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DID THEY HAVE TO SINK THE BOAT?
I enjoyed the March 3 'Lectronic Latitude article about the Coast Guard finding and rescuing Luke the Dalmatian. As you'll remember, they found the dog aboard the 60-ft fishing trawler Candy 1, which they were busting 120 miles southwest of the Honduran-Guatemalan border for having $40 million in cocaine aboard.
But I was really shocked to read this quote: "Once we realized we had to dispose of the boat, we also realized we had to deal with the dog," said Ensign Gerrod Glauner. "We couldn't very well sink the boat with a dog aboard."
I hope we're not hearing the whole story here in regards to why they had to sink the vessel. Does the Coast Guard regularly scuttle vessels caught with contraband? This seems a little harsh - considering that they could auction off the boat, hand it over to the appropriate foreign authorities, or maybe even wait until the owner/captain/crew are proven guilty before handing out the sentence of sinking. In addition, a 60-ft vessel on the bottom introduces a lot of diesel fuel and other yucky substances into the marine environment. Do they sink cruising boats caught with contraband, or just Central American fishing vessels? Finally, how does the U.S. Coast Guard have jurisdiction over foreign vessels spotted 120 miles SSW of the Guatemala/Honduras border?
I'd appreciate it if you could get the Coast Guard to comment on this.
Jason - We spoke with the Coast Guard and here's how it works. Based on the Maritime Drug Law, Act 41, United States Code, app 1901, the Coast Guard routinely boards foreign and stateless vessels during drug patrols. Before boarding, they obtain consent from either the captain of the vessel or the country which flagged the vessel. The U.S. has bilateral agreements with all Central and South American countries, as well as most other countries around the world, to do this.
If a foreign flagged vessel is caught with contraband, the U.S. works with the flagging state to decide which country should take further action. In some cases the vessels and smugglers might be turned over to the country that flagged them, and the boat taken back to that country.
However, if the Coast Guard seizes a smuggling vessel far from shore, and if the flagging country doesn't want to take control, they indeed routinely scuttle such vessels. The authority to scuttle a vessel not yet prosecuted can be found at 14 USC, 88, (a) (4). The Coast Guard advises that such vessels are not sunk as punishment, but because they are too far to tow to shore and, if left drifting, would pose a hazard to navigation.
Prior to scuttling, everything of evidentiary value is removed. While this is going on, the Coast Guard remains in constant contact with the U.S. Attorney, who remains in contact with the government that flagged the vessel.
Fuel and other contaminants are not
removed from vessels that are to be scuttled because it would
be "inherently dangerous" and because Coast Guard vessels
aren't equipped to do so. As such, vessels are scuttled "intact,
in deep water, and at a great distance from shore." If the
Coast Guard caught a cruising boat smuggling drugs far from shore,
they would scuttle her just as readily as they would sink a Central
American fishing boat.
As we prepare to make the Puddle Jump from Mexico across to French Polynesia, we were amazed to read that there are psychologists out there who believe that the cruising life is inappropriate for children. Our experience has been the complete opposite.
Jamie, our six-year-old son, has adapted beautifully to our cruising life. In the four months that we've been out, he's become much more outgoing and confident. When we returned home for Christmas holiday, our closest friends commented on how much he'd matured while we did the Ha-Ha and other cruising. His public school teacher welcomed him back into the classroom for the few weeks we were home, where we discovered he was right on track, if not ahead of, his classmates. As a matter of fact, the school administrators commended us on choosing to follow our dream - they said the education Jamie will receive could not possibly be replicated in the classroom.
While back on land, we also discovered how quickly Jamie started picking up the 'bad habits' that had so quickly disappeared while cruising. There are many children cruising, and we've found them all to be bright, polite, fun kids. Jamie has not lacked opportunities for socializing. While the friends come and go - and often come again - Jamie has had no problem adjusting.
As for our family life, it's much healthier
while we are cruising. No, it's not all play, as there's a lot
of work to homeschooling, keeping the boat maintained, and planning
everything. As Jamie says, "We work a lot" - but not
to the extent we do when on land at home. When out cruising,
the focus is on us without so many distractions. We cannot think
of a healthier lifestyle for raising a child.
Regarding the Southern California couple
in New Zealand who have been gone from Los Angeles County for
years, but keep getting billed for boat personal property taxes
by the Los Angeles County Tax Assessor's Office, I just sent
a copy of their letter to County Supervisor Mike Antonovich's
home address with a request that he "take positive steps
to rectify this couple's dilemma." By sending it to his
home, I know it will get past the usual 'palace guard' and he
will see it. Hopefully he'll do something about it.
Trent - That's very kind of you. Based
on our limited knowledge, Los Angeles County is the most tenacious
in the state at forcing people who no longer have personal property
in their jurisdiction to continue paying personal property taxes.
I read with interest your answer to a letter regarding the chances of having a successful multiple-day sail in Hawaii in the month of February, and I disagree with your assessment. I first sailed to Hawaii in 1971, and have since sailed thousands of miles there over the last 30 some years. I know those islands, tides, and wind patterns like the back of my hand. I was surprised to hear you mention the 'Pineapple Express' as some impending doom to sailors. Honestly, I've never heard of it before, and neither has anyone I know. February is a great time of year for sailing in Hawaii, as there are Humpback whales everywhere and the weather is pretty mild.
Hawaii is in the middle of the Pacific, so it obviously gets weather, but the weather only hits one side of the island at a time. Hawaii has excellent satellite coverage for weather forecasts, and weather buoys pick up swell forecasts long before they impact the islands. Anyone can pull up this information from the Net. There are no surprises, so you can plan well ahead for destinations that will be well-suited for the conditions.
I have enjoyed reading your magazine for
many years, and this is the first letter I have written. I wish
to share my experiences with others who may be contemplating
a sailing trip in Hawaii with either friends or a charter. Too
often you praise the Caribbean as a location for sailing. I've
been there, fought for moorage space, drank rum . . . but what
else do you do there? Anywhere you go there are already people
there. Hawaii is just one flight away, there are no international
travel hassles, it's more exotic than most places on earth, it's
inexpensive, and my cell phone works everywhere!
Michael - Thanks very much for your letter. As you may remember from our remarks, we said that we weren't experts on the sailing conditions in Hawaii in the winter and spring, so we relied entirely on the opinions of others, such as the boating columnist from the main Honolulu Advertiser, and another very experienced sailor who lives on Molokai.
Subsequent to the publication of those
remarks, we've had a number of sailors - such as yourself - disagree
with those opinions. As such, right now we don't know what to
think. Are there any other sailors in Hawaii who would like to
express their opinions on winter/spring sailing conditions in
When I sailed from San Francisco to Hawaii in 2001, I was skeptical of Latitude's condemnation of Hawaii's harbors. Since then I've visited nine of that state's harbors on five islands, and found the harbors to be even worse than the descriptions in the pages of Latitude.
As your readers know, 113 slips at Ala Wai have been condemned or removed, and the harbor is closed to transients. Also the B, C and D docks are losing slips as the fingers break off. These floating docks are long past their useful life. At Keehi Lagoon, the state has abandoned all of the 100, 600, and most of the 200 dock. Waiting lists at most harbors are interminable. Bathrooms are open to the public, which includes the homeless, bums and druggies who often live in the parking lots.
I've attended Ala Wai Community meetings, DOBOR (Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation) hearings on fee increases, Keehi community meetings, and Senate and House committee hearings. Those 'nested' at the Ala Wai living in cheap waterfront floating condos are very loud when one mentions either fee increases or privatization. DOBOR does not have a five-year plan to correct the problems. They don't even have a plan to replace the lost slips at Ala Wai. There have been three division heads in the past two years.
After grumbling with a few other boaters, I've created www.HawaiiBoaters.org to be a focal point for information about the harbors. On the site, I've collected State Auditor reports, DOBOR reports to the legislature, Boating Special Fund financials, and Freedom of Information Act procedures. I've linked in media accounts from both major Hawaiian newspapers, Environment Hawaii, Ray Pendleton's Water Ways columns, letters in Latitude 38, and Ala Wai photos on 'Lectronic Latitude. For each harbor I'm displaying photos of the problems, DOBOR and DLNR contacts, state senators and representative contacts, and so forth. With the Web site and a Yahoo Group (HawaiiBoaters), I intend to build a grassroots (barnacles up) effort to fix the harbors through a two-pronged approach.
First, DOBOR must generate more revenue and spend the revenue wisely. Second, most of the harbors should be privatized. I cannot think of a single 'unique resource' that the state brings to harbor management. No general funds are allocated to the harbors.
If you are cruising to Hawaii or choose to skip Hawaii, we need your support. We intend to make a lot of noise. According to the 2002 NMMA (National Marine Manufacturers Association) report, there are fewer registered boats in Hawaii than in any other state. Landlocked, non-tropical Wyoming, with less than half the population, has nearly twice as many boats.
If people want more information or to help, I can be reached at (808) 778-5423 or via email.
P.S. Mahalo to the webmistress at Latitude,
who linked into HawaiiBoaters.org as soon as I asked her, so
I'm getting hits from www.latitude38.com.
Dennis - Thanks for confirming what
we've been reporting for many years. There are government agencies
that do an excellent job of running marinas, but the State of
Hawaii certainly hasn't been one of them. Given the state's long
and illustrious history of incompetence in running their marinas,
we agree that the Ala Wai and at least several of the other state
marinas ought to be privatized. In the case of the Ala Wai, it
need not be a case of 'us versus them' among stakeholders. There
is no reason why that marina land can't continue to serve mariners
- as well as surfers, swimmers, fishermen, joggers and sunset
watchers. In fact, the last 25 years of government operation
has been a disservice to all of these stakeholders. Good luck
in effecting change.
Greetings from some of your web-footed readers here in Puget Sound who are trying to deal with a conflict. Over the years, you've said that the minimum size cat you'd cruise on the ocean is 40 feet. Our boat, which we've enjoying sailing for 10 years, is a Gemini 3000 cat, and therefore somewhat less than 40 feet.
Another theme in Latitude - and other sailing magazines - is that it's often wiser to go cruising now rather than later. As a paramedic for the last 17 years, I've seen a lot of folks die before their time, so I understand that.
We did the 2000 Ha-Ha with our friends on their Fiji 39 cat Cie Si Bon, and would love to do it again. With our daughter away in college, we can go now, but we can't afford to buy a bigger boat. So you can see our conflict.
We've dreamed of going cruising for years, so we've decided to opt for the 'go now with what you've got' mantra rather than worrying about boat size. As of July 1, we will be unemployed boat bums, and shortly after that we plan to sail south for San Francisco Bay, then Southern California to be a part of the Ha-Ha in late October.
We have a limited amount of funds, so we will be testing ourselves to see just how cheaply we can live. We're hoping that without cars, cell phones, house payments and all the other monthly bills, we can get by on just a few bucks. It will be hard to give up our daily trip to Starbucks, but the idea of blue skies and warm water sounds like enough compensation.
We'll let you know how the trip down the
coast in our little cat goes and we'll see you in San Diego!
Rob and Linda - When we offer advice on the appropriateness of taking certain sized boats offshore, and when in their lives people should go cruising, it's of the most general nature. In the case of Gemini cats, if we're not mistaken the manufacturer and his son sailed one across the Atlantic. So perhaps this under-40 cat was designed and built for offshore use. We'd check with the designer and builder.
In '98, Michael Beattie and Layne Goldman of Santa Cruz did the Ha-Ha with Miki G., a Gemini 105 cat. They continued down to Panama and then up the Western Caribbean to Florida. At one point they spoke of moving up to a larger cat, but are currently living aboard the 105 in Key West. We had a number of Changes from another couple that cruised a similarly small cat from San Diego to Cartagena to Florida. And the Winship family of Alameda, of course, has been out cruising their Crowther 33 cat Chewbacca for nearly five years in Mexico and Central America.
As for being able to live a very satisfying
and relaxed life on a very small budget, there are few ways to
do it better than cruising Mexico and Central America.
After four years of working on our boat
and getting all our affairs in order, we left San Francisco in
September 2002 aboard our CT-41 Liberty and slowly sailed
down to La Paz, Mexico. That July we had a slip at Marina de
La Paz, and we were getting ready to get on with our cruising
plans following the installation of beautiful new teak decks,
when I fell and broke my left hip and left arm.
Physically unable to return to the boat
when I left the hospital, we were warmly hosted by local friends
- whom we had just met during a flight from the States! They
are true angels. Three months later, after lots of physical therapy,
I had improved sufficiently so that we were preparing to return
to Liberty. Unfortunately, while drying my foot after
a shower, I dislocated the hip. The pain was excruciating - it
made childbirth seem like a mild headache - and I was unable
We decided to leave Liberty on the hard in La Paz and return to the Bay Area to heal emotionally and physically - hopefully, to continue cruising by the end of 2004. Now we are both wondering if dislocating the hip was a red flag. If this happened while underway at sea, I simply would not have survived. Are there any other cruisers with artificial hips out there? What are their experiences? How do they manage to get in and out of a dinghy? How do they sit in a dinghy where the knees are higher than the hip? What provisions have they made in case of a dislocation?
We are devastated by this setback and would
appreciate any advice we might get from other sailors. We can
be reached via email.
Peggy and Enrique - We know one world
-famous sailor who continued to sail after he'd had both his
hips and both his shoulders replaced - but we're not sure how
much he could sail with those limitations. But even after you
hear back from others with the same conditions, we'd recommend
getting second and third opinions from physicians, as your situation
may be quite different from that of the others. We'll keep our
fingers crossed for you.
In the April 5 'Lectronic Latitude, you ran a photo of a Hallberg-Rassy with a a dinghy hoisted high on their arch. And you wrote, "We don't know about you, but the subject of today's Photo of the Day gave us a laugh. Why in the world would the owners of this Hallberg-Rassy have a set of davits which leaves their dinghy so high in the air? All we can figure is that they are headed for Cape Horn and don't want it to get swamped."
The high davits are actually a solution to the difficult problem of how to carry a dinghy on davits when cruising in an area that requires Med-mooring. With traditional davits, you have to launch your dinghy before pulling into the marina, and then somehow tie it off your bow while you are dropping your anchor and backing up to the quay. The other option is moor bow-to, which makes for some really interesting gymnastics when getting up and over the bow pulpit and then down to the quay.
The high davits are just another one of
those very useful - but not so pretty - solutions to a cruising
problem. Oh yeah, it also increases the inertial stability of
Mike - Thanks for the explanation. By
the way, having a heavy dinghy up so high is not going to increase
stability, but rather decrease it. For maximum stability, as
much weight as possible needs to be as low and as near the center
of the boat as possible. Ask any racer.
I was looking forward to a continuation
of the story(s) hinted at in January's
Changes in Latitude section by the Mongrains on their Lagoon
410 Far Niente. It sounded as if they have colorful stories
to tell about sailing around Panama and its sometimes-dangerous
waterways. I'm disappointed the tales didn't turn up in the February
issue as promised, but look forward to seeing them in a future
L.C. - Unless your February issue was
missing pages 136-138, you must have skipped right over the Mongrains'
report on the Darien region of Panama. Maybe you were distracted
by the photos of the topless women.
The concept of 'leaving no wake' means respecting people too, not just oceans. I was appalled to find the article entitled Darien Detour in the same issue as Senior Editor Andy Turpin's article on how not to be an 'Ugly American'.
We also sailed to the Darien this season aboard our Formosa 46 Lookfar and were entranced and challenged by the intricacies of navigation and the culture of the indigenous groups. We visited two villages, one which had had visitors before, and one which had not had visitors for a long time. To see these people in their villages, to watch them with their crafts, and to understand what their daily life is like is a rare gift. The report of bringing bras to a Wounaan village reminds me of the New York stock brokerage firm that gave hams to their Jewish brokers at every Christmas. To disregard their customs and mock them in the manner reported by Far Niente is to provide true motive for poison darts and pots of oil.
When we arrived later this February to
that same village, the headman made a real point of making sure
we understood it was their choice to wear sarongs and no bras.
It was obvious that they had been insulted by the previous visitors.
We felt honored and awed to have an opportunity to share their
traditional lifestyle and natural approach to life for a brief
period. The window on such cultures around the world will close
even more quickly if sailors leave a wake of their own narrow
prejudices, beliefs, and questionable lifestyles.
Jill and Rod - We think you're being way too harsh on Eric, Tina and grandson Seth, whom we know to be very nice and kind people. You seem to suggest that the Far Niente crew forced bras on the Wounaan women, but that clearly wasn't the case. While in Panama City before heading to the Darien, they were advised to buy bras and children's clothes as trading items. When they got there, not only did a Wounaan woman actively bargain for a bra, she was encouraged to trade for it by the other women - and they all had a good laugh about it. Further, this was apparently done in the presence of William, "the chief negotiator and head of tourism." You make it sound as though it was European explorers bringing contagious diseases and European religions to the New World. It wasn't, and it certainly wasn't going to incite the locals to start shooting visitors with poison darts and cooking them in hot oil.
In what way did the crew of Far Niente "mock" these women? Both the text and the photos make it clear that everyone was laughing with, not at, one another.
If all modern things are to be banned
from the inland areas of the Darien - and we've got no problem
with that - the Panamanian authorities should inform visitors
at the passport checkpoint at La Palma, and the river guides
and village leaders can further supervise compliance.
Thanks for the great How Not to be An Ugly American article in a recent World of Chartering section. I have traveled the world extensively in the last 35 years, and own vacation rental property in Mexico. Some of my greatest experiences have been while by myself in the older parts of towns and cities in France, Spain, Italy, Japan, South Africa, and Mexico. Contrary to popular opinion, the French have always treated me with courtesy and respect.
In 1968, I was a young officer in the U.S. Navy serving aboard a ship stationed in the Med. This was during the middle of the Vietnam War, and then, as now, Americans were not very popular. I had liberty one weekend in southern France. After a day of skiing in the Southern Alps by myself, I was in Nice walking around the old part of town looking for a good local restaurant. I walked into one of the small shops where the local men were buying wine for dinner and socializing while waiting to be served. They brought their own empty bottles, which were filled from the barrels behind the counter. In broken French, I asked for a glass of vin ordinaire. The owner of the shop asked me, in English, if I was a U.S. Naval officer. Although I was in civilian clothes, my accent, shoes and haircut labeled me as such. When I responded "oui" he shouted: "Champagne, champagne, an American naval officer." All the men introduced themselves and bought me wine. It had been many years since DeGaulle had kicked the 6th Fleet out of France, and the locals were happy to see me! I left my new friends and returned to my ship early the next morning.
In 1995, I returned to Nice for the Rotary International Convention. I walked through the old part of town looking for the small wine shop and restaurant where I had dinner 33 years before. I was in line outside a restaurant very popular with the locals, standing next to a leggy young lady 30 years my junior. The maitre'd looked at us and asked the lady, "Deux?" She looked me up and down and said, "Oui." We shared a table with a French couple, and after introductions in French, I learned that she was from Hawaii, vagabonding around Europe. I think we were the only Americans in the restaurant, and we were treated as guests.
My two sons and I toured France by car after the Rotary Convention. My wife and I were also in France in 1990. I do not speak French, but I have learned that they really appreciate me trying to express myself in their language - just like Americans like tourists from other countries to try speaking English.
Many Americans I meet overseas are arrogant,
overbearing and rude. I am afraid that the 'Ugly Americans' will
not change, no matter how persuasively you write about the benefits
of respect. I think cultural sensitivity is the result of early
family training and education in respect for others. I am frequently
in Mexico and sometimes I do my best to embarrass 'Ugly Americans'
when I see them misbehaving. I usually get a "what's your
problem?" look. But it's the only way I know of getting
their attention. Maybe other readers have some good one-liners.
David - The other side of the coin is that despite all the 'Ugly American' talk, Americans are usually about the most well-liked tourists. As a group - and particularly in groups - we may be rude, arrogant and uncouth from time to time. But as a group, we also tend to be very nice. Plus we tip a hell of a lot better than anybody else. American tourists are certainly more well liked than the Germans, who seem to be at the bottom of everyone's list. The French don't rate well at all, because they can be arrogant and rude - and seemingly out of spite rather than ignorance. The Italians and Spanish seem to be pretty well liked - except for the fact that they don't tip. We think the Brits might be the best liked, except, of course, for the soccer hooligans and bingers on holiday where it's warm.
If we were giving advice to American
travellers looking to make a better impression on foreigners,
it would be to talk softer, wear less colorful clothes, don't
eat or drink except at a table - a dead giveaway that you're
a Yank - and to be more patient. Compared to America and Americans,
the rest of the world is very slow-paced and laughably inefficient.
Get used to it, because they don't care all that much about efficiency.
Finally, realize that just about every other culture cares more
about friendship and less about money than we Americans do.
I own a Pearson Triton 28 hull #160, which
came with a 7/8th fractional rig. Some other Tritons have masthead
rigs. I'm pondering adding roller furling and possibly making
some other rigging changes, so I'm curious about the advantages
and disadvantages of the different rigs. I haven't found any
sources that compare the two by listing their relative strengths
and weaknesses, so I'm hoping you have all the answers.
Matt - We have no idea why the Triton
was available with the option for a fractional or a masthead
rig. Maybe it was a 'look', as back then a lot of boats, even
small ones, were offered with a fractional main mast and a mizzen.
In retrospect, it seems kind of silly because a mizzen and mizzen
staysail on such small boats rarely seem to be worth the expense
Want to own the baddest Triton in the
country? Follow the modern trend by leaving your boat with a
7/8th's rig, but set her up for masthead kites. Wicked!
I second Bob Griffith's notion that the L36 design is worthy of recognition as a Latitude 38 Boat of the Month, and that a 50th reunion and race for the design is a great idea.
I sailed on Sunrise, L36 #21 starting in 1958, when she was launched, until the early '90s. She was owned by Bee and Peggy Kempff, and sailed out of Coronado YC. In the '60s and '70s, Sunrise was a regular fixture in local races, the Ensenada Race, and the YRU Cruise to Catalina. In 1984, Bee died of a heart attack while working the foredeck on a race. After that, Peggy and I continued to race the boat locally.
In the '90s, Sunrise was purchased
by a young couple from the Bay Area, so she may well be seen
sailing the Bay. If any one knows the whereabouts of L36 #21,
an L36 for charter, or has crew positions open for the Master
Mariners Regatta in May, I'd like to hear from them. Reach me
at (619) 435-0734 or via email.
Charles - We hope you're happy with
this month's Boat of the Month.
I've been trying to teach locals the difference between seals and sea lions down here in San Diego. We have seals at Children's Beach, the only place in the world where you can get within 100 yards of them. It appears that sea lions are stealing the fish off hooks as fishermen try to reel their catches onto their boats. As such, sea lions are not popular with fishermen.
Adult male sea lions are very large, and have a vertical brow above the eyes, and they also have small, triangular-shaped ears. Seal's ears, on the other hand, are holes next to their eyes. Sea lions swim and clap with their flippers, bark, and happily pile atop each other. They are also bold, can 'walk' and are flexible enough to be circus performers.
Seals don't bark, have tiny flippers, and
can only move about in horizontal lunges. They propel themselves
using their webbed hind feet, but never touch one another. Seals
are very timid. In fact, scaring them caused a newborn pup to
get lost and starve in La Jolla last year.
After reading Anna Froker's request for information on complying with the 'offshore delivery' procedure for newly purchased sailboats, I thought the recent letter I received from the State Board of Equalization might be of interest to her and some of your other readers as well.
"We have received your Use Tax return
for the purchase of the above-referenced vessel. You have claimed
the tax exemption 'Not Purchased for Use in California.' If a
vessel is purchased outside of California and its first functional
use and subsequent 90-day use is outside California, it is regarded
as not being purchased for use in California. Shipping time or
storage for shipment to California is excluded from the 90 days.
If a vessel is purchased outside California, first functionally
used outside of California, and enters this state within 90 days,
it can still be regarded as not being purchased for use in California
if it is used one half or more of the time outside of California
during the six-month period immediately following its entry into
"Documentation showing location and
use of vessel between date of sale and date of delivery.
"Copy of U.S. Customs Entry Collection Receipt or Informal Entry (Form 368).
"If vessel made entry into a foreign port, provide copy of clearance documents signed or stamped by authorizing agency.
"Copy of your California marina or mooring contract upon entry or return to California.
"Copies of your insurance documents for the vessel identifying the date insurance coverage began.
"Please provide the requested documentation within 30 days or a Notice of Determination (billing) may be used. If your purchase does not qualify for exemption, please remit the tax and delinquency charges due along with a copy of this letter to the above address.
"If you have any questions, you may call us at (916) 445-9524. Please reference the above account number so that your call can be directed to a Tax Representative for assistance."
It was signed, "L. Salcedo."
As you can see, good documentation and records can save boatowners
a substantial amount in taxes.
In conversation with several longer term cruisers down here in Mexico, we've heard a common observation on an issue of significant concern being voiced with increasing frequency: more and more boats are showing up in Mexico with crews that clearly lack the experience to be out here. We have encountered various people who, before leaving Southern California, have never been on the ocean at night, have never set the hook in an exposed anchorage, have never sailed in winds over 20 knots, and whose knowledge of boat and sail handling is limited to a few weeks at one of the sailing schools. While we all had to start someplace, we suggest that the big ocean, hundreds of miles from help and support systems, is not the place to learn.
The last thing we would want is to discourage anyone from getting involved in the wonderful life of cruising, and Mexico is certainly one of the best cruising grounds, but potential sailors need to realize that while these waters are generally very benign, they can quickly and unexpectedly become treacherous. The outside of the Baja coast is almost 1,000 miles long, exposed to the full force of the Pacific Ocean, and has only three completely protected harbors along the entire coast.
Most of the publicity generated around
such very worthwhile events as the Ha-Ha, the Banderas Bay Regatta
and Zihua Sailfest emphasize how easy things go, how benign the
conditions are, and how wonderful life in the warm sun on the
beautiful blue water can be. While this is very valid, it's imperative
that those who are considering coming down to Mexico realize
the necessity and the responsibility of gaining the experience
necessary to insure their own safety. Sooner or later those beautiful
benign conditions are going to turn hard and ugly very quickly,
and if it happens to be sooner - before people know how to handle
it - the results could easily prove to be tragic.
Jimmie - Having founded the Ha-Ha and been the volunteer Poobah for all but one of the 10 Ha-Ha events, the Wanderer takes exception to any suggestion that participants in that event aren't made aware of the possible dangers. Every participant must sign a three-page liability waivier which lists as many dangers as the Ha-Ha folks could think of. In addition, there's a 'frequently asked questions' section which raises topics such as bad weather, outside assistance, the safety of the boats and the competence of the skippers, and other things that might affect one's health and well-being. All the responses to these nine questions end with the same line, ". . . the Ha-Ha is a high-risk activity open only to those gladly willing to risk injury and death in the pursuit of adventure."
We don't know how we can make it any clearer that sailing offshore is not like a controlled environment ride in a theme park. Sailing offshore can be dangerous and involves considerable risk.
While in no way disagreeing with your opinion that it's crucial that novice cruisers get some experience before heading south of the border, we submit the following items for your consideration:
· When we bumped into Lin and Larry Pardey at Sail Expo, we raised the question of whether today's new cruisers know less than those who set sail 25 years ago. They broke out in a howl of laughter, and started telling us stories of the complete know-nothings who took off years ago and had terrible misadventures. And back then even a reasonably smart person could get into real trouble, as there was no GPS, no inexpensive and reliable radars and autopilots, and no - God forbid they needed one - EPIRBs. The bottom line is that today's crop of new cruisers probably aren't any different than all the previous crops - other than that they are accustomed to more creature comforts.
· During an interview with John Anderton of the Alameda-based Cabo Rico 38 Sanderling - see this month's Changes - who has now been singlehanding in the Caribbean for three years, he said flat out, "It wasn't until I got to the Caribbean side of Panama that I realized how appalling my sailing skills were." In other words, his sailing skills really hadn't been put to the test from San Francisco to Panama. Without meaning any disrespect at all, he said that he didn't feel that most of the cruisers in Mexico or their boats were ready for the challenges of the Caribbean. Anderton also wanted new cruisers to know that in his opinion, the only way to actually learn how to cruise is to go out and do it. A big part of that is learning how to get along when you have problems and there is nobody around to help.
· Then there's the case of our Swiss friends Yoyo and Edithe, who have been living aboard in St. Barth for 14 years. Back in the early '80s, when they were complete sailing novices, they bought a Bristol 26 without an engine. A couple of weeks later, these folks - who didn't know a jib from a jibe - took off for Catalina, Mexico, and French Polynesia. Their son Gail was the first white boy born in the Marquesas in modern times. For them, learning as they went was the only natural thing to do.
Do we think it's an excellent idea for
people to have as much local cruising experience as possible
before setting off to Mexico - including overnight passages and
anchoring in unfamiliar places? Absolutely, and for two reasons.
First, they'll be safer for that experience. Second, experienced
sailors tend to be more relaxed and enjoy the fun more. Having
been through double-reefing in the middle of the night, suddenly
finding lots of water in the bilge and losing all the boat's
power, they're more comfortable dealing with such situations.
I enjoyed the well-written January and February articles about the new maxZ86 Pyewacket, and the spectacular new breed of maxi sloops with 'canting ballast twin foil' (CBTF) systems. You included everything anyone would ever want to know about these boats and who'd done 'em - except for one major omission, Matt Brown.
Matt was formerly with Dynayacht and now has his own consulting company. Working with the other inventive geniuses at Dynayacht, he designed early fore and aft high-aspect-foil twin rudders, including those that were tried on America's Cup yachts. He went on to do Green Hornet, the amazing CBTF prototype that I was privileged to lease and race in 1998. Going at or faster than windspeed in a monohull with a keel is pretty zinging.
Matt was then involved in convincing Schock to market a production version of Red Hornet, the Schock 40, and helped Cita achieve her outstanding race record. He continues to be a major player in new canting keel designs. He can be reached at Matt Brown Performance Design in San Diego or at (619) 846-9060.
P.S. I love Latitude and never miss
I'd just finished writing a detailed and scathing letter to DHL senior management detailing our discontent with four recent shipments from the U.S. to Marina Vallarta in Puerto Vallarta, when I picked up the March issue of Latitude to try to regain my normal calm. I was more than interested to find the two letters referring to DHL and their delivery/cost performance in Mexico.
I'll spare you the details, but here's
a general description of a couple of our experiences: We had
UPS - our normal and preferred shipper - forward our flat mail
from California to Puerto Vallarta using DHL. (Neither UPS nor
FedEx have an office in P.V.) It took three weeks for the shipment
- a two-pound box with a small boat part inside - to arrive.
For their trouble, DHL charged us $155. Furthermore, they didn't
deliver it to the specified address at the marina office, even
though the address was correct and the office was staffed. What's
more, they didn't contact us using the email address on the AWB,
nor did they respond to two emails sent from their tracking Web
site asking for help in locating the package. After days of footwork
and taxi fees, we finally tracked the package down, and only
had to pay an additional $57.80 in 'fees'. All this for a $35
We've had two other equally frustrating and costly experiences with DHL in Mexico. But others have had even worse experiences. A fellow Puddle Jumper had his new SSB malfunction, so he sent it back to the manufacturer, which promptly fixed it under warranty and returned it via DHL with a 'no charge' invoice. The DHL folks slapped a $500 'delivery fee' on the item. After several weeks of attempted negotiation, he had no choice but to pay them, as he needed the radio for his Pacific trip. By the way, he was also charged $165 in storage fees.
In all cases, the senders of these goods were professional marine or mail organizations who 'know the drill' with sending goods to Mexico.
Before we all excuse DHL by saying it's all the fault of Aduana, I'm sorry, my contract is with DHL, my invoice is from DHL, my money goes to DHL - so we expect DHL to take responsibility for these issues.
Do cruisers in Mexico have a choice? Yes.
With 20/20 hindsight we would have had all our boat bits sent
to a central location in San Diego - the Post Office or Downwind
Marine will hold them - then buy a plane ticket to go collect
them. It would have cost half of what we spent with DHL.
Readers - It's been our experience that having someone - yourself or a friend - hand-carry stuff to Mexico is by far the most reliable, and often the least expensive, method possible. If you don't know anybody coming down, you should work the nets to find somebody.
Things vary from country to country,
of course. When we needed two new saildrives - which are pretty
big and weigh nearly 100 pounds each - rushed from Florida to
Panama, we figured that the quickest and perhaps ultimately the
least expensive way was to have one of the crew fly to Miami
and bring them back as luggage. Fortunately, we were convinced
otherwise, as a freight forwarder handled all the paperwork,
flew them out that same Friday night, got them through Customs,
and delivered them to the boatyard some distance out of Panama
City, for $350. We thought this was a reasonable price - $150
less than a roundtrip plane ticket - and there was no hassle
on either end for the crew. Plus, it was lightning fast.
First of all, I, like everyone else, want to thank the Poobah and all the others involved in the 2003 Ha-Ha for the great job done, and the resultant great time had by all. We - Barb, Mike, and Buddy the Wonder Dog - have been enjoying Mexico since then. We made it as far south as the Barra Triangle, which we define as Tenacatita-Barra-Bahia Santiago, where we could cruise in circles for years and never get bored. We'll save Zihua for next year on our way to Panama.
Anyway, when we were getting the boat ready to return upstream to Puerto Vallarta, we noticed the raw water pump had begun to drip. After some wiggling, it dripped heavily. Having a replacement pump shipped down from the States wasn't an attractive option, but as we didn't know anyone flying down who could carry it, there didn't seem to be an alternative.
We know there are a lot of cruiser complaints about not getting parts sent via DHL, but right before Christmas we had good luck with them, getting alternator parts from the States to our slip in just one week. The key, we were told, was not to let the order be shipped through Guadelajara, where everything seems to disappear. So we ordered the new pump from the Bosun's Locker in Costa Mesa, where Tim shipped the pump out the same day, Friday, that we ordered it, with the same shipping instructions as before. Imagine our joy and disbelief when it showed up on our dock in Barra de Navidad the following Monday. Our mail doesn't get here that fast from DHL - which might be because it goes through Guadelajara. The only downside of this method is that Aduana charges additional duty on the shipping charges, which they must consider to be part of the item's value.
I'd like to bestow some additional kudos to locals we have met and dealt with down here.
· Jesus Garcia, the outboard repair guy in Barra, was extremely helpful dissecting my old water pump and helping me to rebuild it for a spare. He charged me about $35 for almost a full day's work, including driving me to a nearby town to get the shaft welded and machined where it had been scored.
· Ricardo from the palapa in Club Santiago, who arranged for ice and water to be delivered to our boat, called taxis for us on his cell phone, invited us to the blessing of the panga fleet (a great experience) and guided our visitors to us when they flew down from the States.
· Our good friend Piper Lover, who runs the best blues bar in Barra, was extremely generous and made us feel truly a part of the community.
There are more. We really haven't had any
bad experiences with our Mexican brothers and sisters. The key
seems to be maintaining the respectful and kind demeanor we all
appreciate when we see it in others. Attempting to learn the
language is also part of it, as is being ready to laugh at oneself.
As we write this, we're looking forward to fun at the Banderas
Bay Regatta, and then exploring the Sea of Cortez. We'll be seeing
lots of great folks we have met from the Ha-Ha, and continuing
to enjoy Mexico.
Folks - Thanks for all the kind words
about the Ha-Ha.
In an issue some month's ago, you noted some surprise at finding "this bird stuff" - meaning how long birds can live at sea, and how far they migrate - quite interesting. You went on to question how a small bird can fly 5,000 miles, much of it over water, and find its way. It turns out that we humans are not the only celestial navigators. Years ago some clever scientists found that migratory sea birds placed in planetariums oriented themselves by using the stars they saw projected overhead.
An even more interesting approach to navigation is used by the lowly invertebrate chiton, which crawls about on rocks eating algae - but often returns to the same rocky niche to 'rest' after its feeding forays. It turns out that the chitons have tongues - or radulas - that contain iron teeth. They use these tongues not just for eating, but also sort of like magnets to help them find their way home! Chitons get 'lost' when magnets are placed in their vicinity.
On another older subject, Dave Kendig asked how to store an inflatable on a 30-ft boat. My wife and I own a Beneteau 321, and we often carry our 8'6" Zodiac tied across the Beneteau's stern - kind of like it's riding on the swim step. To get it into position, we first lift the 6 hp Johnson outboard onto a stern mount using the main halyard coupled to our Lifesling 4:1 lifting rig. We then use the halyard/Lifesling rig to lift the Zodiac into place, securing it with some lines to the stern pulpit. The whole process takes maybe 10 minutes, and can easily be managed by my wife and me.
By the way, I composed this letter in Opunohu
Bay, Moorea, onboard the cruiseship Tahitian Princess.
We happen to be sharing the bay with Paul Allen's Tatoosh.
I had hoped to attach some gorgeous pictures of her, but my digital
camera did not survive the full baptism it just received from
a passing rain squall! Maybe I'll have to buy one of the
Fujifilm digitals that have stood you in such good stead!
Phil - Very, very interesting. What we're waiting for is the discovery that some earthworms find their way around thanks to tiny GPS units located beneath their tongues.
As for Tatoosh,
here's a shot of her from about 18 months ago that was taken
with a Fujifilm digital camera. The Fujifilm 3800 digital, since
replaced by the 3000, has been a terrific camera for us. However,
the tremendous advancements in digital cameras have continued
unabated, so there may be newer and better ones. As a brand,
however, Fujifilms have always been our favorite because of the
'people pleasing' colors, particularly the blues and greens found
in marine environments.
I've been biting my keyboard ever since this whole San Blas fracas got started. And when I was just about to enter the discussion, you closed it off, so I 'stifled'. But since it got reopened again, I've got to put in my two-bits.
All the comments about problems in San Blas with port captains, Norm Goldie and having to use a ship's agent drove me to dig out my journal from our 1990-1993 circumnavigation of the Pacific. The record shows that on March 14, 1991, as we approached San Blas from Isla Isabella, we issued a call on the VHF for tides and conditions in the estuary. A response came from another boat anchored inside, and we elected to go for it even though it was nearing low tide. The depthsounder dropped to seven feet for a couple of exciting seconds on the way in, but we were soon anchored well inside.
The next morning we went ashore to clear
in. Here's the verbatim entry from my journal: "Went ashore
to clear in. Very easy here, except I had to row back to the
boat for more Crew Lists since Inmigración wanted us to
start a new one. We paid harbor fees, now 19,000 pesos
- this was before the 1000-to-1 devaluation - at the Capitania
de Puerto. Didn't have to make a separate trip to Puertos Mexicanos.
Officials were all very nice. We then headed in the direction
of the ruins . . ."
If the use of an agent is now required
in San Blas, we will pass it by when we head down this year.
Thankfully, we were there in simpler and happier times, and won't
feel cheated. However, I would like to learn how to surf and
it sounds like the anchorage outside at Matenchen Bay might be
the place. Is it too late to learn how to surf in your mid-50s?
Steve - You're not the only veteran cruiser to Mexico who has wondered 'what happened?' in San Blas. It all started with a series of port captains deciding that they were going to require cruisers to use a ship's agent to check in. Then there got to be a big stink about whether anchoring in Matenchen Bay means you have to check in to San Blas. The port captain says it does, and cruisers say that ex-pat Norm Goldie has sometimes gotten on their case when they haven't. And a lot of them didn't.
We'd been to San Blas in the late '70s, the '80s, and the early '90s, and there had never been any of these kinds of problems. But it's all changed. What's worse, we're told that more port captains in Mexico are requiring the use of ship's agents, with the result that it can cost as much as $80 U.S. to clear in and out of a single port! With as many as three port captain's offices within 10 miles in places like Banderas Bay, you can understand why many cruisers plan their itineraries around avoiding most places with port captains.
Cowabunga! If you're in reasonably good shape, you certainly can to learn to surf in your 50s. And Matenchen Bay would be one of the best and easiest places to learn. But if you've already been to San Blas, and like us don't take to feeling like you're being gouged, we recommend you continue a few more miles down to Punta de Mita at the northern tip of Banderas Bay. There's no port captain there, so you don't have to check in or out, and you can anchor right off the 'Mexican Malibu'. There's a surf school right in front of the anchorage, and there are easy waves for picking up the basics. Once you have gotten the hang of it, there are several other good breaks which aren't far away. Just make sure you start off using a longboard.
A final word on ship's agents. We know
and are friends with many of them. We think they do a good job,
and we often use them for convenience and to save time. But it
sticks in our craw when we're told that we have to use one.
In a recent Cruise Notes item, you made reference to the Nasiell family of Oakland. You spent a couple of quick minutes with them in St. Barth before they had to head off for St. Martin. The gist of the report was that they'd bought a catamaran out of a Caribbean charter program and were going cruising on her.
We're dreaming of my taking an early retirement and how we might start our cruise. The idea of buying a cat in the Caribbean sounds like a great way to begin. I'd like to get in touch with them and find out all we can about purchasing a cat coming out of a charter program. But I haven't been able to get their address. Can you help?
I love the magazine, and hate having to wait for the next one!
Tim - They have a detailed Web site
for their cruise at www.nasiell.com.
I missed the first letter(s) in Latitude about submarines having difficulty detecting sailboats that don't have their engines on, but the letter in the January edition has prompted me to respond. And sorry I'm so late, as we're cruising in the Bahamas and it takes a while for our Latitudes to catch up with us.
I was a Sonar Technician in the Navy for eight years, and I can tell you the answer to the sonar question is 'passive versus active'. Surface ships usually use 'active' Sonar - hence the ping, ping, ping noise in all the war movies about subs.
But because subs don't like their whereabouts known, they usually operate in 'passive', meaning they listen for propeller and other noises rather than an echo from a ping. If the crew of a sailboat was playing their stereo really loud, the sub could likely hear it, but if sailing along quietly, the sailboat would be nearly impossible to detect if the sub was operating passively.
On an entirely different subject, the Bahamas
have been really windy this year. We've spent most of the past
six weeks sitting at anchor waiting for weather. We know, 25
knots of wind shouldn't bother San Francisco Bay sailors, but
an ebb on summer afternoons on the Bay taught us a lot about
the effect of wind against the current, so we have a lot of respect
for what can happen in the Gulf Stream. And, while the banks
of the Bahamas are shallow - like much of the Bay - it's pretty
hard to see coral heads when a 25-knot wind kicks up a chop.
So we've stayed put for awhile. In places where there are no
coral heads on the banks, it's just like the Bay - except, of
course, that the water is warm and clear.
Back in 1982-1984, my husband and I, along with our orange cat named Spencer, went cruising on Dalliance, our 28-ft double-ender. We sailed from San Francisco to Cabo, then over to Manzanillo. We put Dalliance on a freight train in Manzanillo and rode with her over to Yucalpatan in the Yucatan. We later sold Dalliance in Washington, D.C., and divorced in '92.
I've lost the article that Latitude
printed about the trip, and wonder if it would be possible to
get a copy of it?
C. - It was nearly 20 years ago, but
we vividly recall your boat and train adventure across Mexico.
The good news is we have all the back issues. The bad news is
that we don't have the staff or time to fulfill all the requests
to look up old articles. If you or a friend wants to look through
our back issues, you're welcome to it, but we can't do it for
Your suggestion of charging foreign vessels for the use of GPS use may not be "downright disgusting," as claimed by Dennis McMurtry in the March Letters, but it's at the very least misguided. Unfortunately - and disappointingly - your suggestion reflects a global isolationist viewpoint that seems to be all too prevalent in the current U.S. political and social environments, and mirrors the current political zeitgeist in Washington.
I never saw the original article in which you suggested charging foreign vessels for GPS use, but allow me to review some of the facts surrounding the creation of GPS. In 1963, the Aerospace Corporation presented a study on the use of a space-based system for navigation relying on measuring the time of the arrival of signals issuing from satellites in space whose position was known exactly. This was, in effect, a description of what we today know as GPS. The idea was supported by the U.S. Air Force and developed over the next 11 years. In 1974, Rockwell was chosen as the contractor for what had by then become known as GPS. The first beta test satellite carrying an atomic clock was launched later that year. In 1983, as a result of the shooting down of Korean Air flight 007 by the Russians, the Reagan administration offered to make GPS available free of charge to civilian aircraft once the system was operational.
In 1984, surveying became the first commercial application of GPS. As more satellites were launched, the system became more widely used by both the military and civilians. During the 1991 Gulf War, U.S. military forces relied heavily upon civilian GPS receivers, as the inventory of military spec GPS receivers was insufficient. The last of 24 GPS satellites became fully operational in December 1993, and the Secretary of Defense declared that GPS would remain available for the foreseeable future for use by civilians worldwide on a continuous basis with an accuracy of 100 meters.
It is estimated by Rand Organization Publications
that the initial cost of creating GPS, plus maintenance going
forward, is approximately $20 billion. Since the launch of the
first beta test satellite in 1974, the cumulative amount spent
on U.S. defense is, according to the Center for Defense Information,
in its narrowest definition approximately $10 trillion. To put
it another way, GPS has cost the U.S. taxpayer about one-fifth
of 1% of cumulative defense spending since 1974. In this age
there is so much controversy over the issue of U.S. military
might and its projection overseas. As a U.S. taxpayer, although
not a U.S. citizen, I am more than happy that, inspired by an
effort to prevent a repeat of the KAL 007 disaster, at least
some of my tax dollars allocated specifically to military spending
and generally to creating all things destructive, have definitively
contributed to making the world a better and safer place for
all. Quite frankly, the last thing that occurs to me is how to
make a few bucks off GPS from those that do not have the honor
of being U.S. taxpayers.
Adam - To us the principle is very simple - and free of all political overtones. U.S. taxpayers have spent $20 billion for the development and support of the world's greatest and most money- and life-saving navigation system. This is a system that has saved many affluent foreign companies and governments small fortunes. So what's the crime in asking those companies and governments to chip in a little? We're not talking about "making a few bucks" off the system, but just having everyone - not just American taxpayers - pay even a fraction of their fair share and the value they get from it.
By the way, just because we have to
buy a token to ride the Underground in London or enter the Louvre
in Paris doesn't mean we think it reflects isolationist tendencies
on the part of the English and the French. We think it just means
they recognize the principle that everyone ought to pay their
fair share for what they use and enjoy.
I made an error in challenging Max Ebb and Lee Helm. [See the Letter entitled Prismatic Coefficients and Hull Speeds in the February issue.] It was my honest belief that they would accept the challenge and attempt to help explain why some boat performance numbers do not seem to fit the proverbial profile. Very few people have the ability, as in, intellect, education, and experience, to comprehend and challenge conventional wisdom. Max and Lee have that ability. In a misplaced attempt at humor, I tried to goad them into tackling a different explanation for boat performance, as it applies to some boats. No disrespect was intended.
With that said, once again Lee Helm has made some wrong and misleading statements concerning my favorite boat, the Westsail 32, by my point of view. (Please note - and this is important - my point of view is from that of the cruising sailboat while cruising). Lee stated, "So even if you have the right prismatic for the top end of hull speed (as in, like running with the trades) multiply by the weight of your crabcrusher and you're still slow compared to a lighter boat, even one with a hull shape optimized for the slower speeds of upwind sailing."
This is a false statement if applied to the smaller sizes of voyaging sailboats in the real world of cruising. Please note just one of many examples possible. I refer to the September issue of Latitude, page 161. This is data from the 2003 Puddle Jump. There were two Westsail 32s listed in the 28 boats. They were the smallest of the fleet. The average length of all boats in the fleets except for the Westsail 32s was 45.7 feet. The average crossing time was 23 days. One of the Westsails, singlehander Bill Andrew's Quest, crossed in 22 days. The other did it in 28 days. What does this prove? Nothing. It is just an example of the Westsail crossing an ocean faster than many other more modem and lighter and longer boats.
Lee has asked me, "Now, where are
all those more modern 32-ft boats that the Westsail is supposed
to be able to beat?" One answer is, look at the boats on
the list of 2003 Puddle Jumpers. Notice the boats represented:
Newport, Pacific Seacraft, Kelly-Peterson, Cal, Caliber, C&C,
Islander, Gulfstar, and so forth. How many examples does she
need? The list is long.
My final comment is this: In a publication
with a deservedly large readership, Lee said I was "BZZT
wrong" about my assessment of prismatic coefficients and
how they affect the theoretical hull speed. She misinterpreted
what I was saying. What I was trying to say is this: The P.C.
can reflect on the effectiveness of the waterline length. Not
all 30-ft waterlines are created equal. This quality affects
the wavemaking ability of the boat, whereby two different boats
will make two different waves and therefore go two different
speeds. This is what I was saying when I simply shortened the
explanation to "theoretical hull speed." In the context
that I was inferring, the statement was correct.
How could you have managed not to include
West Marine in your article, The Rig Gig, on Bay Area riggers?
Do they not advertise their stores and rigging seminars in your
magazine? The Alameda West Marine store has a full-service rig
shop, with riggers who go to boats to install standing and running
rigging. Yes, their shop in Alameda is only a couple years old,
but they should have been included. West Marine deserves an apology
Janet - When we went down the list of
whom to include in the rigging article, we slipped right over
West Marine because they are primarily known for selling marine
goods. This was an error on our part, and we apologize.
I've really been enjoying your Profligate's Progress dispatches from the field this winter. It's tough in those Caribbean war zones, but you've come through in fine style.
I'm with you about the actual pointing
ability of a good cruising monohull versus a good cruising cat
- the cruising monohull points higher. Having just done the Banderas
Bay Regatta again with my Choy-Morrelli 70 cat Humu Humu,
I have recent firsthand experience on the subject.
After we used the first two races as 'virtual practice', we eliminated our sailhandling and tactical errors to sail the third and final race almost flawlessly on the same course as the big monohulls. The result was that we beat both Swan Fun and California Girl on elapsed and corrected time to the first weather mark by handy margins.
True, we sailed directly toward Punta Mita while they were able to point as high as the Tres Mariettas, but we tacked at exactly 105 degrees to the mark, and surged along at 11 knots. Normally I would tack at 100 degrees in the 12 to 16 knot winds, but I definitely didn't want to risk an extra two shorttacks if we came up below the mark. This was with both daggerboards down, something we hadn't done in the previous two races for fear of overloading the crew at the spinnaker set/douse marks. Having the boards down on Humu Humu reduces leeway eight degrees when hard on the wind.
For the entirety of the third race, we corrected out to 87 minutes, which was equal to Swan Fun and better than California Girl by four minutes. That's not too shabby for a 34-ft-wide boat racing around the buoys with a 12-year-old Dacron main and an itty-bitty self-tacking jib. It's truly excruciating waiting two to three minutes for the boat to tack and regain full speed, but you know that deal yourself.
My point is that pointing higher doesn't mean getting there faster. It's all VMG (velocity made good) to the mark. And making a minimum number of tacks.
By the way, the new canting keel Alan Andrews-designed Magnitude sailed around the course with us for fun with a full crew and Mexican youth sailors, too. What an impressive sight as she flew upwind while pointing very high too. Her masthead spinnaker really reaches the clouds. In the third race she did the rated 11.2 nm course in 58 minutes to our 88 minutes, with all the other boats way behind our elapsed times. But since she started 40 minutes after us, we had the pleasure of finishing, dropping our spinnaker, and getting into bebidas y comidas in time to watch her finish. Despite a -138 handicap, she beat both us and Swan Fun by six minutes. That the top-performing well-sailed boats finished so close on corrected time - despite being so different - speaks really well for the handicappers.
The Banderas Bay weather was perfect, and
the sailing conditions couldn't have been better. What a good
time! Our crew was a collection of a few experienced
sailors and enthusiastic semi-newbies. My buddy Jim
Forrest of the Catalina 36 Jammin', Mary Coleman of the
Farr 40 Astra, Gary of the Beneteau 47 Navigator,
and Mark Purdy of the Perry 43 cat Tango were my core
Dave - Thanks for the report. In 12 to 16 knots of wind on the beam, we expect that Humu Humu would have been sailing three to five knots faster than Swan Fun. That your 70-ft cat sailed the mostly windward-leeward course in the same elapsed-time as a Swan 55 - which is a heavy 25-year-old design - says all there is to say about the inability to cats to point with monohulls, and the devastating effect this has on elapsed times in mostly windward-leeward courses.
We agree that it's all about VMG when going to weather, so pointing isn't everything. As such, in all but perfect conditions - flat water, 15 knots of wind - we find that it's faster with our cat to tack in more like 110 degrees than 100 degrees.
While in St. Barth this winter, one
of our goals was to circumnavigate the island 10 times. We did
it, too, despite the fact the overwhelming amount of time was
spent sailing upwind against the trades in the open Atlantic,
battling varying size seas, shallow water and backwash chop and
slop, and adverse currents. In those real world situations, we
were lucky to be able to tack in 120 degrees, so to a large extent
it was a very pleasant exercise in masochism. Next year we plan
to do a lot more of what cats do way better than monohulls -
close to broad reaching.
Thank goodness for you and your online magazine! John Sloboda was my cousin, and it was only through 'Lectronic Latitude that I found out he had died. I was devastated to learn of his death, but some of the articles I found by him and about him made it a little easier to bear - especially knowing he had a lot of friends who also cared about him.
We, his family, all loved John dearly. We thought he was crazy for crossing the Pacific, but he followed his dream, which is more than most of us can say. You can imagine that since we didn't know he had died, we also didn't know how sick he had been the month prior to his death. We want to do a tribute/donation in his memory, and thought his cruising friends might be able to help in letting us know if there was anything/anywhere over there that really interested him - besides a local bar.
From what I read in your magazine, you
knew what a character John was. Thank you for the wonderful editorial
notes about him.
Debbie - John won't be forgotten soon.
You may not remember, but our black-hulled Blackwatch 37 yawl Brigadoon, with all the mahogany, was one of the boats at Sea of Cortez Sailing Week at Isla Partida way back in 1985. You were looking for a berth for Dr. Bob LeFevre and his son William, so we invited them to stay on our boat. They were great guests, but we lost the use of our dinghy - happily - because of all the housecalls 'Dr. Bob' had to make during the week. You might remember that the worst of them was when a young woman suffered a bad burn as a result of spilled hot water. 'Dr. Bob' treated her throughout the week - and in the process of treating her, exhausted the fleet's supply of Furicin to aid in the healing of her burns.
Anyway, the next year we bought the Valiant
40 Carina and continued to cruise for eight more years,
circumnavigating most of North America, and spent some quality
time in the San Blas Islands and Cartegena de Indias. We
spent a season in the Bahamas and made it as far north as Canada
before swallowing the anchor. We'd moved ashore and put Carina
up for sale in Beaufort, North Carolina when Hurricane Fran came
along. The insurance company totalled her.
That was a great article on the schooner Goodwill in the May issue. One of the onboard photos showed a bunch of guys repairing sails, and Saint Cicero is the one at the sewing machine at the extreme right hand side of the photo. How do I know? When we first started sailing in 1971, I needed some new sails for our Excalibur 26 Syn Sysm and was referred to Baxter & Cicero Sailmakers. I dealt with Saint several times - and later with his son Terry - and his profile and smile are unforgettable to anyone who knew him. What a great guy! Anyway, the article brought back a flood of memories of Newport Beach in the '70s and '80s.
We have been reading Latitude since
we were introduced to it during Excalibur team races in the Bay
around '71 or '72. We still treasure a copy with a two-page spread
pic taken from 'The Pad' in La Paz - remember Marguarite? - for
an article titled Water Soluble Romances. In that photo Brigadoon
can be seen in the center, way out in the fleet at anchor. Keep
up the good work and the pioneering for sensible cruising and
Howard and Joyce - Those early Sea of
Cortez Sailing Weeks - which were by far the best - certainly
do bring back fond memories. And we remember 'Dr. Bob' very well.
We first met him one night the previous November when we about-to-head-south
cruisers had a spontaneous party and things got pretty crazy.
Fortunately, we weren't around when the police came and one of
Bob's crewmembers was escorted to jail.
I'm writing in reply to an April letter asking about the best time of year to sail south from Astoria, Oregon, to San Francisco. As race chairs for the Yaquina Bay YC in Newport, Oregon, we've had plenty of opportunity to observe boats traveling both north and south along this coast, and concur with Latitude's August suggestion.
In fact, in conjunction with the Astoria YC, we host the Bridge to Bridge offshore race in mid-August. This year's dates are August 20-22. The race is just under 100 nautical miles, begins outside the Columbia Bar, and finishes just off the Newport jetties. As mentioned in Latitude, the weather can be nasty, but typically there is a north-northwest breeze and it's sunny, making it a great downhill race. The race falls under PIYA Category I, and if you're traveling those waters at any time of year, the PIYA guidelines are an excellent checklist for emergency and catastrophe preparedness.
For more information, contact us, the Yaquina
Bay YC, or the Astoria YC.
I saw an adult gray whale in San Francisco Bay on Monday, March 22. It was a half mile southwest of Point Richmond, lazily headed north. Even though there was only about 25 feet of water, it still managed to stay down for more than 10 minutes at a time.
I know that the grays started coming into
the Bay about five years ago, and there was quite a bit of excitement
at the time. I haven't heard much talk about them lately though.
We're wondering if these visits are still rare, or are they on
the rise and people are no longer interested in reporting them.
For myself and the 12 friends on my boat that day - all of whom
live in the mountains and rarely descend below 7,000 feet - it
was the highlight of our week! Is any organization or agency
collecting whale sightings?
Andy - We're not sure which organization, if any, is keeping track of such sightings. We're pretty sure one of our readers will be able to tell us.
In other whale news, it was just reported
that right whales, said to be one of the most endangered, have
returned to the Sea of Cortez after a long absence. And wait,
today's papers report right whales are showing up in Florida.
You guys are great! I've thoroughly enjoyed reading the many Profligate's Progress reports that have appeared in 'Lectronic Latitude this winter, and I grab a copy of the magazine whenever I can here in Seattle.
With regard to the recent photos of the mega motoryacht Reverie that recently appeared in 'Lectronic, you may find it interesting that Kjell Inge Røkke, her young owner, got his start in commercial fishing. I have been led to understand that on his way to building a multi-billion dollar empire, this Norwegian played a significant role in the development of factory trawlers which, according to many activists, 'strip mine' the oceans. Apparently, they often net dolphins and other sea life, who don't survive.
If this is indeed true, I would find it to be another of life's great ironies. For while Reverie is sitting in the beautiful waters of a tropical paradise, Røkke's efforts to accumulate the wealth to acquire the boat leave a legacy of marine destruction in other places around the world.
I'm not writing this to be critical of
the story - I love seeing magnificent vessels - I just thought
you might find it interesting. Keep up the great work warming
those of us stuck in colder climates with your fantastic adventures!
Jeff - We'll try to look into how Røkke
made his fortune. But if the facts were correct, the irony would
not be unique. Remember the claimed commitment to the world's
environment on the part of Seattle's OneWorld syndicate in the
last America's Cup. It was funded primarily by the McCaws of
the Pacific Northwest. Well, we were in St. Barth a couple of
winters ago when one McCaw brother had a new 350-ft motoryacht
with a new 72-ft sailboat on deck, and another had a 300-ft motoryacht.
Oh yeah, they also brought a 118-ft daysailer and their private
727 jet. When OneWorld later ran a little low on money, Microsoft
cofounder Paul Allen chipped in. This is the same fellow who
now has a new 419-ft megayacht, might have bought one of the
McCaw brother's yachts, and we think still has his original 200-ft
megayacht Meduse. If we're not
mistaken, his private jet is a 757. For such a group of folks
'living ultra large' to claim to be committed to the environment
seems just a little ironic, wouldn't you agree? Sort of like
some politicians who are worth hundreds of millions bemoaning
the fact that some children are starving. How deep can one's
committment be if one is a major part of the problem?
While returning to our slip last Sunday
after spending the weekend at Angel Island, we spotted a small
cruise ship in the Oakland Estuary that looked familiar. As our
approach brought us close enough to read the name, we realized
that we had indeed seen her before. It happened a couple of years
ago in the Pto. Ballandra anchorage at Isla Carmen in the Sea
of Cortez, when she dropped her hook off our stern. As she settled
in, an announcement was made over the VHF that all of the cruisers
in the anchorage were welcome to join them in the Sunrise Salon
for breakfast. Unfortunately, Bruce Winship on the Alameda-based
Crowther 33 Chewbacca wasn't able to disguise his voice
well enough to fool any of the cruisers into making fools of
themselves. But the humor wasn't lost on any of the eight or
so cruising boats there with us.
I hope I'm not too ignorant or the only one confused, but I don't understand the photo in the February 13th 'Lectronic Latitude, the one with the following caption: "As we sailed down to St. Martin, we crossed paths with the 'windjammer' Polynesie, taking a new load of tourists to St. Barth. Reefed down, she was looking good and moving fast - although she may have had her engine on."
has four masts, and four sails displayed, one of which is a small
jib in front. The other three, however, are reefed mains that
are rigged backwards! I'm guessing her engine was indeed running,
for otherwise it looks as though she'd be sailing stern first!
I don't understand and would love an explanation. Many thanks.
Ian - When the wind blows really hard,
as it was this day, the Polynesie
doesn't set any of her mainsails, but rather sticks with a series
of small staysails. We can see how you were confused, as they
actually do look a little like mainsails set backwards. But these
sails were drawing well, and she was really moving along.
While reading the latest Latitude, I noticed your response to a reader with weather comments from us. For the record: the Northeaster which we experienced while at Mexico's Cedros Island blew a steady 55 to 65 knots. The higher winds were off the bottom end of the island where there was an orthographic acceleration from the shape of the hills, which increased the wind to something significantly more - our anemometer dial topped out at 60 in those days. We might have had a minute or so of 80 knots. But seas were calm.
The worst weather we've ever seen was in a fall storm off the North Carolina coast while heading south toward Cape Hatteras. We had a steady 65 to 70 knots for about 18 hours. It wasn't that bad except the waves were breaking because the inboard edge of the Gulfstream was running against them. We experienced this weather aboard our Deerfoot 62 Intermezzo ll, and had actually been looking for bad weather in which to test the boat. While we had no problems, it could have been serious for a smaller boat.
The only other blow of note that we've been in was between Madagascar and Durban, South Africa. This one wasn't that strong, 45 to 55 knots, but it blew for a couple of days and was against the Aghulas Current. This was when we had our 50-foot Intermezzo, a Columbia 50 with a Cruising Club of America (CCA) type hull. The problem in this case was the seas, which were very steep and breaking. Again, we had no problems, but there were two boats nearby that were not so fortunate. One suffered a complete knockdown and the other was rolled.
These storms should be looked at in the
context of our having sailed more than 250,000 miles offshore
- most of it done without benefit of weatherfax, router, satellite
images, and so forth.
Readers - Steve and Linda Dashew have
a new boat. She looks like a motoryacht version of Beowulf, their last sailboat.
Where would we find PHRF or provisional
ratings for wooden boats? I tried the PHRF site, but only a few
wood boats were mentioned. We're trying to rate boats as diverse
as a Crocker 36 and an Atkins cutter built in 1934. Any help
would be appreciated.
Andy - In most instances, PHRF (Performance
Handicap Rating Formula) ratings are based on historical race
data. In cases where there isn't such data, or a boat is new
to racing, the PHRF committee assigns the boat a provisional
rating based on similar boats until a history is built up.
I wrote a few years ago when I owned the Kennex 445 catamaran Whisper, which we kept in the BVI's under the management of Tradewind Yachts. I'd be surprised if you remember our conversations, but we were pretty unhappy about how the boat was being kept up, and the accounting of income and cost reports that we received from the company.
You and I spoke about moving my boat Whisper down through the island chain, taking the boat out of charter, and potentially bringing her back home to Sausalito. In December of 2002, we decided to pull the boat from Tradewinds and simply sell her.
Last month, after the BVI government closed down Tradewinds' operations in the islands, the company announced they were going to close their doors. You can read Tradewinds' response by going to their Web page at www.tradewindyachts.com [Webmistress's note: This URL didn't work when we tried it]. This company had been in business for over 20 years.
My contacts in the islands report that all the dinghies are gone from the docks, one employee was apprehended for taking outboards, and another for removing computers from the office. We heard that there were at least four boats out on charter that were not aware the company had ceased to operate. How scary it must be for the owners of the boats that were under the care of this company.
I feel like we dodged a bullet. Anyone thinking about putting a boat into a charter management program needs to consider the longterm financial well-being of the company. If you ever decide to do a story on chartering - from an owner's point of view - I'd be willing to contribute.
By the way, I've loved your reporting from
the Caribbean this winter. For years my family and friends really
enjoyed sailing through the Caribbean, and look forward to getting
back as soon as possible.
Jim - Thanks for the good advice - and
the compliments about the Caribbean coverage.
In the March issue there was a letter from Glenn Damato of the Redwood City-based Serenity. I was intrigued by his description of his skills and the problems he found in finding crew. He's a skipper who can't find a crew, and I'm crew who can't find a good boat. I typically try to sail out of Redwood City Marina, so when I saw that his boat was in Redwood City, it sounded like it might be a good match.
So in keeping with your suggestion that
he start building up for his trip to Hawaii by taking short sails
down the California coast, I thought that this might be an area
where I could help. One problem, no contact information. Could
you tell him that I can be reached at via
email. I might want to help out.
David - Just a reminder to you, Glenn, and everyone else: Our staff is too small to dig out info like this after the fact, but we have Crew Lists and Crew Lists Parties twice a year in an attempt to match up skippers and crews. In August, our Mexico-only Crew List forms will appear in Latitude. The corresponding Mexico-Only Crew List Party will be held Wednesday, October 6 at the Encinal YC.
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