sea for disposal.
According to the Marine Sciences Department at the University of California at Santa Barbara, the only way the harbor water - which is now black in color, fetid in odor, and covered with a slick of fish oil - will begin to recover is when huge quantities of fresh seawater and air are introduced to hasten the re-oxygenation. Experts from UCSB also suspect that all bottom life is dead, and that it would be extremely beneficial to drag the bottom as well. These recommendations constitute such a huge task that the Ventura Harbor District, which has limited manpower and resources, cannot handle it alone. I can't believe that other governmental agencies haven't been called in to combat what is clearly an environmental disaster. If a similar-sized neighborhood in any town in California had a similar ecological disaster - there is not one living fish, shellfish, or plant left in the harbor waters - I think we would see a more appropriate response.
Now that the surface of the water is mostly clear of the first crop of the decomposing fish, the attitude seems to be 'let Mother Nature take her course'. Well, that's not good enough. The death of this harbor needs to be treated with the same fervor as the reaction to any other natural disaster - no matter what it takes. When the water does recover, aeration equipment should be permanently installed throughout the harbor - as is the case in Santa Cruz Harbor. That way a switch can be flicked at the first sign of another such event to lessen the problem.
For most of the past week, my wife and I have been desperately trying to make contact with people in a position to take the bull by the horns and attack the problem. However, very few contacts have been made, mostly due to an inability to navigate the complex answering machine systems in order to speak to a real person, as well as the lack of environmental representatives.
In conclusion, we appeal to everyone to get involved by demanding that this despicable disaster be cleared up and future ones be prevented from happening. We want to be able to go home and breathe non-contaminated air, see fish swimming again, the herons hunting for food, and the ducks paddling around. Please help!
Peter - It's now a little less than a month later, and Ventura Harbor Operations Manager Scott Miller tells us that the red tide and smell is almost completely gone, and that there is four feet of visibility in the harbor. One of the harbor patrolmen also told us that 140 tons of dead sea life had to be removed from the harbor. Not everything was killed, however, as the mussels survived.
Would it make economic sense to install aerators in Ventura and all the rest of the harbors along the California coast? Miller says he's not sure, for while they experience some level of red tide almost every year, this is the first time in over 20 years that it was bad enough to kill fish.
Santa Cruz Port Director Brian Foss says they have spent something like $300,000 on 30 aerators, but not for red tide. Their problem is that in '64, '74, '80, and '84, huge schools of anchovies were chased into the harbor by bigger fish, used up all the oxygen in the water, died, and created a massive and caustic biomass. It was so bad that there was hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage to the docks and gel coats of fiberglass boats. To date there haven't been any reports of such damage in Ventura.
Given the fact that there has only been one red tide fish kill in Ventura in the last 25 years, and it doesn't seem to have had a devastating long-term effect, perhaps it's better to let nature take her course rather than spend more of the money that California doesn't have.
In a somewhat comical aspect to the
problem, Foss tells us that back in '64 the mariners in Santa
Cruz tried a sort of poor man's aeration system - they put all
their boat engines in gear while at the dock. Alas, turning boat
props proved to be an ineffective substitute for specific aeration
My wife and I are leaving for Mexico, Central America, the Panama Canal, and the Caribbean aboard our 60-ft ketch. We are worried about the level of robberies and piracy taking place in these regions. Where can I get current information and advice about the level of violence against boaters traveling through these areas? Also, is there any information available concerning the use of rifles and handguns for use in protection against being boarded and robbed?
We are taking our three dogs with us, and would like to get information from cruisers who have made this trip with pets.
Guns don't seem to be the answer. They are forbidden in many countries, and where they are allowed, the paperwork can be horrific and the guns will be held for you for the duration of your visit. In that case, they'll be no good to you for personal protection. If you don't declare your weapons and get caught with them in a country like Mexico, you'll have a hard time keeping yourself out of prison. In places like Venezuela and Colombia, where violence is often second nature and life can be cheap, you'd almost certainly be outgunned by pirates/thieves.
We haven't taken a survey so we don't have any hard numbers on what percentage of cruisers carry guns, but we'd guess it's very small. For what it's worth, we're about to make the same trip as you are planning, and we'll not be carrying any weapons - other than flare guns, which might discourage a petty thief.
Dogs are another story. We know lots of cruisers who've taken dogs on the route you propose without any problems. In our opinion, having three dogs on your boat will significantly reduce your chances of being a crime victim. Punks will look for easier pickings. When it comes to nonviolent crime, you have to watch out for credit card and ATM fraud in Mexico, pickpockets and credit card fraud in Costa Rica, and theft in certain parts of Colon and Panama City, Panama. When it comes to violent crime, the remote areas of Colombia and Venezuela are by far the areas of biggest concern.
Before and while in the Caribbean, you'll want to check out the Caribbean Security Net, which you'll find on the Web at www.caribcruisers.com. They maintain an extensive list of what crimes occurred and where, from Panama throughout the Caribbean. It may not have every crime listed, but we think it's very helpful. In addition, their Safety and Security Net comes on the air on SSB 8104 Khz each morning at 8:15 a.m. Atlantic Standard Time to record and report any new crimes. This excellent service has been going on since 1996, and they'll be able to answer your security concerns.
Flash - As we go to press, the Central American Breakfast Club net is reporting that John Haste's well-known Perry 52 catamaran Little Wing was stopped mid-channel in Cartagena, Colombia, by a cayuco shortly after leaving the Fero Chem boatyard. Three men with a shotgun came aboard and bound a person who has been described as both "Bruce" and the "owner/skipper," which isn't quite right, and proceeded to steal all the electronics, valuables, and $400. Although bruised, whoever was on Little Wing at the time was basically unharmed.
What makes this report a little unusual
is that Cartagena has generally been considered the one and only
safe place in Colombia. Haste recently reported that he was having
a great time there.
Bringing Latitude's 63-ft catamaran Profligate to the Eastern Caribbean will be no small task, as it's nearly 5,000 miles from San Francisco and it can be very tough making the 1,100 miles east from Panama.
I did the clockwise transit of the Caribbean singlehanded the winter of 2001-02 at the age of 61. Leaving Panama a little too late in the season, I fought the northeast winter tradewinds and the equatorial current in an attempt to even make it to Jamaica. But I got so tired that I finally gave up and sailed downwind to Grand Cayman Island, then around the north side of Jamaica, the south side of Hispanola - after a freighter captain warned me about conditions in the Windward Passage - and then to the north side of Puerto Rico.
I want to warn your crew not to even consider the mainland coast of Venezuela, as pirates using automatic weapons and bulletproof vests have been active along that coast. Several boats have been boarded during these unsettled political times in that country. Cruisers leaving from here in Trinidad and heading west are traveling well offshore of the Venezuelan coast for safety.
Nonetheless, I look forward to meeting you in St. Martin for the Heineken Regatta in early March. Please bring some copies of Latitude for us West Coasters cruising in the Eastern Caribbean.
John - Thanks for the advice. Everything is going to depend on how quickly Profligate can make it to and through the Panama Canal. If it's before the end of the third week of November, there's a decent chance there will be some light winds and relatively flat seas in the Caribbean, which might allow for a couple of days on our rhumbline course. If we remember correctly, that's what John and Amanda Neal were able to do with their Hallberg-Rassy 46 Mahina Tiare a few years ago. But if Profligate doesn't get through the Canal until the middle of December, it's much more likely that the reinforced 'Christmas Winds' will have started blowing, which would necessitate a longer, more circuitous route such as you took. The one thing we know for sure is that nothing is for certain with an adventure like this.
We look forward to being able to hand
deliver the latest Latitude
to you at the Heineken Regatta. In addition, we think we'll be
distributing Latitudes throughout the islands at Budget
Marine stores for the duration of the winter.
Latitude recently published two letters about weather forecasts done by Don Anderson of Summer Passage and others, and I feel they were a real disservice to the cruising community in the Sea of Cortez. Both articles were especially critical of the weather reports that Anderson gives. The longest article was unsigned - which I felt was cowardly of the writer and unethical of your magazine.
Anderson gives weather reports and forecasts many times during the day, and many of us cruisers use his information to make informed judgments as to whether to sit tight or make a passage. At the beginning of each forecast, he always tells his listeners that ". . . this is an amateur endeavor and boaters should keep that in mind when making decisions based on this information. . . " What that means, of course, is that if a particular boater feels that these forecasts are 'gospel', he is only fooling himself. Anderson also passes on reports from NOAA and the National Weather Service that many of us who either do not have Internet access or are in remote places would not otherwise be able to get.
The other important thing that Anderson does for us here in the Sea is to give us information that quells rumors of impending storms. After hurricane Marty swept through La Paz, my wife and I moved our boat Chez Nous out to the El Magote anchorage. On channel 22, the local cruisers' net, there were rumors of yet another storm right behind Marty, and how it would really devastate the cruising fleet. I contacted Don Anderson on SSB that evening, and he told me that it was true, hurricanes Nora and Olaf were out there, but they were still a number of days away and still forming, so we had time to prepare. I felt that this real information was invaluable both in terms of easing my mind and helping calm the fears of my wife and cruising partner.
As Nora and Olaf approached, some boaters on the VHF net seemed to get some kind of thrill by telling everyone how these next two storms would level La Paz. They recounted what past storms had done in the area, and thus stirred up fear in many cruisers. Anderson's reports, on the other hand, were always without drama.
Every day weather forecasters in the United States give forecasts four to five days out. How often are they correct? I doubt they do any better than Anderson. The Weather Channel, which gives continuous weather information, routinely gives forecasts seven days out. They are almost always wrong.
The important thing with all this information is that the individual who is hearing it uses it to make an informed decision as to what to do with his immediate and future plans. Anderson routinely will not give a forecast farther than 48 hours out. When giving forecasts, he also tells his listeners that the information he is giving is for conditions 20 or more miles offshore, and that conditions closer to shore cannot be accurately forecast due to land conditions.
In closing, I feel that the information that Anderson of Summer Passage and others give us cruisers in Mexican waters can be very valuable - if used properly.
Allan - So you honestly think it was a disservice on our part to publish letters by two cruisers who have a combined 20 years and 40,000 miles of cruising experience in Mexico? It almost sounds as though you're afraid to consider their alternative opinion. Based on your displeasure, we reread both letters - and found them to be intelligent, insightful, and fair. Anyone sailing to Mexico, and particularly the Sea of Cortez, would be a fool not to read them carefully, and with an open mind.
Weren't you surprised at how often these veteran cruisers were in agreement with you on crucial issues? Gary Albers, for example, wrote his letter because he was afraid too many new cruisers were taking Anderson's forecasts as gospel. You seconded this opinion by saying that only a fool would do that. 'Name Withheld' specifically noted the reasons he didn't care for Anderson's forecasts, and carefully outlined why he thinks so many new cruisers put so much faith in them. Nonetheless, he said he listened to Anderson's broadcasts for the same reason you do - because he also passes on direct information from the National Weather Service. Please note that the two critics didn't slam the other marine forecasters, but instead, had good things to say about them.
DEAR DON OF SUMMER PASSAGE
I wrote the following letter to Don Anderson of Summer Passage, who provides so much weather information to cruisers in Mexico:
"I can see why you would be upset over the critical letters in Latitude. You put so much effort into what you do for us cruisers in the Sea, along the west coast of Mexico, and offshore. We all know that you care very much about the welfare of the cruisers. I, along with many others, listen to your weather every day, and appreciate it more than I can begin to tell you. I'm not too knowledgeable about the weather, but I have learned so much by just listening to you. Of course, I always reserve the final judgment for myself, but you provide the tools for that, and I can only say thank you very much for everything that you've been doing for us.
"Please don't feel discouraged by the critical letters. Remember that the majority of us cruisers aren't given to low, sneaky backstabbing such as was done by 'Name Withheld'. Some people aren't happy unless they have something to bitch about. But for every person who might think he has a gripe, there are 50 of us cruisers who love you and your help. The intelligent among us know weather forecasts are not an exact science, and any fool who expects you to be right all the time is just that - a fool!"
Lynne - As a much-loved former crewmember of Profligate, we urge you to let a little time pass and then try to reread the letter from 'Name Withheld' more dispassionately. If so, we think you'll see that right or wrong, his letter was not a mindless complaint, but a logically crafted statement with specific examples of why he thought some marine weather forecasters for Mexico were more helpful than others. And - don't forget this - why all of them have something worthwhile to offer.
We should also explain that the letter was originally for our eyes only. But we thought it was such an important opinion - one supported by a number of other extremely knowledgeable and experienced cruisers in Mexico - that we convinced him to let us run it as long as we didn't identify him. So if you're pissed at the 'Name Withheld' business, be pissed at us.
For what it's worth, while Hurricane Marty raged around his boat in the Sea of Cortez, 'Name Withheld' emailed us the following: "I must give the devil his due, for in the instance of hurricane Marty, Don Anderson was more accurate in predicting its path than anyone - including the National Hurricane Center." We don't know about you, but we have tremendous respect for people who aren't afraid to volunteer evidence that runs contrary to their general thesis.
Finally, if you knew who 'Name Withheld'
was, and his instrumental role in saving many boats - including
the one belonging to the person closest to you - during Marty,
we think you wouldn't be so quick to condemn him.
For the past couple of months I have read nothing but negative comments in the Letters about Don Anderson of Summer Passage and his weather forecasting for West Coast cruisers and racers. I have known Don for 25 years, starting with when I raced against him when he sailed out of the Balboa YC in Newport Beach. He is a gentleman worth knowing.
Anderson is also an experienced cruiser who knows the west coast of Mexico better than most of the cruisers who are out there now. That alone is worth the time to listen to his reports. As far as Anderson being an "expert" goes, he will be the first to tell you at the beginning of each of his daily reports that his is "an amateur endeavor." He knows full well that you can't "micro predict" for small areas along the coast. But he does provide one more bit of information that prudent skippers can put into the mix when deciding whether or not to make a passage that day.
I personally listen to Don's reports as part of my checking every weather source - including the Winlink grib files and sticking my head outside a port to see if it's blowing or not. I have raced and cruised, and sailed and motored, along the Mexican coast for 40 years now, and it still amazes me how beautiful and subject to change the area can be. There will always be days one decides to stay put, and days when one decides to do the opposite. If anyone wants absolute givens, they shouldn't go cruising. To quote a good friend on the vessel Mermaid, "It's all part of the adventure!"
It's important that all cruisers have well-found vessels able to take anything that comes up, because we all make mistakes predicting the weather. For example, last April I made an error when crossing from Mazatlan to Cabo San Lucas. I left in what I thought were stable conditions, but 10 hours later we had a 35 to 40-knot Norther blowing down on us from the Sea of Cortez. The short, steep seas of 8 to 10 feet were on our starboard beam, ugly, and not much fun. Granted, it was uncomfortable, and my First Mate and daughter didn't care for it, but I never was concerned that our well-found boat couldn't take it. The point is that if you're not on a vessel ready to take bad weather, you shouldn't be out there.
When I was in the sailmaking business years ago, I regularly advised new cruisers to do a shakedown cruise before departing on a long trip. Very few new cruisers do that these days, and I think it's a mistake. For those in Southern California, I advised them to provision their boat for a week and sail - not motor - around San Nicholas Island. That meant they would be sure to get some breeze and enough seas to learn where their decks leaked. On the way back, they were to stop at Catalina's Cat Harbor and anchor, not pick up a mooring, so they'd at least have some practice at that. The one nice thing is that almost every anchorage in Mexico is better than can be found on Catalina!
By the way, a pet peeve of mine is when someone writes about something but doesn't get the details straight. Don Anderson's vessel is Summer Passage, not Summer Wind.
Capt. Mike Schachter
Mike - You made two errors. First, we've published both pro and con letters about Anderson's weather forecasts. Second, none of the negative letters have been about Anderson the person - we wouldn't have run them if they were. The primary complaints have been that he indeed tends to make "micro forecasts" based on what seems to be extremely thin supporting data. All those who have criticized Anderson's predictions note that none of the other marine forecasters are willing to go so far out on a limb. So what each listener has to decide for himself is whether Anderson gets information others don't, is smarter than the others - or perhaps is simply more willing to cross the line from forecasting to speculation.
By the way, since you note the importance of experience in evaluating a cruiser's opinions, note that the two cruisers who took Anderson's forecasts to task in last month's Latitude have an extraordinary amount of experience in Mexico - far more, we'd be willing to bet, than Anderson. Has he crossed the Sea 16 times? Has he spent 13 seasons in Baja? Since you say that by itself Anderson's experience in Mexico makes him worth listening to, wouldn't that be even more true of cruisers with even more experience?
We regret getting Anderson's boat name wrong. With thousands of similar-sounding names, we do make mistakes.
THE WEATHER FORECASTING DISEASE
Since in a letter last month "Name Withheld" asked for other people's opinions on the weather forecasters in Mexico, I'll give mine - and you don't need to withhold my name.
'N.W.' dropped a few crumbs of faint praise, but generally he was overly critical in focusing on Anderson's failed efforts. Since 'N.W.' is a Ham operator, and since he expressed resentment of the non-Ham nets, and seems to favor the reports from the Ham nets, I believe his might be another skirmish in the ridiculous war some of the old 'Hammeroids' have been waging for the last 20 years. My wife Pauline is the Ham operator on our boat, and we appreciate all the good things that are made possible by people like Jim Corenman and Stan Honey of SailMail. While Ham radio is supposed to be free, the price we pay is listening to the endless bickering and posturing that accompanies the Ham nets.
To get back to my opinion of the different weather reports, as I stated in a letter a couple of months ago about our Baja Bash, all of the forecasters are working from the same basic information. Obviously, the more details you take from the grib files or weather maps, the more opportunities there are to be both right and wrong. As far as I have seen in comparing the different forecasters, their accuracy, or lack of it, is similar, and all of it reflects that they are sharing the same basic information.
I mentioned in the prior letter that the two big mistakes made by all the forecasters was obviously based on the same mistaken forecast shown on the grib file. The absolutely best thing a person can do for weather information is to download the grib files, learn to use them to get the big picture, and spend some time learning what the sky, barometer, and wind direction tell you about your local weather. And while I did not say this earlier, if you are in a hurricane zone during the season, you should monitor for big storms coming your way.
I have been cruising for 40 years. The first 20 years were without any meaningful weather forecasts. It was also much more relaxed then, since the only weather we had to worry about was what we were in at the time. The Ham nets and 'forecast disease' started becoming common about 1980.
My first crossing to Hawaii was in the '70s as navigator on another man's boat. His radio quit after three days. It was cold, windy and wet - we didn't need anybody to tell us that.
My second crossing was on my current boat in '78, and since I had a Ham operator for crew, I installed a radio. He picked up information on a Mexican hurricane and a Japanese earthquake - but all that information did was make him nervous. He was especially worried about tsunamis after we made landfall. There was no usable information for the areas we were crossing, other than the big ship weather.
By 1983, I began to see signs of the current problem. We were near Cedros on the Pacific side of Baja after a little bit of rough, but usable, weather the night before. We listened to one of the early Ham nets, and they were screaming for everyone to take cover as there was terrible weather in our area. It scared Pauline, but since I could see nothing but sunshine and nice winds, I continued on to where I wanted to go. Nothing bad developed.
Later that year we did a crossing to the Marquesas. Old-timers will remember Fred, who ran the Ham net out of Hawaii. Fred became very upset with Pauline because I would not change course and leave wonderful weather to turn west to comply with his advice about where he thought the best weather was.
I did not do much cruising during the '90s due to health problems, but when I returned to Mexico in 2000, the seeds of the weather forecasting problem that I'd seen planted 17 years before had blossomed into a real disaster. Almost all of the boatowners and their crews were now afraid of the weather! For example, I saw about 20 boats holed up in Frailes waiting for a good weather report to cross to Mazatlan. One forecaster solemnly warned all these sailboats to wait for calm weather before crossing. He did not offer any advice as to how to sail without wind, so I guess he expected everyone to motor across.
While the listeners are just as much to blame as the talkers, the whole development of nets and forecasts has made a terrible change for the worse in what should be a very carefree cruising lifestyle. Along with the dismal weather forecasts, you hear the constant drumbeat of problems and disasters the nets devote so much time to. This serves to instill a sense of foreboding that is now so much a part of modern cruising.
If Rip van Winkle came down from the mountain and took his first ever ride on the freeway, going 75 miles an hour with cars three feet away on each side, and sometimes one even closer behind, he would be scared to death. But after doing it a few times, he would relax and enjoy the ride. The same kind of thinking should be applied to cruising.
Gary Albers suggested that cruisers should be prepared to encounter 35-knot winds at all times - I would increase that to about 50-knot winds to cover all areas. While I have only sailed in that much wind twice, it does wonders for building confidence. And the way to prepare yourself and your boat for that kind of stuff is to go out in it and prove that you and your boat can handle it. But as long as you are willing to wait in the harbor for calm weather, you will not have the chance to build your confidence.
The bottom line to all this is that the guy that makes both the mistakes and the correct forecasts is the government guy who provides the basic information that all the amateur forecasters work off of. The net forecasters are merely messengers who are trying to be helpful. I personally appreciate people offering to help me, even if they are not 100% right. But I do not like for any of them to sound so positive and insistent about things that are impossible for them to know. So I rank them all even - and will continue to rely on my own judgement since I am now able to have the same information that they have.
Ernie - Of your many good points, the one that resonates most with us is that cruising was actually more pleasurable 20 years ago in the Sea because there weren't any weather forecasts to get cruisers all worked up and freaked out. People just went about enjoying themselves, and if they got hit by a chubasco or something, they just dealt with it. The one big benefit of today's weather forecasts is that cruisers can be alerted to the approach of hurricanes, which are a weather issue of an entirely different order.
For a fun experiment, we recommend cruisers
in Mexico pick a period of about two weeks in which they'll constantly
be prepared for up to 50-knot winds, but not listen to any weather
nets or get any weather reports. At the end of the two weeks,
they can decide for themselves whether it was more relaxing to
As a former U.S. Navy nuclear submarine officer, I can shed some light on the chances of a sailboat being hit by a surfacing or periscope-depth submarine - as has been speculated might have happened to the ketch Spirit in the late '70s.
I served as a qualified Officer of the Deck (OOD) on three different fast-attack nuclear submarines (SSNs) in the Pacific over a period of about eight years. In the process of qualifying as OOD, every junior officer is extensively trained and repeatedly drilled on safely bringing the ship to periscope depth. It is well known in the submarine community that one of the most dangerous procedures is coming to periscope depth. Although a typical SSN, in its daily operations, may come to periscope depth several times, in every instance the evolution is carried out in the same methodical and careful manner. The same disciplined procedure is used if the submarine is just off the coast of San Diego or is on patrol in the middle of the Pacific.
The main concern when coming shallow and approaching periscope depth is the safety of the ship. Before coming to periscope depth, a careful sonar search is conducted to locate and classify all surface contacts in the general area. The OOD maneuvers to 'clear baffles' while the Sonar Operators listen in all directions for surface contacts that may have been previously masked in the submarine's acoustical blind spots. After the OOD determines the bearing, range, and course of all surface contacts, he then personally calls the Commanding Officer to relate the surface contact situation and to get permission to proceed to periscope depth.
I can say with a bit of humility that not all types of surface contacts are easily identified. Although modern submarine sonar systems are very capable, certain environmental conditions can complicate a sonar search. Moreover, certain types of ships are more difficult to locate by sonar. Large merchant ships with noisy diesel engines are easy to detect, but vessels such as sailboats under sail or vessels adrift can be challenging to detect.
One of my favorite sea stories as OOD on a submarine operating in Hawaiian waters involves coming to periscope depth 50 miles off of Oahu and discovering a sailboat close aboard. We weren't on a collision course, but through the periscope I could count the stripes on the bikini bottom of the helmswoman. Although the sloop was under sail and moving at about five knots, the on-watch Sonar Supervisor and Sonar Operators (and OOD) were totally unaware of the boat's presence.
For a number of reasons, submarines typically minimize the time spent at periscope depth. While at periscope depth, the OOD is glued to the periscope, continually conducting a visual scan of the horizon. If a ship or sailboat is sighted, every effort would be made to open range to the contact. Most Commanding Officers have standing orders to the OOD that prohibit him from coming within several miles of a contact without specific permission. If for some reason a submarine at periscope depth found itself too close to a ship, the OOD would immediately maneuver to open range to the contact or just go deep to get away.
As a sailor, I share Mike's sentiment that I'd rather hit a whale than the hardened steel hull of a submarine. Either one would ruin a good day's sailing, but in my opinion, you are much more likely to have a close encounter with the marine mammal.
Mark - We salute you for your clear, concise, and informative letter.
SURFACING SUBS AND SAILBOATS
I'm responding to the question posed in the October issue regarding the dangers sailboats are exposed to by surfacing submarines. As a former submarine commander, I can see the possibility of a sub coming to periscope depth or surfacing close to a sailboat under sail - although it's not something I worry about.
The normal surfacing procedure calls for the sub to conduct a passive sonar search for contacts. If a sailboat's engine isn't running, however, the possibility of her being detected by sonar is very slim. In addition to the sonar search, most submarines raise their periscope and elevate their optics during the last 50 feet or so of surfacing, and make a careful periscope search all around the horizon to make sure no other vessels are around. During daytime, it would be easy to see a sailboat under sail. At night, it would be difficult because of the size and location of running lights on most sailboats.
Having cited these limitations on the ability of subs to see sailboats under sail, I should point out that it's a huge ocean and there aren't very many subs or sailboats out there. So the odds of them coming together is not very likely. As a cruising sailor, being hit by a surfacing sub is not something I lose any sleep over.
My Catalina 42 and I will not be doing the Ha-Ha again this year. Sue and I were married at the Dana Point YC on August 16, and will be spending the next year between Phoenix and San Diego - where Liberty Call will be berthed.
Gene - Congratulations on your marriage. The Poobah hopes to see you in a future Ha-Ha.
For what it's worth, whatever happened
to the ketch Spirit that caused
her to be knocked over and sink almost immediately, did so at
about 10 a.m. - when there was plenty of daylight.
I just read the letter from Capt. Norm Goldie in San Blas, and must write back to clarify a few issues. I am a retired U.S. Army General who has served his country in three conflicts, and looked at cruising on my sailboat Netpolis as a means of R&R. For the past eight years, I have been 'patroling' the coast of mainland Mexico and the Sea of Cortez, where I have been part of the local nets and have known most of the cruisers. My first two years were real eye-openers, for never before in my life had I met so many great people doing so many great things. The freedom in which they lived was overwhelming, and everyone was so helpful. It was a pleasurable experience that I'll never forget.
In 1999, I headed south to the warmer waters of San Blas, a much different town in a seemingly much different world. The place seemed to be under the command of American Norm Goldie, who, although he referred to himself as "captain," seemed to think he outranked us all. Not to be disrespectful, but Goldie reminded me of Jabba-the-Hut from the first Star Wars movie - both physically and in the callous way he ruled his self-appointed domain. He and I did not see eye to eye, and I never witnessed him help my fellow cruisers without something in it for himself.
One of the cruisers on Annmarie presented a puppet show on the vessel Gemini - which Goldie referred to as being owned by the cruiser who "abused" him in front of his wife. Goldie was not abused at all. What really happened is that it was the beginning of cruisers in San Blas breaking free of Goldie's control. I was there, and saw how much fun everyone was having without Goldie's involvement. Goldie saw it, too, and didn't like it. Several of the other boats in the estuary - including Capricorn 3, Shiloh, Takeiteasy, Topless, Conviction, On The Way, Newdream, Reverie, Nightflight and others whose boat names I (forgive me) have forgotten, banded together to oppose Goldie's interference. We had a lot of fun during that month of Mexican festivals when we were there, but the shadow of Goldie's attempts to have control over us was everpresent.
For example, I remember Goldie telling us cruisers that there was only one kind of candle proper for a certain festival - and they could only be purchased through him! When our group of cruisers defied him on this issue, things only got worse. In fact, a second morning net was started to come on five minutes before Goldie's net - to warn arriving cruisers about him. Furthermore, Raul, who speaks perfect Spanish, met with the port captain to determine the real rules and regulations we should all follow - since Goldie's version was so foreign to all of us who had been cruising Mexico for years. Before that time, most cruisers had allowed Goldie to tell them what to do and not to do in San Blas. All in all, the last time anybody had seen such a revolt of the wills in San Blas was when the Spanish arrived in the area hundreds of years before.
I wish Goldie the best of health - but I don't feel sorry for him, nor do I support cruisers who do, because he seemingly has nothing better to do than make life difficult for cruisers. My advice to cruisers who arrive in San Blas for the first time and have the unfortunate experience of being 'befriended' by Goldie is to ignore him completely and don't be fooled by his 'help'.
I think Goldie should do everyone a favor by returning to New York, where he could blend in with others like him. George Backhus of Moonshadow put it so well when he wrote, "There's an adage regarding American ex-pats living in Mexico . . . they are people who are either wanted by someone or not wanted by anyone." To that I would add in the case of Goldie, he's someone who thinks he's wanted and needed by everyone, but is not needed or wanted by anyone.
General John Netpolis, U.S. Army, Retired
HE MUST HAVE US CONFUSED WITH SOMEONE ELSE
In a recent letter by Norm Goldie of San Blas, he said that I insulted his wife, and he invited me to return to do something about it. We're very disturbed that Goldie remembers us in that light, because nothing like that ever happened. He must have us confused with somebody else. We did meet him two years ago on the water about 15 miles west of San Blas, but it was a friendly meeting.
Les and Diane
Thank you for publishing my letter on San Blas in the September issue. I also enjoyed the October letter from "Cap'n Norm Goldie" of San Blas - and Latitude's response.
I would take issue with most of Goldie's positions. As Latitude pointed out, San Blas is not in concert with other west coast ports with regards to their policies, practices or attitudes. It also has the fanciest port captain's office building of any I've seen in Mexico.
Goldie holds himself out as a government official, claiming to be part of API. It is my understanding that API is at best a quasi-government agency which is in charge of administering the Mexican equivalent of a port district. What fees they collect in other ports are separate from the normal clearing fees. In Santa Rosalia, API puts out 55-gallon cans for trash and has guards that patrol the harbor. I don't know what they do in San Blas.
What official position Goldie holds in all of this is still a mystery to me - even after pointed questions to him on this subject. From long conversations I've had with him, it's obvious he has little experience with sailing/cruising. And his position on the port procedural issues prove to me that he is no friend to cruisers. His boat Jama is an outboard-powered fishing skiff, in which, he informed me, he has been known to swing by Mantanchen Bay on Thursdays checking for "illegals."
Why does a boat buying fuel, or a boat resting overnight in Mantanchen Bay without checking in, bother him so much if it doesn't seem to bother the port captain? Goldie couldn't - or wouldn't - ever explain that to me. I think the letter by George Backhus of Moonshadow in the same issue was on to something - that Cap'n Norm has become a legend in his own mind.
Latitude is out to lunch on the weather thing in the Sea of Cortez. Stay down here with us next summer and you might change your tune - by tuning in.
Dick & Judi Frank
Dick and Judi - Here's our very last word on the summer weather in the Sea of Cortez, which, aside from hurricanes, we think is a pretty small molehill that a lot of people are trying to fashion into a mountain. We've been to a lot of places - the East Coast, the Caribbean, and the Med - where the summer weather is typically more dangerous than in the Sea of Cortez, and never felt the need to have our every move revolve around daily weather reports. If we spent the summer in the Sea cruising between La Paz and Bahia de Los Angeles, our only real weather concern would be the approach of distant hurricanes, which could easily be initially monitored by weatherfax and other sources. So yeah, we might tune in for a five-minute weather summary every couple of days, but our primary determinant for making a passage from Loreto to San Juanico would be what the weather looked like out our porthole.
As for non-hurricane summer weather in the Sea of Cortez that seems to have everyone so cowed, wait until you see what some other parts of the world have to offer.
Lastly, we can remember six times in
our sailing lives - three at anchor and three under sail - that
we've been hit with more than 45 knots of wind. None of those
strong winds had been forecast. The only conclusion that we can
draw is that being on a boat means you always have to be prepared
to be surprised by something like that.
We've been reading Latitudes while cruising down under, and have been following the debate over the ability of catamarans to sail upwind with monohulls. Recently, we had a real world experience to add to the debate.
The Punk Dolphin, our Wylie 38, was challenged to a 75-mile upwind squirt from Vava'u, Tonga, to the Ha'apai Group in the middle of Tonga by a 65-ft Privilege catamaran with a 100-ft rotating rig. She was, however, full of fuel and loaded with all the crazy stuff one would expect to find on a million-dollar cat.
Anyway, they gave us a one hour lead in a 'race' that featured 20 to 25-knot winds the entire way. The course required sailing close hauled while bucking a big sea and an adverse current. After a while, the big cat blew by us to leeward and over the horizon. But a few hours later, as we neared the finish line, we saw them on the opposite tack and behind our jib! Obviously, they hadn't been able to point anywhere near as high as the Punk.
The race came down to a tacking duel in the lee of an island, with the wind still howling. We had two reefs in the main and just the heavy air staysail up forward, and they were carrying the same. But they only beat us to the finish line by about one minute!
This was a high-performance cruising cat, not one of the condo-cats that the charter companies run. I think if the cat had been a typical charter company cat, we might not have seen them in time for dinner and beer.
Jonathan 'Bird' Livingston & Suzie
Jonathan and Suzie - We need to make a couple of clarifications. First, a Privilege 65 is much more than "a million dollar cat," as at least one 1997 model is currently listed for $2.5 million. Secondly, Privilege cats are generally considered to be the epitome of 'condo-cats' as opposed to performance cats. Thanks to sumptuous accommodations for 14, including seven heads with showers, they are very heavy. It doesn't help that they also carry four tons of fluids and have shallow keels as opposed to daggerboards. In other words, when it comes to upwind performance, a Privilege 65 cat is to a Morrelli & Melvin-designed Gunboat 62 cruising cat like a shoal draft Wylie 38 with a Ford Taurus on the davits is to your relatively light and deep draft Wylie 38.
Having said that, we're not at all surprised
at the results of your 'race'. Heavy cats without daggerboards
are surprisingly poor performers when sailing upwind, particularly
so in big seas and adverse currents. Give that cat a chance to
crack off 20 degrees, however, and it's quite a different story
- their heavy weight and fixed keels notwithstanding. Of course,
foregoing upwind performance for better performance on all other
points of sail is not an uncommon tradeoff. It's been the historic
compromise of sleds, and Bob Miller also made it with his 140-schooner
Mari-Cha IV which has just crushed
the TransAtlantic monohull sailing record.
I want to say how pleased I am with how the Guest Company dealt with my battery charger that went bad. I bought the unit about six years ago, but have only used it sporadically since then. Recently, I tried to charge an old battery that I had lying around, and after about 30 minutes I came back to find the electrolyte was boiling. I checked the output of the charger and found it was 35 volts! That's not good.
I called the Guest Company customer service, and their representative told me to send it in. Two weeks later I received a brand new battery charger. Way to go Guest!
Jeff H. Rothman
We purchased a Raymarine ST4000 Plus Tiller Autopilot at the West Marine store on July 7 of this year. But when we returned to our boat in Panama, we found the control unit to be defective. Raymarine Technical Services told us there was no user repair possible, and advised us to return the unit to the store for replacement. Unfortunately, when you're in Panama, it's not so easy to return something to a store in Marina del Rey.
So we called the West Marine Store in Marina del Rey, and a very efficient woman named Helene said, "No problem." With that, she shipped us a replacement unit that same day, taking our Visa card number as security against our return of the old unit. The autopilot is now installed and working fine. We think this is an example of superb West Marine service.
Jim Baker & Suzy Kendall,
Did any other mariners witness what I consider to have been the bizarre behavior on the part of the Red & White Fleet boats during last month's Blue Angels show during Fleet Week? We were off the east side of the show area near the Coast Guard buoy tender, drifting with the rest of the spectators. For the most part, skippers were courteous and well-behaved - only moving slowly and cautiously.
Except, that is, for the Red & White Fleet boats, which blasted right through the drifting crowd - and the Coasties - blowing their horns and scattering big and small boats left and right. I saw them do this numerous times before and during the show. The weird thing is that if they'd gone a few hundred yards further east, they would have had open water to themselves, since the ebb was pushing everyone westward.
Who do these guys think they are?
HIGHEST PRAISE FOR PERALTA CAPTAIN(S)
I read your report on the ferry boat Peralta hitting Carl Fritzsche's Ericson 27 on September 13. First and foremost, I'm very glad to know that such a collision didn't kill anyone on the sailboat. I wish a quick recovery to the person injured on the ferry.
I'm writing because as I follow Carl Fritzsche's account, some of it seems unlikely. I regularly sail out of Alameda Marina, either on my boat or one of three others that I race on. As a result, I have crossed paths with the Peralta catamaran ferry on numerous occasions, and based on my experience, the captain(s) deserve the highest praise for their foresight and courtesy to other mariners. I've seen many examples that demonstrated they know that when tacking, sailboats have to make major changes in course.
While mistakes can always happen, I have a hard time believing that a captain(s) who has so consistently been courteous towards smaller craft would get angry and intentionally bear down on an "unsuspecting" sailboat.
I also think some of the 'facts', as seen from Fritzsche's point of view, might be slightly skewed. For example, could he really hear and understand the ferry's P.A. system from three-quarters of a mile away? And if it took but 30 seconds between the announcement and the collision, it meant the ferry would have had to be doing 35 knots, not just the few knots Fritzsche reported her as travelling, at the time of the collision.
By the way, even at full speed, the catamaran ferry Peralta puts out a very small wake in comparison to many other vessels, such as the Bar Pilot boat and other big power boats at just below planing speed.
Peter - As noted in our Sightings piece,
it was a one-sided report, as the ferry captain, the representatives
of the ferry company, and the Coast Guard all refuse to comment
until the investigation of the incident has been completed. We
should all withhold our judgement until that time.
I'm surprised that more sailors aren't lost given the difficulty of the standard Man Overboard (MOB) procedure. No matter how many times it's practiced, the hardest part of any MOB drill always seems to be bringing the boat to a stop directly beside the person in the water. The worst part is that the boat must fall-off and the whole maneuver must be repeated if the final alignment with the MOB is not close enough.
So for my boat, I developed a simple and cheap MOB throw device that meant I only had to get my boat close. The device consists of a 5-inch fender tied to about 30-ft of floating yellow nylon line. I also tie a couple 3-foot lengths of the yellow line from one end of the fender to the other. In an emergency situation, the fender can be circled overhead and flung accurately for more than 20 feet. The fender provides needed floatation to the MOB. I figure that even the most frantic person in the water will grasp at either the fender or the floating line. The short lengths of line provide hand-hold loops that the MOB can put his/her arms through while being pulled back to the boat.
The device can even be used to help get the MOB back into the boat by wrapping the line around a winch. The person can either be winched up or can just use the short loops as a foothold to raise themselves up. The whole thing stows compactly by wrapping the line around the fender.
While not being perfect, in most cases this lifesaving device can eliminate the need to bring the boat right alongside the MOB. It only costs a few dollars, can be deployed quickly, and can be easily stowed under the seat on most boats.
In the May issue, there was a letter from Gayl Opatrny and Richard Briles of Second Wind and Moonraker out of Long Beach, in which they remarked upon the hospitality they received at the Independent Boat Yard in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, from fellow sailors Kirk and Catherine McGeorge of the Honolulu-based Islander 37 pilothouse Polly Brooks. Since my family was getting ready to move to St. Thomas and we knew not a soul, I decided to pack that issue of Latitude along, with the intention of looking up the McGeorges and surprising them with the letter.
After nearly three weeks of unpacking our container, I came up for air long enough to look up Kirk's number. When I called, I spoke to both Kirk and Catherine - who fondly remembered Gayl and Richard, were delighted by my story, and very pleased I had brought a copy of the magazine. By the time I finished speaking to Catherine - whose baby is due any day now - she had invited me to her baby shower to "meet some East End women" that very day!
My husband Steve has been a sailor and an avid Latitude fan forever. Over the years, I've become a big fan, too. Thank you for your continued efforts to illustrate the beauty of sailing, and for your part - however unintended - in easing our transition to island living. The spirit of the sailing community is definitely alive and well in St. Thomas!
Sue - We're delighted everything worked out so well. It also helped us get back in touch with Kirk and Cath McGeorge, who have provided us with a major report on St. Thomas for the next issue. They say they are loving life there.
You probably have heard about Kirk's
discovering an interest in the transit of Venus, which, of course,
is the reason the British Admiralty sent Captain James Cook to
Tahiti. We'll have more on Cook, McGeorge, and Venus in the next
Do you have the recipe for Painkillers, the famous drink of the Virgin Islands? I've still got the bottle of rum, I just need the recipe.
B. K. - Of course we have the recipe. Remember, however, that you can't make genuine Painkillers unless you use Pusser's Rum, the stuff once issued to members of the Royal Navy - while they were on duty!
Start by pouring the amount of Pusser's that suits your taste into a glass, add four parts pineapple juice, one part cream of coconut, one part orange juice, and serve over ice with freshly-grated nutmeg on the top. You'll find, however, that it doesn't taste anywhere near as good in Wisconsin as it does on a sailboat in the British Virgin Islands.
Now, if you're making up a batch of Painkillers for midday drinks for your crew during something like Antigua Sailing Week, you're going to need more. So here's the easy recipe for five gallons - or about 128 servings - of the magic elixir: five gallons of Pusser's, eight 42-ounce cans of pineapple juice, three quarts of orange juice, two 42-ounce cans of Coco Lopez cream of coconut - and don't forget the nutmeg! If you'll be having a big crew like we used to have on Big O at Antigua, double everything to make 256 servings. That should hold everyone until it's time for sundowners ashore.
For those not familiar with the history of Pusser's Rum, it was served - in varying amounts over the years - to members of the Royal Navy on a daily basis up until 1970. Significantly, the sailors were given a double serving just before battle. Once these daily 'tots' were eliminated by the Royal Navy, it seemed like it would be the end of Pusser's - a corruption of 'purser', the fellow aboard who used to dole out the tots - which wasn't sold commercially.
Then in the early '70s, Charles Tobias, an L.A. entrepreneur, got sick of the fast life, bought author Ernie Gann's former ketch Mar, and headed for Panama, the Caribbean and the Med. If you believe the movie Tobias made about the trip, a chimp and a cheetah were part of the hard-working crew! John Riise, Latitude's Managing Editor, joined Tobias and Mar as crew in Palma de Mallorca in '73, and served aboard for much of the next two years.
The way Chuck tells it, during a stop in Gibraltar he discovered a flagon of Pusser's Rum while crawling around the caves of that former English stronghold. An admitted Anglophile, Tobias was inspired to buy the rights to the recipe and market it commercially. It wasn't easy, but it helped that he offered to donate a certain percentage of the profits to the Old Seaman's Fund. After marketing the rum for several years, Tobias opened up Pusser's Landings in the British Virgins and elsewhere, and pushed the Painkillers. We've had more than a few of them.
readers will remember that in our early days, Tobias would come
to Latitude Crew List Parties with an oak cask of rum,
a couple of fetching wenches dressed in period costumes, and
hand out free Painkillers and souvenir mugs. Arh, what fun!
About six months ago you published an article on the hassles of having to clear in and out of Mexican ports. As I understand it, there was some lobbying being done to replace the old system with one of a single cruising permit for six months or a year, eliminating all the in and out fees as well as port fees. Has there been any progress?
Gisele - As we understand it, a change to an annual cruising permit was passed by one branch of the Mexican Congress, but then was turned down - after heavy lobbying by port captains - by the other branch. So nothing has changed from last year.
Actually, maybe things are slightly worse in some places. As of late October, Jim Baker and Suzy Kendall of the 31-ft Brown Searunner trimaran Sparta reported bad news from Puerto Madero on the southern coast of mainland Mexico. When they passed through 18 months before, "one of the nicest port captains in the world" signed their zarpe for no charge. Unfortunately, he's no longer there, and the new port captain is demanding - apparently illegally - that everyone use a ship's agent to check in and out. Before it was all over, Jim and Suzy had been charged $140. A whopping $60 - a tall pile of money in southern Mexico - went to the ship's agent. By comparison, they had paid only $30 for a three-month cruising permit in Panama.
We'll have their full story in next
We'd like to get a copy of the Crew List form necessary for clearing in procedures in Mexico. We understand that the form must be in Spanish - or English and Spanish. We've looked many places for such forms, but haven't been able to find a copy. It would be helpful if you made the form downloadable from your website.
We're hoping to do the Ha-Ha this year, but thanks to my wife being hit and our car being totalled in a car accident, we have to be in trial in Los Angeles. We nonetheless plan to head south, so we'll be following the Ha-Ha as soon as possible.
Bill & Bobi Holbrook
Bill and Bobi - A half size copy of the required document appears in Latitude's First-Timers' Cruising Guide To Mexico, which was sent out to all Ha-Ha entries. The latest editions of Charlie's Charts also has the form in Spanish - with an English translation - on pages 238 and 239. And we're sure Downwind Marine in San Diego has copies. But even if you miss all these, don't sweat it, as just about every cruiser in Cabo - which we presume will be your port of entry - will be happy to lend you a copy or downloadable version.
Speaking of clearing in Mexico, we just got off the phone with Dick Markie of Paradise Resort and Marina in Nuevo Vallarta, who confirmed that while many cruisers use a ship's agent for clearing into ports, it's still possible to do it yourself. The only exception might be at San Blas, where the last several port captains have made cruisers use an agent - even though this is apparently illegal.
In any event, Markie says what really
bugs port captains and their staffs is when cruisers who want
to clear in show up slovenly dressed and poorly groomed, throw
sloppy and half-completed forms on their counter, and expect
the port captain or his staff to fill them out. This won't cut
it, as appearance counts for a lot in Mexico, and officials aren't
interested in doing secretarial work for you.
I have a suggestion for the owner of Fierce Eagle, who suggested that the editorial responses to Letters be trimmed down or eliminated: Go fly an asymmetrical kite! Latitude has always offered a good forum for communication, and we need all of that we can get - even if some of it is just for entertainment. So, Mr. Fierce Eagle, pull your talons in and try a nice sail on the Bay.
Speaking of entertainment, my parrot, Bartles, and I do have one small request - we would like to see more photos of women baring their assets.
Johnny - Thanks for the kind words, which are so easy to take. We also welcome constructive criticism, which can sting, but in the long run may be more beneficial.
Speaking of stinging constructive criticism,
we must tell you that saying you'd like to see more photos of
women "baring their assets" is not only denigrating
to them, but makes you sound like a lowlife. We don't have problems
with publishing photos of women celebrating feeling free or at
one with nature on a boat, but you'll have to find titilation
No, no, don't cut short your long answers to readers' letters as requested by Fierce Eagle. Latitude is about the only place such consideration for the reader can be found. Though often opinionated, your replies are respectful and thoughtful. And if I don't like where an answer is going - or if I get bored - I can move on. Your handling of your readers' contributions is so much better than the sophomoric, 'cutesy' letter titles and replies in some of the other magazines. Latitude reads like it's produced by grown-ups, for grown-ups. Don't change.
Bob - We're chuffed. Thank you.
The editor's responses to the Letters are the core of Latitude, as they demonstrate knowledge, humor and irony. It's the stuff of life. Thank God, Allah, Buddha or whoever, that we still have one or two publications that are not controlled by the white bread and mayo mind control conglomerates. Rave on!
Stuart - Thanks for the compliments,
but you've gone so far overboard you need a PFD.
We just returned from what was to be our honeymoon cruise to the Mexican Riviera aboard the Royal Caribbean's Vision of the Seas. We boarded in San Pedro in the early afternoon on October 5, but during the 4:30 p.m. muster drill, the Captain informed us that due to the severe weather off Mexico we would not be heading down south, and he would later inform us of a new itinerary. A couple of hours later, he informed us that we'd be sailing to San Francisco, Catalina, and Ensenada. Being Bay Area natives, we weren't happy with that itinerary and, along with a few hundred other Northern Californians, objected. We were all kept in line by the armed presence of the L.A. Harbor Police, U.S. Customs officers, and three Coast Guard vessels.
A short time later, the captain announced that those wishing to disembark could do so almost immediately with a $100 per person credit toward their next Royal Caribbean Cruise. As if there would be another one after this! Opting to stay onboard, we received a $100 per cabin credit and the $100 per person future cruise credit. We were never informed further about the weather in Mexico or its outcome on the Mexican Riviera. In fact, our satellite feed was "unavailable" until we reached The City. Yeah, that was us at Pier 35 last week for two days!
We looked on your website for updates and perhaps we missed something, so our question is twofold: What was the outcome of the storms Nora and Olaf, and what damage occurred in Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, and Puerto Vallarta, our intended ports of call?
Rodger & Elizabeth Holcomb
Rodger and Elizabeth - At one time Olaf blew to 65 knots, but had mostly fizzled by the time she went ashore south of Puerto Vallarta. We didn't hear any reports of damage. Nora hit as much as 90 knots, then faded before curving ashore near Mazatlan. Once again we received no reports of significant damage. For a detailed track of both storms, visit www.weather.unisys.com.
We have no idea what weather restrictions
may be placed upon cruise ships by insurance companies or even
regulatory agencies. Maybe they are forbidden to get within a
certain distance of named storms. Of course, if that were the
case, it would be crazy for them to ever schedule a cruise to
the Mexican Riviera during the busy Eastern Pacific hurricane
I want to comment on the What Advice Would Rodney King Give letter last month and the editor's response. Previously, Latitude has addressed the issue of conflicts between racing boats and boats just sailing, by saying that everyone should just sail in a reasonable manner. That if everyone would work together, everyone could enjoy themselves. But I don't feel that your response last month was in the same vein. It seemed to me that you were advocating that non-racers should avoid racers - regardless of the rules of the road.
The skipper of the Bristol 32 who wrote the letter took pains to avoid the racers by not sailing through the start/finish area and by remaining cognizant of their presence as she continued on her way. In terms of your ball field analogy, she took pains to not stroll across the field while a game was in progress. Of course, it's more difficult to define the 'playing field' of a sailboat race, as its boundaries are only known to the participants and can change quickly.
In any event, your response raised a question in my mind. I think the vessel being overtaken is obliged to maintain a steady course, so I'm wondering if they would be liable if they changed course to avoid a racer(s) and somehow a collision ensued?
As you pointed out in the woman's example, most skippers would probably have fallen off to avoid the racing boats - what the racers would have expected. But in this case, the skipper apparently headed up and the racers squeaked past the stern, probably not expecting the boat to have headed up. Your advice of "get out of the way" doesn't communicate how to do it safely.
I find your "overtaken by a group of racers, whom you knew had spent a lot of time, money and energy in the pursuit of their passion" statement to be more churlish than useful. After all, who knows what the Bristol 32 skipper knew about the passion of the racers and how much money they'd spent? Further, does one automatically deserve the right-of-way on the water because they spend lots of time, money, and energy?
Lastly, the author of the letter mentions seeing "some boats" at the start, and later being overtaken by two boats. Like you, I was not there, but it sounds as though the majority of the fleet went the other way. The other two were just being creative.
Please get back to more useful responses.
John C. Skying
John - First, we don't exactly know what happened that day between the Bristol 32 and the racing boats, because the account provided used common sailing terms in inexplicable and contradictory ways. So we're not sure we got it right. But the main point was that the person at the helm of the Bristol 32, as well as the folks on the two racing boats, didn't have as good a day as they could have had. Our point is that it most likely could have easily been avoided.
Most days we buy lunch at Whole Foods, which requires that we twice cross the busiest four-lane street in Mill Valley. Being anti-car - except for their own - many locals (by way of New York) righteously sally forth into the intersection, knowing they have the right-of-way over cars. Often times this causes about six or eight drivers to have to slam on their brakes, delighting the pedestrian - who is usually wearing a T-shirt exhorting everyone (else) to 'Be Nice'.
We're not Pollyanna-ish or holier-than-thou, but we usually stand well back from the curb until there's a bit of a break in the traffic, then start to cross. True, it 'costs' us about 20 seconds of our day, but it's so easy and keeps a bunch of other folks from having just another bit of aggravation thrown in their face. So while we don't have to wait a few seconds for a break in the traffic before starting to cross, why wouldn't we?
We take the same approach when we're out sailing and there is a racing fleet headed toward us. By altering course early - say when the boats are half a mile away - all it requires is that we turn our wheel a little bit to keep clear. Once again, we don't have to do this, but since it takes so little effort and makes life more pleasant for other folks trying to pursue their passion, why wouldn't we? And why, unless you enjoy creating little problems for others, wouldn't you do it too?
If for some reason this can't be done or you get taken by surprise, it's best to follow the rules of the road and maintain a steady course.
ON THE DEFENSE ABOUT JOCKS AND HIGH SCORES
I think it's time for someone to loosen their hatbands a little bit in regard to the piece in the October Latitude that referred to an article in US News and World Report. According to the article, college students who sailed had the highest score of some sort. And other jocks fell well below the norm for the student body at large. Sorry, wrong info.
It seems that all the schools tested were on the water. I don't want to say they are all wet, because that would be too corny. But most of your larger colleges are located well inland, and do not have many - if any - people who sail other than on their break time. Now one of the colleges that has the largest graduation of athletes - jocks, if you will - is Syracuse University, which graduates between 80% to 96% of their jocks and jockettes according to both US News and also Sports Illustrated.
Now I will give you an example of a Syracuse athlete. My son, (of course), is a senior at Syracuse who pays defense on their football team. He stands 6' 2", 295 lbs - and is number one in his class in information sciences and management. He had a perfect ACT and a 1580 SAT, and is Peer Advisor to the freshman class. His roommate, 6'5", 340 lbs, is also a football player on the defense. He had a perfect ACT, a perfect 1600 SAT, and is a member of Mensa. A friend of theirs is Donovan McNab, who also was a Syracuse player, and who graduated with a degree in Communications. He's now the quarterback for the Eagles with a $100 million contract. He's also the youngest member of a college board in the country.
I'm sure that a lot of college sailors would like to match up to that quality of jock, don't you?
I also think that the young people of this country are our future, and if sailing or football teaches them anything, perhaps it is that people of all colors and all faiths can work together. And that numbers are just numbers, but it's people rather than numbers that are our future. If one is your son or daughter, just do one thing - hug them and tell them you love them.
Barry - We're not interested in getting into a squabble about this, but we think that your son and his friend are hardly representative of the Syracuse football team or college football players in general. If we had to bet a nickel on the outcome of chess matches between randomly selected college football players and college sailors, we have to confess that we wouldn't go with the football players.
/ Classifieds / 'Lectronic Latitude / Home