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GOOD OLD BOAT, GOOD OLD CREW
I'm the owner of Cal 40 hull #141, which I totally rebuilt from 1983-'85, relaunching her in November of 1985. Since then I have raced her a little and sailed her a lot. In fact, I continue to sail her to Catalina as often as possible with my family.
I've always wanted to do a TransPac on a Cal 40. I didn't care if it was mine or someone else's, as long as it was a Cal 40. Toward that end, last January and February I sailed aboard a Cal 40 looking forward to being crew on her in last July's TransPac. But after a while, the skipper asked me how old I was and what condition my heart was in.
I felt those questions were very tacky, to say the least. Needless to say, I didn't get a spot on the crew, which made me really mad. "I'll show them," I said to myself, and decided that I'd take my own Cal 40 on the 2005 TransPac - but with a difference. All the crew will be 65 or older.
To that end I'm putting the word out that I'm looking for hot but experienced race crew who would be interested in doing the TransPac one last time, to show young folks how it's done. Is there anybody who will be over 65 next July interested in helping me achieve my goal?
Lloyd - We have to disagree with you.
If a boatowner is putting together a crew for a long ocean passage,
we think it would be irresponsible for him/her not to inquire
about the health of each potential crewmember. The good news
is that rejection is a powerful motivator. If it instilled in
you the passion to put your own campaign together, it may be
the best thing that ever happened to you.
The thing I like about the Latitude Crew List Parties is that they work so well - at least they have for me. Yet another unemployed Bay Area high tech manager, I attended Latitude's Crew List Party this past spring at the Golden Gate YC. I was looking to crew on weekend races or casual daysails to keep me busy.
While wandering around the club seeing old friends, I bumped into Vince Comella. He'd left with the Ha-Ha in '98, and flies back from his boat in the South Pacific during cyclone season to work. He had spent two seasons in Mexico and two seasons in French Polynesia before going on to Rarotonga, Aitutaki, Niue, Tonga, and Fiji. He left the boat on the hard there in 2002. He was at the club looking for crew.
I noticed that his name tag said he was looking for crew for "Fiji to Australia." I hadn't come to the party looking for anything like that. But it only took me a few minutes to decide that there was nothing keeping me in Northern California, and that sailing from Fiji to Australia was something that I could do. And so began one of the great adventures of my life.
We're now in Bundaberg, Australia, after having put 2,500 or so miles of ocean under the keel of his Itchy Feet. We spent six weeks seeing all of Fiji, then continued on to Vanuatu, where we spent five weeks visiting most of the major islands. Before continuing on to Australia, we made a stop at New Caledonia for a few weeks. Needless to say, we have had some great adventures and seen some amazing things.
I should also like to report that there are lots of other folks out here cruising. For example, we met quite a few cruisers in Fiji at the Musket Cove YC on the reef island of Malolo Lailai, and at Vuda Point Marina on the main island of Viti Levu. Among them were Steve and Jamie of Reba, who were looking into buying some land and building a house overlooking Musket Cove, which is one of the great cruiser crossroads in the South Pacific. We also met Sam and Caren, and their kids Rachel and Dana Edwards, of the Portola Valley-based Marquesas 56 cat Rhapsody. They were on their way from Australia to the States, hoping to make good use of the equatorial countercurrent to get home. We also crossed paths with Mike and Ellen of the Florida-based 2 Extreme. A former employee of Morgan Yachts, Mike was repairing their rudder in a boatyard.
Harold, another Floridian, was importing his schooner to Fiji so he could stay there. He'd just got a job selling furniture. It was so difficult for him to admit that it came out in a stutter. What Harold really enjoys is the lifestyle of taking tourists - mostly women - on daysails around the western islands of Fiji. But I don't think work will put too much of a cramp in his Margaritaville lifestyle.
Fourth of July was a big event at Musket Cove, with about 30 boats in the anchorage. The American cruisers celebrated by firing off expired flares. The Australians and New Zealanders were just as eager to join in the celebration. It was a great evening of telling sailing stories around the barbeque.
We are continually running into boats that left with the Baja Ha-Ha classes of '98 and '99, plus a few from the class of 2000. This includes Dave and Linda Owen on Irish Melody from Santa Rosa. We met Cal and Ellie from Desperado while in Savusavu, where they were waiting for parts for their autopilot. They had spent the hurricane season there and had done well - even when a tropical cyclone passed right over them on its way to Taveuni, where it did a lot of damage. They loved the Waitui Marina, and the very friendly folks there - especially Curly, the manager, so named because of his flowing white beard. Cal and Ellie's 12-month visas with six month extensions were coming to an end, so they were deciding where to go next.
Back at Musket Cove, we met Harley and Lisa on Mustang, and their friends Cameron and Sarah on Duet. We also caught up with Blair on Capricorn Cat. He had the family out to Musket Cove, and was planning to sail back to the Marshall Islands, where he claimed that the water was clear and the diving spectacular. His claim that the Marshalls were the best place in the South Pacific has convinced several other cruisers to go there.
It's fun how you see the same folks in different places. While in Fiji, we met Glen and Glenna aboard Calafia, who were headed to Vanuatu. We later crossed paths with them at Tanna Island. After meeting Germans Gunnar and his girlfriend on Fiji, they took on a female crew for the trip to Vanuatu. We bumped into the three of them later also. The German couple was working their way west around the world with guests and paying charterers for various legs of their trip.
Many of the boats from Australia and New Zealand make a loop up to Fiji or Tonga, then head west and back home. It's one of those cyclic 'Coconut Run' movements of the cruising community that repeats itself every year. While in Noumea, New Caledonia, we caught up with Dick and Nancy on Askari, and Dennis and Tina from Washington State aboard Alii Kai. These two boats had been traveling together in Fiji and through Vanuatu. They were about to part company, as Askari was heading for Coff's Harbor in Australia, while Alii Kai was sailing to Brisbane.
We also met Terry and Mary Iverson of Oklahoma, who were enjoying the Cercle New Caledonia YC in Baie Orphelinat. We also saw Kialoa III there, having previously seen her in Port Denearau, Fiji. Just before leaving for Australia, we met George and Marie on Warp Drive. We were comparing plans and weather information with them, and decided to leave for Australia on the same day. We stayed in contact until they left us in their wake. But we caught up with them again in Bundaberg and Mooloolaba. They were very helpful with local knowledge and advice. In fact, all the Australians we met were very helpful and eager to tell us about great places to go.
In fact, it's because the Australians are so friendly that we're now in Mooloolaba, a resort town that is just fantastic. What a great place to visit, as it has beautiful beaches, a nice marina, great food, good shopping, and lots of beautiful people.
When you're out cruising, it's easier to remember boat names than people's names. Speaking of boat names, Vince's boat is named Itchy Feet. In Suva, Fiji, we woke up with an Australian boat named Itchy Feet right next to us! This caused some confusion, and explained why people had approached us with condolences on losing our dinghy, which we hadn't lost, or notice of boat parts waiting for us, which we hadn't ordered. But I guess we should have expected it, as Itchy Feet generally travel in pairs.
Readers - This being the end of the year, it's a good time for all of us to take stock of our lives. For example, how has your life been this last year compared to John's? Assuming that you don't have kids and aren't married, do you wish you'd been more aggressive and open to getting a crew position offered at the spring Crew List Party? Or maybe you wished you'd come to the Crew List Party instead of staying home and eating a pizza while watching a TV movie. Remember, fortune favors the bold.
By the way, while at the fall Crew List Party and Ha-Ha Kick-Off in Alameda, the fellow in the accompanying photograph came up to us to thank us for the Crew List Parties. He said that by attending one almost 10 years ago, he was able to sail all over the South Pacific to Australia. He's been back many years now, but said that even just the memories were great. We wish we'd had time to write down his name.
IF HE WANTS TO WIN THE NEXT AMERICA'S CUP
I'd like to know if you could pass a message to Jan Stenbeck, the big boss of Sweden Channel 2-3, who had the Swedish entry in the last America's Cup. I need you to tell him that I have astonishing information regarding the improvements he can make to his America's Cup boat - that is if he really wants to win next time. Thank you, and please don't be hard on me for asking you this little favor, for I'm having a hard time getting in touch with him.
Constantin - Everybody is having trouble
reaching Jan, as he died tragically and unexpectedly of a heart
attack right about the time his boat was launched.
With no customers currently here at Marina de La Paz and three good women in the office, I have nothing to do, so I'm writing you this letter.
I just received word that the latest Ha-Ha was as enjoyable as all the others, with light winds. Congratulations on jobs well done. We hope Profligate continues to have a good run the rest of the way to the Caribbean.
As for 'Just Being Me', it would be nice if he would let everyone know which is 'his anchorage' so the rest of us can avoid it. Or at least he could give us his boat name so we can figure out which part of the anchorage to avoid.
I think the topics of weather reports in the Sea of Cortez and Norm Goldie in San Blas are reflections of the same subject. There are no rules for life that cover all situations. Cruisers especially need to gather information, then decide on their own course of action. The story of friends of ours, cruising a humble Tahiti ketch, who did most of their cruising in the '70s and before is instructive. They were in Cabo San Lucas the year of the infamous December storm. When the seas began to build, they raised their anchor and headed out to sea. Meanwhile, many of the other cruisers got on the radio and kept asking each other, "What are you going to do?" and "What do you think we should do?" Before long, it was too late for them to do anything, and something like 30 of them were destroyed on the beach. The couple in the Tahiti ketch rode out the blow at sea.
Mary 'Name Not Withheld' Shroyer
You know the letter I sent to you last month? The one in which I told everybody that I sailed down here to the Sea of Cortez a few years ago to enjoy a free life and not be told what to do by anyone? The one in which I warned other cruisers to never come over and tell me to turn my music down in my anchorage? And that if they didn't like my music, they could move their collective butts?
Well, I posted the complete version of that letter on a wall of the local yacht club, and it seems to have gotten a lot of people offended. That's only because I tell it the way it is. They all say they're going to start a letter campaign against me. Ha, ha, ha. That just makes me go deaf so I can turn the music up even louder. So, if you get some nasty responses to the letter I wrote you, just trash them - like I do!
And, hey, I didn't mean all those things about the Ha-Ha folks - just that most of them couldn't find the dark in the night.
Just Being Me
J.B.M. - Sailors in the Caribbean tend to exist on the 'live and let live' basis, but even they have their limits. About 15 years ago in Falmouth Harbor there was a character so universally loathed for being his repugnant self, that he became known as the 'A of A' - asshole of the anchorage. After giving the guy plenty of time to conform with the very broad social conventions of the harbor, the majority decided that remedial steps were necessary. So each time he came to shore, they'd hide or even untie his dinghy.
When A of A returned to the dinghy dock to find that his dinghy wasn't where he'd left it, he'd be outraged - but he'd also be completely helpless. As such, he had no choice but to be a supplicant to those he'd been treating so badly on a regular basis. The others, just wanting a change in his behavior, were always quick to help him find his dink. In less than a week, he got the hint and became something of a changed man. He never was a nice guy, but he stopped being the insufferable ass he'd once been.
You might want to think twice about
insisting on being your totally insensitive self lest somebody
post the 'Caribbean solution' on the yacht club wall beneath
I don't know if you can stand one more letter about Capt. Norm Goldie of San Blas, but I was there during the time that John Netpolis refers to as the beginning of the 'cruiser revolt'. What started the revolt was that Norm had been announcing daily that both the Mexican Navy and the Port Captain required that all vessels hoist their dinghies at least six feet out of the water. He would then go out every morning with binoculars to check the anchorage to verify that we cruisers were complying with the 'rules'. Some of us did not, and we were identified as troublemakers on the morning net. But we'd already determined that no such rule existed, as the Port Captain had a copy of the laws, in English, in his office, available for anyone to read.
Norm then announced that the Navy Commander had been to his house to complain about us rule breakers. He eventually said he was so frustrated that he was going to let the Navy deal with us directly.
Norm also said that anyone anchored in Matenchan Bay was required to do an official check in - but the law says that only vessels anchored in the San Blas Estuary were required to check in. The Port Captain then asked us to type up a synopsis of the laws applicable to tourist vessels, which he posted on his window for all to see.
Things got really nasty when I announced on the radio that there was no law requiring cruisers to hoist their dinghies out of the water. When Norm heard that, he said he was going to have the Port Captain and the Navy throw me out of San Blas. I asked that Norm meet me at the Port Captain's office to settle it, but naturally he didn't show up.
Since I was so angry, I tried to locate the agency that had given Norm so much power. Well, the Port Captain told me that Norm has no authority at all, and was just considered a very strange North American. Furthermore, the Navy said Norm wasn't associated with them in any way, and denied they had ever come to his home to discuss 'problem cruisers'.
Ultimately, I located an official agency that admitted to knowing Norm. This was the API in Puerto Vallarta, which said that some time ago they had commissioned Norm as the 'unofficial goodwill ambassador', and issued him a permit to talk on the radio. That is the extent of Norm's authority.
Norm undoubtedly started out with good intentions, and maybe he does do some good in accepting donations for the kids and distributing the goods to the locals. But somewhere along the way, he began to see himself as the Emperor of San Blas. Then a group of cruisers came in and pointed out the emperor had no clothes.
Raul & Sharon Cervantes
Raul and Sharon - Very, very interesting.
However, unless there is some important
new development, we're terminating the subject of Norm Goldie
as a topic of discussion in Letters.
Thank you for the incredible 'Lectronic Latitude website! But we need your help. We're a couple in our 50s who want nothing more than to liveaboard and sail the Sea of Cortez. We have found our dream boat, the 37-ft Monk ketch Hakuna Matata, and the owner of the boat has agreed to take our 1948 Harley Davidson for $9,000 in trade. That means all we have to come up with is $10,000.
The problem is that we live on a fixed income. We know without a doubt that we can handle the payments - we don't have any debt - but can't find a lender to have faith in us. We own a house in a suburb of Tucson that we have $15,000 equity in, and are willing to put it up with the boat or whatever it takes to get a loan. If anyone can help us, please let us know, as our tentative closing date is not far off.
Vern & Michelle Nay
Vern and Michelle - We're publishers, not loan facilitators, so we can't help you. But if we were in your shoes, we'd work our asses off for the next six months while living in extreme frugality to come up with the missing ten grand. It would be a blast, as there's few better things in life than working toward a goal that you are passionate about.
But if you're not able to get a loan, and not willing to bust your butts for six months, it might be a blessing in disguise. Wood boats that are nearly 40 years old normally require regular infusions of cash to keep them going - particularly in hot and dry climates such as the Sea of Cortez. If you need to cruise on a tight budget, you'd probably be better off with a less expensive and less maintenance-intensive fiberglass boat. There are lots of them around, and banks are more willing to loan on glass than wood.
P.S. Pay particular attention to the
next two letters.
A few months back, I read an article in Latitude about buying boats at lien sales. It really seemed to turn people away from the idea of buying a boat this way, suggesting that they would be buying more problems than they could handle. While this might sometimes be true, I can report that lien boats can sometimes be a great deal for those of us with limited budgets.
I purchased my last boat, a San Juan 24, in a lien sail for $1,000. I already had an engine, and had to do some maintenance to get her ready to sail the Bay. But for a total of $2,300, I had a boat that was Coast Guard compliant, and took her out sailing every chance that I could. In the process, I learned many things not only about my boat, but from networking with others in the marina. When I saw luxurious boats go by, I used to comment that they often had more invested in their dinghies than I had in my whole boat.
Several months later, my job resulted in my being relocated in Fresno, and I didn't have time to sell my San Juan. Unwilling to let people test sail the boat without me around, I took the motor and some of the other gear off, and donated her to the Boy Scouts. I valued the San Juan at $1200 for tax purposes, and also received a paddleboat and a small flatbed trailer - both of which I use - in exchange. Since I didn't have a lot of money in the boat, it was worth it to me to donate the boat as opposed to going through the hassle of trying to sell her.
I'm now back in the Bay Area and have purchased another boat - a Columbia MK I - through another lien sale. The boat had been left behind when the owner had to leave the country on business. She had been meticulously maintained, and needed very little to be seaworthy. All of the stuff I had saved from the San Juan - first aid kit, flares, air horn - were put on the Columbia. My current boat is not an expensive racing boat, but she does allow my fiancée and me the pleasure of sailing the San Francisco Bay - and we feel very fortunate to have this luxury.
Although there are many boats up for lien that need to be scrapped, there are treasures to be found out there. I urge anyone with a love of the water to watch the lien sales, for they may find a gem. But it is important to know what you're looking at. Take an experienced yet opened-minded sailor with you to examine the boat in question.
Capt. John Smith
Capt. John - The key with lien sales
is being able to identify what a boat is really worth and how
much money it will take to make her seaworthy. For the competent
do-it-yourselfer with more time than money, lien sales are definitely
worth looking into. But for inexperienced folks unfamiliar with
the value of boats and the cost of repairs, buying a boat at
a lien sale can be an risky investment. Caveat
Chris Wahl wrote asking about trailerable boats. We owned the San Juan 24 Slippery When Wet that we trailered between Lake Tahoe and the Bay Area. We even sailed her to the Sea of Cortez in '91-'92, and brought her home from San Carlos on a trailer. In '97, we trailered her back down to San Carlos and spent another season cruising the Sea of Cortez.
The San Juan 24 is a very stout boat, and relatively comfortable down below. At 3,800 pounds, she is a bit on the heavy side for a trailerable boat, but we had no problems hauling her up and over Echo Summit every fall and spring, using whatever truck was available - which once meant a little Mitsubishi. We even towed her over the Mormon Immigrant Trail.
We had her rigged with a lifting eye, so we could use the hoist and keep her in dry storage. She is also very competitive on the race course. As much as we loved our little San Juan, we had bigger cruising dreams and sold her to purchase a bigger boat.
Emmy & Eric Willbur
Readers - Anybody looking for proof
that cruising doesn't have to be expensive needs to reread this
and the previous letter. In fact, if you're young, adventurous,
and don't have a lot of obligations, you might ask yourself what's
a better option at this point in your life - struggling to survive
in the crummy job market in California or not working and enjoying
minimalist cruising in the Sea of Cortez and beyond. But please,
let's not have everyone under 30 leave all at once.
Here's my two cents on trailerable sailboats, based on my experience.
The editor hit the nail on the head when he said to specify the weather, rather than the geographical area to be sailed in, when trying to decide on what boat to buy. I've owned two trailerable sailboats, a Montgomery 15 and a Montgomery 17, that I've sailed on the Bay and offshore. These are capable little cruisers that I've been comfortable on in winds up to Force 6 - 22 to 27 knots.
I sailed my Montgomery 15 from Richmond to Oxnard this summer. The trick is to look out the window and check the weather before casting off the docklines. For example, I postponed my trip this summer to wait for more favorable weather conditions. I encountered Force 5 and 6 winds, but never felt my boat was too small or inadequate for the conditions. Rounding Point Sur, she surfed swells at better than eight knots without any control problems.
The Montgomery 15 weighs in at 750 pounds when new, so even after customizing and loading it up for a week or two of cruising, she can be pulled by a compact car. I trailered mine to Sacramento from Oxnard and hardly noticed it was behind my Toyota 4Runner. The 15 has a shallow draft fixed keel with 250 pounds of ballast and a 40-pound centerboard for upwind work. Both the 15 and 17 sleep two. I actually prefer the 15, which only draws 15 inches with the board and kickup rudder in the up position, so it's well suited to lake sailing.
Montgomery also builds a 23 footer that I haven't sailed. It sleeps four. If she's anything like the other Montgomerys, she's an excellent sailboat and still trailerable. Once a boat can really sleep four people, I don't find her very trailerable.
Anyway, I suggest checking out the Montgomery 15, 17, and 23.
Richard - You put us in a very difficult
position. Our natural inclination is to strongly discourage readers
from sailing down the potentially very rough coast of California
in 750-lb boats. But then you go and do it without difficulty,
just as Marc Hightower sailed his Montgomery 19 as far south
as Guatemala and then trucked her over to the Caribbean side
for more cruising. Can we at least both agree that folks in small
sailboats should get lots of Bay experience in strong winds before
venturing out the Gate and turning left?
Having spent seven years sailing trailerable boats, I have some advice for Chris Wahl. First, get a pickup with four-wheel drive and the biggest engine you can find - especially if you plan on sailing at Tahoe or other mountain lakes. The extra power will help keep you moving and lessen the anger of drivers who are stuck following you. Sure, you'll use a bit more gas, but it will be worth it. Beyond that, the 4-wheel drive will be a great help pulling the boat back out of the lake. There's nothing worse than backing in, hooking the boat to the trailer, and then finding that you can't move because the back wheels have no traction.
Second, beware of cheap boats, as they are cheap for a reason. They weigh less, meaning you get tossed around by the wind and waves a lot more. That gets old fast. I've also found that small boats aren't comfortable for more than a night or two. As such, I'd recommend a boat that weighs a minimum of 2,500 pounds dry weight for weekend cruises, and probably a minimum of 3,500 pounds for longer than that. I've seen boats up to 7,000 pounds being towed, but that definitely requires a big engine in the truck.
Personally speaking, I wouldn't recommend a Catalina 22 - or anything that small for more than overnight. Go for a minimum of 24 feet. The only exception to this is the 20-ft Flicka. In my travels, the Catalina 25 has been very popular, as was the Balboa 26 and 27. I had a Balboa 24 at the end, and was sailing singlehanded so I didn't need that much space.
If I was to get another trailerable boat, I'd get at least a 25 footer. I like the O'Day 25s, the Lancer 25s, and met an old guy who had a real nice Cal 25. There are probably other good boats, but these are ones I've had personal experience with.
Third, make sure you have either a four-stroke outboard or a diesel. Many lakes, such as Tahoe, are banning two-stroke engines. Diesels are too big and heavy unless you have at least a 26-ft boat, so count on a something like a Honda. Also make sure it has at least 10-15 horsepower and a generator. An engine that is too small won't do you any good when trying to make progress into a headwind.
Finally, Nevada is the pits! I miss sailing. I'd like to have a trailerable boat, but I know our sandstorms would eat the fiberglass within a month. Buying a boat in the Bay would solve that, but the Bay is eight hours away on a good day, and that wouldn't leave much time for sailing before I'd have to turn around and come back. Until retirement, I'll just have to dream of sailing.
Dr. Fred Knudsen
I love your coverage of Mini TransAt racing. These 21-footers are terrific boats that would be a blast for singlehanded racing on the West Coast. Unfortunately, the two races that I think would really get the class going - the TransPac and West Marine Pacific Cup - exclude boats that small.
I heard that one owner - the only one I've ever heard of on the West Coast - was not able to get an exemption for his boat in one of these races. It's a bit of a shame, as I would take a Mini TransAt boat over a Moore 24 any day in terms of being a safe boat to sail to Hawaii. After all, if they can do almost 5,000 miles across the Atlantic, a nice downwind sail to Hawaii should be a no brainer. And it would be the easiest boat to get shipped back home after the race.
Mike - In 1979, then Alameda resident Amy Boyer shipped her Wilderness 21 Little Rascal across the Atlantic to do the second ever Mini TransAt, which at that time was from England to the Canaries to Antigua. After finishing very respectably - although not as high as Mill Valley's Norton Smith, who took first with his custom Wylie American Express - Boyer shipped the boat back to California to do the next summer's Singlehanded TransPac to Kauai.
Given the minuscule interiors and weight sensitivity of these extreme little rockets, they are really only suited for singlehanding in long distance races, so the Singlehanded TransPac is the perfect race. The next one starts on June 26.
By the way, while many sailors generalize
about trips to Hawaii being "nice downwind sails,"
it would be irresponsible of us not to remind everyone that the
first two or three days frequently feature close reaching in
20 to 30 knots of wind and big seas. Puking is common the first
couple of days.
I was the one who made the inquiry about multihull publications - which has resulted in your being chastised for your thoughts on the book Cruising in Catamarans by Charles Kanter. For that I am sorry. I never wanted to create that kind of controversy, I just wanted to get more information.
I don't know if I should laugh or be offended about Kanter feeling that he is one of the most published and recognized authors on this subject, as his comments suggested that he clearly has a bad opinion of those of us living on the West Coast. It would seem that someone claiming to be the defender of the new technology would consider the entire market, not just the East Coast, and the latest technology, not just the "hundreds of 20th century catamarans still viable back east."
As for Cruising in Catamarans being the best selling book ever published on the subject, I don't think that's such a big deal because there aren't many others.
All of this just makes me want throw up my hands and go sailing.
By the way, can you send my email address to Earl Reid, who did the Ha-Ha in the Pacific Seacraft 31 Bodacious. That's one of the boats I'm thinking about buying and would like to know his thoughts on her after his first lengthy offshore trip.
Randy - No need to apologize, as we want Latitude to be a lively forum for different points of view.
I WAS REALLY WOWED BY THE FRONT COCKPIT
I've been bitten by the boat bug, so I've been reading everything I can get my hands on. I also recently attended the Annapolis Boat Show. If I could have my pick of any boat at the show, it would be one that you'd understand - the Gunboat 62 catamaran. When I saw the 'front cockpit' in the flesh, I was really wowed. I'm sorry to disagree with your previous negative opinions about the front cockpit, but as a potential singlehander, I lust for the kind of design efficiency that would make a 62-ft cat easily manageable by a singlehander.
I've followed with interest the letters from Chris White, of the Atlantic catamarans, and Peter Johnstone, of Gunboat cats, about cruising cats that sail fast and point high, and your responses to those letters. I hope you continue to cover these types of designs, as well as what it would cost to buy or build one. And please don't omit your opinions about the trade-offs between the narrow hulled cats preferred by Chris White and you, versus the wider and flatter hulls preferred by Morrelli & Melvin.
I've also noticed a mystery that you'd perhaps like to look into: Peter Johnstone reported that he has sold his front cockpit cat Tribe, and the new owner has renamed her Spirit. Similarly, hull #1 of the Chris White Atlantic 55 with a front cockpit is also named Spirit. What gives?
Ian - If you were to put Chris White, Peter Johnstone, Gino Morrelli, Pete Melvin, Kurt Hughes, and us together in the same room to design a performance cruising catamaran, we think there would be a considerable consensus on the basic issues. The hulls would be longer rather than shorter for inherent speed, and they would have something like a 12 to 1 length to beam ratio so they could still carry a decent load. The cat would have relatively high freeboard so the bridgedeck didn't repeatedly get 'bombed' by waves. Within reason, it would be as light as possible, and what weight there was would be centrally located to reduce pitching. The cat would be a fractionally-rigged sloop with a self-tending Solent jib and a bigger headsail on a sprit on a furler. Beyond these considerations, there would be the usual differences in the amount of beam, the rocker, the shape of the rudders, the look, and the general layout - many of them dictated by the owner's needs and desires.
Speaking of catamaran layouts, and since you made a big deal of it, we must once again proclaim our total befuddlement with the concept of a 'front cockpit'. We have the greatest respect for Chris, Peter, Gino, and Pete - all of whom have at least somewhat subscribed to the concept - but we think the idea is as bizarre as if Cher had gone ahead with her threat to relocate her boobs on her back. What's to recommend either idea?
We'd humbly like to suggest there is only one place for helms on catamarans, that being on each side of the back bulkhead of the salon as - how surprising! - found on Profligate. We feel as certain of this as of anything in life. That way it's easy to adjust all sail controls without - as in the case of the front cockpit - having to open a door at the front of the salon to go out and get blown about and drenched, in order to do something as minor as adjusting the tension on the main halyard. It might even require putting on foul weather gear!
To show we have no hard feelings toward Peter, Gino, and Pete, one of the most appealing performance cat designs we've seen can be found at the Morrelli & Melvin website under Gunboat 52. It's just a basic sketch, and it's our understanding that the boat isn't going into production, but it has all the features we'd be looking for in a custom performance cruising cat. If only somebody could figure out how to build them for an affordable price. Kurt Hughes and Chris White also have extensive websites that are worth visiting to see their designs.
There is an easy explanation for the first Gunboat 62 and the first Atlantic 55 being both named Spirit - it's a popular boat name. End of story. Unless, of course, you're into conspiracies.
VULGAR AND PROFANE
Aloha! I admit I don't know if it will help get me into Fiddler's Green or not, but since you started publishing, the arrival of Latitude has been my favorite time of the month. Thank you. Nonetheless, I was quite taken aback at a printed - and signed! - letter in the October issue.
Despite messing around in boats of all kinds for 50 or so years, and voraciously reading all things nautical as I sailed through life, I have never heard or read of a boat - much less a sailing vessel - referred to as a "megaslut." That's vulgar, profane, and blasphemous. Boats are not promiscuous, people are.
Just as a point of information regarding another September letter, as a second mate in the Merchant Marine in the mid-'70s, I was navigating with Loran A&C and SatNav.
Lastly, once upon a time I heard that the musical group the Monkees were on their way to play a gig at Catalina when they hit rough seas and a locker belonging to group member Davy Jones went overboard!
Slowpoke Sam, The Sailorman
Slowpoke - When it comes to the "megaslut" comment about boats, you're right, it was vulgar and profane. And as you point out, it attributed the bad qualities of people to an inanimate object, which is totally bogus. We apologize and will try to do better in the future.
Thanks for the reminders about Loran
and SatNav. They might have been common on ships, but they were
uncommon on sailboats at the time - at least the ones we sailed
on. In fact, when we did our first race to Mexico - the La Paz
Race in '81 - we navigated entirely by DR. In retrospect, short-tacking
up the beach on the east coast of Baja in the black of night
to keep out of the current was insanity.
We usually made Thanksgiving weekend our last trip of the season to Catalina, so if we anchored inside we'd naturally be concerned about Santa Ana winds. The last thing we wanted was having to up anchor with a half-done turkey in the oven.
Prior to the advent of frequent and reliable radio forecasts, we relied on the old sailors' lore of checking our decks for morning dew. If they were damp, we would relax. If they were dry, we would keep a weather eye out, looking for early signs of a Santa Ana.
As with all weather predictions, this dry deck business was not totally accurate, but at least when it was wrong, it was wrong on the safe side. I remember dry decks without Santa Ana winds coming in, but I do not remember ever seeing a Santa Ana blow when the decks had been wet with dew.
Ernie - Experts tell us that since Santa
Anas are an offshore flow from the high desert, wet decks and
any kind of marine layer means you can rest easy. Dry decks and
unusually clear skies mean mariners should be alert for Santa
Anas, not just at Catalina, but at all of California's offshore
islands. These are great early warning systems.
Any idea about where I might look for used a panga - short of taking a road trip to La Paz? Do you know of any dealers on the West Coast who carry them?
Gary - Sorry, but we don't know of anybody who markets them. We're great fans of Mexican pangas, but we're not sure the typical version would pass muster with the Coast Guard.
"JUST ENJOY BEING ON THE WATER"
In 1994, we purchased the hull lines for Carl Schumacher's design #23, the Schumacher 28. As we started building the hull - foam cored bidirectional/epoxy - we worked with Carl in redesigning the rest of the boat. It was kind of a 'build and design as you go project' that stretched over 3.5 years. We plumbed the stem and reworked the keel to include a blade/bulb with kelp cutter. The deck and house were reworked with an open cockpit. Finally, the rig ended up with a retractable sprint and masthead asymmetrical spinnaker. When completed, our 28 weighed in at 3,000 pounds, with 40% of that in the keel.
We launched our boat in the fall of 1997, and somewhere near the end of 1998, flew Carl down to race one of the Hot Rum Series races with us. It blew 25 to 30 knots, something that isn't very common down here. We only did so-so, and in fact we were just glad to have survived. Nonetheless, we think Carl was proud of the design and the boat we'd built.
It has taken several years to learn the boat, but it now appears that we've finished second overall in San Diego in PHRF Performance Class 2. Thanks to Carl, we think we have one of the hottest - and hottest looking - sailboats in San Diego.
As a final note, in the fall of 2001 I was complaining - as most PHRF racers do - to Carl about our San Diego PHRF rating. Carl emailed us back with the following response. "Sometimes I think the best approach to PHRF is to have a boat that is blazing fast in at least one condition. Enjoy winning in that condition, and just enjoy being on the water the rest of the time." What a beautiful philosophy of sailing/racing. Since then we have won some, but most of all have enjoyed much more being on the water.
Although Carl passed away far too young in 2002, we would like to belatedly say how much we appreciated knowing and working with him. He had an eye for designing great-looking and performing sailboats and was a beautiful person. A number of folks here in San Diego have asked about buying our boat. We're not sure if we will ever sell our Schumacher.
Tom & Mary Ellen Ybarrola
We are considering installing a watermaker aboard our J/40. Has anyone made an in-depth study of the different makes and provided recommendations?
André and Louise
André and Louise - We're sure that Practical Sailor has done something like that, but we're frequently dissatisfied with the 'real worldness' of their tests. What would be really neat is if somebody conducted a gear survey of a couple of hundred boats after they'd made a long ocean crossing. Fortunately, this is done. The 225-boat Atlantic Rally for Cruisers tries to survey their participants' views on their boat gear after that 2,800-mile event, and the results are usually reported several months later in Yachting World magazine. These are the kinds of test results that carry some weight with us.
When it comes to watermakers, there are many different varieties - 12-volt, 110-volt, engine driven - and they can be purchased in a variety of ways, from simple kit form to almost completely automatic. Nonetheless, all manufacturers will tell you that satisfaction is dependent on choosing the right model, and even more so on the installation and maintenance. Installation and maintenance, installation and maintenance, installation and maintenance - it should be the mantra of all watermaker owners.
For what it's worth, after all these years we broke down and acquired a watermaker for Profligate, one built by Spectra of San Rafael. Early reports are that it's working well and the crew is smelling better than in the past. We hope to have a more detailed report on how it has or hasn't changed our cruising sometime next year.
THE REFERENCE GOES MUCH FURTHER BACK
In the October Loose Lips, there was a reference to "buying the farm" as having to do with paying a farmer for crop losses due to test pilot crashes after World War II. With all due respect, I think the reference goes much farther back than that. In the old days, sailors before the mast - meaning deck hands who lived in miserable conditions in the f'o'c's'l - fantasized about someday leaving the sea, buying a small farm, and settling down to live out their lives. Most of them never left the sea except by dying, whereupon it would be said that they "finally bought their farm," or shortened, "bought it."
I write this as an old sailor who bought a farm without dying.
BEARING DOWN ON US LIKE FREIGHT TRAINS
Having written to you regarding the racer/cruiser confrontations, I was eager to see your response. I agree entirely with your comments - be prudent, keep out of the way of racers if possible, and when push comes to shove, follow the rules of the road.
I have some anecdotes. A couple of years ago the Folkboat Internationals were beginning right at the end of the Big Boat Series. We were preparing for what we thought was our start, with an unusually long starting line, when a voice came over the PA system: "Folkboats this is not your start." Looking to the NE, we saw two or three big boats, quite a ways off, which were apparently starting as they headed back south, bearing down on us like freight trains. It was pretty fast and impressive the way we Folkboats scattered to get out of the way. They tacked smartly at Blackaller, and were headed out the Gate.
On another race, I was crewing for a fellow when another racer on collision course started yelling "Starboard! Starboard!" It was only after we had fallen off to let him pass that our skipper remarked quietly, "We were the ones on starboard."
Anyway, we are back in sync, and I do enjoy your responses - although I don't always agree with them.
Did you say there is a four-lane road in Mill Valley? Wow, times are changing! I remember when there used to be a left turn lane from 101 to turn onto Sir Francis Drake!
P.S. By the way, do I detect some New York gene strands in your DNA?
John C. Skying
John - We're glad you like our responses, and we're equally glad you don't agree with all of them. The last thing we want is a bunch of sycophants for readers.
We don't have any New York genes. We
were born in Berkeley, raised in Oakland, and went to school
at UCSB and UC Berkeley. That's about as far from New York as
you can start and stay, both geographically and philosophically,
and we're proud of it.
I'm looking for some information on the identity of a small bird who does not lend himself to identification in bird books. I thought maybe a Latitude reader could help.
While sailing about 18 miles offshore of Santa Barbara the other day, I was visited by this cute little guy. Friends 'identified' him as "an obviously lost land bird," considering his feet, beak, and overall 'I'm so miserable out here' look.
But then I realized that over the years I've seen him or his cousins many times, and all of them offshore, as far north as San Francisco and as far south as San Diego. Is it possible that LLB is the most unlikely of all sea birds? Does anyone know who he is or where I can get more info on him and his kind?
Eve - We can't identify the bird, but we can tell you that we had four of them inside Profligate for a passage from Long Beach to Catalina last year, and they clearly didn't want to get off. The best was when two of them perched side by side on the two handles of our engine controls. Surely a birder can identify such a common bird.
Thanks to the fires in Southern California at the start of the Baja Ha-Ha, we had several birds take shelter on Profligate as she moved offshore. The most curious of these was a woodpecker - surely no sea bird - which pretended Profligate's mast was a telephone pole. We didn't mind that, but we drew the line when he started pecking at the Spectra stitching on the clew of the main.
Even more curious to us than the presence
of the birds, were the white moths - and one in particular. While
about 50 miles offshore, and doing about eight knots, we spent
a long time observing a single white moth. He flew the most erratic
course, vertically and horizontally, and each time he'd drop
50 or more feet back, we thought it was curtains for him. How
this tiny thing could flap his wings so long flying such a crooked
course, and still keep up with us, seemed to defy nature.
A while back somebody wrote requesting info on finding an exhaust manifold for an old engine. We just went through the same ordeal for our Angelman ketch Southern Cross, as her Danganham English Ford engine is 42 years old. Fortunately, Marine Exhaust Systems of Alabama custom built a new water-jacketed manifold for us out of 316 stainless. Their workmanship is truly astonishing - I have never seen finer - and it fit perfectly.
Anyone interested in similar work can call Mark at (251) 928-1234 or email him.
Robby & Lorraine Coleman
I'm gratified that Latitude took note of the passing of Dr. Ivan Getting, the mover behind GPS. However, your comment that you "don't believe he ever set foot on a sailboat" was incorrect. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.
Getting was an avid sailor on the East Coat. He acquired the Caulkins 50 Sirena after relocating to Southern California to become head of the Aerospace Corporation. He used that boat extensively in local waters, and made at least one cruise to the Sea of Cortez in about 1970. Surely he could foresee the immense impact GPS would have on our military capability. But in contrast to your supposition, I would be surprised if he did not also foresee its import to boaters, fliers, motorists, and others. He was an outstanding member of Tom Brokaw's Greatest Generation.
Martin - You're absolutely correct that Getting was an avid sailor. We regret the error. If there were any justice in this world, modern mariners around the world would erect statues in honor of Dr. Getting out of gratitude. We can only imagine the number of lives his invention has saved.
MARINER 50 MOTORSAILER
Can you tell me where I can get information on the Mariner 50 motorsailer? I just completed the purchase of hull #88, Lady Hawke, and I think I must have the only one on the planet. I have searched all the 'boats for sale' websites and can't find a single one anywhere. Is she such a custom design that sailors who own them are just keeping them forever? I would appreciate your help.
Mike - You might as well have just told us that you married a five-foot tall girl named Sue, and did we know anything about her? In other words, how about some of the most basic information about the boat? Is she made of aluminum, steel or fiberglass? Was she built in 1910 or 1990? Who designed her? Where was she built? Where did you find her? How about a photo? Isn't there a survey or basic information from a previous insurer?
In any event, how do you know she's hull #88? We can't think of any motorsailer they made 88 of - unless you're talking about one of those 'Garden' pilothouse ketches made in Taiwan in the mid to late '70s.
IS IT LEGAL?
Has anyone determined the legality of the line blocking boating access to the cove in the Alameda Estuary immediately east of Encinal YC?
Garry - It's been awhile, but the last
time we checked it was indeed legal.
One part was our beloved LVM towed electrical generator. We had used it for over two years and put an awful lot of miles on it. But some water passed through the seal and the bearings began to seize. We emailed LVM in England, and after having us check the unit out thoroughly, they sent us a complete set of replacement parts with step-by-step instructions for replacement - at no cost! This was great. We replaced all the parts, but something was still not right, so I sent the generator back to LVM in England at a cost to us of $136 Fijian. We were then informed that I had bent the rectifier when I closed the back lid. LVM then replaced the rectifier - again at no cost - and shipped it back to me at my expense, another $140 Fijian. I was still thrilled, as we were way beyond our warranty period. Congrats to LVN.
The bit of gear that broke, a new Simrad autopilot that we'd purchased from Advanced Trident in Auckland, was equally critical. The autopilot was a bit more expensive than competing models, but we understood that it had a good reputation. We installed the unit and everything worked perfectly until we left New Zealand. Two days out, the ram that attaches to the quadrant failed. At the time, the unit had less than 200 hours on it. The failure resulted in our having nine days of hand steering back to Fiji. We were not impressed. Not knowing the cause of the failure, I returned the ram to Advanced Trident at a cost of $150 Fijian.
After about one week, I was informed that the motor in the ram was faulty and the entire unit would have to be replaced. Unfortunately, they did not have one in stock and would have to order it from Europe. No autopilot for awhile - disaster!
Three months later I was informed that the ram had arrived in New Zealand, and they'd send it to me as soon as I sent them another $150. I told them that their almost-brand-new unit had been faulty, and I didn't see why I should have to pay to ship the faulty part back to New Zealand and then the new one to Fiji. Their response was that if I wanted the replacement part, I'd have to pay.
I ultimately contacted Simrad Europe, the head office. They simply restated their warranty policy - door to door. They said that no matter if the fault had been theirs, I still had to pay.
As I had already spent over $7,000, less than 6 months previously, I paid. But I believe it is a classic example of the poorest customer service that I'd ever seen. Buyer beware.
Sean - Although there are often two sides to even the simplest stories, let's assume that everything you say is correct. It's still a thorny question.
In your favor, it would only seem to make sense that if a product failed because it was defective, you shouldn't have to go to extra expense to get it replaced. This would seem to be particularly true with a product such as an autopilot, which would commonly be taken far from where it was originally sold.
On the other hand, we can also see things from the perspective of the manufacturer/retailer. Suppose you buy a product and take it to the ends of the earth - Cape Horn, for example - and it fails. Should they still be responsible for shipping, particularly if they had a clearly stated 'door to door' policy? And what if the product they made was bulky and difficult to ship, so that perhaps shipping it back cost more than the product in the first place?
It's a dilemma to us, for we see strong arguments on both sides. Since the total expense wasn't that great in your case, it's too bad that some kind of compromise couldn't have been worked out between you, the manufacturer, and the retailer. After all, everybody loses when the customer is unhappy.
Since situations such as this are not uncommon for folks cruising distant waters, folks now fitting out their boats may want to inquire about the customer service policies of the companies and retailers they are thinking of buying products from. At least there wouldn't be any surprises.
LIKE A MOVIE SET FOR THE END OF THE WORLD
I took what I think are some pretty dramatic photos of what the California Yacht Marina in Chula Vista (South San Diego Bay) looked like on the morning of the start of the Ha-Ha. Although the marina was bathed in bright sunlight, still low against the blue sky, the sky above and to the north was as black as night from the smoke of the wildfires.
I hope the Ha-Ha was as fun as it appeared to be in the web articles and in photos that appeared in 'Lectronic Latitude. We hope that someday we'll do a Ha-Ha to kick off our cruising adventures. For right now, we're happy living aboard our Deerfoot 72 and sailing every weekend.
Patty - It was a shocking morning, wasn't
it? What threw us was that thanks to a mild onshore wind the
day before, much of the smoke had blown. But when it shifted
offshore again that night, it brought stunning amounts of smoke
and ash. It's something we won't soon forget, and we were delighted
to leave. By the way, if you didn't hear about the liveaboards
whose boat burned to a crisp in the fire, check out Sightings.
As for the Ha-Ha itself, we're confident almost everyone had
a wonderful time - even though we could have used a little more
breeze those first two days.
If the Dini Brothers are looking for names for their amazingly restored Moore 24, how about - Who Dini. Or, Who? Dini!. Or finally, Houdini?
I don't know if you've heard, but there are supposed to be strong solar storms during the Ha-Ha. This may affect the morning roll calls on SSB, and NOAA says it may even "knock off" GPS for awhile.
According to NOAA, "The geomagnetic storm predicted by the NOAA Space Environment Center hit the Earth's magnetic field at 11:30 a.m. EDT on Friday 10/24. It is currently at the strong G-3 level on the NOAA space weather scales, the highest being a G-5. The solar particles and energy produced as a result of this storm can produce effects for many hours. Two very large sun spot regions continue to maintain their size and magnetic intensity. There have been three major flares in the last 24 hours, which caused considerable disruption of high-frequency communication. More large flares are expected in the next few days."
"So far this storm is materializing as expected," said NOAA space weather forecaster Bill Murtagh. NOAA forecasters predicted the onset of the magnetic storm to occur midday Friday. The magnitude the of G-3 level storm is also in line with NOAA predictions. NOAA thus far has not received any reports of the storm's effects."
Here's what NOAA has previously said about the possible affects of solar storms: "Technological systems in space and on the earth's surface are subject to adverse effects from solar-driven space weather effects. The increasing deployment of radiation-, current-, and field-sensitive technological systems over the last few decades, the increasing complexity of interlocking components such as those represented by the national electric power grid, and the increasing presence of systems in space, combine to make society more vulnerable to solar-terrestrial disturbances. These factors are reflected in the constantly changing AE (auroral electrojet) magnetic activity index, and are manifested in a highly variable ionosphere that impacts communications, navigation systems (LORAN and GPS) and the operation and tracking of low earth-orbiting satellites."
Even experienced sailors get lazy and neglect to maintain a good DR. But with the possibility of solar storms affecting GPS, it's important for Ha-Ha participants to be prepared for the possibility of losing the GPS positions and charting software driven by GPS. Hopefully participants would be able to find Turtle Bay, Bahia Santa Maria, and Cabo San Lucas without GPS.
Michael - Obviously your letter was written prior to the start of the Ha-Ha. For what it's worth, we didn't notice any problems with our numerous GPS units. Similarly, SSB transmissions and receptions seemed to be on par with previous years. If anybody had trouble hearing Profligate, it was probably because our radio is a couple of hundred cycles off, a problem we're hoping to get resolved in Panama.
In any event, we think a written DR is always a good idea.
BUILD MARINAS, AND MARINERS WILL COME
Congratulations on what had to have been another great Ha-Ha. By the way, I agree with your assessment of the practicality and likelihood of completion of the Escalera Nautica - Mexico's 'Nautical Stairway' along the Pacific Coast of Baja.
Having said that, if marinas were built at Turtle Bay or other spots on the Pacific side of Baja, my guess is that many boats would use them - including many participating in the Ha-Ha. Your report that everyone at this year's Ha-Ha awards ceremony voiced disapproval of the idea of building marinas at Turtle Bay and Bahia Santa Maria doesn't seem to sync with the scramble for marina space in Cabo - one of the most expensive marinas - at the conclusion of the Ha-Ha. I'm not being critical, just making an observation.
Anyway, what would be useful in places such as Turtle Bay would be decent fueling facilities. Of course, anything like that would probably result in a port captain's office being put in. Oh well.
Any word on the possibility of changing the current clearing process in favor of annual permits?
Dave - We don't think a scramble for berths in Cabo necessarily means there would be a scramble for berths in Turtle Bay or Bahia Santa Maria. After all, there are limited goods and services available in Turtle Bay and none at all in Bahia Santa Maria - so how many boatowners would be willing to pay $50/night just to be able to step off onto land? And it's not as if the anchorages aren't great in both places. We're sure a couple of boats would want berths, but having a marina filled for just a couple of days a year isn't going to pay the bills.
What's wrong with the current fueling possibilities at Turtle Bay? Nobody seemed to have trouble this year, as they could get it from Maria on the pier, from Ernesto's panga, or from Jorge's floating fuel dock.
The concept of annual cruising permits made quite a bit of progress in the Mexican Congress last year before getting shot down. Currently, there is no sign of imminent improvement.
For the record, we want to repeat our position
on Escalera Nautica: 1) It's based on the ridiculous assumption
that 55,000 Americans want to bring their boats to Mexico every
year. 2) If Mexico builds all the facilities called for in the
plan, almost all of them will go bankrupt because there is simply
no market for them. 3) There is no significant need for marinas
on the Pacific Coast of Baja. 4) Rather than expand marinas to
new areas of the Sea of Cortez, marina expansion should be allowed
and encouraged where marinas already exist, but only according
to demonstrated need. We've held these positions from the day
Escalera Nautica was announced, and were heartened to see that
a later study by the David Packard Foundation came to the same
You keep misspelling Poohbah, and as a huge fan of the Opera, The Mikado by Gilbert and Sullivan, I just have to object. Plus it is in the dictionary and you are the publisher/editor of the best sailing magazine in the world. . . so it just looks bad to keep misspelling it.
M.N. - Thank you for the kind words.
According to the several dictionaries in our office, as well
as the internet, the correct spelling is 'Poobah'.
In response to the letter about frustration with the new environmentally-friendly jerry jugs, I've also struggled with them for the last few years. In fact, I have changed the spout assembly to be more user-friendly. The problem is the spring-loaded pouring spout was designed to allow only household items - not cars - to be refilled. Spout adapters can be found at many large stores and work better, but the lack of a vent results in slow refilling.
The only advantage that I've found with these new fuel jugs is that my trunk doesn't stink of spilled gas. As such, I'm holding on to my old-style fuel jugs.
Recently, I had two experiences that lead me to the same conclusion - that it would be in our best interest to see that Coast Guard personnel become more familiar with sailboats and their operation.
The first experience was a presentation by a Coast Guard surfman at the Bay Model. The person doing the presentation was obviously highly qualified, and would definitely be the type of person you would want enroute if you found yourself in trouble in rough conditions. But the value of the presentation was limited because the presenter had never, in his many years of Coast Guard service, been aboard a sailboat.
The second experience was overhearing a VHF distress call the following Saturday. The crew of a Farallone Clipper had found water above the sole of their boat, and in fear of sinking, called for assistance. As usual, the Coast Guard personnel answering the call seemed to be operating more from a checklist than from an understanding of the situation. When the Coast Guard personnel issued an advisory on channel 16, it became apparent that this individual did not know what a Farallone Clipper was.
My reason for writing is not to be critical of the Coast Guard personnel. Quite the contrary, as they seemed to be doing the best they could under the circumstances.
We have failed to make our situation known to the Coast Guard. Is there some initiative that aims to involve Coast Guard personnel in our activities? If such a program exists, I would like to know so I could participate. A few daysails would enable these people to better serve our safety needs. They would be most welcome aboard my vessel. If there is no such program, one surely needs to be established.
A goal for the business community is to be 'Close to the Customer'. Can we help the Coast Guard to achieve this?
Tom - Given all the major new responsibilities the Coast Guard has been saddled with, we're not sure the two shortcomings you mention call for major changes. For example, we doubt that even 1% of sailors have any idea what a Farallone Clipper is. And what would be the point of expecting everybody in the Coast Guard to be able to identify the tens of thousands of different sail and motor boat designs that have been built in the last 50 years? Wouldn't it have been much easier for the crew of the Farallone Clipper to describe themselves as "the fractional rigged 39-ft wood sailboat with a blue hull, number XYZ on the sail, one mile due west of Alcatraz, with the guy firing orange flares off the transom?"
We do think it would be helpful if Coast Guard personnel working on the water with sailors did have some firsthand experience on sailboats, but don't think it's critical.That said, it sure is nice of you to volunteer your boat for such a program.
WHO SAID THE MILITARY WASN'T RESPONSIVE?
I feel it appropriate to compliment the Navy regarding an experience we had not long ago with a warship. Myself and a group of my friends were sailing my Catalina 34 True Luff off San Pedro when we observed what appeared to us to be a Navy frigate steaming ahead of us in random circles. At the same time, we heard a Securite broadcast on the radio warning vessels to stand off of Warship 55 because of their activities. They gave their lat/long position, but we still weren't sure the vessel in front of us was the one in question.
The same broadcast was repeated about every 15 minutes, but they never made mention of where it was in relation to any coastal landmarks. We further concluded that for us pleasure boat sailors, such a reference would have been both appropriate and helpful. After all, it was blowing 20 knots and it wasn't practical for us to copy and quickly plot a lat/long position.
I finally radioed Warship 55 and offered our suggestions for their radio warning. I was given a polite response that it would be given consideration. "Sure, we thought to ourselves, typical government answer." But surprise! During the next and subsequent warnings, they did incorporate a descriptive location along with the lat/long. This enabled us to quickly determine that the ship we were observing wasn't the one giving the warnings.
But what a pleasure for us to get such a quick response to our suggestion from the Navy. It makes us proud, and we didn't want the good deed to go unnoticed.
Dale Thompson, Staff Commodore
I recently saw a schooner on the Bay named Gold Star, which looked like an Alden design. I have a friend who is building a similar vessel, and it might be very helpful if we could contact the owner. Any ideas?
Dick - We don't know of any schooner named Gold Star. Can you tell us about how long she was, what she was built of, what color her sails were, and any other identifying features? And where did you see her? Might she not be Ted Hall's schooner Bright Star?
WE ALL ARE 'THE' WEATHERMAN
Ernie Copp wrote a fascinating bit of epistemology in his Weather Forecasting Disease letter. Big picture weather information is now fully democratized, and therefore small-time unofficial weather forecasting is becoming more anachronistic. Unofficial weather forecasting was a blip in the evolution of popular weather informatics anyway. Copp figures it at about 20 years and counting.
The tendency to sensationalize and be a Cassandra about the weather is just plain weird. In fact, The X-Files once did an episode about it, with the great line - "Hey, you're not a weatherman, you are the weatherman." Priceless.
The even bigger picture is that all kinds of information is going to be like what Ernie calls Basic Information - info from original sources, such as the NOAA and NASA. There will be more and more data, and less and less guru baloney.
In a somewhat similar vein, I recently read an interview where the publisher of Latitude disparaged technical 'How to Grease Your Winches' types of articles. In the coming information rapture, I predict that Latitude will host on its website lots of short, unadorned digital video sequences showing how to do technical things like that on boats.
To get a glimpse of the future, visit www.getskilz.com/GSDEMO/movies/winch1.mov and www.getskilz.com/GSDEMO/movies/winch2.mov, which are no-bullshit one to two minute videos showing how to disassemble an (admittedly) obsolete two-speed Barlow 21 winch. Such a video sequence has about as much added bullshit as, say, the timelapse satellite video of Baja Sur.
Richard - Having access to raw data and being able to use it intelligently are two entirely different things. After all, if we were all given the same sheet music and keyboards, some would be able to make beautiful music while others would only be able to make noise. It seems to us to be the same with raw weather data. Having access to raw data has a limited value.
As for your streaming video of how to
disassemble a Barlow 21 winch, we were surprised at the possibilities
it seems to suggest.
Hurricanes! We've been on our boat for four of them in Mexico during the last three years. We rode out Juliette at Marina de La Paz; Kenna while in Marina Vallarta; Ignacio, a non-event for us, while in Puerto Don Juan; and Marty, by far the worst of them, while on the hard in La Paz.
Marty knocked over the ketch three boats away from us, and sheared the mast off a trimaran. I believe the boat next to us went over because it had 120-watt solar panels on the side, and a big dinghy and motor hanging off the stern davits, all of which acted like big pendulums.
By the way, we have never taken down our dodger or bimini during these storms, but left the windows of the dodger open and rolled up. Nor have we removed any sails. The headsails are on furlers, and I carefully wrap them very tightly. I don't believe they'll come unwrapped if done properly.
When it comes to other bad weather, there were two tropical storms in the Pacific across Baja that affected us while at anchor in the Sea at Agua Verde, and another while on the hook at Isla San Francisco. We've also endured two major chubascos. One had 60+ knots of wind for 90 minutes this year at Puerto Refugio, and there was a 60-knot one for an hour last year at Los Rocas, Smith Island, across from Bahia de Los Angeles.
We've also been caught in 30 to 45 knots of wind with 6- to 8-foot seas twice, and less strong stuff twice. We've also had over 40 knots of wind at least six times while in different anchorages. All this was over a three-year period during which time we spent about four months in the Sea.
Is the Sea of Cortez benign? Most of the time, hurricanes never hit Puerto Vallarta. Most of the time, hurricanes never go up into the Sea. Most of the time we never drag anchor. We're thinking about changing the name of our boat to 'Most Of The Time'.
The way we see it, there are three things cruisers really need in the Sea - great ground tackle, a great engine, and luck. And not necessarily in that order. We have had all three.
Jim & Jill Hosler
Jim and Jill - Sorry, we didn't seem to get the first page of your fax, but we think we got your point.
We've been sailing in, and reporting on sailing in, Mexico since 1978, and it seems that either the weather has gotten more severe, or that perhaps today's cruisers tend to convince themselves that it's worse than it really is. We say this because since 1978, we've had our own boats - a Freya 39, two Olson 30s, a Cal 25, an Ocean 71, and our Surfin' 63 cat - in Mexico for all or part of 17 different seasons. We've also made three additional trips to Mexico on other boats. Although we've never had the chance to spend anything close to an entire season in Mexico, during all those times we don't remember ever seeing 35 knots of wind. In fact, we can't even remember a single time when it approached that. On the other hand, we have been there on several occasions when it was blowing 18 to 22 knots - and folks on nearby boats managed to convince themselves, instruments or not, that it was blowing 30 to 40 knots. And when there were five foot seas, some folks were reporting them as 15-foot seas.
And it's not just us who have had such experiences. In a recent issue, Gary Albers reported that he and his lady have sailed 34,000 miles to and in Mexico, including crossing the Sea of Cortez 16 times. They don't recall having ever seen more than 35 knots on a passage. Then there's Ernie Copp, who has been sailing for over 40 years. He's only been out in more than 50 knots of wind twice in all that time, something that some Sea of Cortez cruisers seem to suggest happens every other week.
We're certainly not suggesting that it doesn't occasionally blow very hard in the Sea of Cortez and Mexico, because it does, but there's reason to sometimes be a little skeptical. We mean absolutely no disrespect, but one of them is your saying that you rode out Hurricane Kenna in Puerto Vallarta. There was, according to all the reports, no Hurricane Kenna in P.V., as the winds had dropped to 50 to 55 knots. That's a hell of a lot of wind to be sure, nothing we'd want to be caught in, but it's still about 20% below hurricane force. Similarly, you talk about being on your boat in Puerto Refugio for Hurricane Ignacio, but also say that it was a non-event, because there was no hurricane either. We're not trying to suggest that you mean to mislead anyone, but the casual reader is going to come away thinking that you'd been through four hurricanes in Mexico in three years - which would be misleading by 50%. There were probably 25 hurricanes in Mexican waters during those three years, but you were only in two of them.
We repeatedly see the same kind of less than accurate reports, with grossly misleading results, in the Ha-Ha. This year, for example, it started blowing in the mid to to high 20s - and maybe gusted to the low 30s - during the latter part of the second leg when mostly smaller boats were still on the course. It spooked a couple of crews, and one of them reported that it was blowing in the low 40s. After everyone else reported wind in the mid to high 20s, the skipper of the other boat got back to us and admitted that maybe it hadn't been blowing 40 after all. But it was too late, because the word was already out. When we got back to the office, a couple of folks who hadn't been on the Ha-Ha called us to say stuff like, "A windy year, wasn't it, blowing 40 knots and all." What could we do but roll our eyes at such a totally inaccurate characterization?
For us, the bottom lines are these: 1) This last summer was an unusually nasty one for hurricanes in the Sea of Cortez, which normally only gets one every other year, and that being a relatively mild one. 2) Hurricane Marty was not only one of the strongest hurricanes to hit the Sea in maybe 25 years, but it seemed to have laser guidance to all the popular cruising areas. 3) That no matter if somebody sees the Sea of Cortez as a particularly dangerous place or mostly benign, you couldn't be more correct, it's very important to have great ground tackle, a good engine, and good luck. And 4), there's no better way to improve one's luck in strong winds than by removing every bit of resistance from the exterior of the boat - including dodgers, biminis, roller furling sails, mains and covers. And make sure that everybody else in the area does exactly the same so they don't drag down your boat.
A DIFFERENT POINT OF VIEW
I think you have a great magazine and I have been reading it for more than 12 years. But there has been controversy about the weather reports by Don of Summer Passage, and I think you owe your readers a different view from what you and the authors of three other letters have said.
One of those letters was written by a part-time cruiser who generally moves from one marina to another, a cruising lifestyle that makes weather information only necessary on occasion. Another was written by a person who has voiced the opinion that the SSB nets in Mexico promote useless information, and border on being illegal, and suggests that only a couple of the Ham nets should exist. The third letter was four pages that exaggerated, mischaracterized, or simplified the kind of weather forecasts Don routinely makes - but the author didn't have the balls to sign it. I'm surprised you published a letter someone wouldn't sign, and am surprised you have commented so much on Don's reports when you admitted you have never listened to one.
Don does break Mexico into several general parts - e.g. northern and southern Sea of Cortez - and gives a forecast with a range of wind speed and direction for each. Unlike what was suggested in your October issue, I've never heard Don give any micro predictions such as "Eight knots in Caleta Partida." In fact, he routinely explains why winds may differ significantly within 10-20 miles of a land mass. I've also never heard him give an absolute prediction for any location. I also listen to other amateur weather forecasts down here on both VHF and Ham nets, but I haven't heard anyone who is more accurate. A couple are so vague that you're not even sure they're talking about the same Mexico.
We have only been cruising Mexico for 18 months, so we have a lot to learn. There are things we love about Mexico, but there are also lots of things we don't like. We live on our boat 24-7-365. There are just two of us, and like a bunch of other cruisers, we have no other home. The majority of full time cruisers down here depend on Summer Passage and several other sources for most of our weather information. As two of the other letters stated, I totally agree we should be ready for 35-knot winds any time we go out. But, if I'm aware of a forecast for winds that high and the seas that accompany them, I'm probably going to stay at anchor. I don't want to subject our boat/home to severe conditions if I don't need to. And hey, if I have to stay in some nice cove for a day or two more, so what? As I said, we live here 365.
As far as Don goes, most of us down here think he is a prince of a man. He gets up at 3:30 a.m. every day to collect weather data from approximately 100 sources, and gets ready to go on the radio starting at 5 a.m. He always remains a gentleman, and is always helpful to anyone who asks a question.
Is Summer Passage right all the time? Of course not. But Don was right when it counted most this year. He kept us informed about tropical disturbances that could come our way - including two that became Hurricanes Ignacio and Marty. He also let us know when major changes of wind direction were coming, and let us know when strong winds were likely. As I said, we've only been here 18 months, but we've been through one chubasco with 58 knots of wind and rain, one true elephante with similar westerly winds, and two hurricanes. With Summer Passage's weather forecasts and updates, we - thank goodness - were able to find good secure anchorages for all of them.
You have said several times how benign the weather is in Mexico, and that you only look out a port to see if you should go sailing or not. But on November 11, Profligate was about 100 miles from Acapulco and called the Southbound Net for a weather forecast. The Southbound Net relays summaries of Summer Passage's weather. Not only did Profligate ask for the weather, but did so when the call was made for emergency, medical or priority traffic only. On top of that, neither before or after weather information was relayed did Profligate give the ship's station call sign. Some would point out that this was a direct violation of FCC rules. Profligate is the Latitude 38 boat and as such represents the publisher and Latitude wherever she is. Shame on you!
Although I totally disagree with you about the value of weather from Summer Passage, I still enjoy your magazine and will read every word of each issue I can get down here in mañanaland. I'm proud to sign my name.
Earl - Since the opinions about Don's weather reports - everyone agrees he's a wonderful person - have gone on long enough, we're giving you the last say without any response on our part. Subject closed.
As for somebody on Profligate calling the Southbound Net for weather information during priority traffic and not identifying themselves with a call sign, you can't imagine how mortified we are to hear that. Having just run the Ha-Ha net with 112 boats for nearly two weeks, we know how critical radio etiquette is to the smooth functioning of a net. Our deepest apologies to everyone on the Southbound Net.
As we understand it, there was an interesting circumstance behind Profligate's clumsy call to the Southbound Net. Profligate was approaching the Gulf of Tehuantepec, potentially the most dangerous stretch of water between San Diego and Panama, and we'd just given them a weather report saying there was a good window for the crossing, but that it wouldn't stay open very long. After deciding to charge ahead, they got a call from the nearest port captain, who told them there was a tropical depression in the Gulf, and that they needed to take shelter in his port. The captain and crew were deeply suspicious of the port captain's weather report and of his intentions, so they were looking for some kind of confirmation of the weather report we'd given them. The report they got from the Southbound Net was apparently the same one out of New Orleans that we'd given them, mentioning nothing about a depression, so they continued on. For what it's worth, it blew 25 knots with a gust to 37, but then quickly died.
GIVE US A POINT TO POINT RACE IN DECENT AIR
Thank you for featuring the Ranger 33 in the August issue. Check out the photo of Old Glory, my 1974 Ranger 33 hull #145. She is everything your article praises, and more. With the dark blue topsides and gold shear stripe, I'm often asked if she's a Hinckley. She's not, but what do you expect for under 20 large, with air-conditioning and a trailer?
My crew of two sons-in-law and I are learning to coax Old Glory to the head of the non-spinnaker racing fleet on Stockton Lake, Missouri. She is a bit heavy to excel in short-legged light-air races, but give us a point to point race in decent air and we will find the front of the pack. Pointing ability seems to be her strongest tactical advantage.
I enjoy Latitude but must admit I had to have a prompt from the Ranger 33 website to read this article. Usually, I concentrate on the terrific Classy Classifieds, as they are a real treasure trove for those of us sailing 'classical glass'.
Sam - A Ranger 33 on a lake in Missouri
- you guys must be the maxi boat of the region.
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